This Week in Comp, September 8 – 12

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

Safety

OSHA reporting ruleOSHA announces new requirements for reporting severe injuries
Under the revised rule, employers will be required to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours, and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. The new rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015…MORE

Fatalities down in Texas,
Workplace fatalities decreased 8 percent between 2012 and 2013…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Weekly mash-up of safety-related news…MORE

TRIA extension

Now is the time: Insurance industry steps up push for TRIA renewal
The sense of urgency stems from the fact that Congress will be in session for perhaps only two more weeks this month before recessing in order for members to campaign for mid-term elections. The current reauthorization expires Dec. 1, 2014…MORE

Claims

Update on obesity in America
healthy livingNearly 69 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to a recent study by the Trust for America’s Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This article provides study highlights and links to information about the relationship between obesity and workers’ comp…MORE

Prescription drugs

Workers’ comp must cover medical marijuana
Medical marijuana that a doctor recommended for an injured worker’s pain must be paid for by the workers’ employer and insurer, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled…MORE

Fraud

California woman arrested on alleged fraud claim
The woman allegedly submitted a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder associated with a robbery, that she actually assisted in staging, at a bank where she worked as an assistant manager…MORE

Handcuff FraudHouston nurse ordered to return nearly $40K to Texas Mutual
A 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

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 1 – 5

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

Safety

Texas Mutual's Larry Homen demonstrates how improper lifting techniques can affect the back during a visit to American Equipment and Trailer employees.

During a visit to American Equipment and Trailer, Texas Mutual’s Larry Homen demonstrates how improper lifting techniques can affect the back.

Safety meets people where they are
Safety training takes root in cotton fields and greasy mechanic shops. Its messages resonate when delivered by people who have experienced the unique hazards your employees face on the job. Simply put, safety has to meet people where they are…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Weekly mash-up of safety-related news…MORE

Get free National Preparedness Month resources
The CDC encourages individuals and businesses to follow four steps to prepare for emergencies…MORE

 

Houston is nation’s most dangerous city to work in
Houston recorded 13 fatalities during the past year. The majority happened in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration…MORE

Canada, U.S. take step toward regulatory harmonization
The Canadian and American governments have announced a new step toward constantly coordinating their regulatory environments across a broad range of industries, including occupational health and safety. For example, the two countries will work together to facilitate the adoption of updates to the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Workplace Chemicals…MORE

NIOSH promotes respiratory protection on National N95 Day
More than 20 million Americans are exposed to to airborne health risks, according to estimates by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Employers and workers had the opportunity to learn more about selecting and using respiratory protection on September 5, National N95 Day…MORE

In this short video, Dr. Maryann D’Alessandro of NIOSH explains the importance of selecting respirators, using them properly and getting fit tested at least annually.

Prescription drugs

Opioid nation
Drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. More than 40,000 Americans died in 2011, a 145 percent increase since 1999…MORE

Handcuff FraudFraud

Mother, son conspire to commit fraud forging dead woman’s signature
A California man and his mother carried out a scheme to collect more than $165,000 in workers’ comp benefits by forging his dead aunt’s signature…MORE

Claims

Dollars and cents of frequency and severity
Small, frequent claims can affect an employer’s experience modifier more than one large claim…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 Meets People Where They Are

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Ever been to a professional development seminar? I’m talking about the kind that typically take place in a fancy hotel conference room in a tourist destination like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. For your money, you get a pricey lunch, equally pricey reference materials and a “dynamic, engaging program with an impressive lineup of industry experts.”

I was recently invited to a drastically different professional development opportunity. The venues were repair shops, cotton fields and oil wells in and around Lubbock, Texas. The audience, blue collar workers huddled around plastic picnic tables, chowing down on takeout pizza on the boss’ dime. Slick brochures, multimedia CDs and other takeaways were replaced by frayed electrical cords and mangled ladders.

And the speaker? He’s not a household name by any means. He is, however, passionate about his message, and that is enough to earn his audience’s respect.

Employees at American Equipment and Trailer in Lubbock assemble for a lunch-time safety presentation by Texas Mutual's Larry Homen.

Employees at American Equipment and Trailer in Lubbock assemble for a lunch-time safety presentation by Texas Mutual’s Larry Homen.

Larry Homen is a senior safety services consultant at Texas Mutual. His job is to canvass West Texas, build relationships with our policyholders, and teach them how to keep their employees safe and on the job. Last week, Larry graciously let me tag along on his visits.

Larry grew up working his family’s 3,000-acre farm in Amarillo before making his way into the oil field as a welder. He cringes when reflecting on how many times he narrowly escaped catastrophic workplace accidents. Some of his co-workers weren’t as fortunate.

Larry’s experiences taught him valuable lessons, and he devoted the rest of his life to sharing those lessons with anyone who will listen.

For two days, I watched Larry tout the benefits of everything from sound hiring practices to ladder safety to return-to-work. He leaned heavily on his past to connect with his audience. The affirmative nods and knowing glances among co-workers showed me the message was coming through loud and clear.

Larry Homen explains three tips for lifting properly and avoiding back injuries: 1. Use your legs. 2. Avoid twisting. 3. Carry the load close to your body.

Larry Homen offers three tips for lifting properly and avoiding back injuries: 1. Use your legs. 2. Avoid twisting. 3. Carry the load close to your body.

Larry’s job is tough. Who knew that driving around all day and engaging with people could be so taxing? By the end of my visit, I was eager to shed my fire-retardant overalls, hard hat and safety goggles. I couldn’t get back to my relatively safe cubicle in Austin fast enough. My brain was overloaded, and I needed time to process.

