2222222222

Column: Workers' Comp

A Safe Space for Workers

By: | September 12, 2017 • 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.

Creating a “safe space” for injured workers returning to the job is a concept deserving a spotlight.

The idea is loaded with an abundance of promise for implementing workers’ compensation in the best way possible. Within the concept’s core resides a desire to focus on meeting injured workers’ needs while improving employers’ claims results.

Advertisement




And it’s not just a philosophical concept. There is a practical, established strategy behind it. One that can help take risk out of hiring new workers in a U.S. economy that continues to add jobs. It can help remove the fear that sometimes hinders established workers with injuries from returning to the job as early as possible.

The idea of creating a “safe space” came my way from Judie Tsanopoulos, director of workers’ comp and loss control at St. Joseph Health.

Judie is a consummate workers’ comp practitioner.  Over the years I’ve spoken with her, I’ve noticed that she consistently works to improve every corner of her workers’ comp program, applying creativity, elbow grease and direction.

Her discussion of creating a safe space is really about the physical demands analysis St. Joe’s conducts for each work role. It applies an essential functions review to determine whether returning injured workers are capable of a job’s physical demands.

By reframing it as an opportunity to give injured workers safe space for recovering while they transition back into their jobs, the conversation shifts to accentuate a caring role. It transforms the concept into one that recognizes the worker’s needs.

This is nothing new. It’s known that a job analysis based on the essential functions of work roles reduces losses.

While it’s particularly useful for eliminating injuries among the newly hired, who are most prone to experience accidents, it also helps established workers safely return post injury.

But the practice is commonly discussed in terms that represent the employers’ viewpoint and interest in reducing claims expense.

By reframing it as an opportunity to give injured workers safe space for recovering while they transition back into their jobs, the conversation shifts to accentuate a caring role. It transforms the concept into one that recognizes the worker’s needs.

It acknowledges that it is common for workers to fear returning to work and doesn’t conveniently ignore that significant fact.

Advertisement




Returning workers may be overprotective of their bodies. They may fear tasks they routinely handled in the past; tasks that defined their roles. That may make them less eager to cooperate with return-to-work plans.

Providing a safe space is about helping workers learn that they’re progressing in their recovery. It helps build their confidence.

It’s a strategy that helps workers appreciate that their employer cares.

It also provides something for the workers’ comp manager.

Judie said it’s the kind of effort that has resulted in formerly injured workers hugging her when she walks through a St. Joseph hospital. She is the first to admit that hugs are not the typical greeting for a workers’ comp director. &

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.

Advertisement




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.

Advertisement




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. &

_________________________________________________________________

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]