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.” &
Safe Places for Risky Outdoor Play
Children inevitably suffer cuts, scrapes and other “boo-boos” in the course of swinging, sliding and climbing, but many of the 200,000 annual emergency room visits from playground accidents are preventable, according to insurance and playground experts.
Many factors contribute to eliminating known hazards so children can stretch their wings as safely as possible.
Best practices include ensuring good sight lines for supervisors, isolating bigger kids from toddlers to avoid collisions, soft surfacing under equipment, sound S-hook connectors on swings, the elimination of head and torso entrapments, coatings to seal splinters, signage to alert caregivers to remove the strings from hoodies that can result in strangulation … the list goes on.
Even with the most vigilant design and maintenance, though, “we can’t and shouldn’t eliminate all risk,” said Bill Hooker, risk manager and training program supervisor, Park District Risk Management Agency in Chicago.
“Even if we could, no child would ever want to play in a risk-free playground.”
A playground cleansed of hazards — no moving parts or heights to fall from, for example — may be so boring that resourceful children will use the equipment in a manner the manufacturer never intended, said James D. Smith, director, risk control services, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
“Children make up their own games on equipment, and then you have new dangers you can’t plan against.”
This creativity calls for close supervision, Smith said.
The way a community regards its playgrounds, the kind of apparatus it provides and the diligence with which it inspects and maintains them, awakens philosophical questions, said Kenneth Kutska, executive director, International Playground Safety Institute LLC.
“We ask, ‘What is our goal?’ That starts a discussion about what risk is acceptable.” On the one hand, he said, play teaches critical developmental skills, with the risk of injuries along the way.
“If we take the risk out of playgrounds, we also take out the challenge and learning opportunities. When our primary goal is to meet financial goals, we fail our children.”
Minimal Legal Oversight
Communities benefit from the multitude of programs and standards that eliminate known hazards, said Timothy L. McCarty, risk control manager for Trident Public Risk Solutions.
These include the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s “Public Playground Safety Handbook,” which gives guidance on safety features such as shock-absorbent surfacing materials and safe arrangement of equipment; the American Society for Testing and Materials’ voluntary consensus standards on age-appropriate equipment, fencing, sight lines and recommended outerwear, among many other hazards; and The National Recreation and Park Association’s Playground Safety Inspector Certification.
While these programs offer “great guidance,” said McCarty, they are not law. Only 15 states regulate playgrounds. Only California, with the most robust oversight, mandates inspections. “It’s not illegal in most places to have uninspected playgrounds,” said McCarty, which puts children and communities at risk.
We can’t and shouldn’t eliminate all hazards. Even if we could, no child would ever want to play in a risk-free playground. — Bill Hooker, risk manager and training program supervisor, Park District Risk Management Agency.
Maintenance failures are the single greatest risk of loss and credibility, said Kutska, contributing to 40 percent of injuries. The other major contributors are noncompliant surfacing, failure to train or hire trained inspectors, failure to document inspections and corrections, and inadequate supervision.
Municipal and school district liability varies from state to state, said Thom Rickert, vice president, head of marketing, Trident Risk Solutions, and some states have immunity laws for owner-operators of recreational spaces. New York City has municipal regulations that require adults to be accompanied by a child to keep predators away. “Liability depends on the venue,” he said.
Heavy Wear and Tear
About 75 percent of nonfatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most of those occur at schools and daycare centers — which have far fewer certified playground inspectors on staff than municipal parks, said AJG’s Smith.
School playgrounds get a disproportionate share of wear and tear, said Greg Hennecke, risk management representative, Hylant Administrative Services, and spokesperson for the National Recreation and Park Association as well as one of its certified playground safety inspector instructors.
They’re used hard for the three-odd hours of recess on the 180 days per year school is in session, then do double duty after school and on weekends, especially in communities where municipal parks are scarce.
“That puts more pressure on school districts to maintain them,” he said.
How much use a playground gets is one of many factors driving the frequency of inspections, Hennecke said. The insurer also considers whether the state has sovereign immunity laws. Exception clauses to the laws, which may strip immunity in the presence of physical defects, should put yet more emphasis on maintenance programs.
Current design standards are much different, and much safer, than they were 15 to 20 years ago, when wood parks with elevated ramps and turrets were the style, but they splintered and cracked as they aged. “Most installers know and adhere to the standards we inspect against,” said Smith.
Layout is also important, such as allowing sufficient room between the shoot of a slide or a swing and the next piece of apparatus or a fence. In addition, the composite material from which most equipment is now built stands up to weather and very hard wear better than the wood and metals of yore.
To minimize injuries and liability, Hooker recommended a “diamond of care” — four interrelated steps that together identify and minimize safety hazards:
1) Knowledge of standards and best practices.
2) Inspections by trained inspectors.
3) Corrections, including routine and preventive repairs, and if necessary, removal of hazardous equipment.
4) Documentation of action taken.
Surfacing Materials Matter
Falls onto hard surfaces account for about half of the injuries serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit, according to the CDC, but a serious injury doesn’t necessarily call for removal of the apparatus from which the child fell, Smith said.
Although removing the apparatus will remove its risk and liability, he said, the better option is more and better absorbing material, such as wood chips, gravel, sand, rubber pads, bark mulch or engineered wood fiber. In several cases, families claim “spinning disc” rides threw their toddlers to the ground, which wasn’t buffered by absorbing material.
“Insufficient surfacing material is the direct reason we have more serious injuries,” said Kenny Smith, risk control manager, OneBeacon Government Risks. He often sees “big divots” scooped out under swings.
Many entities, such as the Richland (Washington) School District, are removing swings from playgrounds on the advice of their insurance carriers but also because they use space inefficiently.
