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Spring 1998 Volume 1

Feature Articles

During one week, an owner of a clothing store, a convenience store clerk, a psychologist, two sanitation managers, a tavern owner, a teacher, a cook, a maintenance supervisor and a postal carrier were all victims of workplace violence. According to a survey conducted by Pinkerton Inc., workplace violence is the biggest security concern facing U. S. corporations.

Unfortunately, most managers take the stance, “It won’t happen here.” Yet the figures speak for themselves - workplace violence happens at an alarming rate in just about every segment of American business. More than two million people were physically attacked at work last year, and 1,000 of those people died as a result of workplace violence. Each day thousands of employees are subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, and verbal or physical abuse. No wonder the Pinkerton Security Issues Survey, which measures the importance placed on various security issues within Fortune 1000 companies, ranked workplace violence as the number one concern.

“The results of this survey contradict the beliefs of some analysts that workplace violence was a temporary concern,” noted Don Walker, Pinkerton executive vice president. “It remains a concern of corporate America and should be taken very seriously.” Violence in the workplace not only has employees concerned about their safety at work, but has employers concerned about financial liability associated with this type of crime. According to the National Safe Workplace Institute, the total cost to U.S. employers for workplace violence in 1996 was $42 billion. The average medical and psychological costs can be as high as $41,000 per incident!

Despite the increase in workplace violence and the growing awareness of the impact of such violence, researchers at the University of Southern California’s Center for Crime Management have found that companies are ill-equipped to handle workplace violence at a time when violent acts are becoming more prevalent. According to Norm Anderson, EMC Vice President-Risk Improvement, because many organizations have never experienced workplace violence, they have not taken the necessary steps to create programs designed at minimizing such exposures.

“It’s time employers took aim at workplace violence,” encouraged Anderson. The human and financial costs associated with this type of crime continue to escalate, and it’s not limited to factory workers and store clerks. Executives, professionals, administrative employees, teachers and government employees have all been targets of violence in the workplace. “Employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees, clients and visitors,” stated Anderson.

To help policyholders develop such programs, EMC Insurance Companies has developed a Violence in the Workplace computer presentation. The 45-minute presentation helps organizations take the first steps in developing meaningful workplace violence prevention strategies. These strategies include adopting formal policies that deal with threats and other abusive behavior, forming in-house assessment teams, readiness in the event of a violent act and post-trauma counseling.

No organization and no type of employee are immune to workplace violence. It can happen anywhere and to anyone. To better protect your human and financial resources, EMC encourages you to learn more about ways to identify potentially violent situations, what to do to prevent them and what steps to take in the event such violence does occur. Your EMC agent can arrange a Violence in the Workplace presentation for your top managers and introduce you to EMC risk improvement professionals who can direct you to more information about this important issue.

What causes workplace violence?
According to Pinkerton research, a number of factors can trigger workplace violence. These include, but are not limited to, job layoffs, disciplinary actions, job terminations or pay cuts. Other causes include non-job-related issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, marital problems and sexual harassment.

What can be done to reduce the incidence of workplace violence?
A number of environmental and behavioral measures have been proposed for reducing workplace violence. These include:

  • Make high-risk areas visible to more people.
  • Install good external lighting.
  • Use drop safes to minimize cash on hand.
  • Install surveillance cameras.
  • Provide training in conflict resolution and nonviolent response.
  • Step up security efforts.
  • Be aware if any employee has a restraining order against a spouse or anyone else.
  • Discuss workplace violence with your employees and have a plan to deal with it before you need it.

Several Omega sprinkler heads failed during a recent $250,000 fire in a Massachusetts rooming house. This is the seventh documented fire nationwide where an Omega series sprinkler head failed to activate.

On March 4, 1998, the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) forced a mandatory recall of approximately 10 million Omega heads nationally manufactured by Central Sprinkler Corporation of Pennsylvania. In its letter to Central Sprinkler, the CPSC staff alleged that “the sprinklers may not properly activate in the event of a fire, thus exposing the public to bodily injury or death.”

The Omega head under question holds water in the plunger with a rubber O-ring keeping the plunger from leaking where it meets the water supply. In the event of a fire, heat melts a plug of solder below the plunger, and water pressure forces the plunger down and away from the O-ring, allowing spray to douse the flames. Evidence indicates failure occurs when the rubber ring swells and grips the plunger too tightly, requiring higher water pressure to force it open. The company said some 8 million rubber-ring Omegas were installed from 1983 to 1996, representing about 2 percent of all sprinklers installed during that period.

The list of Omegas which are effected are: C-1, C-1A, R-A, R-1A, R-1M, EC-20, EC-20A, Model M Upright, Model M Pendant, Model M Sidewall, HEC-12, HEC-20, Prohibitor C-1A, Prohibitor EC-20A, Prohibitor HEC-12, Flow Control Pendant Flush and Flow Control Pendant.

EMC Insurance Companies recommends that you undertake the following strategy to ensure the integrity of your sprinkler system:

  • Inventory the types of sprinkler heads in your buildings.
  • If Omegas are found, contact Mr. Kerry Bell, Underwriters Laboratories, 847-272-8800, Ext. 42629, or Omega Customer Service, 1-800-638-1631.
  • Notify tenants and code officials that concerns surrounding this issue are being effectively addressed.

To improve service to policyholders, EMC recently equipped all of its loss control representatives with laptop computers. Armed with laptops, representatives will be able to pre-inspect a potential policyholder and get the report to the Home Office the same day. In addition to faster turnaround, the system will eliminate the need for dictation and allow everyone to be more specific with information.

Along with the laptops, each risk improvement representative was also provided with digital cameras and diagram software, both of which allow critical parts of survey reports to be transmitted via modem to the Home Office. Each representative also has a CD-ROM which provides quick access to street mapping, safety standards and regulations.

Despite the challenges associated with learning the new system, the entire company will benefit from a technology designed to allow EMC to provide policyholders with heightened levels of service.

Sometimes the best way to reduce the number of work site injuries is alerting employees to the potential of danger. In many cases, bright red or yellow safety signs do the trick — “Do Not Enter Without Wearing Eye and Ear Protection,” “Explosives, Keep Out,” “Hazardous Waste Storage Area.”

Now you can order your safety signs directly from EMC's catalog of 8.5-by-11-inch laminated or coated paper signs. There are more than 230 signs to choose from, and they are available free to EMC policyholders.

No matter what the potential risk or danger is, EMC has a sign available that will alert your employees and visitors. Customized signs are also available.

Contact your EMC agent or loss control representative to order your free safety signs or go to our Online Services page to order online. Please allow two weeks for standard signs and three weeks for customized signs.

Report Available
For analysis and graphs of your organization's past claims and trends, contact your EMC loss control representative or local branch office. A minimum of 50 claims is usually necessary for meaningful analysis.

New Law
The Federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 provides protection from lawsuits for volunteers (such as firefighters, Boy Scout leaders or Big Brothers) when acting within the scope of their duties.

OSHA Update
OSHA is expediting a regulation change to require employers to provide all Personal Protective Equipment (except eyewear and footwear) to employees.

NOW SHOWING: Audio-Visual Library Expands
Complement your safety training by using EMC’s newest safety education tapes. All VHS tapes are available to EMC policyholders on a free-loan basis. Don’t miss this opportunity to enhance your current training efforts. Ask your EMC agent or loss control representative for the newest A-V directory.