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

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.


Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.


This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.


Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.


AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.


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