VRSA celebrates 40 years!

In 2020, the Virginia Risk Sharing Association (VRSA) will celebrate 40 years of providing financial stability through risk management for Virginia political subdivisions.

What does that mean?

40 years ago, finding coverage for the unique exposures faced by local governmental entities was difficult. Coverage available through commercial insurers was limited, and premiums were volatile, rising dramatically from year to year.

This trend was happening nationwide – and that’s when across the country a solution was developed – governmental entity risk sharing pools.

In the Commonwealth, the Virginia Municipal League (VML) successfully lobbied for legislation allowing local governments to self-insure under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act – leading to the creation of the Virginia Municipal Group Self Insurance Association (VMGSIA) on July 1, 1980.

Today, the VMGSIA is known as VRSA – and is the Commonwealth’s first and most financially secure self-insurance pool.

What began with providing workers’ compensation coverage to ten charter members contributing $730,000 annually, now provides auto, property, liability, and workers’ compensation coverage to more than 480 members contributing in excess of $60 million annually.

“Through pooling, our members work together to share and mitigate risks, and through this partnership, we have built a strong balance sheet that provides us with leverage to ensure stable rates for our members,” said VRSA Managing Director Steve Craig.

Stable rates mean less financial volatility for Virginia’s local governments, providing an additional layer of financial stability for members when planning their annual budgets.

By the end of the first decade, VRSA began to focus on risk management as a means to lower losses and claims – and in turn, maintain stable premiums. The goal of risk management is to partner with members through education, training and consulting to empower them to reduce losses within their organizations.

“We began with regional workshops providing risk management training and loss prevention tools throughout the state,” said Craig. “Today, we provide consulting not only in the areas of safety, but we focus on other loss areas through our human resources, public safety, communications, and local government specialists as well.”

As losses in a particular area increase or members express a need for assistance in a specific area, VRSA staff are there to provide increased training, policy guidance, support – and sometimes, additional coverage – to meet the changing needs of members.

For example, Virginia OSHA’s (VOSH) now has authority to cite state and local governments with monetary penalties exceeding $126,000 for violations. In response, VRSA safety specialists have ramped up their training, conducting 54 OSHA trainings to more than 860 member employees in 2019 alone.

VRSA staff provide OSHA training to members throughout the state

This is all in addition to online courses offered through the VRSA Online University and VRSA Public Safety Academy, as well as webinars and continued workshops throughout the Commonwealth.

“Our goal is to provide training and resources to empower members to reduce losses within their organizations,” said Craig.

Through train-the-trainer programs focused on OSHA or defensive driving, VRSA is  empowering members to develop trainers within their organization, which in turn empowers them to train more of their employees.

One of the most innovative and award-winning campaigns VRSA took on was launched in 2010. The Where the Rubber Meets the Road (WTRMTR) campaign was developed to address the number one source of occupational fatalities – motor vehicle crashes. At the time, automobile losses accounted for nearly half of all VRSA claims.

The program began with 15 members whose designated trainers received “train-the-trainer” instruction from VRSA using the National Safety Council Defensive Driving products and who were responsible for providing this defensive driving instruction to 90 percent of their member-drivers within one year.

Five years later, the program had 62 members enrolled and more than 33,000 local government drivers trained. Members who met initial and ongoing training requirements received a five percent credit on their automobile liability premium.

In addition to training and consulting, VRSA provides $300,000 each year in grant funds to members for the purchase of safety equipment and training aimed at assisting in their risk management efforts.

Coverages have expanded throughout the 40 years as well. Additional coverages including boiler and machinery, canine mortality and injury, earthquake, flood, employment practices liability, land use liability, no-fault property damage, pollution, public officials liability, school board legal liability, Line of Duty Act coverage, and more have been added as needs arose.

VRSA staff recently hosted a Cyber Roundtable to discuss data and security challenges faced by public entities.

In 2019, VRSA staff focused on promoting Cyber Liability Coverage, including Privacy Notification Costs, and on providing training and roundtables for members to discuss strategies for defending their systems from cyber attacks and social engineering.

Staff also identified additional emerging risks that have the potential to impact local governments, including e-scooters and autonomous transportation.

“As the needs of local governments continue to change, so will we,” said Craig. “Our goal is to provide financial stability through risk management for our members, so they can effectively serve their communities. We want to help them achieve their goals – and one way we can do that is by continuing to listen and partner with our members to help them excel in risk management.”