Name-Brand Knockoffs, Standardized Tests and Pedestrian Safety

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

I’m not going to tell you when I graduated from high school, but let’s just say it was a long time ago. Still, certain memories of those first weeks of the school year remain as uncomfortable as a brand new pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.

Every year, mom drug me to the department stores in search of the best deals. Inevitably, I’d steer her toward the name-brand stuff, and inevitably, she’d redirect me to the knock-offs. Someday, I’ll remind her she didn’t have a reputation to protect.

Who am I kidding? Neither did I.

Anyway, my thoughts are with the millions of Texas kids who are no doubt enduring similar injustices
right about now. Between name-brand knockoffs, standardized tests and social hierarchies, they have enough on their plates. They shouldn’t have to worry about getting to school safely.

Unfortunately, unintentional pedestrian injuries are the second-leading cause of death in the United States for children ages 5 to 14. In Texas, 663 vehicle crashes occurred in school zones last year, resulting in 21 serious injuries. August and September of 2014 alone saw 107 school zone crashes.

The most common factors contributing to these crashes were driver inattention, failure to control speed and failure to yield the right of way at stop signs.

We all share responsibility for making sure kids get to and from school safely. Here are some tips to keep in mind as the school season kicks off.

Tips for pedestrians

  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Continue looking until safely across.
  • Put phones, headphones and devices down when crossing the street. Parents should model this safe behavior for kids, especially teenagers.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths, and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk as far to the left as possible, and face traffic.
  • Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Children should cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.

For more tips, click here.

Tips for drivers

  • Put away your cell phone. Cell phone use is banned in active school zones, and violators face fines of up to $200 in school zones where signs are posted.
  • Always obey school zone speed limit signs. Remember, traffic fines usually double in school zones.
  • Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not the middle of the street.
  • Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops.
  • Be alert for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles on their way to school.
  • Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. You might force pedestrians to go around you, putting them in the path of moving traffic.
  • Never pass a bus from behind, or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road, if it is stopped to load or unload children.

For more tips, click here.

More information

For more information on back-to-school safety, visit the National Safety Council, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Red Cross.

This Week in Comp, August 7, 2015

Pros and cons of wearable technology in the workplace
In Australia, “SmartCaps” are equipped with sensors that detect truck drivers’ alertness and reduce fatigue-related accidents. In the oil and gas industry, BP joined the ranks of 10,000 companies worldwide that offer their staff fitness trackers in an effort to improve wellness and safety. These are just a handful of the safety applications of wearable devices in the workplace. But wearables also come with drawbacks, including privacy concerns…MORE

The thermometer might not read 100, but…

Summer TemperatureThe heat index, not the temperature, is an accurate indicator of how much stress the body feels in hot conditions…MORE

AIA submits testimony against adverse workers’ comp bill in Illinois
Illinois is home to the most competitive workers’ comp market in the country. A proposed pricing control regulatory scheme would adversely affect competition by creating unnecessary administrative burdens, according to the American Insurance Association…MORE

Kids take after their parents when it comes to texting while driving

More than half of teens confess to texting while driving to update their parents, and 19 percent say parents expect a response within one minute, according to a recent study…MORE

California workers’ comp premiums growing at double-digit rates
IncreaseHigher premium rates and growth in insured payroll resulting from economic expansion and wage level increases have made California premium rates the highest in the nation…MORE

CopperPoint CEO sets retirement after 15 years at helm of insurer
Donald Smith Jr. oversaw CopperPoint Mutual’s transition from quasi-government entity to private company. Previously known as SCF Arizona, CopperPoint became a fully private mutual insurance company in 2013…MORE

New guide explains training requirement in five major industries
OSHA released a guide that explains what training it requires employees to receive in general industry, construction, maritime, agriculture and federal employee programs…MORE

