About Caroline McDonald

Caroline McDonald is the senior editor of the Risk Management Monitor and Risk Management magazine.

Record Snowpack Brings Mixed Blessings to California

This year’s Sierra Nevada snowpack, one of the largest on record, has brought relief to California, which is still reeling from a five-year drought followed by record flooding. The snowpack is twice its average size, with some areas as deep as 80 feet, according to NASA. But with some rivers and dams still at higher than average levels, the fear is that warm temperatures or heavy rainfall will cause the snows to melt faster and bring more flooding.

Colorado and other mountain states, which also experienced heavy snowfall this winter are also concerned with runoff issues. Canada has faced severe runoff problems, after a heat wave earlier this spring resulted in major flooding in Quebec and British Columbia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“The real wild card is if we get hit with a big rain event,” Frank Gehrke, chief snow surveyor for the California Department of Water Resources, told the Wall Street Journal as he monitored a rushing stream in late May. “That could throw the whole system into tilt.”

The Los Angeles Times reported last month that the rapid snowmelt has kept public agencies busy managing water levels across the state’s network of reservoirs. Water district managers must conduct daily conference calls to coordinate releases of water in order to monitor the amounts released into California’s rivers, creeks, bypasses and canals. This coordination is critical, as reservoir releases impact water levels downstream for days. Since one reservoir’s release may meet with another, managers must determine how much water the rivers and levees can support before overflowing.

A number of dams levees and weirs in the state are at least 60 years old, and in some areas more than 100 years old, according to a state Legislative Analyst’s Office report. It noted that flood-management responsibilities in California are spread across more than 1,300 agencies managing an infrastructure of more than 20,000 miles of levees and channels and more than 1,500 dams and reservoirs.

One reservoir in Los Angeles, the Silver Lake Reservoir, is benefiting from the snowpack and ample water supply. No longer used to store drinking water, the reservoir was drained in 2015. It sat empty and was seen as an eyesore, until recently when it was able to be refilled ahead of schedule.

According to the L.A. Times, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council expressed its pleasure that the reservoir was refilled. The council’s co-chair, Anne-Marie Johnson, a second-generation Silver Lake resident, said she is “more than excited” that the landmark will no longer be an eyesore. “I am grateful to Mother Nature for providing us an abundance of snow. I don’t take that for granted,” she said.

Implementing a Safety Culture for Company Drivers

Organizations with a safety policy in place for drivers of company vehicles may believe they are protected from liability in case of an accident. What they may not realize, however, is their defense could hinge on documentation of steps they have taken to ensure that the policy is being followed by employees, according to the study, Creating a Safety Culture: Moving from politics to habits, by SambaSafety.

The study found that, regardless of the policy in place, “simply saying that you didn’t know about poor driving behavior will no longer cut it – not when people’s lives and companies’ well-being are at stake. With the data readily available today, the courts are sure to ask how you didn’t know.”

To implement a successful program, it is important for employees to understand that the company’s policies must be followed by employees at all levels. “If someone in senior management breaks the rules and suffers no aftereffect, what’s the motivation for others to keep things in line?” the study asks.

Additionally, safety policies are not limited to employees whose primary responsibility is driving, or to those who drive company-owned or leased vehicles. According to the study:

Employee-owned or rented vehicles that are used for work-related journeys also must be part of the equation. To decrease liability (in addition to improving safety), policies should clearly state this fact and affirm that the same safe behavior is expected of every driver in the organization – on and off the job. That behavior might include non-distracted driving, for example, or even properly maintaining a personal vehicle used for company business to ensure safety and a positive refection of the organization.

Employees need to know that their employer can be held responsible for anything that happens while employees are conducting company business. Organizations also need to see that reimbursed drivers have adequate insurance, as well as administering signed driver agreements, providing uniform driver training – and ensuring that all drivers’ behavior and records are continuously monitored.

To move into a safety culture, SambaSafety advises organizations to keep their program in line with company principles, values and brand. Also important is working with the company’s existing culture:

Employees in a high-energy, competitive environment, for example, may enjoy contests between regions vying for the safest driving records. In a top-down culture, on the other hand, employees might respond best to regular tips and reminders from respected senior leaders.

