This Week in Comp, July 21-25

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

Workplace safety: There’s an app for that
From GPS to cell phones, technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Workplace safety is no exception. In this week’s Texas Mutual blog post, David Wylie highlights apps that can help employers prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs…MORE

‘Hide No Harm Act’ would criminalize corporate concealment of hazards
The bill is a response to recent allegations of a motor vehicle company concealing a defect that led to deaths and injuries…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual created this weekly feature to keep its safety services consultants current on EHS news. Now, we’re sharing it with you in our This Week in Comp posts…MORE

Opioid epidemic

5 things employers should know about prescription painkiller use
Every day, 45 people die from prescription drug overdoses, and 23 percent of the workforce has misused prescription painkillers, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The National Safety Council offers the five tips for employers who want to minimize the impact of opioid abuse on their workplace…MORE

ACOEM updates guideline on opioids in safety-sensitive jobs
Under the previous guideline, unless the patient exhibited adverse effects, no restrictions were considered necessary. The updated guideline flatly states that “[a]cute or chronic opioid use is not recommended for patients who perform safety-sensitive jobs…MORE

TRIA extension

Conservative House members digging in on slimmed-down TRIA
The House bill calls for gradually increasing the program trigger for all non-nuclear, biological, radiological, and/or chemical (NBCR) events, from $100 million to $500 million by 2019, effectively phasing out the program for non-NBCR events…MORE

System reforms

California officials praise reforms
System reforms enacted in 2012 have strengthened the self-insurance marketplace, reduced ambulatory surgery center facility fees, and cut liens for reasonable medical expenses in half…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

Workplace Safety: There’s an App for That

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

When’s the last time you used a road map? I’m talking about one of those tabloid-sized jobs you store under your car seat because it’s too big to fit in your glove compartment.

And who remembers pay phones? I understand they’re still quite popular in London, mostly as artifacts of a bygone era.

From GPS to cell phones, technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Workplace safety is no exception.

Concerned that your employees need hearing protection? There’s an app for that.

Want to know what to do in case of a tornado, fire or other natural disaster? There’s an app for that, too.

Here is a look at a few apps that can help you send your employees how safely at the end of the work day.

Ergonomics IOS application
What could be hazardous about office work? Plenty. Sitting for prolonged periods, typing and staring a computer screen can lead to painful musculoskeletal injuries. This app teaches users how to set up a desk, chair, monitor, mouse and keyboard for enhanced productivity. It also illustrates group and individual stretches, and it provides stretch-break reminders throughout the day…MORE

Safety Smart
Remember your first job? Were you nervous, eager to please and embarrassed to a “stupid question”? Your young workers feel the same way. This app helps you instill safe work behaviors that will last teens a lifetime. It shows common hazards teens face on the job and offers tips for avoiding those hazards …MORE

Hear Me Now
Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common work-related injury. This app measures noise levels in the workplace. If levels exceed OSHA standards, users may suggest acoustic sound treatment options to management or anonymously inform OSHA of the violation from the app. Remember that apps should not be used as a substitute for proper noise-level monitoring equipment. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently tested noise-monitoring apps for accuracy. The study concluded that some sound measurement apps for Apple devices were accurate and reliable, but Android and Windows apps fell short…MORE

HazCommID: Worker Rights
OSHA recently updates its long-standing hazard communication standard. The revised standard includes new symbols representing the hazards associated with chemicals. This app offers a library of the nine adopted symbols, including images, summaries of the potential hazards and possible protective measures…MORE

Know Your Plan
Know Your Plan contains disaster preparedness checklists for hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, severe winter weather and evacuations. It also gives you the option of setting up reminders to complete a task, tracking your progress, and customizing and sharing checklists with your social network…MORE

Blast Injury
Blast Injury helps healthcare professionals manage the chaos that accompanies explosions and, ultimately, save lives. Blast Injury’s content includes on-the-scene emergency response guidance, personal safety information and medical surge capacity guidance…MORE

