Column: Workers' Comp

Creatively Building Wellness

By: | June 1, 2017 • 2 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

Richard Graham has a front row seat for viewing how work roles can influence employee health, even contributing to differences in physiques after years of performing certain jobs.


Given his vantage point, the director of workers’ compensation for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is a believer in the wellness services SEPTA offers in an attempt to help its nearly 10,000 employees improve their health.

The wellness efforts provide an example of the creativity employers must reach for when other exposure mitigation strategies reveal their limits.

SEPTA bus drivers, whose roles require constant sitting, appear different after years of service than do SEPTA’s mechanics, whose physical jobs entail frequent movement throughout their workdays.

His observation of body differences isn’t the only factor making Graham a wellness believer. Claims severity, and the frequency of comorbidities impacting injury recovery also differs substantially between the two occupations.

“I’m a believer because I don’t think you have to look too much further than the differences in our workforce,” Graham said. “You start to see the folks that are on their feet, moving and doing different things every day. We know that more often they are going to get better, recovering [faster post injury] than the folks that are not moving.”

It is also easier to engineer workplace safety measures that mitigate mechanic injury frequency.

SEPTA bus drivers, whose roles require constant sitting, appear different after years of service than do SEPTA’s mechanics, whose physical jobs entail frequent movement throughout their workdays.

SEPTA adopted many accident-prevention measures for its buses and drivers. But unlike its ability to control the mechanics’ environment, it can’t control the weather or the other motorists that its bus operators encounter on crowded city streets.  That caps SEPTA’s ability to mitigate causes of bus driver injury frequency.

Meanwhile, there is no replacement for the valuable experience its bus drivers of many years bring to the job, Graham said. SEPTA needs them at work to provide the public with about 1.1 million daily rides, and do so on schedule.


So SEPTA employs a range of claims strategies like assigning nurse case managers to help injured workers with the comorbidities that can complicate their return to work.

But in hopes of reducing comorbidities and claims severity further, SEPTA partners with the University of Pennsylvania for a weight-loss program employees can participate in.

SEPTA also sponsors a farm-share program to help employees buy fresh produce, offers yoga classes at its headquarters, and placed stationary bikes in four workplace locations where bus drivers congregate.

Personal responsibility is also a huge factor in a worker’s health and it’s up to the drivers to get on those bikes and take advantage of SEPTA’s other health improvement offerings.

SEPTA, meanwhile, does not yet have outcomes data to definitively determine the effectiveness of its wellness offerings.

Complacency isn’t a risk-management tool. Creativity is. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

After 20 years in the business, Navy Pier’s Director of Risk Management values her relationships in the industry more than ever.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Working at Dominick’s Finer Foods bagging groceries. Shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to [cashier] and then to a management position. It taught me great responsibility and it helped me develop the leadership skills I still carry today.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

While working for Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the administration of claims. This led to a business relationship with the director of risk management of the organization who actually owned the property. Ultimately, a position became available in her department and the rest is history.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


The risk management community is doing a phenomenal job in professional development and creating great opportunities for risk managers to network. The development of relationships in this industry is vitally important and by providing opportunities for risk managers to come together and speak about their experiences and challenges is what enables many of us to be able to do our jobs even more effectively.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Attracting, educating and retaining young talent. There is this preconceived notion that the insurance industry and risk management are boring and there could be nothing further from the truth.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

In my 20 years in the industry, the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry are the various types of risk we look to insure against. Many risks that exist today were not even on our radar 20 years ago.

Gina Kirchner, director of risk management, Navy Pier Inc.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

FM Global. They have been our property carrier for a great number of years and in my opinion are the best in the business.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

I am optimistic that policies will be put in place with the new administration that will be good for the economy and business.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial risks that are of most concern to me are cyber risks, business interruption, and any form of a health epidemic on a global scale. We are dealing with new exposures and new risks that we are truly not ready for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My mother has played a significant role in shaping my ideals and values. She truly instilled a very strong work ethic in me. However, there are many men and women in business who have mentored me and have had a significant impact on me and my career as well.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I am most proud of making the decision a couple of years ago to return to school and obtain my [MBA]. It took a lot of prayer, dedication and determination to accomplish this while still working a full time job, being involved in my church, studying abroad and maintaining a household.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

“Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. I loved the book and the movie.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?


A French restaurant in Paris, France named Les Noces de Jeannette Restaurant à Paris. It was the most amazing food and brings back such great memories.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Israel. My husband and I just returned a few days ago and spent time in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Jordan. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We did everything from riding camels to taking boat rides on the Sea of Galilee to attending concerts sitting on the Temple steps. The trip was absolutely life changing.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Many, many years ago … I went parasailing in the Caribbean. I had a great experience and didn’t think about the risk at the time because I was young, single and free. Looking back, I don’t know that I would make the same decision today.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I would have to say the relationships and partnerships I have developed with insurance carriers, brokers and other professionals in the industry. To have wonderful working relationships with such a vast array of talented individuals who are so knowledgeable and to have some of those relationships develop into true friendships is very rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My friends and family have a general idea that my position involves claims and insurance. However, I don’t think they fully understand the magnitude of my responsibilities and the direct impact it has on my organization, which experiences more than 9 million visitors a year.

Katie Siegel is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]