I’ve thought hard about everything I learned from Larry, and I believe I can boil it down into a handful of core principles. I will share those principles in a series of posts on this blog, so stay tuned. Today, let’s start with the most basic, arguably most important, principle.

If you want your employees to learn how to work safely, don’t snatch them from their environment and send them to a high-priced conference. Don’t expect them to heed the advice of someone who’s never rebuilt a transmission or disassembled a pump jack.

What I mean is that safety works best when it gets dirty. It takes root in cotton fields and greasy mechanic shops. Its messages resonate when delivered by people who have experienced the unique hazards your employees face on the job. Simply put, safety has to meet people where they are.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

This Week in Comp, August 25-29

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

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

Safety

OSHA, NIOSH announced recommended practices to protect temporary workers
The new guidance recommends that staff agency/host employer contracts clearly define the temporary worker’s tasks, as well as each employer’s safety and health responsibilities. Staffing agencies should maintain contact with temporary workers to verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace…MORE

A world without fatal work accidents is possible
A hundred years ago in Germany, there were 10,000 deaths a year at work. Last year,the figure was less than 500 deaths for the first time. That statistic is proof that a world without fatal workplace accidents is possible…MORE

NSC estimates nearly 400 fatalities in car crashes during Labor Day weekend
The NSC also estimates that 144 lives could be saved by buckling up…MORE

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

Prescription drugs

Opioid use among disabled workers increases; DEA tightens restrictions
About half of disabled Medicare beneficiaries younger than 65 fill at least one opioid prescription annually, and nearly one-quarter fill six or more. Most Medicare beneficiaries younger than 65 are injured workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance….MORE

PA doctor arrested for diversion of prescription painkillers
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced charges against a New Cumberland doctor for allegedly prescribing Oxycodone to people not under his care in exchange for cash…MORE

Costs

Employment growth leads to workers’ comp benefit, cost uptick
Workers’ compensation benefits rose by 1.3 percent to $61.9 billion in 2012, while employer costs rose by 6.9 percent to $83.2 billion, according to a report by the National Academy of Social Insurance…MORE

Medical cost inflation’s continued decline
The 2019 Medicare spend will be $95 million less than the Congressional Budget Office predicted four years ago. Much of the recent reduction comes from changes in behavior among doctors, nurses, hospitals and patients…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

This Week in Comp, August 18-22

 

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

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

Safety

Acclimatization key to protecting workers from heat-related illness
Most of the 13 heat-related deaths recently investigated by OSHA happened during the first three days on the job. If your employees work outside or in hot indoor environments, give them time to acclimate to the heat…MORE

Construction workers 22 percent more likely to die on the job in Texas
Untrained, undocumented laborers and the lack of unions contribute to high fatality rates in the Texas construction industry, according to a Dallas Morning News report…MORE

Keeping foreign-born workers safe
When it comes to on-the-job safety, the challenges are many, the issues complex. What are the most effective ways to train a diverse workforce in safety practices? How do you deal with language barriers? How do you avoid cultural miscues? Get answers to these questions and more in this insightful article by workers’ comp thought leader Peter Rousmaniere…MORE

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

Lone Star Oil and Gas Roundup
EHS-related news tailored to the oil and gas industry, courtesy of Texas Mutual and the Texas Oil and Gas Association…MORE

State of the industry

Workers’ comp – the near-term outlook
The market and rates are firm, premiums are trending up modestly, frequency is continuing its structural slow decrease, and claims cost inflation appears to be well within acceptable ranges, according to a report released by the National Council on Compensation Insurance…MORE

Claim costs

New obesity issues impacting workers’ compensation
Obesity contributes to a growing percentage of the health care spend in worker’s compensation. Claims professionals should practice a few guidelines to control the impact of obesity on claims…MORE

Postal service workers’ comp costs rise as headcount falls
The postal service cut its workforce by more than 172,000 employees between 2008 and 2013, but its workers’ compensation costs grew 35 percent. An aging workforce and fewer modified duty positions are among the reasons cited for the increase…MORE

Prescription drugs

DEA increases restrictions on painkillers
Under the restrictions, doctors will no longer be able to call in Hydrocodone prescriptions, and patients will not be allowed to get refills on the same prescription. The Drug Enforcement Administration published the rule on August 21; it will take effect in 45 days…MORE

Be wary of compound medications in workers’ compensation
Compound medications are largely unregulated. They can carry serious side effects, and they can cost as much as double the standard market drug…MORE

State compensation funds worry about impact of opioids
Growth in highly addictive pain medications is driving up costs and hampering return-to-work outcomes. In this episode of A.M.Best TV, leaders of state compensation funds discuss the impact of opioids on the workers’ comp landscape…MORE

Agent’s role in WC risk management, claims: Time to get hands-on
Agents should create spreadsheets on every company, with its average claims cost, its percentage of claims litigation, the average adjuster case load, and the percentage of claims closed in 90 days. If the numbers are not comparable to the industry average, it’s time for the agent and company to work together to lower their costs, according to Lew Kachulis, president & CEO of Synergy Comp Insurance Co…MORE

State fund news

Riding the fastest park bench ever at another AASCIF conference
Bob Wilson is excited to cross “being heckled by residents sitting on their porch while waiting at a red light on a completely open trolley full of windblown tourists” off his bucket list. Read Bob’s account of the 2014 AASCIF annual conference, held in Washington, D.C…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

Taking the H3 Challenge

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich Gergasko President and CEO Texas Mutual Insurance Company

Acclimatization Key to Protecting Workers from Heat-Related Illness

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

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

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

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

- Understand how the heat index affects your body.

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

- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

- Apply wet towels or headbands to cool off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get free resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post