Column: Workers' Comp

And Violence Prevention for All

By: | October 15, 2015 • 3 min read

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.

A disturbed gunman kills — again. The victims died in the everyday act of doing their jobs — again.

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That they were two 20-something television reporters murdered on camera only heightened the exposure, as the killer intended. The gunman, seeking revenge and notoriety, found a soft target,

killing two journalists working for a TV station that fired him two years earlier.

Workplace killings are not new. The term “going postal” surfaced in 1993 following employee shootings that began in 1986. Yet the tragedies continue to mount to the point of becoming commonplace.

Contrary to popular belief, workplace homicides are not often crimes of passion committed by disgruntled co-workers, the researchers stated.

Three days after the killing of the TV reporters, I opened the news to see the smiling face of Victoria Soto, 27, the heroic Sandy Hook teacher killed when her workday suddenly required protecting students from the gunman who killed 20 children and six adults.

The story described a new school named for Soto. It was built with security features like bullet-resistant glass — an unfortunate statement about the world in which we live, work and educate our children.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that violence accounted for 753 workers killed during 2013. That included 397 homicides, with most of the deaths caused by shootings.

Though homicides decreased by 16 percent, violence accounted for one of every six fatal workplace injuries in 2013.

NCCI Holdings Inc. published a research paper a year earlier that found work-related homicides and injuries had dropped below rates experienced during the 1990s, consistent with nationwide declines in crime. Most workplace homicides, about 69 percent, resulted from robberies and similar crimes.

Contrary to popular belief, workplace homicides are not often crimes of passion committed by disgruntled co-workers, the researchers stated.

But employers can’t afford to take much comfort in that. NCCI, a rating and research organization, also found that homicides committed by work associates, particularly customers, increased, although drinking establishments accounted for much of the bump.

No industry is immune, however, and responsibility continues to fall on employers to make their workplaces secure from threats, whether they originate outside the organization or are perpetrated by those inside.

OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe workplace and employers can be cited for lack of attention to violence prevention.

OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe workplace and employers can be cited for lack of attention to violence prevention.

This summer, for instance, an administrative law judge found against a health-services company for failing to protect a Florida social-service coordinator from a violent client who murdered the 24-year-old.

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But compliance is not the only reason employers should maintain and enforce policies for stemming violence while regularly evaluating circumstances and updating procedures to be followed when incidents do occur.

News photos of smiling faces — like those of the deceased reporters, the fallen teacher and too many others — must serve as a reminder that co-workers, families, customers, and business operations can all suffer mightily when the disturbed, the angry and the vengeful can easily access weapons and the work environment.

They must also serve as a reminder that risk management practices are crucial for protecting businesses and employees alike.

 

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.

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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.

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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]