Regulatory Roundup

Regulatory Roundup is a weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Deputy assistant secretary of labor appointed

Loren Sweatt is the first OSHA appointee under the Trump administration. She fills the role of deputy assistant secretary of labor, previously held by Jordan Barab. OSHA has yet to fill positions for assistant secretary, chief of staff and senior advisers…MORE

Second meeting to be held for updating VPP

OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) emphasize cooperative actions among government, industry and labor to address worker safety. The agency aims to reshape VPP to leverage partner resources, recognize long-term participants and support growth. The second meeting will take place on Aug. 28 and the public comment period will expire on Sept. 15…MORE

Studies, resources, trends, news

Viewing the solar eclipse safely

On Monday, Texans will experience a partial solar eclipse lasting two to three hours. However, looking directly at the sun without proper protection (not just sunglasses) will cause serious eye injuries. It’s important to wear special-purpose solar filters meeting the ISO 12312-2 international standard and to avoid counterfeits…MORE

Recommendations for static positions at work

Research shows that prolonged sitting could contribute to diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. A manufacturer in Europe has published an e-book examining these health effects, as well as infographics containing helpful tips for safe sitting and standing during work…MORE

Safety tips for table saws

There are an estimated 38,000 table saw injuries each year, ranging from small lacerations to amputations. A recent blog post provides crucial tips for staying safe while using these tools…MORE

10,000 meals and counting delivered to those in need

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Texas Mutual employee makes a delivery to a Meals on Wheels participant

At Texas Mutual, wellness and safety are at the heart of everything we do. That mission shapes our giving and empowers our employees to support their communities as well. One way Texas Mutual employees have chosen to do that is by spending their lunch hour taking care of those in need.

While some use their noontime break to run errands or dine out, one group of colleagues at Texas Mutual takes a different approach and delivers meals to feed the elderly in our neighborhood. This changing group of about 26 employees has delivered more than 10,000 meals over the span of 15 years.

The group volunteers with Meals on Wheels Central Texas, a chapter of Meals on Wheel and More, which is a national charity that makes sure housebound seniors have enough to food to eat. The volunteers pick up prepared food from the nonprofit’s kitchens and deliver it to program participants, who receive a hot meal to eat for lunch that day and a refrigerated one for later. This provides valuable assistance to seniors who have limited mobility and may not have family members nearby to help care for them.

That purpose is exactly what drives Lori Keegan, a quality assurance supervisor in our IT department. Lori is the volunteer coordinator of Texas Mutual’s Meals on Wheels partnership.

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Texas Mutual employees pack up meals before delivering in the community

“I’m fortunate enough to live close to my family, so I’m there for them, but other people aren’t that fortunate,” she said. “This is a way to help people who aren’t as fortunate as I am.”

Lori coordinates the schedules of the Texas Mutual volunteers, who each drive our route once or twice per month. Together, they deliver about 80 meals every month, building relationships with everyone they bring meals to.

“It’s more than just delivering the meal,” Lori said. “It’s about the total well-being of the person. Sometimes we’re the only person they might see all day.”

When our employees volunteer and support our mission, they make a difference in people’s lives and help us to build stronger, safer communities. Join us in supporting Meals on Wheels and visit our website to see how we’re making a difference in Texas.

Regulatory Roundup, August 11

August 11, 2017

Regulatory Roundup is a weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

New online whistleblower complaint form

OSHA has released a revised online whistleblower complaint form, which will help ensure that complaints are filed with the appropriate federal agency. The form is available in English and Spanish and includes new features, such as pop-up boxes when agencies besides OSHA would be best able to address an issue…MORE

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Lifting app can help reduce back injuries

The NIOSH Lifting Equation mobile app can be used to calculate the risk index for single and multiple manual lifting tasks. This can help employees evaluate lifting tasks and will hopefully lead to a reduction in lower back injuries. NLE Calc can be downloaded on iTunes or Google Play…MORE

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

New chemical backlog is eliminated

When EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took charge of the agency, one of his first challenges was to reduce the backlog of 600 new chemicals in the review process. Pruitt has now announced that, six months later, the backlog has been eliminated. The agency accelerated the process by increasing staff, streamlining the work process and implementing a voluntary pre-submission consultation process…MORE

ANSI approved as accreditation body for formaldehyde rule

The EPA has approved the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an accreditation body for the Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products rule. The rule is intended to reduce exposure to formaldehyde emissions from certain imported or domestically produced wood products. ANSI is one of four organizations recognized to provide accreditation services…MORE

