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If Congress hadn't passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, Warren C. Perkins Jr. might be working in psychology.
It was shortly after passage of the landmark legislation that Mr. Perkins' podiatrist father heard from a patient who worked in education that safety management was becoming a hot new area of study thanks to the law's enactment.
As a result, Mr. Perkins, who had been studying psychology, switched to occupational safety and health administration.
The change in direction came at a busy point in his life. After marrying at 18, Mr. Perkins went to work at a variety of jobs, including time as a longshoreman and then as a psychiatric technician, where he worked nights at a hospital and went to college during the day. "I slept when everybody else was awake. It was a very odd life," Mr. Perkins said.
After gaining an associate degree, he started on his safety career in 1974 by working as a safety representative for Gray & Co. Inc., a local managing general agent. There he handled several, mostly construction-related, accounts and provided inspection and safety training services. Coincidentally, one of his largest accounts was Boh Bros. Construction Co. L.L.C.
He then held several other safety and insurance-related jobs before becoming risk manager for Boh Bros. in 1986 (see box).
In the meantime, he continued to attend school at night, first to obtain his bachelor's degree and later to obtain his master's in business administration.
At Boh Bros., he began working with Robert Boh, who then was being groomed to take over as head of the family construction company, to implement a significantly more sophisticated risk management program.
One of the first changes was bringing in a third-party administrator, F.A. Richards & Associates Inc. of Mandeville, La., which enabled Boh Bros. to take greater control of its claims process, rather than simply pass claims on to its casualty insurer, American International Group Inc.
Among other things, Mr. Perkins orchestrated preferred provider discounts, medical bill review programs, nurse case management providers and precertification policies, all of which have helped reduce the cost of workers compensation claims at Boh Bros.
"We haven't had an experience modifier of greater than one for at least 14 years," Mr. Perkins said. "We have a good loss-control program and we keep our people, so the people that are in supervisory positions are the same people that have been around for 20 years," and that consistency in personnel and safety practices has helped keep comp claims low, Mr. Perkins said.
He also established in-house claims management capabilities manned by a full-time claims manager, Jeff Clement, and implemented an in-house litigation management program that included developing a panel of attorneys who work closely with Boh Bros. staff to track and resolve claims.
In addition, Mr. Perkins took greater control of the renewal process for Boh Bros. property/casualty and other insurance placements. Prior to his appointment, a local agent had acted as the firm's liaison with its broker, Marsh Inc. However, when the agent retired in 1987, Mr. Perkins took over responsibility for the placement process.
"I got a lot of self-education on the job through (the International Risk Management Institute) and (the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.). I had the safety background, the claims background. I had the business degree, but I really didn't have a lot on intricate insurance coverage, so I learned that on the job," he said.
Several years later, after Boh Bros. had grown from a company that focused mainly on Louisiana to one that took on projects throughout the Gulf Coast, Mr. Perkins issued a request for proposal to most of the large insurance brokers in the area. In 1998, Boh Bros. moved its account to Willis Group Holdings Ltd., which remains the company's broker for casualty and builders risk programs.
As Boh Bros. expanded, Mr. Perkins also expanded its coverage resources by joining a rent-a-captive, Hamilton, Bermuda-based Universal Re-Insurance Co. Ltd., about five years ago. The company has used the rent-a-captive to build up a loss fund for subcontractor default coverage, among other things.
The facility has grown to a sufficient size that Boh Bros. is "kicking around" the idea of setting up a full captive, he said. "We've gotten to the point where it would be viable. But we are still happy with our arrangement with Universal Re."
Mr. Perkins has also worked to purchase additional coverage as Boh Bros. has grown as a company.
"We had a design staff when I started, but it was very minor and they didn't even buy insurance. Then, when I came on and they started expanding and I started having more influence, I started promoting that they need to buy insurance, and that has evolved significantly," he said.
So Boh Bros. now buys professional liability insurance, including pollution coverage, through AIG units.
In addition, Mr. Perkins expanded the amount of excess liability coverage that the company buys. When he arrived at Boh Bros., it bought only $2 million in limits in the hard market of the mid-1980s, but since then he has expanded the limits to $75 million, with AIG remaining the lead insurer.
One thing that hasn't changed is Boh Bros.' surety bond provider, which has remained the same company for the past 70 years. For most of those years, it was known as Fidelity & Deposit Cos., but today it is an integrated part of Zurich Financial Services. Boh Bros. deals directly with the insurer.
Outside of work, the 55-year-old is a keen golfer, so much so that he now lives in a house that backs onto a golf course. Although his house was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina, it was finally restored fully about six months ago. Once more, he is able walk out of his back yard and practice his chipping and putting on the 14th green.
His wife of 37 years, Barbara, was a legal secretary, but became a post-Katrina retiree and spent much of her time after the storm as the family's "construction manager" overseeing restoration of their home.
The Perkins have three children: Kelly, 36, who has three children of her own, including twins; son Adam, 25, who works in automotive marketing; and daughter Casey, 17, who is still at home.