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.” &
Hot Hacks That Leave You Cold
Thousands of dollars lost at the blink of an eye, and systems shut down for weeks. It might sound like something out of a movie, but it’s becoming more and more of a reality thanks to modern hackers. As technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated, so do the occurrence of cyber breaches.
“The more we rely on technology, the more everything becomes interconnected,” said Jackie Lee, associate vice president, Cyber Liability at Nationwide. “We are in an age where our car is a giant computer, and we can turn on our air conditioners with our phones. Everyone holds data. It’s everywhere.”
Phishing Out Fraud
According to Lee, phishing is on the rise as one of the most common forms of cyber attacks. What used to be easy to identify as fraudulent has become harder to distinguish. Gone are the days of the emails from the Nigerian prince, which have been replaced with much more sophisticated—and tricky—techniques that could extort millions.
“A typical phishing email is much more legitimate and plausible,” Lee said. “It could be an email appearing to be from human resources at annual benefits enrollment or it could be a seemingly authentic message from the CFO asking to release an invoice.”
According to Lee, the root of phishing is behavior and analytics. “Hackers can pick out so much from a person’s behavior, whether it’s a key word in an engagement survey or certain times when they are logging onto VPN.”
On the flip side, behavior also helps determine the best course of action to prevent phishing.
“When we send an exercise email to test how associates respond to phishing, we monitor who has clicked the first round, then a second round,” she said. “We look at repeat offenders and also determine if there is one exercise that is more susceptible. Once we understand that, we can take the right steps to make sure employees are trained to be more aware and recognize a potentially fraudulent email.”
Lee stressed that phishing can affect employees at all levels.
“When the exercise is sent out, we find that 20 percent of the opens are from employees at the executive level,” she said. “It’s just as important they are taking the right steps to ensure they are practicing what they are preaching.”
Locking Down Ransomware
Another hot hacking ploy is ransomware, a type of property-related cyber attack that prevents or limits users from accessing their system unless a ransom is paid. The average ransom request for a business is around $10,000. According to the FBI, there were 2,400 ransomware complaints in 2015, resulting in total estimated losses of more than $24 million. These threats are expected to increase by 300% this year alone.
“These events are happening, and businesses aren’t reporting them,” Lee said.
In the last five years, government entities saw the largest amount of ransomware attacks. Lee added that another popular target is hospitals.
After a recent cyber attack, a hospital in Los Angeles was without its crucial computer programs until it paid the hackers $17,000 to restore its systems.
Lee said there is beginning to be more industry-wide awareness around ransomware, and many healthcare organizations are starting to buy cyber insurance and are taking steps to safeguard their electronic files.
“A hospital holds an enormous amount of data, but there is so much more at stake than just the computer systems,” Lee said. “All their medical systems are technology-based. To lose those would be catastrophic.”
And though not all situations are life-or-death, Lee does emphasize that any kind of property loss could be crippling. “On a granular scale, you look at everything from your car to your security system. All data storage points could be controlled and compromised at some point.”
The Future of Cyber Liability
According to Lee, the Cyber product, which is still in its infancy, is poised to affect every line of business. She foresees underwriting offering more expertise in crime and becoming more segmented into areas of engineering, property, and automotive to address ongoing growing concerns.”
“Cyber coverage will become more than a one-dimensional product,” she said. “I see a large gap in coverage. Consistency is evolving, and as technology evolves, we are beginning to touch other lines. It’s no longer about if a breach will happen. It’s when.”
About Nationwide’s Cyber Solutions
Nationwide’s cyber liability coverage includes a service-based solution that helps mitigate losses. Whether it’s loss prevention resources, breach response and remediation expertise, or an experienced claim team, Nationwide’s comprehensive package of services will complement and enhance an organization’s cyber risk profile.
Nationwide currently offers up to $15 million in limits for Network Security, Data Privacy, Technology E&O, and First Party Business Interruption.
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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Nationwide. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.