This Week in Comp, May 26 – 30

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

OSHA Demotes I2P2 Rule to Long-Term Action List in Spring Regulatory Agenda
The I2P2 rule (RIN 1218-AC48) would have held employers responsible for finding and correcting hazards in their own workplaces. The delay makes it virtually impossible to pass the rule under the Obama administration…MORE

OSHA heat safety campaign offers free resources
In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses. OSHA’s annual heat safety campaign includes a website with free resources in English and Spanish. OSHA also created an app that empowers employers to measure the heat index at their worksites…MORE

Are Americans worrying too much about the wrong things?
Dramatic events like homicides and natural disasters headline the news. But did you know that every four minutes, an American dies from an unintentional injury? In fact, unintentional injuries cause 67 percent of injury-related deaths. The National Safety Council is calling on Americans to focus on the leading causes of unintentional injuries during National Safety Month…MORE

How a loud, plastic horn improved safety
The vevuzula is a plastic horn that gained worldwide notoriety during the soccer World Cup. Find out how one workplace used it to keep employees safe on the job…MORE

Costs

Texas employers riding off with lower comp costs
Declining workplace injuries and fewer claims for workers’ compensation benefits are leading to lower costs for employers, according to Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation Rod Bordelon…MORE

Claims

8 most common, expensive on-the-job injuries
Slips, trips and falls account for 20 percent of injuries, but motor vehicle accidents average an eye-opening $35K…MORE

Opioid epidemic

Closed Formulary Closing the Door on Opioids
Texas’ pharmacy closed formulary is helping control the use of and costs associated with opioids in the workers’ compensation system. The formulary’s success is proof that stakeholder education is the most effective way to safely utilize opioid analgesics…MORE

WCRI study: Little reduction in longer-term opioid use in most states
In most states, the percentage of claims with opioids that received opioids on a longer-term basis changed little, within 2 percentage points, between 2008/2010 and 2010/2012, according to the study…MORE

Counties sue narcotics makers, alleging ‘campaign of deception’
California’s Orange and Santa Clara counties accuse drug makers of encouraging patients, including well-insured veterans and the elderly, to ask their doctors for opioid painkillers to treat common conditions such as headaches, arthritis and back pain…MORE

Fraud

Fraudster assumes 19 fake identities
Fifty-seven-year-old Carlos Perry received a prison sentence for a scheme that is, perhaps, the most imaginative theatrical performance in the world of fraud: playing the roles of employer and injured employees (yes, plural) simultaneously…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer 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.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

Advertisements

Want to Reap the Benefits of Workplace Safety?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Get a group of workplace safety advocates from diverse industries together, and you’ll get a variety of perspectives. But they will agree on one thing: Management commitment drives safety.

Some companies demonstrate support from the top by investing in training and personal protective equipment.

Others go leaps and bounds farther by requiring management to follow the same safety procedures as front-line employees follow.

Goodwill Industries is one of a rare few employers that punctuates its commitment to safety by making an example of the person on top of the org chart.

“Last year, our safety coordinator required all employees to take CPR,” said Cathy Rudzinski, vice president and chief financial officer of Goodwill Industries. “Anyone who did not get the training by the deadline would be written up.”

See where this is going? The deadline came and went, and Goodwill CEO Jerry Davis was among a handful of employees who had not complied.

“To Jerry’s credit, he was the first to step up, admit his mistake and accept the consequences,” said Rudzinski.

Those consequences included a mark on Davis’ permanent Goodwill file. Worse yet, he had to report his oversight to Goodwill’s chairman of the board.

“That really put teeth in our safety program,” laughed Cathy. “When your safety coordinator can write up the CEO, employees know that nobody is immune. They understand that safety is a value that never gets compromised by anyone.”

Rudzinski recently shared Davis’ story during a panel discussion titled “The ROI of Safety in the Workplace.” The free event was a joint production between Texas Mutual and the Austin Business Journal. Attendees got tips from peers who have overcome the hurdles of making safety a core business process.

Click here for the full story. And don’t miss our panelists’ top tips for cashing in on the benefits of preventing workplace accidents.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer 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.

