Five steps to prepare for an emergency

In light of Hurricane Harvey, many families and businesses are reflecting on what they can do to better prepare for a disaster. Having an emergency plan in place can make all the difference during a crisis, and it’s important to create one before the event.

Be PreparedSeptember is National Preparedness Month, which is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is supported by relief organizations, like the Red Cross. In recognition of National Preparedness Month and in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we’re covering five steps to help you and your business prepare for an emergency. You’ll also find a list of resources below to help you implement each of the five steps.

  1. Assess potential hazards

It’s important to identify what types of risk exposures exist for your workplace. Consider the hazards that can occur from your type of business, such as chemical exposure or fire danger, but also consider what external factors could cause a crisis at your workplace, such as bad weather, an active shooter, or wildfire danger. Discuss these scenarios and how to manage them with your leadership team so that you, your employees and your workplace are protected as best as possible.

  1. Be informed

As a business owner, you have a responsibility to keep your employees informed and give guidance to them when it’s needed. It’s important to stay up to speed with what’s going on in your community, so take a moment to find out the best way to get information for your area.

Many local news stations offer text alerts, and state agencies and local governments often operate their own Twitter handles to disseminate important information quickly.

News travels fast by word of mouth, so get to know your neighbors in surrounding buildings. Talk about disaster planning and see how you could work together to keep each other informed, report emergencies and handle crises.

  1. Make a plan

Once you identify potential hazards and determine how your business will handle each type of situation, put your plans in writing. Having a written plan will help make sure everyone knows their role and will ensure consistency in your emergency response.

Your emergency action plan (EAP) should include specifics such as:

  • How to report emergencies
  • Who to report to
  • When and how to evacuate the workplace
  • How to lockdown your workplace

In addition to your EAP, prepare a crisis communication plan to document how you will communicate with internal and external audiences.

A crisis communication plan should include:

  • Who you will notify within your company of a crisis situation and how you will notify them
  • What information you will share with employees and how you will communicate with them
  • Who will handle conversations with external audiences such as local, state, and federal authorities
  • Pre-prepared message templates or samples, such as e-mails, letters, tweets, press releases, or text messages, that you can easily update for a specific situation
  1. Get equipped

Prepare your workplace for emergencies with the right supplies and equipment, such as a first aid kit, cardiac defibrillator, fire extinguisher, and an eye wash station, if one is needed for your type of work. Your employees should know where to locate these resources, and you should regularly check them to make sure they are fully stocked and in working condition.

  1. Practice

After you put your plans in writing, it’s important to practice. It can be difficult to remember what to do when an emergency arises, so practicing specific scenarios will help your employees react smoothly. Your plan is only as strong as the people that understand it and know how to execute it. Schedule regular planned and unplanned drills throughout the year.

Emergencies can happen at any time, but these five steps will help you prepare for the unexpected. You can also find more than 2,000 free resources for policyholders, including emergency and disaster planning videos and presentations, on texasmutual.com.

Find more resources below from other organizations that can help you in your emergency planning:

If your business has been significantly affected by Hurricane Harvey, visit texasmutual.com/txmfortexas to see what Texas Mutual is doing to help and to find resources for your business.

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Technology helps bring safer driving habits to Texas Mutual

You’re driving down the highway, minding your speed, when a truck flies by, cuts in front of you and slams on its brakes. You’re rightfully irritated and then you notice the truck has a “How’s My Driving?” bumper sticker. Do you take the time to pull over, call and report your experience?

driving car on highwayMore often than not, drivers don’t make the call. For years, Texas Mutual relied on these “How’s My Driving?” stickers to encourage safe driving among our employees, but with no real way to confirm if they were making a positive difference to improve driving behavior.

Safe driving is an issue we are especially aware of here at Texas Mutual. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job injuries and death for our policyholders’ employees. It’s our mission to help our policyholders reduce these accidents and keep our own employees safe on the road as well.

That’s why in March 2015, we installed an in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) in more than 90 vehicles in our fleet. The IVMS uses telematics technology to transmit information about how someone is driving, which is used to identify potentially unsafe patterns.

