NEW ORLEANS—While controlling workers compensation costs often focuses on mitigating the risk of slip-and-falls or ensuring employees have proper safety gear, some notable exposures exist in employees’ everyday personal lifestyle choices. In the Thought Leader Theater at RIMS 2015, Fred Hubbs, a partner in the lawfirm Hall Booth Smith, P.C., discussed how different trends—from the obesity epidemic to telecommuting—can increase risk exposure in the workplace.

As the workers comp system is based on principles of no fault and no personal responsibility and there are broad state definitions of what is medically necessary or what an employer is responsible for, employers are often vulnerable to what Hubbs calls “lifestyle risk.” Obesity, smoking, non-compliance with treatment for diabetes, and telecommuting can all put employees at risk, and either contribute to a compensable event or complicate the recovery process.

Obesity, which affects approximately 37% of Americans and is expected to his 50% by 2030, is a well-documented factor in workers comp, with obese workers filing twice as many claims that tend to be up to seven times more expensive and see these workers missing thirteen more days a year, while indemnity benefits paid can be five times higher. And some states have ordered employers to pay for weight loss that is medically necessary to facilitate recovery.

Smokers are also drastically more likely to be injured at work, and smoking while on the job can lead to specific accidents in the workplace that are compensable. In fact, courts have ruled that, if smoking is only a slight deviation from job duties, an accident that occurs while a worker is on a smoke break is compensable. In at least two states, employers are also now required to pay for smoking cessation programs if doctors deem it necessary to help with recovery from surgery.

For diabetic employees, a refusal to comply with treatment can expose employers, whether because of the increased risk of seizure, making a minor injury worse, or delaying recovery. Some treatments for injuries sustained on the job can also aggravate pre-existing diabetes, which can be a compensable event.

For all of these issues, Hubbs recommended that employers get more proactive to help employees be healthier, reduce workers comp costs, and even benefit from some incentives from new healthcare laws. Stop-smoking campaigns and weight-loss or activity-boosting initiatives can all aid in these efforts, and these employee-sponsored wellness programs are promoted under new healthcare laws, which may offer direct incentive to businesses that introduce them. Ensuring that employees are complying with doctors’ orders regarding these required efforts is also important, and may be actionable if employees are refusing. There are laws that require employees to comply if they are receiving workers comp benefits, Hubbs said, and employers should seriously examine their legal ability to stop compensation if an employee refuses to submit to a reasonable examination or treatment.

Finally, Hubbs cautioned that many employers should be more cognizant of the risks of telecommuting. While working remotely is certainly nothing new, it is continuing to grow, especially after President Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act requiring government agencies to establish policies for working outside the office. These arrangements can severely complicate workers comp questions, however, as the lines blur surrounding whether an accident that occurs in the home is compensable and whether an employee is on or off the clock at any given time. To mitigate some of these risks, he recommended that employers:

  • Visit the “jobsite” to evaluate where employees will be working
  • Email or otherwise communicate when an employee is on or off the clock
  • Create a written and signed agreement that designates hours and breaks, designates rooms in the house as “office” space, specify what duties are included in the telework, designate “personal comfort” areas, and attach panel of physicians in states where appropriate

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Today is World Safety Day. Supported by the International Labour Organization, the campaign is intended to focus international attention on how to create a safety and health culture in the workplace and help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries. UL Workplace Health & Safety created the following infographic, in order to help spotlight the scope of the problem:

 

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NEW ORLEANS—Seventy-nine percent of companies are aligned with their risk management reporting structure, however, only 27% of risk professionals believe that emerging risks will be a company priority in the coming year, according to the 12th annual “Excellence in Risk Management Survey” released here by Marsh and RIMS.

In the last five or six years, “We have seen significant narrowing of the gap, where there is better alignment of what risk managers and risk executives are providing their organization and what their C-suite and management is looking for and needing in this riskier world that we all live in,” said Brian Elowe, a managing director at Marsh and co-author of the report. Findings are based on more than 300 responses to an online survey and a series of focus groups with leading risk executives.

Elowe explained that the study focused on organizational alignment, risk management effectiveness, data analytics and technology and cyberrisk.

