Here’s a Holiday List That Could Save Your Life

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

The holidays are a time for friends, family and lists. Preparing a turkey dinner with all the fixings for 20? Better take a list to the grocery store. Searching for the perfect gift for those nieces and nephews you haven’t seen since this time last year? You’ll be lost without a list.

Without lists, we forget things, especially during hectic times like the holidays. And when we forget things, the best-laid plans get derailed. The same goes for workplace safety programs, but Texas Mutual is here to help.

As the holiday season ramps up, so will traffic on Texas roadways. Whether on the job or off the clock, your employees will be among the masses behind the wheel, and they will be at increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.

In 2013, 3,377 Texans lost their lives in driving-related accidents. Another 89,000 suffered serious injuries. The issue extends beyond our personal lives and into our professional lives.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that motor vehicle accidents are consistently the leading causes of workplace fatalities. In fact, nearly two-thirds of people killed on U.S. roadways are members of the nation’s workforce. If those stats didn’t get your attention, try these 2013 Texas traffic accident stats:

  • Thanksgiving was the second-deadliest holiday, behind the Fourth of July.
  • Not a single day went by without a traffic-related fatality.
  • A Texan died in a motor vehicle accident every 2 hours and 36 minutes.
  • One crash occurred every 71 seconds.

Texas Mutual is working to reverse the trend in traffic accidents. In the spirit of the holidays, here’s a list of safe-driving tips that can keep you and your employees safe wherever your travels take you.

  • Wear your seat belt. Even if you’re just going “around the corner” or “up the road,” buckle up every time, and make sure your passengers do the same. Remember that the law requires drivers and passengers, including backseat passengers, to wear a seat belt.
    • Stay focused. Dialing, texting and other tasks associated with using electronic devices increase your risk of getting into a crash by three times. Put your cell phone away, including hands-free devices. Avoid eating, combing your hair, putting on makeup and doing anything else that takes your focus off the task at hand.
    • Control your speed. Speeding kills 28 Americans every day. Never attempt to make up lost time by speeding, and always adjust your speed when roads are slick, visibility is poor or you are hauling heavy loads.
    • Wake up. More than one-third of drivers report that they have fallen asleep at the wheel. Get at least seven hours of quality sleep before driving. If you get tired, pull over to a safe place and rest. On long trips, take a passenger to share driving responsibilities with.
  • Driver defensively. Every tip we’ve covered to this point is a sound defensive driving strategy. So what’s left? Around the holidays, drivers get impatient, and impatience can lead to aggressive driving. If you suspect you’re sharing the road with an aggressive driver, give them plenty of space, and do not engage with them.
  • Drive sober. Every 51 minutes, someone loses their life in a motor vehicle crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. If you’ve had too much to drink, stay where you are, call a cab or ask a sober friend to pick you up. And remember that illegal drugs, prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs can compromise your ability to operate a vehicle.

More to come
Next week, we will launch a short series of blog posts digging deeper into all of these tips. Until then, on behalf of everyone at Texas Mutual, have a safe holiday season.

About the author
Woody Hill is vice president of safety services at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He has 30 years’ experience in workplace safety and health, with field experience in the oil and gas, mining, contracting and manufacturing industries. Prior to entering the private sector, Woody served 14 years as an industrial hygienist at the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. In that role, he partnered with employers to develop workplace safety programs, and he provided compliance guidance on safety and health laws. Woody holds a bachelor’s in environmental health and safety from Eastern Kentucky University.

.

This Week in Comp, November 17 – 21

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

Drivers talk on cell phones less but surf, e-mail more
Despite nearly a decade-long national fight against distracted driving, the percentage of drivers engaging in smart phone-related activities behind the wheel has steadily increased over the past six years, a new study shows…MORE

New OSHA reporting requirements go into effect January 1
Beginning January 1, 2015, OSHA will require employers to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding about the incident…MORE
CompPartners publishes white paper on opioid management
Studies show most patients develop dependence and tolerance to opioids within 90 days. CompPartners promotes a two-pronged opioid management approach, working with the injured worker, as well as the treating physician at the onset of opioid treatment to explain the drugs’ risks…MORE
OSHA urges retailers to keep workers safe during major sales events
A sound crowd management plan protects workers during sale events…MORE
Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly mash-up of health and safety-related regulatory news…MORE
CSB investigates chemical leak at DuPont plant
The leak left four employees dead and a fifth hospitalized. The employees were exposed to highly concentrated methyl mercaptan, which DuPont was using in the production of insecticides…MORE
NSC calls prescription drug abuse our most serious drug epidemic
Among people 35 to 54 years old, unintentional drug overdoses cause more deaths than motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Furthermore, 4-6 percent of prescription painkiller abusers will transition to heroin use…MORE
ACFE promotes International Fraud Awareness Week
A single incident of fraud cost a company a median of $145,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). This week, the ACFE offered free educational resources as part of International Fraud Awareness Week…MORE
Hospitals improvise on safety to treat Ebola patients
There is no tried-and-true way to build an Ebola ward, but the administrators cobbling them together have been guided by a few key principals gleaned from clinics in Africa and the few full biocontainment facilities in the U.S…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.

