Workplace Violence Takes Toll

By Bill D. Hager


The human toll of workplace violence is captured in newspaper headlines and raises public awareness of this problem. But just how prevalent is workplace violence, and what are the monetary costs associated with injuries resulting from these tragedies?

A new study by NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc.) analyzes a sampling of workers compensation claims from 1991 through 1995 caused by violence in the workplace. Here are some of the findings:

        Crime-related claims have the second highest average cost (behind motor vehicle) at $21,263 per claim. Claims with other causes of injury average $12,066.


The study shows that injuries caused by workplace violence are primarily sustained during robbery attempts at convenience stores, restaurants, and service stations. Indeed, according to the study almost two-thirds of workplace non-fatal assaults nationwide occurred in service-related industries.

The NCCI report looked at lost-time injuries caused by criminal acts in the workplace and found that during one year, 1995, there were 6,000 claims, costing employers $126 million in medical and indemnity benefits.

The study also shows that victims of workplace violence are more likely to be female and younger that other types of workers compensation claimants. For example, women comprise 43.1 percent of all workplace violence cases, but only 33.1 percent of cases caused by all types of claims. The average age of a crime claimant is 35 years old, as compared to 37 years for other workers compensation claims.

While robbery is the major cause of workplace violence, incidents between employees also has come under the corporate safety spotlight. Four violence prevention strategies are promoted by crisis management experts as particularly effective in reducing this exposure:

        Adopt formal policies dealing with threats and other abusive behavior.

        Form in-house threat assessment teams.

        Readiness in the event of a violent act.

        And post-trauma counseling.

A corporate policy for protecting employees from workplace violence should be a requirement at all companies. An effective policy should clearly disapprove of threats, harassment and verbal or physical intimidation.

More and more, corporations are learning that the way to stop workplace violence is to heed its warning signs. Several crisis management companies have sprung up in recent years to train employers and supervisors to detect potentially violent individuals and situations, and to defuse them before they spin out of control.

As Warren Miller, senior training consultant in loss control engineering at Kemper Insurance Co. says, We counsel clients that the number-one thing to have is a written policy that says direct or veiled threats, intimidation, harassing phone calls, stalking and physical violence are unacceptable, must be reported to management and this policy will be strictly and unequivocally enforced.

Bill D. Hager is chief executive officer of NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc.).