This Week in Comp, September 15 – 19

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

OSHA launches young worker safety website
OSHA designed its new site to raise awareness of safety among teens, employers and parents…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly mash up of EHS-related regulatory news…MORE

OSHA releases preliminary list of top 10 violations
Falls top the list of most violations, followed by hazard communication and scaffolding…MORE

BLS announces 2013 preliminary fatal occupational injury counts
A preliminary total of 4,405 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2013, lower than the revised count of 4,628 fatal work injuries in 2012. Fatal transportation incidents were lower by 10 percent in 2013, but still accounted for about 2 out of every 5 fatal work injuries…MORE

NSC congress & expo keynote focuses on staying safe at work for your family
In his keynote address, Dale Lesinski challenged the audience to think about how their families would be affected if they took a shortcut and got injured on the job…MORE

Claims

Bob Cogburn, case manager at Texas Mutual

Bob Cogburn, case manager at Texas Mutual

Taking the stress out of claim management
In this week’s Texas Mutual blog post, vocational rehabilitation specialist Bob Cogburn explains that simple accommodations for injured workers can facilitate the return-to-work process and take the stress out of claim management…MORE

Texas sets workers’ comp weekly benefit rates for coming year
The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation announced that the workers’ compensation state average weekly wage for dates of injury from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015, has been set at $860.52…MORE

Fraud

Texas man sentenced for workers’ comp fraud
A Travis County district court sentenced Rodney Williams of Seabrook, Texas, for workers’ compensation fraud-related charges. The court sentenced Williams to deferred adjudication and ordered him to pay $6,156 in restitution to Texas Mutual…MORE

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

Taking the Stress Out of Claim Management

By Bob Cogburn, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist

By Bob Cogburn,
Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist

When it comes to return-to-work programs, employers often feel that the task of adapting to the needs of a worker with physical limitations can be daunting. But the truth is that it’s usually much easier than it seems, though it may require some creative thinking.

When a worker needs an out-of-the-box accommodation, it may require some out-of-the-box thinking. When you take that step and find the right solutions to get employees back to work, an environment where employees can be productive again will fall into place. It’s as easy as slipping a key into a lock and opening the door to a successful return-to-work program. Suddenly, tasks are manageable, discomfort is minimized and workers are on their way to being successful again.

With the adaptive devices industry growing every day, it’s easier than ever to access all types of solutions. Some are simple, while some are more extensive. It’s all about finding what works for your employee.

Some of the most basic solutions are one-handed keyboards to accommodate hand injuries, chairs that allow you to alter sitting positions for those with spinal conditions, software that increases the text size for someone who may have suffered a visual impairment, installing castors on a toolbox for those unable to lift or move heavy objects, and adding lifts to vary work surface heights.

More in-depth solutions might include re-engineering packaging machines, modifying cutting devices and switching to lightweight, plastic dumpster lids. The only limits on adaptive devices are our own imagination and the laws of physics! That’s where you can involve employees who are using the tools every day. It’s also important to involve the injured worker from the beginning. He or she can help select the tools, and then learn how to use the modification.

It can be costly in the beginning, depending on what types of modifications you need to make, but it’s a worthwhile investment that not only benefits workers but also your bottom line. More importantly, your adaptive device may increase productivity and safety on the work site. Also keep in mind that there are many resources available to help with return-to-work modifications.

Texas Mutual’s free Return-to-Work Kit discusses reasonable accommodations on page 27. Qualifying employers can also take advantage of the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation return-to-work reimbursement program.

About the author

Bob Cogburn has nearly 25 years’ experience in vocational case management. Since 1997, he has been helping injured workers covered by a Texas Mutual policy rehabilitate and return to productive employment. Prior to joining Texas Mutual, Bob served as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Department of Assistive Rehabilitation Services. He also spent time as a job placement counselor for Goodwill Industries and El Centro College. At El Centro, he managed a job club specializing in placing students with disabilities back into the workplace. Bob holds a bachelor’s in rehabilitation science from the University of Texas Health Science Center and a master’s in counseling from Amberton University.

This Week in Comp, September 8 – 12

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

OSHA reporting ruleOSHA announces new requirements for reporting severe injuries
Under the revised rule, employers will be required to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours, and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. The new rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015…MORE

Fatalities down in Texas,
Workplace fatalities decreased 8 percent between 2012 and 2013…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Weekly mash-up of safety-related news…MORE

TRIA extension

Now is the time: Insurance industry steps up push for TRIA renewal
The sense of urgency stems from the fact that Congress will be in session for perhaps only two more weeks this month before recessing in order for members to campaign for mid-term elections. The current reauthorization expires Dec. 1, 2014…MORE

Claims

Update on obesity in America
healthy livingNearly 69 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to a recent study by the Trust for America’s Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This article provides study highlights and links to information about the relationship between obesity and workers’ comp…MORE

Prescription drugs

Workers’ comp must cover medical marijuana
Medical marijuana that a doctor recommended for an injured worker’s pain must be paid for by the workers’ employer and insurer, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled…MORE

Fraud

California woman arrested on alleged fraud claim
The woman allegedly submitted a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder associated with a robbery, that she actually assisted in staging, at a bank where she worked as an assistant manager…MORE

Handcuff FraudHouston nurse ordered to return nearly $40K to Texas Mutual
A Travis County district court sentenced Raj Dhingra of Houston for workers’ compensation fraud-related charges. Dhingra was sentenced to deferred adjudication and ordered to pay $39,800 in restitution to Texas Mutual…MORE

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

This Week in Comp, September 1 – 5

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

Texas Mutual's Larry Homen demonstrates how improper lifting techniques can affect the back during a visit to American Equipment and Trailer employees.

