Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Give It Back and Pay It Forward

By: | December 10, 2014 • 2 min read
Marilyn Rivers is director of risk and safety for the City of Saratoga Springs, a historic tourist destination in upstate New York. She chairs the PRIMA Institute for the Public Risk Management Association and was named Public Risk Manager of the Year by PRIMA in 2007. She can be reached at marilyn.rivers@saratoga-springs.org.

Awhile back a rather contentious conversation ensued on a social media site when a college student “pinged” a business professional’s web account asking to connect.

Discourse followed as to whether the student should have had the audacity to suggest the connection.

For those of us who are graying in the public risk sector, the “how dare they” came as a sad commentary to a generation lost in transition.

I’m a baby boomer. My generation grew up on hard rock, the introduction of color television and the dreams of space. We watched a man land on the moon.

We looked to Walter Cronkite to hold us accountable for the losses in Vietnam, watched Gloria Steinem ask women to demand more as she burned her bra, and saw our government stumble in Watergate.

Throughout our youth, our generation was coached to reach higher, demand more of ourselves and to understand that we had the ability to make a difference.

Our role models varied, but they taught us to ask questions and to achieve, but at the end of the day – to give back.

However flawed, John F Kennedy reminded us, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

The goal of my generation is to ensure our profession’s survival. Many of us give back by sharing our knowledge through corporate struggles, hints for getting out of sticky situations, providing shoulders to listen, and sharing opportunities to allow growth and advancement.

As I facilitate education in the public sector, I remind my students that I took a long winding route to public risk management although my first job — counting cigarette advertisements on taxicabs in the early ’80s in Boston — might be considered a form of fleet management education these days.

Facilitating risk management education among the younger generation as they attempt to gain respect among their peers and gain the trust of their management staff is awe-inspiring.

Public risk management professionals like to call ourselves family. We share, challenge and connect. We laugh at ourselves, problem-solve our difficulties and offer support when needed.

The lessons learned and the ideas exchanged give faith that the future of our profession is not only viable, but has the potential to transform all of us if we would only give each other a chance.

I’m offering a challenge for the next time someone with a freshly inked resume asks to connect with you on a social media site — remember how vulnerable you once were on that very first job interview.

Think about JFK and how you may wish to be remembered within your profession. I will grant you that the world is definitely a competitive place, but getting there alone is a guaranteed one-way ticket to being forgotten.

Take the chance. Give back and ask that it be paid forward. The journey promised through that contact may offer a kaleidoscope of adventure, the reward of helping the next generation, and the promise your efforts will be remembered.

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Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Workplace Safety Requires Consensus

By: | October 16, 2014 • 2 min read
Marilyn Rivers is director of risk and safety for the City of Saratoga Springs, a historic tourist destination in upstate New York. She chairs the PRIMA Institute for the Public Risk Management Association and was named Public Risk Manager of the Year by PRIMA in 2007. She can be reached at marilyn.rivers@saratoga-springs.org.

Each of us brings a personal perception of reality to our definitions of how safe our workplaces are.

Here’s the challenge we all face in making workplaces safe across the country. Place a group of folks in a room and ask them to put together a plan and protocols to make it safe. Ask them to reach consensus on locking down their workplace.

For those of us who have tried to walk our contemporaries through the process, it can be mind-numbing, especially when working in the public sector.

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in local government have a higher incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses (6.1 cases per 100 workers) than any other type of industry sector.

Public workspaces are designed for the community, the employees who provide the services and the folks who come to be served.

The balance between “by the people and for the people” can be treacherous.

These folks come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments. Their issues might be as mundane as a dog license and as complex as a child custody court case. The mix of service on any given day varies according to the weather, the deadline, the season and the crime.

Limiting access to public spaces requires a balance between the safety of the employee and the need for the public to feel there are no barriers to the services they seek.