Experts said large modular play structures, or even a “return to nature,” installing big rocks with absorbent materials as flooring, are more efficient yet fun uses of playground space. &
Your Workers’ Safety May Be at Risk, But Can You See the Threat?
Deadly violence at work is covered extensively by the media. We all know the stories.
Last year, ex-reporter Bryce Williams shot and killed two former colleagues while they conducted a live interview at a mall in Virginia. In February of this year, Cedric Larry Ford opened fire, killing three and injuring 12 at a Kansas lawn mower manufacturing company where he worked. Also in 2015, 14 people died and 22 were wounded by Syed Farook, a San Bernardino, California county health worker, and his wife, who had terroristic motives.
Active shooter scenarios, however, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violence at work.
“Workplace violence is much broader and more pervasive than that. There are smaller acts of violence happening every day that directly impact organizations and their employees,” said Bertrand Spunberg, Executive Risks Practice Leader, Hiscox USA. “We just don’t hear about them.”
According to statistics compiled by the FBI, the chance that any business will experience an active shooter scenario is about 1 in 457,000, and the chance of death or injury by an active shooter at work is about 1 in 1.6 million.
The fact that deadly attacks — which are relatively rare — get the most media attention may lead employers to underestimate the risk and dismiss the issue of workplace violence as media hype. But any act that threatens the physical or psychological safety of an employee or that causes damage to business property or operations is serious and should not be taken lightly.
“One of the core responsibilities that any organization must fulfill is keeping employees safe, and honoring that duty is becoming more challenging than ever,” Spunberg said.
“Workplace violence is much broader and more pervasive than that. There are smaller acts of violence happening every day that directly impact organizations and their employees. We just don’t hear about them.”
— Bertrand Spunberg, Executive Risks Practice Leader, Hiscox USA
Desk Rage and Bullying: The Many Forms of Workplace Violence
Bullying, intimidation, and verbal abuse all have the potential to escalate into confrontations and a physical assault or damage to personal property. These violent acts don’t necessarily have to be perpetrated by a fellow employee; they could come from a friend, family member or even a complete stranger who wants to target a business or any of its workers.
Take for example the man who killed three workers at a Colorado Spring Planned Parenthood in April. He had no affiliation with the organization or any of its employees, but targeted the clinic out of his own sense of religious duty.
Companies are not required to report incidents of violence and many employees shy away from reporting warning signs or suspicious behavior because they don’t want to worsen a situation by inviting retaliation. It’s easy, after all, to attribute the occasional surly attitude to typical work-related stress, or an office argument to simple personality differences that are bound to emerge occasionally.
Sometimes, however, these are symptoms of “desk rage.”
According to a study by the Yale School of Management, nearly one quarter of the population feels at least somewhat angry at work most of the time; a condition they termed “chronic anger syndrome.” That anger can result from clashes with fellow coworkers, from the stress of heavy workloads, or it can overflow from family or financial problems at home.
Failure to recognize this anger as a harbinger of violence is one key reason organizations fail to prevent its escalation into full-blown attacks. Bryce Williams, for example, had a well-documented track record of volatile and aggressive behavior and had already been terminated for making coworkers uncomfortable. As he was escorted from the news station from which he was terminated, he reportedly threatened the station with retaliation.
Solving Inertia, Spurring Action
Many organizations lack the comprehensive training to teach employees and supervisors to recognize these warning signs and act on them.
“The most critical gap in any kind of workplace violence preparedness program is supervisory inertia, when people in positions of authority fail to act because they are scared of being wrong, don’t want to invade someone’s privacy, or fear for their own safety,” Spunberg said.
Failing to act can have serious consequences. Loss of life, injury, psychological harm, property damage, loss of productivity and business interruption can all result from acts of violence. The financial consequences can be significant. In the case of the San Bernardino shootings, for example, at least two claims were made against the county that employed the shooter seeking $58 million and $200 million.
Although all business owners have a workplace violence exposure, 70 percent of organizations have no plans in place to avoid or mitigate workplace violence incidents and no insurance coverage, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.
“Most companies are vastly underprepared,” Spunberg said. “They don’t know what to do about it.”
Small- to medium-sized organizations in particular lack the resources to develop risk mitigation plans.
“They typically lack a risk management department or a security department,” Spunberg said. “They don’t have the internal structure that dictates who supervisors should report a problem to.”
With its workplace violence insurance solution, Hiscox aims to educate companies about the risk and provide a solution to help bridge the gap.
“The goal of this insurance product is not so much to make the organization whole again after an incident — which is the usual function of insurance — but to prevent the incident in the first place,” Spunberg said.
Hiscox’s partnership with Control Risks – a global leader in security risk management – provides clients with a 24/7 resource. The consultants can provide advice, come on-site to do their own assessment, and assist in defusing a situation before it escalates. Spunberg said that any carrier providing a workplace violence policy should be able to help mitigate the risk, not just provide coverage in response to the resultant damage.
“We urge our clients to call them at any time to report anything that seems out of ordinary, no matter how small. If they don’t know how to handle a situation, expertise is only a phone call away,” Spunberg said.
The Hiscox Workplace Violence coverage pays for the services of Control Risks and includes some indemnity for bodily injury as well as some supplemental coverage for business interruption, medical assistance and counseling. Subvention funds are also available to assist organizations in the proactive management of their workplace violence prevention program.
“Coverage matters, but more importantly we need employees and supervisors to act,” Spunberg said. “The consequences of doing nothing are too severe.”
To learn more about Hiscox’s coverage for small-to-medium sized businesses, visit http://www.hiscoxbroker.com/.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Hiscox USA. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.