Getting Festive This Weekend? Act Responsibly.

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

About three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives, and alcohol-impaired driving accounts for about 40 percent of fatal crashes, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In the Lone Star State during 2013, 1,100 Texans were killed in crashes involving a driver who was under the influence of alcohol.

Impaired driving is a serious, potentially fatal issue, particularly around Labor Day weekend and other holidays, when festive gatherings among family and friends are in full swing.

Accidents involving alcohol get the majority of attention, but alcohol is not the only culprit. Illegal drugs, prescription drugs and even seemingly harmless over-the-counter drugs can affect our ability to safely operate a vehicle.

If you are taking medication, ask your physician about side effects, such as drowsiness, slower reaction times, impaired judgment and dizziness. Read labels carefully, and follow their directions consistently. And remember that combining drugs and alcohol can multiply their effects.

So far, we’ve focused on strategies for ensuring you are in optimal condition behind the wheel. But what about other drivers? You cannot control their actions, but you can take steps to protect yourself.

Click the image above for a 1-minute CDC podcast on drinking and driving.

Click the image above for a 1-minute CDC podcast on drinking and driving.

Start by learning when you are most vulnerable to encountering impaired drivers. Alcohol is more likely to be a factor in traffic accidents between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., on weekends and on holidays, according to OSHA.

If you are on the road during those peak times, be extra aware of the signs of impaired driving. They include swerving, abrupt stopping, driving with the window down in cold weather, driving with headlights off at night, driving slowly and driving on the wrong side of the road.

If you encounter an impaired driver, increase your following distance, and alert the police.

So those are a few things you can do to act responsibly every time you get in your vehicle. Before we wrap up, I will leave you with one last thing to think about.

You are ultimately responsible for your safety. If you are impaired, do not get behind the wheel. Take a taxi, call a friend or stay where you are. As difficult as it can be, make sure others do the same. After all, one awkward conversation could save multiple lives.

Previous installments in this series
Stay tuned to our blog for more installments in our safe-driving series. And if you missed previous installments, take a few minutes to catch up. We think you’ll find it was time well-spent:

More resources

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Getting Behind the Wheel? Wake Up!

 

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

Sixty percent of adult drivers – about 168 million people – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More than one-third – or 103 million people – have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.

In this installment of our driving safety series, I will give you practical tips for staying alert while driving.

Sleep is crucial
The road to a drowsy-free drive starts with a solid night’s sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep to maintain alertness throughout the day.

If you have trouble sleeping, consider a bedtime routine. Try reading a book or planning the next day, for example. Routines tell your body it’s time to start winding down and getting into sleep mode.

Learn the signs
Of course, sleepless nights are not the only factor that drives drowsiness. Stress, depression and long, boring stretches of highway can lull even the best drivers into a state of fatigue. Prepare yourself by learning to recognize the signs that you are getting tired.

If your eyes frequently close or lose focus, you yawn more than normal or you have trouble keeping your head up, you are displaying physical signs of fatigue.

Mental signs include wandering thoughts, memory lapses, restlessness and irritability.

Fatigue can even change your typically good driving behaviors. Watch for signs such as erratic braking, drifting in and out of your lane, tailgating and unnecessary speed variations.

Take action
If you exhibit physical, mental or behavioral signs of fatigue, take action as soon as possible.

If you have a passenger, ask him or her to take over the wheel. If not, find a safe place to pull over and rest. On longer trips, plan rest stops every 100 miles to recharge your body and your mind.

Some drivers turn to caffeinated beverages such as coffee to offset fatigue. If you do, remember that it takes approximately 30 minutes for caffeine to take effect.

And finally, never use naps, caffeine or anything else as a substitute for a good night’s sleep.

