7 Things You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

In 1975, Steven Spielberg laid the foundation for one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated on the American public when he rolled out his blockbuster hit “Jaws.” The vision of that Great White shark stalking unsuspecting swimmers from below motivated many of us to swear off beach vacations for life.

As menacing as sharks are, the truth is that they account for one death every two years. That’s enough to rank them 20th on the list of 25 most dangerous animals. But it’s hardly enough evidence to build a case for sharks as man-eating machines driven by an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

It turns out the animal we should fear most is not an 800-pound behemoth with rows of teeth like razors. Rather, it’s a diminutive, yet deadly insect most of us regard as a mere annoyance on our occasional camping trips.

Mosquitos infect seven million people annually and account for between two and three million fatalities. They are the aggressors responsible for such diseases as malaria, dengue fever and, most recently in the news, the Zika virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Zika virus a global health emergency. In this 2:52 video, a WHO scientist explains what Zika is, who is at highest risk and how to protect yourself.

The Word Health Organization has declared Zika a global health emergency. Texas Mutual wants to arm you with the information you need to protect yourself. We encourage you to share these seven things you need to know about Zika with your family and your employees.

1. Most people who contract Zika don’t get sick.
Approximately 80 percent of people who catch Zika do not get sick. The 20 percent who do get sick typically endure mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, muscle aches, joint aches and pinkeye. Severe cases requiring hospitalization are uncommon.

2. The primary way to catch the virus is from an infected mosquito.
Zika is primarily spread to humans by the same species of mosquito responsible for dengue fever. Last week, however, a Dallas resident became the first reported case of Zika transmitted via sexual contact. There have been other reported links of Zika spread via infected blood and saliva, but none have been substantiated by health officials. The message, at least to date, is that protecting yourself from mosquito bites is the most effective way to steer clear of Zika.

3. You can follow these simple tips to limit mosquito bites.
There are no vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Zika virus infection. Your best protection is to arm yourself against mosquito bites:

  • Wear pants, long socks and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Use insect repellants that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Always follow label directions, and do not spray repellant on skin under clothing. If you are also using sunscreen, apply it before applying insect repellant. Finally, do not put insect repellant on children under two years old.
  • Treat your clothes with permethrin for extra protection.
  • Avoid wearing perfume and cologne outdoors. They often attract mosquitos.

4. You should avoid travel to certain parts of the word.
Zika has hit some parts of the world, including Mexico and South America, harder than others. Health officials recommend you avoid travelling to those areas. If you must travel to an affected area, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips:

  • Consult the CDC’s travel advisories before going to an affected area.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Pregnant Women at Greatest Risk

Scientists have not fully vetted the relationship between Zika and birth defects, but evidence is pointing to a link, according to an expert with St. David’s Medical Center in Austin. Read this brief Q&A for more information.

5. Pregnant women should take extra precautions.
A bite by an infected mosquito is the primary way to catch the Zika virus. But there have been cases of mothers passing Zika to infants while giving birth. The results can include microcephaly and associated conditions such as hearing loss, vision problems and delayed development. The CDC stresses that research around the relationship between Zika and these conditions is ongoing. In the meantime, pregnant women should postpone travel to areas affected by Zika. For more tips, visit the CDC’s dedicated Web page for pregnant women.

6. If you contract Zika, you can reduce the risk of spreading it.
The symptoms of Zika are typically mild, lasting several days to a week. If you experience symptoms, see your health care provider. If blood tests confirm you have Zika, your provider will likely prescribe plenty of rest and fluids. It is important that you prevent mosquito bites during the first week of your illness to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

7. Information about Zika changes rapidly.
Information evolves rapidly during epidemics, and Zika is no exception. It seems the only thing we know for certain about the virus is that we don’t fully understand it or its potential impact. It is important for the public to stay current by following the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) on Twitter @TexasDSHS and registering for email updates. For general information, visit the DSHS and CDC websites.

Functional fitness: Exercise you can live with

Planet Fitness recently ran a brilliant ad campaign that positioned itself as “the average person’s gym.” The campaign’s core message: You won’t find finely-tuned, extreme athletes at Planet Fitness. You’ll find people like you and me. People who recognize that fitness is a path toward improving their quality of life. That, in a nutshell, is what functional fitness is all about.

A trainer from Texas Mutual policyholder Cooper Clinic demonstrates a simple exercise for strengthening your back and core.

