Risk Institute Seeking Researcher for Impacts of Opioids in the Workplace

Detecting and Dealing with Workplace Opioid Abuse

From Safety Management Group

To supervisors and managers who grew up during the 1960s and 1970s, the mention of addiction to heroin and other opiate drugs conjures images of skinny junkies wasting away in a filthy apartment, an alley, or a gutter. It was something that happened to other people in other places.

But that’s no longer true. The problems associated with abuse of these drugs appear to be greater than ever, and the users are well-hidden throughout America’s workplaces. A recent study of 200 Indiana employers conducted by the National Safety Council and the Indiana Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force reported that prescription drug abuse currently affects 80 percent of companies.

Think there’s a difference between prescription drugs and heroin? Think again. Among the most-abused drugs are synthetic opioids that are prescribed by well-meaning doctors. Familiar painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet were developed to mimic the effects of opiate drugs such as heroin in a more controlled fashion.

About two in three of the employers who were surveyed saw prescription drug abuse as a bigger problem in their workplaces than illegal drugs, with one in five reporting that there had been an injury or a near-miss related to prescription drugs. A quarter said employees had borrowed or sold prescription drugs at work, and 40 percent said that an employee had missed work time because of prescription drug abuse.

According to a medical journal, American employers lost more than $25 billion to prescription opioid abuse in 2009, and experts believe the problem has grown far larger. Just as chilling, the Centers for Disease Control reports than 44 Americans die each day as a result of abusing prescription opiates.

Opioids and workers
According to the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, roughly 10 to 12 percent of workers are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while at work. Those numbers are likely to be higher in a number of industries, particularly construction, manufacturing, and trucking.

Even if workers aren’t addicted and are simply following a doctor’s directions, the powerful painkillers can create a hazard. The familiar “do not operate heavy machinery” labels are there for a reason, and heavy machinery includes cars and other worksite vehicles.

Signs of abuse
The old stereotype of the junkie described earlier is less applicable today. Many opiate abusers with costly habits are not readily identifiable as addicts. They come from nearly every walk of life, and many have good jobs and what appear to be stable families. But as addiction progresses, their hunger for and focus on their next “high” tends to crowd out the other aspects of their lives.

Opioid addicts tend to be in one of two stages while at work. If they are under the influence of the drugs, at first glance, they may seem to be relaxed and functioning well. However, there may be evidence of mood swings or major changes in energy level. They may appear to nod off while on the job or fall asleep at their workstations, in their cars, or even while using the bathroom.

Then, as the effects of the last dose wear off and the craving for the next begins, they may display signs of withdrawal. The symptoms often appear to be the same ones associated with flu or gastrointestinal “bugs,” including nausea, diarrhea, sweating, shaking, aches, and a runny nose. They may also become irritable and anxious. A worker whose addiction has progressed to injected heroin may need to repeat a dose every few hours, going through the cycle several times a day.

Other warning signs of abuse include an unusually high number of pill bottles in trash cans. Addicted employees may develop serious financial problems, requesting advances on pay or trying to borrow money from or sell things to co-workers. It’s not unusual for addicts to withdraw from the social aspects of work, and a once-gregarious worker may suddenly become quiet and sullen.

Steps to take
Pre-employment and random drug screenings are an excellent strategy for detecting (and providing a deterrent against) drug abuse in the workplace. However, the survey of Indiana employers discovered that while 87 percent of the employers conduct drug testing, just 52 percent include screens for opioids. In addition, only 53 percent of the employers had policies addressing the use of prescription drugs on the job (although 80 percent reported having had an issue with such use in the past).

Would you or your team recognize that an employee was abusing opioids? The Indiana survey found that 60 percent of employers doubted their staff’s ability to spot warning signs, but fewer than 30 percent offer supervisors training about detecting abuse of prescription drugs. The National Safety Council recommends that employees and supervisors receive training to help them spot addiction and respond effectively.

Don’t ignore it
It’s human nature to not want to confront someone about addiction, or to mention a colleague’s apparent addiction to a manager. But when it comes to opioid addiction, there are two important reasons that people should be encouraged to speak up. The first is that a worker with an addiction will place himself and his fellow workers at risk of injury, and could become involved in criminal acts such as theft to support his habit.

Even more important, addictions may become significantly worse over time, possibly ending in an accidental overdose. Speaking up about what appears to be an abuse problem could very likely save that worker’s life.

Growing in My Risk Perspective: SMF Graduate’s Story with The Risk Institute

We often associate risk with something that has a negative connotation, while missing out on the fact that risk is faced with any unexpected outcome, whether good or bad. Before starting my master’s degree, I worked in a bank where for us, the word “risk” meant that there was a fair chance of events going awry.

