Private Security Growth Presents Worker-Safety Challenges

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Posted by: CMR November 22, 2021 No Comments

The American workplace is grappling with unprecedented challenges that include COVID-19, rapidly rising wages, staffing shortages, supply chain issues and overall economic uncertainty.

With staffing changes and the potential for training gaps, the risk of workplace injuries can rise. Against this backdrop, employers in the security industry have an opportunity to address and potentially mitigate these issues.

The facts

According to a January 2019 article from Stacker.com, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled data involving non-fatal workplace injuries. This study showed the protective service industry — including police, firefighters and security guards — as the industry with the highest rates of workplace injuries. Compared to 21 other industries in North America, security guards fall within an industry that experiences a workplace injury rate of 298 per 10,000 full-time workers with a median of 13 days away from work.

Like other industries, the private security market has been greatly affected by the pandemic. A competitive job market and wage pressures have driven an exodus of more experienced private security workers while, at the same time, demand for private security has risen with reductions in law enforcement personnel. Meanwhile, the number of applicants who are new to private security has risen sharply.

Unfortunately, many serious workers’ compensation claims from the first half of 2021 appear to be among these new or less experienced private security workers. Comparatively, the rate of workers’ compensation claims among public sector or government security workers remains unchanged from prior years. Many of these security workers tend to be former military or police personnel with more substantial training.

Based on the types of claims we’re seeing across the private security market and recognizing many involve less-experienced security workers, we recommend a stronger focus on employer pre-screening, hiring practices and training to better mitigate risk. These steps will help protect workers and reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims in the private security market. This is where experienced agents and brokers can both help employers and further demonstrate the value they bring to the relationship.

Training for safety

The greatest share of non-fatal injuries to private security personnel in the U.S. and elsewhere tends to be from slips, trips and falls, according to a report from The International Security Ligue in Switzerland.

For example, security guards assigned to hospitals follow a specific workplace role. Importantly, they are typically trained not to intervene or assist with the work of healthcare professionals.

However, the most common injury scenario in hospital settings for security guards is when they take on the function of orderlies — helping to lift, move and sometimes restrain patients. The resulting injuries range from minor to major, adding to workers’ compensation claims, missed work and security staffing challenges at busy hospitals. With additional, practical training with real-world examples, it is possible these all-too-common claims could be avoided almost entirely.

While a standard HR practice is to provide new employees with the employee handbook and safety manual on day one, some of these safety materials should be provided at the point the hire is confirmed.

The first day of work should involve the new employee shadowing a more experienced security professional to provide hands-on training and a list of practical do’s and don’ts from those with experience on the job. This is especially critical among those hired for weekend and part-time security work as these shifts tend to be at the greatest risk for training oversights or shortcomings and experience the largest volume of employee turn-over.

The impact of pre-screening

The importance of pre-screening prospective employees cannot be understated in terms of worker safety. Insurers and in-house risk managers should work with the private security firm’s human resource professionals to review pre-screening practices and re-emphasize the economic and risk mitigation value of this stage of the hiring process.

In addition to examining the potential employee’s work history, a clear discussion of the responsibilities and potential hazards of working in private security must take place. Thoughtfully crafted behavior questions focused on safety can offer a glimpse into the potential employee’s perspective on safety and any past incidents involving him or her that might predict future decision making.

Also, if the private security company has a safe hiring statement, it should be reviewed for any deficits it might have that can impact worker safety. If a safe hiring statement doesn’t exist, insurance and risk management professionals can help craft such a statement with an eye toward reducing or avoiding the most common workplace injury incidents that lead to workers’ compensation claims.

Finally, where possible, in-person rather than telephone or video conference pre-screen interviews are recommended. This helps to build rapport with the candidate as well as offer some interpersonal insights based on body language and facial expressions.

A seat at the table

Managers, human resource professionals and employees all have a role to play in worker safety. Often missing from the table are a security firm’s insurance or risk management partners who are in the business of managing and mitigating risk. Their role is sometimes mistakenly relegated to the purchase of a workers’ compensation policy or answering questions involving a new claim. However, experienced insurance professionals can play a critical role in helping employers keep workers safe.

It is important to have risk management professionals help employers identify areas of concern or trends that threaten worker safety, advise on making changes and create return-to-work programs that focus on employee safety, as well as a safe and timely return to the workplace.

Since March of 2020, the U.S. economy has been stress-tested in ways few could have imagined. As businesses attempt to stabilize and workers return to office buildings, construction sites and other places of work, security is a fundamental lynchpin to this emerging sense of “business as usual.” Insurance professionals have a critical role to play in keeping these businesses, and their security workers, as safe as possible.

Source – PropertyCasualty360

Author: CMR

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