3 Tips for a Healthier, Safer You

We spend a lot of time on this blog promoting emergency preparedness, safe driving and other tips for avoiding common workplace injuries. Now, we’re switching gears and discussing an often-overlooked aspect of safety: health and wellness.

What’s in it for you?
healthy livingThe potential benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle include weight loss, reduced stress, improved self-image, and lower risk of heart disease and other preventable illnesses. Wellness and workplace safety are also strongly connected. Healthy, fit employees tend to be less prone to certain types of workplace injuries, including strains. And when healthy employees do get injured, they often recover and return to the team faster.

Wellness is a lifestyle
Wellness is a lifestyle rooted in choices we make every day, on and off the job. Of course, meetings, conference calls and deadlines also demand our attention. So how do we work wellness into our daily grind? Here are three general workplace tips to help you on your journey to a healthier, safer you.*

Eat right:

  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Pack a lunch instead of eating out.
  • Make hydration convenient by keeping a large glass of water at your work station.
  • Avoid the vending machine. If you get hungry between meals, munch on fruit, nuts and other healthy snacks.

Get moving:

  1. Consider walking or biking to work, safely, of course.
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  3. Join a lunchtime exercise group.
  4. Stretch lightly at your desk.

Manage your mood:

  1. Counter stress by swapping “comfort food” with whole grains, lean protein, nuts and black tea, all of which increase your feel-good hormones.
  2. Keep a funny picture, toy, joke book or something else that makes you smile at your work station.
  3. Manage your workload by recognizing the difference between what is urgent and what can wait.
  4. Breathe deeply when you’re stressed. Deep breaths help slow your heart beat and lower your blood pressure.

*Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Celebrate Global Employee Health and Fitness Month
May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, a time for employers and employees to partner toward making wellness part of their company culture. For more information, visit www.healthandfitnessmonth.com.

We Can’t Manage What We Don’t Measure

It’s been 35 years since Netherlands-born Pieter Bergstein launched Standard Energy with a single hot oil truck. His start-up has since evolved into one of the Lone Star State’s most successful oil field services companies. Pieter’s success is a product of old-fashioned hard work and a knack for finding new ways to do things. Take the large monitor mounted on the wall in his office.

It’s perfectly plausible to assume it’s there so Pieter can watch his beloved Netherlands soccer team in action. But remember who we’re talking about. Pieter’s passion for innovation is equaled by his commitment to protecting his employees from workplace accidents.

The screen is actually the receiving end of an in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) Pieter installed in Standard Energy vehicles. The system provides Pieter and his safety manager, Jack Yates, a practical tool for preventing the most common cause of on-the-job injuries: motor vehicle accidents.

Jack can monitor employees’ driving habits and get real-time data on risky behaviors such as speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, driving while fatigued and using a cell phone. That’s powerful information to have at his fingertips, but Jack stresses that his goal isn’t to spy on employees or shame them into driving safely.

“We play the recordings in safety meetings and use them as a coaching tool,” said Jack. “We’re not trying to embarrass drivers. The pressure people get from their peers is usually enough to change their behaviors.”

IVMS is based on the principle that we cannot manage what we do not measure. Studies indicate that when it comes to correcting unsafe driving behaviors, IVMS measures up pretty well.

IVMS can contribute to a 60 percent reduction in speeding, an 80 percent increase in seatbelt use and a 75 percent reduction in aggressive driving.

Of course, not every business can afford to invest in IVMS and other safety tools powered by the latest technology. But that doesn’t mean you have to pat your employees on the back every morning, tell them to “be safe out there” and hope for the best. Some of the most effective strategies for keeping our focus behind the wheel also happen to be some of the most low-tech. National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is the perfect time to start promoting those strategies in your workplace.

If you decide to invest in IVMS, follow these tips for a smooth implementation:

  • Conduct a pilot test, using the system in a few vehicles before you roll it out companywide. Once you do, remember that you will have to make adjustments as you and your employees get comfortable with the process.
  • Make it clear that IVMS is a coaching tool, not a tool for “spying” on employees and disciplining them for unsafe behaviors.
  • Stress that your goal is to see every employee go home safely at the end of the day, and IVMS is a powerful tool for achieving that goal.
  • Encourage drivers to think of IVMS as a challenge to improve their driving score every week. Competition fosters engagement, which is critical to any safety initiative’s success.
  • Do not treat IVMS as a stand-alone tool. Introduce it as one element of a comprehensive fleet safety program.

Texas Mutual recently equipped more than 30 of its company vehicles with IVMS as part of a pilot test. Real-time data and weekly report cards help our management team ensure that our safety services consultants practice the safe behaviors they promote among our 60,000-plus policyholders.

