Flu Season is Peaking. Is Your Business Prepared?

Have you used an office phone, had a face-to-face conversation or inhaled today? If so, you could be one of the estimated 62 million Americans who will catch the flu this year. Texas Mutual encourages you to protect yourself and your family from the potentially severe effects of the flu. We also remind employers that the flu can have a negative effect on business.

Click the image above for a 1-minute CDC podcast on flu prevention.

Click the image above for a 1-minute CDC podcast on flu prevention.

A recent survey by Walgreen’s indicates that during the 2012-13 flu season, the worst in more than a decade, adults missed 230 million work days because of the flu, with affected employees missing three days on average. Those missed work days translated to approximately $30.4 billion in lost productivity for employers.

Flu season peaks in January and February. Here are some everyday preventive measures to help protect your employees and your business from the effects of the flu:

    1. Get a flu shot. Experts agree that getting a flu shot is the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu. Everyone who is six months old or older should get vaccinated, especially those in a high-risk group. Many pharmacies, clinics and community centers offer free or low-cost flu shots.
    2. Learn how the flu spreads. Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it, and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose.
    3. Remember, clean hands save lives. Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
    4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. That is how germs spread.
    5. Get some space. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
    6. Take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy food.
    7. Keep coughs and sneezes to yourself. Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, immediately throw it in the trash.
    8. Learn the symptoms of the flu. Symptoms can include coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills. It is important to note, however, that not everyone who has the flu will experience fever.
    9. Know what to do if you get sick. If you suspect you have the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medications, except to seek medical care. It is important to see your doctor as soon as possible because the flu can exacerbate chronic medical conditions. It can also lead to other illnesses, such as bacterial pneumonia and ear infections.
    10. Get more information. Free resources for protecting yourself, your family and your co-workers are available from the American Red CrossCDCflu.gov and texasflu.org.

This Week in Comp, January 23, 2015

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

Regulatory roundup
Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of workers’ comp regulatory news…MORE

Earthquake preparedness tips for businesses
That rumbling recently felt across North Dallas this month was not the result of millions of Dallas Cowboys’ fans stomping their feet in celebration of the team’s first playoff berth since 2009. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the tell-tale sign of earthquakes…MORE

TDI newsletter features aggressive driving safety tips
In 2013, 303 rural crashes and 1,016 urban crashes in Texas involved road rage, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TD). TDI cautions drivers to give their aggressive counterparts plenty of space and avoid eye contact…MORE

2015 oil and gas regulatory outlook
OilfieldRegulatory initiatives on the horizon will affect hydraulic fracturing, methane emissions, blowout preventers and crude oil transportation…MORE

BLS releases 2013 “Days Away from Work” data
For every 100,000 full-time workers, there were 109.4 cases of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses that required days away from work. This was a decline from the 2012 number of 111.8 cases for every 100,000 full-time employees…MORE

DWC offers new educational outreach program for injured employees
The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) designed the program to teach injured employees the basics of workers’ compensation so they can successfully navigate their claims. The DWC offers the free sessions in English and Spanish in select cities…MORE

Study shows trust a factor in return-to-work success
rtwTrust between the employer and the injured worker is a key predictor of a return-to-work program’s success. One major aspect of trust is the level at which a worker feared being fired as a result of an injury, according to new research by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute…MORE

10 dangers of a sleep-deprived workforce

Click on the image to download the brochure.

Click on the image to download the brochure.

About 63 percent of Americans say their sleep needs aren’t met during the week. Too often, companies are unaware of the impact fatigue or sleep deprivation is having on their operation until a tragic accident occurs…MORE

The cold winds of workers’ comp reform are blowing in Wisconsin
Blogger extraordinaire Bob Wilson has it on excellent authority that major changes to the Wisconsin workers’ compensation system will be proposed with the release of the state’s budget bill on February 3, 2015…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.

Lessons from the Field: Earthquake Preparedness Tips for Businesses

That rumbling recently felt across North Dallas this month was not the result of millions of Dallas Cowboys’ fans stomping their feet in celebration of the team’s first playoff berth since 2009. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the tell-tale sign of earthquakes.

Actually, earthquakes are not unprecedented in the Lone Star State. There have been more than 120 in North Texas since 2008, according to Southern Methodist University. All have been considered small, with the largest occurring in 2013 at magnitude 3.7. Before that, an earthquake large enough to be felt had not been reported since 1950.

This recent “earthquake swarm” has Dallas-area residents on high alert. Texas Mutual encourages everyone to learn how to protect themselves and their families during emergencies such as earthquakes. But don’t forget that we spend most of our waking hours at work. A little planning now can help protect you and your employees in the event of an earthquake, however unlikely it may seem.

