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2014 Risk All Star: Patty Hostine

Vocal Rehabilitation Success

Growing a business, of course, is a good thing. But as Patricia Hostine, workers’ compensation manager at Cooper Standard Automotive, learned the hard way, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing — at least when it happens fast.

Patty Hostine, manager, workers’ compensation, Cooper Standard Automotive

Patty Hostine, manager, workers’ compensation, Cooper Standard Automotive

When one factory’s operations were relocated and absorbed into a Kentucky facility, that location’s staffing level tripled practically overnight, with many new employees lacking experience.

“If you’re launching a big program, it comes with a lot of confusion, a lot of overtime, a lot of new people coming in doing jobs they’ve never done before,” said Gerry King, former global vice president of health, safety and environment for the company.

“It’s a great recipe for workers’ comp issues.”

Claims costs skyrocketed. Within three years, that facility — one of the company’s 16 — was responsible for 50 percent of the company’s claims costs. Lost-time days there shot up by 46 percent.

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Hostine said her company’s plight was keeping her awake at night … quite literally. During one of many sleepless nights, Hostine finally had a 4 a.m. epiphany: What are we waiting for? Why can’t we start vocational rehab on the front end?

“I’m a firm believer that if you have 12 weeks of lost time, you’ve already closed the window for vocational rehab,” said Hostine, who spent more than a decade as a vocational case manager before joining Cooper Standard.

“I think a lot of professionals miss that window and then don’t understand why vocational rehab doesn’t work.”

Hostine contracted with a part-time in-house case manager to work with injured employees and place them in appropriate positions. Job evaluations were conducted for every key position in the plant to ensure proper placement of recovering workers.

The company’s other key cost driver was that supervisors were being put in the position of making medical decisions. More often than not, nearly every minor injury wound up in the ER.

Hostine implemented a 24/7 telephonic nurse triage program. Nurses evaluated every injured worker and determined which issues could be handled in-house with first aid, and which required immediate attention or follow-up care.

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Together, these programs have made a world of difference for Cooper Standard.

The company has seen a 50 percent decrease in the number of incidents that become claims. And lost time didn’t simply drop — it is now a mere 6 percent of the pre-expansion baseline for that facility. Workers’ comp wage loss payments have decreased 63 percent from 2010 to 2012. The 24/7 nurse triage program has now been implemented companywide.

Colleagues say that Hostine was unquestionably the right person to drive this level of change at Cooper Standard.

“[Patty] has an MBA. …. She is able to put workers’ comp in the context of the business and make people understand that you have to look at these as business decisions,” said King.

Responsibility Leader

Patty is also being recognized as a 2014 Responsibility Leader.

Champion for Change

Workers’ Compensation Manager Patty Hostine created dramatic gains for Cooper Standard Automotive by championing a fundamental change in the way both management and employees perceived the company’s approach to injury treatment and recovery.

“When she came on board we had all kinds of new management — nobody was on board with our thought process,” said Gerry King, who hired Hostine to manage workers’ compensation at Cooper Standard.That kind of transformation is never an easy sell. But Hostine’s ability to clearly communicate the benefits of the change to people at every level of the organization is the hallmark of a Responsibility Leader®.

“So it was taking them and making them see the business side of workers’ compensation that a lot of people don’t look at,” King said.

Hostine is also committed the members of her team, and to making sure that everyone involved has the tools and knowledge they need to excel.

“Her ethics are above reproach,” said Mick Altherr, coordinator of health, safety and environment, and workers’ compensation at Cooper Standard Automotive, “and that drives her theme of being fair, firm and friendly. … She’s an amazing talent with her drive for knowledge. She shares her thought process to educate the people who work with her.”

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350px_allstarRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2014 Risk All Stars.

Responsibility Leaders overcome obstacles by doing the right thing over the easy thing to find  practical solutions that benefit their co-workers and community.

Read more about the 2014 Responsibility Leaders.

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2014 Risk All Star: Elizabeth Ruff

Simply Peerless

Not long out of college, Elizabeth Ruff arrived at Peerless Industrial Group in June of 2011, tasked with taking control of workers’ compensation for the company. She soon discovered that the company had a culture of lost time and that really bothered her.

