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Your Workers’ Safety May Be at Risk, But Can You See the Threat?

Violence at work is a more common threat than many businesses realize.
By: | September 14, 2016 • 5 min read

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Deadly violence at work is covered extensively by the media. We all know the stories.

Last year, ex-reporter Bryce Williams shot and killed two former colleagues while they conducted a live interview at a mall in Virginia. In February of this year, Cedric Larry Ford opened fire, killing three and injuring 12 at a Kansas lawn mower manufacturing company where he worked. Also in 2015, 14 people died and 22 were wounded by Syed Farook, a San Bernardino, California county health worker, and his wife, who had terroristic motives.

Active shooter scenarios, however, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violence at work.

“Workplace violence is much broader and more pervasive than that. There are smaller acts of violence happening every day that directly impact organizations and their employees,” said Bertrand Spunberg, Executive Risks Practice Leader, Hiscox USA. “We just don’t hear about them.”

According to statistics compiled by the FBI, the chance that any business will experience an active shooter scenario is about 1 in 457,000, and the chance of death or injury by an active shooter at work is about 1 in 1.6 million.

The fact that deadly attacks — which are relatively rare — get the most media attention may lead employers to underestimate the risk and dismiss the issue of workplace violence as media hype. But any act that threatens the physical or psychological safety of an employee or that causes damage to business property or operations is serious and should not be taken lightly.

“One of the core responsibilities that any organization must fulfill is keeping employees safe, and honoring that duty is becoming more challenging than ever,” Spunberg said.

Hiscox_SponsoredContent“Workplace violence is much broader and more pervasive than that. There are smaller acts of violence happening every day that directly impact organizations and their employees. We just don’t hear about them.”
— Bertrand Spunberg, Executive Risks Practice Leader, Hiscox USA

Desk Rage and Bullying: The Many Forms of Workplace Violence

Hiscox_SponsoredContentBullying, intimidation, and verbal abuse all have the potential to escalate into confrontations and a physical assault or damage to personal property. These violent acts don’t necessarily have to be perpetrated by a fellow employee; they could come from a friend, family member or even a complete stranger who wants to target a business or any of its workers.

Take for example the man who killed three workers at a Colorado Spring Planned Parenthood in April. He had no affiliation with the organization or any of its employees, but targeted the clinic out of his own sense of religious duty.

Companies are not required to report incidents of violence and many employees shy away from reporting warning signs or suspicious behavior because they don’t want to worsen a situation by inviting retaliation.  It’s easy, after all, to attribute the occasional surly attitude to typical work-related stress, or an office argument to simple personality differences that are bound to emerge occasionally.

Sometimes, however, these are symptoms of “desk rage.”

According to a study by the Yale School of Management, nearly one quarter of the population feels at least somewhat angry at work most of the time; a condition they termed “chronic anger syndrome.”  That anger can result from clashes with fellow coworkers, from the stress of heavy workloads, or it can overflow from family or financial problems at home.

Failure to recognize this anger as a harbinger of violence is one key reason organizations fail to prevent its escalation into full-blown attacks. Bryce Williams, for example, had a well-documented track record of volatile and aggressive behavior and had already been terminated for making coworkers uncomfortable. As he was escorted from the news station from which he was terminated, he reportedly threatened the station with retaliation.

Solving Inertia, Spurring Action

Hiscox_SponsoredContentMany organizations lack the comprehensive training to teach employees and supervisors to recognize these warning signs and act on them.

“The most critical gap in any kind of workplace violence preparedness program is supervisory inertia, when people in positions of authority fail to act because they are scared of being wrong, don’t want to invade someone’s privacy, or fear for their own safety,” Spunberg said.

Failing to act can have serious consequences. Loss of life, injury, psychological harm, property damage, loss of productivity and business interruption can all result from acts of violence. The financial consequences can be significant. In the case of the San Bernardino shootings, for example, at least two claims were made against the county that employed the shooter seeking $58 million and $200 million.

Although all business owners have a workplace violence exposure, 70 percent of organizations have no plans in place to avoid or mitigate workplace violence incidents and no insurance coverage, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.

“Most companies are vastly underprepared,” Spunberg said. “They don’t know what to do about it.”

Small- to medium-sized organizations in particular lack the resources to develop risk mitigation plans.

“They typically lack a risk management department or a security department,” Spunberg said. “They don’t have the internal structure that dictates who supervisors should report a problem to.”

With its workplace violence insurance solution, Hiscox aims to educate companies about the risk and provide a solution to help bridge the gap.

“The goal of this insurance product is not so much to make the organization whole again after an incident — which is the usual function of insurance — but to prevent the incident in the first place,” Spunberg said.

Hiscox’s partnership with Control Risks – a global leader in security risk management – provides clients with a 24/7 resource. The consultants can provide advice, come on-site to do their own assessment, and assist in defusing a situation before it escalates. Spunberg said that any carrier providing a workplace violence policy should be able to help mitigate the risk, not just provide coverage in response to the resultant damage.

“We urge our clients to call them at any time to report anything that seems out of ordinary, no matter how small. If they don’t know how to handle a situation, expertise is only a phone call away,” Spunberg said.

The Hiscox Workplace Violence coverage pays for the services of Control Risks and includes some indemnity for bodily injury as well as some supplemental coverage for business interruption, medical assistance and counseling.  Subvention funds are also available to assist organizations in the proactive management of their workplace violence prevention program.

“Coverage matters, but more importantly we need employees and supervisors to act,” Spunberg said. “The consequences of doing nothing are too severe.”

To learn more about Hiscox’s coverage for small-to-medium sized businesses, visit http://www.hiscoxbroker.com/.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Hiscox USA. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Hiscox is a leading specialist insurer with roots dating back to 1901. Our diverse portfolio includes admitted and surplus products for professional liability, management liability, property, and specialty products like terrorism and kidnap and ransom.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.

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Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.

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This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.

 

Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.

 

AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.

 

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]