Total Worker Health

Healthier Workforce, Healthier Bottom Line

Programs that focus on total worker health are becoming an integral part of the way companies manage employee safety and workers' comp costs.
By: | July 11, 2016 • 6 min read
Classic blue truck with the sign oversized load on the truck stop on the background of a gas station with truck and buses. Front view opens up a powerful vehicle with a grille, the turned wheel, the side signal flags and rear-view mirrors, attached to the hood.

Wellness programs started catching on around a decade ago as a way for human resources to reduce medical costs and absenteeism. Typical programs included weight loss competitions, daily step goals or smoking cessation assistance.


Eventually, it began to catch on that healthier workers are also less prone to injury.

That led to what you might call “Wellness 2.0” … a combined wellness and safety program experts call “Total Worker Health.”

Deteriorating Health

When trucking company Tradewinds Transportation LLC updated its equipment and safety gear, it also added a wellness program.

Its workers’ compensation program saw clear benefits. Tradewinds’ experience mod fell to .71 from 1.01 in the decade since the wellness and safety program was first introduced.

Heather Hayes, operations manager, Tradewinds Transportation

Heather Hayes, operations manager, Tradewinds Transportation

The company’s annual workers’ comp premium fell to $98,000 from $122,000 — even as payroll, truck fleet and headcount tripled.

But the greatest gains started to show up two years ago when Tradewinds beefed up its safety program with an addition of a wellness program as an employee retention tool, said Heather Hayes, operations manager at Tradewinds.

Hayes was researching the causes behind the industry’s driver shortage when she found shocking statistics: Truck drivers live about 16 years less than the average employee; about 85 percent have hypertension and 80 percent are obese.

“Their deteriorating health was scary, statistically,” Hayes said. “And we were only contributing to the cause of the problem.”

Tradewinds looked everywhere for opportunities to improve. It built a walking trail around their Oregon office. It switched kitchen offerings to more healthy, grab-and-go options such as fruits, eggs, nuts and yogurt.

“Their deteriorating health was scary, statistically. And we were only contributing to the cause of the problem.” — Heather Hayes, operations manager, Tradewinds Transportation

Drivers received water bottles and rice cookers to take on the road so they could avoid the rest stop standard fare, like 72-ounce sodas and cheeseburgers. A nutritionist surveyed the most frequently visited truck stops to create a list of healthy options.

They also received resistance bands and on-the-road exercise programs. Each driver got a pedometer and information guide which told them how many loops walked around the truck equals a mile.

Employees received diet and exercise education, healthy recipes and mindfulness classes for stress management. They even allow drivers to bring kids along for short stints to help with their work/life balance.


During the 12-week pilot program, drivers lost an average 13 pounds.

Research conducted by the National Safety Institute found that after two years on the wellness program, those drivers who initially ranked in the “high risk” group fell to “medium risk” and stayed there.

Those initially labeled “medium risk” dropped to “low risk.”

“Once they learn it, they cannot unlearn it,” Hayes said. “Employees did not return to their old habits.”

Drivers quit smoking and lost weight; one employee lost more than 80 pounds. In an industry that has an average annual turnover rate of 110 percent, Tradewinds’ is 17 percent, and its experience mod continues to fall.

The program is so successful that Tradewinds now offers it year round.

Whole-Person Approach

The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created a Total Worker Health program in 2011 and offers its template and research for companies to start their own.

Deb Fell-Carlson, a policyholder safety and wellness adviser at SAIF, Oregon’s not-for-profit, state-chartered workers’ compensation insurance company, said she sees companies using wellness to reduce workers’ comp costs in a big way.

“There’s no reason wellness and safety can’t come together. It’s more efficient and you can make your programs more effective.” — Tom Heebner, senior vice president/risk consultant, HUB International

SAIF issues almost half of the policies in Oregon and provides coverage to more than 600,000 workers. Fell-Carlson helps clients, including Tradewinds, combine safety practices with wellness program to offer a total worker health program.

Pinnacol Assurance, based in Colorado, studied the effect its wellness offerings had on clients’ costs and found that for every $1 invested in a worksite wellness program, companies saved $2 in medical costs and productivity improvements.

Approximately 97 percent of participants in Pinnacol’s workplace wellness program reported improvement in employee safety.

Workplace wellness helps employees achieve better health in seven key areas: cancer, coronary, fitness, nutrition, safety, stress and weight management.

Addressing certain health risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and diabetes, can reduce the risk of workplace injuries in less than a year, according to Pinnacol research.

“People who enjoy work are less likely to file workers’ comp claims.” — Ron Z. Goetzel,vice president, consulting and applied research, Truven Health Analytics, and senior scientist, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

For example, obese workers can cost employers $5,000 more each year than their non-obese peers. When an obese worker is injured, it takes five times longer than their peers for them to return to work.

A 2007 Duke University study found maintaining healthy weight not only is important to workers but should also be a high priority for their employers given the strong effect of BMI on workers’ injuries. It recommends companies create work-based programs targeting healthy eating and physical activity.