First Aid App
First Aid app’s preloaded content provides instant access to safety information, even without reception or an Internet connection. And it’s fully integrated with 911, so you can call EMS from the app any time…MORE

SafetyKickTM
Safety Kick eliminates paper from the safety reporting and data collection requirements. The app includes templates for commonly used safety forms, including behavior-based safety observations, job safety analysis and vehicle safety checklists. Companies can customize the forms to meet their needs…MORE

OSHA Heat Safety Tool
Working outdoors in the Texas heat is more than uncomfortable; it’s downright dangerous. This app empowers workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite. The app then displays a risk level and provides protective measures…MORE

NIOSH Ladder Safety App
Everyone knows how to use a ladder, right? Maybe. But we don’t necessarily know how to use ladders safely. This app helps workers select the right ladder for the job, inspect ladders before using them and position them safely…MORE

Forklift Safety App
The forklift safety app provides paperless records and documentation management for forklift safety and maintenance, including safety checklists, daily checklists, operator checklists, process and risk audits, accident / incident reports and maintenance checklists…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, July 13 – 18

 

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

TDI recognizes Stewart Welding & Machine for safety excellence
The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation recently issued its prestigious Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) award to Stewart Welding & Machine. The  company, a Texas Mutual policyholder, constructs, maintains and repairs oilfield production facilities…MORE

Fall protection was OSHA’s most-frequently cited citation in 2013
OSHA levied more than $20 million in proposed penalties for fall protection violations. The top industries where fall protection violations were found, in ranking order: construction, wholesale trade, waste management and remediation services, and manufacturing…MORE

Global occupational health and safety standard on horizon to protect workers worldwide
The team includes representatives from 43 countries, including the U.S. Its goal is to provide governmental agencies, industry and other affected stakeholders with effective, usable guidance for improving worker safety worldwide…MORE

Holland & Hart launches cutting-edge workplace safety report
The report includes information specifically related to industries at high risk for work-related injuries. It also provides intelligence on federal and state agencies that regulate workplace safety and health…MORE

Substance abuse

NIH system to monitor emerging drug trends
The system will help health experts respond quickly to potential outbreaks of illicit drugs. It will scan social media and Web platforms to identify new trends, as well as use conventional national- and local-level data resources…MORE

TRIA extension

Senate passes TRIA renewal with broker licensing provision
The bill would extend TRIA for seven years. The House version would renew TRIA for five years and reduce government involvement in the program…MORE

Medical costs

WCRI releases Medical Price Index for Workers’ Compensation
The MPI tracks the actual medical prices paid for each of the major services delivered to injured workers in 25 states over the past 12 years. The states included in the study represent 80 percent of workers’ comp benefits paid in the U.S…MORE

Up? Down? Sideways? What’s up with health care costs?
If you’re stressed over costs, Joe Paduda has some advice: Learn the difference between price and cost, and, more important, don’t get too wrapped up in recent forecasts…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, July 7 – 11

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

No matter how far off the beaten path you are, workplace hazards will find you
OSHA recently cited the Flambeau Paper Company in Park Falls, Wisconsin for not protecting workers from hazards associated with exposure to sulfur. The news hit home for our technical writer, David Wylie, who spent a year of his childhood in in the remote town just south of the Canadian border…MORE

Eyewear to provide clearer view of worker fatigue
The glasses measure a worker’s eyelid blinks 500 times a second using a tiny LED built into the eyewear frame. Workers are warned with auditory and visual alerts if they move into either a medium or high-risk state…MORE

Report on chemical facility safety finds room for improvement
The most effective emergency planning occurs at the local level. Unfortunately, many local emergency planning committees and tribal emergency planning committees lack the necessary resources…MORE

Opioid epidemic

Opioid deaths drop in Florida as the state cracks down
Florida began making legal and regulatory changes in 2010, requiring pain clinics to register with the state. At the same time, authorities conducted statewide raids that resulted in drug seizures and the closing of pain clinics. The result was a 23 percent drop in prescription drug overdoses between 2010 and 2012…MORE

