Workplace violence takes a toll on workers' comp system


                                                      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 the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. (NCCI) 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 claims) at $21,263 per claim. Claims

      with other causes of injury average $12,066.


      While claims resulting from criminal acts are infrequent compared to overall workers' compensation claims, workplace

      homicides are the second-leading cause of job-related deaths (again, behind traffic fatalities). In 1995, 1,024 employees

      were murdered on the job, representing 16 percent of all job fatalities. Fatalities comprise 4 percent of crime claims, but

      only 0.3 percent of all types of workers' compensation claims.


      The study also shows that injuries caused by workplace violence are primarily sustained during robbery attempts at

      convenience stores, restaurants and service stations. According to the study, almost two-thirds of workplace non-fatal

      assaults nationwide occur in service-related industries.


      The NCCI report looked at lost-time injuries caused by criminal acts in the workplace and found that during 1995 there

      were 6,000 claims filed, 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. 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, as compared to 37 for other workers'

      compensation claims.


      While robbery is the major cause of workplace violence, incidents between employees also have 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.


      Be ready ahead of time.


      Have post-trauma counseling available.


      A corporate policy for protecting employees from workplace violence should be a requirement at all companies. A 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.


      Warren Miller, senior training consultant in loss-control engineering at Kemper Insurance Co. says, "We counsel clients

      that the No. 1 thing to have is a written policy that says direct or veiled threats, intimidation, harassing phone calls, stalking,

      and physical violence are unacceptable (and) must be reported to management, and this policy will be strictly and

      unequivocally enforced."


      Bill D. Hager is chief executive officer of the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc., the nation's largest

      workers' compensation and health care information corporation. The corporation provides database products, software,

      publications and consultation services to state funds, self-insureds, independent bureaus, agents, regulatory authorities,

      legislatures and more than 700 insurance companies.


      This column was reprinted from NCCI materials with permission.