2017 Power Broker

Nonprofit

Keeping Schools’ Missions at the Forefront

Brandon Cole, CPCU, CRM, CIC, ARM-P, RPLU, CISR, AINS
Area Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher, Irvine, Calif.

School clients count on Brandon Cole to provide them the risk management education they need to perform their missions.

Oakland, Calif.-based Thrival World Academies, a new nonprofit, was designing a program to provide publicly subsidized education abroad to racially and socio-economically diverse students. “Since we were in our design phase, many aspects of our program shifted during this period, and Brandon supported us through all of these shifts,” said Executive Director Emma W. Hiza.

“He helped us to understand our insurance needs, to get quotes and ultimately bind all of the liability — domestic and foreign,” she said.  Cole also “has participated in meetings with the school district where we are working to help us discuss shared risk and negotiate with their insurance officials,” Hiza said.

“Without the insurance coverages that Brandon supported us in obtaining, we would not have been able to launch this fall.” she said. “His consistently quick response time has been critical to our success.”

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At the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y.,  Cole not only  provided guidance on travel insurance options when students studied abroad but also ensured that the institution managed the risk of taking students outside the country, said Hillary Prince, director of finance. “We’ve since had three international trips, and everyone came home safely, so that’s priceless,” she said.

Streamlining Coverage on a Budget

Jason Helfert
Vice President
The Horton Group, Orland Park, Ill.

Nonprofit organizations count on Jason Helfert for much more than placing insurance.

CSF Illinois, an agency that supports children and adults with disabilities, tapped Helfert for help completing a merger with another organization.

“As one would suspect, the merger process is complicated, especially in our industry,” said Chief Executive Officer Mary Pat Ambrosino. “We must deal with private business factors, state issues and family issues, sometimes concurrently. While our organization went through a complicated, lengthy process, Jason Helfert helped us navigate every insurance issue that needed to be addressed with ease.

“Knowing that our organization did not have to worry about a lapse in coverage put our minds at ease, smoothing the transition period,” Ambrosino said, “Further, our costs remained relatively the same, and Jason had no monetary incentive for consolidating two existing coverages into one.”

Another nonprofit faced climbing workers’ compensation claims and costs. Helfert aided the agency in establishing a board that meets regularly to review accidents and recommend changes in policies and procedures to prevent future accidents. The board consists of agency staff and experts from Horton and the agency’s insurer.

“In the last fiscal year, our costs were almost 20 percent lower than the previous year, when we did not have the review board,” an agency official said.

Finding an Insurance Structure That Works

Ken Porter, ARM
Principal
Porter & Curtis, Media, Pa.

Ken Porter’s church clients depend on his sophisticated approach to their insurance needs.

An independent consultant noted that a mutual client was not confident in the claims information a third-party administrator provided, largely because the client had a “less-than-centralized approach” in managing its various entities, including schools, churches and charities.

Porter worked with the client’s legal team to jettison the disjointed insurance arrangement and beef up its general insurance and misconduct insurance trust. “He arranged for excess insurance of varying amounts, depending on the exposures presented, and utilized an independent casualty actuary to set up appropriate funding for losses and expenses of the trust,” the consultant said.

“The trust structure should also help to keep the client’s other assets from being subject to attachment in the event of lawsuits. There should be savings in the future due to reinsurers potentially becoming involved because of the more formal trust structure.”

The client’s risk manager noted that the trust arrangement means the client no longer needs to purchase costly misconduct coverage and can direct the savings of several hundred thousand dollars to the trust. “We have been able to now conduct actuarial studies on the program as well as to have clearly defined financial accountings of each trust account” that is distinguishable from the general operations, the risk manager said.

Focusing on Cost Control

Bill Powell, ARM
Area Executive Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca, Ill.

Nonprofits count on Bill Powell to help rein in overhead costs.

A large social services agency with a stratospheric 140 percent workers’ compensation loss ratio faced skyrocketing insurance premiums. Powell took over the account and first ensured that the agency’s claims were reserved and handled properly. Then he initiated loss-projection studies and an experience modifier analysis.

Facing a nonrenewal from the incumbent carrier, Powell marketed the program to more than a dozen insurers, investigating first-dollar as well as self-insured options.

After the agency selected United Heartland as the insurer, Powell worked with the carrier to provide the agency enhanced loss control assistance. That included monthly safety meetings and disseminating regular safety and loss control flyers to employees. In 2016, when it faced budget problems because of its state’s own budget woes, the agency’s loss ratio plummeted to 25 percent, resulting in a 25 percent premium reduction.