 

 

This Week in Comp, November 10-14

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

CDC personnel assemble PPE kits to distribute among requesting hospitals.

CDC personnel assemble PPE kits to distribute among requesting hospitals.

CDC increasing supply of Ebola-specific PPE for U.S. hospitals
The $2.7 million in PPE includes impermeable gowns, coveralls, and aprons; boot covers; gloves; face shields and hoods; N95 respirators; powered-air purifying respirator systems and ancillaries; and disinfecting wipes…MORE

Observe World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims
This Sunday, countries across the globe will observe World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. This year’s theme, “Speed Kills! Designing Out Speed,” promotes technology that designs speed out of the equation and keeps drivers and passengers safer…MORE

The 3 most common types of workers’ comp fraud, and how to prevent them
Workers’ compensation fraud can take many forms. Careful claim management is key to deterring and detecting it…MORE

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

This is one of 9 new pictograms used in the revised hazard communication standard (HCS). Employers were required to train their employees on the revised HCS by Dec. 1, 2013. Click on the pictogram for more information.

Wisconsin manufacturing company cited in death of worker
OSHA found that the company failed to train workers on the physical and health hazards of chemicals in the workplace…MORE

Workers rescued from dangling scaffolding “doing well”
Investigators are looking into the collapse of a scaffold that left two window washers dangling from the nation’s tallest skyscraper. The men held on to the teetering platform for nearly two hours before firefighters used diamond cutters to saw through a double-layered window to pull them to safety…MORE

Workers’ compensation results continue to improve: A.M. Best
The industry’s combined ratio declined to 98.6, an 11.7-point decrease from 2012 and the lowest calendar year combined ratio since 2006, according to A.M. Best.  Written premiums increased for the third straight year, improvement in the combined ratio has continued and the reduction in claims frequency has largely offset the increase in claims severity…MORE

NSC offers tips to stay safe this busy holiday season
The National Safety Council estimates that there will be 418 fatalities from crashes this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Buckling up, avoiding distractions and staying sober behind the wheel are keys to getting to your destination safely…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

They Never Claimed it Was the Safest Show on Earth

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Lessons in workplace safety are all around us. In our last post, a seemingly impossible workplace accident reinforced the importance of safety accountability on the job. Today’s post takes us to an industry that has been entertaining adults and children alike since the 1800s.

According to a news report:

“A ‘Hair Hang Act’ performance during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show on May 4 in Providence took a disastrous turn when the apparatus the performers were hanging from suddenly fell to the ground. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined this incident occurred because the carabiner used to support the performers failed from being improperly loaded. The failure resulted in the eight employees performing the act falling more than 15 feet to the ground and sustaining serious injuries. A ninth employee, working on the ground, was struck by falling employees.”

It’s no secret the “Greatest Show on Earth” is not necessarily the “Safest Show on Earth.” When you go into that line of work, you accept risk as part of the job. The risk is, at least in part, what keeps audiences coming back for more.

But these lion tamers, tightrope walkers and motorcycle jumpers have years of training, and they’re good at what they do. Still, there is always the potential for something to go wrong, as it did in this case.

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

Everyone who steps on your jobsite, including technical writers, should wear the required personal protective equipment.

Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of OSHA, called on the circus industry to learn valuable lessons from this tragedy.

“This catastrophic failure by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus clearly demonstrates that the circus industry needs a systematic design approach for the structures used in performances – approaches that are developed, evaluated and inspected by professional engineers.”

I would never claim to know more about safety than Dr. Michaels. I would, however, suggest that the investigators start by looking into the attraction itself. I don’t know about you, but “Hair Hang Act” doesn’t sound like something I’d want to be part of, even if I weren’t folicullarly challenged.

But that’s irrelevant for this discussion.

I have no idea what a carabiner is, and I certainly wouldn’t recognize one that was improperly loaded. Consequently, much of this story was lost on me. But another quote from Jeffrey Erskine, acting deputy regional administrator in OSHA’s New England regional office, was something I could get my well-shaped head around.

“Equipment failures can lead to tragic results,” said Erskine. “To prevent these types of incidents, employers need to not only ensure that the right equipment is being used, but also that it is being used properly. The safety and well-being of employees depend on it.”

Now there’s a nugget of wisdom that any employer, regardless of industry, should take to heart. What Mr. Erskine it saying is that inadequate equipment, poorly maintained equipment and employees who aren’t trained to use equipment can wreak havoc on any job site. You can reduce the risk by taking time to invest in safety every day.

