A Report You Need to Read
Jun 20, 2019

Hey, the folks over in HR are onto something big - and you need to know about it. UNUM, the big disability carrier, has just published its new report entitled Strong Minds at Work: The UNUM 2019 Mental Health Report. Let's start with a nice little stat: "Mental illness is one of the top causes of worker disability in the U.S. and 62 percent of missed work days can be attributed to mental health conditions." Some of those missed work days are part of workers' comp claims, folks.

Think that's not a risk management problem, buddy? Try this stat: "...among employees with a diagnosed mental health issue, 42 percent have reported coming to work with suicidal feelings." Yikes. The simple fact is that employees with serious mental issues are (a) driving big, heavy company vehicles, (b) running very sensitive and expensive machinery, (c) handling hazardous materials, (d) working with key clients and other members of the public, (e) - well, you get the idea. Not a risk issue?

From the report -

What factors do you think impact your mental well-being?
Of those with a mental health issue, a variety of triggers cause their conditions to flare up or worsen:

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16% social stress

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22% work stress

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20% physical stress

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19% financial stress

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17% work/life balance

What can you do? Well, safety and loss engineering put a great deal of work and resources into communicating safe practices and risk avoidance with employees. Perhaps you might consider making common cause with HR to help them overcome one of the most baffling and least necessary problems in combating mental illness in the workplace - silence. Let's have a couple more stats: "HR professionals say 93 percent of their employers offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), yet only 38 percent of employees say they are aware of this valuable resource. Additionally, more than half of HR professionals say they offer financial counseling, legal services and telemedicine services, but a fraction of employees say they are aware these services exist."

Would you tolerate these levels of not getting the message across where, say, wearing hardhats or understanding tag out procedures are involved? Not if you're a real risk professional. We tackle these communication issues every day and get results. Maybe helping your people know where to go when they are having issues from distracting financial problems to suicidal ideation is part of loss control too. Worth a thought?

 

Is It the Best of Times, Or...?

CNA Hardy, the Lloyd's arm of CNA Financial, has just issued a new survey of worldwide business confidence, Taking the Pulse of Global Business. The pulse is not as robust as we might expect from the usual indicators such as rates of employment, GDP, low inflation, etc. The introduction is pretty blunt: "In an increasingly complex, technology-led, interconnected global economy, business leaders are being tested like never before. The result? Confidence has dipped, investment in business fundamentals is down across the board and reputation risk is the new threat that stalks the corridors of power [emphasis added]." Compare this statement with the words concerning Social Responsibility and Social Media in our last item below.

What's going on here? CNA Hardy's survey sees business confidence and capital planning falling off in every global region other than in the Asia-Pacific. Even there, perceived risk is trending up and investment is flat. Why? The report offers two primary suggestions. First, new technology is bringing new types and levels of risk into everyday business. The Fourth Industrial Revolution opens new opportunities in finance, trade, manufacturing, et al, but it also opens the door to new types of cyber crime, as we have amply documented in these pages. As the world becomes more interconnected, the chances that hackers will pull off even more spectacular exploits also go up. These risks, in turn, drive heightened reputational risks as more massive incursions hit both headlines and bottom lines.

CNA Hardy predicts - and we tend to agree - that these changing risks are driving new ideas about risk management centered on a different meaning of P & C - prevention and cure. Looking at protection as a purely financial transaction has a limited future in the world of bitcoin ransoms, data sequestration, and fake news exploits. The old paradigm was simple - my factory burns down and the insurance company writes a big check so I can build a new one. How does that concept apply to a massive, headline making data breach and the vast disruptions of customer and vendor relationships that go with it - or does it?

If ERM is on your card, you owe it to yourself to read this new report. Even in good times, risk is taking on some ugly new dimensions and 2009 thinking almost certainly can't cope with the new hazards of 2019.

As my old Swedish grandfather used to say, "if yah tink th' answer's simple, yah dint get th'question."

 

Quick Take 1:
It's Official - "Burnout" Is a Thing... A Workplace Thing

The World Health Organization is clarifying the meaning of "burnout" in the latest revision of its International Classification Of Diseases. Specifically, WHO describes burnout as an "occupational phenomenon," not a medical condition, that results from unmanaged workplace stress.

WHO goes on to list the three characteristics of industrial burnout:

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Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

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Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to the work

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Reduced effectiveness on the job

Sound like anyone you know? WHO's action should remind all of us to take job related mental exhaustion seriously. In Japan extreme cases are called "karoshi," literally death from overwork. In Mandarin (yup, this also happens in China), the word is "guolaosi." Obviously, death is an extreme reaction to overwork, but how many otherwise ordinary industrial accidents can be traced back to the guy driving the bulldozer or operating a crane or a skinning machine or a wood mulcher spacing out?

WHO has a point. They announced in the release on burnout that they are beginning to formulate new evidence-based guidance for mental health and well-being at work. We'll be watching for further developments. In the meantime, have you factored burnout minimization/avoidance into your safety planning and training? No? Remember Captain Joe Hazelwood? He had a bad case of professional burnout. He begged his boss to give him time off to deal with it because he knew his performance was impaired. His boss didn't take it seriously, sent him back to his ship - the Exxon Valdez. You know the rest of the story.

 

Quick Take 2:
Liability - With Pictures

So what's new in liability? Our friends at Risk&Insurance, working with Liberty Mutual, have put together a neat illustration of the liability landscape in 2019. Much of it is familiar, but in some areas the emphasis is changing. "Distracted Driving" is a good example of a new feature in the liability landscape. While cell phones have been in common use for more than 20 years now, distracting people all the while, distracted driving as an acknowledged serious cause of accidents, injuries, and big settlements has only recently come to the fore.

The important point for all of us is that liability risk changes all the time. Consider the "Social Responsibility" category and the new directions in jury verdicts or "Social Media" for serious aspects of corporate liability that are mutating as we watch.

The image below is just a teaser. The actual website includes additional information (just hover over an item) and it can be magnified, er, sized appropriately for those of us with fully mature eyesight. Nice work, R&I.

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