Risk managers have more than their share of challenges as they strive to keep loss costs down and employees safe, but topping the list of what keeps them awake at night are rising medical costs, followed (distantly) by the threat of pandemics, according to a series of industry surveys recently conducted by Specialty Risk Services (SRS), a property-casualty third-party administrator for workers’ compensation and liability claims.

While 52 percent of respondents worry about rising medical costs, 12 percent ranked pandemics as their biggest concern, the survey found. Privacy issues and unhealthy employees tied for third with six percent each. However, looking ahead five years from now, SRS said that risk managers’ worries shift to talent management and an unhealthy employee population, which topped the list of biggest future concerns at 37 percent, followed by rising medical costs at 34 percent.

In fact, 59 percent of industry professionals say they consider overweight employees to be at greatest risk for workplace injuries in the future followed a far second by depressed employees at 20 percent and the aging workforce at 13 percent, the study concluded.

According to a release, SRS surveyed current clients and a sampling of industry professionals, asking participants about their biggest worries both today and in the future. The surveys were part of an extensive research and education project called, “Workforce 2020: Are You Ready for the Future?”, which included roundtable discussions with clients, and a series of speaking engagements at several national industry conferences about the challenges risk managers face now and in the next two decades in terms of immigration trends, population spurts, and demographic shifts nationwide.

Interestingly, the survey found that more than 51 percent of those questioned expect their workforce to increase over the next 24 months. When asked by SRS if they had strategies in place to tackle workforce challenges of the future, 47 percent said they have some plans in place for future; however, only nine percent strongly agreed that their company was prepared with workforce planning strategies in place.

In terms of return-to-work challenges, SRS clients said motivating an employee to come back to work following an injury ties with motivating supervisors to play a critical role in the process. Both received 33 percent of the vote. Lack of transitional duties fell second at 23 percent. SRS is currently conducting a targeted survey on Return to Work and the best practices used by clients, and the results are expected by the end of the 2nd quarter 2007.

More information is available at www.specialtyriskservices.com.

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