Functional fitness trains your muscles to perform everyday activities without getting injured.

For professional football players like JJ Watt, that means 61-inch box jumps and 1,000-pound tire rolls.

For the rest of us, it means body-weight squats, step-ups, wood chops and other exercises that mimic movements we do every day.

Why functional fitness?
Workplace safety typically includes three umbrella components:

  1. Identify workplace hazards.
  2. Eliminate hazards or reduce employees’ exposure.
  3. Teach and enforce safe behaviors.

The standard accident prevention model works well. But it doesn’t capitalize on the symbiotic relationship between employee safety and wellness.

Simply put, healthy employees suffer fewer injuries, especially injuries to the joints, muscles and tendons. And when healthy employees do get injured, they recover and return to work sooner.

Meanwhile, their employers reap the benefits in terms of increased productivity and reduced operating costs.

Functional fitness exercises improve our posture, flexibility, range of motion, joint alignment, bone density and core strength. That is especially important for older workers, whose bodies are not as strong, mobile or flexible as they once were.

A University of La-Crosse Wisconsin study found that older adults who did functional fitness training showed a 43 percent improvement in shoulder flexibility. They also enhanced their strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, agility and balance.

In our next post, we’ll see how the UPS leveraged functional fitness to turn its workplace safety record around.

Follow our series on functional fitness
This post is the second installment in our series on functional fitness. If you missed the first installment, click on the link below:

Regulatory Roundup, February 5, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of employee health and safety news.

Texas Mutual News

Texas Mutual, VFIS grant fuels worker wellness at Ben Bolt fire department
Ben Bolt
Imagine spending your days climbing stairs, hauling heavy equipment and racing the clock to put out life-threatening fires, all while lugging 80 pounds of gear. That is a daily reality for firefighters across Texas, and they need to be physically prepared for the job. A grant from Texas Mutual and our partners at VFIS is helping members of the Ben Bolt volunteer fire department get the tools they need to be healthy – and safe – at work…MORE

Industrial athletes take heart
We 9-to-5ers have something in common with the guys who will suit up on Super Bowl Sunday. Whether we make our living sacking groceries or quarterbacks, our bodies are our instruments, and we need to prepare them for the rigors of our jobs…MORE

Work Safe, Texas is open for business
February offerings on our Work Safe, Texas website include a streaming video on the OSHA 300 log and practical tips for making good on your New Year’s resolution to safety…MORE 

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)

DSHS reports first locally acquired Zika case
This week, a Dallas County resident became the first reported U.S. citizen to acquire the Zika virus on domestic soil. DSHS has reported seven other Texas cases of Zika virus. All acquired the virus while travelling to parts of the world hit hardest by Zika…MORE

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Does Zika constitute a workplace emergency?
The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global health emergency. Zika could also constitute a workplace emergency, especially for health care providers and first responders, as well as outdoor workers, who could be exposed to mosquito bites…MORE

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

New rule requires real-time monitoring of coal dust exposure
A new MSHA rule requires employers to provide coal miners with continuous personal dust monitors to measure dust levels in real time. Coal miners will know how much dust they are breathing during their shift so they can take immediate corrective action…MORE 

Chemical Safety Board (CSB)

CSB calls for stricter ammonium nitrate standards
A CSB report points to inadequate emergency response coordination and training, as well as careless storage of potentially explosive materials, as contributing factors in the 2013 blast at a Texas fertilizer plant. In its report, the CSB calls on federal regulators to set higher standards for safe handling and storage of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate…MORE

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

SHRM: Proposed rule discourages participation in wellness programs
A proposed EEOC rule would discourage wellness program participation by imposing caps on incentives for spouses, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. The rule would require employers to count in-kind incentives, such as gift cards, gym bags and time off, toward incentive caps…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH puts an ear to the ground in effort to gauge prevalence of hearing-related conditions
Noise exposure contributes to hearing loss and tinnitus, or “ringing in the ears.” A NIOSH study found that 23 percent of people who have been exposed to excessive noise on the job suffer from hearing loss. Approximately 15 percent contend with tinnitus, and 9 percent suffer from both conditions…MORE

NIOSH study would evaluate effectiveness of insurer-sponsored wellness programs
In 2012, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OHBWC) rolled out a grant program to help employers offer workplace wellness resources to their employees. NIOSH wants to partner with the OHBWC to evaluate the impact its program has had on occupational safety and health. Emerging evidence suggests integrating wellness and safety may have a synergistic effect on worker safety and health…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

‘Rogue supervisor’ ruling won’t shield most employers from OSHA violations
Law Book
Employers should not rely on a narrowly carved exception involving rogue supervisors to the general rule that they are liable for workplace safety violations when their supervisors know about the hazards, according to a recent court decision…MORE

OSHA alerts businesses to email scam
If you receive an email with the subject line, “OSHA Regulations — Avoid being fined,” delete it immediately, and do not click on the links. While the sender may appear to be OSHA, — mailer@osha.gov — it’s not an OSHA-generated email…MORE

Environmental health & safety – What to watch in 2016
OSHA is looking to put more bite into its compliance bark in 2016. Employers can expect an 80 percent hike in fines, as well as more criminal prosecutions for worker safety violations…MORE

GOP: DOL response to questions on joint employer guidance inadequate
Last October, OSHA issued a guidance document designed to help its inspectors uncover joint employer relationships between franchisers and franchisees, and to ultimately hold both parties liable for safety violations. OSHA failed to convince a House committee that it did not collaborate with the National Labor Relations Board on the guidance document…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Wellness no longer strictly an HR initiative
healthy living
Employers increasingly recognize the business value of wellness programs, according to a study by a wellness vendor. In fact, more than half of the human resources professionals surveyed say they are looking to improve employee engagement (60 percent), productivity (53 percent) and organizational culture (52.8 percent) through wellness…MORE

Inventors claim new tool eliminates slips resulting from tank gauging
Two oil industry veterans have invented a tool to help protect workers from slippery surfaces caused by tank gauging operations. The Catch-It, as its name implies, catches oil that would otherwise fall on the ground and on work surfaces such as walkways, stairs and railings…MORE

Bulletin warns firefighters about face piece ‘crazing’
Thermal stress caused by intense heat during fires could cause the face piece lenses on a firefighter’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to worsen rapidly and fail. Users should inspect the face piece lens for crazing, which is a series of fine cracks, as well as look for other damage during SCBA inspections. Any lens that is damaged must be removed from service immediately and never reused…MORE


Industrial Athletes Take Heart

The Super Bowl has a way of making grown men dream about what might have been.

“If I hadn’t blown out my knee in high school, I could have been All State.”

“If I’d focused on football instead of basketball, I could have gone all the way.”

Or in my case, “If I hadn’t joined the band in fifth grade, I might gotten the chance to participate in more than the halftime show.”

But I think we nine-to-fivers need to take heart. Football is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most of us, at least not at the professional level.A mere 2,000-ish people are gifted enough to make their living in the NFL.

Still, we’re not that different than the guys who suit up on Sundays. Take the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, for example.

Watt is arguably the best player at any position in the NFL. At 6’5, 295 pounds, he’s an athletic prodigy who was clearly born to do one thing and do it well. How could he be anything but a football player with a name like J.J. Watt?

Watt’s workplace is a 50×100 yard field. In his business, violent collisions are the norm, and playing injured is considered “other duties as assigned.”

The rest of us are players in a much different game. Ours unfolds in factories, hospitals, fire stations and corporate office buildings. Unless Terry Tate joins our team, we’re not likely to get pummeled by a 250-pound linebacker.

Still, our jobs are physically demanding. And that is where we find common ground with Watt and his peers.

We are industrial athletes, and our bodies are our instruments. Whether we spend our day sacking quarterbacks or groceries, we should prepare our instruments to withstand the rigors of our jobs. It’s called functional fitness, and it is one area where employee wellness and employee safety intersect.

In our next post, we’ll explain what functional fitness is and why you should invest in it.

Work Safe, Texas is Open for Business – February 2016 Updates

Work SafeHelping ensure workers get safely home to their families every day is the most important service Texas Mutual delivers not just to our policyholders, but to every Texas business. That’s why we launched our Work Safe, Texas website.

The site is a forum for us to share our workplace safety expertise with Texas. Each month, we upgrade worksafetexas.com with fresh content. From downloadable posters to online videos to workplace safety articles, you’ll find resources that address the unique hazards your employees face.

Here are just a few highlights from the February offerings waiting for you at worksafetexas.com.

Workplace safety: A resolution you can live with
So many New Year’s resolutions, so little time. Your partners at Texas Mutual understand you’ve got your plate full with plans to get healthier, read more or learn a new language. We hope you’ll carve out some time to improve your safety program in 2016, as well.

