Risk Insider: Andy Hosman

Data Matters; Regardless of Regulatory Shifts

By: | July 6, 2017 • 3 min read
Andy Hosman is the vice president of Operational Risk Solutions at Sphera. He has more than 17 years of experience in designing, developing, and implementing risk management solutions to help customers assess, mitigate, manage and monitor their risk more effectively. Prior to joining Sphera, Andy was a senior vice president of product management at Marsh ClearSight.
Topics: Risk Insider | Safety

On May 31, a Topeka, Kansas, worker was killed when a forklift pinned him against another piece of equipment, according to the radio station KVOE-AM.

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Tragedies like this one are far too common, and no loss of life from a workplace incident is ever acceptable. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that 4,500 people die every year in the United States from work-related accidents, and studies have shown the cost of occupational injuries and illnesses to employers could be as much as $250 billion per year.

With the recent disapproval of OSHA’s clarification on its recordkeeping rule, known as the Volks Rule, there is a lot of focus on the amount of time that data should be retained.

Ultimately, the discussion should not be centered on whether companies should be legally required to maintain incident records for the current six-month period or the five-year period under Volks. Instead, the conversation should be focused on using data as an analytical tool that helps both employers and workers.

The key to improving workplace safety is understanding the causes of the incidents and near-misses that take place in a company and putting measures and systems in place to mitigate them. That’s where good quality incident data comes into play.

A larger, more statistically robust data set enables companies to understand the true cause-and-effect relationships between workplace incidents and the measures put in place to reduce their frequency and severity.

Six months of recordkeeping will provide only enough data for the employer to perform initial root-cause analysis across incidents. This information is valuable because it allows the organization to learn from those events and take corrective actions.

However, this limited scope of data might not allow for understanding the long-term effects of changes to workplace safety or broader trends across the organization. It also does not allow for effective benchmarking against an industry peer set to acquire more valuable predictive and prescriptive analytics, which are vital to maintaining safe workplaces.

So how much data is enough?

Incident data is a critical lagging indicator of the effectiveness of a company’s safety program. Without sufficient historical data, companies are more likely to see accidents repeat themselves. A larger, more statistically robust data set enables companies to understand the true cause-and-effect relationships between workplace incidents and the measures put in place to reduce their frequency and severity.

This allows companies to shift their focus toward leading indicators that are captured from proactive risk measures, such as assessments and inspections, to predict where incidents are more likely to occur and so companies can allocate their resources accordingly.

Aside from the analytical value of the data, the transparency of key incident metrics and key performance indicators to employees is important to drive a culture of safety. Employers that present workers with regularly updated graphs or dashboards of key safety metrics demonstrate that they care a lot about their workers’ well-being, and the more information companies collect will help mitigate risks.

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This level of transparency and access to information increases employee morale, reduces incidents and — ultimately — lowers insurance premiums.

The disapproval of the Volks Rule reflects a bare minimum level of compliance across U.S. industries, but that shouldn’t stop companies from retaining quality incident data for multiple years to realize the true value of their safety data.

A commitment to operational excellence through continued learning and improvement in safety has led to increased earnings and performance for major corporations, and the power of data is the key to this improvement.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Alternative Energy

A Shift in the Wind

As warranties run out on wind turbines, underwriters gain insight into their long-term costs.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 6 min read

Wind energy is all grown up. It is no longer an alternative, but in some wholesale markets has set the incremental cost of generation.

As the industry has grown, turbine towers have as well. And as the older ones roll out of their warranty periods, there are more claims.

This is a bit of a pinch in a soft market, but it gives underwriters new insight into performance over time — insight not available while manufacturers were repairing or replacing components.

Charles Long, area SVP, renewable energy, Arthur J. Gallagher

“There is a lot of capacity in the wind market,” said Charles Long, area senior vice president for renewable energy at broker Arthur J. Gallagher.

“The segment is still very soft. What we are not seeing is any major change in forms from the major underwriters. They still have 280-page forms. The specialty underwriters have a 48-page form. The larger carriers need to get away from a standard form with multiple endorsements and move to a form designed for wind, or solar, or storage. It is starting to become apparent to the clients that the firms have not kept up with construction or operations,” at renewable energy facilities, he said.

Third-party liability also remains competitive, Long noted.

“The traditional markets are doing liability very well. There are opportunities for us to market to multiple carriers. There is a lot of generation out there, but the bulk of the writing is by a handful of insurers.”

Broadly the market is “still softish,” said Jatin Sharma, head of business development for specialty underwriter G-Cube.