For Texas Mutual, our IVMS is about more than just tracking driving behavior – it also offers peace of mind knowing those who travel for work on a daily basis stay safe by practicing good driving behaviors. We ask our policyholders to do all they can to ensure their workers are safe on the road, and we hold ourselves to the same standard.

How an IVMS works

The system, which takes less than one minute to install into your car’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, monitors real-time data. It tracks three risk indicators: speed, rapid acceleration and hard braking. Drivers and their department managers receive a weekly scorecard, similar to a school report card, which assigns an overall letter grade and a letter grade for each of the three risk indicators. The intent is to improve driving habits by informing employees of their driving behavior in a timely manner, and identifying potentially unsafe patterns of driving behavior. The reports are not used in performance reviews for disciplinary action or negative feedback.

The weekly scorecards also include distance traveled, driving time, idling cost and engine usage. To encourage friendly competition, you can also have the scorecards rank business groups within the company. Many businesses also use the technology to track deliveries and manage their fleet, and more sophisticated systems include on-board cameras that monitor the driver’s face and eyes for signs of fatigue and distraction. The cost of an IVMS varies with its complexity. Basic systems cost a few hundred dollars, while more advanced ones cost up to $1,000.

Safer drivers, fewer accidents

The IVMS technology provides reliable information and gives us insight into driving performance in a way we never had before. Since implementing our IVMS, we have seen a 61 percent decrease in preventable accidents. In its first week of implementation in March 2015, the average safe driving score at Texas Mutual was 90 out of 100, but that number has increased to 94.5 in the time since then. Our goal is for our employees to return home safely at the end of the day and the IVMS is a tool helping us meet that goal.

car-crash-emergency-workersWhen used as part of a comprehensive fleet safety program, in-vehicle-monitoring systems can help change the behaviors that contribute to traffic accidents, the number one cause of on-the-job fatalities. The technology allows you to monitor risky driving behaviors so that accidents are reduced and most importantly, employees are safe on the road.

Texas Mutual has seen tremendous success from these systems. The majority of employees consistently receive a score of A, and habits are changing for the better, both on the clock and in their personal time.

In-vehicle-monitoring systems work best when it’s part of a comprehensive safe driving program. At Texas Mutual, it does not take the place of our ongoing effort to spread the message about safe driving. Take a look at how we are reshaping our company culture to put the brakes on distracted driving. We continue to educate our employees on safe driving, and those who are on the road as part of their job must still complete a defensive driving course every two years.

If you have any questions about using an IVMS, read more here or call the safety services support center at 844-WORKSAFE. Our safety service representatives can help you determine if this system would be a good fit for your business and help you keep your drivers safer on the road.

Regulatory Roundup, September 15

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

Texas Mutual Insurance Company News

Grant applications open for Texas Mutual policyholders affected by Hurricane Harvey

Texas Mutual is pledging $10 million to the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort for those affected in the Gulf Coast region of Texas. Policyholders who have significant damage from the storm can apply for a grant for up to $10,000. Applications are open now and our review team is processing submissions so that businesses get the funds they need to rebuild…MORE.

Rebuilding Texas

Governor launches website with resources for public facilities

Governor Greg Abbott launched www.RebuildTexas.Today, a website to provide current information on the rebuilding effort for public facilities in the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The site will provide resources to help with the rebuilding of the state’s infrastructure including roads, buildings and schools…MORE.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Safe cleanup after Hurricane Harvey

The EPA continues to monitor the safety and health of water sources and wastewater treatment plants. EPA.gov has the latest updates on air quality monitoring and debris management. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, with the EPA, shared details on what to do with trash and debris. TCEQ has approved 118 waste management sites to help with the cleanup…MORE.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH launches software to monitor health of emergency responders

NIOSH released a new free software platform to help monitor the health of emergency responders following a natural disaster or public health emergency. With the Emergency Responder Health and Monitoring Surveillance (ERHMS) Info Manager, users can create profiles and complete surveys so that their health can be monitored during and after a response to determine if they need medical attention or further health surveillance…MORE.

Studies, resources, trends, news

National Safety Council (NSC) report finds safety benefits for contractors managed by third parties

NSC released a report finding that contractors who are qualified through third parties may work more safely and may have fewer days off from workplace accidents.…MORE.