“She said, ‘We’ve got to put a stop to this hemorrhaging,’ ” recalled her boss, Vice President of Human Resources Barbara Breza.

Elizabeth Ruff, human resources generalist, Peerless Industrial Group

2014 ri, human resources generalist, Peerless Industrial Group

Ruff was intent on getting employees back to work, in some capacity, as soon as possible.

“One of the first things I initiated is that whenever somebody was injured on the job and they required immediate medical attention, either myself or Barb would actually go with the employee to the health care provider’s office and sit with them,” said Ruff.

“The reason that was really key was because we were able to talk to the doctor about the fact that Peerless accommodates almost every type of light duty or transitional option,” Ruff added.

Before Ruff began her new approach, Peerless had 40 lost-time claims, multiple years in a row.

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“In 2012-2013, with a total of 386 employees in the company, we had it down to less than 25 claims,” said Ruff.

At the company’s main plant in Winona, Minn., which has 287 employees, Peerless has gone 700 days without a lost-time claim.

“It’s a pretty heavy-duty industrial manufacturing plant, so that’s a huge accomplishment, which we’re extremely proud of,” said Ruff.

“The head of underwriting at a major insurance company recently said that he has never seen anyone like Elizabeth at a company, big or small. She is truly one of a kind and a major difference-maker in our industry.” — Josh Warren, senior vice president of Equity Risk Partners

Josh Warren, senior vice president of Equity Risk Partners, Peerless’ broker, said, “They do have some additional lifting machines that make it easier on the employees, but the main difference is that Elizabeth and her colleagues in the HR department pay attention to their employees, learn from workplace injuries in order to avoid repeat situations and get people back to work.”

Warren added: “The head of underwriting at a major insurance company recently said that he has never seen anyone like Elizabeth at a company, big or small. She is truly one of a kind and a major difference-maker in our industry.”

Other accomplishments Ruff has initiated at Peerless include bolstering the company’s safety program. Safety is particularly important at Peerless because it is the largest manufacturer and distributor in North America for industrial and consumer chain and tractor products.

“One of the things I created was regular training programs,” Ruff said. “Each month, there is some type of training program project I am organizing, whether it is bringing in an external expert or coordinating with an internal supervisor.”

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Another thing Peerless has done is to spend more money on capital each year to be proactive rather than reactive.

“Each year since 2011, we’ve been adding $20,000 per year just in capital for hoists,” she said.

Under Ruff’s direction, Peerless has also been aggressive in implementing ergonomic improvements, Breza said.

Ruff still works 20 hours a week at Peerless, while also working at BIC Graphic, which she joined in June.

“What I value most about Elizabeth is her knowledge and expertise and professionalism in the field of HR and how broad-based she is and that she came in that way to Peerless when she was so young,” said Breza. “She is just so intelligent.”

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350px_allstarRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2014 Risk All Stars.

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Sponsored Content by Riskonnect

A Dreaming Team

Chris Thorn of Southwest Airlines got creative with his risk management program. Now, the sky's the limit.
By: | September 15, 2014 • 4 min read
SponsoredContent_Riskonnect

Chris Thorn is known as one of the most creative risk managers in the business. After all, his risk management program hit the cover of Risk & Insurance® in March, 2012.

Now the senior manager, payments and risk, for Southwest Airlines is working with Riskonnect, a technology partner that he thinks can take his program to new heights.

“For us, it’s a platform that gives you so many different tools that if you can dream it, you can build it,” said Thorn.

Claims administration

Thorn ditched his legacy risk management information system in 2012 and started working with Riskonnect, initially using the platform solely for liability claims management.

But the system’s “do-it-yourself” accessibility almost immediately caught the eye of Thorn’s colleagues managing safety risk and workers’ compensation.

“They were seeking a software solution at the time and said, ‘Hey, we want to join the party,” Thorn recalls of his friends in safety and workers’ compensation.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect“For us, it’s a platform that gives you so many different tools that if you can dream it, you can build it.”