Fraud

Texas doctor sentenced on workers’ comp fraud charges
Howard T. Douglas, III, M.D. of Frisco was sentenced to five years’ confinement. In May, a Travis County jury convicted Douglas on felony workers’ compensation fraud-related charges for overbilling Texas Mutual for functional capacity evaluations…MORE

Five at California business charged with comp fraud
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office recently charged five owners, operators and employees of a Corona-based paving company in a case involving wage theft, premium fraud, workers compensation fraud and payroll fraud…MORE

Claim management

NCCI data reveal need for new model for workers’ comp claim management
For insurers, claim management makes or breaks profit. The new claim management model should include three core elements…MORE

Miscellaneous

Bob Wilson selected as one of the 50 most influential people in workers’ comp
Wilson is perhaps best known as author of the widely read “From Bob’s Cluttered Desk” blog. He is also CEO of WorkersCompensation.com…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

No Matter How Far Off the Beaten Path You Are, Workplace Hazards Will Find You

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Texans are famous – some might say notorious – for our state pride. That’s especially true of those who were born and raised here. That’s why I always cringe when someone asks me where I’m from.

I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but I’ve been in the Lone Star State since I was a kid. So as the saying goes, I’m not from Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.

Anyway, when I was 10 years old, my dad decided we should have a pioneer experience. So, we packed up the Oldsmobile and moved to a remote town (and I use the word “town” loosely) called Park Falls, Wisconsin.

My mom, dad and I, along with two dogs and a cat, arrived in the dead of winter to temperatures well below zero. The house had none of the conveniences I was accustomed to. Running water, for instance. If you were going to take a bath, you had to really think about how committed you were. I remember hauling water one bucket at a time from a well about 100 yards away, heating it on a wood-burning stove, and then pouring it into one of those aluminum tubs ranchers use to water their cattle.

Admittedly, that was a long time ago, and I’m sure Park Falls has made progress. Still, it’s far from a booming metropolis. And that’s just fine with city officials. In fact, the chamber of commerce website prominently features a slogan that speaks volumes about Park Falls’ commitment to remaining a small-town cliché: “Just off the beat path.”

And that is where this post awkwardly stumbles back to its original intent.

Trolling the hundreds of health and safety headlines I subscribe to every day, I was shocked to see a story out of tiny Park Falls. I couldn’t imagine what was so important that I would hear about it from my cubicle way down in Austin, Texas.

The story was about the Flambeau Paper Company, a major cog in Park Falls’ economic engine for more than 100 years. Some of my relatives made good livings there for decades. So I was disappointed to read that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited Flambeau for not protecting workers from hazards associated with exposure to sulfur.

The violations involved failing to document safe operating limits, comply with good engineering practices, implement a mechanical integrity program, and conduct an annual audit of lockout/tagout procedures. That’s quite a laundry list of violations for a company with deep roots in a small community.

When you live in a town as small and remote as Park Falls, you feel like nothing bad can happen. Tucked away just south of the Canadian border, surrounded by thousands of acres of forests and hundreds of rivers and lakes, you’re insulated from civilization and all its baggage – traffic, urban sprawl, crime. Sure, we had the occasional case of high school kids stealing the rival team’s mascot. Kids will be kids, after all.

But it turns out that no matter how far off the beaten path you are, workplace hazards will find you. Whether you’re churning out blog posts in Austin or paper products in Park Falls, your employer is responsible for providing the tools and training you need to stay safe. And you are responsible for using those tools and following safety procedures every time.

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, June 30 – July 3

 

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

4 tips for keeping employees well-grounded
Texas Mutual’s Angela Gardner offers tips for preventing slips, trips and falls, a common workplace accident across industries…MORE

Fatal falls among older adults rising at an alarming rate
Fatal falls among adults 65 and older have risen 112 percent* since 1999. The National Safety Council offers these safety tips…MORE

Public ready for stiffer penalties for texting while driving
New findings from a National Safety Council public opinion poll indicate 73% of respondents think there should be more enforcement of texting laws. Currently, no state has passed a law banning all cell phone use while driving…MORE

NIOSH encourages employers to #BuyQuiet to protect employees’ hearing
Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the U.S. #BuyQuiet focuses on controlling noise at its source.

