This Week in Comp, March 27, 2015

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

Well, well, well
Unhealthy habits can affect a person’s quality of life and feeling of self-worth, which can in turn affect their work performance and motivation. From an employer’s perspective, an unhealthy worker can result in increased health care costs and workers’ compensation claims, as well as decreased productivity. With corporate wellness programs, employers encourage a healthier lifestyle among their employees…MORE

Drive safely in work zones so we all get home
There are more than 2,500 active work zones in Texas at any given time, and they can be dangerous places for crews and motorists alike…MORE

Tennessee opt-out route hits roadblock
The Tennessee Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation has unanimously decided not to recommend a bill that would allow employers to opt out of the state’s workers’ compensation system. Texas and Oklahoma remain the only states that allow employers to opt out of workers’ comp…MORE

How a healthy workforce makes the workplace safer and lowers workers’ comp costs
If your organization is managing employee health and safety separately, you’re not cashing in on the full ROI of the two programs. Kaiser Permanente estimates companies that combine chronic health condition management with workplace safety programs can reduce absenteeism by 28 percent and reduce workers’ comp claims by 30 percent, while also reducing overall workers’ comp claims costs…MORE

FMCSA shares plan for commercial motor vehicle driver restart study
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plan explains how the research team will measure and compare the fatigue and safety performance levels of drivers who take two or more nighttime rest periods during their 34-hour restart break with drivers who take one nighttime rest period during their restart break…MORE

Texting while driving officially banned in Mississippi
Mississippi has become the 45th state to ban texting while driving. Making and receiving phone calls remains legal…MORE

Texas House gives final OK to ban on texting while driving
This is not the first time the House has passed a bill banning texting while driving. The bill now goes before the Senate for a vote…MORE

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


Drive Safe in Work Zones So We All Get Home

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including our infrastructure. The Lone Star State boasts 80,000 miles of roadway and 50,000 bridges. But that’s not enough. With 400,000 people moving to Texas each year, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is working hard to keep pace. There are more than 2,500 active TxDOT work zones at any given time, and TxDOT reminds everyone that they can be dangerous places for crews and motorists alike.

Uneven pavement, slow-moving machinery, narrow lanes and concrete barriers are just a few of the unique hazards in work zones. Those hazards, combined with drivers’ inattention and failure to control speed, culminated in 19,000 work zone crashes during 2014. Surprisingly, motorists accounted for 87 percent of the resulting fatalities.

In recognition of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, TxDOT encourages everyone to follow these safety tips:

  • Slow down, and always follow posted work zone speed limits. Speeding is a major cause of work zone crashes. Remember, traffic fines double in work zones.
  • Pay attention. Workers and heavy equipment may only be a few feet from passing vehicles.
  • Put away distractions. We’re not just talking about cell phones. Distractions include eating, combing your hair, putting on makeup and anything else that takes your hands, eyes or mind off of driving.
  • Keep a safe following distance. Vehicles often stop or slow down suddenly in work zones.
  • Be patient. Delays from highway construction can be frustrating, but it only takes a few extra minutes to slow down for a work zone.
  • Plan your trip. Leave a few minutes early when traveling through a work zone so you reach your destination on time, without speeding.
  • Check road conditions. You can call (800) 452-9292 or visit to find out about accidents, road closures, construction and other roadway conditions.

Want to get involved?
TxDOT is one of thousands of regulatory agencies, businesses and motorists across the country observing work zone safety this week. This year’s theme, “Drive Safe in Work Zones So We All Get Home,” is a reminder of what’s at stake when we speed, use our cell phone and practice other risky behaviors in work zones. To find out how to get involved in observing National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, visit TxDOT’s website.

This Week in Comp, March 20, 2015

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

10 tips for integrating employee health and safety
Working together, employee health and safety programs can achieve far more than they can separately. Here are 10 tips for breaking down the silos between the two functions…MORE

Safety is music to our ears during SXSW
Guitar Gibson Les PaulIf you’re soaking up live music during Austin’s SXSW festival, follow these tips to protect yourself from the hazards associated with crowded venues, congested roads and loud music…MORE

The most fatally abused drug is in your medicine cabinet
Opioid prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin and Percocet account for 44 drug overdose deaths each day — more than heroin and cocaine combined…MORE

Feds: $17.5M Tennessee prescription pill ring unprecedented
The FBI says a 51-year-old grandmother managed a string of clinics that charged roughly $350 cash per visit, saw 100 patients a day and gave out 12 million prescriptions in four years. Seven of the clinics’ patients died from overdoses…MORE

Changes to Kansas workers’ comp system raise lawsuit fears
Starting Jan. 1, the state began rating injuries using an updated version of a medical guide that is less generous to workers. Constitutional law experts warn the switch to a new medical guide will slash, or in many cases eliminate, payments to injured workers. That, they say, could bring down the entire compensation system and throw workers’ cases into the courts, where damage awards could run into the millions, rather than the thousands they’re capped at now…MORE

