Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

The Atlanta Highway Collapse

By: | April 3, 2017 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University, a core faculty member at the International School of Management (Paris), and a Risk Insider at Risk and Insurance magazine where he was named a 2018 All Star. He was Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), dean of the schools of business at Seton Hall and Connecticut State universities, and provost of the College of Insurance and SUNY Maritime College in New York City.

On March 31st, a massive fire caused an interstate bridge in Atlanta to collapse during rush hour. No one was hurt even as towering flames and plumes of smoke were visible for more than an hour. Interstate I-85, a daily commuting artery for a quarter of a million people, was closed indefinitely.

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It’s wartime in Atlanta. Within 24 hours, the federal government released $10 million for immediate use and promised much more to repair the overpass. 2017 will be a nightmare for Atlanta motorists. A few years from now, the collapse will be a distant memory.

The situation recalls historical behaviors of Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton. They offer a lesson for contemporary events in American life.

Eisenhower was a peacetime warrior. To win the Second World War, America needed to transport the output of U.S. industry across the Atlantic Ocean. This was a logistical challenge.

Is our crumbling infrastructure a wartime or peacetime challenge? In today’s political climate, no one seems to be seriously seeking an answer to this question.

Patton was a wartime commander. He fought until he ran out of tanks, ammo and gasoline, and then still wanted his men to fight on. To win a war with Patton: arm him, point him toward Germany, and stand back.

Eisenhower famously was quoted multiple times on how we can achieve goals. In a 1957 speech he said, “plans are nothing, budgets are nothing, but planning and flexible budgeting are everything.”

Eisenhower was perfect when peacetime behavior was needed. He carefully planned the invasion of Normandy, a colossal logistical operation.

After being resupplied by Eisenhower, Patton pushed his troops to drive the enemy out of North Africa, Sicily and France. He exhibited wartime behavior.

When planning was the key, peacetime decision-making did the job. When no-nonsense action was needed, a wartime approach was the choice.

Back to the present. In wartime, conditions are always intense, competition is stiff and action trumps planning. Peacetime seeks plans, accuracy and strategies. Many of our political problems today occur because we cannot muster action in peacetime environments.

In the spirit of Eisenhower and Patton, the Atlanta incident has broader ramifications. Fire is not the only thing that takes down transportation routes.

In 2007, an eight-lane I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, collapsed during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145. It was carrying 140,000 vehicles daily. The incident produced no visible response to a broader problem.

Ten years later, there are still 56,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges crossed daily by 185 million vehicles. Almost 2,000 of them are part of the Interstate Highway System.

Is our crumbling infrastructure a wartime or peacetime challenge? In today’s political climate, no one seems to be seriously seeking an answer to this question.

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Let’s answer it. We are a nation struggling to distinguish between wartime and peacetime. Problems that should have been solved long ago became explosive issues that drown out compromise. Post-election behavior by both parties has not been pretty.

Maybe the Atlanta misfortune can spark a badly needed discussion in Washington, D.C. If we start today, a crumbling infrastructure can be a peacetime issue. Everybody wants jobs, better roads and shorter commutes. Wouldn’t it be a blessing if the two political parties develop a plan to repair failing bridges and poorly maintained roadways?

The Interstate Highway System was authorized by President Eisenhower and is named after him. We should demand a bipartisan effort to fix it and the other infrastructure catastrophes waiting to happen.

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]