Risk Insider: Zachary Gifford

The Role We Must Own

By: | November 24, 2015 • 2 min read
Zachary Gifford is Director, Systemwide Risk Management with the California State University – Office of the Chancellor. He also is active in risk management organizations such as PARMA, PRIMA and RIMS. He can be reached at [email protected]

Unfortunately, campus shootings are not a new issue and the recent (or seemingly continual) spate of incidents reinforces the need to take a holistic approach to the risk, i.e., it is not a law enforcement issue alone.

I’m not talking about the need to include a variety of campus personnel and stakeholders in the planning, response and recovery processes, this is self-evident and well-established.

Rather, in this case the term “holistic” is best applied to considering the place of mental health professionals, such as Behavior Intervention Teams (BITS) or campus counseling teams (mental first aid) in collaborating on emergency management (prep, response & recovery) and with stakeholders/administration and academics.  Everybody has a stake in trying to mitigate the risk.

Most people wouldn’t argue with the point that the root cause of the vast majority of campus violence incidents is one of acute mental illness and the aforementioned feelings of desperation.

Here are two definitions of “holistic”:

Philosophy – characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Medicine – characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.

Recently when speaking with mental health professionals about emergency preparation and response, I had an epiphany … this being that the mental health component of preparation, response and recovery had not been a focus or even present in the emergency planning conversation.

As such, I made a commitment that one of my big pushes going forward was to make sure I would be an advocate for having campus mental health professionals at the table when discussing campus risk mitigation and crisis response.

In the words of  Patrick Prince of Prince & Phelps Consultants“No one wakes up one morning and decides, ‘I think I’ll go shoot up a campus today’.”

Rather, it is generally a lengthy mental process as one devolves from feeling that they have a gripe to feeling totally disenfranchised, disrespected, desperate, lonely and angry.

There are points along the way wherein there is a chance for intervention to address the risk and perhaps even assist the person of interest.

Most people wouldn’t argue with the point that the root cause of the vast majority of campus violence incidents is one of acute mental illness and the aforementioned feelings of desperation. We must remember that the perpetrator was once someone’s baby, friend, schoolmate, etc. and likely was not born with homicidal ideations.

Herein lies the opportunity for mental health professionals to mitigate the risk by assisting in the identification of people at risk, collaborating on intervention techniques and perhaps even treatment.

Further, it is incumbent upon an organization to stress the values of empathy, respect, dignity and looking through a holistic and not personally prejudiced paradigm.

We all have a chance to mitigate the risk by being decent human beings and not being afraid to reach out to appropriate persons to address a concern when observing disturbing behavior. “It is not my problem,” or “ I do not want to get involved,” are not responsible alternatives.

Ask yourself this.

“Are you a potential solution or a potential victim?”

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Legal Developments

Proposed Rule Aimed at Clarifying GINA Violations

A proposed regulation from the EEOC is intended to help employers steer clear of GINA violations when structuring their wellness and safety initiatives.
By: | November 23, 2015 • 3 min read
3d render of dna structure, abstract  background

Employers have increasingly raised questions about whether their wellness programs could violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is hoping a newly proposed rule will answer them.


GINA was created to prevent employment discrimination based on a person’s genetic information.

The issue for employers concerns potential violations of GINA where spouses are involved, particularly the issue of inducements to participate in wellness programs.

Such programs often require “a health risk assessment administered in connection with the employer’s offer of health services as part of an employer-sponsored wellness program,” according to a summary of the proposed regulations in the “Federal Register.”

Wellness programs cannot “condition inducements to employees on the provision of genetic information,” the EEOC said.

Wellness programs cannot “condition inducements to employees on the provision of genetic information,” the EEOC said.

“Read in one way, conditioning all or part of an inducement on the provision of the spouse’s current or past health information could be read to violate the … prohibition on providing financial inducements in return for an employee’s protected genetic information.”

The proposal seeks to clarify that employers are allowed to offer “limited inducements (whether in the form of rewards or penalties avoided) for the provision by spouses covered by the employer’s group health plan of information about their current or past health status as part of a health risk assessment, which may include a medical questionnaire, a medical examination (e.g., to detect high blood pressure or high cholesterol), or both, as long as the requirements of 29 CFR 1635.8(b)(2)(i) are satisfied,” the notice states.

“These requirements include that the provision of genetic information be voluntary and that the individual from whom the genetic information is being obtained provides prior, knowing, voluntary, and written authorization, which may include authorization in electronic format.”

Among the changes the EEOC proposes are:

  • Add a section explaining that “employers may request, require, or purchase genetic information as part of health or genetic services only when those services, including any acquisition of genetic information that is part of those services, are reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease.”
  • Add a section explaining that “a covered entity may offer, as part of its health plan, an inducement to an employee whose spouse: 1) is covered under the employee’s health plan; 2) receives health or genetic services offered by the employer, including as part of a wellness program; and 3) provides information about his or her current or past health status as part of a health risk assessment. No inducement may be offered, however, in return for the spouse providing his or her own genetic information, including results of his or her genetic tests.”
  • Add a section to explain the way inducements for employees and spouses may be dispensed. The proposed rule would explain that “the maximum share of the inducement attributable to the employee’s participation in an employer wellness program … be equal to 30 percent of the cost of self-only coverage,” the EEOC said.
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  • “The remainder of the inducement — equal to 30 percent of the total cost of coverage for the plan in which the employee and any dependents are enrolled minus 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage — may be provided in exchange for the spouse providing information to an employer wellness program … about his or her current or past health status.”
  • Eliminate the term “financial” as related to inducements and clarify that both financial and in-kind inducements such as time-off awards, prizes, or other items of value would be allowed.
Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]
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Sponsored: Aspen Insurance

When the Going Gets Rough, the Smart Come to Aspen Insurance

Aspen’s products liability team excels at solving tough problems and building long-term relationships.
By: | November 2, 2015 • 5 min read

Sometimes, renewals don’t go as expected.

