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  • Workplace violence and business liability insurance
  • February 7, 2014
  • what is business liability insuranceBy M.K. Guetersloh

    A common workplace joke about a disgruntled co-worker might sound something like this:

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends these tips to protect workers against violence on the job:

    1. Develop a workplace violence prevention program: The program should include a review and assessment of the four potential threats of violence: strangers, customers, co-workers and partners/family members.

    2. Keep a written workplace violence prevention policy statement: A written policy should include encouragement for employee participation in the design and implementation of its violence prevention programs, a clear statement that the employer will not tolerate violence at work, a commitment to apply the policy fairly to all employees and requirements for prompt attention, a demand for accurate reporting of violent incidents and a commitment not to discriminate against victims.

    3. Maintain a threat assessment team: The team should include senior management, employee representatives, building operations personnel and human resources. The team should assess the vulnerability to workplace violence and develop preventive actions as well as implementing employee-training programs and response plans.

    4. Employee training and education: All employees should be taught techniques for spotting potentially violent situation, proper use of security hardware, responses to incidents including emergency and hostage situation, procedures for reporting, investigating and documenting violent incidents, safety in traveling and methods for handling cash.

    “For sure, Joe will be the one coming into work with a gun.”

    That is typically followed by a co-worker’s snarky reply, “That’s a workers’ comp claim, right?”


    Gallows humor aside, workplace violence is covered under an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance as a general rule.

    Shooting sprees in the workplace may get a lot of media attention but are rare, according the Federal Bureau of Investigations. However, the FBI’s statistics show 12 percent of violent crimes reported in the United States, including homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, occurs at or are related to the workplace.

    Employees who face injury or death from a co-worker at work are covered by the “exclusive remedy” provisions of the federally regulated program. The provision gives employees an immediate remedy for their injuries but the provision also limits the employer’s liability.

    Laws and court rulings on worker’s compensation vary by state, but in many cases victims do have avenues to sue their employer for additional compensation.

    In Florida, the courts ruled that a teacher was allowed to sue the school district after a student that school administrators knew to be violent attacked her. But in Mississippi, a federal appeals judge ruled that a 2003 shooting at a Lockheed Martin plant was not race-related and it was strictly a work-related shooting. In that case, victims and families were limited to workers’ compensation claims of $150,000 each.

    Andrew Terrell, a Falls Church, Va. attorney, says business owners and companies need to work with their insurance insurers to make sure they are carrying enough workers’ compensation insurance as well as general liability insurance.

    Terrell often defends general liability insurance insurers against workplace violence claims. While general liability insurance covers accidents outside of an employers’ building, that defense may not always be enough to protect businesses against lawsuits.

    Pages: 1 2

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