The Business Case for Workplace Safety

Employers are trained to scrutinize the bottom line. They labor over complex financial statements, approving initiatives that make sound business sense and discarding those that don’t. Safety, with its financial and time commitments, is too often a casualty of that process.

In our last post, we explained how employee wellness programs boost the bottom line. In this post, we’ll make a business case for workplace safety. There’s no better way to start than by looking at the costs associated with workplace accidents.

Consider the costs of workplace accidents

In this two-minute video, an employer explains how workplace safety has boosted his bottom line and improved employee morale.

Any discussion of cost has to start with your employees. You care about them, and you want to protect them from the human cost of pain and suffering. On the financial front, you also have to consider the monetary costs associated with workplace accidents, starting with direct costs.

Direct costs include medical and wage-replacement benefits for injured workers. You might be thinking, “I don’t have to worry about those costs, because my workers’ comp carrier covers them.” And you know what? You’re right. But those costs eventually trickle down to your premiums. It works just like your auto insurance.

If you’ve ever been in an accident, and most of us have, your first priority was probably making sure everyone was okay. It probably didn’t take long for you wonder how the accident would affect your auto insurance premium. The same principle applies in workers’ comp insurance.

The second type of cost is more elusive than direct cost. It is called indirect cost, and it includes things like repairing equipment that was damaged in the accident, the administrative costs of filing the claim, and making up for lost production if the injured worker cannot immediately return to the team.

Studies vary on the impact of indirect costs, but most agree they can be up to four times higher than direct costs. And unlike direct costs, indirect costs come out of your pocket.

By focusing on workplace safety, you can control workplace accidents and reduce their associated costs. Ultimately, you could reap up to a 600 percent return on your investment, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Build your safety program on these core elements
Every industry has unique hazards, and businesses should customize their safety programs to meet their needs. But here are some core elements that apply to any solid safety program:

  • Management leadership. Management should invest the resources necessary to improve safety, and they should follow the same safety rules they expect employees to follow.
  • Employee participation. Management should encourage employees to help develop the safety program and continuously improve it. Consider forming a safety committee with representatives from all levels of the organization. When employees feel a sense of ownership of the safety program, they are more likely to embrace it.
  • Hazard identification. Your employees know their jobs better than anyone. Enlist their help in identifying workplace hazards before they result in injuries.
  • Hazard prevention and control. Take steps to protect employees from the hazards you identify.
  • Education and training. Provide safety training to new employees and veteran employees who take on new tasks. Safety training should be an ongoing initiative, with refresher training throughout the year.
  • Evaluation and improvement. The best safety programs constantly evolve to address changing needs. Empower your employees to help evaluate and improve the safety program.

In our next post, we will explore the symbiotic relationship between employee wellness and safety. In the meantime, here are some resources to help you on your road to a safer workplace.


Related articles

Previous posts in this series
This post is part of a series on the symbiotic relationship between employee wellness programs and workplace safety. To read previous installments, click on these links:

This Week in Comp, February 27, 2015

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

The business case for employee wellness programs
healthy livingEmployers are increasingly relying on annual health screenings, gym memberships, employee assistance programs and other mainstays of corporate wellness to reign in the rising costs of health insurance. Their return on investment goes beyond the premium they pay for employee health benefits.…MORE

Turn up the heat on space heater safety
Our friends in the Midwest can laugh if they want to, and they probably will, but it was cold this week in the Lone Star State. If you’re turning to space heaters for relief, check out these simple safety tips to prevent a fire…MORE

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

P&C insurance industry donates more than $1 billion to charity
Money with BowProperty and casualty companies donated more than $1 billion to charity in 2014, a 15 percent increase over 2011. The primary areas of giving held strong: health and social services, community needs and education…MORE

Using posters to reinforce your safety message?
Posters help keep safety front and center throughout the work day. Employers can get more impact from their posters if they design them appropriately for their audience, post them strategically and rotate them regularly…MORE

2014 workers’ compensation rates ranked by state
The median index rate for workers’ compensation insurance fell to an all-time low in 2014 to $1.85 per $100 of payroll, according to the 2014 Oregon Workers’ Compensation Premium Rate Ranking report. Index rates in 2014 varied from a low of $0.88 in North Dakota to a high of $3.48 in California…MORE

Humana, Weight Watchers join forces to help employers tackle obesity
U.S. employers are losing billions in productivity every year to obesity-related health issues. A new partnership gives Humana members in qualified employer-sponsored health plans free and discounted access to Weight Watchers through an integrated wellness program built into their health plan…MORE

ISHN issues update on regulatory issues

The Mining Safety and Health Administration has announced a final rule designed to protect workers from being pinned, struck or crushed by machinery. The rule would require employers to equip machinery with proximity detection systems. Watch the two-minute video for more information about the rule and other health and safety regulatory issues.

