So Hang Up Already!
Aug 19, 2021

Texting while driving: there are more stupid activities, but it's a very short list.

We all know that, but now the stats are piling up. A new study sums it up in just a few words: "states that ban drivers' cellphone use see drop in accident deaths." Our humble journal has remarked on this issue before, but the new numbers are definitive enough to demand our renewed attention.

From the UPI summary: "States with hands-free cellphone restrictions for drivers have fewer driver deaths, a study published Thursday by the journal Epidemiology found." During the study period, 2009 to 2016, the eighteen states with comprehensive bans on distracted driving saw the number of accidents with driver fatalities drop by 7% preventing about 140 driver deaths and 13,900 driver injuries annually. Other states, without such bans, saw fatalities and injuries pretty much as usual.

We all want to be productive, get stuff done, make connections, get messages delivered, make sales, take orders and that smart phone in the car or truck represents a tremendous temptation, whether we're driving a delivery route, going to a sales presentation, or just enduring our daily commute. For us overachievers, it's like an alcoholic trying to stay on the wagon while waiting to meet someone in a bar. Just one quick call. What could that hurt?*

What are your corporate policies regarding use of a phone - calling, texting, checking social media-- while driving? Are they current? Are they enforced? What do you do in risk management if a company vehicle is involved in an accident where distracted driving by your employee was involved? Do you track this in your loss engineering reports? (Hint: the police report will tell you, so make sure you capture that information.) Are there consequences like departmental cost chargebacks?

140 deaths and 13,900 injuries - that's a lot of twisted bodies, disrupted careers, damaged families that didn't happen. Remind everyone who drives on the company dime of the words of that great loss control engineer, Tommy Lasorda**, "Baseball is like driving. It's the one who gets home safely that counts."

*Your reporter recently had to hop on a conference call while driving to Boston. Places to pull over out of the way were thin, but we found just the right spot - the parking lot of a church. Quiet and secluded on a Wednesday afternoon.
**For you young'uns, Tommy is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager (LA Dodgers, 1976 - 1996) and a pitcher. They don't make them like that anymore.


So Where Is Your CISO?

Harold Geneen, former President of ITT and the author of Synergy and Other Lies, once said, "Every company has two organizational structures: The formal one written on the charts; the other is the everyday relationship of the men and women in the organization." The question of structure is becoming a matter of concern as more and more companies create a new position of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). There is a lively debate going on right now in the pages of the WSJ and other business pubs over where the CISO fits - under the CIO, directly under the CEO or elsewhere.

Note that there is a serious issue involved in the CISO-CIO relationship which risk management should monitor: "Many candidates for CISO positions aren't interested in a job reporting to a CIO, Mr. Piacente [co-founder and managing partner at Hitch Partners] said. 'The CISO needs to be able to say this is not the way to secure our enterprise. They can't have the CIO be influential in any way,' he said." The dynamics are obviously complicated and might prevent a clear view of changing risk issues if not understood properly. This is where those everyday relations mentioned by Geneen play a vital role.

Now you can read the article in the WSJ from end to end (highly recommended) and never stumble over terms like risk management, ERM, or other references to what we do every day. The writer seems to make a tacit assumption that the CISO function has little or nothing to do with managing corporate risk. Yet "information security" adumbrates an entire galaxy of big-ticket exposures. What's wrong with this picture?

Got dots? In our checkered past as a management consultant*, we learned the virtue and magic of the dotted line on org charts. Whether or not your organization has or brings in an executive with a CISO-like title, that function resides somewhere in IT, treasury, or an adjacent sector. Our point is to remind you that, regardless of the formal chart, some form of dotted line, whether formal or under the radar, between the CISO function and risk management (those relationships again) is vital. You need a common vocabulary of exposures, mitigations, oversight - the whole apparatus of information security - to ensure an airtight fit between risks and covers, which changes in unison as systems continue to adapt to new challenges.

The CISO title is new. The problem is not, but information risk keeps getting bigger and more complex every day. You and the CISO have a great deal in common. Make friends if you have not done so already.

*This was back in the 70s before we had Powerpoint to draw nifty new org charts and had to make do with stencils and mechanical pencils, not to mention scissors and glue sticks.

