Reinvent Your Safety Program with These 11 Tips

By David Wylie, editorial coordinator

By David Wylie, editorial coordinator

Ready to reinvent yourself in 2014? Maybe you plan to get healthy, find a new job or take that trip you always wanted to take. Before you know it, your plate can get so full that you feel overwhelmed, defeated before that giant ball descends on Times Square.

If new year’s resolutions have you ready to quietly crawl back into 2013, you need a blueprint for making that vision of a new you a reality. What you need is a list.

Lists provide perspective. They make the impossible possible. They help ensure this year’s good intentions don’t get dumped into next year’s to –do pile.

To get the ball rolling, your friends at Texas Mutual dusted off this list of 11 ways to improve your workplace safety program.

  1. Hire the right people. Conduct background and reference checks, physical exams and drug screens.* Your hiring process should comply with the Texas Labor Code and Americans with Disabilities Act. The Texas Department of Public Safety offers criminal history checks.
  2. Start early. Safety training should be part of your new-employee orientation process. Do not let new employees start working until they show that they understood your instructions. And don’t forget to train current employees who take on new tasks.
  3. Keep it up. Safety should be a constant focus in your company. Provide regularly scheduled training so messages stay fresh in employees’ minds.
  4. Lead by example. Employees take their cues from management. If you demonstrate your commitment to safety, your staff is likely to do the same.
  5. Engage employees. One-way communication does not work when it comes to safety. Give your employees plenty of opportunities to create and constantly improve the safety program. Consider forming a safety committee that includes front-line employees.
  6. Click the images above for a short video about Texas Mutual's safe driving campaign for the oil and gas industry.

    Click the image above for a short video about Texas Mutual’s safe driving campaign targeting the oil and gas industry.

  7. Focus on safe driving. Transportation accidents account for 40 percent of Texas’ workplace fatalities. Whether your fleet includes one vehicle or 100, create and enforce a safe-driving policy. Require employees to wear seat belts, obey speed limits, avoid distractions and never drive tired. Texas Mutual sponsored a safe-driving campaign last summer. Visit safehandtexas.org to take advantage of the free training materials.
  8. Use your free resources. Employers have access to thousands of free safety training materials from Texas Mutual at worksafetexas.com, the Texas Department of Insurance and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Texas Mutual policyholders can get additional materials in the safety resource center at texasmutual.com.
  9. Investigate accidents. Uncover and correct the root causes of workplace accidents as soon as possible. Treat near-misses, which are accidents that almost happened, the same way. Remember that you are conducting a fact-finding mission, not looking to assign blame.
  10. Speak their language. If you have employees who do not speak English, learn how to overcome language barriers in your safety program. You can also take advantage of OSHA’s compliance assistance resources.
  11. Remember young workers. Teen workers are often inexperienced and scared to ask questions. One of the best things you can do to help teens stay safe on the job is simply be approachable. Make sure they are comfortable reporting unsafe conditions and admitting they don’t understand instructions.
  12. Prepare for emergencies. During a fire, tornado or other emergency, everyone should know exactly what to do. Your emergency preparedness plan should include procedures for evacuating, sheltering in place, reporting emergencies, getting medical attention for injured workers, and returning to normal operations. Visit ready.gov to learn how to prepare for emergencies.

Texas Mutual is on a mission to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. On behalf of board of directors, management and staff, here’s to a safe, productive 2014.

*Consult an attorney before you launch a drug-testing program to ensure you comply with all laws.

About the author

David Wylie is the editorial coordinator at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Attention Supervisors: You Can Head Off Costly Claims

By Bob Cogburn, Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager

By Bob Cogburn,
Vocational Rehabilitation Case Manager

“My wrist gets so sore. I wonder what it will feel like three months from now.”

“Every time I dig that hole, my back tells me to try another way.”

“There must be an easier way to break down boxes with all this high tech equipment we have.”

If you’re a supervisor, there’s a good chance you’ve heard an employee say something along these lines. In the course of your busy day, it can be easy to dismiss them and move on with business as usual. If you do, you may be missing an opportunity to head off a costly workers’ compensation claim.

When employees are hurting, they often tell their immediate supervisor, not just once, but repeatedly. Left untreated, minor ailments can degrade into serious injuries that require extensive treatment and time off work. You may also have to contend with the resentment of an employee who feels you are responsible for his injury.

So what’s the solution? Vocational rehabilitation professionals like me are trained to help injured workers get well and back on the job. By the time we get involved, however, the damage is largely done – to the employee and the business. Prevention has to start with you.

You have the power to head off costly claims by exercising a fundamental management skill: listening.

If an employee repeatedly mentions aches and pains, take a few minutes to investigate. In some cases, you can eliminate the problem by providing the right equipment and suggesting alternate ways to do the task.

For example, let’s assume an employee repeatedly complains of back pain after lifting boxes. Solutions might include:

  • Provide lift trucks or dollies.
  • Have employees work in teams to move heavy loads.
  • Break big loads into multiple smaller loads.
  • Review proper lifting technique: Use your legs, push rather than pull, center the load between your legs and shoulders, do not twist, keep your back straight and carry the load close to your body.

Supervisors are management’s closest link to front-line employees. You are in the best position to recognize when someone is on the road to an injury. If you listen and respond, you can help keep experienced employees on the job, maintain your team’s production and save the company the expense of costly claims.

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.

Workers’ Comp: In or Out?

By Jack Ogden, Senior Marketing Specialist

By Jack Ogden,
Senior Marketing Specialist

Maybe it’s a product of an independent spirit forged during the early days of the Republic. Or maybe it’s an inherent need to be difficult. Whatever the reason, we Texans pride ourselves on being unique. Look no further than our workers’ compensation system for proof.

Texas is the only state that allows employers to go without workers’ compensation coverage. Those who opt out of the system are called nonsubscribers. If you are one of them, you are putting your business at risk.

Under Texas law, workers’ compensation benefits are the injured worker’s sole source of recovery from an employer who carries workers’ compensation coverage. Translation: Injured workers cannot sue their employers for pain and suffering damages resulting from workplace injuries. The law does allow exceptions in cases of gross negligence by the employer.

Nonsubscribers, on the other hand, bear complete financial responsibility for an employee’s injury or death if they are found negligent. The total amount they could be responsible for is unlimited. In short, going “bare” could cost you your business.

Some nonsubscribers choose occupational accident policies or other alternate coverages. Unfortunately, these policies’ shortcomings far outweigh any potential cost savings.

Most importantly, alternate coverages do not offer the comprehensive legal protection for employers that workers’ compensation coverage offers. They also do not provide as well for injured workers.

Workers’ compensation policies cover medical expenses related to compensable injuries, and they replace a portion of injured workers’ lost wages, for life if necessary.

Alternate coverages, on the other hand, typically put caps on injured workers’ benefits, which can hit home hard in cases of severe accidents that require extended medical treatment and time off work.

Alternate coverages also typically leave gaps in coverage, refuse to cover some injuries and illnesses, and may not cover claims if the carrier becomes insolvent.

Nobody can predict when a workplace injury will occur or how much it will cost. Workers’ compensation insurance provides a measure of protection that can help ensure a business stays in business.

Employers who want the peace of mind that comes with purchasing a workers’ compensation policy should work with their insurance agent. For more information about workers’ compensation insurance, visit the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation at www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb030.html and Texas Mutual at texasmutual.com/employers/aboutwc.shtm.

About the author

Jack Ogden is the safety group manager at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He is a certified insurance counselor with 16 years’ experience in workers’ compensation. Jack works closely with insurance agents to help them get the most value out of their partnership with Texas Mutual.

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