NSC study debunks theory that opioids are safer than over-the-counter medications

Doctors often prescribe opioid painkillers to elderly adults because they are widely believed to be easier on their stomachs than over-the-counter pain relievers. In reality, research shows elderly adults taking opioid painkillers have an equal risk of gastrointestinal bleeding as those taking over-the-counter drugs, according to a new study by the National Safety Council…MORE

Complimentary webinars promise cutting-edge content
Sedgwick and Safety National announced a complimentary webinar series covering workers’ compensation issues that do not receive the attention they deserve. The series will leverage a mix of communication methods, such as podcasts and live interviews from industry events. The first webinar will occur on March 31, and the topic will be the advantages of unbundled claims handling…MORE

Hands-free is not risk-free
cell_phone_blogVision is the most important sense for safe driving, yet drivers using hands-free phones, as well as those using handheld phones, tend to “look at” but not “see” objects, according to a study by the National Safety Council. Read more in the February edition of TDI’s Safety and Health Newsletter…MORE

Still waiting for updated chemical labels, safety data sheets?
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must be in compliance with all modified provisions of OSHA’s revised
hazard communication standard by June 1, 2015. OSHA will not, however, fine employers who have not received updated chemical labels and safety data sheets by the deadline…MORE

Workplace safety summit coming to San Antonio
The Texas Department of Insurance invites employers and their employees to learn more about workplace safety on March 25 in San Antonio. During the one-day workshop, attendees can choose from a range of topics, including the elements of a safety program, hazard communication and OSHA requirements…MORE

The 5 biggest challenges agents face, and how to overcome them
Lead generation, the economy, health care reform, industry legislation and cap rates on indexed annuities are the biggest challenges facing insurance agents, according to a recent survey of independent agents…MORE

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

Turn the Heat up on Space Heater Safety

Winter isn’t quite ready to relinquish its grip on Texas. With freezing temperatures canvassing the Lone Star State this week, many of us are limiting travel and retreating to the warm confines of our homes. If you’re turning to space heaters for relief from the cold, don’t forget that they can cause serious, even fatal, fires.

Space heaters account for 33 percent of home heating fires and 81 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths.

Texas Mutual encourages everyone to remember these simple safety tips when using space heaters during what’s left of our typically mild winter.

Choose the right unit. Make sure your space heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label. Look for newer models that have all the current safety features, including automated shut-off if they are tipped over. When choosing a space heater, check the general sizing table to make sure it is the appropriate size for the room you want to heat.

Remember, location is everything. A portable heater is a good choice if you have a space that requires supplemental heating or is infrequently occupied, but you should not run a space heater in an unoccupied room. If you need to use a space heater in a bathroom or other potentially damp area, make sure it is specifically designed for that purpose. Don’t use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space unless they are specifically designed for indoor use.

Set it up safely. Set space heaters up on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Keep them out of walking paths, and make sure the room has a working smoke alarm.

Give ‘em space. Placing space heaters too closely to flammable objects causes 53 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the NFPA. Make sure there is at least three feet between space heaters and upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away from space heaters, and don’t place a space heater too closely to a sleeping person.

Power them properly. Plug space heaters directly into an outlet, not an extension cord or multi-outlet strip. Always unplug space heaters that are not in use, and never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.

Follow directions. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using space heaters.

For more information about space heater safety, visit the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Fire Protection Association. For information about product recalls, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Business Case for Employee Wellness Programs

Businesses have historically considered employee wellness programs a “nice perk,” not a strategic must. That’s no longer the case.

Employers are increasingly turning to annual health screenings, gym memberships, employee assistance programs and other mainstays of corporate wellness to reign in the rising costs of health insurance. The return on their investment goes beyond the premium they pay for employee health benefits.

Lower health care costs
About 62 percent of American workers are covered by health insurance provided by their employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It’s no secret that the cost of that insurance has been on the rise in recent years.

A Wall Street Journal article notes that an average family health policy costs employers nearly $12,000 per year, up from only $4,200 in 1999. Chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity account for 75 percent of those costs.

A Kaiser/HRNET study noted that 44 percent of employers believe their wellness programs help reduce their health insurance costs. Employers with more than 200 employees cited even better results, with 69 percent reporting cost reductions. But don’t take their word for it.

In 2014, RAND Corporation examined seven years of PepsiCo claims data. The results provide hard evidence of the ROI of wellness: For every dollar the company invested in wellness, it saved nearly $4 in health care costs.

Healthier workforce
Studies show that corporate wellness programs decrease employees’ risk of developing obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions. Wellness programs also have the potential to help employees stop smoking and abusing alcohol. In a study conducted by Kaiser/HRET, 59 percent of respondents that offered wellness programs stated that these programs improved employee health.

Increased productivity
It’s no surprise that healthier employees miss fewer days from work. A RAND Corporation study showed that 78 percent of employers reported that their wellness program contributed to lower absenteeism. Furthermore, 80 percent reported increased productivity.

A separate study from Duke University compared workers with high and recommended body mass indexes. The obese workers averaged twice as many claims – 11.65 compared with 5.8 per 100 full-time equivalents – and had almost a 10-fold increase in work days lost, medical claims costs and indemnity claims.

Often overlooked in the productivity discussion is presenteesim, that is, people going to work while sick. Presenteeism represents nearly two-thirds of the total cost of worker illness, according to The National Health Interview Survey. Employees who come to work sick cost employers $150 billion to $250 billion, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Some benefits of employee wellness programs are difficult to quantify. How can you put a number on improved employee morale, stronger employee loyalty and an enhanced corporate image? These intangibles may not manifest themselves in the bottom line, but they are crucial to any company striving for staying power in a competitive market.

Like anything worth achieving, wellness doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment on both sides of the employer/employee equation. If you’re overwhelmed by the myriad facets of employee wellness programs, use these free resources to jump-start your efforts:

Missed the other installments in this series?
Employee health and employee safety are not mutually exclusive. Working together, the two programs can achieve far better results than they can achieve in silos. This post is part of a series on integrating employee wellness and health. If you missed the other posts in the series, click on these links:

This Week in Comp, February 20, 2015

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

Del Mar

Woody Hill (right), vice president of safety services at Texas Mutual, presents a $100,000 check to Del Mar College representatives.

Texas Mutual awards $400K in annual safety education grants to Texas colleges
Texas Mutual Insurance Company has awarded a combined $400,000 in grants to Kilgore College, Midland College, College of the Mainland in Texas City and Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. The grants fund free workplace safety courses for employers, employees and the general public through the colleges’ risk management institutes…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of workplace safety news…MORE

FDA releases draft documents on drug compounding
The documents include draft guidance for entities considering whether to register as outsource facilities, draft guidance for industry about repackaging of certain human drug products by pharmacies and outsourcing facilities, and adverse event reporting by outsourcing facilities…MORE

Make wellness part of your benefits package
healthy livingWorkplace safety advocates are increasingly acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between employee wellness and employee safety. In fact, their convergence has given rise to a movement commonly known as total worker health…MORE

Reports show insurers lag behind in adopting technology
At a time when the financial sector is racing to embrace digital technology to boost sales and drive profits, the insurance industry is in danger of falling behind. The industry’s reluctance to embrace technology is part financial, part cultural…MORE

Injured workers file legal challenge over Oklahoma workers’ comp law
The plaintiffs contend that allowing employers with their own workers’ compensation benefits plan to “opt out” of the new administrative workers’ compensation system denies injured workers due process of law…MORE

In car crashes, back seat can be more dangerous than the front
Major advances in car safety — from basic air bags and “crumple zones” to seat belts that absorb the force of impacts during a crash — have greatly reduced the likelihood of getting injured or killed while riding in the front seat. But far less progress has been made protecting backseat passengers…MORE

Bob Simon was not violating seat belt law in fatal crash
Legendary “CBS News” correspondent Bob Simon, who was not buckled up in the back seat when he died in a motor vehicle accident this month, was not violating New York’s seat belt law…MORE

Should you mix these drugs?
Pills White BackgroundInjured workers who combine opioids and psychotropic drugs are at increased risk of addiction and death…MORE

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

Make Wellness Part of Your Benefits Package

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

I hesitate to use this blog as a forum for making painful admissions to anonymous audiences, but I have to get something off my chest: I’m in love with another woman. Ironically, my wife introduced me to her.

