This Week in Comp, October 13 – 17

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

Ohio man fakes workplace injury, employer discovers it on security video
The employer’s security video revealed that the employee  stomped a hole in a wooden floor the night before he said he was injured and on the following day, lowered his foot into the floor and laid down on the platform…MORE

Click the image above for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast on driving safety.

Click the image above for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast on driving safety.

Ebola: Call for preparedness
At this time, Ebola is not a major workplace health hazard for most workplaces in the United States. Nevertheless, being prepared for any infectious disease event should be a priority for every employer…MORE

Test your driving IQ in the Oct. edition of TDI’s newsletter
The Oct. edition of “Safety and Health Update” includes a short quiz on driving laws, eye safety tips and the benefits of return-to-work…MORE 

Study compares medical costs across 16 states, including Texas 
The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute study provides a baseline of current medical costs and trends for policymakers and other stakeholders by documenting how medical payments per claim and their cost components compare over time with other states….MORE

OSHA releases Oct. 15 edition of QuickTakes
The edition features OSHA alliances with the Association of Energy Service Companies and the Federal Communications Commission. The alliances’ goal is to reduce workplace injuries among cell phone tower and oil field workers, respectively…MORE

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

OSHA: proposed fines up, inspections down for FY 2014
OSHA initiated 30,679 inspections and cited 55,163 alleged violations during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, compared to 39,228 inspections and 78,196 alleged violations in FY 2013…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

Ebola Safety Guidelines for Your Employees

TXM-logo-2014-with-tag-ol_for blogTexas Mutual’s tagline, Work Safe, TexasSM, is more than a catchy slogan. It embodies our vision of a safe workplace for every Texan. We work hard to help Texas employers protect their employees from the hazards of their jobs. Ebola is one of those potential hazards.

Our safety services department put together these safety guidelines. Remember that these are general guidelines. If you operate in an industry that carries a high risk of Ebola exposure, we encourage you to take advantage of the free resources referenced at the end of this post.

Understand the risk
Most Americans will likely never be exposed to Ebola. Certain industries, however, carry a higher risk, including mortuary/death care, airline servicing, laboratories, emergency services, humanitarian organizations and health care.

Learn how Ebola spreads
Ebola is not spread through the air, water, casual contact or food grown in the United States. Rather, it is most commonly spread through direct contact (broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose or mouth) with:

  • Blood or bodily fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • Objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • Infected animals

Recognize the symptoms
If you are at increased risk of Ebola exposure, monitor yourself for these symptoms for at least 21 days:

  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)

Protect yourself
There is no FDA-approved Ebola vaccine, so each of us is responsible for taking the steps necessary to protect ourselves:

  • Monitor your health. If you have been in a high-risk environment, monitor yourself for symptoms for at least 21 days. If you exhibit symptoms, call your health care provider immediately.
  • Practice hygiene. Frequently wash your hands with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose with unwashed or gloved hands.
  • Avoid high-risk contact. Avoid close, unprotected contact with sick people. Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids, such as clothes, bedding, needles and medical equipment. Similarly, avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids and raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Wear protective gear. If you are visiting a health care facility, ask about impermeable protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns and eye protection. Make sure protective suits meet World Health Organization standards, which require them to be impermeable and include breathing apparatuses. Make sure your head and neck are covered, and do not use tape to cover holes or gaps in protective gear. To learn how to safely remove protective clothing, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Reconsider travel plans. If you plan to travel to countries that have experienced cases of Ebola, try to reschedule your trip. If you cannot reschedule, make sure you are healthy, aware of the risks, and armed with the knowledge and tools you need to protect yourself. When you return, monitor yourself for symptoms for at least 21 days.

If you suspect you have been exposed
Health care organizations agree the risk of contracting Ebola is low. If you suspect you have been exposed:

  • Remember that best practices dictate you do not come to work if you have symptoms, but follow your company’s procedures.
  • Notify your supervisor.
  • Seek medical attention.
  • Before visiting a health care provider, alert the clinic or emergency room in advance about your possible exposure to Ebola so they can make arrangements to prevent spreading it to others.
  • When traveling to a health care provider, limit contact with other people. Avoid all other travel.

