Risk Insider: Erin O'Brien Link

Will the New European Data Protection Reform Affect Us?

By: | July 11, 2014 • 2 min read

Erin O'Brien Link is the vice president of risk management for CGG, a geophysical services company. She is responsible for enterprise risk management, group insurance globally, special projects and guidance in contract reviews. She can be reached at [email protected]

The European Commission voted in March, 2014, to strengthen privacy rights promised by the European Union’s 1995 Data Protection Directive. The reform will change the law from a Directive to a Regulation, meaning it will be directly applicable in all of Europe without the need to wait for national implementing legislation.

The regulation will apply to any personal data handled abroad by companies that are working with the European Union (EU) market and/or offer their services to EU citizens. That means companies need to be aware of this new update, as well as the risk of non-compliance and harsher penalties potentially imposed under law.

The reform will change the law from a Directive to a Regulation, meaning it will be directly applicable in all of Europe without the need to wait for national implementing legislation.

U.S. companies that conduct business in Europe need to ensure that they have a legitimate reason for transferring personal information within or outside of the EU. Personal information is any data concerning a person’s private, professional or public life. It may be a name, a photo, an email address, bank details; posts on social networks, medical information or even a computer’s IP address.

Assuming your company has a legitimate basis for processing and using personal data, the EU Data Protection Reform regulation sets out three avenues to make your data transfers legal:

  • Certify compliance through the U.S. Department of Commerce Safe Harbor registration. The European Union still recognizes that Safe Harbor registration is compliant with the EU law. For more information, consult: http://www.export.gov/safeharbor/
  • Have appropriate safeguards in place to protect personal data within your company, including for example binding corporate rules approved by EU data protection authorities.
  • Complete data transfers in clearly defined, specific situations which necessitate the transfer; for example as part of a legal, tax or competition investigation.

To comply, companies will need to show that their data processing is legitimate, and that they consistently monitor, review and assess the data processing procedures in place. The aim is to minimize the retention of data and build in safeguards for processing activities.

Company leaders should ask themselves these questions:

  • What information is to be collected and where?
  • Why the information is being collected?
  • What is the intended use of the information?
  • With whom the information will be shared? Is it shared with Europe?
  • Is there a collection of information IT system affecting people’s data in Europe?
  • How will the information be secured? What security controls or auditing processes exist?
  • Do individuals in the EU have an opportunity to decline to provide information or give consent?

And if that is not scary enough, penalties under the reform for data protection violations will rise significantly depending on the seriousness of the offense, whether it is a repeat offense, if it is intentional, and whether the violator is a company with processing data as its primary activity. Sanctions may involve:

  • A simple warning for a first non-intentional offenses when only engaging in processing as an ancillary activity.
  • Regular data protection audits.
  • A fine of 5% percent of annual worldwide turnover for certain serious acts committed intentionally or negligently.

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]