Column: Workers' Comp

Opinion: Shouldn’t Our Heroes Get the Right Treatment?

By: | April 9, 2018 • 2 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.

Yet another mass school shooting targeting children, this time one that claimed 17 lives at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — has generated discourse about post-traumatic stress disorder in surviving students, educators and first responders.

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As the discussion expands, debate will likely include broader questions. Should PTSD be compensable for first responders? Will employees who witness co-workers die or get maimed in other horrific workplace accidents be covered? Their risk is just as great.

I want to add to the discourse on PTSD by sharing a personal story, and that of a workers’ comp colleague. We both believe we benefited from a treatment endorsed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for its effectiveness in treating PTSD.

The colleague, an RN, working as an occupational nurse, tried to save a co-worker’s life by administering CPR for 8 minutes. She also administered epinephrine after an allergic reaction closed off the co-worker’s airway.

Neither worked and arriving paramedics couldn’t save her. She turned blue and slipped away.

Memories of seeing the dying woman’s face and her pleas for her life haunted my colleague. She dreamed about not reaching the co-worker in time. She worried excessively that something would happen to her children, and she wouldn’t be there.

It’s not an entirely unique story. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 5,190 work-related deaths in 2016, the third consecutive spike in annual workplace fatalities.

Co-workers surely witnessed plenty of those tragedies. The Department of Labor reports that “critical-incident” witnesses may suffer from fear, guilt and chronic anxiety among other physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral symptoms.

Memories of seeing the dying woman’s face and her pleas for her life haunted my colleague. She dreamed about not reaching the co-worker in time. She worried excessively that something would happen to her children, and she wouldn’t be there.

Fortunately my colleague benefited from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. EMDR is efficient, because it can help ease distressful memories after just a few sessions.

She sensed improvement after two sessions and underwent about six.

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I first benefited from EMDR applied to treat trauma experienced as a child. I am now better able to manage situations that previously caused unnecessary stress.

EMDR dampens the impact of negative emotions. A therapist guides a patient to recall and reprocess traumatic events while focusing on a back and forth movement or sound.

A few months after witnessing my wife pass away, I turned to EMDR to help soften the jagged edges those memories generate. They are still unpleasant memories, but not as rough.

Some comp payers fear that paying for such treatment could lead to a protracted psych claim.

But helping employees who witness workplace deaths is the right thing to do, especially when an efficient treatment is available, and their future productivity and attention to safety practices may depend on it. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

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