Failure to report incidents and safety hazards can have wide-ranging ramifications, impacting employees and their families, public agencies, and the community as a whole. Making work, and workplaces, safer requires the cooperation of everyone—staff, employees, and citizens.
User-friendly and easily accessible tools such as custom risk portals and mobile forms can streamline any project that requires the capture of data—from exposure values and certificates of insurance (COI) details to driver certification information and more. Made available to employees and members of the public for the reporting of incidents, hazards, and near misses, portals and mobile forms help simplify and standardize what is often an arduous and inefficient process. This not only makes reporting these types of events more likely, but also for a more efficient and accurate reporting process.
Making it easier for employees and members of the public to report accidents, damage, and potential hazards has numerous benefits. Among them, a reduction in administrative overhead and decreased lags in reporting, as well as improved transparency and trust. Perhaps most importantly, access to this data can help risk managers and safety professionals identify trends and take proactive, strategic action to reduce future losses or eliminate them altogether.
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The number of core systems an insurance risk pool uses can have a major impact on the level of service that members receive, as well as the pool’s ability to make the best use of staff resources. Constantly jumping between multiple systems and trying to coax Word and Excel into accomplishing tasks they were never designed to handle is a recipe for performance issues. This can limit a pool’s growth and the types of services it can provide.
Activities most impacted
While the inefficiency of using a patchwork of applications to handle core business functions cuts across a wide variety of routine tasks, several activities performed by risk pool staff are particularly susceptible.
Calculating loss ratios
Assembling the information necessary to calculate loss ratios often involves building multiple spreadsheets and transferring data from several sources via copy/paste. This highly inefficient process is prone to errors. According to the ECRI Institute report, Copy/Paste: Prevalence, Problems, and Best Practices, the familiarity of the copy/paste technique explains why it is used so often. “However,” the report warns, “with several windows open, information can easily be copied into the wrong location. Secondly, copy/paste accelerates propagation of inaccurate information. The ubiquitous use of copy/paste means that, once created, an error can rapidly spread.”
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An analysis of the 2017 Public Entity Employee Safety & Loss Control Survey by Frank Altiere III, RIMS fellow and president of PMA Management Corp., highlights the importance of strategic loss prevention. “Now more than ever, the best strategy is to take a holistic approach to risk management to prevent claims from occurring in the first place with loss control strategies,” he writes. The most successful safety strategies cited in the survey involved employee safety training and improving the safety culture.
While 3 out of 4 survey respondents indicated that they planned to conduct more training, a majority also indicated that their safety programs were either underfunded or significantly underfunded. With that being the case, it’s hardly surprising that respondents listed “Developing strong safety attitudes among managers and supervisors” as the top challenge to workplace safety.
Risk pools to the rescue
Given the desire to improve safety culture through training and the reality of shrinking budgets of members, the services of loss prevention specialists associated with risk pools are especially timely. The ability to deliver training to member organizations that may not be able to otherwise afford it is a tremendous benefit. To truly change a culture, however, it may take more than training. Fostering the engagement of employees will go a long way toward developing the strong safety attitudes members demand.
“A hallmark of a strong safety culture is employees who are engaged in safety and are empowered to advocate for a safe culture,” Altiere notes, citing studies that confirm the dramatic effect engaged employees have on safety incidents. While these benefits are well documented, the steps necessary for actually engaging employees seem far less obvious. “Keep in mind that employee engagement must be earned, and that leadership is critical to engagement,” Altiere warns.
Pairing loss prevention resources with audit technology could be the key to creating engaged employees for your members and fostering sustainable safety cultures that deliver lasting improvement.
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Deciding to implement a RMIS system or make a RMIS switch comes with a range of emotions. There’s the excitement of knowing something better is on the horizon. There’s the nervous energy that comes with major change. There may even be dread over the daunting task ahead. After all, you know your current RMIS—warts and all—and a new one takes some time to get used to. But the payoff from getting a new system that’s adaptable to your organization’s specific needs can’t be overstated.
Don’t let the fear of implementation stop you from making a change that will reap benefits for years to come. With a straightforward plan in place that plays to your organization’s strengths, you can slay the implementation dragon—and even enjoy yourself along the way. Such was the case for non-profit professional association New Mexico Counties (NMC), which teamed up with Origami Risk to complete a highly successful implementation.
