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Risk Insider: Andy Hosman

An Olympic-Sized Effort

By: | February 14, 2018 • 3 min read
Andy Hosman is the vice president of Operational Risk Solutions at Sphera. He has more than 17 years of experience in designing, developing, and implementing risk management solutions to help customers assess, mitigate, manage and monitor their risk more effectively. Prior to joining Sphera, Andy was a senior vice president of product management at Marsh ClearSight.

The Olympic torch began its relay in October from Athens, Greece, marking the start of its trek to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. This is a long journey, but it pales in comparison to the journey toward operational excellence.

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The attendance of more than 30,000 athletes and their fans presents a great deal of operational risk. As with any large event, operations managers must complete pre-event assessments, compile response plans and ensure plans are accessible and understandable to on-site staff.

Technology plays a key role in achieving gold-medal-worthy operational performance. Here are just a handful of ways it can help along the way:

Security Monitoring

You’ve probably seen the commercials where a doorbell rings and someone answers the door from their cellphone. A similar concept works well in an event setting. For example, if a fan starts to experience hypothermia, another patron can push a nearby button to communicate directly with security and/or wellness teams.

Cameras can provide behind-the-scenes workers the vision to identify accidents and problems throughout the facility. With the help of artificial intelligence software, footage from higher-risk event areas can pop up on security monitors or alert workers where they are needed.

Additionally, drones can be deployed to areas much faster than humans, or get to places that humans can’t easily go.

Beacons

Several large-scale facilities (theme parks, stadiums, museums) have adopted communication features called beacons. These tools transmit radio signals, and are able to be used with Bluetooth technology, sending messages directly to nearby smartphones.

One typical use for beacons is helping people find their seat by mapping the stadium and directing fans accordingly after they input their seat into their smartphone. Some locations don’t even require a WiFi connection for this; just download the facility app and go!

Beacons stationed throughout facilities can also provide insights into how crowded certain locations are, and direct attendees should they want to skip long bathroom lines. If there’s an emergency, they can apprise security of a situation before they arrive on scene.

Several large-scale facilities (theme parks, stadiums, museums) have adopted communication features called beacons. These tools transmit radio signals, and are able to be used with Bluetooth technology, sending messages directly to nearby smartphones.

For an event like the Winter Olympics, beacons can also play a key role in warning fans that a weather system is approaching. An imminent ice storm could spark an alert to fans to quickly seek shelter.

Food Safety

Food-related issues are highly important in managing operational risk. It’s important to ensure food is handled, stored and cooked properly to avoid getting people sick, as well as prevent financial risks from customer complaints.

Implementing effective food safety monitoring can be difficult. While checklists are important, it’s easy for workers to ignore them. With software, however, a supervisor can be alerted if a process hasn’t been accomplished in a timely or proper fashion and can sign off on whether procedures have been followed.

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Sensors are wonderful, versatile tools that can be implemented in the food production process. Not only are they able to monitor temperatures at which food and drink are being served, but they can also be integrated into the preparation and cooking stages.

For example, a sensor on a refrigerator could alert staff if the temperature is rising too high because the door is being kept open too long, or if there’s a power outage of some sort.

Experiencing an easily preventable outcome at a major event calls for immediate disqualification in terms of being able to mitigate operational risk. But thanks to new processes and implementation, fans and operators can interact together in a more cooperative and beneficial way, making these events more enjoyable for everyone.

As the Olympic torch is passed on, we expect technology and software to continue setting records for helping to mitigate risks.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Focus: Workers' Comp

Do You Have Employees or Gig Workers?

The number of gig economy workers is growing in the U.S. But their classification as contractors leaves many without workers’ comp, unemployment protection or other benefits.
By: and | July 30, 2018 • 5 min read

A growing number of Americans earn their living in the gig economy without employer-provided benefits and protections such as workers’ compensation.

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With the proliferation of on-demand services powered by digital platforms, questions surrounding who does and does not actually work in the gig economy continue to vex stakeholders. Courts and legislators are being asked to decide what constitutes an employee and what constitutes an independent contractor, or gig worker.

The issues are how the worker is paid and who controls the work process, said Bobby Bollinger, a North Carolina attorney specializing in workers’ compensation law with a client roster in the trucking industry.

The common law test, he said, the same one the IRS uses, considers “whose tools and whose materials are used. Whether the employer is telling the worker how to do the job on a minute-to-minute basis. Whether the worker is paid by the hour or by the job. Whether he’s free to work for someone else.”

Legal challenges have occurred, starting with lawsuits against transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. Several court cases in recent years have come down on the side of allowing such companies to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors.