During a visit to American Equipment and Trailer, Texas Mutual’s Larry Homen demonstrates how improper lifting techniques can affect the back.

Safety meets people where they are
Safety training takes root in cotton fields and greasy mechanic shops. Its messages resonate when delivered by people who have experienced the unique hazards your employees face on the job. Simply put, safety has to meet people where they are…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Weekly mash-up of safety-related news…MORE

Get free National Preparedness Month resources
The CDC encourages individuals and businesses to follow four steps to prepare for emergencies…MORE

 

Houston is nation’s most dangerous city to work in
Houston recorded 13 fatalities during the past year. The majority happened in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration…MORE

Canada, U.S. take step toward regulatory harmonization
The Canadian and American governments have announced a new step toward constantly coordinating their regulatory environments across a broad range of industries, including occupational health and safety. For example, the two countries will work together to facilitate the adoption of updates to the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Workplace Chemicals…MORE

NIOSH promotes respiratory protection on National N95 Day
More than 20 million Americans are exposed to to airborne health risks, according to estimates by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Employers and workers had the opportunity to learn more about selecting and using respiratory protection on September 5, National N95 Day…MORE

In this short video, Dr. Maryann D’Alessandro of NIOSH explains the importance of selecting respirators, using them properly and getting fit tested at least annually.

Prescription drugs

Opioid nation
Drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. More than 40,000 Americans died in 2011, a 145 percent increase since 1999…MORE

Handcuff FraudFraud

Mother, son conspire to commit fraud forging dead woman’s signature
A California man and his mother carried out a scheme to collect more than $165,000 in workers’ comp benefits by forging his dead aunt’s signature…MORE

Claims

Dollars and cents of frequency and severity
Small, frequent claims can affect an employer’s experience modifier more than one large claim…MORE

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

Safety Meets People Where They Are

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Ever been to a professional development seminar? I’m talking about the kind that typically take place in a fancy hotel conference room in a tourist destination like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. For your money, you get a pricey lunch, equally pricey reference materials and a “dynamic, engaging program with an impressive lineup of industry experts.”

I was recently invited to a drastically different professional development opportunity. The venues were repair shops, cotton fields and oil wells in and around Lubbock, Texas. The audience, blue collar workers huddled around plastic picnic tables, chowing down on takeout pizza on the boss’ dime. Slick brochures, multimedia CDs and other takeaways were replaced by frayed electrical cords and mangled ladders.

And the speaker? He’s not a household name by any means. He is, however, passionate about his message, and that is enough to earn his audience’s respect.

Employees at American Equipment and Trailer in Lubbock assemble for a lunch-time safety presentation by Texas Mutual's Larry Homen.

Employees at American Equipment and Trailer in Lubbock assemble for a lunch-time safety presentation by Texas Mutual’s Larry Homen.

Larry Homen is a senior safety services consultant at Texas Mutual. His job is to canvass West Texas, build relationships with our policyholders, and teach them how to keep their employees safe and on the job. Last week, Larry graciously let me tag along on his visits.

Larry grew up working his family’s 3,000-acre farm in Amarillo before making his way into the oil field as a welder. He cringes when reflecting on how many times he narrowly escaped catastrophic workplace accidents. Some of his co-workers weren’t as fortunate.

Larry’s experiences taught him valuable lessons, and he devoted the rest of his life to sharing those lessons with anyone who will listen.

For two days, I watched Larry tout the benefits of everything from sound hiring practices to ladder safety to return-to-work. He leaned heavily on his past to connect with his audience. The affirmative nods and knowing glances among co-workers showed me the message was coming through loud and clear.

Larry Homen explains three tips for lifting properly and avoiding back injuries: 1. Use your legs. 2. Avoid twisting. 3. Carry the load close to your body.

Larry Homen offers three tips for lifting properly and avoiding back injuries: 1. Use your legs. 2. Avoid twisting. 3. Carry the load close to your body.

Larry’s job is tough. Who knew that driving around all day and engaging with people could be so taxing? By the end of my visit, I was eager to shed my fire-retardant overalls, hard hat and safety goggles. I couldn’t get back to my relatively safe cubicle in Austin fast enough. My brain was overloaded, and I needed time to process.

I’ve thought hard about everything I learned from Larry, and I believe I can boil it down into a handful of core principles. I will share those principles in a series of posts on this blog, so stay tuned. Today, let’s start with the most basic, arguably most important, principle.

If you want your employees to learn how to work safely, don’t snatch them from their environment and send them to a high-priced conference. Don’t expect them to heed the advice of someone who’s never rebuilt a transmission or disassembled a pump jack.

