I will chalk it up as a big leadership win for the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA). The Industrial Panel that drew a standing room only crowd at their recent All Committee Conference was a first of its kind for the industry – at least the first of its kind in collective memory. Most sessions at events of this sort, that involve regulator/industry interaction, are “Regulator Roundtables,” where industry representatives listen to updates from all the participating regulators, and then get to ask a few questions near the end (time allowing). This panel was completely different. A group of people representing a cross section of employers and insurance carriers spoke about issues that concern them, and the regulators were the ones to do the listening; as well as the ones who got to ask the questions.

It was a refreshing and insightful change in the world of regulator events.

Truly effective communication, after all, is a two-way street. The format used for this event was an important step in balancing the conversation between industry and the administrations that regulate their activities. Many of us attend these events because it is a great opportunity to interact with the regulators from numerous states. While these regulators are usually quite approachable, outside of some committee work and the social functions one still senses that these are their events. While industry is welcome to attend the Regulator Roundtables, it may only do so from a largely observational stance. In these forums, one may be seen, but not truly heard.

And there are concerns from industry that the regulators would benefit in hearing. That is why I was glad to see the SAWCA event get such overwhelming participation.

I would hope that the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) will follow SAWCA’s lead on this. More open lines of communication will create a better working environment for all involved, and more people on the governing side should have the opportunity to participate in this manner.

The panelists at the SAWCA Industry session consisted of representatives from two carriers, a TPA, a restaurant chain and two automobile manufacturers. They covered a wide range of topics, from jurisdictional variances to generational workplace challenges. They held the rooms attention for a reason, and I hope that this will become a regular event on the agenda at future conferences.

Kudo’s to SAWCA for following through on this innovative idea.  

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