Teddy Award Finalist

Energized Safety Performance

Pinnacle West produced safety results twice as good as the utility industry average.
By: | November 1, 2013 • 3 min read

No technological advance in America in the past 150 years quite matches, in its effects on society, the impact of electrical power and light. Since its origins in the late 19th century, Phoenix-based Pinnacle West Capital Corp., has delivered this advance to one of the two-fastest growing states in the nation.

And it has performed this essential task with an ever-improving focus on safety. The organization’s focus on personal and industrial safety has contributed to a significant reduction in injuries in the last five consecutive years, resulting in a 57 percent drop in OSHA recordable injuries since 2008. The company’s safety record is about twice as good as the electrical utility industry’s average in frequency and severity of injury.

The company’s electrical power linemen work under extremely high risk. They represent the tip of the iceberg of injury risks, large and small, that a modern power generation and distribution workforce of 6,600 faces.

Its largest affiliate, Arizona Public Service (APS) serves more than a million customers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties and is the operator and co-owner of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, a primary source of electricity for the Southwest. APS is the second fastest growing electric utility in the United States over the last five years and is also a leader in the development of solar technology.


Approximately 70 percent of Pinnacle West’s employees work in highly specialized craft, operations, technical, engineering and customer-service positions. These positions have job-specific training requirements that range from 16 to 400 hours annually.

The closer one looks at the company’s work safety practices, the more an engineering-type culture of attentiveness and problem-solving emerges as a major driver.

Tools have been introduced throughout the company to further improve safety performance, which is measured daily using Event Free Clocks. The Event Free Clocks are used to help recognize errors, learn from mistakes and prevent similar events from occurring.

These clocks are placed prominently around operational work environments and office locations to give employees an ongoing visual reminder of safety performance.

The company also created a Corrective Action Program (CAP), designed to drive continuous improvement by identifying, tracking and resolving unfavorable conditions. It uses self-assessments, common cause analysis and audits

Shelly Shaffer, absence management leader, Arizona Public Service

Shelly Shaffer, absence management leader, Arizona Public Service

The biggest workers’ compensation challenge that Pinnacle West has focused on during the past five years is mitigating the consequences of highly demanding and physical work on an aging workforce. For example, linemen must operate heavy equipment, climb poles and perform overhead work, often in awkward and strenuous positions. And many employees work out of doors.

The physical demands of the work cannot be eliminated due to the very nature of producing and delivering power through a massive infrastructure of power plants, transmission lines and distribution systems. The strenuous nature of the work becomes even more challenging with an aging workforce.

Pinnacle West controls its medical costs and ensures quality care for its workers by self-insuring its workers’ compensation and integrating it with absence management and return-to-work programs.  It has developed a comprehensive program of health and wellness programs.

The company’s workers perform essential services for Arizonans in a work environment dedicated to safety and health.

Peter Rousmaniere is a journalist and consultant in the field of work injury risk. He lives in Woodstock, Vermont. Peter can be reached at [email protected]

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]