Taking the H3 Challenge

Update – On Saturday, I embarked on a journey in the plains near Wichita Falls to ride 100 miles in the sweltering Texas sun. The journey was a challenge, but I was able to complete the entire 100 mile trek.

RJGFinishPhotoI am a cyclist so this wasn’t my first long-distance race, but my ride in the Hotter’N Hell race was for more than just a personal challenge. I also extended the H3 challenge to all of you to donate $1 for each mile I rode to help Texas’ firefighters and emergency workers get the training they need. Many of you answered the call, and when I completed the race on Saturday, it meant much more than just crossing the finish line.

As we mentioned on our blog last week, Texas’ emergency workers have been struggling to receive the training they need because of budget cuts. That’s why the contributions that you and I have made through the H3 challenge are so important. Texas Mutual has also given to the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Association of Texas (SFFMA) over the past two years. All of these donations will help our firefighters and emergency workers get the training they need to keep us all safe.

In case you didn’t have a chance to give last week, there’s still time. You can mail your check, payable to SFFMA Fire Programs Institute, to P.O. Box 1709, Manchaca, TX, 78652. All donations are 100% tax deductible and will be used to send firefighters and emergency personnel to safety training classes.
I want to thank all of you for taking the time and effort to partner with me on this challenge. I was thinking of your contributions all throughout the race and am so glad we had the chance to work together on this.

 

Original story – On behalf of our Board of Directors and all of our employees I want to thank you for putting your trust in Texas Mutual. Workers’ compensation can be a big expense for many of our customers, so we take our responsibility in providing this service to you very seriously. We are all committed to helping you keep your employees safe and seeing that your employees and their families are well cared for if a work injury occurs.

Our work with industrial disasters has made us acutely aware of another group of citizens dedicated to your safety. The fire and emergency services workers in our communities are always there when we need them most. We are also aware that budget cuts have limited their access to important safety training and equipment. Many of the volunteers use their own money to atteRich MS 150nd training sessions.

Texas Mutual and VFIS of Texas have worked with the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Association of Texas (SFFMA) to create a fund to be used to provide money to aid these individuals with their safety training needs. Over the past two years Texas Mutual and VFIS have combined to donate $190,000 to this fund.

Here’s where you come in. I will be riding in the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred tomorrow in Wichita Falls. While I have ridden this distance before I have never done it in Texas heat. I was inspired to create the “H3 Challenge” this week by the ALS ice bucket challenge that is sweeping the country. My challenge to you is very easy as I will do the work. I’m asking you to donate $1 for every mile I ride on Saturday to the SFFMA Safety Training Fund. All proceeds are 100% tax deductible and will be used to send firefighters and emergency personnel to safety training classes.

Track my progress on twitter @RJGergasko or @texasmutual or look for an update email on Monday. Please send your check, payable to SFFMA Fire Programs Institute, to P.O. Box 1709, Manchaca, TX 78652.

If you happen to be in Wichita Falls on Saturday feel free to dump a bucket of ice water on me at the finish line. Thank you again for your business and have a great weekend.

Rich Gergasko President and CEO Texas Mutual Insurance Company

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

Acclimatization Key to Protecting Workers from Heat-Related Illness

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Most Texans know the basics of summer safety. We can rattle them off as easily as our shoe size, our birthday and, hopefully, our wedding anniversary. Still, it’s easy to get complacent the longer sweltering temperatures hang around. And complacency can lead to serious heat-related illness.

If your employees work outside or in hot indoor environments, take a few minutes to promote these safety tips:

- Drink about 6 ounces of water every 15 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty. That goes for nighttime work, as well.

- Understand how the heat index affects your body.

- Rest in the shade for at least five minutes when you need to cool down.

- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

- Apply wet towels or headbands to cool off.

- Watch for heat stress symptoms in your co-workers, and learn how to treat them.

- Ask your doctor if any of your medication make you more vulnerable to heat illness.

-  Ease into the heat during your first days on the job.

