Time to Prioritize Proactive Ergonomics
According to a recent benchmarking study conducted by Aon, which collected data from 150 companies who attended either the ASSE annual Safety conference or the Michigan Safety Conference this year, 27 percent of companies have no one designated to handle ergonomics in the workplace, and only 13 percent were conducting formal risk assessments of their ergonomic exposures.
“That was a surprising result, because when you look at our casualty analytics, ergonomic injuries are up in the top two or three in terms of severity and cost,” said Scott Smith, director of ergonomics at Aon.
Ergonomics is frequently overlooked by executives, and there a few reasons why. The lagging indicators that many organizations use to track frequency, type and cost of on-the-job injuries often fail to show the connection between those injuries and their effect on productivity. The safety metrics are isolated.
As a result, improving safety is largely seen as a way to save expenses, rather than as an integral part of an overall strategy to improve efficiency and boost performance.
“Ergonomic injuries are up in the top two or three in terms of severity and cost.” — Scott Smith, Director of Ergonomics, Aon
Lagging data can also be incongruent with workers’ comp and health care data, which often exist in separate silos. Musculoskeletal workers’ comp claims illustrate that disconnect. Such soft tissue injuries can appear to have nothing to do with safety because the safety team is focused on tracking OSHA-recordable events.
A shoulder strain that occurs after repeatedly reaching too far for a tool or a keyboard, for example, would not fall into that category, and thus may be overlooked by safety metrics.
“Most companies haven’t gone through the process of looking at workers’ comp and health care data together to show how injuries are related and how a more comprehensive approach can bring costs down for both,” said Rick Spencer, Head of Prevention and Optimization at Briotix, an ergonomics and injury prevention consulting firm. “Execs need to see that data to support a new initiative.”
Without these pieces fitting together to show the whole picture, senior decision-makers are unlikely to be convinced that ergonomics plays a central role in reducing injury, cutting costs, and improving operational performance.
Reactive vs. Proactive Approach
As a result, many companies take a reactive approach to ergonomics injuries, only evaluating or changing the ergonomic design of a workspace after an employee gets hurt.
This approach “misses the boat,” Smith said. “You know where you’ve gone, but you have no idea where you’re going.”
To get C-suite support, safety professionals and risk managers have to pitch proactive ergonomics not as a safety initiative, but as a business tool that aligns with specific operational goals and metrics.
In manufacturing, for example, “they have metrics around improving throughput, reducing costs, reducing cycle times, and they have to meet those goals on a budget,” Smith said.
He described one medical device company that was spending almost $4 million per year in ergonomics injuries across 27 plants.
“We discussed a strategy to roll out a proactive ergonomics program. Not as a tool to improve safety metrics, but as a tool to support manufacturing metrics. They wanted a 25 percent reduction in cycle time, 50 percent reduction in quality issues, a 20 percent reduction in space, and improved throughput by 20 percent. Ultimately, we were able to show $5.7 million in improvement related to these metrics, just by improving ergonomics.”
Even in an office environment, proactive ergonomics helps companies improve talent recruitment and retention, especially among younger employees just entering the workforce.
One example of a proactive program for an office is a web-based app that asks workers to describe and evaluate their work spaces. The app will identify possible ergonomic hazards and make suggestions to eliminate them.
“A lot of companies are nervous about this, because they think it means they’ll have to go out and buy a new chair for everyone, but often the changes are much simpler than that and cost nothing,” Spencer said. The recommendations include things like adjusting the height of a chair or moving commonly used items closer to avoid over-reaching.
“Typically, safety programs have been a one-way conversation, with employers broadcasting the message ‘safety is our #1 priority.’ Millennials want to see employers back that up.” — Rick Spencer, head of prevention and optimization, Briotix
Additionally, these programs improve employee satisfaction because they engage workers and empower them to make changes to their environment. They go a bit further than the tried-and-true “suggestion box,” Spencer said, because they provide instant feedback.
