Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Special Events in Balance

By: | August 4, 2014 • 2 min read

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York and is a director at large and delegate for the government and public sector division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

Public sector risk managers in attractive destinations entertain a bevy of special event requests for their communities on any given day. Those requests range from road races to festivals, but each involves the use of public roadways and public land.

The problem is this: While every weekend is an opportunity for an event to raise money for a community cause, the public deserves the right to quiet enjoyment of that same public space they pay for through their taxes.

For those communities that market themselves as business and vacation destinations, the balance is to provide entertainment and diversity while attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy for the community who lives there year ’round.

There is a constant tug of war between community organizations to line up events and take ownership of weekends years in advance. Many of them present an argument for legacy treatment.

The question then becomes, how many events does a community have the capacity to host on any given weekend? Who decides which event is more important or which cause gets rejected because the weekend calendar is already filled to capacity?

The imagination and energy of every community group should be commended. Their ideas are inspiring and add to the fabric of each community, bringing visitors and helping to fund our tax bases.

How many public risk professionals, however, have received an email accusing them of neglecting an orphan or some other cause because their risk management team has identified deficiencies in a special event application? Or the request for the event is so out of bounds that the community simply cannot safely provide a public venue?

It’s difficult to explain how “event weary” public entities can become as the seasons progress.

Risk managers continue to be amazed by the ingenuity of our special event organizers, but those same risk managers often face a no-win situation; balancing the event with the limitations of a municipal budget and the need for public safety.

Fireworks require fire marshals; road closures require police officers; and special events need to be cleaned up so that life can return to normal — at least until the next event!

The closing of roads for a race means neighborhood disruptions. Let’s be honest, neighbors spend weekends catching up on life. Road closures often throw a wrench into those plans.

Remember that word, balance. It’s tough to maintain as communities strive to attract visitors while continuing to maintain an attractive lifestyle.

The biggest fear public risk professionals have is not doing enough to keep visitors safe when they are recreating.

Be patient as you go about planning your next event. All of our collective arms are open and our smiles genuine, but planning takes community balance and cooperation.

Read all of Marilyn Rivers’ Risk Insider contributions.

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]