Risk Insider: Kate Browne

Getting Higher: How Cable-less Elevators Will Support the Cities of Tomorrow

By: | June 6, 2018 • 2 min read
Kate Browne Esq., ARM is Underwriters Counsel at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. She has spent her entire career in the insurance industry, and speaks and writes extensively on the impact on the legal implications of drones, autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, and other emerging risks. Kate can be reached at [email protected]

In 1885, the Home Insurance Company moved into what is considered the first steel frame skyscraper — a 138 foot tall building in downtown Chicago. Today, technological innovations allow us to build to massive skyscrapers such as the 167-story building under construction in Saudi Arabia.

Such amazing heights would not be possible without the elevator. According to one study, more than 12 million elevators around the world make 7 billion trips and carry more than 1 billion people every day!

More important than the convenience factor is technology’s role in creating and supporting a sustainable future.

But elevators still only go up and down, and traditional steel-rope-hung elevators can only go approximately 1600 feet. This is why we don’t have elevators like the ones in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or the “Harry Potter” movies which go up, down, sideways, and even diagonally.

However, German elevator manufacturer Thyssen Krupp is testing a system that could change all of that. It would replace the cables in elevators with electric linear induction motors, the same kind of contactless energy systems that are used in the magnetic levitation trains in China and Japan.

Because they won’t have ropes, the cable-less elevator cars could move horizontally, sharing a building’s shafts and passageways. The elevator’s motors pivot to follow a powered track, while the floor of the cabin remains level. More cars will be able to travel in a single shaft freeing up space for residential or commercial use. And there’s no inherent limit to how far they can travel.

As a result, it may someday be possible to build large building complexes connected in the sky. Imagine living on the 100th floor and going sideways to the next tower to see your doctor or to pick up milk at the grocery store.

The expertise of the surety community will be a key driver for smarter cities.

More important than the convenience factor is technology’s role in creating and supporting a sustainable future. Today more than half the world’s population live in urban areas. Experts estimate that by the end of the century, 70 percent of people will live in cities. High-rise buildings may be the most economical and environmentally viable solution to urban population growth. Taller buildings provide more living and working space without increasing their ground footprint.

They may also become a key partner with urban planners and power companies to support the creation of the “smart” electric grid, which will use computers, automation and controls to digitally respond to customers’ changing energy needs.

Of course, there will be physical constraints and efficiency limits on how many elevator cars will someday move sideways through a maze of shafts and passageways. Property insurers will need to work with their policyholders to determine what type of supports and reinforcements will be needed to safely move people and machinery. Additionally, the expertise of the surety community will be a key driver for smarter cities.

However, just as the Home Insurance Company led the way more than a century ago, the industry will open the door to new possibilities – in all directions!

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]