“There has been an increase in some distressed areas, but there has also been some regional firming. Our focus is very much on the technical underwriting. We are also emphasizing standardization, clean contracts. That extends to business interruption, marine transit, and other covers.”

The Blade Problem

“Gear-box maintenance has been a significant issue for a long time, and now with bigger and bigger blades, leading-edge erosion has become a big topic,” said Sharma. “Others include cracking and lightning and even catastrophic blade loss.”

Long, at Gallagher, noted that operationally, gear boxes have been getting significantly better. “Now it is blades that have become a concern,” he said. “Problems include cracking, fraying, splitting.

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“In response, operators are using more sophisticated inspection techniques, including flying drones. Those reduce the amount of climbing necessary, reducing risk to personnel as well.”

Underwriters certainly like that, and it is a huge cost saver to the owners, however, “we are not yet seeing that credited in the underwriting,” said Long.

He added that insurance is playing an important role in the development of renewable energy beyond the traditional property, casualty, and liability coverages.

“Most projects operate at lower capacity than anticipated. But they can purchase coverage for when the wind won’t blow or the sun won’t shine. Weather risk coverage can be done in multiple ways, or there can be an actual put, up to a fixed portion of capacity, plus or minus 20 percent, like a collar; a straight over/under.”

As useful as those financial instruments are, the first priority is to get power into the grid. And for that, Long anticipates “aggressive forward moves around storage. Spikes into the system are not good. Grid storage is not just a way of providing power when the wind is not blowing; it also acts as a shock absorber for times when the wind blows too hard. There are ebbs and flows in wind and solar so we really need that surge capacity.”

Long noted that there are some companies that are storage only.

“That is really what the utilities are seeking. The storage company becomes, in effect, just another generator. It has its own [power purchase agreement] and its own interconnect.”

“Most projects operate at lower capacity than anticipated. But they can purchase coverage for when the wind won’t blow or the sun won’t shine.”  —Charles Long, area senior vice president for renewable energy, Arthur J. Gallagher

Another trend is co-location, with wind and solar, as well as grid-storage or auxiliary generation, on the same site.

“Investors like it because it boosts internal rates of return on the equity side,” said Sharma. “But while it increases revenue, it also increases exposure. … You may have a $400 million wind farm, plus a $150 million solar array on the same substation.”

In the beginning, wind turbines did not generate much power, explained Rob Battenfield, senior vice president and head of downstream at JLT Specialty USA.

“As turbines developed, they got higher and higher, with bigger blades. They became more economically viable. There are still subsidies, and at present those subsidies drive the investment decisions.”

For example, some non-tax paying utilities are not eligible for the tax credits, so they don’t invest in new wind power. But once smaller companies or private investors have made use of the credits, the big utilities are likely to provide a ready secondary market for the builders to recoup their capital.

That structure also affects insurance. More PPAs mandate grid storage for intermittent generators such as wind and solar. State of the art for such storage is lithium-ion batteries, which have been prone to fires if damaged or if they malfunction.

“Grid storage is getting larger,” said Battenfield. “If you have variable generation you need to balance that. Most underwriters insure generation and storage together. Project leaders may need to have that because of non-recourse debt financing. On the other side, insurers may be syndicating the battery risk, but to the insured it is all together.”

“Grid storage is getting larger. If you have variable generation you need to balance that.” — Rob Battenfield, senior vice president, head of downstream, JLT Specialty USA

There has also been a mechanical and maintenance evolution along the way. “The early-generation short turbines were throwing gears all the time,” said Battenfield.

But now, he said, with fewer manufacturers in play, “the blades, gears, nacelles, and generators are much more mechanically sound and much more standardized. Carriers are more willing to write that risk.”

There is also more operational and maintenance data now as warranties roll off. Battenfield suggested that the door started to open on that data three or four years ago, but it won’t stay open forever.

“When the equipment was under warranty, it would just be repaired or replaced by the manufacturer,” he said.

“Now there’s more equipment out of warranty, there are more claims. However, if the big utilities start to aggregate wind farms, claims are likely to drop again. That is because the utilities have large retentions, often about $5 million. Claims and premiums are likely to go down for wind equipment.”

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Repair costs are also dropping, said Battenfield.

“An out-of-warranty blade set replacement can cost $300,000. But if it is repairable by a third party, it could cost as little as $30,000 to have a specialist in fiberglass do it in a few days.”

As that approach becomes more prevalent, business interruption (BI) coverage comes to the fore. Battenfield stressed that it is important for owners to understand their PPA obligations, as well as BI triggers and waiting periods.

“The BI challenge can be bigger than the property loss,” said Battenfield. “It is important that coverage dovetails into the operator’s contractual obligations.” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]