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

AMA: Physician groups band together to address America’s opioid crisis
Every day, 44 people die from opioid overdoses. The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse is working to reverse the trend. The task force’s initial focus will be on efforts that urge physicians to register for and use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs…MORE

Pills White BackgroundOR AG settles with pharmaceutical company over unlawful promotion of powerful opioid
The Oregon attorney general reached a $1.1 million settlement with Insys, the company that manufactures the schedule II opioid drug Subsys, to resolve allegations that the powerful drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat cancer pain was marketed in Oregon for off-label uses such as non-cancer neck and back pain…MORE


The Thermometer Might Not Read 100, But…

Water, rest and shade are critical when working or playing outside. Click on the image for more information.

Water, rest and shade are critical when working or playing outside. Click on the image for more information.

Texas summers arrive in stages. In April, we reluctantly say our final goodbyes to cool temperatures. In May and June, our bodies start acclimating to the heat. In July, we typically see our first 100-degree day, followed closely by a few more, and then a few more. You get the idea.

And August through September is crunch time. That’s when Texans summon whatever physical and mental strength we have left and plow through, our sights set on the prize: the first fall “front.”

Actually, this has been a relatively mild summer by Texas standards. Remember, though, that just because the thermometer doesn’t read 100 doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of heat-related illness. You have the heat index to thank for that.

The heat index is a measure of the temperature and humidity. It is also a more accurate indication of how much stress your body will experience.

Navigating summer temperatures can be an especially risky proposition if you work indoors. For example, maybe you dive into a full weekend of yard maintenance or some other strenuous outdoor labor. Unfortunately, your body may not be acclimated to the heat, increasing your risk of heat illness.

The simple message is, don’t overdo it. As summer sings its customary, excruciatingly long swan song, keep these safety tips in mind.

If you experience signs of heat stress, get inside and cool down. But don’t get back in the game too soon. You might start to feel better, but your body may still be recovering from the toll taken by the heat.

Heat stress isn’t the only potential consequence of heat exposure. Heat can also increase the risk of other injuries resulting from sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness and contact with hot surfaces or steam.

Remember that adults aren’t the only demographic at risk during the summer months. Yesterday, a 10-month-old baby died after being left unattended in a car in South Austin. Stories like this are far too common.

In 2014, 31 children died  after being left unattended in or around vehicles. Vehicles heat up quickly, and not even a window rolled down two inches can prevent that. The temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes if the outside temperature is in the low 80s. Even with temperatures in the 60s or 70s, heatstroke poses a serious risk. A child will die of heatstroke once their body temperature reaches 107 degrees. The U.S. Department of Transportation offers these safety tips to protect children.

Get more information



What You Need to Know About OSHA’s New Confined Space Rule

Entrapments, asphyxiation and explosions are just a few of the hazards construction workers face when they enter condenser pits, manholes, ventilation ducts, tanks, sumps and other confined spaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created its new confined space rule for the construction industry to protect workers from those hazards. OSHA estimates that the rule, which was effective August 3, could protect nearly 800 workers a year from serious injuries.

What is a confined space?
A confined space is a space large enough for a worker to enter, but it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy, and it has limited means for entry and exit.

What is a permit-required confined space?

Click on the image to visit our Work Safe, Texas site and watch a short video about confined spaces.

Click on the image to visit our Work Safe, Texas site and watch a short video about confined spaces.

A permit-required confined space may have a hazardous atmosphere, engulfment hazard or other serious hazard, such as exposed wiring, that can interfere with a worker’s ability to leave the space without assistance. Only workers who have been assigned and trained to work in a permit space may do so. Additionally, before workers can enter a permit space, the employer has to write a permit that specifies what safety measures must to be taken and who is allowed to go in.

How is the new rule different from the general industry rule?
The new rule requires employers to determine what kinds of spaces their workers are in, what hazards could be there, how those hazards should be made safe, what training workers should receive, and how to rescue those workers if anything goes wrong. The rule is based largely on its general industry counterpart, with a few key differences.

