Tag Archives: law enforcement

Politics of Guns and Workplace Safety

The politics of guns in America are volatile, divisive and passionate, yet the risks that firearms present to organizations every day do not depend on the politics of the moment. Employers must deal with the reality of gun violence in America. A RIMS 2016 session discussed the legal aspects of what organizations can do and the practical implications of creating a firearms risk management program.

Speakers were:

  • Michael Lowry, attorney, Thorndal Armstrong Delk Balkenbush & Eisinger
  • Danielle Goodgion, director of human resources, Texas de Brazil

What Risks Do Firearms Pose?

OSHA states that an employer must provide “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

See Also: Active Shooter Scenarios

There are several risks to your organization, including:

  • Operations can halt in the case of a shooting. You have issues like police investigations and possibly injured employees.
  • Workers’ compensation will kick in if employees become injured.
  • General liability will be activated to cover injuries of non-employees.
  • Reputational risks are possibly the largest risks. You do not want your business associated with a violent act.

Most think that the Second Amendment bars private businesses from banning guns, but this is incorrect. The amendment applies to governments, not private homes and businesses.

Some employers react by posting signs banning all guns. This simple sign can be a recipe for disaster for several reasons:

  • Have you created a duty? If you post a sign, you have officially created a duty.
  • Why did you create this policy?
  • What are you doing to enforce this policy? Did you have a manual? Did you put up X-ray detectors? Probably not. You have to be able to prove you are enforcing the policy if you post a sign.
  • Did you train your employees to enforce this policy? If this policy is not enforced, a person might be injured by a firearm on your property.

“Bring Your Gun to Work” Laws

This is not a good idea. According to the law, business may not bar a person who is legally entitled to possess a firearm from possessing a firearm, part of a firearm, ammunition or ammunition component in a vehicle on the property.

In Kentucky, an employee may retrieve the firearm in the case of self-defense, defense of another, defense of property or as authorized by the owner, lessee or occupant of the property. In Florida, the employer has been held liable for civil damages if it takes action against an employee exercising this right.

Reputational risks also can apply. You could either get special interest groups protesting against your business or people who refuse to do business with you.

The Middle Ground

It is best to create a policy. Even if you support the right to bear arms, you can do it subtly. There are several provisions on what type of carry you allow and what signs are required. Business owners also do have the ability to allow no guns on the premises.

See Also: Broader Approach to Workplace Violence

Your policy should describe exactly how to approach a customer if an employee sees a weapon, including who should approach the customer, what to say and the steps to take to address the issue. Training is important.

Why Train?

  • Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Northeastern University found the rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011.
  • In 2014, an FBI study considered 160 events between 2000 and 2013. 70% occurred in business or educational setting.
  • In 2000-2006, the annual average rate was 6.4 shootings. That jumped to 16.4 in 2007-2014.

This is clearly a problem that is getting worse, so why is training rarely provided? Places of business are a target – especially retail, restaurants and businesses in the hospitality industry. The active shooter wants soft, easy targets in large, open, public and crowded areas, and the goal is to kill indiscriminately. If your business is doing well with large crowds, you are a soft target.

Active Shooter Resources

To learn how to manage this risk, you can find resources from:

  • Law enforcement
  • Insurance partners
  • Government
  • Outside experts
  • Legal
  • Human Resources

Online resources include:

How to Picture the Future of Driverless

Picture this:

The year is 2025. A call comes to the police station—someone has broken into a local home. A drone is deployed to the address and arrives within five minutes. The drone feeds video to the station and to the closest autonomous (driverless) police vehicle. The drone guides the police car to the location. The officer in the car (we’ll assume he’s human, for now!) isn’t actually driving; he’s an occupant, watching the drone’s video feed. He can see the suspect fleeing, and he researches other crimes in the neighborhood along with potential suspects. The drone estimates the perp’s height and weight, and the officer can see his clothing and a possible gun in his belt. The police officer communicates with other officers in the area to coordinate the capture. As the suspect runs, his description and location is fed constantly to all nearby police vehicles, and he is surrounded within 15 minutes of the initial call.

This is far from fiction. The international consulting firm Frost and Sullivan predicts that 180,000 driverless cars will hit the U.S. market in 2020. That’s less than 1% of today’s annual new car market, but that’s just the beginning!

Just about every major car manufacturer (as well as Google, of course) is developing autonomous vehicles, and the competition is getting  more intense as the demand for collision avoidance features grows. Just as drones are spreading (if not yet regulated), driverless cars will become widely accepted. Americans love to drive, but there are too many undeniable advantages to autonomous cars.