Get these is free training resources
The oil and gas safety roundtable recently produced a comprehensive driver safety training program that addresses common issues such as seatbelt use, fatigued driving, distracted driving and IVMS. We encourage you to take advantage of the free material and learn how to make safe driving part of your company’s culture.

This Week in Comp, April 24, 2015

This Week in Comp is a weekly mash-up of workers’ comp news from around the country.

Don’t get tackled by MRSA

Children in day care may be exposed to community-associated MRSA.

Children in day care may be exposed to community-associated MRSA.

A decade ago, a MRSA outbreak touched down in the NFL and left players, coaches and front-office personnel scrambling for safety. Weak immune systems make hospital patients susceptible to MRSA, but the virus also thrives in our communities…MORE

Bird flu ‘catastrophe’ growing in Midwest
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that avian influenza was found in 13 turkey flocks in Minnesota with at least 430,300 birds. Since late 2014, the virus has been detected in commercial and backyard flocks with a combined estimate of at least 8 million birds, USDA data show…MORE

Vermont lawmakers weigh roadside spit test to detect drugged driving
The bill would allow police to use newly developed machines that can test saliva for marijuana and six other drug classes, including opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, methadone and benzodiazepines…MORE

Workplace death rate for 2013 lowest on record
DecreaseThe fatal occupational injury rate for 2013 maintains a nearly decade-long decline, according to the BLS. Roadway incident deaths declined 5 percent from 2012, but they still accounted for nearly one-quarter of workplace deaths in 2013…MORE

New study identifies cost drivers in 17 states and monitors impact of reforms
The cost of Texas claims grew more slowly than the typical state, according to a recent Workers Compensation Research Institute study. Texas, California and the other 14 states represented in the study account for 60 percent of the nation’s workers’ compensation benefit payments…MORE

WCRI offers webinar on regulating medical costs & care
During the free webinar, attendees will learn how changes in reimbursement policies can have unintended consequences. The webinar will take place on May 7 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST…MORE

Diagnosing chronic pain using evidence-based medicine could improve outcomes, reduce costs
When it comes to workers’ compensation claims, low-back injuries are the most costly musculoskeletal condition, representing 20-25 percent of all loss dollars.  Medical imaging drives up the cost of claims, yet outcomes for injured workers have not improved. Diagnosing patients’ complaints based more on evidence-based medicine and less on imaging studies, where not recommended, will make a substantial impact on the cost of claims, according to a new white paper…MORE

Painkiller deaths increased in New York State between 2003 and 2012
Pills White BackgroundHealth officials responded to the increase by implementing I-STOP, a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), in August 2013. PDMPs enable providers to check whether patients obtain prescriptions from other prescribers or take drugs that might interact dangerously with those being prescribed…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.

Don’t Get Tackled by MRSA

When you put 22 of the biggest, strongest, fastest athletes in the world in a confined space and let them collide with each other at high speeds, a lot of things happen. And most of them are bad.

Broken bones, torn muscles, lacerated organs and concussions are just a handful of the inevitable consequences of a life spent in the National Football League (NFL). If you dream of making your living on the game’s biggest stage, fear cannot be part of your DNA.

So it’s a little ironic that 10 years ago, a microscopic organism known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) had players, coaches and administrators calling timeout and scrambling for safety.

What is MRSA?

In a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, MRSA can cause severe problems such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections.

In a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, MRSA can cause severe problems such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections.

MRSA is a bacterium that causes a variety of infections. On one end of the spectrum, MRSA manifests itself as a mild sore or boil. Dubbed “the super bug” because of its resistance to antibiotics, MRSA can also cause life-threatening infections in surgical wounds, the bloodstream, lungs or urinary tract.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that MRSA claims approximately 6,000 lives each year. The majority of those fatalities occur in health care settings, where victims often have weakened immune symptoms. The other major strain of MRSA is circulating in communities across the U.S.

How do you get it?
MRSA is an organism that is common in the communities where we live. You can get MRSA through direct contact with an infected wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors that have touched infected skin. But it is important to remember that you do not need to have direct contact with an actively infected person to catch MRSA. In that regard, MRSA is much like the common cold or stomach ache.

Activities that involve crowded spaces, skin-to-skin contact and shared equipment increase your risk of contracting MRSA. Sounds suspiciously like a typical NFL football game, doesn’t it? But athletes are not the only vulnerable demographic. Daycare workers, military personnel living in barracks, hospital patients and nursing home residents are also susceptible.

Red flags
Six seasons into his NFL career, Brandon Noble suffered a knee injury that required surgery. That alone was not newsworthy. In the NFL, injuries are so common that a player who went six seasons without surgery would be praised for his durability.