Studies, resources, trends, news

The impact of wearables on oil and gas

Oil and gas workers face many hazards including falls, toxic fumes, explosions and motor vehicle accidents. The safety world is already looking toward the future of wearable technology, and there are many ways that it could be used to help this historically hazardous industry. New devices could monitor stress levels at heights, sensors that would pick up miniscule amounts of toxic gas and glasses that could measure fatigue based on eyelid movement…MORE

10 tips for a healthier workplace

Keeping Texas workers safe requires a foundation in wellness. At Texas Mutual, this is what we have put into practice for our own employees, and what we encourage for our policyholders. With healthy employees in your workforce, you can expect lower health care costs, increased productivity, and less absenteeism. We discussed these benefits in detail in Combining Work and Wellness for Healthier, More Productive Employees.

dumbbell and apple with measuring tapeFor every $1 you spend on wellness, you can get up to $3 savings on costs associated with health. Whether you launch a robust workplace wellness program or simply make small improvements along the way, there are numerous small changes you can introduce to help improve the health of your workforce. To help you get started, take a look at 10 ways you can start today:

    1. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make employees feel groggy, cranky, and hungry. Encourage employees to rehydrate by providing water coolers, offering reusable water bottles customized with your company’s logo, or keep the refrigerator stocked with water.
    2. Take stretching or walking breaks. Encourage employees to give their muscles the attention they need, especially if they are working physically demanding jobs. Stretching reduces stress and helps break up the day so that employees are more productive, and walking is a good way for office workers to stay active throughout the day.
    3. Offer flu shots on site. Getting a flu shot reduces your risks of contracting the illness and can keep your employees from missing work. If covering the cost of flu shots is not in the budget, consider offering a discount, or give employees tips on when and where they can get a flu shot on their own.
    4. Stock up on hand sanitizer and tissues. Having these items readily available help to prevent spreading germs and sickness.
    5. Swap out the candy bowl for fresh fruit. The US Department of Agriculture’s “Choose My Plate” website recommends most adults consume about 2 cups of fresh fruit daily. Help employees get theirs in with free apples, oranges and bananas.
    6. Start a fitness challenge. Bring healthy competition to the workplace with a low-cost fitness challenge. Visit 7 Simple, Fun Wellness Challenges to Start at Work for ideas.
    7. Provide health screenings. A wellness screening can identify potential health concerns by checking blood glucose levels, blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), and cholesterol. Motivate employees to improve their results with an incentive such as a gift card, catered lunch, or raffle prize.
    8. Help your employees quit tobacco. The American Cancer Society offers a Fresh Start program, a group-based tobacco cessation support program for workplaces.
    9. Get active with a local gym. Reach out to a local gym about offering discounted membership rates to your employees. Local gyms often provide lower rates in exchange for new members.
    10. Keep the sickness at home. Spreading germs is not worth the risk of making others sick. Make sure that employees who are ill and contagious stay home to recover.

Implementing one of these 10 tips can help you get started with wellness in your workplace or expand your current program. For more resources, call the Texas Mutual safety services team at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) or visit texasmutual.com

Regulatory Roundup, Aug. 4

Regulatory Roundup is a weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Injury Tracking Application now available

OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA), which many employers will need to use to submit injury and illness records, is now available. OSHA’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking extended the submission deadline to Dec. 1, 2017. This year, companies with 20 to 247 employees in certain industries and companies with 250 or more employees will need to submit their 2016 Form 300A…MORE

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

New video on gauging and sampling

NIOSH released a new video regarding the severe hazards associated with manually gauging or collecting fluid samples on production tanks. The video describes hazards such as hydrocarbon gases and vapors, oxygen-deficient atmospheres and fires or explosions. It also explains steps that both employers and workers can take to work safely…MORE

National Safety Council (NSC)

According to the NSC’s 2014 Injury Facts report, more than 20 percent of the workforce has misused prescription painkillers. The NSC encourages employers to educate their own employees about the hazards associated with prescribed drugs, enforce a written policy and promote available employee assistance programs…MORE

Studies, resources, trends, news

Driving safety video wins Telly Award

The American Trucking Association received a bronze Telly Award for its “Share the Road” instructional video. The video is intended to educate drivers about how to be safe around big rigs. It includes topics such as staying out of truckers’ blind spots, maintaining a safe distance, not cutting in front of a truck and navigating highway construction zones…MORE

Motor vehicle crashes on the rise

About 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, marking a six percent increase over the previous year. Remember that all employees are at risk; even if they don’t drive a company car, they still commute to work. Texas Mutual policyholders have access to free online defensive driving and distracted driving courses. Email safety@texasmutual.com for more information.