Those decisions are significant for TNCs, because the gig model relies on the lower labor cost of independent contractors. Classification as an employee adds at least 30 percent to labor costs.

The issues lie with how a worker is paid and who controls the work process. — Bobby Bollinger, a North Carolina attorney

However, a March 2018 California Supreme Court ruling in a case involving delivery drivers for Dynamex went the other way. The Dynamex decision places heavy emphasis on whether the worker is performing a core function of the business.

Under the Dynamex court’s standard, an electrician called to fix a wiring problem at an Uber office would be considered a general contractor. But a driver providing rides to customers would be part of the company’s central mission and therefore an employee.

Despite the California ruling, a Philadelphia court a month later declined to follow suit, ruling that Uber’s limousine drivers are independent contractors, not employees. So a definitive answer remains elusive.

A Legislative Movement

Misclassification of workers as independent contractors introduces risks to both employers and workers, said Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust.

“My concern is for individuals who believe they’re covered under workers’ compensation, have an injury, try to file a claim and find they’re not covered.”

Misclassifying workers opens a “Pandora’s box” for employers, said Richard R. Meneghello, partner, Fisher Phillips.

Issues include tax liabilities, claims for minimum wage and overtime violations, workers’ comp benefits, civil labor law rights and wrongful termination suits.

The motive for companies seeking the contractor definition is clear: They don’t have to pay for benefits, said Meneghello. “But from a legal perspective, it’s not so easy to turn the workforce into contractors.”

“My concern is for individuals who believe they’re covered under workers’ compensation, have an injury, try to file a claim and find they’re not covered in the eyes of the state.” — Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust

It’s about to get easier, however. In 2016, Handy — which is being sued in five states for misclassification of workers — drafted a N.Y. bill to establish a program where gig-economy companies would pay 2.5 percent of workers’ income into individual health savings accounts, yet would classify them as independent contractors.

Unions and worker advocacy groups argue the program would rob workers of rights and protections. So Handy moved on to eight other states where it would be more likely to win.

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So far, the Handy bills have passed one house of the legislature in Georgia and Colorado; passed both houses in Iowa and Tennessee; and been signed into law in Kentucky, Utah and Indiana. A similar bill was also introduced in Alabama.

The bills’ language says all workers who find jobs through a website or mobile app are independent contractors, as long as the company running the digital platform does not control schedules, prohibit them from working elsewhere and meets other criteria. Two bills exclude transportation network companies such as Uber.

These laws could have far-reaching consequences. Traditional service companies will struggle to compete with start-ups paying minimal labor costs.

Opponents warn that the Handy bills are so broad that a service company need only launch an app for customers to contract services, and they’d be free to re-classify their employees as independent contractors — leaving workers without social security, health insurance or the protections of unemployment insurance or workers’ comp.

That could destabilize social safety nets as well as shrink available workers’ comp premiums.

A New Classification

Independent contractors need to buy their own insurance, including workers’ compensation. But many don’t, said Hart Brown, executive vice president, COO, Firestorm. They may not realize that in the case of an accident, their personal car and health insurance won’t engage, Brown said.

Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust

Workers’ compensation for gig workers can be hard to find. Some state-sponsored funds provide self-employed contractors’ coverage.  Policies can be expensive though in some high-risk occupations, such as roofing, said Bollinger.

The gig system, where a worker does several different jobs for several different companies, breaks down without portable benefits, said Brown. Portable benefits would follow workers from one workplace engagement to another.

What a portable benefits program would look like is unclear, he said, but some combination of employers, independent contractors and intermediaries (such as a digital platform business or staffing agency) would contribute to the program based on a percentage of each transaction.

There is movement toward portable benefits legislation. The Aspen Institute proposed portable benefits where companies contribute to workers’ benefits based on how much an employee works for them. Uber and SEI together proposed a portable benefits bill to the Washington State Legislature.

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Senator Mark Warner (D. VA) introduced the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act for the study of portable benefits, and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D. WA) introduced a House companion bill.

Meneghello is skeptical of portable benefits as a long-term solution. “They’re a good first step,” he said, “but they paper over the problem. We need a new category of workers.”

A portable benefits model would open opportunities for the growing Insurtech market. Brad Smith, CEO, Intuit, estimates the gig economy to be about 34 percent of the workforce in 2018, growing to 43 percent by 2020.

The insurance industry reinvented itself from a risk transfer mechanism to a risk management mechanism, Brown said, and now it’s reinventing itself again as risk educator to a new hybrid market. &

Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at [email protected] Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]