Injury Prevention

Going Through the Motions

Creating an obstacle course for "workplace athletes" makes fitness fun while helping to reduce on-the-job injuries.
By: | July 5, 2016 • 4 min read

It was during a session at last year’s National Workers Compensation and Disability Conference® and Expo that Anne-Marie Amiel first heard the term “industrial athletes.”

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She was among the presenters at the session highlighting the tactics and philosophies of the 2015 Teddy Award winners. As risk manager for Columbus Consolidated Government in Georgia, Amiel was honored for substantially reducing workers’ compensation claims costs, revamping return-to-work and enhancing safety training.

But when she heard Tamara Ulufanua-Ciraulo of Stater Bros Supermarkets, another winner, talk about how the grocer supports its aging workers by treating them as industrial athletes, it stuck in her mind.

“That triggered a thought,” said Amiel.

Then, as many NWCDC attendees do, she engaged in a corridor conversation with another attendee. He mentioned obstacle courses — and the idea of a “Workplace Athlete Day” was born.

“We wanted to do something for employees and we decided to do something that apparently has not been done anywhere else in the country before,” Amiel said.

VIDEO:  The obstacle that drew the most crowd support was the duck walk, which had workers walking like ducks while holding a spoon with a softball and “waggling their tail feathers.” — Anne-Marie Amiel, risk manager, Columbus Consolidated Government, Ga.

“We wanted a day where we put our employees through an obstacle course that tests the motions they do in their jobs,” she said.

“People who take care of themselves,” said Pat Biegler, director of public works in Columbus, “take better care of the city and the citizens and their families – and that’s our goal.”

Anne-Marie Amiel, risk manager, Columbus Consolidated Government, Ga.

Anne-Marie Amiel, risk manager, Columbus Consolidated Government, Ga.

After consulting with several physical therapy companies, they put together an obstacle course “based on proper motion and safe techniques, not on speed or strength,” Amiel said.

“The physical therapists were awesome,” she said. “We talked about the different motions that are involved in different activities for different work uses. Several of them volunteered to act as judges.”

Eventually, about two dozen obstacles were created – “some hilarious and a lot of fun” – but underlying the laughter was the need “to keep employees flexible and fit throughout their careers so they have fewer injuries and are able to do their jobs until retirement age.”

That not only helps employees stay well, but it has the benefit of keeping workers’ compensation claims down, she said. “Now that we have launched this major initiative, I think we will see a significant reduction in frequency.”

The obstacles included throwing footballs and Frisbees, crawling through pipes, lifting items to several different heights, basketball, pushing wheelbarrows and stepping through a double row of tires.

But the obstacle that drew the most crowd support was the duck walk, which had workers walking like ducks while holding a spoon with a softball and “waggling their tail feathers,” Amiel said.

“It was hilarious but it was testing their ability to move when they had to squat.” And, of course, the observers felt compelled to “quack, quack, quack” at the participants the entire time.

Pat Biegler, director of public works, Columbus, Ga.

Pat Biegler, director of public works, Columbus, Ga.

The competition included about 25 teams of six employees, each of whom signed up for the day-long program, which included wellness checks, a healthy lunch, trophies and gifts, such as safety glasses, leather gloves, earplugs and sunscreen.

Next year, Amiel and Biegler plan to open the competition to more of the 450 full-time public works employees.

“Seven of the top 10 dangerous jobs in the country are public works jobs,” Amiel said.

“Workplace Athlete Day” is important, Biegler said, “because prevention is so very, very critical to keeping accidents down and we want a workforce that is healthy, that’s happy and that is not injured so this will allow us to evaluate [potential problems] and allow them to do it in a fun environment.”

“Pat is extremely serious about safety,” Amiel said. “Public works is very nearly always my guinea pig [for safety training and injury prevention]. Pat is very serious about keeping employees fit and productive and is always willing to try anything.”

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Both women will be presenting a session at the NWCDC in November on return-to-work strategies.

Working with the physical therapists on the obstacle course also resulted in a new morning routine for public works employees. Supervisors lead them through an exercise session every morning to “warm up their muscles before they start using them in earnest,” Amiel said.

Amiel hopes to expand the obstacle course program to every department in the city. “Several departments have already expressed interest,” she said.

“The morale boost was huge and employees know they are going to be challenged next year even more,” Amiel said. “They had so much fun, but they all came out of it and said they learned so much.”

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

Risk Management

The Profession

Verizon’s risk manager David Cammarata loves when his team can make a real impact on the bottom line.
By: | May 2, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was a financial analyst with the N.J. Casino Control Commission.

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

I was told at a Christmas luncheon in 2003 that I was being promoted into a new job.

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

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I think the risk management community is getting a lot better at utilizing big data and analytics to manage risk. Significant improvements have been made, but there is still much more room for improvement.

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

I think that the insurance and brokerage communities need to really start thinking about what this industry is going to look like in 10 years. They need to start addressing how they are going to remain relevant. I think that major disruptions to existing business models will occur and that these disruptions combined with innovation and technological advances may catch many of today’s industry leaders by surprise.

David Cammarata, assistant treasurer, risk management and insurance, Verizon Communications Inc.

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

San Diego, any year.

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

I think the advent of cyber risk and cyber insurance. For several years it has been, and it continues to be, the main topic of discussion at industry meetings.

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

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I think the most scary scenarios include a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological event, a widespread global health epidemic and/or a widespread state sponsored cyber shutdown.

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

We do almost all of our business through a broker.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

No. It’s a conflict.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

Optimistic because hopefully President Trump’s policies (lower taxes and less regulation) will be pro-business and good for the economy.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My dad, who passed away many years ago. He was very influential during the formative years of my career. He taught me how important integrity and reputation were to your brand and he had a very strong work ethic.

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

I would have to say raising two awesome kids. My daughter is graduating from James Madison University this year as co-valedictorian. My son is finishing his sophomore year at Rutgers and has near perfect grades. But more importantly, both of my kids have turned out to be really good people.

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day?

A lot.

“I love it when the risk management organization is able to contribute in a way that makes a real impact to the corporation’s overall objectives. On several occasions we have been able to make real contributions to the bottom line.”

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

“My Cousin Vinny.” That movie makes me laugh no matter how many times I watch it.

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

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My dad used to take me to a place called Chick & Nello’s. It was an Italian place that did not have a menu. They came to your table and told you the two or three items they were making that day. The food was out of this world.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Iced tea. The non-alcoholic kind.

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

I can think of several places but for me it would be a tie between India and Italy. India just has such a different culture and way of life and Rome has breathtaking historical sites.

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

Well, one of the best thrill rides I’ve been on was Kingda Ka at Great Adventure. It feels risky but probably isn’t all that risky. I flew in a prop plane with my brother-in-law one time … that felt kind of risky. I have also parasailed, does that count? I think it definitely has to be driving on the N.J. Turnpike day in and day out.

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

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What about the Fukushima 50? I don’t think I could have done what they did.

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

I love it when the risk management organization is able to contribute in a way that makes a real impact to the corporation’s overall objectives. On several occasions we have been able to make real contributions to the bottom line.

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

I don’t think they really know. My children see me as dad; others just see me as an executive with Verizon.




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