The old Chinese proverb says something like “may you live in interesting times.” You definitely do. Technology leaps are radically changing and improving our lives and while we tend to work a lot of hours, we still have more free time than ever to do our own thing.
At least most of us do.
But as unique as life has become and as positive as things are, society has grown increasingly restless. That restlessness often comes in the form of violence and sometimes that violence — says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA as we know it — happens in the workplace.
In fact, OSHA says close to two million of us are victims of workplace violence every year. And that has some demanding solutions.
The first thing we think of when we think of workplace violence is the active shooter. The FBI said 160 active shooter events happened in the U.S. from 2000 to 2013. Of those 80% took place in at a business or workplace of some sort. Those incidents led to 700 homicides. The loss of human life is incalculable. Put a price tag on it and it’s billions. Looking strictly at business losses, the cost is a staggering $121 million a year.
For the entire economy the damage is even higher. Lost wages ends up with a price tag of something like $36 billion a year.
Willis started selling active shooter insurance toward the end of last year. Originally universities picked them up but others expressed interest so Willis expanded to hotels and hospitals.
It will likely become — like cyber insurance — a future, and profitable, line for insurers.
The policies cover up to $5 million in damages. They cover the on-scene costs of an attack and pay for victim counseling and consulting. The policies can also be used as a supplement for work comp policies and will cover gaps in business liability insurance policies.
As for the issue at hand, OSHA says the first — and most important — step is to understand what constitutes workplace violence. It is more than just the active shooter. The second step is to be prepared and have a plan in place.
Defining the problem is complex. The definition starts with any action that is verbal, physical or written that intends to cause — or is capable of causing — death or serious bodily injury, emotional injury or property damage. And these incidents include:
• Disruptive or harassing behavior
• Acts of sabotage
• Or other incidents
We also need to — OSHA says — understand what factors contribute to that workplace violence. It listed a bunch of causes:
• Fragmentation of the family structure
• Easy access to weapons
• TV and other media
• Substance abuse
The two biggest causes — OSHA found — are financial issues and domestic disputes. Of the Human Resources managers and security personnel contacted, 71% say they have experiences with domestic violence on company property. All report the victim and co-workers were threatened.
How does all this impact employees? Outside of the violence itself, there are other huge costs:
• Physical and emotional trauma to employees
• Poor morale
• Increased health care
• Increased workers’ compensation costs
• Decreased productivity
So what’s the solution? OSHA lists several things companies can do:
• Better management of workplace stress
• Minimize downsizing
• Listen to employees and their feelings and honestly value them
• Do away with rigid management styles
• Monitor office romances
In other words, management needs to pay attention. We all know about the random, delusional person and the potential threats there. But do we know enough about those most likely to offend? They are:
• A disgruntled employee
• The downsized employee
• The undervalued employee
• An employee embroiled in a domestic dispute that spills over onto the workplace
• Employees with deep personal, financial or legal problems
Most provide warning signs:
• Increased absences
• Unusually poor performance
• Attitude changes
• Appearance changes
• Constant complaining
• Substance abuse at work
• Acting out
• Temper and throwing objects
• Loved one loss
One of OSHA’s solutions is for managers and supervisors to pay more attention to what’s happening in the workplace. But that’s a real challenge because a lot of them because they don’t have the training — or in some cases, the inclination — to deal with the issues listed earlier.
But in many of these cases, good leadership can help. A supportive, intuitive leader can often not only spot the potential trouble, but a lot of times they can head it off. A leader who cares can open dialogue and dialogue often eases potential problems.
On the other hand, non-supportive bosses who tend to be sarcastic or even demeaning can create potentially violent situations. So it’s critical for supervisors to understand their employees and communicate with them.
And when trouble rears its ugly head and a supervisor fears trouble could be coming, they can offer support or pass it on to the HR department. Almost all companies have an employee assistance program (EAP) and suggesting that solution source to an employee is also a good idea.
And that leads to planning. It is a critical tool employers and supervisors can use to offset and head off potential trouble.
• Policies: If you have an anti-harassment code or weapons policies, enforce them. If not, get them. A zero tolerance policy must be established and all departments in your business needs to buy into and support that policy. All employees also must be aware of the policy. Share all policies with employees and post them in a prominent place or places in the office.
• Risk: Determining risk is a critical step in minimizing workplace violence. Paying attention to and assessing employee attitudes and actions is very important and your plan must take that into account.
• Training: That’s obvious. And it should be for employees as well as managers and supervisors. We all need to be aware of potential issues and how to diffuse a problem.
• A crisis Team: This team continually reviews policies, conducts training and helps connect resources and services to employees.
Source links: PropertyCasualty360.com, Insurance Business America