“We were getting priced out of the traditional insurance market and were facing the possibility of being forced into a risk pool,” an agency official said. “Once we were able to partner with United Heartland, the impact to our risk management program and claims was almost immediate.”

Another client, a Midwestern university, realized a 2 percent reduction in overall premiums. That “was testament to Bill’s [marketing] strategy,” one school official said.

No Project Too Big or Deadline Too Tight

Chris Schwyter
Senior Vice President
Willis Towers Watson, Radnor, Pa.

Chris Schwyter handles issues large and small for clients.

As Villanova University began a $300 million expansion project, it faced risks related to its proximity to the community and a major roadway. Risk management also inherited professional liabilities for design architects and engineering work and other risks stipulated in the contract of the appointed general contractor. Plus, the local township also had collateral requirements for site improvements, said Director of Insurance and Risk Management Ashlie Docktor.

Schwyter’s team “secured protection for Villanova with project-specific coverage for professional liability and environmental liability,” Docktor said. He also assisted in negotiations with the contractor to set worksite safety protocols and transfer some risks back to the contractor or subcontractors. In addition, he placed site-improvement bonds to meet the township’s requirements, Docktor said.

“We increased our protection for the construction project for professional and environmental liabilities and saved considerable money in the switch from letter-of-credit collateral to the surety bond,” Docktor said, “More importantly, the solutions allowed Villanova to proceed on schedule without delay.”

Schwyter helped another university client update its enterprise risk management program by providing resources that helped risk management engage senior management, the client said.

Proactively Tackling Liability Risk

Derek Symer, CPCU
Principal
AHT Insurance, Leesburg, Va.

When a federal jury determined The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut must pay a $41.5 million damage award to a former student who contracted a debilitating tick-borne disease on a school trip to China,  the ruling caught the attention of The Alexandria Country Day School five states away in Alexandria, Va.

Alexandria’s business manager, Robert Powers, was concerned that the case might mean his private day school’s own liability coverage was insufficient. Powers immediately contacted his broker Derek Symer for a solution.

Symer negotiated a “sufficient coverage increase that did not substantially impact [the school’s] budget,” Powers said.  For the next fiscal year, Symer found “more robust coverage — at a cost reduction,” he said, providing much needed relief to a stressed budget.

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With all of their school clients, Symer and his team at AHT Insurance have made a priority of discussing duty of care — both in terms of buying insurance and running workshops on how to mitigate the risk.

Another client, the Maret School in Washington, D.C., wanted to help parents with student-busing assistance without shouldering additional liability.

“Derek’s guidance was quite helpful,” said Darwin Walker, Maret’s assistant head of finance and operations. “Derek’s solid advice enabled the parents and the school to find a workable solution” that relieved the parents of a huge logistical burden while avoiding additional school liability.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Workers' Comp

Keeping Workers on Their Feet

Slip and fall prevention programs must interweave all of the factors contributing to the risk.
By: | July 6, 2017 • 11 min read

If you peruse the last decade’s worth of literature from the CDC, NIOSH, or numerous other agencies or organizations, you’re bound to come across the “good news” that slips, trips and falls are largely preventable.

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So it’s frustrating, then, that slip, trip and fall injuries consistently account for more than a quarter of all nonfatal occupational injuries, and at least 65 percent of those injuries happen on same-level walking surfaces. And those figures just don’t budge all that much from year to year.

According to the “2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index,” falls on same level currently rank as the second highest cause of disabling injuries in the U.S., with direct costs of $10.17 billion, accounting for 16.4 percent of the total national injury burden.

“Not only are they still happening often, but they tend to be very significant injuries,” said Mike Lampl, director of research at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

“We’ve seen these trends grow over the years,” said Wayne Maynard, product director, risk control, with Liberty Mutual. “Bottom line is, it’s a real, real big problem.”

So why are preventable falls so hard to prevent? This stubborn status quo, say experts, is that the causes of slips and trips are typically far more complex than they seem. There are nearly always multiple factors in play, from footwear and flooring and the interplay of both, to cleaning procedures, lighting, housekeeping, weather, and workers’ mental or physical conditions as well as overall awareness.

And all of these factors are being exacerbated by the fact that incidents often go unreported.

“Slips, falls — people get up, move on, they don’t report it,” said Maynard.

“When somebody’s injured and files a claim — in the workers’ arena, how many are behind the scenes that may have happened that are not reportable? …. The unreported number is considerable in my opinion.”

The key to making any headway in reducing slips and falls on the same surface, say experts, is to have a comprehensive fall prevention plan that addresses all possible factors. No small task.

