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.

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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.

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“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

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

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Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

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Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

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“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]