What makes Noble’s story unique is the quarter-sized hot spot that appeared the day his stitches were removed. That hot spot turned out to be the first sign of a MRSA infection that would spread and, Noble maintains, ultimately end his career.

Community-associated MRSA has been identified among populations that share close quarters or have more skin-to-skin contact. Examples are team athletes, military recruits, prison inmates, and children in daycare.

Community-associated MRSA has been identified among populations that share close quarters or have more skin-to-skin contact. Examples are team athletes, military recruits, prison inmates and children in daycare.

Symptoms of MRSA depend on where the infection is. If you have pneumonia, you may develop a cough. If MRSA causes a wound infection, you may experience a hot spot like the one Noble had. Other symptoms include bumps or infected areas on the skin that might be red, swollen, painful, or full of pus or other drainage. These spots are often confused with bug/spider bites or pimples. In their early stages, they are itchy, which is what draws your attention to them.

The CDC emphasizes that it is critical to contact your doctor immediately if you experience a fever along with MRSA symptoms. If your doctor diagnoses a MRSA infection, it is important to learn how to protect others you come in contact with.

How do you protect yourself?
When the MRSA outbreak touched down in the NFL, teams rushed to put safety precautions in place. One team brought in cleaning crews wearing full hazmat suits to disinfect the facilities. Another called in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze surfaces, review antibiotics records and evaluate players’ susceptibility.

You don’t have to take such extreme measures to protect yourself from MRSA. Here are a few simple preventive tips anyone can follow:

  • Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Wash your hands often, and clean your body regularly, especially after exercise.
  • Keep cuts, scrapes and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels and razors.
  • Get care early if you suspect you have an infection.

MRSA resources
These organizations offer more information about protecting yourself from MRSA:

 

This Week in Comp, April 17, 2015

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

It’s time to bust the multitasking myth
Walking and chewing gum is not the same as driving while using a cell phone. In recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, let’s bust one of the biggest misconceptions among drivers…MORE

Oklahoma leads with nation’s first young worker safety bill
teen workerUnder the bill, the Oklahoma Department of Labor and Oklahoma State Department of Education will educate students in grades 7 through 12 about workplace safety. B
oth departments will produced by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health…MORE

NCCI named administrator for Tennessee workers’ comp plan
Beginning with policies effective July 1, 2015, NCCI will establish the infrastructure necessary to provide residual market services, such as application processing and administration of the plan rules, and access to coverage in certain other states, among other services…MORE

What insurance agents want from carriers
Quality field reps and social media training are among the services agents expect from insurance carriers, according to the Insurance Journal’s annual agent survey…MORE

CA SB 863 return-to-work program offers supplemental payments for injured workers
rtwUnder the bill, qualifying injured workers in California will receive an additional $5,000 to supplement lost wages…MORE

Arizona passes work comp legislation for medical marijuana
This law amends the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act by establishing that nothing in the Act would require a workers’ compensation carrier or self-insured employer providing workers’ compensation benefits to reimburse a person for the costs associated with the medical use of marijuana…MORE

Employers get guidance on impact of marijuana in the workplace
A white paper published by health experts summarizes current evidence regarding marijuana consumption; discusses possible side effects, including temporary impairment as it relates to the workplace; reviews existing federal and state laws that impact employers; and suggests strategies for monitoring marijuana use among employees…MORE

The poster children of OxyContin
When OxyContin hit the market in 2000, its manufacturer produced a promotional video starring seven patients who helped test the “miracle drug.” Today, two of the seven patients are dead; they were abusing opioids when they died. Another overcame her addition…MORE

Oil services company sues OSHA
OilfieldJTB Tools & Oilfield Services in Brownsville claims its Rotary Head Speed Clamp is the “best available technology” to remove and replace the rotary head. It petitioned OSHA in August 2014 to adopt a new rule that establishes use of the clamp and similar products as the industry standard…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.

Texas Mutual’s IT Department Growing

iStock_000047801104_smallOne of the biggest challenges any company faces is keeping up with the technological needs of their customers. At Texas Mutual, this challenge is met by highly talented IT professionals who make it possible for our policyholders, injured workers, health care providers, agents and employees to easily work together.

To make this happen, Texas Mutual’s IT department is busier than ever before. For instance, in the last six months alone, our IT teams have launched several new technologies, including an updated website, new intranet, new notification options for agents and countless updates to our existing systems. Most exciting of all, the IT department recently replaced our entire claims system and is currently working on replacing the policy and billing system.

With the many projects the department is working on come opportunities to bring more IT professionals on board. Texas Mutual’s IT department is the perfect place for tech pros who want a healthy work-life balance as well as the opportunity to innovate and grow professionally.

Take a look below to see how two of our IT team members found their place at Texas Mutual and what it’s like for them to work at the company:

Rob Jenkins, systems engineer

Q: What was it like when you started at Texas Mutual?

A: I moved more than 1,000 miles with my wife to start my career at Texas Mutual and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. People who know me know I don’t make radical decisions like that. I usually make pretty calculated decisions when it comes to life changes, but I knew it was a decision I wouldn’t regret. I instantly felt like I was part of a family here.

Q: What makes Texas Mutual’s IT environment different than most technology environments?

A: The fact that it doesn’t require you to give up your life. It’s an oddball in that sense. There are very few companies that’ll allow the family and work-life balance and let you work in IT. Working at Texas Mutual allowed me to start a family.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working for Texas Mutual?

A: Management here is phenomenal to work with. When you talk to them, they listen. They’re approachable. I think that’s critical. In other places, asking a question could limit your career with them

Brian Mullen, senior systems analyst

Q: What makes Texas Mutual’s IT environment different than most technology environments?

A: As a software engineer, you have two environments – corporations or startups. Startups are unpredictable, they can be bought up, and they often require long hours. When the opportunity to work here came along, I liked the idea of a consistent, stable job.

Q: What are most of your days like at Texas mutual?

A: Most of my days are spent working on whichever project we’re focusing on at the time. One of the best things about my days here is that I can count on leaving at a reasonable time every day so I can enjoy my son’s baseball games and time with my family. It’s rare that I’m called on for overtime, and it’s usually only during critical times, like when we launched a new product that makes imaging the bills and the workflow of processing those bills easier. Those were some of the few 10-hour days I’ve had since working here, but they were worth it. It’s always exciting to launch a new product.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working for Texas Mutual?

A: The customer-first culture we foster here. It enables me to provide the best product possible to my customers.

Ready for an IT career at Texas Mutual or know someone who would be a great fit? Find out why we’ve been named a Best Company to Work for in Texas for the last five years by visiting our careers page and connecting with us on LinkedIn.

It’s Time to Bust the Multitasking Myth

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

In recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the safety professional in me needs to shed light on one of the biggest lies drivers tell themselves. But first, the writer in me needs to clear up a couple of unrelated misconceptions about the written word. Trust me; this will all tie to together shortly:

  1. Regardless of what you think, irregardless is not a word.
  2. When we say, “I could care less,” we’re saying we care at least a little. If we didn’t care at all, we couldn’t care less. Make sense?
  3. When it comes to writing, white space is actually a good thing. Communicate your message clearly, using as few words as possible.

Thanks for humoring me. It seems my line between editor and safety guy is still a bit blurry. Now that I got that off my chest, I can get on with the business of distracted driving.

At some point, probably decades ago, someone decided that there simply was not enough time in the day to accomplish everything on their plate. Perhaps it was an exhausted parent juggling work, kids and “me time.” Or a medical student looking to ferret out a precious 30 minutes of study time.

After laboring over schedules and scrutinizing every minute, someone landed on an answer that was right under their nose the whole time. If it had been a snake, it would have bitten them: Why not take advantage of all that “down” time behind the wheel?

And that was the origin of the great multitasking myth.

Despite what most of us believe, the human brain cannot multitask. In our defense, it’s easy to see why we’ve been duped into thinking it can. After all, our brains handle walking and chewing gum at the same time pretty well. Why would driving and talking on a cell phone be any different?

It turns out that walking is a thinking task, and chewing gum is a non-thinking task. Thinking and non-thinking tasks use different parts of the brain. So, we have no trouble doing both simultaneously.

Driving and talking on a cell phone, conversely, are both thinking tasks. As such, they rely on the same part of the brain. When faced with this dilemma, the brain “toggles” between tasks, dividing our attention and putting us and other drivers at risk.

Technology is not the only culprit in the distracted driving epidemic. Long before cell phones, MP3 players and GPS, drivers found ways to pass time behind the wheel. Whether we were tending to our kids in the back seat, drumming on our steering wheel or eating lunch on the way to a meeting, we were not focused on the task at hand.

I know I promised to bring this post full circle, so here it goes:

  • Regardless of what you think, your brain cannot multitask.
  • Insurance companies and regulatory agencies could care less about distracted driving. Actually, they care a lot. And that’s why they are working hard to end the epidemic.
  • Lengthy, detailed driving safety policies and programs have their place, but don’t forget about the value of short, impactful messages to your employees: “Calls Kill,” “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All” and my personal favorite, “Talk. Text. Crash.”

Participate in National Distracted Driving Awareness Month April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a time for employers, workers, parents and teens to talk about the importance of staying focused behind the wheel. To get involved, visit these sites:

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