The first one is safety. According to the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety  (IIHS), 94% of all car accidents are caused by human error. Nearly two million crashes could be avoided if human error were eliminated. That’s not to say that driverless vehicles won’t crash, but, as the technology improves, crash rates will drop like a rock. In 2025, if our roads are still packed with commuters, the occupants of many vehicles will be reading, answering emails, video conferencing and browsing the web. In other words, they’ll be working. A recent Morgan Stanley report predicted that driverless cars could add $5.6 trillion (yes, with a ‘T’) to the global economy because of the combination of a steep reduction in accidents and the dramatic increase in productivity. It is estimated that in 2035 autonomous cars will account for 25% of all cars.

Back to the police force. As driverless cars evolve, routine traffic monitoring will drop, high-speed chases will slowly decline (with drone help) and smaller police forces will focus on more serious crime. Cameras will capture everything—both from the ground and the sky. Officers will become highly trained in electronic law enforcement. Efficiency will rule!

Of course, these are just predicted outcomes. This policing panacea isn’t all roses; it will not eliminate the need for community relationships, direct contact with neighborhoods and personal contact in law enforcement. Furthermore, while vehicle collisions will fall, the cost and maintenance of autonomous cars will remain extremely expensive in the near future. Currently, it costs about $150,000 to equip a driverless car. But that cost will drop to $7,000 by 2030 and to $3,000 by 2035.

Nothing’s perfect. Every emerging concept or technology brings unexpected challenges and unintended consequences. But it appears that autonomous automobiles will emerge soon, and it’s likely that some day we’ll say they are “here to stay.”

For today, I guess I’ll have to drive myself home. What a chore.

Broader Approach to Workplace Violence

With the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA, fresh on people’s minds, workplace violence has received major media coverage, but little to no attention is paid to deaths by suicide even though rates in the U.S. have gone up considerably in recent years. Suicides claim an average of 36,000 lives annually, and, while most people take their lives in or near home, suicide on the job is also increasing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workplace suicides rose to 282 in 2013, the highest level since the numbers have been reported. In 2014, the suicide rate went down slightly to 271, but that is still the second highest level. The annual average number of suicides deaths that occurred at work during the time period 2003 – 2014 is 237, for a total of 2,848. Since 2007, the numbers have been above the average.

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Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries

The rise in suicide rates at work is even more significant given that overall homicides in the workplace have been steadily decreasing since the mid-’90s.

The obvious question is: Why is this startling rise in suicide rates at work occurring?

“The reasons for suicide are complex, no matter where they take place,” said Christine Montier, CMO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Usually, many factors are at play.”

Many suicide prevention experts linked the increase in one way or another to the Great Recession. I believe the recession played a major role because it put a triple whammy on people. Housing, which has traditionally been the major investment and retirement source for Americans, was in the toilet. Foreclosures were at an all-time high. Companies were laying off people, and job prospects were slim.

I believe that many working people experienced daily stress about employment. Every day, they might be laid off. Many were severely overworked because they needed to pick up the slack caused by reductions in workforces. They faced continuous fear of taking time off for vacations or illness and had few options to leave because jobs elsewhere were scarce.

Put all these issues in the pot together, and some people could not see their way out of their dilemma except through suicide.

Researchers in a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suspect that suicides occur at work because the perpetrators wanted to protect family and friends from discovering their bodies.

In the midst of the fear of terrorist attacks and active shooting incidents, organizations are significantly challenged in how to deal with the spectrum of violence they may face. However, it is critical that organizations not shy away from addressing these issues and muster the resources to engage their employees.

Managers need clear guidelines on healthy approaches to manage and prevent violence in the multiple forms it can take. Two industries that have taken the issue of suicides at work head-on are construction and law enforcement.

What can management do?

Promote awareness

Stop thinking and acting like “it couldn’t happen at your company.Provide regular communications through the channels that are most effective in your company regarding the potential warning signs that employees or others are at risk of acting in a violent manner. See a list of the classic early warning signs of workplace violence here. Many of the signs are also telltale signs symptoms of depression and suicidal behavior.

Sally Spencer-Thomas, Psy.D., co-founder of Working Minds, a Colorado-based workplace-suicide-prevention organization, described a giveaway that’s more obvious than one might suspect: The employee will tell you.

When contemplating suicide, a person can be entirely consumed by the thought, she said. The problem may be coded in conversation—the individual may talk about death often, for instance.

As uncomfortable as it may seem, it’s important to bite the bullet and ask the awkward questions. “It is very hard to resist a human who is coming at you with compassion,” Spencer-Thomas observed. She suggests that HR professionals frame their questions in an understanding manner, giving the employee the opportunity to explain his or her condition. Statements such as, “I’ve noticed that …,” “It’s understandable given …,” and “I’m wondering if it’s true for you…” should be followed by a nonjudgmental statement.

Promote resources available to help employees

If your firm has an employee assistance program (EAP) or your healthcare provider offers counseling service, make sure that managers are trained about the program and skilled in how to make an effective employee referral. If your employee usage rates are below your industry average, you need to assess why and take action to increase usage. Talking to a professional counselor can make a big difference to a troubled employee.

If your firm does not offer an EAP, then identify community resources that can assist your employees and keep the list current.

HR should also have a strategy to deal with the devastating impact of a homicide or suicide at work.

I believe the time has come for executives to take a comprehensive approach to violence that occurs in the workplace and especially to bring mental health and suicide issues out of the closet into mainstream workplace conversations. We are past the point where organizations can think of suicide as a dirty little secret and hope it will go away. The time has come for meaningful action.

Don’t wait until something happens and people lose their lives. If you really mean that your employees are your most important asset, now is the time to step up.

Moving Closer to the ‘Smart City’

Judging by the reported 11,000 attendees at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, representing companies and cities from around the world, there is great interest in governance, mobility, society, sustainability and technology. The trade show was very crowded even with sunny Barcelona beckoning with a perfect 71 degress Fahrenheit. The event gave me the opportunity to see many interesting technologies.

Many innovations focused on smart traffic routing and parking supported by sensors. Solutions in this category address the need to decrease traffic congestion or enable drivers to find available parking spots – problems afflicting many cities. Car-sharing initiatives by city communities were shown and explained. Autonomous vehicles were on display and got a lot of attention while raising questions about financing and insuring some of these new developments.

With the tragic events in Paris fresh in people’s minds, city officials were very interested in any offerings dealing with crisis or incident management. One example was IOmniscient’s 3D high-accuracy cameras that count people present in a specific location in real-time (very handy for crowd management). Other solutions include facial recognition capabilities to locate lost children or people of interest to law enforcement. These, and other applications, can assist local governments and citizens in preventing, managing and mitigating incidents.

“Gamification” got significant interest. Virtual reality environments supporting driving education or enabling urban planning were in high demand. There were also long lines for learning how to drive a real tram in a virtual city (not as easy as it looks). And Microsoft partner Geodan NEXT demonstrated how children were educated in smart-city development and how kids assisted in real-life design of schools and playgrounds by use of a Minecraft-based solution. In a more adult world, this same tool is being used for collaboration between professionals and citizens working together around a big touch table to address urban planning issues.

It is not often that I get to attend conferences outside of the insurance or technology space. It was refreshing to see the enthusiasm of professionals for innovation in a different industry. And many of the technologies that we frequently discuss, such as driverless cars, resource sharing, gamification, drones or Internet of Things, are equally relevant for smart cities.

I was also pleased with the balanced approach the people I spoke with took regarding opportunities for innovation and risk mitigation. Assisted by big data and technical developments, historically more disconnected industries such as technology, insurance, government, health or energy will quickly become more connected to each other, and the people of the world will collaborate in smart communities to capitalize on innovations.

The show in Barcelona was an uplifting experience, even with the sun beckoning.

10 Tools to Cut Workers’ Comp Costs

1. Implement a fraud-abatement program

Employee education helps defer fraud, so creating a fraud abatement campaign that fits for your industry and includes education of employees can have a significant impact on the number of questionable claims filed. Communicate regularly with your employees about workers’ compensation and eliminate misconceptions by explaining what it is and how it works. Consider using social networks, flyers, posters, employee newsletters and guest speakers to spotlight workers’ compensation fraud as a serious crime. The guest speaker can be a representative from your insurance carrier’s special investigation unit (SIU), a local law enforcement representative who is focused on workers’ comp fraud (such as a Department of Insurance fraud investigator or deputy district attorney handling prosecutions in the fraud unit) or a representative of your contracted SIU partner. Provide employees a mechanism to report fraud anonymously, such as a fraud hotline or email system, so they can easily report suspicions. Encourage employees to share information.  Insurance fraud is a felony in most states, and employers should demonstrate zero tolerance, with timely investigation of claims and reporting of suspicious claims to law enforcement.

