The Weekly Thought

Loss Control and Face Masks, Social Distancing, Vaccinations, etc. in the era of Covid-19

Although I have worn many hats during my insurance and risk management career, Loss Control professional is not one of them. That said, I have worked alongside such professionals throughout my career and can count at least a few of them as friends.

I came across an interesting window sign taped to the front plate glass window of a local business, which ended up being circulated locally via Social Media. Essentially the sign requires face masks on customers without excuse in return for service, claiming that the requirement is not political, just basic health and safety.

My question here for my loss control and safety professional friends is this, even with the disclaimer why does a stance like this create a political question?

According to IRMI, Loss Control is defined as “a risk management technique that seeks to reduce the possibility that a loss will occur and/or reduce the severity of those that do occur. Also known as risk control or safety.”

Many similar definitions of loss control exist. Google shows about 118,000,000 entries for insurance loss control. None of the definitions of loss control that I have come across over the years ever claim that loss control practices completely eliminate the risk. Loss control attempts to reduce the frequency and/or the severity of loss. Sounds to me like what face masks and social distancing practices, with eventual vaccinations seek to accomplish. Risk reduction, mitigation.

While holding a simple non-medical disposable face mask in his hand, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified to Congress last week regarding the use and efficacy of face masks, as reported by Fox News on September 16, as well as was reported by probably all other news outlets:

“These actually, we have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense.” Further:
“I might even go so far as to say this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity might be 70%, and if I don’t get an immune response the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will.”

Clearly Dr. Redfield also included vaccination, when available, as a part of his personal risk management plan. Note carefully that he did state that vaccinations are not 100% effective and he was clear about the efficacy of also wearing a face mask. Sounds like a “belt and suspenders” approach. Sounds like prudent loss control advice to me.

As a political fence sitter, one who is in the age demographic to be cautious, I view face masks, social distancing, personal hygiene and eventual vaccination as loss control and loss prevention techniques and not an expression of my personal politics. I do not want to forever use “avoidance” as the go to personal risk management tool. Avoidance as in living partially as a hermit, avoidance of movie theaters, restaurants, avoidance of family get-togethers, avoidance of face-to-face meetings, etc. Nor do I want to express reckless bravado and needlessly expose myself and others to a possible life threatening, certainly a life changing infection that perhaps can be avoided.

Why is this not simply a loss control issue? It seems less controversial, with more direct potential personal health benefit and less intrusive than, say, existing laws regarding the use of seat-belts in motor vehicles, life preservers in boating, safety signs in the workplace, DUI laws, anti-smoking laws, workplace safety standards, vehicle safety standards, required childhood vaccinations for entry into public schools, etc. in general. All of which do not prevent all that can go wrong, but certainly work to reduce harm overall.

In the midst of a pandemic, this should be no big deal, really. What does it hurt to be cautious?

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