Risk Advisor, the Fund’s quarterly newsletter, provides a broad range of risk management information and brief reports on issues of current interest to members. Click on the links below to view past editions.
To help improve communication and accuracy, the Fund is making a concerted effort to update member contacts. Many times, Districts or Authorities change staff in key positions, and we are unaware.
To best serve members, the Fund seeks to maintain a contact person for invoices, alerts, questions about claims, monthly employee count, routine reporting and more. Without a contact person, we must use known relationships to seek out who to communicate with to get the desired outcome. This potentially results in delays and miscommunication.
Phishing is the most common type of social engineering attempt. It is the practice of pressuring, tempting, or manipulating people into sending information or assets to the wrong people. Social engineering attacks rely on human error and pressure/scare tactics for success. Phishing attacks come in the form of fraudulent emails, text messages, phone calls, or web sites designed to trick users into downloading malware, sharing sensitive information, or personal data (e.g., Social Security and credit card numbers, bank account numbers, login credentials), or taking other actions that expose themselves or their organizations to cybercrime.
The Fund has now completed the annual renewal process with members. As you can likely tell from your previous business and personal insurance renewals, the market for property insurance has seen significant increases in the past several years. The property market has experienced the result of inflation, supply shortages, increased construction costs, labor shortages, higher wages, more demand for construction/renovation, severe weather-related events, worldwide storm devastation, and other contributing factors. The result is higher property contributions over the previous year.
Incidents of mail theft and subsequently check fraud are on the rise. An article published the Associated Press (AP) in mid-June, confirmed that the issue was widespread. Not only widespread but also rampant. Reports of check fraud in 2022 were double what they were in 2021 (680k vs. 350k). Meanwhile, complaints of mail fraud were also double up in 2022 (300k vs. 150k in 2021).
Holding employees accountable is a supervisor function that many managers dread. Sometimes supervisors make excuses to not hold them accountable. They are going through a tough time. They are good with the clients. The situation will fix itself. They are looking for another job. They are about to retire. They might get mad. These are all excuses. When we don’t hold employees accountable it can impact the supervisor’s credibility, the team’s effectiveness and eventually impact services.
Another Texas legislative session has come to an end. On Labor Day night, May 29th, the 88th Legislature gaveled out Sine Die after 140 days. The following day, the Legislature headed into Special Session. The good news, nothing during the Special Session is expected to directly impact the Fund and its business. Even better news, there were no bills passed during the regular session that are likely to be detrimental to the Fund.
Safety committees play a crucial role in an organization’s overall wellbeing. They have a significant impact on the organizational culture, environment, and financial health. However, participating in a safety committee may not seem particularly appealing to many employees. In this article, we will explore the essential elements of a safety committee, its objectives, and the stages of development and deterioration. We will also discuss how to achieve and maintain an effective safety committee.
Artificial intelligence can be used to enhance Cybersecurity, but it also poses significant risks. The relationship between Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity is intermingled. On the one hand, AI can be used to improve cybersecurity by analyzing huge amounts of data to detect patterns and anomalies that might indicate a cyber-attack. This can include identifying suspicious network traffic, detecting malware, and identifying vulnerable systems. AI-based systems can also be used to automatically respond to cyber threats, such as by shutting down infected systems or quarantining malicious files. On the other hand, Cyber attackers can also use AI to improve the sophistication and effectiveness of their attacks. For example, AI can be used to generate targeted phishing attacks that are designed to evade detection. AI-based malware can also adapt and evolve to avoid detection by traditional security systems.
The Fund recently investigated an accident involving a large, rented vehicle. The rental company had requested “additional insured” status in their rental agreement. This request was not conveyed to the Fund and therefore we had not added the rental company as an additional insured. Any request for additional insured status made by a vendor or contractor must be approved by underwriting and added as an endorsement to your coverage. As you know, we ask that you request to be added as an additional insured under your vendor’s and contractor’s insurance policy when feasible. This helps protect you and the Fund. That is why the rental company wants the same endorsement for them. The additional insured endorsement provides coverage for the rental company as if they are insured by the coverage.
