2016 Teddy Awards

Recognizing Excellence

The judges of the 2016 Teddy Awards reflect on what they learned, and on the value of awards programs in the workers' comp space.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 5 min read

This year, our inbox was near to bursting with Teddy Award applications — we could barely keep up. What a fabulous problem to have.

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It was gratifying to read about the outstanding efforts happening across the country, across all industries. So many programs rose to the top that it was a challenge to pare them down, let alone select overall winners.

For help in selecting winners, we turned to a panel of experts with many decades of hands-on experience. These leaders know what it takes to develop and maintain a truly excellent injury prevention and workers’ compensation program.

We asked the judges to reflect upon the experience.

112016_01_coverstory_cenicerosRoberto Ceniceros, senior editor, Risk & Insurance®; program chair, National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Conference® & Expo

Q: What do you think is the most interesting trend among the Teddy applications this year?

This year’s applicants showed a willingness to apply real creativity to address their toughest comp challenges. That required them to put in the hard work necessary to implement their creative strategies. The trend also shows real bravery because creativity implies they weren’t always borrowing tested ideas as much as they were finding their own path that others can now learn from.

Another trend I saw among them is a growing capacity to engage workers or enlist their help in developing safety strategies and adopting helpful claims management practices. One of this year’s Teddy Award winning companies, for example, enlisted the help of its construction workers to design accommodating return-to-work tasks.

 

noonanMark Noonan, managing principal, casualty practice, Integro Insurance Brokers

Q: As you evaluated this year’s Teddy Awards finalist applications, what struck you in terms of how much employer safety and workers’ comp programs have evolved since you’ve been in the industry?

Through a combination of employees demanding and assisting in developing safe work environments and procedures; enlightened employers who see the value of skilled healthy workers who provide a higher quality deliverable; the government agencies who provide expert guidance and, when necessary, legal recourse for dangerous exposures; and safe workplace advocates who provide assistance and act as watchdogs, safety is now a primary focus in the workplace.

While costs continue to rise as wages and cost of medical treatment and medication continues an upward trajectory, both frequency and severity are declining, with frequency declining every year except one for the last 20-plus years. Today, even companies that are viewed as having high risk job assignments measure the time between lost-time injuries in weeks or months not hours or days as in the last century.

112016_01_coverstory_amielAnne-Marie Amiel, risk manager, Columbus Consolidated Government, Ga.; 2015 Teddy Award winner

Q: Has learning about other strong safety and workers’ comp programs been of value to you in your quest to continuously improve your own?

Winning a Teddy Award for our program was one of the proudest moments of my life, but the ability to interact with other creative, successful program managers at the conference and thereby gain more ideas for even more improvement was an invaluable long-term benefit.

Being given the opportunity this year to take a look at how other highly successful programs have made a difference in the lives of their employees has been an honor, and the creativity of some of these managers inspires me to go even further in our program. Success is a process, not a destination, and I truly believe that those who are innovative can take creative ideas and build on them within their own organization. None of us own all the good ideas, but the ability to learn from and share with others will result in improvement in all sectors of the workers’ compensation world.

112016_01_coverstory_russoCaryl Russo, senior vice president, Barnabas Health Corporate Care; 2015 Teddy Award Winner

Q: From your perspective, how does recognizing employer programs benefit or enrich the workers’ comp community as a whole?

[Forums like the] Teddy Award provide a tremendous opportunity for sharing creative ideas and innovative programs among a wide range of companies and industries. This level of information exchange has far-reaching implications and benefits, and provides the foundation for other companies to consider implementing similar programs, again shining a spotlight on the area of workers’ compensation. There is a halo effect [as] other companies in the region or in the industry sector [look more closely] at how to achieve similar results and accolades. In essence, when we highlight an individual company’s success, we have the opportunity to elevate the broader workers’ compensation platform.

Most importantly, recognizing employer programs provides the chance to acknowledge the hard work of risk managers and other team members who deal with workers’ compensation on a daily basis and are often unsung heroes within their respective organizations.

112016_01_coverstory_saddyJennifer Saddy, director of workers’ compensation, American Airlines; 2015 Teddy Award winner

Q: What advice would you give to next year’s Teddy Award applicants?

There are a lot of great employers doing a lot of really great proactive things to prevent occupational injuries from occurring and improve the process when injuries do occur.  My recommendation for next year’s Teddy Award applicants is to not only highlight the changes your organization has made but also clearly outline the results that those changes were able to achieve.

I also recommend the applicants illustrate the obstacles and challenges they’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the results. This provides the full picture and better helps to understand not only the issues, the changes, but also how significant those changes may have been to the organization.

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Read more about the 2016 Teddy Award winners:

target-150x150Bringing Focus to Broad Challenges: Target brings home a 2016 Teddy Award for serving as an advocate for its workers, pre- and post-injury, across each of its many operations.

 

hrt-150x150The Road to Success: Accountability and collaboration turned Hampton Roads Transit’s legacy workers’ compensation program into a triumph.

 

excela-150x150Improve the Well-Being of Every Life: Excela Health changed the way it treated injuries and took a proactive approach to safety, drastically reducing workers’ comp claims and costs.

 

harder-150x150The Family That’s Safe Together: An unwavering commitment to zero lost time is just one way that Harder Mechanical Contractors protects the lives and livelihoods of its workers.

 

More coverage of the 2016 Teddy Awards:

Recognizing Excellence: The judges of the 2016 Teddy Awards reflect on what they learned, and on the value of awards programs in the workers’ comp space.

Fit for Duty: 2013 Teddy Winner Miami-Dade County Public Schools is managing comorbid risk factors by getting employees excited about healthy living.

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Saving Time and Money: Applying Lean Six Sigma to its workers’ comp processes earned Atlantic Health a Teddy Award Honorable Mention.

Caring for the Caregivers: Adventist Health Central Valley Network is achieving stellar results by targeting its toughest challenges.

Advocating for Injured Workers: By helping employees navigate through the workers’ comp system, Cottage Health decreased lost work days by 80 percent.

A Matter of Trust: St. Luke’s workers’ comp program is built upon relationships and a commitment to care for those who care for patients.

Keeping the Results Flowing: R&I recognizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for a commonsense approach that’s netting continuous improvement.

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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Property

Insurers Take to the Skies

This year’s hurricane season sees the use of drones and other aerial intelligence gathering systems as insurers seek to estimate claims costs.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 6 min read

For Southern communities, current recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey will recall the painful devastation of 2005, when Katrina and Wilma struck. But those who look skyward will notice one conspicuous difference this time around: drones.

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Much has changed since Katrina and Wilma, both economically and technologically. The insurance industry evolved as well. Drones and other visual intelligence systems (VIS) are set to play an increasing role in loss assessment, claims handling and underwriting.

Farmers Insurance, which announced in August it launched a fleet of drones to enhance weather-related property damage claim assessment, confirmed it deployed its fleet in the aftermath of Harvey.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now,” said George Mathew, CEO of Kespry, Farmers’ drone and aerial intelligence platform provider partner.

“The current wind and hail damage season that we are entering is when many of the insurance carriers are switching from proof of concept work to full production rollout.”

 According to Mathew, Farmers’ fleet focused on wind damage in and around Corpus Christi, Texas, at the time of this writing. “Additional work is already underway in the greater Houston area and will expand in the coming weeks and months,” he added.

No doubt other carriers have fleets in the air. AIG, for example, occupied the forefront of VIS since winning its drone operation license in 2015. It deployed drones to inspections sites in the U.S. and abroad, including stadiums, hotels, office buildings, private homes, construction sites and energy plants.

Claims Response

At present, insurers are primarily using VIS for CAT loss assessment. After a catastrophe, access is often prohibited or impossible. Drones allow access for assessing damage over potentially vast areas in a more cost-effective and time-sensitive manner than sending human inspectors with clipboards and cameras.

“Drones improve risk analysis by providing a more efficient alternative to capturing aerial photos from a sky-view. They allow insurers to rapidly assess the scope of damages and provide access that may not otherwise be available,” explained Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy at JLT Specialty USA.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now.” — George Mathew, CEO, Kespry

“In our experience, competitive advantage is gained mostly by claims departments and third-party administrators. Having the capability to provide exact measurements and details from photos taken by drones allows insurers to expedite the claim processing time,” he added.

