RIMS 2016

A Potentially Explosive Reputational Risk

With guns a hot-button emotional issue, employers face tough choices for managing related reputational exposures.
By: | April 7, 2016 • 2 min read

With more Americans passionate about carrying guns in public and more laws allowing it, businesses must assess their risk tolerance and prepare.

Uniform strategies that mitigate the growing risk of gun-related losses for most entities, however, have yet to emerge, leaving employers to define the best plan of action for their unique circumstances and their stance on guns on their premises.

The risks that restaurants, universities and most other entities face include, workers’ compensation losses, general liability exposures and operational challenges, should a shooting force an extended closure.

“”The biggest risk, actually, is reputational,” said Michael P. Lowry, an attorney at Thorndal, Armstrong, Delk, Balkenbush & Eisinger. “So if you can avoid that by taking some preventative measures you are ahead of the game. You are helping to contribute to the company’s bottom line.”

While the growing risk of a mass shooting incident will cause reputational harm, taking a stance on whether to ban guns or welcome customers and employees who pack them also generates reputational backlash from ardent proponents on both sides of the issue, the speakers said.

About five years ago Texas de Brazil posted their policy online stating that the restaurant company was fine with allowing concealed weapons or the open carrying of firearms in states where laws allow those practices.

“We were vilified within the first three days,” said Danielle Goodgion, director of human resources for the Brazilian-style steakhouse and churrascaria with locations across the United States.

“We pulled it off the website. It was not worth the drama.”

Conversely, companies that seek to mitigate the risk of violence by banning guns on their premises face social media attacks from interest groups opposing such policies “and now your brand is being drug through the mud,” Lowry said.

While a simple, uniform policy for mitigating the reputational exposures associated with firearms does not exist, risk managers should identify their risks and develop a plan that best protects their employees, customers and operations, the speakers said.

Each plan, however, comes with its own potential consequences requiring assessment.

Welcoming guns on premises, for instance, expose companies to liability should a weapon accidentally discharge. Posting signs banning guns, on the other hand, could expose the companies to claims from injured parties that the companies were responsible for their safety, Lowry said.

Whatever policies employers adopt, it is important they maintain mechanisms for enforcing those policies.

Employees, for instance, need to know what is expected of them and their responsibility for themselves and customers should a situation arise requiring action.

Goodgion said the company trains employees to respond to gun-violence threats or active shooter situations.

That training works in conjunction with other guidance such as anti-bullying training and exercises for identifying potential workplace dangers, for example, to provide opportunities for teaching how to treat others with dignity and respect and how to respond should violence occur, she said.

“All of that integrates,” Goodgion said. “It’s an evolution. So adding an active shooter response is just one more piece. For me, it was just adding another segment to the training.”

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

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.

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Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.

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Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &

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More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.

 

Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.

 

Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

 

Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.

 

Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.

 

Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.

 

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