Growing up in South Texas, I didn’t have much choice as to what my opinion about safety would be. My father worked for a gas pipeline, and he was a committed advocate for taking safety precautions. Whether it was doing yard work, working on the roof, digging post holes, or doing woodwork in the garage, we had a safety conversation before and during each project.
I didn’t know or appreciate it at the time, but my father was showing me not just how to act safe, but to think safe. This was my first introduction to safety leadership and a safety mindset.
Succession planning is a vital risk management concern for any water district or river authority because it addresses one of the most important elements in managing risk to the district – Leadership. Effective leadership recognizes risk to the district, establishes expectations for mitigating risk, and helps insure the effective and continuing functioning of the district. After all, effective risk management means that the district can accomplish its mission for the many clients it serves in its community.
88th Texas Legislature
The Texas Legislature is considering legislation to establish a large grant program to fund water districts in Texas needing to repair aging and deteriorating infrastructure, build new infrastructure, and develop new sources of water.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be permeating our technology and software. Observers say that we are in a period of AI break-out with new products and programs emerging at a rapid pace. In most cases it makes things work quicker and better. Despite the warnings that AI could take over the world and lead to human subservience or destruction, it is here to stay. Water districts and authorities are now employing software systems that incorporate aspects of artificial intelligence. New programs like chatbot can answer questions, write student papers, and create volumes of documentation in minutes.
As part of the TWCARMF Cyber Risk Control Program, an IT Risk Control Assessment is used to identify gaps in controls and processes. It is an important “self-scouting” procedure in which all IT environments should partake.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, Texas experiences the most impactful hail events every year in the United States. Numbers compiled in their study showed that Texas averages 676 events per year. An impactful event is described as a system that produces hail with a diameter of one inch or larger (https://www.iii.org/table-archive/22795). Every Spring, the state experiences a barrage of severe weather systems that bring flooding, high winds, and hail. When these systems blow in, we hope that our buildings and fleet make it through unscathed. There are, however, risk management techniques that can be utilized to protect them and ensure that they do. In this article, we will discuss the importance of selecting the correct roofing materials, as well as, utilizing an emergency action plan to protect your fleet.
Community Centers, like Water Authorities and Districts, as units of local government are afforded protection from lawsuits under the Texas Tort Claims Act. Water authorities and districts are granted immunity from suit unless an individual is injured by tangible property owned by the authority or district.
The Texas Water Conservation Association Risk Management Fund (TWCARMF) is hosting, at no cost to its members (non-members are not eligible to attend), Regional Safety Seminars to provide practical solutions to reduce accidents, injuries, and resulting losses.
While many districts and authorities have either an attorney on staff or retainer, not all have the budget to do so. Even if the district/authority has a lawyer, they may focus more on corporate law, contracts, legal rights and duties, and the responsibilities of corporate officers. What if you need someone experienced with governmental entities or employment law?
Hiring and retaining quality employees is a very important role that District Leaders must fulfill. Many leaders are having difficulty getting qualified candidates to apply and accept open positions. Currently, some districts are providing services with a staffing deficit. Many have vacancies for months and struggle to get an adequate applicant pool of qualified candidates.
This is the second of a three-part series regarding Disaster Planning. In part two, we will discuss documentation of the plan and buy-in from management and colleagues.
You want to improve your organization’s safety program; however, you feel like you have hit a plateau. No matter your efforts, you still see the same type of accidents show up. You send out safety alerts and conduct quarterly trainings for all employees. Management is actively involved. These are all great qualities of an effective safety program. Now our dilemma is creating interest and buy-in to reduce the accidents that effect the safety numbers year in and year out. This is where an incentive-based safety program can take us over the top.
Workers’ Compensation, Liability and an Overall Excellence in Risk Management Winners in each category are selected based on their overall claims experience in comparison to all other members of the Fund.
