Workplace Shootings Are on The Rise; Here’s How the Insurance Industry Can Respond

By Joseph Dorr and Christa Solfanelli | April 3, 2023

Tragically, active shooter incidents are on the rise across the country. According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 100 mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. in 2023 alone. News organizations have reported that there have been more mass shootings than days this year.

A sobering reality is just how many of these tragedies occurred within the workplace. Out of the 61 shootings in 2021 that met the FBI’s definition of an active shooter — “individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area” — 57% took place within a business, educational or healthcare facility.

Just last month, a gunman opened fire on a Nashville school killing three students and three adults. Sadly, this followed several other high-profile workplace shootings, including at a New York grocery store, a break room at a Walmart in Virginia, a Texas elementary school and an Oklahoma medical building.

What can those of us working in insurance and risk management do to help protect people first and foremost? And how can we provide proper protection for property and operations from these horrific and seemingly random tragedies?

While there is no magic solution to prevent shootings from occurring, there are several steps that we can take to help those we serve be as prepared and protected as possible — and they are more comprehensive than simply offering active shooter training.

As risk management partners, we work closely with our clients to identify the varied threats their people and operations might face, pairing risk reduction strategies with the right insurance coverage to minimize risk and maximize protection. Yet the typical matrix for evaluating risk — comparing the frequency of a threat against its severity — breaks down when we’re talking about workplace violence. A shooting at your client’s business remains unlikely, but the consequences would be catastrophic if it did occur.

Insurance leaders therefore have the responsibility and the opportunity to think critically about the impacts of such a tragedy and proactively make decisions now to protect clients and their employees.

The first step should be recommending the hiring of a qualified, experienced security consultant to complete a full evaluation of the business and operations. This consultant can help in thoughtfully and thoroughly securing a building; developing a pre-screening procedure for visitors to mitigate the risk of a perpetrator from outside the company; and creating a screening plan for staff that fits into a holistic workplace violence prevention program, among other measures.

Workplace violence, including on-site shootings, is often preceded by warning signs and unusual behaviors. We need to ensure we’re helping clients see the signs. When employees are trained to recognize certain behaviors and are comfortable reporting them, some threats can be eliminated at the start. A security consultant can help create a best-in-class employee training program that empowers the workforce to minimize potential violence.

Those are just a few of the proactive steps we can offer as a risk manager to enhance the security within the walls of an organization.

But because there is no way to eliminate the possibility of a workplace shooting, leaders would be wise to evaluate current insurance coverage and consider where there may be significant gaps in the event of a tragedy.

For example, a general liability policy may exclude coverage for third-party claims involving gun-related violence, and coverage for physical injuries to employees may be limited under a workers’ compensation policy, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Additionally, if a workplace is forced to shut down for a period of time due to an investigation, trauma, or other related reasons, property insurance may not cover that business interruption expense unless there’s physical damage to the property.

Over 100 mass shootings have occurred in the United States in 2023.

There are now insurance products designed to fill these specific coverage gaps, offering everything from preventative advisory services to coverage for legal liability, crisis management, employee counseling, medical services, property damage, business interruption, and more. Since the odds of needing to use this insurance remain thankfully low, many include generous limits for relatively low deductibles.

Some industries, including healthcare and education, are unfortunately more likely to experience targeted violence than others, and will therefore need unique safety considerations and strategies.

A quick glance at the recent news headlines is sobering, but as violence rises, so can prevention. With foresight and expertise, insurance leaders can equip their clients with the tools, training and strategies to make their workplaces an environment of safety and respect.

Topics Commercial Lines Business Insurance Market

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Insurance Journal Magazine April 3, 2023
April 3, 2023
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