2014 Teddy Awards

Roosevelt’s Vision in Action

The 2014 Teddy Award winners represent principles that are the hallmarks of sustainably successful injury prevention and workers’ comp programs.   
By: | November 3, 2014 • 7 min read

In January 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt addressed Congress to explain why a system of workers’ compensation was a national imperative.

“Under the present law an injured workman … has no remedy, and the entire burden of the accident falls on the helpless man, his wife, and his young children,” wrote Roosevelt.

“This is an outrage. It is a matter of humiliation to the Nation that there should not be on our statute books provision to meet and partially to atone for cruel misfortune when it comes upon a man through no fault of his own … .”

Clearly, though, Roosevelt thought that preventing those “cruel misfortunes” from happening was too much to hope for. Workers’ compensation, he said, places “upon the employer the burden of accident insurance against injuries which are sure to occur.”

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Fast forward a century or so, and Roosevelt himself would be amazed by what workers’ comp and risk management professionals are accomplishing on a daily basis. Workplace injuries and fatalities are no longer thought of as an unavoidable cost of doing business, and the injury-free workplace is the Holy Grail that employers strive to achieve. Some are even managing it, too. Teddy would be gobsmacked.

Employers large and small, across the spectrum of industries, are thinking creatively, maximizing their resources, and otherwise moving mountains to preserve the safety and well-being of their employees while simultaneously looking out for their organizations’ bottom lines. Dedicated workers’ comp and health and safety teams are constantly raising the bar on what it means to achieve excellence.

Part of what drives that progress is the continual sharing of ideas and strategies that work. In conferences and networking events, in books and magazines and online, workers’ comp professionals are learning from their peers, and finding success by adapting strategies to their own workplaces. At its core, that is what the Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards are all about.

Employers large and small, across the spectrum of industries, are thinking creatively and maximizing their resources to preserve the safety and well-being of their employees while simultaneously looking out for their organizations’ bottom lines.

There are multitudes of impressive programs out there. It’s not easy to decide which ones to introduce to readers as Teddy Award winners. To help with the task, we enlisted the help of a panel of experts with decades of experience.

This year’s panel included Bryan Schwartz, corporate risk manager of American Infrastructure, a 2013 Teddy Award winner; Bruce Jones, director of insurance and Texas plan administrator at Community Health Systems Inc., a 2012 Teddy Award winner; 2014 Risk All Star Patricia Hostine, U.S. director of disability management at Flex-N-Gate; Mark Noonan, managing principal at Integro Insurance Brokers; and Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor of Risk & Insurance® and co-chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo.

Judges reviewed applications independently, and then gathered via conference call to share their thoughts and opinions. Each finalist was then rated numerically in five separate categories to determine the winners of the Teddy Awards, which are sponsored by Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.

The Elements of a Winner

Any analysis of Teddy Award contenders probably starts with the numbers. Injury frequency, lost time, and medical and indemnity cost data is carefully evaluated with an eye toward year-over-year improvement in performance. Judges factor in fluctuations in staffing levels and other factors that may have influenced outcomes.

Program longevity is also taken into consideration when looking at the numbers. A newly minted program may put up eye-popping performance numbers in its early years. However, a program that’s been in place for a decade or more that shows modest, steady gains may be equally impressive.

Hazard levels and complexity are considered as well — a window manufacturing plant faces a vastly different set of exposures than a housewares retailer.

JudgesSidebar.inddBut the numbers never tell the whole story. Judges evaluated the finalists through the lens of their own experience, with an eye toward what makes for a program that is not only successful today, but has the tools in place to remain successful for the long haul.

Flexible, sustainable programs have the infrastructure in place that can adapt if the company grows, shrinks, merges with another company, launches new product lines or even alters its business model.

Compass Group North America, for instance, has seen a remarkable 31 percent increase in staffing levels in the past five years. And yet because of the programs and infrastructure they’ve put in place, they have managed a 30 percent decrease in medical-only claims in the past two years as well as a drop in lost-time claims.

Teddy Award winners distinguish themselves by applying a holistic approach to risk that addresses the entire pre-injury through post-injury spectrum. Their programs contain elements addressing safety culture, injury prevention, training and wellness strategies while also finding ways to manage medical costs, ensure the best recovery outcomes, minimize lost time, and get injured associates back to work swiftly and safely. These programs have an impressive number of moving parts, each one evaluated and measured on a regular basis in order to ensure that there is continued forward motion at every level.

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These programs are typically designed to start reducing risks from the earliest possible point. Honda of South Carolina, for example, starts by eliminating exposures before they can ever occur. They maintain a proven process that helps engineer out hazards for each product long before a single factory worker touches it.

Harley-Davidson, meanwhile, uses a medical screening process along with a post-offer employment test to ensure that every worker can safely perform the specific physical tasks of the position before they’re officially hired.