Engineering Solutions

Flooring conditions are often the most obvious starting point. Ideally, said Maynard, all the right choices are made at the planning and design stage. But sometimes mistakes are made, and in other cases, a business may be inheriting an older space with floor chosen for a different purpose.

Patricia Showerman, senior loss control consultant, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

So even flooring in good condition may be the wrong type of material and may not have the necessary coefficient of friction (slip resistance) needed for the work being done.

If companies want to drill down into all the details of the surfaces in their facilities, a friction coefficient study is always an option, said Patricia Showerman, senior loss control consultant at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

But if a company doesn’t want to take that step, she said, it may be a simpler matter of saying, “Let’s look at what you’ve got. Let’s look at your floor surfaces and how you’re maintaining them.”

A lot of people want that “shiny grocery store glam look,” she said. “And if you can do it properly, and maintain it properly and keep that coefficient of friction and have the shiny look, that’s great. That’s what everybody wants but how do they get there?”

Certain surfaces may start out with an adequate coefficient of friction when they’re clean and dry. But add even an invisible layer of dust or debris, “and it’s like microscopic little BBs that you slide across,” said Showerman. “So if you have dust on your floor, you are dramatically reducing your slip coefficient.”

For companies that do have flooring surfaces in need of improvement, ripping up the floor and replacing it isn’t typically a feasible option. Fortunately there are more budget-friendly ways to get the maximum slip resistance from existing flooring, such as coatings and etchings.

A coating adds a microscopic layer on top of the flooring that creates a grip surface while maintaining the shine. Showerman likened the effect to the way that Velcro fasteners work.

“You want that hook effect … sharp points are going to microscopically stick into the soles of your shoes, rather than rolling off the top.”

Etching can work in a similar way, chemically altering the existing surface to make it imperceptibly gritty. Etching can also be used to create pores in an existing surface, which is useful for areas such as machine shops, she said.

Be Smart With Surfactants

While keeping floor surfaces clean is one of the best ways to remove slip and fall hazards, cleaning them the wrong way can actually do more harm than good.

Failure to follow appropriate cleaning procedures can severely diminish a surface’s coefficient of friction.

Experts suggest that companies engage with their chemical suppliers, and discuss their flooring as well as the types of dirt or grease removal and disinfectant needs. Detergents – which can contain different types of surfactants — aren’t a one size fits all solution.

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Sometimes purchasers might be inclined to try to cover all their bases by buying the strongest product on the market, but that might mean adding unnecessary surfactants that make surfaces less slip resistant.

“Clearly identify the types of surfaces you’re using it for, the type of oil or dirt or debris you have, and whether or not you need a sanitizing step,” said Showerman.

“You’ve got to find the right balance.”

But that’s only half the battle. A significant problem experts see time and time again is that companies don’t understand how their flooring is being maintained on a day-to-day basis by front-line employees. Failure to follow appropriate cleaning procedures can severely diminish a surface’s coefficient of friction.

“This is where you’re seeing someone with a mop and bucket and they are just re-smearing that grease from one place to another. They put the dirty mop in the dirty bucket, the mop gets full of that emulsified grease and you’re smearing it across the room. In high grease areas, you have to replace with clean water consistently.”

In other cases, a worker without the proper training may grab the first detergent he finds, even if it’s meant for the equipment rather than the floor. Or perhaps he mixes equal parts detergent and water when he was supposed to only use 8 oz. of detergent for every five gallons of water.
Sometimes people will even over-concentrate the detergent on purpose, she added.

Peter Koch, safety management specialist, The MEMIC Group

“I see that in the food industry frequently,” said Showerman. “They find that the more detergent they leave on the floor, the easier it is to clean up next time … but then everyone’s slipping and falling like in a cartoon.”

A company could invest a significant amount in flooring improvements, only to have the benefits undone by improper detergent use or failure to follow recommended rinsing procedures.

It’s incumbent upon safety managers to reinforce that maintaining floor surfaces isn’t just a matter of housekeeping, but a key part of the company’s workplace safety program.

The Human Factor

When you’ve done everything possible to address hazards in the physical work environment, workers themselves remain the wildcard. Most employers routinely include slip and fall hazards in their safety awareness training or toolbox talk programs. But that training should go well beyond a general “watch where you walk” message, say experts.

“One of the most overlooked parts for employee safety is actually employee training,” said Peter Koch, safety management specialist at  The MEMIC Group.

“How do you train an employee to not slip and fall? I think many times that is wrapped in a “you have to be more careful” message, which is valid but nebulous and not very helpful — it means something different to everyone based on your risk tolerance as an individual.”

