Ready, Aim, Fire

What would your employees do if the fire alarm sounded right now? Would it surprise you to learn that, in many instances, they would simply ignore it?

It’s not uncommon for people to assume a fire alarm is a false alarm if they can’t actually see the flames. Many people won’t exit the building unless they see their supervisor leaving, need a break, or just can’t stand the sound of the alarm.

Fire is one of the few universal hazards that all workplaces share. Whether you are on a construction site, in an office building, or anywhere in between, fire can strike without warning—sometimes from external sources beyond your control. That’s why every Texas business needs good fire safety and evacuation plans. Equally important, every employee needs to understand the company’s fire safety and evacuation plans so they’ll know what to do and where to go in an emergency.

Plan to practice
An office curmudgeon once said that the best way to keep a secret is to put it in the company handbook on policies and procedures. There is a sad grain of truth in such cynicism: Too often, safety procedures are compiled, filed and forgotten.

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Tailor Jobs to Fit Employees

Most of us are familiar with those nagging injuries that just won’t go away. Maybe it’s a dull throb in our wrists or a slight pain in our lower back. It’s usually not serious enough to keep us from doing the things we want to do, so we don’t seek treatment.

Sometimes, those nagging injuries can be the warning signs of serious, job-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs.

MSDs are cumulative, so it often takes many years for the first serious symptoms to appear. By the time they do, your employee may have done extensive damage. What started out as a minor ache or pain can erode into a debilitating injury.

If you follow these tips, you can help your employees steer clear of MSDs and the costly claims that often accompany them.

Identify the risks
The risk factors associated with MSDs are common among most industries. They include repetitive movements, heavy lifting, bending, climbing, reaching, twisting, exposure to vibrations, and awkward body positions. Whether your employees work in an office, an oil field, or on a construction site, they are susceptible to MSDs.

Start by gathering some basic information. Review your accident records, looking for injury trends among specific job tasks, departments and workstations. Employee input should be an integral part of the information-gathering process. After all, they know their workstations and job tasks better than anyone.

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Prepare for Weather Related Emergencies

On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike tore through the Gulf Coast. Five days later, the Houston Zoo was open for business.

The zoo’s speedy recovery was the result of a thorough disaster preparedness plan. With hurricane season upon us (June 1 to November 30), zoo officials were kind enough to share these disaster preparedness tips.*

Remember that you don’t have to be in the direct path of a hurricane to be affected. After all, Ike caused flooding and downed power lines as far north as Ohio.

Start early
Houston Zoo officials start preparing for hurricane season in May. They review the emergency preparedness plan. They stock up on batteries, flashlights, fuel for emergency generators and chain saws, and supplies that are critical to their operations. Some employees may have to ride out the storm on site. The zoo makes sure they have food, water, radios, first-aid kits and other survival basics.

Practice
Posting your emergency plan is not enough. Train new hires on emergency procedures. Conduct drills during the year to make sure everyone knows what to do if a disaster strikes.

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Three Safety Groups Earn Combined $848K in Texas Mutual Dividends

Texas Mutual Insurance Company announced today that three workers’ compensation safety groups have earned a combined $847,714 in dividends. The dividends were based largely on each group’s overall loss ratio.

The largest dividend, $398,186, went to the Lone Star Auto Dealers (LSA) safety group. LSA members have shared in more than $5 million in group dividends since 2002.

Meanwhile, the Lone Star Energy (LSE) safety group earned a $240,272 dividend, and the Hospitals of Texas (HOTComp) earned a $209,256 dividend.

Group dividends are separate from the $155 million in individual policyholder dividends Texas Mutual is distributing in 2011. Many group members have qualified for individual and group dividends.

In addition to potential dividends, LSA, LSE and HOTComp members have access to industry-specific workplace safety resources at texasmutual.com. They also get a discount on their workers’ compensation premiums.

Texas Mutual underwrites 30 safety groups representing a range of industries, including oil and gas, manufacturing, construction and health care. Any licensed Texas agent can submit qualifying clients for consideration in a group. For more information, visit texasmutual.com/agents/group.shtm.

Past dividends are not a guarantee of future dividends. The Texas Department of Insurance must approve all dividends.

Village Mills Man Sentenced to Jail Time for Workers’ Comp Fraud

Texas Mutual Insurance Company reported today that a Travis County court sentenced Clifford K. Franklin of Village Mills, Texas on workers’ compensation fraud-related charges. Franklin fraudulently received $1,453 in benefits. The court sentenced Franklin to 180 days in jail and ordered him to pay court costs.

Franklin reported a job-related injury while working as an equipment operator for Odin Demolition and Asset Recovery, Inc. in Deer Park, Texas. He claimed he was unable to work as a result of the injury, and Texas Mutual began paying income benefits to him.

Meanwhile, Texas Mutual uncovered evidence that Franklin was working as an equipment operator for another employer while receiving income benefits.

Investigators call this type of scam double-dipping because the claimant collects benefits for being too injured to work when he or she is, in fact, gainfully employed. Texas law requires claimants to contact their workers’ comp carrier when they return to work.

Left unchecked, double-dipping and other workers’ comp fraud can lead to higher premiums for all Texas employers.

Don’t Bring the Noise

Excessive noise is a common workplace hazards present in a wide variety of industries. Approximately 30 million people in the United States are exposed to hazardous workplace noise each year, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Employees in construction, steel, oil and gas, and the airline industry routinely exposed to high noise levels and may require personal protection equipment or engineering modifications to protect them from hearing loss.

Hearing conservation is an important part of employee training and workplace safety standards. Whether temporary or permanent, hearing loss is a real risk in a variety of occupations. However, with proper equipment, good engineering, and safety practices, hearing loss can be prevented.

Some common activities and their typical noise levels are:

Loudness is measured in decibles (dB)

Whisper                       10 dB

Street sound                70 dB

Sander                            85 dB

Sporting Events          100 dB

Mowing the Lawn        101 dB

Motorcycle Riding      112 dB

Concerts                          125 dB

Shooting Range            130 dB

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