Column: Risk Management

It Takes More Than Insurance

By: | August 3, 2015 • 3 min read

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

For the past three and a half years, I have proudly served the head of enterprise risk management for a large multi-sport event. These games are some of the largest in the world, with thousands of visiting athletes and officials from numerous countries.


Spectators view multiple disciplines of summer sports at many venues and facilities as well as enjoy spectacular opening ceremonies, torch relays, and live festival sites.

An operation like this naturally comes with a few risks. The idea of having accountability to assess all risks at first felt overwhelming, but I took on this momentous task. However, as I have reached the end of my time with the games, I am thrilled to say that we did it.

By identifying our risks, we were able to defend the allocation of resources on risk management activities, investments in risk controls, and right-sizing asset protection strategies.

I have never been prouder of my team for this accomplishment. This was enterprise risk management at its best.

The ERM program had a risk assessment process that forced a neutral centralized line-of-sight to risks and issues that all functional areas and external stakeholders relied on. By identifying our risks, we were able to defend the allocation of resources on risk management activities, investments in risk controls, and right-sizing asset protection strategies.

All risks from across all functional areas and venues were documented along with associated risk treatment options.

Our job as an ERM team was to ensure that all risks got covered with some kind of risk control before games time. Not only did we review insurance coverage, but the rest of risk controls included a variety of trained and tested health and safety, security and contingency plans.

These critical plans provided guidance in managing events that deviated from normal operations of the games.

At times, our risk control plans got a wee creative but with good precedent. The 2010 Commonwealth Games used langur monkeys at several of their venues in New Delhi to keep other havoc-causing monkeys in check in public places.


I always remember that as I do risk assessment that it’s not always about coverage and that risk control must go well beyond insurance procurement.

It likely doesn’t help that often we reference the insurance group as risk management. I guess Warren Buffet said it best when comes to naked risks: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

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]