Employers: Allow workers to acclimatize
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently investigated 20 cases of heat-related illnesses that happened between 2012 and 2013. In 13 of the cases, the worker did not survive. Most of the fatalities happened during the first three days on the job.

OSHA’s investigation underscores the importance of allowing workers to acclimatize to the heat. Simply put, give workers time to adjust to the stress of working in hot temperatures. Acclimatization is especially important for people who are new to outdoor work, returning from more than one week off, and for all workers on the first day of a sudden heat wave.

During acclimatization, physical changes in blood vessels and sweating help the body spread heat more effectively. The process can take up to three weeks, but the first five days are the most critical.

Begin by exposing employees to 50 percent of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment. Then, gradually build up to 100 percent by the fifth day.

Get free resources

Summer Safety Tips
Short article written by a Texas Mutual safety professional

Water. Rest. Shade.
OSHA’s annual heat safety campaign

Occupational Heat Exposure
Tips for protecting indoor workers from heat-related illnesses

Heat Safety App
Allows users to calculate the heat index, evaluate the risk and access preventive measures

Heat Stress Fact Sheet
Short training tool that includes a quiz
Download it in English or Spanish.

Casey Perkins, OSHA Austin director, explains the agency’s Water. Rest. Shade. heat safety campaign.

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 11 – 15

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Safety

From the family room to the board room: A lesson in workplace safety
Behavior-based safety may have been hibernating in safety circles, but it is alive and well. In this week’s Texas Mutual blog post, David Wylie shows how a mishap at home underscores the importance of personal accountability in preventing accidents…MORE

What’s your biggest risk behind the wheel?
Of the 2,000 drivers surveyed by CarInsurance.com, 68 percent admitted to driving when they were tired or sleepy….MORE

NETS offers driving safety toolkit
The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) toolkit builds the case for executive leadership to adopt safe driving as part of the corporate safety culture. It also provides low-cost steps to engage employees…MORE

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

Fraud

Beauty contestant busted through social media for workers’ comp fraud
A California woman was arrested for workers’ compensation fraud after video evidence showed her participating in the 2014 Miss Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix beauty contest…MORE

Prescription drugs

Study investigates effectiveness of compounds
A recent study shows that cost and utilization of compounded medications jumped 126 percent per-user-per-year in 2013. The study uncovered no clinical evidence that compounded medications commonly used in workers’ compensation are more effective than commercially available, manufactured drugs. In fact, compound drugs could pose serious patient safety concerns…MORE

Measuring opioid effectiveness requires more than scale of 1 to 10
Asking patients to rate their pain does not tell physicians whether opioids are effective, according to Dr. Kurt Hegmann, director of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. Rather, physicians should ask quantifiable, function-based questions…MORE

Return-to-work

Trust, belief and recovery from disability
A recent study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute showed that injured employees who fear being laid off or fired are twice as likely not to return to work. The study underscores the importance of trust in the employer/employee relationship…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

From the Family Room to the Board Room: A Lesson in Workplace Safety

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Workplace safety professionals have a tough job. In a marketplace driven by bottom-line results, how do we convince management that training, personal protective equipment and other components of a solid safety program deserve a place in the budget?

Granted, safety sells itself in some industries. Every day, we hear about fatal accidents on construction and oil and gas sites. Show managers the devastating consequences of sacrificing safety in the name of production, and most will buy in. But what about office environments?

White-collar workers like me don’t spend our days constructing high-rise office buildings or handling volatile chemicals. How is a safety pro supposed to get our attention? Humor is one way.

I’m talking about those old, black-and-white office safety videos. One of the best I’ve seen is from the 1950s. The narrator opens with this rhetorical question.

“This morning when you came to work, did you think you would have an accident just because someone picked up a pencil, looked over some books and had a hot cup of coffee?”

From there, a hilarious series of mishaps unfolds, starting with a man opening a door into a woman who is picking up a pencil. The woman bumps into a co-worker who is carrying a stack of books. The books scatter and hit another worker who is carrying a cup of coffee. That worker predictably throws the coffee into the first employee’s face.