$10 million in Hurricane Harvey Relief Grants for policyholders

Texas flag

We are heartbroken, along with many of you, about the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the gulf coast of Texas. Many of those impacted by the storm are the very people whose businesses we work hard to protect every day. We are committed to offering our full support to these employers, which is why Texas Mutual is pledging $10 million to the recovery effort for our policyholders.

This funding will help employers get their businesses on the road to recovery, pay employees’ wages, and rebuild. As these companies and employees work to repair the damage and move forward, we are honored to support them.

How to apply

If you are one of those employers in need, we are here for you. Grant applications open September 13 at noon and funds will be offered on a first come, first serve basis. Current policyholders who have sustained significant damage to a business location in one of the 58 counties on the governor’s Hurricane Harvey Disaster Declaration can apply for up to $10,000 in grant funds from Texas Mutual. Policyholders must have had an in-force policy effective September 12, 2017 or earlier.

Funds can be used for payroll, building rehab or repair, machinery and equipment repair or purchase, replacement of lost inventory, and other expenses associated with rebuilding. Your application will be sent to your agent to co-sign after you’ve submitted it to us. Our review committee is ready to process applications so that we can quickly get funding to those of you in need.

To apply for a grant, visit texasmutual.com/txmfortexas. Additional grant details are available in our frequently asked questions document, or on our website. There you can also find other recovery resources for your business.

Texas Mutual is proud to be your workers’ compensation provider. We know you are the backbone of Texas’ economy – that’s why we have a responsibility to ensure your success and contribute to the resilience of this great state.

Thank you for choosing Texas Mutual, and helping us build a stronger, safer Texas.

Rich Gergasko
President & CEO

rich-gergasko

Regulatory Roundup, Sept. 8

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

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

One-year delay is proposed for crane operator certification requirements

OSHA proposed a rule that would extend the crane operator certification requirements from Nov. 2017 to Nov. 10, 2018. The agency has stated that it needs more time to address stakeholder concerns. Original requirements were previously delayed for three years due to concerns about language. Feedback is currently being accepted through Sept. 29…MORE

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Nine skin hazard profiles are released

NIOSH published nine new skin notation profiles in order to provide information about the health risks of chemical exposure on bare skin. Director John Howard stated that the profiles are intended to promote improved risk-management practices…MORE

Texas Department of Insurance (TDI)

DWC resources for driving policies

The Texas ban on texting while driving went into effect on Sept. 1. The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has free resources available to get your safety programs up to par, including a driving with cell phones sample program in English and Spanish…MORE

OSHCON helps identify hazards during hurricane cleanup

DWC’s Occupational Safety and Health Consultation (OSHCON) program is available to assist businesses with the cleanup process after Hurricane Harvey. Consultants can help identify safety and health hazards and provide guidance on solutions. OSHCON can be reached at 800-252-7031, option 1 or oshcon@tdi.texas.gov…MORE 

Studies, resources, trends, news

Hurricane cleanup safety tips

As the cleanup effort proceeds from Hurricane Harvey, there are several health concerns to be considered. CNN posted an article about dangers to be aware of such as contaminated water and food, mold, mosquitos and mental health issues…MORE

View free agriculture safety videos

AgriSafe Network is sponsoring free daily webinars during National Farm Safety and Health Week, which begins Sept. 17. Topics will include heat illness, respiratory protection and ATVs…MORE

 

Texas Mutual goes back to school

Students in Texas are back in school but summer ended earlier for their teachers and for school staff, who spent the last couple of weeks getting ready for the start of the year. Texas Mutual employees were there to help, sending volunteers to Austin’s Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten in partnership with the United Way for Greater Austin, and making donations to BookSpring, a nonprofit dedicated to early childhood literacy for lower income students, and Irving Schools Foundation’s Supplies for Success program in Dallas.

