Assessing the Risk of Workplace Violence to Your Business
March 12, 2009
Barry Nixon, Executive Director of the National Institute for Prevention of Workplace Violence, Inc. was kind enough to author a guest article for employeescreen University on how employers can assess their risk to workplace violence. Of course, employment background checks can help on the front end, but check out Barry’s advice and how employers can take steps to evaluate their workplace and prevent such incidents.
Over the last two decades, the Department of Labor and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have provided insightful information on workplace violence fatalities and non-fatal incidents. While these statistical reports have provided essential details, in most cases businesses have not been able to translate them into cogent plans to address this ever-present problem. This article will focus on helping those charged with the responsibility for addressing workplace violence to understand the potential business and financial impact of violence on their work environment.
The impact can be analyzed in four steps:
- Assessing the risk to the business
- Identifying the business and financial impact of workplace violence
- Mitigation approaches to avoid or reduce the risk of incidents occurring
- Dealing with the aftermath of an incident
This discussion addresses the first step. Let’s start out with a definition of workplace violence:
“Acts of aggression or violence including assaults, threats, disruptive, aggressive, hostile, verbal or emotionally abusive behaviors that generate fear that occur in, or are related to the workplace and entail a real or perceived risk of physical, emotional and/or psychological harm to individuals, or damage to an organization’s resources or capabilities.”
Starting from this definition, let’s turn our attention to the core focus of this article – the financial impact that violence can have on an organization.
Historical data reveals the daunting costs of workplace violence.
- According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 500,000 victims of violent crime in the workplace lose an estimated 1.8 million workdays each year. This represents a $55 million impact as a result of loss of productivity and increased healthcare expenses.(1)
- Domestic violence costs businesses approximately $6 billion annually in healthcare costs, lost productivity, and missed work time.(2)
- The average out-of-court settlement for ‘negligence’ litigation is approximately $500,000 and the average jury award is around $3 million.(3)
- For 6 to 18 weeks after an incident, there is a 50% decrease in productivity and a 20% to 40% turnover in employees.(4)
Specific cost figures for a specific workplace violence incident are very tough to get because companies are reluctant to reveal proprietary information and potentially expose imperfections in their operations, safety procedures, and employee practices. Most firms that experience a serious incident will move quickly to minimize the negative publicity and the impact on their business. Their actual costs are likely to be buried in various innocuous-sounding budget entries so that the business can project the image that ‘all is well’ to avoid spooking their customers and shareholders. However, as the historical data indicates, the costs are not small.
You might also be interested in a podcast interview we did with Barry last year. Check it out.