Previous installments in this series
With the holiday season in full swing, you are probably spending more time behind the wheel. You’ve probably noticed you’re not alone. Texas Mutual wants every Texan to get to their destinations safely. That’s why we launched this series of safe-driving blog posts. Stay tuned for more posts as the holidays ramp up. And if you missed previous installments, take a few minutes to catch up. We think you’ll find it was time well-spent:

More resources

Keeping Your Day on Schedule and Your Foot Off the Accelerator

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

Have you ever had one of those mornings when nothing goes right? Maybe the alarm didn’t go off, the kids refused to get out of bed or the dog escaped. Before you know it, you’re rushing out the door 10 minutes late.

When we get behind schedule, speeding is too often our solution. And too often, the consequences are deadly.

Speeding kills 28 Americans every day. In 2013, 293 Texans died in speeding-related crashes. More than 180 of them were driving the speeding vehicle. The other 111 were passengers, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles.

Clearly, drivers are not the only ones who pay the price for speeding.

In this installment of our driving safety series, we will look at a simple, yet effective strategy for protecting yourself during traffic accidents: controlling your speed.

Now, you might be thinking, ‘”Just slow down; how complicated can it be?’” And you’re right.

But we all know that other factors sometimes sabotage our best intentions. A little planning can go a long way toward keeping your day on schedule and your foot off the accelerator.

Whenever possible, avoid driving in heavy traffic, severe weather, poor visibility and other difficult conditions.

Identify the most efficient route to your destination, program your GPS and give yourself plenty of time for unexpected delays.

During your trip, be aware of posted speed limits, but give yourself permission to ignore them. What I mean is that just because the law allows you to drive at least 65 miles per hour on most highways doesn’t mean you should.

When you’re driving in the difficult conditions I just covered, adjust your speed accordingly. And slow down when you are hauling heavy, awkward loads. Be extra aware in work zones, where traffic fines double. I know delays can be frustrating, but only a few feet may separate your vehicle from workers and heavy equipment.

And lastly, do not try to make up time by speeding. You never know how many lives you might save by simply slowing down.

Risk of death doubles for every 10 miles per hour over 50
Speed Risk of death
60 mph 2x higher
70 mph 4x higher
80 mph 8x higher

Previous installments in this series
With the holiday season in full swing, you are probably spending more time behind the wheel. You’ve probably noticed you’re not alone. Texas Mutual wants every Texan to get to their destinations safely. That’s why we launched this series of safe-driving blog posts. Stay tuned for more posts as the holidays ramp up. And if you missed previous installments, take a few minutes to catch up. We think you’ll find it was time well-spent:

More resources

Stay Focused Behind the Wheel

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

How many times have you been driving, heard the familiar ping of your phone notifying you that you received a text message, and then glanced down to read it? In the short time your eyes were off the road, your vehicle could have travelled the length of a football field.

Distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions. At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Dialing, texting and other tasks associated with using electronic devices increase your risk of getting into a crash by three times. In 2013, 460 Texans died in crashes involving distracted driving. Distractions fall into three broad categories:

  • Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel.
  • Visual distractions take your eyes off the road
  • Cognitive distractions take your mind off the task at hand.

You can steer clear of all three types of distractions and their potentially fatal consequences if you follow these tips.

Plan your trip
The planning process could include finding the safest route; setting your GPS; and adjusting your seat, mirrors and radio or music playlist. Your goal is to identify potential distractions in advance, and then take steps to minimize the risk.

Practice safe behaviors
Start by putting your cell phone down. If you have to read a text message, or make or receive a call, pull over to a safe place.

That goes for hands-free devices, too. Studies show they are no safer than hand-held devices.

And remember that while cell phones get the bulk of attention when it comes to distracted driving, they are not the only risk. Avoid eating, combing your hair, putting on makeup and anything else that takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel.

Focus on the task at hand
When you are operating a vehicle, driving is your most important job. You can decrease cognitive distractions by keeping conversation light, avoiding driving when you are angry or upset, making sure you are well-rested, listening to soothing music and giving aggressive drivers plenty of space.

Previous installments in this series
With the holiday season in full swing, Texans are wrapping up last-minute shopping and travelling to visit loved ones. Texas Mutual wants everyone to get to their destinations safely. That’s why we launched this series of safe-driving blog posts. Stay tuned for more posts as the holidays ramp up. And if you missed previous installments, take a few minutes to catch up. We think you’ll find it was time well-spent:

More resources

On the Road with Texas Mutual Recruiting

Texas Mutual representatives travelled approximately 1,800 miles this fall for Texas college recruitment events. The stops included Brownsville, Lubbock, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

By Julie Dietert, Human Resources Consultant

By Julie Dietert, Human Resources Consultant

Texas Mutual kicked off the fall recruiting season by heading to South Texas to attend the fall 2014 All Major Career Fair at The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB). Krystal Hurtado of claims, Kristen Kirkpatrick of human resources and I represented Texas Mutual at the event.

UTB was created in 1991 to meet the growing educational demands of the South Texas region and now has an enrollment of over 8,000 students. The campus is definitely a must-see, with its pristine native landscaping and stunning Spanish architecture. The fair was held at the student union building and had an energetic atmosphere complete with music, freshly popped popcorn and pizza. The event drew students and alumni in droves, and many of the attendees stopped by the Texas Mutual table to check our LinkedIn page. The event was a great success, and Texas Mutual connected with dozens of candidates who have a highly sought-after skill: Spanish fluency. I look forward to future visits at UTB. On top of my list of places to stop will be Mi Torito for the fabulous Mexican breakfast.

The second stop for fall recruiting was the Texas Tech University Fall University Career Fair. Mike North of human resources, Rachel Scroggins of human resources, Robert Zapata of claims, Nick Futrell of claims and I volunteered to attend on Texas Mutual’s behalf. The fair was held at the Overton Hotel, located on campus. The Overton is decorated in true Texan style and provided a fitting backdrop for this Texas-sized college recruiting event. Texas Tech has more than 31,000 students and offers more than 300 degree programs, so it was no surprise that its career fair was a heavily attended recruiting event. Texas Mutuaul representatives spent the day speaking with students and alumni from a variety of college programs, including business, engineering, communication and liberal arts. The fair proved to be a very positive experience, as we walked away with many candidates for future internship and career opportunities.

The next destination was a little closer to home – St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. St. Mary’s University is located in Northwest San Antonio and was one of the smaller campuses we visited (less than 4,000 students). The purpose for this stop was to attend the Risk Management and Insurance Career Fair. This time around, the Texas Mutual recruiting team consisted of Scott Bain of safety services and me. Although this was a more intimate recruiting event, the fair introduced us to numerous students ready to set their sights on a career in the insurance industry.

The fall recruiting season came to an end with our final stop at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. TAMCC is the only university in the nation that is located on its own island directly across the street from the beach. Given its impressive location, the trip to TAMCC was a treat. This busy 240-acre tropical campus has an enrollment of more than 10,000 and is becoming one of the leading academic institutions in Texas’ Gulf of Mexico region. TAMCC is an Hispanic-serving institution, so we hoped to network with students who possess Spanish fluency. With over 70 employers present at the fair, it was a well-attended event. Donnie Baker of claims, Scott Bain and I spent the morning speaking with students about potential careers at Texas Mutual. The students and alumni attending the event were curious and excited to learn more about careers in workers’ compensation. Before concluding our visit to Corpus Christi, we could not resist a stop for some seafood at the Water Street Oyster Bar, and it did not disappoint.

The fall recruiting season proved to be very effective, with results that include over 100 new LinkedIn connections. Texas Mutual representatives networked with many eager college students and alumni excited about prospective careers and internships with the company. The successful fall recruiting season leaves us looking forward to what’s to come with our spring college visits.

About the author
Julie Dietert is a human resources consultant with more than eight years’ experience in recruiting, employee onboarding, employee relations and benefits administration. Julie joined Texas Mutual in 2013 and currently heads up the company’s college recruiting program. She holds a master’s in business administration from Texas State University.