Ron Z. Goetzel, VP, consulting and applied research; Truven Health Analytics; and senior scientist, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Ron Z. Goetzel, VP, consulting and applied research; Truven Health Analytics; and senior scientist, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Morale is a factor too. Research shows when employees like going to work and like their co-workers, it actually makes a difference in workers’ comp costs, said Ron Z. Goetzel,vice president, consulting and applied research at Truven Health Analytics, and senior scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Simply put, said Goetzel, “People who enjoy work are less likely to file workers’ comp claims.”

Focusing on the whole person makes sense. Participating employees are more alert, healthier and engaged in their jobs.

That correlates to less obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking, depression and poor control of biometric values, which in turn correlates to fewer safety incidents and fewer claims, he said.

“This whole movement from traditional health wellness programs has enlarged into the area of organizational health,” Goetzel said.

Busting Silos

Risk managers may struggle to quantify how well the wellness program works at reducing workers’ compensation costs.

To convince upper management, risk managers must start with a diagnostic assessment, Goetzel said. Create a big picture view of how employers are paying for the health and safety of workers.

Wellness programs of the past were typically the domain of HR. But risk managers working together with HR on a wellness program have much to gain.

“The challenge is making that case and then drawing the resources from those individual silos to come together to approach it as total population health management,” said Philip Swayze, director of health and performance at HUB International.

Tom Heebner, senior vice president/risk consultant, HUB International

Tom Heebner, senior vice president/risk consultant, HUB International

For example, if the HR team changed the way it financed health benefits, it might not think to tell risk management. But knowing about it can help risk managers anticipate fluctuations in workers’ comp.

“Potentially, if they changed to a larger deductible, then it may incentivize employees to file claims elsewhere,” Swayze explained.

“It’s hard for folks to cross over and be collaborative with groups they don’t normally collaborate with,” said Tom Heebner, senior vice president/risk consultant at HUB International. Heebner provides workers’ compensation reduction guidance to his HUB clients.

“There’s a wall thrown up pretty quick when you try to get performance statistics or wellness statics from the human resource side,” he said. That’s due to fear of health privacy laws.


Chances are these two groups provide different training on that same topic, and they don’t talk or collaborate and tie things together, he said.

“There’s no reason wellness and safety can’t come together. It’s more efficient and you can make your programs more effective.”

Once you decide on a program, how well you communicate to your employees may determine its success. Employees need to understand what is being offered, how to sign up, and how it will benefit them.

“All you want to do is get some small wins,” Heebner said.

Juliann Walsh is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
Share this article:

Risk Insider: Joe Tocco

Expanded Canal Creates Greater Opportunities … and Risks

By: | July 6, 2016 • 2 min read
Currently Chief Executive of the Americas for XL Catlin’s insurance operation, Joe Tocco has enjoyed three decades in the insurance industry at various organizations. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served as a nuclear field service engineer. He can be reached at [email protected]

An international consortium of companies built a new third lane and set of locks at the Panama Canal that doubles its capacity.

Like other massive infrastructure projects, the expansion effort faced an assortment of challenges. Nonetheless, on June 26, the Chinese container ship Costco Shipping Panama became the first vessel to pass through the new third lane; its name was changed to respect the honor of being the first “New Panamax”-sized ship to transit the canal.

Building Bridges

Doubling the capacity of the Panama Canal should increase trade flows between Asia and the Americas, as well as between Latin America and North America.

For example, about 10 percent of the Asia-to-U.S. container traffic could shift from the West Coast to the East Coast by 2020. A larger Panama Canal also offers an attractive alternative for shipping bulk commodities from the U.S. heartland to Asia via the Mississippi River.

For starters, bigger ships mean more accumulation risk. It’s estimated that the additional cargo moving through the canal each day will be worth about $1.25 billion. And that figure doesn’t include the vessels queuing at both ends of the canal.

And as natural gas production has surged in the U.S., producers are looking to develop new markets in Asia; an expanded Panama Canal could help facilitate that.


For Latin America, the canal’s greater capacity could lead to increased deliveries of agricultural and other products to Asia. Similarly, we could soon see more shipments of perishable products like meat and fish, fresh produce and cut flowers from Latin America to North America.

A More Complex Risk Landscape

Doubling the canal’s capacity will also alter the risk landscape in Panama and elsewhere.

For starters, bigger ships mean more accumulation risk. It’s estimated that the additional cargo moving through the canal each day will be worth about $1.25 billion. And that figure doesn’t include the vessels queuing at both ends of the canal.

Operational risks at the canal are also potentially greater. In the original locks, electric locomotives on the lock walls pull the vessel along. In the new third lane, tugs positioned fore and aft will escort ships through the locks.

While canal pilots and tugboat captains have undergone extensive training, concerns have been expressed about the possibility of a tug losing control of the tow, resulting in damage to the lock as well as the ship. The maneuverability of the tugs selected for this task has also been questioned.

Given the Panama Canal’s prominent role in today’s supply chains, the impacts of an incident that takes the third lane offline would ripple quickly through the global economy, especially if the shutdown is protracted. Latin American companies shipping perishable products to North America, for example, could be especially affected by such an event.