“This is especially important for retaining millennials. They want to have their voices heard, and they want feedback. They also value their work environment almost as highly as they do compensation,” he said.
“If they’re not happy with where they work, they’ll leave. They won’t put up with waiting around to see if they get hurt.”
Millennials will constitute the majority of the workforce by 2020, so employers need to focus on additional ways to engage with them.
“Typically, safety programs have been a one-way conversation, with employers broadcasting the message ‘safety is our #1 priority,’ ” Spencer said. “Millennials want to see employers back that up.”
Apps also have the added feature of being interactive and fun. Smith said that social media platforms can be a useful tool for soliciting feedback and measuring sentiment around safety programs, which risk managers can use to make adjustments.
“We have to leverage technology to get ahead of ergonomic injury risk and to engage workers early,” Spencer said. “It all comes down to recognizing that your people are your greatest asset, and treating them as such.”
Asleep at the Wheel
Drowsy driving can be just as deadly as drunk driving — and the transportation industry is taking steps to combat this sometimes tragic problem.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 83,000 crashes each year are caused by driver drowsiness. Motor carriers, transportation companies and organizations with their own fleets are acutely aware of the tragedies that driver fatigue can cause, as well as the major financial and other losses that can result.
Even if a driver is not at fault in a crash that results in serious injuries or fatalities, ultimately the company’s reputation is at stake, said Michael Nischan, vice president, transportation and logistics risk control at EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants in Atlanta.
The company may be ordered to pay for damages, especially if management did not properly vet the driver for a sleep disorder or if the driver’s medical certificate was expired.
“Damages from civil suits may not be covered by insurance, so whether the driver is at fault or not, the costly settlements may ultimately cause a company to go out of business,” Nischan said. “The key is to ensure the driver is qualified before hire and throughout employment, and that requires continuing dialogue and education throughout the organization.”
Rates on the Rise
Crashes involving driver fatigue have also impacted commercial insurance for fleets. Craig Dancer, Marsh’s U.S. transportation industry practice leader in Washington, D.C., said that rates in the insurance market had been soft when carriers were trying to get business and build volume, and underwriting, in some instances, may have been lax.
“So now we’re seeing premiums rise to support the carriers’ level of losses, and some markets have exited the trucking industry,” Dancer said.
Underwriters wanting to write best-in-class are now looking to see whether organizations are using technology to make sure their drivers are performing optimally, he said. Underwriters are also looking to see if organizations are going down the regulatory checklist on how to deal with sleep apnea.
“The proactive motor carriers and transportation drivers have been addressing sleep apnea for a while now, and they have become really good at vetting drivers and adhering to fatigue management programs,” Dancer said.
Companies are conducting sleep studies and buying CPAP machines for drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea, which can have a huge impact on driver fatigue, said Todd Reiser, vice president and producer with Lockton’s transportation practice in Kansas City, Mo.
“A lot of motor carriers are trying to improve driver wellness, which correlates directly with driver fatigue,” Reiser said. “Truck driving is a sedentary job, and drivers tend to struggle with their health, whether it’s from occupational accidents or weight problems.”
The industry has also encouraged truck stops to provide healthier food alternatives, and trucking companies are implementing these alternatives at their own terminals, as well as exercise facilities, workout rooms, and nurses or physicians onsite to provide check-ups, he said.
Large trucking companies have terminals throughout the country in areas where they have a high concentration of business. Underwriters respond favorably to these types of programs.
Technology Use Increases Safety
Underwriters are also looking for anything from a technology perspective to make drivers safer, such as warning systems if a truck crosses the center line or drives onto the shoulder of the road, Reiser said. There is also collision mitigation technology that will stop or slow vehicles before a crash.
Advanced technologies can help identify tired, drowsy or distracted drivers. Canadian-based Fatigue Science makes biometric wristbands that drivers wear, said Rich Bleser, fleet safety specialty practice leader for Marsh Risk Consulting in Milwaukee.