Get more information

The 2014 Ebola outbreak is not the world’s first, but it is the largest in history. Health care organizations across the globe are working hard to arm everyone with the knowledge they need to protect themselves. Here are some links to credible organizations that offer more information for you and your family:

Industry-specific resources for:

About Texas Mutual
Texas Mutual Insurance Company is the state’s leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance. With Texas’ largest staff of workplace safety professionals, the company is a leader in preventing on-the-job injuries and minimizing their consequences. For free workplace safety resources, visit worksafetexas.com. For more information about Texas Mutual, visit texasmutual.com.

This Week in Comp, October 6 – 10

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

NETS encourages Americans to observe Drive Safely Work Week

Click the image above for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast on driving safety.

Click the image above for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention podcast on driving safety.

Nearly two-thirds of all people killed on U.S. roadways were members of the nation’s workforce, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). During Drive Safely Work Week, NETS offers free resources to help employers promote safe driving among their workforce..MORE

Heroin death rates doubled in 28 states, 2010-2012
Despite the spike in heroin-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted more than twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses in those states…MORE

Regulatory spotlight
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has revised its hazard communication standard (HCS), which helps employees understand the hazards associated with chemicals they use in the workplace. This brief post explains employers’ obligations under the revised HCS..MORE

NSC study: Over-the-counter pain medications more effective for acute pain than prescribed painkillers
Pills White BackgroundThe combination of over-the-counter pain medications ibuprofen and acetaminophen is more effective at treating acute pain than opioid painkillers, according to a white paper released by the National Safety Council. The white paper comes on the heels of a new law that makes it more difficult for doctors to prescribe hydrocodone combination products…MORE

What insurers can learn from states’ workers’ compensation reforms
Reforms that include employer-directed care, limitations on prescription drugs and objective standards of medical care have produced some of the most meaningful cost savings in the 20 largest workers’ compensation markets, according to a study by Conning…MORE

OR DCBS releases national study on workers’ compensation costs
The study ranked workers’ compensation costs in all 50 states. California’s rates were the highest, and North Dakota’s were the lowest…MORE

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers free resources on recognizing and controlling the risks associated with Ebola…MORE

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

Study: Formulary could save California workers’ comp $124M-$420M
If California adopted a prescription drug formulary similar to the one Texas adopted, it could save up to $420 million a year in workers’ compensation costs, according to a study by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute…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

Regulatory Spotlight

The federal government believes every American has the right to a safe workplace. In 1970, Congress created an agency charged with protecting that right: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA is one of many agencies working to protect workers from the on-the-job injuries. Others include the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Chemical Safety Board.

In this occasional series, we will spotlight regulatory initiatives and explain in layman’s terms how they affect you. Our first installment focuses on OSHA’s revised hazard communication standard.

Key terms

Hazard communication standard (HCS) – OSHA implemented the HCS to help protect workers from the hazards associated with certain chemicals. The HCS requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and to communicate those hazards to consumers.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) – The GHS is an internationally agreed-upon system for classifying and labeling hazardous chemicals. It is designed to replace the various classification and labeling standards used in different countries by using consistent criteria for classification and labeling on a global level.

Labels – Labels are informational elements concerning a hazardous chemical. They are affixed to, printed on or attached to the hazardous chemical container or its packaging. A label must explain why a chemical is hazardous and recommend preventive measures. A label must also include pictograms.

Pictograms represent the hazards associated with chemicals.

Pictograms represent the hazards associated chemicals.

Pictograms – Pictograms are graphic symbols used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical.

Safety data sheets (SDS) – An SDS is similar to a label, but it is more comprehensive. Workers should consult the SDS for information on the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical. Under the previous hazard communication standard, safety data sheets were called material safety data sheets.

Why revise the HCS?

The old HCS allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to communicate information on labels and safety data sheets in a format they chose. The revised HCS provides a standardized approach to classifying the hazards and communicating the information. OSHA feels the revised HCS will better protect workers, particularly when they encounter chemicals produced in other countries.

What changed?

This chart provides a side-by-side comparison of the old HCS and the revised HCS. Major changes include:

  • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
  • Hazard class number: Under the previous HCS, 0 represented the least-hazardous class, and 4 represented the most-hazardous. Under the revised HCS, 1 is the most-hazardous class, and 5 is the least- hazardous.
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
  • Safety Data Sheets: Now have a specified 16-section format.
  • Information and training: Employers were required to train workers by December 1, 2013, on the new label elements and safety data sheet format.