On the Road with Texas Mutual Recruiting

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

In our last blog, we had the chance to get a close-up look at a day in the life of Scott Bonds, an underwriter in our Dallas office. I wondered whether the regional offices would have a similar flow or if they were different altogether. What does underwriting look like in Austin and Houston? How does the responsibility change from underwriter I to underwriter II and beyond?

When I joined the company in December, I had a chance to shadow senior underwriter Nathan Rudolph at Austin regional. I asked Nathan to share his insights on the profession.

Nathan said, “The most interesting thing about this field is the analysis of all the different risks we review, as well as the strong relationships that you develop with agents and the people you work with. As an underwriter, your interaction and relationships with the agents you work with plays a big part in your success.”

When asked what we should be looking for in our search, he said, “The traits and skills to look for are flexibility, adaptability, attention to detail, interpersonal communication, ability to multitask and good time management.”

Time management seems to be a critical element in the insurance field as a whole. Nathan describes why it is important. “There are frequently projects or meetings that require chunks of a day to prepare for. There are occasional visits to agencies, as well, and those visits require preparation.”

Nathan also receives several emails and calls from agents each day with questions about existing policies, quote status, class code questions, online submission questions, etc. Frequently, ‘rush’ items come up and need to be addressed quickly.

I asked Nathan to outline a normal day.

7:30 a.m. – I arrive, log on and pour my first cup of coffee to clear the mental cobwebs.

7:35 a.m. /7:40 a.m. – Review voicemails and emails to see if there are any pressing items or fires to put out from the day before or early that morning. I proceed to my individual and team calendars to check for meetings, events or training. I also check in with underwriters that are in training to see if they need any assistance.

8 a.m. – Evaluate our online work baskets to see what my workflow looks like for the day and week (always have to look ahead). I prioritize items to focus on for the day. I usually speak with my supervisor to see if they have anything that needs immediate attention.

8:30 a.m. – Complete follow up emails/voicemails, and begin work on various items in the work baskets. This includes new and renewal quotes, endorsements, safety inspection review, work requests from auditing or other departments, and various correspondence items.

Working on new and renewal quotes involves a significant amount of time and analysis.   From the standpoint of analyzing accounts that we currently write or want to write, we like to make sure we understand the exposures so they are priced appropriately.

The other work items referenced above (endorsements, work requests, correspondence, etc.) are important, as well. They reflect updates to and/or possible concerns that arise on existing accounts that need to be addressed.

10 a.m. – Call agents to follow up on new business and renewal quotes that have been released. This will determine if we write the account.

11 a.m. – Continue working on online work baskets.

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Lunch

1:30 p.m. – Review catastrophic loss emails received on my accounts to determine if a flag needs to be added to the account(s) for review at next renewal.

2:30 p.m. – Continue working on online work basket items.

3:45 p.m. – Follow up on additional quotes for status. Review workload and calendar for the next day, and prepare a list of items to start on when I come in the next day.

4:30 p.m. – Take it to the house…

Looking at his day, he is correct when saying that time management is critical.

During interviews for the upcoming underwriter training class, we asked candidates what they find most rewarding about solving a problem. I asked Nathan a similar question to find out what is most rewarding about his job. He said, “Building relationships with agents and assisting in developing and serving as a resource for other underwriters.” A true mentor.

Wondering how we are doing in our search for the June 2 class? We have hired five recent graduates. Our new underwriters represent UNT, UT Austin, Stephen F. Austin, University of Houston Downtown and the University of South Dakota. Can you guess which candidate is looking forward to warmer weather?

Look out for our next “day in the life” with Moriah Wilson as On the Road takes an inside look at Medical Only Claims Adjusting.