Australian-based Seeing Machines builds dash-mounted sensors with image-processing technology that tracks the movements of a driver’s eye, face, head and facial expressions to detect driver fatigue — and even distraction from doing things like texting.
Seeing Machines also provides in-cab driver alerts to prevent accidents, and 24/7 monitoring and data analytics so employers can improve practices.
The National Safety Council recommends drivers stop every 100 miles and walk around, Bleser said. Keep vehicle temperature cooler and drink ice water, because when the core body temperature is lower, the body’s “internal furnace” kicks in and builds energy to stay alert.
“If drivers are tired, they should not drink caffeine, because even if it makes a person feel that they are awake, caffeine can’t control micro sleep,” he said. “I recommend taking a 10- to 15-minute cat nap, if the driver can find a safe place to park their vehicle.”
Jenn Guerrini, executive commercial auto specialist at Chubb Transportation Liability in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said that driver fatigue can also be a problem for ridesharing companies, as they are not regulated like taxi cab drivers.
“For most of the drivers, this is their second or third job, and there is no regulation on hours of work and fitness of duty,” Guerrini said.
She said some organizations forbid employees to use ridesharing services from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. while traveling.
For organizations with their own commercial fleets, they should track driving hours automatically in real-time by installing electronic logging devices registered and certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, she said. Such devices will be mandated by the end of 2017.
Companies should also develop best practices for dispatchers, said Chris Reardon, vice president of transportation, warehousing and logistics practice at Assurance in Schaumburg, Ill.
“People are going to seek to put the fault on the motor carrier as well as the driver, but companies should be managing this issue at the dispatcher level as well because often, that is where hours of service issues originate,” Reardon said.
“Poor dispatching and load planning can lead to drivers feeling pressure from the dispatchers and management to get the trip done, regardless of the time constraints.”
He reminds clients of the widespread public scrutiny and even condemnation that could occur after crashes involving driver fatigue, citing comedian Tracy Morgan, who was hit by a Walmart driver who had been awake for more than 28 hours in 2014.
“There are always going to be drivers who don’t care about regulations, because they want to make the most money running the most miles,” Reardon said. “If the management of a company does not establish a culture of safety and compliance in the office or terminal, it will inevitably trickle down to the drivers as a result.” &
Sparking Innovation and Motivating Millennials
Two trends in the insurance industry, if they continue, could compromise its vitality in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven business world: slow innovation and a scarcity of millennial talent.
The quests to develop innovative solutions and services and to recruit young people to the field have raised concerns in the industry for several years, causing some insurers to think about how they will stay viable in the future when senior-level managers begin to retire.
But Lexington Insurance Company, a member of AIG, may have found a way to spark innovation that also engages millennial minds.
Innovation Boot Camp started three years ago as a one-off project meant to identify young, high-potential employees, give them exposure to senior management and evaluate their teamwork and leadership capabilities.
“The original concept was fairly straightforward. We would bring together a group of about 30 high potential employees for some semblance of team project work and it would allow management to gauge and assess talent,” said Matt Power, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategic Development, Lexington Insurance.
Little did he know how well the program would not only generate a plethora of innovative ideas that would drive the company forward, but also reinvigorate younger employees.
“The boot camps would be focused on innovation, with the idea that if we ended up with a concept or product that we could commercialize, then the boot camp would have been effectively self-funded. When they came back at the end of the 12 weeks, we were absolutely shocked because they produced about half a dozen products that have since been commercialized and are in some phase of being rolled out.”
— Matt Power, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategic Development, Lexington Insurance
New Ideas Emerge
The inaugural Innovation Boot Camp began with a two-day kick off meeting for participants— consisting of six teams with five or six participants. Each team was tasked with developing a business plan, and began to connect virtually over the next 12 weeks. The plan would culminate in a presentation to a senior management judging panel at the program’s conclusion.
