One of the most effective ways in which employers can keep worker’s compensation costs down is by mitigating safety hazards in the workplace. Training employees in the proper use of equipment, ensuring that the workplace is clean and free of debris, using appropriate signage, and fostering an environment in which safety is a priority are important steps any employer can and should take. Additionally, all employers, especially those in high-risk industries, should do everything possible to ensure that employees are shielded from workplace violence at all times.
According to OSHA, workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” It may range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults, including assaults with a firearm or other weapon. Nearly 2 million American workers report incidents of of workplace violence each year, and many more go unreported, OSHA says.
The Employer’s Responsibility
OSHA requires that all employers provide “a place of employment which are [sic] free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” Within this broad definition, many states include the duty to protect workers from on-the-job violence. The types of violence covered typically includes:
- Criminal acts, in which the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship with the business and is engaged in a crime such as trespassing, robbery, shoplifting or an act of terrorism. Eighty-five percent of workplace homicides occur during the commission of a criminal act.
- Customer or client violence, in which a legitimate customer or client becomes violent while interacting with an employee. Many of these incidents occur in a health care setting when volatile patients act out against staff. Teachers, customer service workers, law enforcement officers, flight attendants and bartenders are also particularly vulnerable to this type of assault.
- Employee-on-employee violence, which occurs when an employee or past employee threatens or attacks another worker in the workplace.
- Personal relationships violence, which stems from a personal relationship between the worker and the perpetrator. This most often includes women who have been victims of domestic violence. In the five years between 2003 and 2008, nearly one-third of women killed in the workplace were attacked by a domestic partner or former domestic partner.
With that said, not every incident of workplace violence will entitle an employee to file a workers compensation claim. In Texas, for example, only employees who are injured by worker-on-worker violence can file a claim. In other states,any employee who is the victim of a violent act on a work site may file, though these cases can be lengthy proceedings and the employee may have a difficult time proving their case. Nonetheless, if an employee is assaulted during the performance of their duties and the employer has failed to provide appropriate safeguards, the injured worker may very well prevail.
Mitigating Workplace Violence
While employers cannot protect workers against every incident of workplace violence, there are many steps employers can take to mitigate the risks. Some simple, common-sense measures include:
- Motion sensitive floodlights wherever employees work at night
- Entrance alarms
- Working security cameras
- Requiring employees in high-risk occupations to work in pairs
- Silent alarms that alert police that something is amiss
- Training in deescalation techniques
Additionally, any employer who is committed to workplace safety can obtain a free guide to preventing workplace violence in their specific industry from OSHA. You can find a list of available publications here.
About The Carmoon Group
The Carmoon Group, Ltd. is an independent insurance broker located in Hicksville, New York. We offer a comprehensive array of business insurance products, including property insurance, liability insurance,umbrella insurance, business automobile insurance and workers compensation insurance at a price you can afford. So, why not give us a call today to set up an appointment for your insurance review? Or if you’re too busy to call, just reach out online and we’ll contact you at a convenient time.