Column: Workers' Comp

And Violence Prevention for All

By: | October 15, 2015

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.

 

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]