Across the U.S., workplace violence poses an ongoing threat to businesses, both large and small. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year, and many more cases go unreported. OSHA also reports that 18 percent of all crimes in the U.S. occur in the workplace.
Violent incidents of all types are damaging, especially to small businesses that may not be able to absorb the financial and reputational damage that these incidents leave in their wake. However, the damage can be mitigated or even avoided all together with the right preparation and plan.
What is workplace violence and what are the business risks?
According to OSHA, workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect employees, clients, customers and visitors. From the physical harm to the victims, to the grief endured by families, to the psychological toll on employees and the community, the impact of workplace violence can be widespread.
Workplace violence consistently results in significant financial and productivity costs to U.S. businesses each year. OSHA found that 18,000 weekly workplace assaults caused 500,000 employees to lose 1,751,000 days of work annually, with a loss of $55 million in wages. According to OSHA, the direct costs of workplace violence to employers was between $3 billion and $5 billion, annually. The indirect costs totaled between $6.4 billion and $36 billion—these costs included: lost productivity, insurance costs and loss of public image, according to OSHA.
Businesses may also be subject to legal liabilities, operational downtime and regulatory penalties. It’s clear that the cost of preventing workplace violence in the first place is dramatically lower than having to respond to an incident after it happens. OSHA provides numerous resources to help businesses reduce their risk of workplace violence incidents.
How can businesses help prevent workplace violence?
There are many ways for businesses to reduce the threat of workplace violence. According to OSHA, employers can assess their worksites to identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector
and government workplaces.
OSHA also points out that an employer that has experienced acts of workplace violence—or becomes aware of threats or intimidation—should be on notice of the risk of workplace violence and should work to improve the situation. Some of these measures can include:
- Establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by employees.
- Establish a workplace violence prevention program, which involves protocols, documents, and policies for managing workplace violence. Key elements include management commitment, employee participation, hazard assessment, safety training, and incident recordkeeping. OSHA has many resources on establishing workplace prevention programs—with detailed written guides for healthcare and social services and other high-risk industries, such as late-night retail.
- Ensure that all employees know the policy and that workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
- Provide safety education for employees so they know what conduct is not acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence and how to protect themselves.
- Train employees to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programs.
- Arrange for prompt medical evaluation and treatment after an incident.
- Report violent incidents to the local police promptly.
- Discuss the circumstances of the incident with staff members.
- Offer post-traumatic counseling services to help workers recover from a violent incident.
- Investigate all violent incidents and threats and institute corrective actions.
The next steps
These are only a small selection of tips to start the conversation about protecting employees and businesses. There are many more actions a business can take to help prevent a violent incident in the workplace. As cited previously, OSHA has many detailed resources and comprehensive guides to help a business identify risk factors, establish a prevention program and mitigate the damage of workplace violence.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.