Ergonomic keyboards can reduce the strain of repetitive motions on office workers.

Ergonomic keyboards can reduce the strain of repetitive motions on office workers.

If you work in an office, check extension cords for damaged insulation and bent prongs, and provide employees with ergonomically correct workstations.

Behind the wheel, get regularly scheduled oil changes, maintain your tires and replace them when necessary.

On a construction site, provide personal fall arrest systems, hard hats and other personal protective equipment, and train employees how to use it properly.

It may all sound like a lot of work you don’t have time for. After all, busy employers have to juggle productivity, finances, personnel matters and other issues related to running a business. Unfortunately, safety is often a casualty of that delicate balancing act.

Before you write off Mr. Erskine’s advice, consider this final quote from Dr. Michaels.

“We can never put a price on the impact this event had on these workers and their families,” said Dr. Michaels.

Remember that any workplace accident affects not only the worker but also his or her family and friends. That’s true whether your employees spend their days dangling by their hair or with their feet firmly planted on a cubicle floor.

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, November 3 – 7

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

???????????????????????????????????????NTSB to host tire health symposium
Tire blowouts are a common cause of motor vehicle accidents. The public can get information about tire maintenance at a free symposium hosted by the National Transportation Safety Board December 9-10. The NTSB will stream the symposium via webcast…MORE

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

Gear wars: Whose Ebola protective suit is better?
Experts are dividend over whether the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) health care workers wear is more important than the manner in which they remove potentially infected PPE…MORE

What’s the risk, and will you accept it?
Lessons in workplace safety are all around us. Take, for example, this recent incident on a New Jersey construction site…MORE

BLS to correct 2011, 2012 injury data
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that because of data processing errors, incorrect estimates for national-level, private-sector, nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses were published in news releases for reference years 2011 and 2012. BLS will issue corrections to the time series data in the BLS database as the data become available…MORE

More workers testing positive for drug use
The percentage of positive drug tests among American workers has increased for the first time in more than a decade, fueled by a rise in marijuana and amphetamines, according to an analysis of 8.5 million urine, oral fluid and hair workplace drug test results by Quest Diagnostics….MORE

Opioid-related emergency room visits driving costs
A new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that there were over 92,000 emergency department visits related to drug overdoses in 2010. Overall, inpatient and emergency department costs for overdoses resulted in $2.4 billion in health care expenditures…MORE

Former postal worker sentenced to one year in prison for workers’ comp fraud
The man claimed an on-the-job injury left him unable to work. Yet, he snow skied at least 40 days per season and was observed performing arduous physical labor…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

What’s the Risk, and Will You Accept It?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Lessons in workplace safety are all around us. For example, take two recent stories involving two very different on-the-job accidents.

The first story, aptly report by the New York Times, happened on a New Jersey construction site:

“A tower rising 50 stories. A one-pound tape measure attached to the waist of a construction worker. An unsuspecting man stepping from a vehicle at the foot of the building. The three elements converged on Monday morning in a freakish accident, when a 58-year-old man died in Jersey City after being struck in the head by the tape measure after it fell some 400 feet.”

The story goes on to explain two other details worth noting:

  1. The man didn’t work on the construction site; he was just delivering supplies.
  2. Despite jobsite policy, the man was not wearing his hard hat. He had one, but he left it in the truck.

Let’s get the low-hanging fruit from this incident out of the way: Wear a hard hat when you step on a construction site. In fact, you should wear personal protective equipment in every situation in which it is required, period.

Now, we could simply take that lesson to heart and go on about our day, but we’d be doing ourselves a disservice. I believe this incident illustrates two other crucial principles we can all learn from.

First, policies don’t save lives; accountability does. I don’t know the details of this accident or what extenuating circumstances there might have been. I do know that accountability drives workplace safety. Each of us has to take the initiative to clear that walkway, clean up that spill, check that tire tread and put on that hard hat. Furthermore, we need to make sure our co-workers do the same.

Second, we can never assume an accident won’t happen. Seriously, what’s the likelihood of a tape measure falling 50 stories and landing on the one person (presumably) who isn’t wearing a hard hat? The victim in this story was merely delivering supplies, just as he’d probably done hundreds of other times without incident. He certainly didn’t expect to die on the job that day. None of us do, but this story shows that it can happen, sometimes in the most seemingly random way.

That’s why we should ask ourselves two questions before we start a new task: What is the risk, and am I willing to accept it? Before you answer, think about everyone who would be affected if you were seriously injured or killed on the job. The short list probably includes friends, family and co-workers.

What I’m getting at is that it’s easy enough to calculate the monetary costs of workplace accidents. We cannot, however, put a price tag on lives lost due to tragedies such as this one.

In my next post, I’ll share another lesson in safety, courtesy of an industry that’s been entertaining adults and children alike since 1884.

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 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