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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.

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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.

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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

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

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

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

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

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

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

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

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

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

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

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

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

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

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

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

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

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

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

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

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

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

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

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

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

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

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

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]