The five new requirements include:

  1. More detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the worksite. This will ensure hazards are not introduced into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space. An example would be a generator running near the entrance of a confined space causing a buildup of carbon monoxide within the space.
  2. Requiring a competent person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  3. Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible.
  4. Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards. For example, when workers are performing work in a storm sewer, a storm upstream from the workers could cause flash flooding. An electronic sensor or observer posted upstream from the work site could alert workers in the space at the first sign of the hazard, giving the workers time to evacuate the space safely.
  5. Allowing for the suspension of a permit, instead of cancellation, in the event of changes from the entry conditions listed on the permit or an unexpected event requiring evacuation of the space. The space must be returned to the entry conditions listed on the permit before re-entry.

In addition, OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarifies existing requirements in the general industry standard:

  1. Requiring that employers who direct workers to enter a space without using a complete permit system prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tagout.
  2. Requiring that employers who are relying on local emergency services arrange for responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time (because they are responding to another emergency, attending department-wide training, etc.).
  3. Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the worker understands.

Key takeaways for workers:

  • Do not enter permit-required confined spaces without being trained and without having a permit to enter.
  • Review, understand and follow your employer’s procedures before entering permit-required confined spaces, and know how and when to exit.
  • Use fall protection, rescue, air-monitoring, ventilation, lighting and communication equipment according to entry procedures.
  • Maintain contact at all times with a trained attendant visually, by phone or by two-way radio.

More information
For more information about the new confined space rule for the construction industry, visit OSHA’s website.

Note: Texas Mutual Insurance Company offers this information as general guidance. The company does not represent the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nor do its employees speak on OSHA’s behalf. For specific guidance, contact your local OSHA field office.

This Week in Comp, July 31

Tired? Take a deep breath and relax
On-the-job fatigue can have fatal consequences, especially behind the wheel. If we manage our stress, we can control fatigue and protect ourselves and others…MORE

OSHA proposes tightening injury record-keeping rules
OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that clarifies an employer’s continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness throughout the five-year period during which the employer is required to keep the records…MORE

Texas Mutual pays $73,699 dividend to Texas Lumber and Wood Products safety group
Dollar BillsThe workers’ compensation dividend was based largely on the  Texas Lumber and Wood Products collective safety record. Group dividends are separate from the $225 million in individual policyholder dividends Texas Mutual is distributing among qualifying customers in…MORE

California workers’ comp reforms bring savings, state report says

California workers’ comp reforms enacted in 2013 have translated to a 30 percent increase in benefits for workers with permanent disabilities, a 3.3 percent reduction in medical costs and a 10 percent drop in premiums…MORE

The thermometer might not read 100, but…
OSHA’s annual Water. Rest. Shade. campaign reminds us that the heat index, not the temperature, is a more accurate measure of the true effect of heat on the body. The heat index considers temperature and humidity…MORE

Tired? Take a deep breath and relax
On-the-job fatigue can have fatal consequences, especially behind the wheel. If we manage our stress, we can control fatigue and protect ourselves and others…MORE

TDI-DWC issues bulletin on medical records for designated doctor examinations
The DWC reminds system participants that 28 Texas Administrative Code § 127.10(a)(3) requires treating doctors and insurance carriers to provide all required medical records and any analyses to the designated doctor no later than three business days prior to a designated doctor examination…MORE

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

Health and safety go together like…
healthy livingWhen it comes to employee health, disease management and prevention get most of the attention. But occupational safety should be an integral part of any wellness strategy, according to experts who developed guidance to help employers integrate their health and safety programs…MORE

LUBA Workers’ Comp announces expansion into Texas
The Louisiana-based company offers coverage in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas through select, independent insurance agencies…MORE

10 children injured in crash of church van on Oklahoma highway

The children were injured when a tire blowout caused the passenger van they were traveling in to roll over…MORE

Tired? Take a Deep Breath and Relax

Employers can help workers manage stress and its symptoms, including fatigue, by giving them more control over their schedules. Click the image above to listen to a CDC podcast for more information.

