Column: Roger's Soapbox

Perspective | Quantifying Lionel Messi’s Earthquake Risk at World Cup 2018

By: | June 1, 2018 • 2 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

The fates dispatched me to Bermuda in the 1990’s.  Catastrophe insurance was reinvented there soon after I arrived, leading me to become a hurricane and earthquake man.

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Bermuda saw me at the heart of three major hurricanes, two of them killers. In the first, I refused to leave my home — not through obduracy, but because I was being directed to a nearby house no better fortified than my own.

In the second, I empty-headedly went outdoors in what I quickly learned was the eye of the storm and found myself stranded on the roof when the back end of the whirlwind blew the ladder away. The third disturbance saw me locked indoors while the weather wrecked things and killed people for 12 hours.

Until recently, I had experienced only one earthquake, though — in California in 1988 — and a relatively harmless event it was. Driving a Volkswagen cliché around North America, we were relaxing at a rest area off the freeway when a quake shook the ground for a few seconds. It was a 6-point-something, centered reasonably far away.

What experience, rather than theory, teaches you about earthquakes is how destabilizing they can be. That’s obvious, but you cannot anticipate the brief period of uncertainty that accompanies the shaking, and the more lasting recollection of how brief, and random, life can be for those caught in proximity to a serious quake.

My second seismic event, this spring, was a more sedate affair, experienced at my brother’s home in England’s West Country. A late lunch was accompanied by a sudden, short cracking sound on the roof a foot or two above our heads. With the particular insight that years of learning instills, I confidently declared the culprit to be squirrels.

It was in fact a 4.4 earthquake, its epicenter about 100 miles away, shrugged off immediately and not even worthy of conversation by the next day.

At the start of an interview some years ago, a broker spoke of his relief that earthquake season was over for the year. It was a test to see how clued in I might be. When I expressed, with a certainty I did not entirely possess, that there was no earthquake season, he smiled and told me I had passed the test.

What experience, rather than theory, teaches you about earthquakes is how destabilizing they can be. That’s obvious, but you cannot anticipate the brief period of uncertainty that accompanies the shaking, and the more lasting recollection of how brief, and random, life can be for those caught in proximity to a serious quake.

In Barcelona, Spain, however, we now know there is indeed an earthquake season. It is coterminous with the football (soccer) season. No, I’m not turning the tables by testing you; it’s true. Barcelona, perhaps the world’s best club side, employs one Lionel Messi, perhaps the world’s best football player.

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Seismologists who record urban vibrations have noticed that every time Barcelona, and especially Messi, scores a goal, “people jump up and down and the stadium shakes.”

Not only can the scientists say from a distance exactly when a goal was scored, they can rate its relative importance by the intensity of those stamping their feet. A fellow seismologist in the UK can distinguish a goal, by vibration, from the build-up to a goal.

The soccer World Cup is upon us at any moment. It will be watched by billions around the planet. A timely warning, therefore: Beware global stamping.

Editor’s note: After Mexico’s surprise upset of Germany in the first round of this year’s World Cup, seismologists detected this very phenomenon.  &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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