When I started the SMF program at The Ohio State Fisher College of Business, The Risk Institute’s Monday evening sessions caught my eye and I soon realized that risk meant so much more. There were different aspects of risk such as financial, political, operational and cyber, to name a few. Risk management teams would work to ensure that the risks faced by an organization were mitigated/reduced.

The Risk Institute hosted educational sessions with an array of speakers to give insight into the diverse risks that their companies anticipated, faced and tackled. All these sessions were immensely informative and interesting. What I had anticipated being a subject with a negative connotation, turned out to be a whole new world of meanings. In addition to the guest speakers, Phil and Denita at The Risk Institute guided us in the scope of risk in this day and age, which led me to take on coursework for enterprise risk management.

As a part of the Enterprise Risk Management course, I worked on one of the risk projects for Abbott Nutrition at their Columbus Plant. The project seemed fairly simple on paper, however, as our team began working we soon realized its complexities. The scope of the project was a bit broad and we were still in the process of getting acquainted with the risks that Abbott Nutrition’s plant faced vis-à-vis other technical risks that we had studied in classrooms. We decided it would be best to seek out The Risk Institute’s advice on how to go about our project. Phil was more than happy to help us formulate a plan of action and to advise us on how such projects were done by The Risk Institute. Throughout the short term of our project, Phil, Denita and our sponsors at Abbott Nutrition were involved and continually provided feedback. This helped us in delivering a product that was ultimately appreciated by Abbott Nutrition.

In addition to the curriculum, the members of The Risk Institute have also helped me with my job search. They suggested prospective employers, networking events and connected me with professionals who have considerable expertise in the field of risk management.

To sum up my experience, it was wonderful working with the members of the Risk Institute and I plan to give back to The Risk Institute in whatever way possible in the future. I graduated in spring of 2017 from Fisher College of Business after completing my SMF degree. I am currently on the lookout for roles and opportunities.

The One with The Risk Institute: SMF Student’s Success Story on Graduation and Employment

I landed in the U.S. less than a year ago. During this brief period, I completed my master’s degree (phew!) and got a job. Before joining Fisher’s Specialized Master’s in Finance program, all I knew was that I was interested in working in risk management. Ten months hence and I now know I am “passionate” about working in risk management. The SMF was an intensive course, but the professor’s class diversity and student consulting projects made it worthwhile. I chose Risk Management and Corporate Finance as my specialization tracks. As part of the Risk Management track, I signed up for Enterprise Risk Management 1 and 2. It was during ERM 2 that we did our first student consulting project for Abbott Nutrition. The Risk Institute, in collaboration with Abbott Nutrition and Prof. Daniel Oglevee, gave my class the opportunity to work on 3 risk-based projects for Abbott.

All 3 projects were focused on quality assurance. The teams worked on creating a risk model for enabling decision-making, a survey to better understand and improve the risk culture within the company, and risk-based market research. Welcome to the real world! We had learned VAR’s, derivatives and all other academics needed to complete the risk track, but now was the time to use them. The projects we did for Abbott gave us a unique perspective on how risk management was much more than what we learned inside the classroom. During all this, The Risk Institute, especially Executive Director, Philip Renaud, was a huge resource for insights regarding these projects.

During the time we were working with Abbott, we were also working with Vantiv, a partner of the Risk Institute, as part of SMF’s capstone project. For Vantiv, my teammates and I created a risk framework for their M&A activities. This framework added a risk-based dimension to the evaluation of a target for acquisition. It is a unique framework in that it disrupts the traditional valuation methods. I am big on disruptive innovation. I believe we are at a stage where simple innovation no longer gives you the upper hand. I gained an immense amount of experience from working these two projects, and hopefully, we were able to deliver results that were productive for the companies.

During this project, with help from Philip Renaud of The Risk Institute, I was able to connect with a recruiter from Vantiv. That connection went a long way to help me get a job at Vantiv on their lean Enterprise Risk Management team. I plan on staying in touch with The Risk Institute and furthering the work we did for Vantiv. Plus, it always feels good to be back on campus (GO BUCKS!!). I would like to thank Philip Renaud and Denita Strietelmeier for helping me during my year at Fisher and in my job search.

It is a good time to be in Risk management.

The Risk Institute’s Business Simulation Competition for Students


I had the pleasure of participating in the recent RMA TLA Case simulation at Fisher College of Business. I was interested in competing in this event because I recently learned about the Risk Management Association (RMA) and heard positive things about the case competitions. The case simulation was for a DHL run Toys R Us distribution center. We were given a disaster scenario and our mission was to come up with a disaster recovery plan.

