3 Principles of Safety You Should Know

Action movies are chock full of stunts that keep audiences on the edges of their seats and make workplace safety professionals cringe. The Burt Reynolds classic “Hooper” demonstrates three principles of safety you should embrace.

Principle 1. Older workers can be productive members of the workforce

Reynolds plays veteran Hollywood stuntman Sonny Hooper. Hooper has spent his life abusing his body on the job. Now in his twilight years, he should be kicking back on the beach.

Instead, he’s pushing himself to keep up with a young hotshot nicknamed The Kid.

Older workers like Hooper can be productive team members, but you have to remember a golden rule of aging: Things you did in your 20s don’t always come as easily when you’re in your 40s, 50s and 60s.

Of course, most of us don’t make a living hurling ourselves out of helicopters like Hooper does. Still, a few simple adjustments can help all of your employees, especially older employees, withstand the rigors of the workday.

Extra lighting and larger computer monitors make up for failing vision. Hand trucks and dollies make it easier to move heavy loads.

You should also look at your policies and procedures for opportunities to reduce the wear and tear on employees’ bodies.

For example, reduce the strain of repetitive motions by regularly rotating tasks. Encourage employees to leave their workstations periodically to stretch and refocus their energy.


Studies show that substance abusers are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than their peers.

Principle 2. Substance abuse has no place in the workplace

 Hooper’s employer has no incentive to accommodate his aging body. The Kid is eager to take on any stunt Hooper declines.

 So, Hooper turns to prescription pain pills – lots of them. He has a substance abuse problem, and he is not alone.

About 75 percent of illicit drug users are employed, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Studies show that when compared with non–substance abusers, substance-abusing employees are more likely to be less productive, be involved in a workplace accident and file a workers’ compensation claim.

You can clean up the problem by combining a written zero tolerance for substance abuse policy with a drug-testing program that includes pre-employment, post-accident, for cause and random testing.

Before you launch a drug-testing program, however, consult an attorney to ensure you comply with all laws.

Principle 3. Transportation safety starts before you get in the car

Every action film worth its salt has a climax – a scene where buildings fall, cars explode and the heroes emerge bruised but victorious.

In “Hooper,” the climax happens when Reynolds and The Kid attempt to jump a car over a canyon.

Don’t worry; the car is powered by a rocket-propelled engine. Just before Hooper and The Kid make the jump, however, they discover the rocket propulsion doesn’t work. They should have inspected the car in advance.

In 2011, transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of workplace fatalities across the country. You can keep your employees from becoming statistics by stressing that the road to safety starts before they get in the car.

Employees should check the brakes, horn, lights, turn signals, tire tread, windshield wipers, seat belts and other safety features. They should also make sure their vehicle has a cell phone, flashlight and flares or reflectors in case the car breaks down.

Of course, vehicle inspections take time. If you want employees to embrace the process, they have to trust that their safety is more important than getting somewhere fast.

Safety has to be a value that never gets compromised. It has to be as important as quality and production. When it reaches that point, employees will police themselves and each other.

Texas Mutual’s General Counsel Awarded Magna Stella Award for In-House Counsel Excellence

Mary Barrow Nichols, senior vice president and general counsel for Texas Mutual Insurance Company, was awarded the 2012 Magna Stella Award for Major Litigation from the Texas General Counsel Forum during an awards dinner for the Forum’s 14th Annual Conference of General Counsel. The Magna Stella Awards program recognizes in-house excellence in Texas corporations, organizations and government agencies. The finalists were nominated by peers and selected by a panel of independent judges. Several hundred corporate counsel, as well as six Texas Supreme Court Justices, attended the dinner where the Magna Stella winners were announced.

Nichols was awarded a Magna Stella for Major Litigation based on three significant legal initiatives she has closed for Texas Mutual within the last year. Under her leadership:

  • The Texas Supreme Court closed the book on a “bad faith” suit that was seriously disruptive to the workers’ compensation industry, as well as the jurisprudence of the state. Nichols recognized that a victory was not only important for Texas Mutual, but also for the entire workers’ compensation industry.
  • Texas Mutual also enjoyed great success in its legal battles with a hospital that has filed hundreds of medical fee disputes, with the amounts of individual cases totaling more than $6.5 million. Nichols developed a cost-effective method of handling these disputes, and Texas Mutual obtained maximum results without maximum expenses.
  • Texas Mutual was also victorious in a case involving one of its policyholders, Port Elevator. The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit on the theory that Port Elevator did not have workers’ compensation insurance and originally obtained a $2.8 million judgment that was affirmed by the court of appeals. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed and rendered judgment for Port Elevator, holding that the workers’ compensation policy it purchased covered its temporary employees and barred the negligence suit.

“I am honored to have received a Magna Stella Award from such a distinguished group of my peers and sincerely thank the Forum for this recognition,” Nichols said. “I have represented Texas Mutual as its general counsel for nearly 20 years, and it continues to be a rewarding experience. These accomplishments were a team effort that required the support and encouragement of our board of directors and senior management, which was always generously supplied.”

“We nominated Mary based on her long-term, strategic thinking related to a series of cases that required appellate review to clarify the law for all participants in workers’ compensation cases,” said Pete Schenkkan, a senior attorney at Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, who has worked with Texas Mutual for many years. “Mary adopted a strategy, knowing that it would take many years to achieve the company’s goals, and then led multiple teams of lawyers through multiple cases to the Texas Supreme Court. It was truly a marvel to watch her execute on this effort.”

For more information about the 2012 Magna Stella Awards, please visit The General Counsel Forum.

Video: Reap the benefits of return-to-work

Injured employees who are off work for six months have only a 50 percent chance of returning to full employment. That is bad news for them and their employers.

Employers must pay overtime to other workers or hire extra help to make up for lost production. They may also see an increase in their workers’ compensation premiums.

Meanwhile, injured workers who are idle tend to get depressed, stressed and bored. Their job skills suffer, along with their income.

A return-to-work process can help reduce the costs of workplace accidents for employers and injured workers. The process defines how injured workers, employers and health care providers will collaborate to get injured workers well and back on the job.

If you are ready to reap the benefits of return-to-work, watch this short video developed by Texas Mutual. For other videos on navigating the claims process, visit http://www.texasmutual.com/employers/claimsvideos.shtm.

Video: Complying With Network Requirements

Medical costs in the Texas workers’ compensation system have historically been among the highest in the country. In an effort to reduce costs and help injured workers return to productive employment, the Texas Department of Insurance authorized carriers to establish workers’ compensation health care networks in 2006.

Network health care providers are trained to treat workplace injuries. Their primary goal is to help injured workers recover and return to productive employment.

If you participate in your carrier’s network, you have responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is properly notifying your employees that they are covered by a network. If you do not, your injured workers do not have to seek treatment from a network health care provider.

Texas Mutual created this short video to explain employers’ network responsibilities. For more short videos about the claims process, visit http://www.texasmutual.com/employers/claimsvideos.shtm.

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