Imagine juggling an armful of flaming
batons — all in different sizes. While
blindfolded. And hopping on one foot.
That’s what it may have felt like
a decade ago to lead the workers’
compensation program of the
Massachusetts Port Authority, which
owns and operates Boston Logan
Airport and a number of additional
airfields, as well as cargo and cruise
ship terminals, piers and real
Massport’s complex program covers
1,300 direct employees, plus hundreds
of high-risk public safety employees,
including police, firefighters and
Association (ILA) union members
working at Conley Terminal.
Every day, Massport faces issues
related to multiple labor unions, a
diverse mix of risk environments
and hazards and a variety of state
workers’ comp statutes that need to be
navigated with utmost care.
Ten years ago the authority decided
to stop juggling, and start managing —
strategically reshaping a program that
was largely fragmented.
Since then, Massport logged $21
million in savings, including more
than $2 million in medical cost savings
alone. It achieved significant reductions
in frequency, severity, lost-time days
and claims duration.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
When Frank Rivera took the
position of director, risk management
and workers’ compensation for
Massport in 2007, the program was
self-insured and self-administered
within a different authority unit
and suffered from structural
problems, administrative burdens
and decentralization. It also lacked
the resources to capitalize on cost-containment programs and drive results.
Moreover, Massport’s risk
management team struggled to
obtain excess coverage for workers’
“Workers’ compensation is an
insurance program, but Massport is
not an insurance company. We didn’t
have the tools to administrate a proper
program internally,” Rivera said.
It became clear that collaboration
would yield better results for the
program and the Authority as a whole.
Rivera led the charge to enlist the
services of a third-party administrator
(TPA), eventually selecting PMA
Management Corp. of New England.
“Partnering with a TPA freed up
resources to centralize, streamline and
better manage the whole workers’
compensation process, including
designing a new workflow to
communicate with departments and
employees.” Rivera said.
With everything under a single
workers’ compensation umbrella,
Massport eliminated a lot of confusion
and inefficiency, creating greater
transparency and communication
between units rather than being
hindered by silos.
The authority instituted
weekly meetings attended by risk
management, human resources, labor
relations and the legal and safety
departments. In addition to fostering
collaboration on existing claims, the
meeting helps keep all units focused
on how tangible and intangible
costs associated with workers’ comp
can go off the rails if not managed
appropriately, Rivera said.
Three years after the shift to a TPA,
Massport made another significant
move: transferring its program for one
group of workers from a guaranteed
cost policy to a self-insured program.
The risk management team had
been considering the move for a while.
Then the price for the guaranteed-
cost program jumped from $1.9 to
$3.9 million. The Massport team
seized that opportunity to introduce
the self-insured program — already
successfully adopted for other groups
within the workers’ comp program.
The change produced dramatic
savings, and also helped to garner
Getting It Right
Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts
Port Authority. By Katie Kuehner-Hebert
“I think the only way to have a
successful program is to view
our employees as our most
— Frank Rivera, director, risk management and
workers’ compensation, Massport
• Massport centralized a
fragmented approach to workers’
compensation and saw results.
• Claims were outsourced to the
TPA in stages.
• Weekly meetings with various
stakeholders to promote employee
wellness became the norm.
more union leadership buy-in for risk
management, Rivera said. Better still,
the self-insured program provides
more control in addressing worker
safety with the best possible methods,
Rivera said, proving that Massport can
save money while protecting workers.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Sheri Bowles, client services
manager in the Waltham, Mass.,
office of PMA, said Rivera and his
risk management team understand
that it may not be possible for a work
environment to be completely free
“Massport’s approach focuses on
both what can be done to prevent
incidents from occurring in the future
and ensuring injured workers obtain
prompt medical treatment,” Bowles
Boston’s Logan Airport is just one of the entities overseen by the risk management department for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
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