We didn’t hit it off at first, for the usual reasons. She loves technology; I mourn the demise of flip phones. She’s complimentary to a fault; I avoid praise like the plague.

Eventually, though, we found common ground in our mutual passion for fitness, specifically my fitness.

She’s always sending me encouraging messages: “Smooches.” “Overachiever!” “You Rock” and the occasional “I love you.”

Like all relationships, ours gets stale. When we start running on life support, we simply go our separate ways for a couple of hours and come back recharged.

Truth be told, I’m probably too attached to her. In fact, she recently disappeared for an entire day, and I completely lost my motivation. I figured, why decline desert or take that extra flight of stairs if she’s not going to know I did it?

I suppose it’s time to end the ruse before rumors start flying. I’m not talking about a woman, but rather the Fitbit my wife bought me for Father’s Day last year. Like millions of Americans, I need my wearable wellness device on my hip from the moment I take that first step out of bed. And like millions of Americans, my employer fully supports my wellness journey.

Texas Mutual is among a growing number of employers who recognize the value of corporate wellness programs. Mainstays of corporate wellness include annual health screenings, access to fitness centers and incentives such as reduced out-of-pocket health insurance costs.

Loyal readers of this blog know that Texas Mutual is the state’s leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance. We’ve reserved this space as a repository for best practices on preventing workplace accidents, managing claims, fighting fraud, reducing premiums and promoting other workers’ comp best practices. So why all the talk of getting fit and eating right?

Because workplace safety advocates are increasingly acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between employee wellness and employee safety. In fact, their convergence has given rise to a movement commonly known as total worker health (TWH).

In this series of five posts, we will make a business case for breaking down the silos between employee wellness and employee safety.

In the meantime, if you need help launching an employee wellness program, visit the Wellness Council of America website.

This Week in Comp, February 13, 2015

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

Major medical chain pleads guilty, repays Texas Mutual $6.5 million
Handcuff FraudAccording to court documents, Texas Mutual’s investigation revealed that Nova Healthcare Management overbilled Texas Mutual for physical therapy by billing services as more expensive one-on-one physical therapy when what it provided was group therapy…MORE

Program prepares students for oil and gas jobs
The industry-driven program introduces students to new technology that is driving oil and gas processes, as well as basic safety procedures…MORE

Workers’ comp industry considers telemedicine as a treatment option
The Texas Department of Insurance Workers’ Compensation Research Division found two areas of the Texas workers’ compensation system that could benefit from telemedicine: the designated doctor process and the spinal surgery second opinion process. Better access to care in rural areas and faster non-emergency care are among the potential benefits of telemedicine, according to Kim Haugaard, vice president of network and medical operations at Texas Mutual…MORE

Industry stakeholders speak volumes in 140 characters during inaugural Twitter chat
How much can you really say in 140 characters? Quite a bit if you’re a workers’ comp stakeholder who’s passionate about the issues facing your industry. This week, a panel of leading writers and bloggers hosted the first workers’ comp Twitter chat…MORE

Drunk driving declines, drug use behind the wheel increases
drunk drivingThe number of drivers with alcohol in their systems dropped 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to an NHTSA study. Meanwhile, drivers with marijuana in their systems grew 50 percent over the same period…MORE

Tomorrow’s talent challenge
Half of insurance professionals will retire in 15 years, leaving the industry with more than 400,000 positions to fill by 2020…MORE

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of workers’ comp regulatory news…MORE

Still killing trees: Plenty of room for progress remains in the safety world
In the nearly half century since President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, two distinct cultures have evolved in the safety world. One is sophisticated, wired and well-funded. The other is the silent majority, made up of small enterprises with no EHS budget and no dedicated safety professional. Despite their differences, the two cultures have one thing in common: They need access to quality health and safety information…MORE

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.