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William Boyd is the Senior Vice President of Risk Control for CNA Insurance Companies in Chicago, Illinois. With over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Boyd manages the CNA Risk Control department, which provides companies with practical risk management solutions that help them to control loss exposures. In this interview, he discusses CNA Risk Control’s efforts to reduce and eliminate safety and health risks in the workplace, the value in building a risk control culture and the ways in which CNA’s new Operational Excellence initiative can benefit the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) profession.

Please provide a brief overview of CNA and of your responsibilities as Senior Vice President of Risk Control.

Headquartered in Chicago, CNA is the nation’s seventh largest commercial insurer and the 14 th largest property and casualty insurer. CNA provides insurance protection to more than one million businesses and professionals in the United States and worldwide, and it generates $10 billion in annual revenues. The company currently employs 11,000 people.

There are 357 employees in CNA’s Risk Control department. As head of this department, I serve as team leader. We offer a variety of services across the entire enterprise within different industries.

CNA Risk Control provides its clients with resources and services that help them to strengthen their risk management programs. What methodology does CNA Risk Control staff follow to identify, evaluate, control and eliminate occupational safety and health risks, and how has CNA Risk Control contributed to reducing companies’ accident and injury rates? Please give a few specific examples.

With respect to construction, we hire industry specialists and provide them with technical training so that they are prepared to work with our construction accounts on safety activities. We have unique training classes that address key areas of loss exposure, including fall prevention, welding, torch cutting, contractual risk transfer, trenching and shoring. We work with national construction programs in such areas as roofing and road-building to help influence risk control solutions in these industries. We also offer a fall protection school for our accounts to teach them how to best implement fall protection programs.

In what ways does effective risk control improve a company’s bottom line?

In risk control, we work to understand our accounts’ businesses and how they measure results. We evaluate loss exposure in key areas and then implement specific programs or controls to reduce exposures that affect the overall profitability of an account. For example, we worked with a wood product manufacturer that had a high frequency of manual material handling injuries. These losses greatly impacted the manufacturer’s need for higher productivity and output because they could not achieve the requirements for their desired productivity results. We worked with them to incorporate controls that made the material handling process less hazardous and more efficient and productive. By decreasing the manufacturer’s exposure to material handling loss, we also helped them to increase their productivity by 33%.

What measures must companies take to create a “risk control culture?” Why is it beneficial for companies to build such a culture?

Building a risk control culture is critical to the success of any organization. Companies must assess their own management culture and analyze how risk control is a part of it. If companies focus only on productivity and quality results, then that is what they will achieve. If they want to achieve full operational excellence, then they must include risk control to improve and to achieve overall profitability. Companies may reach their productivity and quality goals, but they may still have a high number of injuries and losses that can affect their overall profits. Many companies do not factor in risk control and its impact on their profits. A successful management team brings risk control into the entire business culture.

CNA Risk Control’s new Operational Excellence initiative helps companies to improve safety performance, reduce risk exposures, enhance productivity and increase profit potential. This approach is based on the following six steps:

  1. Performing a risk assessment to identify a client’s culture and major loss drivers.
  2. Analyzing workplace dynamics.
  3. Calculating risk priorities.
  4. Developing a business plan.
  5. Implementing an Operational Excellence model.
  6. Monitoring metrics and measures for key loss drivers and efficiencies.

How can safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals best apply the Operational Excellence approach to their practices?

SH&E professionals working within their own company should first understand their company’s business and participate in their business plans and strategies. Once they understand that, they can then analyze how exposures affect their business plans and overall profitability. They can also look at safety and risk control measures that can be used to eliminate risk exposures.

SH&E consultants can add value to customers by looking at how clients’ business operations and exposures affect their ability to maximize profitability. For example, one metalworking machine manufacturer wanted to provide safe lifting training to employees who had suffered serious back injuries and related losses. A consultant evaluated their operations and determined that the manufacturer was achieving only 75% of its productivity goal. The bending involved in picking up heavy parts caused not only back injuries, but also wear and tear on workers, decreased productivity and lost time. By implementing automated and mechanical aids into their lifting operations, we helped the manufacturer to achieve 100% of their productivity goal and to completely eliminate injuries to these workers.

The CNA School of Risk Control Excellence offers a series of free risk control education courses that are taught by CNA Risk Control consultants. What kind of response have these courses received from students, and how have these courses succeeded in helping clients to better understand risk control?

The positive response our courses have received is overwhelming. We average about 20 risk control classes per month across the United States for CNA accounts. The key to the success of these courses is that we work with CNA agents to co-brand them. Thus, by working together with our agents, we bring value to our joint accounts. On average, approximately 25 accounts participate in a class, which gives us time to work with our clients and to help them understand the topics covered. Our goal is to give our clients meaningful tools that they can take with them to implement risk control practices at their operations. We have found the school to be an effective service to our clients because unlike traditional insurance carriers that provide a list of physical inspection recommendations, we create a dialogue and work with our agents to provide our clients with useful tools that help them to reduce or eliminate their exposures.

The risk control education courses cover such topics as excavation safety, ergonomics, indoor air quality and job safety analysis. How does the CNA School of Risk Control Excellence ensure that its courses reflect the latest industry information?

At CNA, we have a highly qualified home office staff of technical experts who are involved in various national, regional and local safety and health associations as well as in standards development for different industries. We are also pleased with the opportunities available within the ASSE that allow our technical staff to participate in the development of risk control practices for the SH&E profession.

How has CNA’s Risk Control manufacturing course impacted ergonomics?

The course focuses on productivity efficiencies for the manufacturing industry. We have a staff trained in lean manufacturing and related processes so that we can more effectively work with our manufacturing accounts. Our course is based on sound ergonomic principles that reduce injury loss exposure and improve process efficiency. We assess manufacturing risks and work to integrate risk control improvements based on how our clients measure productivity in their plants. We analyze the major exposures to injury and loss and work to reduce these to help increase efficiency based on the customer’s business plans.

You have worked in the insurance industry for over 25 years. How do you feel the role of risk management within the SH&E profession has changed during this time?

The risk control and SH&E professions have evolved over the last 25 years. Personally, I see more overlap and synergy among the two disciplines. SH&E is more involved in understanding the financial measures and aspects of risk control and how it plays into a company’s SH&E goals and objective. Risk management is finance-based, but it now incorporates more SH&E exposure issues and examines how to better integrate financial risk measures into a company.

How has your experience as a professional member of the ASSE helped you in your position as Senior Vice President of Risk Control at CNA Insurance?

The ASSE is by far the leading safety and health association in terms of networking opportunities with other safety and health professionals. The contacts, committees and conferences let all of us in SH&E come together under the ASSE’s leadership and collaborate on national SH&E issues. I appreciate the chance to network with other ASSE members, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of what the society has to offer. Personally, it has put me in contact with other SH&E leaders so that we can share and develop ideas for the ongoing improvement of the profession.


William Boyd is the Senior Vice President of Risk Control for CNA Insurance Companies in Chicago, Illinois. A 25+-year veteran of the insurance industry, Boyd specializes in practical risk management solutions. His experience with the USF&G Insurance Company, the St. Paul Companies and CNA have given him insight into the property/casualty insurance industry.

Boyd holds a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee and a master of science degree in occupational health from the University of Tennessee. He is also a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and a Certified Professional Ergonomist ( CPE). Throughout his career, Boyd has actively participated in several professional organizations, including the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the National Safety Council (NSC), and he has served as co-chair of the Institute of Industrial Engineers’ National Applied Ergonomics Conference.