6 Critical Cyber Threats
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2018 is shaping up to be a year of historic shift for U.S. manufacturing. Tax reform, favorable regulatory changes, advances in industrial technology, and an improving economy and unemployment rate all present opportunities for organic growth.
“Many manufacturers expect to increase sales in 2018, both domestically and abroad,” said Stacie Graham, Senior Vice President and General Manager, National Insurance, Central Division, for Liberty Mutual Insurance. “Recent tax and regulatory changes in particular present opportunities to increase exports to international markets.”
But there are persistent operational challenges that could block manufacturers from seizing these opportunities. An industry-wide talent shortage and skills gap hinder growth potential for U.S manufacturers. To overcome them, apprenticeships and efficiency tools like co-bots could be the way forward.
According to a 2017 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. manufacturing industry could be short by about two million workers over the 2015–2025 period.
“The labor participation rate will continue to drop through 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This shift is largely driven by aging workers who are retiring—and there isn’t enough new talent in the pipeline to replace them,” Graham said.
The manufacturing sector — like many others– needs to invest more in attracting and training talent. Some of the difficulty could stem from what Graham called an “image problem.”
“There’s a perception that manufacturing is not a viable career path, because automation is taking over, or because it’s dangerous, or simply because many jobs on the factory floor seem repetitive,” she said. Less than five in 10 Americans surveyed by Deloitte believe manufacturing jobs are interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable, or secure.
The increasingly technical nature of manufacturing work may also present challenges, as potential job candidates may not have the right skills.
Manufacturers are feeling the pinch. In a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, companies indicated that attracting and maintaining a quality workforce is a top challenge.
Now is the time for manufacturers to address these operational challenges so they can be successful in the long term.
When it comes to training new skills, earlier is better for both employees and businesses. Manufacturers that invest in apprenticeship programs targeting younger applicants can help to teach the necessary skills to a pool of talent early in their career journeys.
For example, Germany adopted an apprenticeship model in the mid-2000s, which helped decrease the youth unemployment rate from a high of 15.9 percent in 2005 to 6.6 percent in 2017. In the U.S., the youth unemployment rate reached 10.1 percent in 2017.
“There is a big opportunity to tap into that pool,” Graham said. “And if apprentices have good experiences, they’ll spread the word among their peers, helping to cultivate a continuing pipeline of talent.”
Talent development and training may not completely bridge the gap created by a mass exodus of retirees, and that’s where collaborative robots —or co-bots — come into play.
As the name suggests, co-bots work alongside human workers, not replace them entirely.
By performing tasks that pose ergonomic or other safety risks to employees, co-bots can free up employees for higher-level thinking tasks like quality control or the actual programming of co-bots.
“Co-bots boost worker efficiency and can reduce the total number of employees on the floor,” Graham said, but they don’t come without their own challenges.
Brokers can play a key role in helping their clients take advantage of the efficiency gains promised by co-bots while mitigating the risks. Here are five areas brokers should address with their clients to help them effectively implement co-bot technology:
The right insurer can help brokers address these areas and help their clients take advantage of the business opportunities ahead.
Liberty Mutual’s team of risk control consultants can help create company-specific safety checklists to help ensure that co-bots don’t present a bigger threat than opportunity.
“Members of our risk control team specialize in manufacturing. They sit on health and safety committees and take part in discussions about standards for industrial robots and co-bots,” Graham said. “They help ensure we’re keeping up with industry changes so we can provide the right guidance.”
Industry-specific expertise is complemented by broad range of coverages, from standard to E&S lines, offered by Liberty Mutual and Ironshore, now a Liberty Mutual company.
“We have such a wide breadth of products available for manufacturers, from small and mid-size to very large. Whether it’s a guaranteed cost policy or a loss responsive policy, we can build a program that makes the most sense for that company,” Graham said.
Liberty Mutual also offers specific endorsements for industrial equipment, metal, plastics, and food manufacturers, including commercial general liability enhancements and E&O coverage claims-made and defense within limits.
“Our job is to make it easy for brokers to find the right mix of coverage and services their clients need to be successful. “We’re able to do that with our risk control resources and flexibility in building program structures that work.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.
If 2017 had a moniker, it might be “the year of the natural disasters,” thanks to a phenomenal array of catastrophic or severe events— hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, ice storms and floods.
Combined with smaller-scale fires and other emergencies, these incidents tax the resources of local and state emergency services, often prompting the need to call volunteer emergency responders into action.
But as lean as most organizations are already running, volunteer activities can sometimes cause friction between employees and employers. Handling conflicts the wrong way can potentially lead to legal headaches, harm employee morale and batter a company’s reputation.
Most employers are aware of the various federal and state leave laws protecting their employees, including family and medical leave, pregnancy leave and military leave. But leave laws that protect the livelihoods of volunteer emergency responders are more likely to fly under the radar of some HR managers and risk managers.
Such laws don’t exist in every state, but more than 20 states do have some type of law in place to protect volunteers including emergency responders, firefighters, disaster workers, medical responders, ambulance drivers or peace officers.
The laws vary broadly. Nearly all specify that such leave be unpaid, and that employees disclose their volunteer status to employers and provide documentation for each leave. But there is a spectrum of variations in terms of what may trigger an eligible leave. Some, for instance, apply for any emergency that prompts a call from the volunteer’s affiliated responder group. Others may require a government declaration of emergency for the law to be triggered.