2. Use sound hiring practices

The best defense is a strong offense. Conduct thorough pre-employment background checks to eliminate candidates who are unable to perform the job or not a good fit. If you have questions about anything you find in a background investigation, ask the applicant to explain.  It is a good idea to hire an investigative agency to assist, especially if you do business in multiple states, to ensure the investigations abide by all local, state and federal laws and regulations. Consider pre-employment drug testing; drug users can be unsafe workers and are more likely to file false claims to obtain money for drugs.

3. Pave the way for return to work

Communicate to employees that every attempt will be made to get injured employees healthy again and returned to work. Prepare a comprehensive, written, return-to-work plan, with detailed job descriptions that include temporary or alternative duties, and communicate that plan to appropriate persons. The functional job description is one of the best tools for identifying the discrete and unique duties, responsibilities and accountabilities associated with varying positions. The functional job description is a part of a continuing process throughout the entire employment relationship and should track and reflect changes in organization structure, tasks, accountabilities, skills and requirements. The functional job description should document the minimum job requirements and preferred qualifications of each position (including education, experience, licenses, certificates, physical requirements and work day/hours). This description can be used in conjunction with hiring practices to ensure the applicant has the ability to perform the job. Functional descriptions are also important for medical providers to use in determining return to work following an injury, including whether the employee can return to work full duty or in a modified capacity.

4. Surveillance video equipment

Monitoring is a proven spoiler of workplace crimes.  Consider both covert and overt monitoring, depending on the job site, type of claims filed and privacy concerns. If an injury is alleged, quickly secure the video and forward to your investigative partner to secure the evidence, log chain of custody and provide copies as needed. If the video does not match the employee’s description of the injury, create a strategy to share copies of the video with medical providers to ensure that only warranted benefits are obtained. Communicate with your claim professional, defense attorney and investigative partner to determine the best plan of action. For example, additional investigation may be warranted before putting the video into evidence, such as surveillance to document the employee’s current physical abilities or a recorded statement or deposition by the injured worker to memorialize his account of the injury. Your team will create a strategy to appropriately leverage the video in handling the claim and potential fraud.

5. Have a plan for when an industrial injury occurs

Provide training to leadership on how to respond when an industrial injury occurs. Respond immediately to any reported injury or rumor of potential injury. Promptly recommend your predetermined medical provider to the injured employee. A detailed description of the accident and injury should be obtained, and any relevant workplace evidence should be preserved. Have a professional investigation conducted as soon as possible. A timely investigation can help ensure the injured worker receives the appropriate benefits at the appropriate time. A thorough investigation can include statements by the injured worker, witness statements, scene inspection, photographic evidence, the securing of workplace equipment or other evidence. An investigation can also include a search of public records, criminal and civil court records, Department of Motor Vehicle records, a prior claims search, the securing of copies of records such as police report, 9-1-1 call record, OSHA report or other, as applicable. The investigation can identify potential subrogation so that the claim professional and defense attorney can pursue potential third-party liability. The investigation will also highlight suspicions; consequently, having a professional, third-party investigative agency conduct the initial compensability investigation is a critical tool in preventing fraud.

6. Familiarize yourself with investigative tools

Investigation of claims provides many benefits on workers’ comp costs and is especially critical for claims that have “red flags,” to ensure that only warranted benefits are administered and that potential abuse or fraud is identified early. Technological advances have provided new investigative tools as well as enhanced the capabilities of “old-school” investigative solutions. Background investigations, Internet searches, social-network monitoring and database searches are cost-effective investigations that can be conducted quickly and provide a plethora of valuable information. Information found on social networking often includes current activities, past behavior, hobbies, interests, sports, clubs, association, vacations and more. This evidence can include both photographic evidence and written information. If the injured worker is not improving despite medical treatment, consider having surveillance conducted to determine the level of physical abilities, limitations and restrictions. Surveillance evidence provides the best impact. The investigative agency should conduct a pre-surveillance investigation that includes searching social networking sites, databases, public records and DMV records. While currently the use of drones is not legal in most states, this is technology that may be incorporated into the investigative toolbox in the near future. Field investigations are important to determine compensability of a claim, so obtain recorded statements from the injured worker and any potential witnesses. Remember that “witnesses” are not only people who may have seen the injury occur, but people who may have information about the injured worker’s prior injuries, prior claims, hobbies, other employment, activities, etc. This may include co-workers who work near the injured worker, eat lunch together, share a carpool or take breaks together. Question potential witnesses if they personally obtained photographs or video of the subject incident or scene, as this is often the case given the widespread use of smartphones. Medical facility searches and pharmaceutical searches locate prior medical records and pharmaceutical history, which can help determine compensability and apportionment, identify potential drug abuse and ensure that only warranted benefits are paid.