In any case, clear communication can keep drivers from feeling micromanaged or worrying about their privacy and personal information. It can also mean fewer accidents and a higher level of safety for employees.

Lloyd’s Plans for Post-Brexit Subsidiary

Just one day after the U.K. set in motion its process for withdrawal from the European Union by triggering Article 50, Lloyd’s announced it was establishing a subsidiary in Brussels, intending to be able to write EU business for the Jan. 1, 2019, renewal season.

The new company will write risks from all 27 European Union countries and three European Economic Area states once Brexit is completed. Because Britain remains a full member of the EU for at least two more years, there will be no immediate impact on existing policies, renewals or new policies, including multi-year policies written during this period of time, the insurer said. The Brussels subsidiary will have its own board of directors and, unlike some banks that have said they will move hundreds of employees to the EU, it will only employ dozens of staff in areas such as information technology and compliance.

Hank Watkins, president of Lloyd’s North America spoke to Risk Management about the company’s plans and the why it chose Belgium as its new location.

RM: How did the process of finding a new EU base begin?

Watkins: Within a week or two of [the Brexit vote] last June, Lloyd’s was on its way, looking across Europe for a new domicile, if you will, for our European business. We are not moving out of London—what we have done is set up an insurance company in Brussels, purely to allow us to passport around the European Union. Because we are not necessarily confident that the U.K. will be able to negotiate passporting rights with the other countries, we are assuming they are not. If they are ultimately successful, then we will just close up and go back home, but that probably will not be the case.

RM: How will the subsidiary work?

Watkins: If you are a policyholder with Lloyd’s, where you previously would have received a policy with all of the syndicates subscribed to it, and that would have been stamped by each of those syndicates, you will also receive an identical policy for the European exposures. It will have the Lloyd’s insurance company name on it and the syndicate stamp of that insurance company and the Lloyd’s syndicates. It is just a little more paperwork for us. The policy is the same—it does not change coverage and it does not change pricing—It is more of an administrative effort to align with what the regulator expects. And our ratings are not affected, we are still S&P-, AM Best- and Fitch-rated A or better and the central fund is still very strong.

RM: Why Belgium?

Watkins: We found a regulator there who is allowing us basically to cede 100% of the premium and the risk back to the syndicate in London. Every other country has some variation of wanting to maintain part of the risk in their country but that does not work for us. So Belgium is a very strong regulator centered in the heart of Europe and a great talent pool as we build out the platform—which won’t be that large, by the way, because we are not necessarily moving people there.

RM: How will insureds be impacted?

Watkins: Companies with no risks in the European Union will see no impact, and it will be seamless for international companies with risks in the EU. Also, it is probably not as well known, but because we are not just large, commercial risks, we do insure a lot of homeowners on the coastlines and a number of private yachts and aircraft, so this is a way to seamlessly include coverage for them in Europe as well.

Preventing Heat Illness: Water, Rest, Shade

With summer comes hot, humid weather and a greater chance of heat-related illness for outdoor workers. How to prevent heat illness? Three words: water, rest and shade, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

MedicalNewsToday

Heat illness is not to be taken lightly—in 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and other heat-related conditions on the job. Workers most at risk are those exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially those whose jobs require heavy lifting or heavy work tasks and who wear dense or bulky clothing and equipment.

Industries most affected by heat-related illness are construction, trade, transportation and utilities, agriculture, grounds maintenance, landscaping services and support activities for oil and gas operations, OSHA said. Workers who have not built up a tolerance to heat, including new workers, temporary workers, or those returning to work after a week or more off are all at greater risk, and all workers are at risk during a heat wave.

The body normally cools itself by perspiring. During hot weather, however, especially in high humidity conditions, sweating isn’t enough to keep the body cool. To keep body temperature from rising to dangerous levels, OSHA suggests drinking water and resting in the shade to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

If a worker becomes ill, OSHA recommends:

  • Call a supervisor for help. If a supervisor is not available, call 911.
  • Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke symptoms include:

  • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104⁰ F or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache. Your head may throb.

The Mayo Clinic urges immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment, including:

  • Get the person into shade or indoors.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Cool the person with whatever means available—put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits and groin.