2017 Risk All Star: Joseph Mazza

The Ergonomic Evaluator

MiraCosta College personnel were plagued with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and other repetitive motion injuries. One employee even had to take early retirement as a result. Joe J. Mazza, director of risk management and the ADA coordinator at the California-based community college, knew there was only one solution: Ergonomic workstations.

Joseph Mazza, director of risk management and ADA coordinator, MiraCosta College

“You see the ripple effect of not having a set plan in place,” he realized when he reviewed the college’s workers’ comp claims in 2011. “I found that we had nine claims over the three-year period of 2007 to 2010.”

The average claim cost $19,446. Mazza knew he could cut expenses by reducing the cause behind CTS, which led him to ergonomic workstations. But Mazza refused to settle for just an updated office desk; he wanted lasting change.

“The college was working with several vendors at the time, and one of them had a two-day ergonomic training workshop, which I attended,” Mazza said.

Before, when an employee at MiraCosta was experiencing pain, an evaluator or vendor came to assess the situation. But by becoming an ergonomic evaluator himself, Mazza saved time and created a work environment where employees could come to him right away.

As a result, “we’ve avoided a lot of workers’ comp claims by someone coming up to me and saying, ‘My chair’s uncomfortable,’ or ‘I need you to look at this.’ ”


Sometimes it’s a zero-cost fix.

“It could be a simple mouse adjustment or moving the monitor up a hair,” he said. “Sometimes all it takes is a minor adjustment — or else it’s a major surgery.”

Finances proved Mazza’s biggest hurdle; with a budget of only $20,000 for the year, he had to get creative. If he found himself short on finances for a department, he would work with each department head.

“I’d say, ‘This is how much it costs. I can get half, or I can get two-thirds, could you come up with the rest?’ ” explained Mazza.

“This way, I was spreading the risk of costs. And it was a win-win for both sides.”

“Sometimes all it takes is a minor adjustment — or else it’s a major surgery.” — Joseph Mazza, director of risk management and ADA coordinator, MiraCosta College

Claire Wilson, a physical therapist and a human factors and ergonomics specialist at furniture designer Herman Miller Inc., uses Mazza as a model for clients looking to add best ergonomic practices to their workplace.

“The thing about Joe is he’s a people person first,” said Wilson.

“Other risk managers have other people do the evaluations for them. Joe’s hands-on approach is unique. He has the perfect background, being in insurance. He sees all the moving parts of the picture and can weigh them for the best option.”

“When we first started out, the challenge was trying to understand what we were accomplishing,” said Mazza.

But the results are in, and the numbers speak volumes. MiraCosta, after five years, has had a reduction in frequency of claims, with the average claim costing $18,927.  From 2010 to today, the college’s overall reduction in workers’ comp claims is 47.9 percent. &


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

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”


Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

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