Opioid epidemic

Court tosses liability claims against painkiller drug makers
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the dismissal of nearly all claims in 68 cases seeking to hold drug makers liable for injuries from the use of the prescription painkillers Darvon and Darvocet, which were pulled from the U.S. market in 2010…MORE

Opioid prescribing: Where you live makes a difference
Health care providers wrote 259 mill prescriptions for painkillers in 2012—that’s 1 for every US adult. Ten of the highest-prescribing states for painkillers are in the South…MORE

Opioid use prior to spine surgery linked to diminished patient-reported outcomes
A new study appearing in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery links the use of opioid pain relievers to less improvement and higher levels of dissatisfaction following spine surgery…MORE

Return-to-work

Should you support a transitional work program?
A transitional work program allows injured workers to reintegrate themselves into the workplace. It can also help reduce the employer’s workers’ compensation costs…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

4 Tips for Keeping Your Employees Well-Grounded

Angela Gardner, safety professional

By Angela Gardner, Safety Training Consultant

We’ve all been there. On your mid-morning walk to the coffee bar, you notice a wet spot on the floor. So, you sidestep it and get on with the business of getting caffeinated. You didn’t make the mess; why should you clean it up?

Because a co-worker’s life could depend on it.

Slips, trips and falls account for 15 percent of fatal workplace accidents and nearly 25 percent of nonfatal accidents. If those numbers didn’t get your attention, try this one: $70 million. That’s how much slips, trips and falls cost each year, according to the National Safety Council.

Certain industries are more prone to these types of accidents. In construction, for example, falls are the leading cause of workplace fatalities, and failing to provide fall protection is one of the 10 most-frequently cited OSHA violations. In fact, OSHA launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness among construction workers and their employers.

But just because your employees don’t spend their days on ladders, scaffolds and roves doesn’t mean they are immune to slips, trips and falls. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not feel prepared to protect their employees, according to a recent survey.

Here are a few simple tips for keeping employees well-grounded and on the job.

Maintain the workplace

  • Install floor plugs for equipment so power cords do not obstruct walkways.
  • Provide adequate lighting.
  • Repair uneven floors.
  • Fix leaky faucets and ice machines.
  • Make sure rugs aren’t worn, especially at the edges.

Provide personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • Invest in slip-resistant floor mats, proper footwear, fall arrest systems and other appropriate PPE.
  • Make sure PPE fits properly.
  • Keep PPE in good condition, and replace it as necessary.
  • Clearly define which tasks require PPE, and enforce those requirements consistently.

Require good housekeeping:

  • Place warning signs around spills and other hazards until they are cleaned up and eliminated.
  • Keep stairs, walkways and exits clean, dry and clear of clutter.
  • Close drawers when they are not in use.
  • If possible, keep power cords out of walkways. If not, secure them to the floor with rubber coverings.

Promote safe behaviors:

  • Watch for uneven surfaces.
  • Do not use chairs, tables or surfaces on wheels as substitutes for ladders.
  • Stay alert, especially on thresholds and elevators.
  • Take stairs one at a time, and use the handrail.
  • Avoid horseplay that could result in injuries.
  • Do not wear sunglasses in dimly lit areas.
  • Report unsafe conditions immediately.
  • Do not run.
  • Announce your presence when approaching blind corners.
  • Make sure you can see where you are going when carrying loads.

About the author

Angela Gardner has 25 years’ experience in health and safety. She has spent the past 19 years helping Texas Mutual policyholders prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. Angela has worked closely with Texas Mutual’s safety groups to identify and implement best safety practices tailored to their unique needs. She currently serves as training consultant on Texas Mutual’s safety services team, where she oversees the development and delivery of safety services training and educational content. She is a frequent presenter at our free workers’ comp workshops, and she has shared her expertise as an instructor through our joint venture with College of the Mainland. Angela, who holds the associate in risk management designation, is a founding member of the oil and gas safety roundtable. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in chemistry.