 

 

This Week in Comp, May 19 – 23

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

Petroperil: Hazards of drilling
There are 1,000 ways to die in the oilfield. Vehicle accidents are the leading causes, followed by struck by, caught in-between, falls, explosions and electrocutions…MORE

Oh God for one more breath
In 1902, a huge explosion ripped through Fraterville Coal Mine in Tennessee, killing all but three of the city’s adult men. The miners were not the only victims. The blast left 100 widows and 1,000 children without fathers. Read the letter one miner wrote to his wife during his final moments before succumbing to suffocation…MORE

Oilfield deaths spur safety agency to study fracking
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is asking oil and gas drillers to help assess the risks of exposure to chemicals used in fracking…MORE

Thinking about the unthinkable: workplace violence
For more than a decade, violence has been the second leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States, yet few companies take active roles in identifying and addressing the risk of workplace violence. Why? Because most companies think the same thing that you are probably thinking right now: It just couldn’t happen hereMORE

Claims

NFL suits bring awareness
From the hippocampus to opioids, David DePaolo wonders how the recent rash of lawsuits brought by professional football players will affect workers’ compensation law…MORE

Experts cite exceptions to downward frequency trend
While widely reported data reveals an ongoing, nationwide decline in workers’ compensation claims frequency, risk managers experiencing a departure from the long-term trend shouldn’t feel alone. An aging workforce and rebounding economy are driving increased claims frequency for some employers…MORE

You will smile when you see the work comp savings of onsite cameras
Was your driver really at fault in that auto accident? Did failure to follow safety procedures cause that on-the-job injury? Onsite cameras can pull back the curtain on workplace accidents and save you money…MORE

Managing workers’ comp exposures as the workforce ages
An aging workforce could mean higher workers’ compensation costs. Businesses can control those costs by offering wellness programs, designing jobs with older workers’ limitations in mind, and reducing strain through engineering controls…MORE

Fraud

Is surveillance your only work comp fraud prevention technique?
Sound hiring practices and claim-handing techniques are critical to keeping fraud out of your workplace…MORE

Opioid epidemic

Prevalence of opioids in California workers’ comp holding at near-record highs
Despite efforts to curb the use and cost of opioids in California workers’ comp, new research finds the use of these drugs has remained at record levels since 2010. As a result, since 2005, payments for these painkillers have increased from about 4% to nearly 20% of all California workers’ compensation prescription dollars…MORE

ACA

Advancements in healthcare technology and what they mean to workers’ comp
There are several potential implications of the Affordable Care Act on the workers’ comp system. For example, the Act could push more Americans into the system, resulting in access to care issues. Relief could be in sight in the form of telemedicine, Google Glass, wearable monitoring devices and other technology…MORE

Nonsubscription

TX court puts agreement in fryer
Nonsubscribers who use arbitration agreements to control the risk of lawsuits filed by injured workers may not be covering all their bases. That is particularly true of agreements between nonsubscribers and minors…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer 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.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

An Editor Digs a Little Deeper Into Workplace Safety

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Marketing-types love clichés. They lure us with promises of synergistic partnerships and turnkey solutions that produce win-win results. Too often, they leave us scratching our heads and looking for the “value proposition” in their pitches.

I admit that I’m guilty of generic statements when it comes to workplace safety. I dig just enough to scratch the surface of a topic, and then I give you bite-sized information I hope you can start using immediately in your business.

In case you’ve never read my posts, here’s sample of my offerings: Safety starts with management commitment, but employee involvement drives continuous improvement. And let’s not forget that workplace safety programs contribute to increased productivity, lower workers’ comp costs and improved employee morale.

The fact that I have traditionally written about safety at a high level was actually okay. After all, I’m a writer, not a safety professional. That changed recently.

After 13 years in Texas Mutual’s corporate communications department, I accepted a new challenge. I am now the senior technical writer for our safety services team. With the new title came, at least in my mind, new expectations.

One of the first things I did to prepare for my new job was read a white paper, “Injury and Illness Prevention Programs,” written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The thought of reading a white paper scared me a little. They’re typically long documents loaded with jargon and hundreds of references to other studies on the topic. But this white paper is a manageable 18 pages, and the language is easy enough for a layman to get their head around. For a mere 30-minute investment, I came away with a handful of key points I want to share with you:

  • Management commitment drives workplace safety.
  • Employee involvement is critical to the safety program’s long-term success.
  • Workplace safety programs reduce employers’ operating costs, increase productivity and improve employee morale.

It seems the core concepts of workplace safety are timeless. Any company in any industry can use them to make safety a permanent part of their company culture. It’s comforting to know that while the experts at OSHA know much more than I’ll ever know about safety, they chose to share this handful of basics in a white paper.

