Regulatory Roundup

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of occupational safety and health news from around the world.

Texas Mutual News

Driving safety home
This week, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety shared free educational material as part Drive Safely Work Week. Our blog featured tips for overcoming the unique challenges aging drivers face…MORE

Division of Worker’s Compensation (DWC)

DWC newsletter offers workplace violence prevention tips

Police line-victim

Police line-victim

Last month’s deadly incident during a live television newscast underscores the importance of workplace violence prevention. The October issue of the DWC’s Safety and Health Update offers tips, as well as OSHA updates and tips for selling return-to-work…MORE

Texas sees uptick in fatal occupational injuries
Workplace fatalities increased 3 percent in 2014. Transportation incidents again topped the list, accounting for 45 percent of fatalities…MORE

DWC safety summit to include OSHA compliance guidance
The DWC will host the safety summit on October 20 in Amarillo between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. For a $50 entry fee, attendees will get guidance on complying with OSHA requirements, developing an emergency action plan and creating an accident prevention plan…MORE

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

MSHA issues seasonal safety alert during deadliest month for miners
confinedspace_sewerShutdown activities make October the deadliest month for miners. The MSHA issued a safety alert that provides best practices for disassembling conveyors, transporting and storing sections, and accessing floating pump decks…MORE


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA extends enforcement delay on confined spaces standard for residential construction
OSHA will delay full enforcement for residential construction until Jan. 8. Full enforcement of the standard for non-residential construction employers is in effect…MORE

OSHA moves closer to finalizing electronic recordkeeping rule
legislationThis week, OSHA submitted the rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Submission to OIRA is a sign that the rule is in its final stages. The rule would require certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness recordkeeping information to OSHA. The rule also provides for a searchable website where OSHA would make employers’ injury and illness records available to the public…MORE

OIG recommends improvements for OSHA whistleblower protections
The Office of the Inspector General recommends that OSHA develop and implement a process to ensure a good working relationship with other agencies, develop training curriculum for investigators, issue an updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual and ensure the manual is regularly updated…MORE

OIG may review OSHA’s rulemaking process, citation evidence
The audits are discretionary, which means the office of inspector general (OIG) will evaluate their necessity after completing mandatory audits. The OIG is currently auditing OSHA’s emphasis programs and voluntary protection programs….MORE

Michaels defends OSHA guidance documents, warns against budget cuts
Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, fended off accusations that OSHA reduced the number of retail establishments exempt from the Process Safety Management Standard without stakeholder support during a House subcommittee meeting…MORE

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)

NFPA introduces free fire-safety app, redesigned website, new videos for Fire Prevention Week
The app, which targets third-fifth graders, allows students to test their knowledge about fire safety. NFPA also redesigned to allow teachers to search content by grade levels…MORE


Federal Drug Administration (FDA)

FDA warns of compounding pharmacy’s products
The FDA issued a warning to alert health care professionals and patients not to use drug products intended to be sterile made and distributed by Chen Shwezin Inc., doing business as Park Compounding Pharmacy, in Westlake Village, Calif. The FDA reported it is not aware of any adverse event associated with the use of products from Park Compounding Pharmacy…MORE

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

FMCSA wraps up data collection on hours-of-service restart rule
Truck on freewayCongress temporarily suspended the rule in December 2014 and ordered the FMCSA to conduct the study. The agency collected data on more than 3,000 driver duty cycles, more than 75,000 driver alertness tests and more than 22,000 days of driver sleep data. It hopes to issue a final report by the end of the year…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Would OSHA “punt” on inspecting an NFL team?
OSHA would likely classify NFL players as independent contractors, over which it has no jurisdiction. So, the likelihood of a workplace safety inspection occurring on a Sunday afternoon appears minimal…MORE

AIHA signs pact with Society for Chemical Hazard Communication
The pact commits all parties to developing and maintaining the safety data sheets registry program for chemical hazard communication…MORE

Drivers confused by new auto safety technology
Driver assist safety technology is becoming standard in vehicles. Typically not part of the package, however, is education on how to use that technology. The National Safety Council and Department of Transportation are kicking off a campaign to help drivers get the most out of their vehicles’ safety bells and whistles. The campaign includes a website,…MORE 

Driving Safety Home

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Every once in a while, my body reminds me that despite my best efforts to eat right, exercise and eliminate stress, I cannot reverse the aging process. Sometimes, the reminder is subtle. Other times, it’s as clear as the nose on my face.

