Teddy Award Finalist

Energized Safety Performance

Pinnacle West produced safety results twice as good as the utility industry average.
By: | November 1, 2013 • 3 min read

No technological advance in America in the past 150 years quite matches, in its effects on society, the impact of electrical power and light. Since its origins in the late 19th century, Phoenix-based Pinnacle West Capital Corp., has delivered this advance to one of the two-fastest growing states in the nation.

And it has performed this essential task with an ever-improving focus on safety. The organization’s focus on personal and industrial safety has contributed to a significant reduction in injuries in the last five consecutive years, resulting in a 57 percent drop in OSHA recordable injuries since 2008. The company’s safety record is about twice as good as the electrical utility industry’s average in frequency and severity of injury.

The company’s electrical power linemen work under extremely high risk. They represent the tip of the iceberg of injury risks, large and small, that a modern power generation and distribution workforce of 6,600 faces.

Its largest affiliate, Arizona Public Service (APS) serves more than a million customers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties and is the operator and co-owner of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, a primary source of electricity for the Southwest. APS is the second fastest growing electric utility in the United States over the last five years and is also a leader in the development of solar technology.


Approximately 70 percent of Pinnacle West’s employees work in highly specialized craft, operations, technical, engineering and customer-service positions. These positions have job-specific training requirements that range from 16 to 400 hours annually.

The closer one looks at the company’s work safety practices, the more an engineering-type culture of attentiveness and problem-solving emerges as a major driver.

Tools have been introduced throughout the company to further improve safety performance, which is measured daily using Event Free Clocks. The Event Free Clocks are used to help recognize errors, learn from mistakes and prevent similar events from occurring.

These clocks are placed prominently around operational work environments and office locations to give employees an ongoing visual reminder of safety performance.

The company also created a Corrective Action Program (CAP), designed to drive continuous improvement by identifying, tracking and resolving unfavorable conditions. It uses self-assessments, common cause analysis and audits

Shelly Shaffer, absence management leader, Arizona Public Service

Shelly Shaffer, absence management leader, Arizona Public Service

The biggest workers’ compensation challenge that Pinnacle West has focused on during the past five years is mitigating the consequences of highly demanding and physical work on an aging workforce. For example, linemen must operate heavy equipment, climb poles and perform overhead work, often in awkward and strenuous positions. And many employees work out of doors.

The physical demands of the work cannot be eliminated due to the very nature of producing and delivering power through a massive infrastructure of power plants, transmission lines and distribution systems. The strenuous nature of the work becomes even more challenging with an aging workforce.

Pinnacle West controls its medical costs and ensures quality care for its workers by self-insuring its workers’ compensation and integrating it with absence management and return-to-work programs.  It has developed a comprehensive program of health and wellness programs.

The company’s workers perform essential services for Arizonans in a work environment dedicated to safety and health.

Peter Rousmaniere is a journalist and consultant in the field of work injury risk. He lives in Woodstock, Vermont. Peter can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

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

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

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


We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

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

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

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

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?


I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

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

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

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


Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

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

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

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

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.

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