By MICHELLE KERR,
a contributing editor who writes on risk management and safety issues
Whether you're attending a conference or a banquet, taking in a double-header at the ballpark or laid up at the hospital for a few days, there's a good chance Aramark is right there with you. If you have a child attending college or a parent in a senior living facility, Aramark may be touching their lives as well. Aramark employees are busy keeping things running smoothly for clients around the globe, and chances are slim that you haven't already enjoyed the benefits of their work.
Thanks to the company's commitment to protecting those employees, Risk & Insurance® is pleased to name Aramark the winner of the 2009 Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Compensation and Disability Management Award in the for-profit category.
Since 2003, Aramark has reduced injury frequency by 49 percent and cut lost-time nearly in half as well, while increasing its global workforce.
Philadelphia-based Aramark is a leader in professional services, providing clients with award-winning food services, facilities management, and uniform and career apparel. The company was founded in 1936 with one man, one car and a trunk full of peanuts. Today it is a multinational, multibillion-dollar corporation. In Fortune magazine's 2009 list of "World's Most Admired Companies," Aramark was ranked No. 1 in its industry.
In addition to serving businesses large and small, Aramark serves a dizzying array of industries including sports stadiums and arenas, universities, school districts, healthcare facilities, senior living facilities, correctional facilities, conference and convention centers, parks and resorts, and cultural attractions. The company has also provided top-notch food services for prestigious global events such as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, and the 2005 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Confederations Cup in Germany.
NO ONE GETS HURT
To grasp the enormity of the workers' comp challenge facing Aramark, you have to step back and look at the big picture. Aramark is not merely a large company. It is 260,000 employees in 22 countries, divided among multiple lines of business that provide services across the spectrum. From laundry services to landscaping, from catering to cleanroom services, from public-safety equipment to patient nutrition services, Aramark provides it all, allowing clients to stay focused on what they do best.
Given the scope of Aramark's operations, you begin to see how complex the picture looks when someone stops to ponder the question, "So how do we make sure no one gets hurt?" That's exactly the question that Debbie Rodgers began asking in 2004, dissatisfied with the status quo. The company's injury frequency was in a holding pattern, and Rodgers, the vice president of the global risk management department, felt certain that improvement was possible.
Rodgers' boss, Chief Financial Officer Fred Sutherland, gave Rodgers the green light to undertake a new companywide safety initiative. Rodgers and senior management formed three teams comprised of people throughout the organization, including presidents of the various lines of business; front-line managers; human resource executives; CFOs; and representatives from risk management, safety and risk control, and legal. One team focused on safety and loss prevention, one on workers' compensation claims management, and another on financial reporting and metrics.
The three teams spent eight intensive weeks acting as a de facto think tank, assessing the company's challenges, developing recommendations on what could be done better and identifying what resources the company would need in order to implement the recommendations.
What arose out of that eight-week period was a new philosophy, and a dramatic shift for the organization, starting with a decision to consolidate the safety and loss prevention team and merge it into risk management. "By being very splintered," explained Rodgers, "it was hard to understand holistically what was driving risk in the company, what was really driving our frequency."
Having a centralized safety and claims management organization has helped align the focus across the company's many lines of business, said Carrie Williams, senior director of safety and risk management for the Aramark Uniform and Career Apparel group.
The H1N1 virus offers a perfect example of the way things have changed within Aramark, said Williams. In the past, each individual line of business would've been tasked with coming up with their own strategy for addressing the virus. "Now we have an Aramark response to how we want to handle it, and the lines of business know exactly what it is they need to do to protect their employees."
THE CLAIMS TEAM
Among the other dramatic changes that arose from that period was the decision to hire 23 new employees to form an internal claims team, or ICT, centralized in the risk management department under the leadership of Carla Wynn, Aramark's director of workers' compensation programs.
The ICT is a unique group that serves multiple purposes for the entire organization. First and foremost, the ICT is the intake point for all workers' compensation claims. Many Aramark employees work in small locations where there are no on-site human resources representatives. Without the ICT, front-line managers would need to take on claims duties on top of their already busy jobs. The ICT takes that burden off their hands, triaging, reviewing and documenting every claim.
Team members in three regional offices serve 6,000 locations, making sure that both employees and supervisors understand the claims process and have all the tools and information they need, including key state-specific details. Based on the details of the claim, the ICT will also determine whether there are any opportunities for subrogation and whether a claim warrants follow-up from a nurse case manager. The ICT also facilitates the return-to-work process for eligible employees.
The claims team enters data collected during the triage process into the company's proprietary risk management system, which generates OSHA 300 logs and also provides the Risk Control group with the data it needs to identify the root cause of the incident, as well as identify how each incident relates to the broader picture of the company's risks.
Team members are also charged with the responsibility of updating the company's internal Web site, making sure that all managers in every state will be able to stay up-to-date with changes in state workers' comp laws.
