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Economic Recovery Happens And Learning Curve Kills (Literally)


Economic Recovery Begets The Learning Curve Dark Side

The economic recovery may happen soon – or then again possibly not for a long time.  One of the most ignored equations or proved theories is the Learning Curve.  In my actuarial degree, this was one of the glossed over management equations that should have been held up to the light, in my humble opinion.

Digraph of Economic Recovery Learning Curve
Wikimedia Commons – Alanf777

I posted on the learning curve at length in the past.   You may want to use the search box in the right margin to search for my posts on the learning curve.  I thought it would be a well-placed reminder.

One of the banes of Risk Mangers and Safety Officers is when employees use a machine or performs a process for the first time.  The likelihood of injury spikes off the charts for that first time.  These injures (some fatal) often occur in the same manner as riding a bicycle.   I still have skinned knee scars from the first time I rode a motorcycle.

Picture Of Weather forecast Economic Recovery Hurricane Hugo
Wikipedia Commons – NOAA / Satellite and Information Service

The safety and risk related learning curve is not very easy to find.  Every resource on it refers to how fast an assembly line will speed up over time with a set of new workers.  The Boston Consulting Group came up with the learning curve in an academic form.  Ford Motor Company had applied the learning curve to Model T production.

I used to call it the Hurricane Hugo phenomenon.  Many workers (some very inexperienced) came into the Charleston and Low Country part of South Carolina in 1989.  Construction companies hired employees by the busload.  The need for very rapid reconstruction of many island homes was at critical mass.

The first reports of injury from construction related businesses in Charleston spiked for approximately three months.  Most of the first reports indicated the injuries occurred with new construction employees at an alarming rate.  Chainsaw and lumber saw injuries – most very severe- were very common.   Check out degloving hand injuries to see one of the more common saw injuries.

I usually do not use Wikipedia as a source.  The learning curve that resembles the reduction of injuries per person-hours is best shown here.   These curves are actually unit cost per level of production, but with a little imagination, one can see the same effect.

What can a safety or risk manager do to combat an almost uncontrolled phenomenon?  One method may be to remember that even a very experienced employee may still have the learning curve effect if they have been out of work for quite a long time.

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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