In preparation for the competition, we went on a distribution center tour with DHL. It was a great experience and the employees at DHL were passionate about helping the students learn. I had never been to a distribution center before and it was as if my operations management class came to life. Things that I had learned in class became something tangible versus words in a textbook.

The competition was challenging because l did not have any previous business logistics knowledge. As an Actuarial Science student, most of the logistics and operations items are not things I do on a daily basis. It was interesting to put on another hat and think in a different way. My group consisted of majors: logistics, accounting, industrial engineering, and actuarial science. Having a diverse group benefited us because we all brought a different perspective on each area of the competition and were able to come up with valid solutions.  We were able to ask the DHL professionals questions about their daily experiences and how things operate. We learned a lot of things that we could not learn in a classroom. Hands-on experience is often hard to get, but some of the most important information about operation comes from the people that live it every day.

Going into the presentation portion of the case competition, my group did not feel particularly confident about our recovery plan. However, after discussing everything for most of the day, our solution seemed simple to us.  Our main priority was to protect the workers and get the orders done in an efficient and timely manner. We established this first and used it to guide all of our choices, making the case easier.

I have always wanted to go into mitigating risk for an insurance company. After completing the case and attending other RMA events I have learned so much about multiple areas of risk. Risk is everywhere and it is an opportunity for advancement. If you can mitigate risk properly that can make all the difference, not only with money but also with the safety and health of workers and consumers. I also learned that risk is not always quantifiable. People cannot always be explained by numbers and in my opinion, it is one of the biggest factors of risk. My group focused heavily on this in our recovery plan, and I think it helped guide a lot of our choices. Overall, the case competition was a great academic experience.

I would like to thank DHL and Toys R Us for giving us an opportunity to participate in this competition, and for taking the time to come to Ohio State and share their knowledge.  The hands-on experience provided was worth more than any textbook.


Spencer Foundation Grant Enables RMA Students to host Ed Katersky

Governance and culture take center stage at The Risk Institute’s Annual Conference

Conversation surrounding governance and culture recently took center stage at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, as The Risk Institute explored the impacts of the two key aspects of business at its Annual Conference. The two-day conference brought together Risk Institute members, business leaders, experts and faculty thought leaders from Fisher for an in-depth examination of the risk management and strategic implications of governance and culture.

Phil Renaud and Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams discuss maintaining culture through crisis.

Phil Renaud and Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams discuss maintaining culture through crisis.

Considering the various sides of governance and culture is critical to understanding how to leverage risk management to create value for an organization. The conference featured four keynote speakers, Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines; Cameron Mitchell, founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants; Randall Kroszner, former Governor of the Federal Reserve System; and David Gebler, author of best-selling book The 3 Power Values.

Bethune opened the conference and focused on his experience turning around Continental Airlines over a decade, which is detailed in his book, From Worst to First. He emphasized the importance of building accountability between employees and the organization saying, “What gets measured and rewarded, gets done.”

Mitchell is a self-described serial entrepreneur who understands that taking risks is necessary to be successful in business saying, “I may shoot myself in the foot and walk with a limp, but I’ll never shoot myself in the head and make a fatal mistake.”

Academic Director Isil Erel speaking at Annual Conference 2016.

Academic Director Isil Erel speaking at Annual Conference 2016.

During his time with the Federal Reserve System and as a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, Kroszner never imagined he would be helping guide America’s economy through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He discussed the potential ramifications of the Fed keeping interests rates at historic lows since 2008 saying, “When your short-run policy becomes a long-run policy, you will always run into unintended consequences.”

Named one of America’s top Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior, Gebler is an innovator of new approaches that integrate culture, ethics, values and performance. His talk detailed how to know if your organization’s culture is a risk factor utilizing the three power values— integrity, transparency and commitment.

In addition to the keynotes, the third-annual conference brought together business leaders and experts for a series of RISKx presentations and panel discussions on women in risk, governance and culture related to business. The culture discussion explored  employees’ attitudes toward risk, mergers and acquisitions, maintaining culture through crisis, and emerging risks in the energy industry.

The Risk Institute’s Executive Education Series will resume November 15 with a discussion on Political Risk.


Fisher’s 2016 Business Case Simulation Competition – A Student Perspective

Reardon, Megan 2016


By Megan Reardon
Sophomore, Finance Major
The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business


With many risk industry professionals retiring in the next 10 years, the Enterprise Risk Management field is experiencing a bottleneck. That being said, it is a great time for students to get involved in the industry. The number of risk management jobs increase every year, with great opportunities for quick movement up company management. However, hiring companies want to see that students are interested in the challenges and diverse job titles of risk managers. I have found that through The Risk Institute at Fisher, as well as the Risk Management Association, I have had opportunities to build my business acumen and meet with industry professionals. Recently, I was the given the opportunity to compete in a business simulation with other students, both graduate and undergraduate.