This month’s featured post from our award-winning Safety @ Work blog provides practical tips for making good on a New Year’s resolution to safety.

Making sense of your OSHA recordkeeping obligations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to post the OSHA 300 log in their workplaces between February 1 and April 30. If your OSHA recordkeeping obligations have you scratching your head, watch this month’s free streaming video for guidance.

5 steps to cashing in on return-to-work
Employers who invest in a return-to-work program can reap the benefits in terms of reduced workers’ comp costs, increased productivity and better employee morale. This month, we outline the five steps involved in launching a return-to-work program.

Did you know?
Would it surprise you to learn that people are dying – literally – for better cell phone service? Or that the Department of Justice plans to start hunting for worker safety violations when pursuing environmental criminal charges? Our “Did You Know” feature is full of interesting facts that will change the way you think about workplace safety.

Workplace safety articles
Cell phones get a bad rap when talk turns to distracted driving, and rightfully so. Research has proven the only safe way to make a call or send a text message is to pull over. But cell phones aren’t the only culprits in the distracted driving epidemic. Visit this month’s safety article offerings to raise your awareness of distracted driving and protect yourself, as well as other drivers.

A brand you can live with
Texas Mutual built its corporate brand on safety. But Work Safe, Texas isn’t just a catchy tagline. It’s a vision that drives everything we do. As long as Texans are getting injured on the job, our Work Safe, Texas website will be open for business.

Regulatory Roundup, January 29, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news.

Texas Mutual

Woody Hill takes to the airwaves to promote safe driving
Texas Mutual wants every worker to get home safely at the end of the day. Too often, distracted driving, driver fatigue, speeding and failure to wear seatbelts hinder our efforts. On Thursday, February 4, we will host our annual Safe Hand, Texas summit in Lubbock. The campaign’s core message: Safe-driving principles save lives. Woody Hill, vice president of safety services, promoted the event on Lubbock airwaves this week…MORE

‘Tis the season for OSHA recordkeeping
OSHA requires employers to post their OSHA 300 logs between February 1 and April 30 of every year. This week’s blog post features FAQs our safety services support center fields as recordkeeping season ramps up…MORE

Oil and gas safety roundtable rolls out short-service employee program
From the Permian Basin to the Eagle Ford Shale, the oil patch is rife with fresh talent. New employees bring energy, enthusiasm and innovation. They also bring an increased risk of on-the-job injuries. The oil and gas safety roundtable encourages employers to customize this short-service employee program to protect their employees and their bottom line…MORE 

Chemical Safety Board (CSB)

Public still not safe from West-style industrial blasts: CSB
emergencyLimited regulatory oversight, inadequate emergency planning and the proximity of the facility to so many homes contributed to the severity of the 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, according to a report issued this week by the CSB. The incident inspired lawmakers to implement reforms during the last legislative session. Still, Texas is home to 43 facilities that sell 5 tons or more of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Furthermore, 19 of those facilities are within a half-mile of a school, hospital or nursing home…MORE

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

Rule to reduce coal dust exposure survives industry challenge
Industry claimed it would be unable to comply with the MSHA’s rule designed to reduce exposure to respirable coal mine dust. Sampling results, however, show industry compliance is at 99 percent. This week, an appeal’s court denied industry’s challenge to the rule, which requires the use of a continuous personal dust monitor…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Combustible dust: Small particles, big hazard
OSHA is in the early stages of developing a rule on combustible dust. In the meantime, employers should look no further than the National Fire Protection Association for guidance…MORE

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

NTSB seeks to lower legal blood alcohol limit
drunk drivingDrunk driving accounts for 100,000 deaths per year. A new NTSB proposal would lower the legal blood alcohol limit from .08, where it has stood since 1999, to .05. It would be up to each state to turn the proposal into law…MORE

UL Standards

UL publishes standard for integrating safety and health in the workplace
The standard allows companies to translate the impact of employer safety and health programs in three core dimensions: economic, environmental and social…MORE

Studies, News, Resources

NATE encourages tower workers to inspect fall protection equipment daily
According to the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), a comprehensive fall protection inspection checklist should include fall arrest systems, positioning lanyards, gloves, boots and hard hats. Fatalities among cell tower workers increased from two in 2012 to 14 in 2014. Safety professionals attribute the trend to increased demand for faster data downloads…MORE

Three 1-person safety teams share their tips for working effectively
One-person safety teams should stay visible and hands-on; implement smaller, more frequent changes that lead to a larger goal; and leave work at work to avoid burnout…MORE

The eyes have it, and technology is here to protect them
Safe workerIn 2014, employees suffered nearly 24,000 eye injuries that caused them to miss work. Bifocal safety eyewear, better anti-fog and glare technology, and the ability to “marry” protective eyewear with other PPE are among the promising developments in eye protection…MORE

4 things to know in the snow
Cold weather can cause a range of health issues collectively called cold stress. This time of year, people who make their living outdoors should take frequent breaks, use fall protection when clearing snow from roofs and learn how to walk on slick surfaces…MORE

“Game conditions” aren’t always ideal for industrial athletes, either
In 1967, the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys squared off in the NFL championship game. With temperatures dipping to 15-below at Lambeau Field, otherwise known as “The Frozen Tundra,” even the toughest players dressed for the elements. Oil rig workers and other industrial athletes need to do the same…MORE

Wellness issues contribute to workplace injuries
healthy livingWhen it comes to workplace injuries, what employees do off the clock is as important as what they do on the job, according to a recent study of French railroad workers. The study found that smoking, sleep disorders and lack of physical activity increase employees’ susceptibility to workplace injuries …MORE

Phoning it in: Presenteeism costs businesses $150B a year
When an injury or illness causes an employee to miss work, productivity suffers. That’s an undeniable principle of productivity. But the blow to the bottom line is just as costly when the ill employee reports to work at less than 100 percent….MORE




‘Tis the Season for OSHA Recordkeeping

‘Tis the Season for OSHA Recordkeeping

It’s almost time for businesses across the country to post their Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, more commonly known as the OSHA 300 Log. To make things easier, Texas Mutual’s safety services support center put together this list of FAQs our representatives typically receive as OSHA recordkeeping season ramps up.

Q: What is the OSHA 300 log?

A: It is a record of serious injuries and illnesses your business experienced during the year. The log presents a snapshot of recordable injuries. It does not include identifying information, such as the employee’s name.

Q: Where can I get the log?

A: You can download the OSHA 300 log on OSHA’s website.

Q: When am I required to post the form, a where do I have to post it?

A: You are required to post the OSHA 300 log between February 1 and April 30 of every year, even if you experienced no recordable injuries during the previous year. OSHA requires employers to post the form in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.

Q: Can I use the loss runs my workers’ comp carrier provides to complete the log?

A: No. Your loss runs may not match the information you are required to include on your OSHA 300 log. Remember, not all recordable injuries are filed as workers’ comp claims.

Q: What if an injured employee’s lost time started in 2015 and carried over into 2016? Do I have to record the injury on my 2015 log and my 2016 log?

A: No. All lost time for an injury that occurred in 2015 should be recorded on the 2015 log. If the injured employee is still out on Feb. 1, 2016, estimate the total number of days you expect them to be out, and record that number on your 2015 log. For recordkeeping purposes, OSHA places a 180-day maximum on lost work days.

Q: How can I calculate my incident rate?

A: You can calculate your incident rate by using this formula: Total number of injuries and illnesses X 200,000 / Number of hours worked by all employees = Total recordable case rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website offers more information about calculating incident rates, as well as a convenient incident rate calculator.

Q: If we have multiple office locations, does each location fill out the OSHA 300 log and post the summary?

A: You must keep a separate OSHA 300 log for each establishment that is expected to be in operation for one year or longer.

Q: We have temporary locations. Do they fill out the OSHA 300 log, or is it just the main location that fills it out?

A: You must keep a separate OSHA 300 log for each establishment that is expected to be in operation for one year or longer. If you have locations that will be in operation less than one year, you do not have to keep separate OSHA 300 logs. You may keep one log that covers all of your short-term establishments. You may also include the short-term establishments’ recordable injuries and illnesses on an OSHA 300 log that covers short-term establishments for individual company divisions or geographic regions.

Q: Our agency provides temporary workers. If our employees get injured on a host employer jobsite, who is responsible for recording the injuries?

A: OSHA requires the employer who provides day-to-day supervision to record temporary worker injuries. That typically means the host employer is required to record the injury.

More questions?

For more information about recordkeeping requirements, visit OSHA’s website. The site includes a searchable database of FAQs.

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. This guidance does not constitute legal advice. The company encourages you to review the governmental regulations and, for specific guidance, contact your local OSHA field office or consult with your legal counsel.