A few months ago, I was reading the label on a bottle of vitamins. It occurred to me that the text was a bit blurry. Granted, those labels are small, but I’d never had trouble seeing things up close. I’m near-sighted, which means I wear glasses to help me see things that are far away. Instinctually, I took my glasses off, thinking perhaps they were smudged. Two things instantly happened:

  1. The label became crystal clear.
  2. The unthinkable reality that I needed bifocals became even clearer.

I understand this blog is not a medium for me to complain about how my body is failing me right before my eyes. My visual limitations are relevant, however, and here’s why.

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) declared October 5 – 9 Drive Safely Work Week (DSWW). The annual event promotes best practices for steering clear of the leading cause of workplace fatalities.

All week, NETS has been sharing free resources around daily themes centered on a salient tagline: “#PlanAhead—Your Key to Driving Safely.” Today’s theme is near and dear to my heart.

visioncheckMore workers age 55 and older die in motor vehicle crashes than in any other on-the-job accident. And workers 65 years and older have three times the risk of dying in a crash at work compared to those between 18 and 54. Compounding the issue is the fact that more Americans are working into their twilight years.

In 1990, employees age 55 and older accounted for 12 percent of the workforce. By 2020, that number is expected to reach 25 percent.

It is critical to remember that as we age, our physical and cognitive abilities change. NETS offers these tips to keep driving skills sharp for years to come.


  • Create flexible work policies. A few small changes to work policies can go a long way toward accommodating older workers. Start by reassessing job requirements to minimize driving. Then, consider ways to reduce or eliminate night driving. Finally, offer flexible schedules that allow workers to commute during non-peak hours.
  • Facilitate fitness. Driving is not merely a visual task; it’s also a physical task. Hours spent sitting, whether at a desk or behind the wheel, take a toll on the body. Employers should encourage workers to take time during the day to move, even if it’s just a few minutes at a time.
  • Offer a wellness program. Our vision is not the only casualty of the aging process. As we get older, our reaction time, flexibility and strength falter. Employers can help employees address these issues by offering a wellness program. Wellness programs facilitate total worker health and help employees avoid all variety of workplace accidents, including motor vehicle accidents.


See Trouble Coming
Having trouble reading signs or recognizing neighbors across the street?
Is it difficult to see lane lines, medians, curbs and pedestrians, especially in the early mornings or evenings?
Is the glare from headlights uncomfortable at night?
If you answered yes to any of these, make a plan to see an eye-care professional right away.
  • Take care of your eyes. Ninety-percent of your ability to react to unforeseen driving hazards depends on your vision. Get regular eye exams, and wear your glasses when driving if your doctor recommends it.
  • Stay sharp. Your brain is mission control for safe driving. Get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, and keep your mind sharp with crossword puzzles, Soduku and other brain-training games.
  • Monitor your medication. Read the labels on prescription and over-the-counter medications to find out whether they might affect your ability to drive. If you are unsure, ask your doctor.

Make safe driving a priority
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of workplace fatalities across industries. Whether your team includes 100 drivers who transport goods across the country or one employee who occasionally takes their personal vehicle on work-related errands, you should promote driver safety. Texas Mutual encourages you to take advantage of the free Drive Safely Work Week campaign material. We also invite to use these free resources:

Texas Mutual’s Commitment to Fighting Fraud

You may have seen articles or news stories recently concerning Texas Mutual’s efforts to prosecute health care companies, physicians, claimants and employers who commit workers’ comp fraud. Workers’ compensation fraud is a crime that affects everyone and adds unnecessary costs and friction to the system, which is paid for by all employers in the form of higher premium. Texas Mutual is dedicated to controlling workers’ compensation costs for Texas employers, and that’s something we’re proud of.

However, these articles presented false information, including the notion that we are unreasonably harsh in our prosecution of fraud. This is not true.

Texas Mutual and the District Attorney’s office

In reality, Texas Mutual’s relationship with the Travis County District Attorney’s office was authorized statutorily many years ago to help keep workers’ compensation fraud in Texas to a minimum. This funding agreement with the DA only allows for the company to refer criminal cases to the DA for review, not for us to have any influence on what happens to those cases after they’re referred. The District Attorney maintains complete and independent discretion to prosecute these cases. Additionally, those whom the DA chooses to prosecute for committing fraud are still entitled to all the rights and remedies of the judicial system, including trial by jury. Texas Mutual’s relationship with the DA’s office starts and ends with submitting cases for them to investigate.

