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Not his father’s insurance: Son ups agency’s game

Dad’s risk buying computer for teen pays off years later.

July 29, 2016
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Dustin Boss, left, convinced his father, Randy, to buy him a computer as a hobby. Two decades later, that hobby has resulted in a useful insurance tool. Courtesy Ottawa Kent Insurance

After Dustin Boss was injured playing football his freshman year of high school, he asked his dad for a favor.

With most of his friends still playing for the team, Boss needed a hobby. So he asked his dad if he would buy him a computer.

“I’ll get it for you,” Randy Boss recalls telling his son. “But you’ll never use it.”

As it turned out, that $2,500 IBM computer with the bulky CRT monitor sparked a lifelong passion for the younger Boss and even earned him his first paycheck at the age of 15 — $300 for designing a website for a man in New York.

Now, 20-odd years later, Dustin has been working alongside his father as a certified risk architect at Ottawa Kent for about 12 years — but it was a pairing that almost didn’t come to be. Dustin was studying pre-law at Michigan State University when his brother Josh — who also works at Ottawa Kent — was involved in a car accident.

As Josh recovered, the accident put things in perspective for Dustin, and he realized coming back to the family business was his best option. Though working in insurance didn’t seem like the most exciting thing in the world, Dustin quickly learned that at Ottawa Kent he would have the opportunity to do things outside the purview of a regular insurance and risk management agency.

“We weren’t just doing boring insurance stuff, and it’s allowed me to do the creativity I’d like and be able to build some of these online tools to help our clients,” he said. “We’re innovating and really try to bring some uniqueness to solutions instead of the same old boring insurance stuff that people are accustomed to.”

That’s when Dustin’s passion for computers, web design and programming came into play.

After speaking with several Ottawa Kent clients, Dustin recognized a need to streamline Occupational Safety and Health Administration paperwork in the event of an accident or work injury. So in his free time, he began to develop OSHALogs — a web application that allows companies to create, record, track and view injury reports online.

“When someone gets injured, you’ve got all the paperwork there,” Dustin said. “But this also helps us to really help manage all the different elements that happen when someone gets injured, and from our end it allows us to get involved and respond right away.”

Once an OSHA report is filed by the employer, the insurance agency receives an instant notification, bringing the agent into the picture as soon as possible. And because the program reuses information from previous OSHA reports filed, it cuts the time required to fill out the paperwork in half, Randy Boss said.

Additionally, OSHALogs stores data reported and can create year-over-year logs to track data and create benchmarks including rates of incidents, severity and lost time.

It took about six to eight months of burning the midnight oil on his own time, writing code and developing the program, Dustin said. But it paid off when OSHALogs went live to brokers around the company in October. Now, about 25 agencies use OSHALogs to assist hundreds of employers across the country.

In a surprise turn of events, OSHALogs also filled a need that didn’t exist when Dustin was starting to develop the program. With new OSHA regulations coming down the pike, OSHALogs users already are well positioned to keep their companies in compliance.

Starting Jan. 1, OSHA will require companies to submit records of workplace injuries and illnesses electronically for public posting to the OSHA website. With OSHALogs already documenting that information electronically, it will just take a few simple tweaks to be able to send that information along and help employers comply with the new regulations.

“It does put us a little bit ahead of the game,” Randy Boss said.

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