2018 RIMS

Risk Management Tips for Sports Organizations

Sports risk management faces a different kind of challenge — especially if the team is well-known and successful.
By: | April 13, 2018 • 2 min read
Topics: RIMS | Risk Management

Want to help your team win off the field as well as on? Then invest in your risk management program, said Monica Rusch, senior director, risk management of the Houston Astros. At a RIMS 2018 presentation on April 18, the 29-year veteran of the baseball organization, along with Tamara D. Bruno, counsel from Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman LLP, offered attendees practical and tested tips for mitigating ever present risks.


When teams win big, everyone from the players to the fans to the front office is thrilled. But the bigger the win —  think World Series champs — the bigger the risks, especially to players.

“There is increased player recognition. Everyone wants to be near the players. Everyone wants to get close to them,” Rusch said. “Even the lesser known players become well known. It’s a new risk every time we get to another level.”

The coveted World Series rings are worn with pride by the players and other members of the organization, but these, too, present a new risk, Rusch said. Safety and theft become additional risks.

“Everyone wants to be near the players. Everyone wants to get close to them. Even the lesser known players become well known. It’s a new risk every time we get to another level.” — Monica Rusch, senior director, risk management of the Houston Astros

But your sports organization doesn’t need to be world champs to be exposed to risk. No two games are exactly alike, so risk varies for each game. An organization’s risk mitigation strategic and tactics need to be tailored. Bruno described how a game between a Texas rivalry called for more security, a closer watch on attendance and other strategies to mitigate risk, above and beyond what is needed for a “less emotional” match-up.

The key to being effective is conducting ongoing training and communication effectively. Training can be taught or self-paced through online training. It teaches best practices and documents your organizations’ efforts should an incident occur. And communication involves constant dialogue with all team members — and a lot of listen in addition to providing information.


Also crucial is having written policies, procedures and consequences. These also document your organization’s efforts. Rusch joked that when anyone leaves their keys in their golf cart and walks away, they know to look for the keys in her office — and they know they’ll be directed to re-take their safety training.

Risks are everywhere and good risk managers are always listening, looking and anticipating those risks. From spectators getting hit with foul balls to stadium slip and falls to player collisions, a good risk manager has a plan in mind to prevent and mitigate risks whenever possible and deal with the aftermath when something does happen. &

Mercedes Ott is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She 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]