Revised Haz Comm Standard Carries Potential Employer Fines

By Angela Gardner, Loss Prevention Specialist

By Angela Gardner, Loss Prevention Specialist

By now, you’ve probably got your holiday plans in place. Turkey: check. Sides: check. Desert: check. Seating for 25 in a dining room that comfortably accommodates five, maybe six: check.

What about employee training on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised hazard communication standard?

In March 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) introduced changes to its hazard communication standard (HCS).  The HCS is the system manufacturers use to identify hazardous chemicals and their associated risks. With the revisions, HCS aligns with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

Employers have responsibilities under the revised HCS, and one of them is fast-approaching:

  • December 1, 2013. Employers must train all employees on the new label elements and safety data sheets format. Texas Mutual recommends that employers document all safety training employees receive, including HCS training.
  • June 1, 2015. Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must comply with all modified provisions of the HCS, except: Distributors may ship products labeled by manufacturers under the old HCS until Dec. 1, 2015.
  • June 1, 2016. Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication programs as necessary by this date. They must also provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

When will the revised HCS be in effect?

It already is, but OSHA is allowing a phased-in approach. Manufacturers must comply by June 1, 2015, but some are already using the new system. You might have received chemical containers labeled under the new and old systems.

Where do you get more information?

For more information about the revised HCS and your responsibilities:

About the author

Angela Gardner has 25 years’ experience in health and safety. She has spent the past 19 years helping Texas Mutual policyholders prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. Angela works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety groups to identify and implement best safety practices tailored to their unique needs. She is a frequent presenter at our statewide workers’ comp workshops, and she has shared her expertise as an instructor through our joint venture with College of the Mainland. Angela, who holds the associate in risk management designation, is a founding member of the oil and gas safety roundtable.

RTW Step 5: The Payoff

By Bob Cogburn, Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager

By Bob Cogburn,
Vocational Rehabilitation
Case Manager

The first four installments of this series laid the groundwork for bringing injured employees back to the team. You learned how to:

   Put your return-to-work program in writing

   Assess job tasks

   Identify modified duty

   Communicate with the doctor, the injured worker and your adjuster

All of your planning, analyzing and documenting pays off in step five, when you make a bona fide offer of employment.

To be considered valid, your offer must comply with Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) Rule 129.6. In evaluating your offer, the DWC considers:

  • How long the job is expected to last
  • How long you kept the offer open
  • The way you made the offer to the employee
  • The job’s physical requirements and accommodations compared to the employee’s
    physical capabilities
  • The distance the employee has to travel to get to work (A job is accessible if it is
    within a reasonable distance of where the employee lives, unless the employee shows
    through medical evidence that a medical condition won’t allow the employee to travel
    that distance.)

When you are ready to make a bona fide offer of employment, keep these things in mind:

  • The offer must be in writing. Page 41 of Texas Mutual’s free Return-to-Work Kit includes a sample bona fide offer letter.
  • Send the offer certified mail so someone has to sign for it.
  • The job must comply with the injured worker’s restrictions as specified by the doctor. Ask the doctor to complete DWC Form-73, Work Status Report. The information will help you identify alternative productive work that meets the employee’s restrictions.
  • If the injured worker refuses a bona fide offer of employment, your insurance carrier might reduce or suspend the worker’s benefits.

A workplace safety program is the best way to prevent the human and monetary costs of on-the-job injuries. But nobody can predict when an accident will happen or how serious it will be. If you invest in a return-to-work program, you can minimize the costs of accidents for you and your injured workers.

Get reimbursed for your return-to-work efforts

If you are a small employer in Texas, you may be eligible for the DWC return-to-work reimbursement program. The program reimburses you for money you spend to bring injured employees back to work or keep them at work.

About the author

Bob Cogburn has nearly 25 years’ experience in vocational case management. Since 1997, he has been helping injured workers covered by a Texas Mutual® policy rehabilitate and return to productive employment. Prior to joining Texas Mutual, Bob served as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Department of Assistive Rehabilitation Services. He also spent time as a job placement counselor for Goodwill Industries and El Centro College. At El Centro, he managed a job club specializing in placing students with disabilities back into the workplace. Bob holds a bachelor’s in rehabilitation science from the University of Texas Health Science Center and a master’s in counseling from Amberton University.

We’re From the Premium Audit Department, and We’re Here to Help

By John Hansen, Premium Audit Training & Quality Specialist

By John Hansen,
Premium Audit Training & Quality Specialist

Audit – a single word that strikes fear into every tax-paying American’s heart. But in the workers’ comp world, the audit process isn’t something to be feared. It’s called a premium audit, and it ensures your insurance carrier charged you the correct premium.

If you’re preparing for your first premium audit, here are a few basics I hope will help you rest easier.

What is a premium audit?

A premium audit is a review of your financial records and other business documents to determine the correct premium for the expired policy period. If the auditor determines you paid too much, the insurance company will return your excess premium. If you under-paid, they will invoice you for the additional premium.

How is premium determined?

Premium is based on the classification of the remuneration, which includes wages and other compensation your workers receive. Your underwriter calculates your premium at a rate per $100 of remuneration. The rate for each classification varies.

How is my classification(s)/rate determined?

With a few exceptions, your classification is based on your business operations in Texas. The Texas Department of Insurance approves rates for each classification.

What are some factors that might cause me to owe additional premium?

  • Hiring additional employees during the policy term
  • Raises and bonuses paid during the policy term
  • Under-estimating your remuneration when the policy was issued
  • Changing operations or adding a new operation that is subject to a higher-rated classification

Preparing for your first audit?

If you are preparing for your first premium audit, check this list of documents your insurance carrier might want to review. If you want to know more about the basics of premium audit, visit Texas Mutual at

About the author

John Hansen has 28 years’ experience in premium audit, the past 10 years with Texas Mutual. John trains our premium audit staff, reviews audits for quality and compliance, and conducts large-account audits. John also shares his  expertise with insurance agents as a presenter at Texas Mutual’s free workers’ compensation workshops.

Wake Up!

By John Calvert,

By John Calvert, Senior Loss Prevention Consultant

“Baby, this is going to change everything; I promise.”

That is how a 36-year-old man told his wife about his new job with an oilfield services company. The job did change everything, but not the way he hoped.

One evening, the man and three co-workers climbed into the company truck to make the four-hour trip back to the shop. The men were tired after working an extended shift. Just 10 minutes from the shop, the driver fell asleep and veered off the highway. The young man, along with his dreams of a better future, died.

Ironically, he had survived a similar accident about 10 weeks earlier, when another driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Tragic stories such as this unfold across the country every day. Nearly 140 oilfield workers have died in the past year. That’s the most annual total in the past two decades. More than half of those deaths occurred in Texas. So what’s driving the increase?

Inexperienced workers cashing in on lucrative entry-level positions are more apt to get injured. Their seasoned counterparts are also at risk, often taking shortcuts to meet increasing production quotas.

And then there are transportation-related accidents, the leading causes of workplace fatalities in every industry, including oil and gas. Driving accounts for 60 percent of deaths among Texas Mutual’s oil and gas policyholders. Many of those fatalities could be avoided if drivers followed a few simple rules:

  • Wear your seatbelt. No exceptions, ever.
  • Control your speed. The law may allow you to drive 80, but that doesn’t mean you should. Consider road conditions, your vehicle’s condition and the size of your load.
  • Stay focused. I’m not just talking about putting the cell phone down. Eating, changing a CD and reaching for something in the back seat take your attention off the road.
  • Wake up. Two-thirds of Americans don’t get the amount of sleep doctors recommend, and drowsy driving kills more than 1,500 people a year.

As an industry, we have to get a handle on this issue. As much as the oil and gas resurgence has given to our state’s economy, it has taken far too many lives. And it will take many more if we don’t wake up and change our values.

Employers have to put employee safety above production. Employees must do their part, taking ownership of their safety and their co-workers’ safety.

The driver in this story could have simply pulled over to rest. Or, he could have asked a more alert passenger to take over. But he was only 10 miles from home and the comfort of his own bed. Sometimes, we take shortcuts in our rush to finish the job. Too often, those shortcuts end tragically.

When they do, they cost the employer $16,500 on average. On-the-job crashes that result in injuries cost $74,000. If someone dies, costs can exceed $500,000.

Nobody can put a price tag on the human costs of traffic accidents. Employers can do their part to keep employees safe by reviewing their policies, promoting safe behaviors, leaning on technology and taking advantage of the free resources available to them.

Observe National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

The National Sleep Foundation declared Nov. 3 – 10 Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. The foundation’s website includes free educational materials anyone can use.

This short National Sleep Foundation video demonstrates the potential consequences of not getting enough sleep.

About the author

John Calvert has over 40 yearsexperience delivering insurancerelated safety services to a range of industries. Over the past 20 years, he has primarily focused on the oil and gas industry. John is passionate about helping employers identify and correct hazards and behaviors that result in workplace accidents. His field work has given him first-hand knowledge of industry operations, including exploration/production, well services, transportation and related product fabrication. John is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, STEPS network and the oil and gas roundtable.

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