Risk Insider: Andy Hosman

How Wearables Are Transforming Workplace Safety

By: | August 2, 2017 • 3 min read

Andy Hosman is the vice president of Operational Risk Solutions at Sphera. He has more than 17 years of experience in designing, developing, and implementing risk management solutions to help customers assess, mitigate, manage and monitor their risk more effectively. Prior to joining Sphera, Andy was a senior vice president of product management at Marsh ClearSight.

There are an eye-opening 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day, according to a recent IBM-Cisco Systems graphic. Utility companies alone generate five terabytes of data per day. Any way you slice it, this is a powerful amount of data.

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Beyond those staggering numbers, this is what really stands out: “Most of this data is never captured, never analyzed and never taken action on.”

It’s a lot of wasted data for sure, but it doesn’t even include the figures that, until recently, have been mostly untapped: workplace safety data from wearables.

Wearables have definitely caught on in the consumer marketplace as a great way to monitor heart rate, steps taken, flights climbed and many other health-related variables. In the workplace, however — outside of wellness-related applications — wearables are just starting to make their presence felt.

While safety-related wearables are a relatively new concept, they are already paying quantifiable dividends.

That’s about to change in a big way. With wearables, companies will be able to tap into new sources of data that will lead to innovations in workplace safety. Wearables have the potential to bring companies safety-related data that was once considered unattainable. But with this amount of data comes real challenges, such as the potential for data paralysis. Companies will need to find a way to cut through the data in sensible ways that give them the information they need to help keep their workers safe on the job and insights into problems across their safety-reporting culture.

There are already companies that offer wearables to monitor drowsiness, provide GPS-like capabilities and give workers the ability to access the information they need to do their jobs safely, and potentially even offer them a second set of eyes as another worker monitors the situation from a remote location. The technology also allows workers to record events and observations to help companies compile the data they need for true predictive safety analytics.

While safety-related wearables are a relatively new concept, they are already paying quantifiable dividends. For example, as Andrew Ronchi wrote in a recent Construction Executive blog, one U.K.-based company had its bricklayers use wearables for safety- and health-related purposes. With the technology, the workers reduced by 85 percent the time their backs were bent more than 20 degrees and their lower-back muscle activation by 84 percent, according to the post.

The challenge for companies will be getting workers to buy into using wearables in the workplace to collect the necessary data for predictive analytics. Getting buy-in will depend on the type of company and its culture. With wearables, some people will be eager to get access to the latest technology, while others will fear “Big Brother” will be watching them.

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What will get those people who are late to adopt the technology is if they see value. Over time, the safety metrics will speak for themselves. Additionally, similar to how companies have enticed employees to use wearables for wellness programs in exchange for a reduction in insurance premiums, organizations could employ a similar strategy initially for safety wearables.

Lastly, it is important to make wearables optional. Should workers not feel comfortable wearing the device, it makes sense to give those people the choice to opt out.

Ultimately, the data and benefits will speak for themselves. It’s for their safety, after all!

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]