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Michael Murray is the Director of Technical Services, Casualty Risk Control for Aon Risk Services, Inc. in New York. In this interview, Murray explains the methods used to develop multidisciplinary risk management strategies, and he draws on his experience as a safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professional (within both the public and private sectors) and as an ASSE Chapter President to illustrate the relationship between return on investment (ROI) and effective SH&E management.

Please provide a brief overview of Aon Risk Services, Inc. and of your responsibilities as Director of Technical Services, Casualty Risk Control.

Aon Risk Services, Aon’s risk management and insurance brokerage arm, provides clients from all industry sectors with comprehensive risk management solutions, including exposure identification, insurance placement, claims management, risk control and administrative services. Aon has a network of claims and risk control professionals who are strategically located and dedicated to partnering with clients. These risk professionals provide customized risk assessments and solutions that reduce clients’ cost of risk while increasing their efficiencies and profitability. As director of Technical Services, Casualty Risk Control, I direct a staff of degreed and board-certified risk control consultants and offer direction, support and resources to our clients’ risk management strategies. I work with my team to ensure that clients’ risk reduction goals and objectives are met appropriately and that our services exceed their expectations.

What methods do you use to develop a multidisciplinary risk management strategy? How do these methods vary from case to case?

Understanding the many roles we must balance each day to achieve a reduction of risk or, for that matter, any results in today’s fast-paced business arena requires input and support from multiple disciplines within an organization. A multidisciplinary risk management strategy must begin with an understanding of the organization, its people, structure, philosophy and culture. In this process, we analyze existing risk management pre- and post-loss protocols, actual and potential loss experience and baseline site assessments within strategic business units, which all help us to establish the framework for a strategy that effectively manages risk. This strategy positions our consultants to identify exposures and current controls and to propose cost-effective recommendations. We develop recommendations through a process of gap analysis with relevant industry best practices. These methods vary just as the appetite for risk varies by industry and client. A daycare center and a nuclear power plant both have the inherent risk of causing harm to our children. Each would require background checks on staff, however, the types of checks and results would differ based on acceptable hiring practices at the day care center and at the nuclear power plant.

You coordinate teams of degreed and board-certified risk control consultants to provide direction, support and resources to clients’ risk management strategies. When coordinating these teams, how do you ensure that their experience and qualifications best fit clients’ needs?

This is most effective when we have the opportunity to evaluate the client’s needs before we accept the project. Our consultants average over 20 years experience in various industries, and more often than not, they have experience with a similar client or contact in a like company. When undertaking large global deployments or when a higher level of skill sets are needed such as ergonomics or business continuity planning, we draw on our network of consultants to access the specific capacity to handle client needs without geographical or business unit barriers. Thus, we can offer clients our “best in front.”

In your current position at Aon Risk Services, Inc., you service and work with a number of clients. Please describe the data you have seen that address return on investment (ROI) for safety, health and environmental (SH&E) management within the organizations with which you work.

Today’s business culture demands ROI—it is a differentiator. Organizations can demonstrate that they understand ROI and can build it into their business model to lead their industries with a distinct competitive advantage. Prospects and clients ask what the ROI is up front. As part of the Request for Proposals (RFP), we are asked to demonstrate with client examples where we have provided ROI through our consulting approach. Most clients ask for it, but not all understand the value that risk control brings to an organization. This is changing. One client, with an understanding of how improved safety, claims management and ergonomics can improve the bottomline, asked for a proposal based on a 35% reduction in annual average workers’ compensation costs. Not only was this achieved, but they experienced a 31% increase in sales per employee.

The concept of SH&E standards seems to be growing worldwide, but it appears to be stagnant in the United States. Are your clients interested in global safety and health standards? If so, what drives their interest?

Cost of risk drives our client’s interest in a global approach to SH&E standards. Cost of risk, which is the cost of insurance and costs associated with preventing and managing accidents and injuries, has a direct impact on the revenue-generating purpose of global business. Our clients understand that their success depends on local results, and as such, we are able to provide local resources to support our clients globally. Aon’s resources compliment an operation’s methodology through the use of proven tactics that drive safety as part of the process rather than as an add-on expense, as some companies believe today.

Aon Risk Services, Inc. has expertise in such industries as aviation and aerospace, chemical, construction, healthcare, maritime, natural resources, railway and trucking. How does Aon evaluate SH&E risks when working with these industries?