Teddy Award winners also exemplify the “it takes a village” paradigm in their approach to collaboration, and have painstakingly forged teams — either internally or including third parties — with the risk expertise and skills to make their programs successful.

Top organizations such as Harley-Davidson have had to work through the challenges of replacing multiple vendors and hand-selecting the TPA staff to find just the right mix capable of meeting the company’s high standards. Weekly conference calls help ensure that all stakeholders maintain open lines of communications and share goals.

Focus on the Positive

Lost time is the enemy of both employers and injured workers. The longer an injured person remains out of work, the less likely it is that he or she will ever be able to return. Lost time is a huge obstacle to recovery and can contribute to comorbid conditions such as obesity. In the meantime, employers are short a valuable team member, while paying disability costs on top of labor replacement costs. That’s why the effectiveness of return-to-work programs is closely examined.

Not all return-to-work programs are created equally. Putting a recovering employee in a stockroom to count paper clips, does not benefit the employer or the employee.

Effective return-to-work programs require the right mind-set. It is not enough to rely on a doctor’s restrictions stating what the person can’t do. Instead, employers must look at what an injured worker can do independently or with some type of accommodation. That opens up the field to creative thinking and helps employers find productive work that benefits the organization while keeping injured employees engaged, active, and motivated to heal.

At Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, an employee confined to a wheelchair after spinal fusion surgery was enlisted to perform meaningful work helping to care for residents and accomplish other essential tasks.

At Harley-Davidson, an employee was casted and unable to drive or walk. The company didn’t merely locate a job her capabilities would allow, it provided transportation to get her to and from work and a wheeled scooter so she could navigate the facility.

Compass Group modified an operation to accommodate an employee without the use of one hand. It also allowed her to job-shadow other employees in order to broaden the possibilities for tasks she could perform one-handed.

Sprinkled among the application narratives was something else Teddy Roosevelt would have been heartened to see. Successful employers are building health, safety and workers’ comp programs with a genuine goal of caring for their people. Honda of South Carolina wrote earnestly that the “I Care” attitude shown to its associates is the underlying core that drives its health and safety and workers’ comp programs.

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Writing of its approach to return-to-work, Cold Spring Hills noted that its policy not only minimizes the exposure of claims but also ensured that “the employee felt loved and cared for by her employer!”

This clear level of caring was not lost on this year’s judges. If you focus on what’s best for employees, judges said during their conference call, the cost savings will follow.

If that is the trend that guides the next century of workers’ comp professionals, Roosevelt’s legacy will be far greater than he ever dared to dream.

_______________________________________________________

Read more about all of the 2014 Teddy Award winners:

11012014_02_cs_honda_150x150Building Value with Trust: Honda of South Carolina boosted its involvement with injured worker cases, making a positive first impression on employees and health care providers.

 

11012014_03_cs_harley_150x150The TLC Behind the Roar: A proactive and holistic approach to employees’ well-being has resulted in huge reductions in work-related injury claims for Harley-Davidson.

 

11012014_04_cs_compass150x150Quick to Act: Compass Group is lauded for its safety initiatives and for a return-to-work program that incorporates all of its business lines.

 

 

11012014_05_cs_coldspring_150x150Healing the Healers: Teddy Award winner Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation proved that even small organizations can make a huge difference in their employees’ lives.

 

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Catastrophe Risk

Material Resiliency

New materials, methods and ideas are empowering property owners to rein in their catastrophe risks.
By: | October 12, 2017 • 11 min read

The 2017 hurricane season is one for the record books. Rebuilding efforts are underway, with builders working to make insureds whole again as soon as possible … at least until the next storm comes along.

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And therein lies the problem with recovery in disaster-prone regions. It evokes the oft-quoted definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

So what if we did it differently? What if instead of rebuilding to make structures “like new,” we rebuilt to make them better, more resilient, less prone to damage?

The reality is, we don’t really have a choice. Climate change is ushering in weather systems that are increasingly volatile. Wildfires are raging like never before. Sea-level rise is threatening our coasts, and there’s no way to dial any of it back.

Nevertheless, people will continue to build homes and businesses along the coast. Real estate developers will continue to nestle luxury homes into wooded foothills.

That means communities need to come to terms with the risk and plan for it intelligently.

Michael Brown, vice president and property manager, Golden Bear Insurance

“Natural disasters are going to happen,” said Michael Brown, vice president and property manager with Golden Bear Insurance. “But if we plan and build communities around the idea that something bad may happen someday, then that community can bounce back faster afterward.”

In any natural disaster, he added, “the property damage is extreme. But the biggest portion of the losses, both insured and uninsured, are the time element pieces. How long was the business closed? How long were homeowners unable to occupy their homes? Those are the pieces that drag on for months — years in some cases — and really drive the economic loss.”

That’s the motivation behind new materials, designs and strategies being implemented in the construction and repair of at-risk residential and commercial properties.

Powerful Flood Solutions

Newer building products move the needle significantly in terms of efficacy.

For new or restored structures in flood-prone regions, Georgia Pacific produces gypsum panels that incorporate fiberglass mats instead of paper facings and comply with the latest FEMA requirements for flood damage resistance and mold resistance. Wall boards made from magnesium oxide (MgO) don’t absorb water at all and have the added benefits of being environmentally friendly and non-flammable.

In the UK, advanced flood-resilient structures built with water-resilient concrete-block partitions are being fitted with not only MgO wallboards, but also wood-look porcelain or ceramic flooring that’s non-permeable and fire-resistant — without sacrificing aesthetics. Drains are installed in the flooring, along with sub-flooring gullies and submersible pumps that push the water back outside. Outlets and appliance motors are all situated above expected flood levels. Doors are equipped with sliding flood panels.

In the event of flooding that exceeds a depth of two feet, automatic opening window panels (flood inlets) are triggered by sensors to allow flood water to enter the property slowly, to reduce external pressure that could damage the structure.

Carl Solly, vice president and chief engineer, FM Global

Controlled inflow buys time for a homeowner to raise furniture up on blocks, or for a business owner to raise pallets of goods up to higher shelves or move equipment to a higher elevation.

Water intrusion is reduced dramatically, and even when it happens, there is little to no damage. Water is pushed into the floor drains, surfaces are allowed to dry, and then it’s back to business as usual in days rather than months — likely with no insurance claim filed.

Dramatic improvements are happening on this side of the pond as well. For entities that need permanent on-site flood solutions, barriers like flood gates and retractable flood walls are the most sophisticated they’ve ever been.

After suffering $4 billion in damage during Superstorm Sandy, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority invested heavily in flexible fabric flood panels that are made with Kevlar® and can be unrolled quickly and easily. Additional flood gates hinged to air grates are passively activated by the weight of incoming water entering the grates.

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The transit authority is also testing a prototype “resilient tunnel plug” — essentially a giant air bag that can be deployed quickly to seal off sections of subway tunnel. The plug is designed to withstand not only flood but also biochemical attack.

Even temporary solutions are leaps and bounds beyond the days when sandbagging was typically the best option. New as-needed barrier methods include inflatable bladders that can be placed around a building’s perimeter and filled with water to keep floodwater and flood debris at bay.

“People have always said, ‘Well, I’m in a flood plain, it’s inevitable. It’s an act of God,’ ” said Carl Solly, vice president and chief engineer, FM Global. “In the last several years, we’ve really been trying to deliver the message that you can do something about your flood risk.”

Shake, Pummel and Burn

Flood is far from the only problem benefiting from smart engineering. FM Global is working with manufacturers to develop and certify roofing material designed to better withstand the localized hailstorms that often plague southeastern and midwestern states.

Current materials rated for severe hail can withstand hailstones up to 1 ¾ inches in diameter. The new product, rated for “very severe” hail can tolerate hailstones up to 2 ½ inches. The difference sounds small, but it’s far from it.

“It’s about three times the amount of impact energy when it hits the roof [compared to a 1 ¾ hailstone],” explained Solly. “That’s a big difference.”

As for “bouncing back” after a catastrophic fire, Solly said that’s a fairly tall order. But even there, technology is helping to reduce the severity of fires so that disruption is minimal.

FM Global researchers recently pioneered the concept of SMART sprinklers — shorthand for Simultaneous Monitoring and Assessment Response Technology — which can sense a fire earlier than traditional systems and activate targeted sprinkler heads when needed and shut off once the fire is out.

“You’ll catch it with less water, so from a water usage perspective, a water damage perspective and a smoke damage perspective, we think that has an opportunity to be a big difference-maker in the fire protection industry, particular with high-challenge fires,” said Solly.

“You’ve got a better chance of stopping what normally would be a really tough fire to catch.”

In addition, added Brown, smarter sprinkler systems, much like burglar alarms, could be programmed to notify the fire department instantly, even when a structure is unoccupied.

For earthquake risk, said Brown, resilient building efforts are less about new materials than they are about more strategic ways of using traditional materials.

“Here in California we wrap homes in stucco around the wood frame to help the whole building move as a unit. Stucco is concrete so it does crack. I end up with a building that’s got some cosmetic damage … but you don’t have to rebuild the building. It does its job in terms of absorbing a lot of the ground motion before it pushes the building beyond its design tolerances.”

Using stronger, larger steel brackets where the walls meet the roof or the floor or each other, said Brown, “keeps the north wall from moving in one direction while the west wall moves a different direction.”

