Risk Insider: Dan Holden

Stoned is Stoned

By: | July 21, 2015 • 3 min read

Dan Holden is Manager of Corporate Risk & Insurance for Daimler Trucks North America (formerly “Freightliner”). He manages the risk management program in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He can be reached at [email protected]

With a flip of the calendar, on July 1, Oregon became the fourth state in which recreational marijuana use became legal. For many Oregon employers, this status change from illegal to legal wasn’t a big deal.

Medical marijuana is already legal in 24 states, including the Beaver State, and possessing less than an ounce was decriminalized in Oregon 40 years ago. This is just a new twist on an old story.

All it really means is you can’t go to jail (or be fined) for smoking pot recreationally. However, this “non-event,” has made risk managers ponder the ramifications of recreational use, especially for their employees who work in the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturers have strict policies to ensure a safe work environment. It goes without saying that people who are under the influence at work in a manufacturing or an industrial setting are far more likely to be injured on the job.

It is predicted that in 2016 – the third election cycle in which marijuana legalization measures will be on ballots across the country – as many as seven more states could allow recreational use of marijuana.

Being stoned at work should be treated no differently than being under the influence of alcohol or prescription medication. You certainly can’t show up drunk for work.

The employer is responsible for that employee as soon as they walk on to the job. Any drug use that impacts an employee’s ability to perform their job should be a genuine concern for the employer.

The difficulty for employers is the fact there is no scientific method to determine a marijuana intoxication level, unlike a blood-alcohol level for alcohol. So until there is definitive scientific evidence, employers are being advised to err on side of safety and forbid an employee to be under the influence of marijuana.

To do that the employer needs a crystal clear, zero-tolerance policy. Unless the employer has been living in a cave the past 50 years, they already have such a policy. But it should be updated to specifically address marijuana use, both on-the-job and recreationally, in which case it could affect the employee’s job performance.

It is predicted that in 2016 – the third election cycle in which marijuana legalization measures will be on ballots across the country – as many as seven more states could allow recreational use of marijuana. As each state approves the recreational use of marijuana, there looms in the background the knowledge that under federal law, its use remains illegal.

Whether that will eventually force the feds to take a stand remains to be seen. Right now the feds have just rolled over to let you scratch their belly.

But as each state joins the ranks of approving pot use recreationally, what was a minor irritant to the feds could grow too large for them to ignore.

The bottom line is that a stoned CPA might drop a number or two, but a stoned assembly line worker might drop a few fingers. It doesn’t matter if it’s pot, alcohol, or prescription medication. Smoke cannabis at work – or show up stoned – and you’ll be disciplined. It’s not about a worker’s rights; it’s about workplace safety.

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.

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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.

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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]