Thirty-five volunteers helped out at Lucy Read in Austin. They decorated, arranged furniture, made ID cards, laid colored tape paths on the floor to help students navigate the school hallways, organized the school’s office supplies and pulled weeds in nearly 20 garden beds around the campus. Texas Mutual donated glue sticks, colored pencils, construction paper, folders and other supplies, and our volunteers sorted them into 360 school supply packs topped off with good luck messages for the year. Because of Texas Mutual’s donation and the volunteers who assembled the packs, every student enrolled will have the school supplies they need for the school year, taking the burden off of parents.

book spring“I really like to be involved with our community service projects, especially with the school opportunities that we have,” said Brittany Rusciano, a Texas Mutual IT systems analyst who volunteered at Lucy Read.

She added, “I don’t think that the education system always gets the attention that it needs, so every little bit that we can help out, even if that’s just lending a hand to put some posters up or pull some weeds, that means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to the community and the kids going to these schools.”

In addition to our Lucy Read visit, employees in our special investigations division organized a book drive for the Austin nonprofit BookSpring. They collected 219 books which will be donated to children learning to read.

“I have a big heart for books and the work that BookSpring does is very important to me,” said Fraud Investigator Mari Mendez, who helped organize the book drive.

Volunteers sort school supplies at Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten in Austin.

Jill Gonzalez, BookSpring’s associate director, added: “This donation was very exciting because we serve 40,000 kids in the Central Texas area and we take donations every day. We take in and give out between one and three thousand books a month, so every book helps and every book makes a difference.”

In Dallas, our employees raised $2,700 dollars to purchase 250 backpacks filled with school supplies. These were for students ranging from kindergarten to high school seniors and were part of Supplies for Success’ 6,800 overall donated packs. Nineteen Texas Mutual employees helped the Supplies for Success program distribute the backpacks to Irving families.

“It’s very rewarding to help out,” said Regina Glessner, a Texas Mutual underwriter who helped distribute the backpacks. “First of all, the amount of backpacks that you see there is incredible. Then it’s great to see the families that come through, and how appreciative they are that the community comes together like this for them. It’s just amazing how many families you really do touch who would not have been able to afford school supplies for their student.”

This year wasn’t the first time that our employees helped schools kick off the academic year. The United Way is one of our primary nonprofit partners, and we have been involved with their back-to-school efforts for the last five years. This is the third year that our Dallas office has organized for Supplies for Success.

“I think it’s awesome that Texas Mutual lets us do this,” Brittany, who volunteered at Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten in Austin, said. “It’s an investment for Texas Mutual to allow us to do these things and I think it shows that they really care about the community.”

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Regulatory Roundup, Sept. 1

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

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA removes list of workers killed in accidents

OSHA recently made some changes to its website, including removing a list of workers killed on the job from its homepage. Instead there is now a listing (without the workers’ names) of fatalities that have received citations, available on the data webpage. While this change invokes mixed feelings, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab is ensuring that the information is still provided in his newsletter…MORE

The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH)

N95 day for respirator safety to be observed Sept. 5

This year’s N95 day will be observed next week on Sept. 5. Although the focus is typically on filtering facepiece respirators, NIOSH will also be expanding “beyond the N95” this year to discuss other types of respiratory protection. The agency is hosting a webinar next Tuesday, which will include study results, information on choosing the right respirator and a question-and-answer session…MORE

National Safety Council (NSC)

National preparedness month starts today

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsors National Preparedness Month each September and the National Safety Council is providing plenty of information to help. The agency offers safety tips on earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes to assist with making sure your office and home will be ready…MORE

Studies, resources, trends, news

Colorado unveils self-driving work zone vehicle

The Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled an Autonomous Impact Protection Vehicle (AIPV), designed to improve safety for road crews. The vehicle is positioned behind the crew to protect them from the traveling public and is built to absorb or deflect impacts from vehicles that cross into the work zone. The driverless vehicle works by reading a signal transmitted by a lead vehicle to determine correct positioning between workers and traffic…MORE

Tips for eyewash stations

Eyewash delivery systems can be a difficult requirement to tackle at off-site locations, in confined spaces, and in other unusual situations. Industrial Safety & Hygiene News magazine has published an article that can help you find the right eyewash system for the job…MORE

The difference in behavior-based safety

Behavior-based safety (BBS) focuses on employee behavior during tasks and reactions to events. Read about tips for implementing four main steps in the process: Defining and communicating a purpose, training on observations, training on delivering feedback and conducting measurements…MORE

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