Those kinds of stress points can push modest earthquake damage to catastrophic levels, he said.

One earthquake innovation still in the beta phase is a project out of the U.C. Berkeley Seismological lab, using the accelerometers in smartphones as virtual seismometers. Participating phones have an app that detects certain types of ground motion. As phones pick up earthquake wave patterns, they ping the server which checks nearby smartphones to see if they sensed the same pattern, all in microseconds. If an earthquake pattern can be confirmed, an alarm will be sent to every cellphone within a logical radius.

That might only buy people an extra two to five minutes before the event, said Brown, “but if you are the operators of Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter trains, that’s enough time to slow all the trains down to five miles an hour. If you are Google, that’s enough time to park a bunch of hard drives in your server farm so that they’re better able to resist shaking and not be damaged too badly.”

Raising Standards

Cost, of course, will impact the take-up of resilient materials and tools. If it’s three times more expensive to build a home out of the resilient materials, a lot of builders aren’t going to want to because the home will be tougher to sell.

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FM Global’s Approvals division tests and certifies a variety of products aimed at mitigating disaster peril. That can help increase property owner confidence in these materials, particularly for commercial structures.

“When you’re betting millions of dollars and the future of your business — or at least the near-term future of your business — you really need to know that it’s going to work,” said Solly.

With just-in-time manufacturing, a company may have a few days’ worth of stock on hand rather than three months’ worth.

“So you can’t afford to be out of business for weeks, because your customers are going to go somewhere else for your product,” he said.

Building standards and codes can help drive adoption of resilient measures in both commercial and residential construction. But more work needs to be done to raise standards to meet the goal of resilience.

Effecting real resilience is something leaders across the spectrum should be talking about, including brokers and carriers, government and research agencies, building products manufacturers, and corporate executives.

If lives are saved in an earthquake, but a building is still damaged to the point where it needs to be torn down, said Brown “that building owner, that community, is going to have a much longer path to full recovery. We want the building codes strengthened to an immediate occupancy [goal] — we want people to be able to move right back into that building so there’s a much shorter window of disruption.

“It’s certainly better for me as the insurer,” he said, “but it’s even better for the guy that owns the building or runs his business out of it because now his employees still have a place to come to work and they can still get paid.”

Every single business able to minimize its downtime in this way helps the entire community be more resilient, he added. It creates that snowball effect in a good way. When businesses are able to stay open or reopen quickly, he said, workers don’t lose a meaningful amount of pay. Everybody’s in a better position to continue shopping and supporting the local economy.

“If you just shorten the line of people who are looking for some sort of federal aid, or state aid because they’ve had a massive financial disaster — maybe we can turn those into moderate to small financial disasters. That’s the key, I think, to communities being more resilient.”

Driving Demand

As the likelihood increases that property owners will experience a second loss or even third loss, some insurers are looking at ways to invest in resilience — a smarter long-term business plan than paying to rebuild again and again.

One new initiative is Lex Flood Ready, the product of a partnership between Lexington Insurance and The Flood Insurance Agency (TFIA). Flood Ready is a coverage enhancement for Lexington Private Market Flood clients that will not only indemnify property owners that suffer flood damage but will also provide the funds to rebuild them to a higher standard of resiliency when replacing floors and walls.

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Resilience proponents advocate a variety of approaches to encourage take-up, including tax credits, resilience grants, insurance incentives and other partnerships, as well as encouraging lenders to engage borrowers by making the flood risk assessments part of the mortgage process.

A certification scheme similar to LEED could also help drive resilience efforts. The UK is currently beta-testing a certification program called Home Quality Mark, developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE). Properties are rated on stringent criteria that considers not just disaster resilience, but energy performance and cost, durability and environmental impact.

“Getting people from diverse perspectives thinking about it and talking about it is going to be the avenue to finding the right answers.” — Michael Brown, VP and property manager, Golden Bear Insurance

That’s something builders would be able to use to add value to their properties, offsetting the cost of building in resilience and driving consumer demand for properties built to the highest standards.

With increased resilience will come questions for insurers, said Brown. “It will open up a can of worms.”

It will create something of an arms race among insurance companies, he said. “Who’s going to be the first one to figure out what’s the right way to insure that? What’s the right price? What are the right terms and conditions?” Admittedly, it’s a good problem to have.

Effecting real resilience is something leaders across the spectrum should be talking about, including brokers and carriers, government and research agencies, building products manufacturers, and corporate executives.

“Getting people from diverse perspectives thinking about it and talking about it is going to be the avenue to finding the right answers,” said Brown.

“That kind of mentality top to bottom in the industry is going to be necessary. It’s not the first time we’ve dealt with disruptive things and we will continue doing it. It’s what keeps the game interesting.” &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]