While many of the laws do not explicitly require employers to let employees leave work when called to an emergency during a shift, most specify that an employee may be late or even miss work entirely without facing termination or any other adverse employment action.
Some states mandate a maximum number of unpaid leave days that a volunteer can claim. But others may place more significant burdens on employers. In California, for instance, employers with 50 or more employees are required to grant up to 14 days of unpaid leave for training activities in addition to any leave taken to respond to emergency events. For multistate employers, keeping on top of what obligations may apply in each circumstance can be a challenge.
Large or mid-sized employers may rely on absence management providers to keep them in compliance. For smaller employers though, it may be as simple as looking up a state’s law via Google to find out what’s required. However, checking in with the state department of labor or the company’s attorney may be the best way to get the correct facts.
“I would caution that just because you don’t find something [on the internet], it doesn’t mean it’s not there,” said absence management and employment law attorney Marti Cardi, vice president of Product Compliance for Matrix Absence Management.
For example, Cardi said, an obscure Texas law provides job-protected leave for volunteer ham radio operators called into service during an emergency.
Cardi said employers should task HR to investigate the laws in each state the company operates in, and to ensure that supervisors are educated about the existence of these laws.
“If a supervisor is told by one of his or her employees, ‘Sorry I’m not coming in today … I’ve been called to volunteer firefighter duty for the [nearby region] fire,’” she said, you want to be sure that the supervisor knows not to take action against the employee, and to contact HR for guidance.
“Training supervisors to be aware of this kind of absence is really important.”
An employer that does terminate a protected volunteer for responding to an emergency may be ordered to pay back wages and reinstate the employee. In some cases, the employee may also be able to sue for wrongful termination.
And of course, “you don’t want to be the company in the headlines that is getting sued because you fired the volunteer firefighter,” she added.
If an employer bars a volunteer from responding, the worst-case scenario may be a third-party claim. Failure to comply with the law could give rise to a claim along the lines of “‘If you had complied with your statutory obligation to give Jane Doe time to respond, my loved one would not have died,’” explained Philadelphia-based Jonathan Segal, partner at law firm Duane Morris and managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute.
“That’s the claim I think is the largest in terms of legal risk.”
Even if no one dies or is seriously injured, he added, “there could still be significant reputational risk if an individual were to go to the media and say, ‘Look, I got called by the fire department and I wasn’t allowed to go.’”
What employers should be thinking about, Segal said, is that whether or not you have a legal obligation to provide job-protected leave for volunteer responders, “there’s still the question of what are the consequences if you don’t?”
Employee morale should be factored in, he said. The last thing any company wants is for employees to perceive it as insensitive to their interests or the interests of the community at large.
“Sometimes employers need to go beyond the law, and this is one of those times,” — Jonathan Segal, partner, Duane Morris; managing principal, Duane Morris Institute
“How is this going to resonate with my employees, with my workforce, how are people going to see this? These are all relevant factors to consider,” he said.
There’s an argument to be made for employers to look at the bigger picture when it comes to any volunteer responders on their payroll, said Segal.
“Sometimes employers need to go beyond the law, and this is one of those times,” he said. “Think about the case where’s there’s not a specific state law [for emergency responders] and you say to a volunteer, ‘No, you can’t leave to deal with this fire’ and then people die. You as an employer have potentially played a role, indirectly, because you didn’t allow the first responder or responders to go,” he said.
The bottom line is that “it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s not required by law,” agreed Cardi.
“I feel that companies should have a policy that they’re not going to discipline or discharge someone for absences due to this kind of civic service, subject to verification of course.”
While most employers do strive to be good corporate citizens, it goes without question that employers need to guard their own interests. It’s not especially likely that volunteer responders will try to take advantage of the unpaid leave allowed them, but of course, it could happen.
That’s why it’s important to have policies that are aligned with state laws. Those policies could include:
If at some point it becomes excessive – someone has responded to emergencies five times in nine weeks, then it’s time to examine the specifics of the law and have a discussion with the employee about what’s reasonable, said Segal. It may also be time to ask specifics about whether the person is volunteering each time, or are they being called.
In some cases, the discussion may need to be about finding a middle ground, especially if an employee has taken on an excessively demanding volunteer role.
“We encourage volunteers to pick the style that best fits their schedule,” said Greta Gustafson, a representative of the American Red Cross. “Disaster volunteers can elect to respond to disasters locally, nationally, or even virtually, and each assignment varies in length — from responding overnight to a home fire in your community to deploying across the country for several weeks following a hurricane.
“The Red Cross encourages all volunteers to talk with their employers to determine their availability and to communicate this with their local Red Cross chapter.”
Segal suggests approaching it as an interactive dialogue — borrowing from the ADA. “Employers may need to open a discussion along the lines of ‘I need you here this week because this week we have a deliverable on Friday and you’re critical to that client deliverable,’” he said, but also identify when the employee’s absence would be less critical.
No doubt there will be tough calls. An employer may have its hands full just trying to meet basic customer needs and need all hands on deck.
“That may be a situation where you say, ‘First let me check the law,’” said Segal. If there’s a leave law that applies, “then I’m going to need to comply with it. If there’s not, then you may need to balance competing interests and say, ‘We need you here.’” &