Workplace Safety Requires Consensus
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.
13 Rules for Risk Management Success
Over my 24-plus years in the insurance, general liability claims and risk management professions, I have learned that the following practices or attributes are critical for success.
With this opportunity, I would like to share with the readers of Risk & Insurance® the practices and attributes that lead to success when working in a high energy, heavy work-volume environment in our respective organizations.
“Risk management is about people, not money. Money is why we have risk managers; however people are why we strive for excellence. One needs to be cognizant of the uninsurable costs of risk.”
The modern conventional wisdom is that folks need to “do more with less”. Let’s face it, our organizations are either beholden to stockholders, owners or the tax paying citizens of our great country. More than ever the pressures for producing high quality, high volume and cost-effective work product is expected.
The following are some proverbial words-of-wisdom from someone who is the boots on the ground….
- Be the “get to yes” folks and not the “little dark rain cloud”. Risk management is in the position to assist stakeholders in making informed and sound decisions. Rarely should risk management provide an absolute “no” and if so, then the successful risk manager assists in providing alternative methods to assist in reaching the goal in question. In other words, provide the organization’s stake-holders information enough for them to make an informed decision.
- Check your ego at the door when you enter the office. It is not about “you”, it is about “us” and “them”.
- Risk management is about people, not money. Money is why we have risk managers; however people are why we strive for excellence. One needs to be cognizant of the uninsurable costs of risk.
- Having a positive mental attitude is critical.
- What would Woodrow Wilson Do? Woodrow Wilson said essentially; “In times of crises a thousand hasty counsels is worth one cool judgment. The goal is to provide light and not heat.”
- Change is going to happen, embrace it.
- Be forthright, honest, respectful of others and diplomatic.
- Use your internal and external resources. Governmental entities do not have to worry about trade secrets or competition and generally public entity risk professionals like to share in their successes and “lessons learned.”
- Do not reinvent the wheel. In all likelihood someone with institutional knowledge has “been there and done that.”
- Communicate with stakeholders. They do not like surprises and do not wait to be asked to provide a report or information. Let stakeholders know of your successes and simultaneously help identify where organization success can be maximized or where failure can be mitigated.
- Be timely and ready to address issues as they occur without losing focus of the horizon.
- Communicate and collaborate with organizational personnel in developing and supporting a culture of risk management and safety.
- Battleships turn slowly and sink fast…do not rest on your laurels.
Though the cynic may conclude much of the above is cliché’, it has been my experience that incorporating the above points into how one conducts their risk management endeavors benefits the organization, fosters a positive work environment and provides the foundation for building and/or maintaining a quality risk management enterprise.
Six Best Practices For Effective WC Management
It’s no secret that the professionals responsible for managing workers compensation programs need to be constantly vigilant.
Rising health care costs, complex state regulation, opioid-based prescription drug use and other scary trends tend to keep workers comp managers awake at night.
“Risk managers can never be comfortable because it’s the nature of the beast,” said Debbie Michel, president of Helmsman Management Services LLC, a third-party claims administrator (and a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual Insurance). “To manage comp requires a laser-like, constant focus on following best practices across the continuum.”
Michel pointed to two notable industry trends — rises in loss severity and overall medical spending — that will combine to drive comp costs higher. For example, loss severity is predicted to increase in 2014-2015, mainly due to those rising medical costs.
Debbie discusses the top workers’ comp challenge facing buyers and brokers.
The nation’s annual medical spending, for its part, is expected to grow 6.1 percent in 2014 and 6.2 percent on average from 2015 through 2022, according to the Federal Government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This increase is expected to be driven partially by increased medical services demand among the nation’s aging population – many of whom are baby boomers who have remained in the workplace longer.
Other emerging trends also can have a potential negative impact on comp costs. For example, the recent classification of obesity as a disease (and the corresponding rise of obesity in the U.S.) may increase both workers comp claim frequency and severity.
“The true goal here is to think about injured employees. Everyone needs to focus on helping them get well, back to work and functioning at their best. At the same time, following a best practices approach can reduce overall comp costs, and help risk managers get a much better night’s sleep.”
