Program Management Track Highlights High-Level Sessions

Two key sessions in the new Program Management track focus on behavior-based safety and the influx of private equity firms in the workers’ comp market.
By: | October 10, 2014

The 23rd annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo takes place Nov. 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The confer­ence is produced by LRP Publications, which also publishes Risk & Insurance®.

ConferenceBehavior-based safety and the influx of private equity firms in the workers’ comp market are two of the sessions rounding out the NWCDC’s new Program Management track.

Behavior-Based Safety Program: How You Can Prevent Injuries and Improve Product Quality

Friday, Nov. 21, 10-11:15 a.m.

Near misses offer a unique opportunity for employers, says Julia Sfurm. The veteran corporate senior risk manager cites them as one of the many benefits of behavior-based safety programs.

Described as the application of the science of behavior change to real-world problems, an effective BBS is a process that creates a culture of safety at an organization. It is a way to get full participation from employees at all levels.

“There are so many times where there are [safety] programs and processes in place but employees and supervisors don’t buy into it,” Sfurm said. “This process helps to get everyone engaged in the process.”

Key to an effective BBS program is eliminating the “us vs. them” atmosphere within the company. All employees must feel empowered.

“It’s where you have not just a top-down or bottom-up safety culture where somebody is telling someone to do something, but a continuous counterbalance so everyone is part of the process. They all believe that safety is important,” she explained.

The process involves having a BBS leader — preferably not a manager — who watches employees work and sees how they might perform their tasks more safely. Organizations looking to develop a successful BBS need to create an interactive social dynamic where there is interaction between the BBS leader and the team of managers who end up working together with employees.

“There has to be some trust between management and people on the floor, a social dynamic,” she said. “No one is looked at as being outside the process.”

When done successfully, a BBS program can result in reduced claim activity as well as improved productivity.

“The fact that we have employees that, as you’re going through the process, are not only seeing how an employee is doing things but asking, ‘why are you doing this?’” Sfurm said. “Some lean engineering goes into this.”

Behavioral psychology enters the picture because employees come to proactively monitor their own behaviors with an eye toward safety. They become trained to be aware of their actions to note when safety is at risk.

As employees become more focused on their own and others’ actions, there are more opportunities to prevent future claims. “If you’re observing someone, you should have the ability to catch or observe things that may be problematic, and because of that, you should be able to modify or mitigate that risk so it doesn’t happen and turn into a claim,” Sfurm said. “Near misses are free. Those are your incidents that have not occurred to cost you money — in frequency or severity — to an employee. If you can find those and eliminate them, then you’ve helped everybody — the process and more importantly the employee.”

Private Equity’s Major Deals and Their Impact on Workers’ Compensation

Thursday, Nov. 20, 10:45 a.m. to noon

Decision-makers, claims executives, risk managers, brokers, and anyone interested in understanding the move of private equity firms in the workers’ comp system may find this session of value.


  • Camilo E. Horvilleur, principal, H.I.G. Capital LLC
  • Jeffrey S. McKibben, managing principal, Odyssey Investment Partners
  • P. Hunter Philbrick, managing director, Hellman & Friedman

The panelists represent companies that have acquired and are now selling industry-related businesses. Each has a clear understanding of workers’ comp, said Joseph Paduda, principal of Health Strategy Associates, author of the ManagedCareMatters blog, and moderator for the session. But the same cannot be said of all companies trying to gain ground in the workers’ comp market.

“While some investors seem to understand the workers’ comp world quite well, others don’t have the same depth of knowledge,” Paduda said. “Those are the ones who are going to have a tough wake-up call.”

Paduda believes companies in the workers’ comp industry are ripe for private equity takeovers. “Because the workers’ comp market is inefficient,” Paduda said. “It would benefit greatly from more automation; it has relatively low regulatory risk in that the federal government is not involved to a great extent in the workers’ comp business. And the other investment opportunities in the health care space have much higher regulatory risk due to Affordable Care Act implementation.”

With those considerations, the move by private equity firms into the workers’ comp arena is generally a good thing. Employers, workers, and taxpayers can benefit from it.

“That doesn’t mean there are not going to be some wrenching, painful changes, and we’re already seeing that in significant layoffs — some of which have not been handled appropriately,” Paduda said. “But increasing the efficiency of the business and reducing employers’ costs and approving claimants’ care, that’s what this business is all about; that’s what workers’ comp is all about. Private equity over time will make that happen.”

The effects of such takeovers on a day-to-day basis for employees in the affected companies will be addressed by the panelists. They will also discuss what they seek when considering an acquisition although Paduda thinks that action may subside soon.

“I expect there will be several more transactions over the next 18 months, but the pace will certainly slow down,” he said. “If nothing else, there are fewer companies to buy now. “

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

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