Before an earthquake
Employees won’t have time to think during an earthquake. If you prepare them now, they are less likely to panic and act unsafely:

  • Know your risk: Unlike hurricanes and some other natural disasters, earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning. That’s why it is important to determine if your business is in a high-risk area. Contact your local emergency management office, American Red Cross, state geological survey or department of natural resources for specific information about your community’s risk.
  • Make an emergency preparedness plan: A solid emergency preparedness plan can help mitigate the panic that often accompanies disasters. Every employee should know exactly what to do during an earthquake, fire, tornado, power outage or other emergency. Don’t forget to make accommodations for employees with disabilities and other special needs.
  • Practice the plan: Regularly scheduled drills help you evaluate your emergency preparedness plan’s effectiveness, clarify employees’ roles and reveal holes in your plan that you need to address. Post-incident critiques often confirm that experience gained during exercises was the best way to prepare teams to respond effectively to an emergency. For a guide to conducting earthquake drills, click here.
  • Prepare your facility: On one end of the spectrum, facility preparation includes securing light fixtures, suspended ceilings, window partitions, furnishings, supplies, inventory and equipment that can become flying objects during an earthquake. On the other end, it includes evaluating your facility for structural weakness that could be vulnerable during an earthquake.

During an earthquake
Emergency preparedness plans are like umbrellas. It’s comforting to know we have them, but we hope we never have to use them. If an earthquake does strike, you will be glad you taught your employees these generally accepted best practices:

  • Drop, cover and hold on. Emergency response experts agree that this technique reduces the chance of injury and death during earthquakes. Teach employees the procedure, and include it in your practice exercises.
  • Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
  • Be aware that fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

After an earthquake
So, you think the earthquake is over. Now what? Your instinct might be to immediately flee, but experts advise caution:

  • When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move and there is a safe way out through the debris. Then, exit the building, but use the stairs, not the elevator.
  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves can occur in the first hours, days, weeks or even months after the quake. Drop, cover and hold on whenever you feel shaking.
  • Check for injuries, and provide assistance if you have training.
  • Help people who need special accommodations and may not be able to evacuate on their own.
  • Be careful when driving after an earthquake, and anticipate traffic light outages.

More information
For more information on preparing your home and your business for earthquakes and other emergencies, visit these organizations’ websites:

This Week in Comp, January 16, 2015

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

President Obama signs TRIA renewal bill into law
The bill renews TRIA six years…MORE

Texas auto injury, fatality crashes rise again in 2014
Contrary to a nationwide trend, Texas automobile crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities have increased 10 percent over the past three years, according to a study by the Insurance Council of Texas. The study says alcohol, speed and drivers not wearing seat belts have contributed to the increases…MORE

Study shows small businesses good candidates for wellness programs
healthy livingSmall businesses are prepared to adopt workplace wellness programs and, based on the kinds of health risks facing employees, are a good target for such health interventions, according to new research conducted by our friends at Pinnacol…MORE

Aon releases 2014 health care workers’ compensation barometer report
The report shows that frequency of workers’ compensation claims has been slowly and consistently decreasing at the same 1 percent level over the 10-year experience period analyzed…MORE

Top 10 safety stories of 2014
About 80 percent of drivers believe hands-free devices are safer than hand-held devices. They’re wrong, according to the National Safety Council. That was just one of the top 10 safety stories of the year…MORE

Is exclusive remedy on the ropes in Oklahoma?
Boxing ExecutiveA district judge in Oklahoma has ruled that an injured worker can sue his employer for negligence because the injury was “foreseeable.” The case, along with similar cases in Florida and Tennessee, has Bob Wilson wondering whether the concept of exclusive remedy is in jeopardy…MORE

Improving rail tank car, commercial trucking safety among NTSB’s most wanted list for 2015
The list includes banning all personal electronic devices, including hand-held devices; and lowering the illegal blood-alcohol level for drunk driving from 0.08 to 0.05…MORE

Governor Perry appoints Mattax as commissioner of insurance
David Mattax was deputy attorney general for defense litigation, past director of defense litigation, and past chief of the financial litigation division for the Texas Attorney General’s Office…MORE

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

Lessons from Dallas’ Thanksgiving Tower accident
The holidays will forever be linked to loss for three Texas families, thanks to a well-publicized on-the-job accident at Dallas’ Thanksgiving Tower. It is too late to spare these families the pain and suffering that comes from losing a loved one. We can, however, take steps to ensure this type of accident does not happen again….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.

Lessons from the Field: Dallas’ Thanksgiving Tower Accident

The holidays will forever be linked to loss for three Texas families, thanks to a well-publicized on-the-job accident at Dallas’ Thanksgiving Tower. It is too late to spare these families the pain and suffering that comes from losing a loved one. We can, however, take steps to ensure this type of accident does not happen again.