– Debbie Michel, President, Helmsman Management Services LLC (a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual)
“These are just some factors affecting the workers compensation loss dollar,” she added. “Risk managers, working with their TPAs and carriers, must focus on constant improvement. The good news is there are proven best practices to make it happen.”
Michel outlined some of those best practices risk managers can take to ensure they get the most value from their workers comp spending and help their employees receive the best possible medical outcomes:
1. Workplace Partnering
Risk managers should look to partner with workplace wellness/health programs. While typically managed by different departments, there is an obvious need for risk management and health and wellness programs to be aligned in understanding workforce demographics, health patterns and other claim red flags. These are the factors that often drive claims or impede recovery.
“A workforce might have a higher percentage of smokers or diabetics than the norm, something you can learn from health and wellness programs. Comp managers can collaborate with health and wellness programs to help mitigate the potential impact,” Michel said, adding that there needs to be a direct line between the workers compensation goals and overall employee health and wellness goals.
Debbie discusses the second biggest challenge facing buyers and brokers.
2. Financing Alternatives
Risk managers must constantly re-evaluate how they finance workers compensation insurance programs. For example, there could be an opportunity to reduce costs by moving to higher retention or deductible levels, or creating a captive. Taking on a larger financial, more direct stake in a workers comp program can drive positive changes in safety and related areas.
“We saw this trend grow in 2012-2013 during comp rate increases,” Michel said. “When you have something to lose, you naturally are more focused on safety and other pre-loss issues.”
3. TPA Training, Tenure and Resources
Businesses need to look for a tailored relationship with their TPA or carrier, where they work together to identify and build positive, strategic workers compensation programs. Also, they must exercise due diligence when choosing a TPA by taking a hard look at its training, experience and tools, which ultimately drive program performance.
For instance, Michel said, does the TPA hold regular monthly or quarterly meetings with clients and brokers to gauge progress or address issues? Or, does the TPA help create specific initiatives in a quest to take the workers compensation program to a higher level?
4. Analytics to Drive Positive Outcomes, Lower Loss Costs
Michel explained that best practices for an effective comp claims management process involve taking advantage of today’s powerful analytics tools, especially sophisticated predictive modeling. When woven into an overall claims management strategy, analytics can pinpoint where to focus resources on a high-cost claim, or they can capture the best data to be used for future safety and accident prevention efforts.
“Big data and advanced analytics drive a better understanding of the claims process to bring down the total cost of risk,” Michel added.
5. Provider Network Reach, Collaboration
Risk managers must pay close attention to provider networks and specifically work with outcome-based networks – in those states that allow employers to direct the care of injured workers. Such providers understand workers compensation and how to achieve optimal outcomes.
Risk managers should also understand if and how the TPA interacts with treating physicians. For example, Helmsman offers a peer-to-peer process with its 10 regional medical directors (one in each claims office). While the medical directors work closely with claims case professionals, they also interact directly, “peer-to-peer,” with treatment providers to create effective care paths or considerations.
“We have seen a lot of value here for our clients,” Michel said. “It’s a true differentiator.”
6. Strategic Outlook
Most of all, Michel said, it’s important for risk managers, brokers and TPAs to think strategically – from pre-loss and prevention to a claims process that delivers the best possible outcome for injured workers.
Debbie explains the value of working with Helmsman Management Services.
Helmsman, which provides claims management, managed care and risk control solutions for businesses with 50 employees or more, offers clients what it calls the Account Management Stewardship Program. The program coordinates the “right” resources within an organization and brings together all critical players – risk manager, safety and claims professionals, broker, account manager, etc. The program also frequently utilizes subject matter experts (pharma, networks, nurses, etc.) to help increase knowledge levels for risk and safety managers.
“The true goal here is to think about injured employees,” Michel said. “Everyone needs to focus on helping them get well, back to work and functioning at their best.
“At the same time, following a best practices approach can reduce overall comp costs, and help risk managers get a much better night’s sleep,” she said.
To learn more about how a third-party administrator like Helmsman Management Services LLC (a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual) can help manage your workers compensation costs, contact your broker.
Debbie discusses how Helmsman drives outcomes for risk managers.
Debbie explains how to manage medical outcomes.
Debbie discusses considerations when selecting a TPA.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Helmsman Management Services. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.