Struck-by injuries are highest in the construction industry

A report from the Center for Construction Research and Training shows that there were 804 construction worker fatalities attributed to struck-by incidents between 2011 and 2015. The report also showed that 52 percent of those fatalities involved workers being struck by an object or equipment, while the other 48 percent involved a vehicle…MORE

Recall issued for aerial lifts

Genie Industries issued a safety recall for certain aerial lifts due to platforms potentially dropping because of premature wear of the upper wear pads. The manufacturer discovered that weld debris could trigger early corrosion of the pads and have made replacement wear pad kits available for order…MORE

Combining work and wellness for healthier, more productive employees

Workplace safety is important for preventing injuries and keeping claims costs low, but there’s much more to the equation. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimates that employee obesity costs U.S. employers $73.1 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity. This expense can be minimized by building a foundation of wellness and promoting a healthy lifestyle in your workplace.

In fact, for every $1 you spend on wellness, you can get up to $3 in savings on health-related costs. Take a look below at why wellness is one of the best investments you can make.

Wellness pays

Reduce workers’ compensation costs.  Your employees likely spend at least 40 hours a week at work, which means that creating a healthy environment for them is key. A 2007 study of Duke University employees showed obesity had a significant effect on the cost and duration of workers’ compensation claims. The Duke report found that obese workers filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from those claims, and lost 13 times more days of work from  injury or illness than did non-obese workers.

To help fight this issue, educate your employees on body mass index (BMI) rates. Invite a nutritionist or fitness trainer to lead the training to discuss healthy BMI rates and steps your employees can take to get into the normal range.

Lower employer health care costs. Unhealthy employees can increase health care costs for a company. A study from the University of Michigan suggests that unhealthy lifestyle conditions like smoking, stress, or obesity account for one out of every four dollars employers spend on health care. The above mentioned Duke University study found the average medical claims costs per 100 employees were $51,019 for the obese compared to just $7,503 for the non-obese.

Increase worker productivity. The Harvard Business Review cites a 2009 study by Dr. Ronald Loeppke, which found that lost productivity costs are 2.3 times higher than medical and pharmacy costs. Health conditions like depression, anxiety, migraines, respiratory illness, arthritis and diabetes, among others, can contribute to lost productivity. Integrating exercise opportunities into the workday can make a difference. Encourage employees to take short breaks to stretch or walk, or offer an onsite fitness class like yoga for employees to attend.

Prevent employee absenteeism. Providing incentives for employee well-being encourages the improvement of an employee’s overall health and often results in less required sick time. A wellness program can help employees improve their health, which may reduce the number of missed work days. For example, low back pain is the leading contributor to missed work days according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Walking and stretching can help alleviate back pain for chronic sufferers and may reduce the number of days away from the office.

Wellness programs provide employees with tools to reduce health risks and the knowledge to make healthier choices. A wellness program can also lower stress in the workplace, improve health and morale, increase company loyalty and help you to recruit potential employees. If you’re ready to gain the benefits of combining work and wellness, visit worksafetexas.com/wellness for tips on getting started, and watch for 10 tips for a healthier workplace on the blog next week.

 

Your Claims Questions Answered – What do I do if I suspect workers’ comp fraud?

Workers’ compensation fraud hurts business owners by causing higher premiums. That’s why we take fraud seriously at Texas Mutual and have a team dedicated to investigating these concerns. In 2016, Texas Mutual investigated more than 1,600 referrals and discovered more than $1 million in claimant fraud.

In our next video in the Your Claims Questions Answered series, we talk about what you should do if you suspect fraud. Watch the video below and take a look at our top three tips to remember when it comes to fraud.

Always contact Texas Mutual first when you suspect fraud.
If you suspect someone at your workplace is committing fraud, the first step is to contact Texas Mutual. We have a dedicated team of licensed professionals that will investigate your referral. Don’t confront the employee, but instead trust the professionals to investigate. To report suspected fraud, call (800) 488-4488 or email fraudstoppers@texasmutual.com.

Maintain a good relationship with the injured worker.
It’s important to maintain a positive relationship with the injured worker throughout the recovery process. Instead of jumping to conclusions, voice your concerns to Texas Mutual. There could be many reasons why an employee is not home on bed rest and making accusations to an injured worker could lead to more problems for your business.

Put a return-to-work program in place.
Focus on a return-to-work plan with the injured worker. If they are unable to perform the job duties they did before their injury, then determine what modified job duties they can do that will help them contribute to the team. Injured workers out six months or more have only a 50 percent chance of ever returning to work. Getting an injured worker back on the job will prevent you from being in the middle of a fraud investigation. We recently covered how to create a return-to-work program. Remember, it’s never too early to get started.

You can watch the full Your Claims Questions Answered series here. Visit texasmutual.com for FraudStoppers posters, red flags of fraud, and more information on reporting fraud.

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