Indeed, as tech becomes more disruptive, insurers will increasingly seek to take advantage of VIS technologies to help them provide faster, more accurate and more efficient insurance solutions.

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh

One way Farmers is differentiating its drone program is by employing its own FAA-licensed drone operators, who are also Farmers-trained claim representatives.

Keith Daly, E.V.P. and chief claims officer for Farmers Insurance, said when launching the program that this sets Farmers apart from most carriers, who typically engage third-party drone pilots to conduct evaluations.

“In the end, it’s all about the experience for the policyholder who has their claim adjudicated in the most expeditious manner possible,” said Mathew.

“The technology should simply work and just melt away into the background. That’s why we don’t just focus on building an industrial-grade drone, but a complete aerial intelligence platform for — in this case — claims management.”

Insurance Applications

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader at Marsh, believes that, while currently employed primarily to assess catastrophic damage, VIS will increasingly be employed to inspect standard property damage claims.

However, he admitted that at this stage they are better at identifying binary factors such as the area affected by a peril rather than complex assessments, since VIS cannot look inside structures nor assess their structural integrity.

“If a chemical plant suffers an explosion, it might be difficult to say whether the plant is fully or partially out of operation, for example, which would affect a business interruption claim dramatically.

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“But for simpler assessments, such as identifying how many houses or industrial units have been destroyed by a tornado, or how many rental cars in a lot have suffered hail damage from a storm, a VIS drone could do this easily, and the insurer can calculate its estimated losses from there,” he said.

In addition,VIS possess powerful applications for pre-loss risk assessment and underwriting. The high-end drones used by insurers can capture not just visual images, but mapping heat, moisture or 3D topography, among other variables.

This has clear applications in the assessment and completion of claims, but also in potentially mitigating risk before an event happens, and pricing insurance accordingly.

“VIS and drones will play an increasing underwriting support role as they can help underwriters get a better idea of the risk — a picture tells a thousand words and is so much better than a report,” said Ellis.

VIS images allow underwriters to see risks in real time, and to visually spot risk factors that could get overlooked using traditional checks or even mature visual technologies like satellites. For example, VIS could map thermal hotspots that could signal danger or poor maintenance at a chemical plant.

Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy, JLT Specialty USA

“Risk and underwriting are very natural adjacencies, especially when high risk/high value policies are being underwritten,” said Mathew.

“We are in a transformational moment in insurance where claims processing, risk management and underwriting can be reimagined with entirely new sources of data. The drone just happens to be one of most compelling of those sources.”

Ellis added that drones also could be employed to monitor supplies in the marine, agriculture or oil sectors, for example, to ensure shipments, inventories and supply chains are running uninterrupted.

“However, we’re still mainly seeing insurers using VIS drones for loss assessment and estimates, and it’s not even clear how extensively they are using drones for that purpose at this point,” he noted.

“Insurers are experimenting with this technology, but given that some of the laws around drone use are still developing and restrictions are often placed on using drones [after] a CAT event, the extent to which VIS is being used is not made overly public.”

Drone inspections could raise liability risks of their own, particularly if undertaken in busy spaces in which they could cause human injury.

Privacy issues also are a potential stumbling block, so insurers are dipping their toes into the water carefully.

Risk Improvement

There is no doubt, however, that VIS use will increase among insurers.

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“Although our clients do not have tremendous experience utilizing drones, this technology is beneficial in many ways, from providing security monitoring of their perimeter to loss control inspections of areas that would otherwise require more costly inspections using heavy equipment or climbers,” said Luck.

In other words, drones could help insurance buyers spot weaknesses, mitigate risk and ultimately win more favorable coverage from their insurers.

“Some risks will see pricing and coverage improvements because the information and data provided by drones will put underwriters at ease and reduce uncertainty,” said Ellis.

The flip-side, he noted, is that there will be fewer places to hide for companies with poor risk management that may have been benefiting from underwriters not being able to access the full picture.

Either way, drones will increasingly help insurers differentiate good risks from bad. In time, they may also help insurance buyers differentiate between carriers, too. &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]