Column: Risk Management

Common Gluttony

By: | October 1, 2013 • 3 min read

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Why is it that when people get hurt, they tend to point fingers in every direction except toward themselves? Why is it that we are inclined to never think of ourselves as our own worst enemies or contributors to our own negligence?


We have all heard this story. In May 2013, Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York trademarked the name for the “Cronut,” the croissant-doughnut hybrid pastry. The bakery knew they struck gold when they saw lines gathering around New York city blocks for this half donut, half croissant, fried, laminated dough pastry. Imitations sprang up everywhere. Then, the pastry was used in the most inventive way — as the bun to the now even more infamous “Maple Bacon Jam Cronut Burger.

What is it? Grab your Tums, here it comes. This Cronut Burger is a cheese-covered beef patty stuffed between two Cronuts topped with a special jam, which some have described as a slurry made of pureed bacon, maple syrup, water and brown sugar. The burger recipe has been a well-kept secret, so the calorie count is unknown. I suspect, though, that the scales just don’t measure that high. The Cronut Burger was one of the most popular food offerings at a major annual festival this summer.

Surprise, surprise — guess what happened? People got really sick. In fact, 223 people reported getting very sick, with all fingers pointing directly at the Cronut Burger.”

The burger stand voluntarily shut down while public health officials investigated. After health officials interviewed 150 sufferers, we discovered that only 79 people confirmed actually eating the Cronut Burger.

Did the rest get sick from some other heart-stopping food offering such as deep-fried butter or BLT sandwiches with a Nutella spread and back-bacon?

Cronutgate’s lead health officer, Dr. Lisa Berger — yes, that is her name — did confirm that Staphylococcus aureus toxin was found in the “Maple Bacon Jam.” This is a bacteria commonly derived from nasal passages, infected cuts and pimples. Even though bacteria may have been the ultimate culprit for half of the burger eaters, at what point do we turn to those consumers and assign some culpability to them?

How indulgent, verging on negligent, do we have to be before we finally accept some responsibility? We, as individuals, should not be absolved from practicing our own risk management. All of us know our bodies simply cannot consume that much meat, dairy and sugar loaded with trans-fats and hydrogenated oils all at one time.


If I for some reason overindulged like the one “victim” who reported suffering serious digestive upset after eating the Cronut Burger, the seafood chowder fries, some ice cream waffles and a smoothie, I would be so embarrassed at my gluttony and overindulgence that I think I would probably just suffer in silence and with humility. The last thing I would do is point fingers. Maybe that is just me.

Following the epic surges to bathrooms, the emergency rooms, the completion of many risk assessments, and the expenditure of thousands of dollars on food safety and public health resources, the restaurant that served the Cronut Burger reopened. And guess what? Hungry customers were once again eagerly waiting in line. Public Enemy No. 1 does not appear to be bacteria — it is us.

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.


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.


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]