So as senior technical writer, I will continue promoting the building blocks of a solid safety program and the benefits of preventing accidents. But I will also provide insight on specific safety issues relevant to Texas industries. In short, I will dig just a little deeper.

This OSHA video features employers explaining the benefits of adopting an injury and illness prevention program (I2P2).

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer 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.

This Week in Comp, May 12 – 16

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

OSHA update
OSHA advisory committees are studying strategies to address health hazards, construction and temporary workers; whistleblower committee re-charter…MORE

Denton could be first city in Texas to ban fracking
Fracking has led to major economic benefits but also to fears that chemicals used in the process could spread to water supplies and worsen air quality…MORE

Cited and fined! Employers discovering OSHA is serious about eliminating falls
Nearly one-third of all construction fatalities last year were related to falls. Failing to provide fall protection is one of the 10 most-frequently cited OSHA violations….MORE

First study unveiled to focus on occupation and obesity
Truckers, movers, police and firefighters are likeliest to be obese. Doctors, scientists and teachers are the healthiest. Those are the results of a first-of-its-type study the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries sponsored connecting occupation with obesity…MORE

Claims

Wellness reduces health risks 25%, cuts comp claims
A study by Pinnacol Assurance found that workplace wellness programs reduce employee health risks by 25 percent. The study also found that wellness program participants cut their smoking rates, as well as their cancer, depression and stress risks…MORE

Autopilot fear
From strict guidelines to sophisticated software, adjusters and their ability to judge each claim individually are being removed from the claims process. That trend doesn’t sit well with David DePaolo…MORE

State fund news

SAIF CEO is fired after three months
The board of directors for Oregon’s SAIF Corporation has fired John Plotkin on allegations of inappropriate comments he made to employees…MORE
Opioid epidemic

Opioid paradox: The drugs can cause pain
The condition is also called “paradoxical hyperalgesia” because a patient may experience more pain resulting from their opioid treatment rather than a decrease in pain. The phenomena can encourage dangerous dose escalation as doctors struggle to control a patient’s chronic pain…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer 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.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites. Read more of this post

3 Things You Should Know About Dispute Resolution

By Grace Fogle, Hearings Supervisor

For more than a century, the workers’ comp system has been protecting employees from the consequences of on-the-job accidents. But even with insurance carriers, employers, injured workers and regulatory agencies working toward a common, clearly-defined goal, disagreements happen.

For example, if the insurance carrier accepts a claim as compensable, the employer might disagree. Or, the injured worker might dispute the amount of income benefits that he or she is receiving from the insurance company. The Legislature established an administrative process to resolve these types of disputes. The first stage in the process is the benefit review conference (BRC).

A BRC is an informal meeting held at a local Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) office. During a BRC, the parties meet with someone from the insurance company to discuss the disputed issues in front of a DWC benefit review officer.

In an ideal world, your injured workers would get well and back on the job without disputes. But if you find yourself in a BRC, here are three things you need to know:

  1. The law requires parties in a dispute to attempt to resolve the issue before they request a BRC.
  2. To request a BRC, you must complete DWC Form-045, Request to Schedule, Reschedule, or Cancel a Benefit Review Conference (BRC), and submit details and documentation of efforts to resolve the dispute.
  3. You might be required to provide documentation related to the claim, such as medical records, statements from co-workers who witnessed the accident, and the accident report you filed with your insurance carrier.

More information
For more information about BRCs, visit the Texas Department of Insurance at http://www.tdi.texas.gov/wc/idr/brcinfo.html. For more information about the dispute resolution process, visit http://www.tdi.texas.gov/wc/employee/dispute.html.

Stay tuned
In my next post, I will explain the next step in the dispute resolution process: arbitration/contested case hearings.

About the author
Grace Fogle has nearly 30 years’ experience in the insurance industry. She joined Texas Mutual in 1993 as a senior hearings specialist. In 2006, she was promoted to supervisor of the hearings team. Grace holds a bachelor’s in nursing from Incarnate Word College.

%d bloggers like this: