Risk Insider: George Browne

What’s So Special About Special Hazards?

By: | November 14, 2017 • 2 min read

George Browne, CFPS, has a B.S. in Fire Protection. He is Manager of Training Services for Global Risk Consultants. He manages fire protection services, and develops and delivers training programs for clients on an individual basis. He can be reached at [email protected]

Defining special hazards seems straightforward; the typical expectation might be that, in the event of an emergency involving any of these hazards, there is the potential for a significant loss.


The incident has the potential to develop rapidly, cause substantial property damage and may even affect other properties in the area. Additionally, the hazard may require the following in order to provide life safety and property protection:

  • Special extinguishing systems required for fire control (clean agent, foam, CO2, water mist, etc.).
  • Special detection systems to provide detection of products generated by a special hazards incident (gas specific detectors, infrared or ultraviolet detectors, specialized smoke and heat detectors, explosion detectors, etc.).
  • Damage limiting construction to allow the pressure generated by an explosion to vent out of an area without destroying the structure (explosion relief panels for walls or roofs, vents, etc.).
  • A combination of any of the above.

The above criteria should make many special hazards easy to identify. Unfortunately, some special hazards can be hidden because the impact to the operation is not recognized. These hidden special hazards can include any of the following:

  • The reliability of utilities such as electric power, gas (natural gas or LPG), process/drinking/fire protection water or steam.
  • The vulnerability of the electric power to the site because there is only one transformer or multiple transformers that are rare and difficult to source if the transformer(s) fail.
  • The use of an electrically-driven fire pump, without considering the reliability of the power supply.
  • The reliability and adequacy of the local water supply to meet fire protection needs.
  • Identifying nearby exposures that can threaten the facility, including: fire, explosions and spills occurring at neighboring facilities, and wildfire exposures.
  • Evaluating the surrounding flood hazard and whether or not it might leave your facility high and dry, but isolated and unreachable by suppliers, shippers and employees.

There are many other things that can create a special hazard for an operation, and the above list is certainly not all inclusive. When one begins looking to identify special hazards, stick with the basics. Risk is based on severity of the impact to an operation and the frequency with which it can occur. High frequency and high impact events define the highest level of risk and are usually easy to identify. Low frequency events with high impact need to be qualified to see if they are a special hazard. High frequency events with low impact may also need to be better defined and may or may not be a special hazard.

When one begins looking to identify special hazards, stick with the basics.

You and your company’s policies determine what acceptable risk is. Look at your site and its operations to identify and qualify vulnerabilities. Determine which hazards are unique and require special attention. Large scale incident/emergencies don’t start big; they all start with small failures that compound on each other. Identifying and resolving special hazards is meant to contain the incident and keep it as small as possible.

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]