7. Implement a safety program

Make workplace safety a priority; a safe workplace makes fake or exaggerated injuries harder to legitimize. Hold regular safety meetings and remind employees about workplace safety through social media, posters, flyers or employee newsletters. Consider a program that rewards workers for meeting safety milestones. Encourage employees to identify potential safety issues and share their ideas. To reduce repetitive injury claims, provide onsite ergonomics solutions to ensure employees are performing their duties the correct way. Encourage prompt reporting of injuries to immediately identify and resolve any problem that may contribute to workplace injuries.

8. Create an Experienced and Specialized Team

Build a strong and dedicated team to manage your workers’ compensation claims. Your team should include experienced claim management professionals, specialized legal resources, risk managers, a licensed investigative agency specialized in workers’ compensation and an SIU with certified fraud specialists (either internal with your insurance carrier or contracted directly). Communicate with your claim professional and ensure that he is actively identifying red flags and investigating your claims in a timely fashion. Partner with a licensed investigative agency that is experienced in your industry. If insured with a carrier, communicate with the carrier’s SIU to ensure that your claims are being reviewed by fraud specialists. If you are self-insured or in a high-deductible program, partner with an investigative company that has a successful SIU. Communicate with your team regularly to ensure active handling of claims, identify suspicious claims early and build effective strategies to leverage investigative evidence to stop unwarranted benefits and fight fraud.

9. Listen

Listening to employees can provide valuable information. The injured worker may have provided key information before and after the injury. Was the employee complaining before the alleged injury about work, physical pain or personal problems? Was he disgruntled, turned down for a promotion or had a change in job duties, supervisor or responsibilities? Did the injured worker talk about family problems such as health issues, additional family responsibilities or other personal situations? This information may be relevant and should be shared with the claim team. Listen after a workplace injury and throughout the claims process, as rumors of misrepresentations or foul play may filter through the workplace. Keeping an ear to the grapevine may help in weighing a claim’s validity. Have an “open-door” policy and encourage employees to share information and report suspicions.

10. Be Familiar With the Red Flags of Workers’ Comp Fraud

  • Injury reported late or on a Monday or following time off
  • Exaggerated details about incident or symptoms
  • Co-worker skepticism or different versions of the incident
  • Disgruntled, soon-to-retire, soon-to-strike, facing layoff or involved in seasonal work that is about to end
  • Unexplained or excessive time off prior to claimed injury
  • Has a history of short-term employment
  • New on the job, and injury is unwitnessed or suspicious
  • Experiencing financial difficulties or domestic problems before filing the claim
  • Recently purchased a private disability policy
  • Submitted employment application with misrepresentation(s)
  • First notification of injury or claim made after employee is terminated or laid off
  • Reported immediately after days off or alleged injury around date of a denied vacation request
  • History of substance abuse, prior injuries or prior accidents, especially soft-tissue injuries
  • Is known to participate in high-risk activity such as snowboarding, drag racing or boxing
  • Suspicion or tip of unreported work, cash work, seeking other employment or self-employed
  • Failed to report the injury in a timely manner or “forgot” to report critical details
  • History of reporting injuries, especially soft-tissue injuries
  • Other family members also receiving workers’ comp benefits or other “social insurance” benefits
  • Is unusually familiar with workers’ comp claim handling procedures and laws
  • Is consistently uncooperative, refuses to sign documents or submits documents with cross-outs
  • Information that employee is active or may be exaggerating limitations
  • In-house surveillance, tip or information indicating the injury may be non-industrial or not legitimate
  • Refuses to provide a statement or sign a medical release
  • Moves out of state or country shortly after filing claim
  • Protests about returning to work or changes provider once released to work
  • Details of accident are vague or contradictory, have inconsistencies or are not credible
  • Reported injury has same factors of other claims reported by co-workers, especially in the same time period
  • Denial or failure to report prior injury or medical treatment
  • Suspected altering of checks, off-work slips, prescriptions, or suspicious mileage reimbursement
  • Dramatizes physical condition or draws attention to collar, brace or other supportive devices
  • Is observed moving normally or without medical devices (collar, brace, cane, etc.)