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Risk managers use technology to mitigate exposures

Helpful technology

Risk managers across different industries are employing a range of technologies to help manage everything from safety and regulatory compliance to claims defense, industry experts say.

From widely used tools like telematics, sensors and software to more specific solutions like cell suppression technology and mobile training, risk managers are innovating the way they approach risk in their businesses, they say.

“Telematics is very important in improving the technology on our vehicles,” said Marti Dickman, vice president of risk management for ADS Waste Holdings Inc. in Ponte Vedra, Florida, the fourth-largest solid waste company in the United States, adding that cameras now capture 360-degree video on trucks.

The video information can be helpful in the case of an incident with any vehicle, Ms. Dickman said: “It helps us to know how to begin proceeding for investigation and defense.”

“We have invested quite a bit in technology, including telematics into our vehicles, and that has been extremely beneficial,” in areas from claims management to fuel consumption, said Paul Koziatek, enterprise risk manager for a large beverage company in Tampa, Florida.

As a business with a large fleet and high-visibility brand, “being able to capture data from the new technology such as telematic cameras is extremely important in defending our claims,” Mr. Koziatek said.

Stanley Steemer International Inc. has a corporate program underway installing telematics in vehicles to track driver behavior and vehicle use, according to Eric Spalsbury, director of risk management in Dublin, Ohio. The program began in March 2018, and by this summer about half the company’s corporate fleet should be fitted with equipment, he said.

“We started with a pilot (program) and are now extending beyond that set of sites to test the potential,” Mr. Spalsbury said. “We started slow, started small, and looked at it for a while.”

Although it was originally intended to rotate the original equipment and hardware into successive sites, the program was instead expanded to new equipment acquisitions and installations because it proved its merit, Mr. Spalsbury said.

ADS is also testing cell suppression technology to help comply with the regulatory mandate prohibiting cellphone use in a commercial vehicle while in motion, Ms. Dickman said, adding that executives from the company tested the technology in their own cars. “It really is incredible; it works very well,” she said.

Sensor technology is also being deployed, sources said.

Oklahoma City has a pilot program underway to help manage and reduce certain types of injuries, according to Nick Kelly, risk manager for the City of Oklahoma City.

Using sensors from SoterSpine, part of a workforce ergonomics service offered by London-based Soter Analytics Ltd., employees’ movements are monitored in order to help mitigate overexertion-related injuries, according to Michelle Foulks, safety specialist for Oklahoma City.

The device is a 1-inch by 2-inch sensor worn on the back of a shirt collar for a duration of 15 days, during which time movements are monitored and flagged as stressful or potentially dangerous, Ms. Foulks said.

The sensors vibrate and beep to warn employees of potentially hazardous movements, and data is uploaded to an employee-accessible application where progress can be checked and that provides an individually customized three- to five-minute tutorial with recommendations to each employee, Ms. Foulks said. The employer’s management also gets the data on a dashboard, as a well as analytics from Soter.

“It gives the employee the ability to self-manage and work on making improvements to their working postures,” Ms. Foulks said.

The first group of 25 employees saw a 44% reduction in high-risk and low-risk overexertion-related movements, and the city is waiting for numbers from Soter on the second group of 25, Mr. Kelly said. “We’re literally in the middle of the project right now,” he said, adding the trial will be continued with a third group.

Implementing a modern risk management information system has allowed enhanced interaction among departments, Ms. Dickman said. “Employing that tool has been fantastic,” she said.

“We have been able to use it not just for housing our claims information, but have expanded it to include our statement of values, to allow accounting and procurement to store contracts associated with each of our facilities and locations,” Ms. Dickman said of the firm’s RMIS system. “It’s really become a repository for multiple departments. We can also interface with payroll and automate functions with our third-party administrator to exchange information,” she added.

“There’s a whole world of ERM software solutions that allow the (risk manager) to collect and manage risk information from throughout the organization and to drive adoption of ERM by the business units,” said Tom Keane, a senior manager in Accenture PLC’s insurance practice in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Mobile technology has helped enable Mr. Koziatek, he said.

“Being able to conduct basic safety and risk management training on a handheld device has been extremely positive,” Mr. Koziatek said. “The flexibility to be able to use that mobile device for learning is extremely beneficial, and we’ve had high engagement with it.”

The sales side of the large beverage company, which is almost entirely mobile, utilizes hardware and software in taking and processing orders, Mr. Koziatek said, which is at least partially driven by systems at customers, which can be large retailers and supermarkets with sophisticated inventory and purchasing systems. “If we’re not up to date with the technology our customers have, it makes it more difficult to interact with them,” he said.

Always a consideration, costs are coming down, sources said, and must be viewed against potential benefits.

The telematics systems were expensive when Stanley Steemer began its program but became much less so over time, allowing the company to expand the program to more vehicles, according to Mr. Spalsbury.

The cost associated with the device in the Oklahoma City trial was not unreasonable, Ms. Foulks said, and will be evaluated against “when you factor in your average cost for an over-exertion injury. We’re hoping to drive them down.”

“We’re definitely seeing improvements in driver behavior and fuel efficiency,” Mr. Spalsbury said, adding it is probably premature to calculate the program’s total return on investment.

Technology is even helping risk management become more proactive.

“How do we get tools and processes in place that allow us to get in front of the event?” Mr. Spalsbury said. “Now, with some of these technological tools and capabilities, we’re getting there.”

“New data-gathering and set-up tools are allowing for more sophisticated risk management and for risk management to occur earlier in the process,” said Philadelphia-based Michael Reilly, director, Accenture insurance practice.




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