NWCDC Chairman's Message

NWCDC 2018: Share Your Insights With Peers

Apply now to be a presenter at the 2018 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.
By: | January 5, 2018 • 4 min read
Topics: NWCDC | Workers' Comp

Nineteen of the 34 companies selected to present breakout sessions during the 2017 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference and Expo were new to speaking at the event.

Their requests for proposals to speak at NWCDC had never been selected before.


As NWCDC chairman I occasionally hear about the frustration of hopeful speakers when their applications to present are rejected, sometimes over multiple years. I can imagine that frustration  compounds when they see other companies selected  to present repeatedly.

With a deadline of March 2, for submitting RFPs to speak during the 2018 NWCDC, allow me to explain what our speaker selection team looks for. I do this in hopes of helping applicants increase their chances of being among those selected to present.

The conference is scheduled for Dec. 5 – 7 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, in conversations with those who have called me to discuss improving their chances of being chosen to speak after several rejections, I often learn they are surprised by the rigorous nature of our selection process.

It is indeed a very rigorous process as well as a competitive one. We cull through more than 200 speaker applications normally submitted each year, as we apply our experts’ subject-matter knowledge and experience in hopes of finding topics and speakers that prove the most beneficial for NWCDC attendees.

I will describe that process and how our selection team operates below.

But first, here is what our selection team looks for:

  • Most importantly, we desire the presentation of practical strategies that worker’s comp and disability claims payers can realistically apply to solve challenges.
  • We prioritize proposals that include employer speakers. However, we also understand that not all presentations can include employer presenters and we value the knowledge and information that other workers’ comp professionals serving the payer community provide.
  • Presentation proposals can focus on new, innovative strategies that reduce injuries and costs or offer solid risk-transfer advice. But risk managers, workers’ comp managers, and disability managers are also welcome, for example, to share their unique experiences with adopting tried-and-true practices at their companies.
  • Disability-management strategies for workers’ comp and non-occupational drivers of employee absence are welcome.
  • Consider submitting multiple RFPs because we sometimes receive several proposals from different companies wishing to speak on the same topic. We may only select one presentation per topic in such cases. Submitting multiple RFPs increases your chances when one of your ideas is popular among several submitters.
  • Select topics with relevance for a broad range of workers’ comp professionals. The greater the relevance and the stronger the speaker’s experience and knowledge the greater the possibility of being selected.
  • Avoid submitting proposals that are mere product or service pitches featuring company personnel responsible for sales or marketing.

Much of the above is advice I have dispensed in past years. But I also saw one company succeed in getting selected to present for the first time at NWCDC 2017 by taking a smart approach.

The vendor of Medicare Set-Aside compliance services submitted a proposal to speak on the broader topic of legacy claims settlement initiatives. Their presentation topic was not narrowly focused only on their core MSA specialty area and they invited a seasoned risk manager to co-present her strategies on the broader legacy-claims resolution topic.

So perhaps consider a strategy of submitting multiple RFPs, including one that goes beyond narrowly sticking to your core service area. As long as you have the expertise to back up the submission, we welcome your proposal.

Our selection team includes Denise Algire, director of risk initiatives and national medical director for Albertsons Companies. Bill Wainscott is manager, occupational health and workers’ comp at International Paper. Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief at Risk & Insurance.

The four of us simultaneously receive speaker RFPs as they are electronically submitted. We separately rank them so we are not influenced by the others’ opinions. Then we compare our rankings to reach a consensus on  speakers and topics we believe will benefit NWCDC attendees the most.


For some proposals we all easily agree on whether to accept or reject.

But our opinions often vary, so we spend a good amount of time discussing an applications’ strengths and weaknesses, trying to reach a consensus.

Some submitters are so good at working with this process that they do get selected repeatedly, even though we try to replace them with fresh ideas brought by new presenters.

The only way to become a new or returning presenter for 2018 is to submit an RFP. The applications are available on the conference website.

Or, for further discussion and help on preparing presentation proposals, feel free to contact me, Roberto Ceniceros, conference chair, at (208) 957-8705 or at [email protected].

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.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Report: Manufacturing

More Robots Enter Into Manufacturing Industry

With more jobs utilizing technology advancements, manufacturing turns to cobots to help ease talent gaps.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 6 min read

The U.S. manufacturing industry is at a crossroads.

Faced with a shortfall of as many as two million workers between now and 2025, the sector needs to either reinvent itself by making it a more attractive career choice for college and high school graduates or face extinction. It also needs to shed its image as a dull, unfashionable place to work, where employees are stuck in dead-end repetitive jobs.


Added to that are the multiple risks caused by the increasing use of automation, sensors and collaborative robots (cobots) in the manufacturing process, including product defects and worker injuries. That’s not to mention the increased exposure to cyber attacks as manufacturers and their facilities become more globally interconnected through the use of smart technology.

If the industry wishes to continue to move forward at its current rapid pace, then manufacturers need to work with schools, governments and the community to provide educational outreach and apprenticeship programs. They must change the perception of the industry and attract new talent. They also need to understand and to mitigate the risks presented by the increased use of technology in the manufacturing process.

“Loss of knowledge due to movement of experienced workers, negative perception of the manufacturing industry and shortages of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and skilled production workers are driving the talent gap,” said Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting.