One of our favorite charts - tells it like it is.


Quick Take 1:
So Shines a Good Deed...

If you are a child of the late 20th Century, you may attribute this thought to Willy Wonka, but the lines come to us from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, "How far that little candle throws his beams./ So shines a good deed in a weary world." As weary as our world sometimes seems, good deeds still happen. We've remarked on this before, but a recent report from the demon researchers at the Workers' Compensation Research Institute (free to members) lends some welcome definition to how far we've come in blunting the impact of opioids in comp.

The study looks at data from 2009 to 2018 across an array of states which have implemented various new rules and regs regarding the use of opioids in comp clinical practice. Of course, payers have also implemented new and complementary internal controls inside their claims processing and medical management routines.

The WCRI research attempts to determine the actual impacts of these changes on opioid utilization and related clinical practices state by state and how these are related to the larger topic of pain management and, ultimately, claims outcomes. While the results are uneven from state to state - this is comp, after all - they are heartening everywhere. Opioid addiction is a fearsome monster, but it can be tamed when all parties come together. This is a good point to keep in mind as we struggle with other issues in comp.

Now here's something you don't get every day. We have a summary of the study on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and enter "Effects of Opioid Policies" in the search bar - et voila! Doesn't get more convenient than this. We think this topic is worth a look because it illustrates how employers, carriers, claims processors, and regulators can work together to have a major positive impact on what initially looked like an intractable problem. This is not a story about saving a few claims dollars and improving an ROI. This is about saving lives and reducing the sum total of human misery, if only by a tiny amount.

We are not stars in the quotidian business of risk management, but once in a while, we can be that candle and we really shine. Oh, yes, we do.



Quick Take 2:
Can We All Pronounce MMI?

Time for a back to basics moment, thanks to a new publication from the winner of the longest organizational name in our industry: the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). The biggest driver of comp claims costs is resolving time loss claims. By following the tips in a new 'How-To' guide, stakeholders can have a dramatic impact on advancing return-to-work efforts among injured workers.

No magic is involved, but it's amazing how the obvious best practices can somehow get overwritten when we have a ton of claims to deal with in turbulent times. A recent IAIABC panel on this same topic provided a neat list of the usual suspects for claims dragging on to the "crack of doom."*


Unnecessary delays, often caused by systemic problems


Unnecessary duration, which may be caused by medically discretionary and unnecessary disability which usually manifest as non-clinical risk factors


Confusing process, which creates uncertainty in the mind of the worker


Unclear return-to-work expectations or plans**

A refresher on basics with you and your claims people to level set expectations as we try to climb out of the Valley of COVID might be helpful.

The IAIABC takes a lot of ribbing for their name*** but the work they do is topflight. If you're not a member, check out their website and materials. All good stuff.

*Yeah, Shakespeare again - MacBeth this time.
**Check out the excellent summary by Nancy Glover in a recent post. Hint - anything under Nancy's byline is worth reading.
***They're also known as the E-I-E-I-Oh, according to Old MacDonald.

But all the king's horses and all the king's men attempted a RTW program all the same.


Bulletin: Long COVID Update

On July 26, the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice jointly published a guidance document on Long COVID-19 as a disability under the ADA.

The guidance provides clarity on how nondiscrimination laws apply to people who may be newly covered because of the impact of a COVID-19 infection. If you have Long COVID comp claims, this is important. Among other things, it makes very clear that the ADA "interactive process" applies in RTW and/or workplace accommodation. Your claims people may have been assuming this all along, but now it's official.


Say It Isn't So...

Every year about this time, AON publishes its updated world risk map which rates the most current political/economic instability risks country by country. From the latest risk map:


The risk level for the US is up to high for the first time ever, following four years at medium, and now has all three perils in place for 2021, with the addition of the insurrection peril.

Think about that. The risk map is not political; it is an objective rating based on factors developed over many years designed to be used by insurance companies and insureds to calibrate and price certain types of risks and covers. Many of the major reinsurance carriers consult these ratings in underwriting excess risks.


Words to Remember

There could be a lesson for risk managers here, about finding ways to live with risks we can't banish or fully control, like inconvenient rain.


So, how about getting that sexy raincoat, even if you're not Scottish?


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