The victims
A 60-year-old grandfather and former waiter who had been on the job about two months

A 43-year-old man with three children who was hired the day before the accident

A 36-year-old man with four children and two years on the job

The accident

The fire forced hundreds of people who worked in Thanksgiving Tower to evacuate, underscoring the importance of emergency preparedness plans.

The fire forced hundreds of people who worked in Thanksgiving Tower to evacuate, underscoring the importance of emergency preparedness plans.

The three men were subcontractors hired to clean a 30-foot-deep storage tank in Dallas’ Thanksgiving Tower. The man with the most experience (2 years) was using a torch to cut away rusted components from the tank. Suddenly, a spark ignited a flash fire that triggered an explosion. The building’s power went out, perhaps due to the explosion. Consequently, co-workers were unable to use the mechanical lift to pull the men from the tank. Officials cite smoke inhalation as the likely cause of death for all three men.

General safety tips

Every employer, regardless of injury, can learn valuable lessons from this tragedy:

– Train new employees on safety procedures before you let them start working.

– Hold subcontractors and temporary employees to the same safety standards as permanent employees.

– Provide regularly scheduled refresher training to long-time employees.

– Empower your employees to stop any operation they feel is unsafe.

– Do not send employees to clients’ job sites if you feel their safety is at risk.

Incident-specific safety tips:

Before welding or doing other "hot work," inspect the area for combustible materials.

Before welding or doing other “hot work,” inspect the area for combustible materials.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the Thanksgiving Tower accident, so we do not know all of the details. But here are some general safety tips that apply to hot work, confined spaces and flash fires:

– Remember that some city fire codes require employers to get special permits to perform hot work. Even if yours does not, OSHA
encourages every employer to develop its own hot work permit system. Click here for a sample hot work permit.

– Train employees to work in confined spaces. Training should include evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency.

Test for flammable gases and other chemicals in the atmosphere before starting hot work.

– Separate hot work from flammable material. If that is not possible, use guards to confine the heat, sparks and slag, and to protect the immovable fire hazards.

– Make fire-extinguishing equipment, such as pails of water, buckets of sand, hoses and portable extinguishers immediately available and ready to use.

– Appoint a “fire watch” who is armed with fire-extinguishing equipment and is trained to use it. The fire watch should continue observing the work site for at least
30 minutes after completion of welding or cutting operations to detect and extinguish smoldering fires.

– Enforce the use of personal protective equipment, which could include fire-retardant clothing, flash suit hoods, insulating gloves, and eye, face and respiratory
protection.

Resources

OSHA’s Welding, Cutting and Brazing Web page

OSHA’s Welding, Cutting and Brazing Standard

National Fire Protection Association Hot Work Voluntary Standard

Confined Spaces Quick Card

This Week in Comp, January 9, 2015

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

Senate passes TRIA; bill goes to President Obama’s desk
In addition to reauthorizing the TRIA program for six years, the bill raises the trigger amount needed in total losses before the TRIA program kicks in from the current $100 million to $200 million, over five years, beginning in calendar year 2016. Also over five years, starting Jan. 1, 2016, the mandatory recoupment rises from $27.5 billion to $37.5 billion, increasing by $2 billion each year. For all events, the bill raises the private industry recoupment total from the current 133 percent of covered losses to 140 percent of covered losses…MORE

Peters named president, exec. director of Texas independent agents group
peters-marit-4x6-120dpi-150x150The Independent Insurance Agents of Texas (IIAT) has selected Marit Peters as its president and executive director. Before joining the IIAT, Peters worked as chief strategy officer for the Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico…MORE

The downside of cheaper gas: more accident fatalities
A 2.00 drop in gas prices can translate to 9,000 additional traffic fatalities per year, according to a recent study. The study partially attributes the phenomenon to how higher prices change driving habits. For example, people simply drive less when they’re paying more for gas. Furthermore, they tend to drive slower and accelerate gradually to conserve fuel, which in turn reduces their chances of crashing…MORE

Temporary worker suffers permanent disability after packaging machine crushes him
An OSHA investigation found that the employer allowed workers to bypass machine safeguards. The man had been on the job 12 days when the accident occurred…MORE

Texas officials want drug database moved from DPS
Some Texas lawmakers say prescription drugs can be bettered monitored if the database is moved to the State Board of Pharmacy…MORE

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

ICT produces recruiting video

The Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) has produced a six-minute video highlighting the variety of job opportunities available in the insurance industry for recent college graduates and current undergrads…MORE

Top 10 ways to improve your safety program in 2015
We know you’ve got your hands full with resolutions to get healthier, read more and learn a new language. Texas Mutual hopes you will also find time to improve your workplace safety program in 2015. Here’s a handy list that can help…MORE

Texas lowers maintenance tax rate
Texas Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Ryan Brannan has lowered the maintenance tax rate to 1.533 percent of gross premiums collected by workers’ compensation insurance carriers from Jan. 1, 2014, through Dec. 31, 2014…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.