“The risks associated with this are broad and span the entire value chain — [including]  limitations to innovation, product development, meeting production goals, developing suppliers, meeting customer demand and quality.”

The Talent Gap

Manufacturing companies are rapidly expanding. With too few skilled workers coming in to fill newly created positions, the talent gap is widening. That has been exacerbated by the gradual drain of knowledge and expertise as baby boomers retire and a decline in technical education programs in public high schools.

Ben Dollar, principal, Deloitte Consulting

“Most of the millennials want to work for an Amazon, Google or Yahoo, because they seem like fun places to work and there’s a real sense of community involvement,” said Dan Holden, manager of corporate risk and insurance, Daimler Trucks North America. “In contrast, the manufacturing industry represents the ‘old school’ where your father and grandfather used to work.

“But nothing could be further from the truth: We offer almost limitless opportunities in engineering and IT, working in fields such as electric cars and autonomous driving.”

To dispel this myth, Holden said Daimler’s Educational Outreach Program assists qualified organizations that support public high school educational programs in STEM, CTE (career technical education) and skilled trades’ career development.

It also runs weeklong technology schools in its manufacturing facilities to encourage students to consider manufacturing as a vocation, he said.

“It’s all essentially a way of introducing ourselves to the younger generation and to present them with an alternative and rewarding career choice,” he said. “It also gives us the opportunity to get across the message that just because we make heavy duty equipment doesn’t mean we can’t be a fun and educational place to work.”

Rise of the Cobot

Automation undoubtedly helps manufacturers increase output and improve efficiency by streamlining production lines. But it’s fraught with its own set of risks, including technical failure, a compromised manufacturing process or worse — shutting down entire assembly lines.


More technologically advanced machines also require more skilled workers to operate and maintain them. Their absence can in turn hinder the development of new manufacturing products and processes.

Christina Villena, vice president of risk solutions, The Hanover Insurance Group, said the main risk of using cobots is bodily injury to their human coworkers. These cobots are robots that share a physical workspace and interact with humans. To overcome the problem of potential injury, Villena said, cobots are placed in safety cages or use force-limited technology to prevent hazardous contact.

“With advancements in technology, such as the Cloud, there are going to be a host of cyber and other risks associated with them.” — David Carlson, U.S. manufacturing and automobile practice leader, Marsh

“Technology must be in place to prevent cobots from exerting excessive force against a human or exposing them to hazardous tools or chemicals,” she said. “Traditional robots operate within a safety cage to prevent dangerous contact. Failure or absence of these guards has led to injuries and even fatalities.”

The increasing use of interconnected devices and the Cloud to control and collect data from industrial control systems can also leave manufacturers exposed to hacking, said David Carlson, Marsh’s U.S. manufacturing and automobile practice leader. Given the relatively new nature of cyber as a risk, however, he said coverage is still a gray area that must be assessed further.

“With advancements in technology, such as the Cloud, there are going to be a host of cyber and other risks associated with them,” he said. “Therefore, companies need to think beyond the traditional risks, such as workers’ compensation and product liability.”

Another threat, said Bill Spiers, vice president, risk control consulting practice leader, Lockton Companies, is any malfunction of the software used to operate cobots. Then there is the machine not being able to cope with the increased workload when production is ramped up, he said.

“If your software goes wrong, it can stop the machine working or indeed the whole manufacturing process,” he said. “[Or] you might have a worker who is paid by how much they can produce in an hour who decides to turn up the dial, causing the machine to go into overdrive and malfunction.”

Potential Solutions

Spiers said risk managers need to produce a heatmap of their potential exposures in the workplace attached to the use of cobots in the manufacturing process, including safety and business interruption. This can also extend to cyber liability, he said.

“You need to understand the risk, if it’s controllable and, indeed, if it’s insurable,” he said. “By carrying out a full risk assessment, you can determine all of the relevant issues and prioritize them accordingly.”

By using collective learning to understand these issues, Joseph Mayo, president, JW Mayo Consulting, said companies can improve their safety and manufacturing processes.

“Companies need to work collaboratively as an industry to understand this new technology and the problems associated with it.” — Joseph Mayo, president, JW Mayo Consulting

“Companies need to work collaboratively as an industry to understand this new technology and the problems associated with it,” Mayo said. “They can also use detective controls to anticipate these issues and react accordingly by ensuring they have the appropriate controls and coverage in place to deal with them.”


Manufacturing risks today extend beyond traditional coverage, like workers’ compensation, property, equipment breakdown, automobile, general liability and business interruption, to new risks, such as cyber liability.

It’s key to use a specialized broker and carrier with extensive knowledge and experience of the industry’s unique risks.

Stacie Graham, senior vice president and general manager, Liberty Mutual’s national insurance central division, said there are five key steps companies need to take to protect themselves and their employees against these risks. They include teaching them how to use the equipment properly, maintaining the same high quality of product and having a back-up location, as well as having the right contractual insurance policy language in place and plugging any potential coverage gaps.

“Risk managers need to work closely with their broker and carrier to make sure that they have the right contractual controls in place,” she said. “Secondly, they need to carry out on-site visits to make sure that they have the right safety practices and to identify the potential claims that they need to mitigate against.” &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]