Drunk driver ignition locks offer ‘significant’ benefits, savings: Study
Putting technology that prevents drunk drivers from starting a vehicle into every car and truck in the U.S. could save 59,000 lives and $343 million over 15 years, according to a University of Michigan study…MORE

TDI newsletter highlights Work Zone Safety Week
The March edition of TDI’s newsletter offers safety tips for motorists during Work Zone Safety Week, March 23-27…MORE

It’s not luck that drives RTW
Employers who invest in a return-to-work (RTW) process can reduce their claims costs and improve their productivity. To cash in on the ROI of RTW, employers must overcome four primary hurdles…MORE

Early case management speeds RTW, report says
Delaying case management for a year can decrease the likelihood of the injured worker returning to work by nearly 20 percent. Conversely, claims that use case management in the first nine months are two times more likely to result in successful RTW as those referred three years after the incident, according to a new report…MORE

Texas ramps up fraud-fighting effort
Handcuff FraudTexas, Kentucky and Minnesota are ramping up their efforts to combat insurance fraud, which trickles down to all consumers in the form of higher premiums…MORE

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

Safety is Music to Our Ears During SXSW

It’s an annual rite of spring in Austin. Throngs of guitar-toting musicians from across the globe descend on the city for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival. A fortunate few will land record deals. Others will earn loyal fans.

All will have the privilege of saying they were selected to participate in one of the most prestigious music events in the world.

If you’re braving the crowds this week, enjoy yourself, but be careful.

In the wake of a traffic accident that killed four people during last year’s event, law enforcement officials laid the groundwork for an incident-free festival in 2015. You can do your part by following these safety tips.

Protect your ears
You will be able to hear much of the music from the street. If you go inside a venue to really soak it up, protect your hearing with earplugs:

  • Foam earplugs are among the least expensive options. You can get a pack for a few dollars at most pharmacies and grocery stores. All you have to do is squish them, put them in your ears and let them expand.
  • High-fidelity earplugs preserve the quality of the music better than foam earplugs. They’re also inexpensive and easy to find.
  • If you want to take your listening experience up a few notches, look into custom earplugs. They’re more comfortable than over-the-counter options, and they preserve music quality even better. Many hearing aid stores and health care facilities that specialize in hearing can make custom earplugs.

Celebrate responsibly
SXSW organizers are limiting the amount of free alcohol served this year. If you drink, do it responsibly:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Don’t drive if you are not sober. Instead, walk or take advantage of Austin’s many public transportation options.
  • If you are sober and you do drive, be careful; other drivers may not be as responsible as you.

Be careful in crowds
Many festival goers spend the bulk of their time on and around Sixth Street. Crowds and confined spaces are a recipe for accidents:

  • If you go into a venue, make sure you know where the fire exits are in case of an emergency.
  • Stay toward the back of the crowd to avoid getting shoved.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or hand wipes to limit exposure to germs.
  • During events that draw large crowds, basic pedestrian safety sometimes gets overlooked. Cross only at designated crosswalks, and look both ways before you cross.
  • Do not wander off by yourself into isolated areas.
  • Put your money and ID in a travel pouch that has a zipper.

10 Tips for Integrating Employee Health and Safety

In our last post, we showed you that employee wellness and employee safety, traditionally considered mutually exclusive, have overlapping goals. By breaking down the silos between the two functions, employers can reap the benefits in terms of lower workers’ compensation and health insurance costs, increased productivity and improved morale.

If you’re still skeptical, consider this advice from the experts at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). An ACOEM paper titled “Workplace Health Protection and Promotion: A New Pathway for A Healthier – and Safer – Workforce” lays out the case for integrating employee wellness and safety.

“The two factors, personal health and personal safety – each essential to a productive worker and to a productive workplace – are effectively combined in a symbiotic manner that increases their impact on overall health and productivity. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts,” the authors explained.

Of course, our job would not be finished if we told you where to go but not how to get there. Here are some general tips for integrating employee wellness and safety.

Tip 1. Involve employees. Invite employees to help design, plan implement and evaluate the program. Committees are practical tools for engaging employees, but they should include representatives from all levels of the organization.

Tip 2. Involve management. Emphasize the financial impact/business case for safety and wellness programs. Collaborate with front-line management to identify potential conflicts between program activities and production goals.

Tip 3. Develop a clear plan with adequate resources. Set well-defined goals, and commit the time and money necessary to achieve them. If funding is an issue, set smaller initial goals with the intention of scaling up after you have established the programs’ value.

Tip 4. Integrate systems. Encourage communication between human resources, safety and other departments that have employee health responsibilities. Communication allows the departments to explore potential areas of collaboration.

Tip 5. Focus on organizational solutions. Explore strategies that support employees’ efforts to change their behaviors. For example, provide healthy snacks in your workplace to support your wellness program’s nutrition initiative.