What I mean is that safety works best when it gets dirty. It takes root in cotton fields and greasy mechanic shops. Its messages resonate when delivered by people who have experienced the unique hazards your employees face on the job. Simply put, safety has to meet people where they are.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

This Week in Comp, August 25-29

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

OSHA, NIOSH announced recommended practices to protect temporary workers
The new guidance recommends that staff agency/host employer contracts clearly define the temporary worker’s tasks, as well as each employer’s safety and health responsibilities. Staffing agencies should maintain contact with temporary workers to verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace…MORE

A world without fatal work accidents is possible
A hundred years ago in Germany, there were 10,000 deaths a year at work. Last year,the figure was less than 500 deaths for the first time. That statistic is proof that a world without fatal workplace accidents is possible…MORE

NSC estimates nearly 400 fatalities in car crashes during Labor Day weekend
The NSC also estimates that 144 lives could be saved by buckling up…MORE

Regulatory Roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly roundup of EHS-related news…MORE

Prescription drugs

Opioid use among disabled workers increases; DEA tightens restrictions
About half of disabled Medicare beneficiaries younger than 65 fill at least one opioid prescription annually, and nearly one-quarter fill six or more. Most Medicare beneficiaries younger than 65 are injured workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance….MORE

PA doctor arrested for diversion of prescription painkillers
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced charges against a New Cumberland doctor for allegedly prescribing Oxycodone to people not under his care in exchange for cash…MORE

Costs

Employment growth leads to workers’ comp benefit, cost uptick
Workers’ compensation benefits rose by 1.3 percent to $61.9 billion in 2012, while employer costs rose by 6.9 percent to $83.2 billion, according to a report by the National Academy of Social Insurance…MORE

Medical cost inflation’s continued decline
The 2019 Medicare spend will be $95 million less than the Congressional Budget Office predicted four years ago. Much of the recent reduction comes from changes in behavior among doctors, nurses, hospitals and patients…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

This Week in Comp, August 18-22

 

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

Acclimatization key to protecting workers from heat-related illness
Most of the 13 heat-related deaths recently investigated by OSHA happened during the first three days on the job. If your employees work outside or in hot indoor environments, give them time to acclimate to the heat…MORE

Construction workers 22 percent more likely to die on the job in Texas
Untrained, undocumented laborers and the lack of unions contribute to high fatality rates in the Texas construction industry, according to a Dallas Morning News report…MORE

Keeping foreign-born workers safe
When it comes to on-the-job safety, the challenges are many, the issues complex. What are the most effective ways to train a diverse workforce in safety practices? How do you deal with language barriers? How do you avoid cultural miscues? Get answers to these questions and more in this insightful article by workers’ comp thought leader Peter Rousmaniere…MORE

Regulatory Roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly roundup of EHS-related news…MORE

Lone Star Oil and Gas Roundup
EHS-related news tailored to the oil and gas industry, courtesy of Texas Mutual and the Texas Oil and Gas Association…MORE

State of the industry

Workers’ comp – the near-term outlook
The market and rates are firm, premiums are trending up modestly, frequency is continuing its structural slow decrease, and claims cost inflation appears to be well within acceptable ranges, according to a report released by the National Council on Compensation Insurance…MORE

Claim costs

New obesity issues impacting workers’ compensation
Obesity contributes to a growing percentage of the health care spend in worker’s compensation. Claims professionals should practice a few guidelines to control the impact of obesity on claims…MORE

Postal service workers’ comp costs rise as headcount falls
The postal service cut its workforce by more than 172,000 employees between 2008 and 2013, but its workers’ compensation costs grew 35 percent. An aging workforce and fewer modified duty positions are among the reasons cited for the increase…MORE

Prescription drugs

DEA increases restrictions on painkillers
Under the restrictions, doctors will no longer be able to call in Hydrocodone prescriptions, and patients will not be allowed to get refills on the same prescription. The Drug Enforcement Administration published the rule on August 21; it will take effect in 45 days…MORE

Be wary of compound medications in workers’ compensation
Compound medications are largely unregulated. They can carry serious side effects, and they can cost as much as double the standard market drug…MORE

State compensation funds worry about impact of opioids
Growth in highly addictive pain medications is driving up costs and hampering return-to-work outcomes. In this episode of A.M.Best TV, leaders of state compensation funds discuss the impact of opioids on the workers’ comp landscape…MORE

Agent’s role in WC risk management, claims: Time to get hands-on
Agents should create spreadsheets on every company, with its average claims cost, its percentage of claims litigation, the average adjuster case load, and the percentage of claims closed in 90 days. If the numbers are not comparable to the industry average, it’s time for the agent and company to work together to lower their costs, according to Lew Kachulis, president & CEO of Synergy Comp Insurance Co…MORE

State fund news

Riding the fastest park bench ever at another AASCIF conference
Bob Wilson is excited to cross “being heckled by residents sitting on their porch while waiting at a red light on a completely open trolley full of windblown tourists” off his bucket list. Read Bob’s account of the 2014 AASCIF annual conference, held in Washington, D.C…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post