Pursuing fraud

Our fraud program is fair and industry leading. In fact, the Texas Legislature requires that Texas Mutual maintain an anti-fraud program. As a policyholder-owned insurance company, we must do what is in the best interest of the 62,000 Texas business owners we cover, and that means following up when fraud is suspected or reported to us. Doing so benefits our policyholders, agents and the workers’ compensation system as a whole.

The articles suggest that claimants are disproportionately targeted for prosecution. All it takes to see that this is false is a look at the number of cases we refer to the DA’s office. For example, we received 47,900 workers’ compensation claims in 2014 and referred only 13 cases of claimant fraud to the DA that year. This ratio is consistent over the years – only a tiny fraction of claims are ever referred to the DA for prosecution. The vast majority of fraud dollars recovered come from organized health care and premium fraud cases.

Workers’ compensation fraud is something we take seriously because of the commitment we make to our policyholder owners to be good financial stewards, and we’re proud of that. We stand by the successful fraud prevention program that we have developed and will continue to pursue those who try to commit fraud. Some people talk about fighting fraud, but at Texas Mutual, we do it.

Regulatory Roundup, October 2, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of health and safety news from around the world.

Texas Mutual News

Workplace safety: There’s a wearable for that
The health and wellness industry quickly recognized the power of wearable technology. Not to be left behind, other industries, including workplace safety, are jumping on board…MORE

Texas Mutual policyholder earns Lone Star Safety Award
The Division of Worker’s Compensation issued its Lone Star Safety Award to Rusk County Electric Cooperative this week. The award was formerly known as the Peer Review Safety Award…MORE

National Safety Council (NSC)

New law requires Texas drunk drivers to install ignition interlocks
drunk drivingAs of Sept. 1, 2015, drunk driving offenders in Texas must install an ignition interlock on their vehicles before hitting the road again. The NSC encourages employers to reinforce their impaired driving policies and use the NSC’s free resources to educate drivers…MORE

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA updates 20 year-old pesticide safety standards for farmworkers
The standards bar almost anyone under 18 from handling pesticides. They also require workers to be trained annually on the risks of pesticides. Currently, workers only have to be trained every five years…MORE

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH soliciting volunteers for oil field safety survey
NIOSH plans to survey approximately 500 oil and gas workers about on-the-job hazards. Employers who want to participate in the survey should contact NIOSH at (404) 639-7570 or…MORE

New young worker safety training program teaches 8 core competencies
teen workerApproximately 1.6 million U.S. youth age 15–17 are employed. Inexperience, eagerness to please and fear of asking questions double their risk of getting injured on the job. NIOSH rolled out a training program that teaches eight core competencies that can help protect young workers…MORE

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

Former Massey Energy CEO could get 31 years in prison in Upper Big Branch mine deaths
Don Blankenship is charged with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal dust control regulations, as well as hindering MSHA enforcement efforts. The resulting explosion killed 29 workers and went down as the worst mining accident in the U.S. to date…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

New system gives greater weight to complex, time-consuming inspections
Under the new system, OSHA will focus on inspections that require more resources, such as musculoskeletal disorders, chemical exposures, workplace violence and process safety management violations. The new inspection system was featured in this week’s edition of OSHA’s QuickTakes newsletter…MORE

OSHA to start enforcing updated confined space rule Oct. 2
In August 2015, OSHA rolled out its updated confined space rule for the construction industry. OSHA gave industry a grace period, but it will start enforcing the rule on Oct. 2, 2015. OSHA also issued a new guide to help small businesses comply with the updated rule…MORE

Fall protection tops OSHA’s annual most-cited violations list
This marks the fifth consecutive year fall protection has earned the dubious distinction. Fall protection was followed by hazard communication and scaffolding violations on the list…MORE

OSHA encourages employers to consider alternative PELs
Most of OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PELs) for hazardous substances are more than 40 years old. OSHA is working toward updating its PELs. In the meantime, it urges employers to consider following exposure limits set by other agencies, such as Cal/OSHA and NIOSH…MORE

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)

NFPA 350 bridges gaps in OSHA’s minimum confined space entry standards
confinedspace_sewerNFPA 350 provides some of the “how to’s” and best practices for activities such as hazard identification and control, gas monitoring and ventilation. It also defines competencies for those involved in confined space entry and encourages the use of change management and prevention through design…MORE


Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Combating opioid abuse: The employer’s perspective
Pills White BackgroundMore than 16,000 Americans died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2013 – quadruple the total in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employers can help reverse the trend by educating workers about the hazards associated with opioids, requiring workers to report use of medicines that may affect their ability to do their jobs safely, testing for the most popular opioids, and offering an employee assistance program…MORE

Virtual reality makes failure safe, improves safety training
A man struggles to stay afloat in the middle of a lake, repeatedly making mistakes that lead to his drowning. Five minutes later, he finds himself in the same predicament. Fortunately, the man was playing a video game that simulated the drowning experience. By failing in a safe environment, he is better prepared to protect himself in a real-life emergency…MORE

Technology is changing safety: 4 areas to watch
Wearable devices, equipment sensors and smart watches are not new to the workplace safety world. What is new is the ability to connect those data sources and create new information streams in real time. It’s often referred to as “The Internet of Things,” and it creates the potential for new insight and action in managing safety…MORE

Workplace Safety: There’s a Wearable for That

A tower rising 50 stories. A tape measure attached to a construction worker’s waist. An unsuspecting man stepping from a vehicle at the foot of the building.

In case you don’t see where this story is going, here’s what happened.

The tape measure somehow got separated from the worker. It then fell approximately 400 feet, struck the unsuspecting man in the head and killed him.

The New York Times reported that the victim was delivering supplies to the job site. Perhaps he rationalized that he would only be there a few minutes, so he didn’t need his hard hat. Murphy’s Law said otherwise.

It turns out that wearable technology could have saved this man’s life.

You might not know wearables by name, but you surely recognize them. They’re those things people constantly glance at on their wrists or waistbands, receiving real-time data on their heart rate and myriad other health indicators.

Early wearable iterations were little more than glorified pedometers. But the technology has evolved, and current models are fashionable and functional.

Want to know how well you slept? There’s a wearable for that.

Curious who and what are stressing you out today? Wearables have you covered.

The wellness industry was among the first to recognize the power of wearable technology. Not to be left behind, pharmaceutical companies, charitable organizations and insurance carriers are jumping on board.

And what about workplace safety? Well, there are wearables for that, too.

Here’s a look at some of the ways wearable technology is removing human decision making from the workplace safety equation.

Giving workers a heads up about hazards
If our unsuspecting worker in the story above had been using a smart hard hat, his employer would have gotten a notification that he wasn’t wearing his personal protective equipment. Smart hard hats are also loaded with sensors that monitor the wearer’s heart rate, perspiration, breathing rate and brain activity. If vital signs reach dangerous levels, the system notifies the worker. If workers are in danger, they can command their hard hat to call for help. The technology will in turn help emergency personnel locate the victim.

Monitoring fatigue

Click on the image for a short podcast on safety glasses that monitor driver fatigue.

Click on the image for a short podcast on safety glasses that monitor driver fatigue.

More than one-third of adult drivers, or 103 million people, have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Manufacturers are waking up to the power of wearables in keeping drivers alert. Safety glasses can now monitor fatigue by tracking how many times the driver blinks. Similarly, a mining company recently unveiled a cap that continuously monitors workers’ brain waves, assesses their ability to resist sleep, and alerts them when they are in danger.

Making work zones safer
Nearly 600 people died in work zone crashes during 2013. Virginia Tech researchers want to cut that statistic by outfitting workers with a vest that includes a tiny sensor. If a collision is about to happen between a vehicle and a worker, the vest warns the worker in a matter of seconds. Likewise, the motorist receives a dashboard notification.

Protecting health care workers
Home health care workers are four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than workers in other industries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, workplace violence is one of five health care industry hazards OSHA recently ordered its inspectors to target. Wearable technology is making it safer for home health care workers to do their jobs. With one touch of a button, the worker can alert authorized personnel if they are in danger. Other features alert employers if a worker leaves a designated safe zone, which is critical during abductions.

More to come
From wearables to autonomous cars to drones, technology and workplace safety go together like a hand and a cut-resistant glove. Follow this blog for updates on how technology is putting an extra layer of protection between workers and the hazards they face on the job.

Regulatory Roundup, September 25, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of environmental health and safety news from around the country.

Texas Mutual News

At RTFC, your safety is their business
SCBACallen Hight, assistant fire chief/safety officer for Refinery Terminal Fire Company (RTFC), says if he doesn’t send his employees home safely at the end of the day, he hasn’t done his job. Hight must be doing something right. RTFC has logged 5 million man hours without a lost-time claim. Texas Mutual was proud to recognize their efforts with our annual safety award…MORE

Department of Transportation (DOT)

New pipeline safety rule pending after increase in accidents
The DOT will soon unveil a long-delayed rule to strengthen safety requirements for pipelines that move oil and other hazardous liquids…MORE


Toll of unsafe workplaces much higher than 12 a day
In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed in the United States due to workplace injuries, according to a new AFL-CIO report. Approximately 50,000 more died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions…MORE

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH releases oilfield fatality report
OilfieldDuring the first half of 2014, 43 oilfield workers died on the job, according to a new report issued by NIOSH. Rigging up/down was the most hazardous task, claiming nine lives…MORE

Department of Labor (DOL)

Farm safety: a lifestyle, not a slogan
Farmworkers are at high risk for work-related lung diseases, heat illness, confined space hazards, noise-induced hearing loss and falls. During National Farm Safety Week, the DOL reminds employers to provide training for farm employees in a language they understand. Employers can visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website for free Spanish-language resources…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

How GHS changed the definition of flammable liquids
PrintIn addition to its hazard communication standard, OSHA aligned its Flammable and Combustible Liquids standard, 29 CFR 1910.106, with the globally harmonized system. Under the old standard, any liquid with a flash point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit was considered flammable. Under the new standard, liquids with a flash point of not more than 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit are considered flammable…MORE

OSHA extends comment period for proposed rule clarifying employers’ recordkeeping obligation
OSHA issued this proposed rule in light of a court decision clarifying its long-standing position that the duty to record an injury or illness continues as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness. The proposed amendments add no new compliance obligations…MORE

OSHRC asking for input on workplace violence case
The Occupational Safety and Heath Review Commission is soliciting public comments on whether OSHA’s General Duty Clause applies to workplace violence. OSHA recently cited an employer under the General Duty Clause following the death of a home health care worker…MORE

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

GAO to congress: Extend deadline for Positive Train Control
trainCongress should grant the Federal Railroad Administration the authority to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for implementing Positive Train Control technology, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. Railroads cite costs and technological glitches as reasons they may not be able to comply with the deadline…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

10 deskercises you can do at work
The average office worker spends approximately 77 percent of their day sitting, and their bodies pay the price. Prolonged sitting contributes to diabetes, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders and myriad other health issues. Here are 10 ways desk jockies can add physical activity to the daily grind without leaving their workstations…MORE

Driverless trucks could make work zones safer
Las week, we reported on wearable technology that can protect construction crews in work zones. But what about the workers who drive dump trucks, bull dozers and other equipment? We may soon be able to add driverless trucks to the array of tools that are making work zones safer…MORE

Don’t underestimated danger in manure pits
Manure pits can include methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and ammonia. The accumulation of these gases within a confined space can produce an oxygen-deficient, toxic environment. Safety guidelines include fencing off the pit and posting signage…MORE

At RTFC, Your Safety is Their Business

In April 2013, a warehouse of ammonium nitrate exploded at the West Fertilizer Company. Fifteen people were killed, and more than 160 were injured. The tragedy garnered media headlines across the country, sparked ammonium nitrate facility inspections, and inspired lawmakers to tighten the regulations around how this volatile compound is stored.

The West explosion represents Texas’ most recent high-profile brush with ammonium nitrate, but it was not our first.

In 1947, a French ship carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer blew up in the deep water port of Texas City. The explosion caused a chain reaction of fires, killing 576 people and injuring more than 4,000, according to the Texas Almanac.

True to the resiliency that epitomizes Lone Star State culture, Texas City businesses remained, rebuilt and expanded. To help ensure their safety, Refinery Terminal Fire Company (RTFC) was born.

RTFC is a non-profit emergency response organization headquartered in Corpus Christi. It provides emergency response services for the chemical and refinery industries. Industrial fire protection, prevention, inspection, hazard mitigation, training, in-plant services and technical support are all in a day’s work for RTFC employees.

That’s an impressive laundry list of services, but RTFC’s website offers a more succinct explanation of its mission: “Your safety is our business.”

RTFC’s mantra extends to its employees, as well.

“If I don’t send my firefighters home safely to their families the same way they came to work, I’m not doing my job,” said Callen Hight, assistant fire chief/safety officer.

Hight is indeed doing his job, and he’s doing it well. RTFC has logged 12 years without a lost-time injury. That equates to 5 million hours spent fighting fires, cleaning up hazardous materials and rescuing workers from dangerous confined spaces.

This fall, Texas Mutual was honored to recognize RTFC with our annual platinum safety partner award. Hight and his team dedicate the resources necessary to keeping employees safe and on the job. We thank them for sharing our vision of a safer Texas.