Insurance renewal season for the Fund is coming fast. As you can likely tell from your previous business and personal insurance renewals, the market for property insurance has seen significant increases in the past several years. The property market has experienced the result of inflation, supply shortages, increased construction costs, labor shortages, higher wages, more demand for construction/renovation, local weather related, worldwide storm devastation and other contributing factors. The result is higher contributions over the previous year.
We know that our safety efforts can help control the frequency of employee accidents, but did you know those efforts can also control claim costs?
One of the most effective tools of risk management is to transfer recognized risk to someone else. Fund members usually do this in two ways. One way is through coverage and the other is through contracts with contractors and vendors. Coverage transfers the risk of loss or damage to the member’s people, customers, property or equipment to the Fund. The coverage documents of the Fund pay for many of the risks of loss for worker or customer injury, damage to vehicles, equipment or property and employment or governance matters. Jointly the members of the Fund pay for the transfer of risk by paying claims with contributions the members pay, reinsurance and if necessary, the accumulated assets of the Fund.
As you have probably heard, the Fund is shifting to a new claims system, JURIS. JURIS is a product of Sedgwick. Previously, the Fund’s claims system was YCEa, a product of York. The Fund made a shift to JURIS on September 1, 2022. The reconciliation of all data from the old claims system was completed on September 26th and the new claim system became fully functional.
If you have felt the need to provide specific training for your staff but do not know where to look, the TWCARMF Loss Control Staff has a wide variety of training presentations available. Below is a list of the frequent topics requested by Fund members. All are available as an in-person or webinar-based training.
This is the first part of a three-part series regarding Disaster Planning. In part one, we will discuss the Technology Asset Inventory and its role in Disaster Planning.
When a water district considers new construction to help meet the needs of its growing population and demand for water there are some important factors to consider. The planning and design process before construction begins is one. The choice of an architect, engineer, and contractor is another. The contract document and its important insurance requirements is the third consideration. This article will explore risk management issues that should be addressed during the planning process and as work with your architect and contractor begins.
An essential aspect of a successful safety program is knowing where your claims are coming from. Through claims analysis, you can identify prevalent and costly accident types, the need for an update in training material, or the need to refine aspects of the safety program. The monthly claims reports that TWCARMF sends to its members at the beginning of each month provides that insight. The question is, are we utilizing the tools given to us?
The Winter Storm in February 2021 served all of us with a big reminder that Mother Nature can inflict her wrath at any moment. The storm caused power and water failures that lasted for days in some areas of the state, due to an overwhelmed power grid. This caused many of our members to scramble to protect employees and property. When the temperatures began to rise above freezing, a good number of Fund members were tasked with addressing pipe breaks. However, this only caused them to join the millions of Texans who were scrambling to find supplies and address the problems. The magnitude of “Snowmageddon” caught all of us by surprise and taught us all a valuable lesson on preparations for future storms.
The expense associated with insurance coverage for companies is an unavoidable “cost of doing businesses” which affects all Fund clients. While we work diligently to get the best value in terms of rates, it is not always enough.
Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 164,000 emergency room visits, and 300 deaths are caused by falls from ladders per year, most are from less than ten feet. In most cases, ladders are used improperly due to individuals being in a hurry or just not having the right equipment available.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it makes sense to wonder: Should America be worried about cyberattacks right now? A variety of attacks and scenarios are a possibility.
Security at water districts and authorities has always been an issue that districts and authorities have addressed for the protection of water supplies and treatment. With incidents of active shooter and violence directed at staff, security is receiving even closer scrutiny.
Recent declarations of “critical fire danger” and red flag warnings are valuable alerts from the National Weather Service that wind, humidity, and drought conditions can result in uncontrollable wildfires anywhere in Texas. We readily think of forest fires like the 25,000-acre fire near Bastrop in 2011 that destroyed almost 2,000 homes and killed two people. But we need to expand that awareness to encompass wildfires in the Hill Country, the Panhandle, North Texas, or wherever conditions are ripe.