Understanding the industry is critical in evaluating risk, but the process does not change. Risk evaluation needs to be a systematic approach that assesses operations, loss history, the safety and claims management process, asset protection protocols and opportunities for improvement. This includes meeting with key stakeholders to develop a working knowledge of the operations and processes so that exposures can be effectively anticipated and addressed. In addition, we must understand the organization’s operating structure, which allows us to develop implementation strategies for personnel who are responsible for risk control and claims management and are able to drive change in the process. Finally, our consultants must understand the organization’s culture to ensure that valid recommendations and action plans are developed to increase the likelihood of implementation as intended.

How do comprehensive risk management process assessments specifically benefit those in the SH&E profession?

Today’s SH&E professionals can receive numerous benefits from risk management process assessments, but they can most benefit from the level within the organization that usually conducts them. When assessing risk in a holistic manner, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) most often leads the organization. Most SH&E professionals do not need a CFO to tell them where there is exposure for accidents or injuries, but they all need a CFO to approve their budgets for the corrective actions needed to eliminate or to manage the exposure. This can be the difference in what we call “management commitment,” as demonstrated with financial support rather than with just a signature at the bottom of a policy statement.

During the early to mid-1990s, you worked as a Safety Inspector for the New Hampshire Department of Labor and as an Environmental Aide for the Nashua, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Health. How did your experience in these positions help you to gain perspective on occupational SH&E risks versus public SH&E risks?

My most memorable experience as a SH&E professional was my time as a member of the “Rat Patrol” for the city of Nashua, New Hampshire. During this time and subsequently in my position as a Safety Inspector with the Department of Labor, I began to understand the impact and vast opportunities that today’s SH&E professionals have not just on individual workers and their families, but on corporations, communities and ultimately our economy. I believe that no matter what type of business interests you—entertainment, financial services, transportation, utilities, etc.—SH&E professionals can make a difference. This variety allows SH&E professionals to choose jobs that they enjoy doing everyday—providing safe workplaces so that mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters can go home in the same condition in which they left, all while increasing the profitability of business and industry.

You are a former President of the ASSE’s Greater Boston Chapter, and you have recently been elected President of the ASSE’s Metropolitan Chapter in New York City. In what ways do you believe your extensive risk management experience will help you to be an effective leader of the Metropolitan Chapter? Alternatively, how has your involvement in the ASSE helped you in your career at Aon Risk Services, Inc.?

I am extremely fortunate to have been impacted by the many concerned men and women of the ASSE who have given their time and experience to advance others. Through this support and guidance, I have been privileged to serve the members of the oldest and second oldest ASSE chapters. Active involvement in the ASSE has provided me the opportunity to develop my budgeting, team building, strategic planning and resource management skills, and most importantly, to impart this knowledge to the business and industry community. Each of these skill sets laid the foundation for my success as a consultant, a business development leader and in my current role as regional director for Aon. Conversely, the risk management discipline has given me a process to undertake challenges focused on established goals and objectives, prioritization and execution. These challenges include understanding the vast knowledge base that chapter members possess, their collective and individual needs to enhance their knowledge and how to prioritize these needs and execute a plan that fosters the growth of future professionals and the continued growth of our profession.

Biography

Michael Murray is the Director of Technical Services, Casualty Risk Control for Aon Risk Services, Inc. in New York. In this position, Murray coordinates teams of risk control consultants to provide direction, support and resources to clients’ risk management strategies. He also conducts comprehensive risk management process assessments, develops and implements multidisciplinary risk management strategies to control uninsurable risk and manages and monitors client services to control the cost of risk.

Murray has worked as a consultant and senior consultant within Aon’s Technical Services, Casualty Risk Control department, and he has served as Assistant Director of the Technical Services, Business Development group as well. Prior to his experience with Aon Risk Services, Inc., Murray was a Safety Inspector for the New Hampshire Department of Labor. This role allowed him to perform inspections of public and private employers for occupational safety and health compliance, help employers to develop safety programs and committees, create and lead safety training seminars on workplace safety regulations and investigate occupational accidents and injuries. Other positions Murray held while in New Hampshire include Environmental Aide for the Department of Environmental Health in Nashua, Fire Prevention Coordinator for Keene State College in Keene and Loss Prevention Representative for Liberty Mutual Insurance Group’s Bedford location.

For one year, Murray was the Project Manager for Northern Illinois University’s Office of Ergonomics and Safety (College of Engineering and Engineering Technology), and he worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. He is also a certified trainer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Murray is a member of the Safety Executives of New York, Inc., the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and has been active in the Risk and Insurance Management Society and the National Safety Council (NSC). In 1998, he was the first person to receive the ASSE’s Foundation Graduate Studies Scholarship.

Murray holds an associate of science degree in chemical dependency and a bachelor of science degree in occupational safety both from Keene State College in New Hampshire. He also holds a master of science of degree in industrial management from Northern Illinois University.