Risk Insider: Zachary Gifford

The Role We Must Own

By: | November 24, 2015 • 2 min read
Zachary Gifford is Director, Systemwide Risk Management with the California State University – Office of the Chancellor. He also is active in risk management organizations such as PARMA, PRIMA and RIMS. He can be reached at [email protected]

Unfortunately, campus shootings are not a new issue and the recent (or seemingly continual) spate of incidents reinforces the need to take a holistic approach to the risk, i.e., it is not a law enforcement issue alone.

I’m not talking about the need to include a variety of campus personnel and stakeholders in the planning, response and recovery processes, this is self-evident and well-established.

Rather, in this case the term “holistic” is best applied to considering the place of mental health professionals, such as Behavior Intervention Teams (BITS) or campus counseling teams (mental first aid) in collaborating on emergency management (prep, response & recovery) and with stakeholders/administration and academics.  Everybody has a stake in trying to mitigate the risk.

Most people wouldn’t argue with the point that the root cause of the vast majority of campus violence incidents is one of acute mental illness and the aforementioned feelings of desperation.

Here are two definitions of “holistic”:

Philosophy – characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Medicine – characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.

Recently when speaking with mental health professionals about emergency preparation and response, I had an epiphany … this being that the mental health component of preparation, response and recovery had not been a focus or even present in the emergency planning conversation.

As such, I made a commitment that one of my big pushes going forward was to make sure I would be an advocate for having campus mental health professionals at the table when discussing campus risk mitigation and crisis response.

In the words of  Patrick Prince of Prince & Phelps Consultants“No one wakes up one morning and decides, ‘I think I’ll go shoot up a campus today’.”

Rather, it is generally a lengthy mental process as one devolves from feeling that they have a gripe to feeling totally disenfranchised, disrespected, desperate, lonely and angry.

There are points along the way wherein there is a chance for intervention to address the risk and perhaps even assist the person of interest.

Most people wouldn’t argue with the point that the root cause of the vast majority of campus violence incidents is one of acute mental illness and the aforementioned feelings of desperation. We must remember that the perpetrator was once someone’s baby, friend, schoolmate, etc. and likely was not born with homicidal ideations.

Herein lies the opportunity for mental health professionals to mitigate the risk by assisting in the identification of people at risk, collaborating on intervention techniques and perhaps even treatment.

Further, it is incumbent upon an organization to stress the values of empathy, respect, dignity and looking through a holistic and not personally prejudiced paradigm.

We all have a chance to mitigate the risk by being decent human beings and not being afraid to reach out to appropriate persons to address a concern when observing disturbing behavior. “It is not my problem,” or “ I do not want to get involved,” are not responsible alternatives.

Ask yourself this.

“Are you a potential solution or a potential victim?”

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]