 

This Week in Comp, December 5, 2014

 

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

Rocket scientists’ invention could end texting and driving epidemic
Texting and driving has replaced drinking and driving as the leading cause of vehicular death among teens. A personal tragedy inspired a former rocket scientist to leverage technology to end the epidemic…MORE

BLS: Fewer workplace injuries in 2013
The rate of reported injuries and illnesses declined significantly in 2013 among the manufacturing, retail trade, and utilities sectors but was statistically unchanged among all other private industry sectors compared to a year earlier…MORE.

For information about Texas workplace injuries in 2013, click here.

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of health and safety news…MORE

Is your business ready for the new hazcomm labeling standard?

Click the image above for a short podcast on the new hazard communication standard labeling requirements.

Click the image above for a short podcast on the new hazard communication standard labeling requirements.

New hazardous communications labeling standards are coming June 1st, 2015. This means that chemicals must have a whole new labeling scheme. Company owners and safety managers have been using the same system since 1994. Listen to this podcast to get the information you need for your business.

Texas premiums and claim frequency drop, access to care improves
The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation released its 2014 biennial report to the Legislature. The report paints the picture of a healthy, vibrant workers’ compensation system for Texas employers and their employees…MORE

Industry experts call for TRIA renewal
Terrorism is an unpredictable, uninsurable risk that requires a federal solution. Given today’s heightened risk, it is critical that Congress reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act before it expires at the end of 2014, according to industry experts attending the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America annual meeting.

South Carolina eyes mandating database use to curb painkiller abuse
A council created by Gov. Nikki Haley says requiring doctors to use a statewide database to check their patients’ prescription history can reduce the rampant abuse of painkillers in South Carolina…MORE

Punk rock front man makes 2014 insurance fraud hall of shame
The man claimed an on-the-job injury left him unable to work. Meanwhile, video evidence showed him overcoming his alleged injuries as the demonstrative singer in a punk rock band…MORE

Woody Hill guest post provides helpful holiday safety tips

Woody Hill Vice President of Safety Services

Woody Hill
Vice President of Safety Services

Many business, especially in the retail industry, are hiring temporary workers to meet increased holiday demand. Those workers are often unfamiliar with the hazards of the job. To help businesses protect them, Work Comp Wire invited our own Woody Hill to write a guest post on holiday safety tips…MORE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Seat Belts: One Click from Home

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

By Woody Hill, Vice President of Safety Services

You know that familiar clicking sound you hear when you fasten your seat belt? It could mean the difference between arriving at your destination safely and losing your life in a motor vehicle accident.

Research consistently proves that simply buckling up is the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. Still, nearly half of Texans killed in motor vehicle accidents during 2013 were not wearing seat belts. Why?

Some probably thought it was safer to be thrown from the vehicle than trapped inside. Others may have assumed that because they were driving a pickup, they were safer than everyone else. Still others likely reasoned they weren’t going far, so they didn’t need a seat belt.

Those are just some of the myths surrounding seat belts. Now, let’s look at the facts:

  •  In a crash, everything in your car can harm you. Loose items, as well as unbelted passengers, become flying objects. Your seat belt is one of the few things that can save you.
  •  For SUV, pickup and van occupants, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to the driver and front seat passenger by 60 percent.
  •  Most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles from home and at speeds of less than 40 mph.

In this installment of our driver safety series, we will look at a simple, yet effective strategy for protecting yourself during traffic accidents: wearing your seat belt:

  1. First, buckle up every time, and make sure your passengers do the same. Remember that the law requires drivers and passengers, including backseat passengers, to wear a seat belt.
  2. Second, learn how to wear your seat belt:
    a. Your shoulder belt should be across chest, away from your neck.
    b. Never wear the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm.
    c. Your lap belt should be across your hips and below your stomach.
  3. Lastly, get a good fit. If your seat belt is uncomfortable, ask a dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help tailor your seat belt to your needs.

Previous installments in this series
Stay tuned to our blog for more installments in our safe-driving series. And if you missed previous installments, take a few minutes to catch up. We think you’ll find it was time well-spent:

More resources

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