Column: Roger's Soapbox

Heroes, Seen and Unseen

By: | November 1, 2013 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Recently, I moved from London to a small town on the south coast of England called Eastbourne. It’s a retirement community, akin to Florida but without the sun, sand (the beaches are pebbles) or cocaine proceeds that have fueled Miami’s growth.

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The other day, two men in crash helmets were peering into my living room window. Nothing very unusual there, I suppose. Except that perverts rarely wear crash helmets, I’m guessing.

Because of the enhanced real estate values in a giant metropolis such as London, I was able to swap a modest 750-square-foot apartment in social housing for something rather grander: a giant penthouse, hard on the English Channel. My nearest neighbor to the south is France.

My new abode is a glorious folly, absurdly flashy and even slightly regal. My ‘Bourne Identity’ is that of king.

The apartment is on the ninth floor, which for reasons best known to themselves, the British refer to as the eighth floor. One would think that, on that basis, the first floor should be called the zeroth floor and the ninth should perhaps be known as the sky floor, but it seems logic is not applied in such matters.

The apartment is as far into the heavens as a man may climb in Eastbourne, which made the spectre of two men in crash helmets peering in, well … something of an anomaly, to say the least.

Were they 80 feet tall? On stilts? Superman and the Green Lantern on patrol?

They were, in fact, supermen of a sort. They were officers of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. They were perched, rather precariously, I thought, atop an aerial ladder, an extending metal pole thingie, a new piece of kit being tested on Eastbourne’s tallest building. My building, that is.

Wobbling all the way, they roamed around the space between my building and the one next door.

From time to time, they stopped so close to (ahem) one of my balconies that we were able to have a pleasant chat. They reluctantly turned down the offer of a cup of tea because their boss was keeping an eye on them from the zeroth floor.

I have nothing but respect for firemen. The word “heroes” barely begins to describe them. Not just because they rush into burning buildings to save children and cats, if the movies are to be believed, but because they wobble around in a steel box 80 feet off the ground in case some old fool like me accidentally sets fire to his home and then can’t get out.

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It struck me later that firemen fulfill a role exactly analogous to that of insurers: They take on the risks that no one else wants to carry. If your building burns down and you’re fried to a crisp, all the insurance in the world won’t make any difference.

Despite the dangers, firemen help you avoid that fate, so that you may cash in on the insurance.

Yet, where firemen are rightly regarded as heroes, insurers tend not to be. At best, they are considered, as someone said recently, staid. But when catastrophe strikes, we turn to firemen as well as insurers to seek relief.

Maybe it would help their image if insurers wore fluorescent orange jackets instead of boring suits. An aerial ladder outside every insurance office? It might be worth a shot.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.

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Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.

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Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &

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More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.

 

Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.

 

Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

 

Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.

 

Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.

 

Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.

 

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]