Employers can help workers manage stress and its symptoms, including fatigue, by giving them more control over their schedules. Click the image above to listen to a CDC podcast for more information.

Ever wonder why there are only 24 hours in a day? You can thank the ancient Egyptians and their base 12 system of counting.

The concept worked well in 3000 BC, when shadow clocks and sun dials were all the rage. But things have changed a bit in past 8,000 years, including technology and the demands on our time.

Busy people juggling personal and professional lives are the norm, not the exception. Conference calls, meetings, kids’ soccer games, doctor’s appointments and longer commutes consume more of our attention. Sandwiched between our myriad responsibilities, if we’re lucky, is an ounce of “me time.” We’re putting more on our plates, but the clock isn’t adjusting accordingly. If we could ask the Egyptians one thing, it would likely be: “Why’d you stop at 24 hours?”

Eventually, the stress of trying to do more with less can break even the most organized, efficient of us. One in seven people report that they quit a job because of stress, according to a study by the mental health charity Mind.

Firefighting is America’s most stressful job, followed by military personnel and airline pilots, according to an annual survey by CareerCast. It seems shift work, hazardous situations and putting someone else’s life in your hands can be disregulating, to put it mildly.

Stress is the body’s reaction to anything that disrupts our routine. You’re probably familiar with the emotional symptoms of stress: moodiness, difficulty relaxing and lack of concentration. But did you know stress can also sap your energy as much as a sleepless night? Here are a few tips for keeping stress in check:

  1. Learn the signs of stress, and recognize when it might be time to see a physician.
  2. Exercise regularly. Exercise produces endorphins, the body’s “feel good” chemical.
  3. Choose foods that tame stress. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical, according to WebMD. Salmon, tuna and other fatty fish can cut levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones that take a toll on the body.
  4. Avoid the urge to take on more commitments than your schedule allows.
  5. Manage your time effectively. If you find yourself consistently focusing on urgent tasks, your life can seem like a fire drill. Make time for tasks that are important but not urgent, and you can lay the foundation for long-term success and less stress.
  6. Carve out time for yourself, without worrying about responsibilities.
  7. Call it diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing or paced respiration. For our purposes, it’s called deep breathing, and it has been proven to ease stress.

Missed our previous posts?
This is the last in a series of four posts showing how a commitment to wellness can help workers manage fatigue. If you missed our previous posts, click the links to read them:

Sleep Well

Eat Your Way to a Healthier, More Energetic You

7 Tips for Working Out Fatigue

More information on wellness
Worker health and safety are inseparable. Healthy workers tend to get injured less, and when they do get injured, they recover faster. For more information on the symbiotic relationship between health and safety, click on these links:

Why Wellness Matters in Workers’ Comp

10 Tips for Integrating Health and Safety

Worker Health and Safety: A Symbiotic Relationship

The Business Case for Employee Wellness Programs

3 Tips for a Healthier, Safer You

Make Wellness Part of Your Benefits Package

With Seatbelts, You’re Just One Click from a Safe Commute

Previous installments in our “Become a Safer Driver in 60 Seconds” video series shared these tips for steering clear of motor vehicle accidents:

  • Power down
  • Lie down
  • Slow down
  • Calm down

We saved the most important tip for last: buckle up. Using only an egg, a spoon and some duct tape, Woody Hill explains an indisputable law of physics and demonstrates the importance of wearing your seat belt.

Missed our other driving-safety videos?
If you missed the other installments in our “Become a Safer Driver in Just 60 Seconds” video series, click the links below:

Mad Driving is Dangerous Driving

Don’t Fall Asleep on the Job

Driven to Distraction?

You’re Just 60 Seconds Away from Being a Safer Driver

Going from 0 to 60 Safely