1 Violent events
Every employee has a right to feel safe at work, but workers in the public sector face unique risks. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the rate of injury incident for local and state government workers is significantly higher than those of workers in other industries. The incidence of active shooter events is also increasing across the United States, with almost a third occurring at school and government locations. Here are four general steps public entities can take to develop an emergency response plan and proactively mitigate this risk.
2 Cyber attacks
Schools and local governments are becoming popular targets for ransomware attacks, as these entities often rely on outdated technology and lack funding for cybersecurity projects. In fact, more than 100 incidents were reported in 2019, compared to 55 attacks in 2018. Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; and St. Lucie, Florida are just a few cities that have been crippled by ransomware attacks. With hackers demanding significant ransoms to release encrypted systems, public entities should prioritize efforts to protect their assets and the private information of citizens.
3 COVID-19 recovery
Recovery from COVID-19 will take time, and public entities are proactively planning for how to adapt to the new “normal” so they can support their communities. Among issues to address include setting guidelines to reopen and restore their economies; complying with executive orders set at the local, state, and federal levels; monitoring the health and safety of employees and the public; and developing plans for the upcoming school year. Now more than ever, collaboration and communication are key to build resiliency for what comes next.
4 Sexual misconduct
Sexual misconduct in the public sector, especially in schools, is a serious issue. A indicate that 10% of students K-12 have reportedly been abused by a school employee by the time they graduate. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States was estimated to be at least $9.3 billion. There are actions schools can take to help identify areas of vulnerability, establish protocols, and implement prevention techniques.
5 Increased litigation
Lawsuits stemming from age discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, failure to promote, and other employment-related charges are key concerns for public entities. In 2019, the EEOC filed 72,675 workplace discrimination charges against both public and private entities, securing $346 million in monetary benefits for victims. These cases, along with “reviver” statues, which allow legal claims of sexual abuse that formerly expired to proceed in court, could put public entities at risk for more claims, which may result in larger verdicts or settlements.
6 Fleet management
Across the U.S., government sector owns and operates close to 3 million vehicles. With that many vehicles on the road, distracted driving, impaired driving, and a critical shortage of experienced drivers are just some of the factors increasing the risk of accidents, claims, and related costs. There are fleet management strategies that public entities can put in place to help promote safety, minimize exposures, and reduce costs.
While bullying in schools is not new, its growing prevalence and lasting impacts have changed in many ways – making prevention a crucial priority. Today, one in every five youths ages 12 to 18 is bullied while at school and are the victims of behaviors such as hitting, shoving, teasing, insults, threats, or exclusion. Mounting evidence also suggests that bullying can have long-lasting effects on victims’ mental and physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying may increase students’ risk for anxiety, depression, substance use, and academic problems. For these reasons and more, schools should keep bullying awareness and prevention top-of-mind as part of their risk-management strategies.
8 Traumatic brain injuries
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) aren’t just a risk for professional athletes in high-contact sports; student athletes are also susceptible. In fact, an estimated 283,000 children seek care in U.S. emergency departments each year for a sports- or recreation-related traumatic brain injury, with football, bicycling, basketball, playground activities, and soccer accounting for the highest number of visits. The increased awareness of TBIs, along with the serious and sometimes long-lasting effects of injuries, can put public entities at risk for costly claims.
9 Privacy protection litigation
As part of serving their communities, public entities may collect a range of personal information, from telephone numbers and email addresses to Social Security numbers and credit card details. While protecting that information has always been paramount, public entities must consider privacy protection legislation, like the General Data Protection Regulation, as fines for violations could costs millions of dollars. The proliferation of data privacy legislation in multiple states along with numerous high-profile security breaches has elevated cyber security defense as a top priority for businesses and public entities alike.
10 Health risks
While many local governments and schools complied with mandatory shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders during the onset of COVID-19, many employees continued to interact with the public. As businesses and public agencies reopen, employee health and well-being should remain top-of-mind. To help mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and protect workers, public entities should equip staff with proper personal protective equipment, follow health recommendations, and understand the exposures employees could face while at work.
The Risk Matrix is featured with the permission of Risk & Insurance®. The Risk Matrix is produced by the Risk & Insurance editorial team.