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Research shows that multitasking takes a toll on productivity and heightens the likelihood of error. Multitasking: Switching costs, an American Psychological Association article, briefly summarizes academic research on the subject of what takes place when moving back and forth from one task to another, or when performing multiple tasks in quick succession. Although these measurements, or “switch costs,” are relatively infinitesimal–a few tenths of a second per switch–they are compounded when a person repeatedly moves back and forth between tasks. Eventually, these add up to result in a notable amount of wasted time.
According to the article, “multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may actually take more time in the end and involve more error. [University of Michigan professor David E.] Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” An understanding of these hidden costs can help people select strategies that improve efficiency, “above all, by avoiding multitasking, especially with complex tasks.”
Moving back and forth between legacy systems and spreadsheets in the underwriting process—activities that may have become so routine as to feel like second nature—carries its own switch costs. In this case, the costs come in the form of inefficiency and added risk that impacts both risk pool staff and members.
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It’s not exactly a secret: Regardless of size or industry, every organization stands to benefit from using automation technology to cut down on repetitive, time-consuming administrative tasks. More than simply speeding up a process or getting people to work faster, automating administrative tasks yields value by freeing up employees to focus on the aspects of their job that really matter and provide value.
Automation is wonderful. Except when it isn’t.
As covered in Behind the Hype of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), businesses can run into issues by rushing to reduce costs and improve productivity through automating processes without first evaluating their effectiveness and necessity. The benefits of automating repeatable, administrative tasks can also be lost if automation technology is too difficult to use. The result? Time that could be used performing more high-value activities winds up spent managing software.
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Data Breach Today offers predictions in What’s Ahead for Health Data Privacy, Security in 2019? While the article focuses primarily on health data, a few key trends apply more broadly and are likely to resonate with all types of organizations.
Prediction: Disruption from regulatory changes is likely
Rebecca Herold, author of 19 books on information security and CEO of The Privacy Professor consultancy, begins the list of predictions by examining the potential for agency updates to HIPAA. “Based on continued pressure from local, state and federal government agencies, law enforcement, researchers and others to ease the sharing of patient and mental health data by removing the need to obtain patient consent, I expect to see OCR issue proposed HIPAA updates,” she notes.
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For risk and safety professionals, the new calendar year brings with it a renewed focus on improving their organization’s culture of safety. Whether looking to put a new safety program in place, make wholesale changes to an existing program, or build upon previous successes, many organizations face the challenge of ensuring that their employees are fully participating in safety efforts.
A recent EHS Today article takes a look at a potential solution for involving people across an organization in this process: safety assessments.
How safety assessments differ from safety audits
To Build Safety Culture, You Must Get People Talking provides an overview of a 2018 Safety Leadership Conference session — “Distracted Drivers R US — Assessment RX for Success” — led by Walter Fluharty, vice president of EHS and organizational development at Ohio-based Simon Roofing.
Where static surveys may be seen as yet another safety-related requirement, focus group-based assessments followed by the completion of self-assessments are more likely to drive engagement and add value.
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As risk pools look to improve or add to the services provided to members, inefficient and ineffective processes always stand in the way. In many cases, inadequate technology (in the form of antiquated databases, disparate systems, and multiple spreadsheets) limits the ability of risk pools to implement change. Take, for example, the challenges associated with processes related to the calculation of members’ premium contributions, such as:
- Values and exposures collection is time-consuming for staff and members
- Historical and current loss data is not readily accessible
- Spreadsheets used to calculate premium contributions increase the risk of error and limit options for easily incorporating changes
- Visibility into the process is extremely limited for pool staff and members
The right technology can help. It should be capable of tracking and managing the exposures and loss data for all of a risk pool’s members. It should include underwriting tools flexible enough to accommodate changes in rating tables and formulas, while also being easy to use. The right solution should also provide staff and members with role-specific insight into each point in the process.
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This post was originally published on Risk Management Monitor.
Regardless of whether or not their organizations operate in states where the use of Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) has been adopted/mandated, risk managers can often leverage ODG data and the claim data from their risk management information systems (RMIS) to benchmark the medical and lost-time components of their workers compensation costs against national averages.
With its origins dating to 1995, ODG (www.mcg.com/odg) provides “unbiased, evidence-based guidelines” and analytical tools designed to “improve and benchmark return-to-work performance, facilitate quality care while limiting inappropriate utilization, assess claim risk for interventional triage, and set reserves based on industry data.”
The following are some ways risk managers can use ODG data in conjunction with their existing risk information tools to drive improvements in their workers compensation case management and achieve greater precision in loss reserve practices.
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