Safety planning requires common sense and a sense of purpose. Both the public and the employee need to be satisfied that any approach to workplace safety is well-intentioned and does not restrict access to our unalienable right to good government.

Safety — one little word that carries a big message. Placing a barrier between the public and its government often creates suspicion and a cry of limitation or obstruction. Folks want to come face to face with the people whose taxes pay their government salaries.

The balance between “by the people and for the people” can be treacherous.

How safe is your workplace? Look around and measure the complacency of your co-workers.

Listen to the chatter — cameras that record your environment and monitor your safekeeping are construed as Big Brother watching. Gates, window service and counters that prohibit access are obstruction devices. Opponents of metal detectors and bag screenings argue they violate personal freedom and are unnecessarily invasive.

Employees within public spaces, however, will certainly testify that workplace safety measures are needed based upon statistical data, downright scary situations, questionable behavior and outright concern.

The process for establishing safety protocols is a journey best taken with an open mind and a sense of community.

Employees in all types of workplaces have to agree to participate in the protocols established for the good of the whole. If consensus cannot be reached, the results may be fatal.

Be tenacious and push for cooperation in agreeing that safety can be achieved without the perception of violation of privacy.

At the end of the day, each of us as risk managers have one goal — to get our employees home safe and sound to families awaiting their returns.

Read all of Marilyn Rivers’ Risk Insider contributions.

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Sponsored: Liberty Mutual Insurance

Passion for the Prize

Managing today’s complex energy risks requires that insurers match the industry’s dedication and expertise.
By: | December 10, 2014 • 6 min read

In his 1990 book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Yergin documented the passion that drove oil exploration from the first oil well sunk in Titusville, Penn. by Col. Edwin Drake in 1859, to the multinational crusades that enriched Saudi Arabia 100 years later.

Even with the recent decline in crude oil prices, the quest for oil and its sister substance, natural gas, is as fevered now as it was in 1859.

While lower product prices are causing some upstream oil and gas companies to cut back on exploration and production, they create opportunities for others. In fact, for many midstream oil and gas companies, lower prices create an opportunity to buy low, store product, and then sell high when the crude and gas markets rebound.

The current record supply of domestic crude oil and gas largely results from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing methods, which make it practical to extract product in formerly played-out or untapped formations, from the Panhandle to the Bakken.

But these technologies — and the current market they helped create — require underwriters that are as passionate, committed and knowledgeable about energy risk as the oil and gas explorers they insure.

Liability fears and incessant press coverage — from the Denton fracking ban to the Heckmann verdict — may cause some underwriters to regard fracking and horizontal drilling with a suppressed appetite. Other carriers, keen to generate premium revenue despite their limited industry knowledge, may try to buy their way into this high-stakes game with soft pricing.

For Matt Waters, the chief underwriting officer of Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance Specialty – Energy, this is the time to employ a deep underwriting expertise to embrace the current energy market and extraction methods responsibly and profitably.

“In the oil and gas business right now, you have to have risk solutions for the new market, fracking and horizontal drilling, and it can’t be avoidance,” Waters said.

Matt Waters, chief underwriting officer of Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance Specialty – Energy, reviews some risk management best practices for fracking and horizontal drilling.

Waters’ group underwrites upstream energy risks — those involved in all phases of onshore exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas from wells sunk into the earth — and midstream energy risks, those that involve the distribution or transportation of oil and gas to processing plants, refineries and consumers.

Risk in Motion

Seven to eight years ago, the technologies to horizontally drill and use fluids to fracture shale formations were barely in play. Now they are well established and have changed the domestic energy market, and consequently risk management for energy companies.

One of those changes is in the area of commercial auto and related coverages.

Fracking and horizontal drilling have dramatically altered oil and gas production, significantly increasing the number of vehicle trips to production and exploration sites. The new technologies require vehicles move water for drilling fluids and fracking, remove these fluids once they are used, bring hundreds of tons of chemicals and proppants, and transport all the specialty equipment required for these extraction methods.

