This Week in Comp, October 27-31

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

TRIA expiration fast approaching
With TRIA set to expire at the end of the year, its renewal remains in limbo…MORE

Wellness as an injury prevention tool
The proportion of older workers (55 years and older) in the U.S. climbed from 16% in 2004 to 22% in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The aging workforce presents new opportunities for safety professionals to implement wellness as an injury prevention tool…MORE

NNT in pain management: You’ve been right all along
The National Safety Council’s Dr. Don Teater, M.D. has penned a white paper that contains powerful data and interesting insights regarding the use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. Essentially, Dr. Teater’s research indicates that for most patients, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are safer and more effective than opioids…MORE

Distracted driving: The self-correcting nature of science
A majority of research on driver distractions has focused on cell phones. More recent studies remind us that other distractions, such as daydreaming, talking to passengers or correcting children also take our focus off the task at hand…MORE

CDC tightens PPE guidelines for health care workers
The new guidelines focus on three areas: 1. Training, including how to put on and remove PPE. 2. No skin exposure when PPE is worn. 3. Supervision by a trained monitor while putting on and removing PPE…MORE

No chief’s disease here
David DePaolo recounts a workers’ comp success story from the California Highway Patrol…MORE

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

Workers’ comp study looks at California’s reforms
Large increases in office visit fee schedule rates under SB 863 will likely lead to substantial increases in prices paid in California, as the reforms intended.  However, the reimbursement rule change regarding reports, record review, and consultation codes may moderate the potential increase in payments, according to a recent study released by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute…MORE

Consequences of failing to report & respond to work injuries
Even for the best employers following workplace safety guidelines, accidents happen. When they do, it is important to follow recognized procedures when responding to work injuries. Failure to properly report and respond to the injury can have significant adverse consequences…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

Accountability Saves Lives

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Executives love clichés. In annual reports, they express shock that another year is in the books. In marketing materials, they boast of their organizations’ commitment to going the extra mile, thinking outside the box and delivering maximum return on investment.

Too often, they often leave their audiences scratching their heads and looking for the value add in their latest product or service.

Corporate-speak doesn’t fly in the oil field. There are no SVPS of sustainability and corporate responsibility here. If you want to deliver a message to these tool pushers, rough necks and derrick men, you better speak in plain language. It’s a language Larry Homen is fluent in.

Raul Vega (right) of Standard Energy reviews the job safety analysis with Texas Mutual's Larry Homen during a recent visit to an oil well outside Lubbock.

During his lunch break, Raul Vega (right) of Standard Energy reviews the job hazard analysis (JHA) with Texas Mutual’s Larry Homen during a recent visit to an oil well outside Lubbock. Click on the photo for more information about JHAs.

Larry spent years as a welder in the oil field, narrowly escaping serious injuries more times than he cares to remember. He learned valuable lessons during that time, and he devoted the rest of his life to sharing those lessons with anyone who will listen.

Today, Larry is a certified safety professional with a degree in engineering technology. His “office” is a four-door Chevy Impala he uses to visit employers across West Texas, helping them make their workplaces safer. Larry leans on his field experience to deliver lessons that hit home with his audience. Take a recent visit to an oil well near Lubbock, for example.

After putting on his hard hat, boots, goggles and fire-retardant clothing, Larry reviewed and signed the job safety analysis with the foreman of a four-man crew employed by Standard Energy. He then launched into a story about an accident he heard about at another company.

“The derrick man had unhooked his lanyard so he could sit on the monkey board and eat his lunch,” explained Larry. “Afterward, he forgot to reconnect the lanyard. He fell 65 feet and suffered multiple injuries. Who was responsible for that accident?”

Of course, we are all accountable for our own safety on the job site. Without missing a beat, however, the foreman answered that the operator was partially to blame, as well. He should have checked to make sure his co-worker reconnected the lanyard.

“Excellent response,” said Larry. “Call it safety culture, behavior-based safety or whatever other buzz term you want. It comes down to y’all watching each other’s backs out here.”

No need for translation. Larry is talking about accountability.

In companies that have strong accountability, employees understand that they are not only responsible for their own safety but also for their co-workers’ safety. The common goal is for everyone to go home safely at the end of the day.

How’s that for a synergistic partnership?

???????????????????????????????

Standard Energy in Lubbock has built a strong culture of safety accountability. Case in point: The company’s employees make sure everyone who visits the job site, including technical writers who have never donned a hard hat, wears the required personal protective equipment.

Like anything worth striving for, accountability doesn’t take root overnight. Before it can embed itself into a company’s culture, management has to make it clear that safety is a core business process. In other words, safety has to be a value, not a priority.

“Priorities change,” explained Larry, “but values are constant. They never get compromised in the name of production.”

Larry’s experience has taught him that accountability is a cornerstone of any successful safety program. Accountability inspires employees to take ownership of the program. It facilitates continuous improvement to meet changing work conditions. Whether you spend your days in an office or the oil patch, accountability saves lives.

A note about this post
I recently had the opportunity to spend two days riding along with Larry Homen, a senior safety services consultant at Texas Mutual. Our travels took us to a construction site, an oil well, a power line job and multiple other job sites in and around Lubbock. I learned a lot from Larry, and I pared it down to three core principles that I shared on this blog. Don’t miss the previous installments in this series, and stay tuned for more tales from the field:

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, 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

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????OSHA resources help protect workers from Ebola
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