The rest of the video is entertaining, if not impactful. Actors dramatically trip over extension cords, wildly flip over open filing cabinets and open doors into each other. Under the action is a whimsical soundtrack that detracts from the urgency of the message. In fact, the narrator admits that “like all advice, office safety isn’t taken too seriously.”

I don’t know if the video does much to change viewers’ attitudes, but it’s good for a laugh. That is, until something similar happens to your toddler.

My wife and I keep a small dresser in our family room. We use it to store envelopes, stationary and, most important for this story, the television remote. Every time I go in there, I leave the drawer open. And every time, my wife reminds me to close it.

Given my recent career transition into safety, I feel like a hypocrite admitting her warnings have historically fallen on deaf ears. After all, I’ve been leaving that drawer open for years without consequences.

That changed last week, when my four-year-old came tearing through the room, her younger sister in hot pursuit. In the unlikely event you don’t see where this is going, she ran her shins straight into the open drawer.

Fortunately, the injury was minor. A few crocodile tears and a bowl of ice cream later, and we were back to chaos as usual. Still, I felt horrible. More importantly, I learned from the mistake, and so you can.

I don’t need to convince you that workplace hazards exist everywhere, even in the relatively safe confines of an office. My point is bigger than that.

Research shows that human behavior drives most workplace accidents. Regardless of the hazards you face, you have the power to protect yourself by changing your behavior. I think our office safety video says it best.

“Injuries happen when someone doesn’t realize their action, or lack of action, can cause an accident. Let’s assume someone dropped a pencil and didn’t pick it up. Later, a co-worker came along and slipped on it. It seems so trivial, but that’s what accidents are made of – trivial things. With just a little bit of extra effort, accidents could be prevented.”

So the next time you see a wet spot on the floor, wipe it up. Don’t use chairs as ladders. If you have to leave extension cords in walkways, tape them down to minimize the risk of someone tripping on them. Simply put, don’t practice unsafe behaviors that jeopardize your safety or your co-workers’ safety.

And lastly, if your spouse advises you to close the dresser drawer, do it, even if he or she is not a safety professional.

This video from the 1950s uses humor to show how unsafe behaviors can lead to workplace accidents.

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.

 

This Week in Comp, August 4 – 8

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 working safely outdoors
Failure to ease into the stress of working in hot temperatures is a leading cause of heat-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…MORE

Casey Perkins, OSHA Austin director, explains the agency’s Water. Rest. Shade. heat safety campaign.

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

What’s the most dangerous jobs in the world?
Construction worker? Roofer? Truck driver? All made the list, but none claimed the dubious title of World’s Most Dangerous Job. Still stumped? Here’s a hint: There’s a giant leap between the pay grade and the risk associated with the job…MORE

Prescription drugs

Paying for detox
The health care industry is increasingly turning to detoxification programs to wean patients off powerful opioids. Programs that excel at pain management and detoxification deliver the best results…MORE

A prescription for patient safety when using compounded medications
Compounded medications pose safety risks for patients. Medications can get contaminated during the compounding process. In addition, many compound medications are provided as topical creams or patches, which makes it difficult to control dosage accurately and consistently…MORE

Return-to-work

GENEX Services outlines top barriers to effective return-to-work programs
If employers want to reap the benefits of a return-to-work program, they must create a formal, written policy that includes modified duty for injured workers who have medical restrictions…MORE

Claims

DWC report shows decrease in benefit disputes
Medical benefit disputes in the Texas workers’ compensation system fell 70 percent from 2003 to 2013, according to a Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation report. The report also showed the number of claims with indemnity dispute proceedings is at its lowest level since 2008…MORE

NCCI releases 2014 claim frequency report
Lost-time claim frequency increased in accident year 2010 and has declined in each subsequent accident year. The report partially attributes the trend to the Great Recession…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