–Chris Thorn, senior manager, payments and risk, Southwest Airlines

What was making Thorn’s colleagues so jealous was the system’s “smart question” process which allows any supervisor in the company to enter a claim, while at the same time freeing those supervisors from being claims adjusters.

The Riskonnect platform asks questions that direct the claim to the appropriate category without the supervisor having to take on the burden of performing that triage.

“They love it because all of the redundant questions are gone,” Thorn said.

The added beauty of the system, Thorn said, is that allows carriers and TPAs to work right alongside the Southwest team in claims files while maintaining rock-solid cyber security.

“This has sped up the process,” Thorn said.

“Any time you can speed up the process, the more success you’re going to have when you make offers to settle claims,” he said.

Policy management

Since that initial splash in claims management, the Riskonnect platform has gone on to become a rock star at Southwest in a number of other areas. And as Thorn suggests, the possibilities of the system are limited only by the user’s imagination.

SponsoredContent_RiskonnectWith a little creativity and help from Riskonnect as needed, a risk manager can add on system capabilities without having to go on bended knee to his own information technology department.

In the area of insurance policy management, for example, the Riskonnect platform as built by Thorn now holds data on all property values and exposures that can in turn be downloaded for use by underwriters.

Every time Southwest buys a new airplane, the enterprise platform sends out a notice to the airlines insurance broker, who in turn notifies the 16 or 17 carriers that are on the hull program.

Again, in that “anything’s possible” vein, the system has the capability of notifying the carriers, directly, a tool Thorn said he’s flirting with.

“It is capable of doing that,” he said.

“We’re testing out this functionality before we turn on it loose directly to the insurance companies.”

Carrier ratings

In alignment with the platform’s muscle in documenting, storing and reporting liability and property exposures, the system monitors and reports on insurance carrier financial strength.

If a rating agency downgrades a Southwest program carrier’s financial strength, for example, the system “pings” Thorn and his colleagues.

“Not only will we know about it, but we will also know all programs, present and past that they participated on, what the open reserves are for those policy years and policies,” Thorn said.

“That gives us even more comfort that we have good, solid financial backing of the insurance policies that are protecting us,” Thorn said.

Accounting interface

Like many of us, Chris Thorn didn’t set out to work in risk management and insurance. Thorn is a Certified Public Accountant, and it’s that background that allows him to take creative advantage of the Riskonnect platform’s malleability in yet another way.

With the help of the Riskonnect customer service team, Thorn added a function to the platform that allows him to calculate the cost of insurance policies on a monthly basis, enter them into a general ledger and send them over to his colleagues in accounting.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect

“It’s very robust on handling financial information, date information, or anything with that much granularity,” Thorn said.

The sky is the limit

Thorn and Southwest are only two years into their relationship with Riskonnect and there are a number of places Thorn thinks the platform can take him that have yet to be explored, but certainly will be.

“It’s basically a repository of anything that’s risk-related, it continues to grow,” Thorn said.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect“This has sped up the process. Any time you can speed up the process, the more success you’re going to have when you make offers to settle claims.”
–Chris Thorn, senior manager, payments and risk, Southwest Airlines

Not only have Southwest’s safety and workers’ compensation managers joined Thorn in his work with Riskonnect, business continuity has come knocking as well.

Thorn met in July with members of Southwest Airline’s business continuity team, which has a whole host of concerns, ranging from pandemics to cyber-attacks that it needs help in documenting the exposures and resiliency options for.

That Enterprise Risk Management approach will in the future also involve the system’s capability to provide risk alerts, telling Thorn and his team for example, that a hurricane or fast moving wildfire is threatening one of the company’s facilities.

Supply chain resiliency and managing certificates of insurance for foreign vendors are other areas where Thorn and his team plan to put the Riskonnect platform to good use.

“That’s all stuff that’s being worked on by us,” Thorn said.

“They’ve given us the tools, but we’re trying to develop how we’re going to use it,” he said.

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


Riskonnect is the provider of a premier, enterprise-class technology platform for the risk management industry.
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