When will the revised HCS be effective?

Chemical manufacturers have until Dec. 1, 2015, to comply with all components of the revised HCS. However, some have already begun shipping products that meet the new requirements.

Effective Completion Date Requirement(s) Who?
December 1, 2013 Train employees on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format. Employers
June 1, 2015 Compliance with all modified provisions of this final rule, except:

The Distributor shall not ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer unless it is a GHS label – Effective December 1, 2015

Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers
June 1, 2016 Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards. Employers
Transition period to the effective completion dates noted above May comply with either 29 CFR 1910.1200 (the final standard), or the current standard, or both. Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers

What are employers’ training obligations?

OSHA required employers to train their employees on the new label elements and SDS format by Dec. 1, 2013. Texas Mutual recommends employers document all employee training. For more information about your training requirements, click here.

Need help?

This chart provides key implementation dates employers need to know about.

About subject matter expert Al Capps
Texas Mutual safety services consultant Al Capps contributed to this blog post. Al is a professional engineer who previously served as an industrial hygienist for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In that role, he conducted health and safety investigations, including air, noise and heat monitoring, as well as safety hazard recognition. Prior to joining OSHA, Al worked in the water quality division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where he conducted audits of municipal pretreatment programs, wastewater plan reviews and community outreach. As a Texas Mutual safety services consultant, Al partners with Central Texas employers to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. Al earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas.

This Week in Comp, September 29 – October 3

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

OSHA releases October edition of QuickTakes
The October edition of OSHA’s newsletter features the agency’s new home page, the revised injury reporting rule and a message from Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels…MORE

Safety never sleeps
If we want to protect employees from the hazards of their jobs, we cannot afford to focus on safety only when it’s convenient. Safety has to be a constant presence that continuously evolves to meet our changing needs. It has to be a value that never gets compromised, even when we have to drag ourselves out of bed before the sun comes up. For safety to thrive, it can never sleep…MORE

IAIABC: Making Return-to-Work Easy Peasy Committee Style
The Disability Management and Return to Work Committee met in Austin this week to continue work on its RTW policy paper. Bob Wilson reports that although the members bring varying opinions and priorities to the conversation, they agree on one thing: We have a disability problem in this nation, and the status quo is no longer acceptable…MORE

Study shows driving while texting with Google Glass as distracting phone
This year, eight states have considered laws to ban drivers from using Google Glass and other head-mounted computers or displays…MORE

Regulatory Roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly mash-up of health and safety-related regulatory news…MORE

The Health and Safety at Work Act turns forty
The Act sets out guidelines and rules for employees to follow to protect not only their employees, but also members of the public, as well as guidelines for employees to follow to avoid injuries in the workplace. Since its introduction, there has been a staggering 80% decrease in fatal accidents in the workplace…MORE

TX court orders employer to pay $35K to Texas Mutual
Everest Contract Services, LLC of Irving, Texas, pled guilty to workers’ compensation fraud-related charges. The company misrepresented numbers of employees and payroll associated with a related company, Premrock Commercial Drywall Ltd…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 Never Sleeps

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

I’ve been known to commit to things that sound like a good idea at the time. The closer I get to actually having to follow through on those commitments, the less appealing they often seem. Booking a 6 a.m. flight from Austin to Lubbock was one of those commitments.

The purpose of my trip was a two-day ride-along with Larry Homen, a Texas Mutual senior safety services consultant based in our Lubbock office. Actually, Larry’s “office” is a four-door Chevy Impala. He spends the bulk of his time behind the wheel, travelling to job sites across West Texas. His mission: Help policyholders prevent workplace accidents. Larry graciously invited me to tag along and learn a little more about the business of safety.

D & K Hunt in Lubbock leans on veteran electricians like Travis Klekar (left) to mentor new employees. The company's mentor program includes classroom and on-the-job training.

D & K Hunt in Lubbock leans on veteran electricians like Travis Klekar (left) to teach new employees how to do the job safely. The company’s mentor program includes classroom and on-the-job training.