As opposed to a model where the internal claims team replaces a third-party administrator, Aramark's team was designed as a complementary function, acting in a customer-service capacity for employees and managers, and interfacing with the TPA (Specialty Risk Services), the Risk Control group, and nurse case managers, supporting each role and directing the flow of information.
Rodgers credits all of Aramark's partners--SRS, Ace and Bunch--as essential to their success. "SRS has been an amazing partner with Aramark. We've changed how we work together for the better, and we talk regularly and they've enabled us to work within our vision and achieve better results," Rodgers said. She also cites ACE, Aramark's primary casualty insurance carrier, as "a very cooperative and encouraging partner (that) has really worked with us. At the end of the day, Aramark is a better risk in their eyes, our programs cost less money and we have far fewer people being injured," Rodgers said.
CUSTOMIZED TECH TOOLS
The ICT was a key change for Aramark in and of itself. But what enables the team to fill such a broad range of functions is the technology that helps power it. Aramark invested a significant amount of resources into creating a versatile technology platform that readily adapts to the company's evolving needs.
"We had a RMIS system," explained Rodgers, "but it wasn't enabling us to manipulate the data in a way that would help us understand what was really driving risk. We really needed to understand risk holistically."
The proprietary risk management system, named decision metrics and monitoring, or DMM, is electronically linked together with the company's system partners, allowing for multiple data transmissions to be made on a daily basis.
On the risk control side, team members leverage the data inputted by the ICT in order to identify and isolate opportunities for improvement.
When the company recognized that slips, trips and falls were a major driver of injury frequency, for example, Risk Control developed a set of questions that were programmed into DMM. Every time the ICT triaged a claim related to a slip, trip or fall, it triggered a set of drop-down menus with the targeted questions.
Thanks to the data collected, the safety team not only discovered that wet floors were an issue, but also that employees--particularly those in food services--perceived wet floors as a routine facet of their working conditions. That was a major revelation to senior management, said Rodgers, who could then work to change that perception. Without that kind of technology, it might have taken a large-scale study and a vast amount of resources, manpower and time to come to the same conclusion.
The system has also been programmed to automatically trigger accident investigation forms to be sent to front-line managers when claims are filed. The investigation data needs to be entered back into the system, so uncompleted investigations are easy to track. That allows senior management to move quickly if a reminder is warranted. Safety audits are also entered directly into the system, and onboarding tools have been added to help new managers or managers at new locations get up to speed with safety requirements and training without any guesswork.
Aramark has also begun to explore the ways in which predictive modeling can be used as a tool for claims management and beyond. One early success has been the use of modeling to isolate which claims should be assigned to a nurse case manager.
Historically," explained Rodgers, "every claim would get nurse attention. But ... in many cases there wasn't more than one doctor visit, so if that was the case there, wasn't a need for nurse follow-up."
Now, said Rodgers, the system tags each claim: red for claims that need nurse follow-up, green for claims that don't and yellow for those that are unclear. In the case of yellow claims, the ICT digs deeper and makes a determination as to whether nurse follow-up is warranted.
"Essentially," said Wynn, "it works like applying credit scores to new injuries that come in based on first report of injury data." To date, the model has been shown to have a 98 percent rate of accuracy.
"That alone resulted in significant savings in the first year," said Rodgers. "It was a really positive change."
The company is now looking toward additional applications for the technology, including using modeling to help direct care for injured employees based on provider outcomes.
WALKING THE TALK
Rodgers and her team unanimously credit the success of their program to a high level of senior management involvement.
"Bringing high-level attention to the program during the first year enabled Aramark to maximize the impact of the changes," said Rodgers. For the first time, she said, senior leaders are able to ask the right questions because they now have the tools and information they need to work with.
Across the board, executives at Aramark's highest operational levels have embraced the safety initiative with gusto, supporting and championing the importance of creating and sustaining an environment where no one gets hurt. The impact of that commitment has not been lost on the safety and claims side of the house.
"Without these folks at the very top 'getting it' and walking the talk, you don't have the kind of program we have," said Williams. "You just simply don't."
Undoubtedly, it's that same high level of support that has fostered a rich atmosphere of teamwork and collaboration--which extends horizontally through each line of business, vertically from the C-suite to the field operations, and outward to clients as well as to vendors.
Aramark's program epitomizes the concepts of collaboration and teamwork, said Wynn. "No one person has all the right answers. (You need) a team of engaged people from different backgrounds working together with a common objective."
Aramark's commitment to its vision has done much more than impact frequency rates. The result the company is proudest of is the new culture of safety that will sustain its success and fuel its momentum.
"It's been great to see our people really on fire about what we're trying to do," added Ken Bowman, vice president of safety and risk control for the global risk management department. "We've tapped into something that everybody already values. No matter how much you make an hour, people value going home in the same condition they come to work in."
November 1, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications