Texas Mutual Pays $450K Dividend to TxOGA

Bob Barnes (left), chairman of Texas Mutual’s board of directors, and Ron Wright (right), Texas Mutual president, present a dividend check to Jim Sierra, TxOGA vice president for financial affairs.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company announced that the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TxOGA) safety group earned a $449,557 dividend. Texas Mutual President Ron Wright and Chairman of the Board Bob Barnes presented the check to TxOGA Vice President for Financial Affairs Jim Sierra at Texas Mutual’s Austin headquarters on Aug. 29 during the company’s board of directors meeting.

The workers’ compensation dividend was based largely on the group’s overall safety record.

Since 2001, Texas Mutual has paid nearly $19 million in group dividends to TxOGA safety group members. That total is in addition to individual policyholder dividends group members have earned based on their individual safety records.

“As a mutual insurance company, our responsibility is to our policyholders,” said Barnes. “They own the company, and this money belongs to them. We are proud to share Texas Mutual’s success with those who have contributed to that success.”

Unlike publicly traded insurance companies, mutual insurance companies are owned by their policyholders, and they do not answer to stockholders. Dividends allow Texas Mutual to share its financial success with its policyholder owners.

By the end of the year, Texas Mutual will have paid $1.2 billion in dividends. The majority of that total – more than $1 billion – will have been paid since 2005.

Wright said the company’s dividend track record is a direct reflection of its financial strength, as well as policyholders’ efforts to keep employees safe.

“Our status as a mutual company gives us the freedom to focus on what matters most: preventing workplace accidents and their associated costs,” said Wright. “Texas Mutual is fortunate to have owners who share our vision. I hope this return on their investments will keep their businesses strong far into the future.”

Texas Mutual notes that past dividends are not a guarantee of future dividends. The Texas Department of Insurance must approve all dividends.

The Importance of Being Educated (About Safety)

Back to school safetyBeginning around age five, most children spend a great deal of time in school. Because of this, parents entrust teachers to not only teach their children reading, writing and arithmetic but also to keep them safe during their time away from home.

School districts emphasize the importance of safety in schools—and with school buildings housing thousands of students at one time, safety is an important component of school life. Teachers and other school personnel need to consider their own safety on the job, in addition to the safety of their students.

For teachers and all other school employees, including cafeteria workers and janitorial staff, the best way to prevent on-the-job injuries is to create a greater awareness of these potential hazards.

The most frequent injuries will be those sustained from slips, trips and falls. There are a number of safety prevention tips to help alleviate potential hazards.

  • Hallways, classrooms and reception areas should be kept free of debris and clutter, and trash should be collected and removed daily.
  • Electrical and telephone cords should be routed around doorways and walkways.
  • Worn, torn or loose floor coverings should be repaired or replaced immediately.
  • Floors should be swept or vacuumed daily.
  • Spills should be cleaned up promptly and “Caution: Wet Floor” signs displayed.
  • Library and classroom bookshelves should be solidly constructed and neatly arranged to reduce the possibility of injuries sustained from collapsing shelves or toppling books.
  • Schools with stairwells should ensure the stairs are in good condition, covered with a non-skid material and equipped with sturdy handrails.

Teachers and other staff could also sustain injuries from attempting to break up student fights and possible altercations with irate parents.

  • Faculty and staff should receive training in conflict resolution techniques, as well as any other training required or suggested by the school district.
  • A low student-to-teacher ratio is recommended, as it enables instructors to provide more personalized attention to students and maintain greater discipline.
  • The presence of hall monitors can also be a deterrent to fighting.

Although rare at the elementary level, teachers may sometimes find themselves the targets of personal attacks perpetrated by students (particularly those in the upper grade levels).  Schools should uphold a “zero tolerance” policy that enforces predetermined punishments for specific offenses—with no exceptions—toward students who commit a hostile act against an employee.

Cafeteria workers often face an increased risk of burning or scalding since they work in close proximity to ovens and stovetops. Precautions should be taken to reduce the number of burning or scalding incidents in food preparation areas. Food preparation workers should be thoroughly trained in the safe use of all ovens, appliances and kitchen equipment.

Maintenance workers may experience electrical shocks while using power tools or mobile, heavy equipment. All machinery should be equipped with safety guards.

Physical education instructors and school nurses may face an increased risk of exposure to blood borne pathogens, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), due to possible contact with students’ blood. Safety measures should be in place to protect workers from possible exposure to these pathogens. Protective gloves should be worn at all times when workers are exposed to blood or bodily fluids of either students or workers.

Emergency drills are not just for students. Of course, teachers are expected to know where to go in the event of an emergency, whether there’s an internal lockdown, a tornado or a fire. Teachers should be familiar with these procedures to keep students and themselves safe, especially since they are often tasked with organizing everyone during a drill. It is also a good practice for teachers to create alternative routes and procedures in case they are in another part of the building or the typical path is obstructed. Teachers should have these alternative plans approved by school administration.

Depeding on the subject they teach, teachers may handle some hazardous or dangerous materials, including chemicals, shop equipment and even scissors. The key to avoiding an accident is to know how to properly use and dispose of the equipment or material being used in the classroom. Even using scissors to cut up projects for students can result in an accident if the teacher is not paying attention. It is also important to properly care for the injury in a timely manner, no matter how minor the employee thinks it is. Be sure to notify the front office of the accident, regardless of the severity.

Teaching is a valued profession that often emphasizes preparation and education to students, but those two factors are just as important for teachers. Preparing for the unexpected and educating themselves about potential workplace hazards are the best ways to prevent an injury at work.

Weathering the Storm On the Job

Summertime in Texas can bring many weather-related challenges to the jobsite. Extreme heat, dry conditions and hurricane season are just a few things that require additional attention and education during the summer.

So far this year, Texas has only seen a few days of triple-digit weather, but heat-related illnesses still threaten workers during the more “moderate” temperatures, especially those who work outdoors. In addition to the added dangers extreme heat can have on workers, the heat can create drought conditions that are highly conducive to fires.

  • Educate employees about prevention. Educate your employees on the importance of keeping themselves hydrated, even when not on the clock, to prepare their bodies for the intense heat. Encourage your workers to take frequent breaks to rehydrate and to bring plenty of liquids to work. Encourage workers to wear light-colored clothing made of thin materials to help their bodies breathe and attract less heat from the sun.
  • Recognize the symptoms. Your workers should know the distress symptoms for heat-related illnesses. When your body has a hard time cooling off, it can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Symptoms start as mildly as muscle spasms, but can escalate to shallow breathing, dizziness, nausea, fatigue and general confusion.
  • Provide immediate relief. To treat mild cases of heat illnesses, move the employee to a cool place and provide them with water or an electrolytic beverage. You can also remove as much clothing as possible and apply ice packs under the arms or around the neck. Call for emergency help immediately if the symptoms are more severe.
  • Closely monitor fire hazards. If conditions are extremely dry, you need to check for burn bans that may be in effect where your jobsite is located. Remember that even one spark can ignite a grassfire. Monitor those conditions carefully, and always have fire extinguishers available. If a situation gets out of control, call the local fire department immediately.

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Three Factors That Drive Fleet Safety Programs

Fleet SafetyMore than one- third of all work-related deaths in Texas happen behind the wheel. If your business puts drivers on the road, you need a good fleet safety program.

Fleet safety programs vary, but each program has to address three common factors: people, vehicles and records.

People – Before you hire a new driver, conduct a background check and review the applicants’ motor vehicle record (MVR). The recent two-to-three year history is most important. Make sure the applicant signs a release for the MVR review.

If possible, let applicants test drive the vehicle they will use on the job. A real-world driving test may provide the best indication of an applicant’s driving abilities and habits.

Vehicles– Inspect each vehicle daily and keep a maintenance record. Make sure each vehicle has its own safety equipment. A basic kit may include a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a “send help” sign, a reflective triangle, a blanket and road flares.

One of the best pieces of safety equipment is a cell phone. In an emergency, the driver can report an accident or, with the help of a 911 operator, render first aid until emergency medical help arrives.

Remember, though, that drivers become distracted when talking or texting on cell phones. Distracted driving is the leading cause of transportation-related accidents. Drivers should always park their vehicle before placing calls and never text while driving.  Hands-free devices should be used when answering calls.

Recordkeeping – Maintain accurate records on your vehicles and your drivers. Cross-reference your accident statistics by cause, severity, repair cost, mileage, and frequency. Compare your fleet program’s accident statistics against an independent standard, such as the Highway Loss Data Institute, and use the information to track company trends and measure progress.

Get more information – For more information about safe driving, visit safehandtexas.org and worksafetexas.com.

Texas Mutual Pays $1.6M Dividend to Construction Group

(L-R) Steve Math, senior vice president of underwriting at Texas Mutual, presents a $1.6 million dividend check to Raymond Risk, president/CEO of the Texas Construction Association, and Todd Hewitt, chairman of the Texas Construction Association board of directors

The Texas Construction Association (TCA) safety group earned a $1,607,267dividend. The workers’ compensation dividend was based largely on the group’s overall loss ratio.

Austin-based Texas Fifth Wall Roofing earned its third consecutive dividend as a member of the TCA safety group. The company’s president, Todd Hewitt, explained that private sector construction projects are picking up slowly following the recession. Dividends help Texas Fifth Wall Roofing remain competitive.

“Workers’ compensation is just one of many costs we have to consider,” said Hewitt. “We get a premium discount on the front end for participating in the safety group. On the back end, we have earned dividends for working safely. That money has gone directly back into our operating budget.”

Since 2005, Texas Mutual has paid $11.5 million in group dividends to TCA safety group members. That total is in addition to individual dividends group members have earned.

Unlike publicly traded insurance companies, mutual insurance companies are owned by their policyholders, and they do not answer to stockholders. Dividends allow Texas Mutual to share its financial success with its policyholder owners.

“Texas Mutual has a shared interest in helping Texas-based business succeed,” said Steve Math, senior vice president of underwriting at Texas Mutual. “These TCA safety group members have invested in their employees’ well-being. Dividends are Texas Mutual’s way of rewarding them for their commitments to safety and for their ownership stakes in the company.”

By the end of the year, Texas Mutual will have paid $1.2 billion in dividends. The majority of that total – more than $1 billion – will have been paid since 2005.

Texas Mutual notes that past dividends are not a guarantee of future dividends. The Texas Department of Insurance must approve all dividends.

Wildfire Safety Tips

ImageWildfires are common disasters that can spread quickly, particularly during dry conditions. If you take time to learn about wildfire risks and plan for them, you can help ensure the safety of your employees and your business.

Employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Follow these tips to protect employees during wildfire response and recovery operations.  

 

Make a plan
Having a response and evacuation plan in place before a wildfire occurs can help avoid confusion and prevent injuries. Knowing when to stay and fight a fire and when to evacuate can mean the difference between survival and serious injury or death.  Protecting property is never worth placing people in danger.

A thorough evacuation plan should include:

  • Conditions that will activate the plan
  • Chain of command
  • Emergency functions and who will perform them
  • Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
  • Procedures for accounting for personnel, customers and visitors
  • Equipment for personnel
  • Review the plan with workers

In the aftermath of a wildfire, workers may be involved in a variety of response and recovery operations. Some operations, such as utility restoration, cleaning up hazardous material spills, and search and rescue, should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience.

Know what to do during a wildfire
If there is not enough time to evacuate, or if workers are caught in circumstances where they cannot follow the evacuation plan, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) offers guidance on what to do during a wildfire. The site includes tips on what to do if you are in a vehicle, in a residence or out in the open:

  • FEMA Texas Regional Office: (940) 898-5104
  • Texas Division of Emergency Management: (512) 424-2138

Cleanup Hazards
Wildfire cleanup operations carry their own hazards. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration website addresses common hazards associated with wildfires and highlights precautions for workers:

Respiratory protection may be necessary in all phases of fire cleanup. Regardless of the task performed, use only filter masks and respirators approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health for ash, soot and other particles common during cleanup.

Chemicals and other hazardous materials present during cleanup  may require a higher level of respiratory protection. Cleanups with potential lead, asbestos or mold contamination typically require a class 100 filter with a negative pressure respirator or a powered air purifying respirator with high-efficiency filters. OSHA has specific respiratory requirements for lead and asbestos that define respiratory selection criteria.

Resources
OSHA’s Wildfire page: http://www.osha.gov/dts/wildfires/index.html

Additional Resources: http://www.osha.gov/dts/wildfires/additional.html

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