On April 14, 2016, The Risk Institute and the Risk Management Association co-hosted a “pre-dinner” for the business simulation, where the students had the opportunity to meet with other risk students, as well as Phil Renaud, Executive Director of The Risk Institute, and Denita Strietelmeier, Program Manager at The Risk Institute and RMA’s advisor. Phil and Denita had the opportunity to speak about what the goals of the Risk Institute are and why risk is important to companies. This event gave students the opportunity to meet the students they would be working with in a more casual setting, laying the foundation for a successful business simulation.


Megan Reardon’s team for the 2016 Fisher Risk Management Business Simulation Competition

The following day, April 15, 2016, The Risk Institute and Risk Management Association co-sponsored Fisher’s first risk-centered business simulation. The all-day event provided an opportunity for the students to experience risk management from a practical perspective. Specifically, the simulation was a business continuity exercise focused on operational and supply chain risk. Students worked as a team to create a comprehensive reaction plan based on incident response, business resumption, recovery and restoration. There were four teams comprised of 3-4 members each, as well as coaches and judges from the Fisher College of Business and DHL. Participating in this event was both an educational experience as well as a great opportunity to network with other students also interested in risk. Though my team didn’t place first, I learned about the importance of corporate crisis management after a disaster. More broadly, the business simulation reiterated that Risk Management is heavily involved in both small business decisions as well as larger corporate strategies.

Megan Reardon will be spending the upcoming summer as a Supply Chain/ Logistics Intern at Rockwell Automation.  She will return to Fisher College of Business for her junior year and will serve as Vice President of the Risk Management Association.

The Risk Management Association – A Bridge Between Students and Risk Professionals

Yuqi Wen 2016

By Yuqi Wen
Fisher College of Business
Class of 2016


In September 2012, I was a sophomore, and an email from one of my professors caught my attention. In the email, the professor pointed out the growing importance of the risk industry, and yet he lamented on the lack of a risk group at The Ohio State University serving as a professional organization for students. Several of my classmates and I responded to the challenge, and we partnered with The Risk Institute to build the Fisher College of Business chapter of Risk Management Association (RMA).


As a bridge between OSU students and risk management professionals, RMA aims to offer prospective graduates opportunities to connect with experienced risk practitioners as well as with public and private organizations operating in a world of continuous and unexpected risk. The reality is that risk management plays a significant role for every company’s sustainable development, and we hope our student organization can help bring best practices to light.

Our organization could not stand alone. We are blessed with the support of The Risk Institute, a consortium of leading academics and forward-thinking companies developing cutting-edge risk management practices. Through collaborations with The Risk Institute, our student members are granted exposure to new research along with a wide variety of prospective employers in the field.

To help advance students in their knowledge and in their involvement in the risk industry, RMA has hosted a series of guest speakers. Among the highlights from the last year are:

  • Greg Adams, director of management and financial reporting at AEP, who spoke on governance and culture
  • Jamie Jones, lead meteorologist at NetJets Aviation, Inc., who discussed weather disruption and its impact on the aviation industry
  • Helen Patton, OSU’s chief information security officer, who spoke about IT security
  • Donovan Gibson, vice president of analytics at JP Morgan Chase who spoke about the important role analytics plays in managing risk
  • Elizabeth Wilber, senior manager of advisory services at EY who spoke about how organizations can better manage and benefit from risk
yuqi wen pace setters 2016

Yuqi Wen was honored with a Pace Setters Award, the college’s top honor, in the spring of 2016.

A favorite event of the RMA students is The Risk Institute’s Annual Conference, held in the fall, in which members have the unique opportunity to volunteer and help coordinate the event. I have attended this conference the last two years, and I personally have benefited from the networking opportunities with faculty from other colleges within OSU and most importantly with industry leaders.

This spring, RMA also held a case simulation competition in which members worked together in teams to utilize their general business knowledge and risk management skills to propose the best solution to the given problem. The RMA’s year concluded with the Annual Banquet, which gave students networking opportunities with risk professionals while raising awareness of RMA and its goals.

My involvement in the RMA has enriched my college experience. Ultimately, it has helped deepen my understanding of risk beyond the classroom and advance my ability to solve problems and to conduct research on the risk industry.

Yuqi Wen served as president of the RMA during the 2015-2016 academic year, and will graduate from Fisher College of Business in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting and Finance.  She is an honor student, has been on the Dean’s List since December 2012, and a recipient of Fisher’s Pace Setters Award in 2016.  After graduation, Wen will begin her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers.