This Week in Comp, May 22

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly roundup of environmental health and safety news…MORE

Texas Senate confirms Brannan as commissioner of the Division of Workers’ Compensation
Ryan BrannanBrannan previously served as an advisor in the Governor’s Office Division of Budget, Planning and Policy, focusing on issues relating to the insurance industry, including property and casualty insurance, workers’ compensation, healthcare, public health and health and life insurance…MORE

Texas workers’ comp claims see slow growth: WCRI
The total average cost per claim for injured workers in Texas was among the lowest in a 17-state study conducted by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). In 20015, the Texas Legislature authorized major system reforms designed to reduce medical costs. The WCRI speculates that this year’s study reflects the effects of those reforms…MORE

Revamped pharmacy program protecting health and safety of Ohio’s injured workers
Ohio injured workers were prescribed 15.7 million fewer opiate doses in 2014 than in 2010, representing a 37 percent decrease, thanks largely to the state’s first outpatient medication formulary…MORE

Washington teens twice as likely as adults to be hurt on the job
teen workerFalls were the leading cause of injuries for youth in the food and retail industries during 2014, according to a study released by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries…MORE

DEA raids ‘pill mills’ in four Southern states
An average of 44 people die every day from opioids, including Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. In the last 15 months, the DEA has arrested 140 as part of “Operation Pilluted,” the largest pharmaceutical operation in DEA history. The agency hopes to arrest as many as 170 others in the ongoing battle against prescription drug abuse…MORE

West Virginia Supreme Court rules addicts can sue pharmacies, doctors
The ruling involved 29 patients who sought treatment for job-related injuries or injuries stemming from car accidents. They alleged they were prescribed controlled substances and became addicted because of criminal abuse of prescriptions…MORE

NSC estimates crashes involving cell phone use increased for third consecutive year
cell_phone_blogCell phone use is a factor in 27 percent of car crashes, according to an annual National Safety Council study. The Council estimates texting-related crashes jumped from 5 percent to 6 percent in this year’s study, while crashes involving drivers talking on cell phones remained at 21 percent…MORE

Make wellness part of the “daily grind”
Employee health and safety are inseparable. National Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time to make wellness part of your daily grind…MORE

 

This Week in Comp, May 15

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly roundup of environmental health and safety news…MORE

Falls don’t discriminate by industry
Falls in the construction industry have received a lot of attention across the country the past couple of weeks, thanks to OSHA’s annual Stand Down for Safety event. But construction workers aren’t the only people at risk. In fact, falls are the second-leading cause of workplace injuries across industries…MORE

Texas driver ‘inattentive’ in bridge crash
Truck on freeway
The driver of a tractor trailer that struck a bridge in Salado was inattentive and hauling an illegal oversized load, according to Texas Department of Public Safety investigators…MORE

How on-demand economy is changing workers’ compensation
Need to hire a contractor? There’s an app for that. Hate doing laundry? There’s an app for that, too. The demand for temporary workers has grown three times more than for traditional workers during the past five years, and apps are connecting employers and employees faster than ever. It’s known as the on-demand economy, and it has implications for the workers’ compensation industry…MORE

California insurance commissioner urges first work comp rate cut in four years
The 10 percent recommended cut is roughly double the size of cuts insurers announced they would make…MORE

Patient engagement key to improving compliance, return-to-work
rtwPatient engagement strategies include understanding the patient’s beliefs about their health, their condition’s severity, their perceived treatment benefits, and their perceived ability to engage in treatment intervention, according to a Coventry white paper…MORE

California court says staffing agencies can’t self-insure workers’ comp
The court noted that staffing agencies can dramatically change the scope of their workers’ compensation risk by adding new clients and new employees, but the self-insurance deposit would not be adjusted until the subsequent year…MORE

Tire safety: 3 critical failures to avoid

Click on the image for more information on how to reduce tire blowouts.

Click on the image for more information on how to reduce tire blowouts.

The first driverless, wheel-less, hovering cars aren’t far off. Until then, we can steer clear of motor vehicle accidents by keeping our tires in good working order…MORE

Work comp in North Carolina – lessons learned
A recently-published report on the North Carolina work comp system should be required reading for anyone looking to understand why and how costs and care will change in response to regulations, according to Joe Paduda, author of the popular Managed Care Matters blog. Paduda’s key takeaway: Reform can effectively mitigate cost drivers if it targets specific factors influencing costs…MORE

Workers’ comp industry improved in 2014, but NCCI sees trouble ahead
In 2014, the industry’s combined ratio improved for the third consecutive year, premium grew for the fourth consecutive year, and claim frequency declined about two percent. Premium volume continues to increase, but construction and manufacturing employment totals remain well below pre-recession levels, which is restraining even higher premium growth rates, according to NCCI’s annual State of the Line report…MORE

Texas Mutual Workshops Under Way

Carrie

Texas Mutual workshop coordinator Carrie Scarborough Kinnard

Workshop season is in full swing at Texas Mutual, which means we are busy preparing for sessions across the state, talking with policyholders and agents in the cities we’ll be visiting and doing a lot of traveling. We are already on track to see another very successful year of training employers and agents all throughout Texas. We knew this would be the case when our first workshops of the year in Houston brought more than 120 attendees!

As Texas Mutual’s workshop coordinator, I’ve had the chance to see our workshops go from just an idea to what they are today. Every year as we get ready to take our presentations across the state, I get excited about the difference we’ll be making. Last year alone, we trained 1,100 employers and agents, and I know that each one of those people will be able to put what they learned to use in their business. Just a few hours in a workshop can help employers keep their workers’ comp costs low and their employees safe, and that’s one of the things that makes what we do worthwhile.

The team

One of the biggest factors of our workshops’ success is the Texas Mutual presenters who share their expertise with policyholders and agents. We have team members from safety services, claims and special investigations for employers to hear from and ask questions, and agents have the chance to spend the morning with marketing/underwriting and premium audit experts. I can honestly say that these presenters are some of the finest I’ve worked with. They are always looking for ways to make our workshops efficient and entertaining. They are extremely knowledgeable in their fields and their experience and wisdom shows. Our workshops may be one of the few times our agents and policyholders get to see a ‘face’ of Texas Mutual and I can say with confidence that these presenters are representative of the professionalism, friendliness and kindness that you’ll find at Texas Mutual.

Bonus session

In 2014, we added another aspect to our workshop opportunities. We realized that driving accidents were accounting for a significant amount of workers’ compensation claims, and those numbers were rising year after year. When we launched our Safe Hand Texas campaign and started arming employers and workers with educational materials to help them stay safe on the road, offering defensive driver training was a natural next step. We now offer a defensive driving class in the afternoon following the majority of our workshops. This highly interactive defensive driving class provides drivers with practical knowledge and techniques to avoid collisions and violations. It also helps drivers choose safe, responsible driving behaviors. Just like all our workshops, it is completely free for Texas Mutual policyholders and their employees.

Why attend?

When employers and agents ask me what they’ll get out of a Texas Mutual workshop, the first thing I tell them is that they’ll learn from industry experts about what workers’ comp means for their business. I’m also told at every workshop that one of the participants’ favorite take away is always the gifts we raffle off during the workshops! But there are also a few other perks of attending a session:

  • Agents can earn 3.5 CE credits (TDI course #94957)
  • Our defensive driving class may be accepted by insurance companies for premium discount
  • Receive completely free workers’ comp training
  • Leave with materials to help remember what the workshop covered
  • Get safety materials to take back to your workplace

We’ll be in cities all across Texas this year and I hope to see you there! We’ll continue to update the Workshops, Training and Education page at texasmutual.com as registration opens up, but right now you can resister for our next two workshops, Midland on May 21 and Amarillo on June 18. Click here to register or to find out more about our workshops and other training opportunities.

Falls Don’t Discriminate by Industry

A roofing supervisor with 25 years’ experience dies after falling 30 feet through a skylight. There were no skylight screens installed, and the supervisor was not wearing fall protection.

In an unrelated case, a construction laborer falls 75 feet through a temporary wooden platform while performing bridge renovations. He was not wearing fall protection, and no fall protection system was in place.

It’s no secret that falls are a major on-the-job hazard in the construction industry. In 2013, they accounted for 35 percent of construction worker fatalities. Many of those deaths were preventable.

To raise awareness of the potentially serious consequences of falls, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hosting its National Safety Stand Down from May 4 – May 15. The annual event encourages construction workers to pause during their busy days and talk about the importance of wearing fall protection and following safe work practices.

If you haven’t participated in the Stand Down, Texas Mutual encourages you to visit the website and use the free resources. But remember that you don’t have to be in the construction industry to benefit from the information.

Falls are the second-leading cause of workplace injuries across industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’ve climbed a ladder, used the stairs, stepped off a curb or gotten out of a vehicle today, you have been at risk of becoming a fall statistic.

Here are some general safety tips anyone can follow to keep their feet on solid ground:

  • Learn how to select, set up and use a ladder safely.
  • Practice good housekeeping. That includes cleaning spills up as soon as possible, repairing damaged stairs and leaky faucets, and keeping walkways clear.
  • When climbing stairs, use the handrails, avoid distractions and take one step at a time.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes when working on slick floors, and walk cautiously when wearing high heels, open-toe shoes and shoes with slick soles.
  • Use slip-resistant mats near entryways, dishwashers, refrigerators and sinks.
  • Make sure you can see where you are going when carrying loads.
  • Learn and follow OSHA’s fall protection standards*:
    • Construction – six feet or more
    • General industry – four feet or more
    • Shipyards – five feet or more
    • Longshoring – eight feet or more

*In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

Resources

This Week in Comp, May 8, 2015

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

Employers try adding genetic testing to employee wellness mix
Genetic testing could help uncover risk factors for chronic conditions such as obestity. Employers that want to add genetic testing to their wellness package must weigh the Exercisingbenefits against employee privacy concerns…MORE

Insurers predict impact from wearable devices within 2 years
Nearly two-thirds of insurers expect wearable technologies to have a significant impact on the industry, according to a survey in Accenture’s annual Technology Vision report. One insurer that participated in the study recently began offering new policyholders a free fitness band and rewarding their efforts with premium discounts…MORE

OSHA sets lofty goal for annual Safety Stand Down
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hopes at least 3 million workers receive fall prevention information during its annual Stand Down for Safety event, up from 1 million last year…MORE

Texas Mutual pays $117,226 dividend to Texas Home Builders
THB-bro-lores-1The dividend was based largely on the safety group members’ collective efforts to prevent workplace accidents and control their associated costs. Safety group dividends are separate from the individual dividends Texas Mutual has distributed among qualifying policyholders every year since 1999.…MORE

Aon analysis shows double-digit increases in U.S. pharmacy costs by 2016
Price inflation for brand and specialty drugs, a slowdown in blockbuster drugs losing patent protection, generic dispensing rates leveling off, and the robust pipeline of specialty drugs are driving the increase, according to Aon…MORE

New study highlights “automaticity” and its link with distracted driving and walking
The attention required by text messaging is intermittent, focused and visual, and it requires individuals to divide attention between the immediate physical space and an imagined social space, according to the study. Scientific jargon aside, texting and driving is a dangerous combination…MORE

Buffett predicts reinsurance slump
DecreaseCompetition will drive prices down in the reinsurance market over the next decade, according to Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway…MORE

AIG could follow GE’s move to shed ‘too-big-to-fail’ tag
The tag subjects companies to Fed oversight that could include tougher capital, leverage and liquidity requirements….MORE

CA skydiver charged with workers’ compensation fraud
A construction worker was videotaped skydiving after claiming an on-the-job injury was causing him excruciating pain and preventing him from using his left arm to drive…MORE 

How to interest millennials in insurance careers
About 25 percent of the industry is expected to retire by 2018, creating 400,000 open positions by 2020. An new online platform called MyPath is designed to help students and other young adults explore their career options within insurance and risk management…MORE

First licensed autonomous freight truck hits road in U.S.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is not driverless, but it does allow the driver to cede control of safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions…MORE

Oklahoma high court won’t hear challenge to work comp alternative
The law allows some employers to comply with Oklahoma’s workers’ comp requirements by operating their own written benefit plans. It also transformed the workers’ compensation system from a court-based system to an administrative one…MORE

TDI-DWC hosts workplace safety and health conference May 19-21
The Austin conference will include presentations on a range of topics, such as distracted driving, workplace violence, hazardous materials and regulatory compliance…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly mash-up of health and safety news…MORE

Texas Mutual Donates $400,000 in College Safety Grants

1610869_10153632271407814_4661133832863129017_nEach year, Texas Mutual has the chance to invest in safety programs that will impact thousands of Texans. One that we are especially proud to support is the risk management institute safety grant program that allows us to partner with colleges to educate local workers on safety issues relevant to the dominant industries in their regions.

As part of this program, Texas Mutual recently awarded four $100,000 grants to help maintain safety institutes at Kilgore College, Midland College, College of the Mainland in Texas City and Del Mar College in Corpus Christi.

Over the last 16 years, we’ve awarded $3.9 million in safety education grants, and approximately 30,000 students have attended free safety courses at these colleges.

For each college, there’s a different safety focus depending on the needs of the local community. In the Midland area, it’s oil and gas. In Kilgore, the majority of their training is industrial, and College of the Mainland focuses heavily on establishing various safety and incident management programs. Breaking from tradition, this year Del Mar College is establishing bus driver training. Using their donation from Texas Mutual, as well as the generous donation of a bus from the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, the college will expand their existing Class A program to include Class B CDL license training as well. This meets a need in the community to train candidates to be Regional Transit Authority and local school bus drivers.

Texas Mutual’s Vice President of Safety Services Woody Hill visited each of the four colleges to present the grants and had a chance to visit with risk management institute leaders.

“Through the classes at these four safety institutes, more Texas employees are receiving free safety training, giving them tools to be successful in business. Most importantly, we’re taking a big step toward keeping workers safe by providing educational programs,” said Woody.

“These grants, along with other Texas Mutual safety programs, exemplify the company’s ongoing commitment to workplace safety and the prevention of workplace accidents. Workplace safety education is always a sound investment.”

To learn more about each college’s risk management institute, click the links below.

College of the Mainland

Kilgore College

Midland College

Del Mar College

Lessons from the Field: Protect Yourself Near Power Lines

A 27-year-old tree trimmer was electrocuted when the bucket truck he was working from came in contact with an overhead power line.

In an unrelated case, a painter died when his 40-foot aluminum ladder touched a 13.8 kilovolt overhead power line.

Cases of on-the-job injuries involving power lines are common. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created regulations to help protect your employees. In most cases, OSHA regulations are the “law of the land.” Working near power lines is a rare exception.

What’s the issue?

It is critical that employees watch out for each other on the job, especially when working near power lines.

It is critical that employees watch out for each other on the job, especially when working near power lines.

Under OSHA standards, employees must maintain a minimum of 10 feet (scroll to bottom of page for a voltage/clearance table) from overhead power lines. The Texas Health and Safety Code (THSC) supersedes OSHA’s standard, setting the minimum distance at six feet. The six-foot standard applies to employees, tools, materials, machinery and structures such as oil rigs being moved between drilling locations.

What does it mean to you?
The electricity flowing through power lines is strong enough to kill. Most importantly, violating the law could result in the loss of an employee. That is a tragedy you will never recover from. There are also legal implications for employers.

If an employee makes contact with an overhead power line and gets injured while violating the THSC six-foot standard, the employer can be fined. They are also responsible for liability the utility company incurs. Liability can include equipment damage and the costs associated with lawsuits.

How do you protect your employees and your business?
The THSC does not prohibit employees from working within six feet of overhead power lines. It does, however, require employers to take specific steps in advance:

  1. Contact the utility company 48 hours before beginning work.
  2. Coordinate with the utility company to protect your employees. Safety precautions may include temporarily de-energizing and grounding power lines, relocating or raising the lines, or using mechanical barriers to separate the lines from employees, materials and tools.
  3. Reimburse the utility company for expenses associated with step 2. The utility company may require payment in advance.

What else can you do?
Following state and federal laws is a good start toward protecting your employees. If you want to take your safety program beyond compliance, promote these best practices::

  • Do not work near power lines unless you have been properly trained.
  • Locate all overhead and buried power lines before you start working, and post warning signs. To find out where power lines are buried, call 811, use the app or call the utility company.
  • Survey the area for tree limbs and other obstructions, but do not remove them yourself. Report them to your supervisor before starting work.
  • Use nonconductive ladders and tools.
  • Unless you know otherwise, assume power lines are energized.
  • Ask other crew members to watch you closely, especially if you have to use a crane or other high-reaching equipment near a power line.
  • Before you do any non-routine task, such as working above the neutral line, talk to your supervisor.
  • Ensure that no materials are stored under power lines.
  • Use caution tape and signs to cordon off the area under power lines.
  • If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out unless the vehicle is on fire. If you must exit, jump clear of the vehicle with your feet together, and continue to “bunny hop” with your feet together.

Get more information
For more information about working near power lines, use these free resources:

For previous installments of “Lessons from the Field,” click the links below: