Are You Getting Older?
Mar 2, 2017

Congratulations. With enough time and dedication, you too may join the aging workforce. A recent blog offers some suggestions for how to keep older workers safe in the workplace. The checklist is fairly short and uncomplicated. A few examples:

  • Keep the workplace neat and clean. Tripping over a wrench that shouldn't have been left on the floor in the first place is a bigger deal when you're 58 than 28.
  • Provide a few simple workplace modifications like well-designed tools actually made for the human hand.
  • Turn the lights up. As we get older, our eyes actually admit less light so we need a few more lumens to see our work.
  • Turn the noise down. No one's hearing improves with age. (Yes, your mother was right 40 years ago about all that loud music.) Reducing unnecessary background noise helps older employees communicate more effectively.

Nothing here is difficult or expensive. As the author, Michael Stack, points out, "making some common-sense changes with the help of employees at all levels of the organization is an easy way to prevent injuries among all workers, especially older ones." Simple as that.


We have featured ransomware in the Journal before, but it is now achieving new heights/depths and merits another look. Check out this recent item from Advisen's Front Page News service. A clever hacker used ransomware to lock all the doors at a resort hotel in Switzerland at the height of ski season and asked for ransom in the form of bitcoins. With guests (who were paying hundreds of Euros a day) now locked out of their rooms, the manager promptly caved. Bitcoins it is. 

Why should you care? Well, any electronic system in your operation that's connected in any way to the internet, that is, the much ballyhooed Internet of Things (IoT), can be attacked in much the same way. Hospitals were a favorite early target of these slime molds with laptops. Now they are attacking a much wider range of targets across the IoT. Even local police departments have been held for ransom by hackers in Eastern Europe. And don't forget that your IoT components are no more secure than the vendors who also access them for maintenance, upgrades, web calls, etc.

Start thinking about the IoT as a risk manager if you are not already. What elements of your organization are vulnerable? Could a hacker shut down (a) a production control system, (b) your master inventory system, (c) your dispatching system, or (d) your HR system? What happens when your HR master system is shut down and no one gets a paycheck until you fork over X thousands of bitcoins? Is that even covered under any of your insurance programs? Sure?

Welcome to the 21st Century where we have risks beyond imagining.


An article from the current issue of The British Medical Journal (The BMJ) underscores something all of us laboring in workers' compensation have always known. Now we have scientific evidence to support our theories. The research study in question looked at the sexy topic of inter-rater reliability concerning disability evaluations. That is, they asked the question: if we give a number of different expert disability evaluators the same packet of clinical files to rate for the degree of disability of the claimant, how often do they agree? In short, not very.

The authors performed a meta-study which combined the results of a number of different but similar research projects from various parts of the world, so the results speak very broadly to the question of how reliable disability evals may be, but the study did not focus on US workers' comp specifically.

The conclusions? "Current evidence regarding reliability of disability evaluation is limited and shows highly variable agreement between medical experts. Higher agreement seems to be associated with the use of a standardized approach to guide judgment and studies in a research (manufactured) setting."

In other words, with the exception of some evals which used highly standardized methods and materials and those eval studies conducted in laboratory conditions, the results were all over the place. The issues we have every day concerning "dueling doctors" disagreeing about comp claims and degrees of impairment are endemic to the task and not specific to US comp practices. Determining how "disabled" a given person is turns out to be hard to do, regardless of the system used or the country involved, unless the process is well standardized and "guides" the clinical expert through the steps and definitions involved.

This suggests that anything the claims manager can do to make the evaluation task as "crisp" as feasible may help to dampen the fires of litigation.


The good people of Oklahoma now have some sort of good news about how newer structures are faring in their shakey-quakey state. An article in the Tulsa World newspaper looks at how new construction built to current International Building Code (IBC) or its residential construction companion (IRC) stood up to the 623 magnitude 3.0+ quakes in 2016, including the 5.8 Pawnee temblor. The news is good. Structures following the recent code requirements have suffered minimal damage. Losses and injuries have been primarily due to older structures, especially masonry and brick veneer buildings.

The lesson for risk managers is obvious. The modern IBC and IRC codebooks work but structures built to earlier codes (or before codes were even thought of) are another matter and may present severe or unacceptable risks across several lines of coverage. That could be a shake-out you don't want.



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