Workplace Violence

Workplace Gun Deaths Becoming More Commonplace

Homicides and suicides in U.S. workplaces are increasing year over year.
By: | March 28, 2018 • 4 min read

A convenience-store worker escaped physical harm when a robber pointed a gun at him, only to die 15 months later when the gunman returned — intent on preventing the worker’s court testimony.

As the worker walked to a parking lot behind the Southern California 7-Eleven where he worked, a dark SUV with an unobstructed view of the store followed. The 23-year-old employee was shot to death near his car.

Advertisement




It is unclear whether the robber or the robber’s girlfriend pulled the trigger. Evidence indicates both were present during the murder.

What is clear, experts said, is that despite attention to high-profile mass shootings, like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that sparked recent anti-gun violence protests, most workplace-related homicides stem from domestic violence, following the victims to their job, suicides or robbery-related incidences like the 7-Eleven worker’s murder.

“While we get the big spectacular media coverage from shootings and mass attacks, historically that has not been the leading cause of death for shootings, but actually it’s the accidental deaths,” said Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director and chief operating officer who consults on workplace violence at ETS Risk Management.

In general, accidental shootings, including those at home, while hunting or at work, account for the highest number of gun deaths, Figliuzzi said. If you are going to carry a weapon to protect your home or workplace, train in gun safety, he advised.

Frank Figliuzzi, COO, ETS Risk Management; former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence

“While we are talking about the topic of risk and guns and robbery, don’t forget — gun safety is an issue. And accidental deaths, whether at home or place of work, are a real concern,” Figliuzzi said.

Overall, the latest data available shows a spike in workplace homicides. They increased by 83 cases to 500 in 2016, the highest homicide total since 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Suicides increased by 62, to a total of 291, during the same year.

The most likely form of workplace violence occurs when a stranger, such as a robber, walks into a business, Figliuzzi said. “So it’s not always employee against employee.”

That squares with 2012 research findings from NCCI Holdings Inc. Back then, NCCI found that despite news headlines reporting workplace homicides as crimes of passion committed by coworkers, most workplace murders resulted from robberies.

NCCI, a workers’ comp research and rating organization, has not updated its research on the topic, a spokesman said.

A 2016 NIOSH blog posting also states that robbery related homicides are the leading cause of death for retail workers. Among them, convenience store workers suffer from homicides at a rate that is seven times greater than for workers in other industries.

Convenience store workers suffer from homicides at a rate that is seven times greater than for workers in other industries.

The death of Roshan Bhandari, the Southern California 7-Eleven convenience-store worker killed walking to his car, was ultimately related to a robbery.

In 2012, his parents sued the individual 7-Eleven and the franchise Bhandari worked for, claiming negligence for failing to provide a security guard at the store where their son worked.

They argued the employer knew the store and surrounding area experienced high crime, including multiple store robberies, and was therefore negligent in failing to provide proper security.

The defendants countered they did not have a duty giving rise to negligence, because Bhandari’s murder was not “foreseeable” nor “preventable” — key pieces of California’s legal requirements for finding a duty to prevent third-party criminal acts.

The court found that past robberies at the store were not similar to murder and store supervisors did not know Bhandari would be a murder target. The court also noted the homicide occurred in an alley behind the store and not on 7-Eleven premises. The court granted the defendants summary judgment.

Earlier this year, California’s Second Appellate District agreed the trial court’s ruling favoring the defendants was appropriate. In its finding, the appeals court rejected a plaintiff argument that the employer was also negligent because the employer lacked workers’ compensation insurance.

Advertisement




“Plaintiffs’ failure to plead this theory in their complaint, or to otherwise raise it in the trial court, means we will not consider it now,” the appeals court stated in its Rajendra Bahadur Bhandari v. 7-Eleven opinion.

An attorney representing Bhandari’s parents did not return a telephone call.

However, David B. Shapiro, an attorney at Lewis Brisbois who represents the defendants, said the plaintiffs have requested that California’s Supreme Court hear their appeal.

Court records, meanwhile, show the robber implicated in Bhandari’s death received a 15-year prison sentence for the armed robbery, despite Bhandari’s inability to testify because of his death. Records could not be found for any murder prosecution. &

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

Advertisement




That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

Advertisement




Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]