Tip 6. Customize your design. Each employer has a unique workplace and workforce. Customize your programs to address the hazards specific to your organization.

Tip 7. Provide appropriate incentives. Financial incentives can improve employee participation in wellness programs. Your incentives should reward safe and healthy behaviors rather than punishing employees for becoming sick or injured.

Tip 8. Protect confidentiality. You must protect employee privacy to ensure compliance with legal requirements, such as HIPPA and the ADA. Confidentiality may also encourage employee participation. Consider using online or third-party providers to minimize the health information collected by your company.

Tip 9. Stay flexible. Your workforce will change over time. Periodically adjust your program to continue meeting your employees’ needs.

Tip 10. Evaluate your programs. Continuously evaluate your programs’ effectiveness based on the goals you established in tip 3, and share the results with employees and management. Try to evaluate using return on investment if possible. Look for reductions in sick leave use, absenteeism, employee turnover and health care claims.


For more information on integrating employee wellness and safety programs, explore these resources:

Previous posts in this series:

This Week in Comp, March 13, 2015


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

Wellness specialist joins Higginbotham Insurance

Claire Florsheim specializes in nutrition, physical activity and stress management.

Claire Florsheim specializes in nutrition, physical activity and stress management.

Claire Florsheim heads up a unit that helps employers identify the health risks prevalent in their workforce, explore opportunities to improve employees’ wellbeing, and design compliant wellness and incentive programs…MORE

Independent insurance agents doing just fine, defying doomsayers
Independent agents still control a majority of the P/C market, writing nearly 57 percent of all premiums, according to the agency profitability report…MORE

OSHA releases 2015 list of inspection-exempt industries
About 600 industry groups are exempt from programmed safety inspections in 2015 if they meet certain criteria…MORE

Employee wellness and safety: a symbiotic relationship
Humans have dogs, and bees have flowers. They’re called symbiotic relationships, and they blossom when both parties benefit from the arrangement. Nature isn’t the only place where the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” principle thrives. Businesses can leverage symbiosis to improve their employee wellness and safety programs…MORE

DOT ad campaign encourages parents to “Never give up until they buckle up”

Over the past 5 years, 1,552 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 died in car, SUV and van crashes. Of those who died, almost half were unbelted. The DOT campaign’s core message to parents: “Never get up until they buckle up.” Campaign resources are available in English and Spanish…MORE

NSC poll finds 70 percent of prescription painkiller users don’t know sharing is a felony
A National Safety Council white paper explains the potential hidden, deadly side effects of prescription painkillers. In fact, 44 people die every day from overdoses. Still, nearly 70 percent of users do not know that most states consider sharing narcotic opioid painkillers, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, to be the legal equivalent of selling heroin…MORE

West Virginia passes bill to reform joint and several liability laws
The bill eradicates joint liability and instead imposes comparative fault…MORE

distracted-drivingIllinois lawmaker wants prison time for distracted drivers in fatal crashes
The bill would make distracted driving a Class 2 felony and put offenders behind bars for approximately 20 months…MORE

Anti-texting-while-driving measure clears Oklahoma Senate
The law would be enforced as a secondary offense, meaning an individual would have to be detained for another suspected violation of another traffic law in able to be cited for texted and driving. Those convicted of breaking the law could be fined up to $100 per violation…MORE

Workers’ compensation fee schedules:  price impacts & perverse effects
In many states, the workers’ compensation reimbursement rates are significantly higher than under group health. Thus, even if a payer has a discount arrangement with a workers’ compensation physician network to get pricing below the fee schedule, they are still paying higher than group health would pay for the same service…MORE

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

Safety Alert: Guard Your Employees Against Machine Hazards

We dedicate a lot of space on this blog to stressing the value of management leadership, employee involvement and other core principles of workplace safety that don’t take root overnight. They need time to permeate every aspect of your company culture, and we promise to continue promoting them on this blog and via our other communication channels.

We also recognize that some safety issues require immediate attention, and we’re nimble enough to help you solve those issues, as well.

Case in point: Texas Mutual has seen a disturbing trend in severe injuries caused by employees getting caught in machinery. For privacy reasons, we cannot share details of the accidents. We can tell you that the consequences ranged from amputated fingers to fatalities.

Machines have moving parts that can cause severe, even fatal, injuries. We encourage you to stress the importance of these simple safety tips:

  • Dress properly, with pants and sleeves that are not too long or loose. Shirts should be fitted or tucked in.
  • Do not wear jewelry.
  • Tuck long hair under a hat, helmet, hair net or into your shirt.
  • Follow lockout/tagout procedures before clearing jams in machinery and performing machinery maintenance. Never reach into a moving machine.
  • Make sure machine guards are in place before operating machinery.
  • Focus on the job. Do not daydream, joke around or multitask.
  • Never take shortcuts that jeopardize your safety or a co-worker’s safety.

More resources

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