Perhaps your company experienced a particularly costly claim last year. Or maybe it was just one too many smaller incidents that added to a long claims history.

No matter the cause, few words are scarier to hear this time of year than, “Renewal denied.”

But new options are now emerging for companies that are willing to tackle their product liability challenges head-on.

Aspen Insurance’s products liability team – underwriters, loss control engineers and claims professionals – welcome clients who have been denied coverage from other, more traditional carriers.

“For our team, we view our best opportunities to be with clients who have specific problems to solve. In these cases, we leverage our deep expertise and integrated team approach to help the client identify root causes and fix issues,” said Roxanne Mitchell, Aspen U.S. Insurance’s executive vice president and chief casualty officer.

“The result is a much improved product or manufacturing process and the start of a new business relationship that we can grow for many years to come.”

“We want to work with insureds as partners, long after a problem has been resolved. We seek clients who are going to stick with us, just as we will with them. As the insured’s experience improves over time, pricing will improve with it.”
— Roxanne Mitchell, Executive Vice President, Chief Casualty Officer, Aspen Insurance

Of course, this specialized approach is not applicable to all situations and clients. Aspen Insurance only offers coverage if the team is confident the problems can be solved and that the client genuinely wants to engage in improving their business and moving forward.

“Our robust and detailed problem-solving approach quickly identifies pressing issues. Once we know what it will take to rectify the problem, it’s up to the client to make the investments and take the necessary actions,” added Mitchell. “As a specialty carrier operating within the E&S market, we have the ability to develop custom-tailored solutions to unique and complex problems.”

For clients who are eager to learn from managing through a unique, pressing issue, and apply the consequential lessons to improve, Aspen Insurance can be their best, and sometimes only, insurance friend.

The Strategy: Collaboration from Underwriting, Claims and Loss Control

Aspen offers a proven combination of experienced underwriting professionals collaborating with the company’s outstanding loss control/risk engineering and seasoned claims experts.

“We deliver experts who understand the industries in which they work, which is another critical differentiator for us,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell described the Aspen underwriting process as a team approach. In diagnosing the causes of a specific problem, the Aspen team thoroughly vets the client’s claims history, talks to the broker about the exposures and circumstances, peruses user manuals and manufacturing processes, evaluates the supply chain structure – whatever needs to be done to get to the root of a problem.

“Aspen pulls from every resource we have in our arsenal,” she said.

After the Aspen team explores the underlying reason(s) and root cause(s) producing the client’s problem in the first place, it will offer a solution along with corresponding price and coverage specifics.

“We have a very specific business appetite and approach,” Mitchell said. “We don’t treat products liability as a commodity.”

As noted, a major component of Aspen’s approach is that they seek to work with clients who are equally interested in solving their problems and put in the work required to reach that end.

Aspen_SponsoredContentMitchell cited two recent client examples of manufacturers of expensive products that could endure large claim losses but had some serious problems that needed to be solved.

A conveyor systems manufacturer had a few unexpected large claims and lost its coverage in the traditional insurance market. The manufacturer never managed a product recall in the past, and Aspen’s loss control engineers dug into why several systems failed. Aspen also helped the company alert customers about the impending repairs.

Another company that manufactured firetrucks had three or four large losses, when telescoping ladders collapsed, resulting in serious injuries. The company’s claim history was clean until this particular product defect. When Aspen researched the issue, it found that the specific metal and welding used to make the telescoping ladders didn’t have the required torque to keep the ladders from collapsing.

Both companies worked with Aspen to correct the issues. Problem solved.

“It is so important that our clients are willing to actively engage in finding out what is causing their losses so they can learn from the experience,” Mitchell said.

Apart from the company’s problem-solving philosophy, Mitchell said, the willingness to allow qualified clients to manage their own claims is the second biggest reason companies come to Aspen.

“We are willing to work with clients who have demonstrated the expertise to handle their own claims — with our monitoring — rather than hiring a TPA,” she said. “It is a useful option that can save them money.”

Mitchell explained that customers who stay with Aspen for the long-term can be confident that Aspen will help them – whatever the challenge. For instance, if they need a coverage modification for a new product that they bring to market, Aspen can help make it happen. Mitchell noted, “We pride ourselves on the ability to develop custom-tailored solutions to address the complex and challenging risks that our clients face.”

Long-term Relationships

Aspen_SponsoredContentAspen’s desire to help solve difficult client problems comes with a caveat, but one that benefits both Aspen and the insured: It wants to move forward as a true partner – one with clear long-term relationship potential.

In a nutshell, Aspen’s products liability worldview is to partner with a manufacturer who is facing a difficult situation with claims or coverage, help them solve that problem, and then, engage in a long-term, committed relationship with the client.

“We want to work with insureds as partners, long after a problem has been resolved,” she said. “We seek clients who are going to stick with us, just as we will with them. As the insured’s experience improves over time, pricing will improve with it. This partnership approach can be a clear win-win.”

This article is provided for news and information purposes only and does not necessarily represent Aspen’s views and does constitute legal advice. This article reflects the opinion of the author at the time it was written taking into account market, regulatory and other conditions at the time of writing which may change over time. Aspen does not undertake a duty to update the article.


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

Aspen Insurance is a business segment of Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited.
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