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2016 Teddy Award Winner

The Road to Success

Accountability and collaboration turned Hampton Roads Transit’s legacy workers’ compensation program into a triumph.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 5 min read

In four years, Hampton Roads Transit transformed a legacy workers’ compensation program that was costly and ineffective into a phenomenal success.

From 2011 to 2015, HRT saw a 98 percent decrease in lost-time claims frequency, 94 percent decrease in average number of days lost per lost-time claim, 48 percent decrease in frequency of injuries and 78 percent decrease in total incurred costs per claim.

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Its savings from the total amount billed in 2015 alone was 40 percent lower than the prior year, while the average claims reporting time was reduced to 3.7 days, compared to 5.7 days in 2014.

Under the leadership of Kimberly Ackerman, chief human resources officer, and Danielle Hill, human resources compliance manager, the public transportation agency took a program that did not track claims or spending and created a collaborative organization that has achieved impressive results.

“Accountability. Teamwork. Customer Service.” Those are the hallmarks of the program, Hill said.

“The biggest goal for us,” adds Ackerman, “was to be collaborative, to have a high degree of accountability and to have managers and employees alike understand and embrace the program.”

She praised Hill for leading the effort.

Kimberly Ackerman, chief human resources officer, Hampton Roads Transit

Kimberly Ackerman, chief human resources officer, Hampton Roads Transit

“She has brought a fresh new perspective to the program, innovative strategies and a high degree of collaboration with employees and managers,” Ackerman said.

The transformation began with a formal review of HRT’s past program. Hill said the 1,000-employee transit agency “never tracked anything. We never knew how much money was spent.”

In 2012, Hampton Roads Transit brought in new management to regain public confidence in its operation of 56 bus routes and 11 light rail lines in southeast Virginia. In furtherance of that mission, HRT partnered with PMA Management Corp. to help contain costs for the self-insured workers’ compensation program.

“What they wanted to do was get a grip on the claims they had and change the culture around the workers’ compensation program,” said Brad Wilson, account executive for PMA, the third-party administrator.

A review discovered that workers’ comp claims costs had nearly doubled each year during the prior three years. The average number of days lost per lost-time claim in 2011 was 207, which created logistical nightmares for the regional transit organization. (It was 12 in 2015.)

All Working Toward the Same Goal

Once HRT had a handle on its past experience, the biggest challenge was “making sure we are all working toward the same goal,” Hill said. “Getting everybody on the same page is really hard to do. I think our biggest goal when we took over was our customer service. Making sure staff understood that our employees are actually our customers.”

HRT wanted to make it easier for employees to file workers’ comp claims. They wanted to decrease claims. They wanted to keep their workers healthy and safe. The key was creating a 360-degree employee safety and training program.

It’s the heart of HRT’s loss control strategies.

“Everybody respects the program. We are all on the same side, working on the same goal.” — Danielle Hill, human resources compliance manager, Hampton Roads Transit

Bus drivers are enrolled in an 8-week training class that includes classroom and simulation exercises, as well as test runs.

Employee orientation sessions train employees on what to do if they are injured, how to report an injury and how to prevent injuries. There are regular safety talks and post-accident safety training for drivers and maintenance workers.

The 360-degree program also includes intranet-based safety training, annual refresher training, annual safety awards and wellness programs for employees. The HR department is currently working with physical therapists on their workers’ compensation panel to create posters and safety videos to display in drivers’ lounges.

The program has a multi-tier safety structure that starts with monthly safety committee meetings that include at least one bus driver representative to address safety issues. When injuries occur, the committee members discuss how HRT could have prevented the incident.

Hill said the team regularly inspects the facilities and equipment.

An upper level operational safety and security committee deals with issues that can’t be addressed at the lower level, and a senior executive team targets strategic issues.

On a quarterly basis, HRT reviews the top five injuries for the prior three months and develops training sessions if it sees any recurring problems.

Changing the culture from one with little accountability and few formalized processes was a challenge.

Danielle Hill, human resources compliance manager, Hampton Roads Transit

Danielle Hill, human resources compliance manager, Hampton Roads Transit

“The hardest thing,” Hill said, “was getting people to think this is a job we will be providing for employees, and making sure staff understood that even if the employee filed 10 claims previously, they were to treat it like their first claim.”

HRT’s loss control program also includes investigation of all injuries, aided by state-of-the-art video cameras inside and outside all buses. Supervisors take statements by the end of the employee’s shift, and travel to the accident scene to take photos.

Safety training also blends into HRT’s return-to-work program, which saw decreased lost-time claims from 53 in 2011 to just 1 in 2015. The agency’s total incurred costs per claim decreased from $17,036 to $3,780.

Light Duty Works

Its light-duty program is one of the keys to the overall program’s success.

“That’s been really great,” Hill said. “I think when managers thought ‘light duty,’ they didn’t understand what it meant. I told them, ‘You can have somebody on workers’ comp do administrative work for you.’

“It helps us to get injured workers into a job they can do and it helps that department fulfill a need that otherwise they might have to pay overtime to complete.”

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Every October, the agency invites its workers’ compensation team to an open house to review the light-duty program and gain a greater understanding of HRT’s job requirements, including an update on job descriptions for light duty.

The event includes a tour of the facilities and operations, and bus rides for a close-up look at the work employees perform.

“That is integral,” said Wilson of PMA. It gives the doctors an accurate view of employee tasks and movements so they can better understand injuries, he said.

Wellness programs are also a key part of the initiative. To prevent injuries from occurring, HRT hosts three health fairs a year, with nutritionist consultations and biometric testing. HRT also is working with physical therapists to provide stretching exercises drivers can do while on the bus as well as exercises for before and after work.

“The best thing is we are all together and on the same page,” Hill said. “Everybody respects the program. We are all on the same side, working on the same goal.” &

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Read more about the 2016 Teddy Award winners:

target-150x150Bringing Focus to Broad Challenges: Target brings home a 2016 Teddy Award for serving as an advocate for its workers, pre- and post-injury, across each of its many operations.

 

hrt-150x150The Road to Success: Accountability and collaboration turned Hampton Roads Transit’s legacy workers’ compensation program into a triumph.

 

excela-150x150Improve the Well-Being of Every Life: Excela Health changed the way it treated injuries and took a proactive approach to safety, drastically reducing workers’ comp claims and costs.

 

harder-150x150The Family That’s Safe Together: An unwavering commitment to zero lost time is just one way that Harder Mechanical Contractors protects the lives and livelihoods of its workers.


More coverage of the 2016 Teddy Awards:

Recognizing Excellence: The judges of the 2016 Teddy Awards reflect on what they learned, and on the value of awards programs in the workers’ comp space.

Fit for Duty: 2013 Teddy Winner Miami-Dade County Public Schools is managing comorbid risk factors by getting employees excited about healthy living.

Saving Time and Money: Applying Lean Six Sigma to its workers’ comp processes earned Atlantic Health a Teddy Award Honorable Mention.

Caring for the Caregivers: Adventist Health Central Valley Network is achieving stellar results by targeting its toughest challenges.

Advocating for Injured Workers: By helping employees navigate through the workers’ comp system, Cottage Health decreased lost work days by 80 percent.

A Matter of Trust: St. Luke’s workers’ comp program is built upon relationships and a commitment to care for those who care for patients.

Keeping the Results Flowing: R&I recognizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for a commonsense approach that’s netting continuous improvement.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession: Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]