10 Tips for a Safer Workplace, 2015 Edition

The new year is a time for resolutions. Whether you’re working hard to get healthier, read more or learn a new language, your friends at Texas Mutual encourage you to make a New Year’s resolution to workplace safety, too. As always, we’re here to make things easier with this top 10 list, updated for 2015.

1. Promote safe driving behaviors. Transportation incidents are consistently the leading causes of workplace accidents across industries. Create and enforce a safe-driving policy, and be sure to address these four common causes of motor vehicle accidents: distracted driving, driver fatigue, speeding and failure to wear seat belts. For more information, visit Texas Mutual’s Give Safety a Hand website.

2. Protect temporary workers. Temporary workers are critical cogs in America’s labor force. If you invite them into your workplace, remember that they have the same right to a safe environment as your permanent employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that staffing agencies and host employers share the responsibility for temporary worker safety. For more information, visit OSHA’s temporary worker initiative Web page.

3. Learn your reporting, recordkeeping requirements. Effective Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA revised its injury reporting and recordkeeping rule. The revisions expanded the list of injuries employers must report to OSHA and changed the list of industries exempt from keeping injury records. For more information, review Texas Mutual’s brief PowerPoint presentation on the rule revisions.

Raul Vega (right) of Standard Energy has extra incentive to take accountability for his co-workers' safety. His crew includes his two older brothers.

Raul Vega (right) of Standard Energy has extra incentive to take accountability for his co-workers’ safety. His crew includes his two older brothers.

4. Remind employees that accountability saves lives. In companies that have strong safety accountability, employees understand that they are responsible for their own safety and their co-workers’ safety. Before accountability can embed itself into a company’s culture, management has to make it clear that safety is a core business process that never gets compromised.

5. Comply with the revised hazard communication standard. OSHA has revised its hazard communication standard (HCS), which governs how chemical manufacturers communicate the hazards associated with their products. Employers were required to train their employees on the revised HCS by Dec. 1, 2013. For more information, visit OSHA’s HCS Web page.

6. Take Murphy’s Law seriously. Edward Aloysius Murphy Jr. was an American aerospace engineer who coined the phrase, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” If you want to make your workplace safer, you should take Murphy’s Law seriously. We’re not suggesting you become an eternal pessimist, but we do encourage you to remember that hazards exist in the most unlikely places. Teach your employees to ask themselves three questions before they start a new task: 1. What are the risks? 2. Do I accept the risks? 3. If I accept the risks, what safety measures should I take?

7. Invest in safety every day. In 2014, OSHA sponsored National Safety Stand Down Week. The event gave construction businesses the opportunity to pause during their busy days and talk about the importance of preventing slips, trips and falls, the leading hazard among construction workers. Safety stand downs are certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but safety should not be merely an annual observance. It should be a constant, daily presence in your organization.

8. Meet your employees where they are. If you want your employees to learn how to work safely, don’t snatch them from their environment and send them to a high-priced safety conference. Safety takes root in cotton fields and greasy mechanic shops. Its messages resonate when delivered by people who have experienced the unique hazards your employees face on the job. Simply put, safety has to meet people where they are.

Texas Mutual President and CEO Rich Gergasko and a team of Texas Mutual employees participated in the 2014 BP MS 150.

Texas Mutual President and CEO Rich Gergasko and a team of Texas Mutual employees participated in the 2014 BP MS 150.

9. Focus on wellness. Traditionally, companies charge human resources departments with administering their employee health programs. Meanwhile, they delegate employee safety to the safety officer. If you want to improve your safety program, break down the silos between the two departments, and leverage the symbiotic relationship between the two programs. Fitter, healthier employees suffer fewer back, knee, shoulder and other musculoskeletal injuries. When they do get injured, they tend to recover faster and miss fewer days from work. Ultimately, the medical costs associated with their workers’ compensation claims are lower. Follow our blog for more information on integrating wellness and safety programs in 2015.

10. Use your free safety tools. Texas Mutual offers a range of free resources any employer can use to improve their safety program. We encourage you to visit us at:

  • Texasmutual.com for free safety articles, PowerPoint presentations and on-site training opportunities
  • Worksafetexas.com for safety videos, quick safety tips and common hazards in the construction, manufacturing, and oil and gas industries
  • Safehandtexas.org for educational material on safe driving
  • Texasmutualsafetyfirst.com for three steps to a better safety program
  • Texasoilandgassafety.com for a multimedia library of resources designed to promote workplace safety in the burgeoning oil and gas industry
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