Workplace Violence Claims in the Workers’ Compensation System
America’s workforce is the lifeblood of the country. Commerce depends on the efforts of employees producing the goods and services society demands. Those workers expect safe workplaces, and in broad terms, working conditions in the United States are relatively safe. Unfortunately, workplace violence is on the rise; the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has compiled statistics indicating that about two million employees experience some form of workplace violence each year. When a worker is injured in a violent act on the job, who is responsible for covering lost wages and medical expenses? Workers’ compensation insurance, which is required by most states, may not always provide the coverage needed by employees and the companies they work for.
Workplace Violence: An Overview
The OSHA statistics about workplace violence in the United States are troubling – violent acts can occur at any time and in any place of business. From individual incidents to large-scale events like strikes, riots, and mass shootings, workplace violence has become a looming specter over America’s workforce. In 2017 alone, 458 people lost their lives on the job as a result of intentional injury by another person, according to a report produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, workplace violence is the third-highest cause of fatal occupational injuries in the U.S.
While any workplace can experience violence, there are several notable at-risk groups of employees, including:
- Healthcare professionals
- Public service workers
- Law enforcement officials
- Cashiers/bank tellers/retail sales employees
- School teachers/school administrators
- Delivery drivers
Employees can be injured by violent acts both on and off the job site; for employers and employees alike, workplace violence is a very real concern across the country.
Workers’ Compensation: Does it Cover Workplace Violence?
Workers’ compensation insurance (workers’ comp) is required by law in most states. This specialized form of insurance protection helps to cover the medical expenses and related costs if an employee is injured on the job. Incidents of workplace violence typically fall under the coverage granted by such insurance. In general terms, workers comp covers an employee who is injured while performing his or her job duties, no matter if the incident occurred on company premises or off the job site.
As with any insurance protection, there are limitations and reasons why an affected employee may not be covered; in other words, not all acts of workplace violence are covered, and employees may not receive benefits in certain circumstances. In some states, an injured employee must be able to prove that he or she received injuries as a direct result of risks experienced in the scope of employment, and even then may be denied coverage. Purely personal acts of violence, such as a fight between two employees in a personal relationship, are generally excluded from workers’ comp coverage. In such cases, courts have determined that there was no causal connection between the injuries received and the workplace or work duties being performed.
Risk Management for Employers
Employers know that their employees are some of a company’s most valuable assets. Workers’ compensation insurance serves to protect those employees who may become injured in the workplace. As an employee benefit, workers’ comp is an attractive and cost-effective way of providing financial coverage for medical expenses and lost wages. Employers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace and to reduce the chances of a workplace violence occurrence, risk management must be at the forefront of any employer’s operating practices.
Employers must strive to identify potential risk factors and to implement the appropriate precautions to limit identified risks. Establishing zero-tolerance policies against workplace violence is also a great way to protect valued employees. Finally, workplace violence prevention programs, including employee training and intervention mechanisms, can help to reduce the occurrences of workplace violence, which can wreak havoc on a company and the workers that are so instrumental in daily operations.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.