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Industry Trends

Workplace Violence: An Emerging Driver of Workers’ Compensation Claims

Workplace violence is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences for both employees and employers. We take a look at the trends related to the drastic increase in the number of workplace violence workers' compensation claims that are occurring.

August 14, 2023

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there were an estimated 2.9 million workplace violence (WPV) injuries and illnesses in 2021. Of these, 1.1 million were serious injuries, and 453 were fatal.

“Workplace violence claims have grown, representing a larger portion of claims due to a decrease of other loss causes and an increase in occurrences,’” said Bill Wilkins, Vice President and Chief Risk & Analytics Officer at Safety National. “While there are differences geographically, this is still a 50-state issue, which is further complicated by the fact that several occupations must balance safety and potential lawsuits.”

Cause of Loss in WPV Claims

The vast majority of incidents related to losses in workplace violence claims occurred in the act of helping another individual, meaning fellow employees do not typically provoke these incidents. Law enforcement faces these situations more than any other group due to the risks associated with the job. There was a brief benefit for most industries during COVID-19, with decreased public interactions, but this was short-lived. Public entities, in particular, have seen a sharp increase in workplace violence claims, which can be associated with events of public unrest and major societal shifts.

Of WPV incidents, injuries caused by being struck or injured by another person or patient represent the largest portion of the claims. Additional causes include incidents occurring when a person is in the act of a crime, followed by gunshot injuries.

Factors Increasing WPV

Workplace violence can have a significant impact on both employees and employers. For employees, it can lead to physical injuries, psychological trauma, and even death. For employers, it can lead to lost productivity, increased insurance premiums, and damage to the company’s reputation. The surge in workplace violence claims is likely due to a number of factors, including:

  • Increased stress in the workplace.
  • A more volatile work environment.
  • The increased use of social media, which can be used to threaten or harass employees.

Preventing WPV Incidents

Employees require a reasonable, liability-conscious, effective means of preventing and avoiding assault before it occurs and defending themselves once attacked. Self-defense training might seem beneficial for healthcare workers and educators, but putting it into practice can be challenging. Self-defense training programs can vary widely, both in methodology and effective techniques for restraints and holds. This can leave workers without an adequate understanding of self-defense and, when necessary, containment, which creates ill preparation for a violent incident. In fact, a recent study from the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) reviewed 12 WPV programs using criteria developed from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence and Social Service Workers and found that “the majority of training programs did not evaluate their effectiveness using a systematic data-based approach.”

When considering what methods may be the most significant in preventing WPV, employers should:

  • Create a workplace culture that promotes respect and civility.
  • Provide training on workplace violence prevention and de-escalation.
  • Identify and address potential hazards in the workplace.
  • Implement security measures to protect employees.
  • Respond quickly and effectively to incidents of workplace violence.

By taking these steps, you can help to create a safe and secure workplace for all employees.