Koch’s employee training regimen revolves around four elements: surfaces, awareness, footwear and environment (SAFE).

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The first goal of the surface portion is just to get employees to start thinking about the different types of surfaces they walk on and how it can change throughout the work day. Koch said he likes to ask: “How many different types of surfaces did you have to walk on the get to this training room?”

The footwear piece of it is the most straightforward. Are your shoes designed for the work that you’re doing and the surfaces you’re walking on? Are they in good condition? Are the soles worn out?

There is no ASTM standard for measuring the performance of slip-resistant footwear, added Gallagher’s Showerman. So workers should be reminded that wearing the right shoe isn’t a guarantee — it’s just one piece of the solution.

Awareness, said Koch, may be the most challenging piece of the puzzle — helping people to think about their gait, what they’re carrying, what they’re doing, and simply where their heads are at any given moment.

“If you’re thinking about 15 things you have to get done by the end of the day, or you have a particularly challenging employee interaction coming up that day, or you had a fight with your girlfriend last night— or whatever it is — you’re not focused. Then you take that step through the icy patch, and now it relies completely on your athletic ability and luck to stay upright.”

Workers may not necessarily make the connection between personal factors and fall risk. Someone who has an ear infection or is taking certain medications, for example, may not even be aware that their balance might be compromised, putting them at higher risk for a fall.

Employees also should be reminded of how even normal daily stressors can contribute to risk. Everyone is under pressure to deliver more in less time. Everyone is rushing, everyone is stretched to their limits. Add the ever-present cellphone beeping and buzzing and demanding our attention and perhaps it’s a wonder slips and falls don’t happen even more often than they already do.

We’re so conditioned to react when the vibration goes off or the tone chimes in our pockets that we just grab it without thinking, Koch said.

“If you knowingly put yourself at risk by knowingly going quickly through an area with slip and fall exposures, it’s just Russian roulette – at some point you’re going to get broken.” — Peter Koch, safety management specialist, The MEMIC Group.

“Even that, in certain conditions, is going to be enough to put you on the ground.”

Awareness of environmental factors should also be part of the training, Koch said, especially in terms of what workers can’t control, like inclement weather.  He said the main thing he tries to impress upon people is to slow down in a high-risk environment.

“If you knowingly put yourself at risk by knowingly going quickly through an area with slip and fall exposures, it’s just Russian roulette – at some point you’re going to get broken.”

Koch says that getting people to put all of these facets of awareness together is where the training can really click.

The goal is that when they approach an area with a higher-risk surface, employees are thinking “for those few seconds or minutes that I’m going to be walking through it, I need to have a greater sense of awareness, I need to put away the mental [distractions] and focus on what I’m doing – don’t answer your phone, don’t answer your texts.”

Some employers are looking to address the human piece of the slip and fall puzzle by using training that goes far beyond hazard awareness. Active slip-prevention training focuses on body mechanics and teaches workers how to respond when they feel themselves begin to slip.

One such program revolves around the Slip Simulator, technology born of a research partnership between Virginia Tech researchers and UPS. The simulator that creates slippery and hazardous conditions in a controlled environment while participants walk in a harness so they can slip safely. An instructor offers real-time guidance on how to alter their movements to avoid falling.

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After mastering the initial technique, trainees face additional challenges related to their specific work environments, such as walking up ramps or turning wheels. A New Mexico security team practiced drawing firearms while standing on the simulator, which led to a change in how they wear their weapons. Workers at an Ohio refinery practiced stepping over pipes and turning large valves.

Clients of the program are reporting 60 to 80 percent reductions in accident rates.

The Road Ahead

A comprehensive slip and fall prevention plan is a must for employers, experts agreed, with clear, consistent procedures that empower employees to be a part of the solution.

“Employees play a very critical role,” said Liberty Mutual’s Maynard. “If they see a slip risk or a slipperiness issue, they need to be able to report it and they need to be able to get that corrected immediately. They have an important role in maintaining a safe facility and reducing risk themselves — be proactive, don’t walk by, clean it up.

“Any time you can involve the employee in solutions …. the likelihood of success of that intervention is higher.”

Maynard added that the best prevention plans will also be forward-looking.

“Understand where current safety performance is. Then make a roadmap to get better,” he said. “Emphasize where you’re doing well,” then identify opportunities to effect improvement, now and over the next three, four or five years.

“Prevention is too often reactive,” Maynard said. “We’ve got an issue and now what do we do? The goal is for companies to be proactive.” &

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