Column: Workers' Comp

Honoring Our Duty of Care

By: | October 1, 2014 • 3 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.

A recent discussion by a group of workers’ compensation professionals compelled me to tell them how proud I was of their compassion and empathy for injured workers.

I’m talking about the judges working to select Risk & Insurance®’s 2014 Teddy Award winners. The group met telephonically over the past few weeks to go over an impressive group of applications.

The judges included Patricia Hostine, manager, workers’ compensation at Cooper Standard Automotive; Bruce Jones, director of insurance & Texas plan administrator at Community Health Systems; Mark Noonan, managing principal at Integro Insurance Brokers; and Bryan Schwartz, risk manager at American Infrastructure.

The judges took great interest in outcome metrics and practices, and each applicant’s operational and cultural challenges.

In addition to program creativity and proven practices, the judges considered whether the applicants dealt with unions or implemented their programs across dispersed company locations.

But the judges also devoted a substantial amount of their time to discussing the amount of care and concern for injured workers the employer applicants showed.

The judges took great interest in outcome metrics and practices, and each applicant’s operational and cultural challenges.

They wanted to know more about how employees were communicated with while their lives were touched by the employers’ workers’ comp programs.

Were the employers’ processes monetarily driven or people-driven?

All agreed that by making the care of injured workers the top priority, dollar savings would follow.

But for the judges, it wasn’t just about corporate expenditure reductions. They were not just talking about the treatment of anonymous “claimants.”


Their conversation turned to the idea that workers’ comp should be about the treatment and care of injured workers and colleagues.

The vast majority of workers go to work each day doing their best to avoid accidents. When they are injured they want to get back to earning the paycheck their families count on.

There is clearly room in workers’ comp for the compassion and empathy that the judges discussed, and they are far from alone in understanding the importance of caring for a worker whose life has been disrupted by an unfortunate injury.

In workers’ comp, the discussion is often about managing difficult claims, outcomes measurements, vendor partnerships, frustrations with the system, etc.

But no doubt there are also countless daily examples of empathy and compassion in helping colleagues navigate a system they may fear.

There is a social responsibility in caring for injured workers and I was proud of the judges for making that a workplace priority.

Kudos to everyone who goes to work doing the same.

Cost pressures can drive one to forget that, ultimately, workers’ comp is about individuals’ lives.

The judges were reviewing award applications and looking for details that would tell them that their workers’ comp peers hadn’t forgotten injured workers’ humanity when they created their workers’ comp programs.

The Teddy Award winners selected by our panel of judges will be recognized at the 23rd Annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo to be held Nov. 19-21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”


Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]