Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Summer Blues: Seasonal Tourism Puts Risk Managers to the Test

By: | June 7, 2018 • 3 min read
Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the Director of Risk and Safety - City Safety and Compliance Officer for the City of Saratoga Springs, NY and is a Director at Large and Delegate for the Government and Public Sector Division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

Communities across the country are busy painting lines on roadways, planting flowers and readying their constituents for the seasonal influx of visitors and their baggage. If you’re thinking of baggage as a suitcase, I’m talking about another kind of baggage.

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Each of us brings with us trials and tribulations from which we are seeking one brief moment of respite. Tired, weary and looking for a bit of diversion, we visit communities across the globe hoping for that one moment of solace whether it be sedate or a daring adventure.

As many of us prepare for the summer “high season,” we refurbish our visible infrastructure and prepare ourselves for the diversity of the population descending upon us. Our “regulars” are our community who assist us in our continuous yearly preparations. They steel themselves to the onslaught of traffic congestion and begin managing the changes that will occur in their own personal lives as they plan on how they will deal with the visitors descending upon them. This often creates conflict with the multitude of special events used as fundraising activities for local nonprofits designing events that offer activities to supplement vacation experiences.

Managing seasonal risk is like spinning a prize wheel. Each spin brings with it a potentially different outcome with any one visitor as they bring with them the issues weighing on their mind and their own individual visiting community spirit.

Seasonal risk management is like a classically choreographed ballet. It requires finesse and the precise timing of sequential and compatible governance. Many of us at the top of the seasonal destination list of “places to be and to be seen” in any given season will tax public safety budgets as additional staff is needed for the influx of visitors, the dynamics of their activities and the interaction with the community they are visiting.

Each of our communities gear up for staffing depending upon how we need to mitigate our risks. This staffing may include counselors for children’s summer camps, lifeguards for water risks, flower crews for beautification efforts and additional traffic control staff for known increases in traffic flow.

Long gone is the self-sufficiency of local community law enforcement. Communities across the nation constantly interact with other local law enforcement and state and federal authorities to ensure the safety of all the totality of all of our existences. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) isn’t a cube we place in our cup for a cold drink.

It’s become an organizational effort intent on managing the legality of our private business support staff, and in some cities its enforcement actions may be devastating to the viability of our resources as we attempt to feed, water, house and entertain our visitor populations.

Bars and restaurants embrace the revenue generated from our adult population. Sunshine and warm weather generate beer festivals, beer gardens, wine tastings, barbecue competitions and farmers markets.

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Each event brings with it coordination, licensing, insurance, code and fire enforcement and … staffing that separates government employees from their own seasonal family activities. Think about the overtime associated with each event as risk mitigation efforts ebb and flow with the multitude of events occurring on every given available day — rain or shine — during your community’s “high season.”

While we, as communities, attempt to inject the “happy” factor into seasonal events, our risk warriors take on a weariness as we make all those dreams come true. There is a saturation point in our community’s capacity to mitigate the totality of our daily, weekly and seasonal risks. We just try not to reach it as we problem solve together as a community team by continually COMMUNICATING.

Managing seasonal risk is like spinning a prize wheel. Each spin brings with it a potentially different outcome with any one visitor as they bring with them the issues weighing on their mind and their own individual visiting community spirit. Managing seasonal risk requires patience, courage and belief in the preparations that take place each day of the year as we embrace the hospitality our community offers. &

The opinions expressed in this piece are those of Marilyn Rivers,  not those of the City of Saratoga Springs.

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]