In 2020, there was an accident on Texas roads every one minute and seven seconds (TXDOT). This stat has held true for the past decade. In fact, in some years, accident frequencies have been under one minute. You could attribute this to how many miles of road are in Texas, but we also have to account for how many miles our employees drive every day and how much that adds up in a year.
Nothing arouses passions in Texas more than water. As the old saying goes “whiskey is for drinkin’; water is for fightin’”. In the broad scope of things, the fights over water usually take place in courts or the legislature. Water rights, water availability, access to water, wasting water, and conserving water all can elicit vigorous and even violent responses. Sometimes a few of these fights make it to the local water district level but usually in board hearings about regulations or board actions like bid awards, permit applications, or eminent domain. These actions rarely result in real violence except, perhaps, verbally. However, water districts and authorities in Texas are not immune to workplace violence that can result in verbal abuse and physical attack.
Builders Risk insurance is a property coverage for buildings under construction. Builders Risk provides many of the same coverages that the Fund provides to the district’s or authority’s owned buildings. The coverage is usually provided on an “all risk except what’s excluded” basis so most of the perils that cause damage to property already constructed are also covered under Builders Risk.
Ransomware attacks are increasing in frequency, and the repercussions are growing more severe. Ransomware attacks cost companies billions of dollars a year. Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents you from accessing your computer (or the data that is stored on it). The computer itself may become locked, or the data on it might be stolen, deleted or encrypted. Some ransomware will also try to spread to other machines on the network, such as the WannaCry malware attack in 2017. An overwhelming majority of ransomware attacks now include a threat to publicly disclose stolen data if the ransom isn’t paid. This adds a second level of extortion as an attempt to guarantee that the ransom is paid.
Recently, there has been some union activity at entities in the risk pools. All governmental entities in Texas are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act and the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB). The NLRB also does not have jurisdiction over entities of local government or entities that do not engage in interstate commerce. See, 29 U.S.C. § 152 (2) and) (3) (defining “employer” and “employee” to exclude governmental entities and employees of governmental entities).
The winter storm of February 2021, which caused water damage to property for many of our members, highlighted the need to have a plan of action in place when it comes to hiring a water mitigation company. The sheer scope and breadth of that storm, which impacted the entire state of Texas, created unprecedented problems. Namely, the difficulty in finding available contractors due to the high demand for their services. Hopefully, that was a once in a lifetime event. Barring a statewide catastrophic event, it pays to know your water mitigation contractor before disaster strikes.
Supervising/managing employees can be a difficult task especially for water districts and authorities. Events of the past two years have complicated this even more. From hiring to termination, supervisors/managers have had to learn new practices and technology to survive in this new environment. Although some supervisors already managed remote field staff, the landscape of how we operate and supervise has changed for almost every leader.
Often our successes are dependent on our energy levels and our overall well-being, and our energy levels and well-being are contingent on how well we treat ourselves. Have you set yourself up for success in the office? Are you taking care of yourself at work? Take a look around your workstation. Is it arranged to support neutral postures and good body mechanics? If not, you could be making yourself tired and wearing yourself out just sitting at your desk! Let’s talk about managing your workstation to your advantage.
A company’s safety culture is only as strong as the effort everyone puts into it. No one wants their employees to get injured but just hoping it does not happen is not enough. It starts with upper management’s commitment to the safety committee and their support of the safety committee. If the commitment is strong, the committee’s efforts will be strong, and you will see an improved safety culture. An effective safety committee can help create a safer work environment, improve communication on safety related topics, reduce lost time accidents, and raise employee morale.
To further assist Members of The Texas Water Conservation Association Risk Management Fund, the “Fund” is offering legal consulting assistance available to members of the Fund’s Liability Program. Members have access to attorney Joel Geary (and his designated partners) to ask legal questions on potential liability matters. This support is offered as a liability loss prevention measure. There is no additional charge to members to consult with Mr. Geary. This service is intended to complement, not replace, members’ local counsel.