In their study of organizational dynamics, he said, “We looked at priority setting, organizational structure and performance measurement standards to understand effective execution of a risk management strategy.”

The first insight was in respect to structures risk management reports to inside an organization. “We also asked whether the people responding to the survey felt risk management was reporting to the correct area inside the organization. We found that 79% of the respondents said they felt risk management was reporting into the appropriate area inside their organization,” Elowe said.

Looking deeper, he said the survey found that 50% of executives report into the finance area. The other half reports into a wide number of areas inside the company–12% report to general counsel, 8% to other C-suite members, 5% to internal audit, 5% to operations, 2% to human resources and 11% to “other” functions.

“We found that while they are all in the risk management function, those that report to areas outside of finance tend to be involved in areas deemed to be more strategic in nature. So they are more likely to be involved with things like ERM strategies, IT, privacy and security.”

Elowe said, “We think that finance executives might be well-served to help facilitate greater connections inside their companies to help broaden the perspective that risk executives reporting into finance might be able to have inside their own companies.”

In addition, only 27% of risk professionals reporting to the CFO or treasurer said they expected an increase in spending for training risk management staff. This is compared to 46% in increases expected by those reporting to other areas.

The top-five programs reporting to risk management were insurance management (92%), claims management (88%), enterprise risk management (67%), captive operations (65%) and emergency response (63%).

Looking at functions that report into risk management, he said that while the traditional functions of insurance and claims were well aligned, there is a significant alignment with IT. This is compared to several years ago when IT “operated in and of itself in an organization. That is an outcome of the growing cyberrrisk and the need for organizations to have a multi-disciplinary approach to how cyber is affecting their organization.”

Discussion groups agreed that the “here and now” is most important to their companies and that more needs to be done to develop understanding of emerging risks. “Risk managers are concerned they are not looking far enough ahead,” Elowe said, adding that company focus is largely directed to regulations and compliance. Carol Fox, director of the strategic and enterprise risk practice at RIMS and co-author of the report observed that organizations focused on operations are generally not as involved in strategy. She said management understands risks, but fell off in actually planning for emerging risks.

Findings include:

  • Risk management departments that do not report into finance are generally better aligned with other strategic functions within their organizations — most notably in the areas of enterprise risk management, compliance, information technology (IT) risk management, privacy, and security.
  • Despite the importance placed on emerging risks by many board members, senior leaders, and risk executives, only 27% of survey respondents said that identifying emerging risks would be a priority in the coming year.
  • Over the next two years, 42% of organizations expect to increase the level of investment in risk analytics, according to our survey, with 57% saying it would remain flat.
  • Nearly 60% of respondents said their organization has no formal communications plan in anticipation of a cyber event.
  • Risk professionals who report into the CFO or treasurer are much less likely to expect an increase in spending for training risk management staff in the coming year compared to those reporting elsewhere.

 

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Eric Wahl RIMS conference 2015NEW ORLEANS—The RIMS 2015 Annual Conference & Exhibition kicked off with a burst of creativity at the opening General Session as bestselling author and graffiti artist Erik Wahl encouraged attendees to reawaken their imaginations as they look for opportunities to improve their business.

More than just a typical lecture, Wahl demonstrated the value of creativity by painting portraits of icons like U2′s Bono and Steve Jobs as he made the case that breaking through complacency can lead to new ideas. Wahl pointed that once upon a time, we all considered ourselves artists, so much so that the scent of Crayola crayons remains one of the top 20 most recognizable scents to America adults, according to a Yale University study. The smell of crayons has even been found to reduce blood pressure by as much as 10 points, Wahl said. So with that in mind, he advised the audience to “take a drag of a Crayola” whenever they felt stressed. The real lesson, though, was that creativity is in all of us, no matter how analytical our adult selves have become.

The key is to break through the fear that prevents us from moving forward and taking advantage of opportunities. Sometimes it only requires us to look at the world with a new perspective. ”If you’re not trying new things,” Wahl asked, “are you pushing hard enough?” As he completed his third portrait—this time of Albert Einstein, who once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge,”—it was clear that success really can be considered an art. All we need to do is get out our own set of crayons.

Eric Wahl RIMS 2015

 

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