Guns in the Workplace Legislation Highlight Violence in the Workplace Exposure

Employers in Florida hold their breath as Guns in the Workplace Passes Legislative Hurdles
 
 
March 19, 2008 - PRLog -- After the recent shooting incidents at Northern Illinois University and at the Wendy’s here in Palm Beach County, I was cautiously optimistic that the Florida Legislators would table the Guns in the Workplace legislation – I was wrong. Yesterday, the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved SB1130 – Guns at Work Bill by a vote of 7-1 and for the first time this legislation seems destined to become law.

The critical issue for Florida employers, where do we go from here? It is quite apparent that we can no longer bury our heads in the sand hoping that this issue will go away. Instead of focusing on the fact that employees may have guns in their car at your job site, let’s evaluate your policies and procedures for preventing workplace violence.
   
If a violent act occurs at your job site no one is going to care about the law or laws that our State Legislators pass. Tthe only question on everyone’s mind will be – what did this employer or business owner do to protect their employees, customers, vendors or the general public? Unfortunately, most businesses do not have adequate answers for this question.  

Fact:

•   Your employees may already have a gun in their car and you do not know anything about it.
•   No law is going to prevent an employee, customer, vendor, subcontractor or visitor from getting a gun and bringing it into your work environment.
•   No amount of security is going to prevent someone from attempting to rob your business.
•   No legislation, restraining order or other legal document is going to stop someone who is hell bent on creating a violent situation.
•   The fact that the person obtained the gun legally is not going to prevent them from using it violently or in the heat of passion.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention, nearly five percent of the 7.1 million private industry employers in the United States had at least one incident of workplace violence. The majority of these establishments did not change their workplace violence prevention procedures after the incident and almost 9 percent of these establishments had no program to address violence in the workplace.

So, instead of focusing on the fact that SB1130 – Guns in the Workplace may become law, employers should use this opportunity to conduct a thorough evaluation of their risk and potential exposure to workplace violence.

Workplace violence can be divided into four categories: Criminal intent – robbery; disgruntled employee/customer/client/vendor; employee-on-employee violence; personal relationship domestic related violence. The most common form of workplace violence is criminal intent – robbery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics only twenty percent of private industry employers provide training on preventing workplace violence – seventy percent of employers in the United States do not have formal programs or policies that address workplace violence – astonishing.  

What are your safety obligations as the employer/business owner?
   
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require employers to create a work environment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees.

The Guns in the Workplace legislation flies in the face of the OSHA general duty clause, not withstanding employers still have an obligation to protect their workplace and prevent physical harm to their employees, vendors, clients, visitors and/or the general public.

What is your exposure?

Any incident of workplace violence can have disastrous effect on your business image, employee retention, company morale, employee productivity, sales, workers’ compensation cost, general liability cost, litigation expenses and ultimately the company ability to continue doing business.
   
The proposed Guns in the Workplace Legislation has some provisions to legally protect employers from liability but we all know being sued in America is common place – savvy attorneys will comb thorough this bill and find legal loopholes to hold employers liable for their employees actions. Without clear policies that address workplace violence your company may have additional legal and liability exposures.
   
Is the exposure covered by insurance?

In most instances, incidents of workplace violence may be covered by workers’ compensation or general liability or employment practices liability policies or a combination of all three. However this is not written in granite – employers may have exposures that are not covered by any of these policies. These exposure include:  loss of business income, business interruption caused by the violent act, on site security, litigation and defense cost and grief counseling.

Most companies are opting to purchase Employment Practices Liability Policies with workplace violence coverage or stand-alone workplace violence policies. While these policies offer limited coverage they often cover things like: security site evaluation, risk management evaluation, review of corporate policies, hiring additional security as well as indemnity or defense cost. Another unique feature offered by some Workplace Violence Policies is the ability to cover threats of violence. For example, if the company has to hire additional security because an employee is threatened the policy would cover the cost of the additional security measures.

What are the key components of an effective Workplace Violence Prevention Policy?
   
Workplace Violence Prevention Policies should address critical exposures, provide adequate directions on how to eliminate the exposure, identify and establish emergency procedures, have a training component, address how the company will recover from the incident. Visit our website - www.workcompseminars.com for a list of critical components that should be included in your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy.

Bottom line, misguided or even well intended laws enacted by our State Legislators can not keep us safe.

•   Will violence in the workplace continue – Yes!
•   Will Guns in the Workplace Legislation contribute to the violence – it likely will!
•   Are we safer without this law – No!    
   
Violence in the workplace happens with or without misguided laws – it only takes one individual or incident to change the landscape of your organization permanently.

Is there a solution? – Yes!    
   
Safety has to be implemented from the Boardroom to the Stock Room, employers can not longer be complacent and expend so much energy trying to keep the Gun Lobby and State Legislators from enacting laws, even misguided ones, that we forget that the potential exposure is a daily reality in our workplace. We can not get up everyday thinking it will never happen at my company – what are you going to do if it does?

Resources to help employers implement proactive Workplace Violence Prevention Programs:

http://www.osha.gov

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

http://www.safeatworkcoalition.org

About Margaret Spence, CWC, RMPE:

Margaret Spence is a Board Certified Workers' Compensation consultant, speaker and trainer who ranks among the experts in the field of injury management and return to work implementation. She is the President/CEO of Douglas Claims & Risk Consultants and WorkCompSeminars.com, for more than two decades, she has managed safety and workers' compensation issues for Fortune 500 Corporations, Public Entities and small businesses. Margaret is the author of - From Workers' Comp Claimant to Valued Employee - Employer's Guide to Implementing a Proactive Return to Work Program. The Society for Human Resource Management recently selected Margaret to join the Special Expertise Advisory Panel on Employee Health, Safety and Security.

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Douglas Claims & Risk Consultants, Inc. & WorkCompSeminars.com provides Seminars, On-site Training Programs and Consulting Services to Companies who what to learn how to cohesively blend hiring practices with Safety and Workers’ Compensation Best Practices. We show you how to eliminate workplace injuries, reduce lost work days and avoid the legal land mines hidden in the Workers’ Compensation Statutes.

Website: www.workcompseminars.com
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