To make a 6 a.m. flight, I had to get up at 4 a.m., which wasn’t a great start to a long day. The shuttle ride from the airport parking lot to the terminal provided a far too brief opportunity to nurse my coffee, clear the cobwebs and remind myself to avoid early-morning flights in the future. I suspect some of my traveling companions felt the same.

By 9 a.m., I was at my hotel in Lubbock. I hadn’t even gotten inside the lobby before I crossed paths with Larry. He was waiting for me in the parking lot, day planner and cell phone in hand.

“They’ve got your room ready,” said Larry. “Go ahead and check in, change and let’s get going.” I didn’t even have a chance to see if the hotel offered cable T.V. or free breakfast before we arrived at our first job site.

For the next two days, Larry and I logged hundreds of miles in and around the Lubbock area. Our travels took us to a mechanic shop, a construction site and an oil well so remote that if our GPS had a more robust vocabulary, it would have surely said something along the lines of, “You want to go where?”

When we weren’t navigating dirt roads and cotton fields, we were in offices reviewing policyholders’ accident trends and suggesting preventive measures. It was coffee in the car and lunch on the fly. I imagine we would have eaten in the car if it weren’t a safety hazard.

Everything went smoothly until our last visit. My flight was at 6 p.m., and Larry was enthusiastically touting the ROI of return-to-work at 4:30 p.m. Sensing my panic, he assured me I had nothing to worry about. Turns out, he was right. You really can get anywhere in Lubbock in about 15 minutes, even during “rush hour.” So there was plenty of time for Larry to share his expertise with this employer.

Employees at PLASKA Transmission Line understand the importance of watching each other's backs on the job. Here, a PLASKA electrician repairs a power line as a co-worker watches for hazards.

Employees at PLASKA Transmission Line understand the importance of watching each other’s backs on the job. Here, a PLASKA electrician repairs a power line as a co-worker watches for hazards.

And that brings me to the second principle of safety I picked up during my Lubbock visit.

We cannot afford to focus on safety only when it’s convenient. Safety has to be a constant presence that continuously evolves to meet our changing needs. It has to be a value that never gets compromised, even when we have to drag ourselves out of bed before the sun comes up. For safety to thrive, it can never sleep.

For the first installment in this series, “Safety Meets People Where They Are,” click here.

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, September 22 – 26

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

Texas Mutual’s Al Capps explains 6 things you need to know about OSHA’s new reporting rule

By Al Capps, Safety Services Consultant

By Al Capps, Safety Services Consultant

The revised rule expands the list of injuries employers must report to OSHA. The rule applies to all employers under OSHA jurisdiction, even employers who are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA records due to company size or industry…MORE

OSHA says priority of I2P2 has been bumped down
OSHA Director David Michaels says the organization has shifted its focus to silica exposure and modernizing the recordkeeping process…MORE

OSHA offers fatality summaries in a single, downloadable report
The public can now download year-to-date fatality summaries for 2014 in multiple formats. OSHA also offers an aggregate report of fatalities from 2009-2013…MORE

More workers testing positive for drugs
For the first time in more than a decade, the percentage of positive drug tests among U.S. workers has increased, according to a recent report…MORE

Regulatory Roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly mash-up of health and safety-related regulatory news…MORE

NIOSH celebrates National Farm Safety and Health Week
NIOSH Farm Safety WeekThe National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health marked this year’s theme, Safety Counts: Protecting What Matters, by announcing the new Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing directory page…MORE

Law that made terrorism coverage available expiring at year end

The recent intensification of threats to American interests around the world from new terrorist organizations demonstrates the need for TRIA’s extension,  according to the Insurance Information Institute. With Congress in recess until after the November mid-term elections, the opportunity to reauthorize TRIA before year-end is rapidly narrowing…MORE

Tech, underwriting and claims departments best for job opportunities
Fifth-eight percent of insurance companies that participated in a recent study by Jacobson Group and Ward Group plan to increase staff during the next 12 months. Those looking for jobs within the insurance industry should focus on employment opportunities within technology, underwriting and claims departments…MORE

Houston nurse ordered to pay back $39,800 to Texas Mutual
auto-insurance-fraudA 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

Texas construction firm owners sentenced for premium fraud
A Travis County district court sentenced Anthony Stokes and Mario Williams of Little Elm, Texas for workers’ compensation fraud-related charges. Stokes and Williams were sentenced to one year deferred adjudication and ordered to pay $41,844 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