“The boot camps would be focused on innovation, with the idea that if we ended up with a concept or product that we could commercialize, then the boot camp would have been effectively self-funded,” Power said. “When they came back at the end of the 12 weeks, we were absolutely shocked because they produced about half a dozen products that have since been commercialized and are in some phase of being rolled out.”
Power credits the program’s success in part to the participants’ youth. They were tuned in to different trends and issues than their more experienced counterparts.
Cyberbullying, for example, was a problem that didn’t exist for Power and his contemporaries as they grew up, but was salient for millennials. Based on the presentation of one group, Lexington developed coverage on their personalized portfolio for exposures associated with cyberbullying.
Likewise, “they educated us on the emergence of the craft brewing industry and how rapidly it was growing in the U.S.,” Power said. “That led to us launching a whole suite of products for craft brewers.”
Another team brought forth the concept of how rapid sequencing laser photography could be used to create a three-dimensional picture of a construction work site. That would allow contractors or claims managers to virtually walk through the site at a given point in the construction process to identify deviations from the original blueprint plans.
The images could memorialize the building process down to the millimeter, to every screw and wire. If a loss emerges later on due to a construction defect, the 3D map would be a valuable investigation tool.
Innovation Boot Camp proved so successful that Lexington expanded it to other arms of AIG all over the world.
“Suddenly we started getting calls from London, Copenhagen, Brazil,” Power said. “We were doing these programs for our global casualty team, for our lead attorneys in New York, for our financial lines group, and so on. We recently embarked on the 16th iteration of this program in London, with additional programs in the works.
“It’s a journey that has evolved from trying different things and not being afraid to fail, not being afraid to try new ways of thinking about the business.”
Engaging Millennial Minds
In addition to generating new product ideas, Innovation Boot Camp also engages younger employees more fully by offering the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the company through independent work that requires some creative thinking.
Past participants are often great crusaders for the program.
“A program like IBC is something rarely seen at a large corporate conglomerate, and really a concept for new age startup companies,” said Alyson R. Jacobs, Vice President, Broker and Client Engagement Leader in AIG’s Energy & Construction Industry Segment. “But we were given a chance to work with people of all different professional backgrounds, and that environment unearthed concepts and solutions that have made a significant impact in the lives of our insureds and their employees.”
The chance to do work that makes a difference, both for the success of their company as well as the clients its serves, is what attracts millennial employees to the program and motivates them to devote their best effort to the project.
“Millennials want to be able to share their ideas and make meaningful contributions at work,” Power said. “Innovation Boot Camp has evolved into the perfect forum for that.”
David Kennedy, Esq., Product Development Manager for Lexington Insurance and former Coach for two Innovation Boot Camps, said the program engenders an “entrepreneurial spirit of developing something new, of applying analytical rigor to emerging risks to create unique and timely solutions for our clients and the marketplace.”
Exposure to senior executives doesn’t hurt either.
“It provided a platform for me to not just interact with our Senior Executive leadership but present a concept that could potentially be adopted by our company in the future,” said Ryan Pitterson, Assistant Vice President, AIG. “It helps to build your internal network, elevate your profile in the company and connects you with our client base as well.”
At a time when recent college graduates choose employers based on how much opportunity they’ll be given to have meaningful input — as well as opportunities for advancement — projects like Innovation Boot Camp could be the answer to the insurance industry’s struggle to pull in millennials.
“We give them the time, space and resources to create something new,” Power said. “When employee engagement is done right, it inspires passion and creativity.”
As multiple arms of AIG adopt Innovation Boot Camp around the globe, both the quantity and quality of new ideas are bound to flourish.
“The bottom line is, many heads are greater than one, and AIG has figured out how to leverage this. AIG hears their employees’ voices and enables those ideas to take our company into the future,” Jacobs said.
To learn more about Lexington Insurance, visit http://www.lexingtoninsurance.com/home.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Lexington Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.