The increase in vehicle use comes at a time when professional drivers, especially those with energy skills, are in short supply. The unfortunate result is more accidents.

SponsoredContent_LM“In the oil and gas business right now, you have to have risk solutions for the new market, fracking and horizontal drilling, and it can’t be avoidance.”
— Matt Waters, chief underwriting officer, Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance Specialty – Energy

For example, in Pennsylvania, home to the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, overall traffic fatalities across the state are down 19 percent, according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press. But in those Pennsylvania counties where natural gas and oil is being sought, the frequency of traffic fatalities is up 4 percent.

Increasing traffic volume and accidents is also driving frequency trends in workers compensation and general liability.

In the assessment and transfer of upstream and midstream energy risks, however, there simply isn’t enough claims history in the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania or the Bakken formation in North Dakota for underwriters to rely on data to price environmental, general and third-party liability risks.

That’s where Liberty Mutual’s commitment, experience and ability to innovate come in. Liberty Mutual was the first carrier to put together a hydraulic fracking risk assessment that gives companies using this extraction method a blueprint to help protect against litigation down the road.

Liberty Mutual insures both lease operators and the contractors essential to extracting hydrocarbons. As in many underwriting areas, the name of the game is clarity around what the risk is, and who owns it.

When considering fracking contractors, Waters and his team work to make sure that any “down hole” risks, be that potential seismic activity, or the migration of methane into water tables, is born by the lease holder.

For the lease holders, Waters and his team of specialty underwriters recommend their clients hold both “sudden and accidental” pollution coverage — to protect against quick and clear accidental spills — and a stand-alone pollution policy, which covers more gradual exposure that unfolds over a much longer period of time, such as methane leaking into drinking water supplies.

Those are two different distinct coverages, both of which a lease holder needs.

Matt Waters discusses the need for stand-alone environmental coverage.

The Energy Cycle

Domestic oil and gas production has expanded so drastically in the past five years that the United States could now become a significant energy exporter. Billions of dollars are being invested to build pipelines, liquid natural gas processing plants and export terminals along our coasts.

While managing risk for energy companies requires deep expertise, developing insurance programs for pipeline and other energy-related construction projects demands even more experience. Such programs must manage and mitigate both construction and operation risks.

Matt Waters discusses future growth for midstream oil and gas companies.

In the short-term, domestic gas and oil production is being curtailed some as fuel prices have recently plummeted due to oversupply. In the long-term, those domestic prices are likely to go back up again, particularly if legislation allows the fuel harvested in the United States to be exported to energy deficient Europe.

Waters and his underwriting team are in this energy game for the long haul — with some customers being with the operation for more than 25 years — and have industry-leading tools to play in it.

Beyond Liberty Mutual’s hydraulic fracturing risk assessment sheet, Waters’ area created a commercial driver scorecard to help its midstream and upstream clients select and manage drivers, which are in such great demand in the industry. The safety and skill of those drivers play a big part in preventing commercial auto claims, Waters said.

Liberty Mutual’s commitment to the energy market is also seen in Waters sending every member of his underwriting team to the petroleum engineering program at the University of Texas and hiring underwriters that are passionate about this industry.

Matt Waters explains how his area can add value to oil and gas companies and their insurance brokers and agents.

For Waters, politics and the trends of the moment have little place in his long-term thinking.

“We’re committed to this business and to deeply understanding how to best manage its risks, and we have been for a long time,” Waters said.

And that holds true for the latest extraction technologies.

“We’ve had success writing fracking contractors and horizontal drillers, helping them better manage the total cost of risk,” Waters said.

To learn more about how Liberty Mutual Insurance can meet your upstream and midstream energy coverage needs, contact your broker, or Matt Waters at matthew.waters@libertymutual.com.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.


Liberty Mutual Insurance offers a wide range of insurance products and services, including general liability, property, commercial automobile, excess casualty, workers compensation and group benefits.
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