Ports that have expanded, or are being expanded, to handle New Panamax (and larger) vessels also face greater accumulation and operational risks. And for ports on the East Coast of the U.S., the risks are amplified by the ongoing threat posed by hurricanes.

While it is too soon to determine how this expansion effort will reverberate throughout the Americas and across the globe, the canal should nonetheless continue to play a significant part in the ongoing march to a smaller world and a larger global economy.

Share this article:

Sponsored Content by Chubb

Electronic Waste Risks Piling Up

As new electronic devices replace older ones, electronic waste is piling up. Proper e-waste disposal poses complex environmental, regulatory and reputational challenges for risk managers.
By: | July 5, 2016 • 4 min read

The latest electronic devices today may be obsolete by tomorrow. Outdated electronics pose a rapidly growing problem for risk managers. Telecommunications equipment, computers, printers, copiers, mobile devices and other electronics often contain toxic metals such as mercury and lead. Improper disposal of this electronic waste not only harms the environment, it can lead to heavy fines and reputation-damaging publicity.

Federal and state regulators are increasingly concerned about e-waste. Settlements in improper disposal cases have reached into the millions of dollars. Fines aren’t the only risk. Sensitive data inadvertently left on discarded equipment can lead to data breaches.

To avoid potentially serious claims and legal action, risk managers need to understand the risks of e-waste and to develop a strategy for recycling and disposal that complies with local, state and federal regulations.

The Risks Are Rising

E-waste has been piling up at a rate that’s two to three times faster than any other waste stream, according to U.S Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Any product that contains electronic circuitry can eventually become e-waste, and the range of products with embedded electronics grows every day. Because of the toxic materials involved, special care must be taken in disposing of unwanted equipment. Broken devices can leach hazardous materials into the ground and water, creating health risks on the site and neighboring properties.

Despite the environmental dangers, much of our outdated electronics still end up in landfills. Only about 40 percent of consumer electronics were recycled in 2013, according to the EPA. Yet for every million cellphones that are recycled, the EPA estimates that about 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

While consumers may bring unwanted electronics to local collection sites, corporations must comply with stringent guidelines. The waste must be disposed of properly using vendors with the requisite expertise, certifications and permits. The risk doesn’t end when e-waste is turned over to a disposal vendor. Liabilities for contamination can extend back from the disposal site to the company that discarded the equipment.

Reuse and Recycle

To cut down on e-waste, more companies are seeking to adapt older equipment for reuse. New products feature designs that make it easier to recycle materials and to remove heavy metals for reuse. These strategies conserve valuable resources, reduce the amount of waste and lessen the amount of new equipment that must be purchased.

Effective risk management should focus on minimizing waste, reusing and recycling electronics, managing disposal and complying with regulations at all levels.

For equipment that cannot be reused, companies should work with a disposal vendor that can make sure that their data is protected and that all the applicable environmental regulations are met. Vendors should present evidence of the required permits and certifications. Companies seeking disposal vendors may want to look for two voluntary certifications: the Responsible Recycling (R2) Standard, and the e-Stewards certification.

The U.S. EPA also provides guidance and technical support for firms seeking to implement best practices for e-waste. Under EPA rules for the disposal of items such as batteries, mercury-containing equipment and lamps, e-waste waste typically falls under the category of “universal waste.”

About half the states have enacted their own e-waste laws, and companies that do business in multiple states may have to comply with varying regulations that cover a wider list of materials. Some materials may require handling as hazardous waste according to federal, state and local requirements. U.S. businesses may also be subject to international treaties.

Developing E-Waste Strategies

Companies of all sizes and in all industries should implement e-waste strategies. Effective risk management should focus on minimizing waste, reusing and recycling electronics, managing disposal and complying with regulations at all levels. That’s a complex task that requires understanding which laws and treaties apply to a particular type of waste, keeping proper records and meeting permitting requirements. As part of their insurance program, companies may want to work with an insurer that offers auditing, training and other risk management services tailored for e-waste.

Insurance is an essential part of e-waste risk management. Premises pollution liability policies can provide coverage for environmental risks on a particular site, including remediation when necessary, as well as for exposures arising from transportation of e-waste and disposal at third-party sites. Companies may want to consider policies that provide coverage for their entire business operations, whether on their own premises or at third-party locations. Firms involved in e-waste management may want to consider contractor’s pollution liability coverage for environmental risks at project sites owned by other entities.

The growing challenges of managing e-waste are not only financial but also reputational. Companies that operate in a sustainable manner lower the risks of pollution and associated liabilities, avoid negative publicity stemming from missteps, while building reputations as responsible environmental stewards. Effective electronic waste management strategies help to protect the environment and the company.

This article is an annotated version of the new Chubb advisory, “Electronic Waste: Managing the Environmental and Regulatory Challenges.” To learn more about how to manage and prioritize e-waste risks, download the full advisory on the Chubb website.



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

With operations in 54 countries, Chubb provides commercial and personal property and casualty insurance, personal accident and supplemental health insurance, reinsurance and life insurance to a diverse group of clients.
Share this article: