5 Tips for Making Return-to-Work Work for Your Business

iStock_000072301149_Small.jpgWhen a workplace accident occurs there are a number of thoughts that enter your mind, from the wellbeing of your employee to your bottom line, to the company’s productivity and even your workers’ compensation premiums.  It can be a stressful time for everyone involved but you have an opportunity to focus on return-to-work and help your employee and company make the best of an unfortunate situation.

These five tips for a successful return-to-work program will help you minimize the consequences of a workplace accident for you and your workers:

1. Lay the groundwork

Laying the groundwork far ahead of time is the key to a return-to-work program being successful after an accident occurs. This starts by developing a written policy that outlines expectations for you and employees, while also confirming your commitment to the program. Texas Mutual policyholders can use our return-to-work kits for large and small businesses to get started. Your return-to-work policy should include a statement from your company’s leadership, procedures that specify what to do after an injury occurs, and statements of responsibility for the supervisor, employee and return-to-work coordinator, if you have someone fulfilling the role.

After the policy has been developed, it’s important to write out job descriptions, as well as tasks performed and physical demands of each position so the information is available when you need it. You should also identify what tasks can be performed as part of modified, light duty work. Texas Mutual’s return-to-work kits provide extensive information about identifying roles and tasks.

2. Help employees understand return-to-work

After your program has been outlined, it’s vital for employees to be informed of the program and understand how it benefits them. Start by sharing the new policy and procedures with any team members that will be expected to take action after an injury occurs, such as supervisors and safety personnel. Their buy-in is important, so take the opportunity to help them understand why return-to-work is beneficial for your bottom line, the company’s productivity and the injured employee. After this tier of employees is informed, introduce the new policy to all employees at staff meetings, through email or in your newsletter, focusing on how return-to-work can provide a path back to full employment, helps them remain productive and greatly increases their likelihood of returning to work after an injury overall.

3. Spring into action

There’s nothing that defines the success of your return-to-work program more than the period of time immediately following an injury. Your policy, procedures, statements of responsibilities and job task identification will guide the process, so all that’s left to do is follow the path you defined when you committed to a return-to-work program. After the worker has received appropriate medical care, communicate with them about modified or light duty responsibilities they can still perform. Follow the physician’s guidelines. It’s helpful to send a letter with them to the doctor explaining your return-to-work program so the physician can assess the employee’s ability to perform not only the current job but also modified duty. A sample letter can be found in Texas Mutual’s free return-to-work kit.

4. Go the extra mile to communicate

Staying in contact with the worker, physician and adjuster is the best way to ensure a smooth, successful process. A small investment of time makes it much easier to get your employee back to work and to help them return to regular duty employment when the time is right. Preparation and action are necessary to get the program off the ground, but it’s your commitment to communication that will make it a success.

Communication with your injured employee will likely include traditional channels such as phone calls and emails, but keep them engaged in the business by also sending them company-wide communication they’d otherwise miss, such as newsletters, and inviting them to company events. Ongoing communication with their physician is also important, starting with the initial letter explaining your return-to-work program. Your claims adjuster will also want to know that you have a return-to-work program so they can help the injured employee work toward return-to-work success.

5. See it through

An employee returning to light-duty work is a significant step in the right direction, but it’s not the end of their return-to-work story. Whether the goal is to eventually return to full employment or to transition to a different role completely, you should continually check in with the worker to monitor how their recovery and work are progressing. As an employer it’s also important to ensure that the restrictions and guidelines set by a physician continue to be followed, while also staying in contact with the physician. This is especially important as physical duties are increased or changed. Return-to-work success doesn’t happen overnight but by staying involved from start to finish, you and your worker can reap big rewards.

Find out more about implementing a return-to-work process in your business by visiting Texas Mutual’s website.



Silica: What’s all the fuss about?

After nearly 15 years and countless conversations with stakeholders representing every conceivable side of the issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new rule on silica exposure last week. The rule creates two standards. One standard applies to general industry and maritime, and the to other standard applies to the construction industry.

Silicosis has been on OSHA’s radar since the 1930s. In this three-minute video, a man explains how he lost his father to silicosis when he was just eight years old.

If you haven’t been watching the story unfold, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. So let’s take a closer look at silica and why OSHA spent so much of its time and sparse resources addressing it.

What is silica, and why is it dangerous?

Silica is a mineral found in the Earth’s crust. It is also a key component of sand, concrete, stone, mortar and other similar materials.

In its natural state, silica isn’t dangerous. But when it is ground into tiny particles called crystalline silica and we breath it, silica can wreak havoc on our bodies.

Crystalline silica exposure can result in cancer, tuberculosis, autoimmune diseases and a lung disease known as silicosis.

OSHA estimates the new silica rules will save over 600 lives, prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis and provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion annually.

Who’s at risk?

OSHA estimates over two million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica. About 1.85 million of them work in the construction industry.

Any job that involves cutting, sawing, drilling, using sand products and crushing concrete, brick, block, rock and stone products increases workers’ silica exposure.

That means the rough necks and tool pushers who make their living in Texas’ oil and gas fields are at risk. So is anyone who works in glass manufacturing, demolition, sand blasting, masonry manufacturing, cement manufacturing and artificial stone countertop fabrication.

Why did we need a new silica rule?

OSHA said the previous silica rule did not adequately protect workers. The old rule’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) was based on research from the 1960s, and it did not reflect recent scientific evidence. Furthermore, the old rule did not consider the emergence of hydraulic fracturing, stone and artificial stone countertop fabrication and other industries that put workers at risk.

Key compliance dates
OSHA staggered the new silica rule compliance dates to give businesses enough time to meet the requirements: 

Construction industry – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date

General industry and maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date

Hydraulic fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except engineering controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021

What does the new rule do?

  • Reduces the PEL for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift, for all workplaces covered by the standard (general industry/maritime and construction). The new PEL is roughly 50 percent of the previous PEL for general industry and 20 percent of the previous PEL for construction and shipyards.
  • Requires employers to put control measures in place that reduce workers’ exposure. Employers must ensure silica dust is wetted down or vacuumed up before workers can inhale it. The rule also requires employers to limit access to high-exposure areas, train employees, provide respiratory protection when controls do not adequately limit exposure, provide written exposure control plans, and offer medical exams to highly exposed workers.
  • Provides flexible compliance dates to employers, especially small businesses, to protect workers from silica exposure.

More resources

Regulatory Roundup, March 25, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is a weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news.

Texas Mutual News

Office workers: Stand up for your health
Wellness ad_smallSedentary work has increased 83 percent since 1950, accounting for 43 percent of our nation’s jobs. The average office worker spends approximately 77 percent of their day sitting. All that chair time does wonders for your productivity, but it also takes a serious toll on your health…MORE

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

Safety knows no boundaries
Safer offshore oil rigs don’t have to exclusively exist in a galaxy far, far away. Under a five-year partnership, NASA will examine risks in the offshore industry and share lessons learned from the space program with the BSEE…MORE

Federal Highway Administration (FHA)

New performance measures will aid data-driven approach
The FHA published two rules designed to reduce deaths and injuries on the nation’s highways. One rule establishes performance measures for states to track the number of crash-related deaths and injuries, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and injuries, and deaths and injuries per miles traveled. The second rule includes changes in reporting regulations that were required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH innovation brings silica monitoring to the mine
NIOSH researchers have developed a portable instrument that measures silica concentrations on site in less than one minute. The reusable instrument spares employers the expense of sending a sample to a lab for analysis…MORE

NIOSH recommends strategies for protecting older drivers
Research shows that older drivers are more likely than their younger counterparts to adopt safe behaviors such as wearing a seat belt and complying with speed limits. However, drivers age 55 and older have twice the risk of dying in a work-related crash than younger workers do. Employers should adopt policies that address failing vision, decreased reaction time and other age-related physical and mental changes that affect older workers’ driving…MORE

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

FDA orders manufacturers to add warnings to immediate-release opioids
Narcotics with Prescription Warning Label
The warnings clarify that opioids should be reserved for cases in which there is no alternative treatment. They also address the potentially fatal consequences of misuse, and they caution against opioid use during pregnancy…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA issues long-awaited silica rule
After nearly 15 years and countless conversations with stakeholders representing every conceivable side of the issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled its new rule on silica exposure this week…MORE

What happened to the I2P2 standard?
In 2010, injury and illness prevention programs (I2P2) were high on OSHA’s regulatory agenda. Today, I2P2 has been relegated to the agency’s “long-term” category, which effectively means it will not see the light of day. Politics, business opposition and competing priorities collaborated to stop the I2P2 movement in its tracks…MORE

OSHA fines to increase 80 percent
Violating OSHA standards is about to cost employers more. On Aug. 1, 2016, OSHA will increase its fee structure 80 percent. The most serious violations will increase from a maximum of $70,000 to $124,710…MORE

A look back at year 1 of OSHA’s revised injury reporting rule
During the first year under the revised injury reporting and recordkeeping rule, OSHA received 10,000 injury reports. That amounts to 30 severe injuries reported per day. The manufacturing industry accounted for 26 percent of severe injuries, followed by construction at 19 percent and oil and gas at 3 percent…MORE

OSHA’s rules on housekeeping (and how they help keep your workplace safe)
Clean, orderly workplaces promote productivity and decrease the risk of someone getting injured on the job. There is no single OSHA standard for housekeeping, but several standards include housekeeping provisions designed to protect workers from fires, electrocutions, trips and other hazards…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea have a five-time greater risk of crashes
sleeping manResearchers with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute speculated that if they followed 1,000 truck drivers over a one-year period, drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who refused treatment would experience 70 preventable serious truck crashes. That compares to 14 crashes experienced by a control group and by drivers with sleep apnea who adhered to treatment…MORE

Volvo trucks issues safety recall
If you operate a Volvo Class 8 motor vehicle, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advises you to take it out of service immediately. A faulty two-piece steering shaft in the vehicles can lead to separation of the steering shaft without warning and an immediate loss of steering ability and control…MORE


Office workers: Stand up for your health

The typical office worker arrives at their desk by 8 a.m. (give or take a few minutes) and plops themselves down into their ergonomically correct chair. And that is where they stay for the better part of a 40-hour work week.

Working Americans are spending more time off their feet than ever. Sedentary work has increased 83 percent since 1950, accounting for 43 percent of our nation’s jobs. Ultimately, the average office worker spends approximately 77 percent of their day sitting.

So what’s the harm? The more you’re at your desk, the more you get done, right?

Maybe, but all that chair time takes a serious toll on your health.

Researchers have linked prolonged sitting to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic conditions.

Sitting is the new smoking

A growing body of evidence confirms that sedentary workers are more prone to obesity, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other chronic conditions.

Those conditions, in turn, contribute to increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and higher health insurance and workers’ compensation costs. Here are just a handful of conditions exacerbated by a life spent sitting.

Cancer. People who spend more hours of the day sitting have up to a 66 percent higher risk of developing certain types of cancer than those who aren’t as sedentary, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Obesity. When you are seated, your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. You burn 30 percent more calories when you’re standing than when you’re sitting, according to an article published in the Harvard Heart Letter.

Diabetes. Sitting for eight to 12 hours or more a day increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90 percent, according to researchers in Toronto.

Musculoskeletal health. Prolonged sitting can cause muscle degeneration, back issues and strained necks, heart disease and decreased brain function, according to a Washington Post article.

Premature death. Sitting more than six hours during leisure time accelerates your chances of mortality by 37 percent, according to an American Cancer Society study.

It seems sitting is the new smoking. So what’s a desk jockey to do?

Here are a few tips for working a little physical activity into your daily grind.

Step into more productive meetings
It’s hard to resist the allure of a well-furnished meeting room. But those plush chairs are another pitfall in your plans to move more at work.

Next time a co-worker wants to discuss the 2016 business plan, suggest a walking meeting.

Besides getting you on your feet, walking meetings inspire productivity, creative thinking and more honest exchanges among co-workers.

Walk away from convenience
Offices are designed for maximum productivity. For example, there’s probably a supply cabinet right around the corner from you.

Next time you need to refill your stapler, walk to the cabinet at the other corner. Better yet, try the one on the floor above you.

You’d be amazed how many extra steps you can log by simply walking away from the convenience afforded by the typical office layout.

Stand up for your health
Standing at your desk boosts your metabolism and fires the nerves around your muscles. As a bonus, the more you change posture, the less susceptible you are to back issues, neck pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. A U.S. News Health article recommends standing at least once every 30 minutes. Sit-stand workstations make it easy to do just that. If you want to go a step further, consider outfitting your office with treadmill desks.

Deskercise your way to better health
In a previous series of posts, we touted the benefits of functional fitness exercises that prepare your body to do everyday tasks without getting injured. We understand, though, that not everyone has time to take on a regularly scheduled workout program. Deskercises like paper pushups, book presses and chair squats empower you to get the blood flowing and stretch tired muscles without leaving your workstation.

Regulatory Roundup, March 18, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of employee wellness and safety news. 

Texas Mutual News

6 things you need to know about OSHA

OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

Most people associate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with two words: enforcement and fines. So it’s hard to blame budget-conscious employers for casting a suspicious eye, if not running the other direction, when an OSHA inspector comes knocking. But Congress had more in mind when it created America’s most high-profile workplace safety regulatory agency way back in 1970…MORE

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSSE)

Report blasts oil-rig safety agency’s effectiveness
The BSSE’s inadequate monitoring of oil and gas companies’ safety management systems, its difficulties hiring and training safety inspectors, and its failure to staff its environmental enforcement division have hampered its ability to ensure safety on offshore oil rigs, according to a Government Accountability Office report…MORE

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New CDC guidelines offer alternatives to opioid treatment
Despite sparse evidence that chronic opioid therapy is the most effective way to relieve chronic pain, enough opioids are prescribed annually to give every American a bottle of pills. And 52 people die every day from overdoses. The CDC has responded to the prescription drug epidemic by issuing new guidelines that offer alternatives to long-term opioid treatment…MORE

Department of Transportation (DOT)

20 automakers commit to making automatic emergency braking standard on new vehicles Twenty automakers representing 99 percent of the U.S. market will make emergency braking standard on most new vehicles by 2022, according to a DOT press release. By making the commitment, the auto industry will deliver critical safety technology to consumers sooner than it could if it relied solely on the regulatory process…MORE

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

FRA proposes two-person train crew requirement
The rule would require a minimum of two crew members for all railroad operations except those the FRA believes do not pose a significant safety risk. That includes operations that are not carrying large volumes of hazardous materials, traveling at high speeds or putting passengers at risk…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA to propose safety guidelines for construction sector

In May, OSHA will encourage the construction industry to remember the importance of preventing falls, which are the leading cause of death among construction workers.

In May, OSHA will encourage the construction industry to remember the importance of preventing falls, which are the leading cause of death among construction workers.

OSHA will craft a separate set of safety and health program management guidelines for the construction industry. The agency undertook the initiative based on feedback it received about updates to its general safety and health management program guidelines. Specifically, most small builders do not have the staff or resources to dedicate one employee to developing and implementing a safety program consistent with what OSHA recommends…MORE

OSHA responds to ARA’s hazard communication questions
Custom blending is considered chemical manufacturing, and it does require individual labels and safety data sheets. That was OSHA’s response to one of several questions about hazard communication posed by the Agricultural Retailers Association…MORE

World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO committee recommends no Zika general travel restrictions
During its second meeting, the WHO’s Zika emergency response committee recommended no general restrictions on travel or trade to affected countries. The committee also reiterated the importance of pregnant women avoiding areas of ongoing Zika virus outbreaks…MORE 

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Presenteeism costs business 10 times more than absenteeism
Whether they are ill, stressed or simply distracted, employees who are “absent but present” admit to being unproductive an average of 57 days per year. Ultimately, they cost their employers $1,500 billion per year. By contrast, their absent counterparts cost $150 billion per year, according to a Global Corporate Challenge study. …MORE

6 trends affecting workplace safety
E-Learning Concept.Computer-based training, e-learning, interactive tutorials and strategically placed digital signs are empowering companies to provide better, more frequent safety training. Technological tools are one of six trends that will make businesses safer in 2016 and beyond…MORE


6 things you need to know about OSHA

OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

Most people associate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with two words: enforcement and fines. So it’s hard to blame budget-conscious employers for casting a suspicious eye, if not running the other direction, when an OSHA inspector comes knocking.

But Congress had more in mind when it created America’s workplace safety regulatory agency way back in 1970. For evidence, look no further than the other part of OSHA’s mission.

Lawmakers made it clear that training, outreach, education and assistance are critical tools in OSHA’s strategy to protect everyone’s right to a safe workplace.

In is occasional series of posts, we’ll pull the curtain back on OSHA. Our goal is to allay your fears, give you tips for staying off OSHA’s radar and teach you what to expect if an inspector visits your workplace.

With that, here are seven things you need to know about OSHA.

1. Your business is probably subject to OSHA regulations
Most private sector employers and their workers, along with some public sector employers and workers, fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction. OSHA does not cover self-employed workers, and its standards do not address hazards regulated by other federal agencies, such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

2. Injury rates are down since OSHA was created
OSHA is achieving the mission lawmakers envisioned. By partnering with employers, safety professionals and other stakeholders, OSHA has dramatically reduced injuries and deaths:

  • Since 1970, workplace fatality rates have dropped 66 percent, while U.S. employment has doubled.
  • Worker deaths in America declined from an average of about 38 deaths a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2014.
  • Worker injuries and illnesses declined from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.2 per 100 in 2014.

3. OSHA standards fall into four categories
OSHA standards are rules that explain the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. OSHA standards fall into four categories: general industry, construction industry, maritime and agriculture. OSHA standards address such things as fall protection, confined spaces and hazardous chemicals.

4. For everything else, there is the general duty clause
OSHA could not possibly enforce standards addressing every workplace hazard. So, it created the general duty clause, which regulates heat stress, workplace violence and other hazards not specifically addressed by OSHA standards.

5. OSHA prioritizes its inspections
OSHA employs approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers at more than 8 million worksites around the nation. That equates to one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers. With limited resources, OSHA prioritizes its inspections. Hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm receive top priority, followed by injuries and illnesses employers are required to report to OSHA.

6. Employers have access to free compliance assistance
OSHA offers a range of free services to help employers understand and comply with standards. One of those free services is the Occupational Safety and Health Consultation program (OSHCON). Under the OSHCON program, consultants from the Texas Department of Insurance will survey your job site, identify OSHA violations and help you correct hazards. OSHCON consultants are not OSHA employees, and they do not issue citations or penalties.

More resources

  • For more FAQs about OSHA, click here.
  • To learn what to expect from an OSHA inspection, click here.
  • To learn how to comply with your OSHA injury and illness log posting obligations, click here.

Regulatory Roundup, March 11, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news from around the world.

Texas Mutual news

Work Safe, Texas is open for business
March enhancements to our safety website for the public include return-to-work basics, the latest on the Zika virus and new content on our dedicated construction industry Web page…MORE

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA moves to protect public from paraquat
Paraquat dichloride, more commonly known as paraquat, might be the most toxic herbicide in use today. According to the EPA, paraquat resulted in 27 deaths between 1990 and 2014. The EPA recently released a proposal that would reduce the public’s access to this hazardous chemical…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Listen up: Big news about hearing conservation in March edition of NIOSH e-newsletter
earplugs3M is making a lot of noise in the hearing conservation realm, and NIOSH wants you to hear about it. The company reduced noise levels 12–14 dBA across 24 departments and removed 199 of 203 employees from its hearing conservation program. Find out how in the March edition of NIOSH’s e-newsletter…MORE

NIOSH, EPA want your input on proposed PEL for 1-Bromopropane
NIOSH has proposed an exposure limit of 0.3 parts per million for 1-Bromopropane (1-BP). The public has until April 29 to comment. 1-BP is a chemical common in manufacturing processes, spray adhesives, dry cleaning applications and degreasing activities. Exposure can cause a range of conditions, including eye and skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, slurred speech and confusion…MORE

Exoskeletal suits reduce MSDs: NIOSH report
Robotic-like suits that increase human strength may conjure thoughts of sci-fi and superhero film genres. But they can also be a powerful tool for employers who want to reduce costly musculoskeletal disorders…MORE

NIOSH issues suggestions to help workers adapt to time change
sleeping manThis Sunday, Americans will set their clocks ahead one hour. It can take our bodies up to one week to adjust to the time change. In the meantime, our sleep can suffer, as can our focus on the job. NIOSH suggests employees consider reducing demanding physical and mental tasks as much as possible the week of the time change to allow themselves time to adjust…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

New hazard classification guidance helps manufacturers, importers, employers
The 432-page document provides guidance for classifying hazards covered by the hazard communication standard. Topics include selecting chemicals to evaluate, collecting data, analyzing data, and recording the rationale behind the results obtained.…MORE

U.S., Canada join forces to sync hazard communication systems
PrintOSHA is working with Health Canada to iron out compliance differences between the two countries’ hazard communication rules. Last week, the agencies announced employers can meet hazard communication requirements for both countries with a single label and Safety Data Sheet…MORE

Fatality underscores importance of confined space programs for tank repair shops
An employee went into a tank to clean it with a caustic chemical. He had no retrieval gear or respirator. There was no attendant, and the company had no rescue plan. By the time he was pulled from the tank two hours later, it was too late…MORE

OSHA requests $42 million budget bump for FY 2017
Along with the budget increase, OSHA is asking for 100 more full-time employees. OSHA would dedicate the largest share of the requested increase—nearly $18 million and 60 full-time staff members—to federal enforcement efforts…MORE

NACOSH recommends OSHA emphasize employee health in updated safety and health program management guidelines
OSHA’s proposed updates include material on finding and fixing hazards proactively, increasing worker involvement in safety and health, and establishing better communication and coordination at worksites with multiple employers. The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health praised OSHA for updating the nearly 30-year-old guidelines but added the guidelines could benefit from a stronger focus on health…MORE

OSHA answers your eye and face protection questions
Sparks Fly as Worker Cuts BoltsWhen do companies have to provide eye and face protection for workers? Who certifies personal protective equipment, and how do we know it’s certified? In this short podcast, OSHA answers your questions about eye and face protection…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Upgraded NSC truck driver safety program gives instructors more flexibility
Nearly 4,000 people are killed annually in crashes involving large trucks. To help reverse the trend, the National Safety Council has upgraded its truck driver safety program. The new format gives instructors the flexibility to conduct a three – or four-course series in a timeframe that meets their unique needs…MORE

About half of U.S. adults have a musculoskeletal disorder: report
About 1 in 2 U.S. adults has a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), costing an estimated $213 billion each year in treatment and lost wages, according to a report from the United States Bone and Joint Initiative. Half of adults 65 years and older have arthritis, making it the top cause of disability related to MSDs…MORE


Work Safe, Texas is open for business

Work SafePartnering with you to get your employees safely home to their families every day is the most important service Texas Mutual delivers not just to our policyholders, but to every Texas business. That’s why we launched our Work Safe, Texas website.

The site is a forum for us to share our workplace safety expertise with Texas. Each month, we upgrade worksafetexas.com with fresh content. From downloadable posters to online videos to workplace safety articles, you’ll find resources that address the unique hazards your employees face.

Here are just a few highlights from the March offerings waiting for you at worksafetexas.com.

Employees don’t always check substance abuse at the door

If you’ve every daydreamed about playing in the National Football League, take heart. You have something in common with the guys who suit up on Sundays. You’re an industrial athlete, and your body is your instrument. Whether you spend our days sacking quarterbacks or groceries, you need to prepare your body for the rigors of daily life. Functional fitness can help.

This month’s featured post from our award-winning Safety @ Work blog explains what functional fitness is and shows how it can help you do everyday tasks injury-free.

Return-to-work basics

Employers who bring injured workers back to the team, even under modified duty, can reap the benefits in terms of reduced workers’ comp costs and improved productivity. This month’s free streaming video explains how to get started with a return-to-work program.

Safety currents

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus a global health emergency. Our “Safety currents” column features seven things you need to know to protect yourself.

Workplace safety articles

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to post their annual summary of injuries and illness in the workplace between February 1 and April 30 of every year. If you are out of compliance, visit this month’s safety article offerings for more information.

A brand you can live with

Texas Mutual has built its corporate brand on safety. But Work Safe, Texas isn’t just a catchy tagline. It’s a vision that drives everything we do. As long as Texans are getting injured on the job, our Work Safe website will be open for business.

Regulatory Roundup, March 3, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news from around the world.

In this 60-second video, Texas Mutual’s Woody Hill explains how to steer clear of the five leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. For more 60-second driver safety videos, visit worksafetexas.com.

Texas Mutual news
My car does what?
Those fancy safety-related bells and whistles on new vehicles are designed to remove human error from the driving equation. Still, they’re no substitute for safe-driving principles such as buckling up, controlling your speed and avoiding distractions…MORE
Department of Labor (DOL)

DOL suit against employer highlights injury reporting practices
The DOL is suing a Pennsylvania employer it claims retaliated against two employees for reporting workplace injuries. The employer requires employees to immediately report workplace injuries. Both employees claim they did not comply with the requirement because their symptoms did not develop until several days after their injuries…MORE

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Proposed risk management program changes would boost process safety: EPA
The changes, which are designed to improve chemical process safety and protect first responders, would require coordination between facilities and local emergency response agencies in emergency planning and preparedness, according to the EPA. …MORE

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

DOT bans e-cigarettes on flights
It doesn’t matter whether you call it smoking or vaping, the DOT calls it illegal. The agency unveiled a new rule this week that prohibits passengers from using e-cigarettes on all domestic and international flights that travel in, to and from the United States. Studies have shown e-cigarette aerosol contains harmful chemicals that could affect other passengers…MORE

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

FRA treads lightly on railroads over hazmat violations: report
trainThe FRA routinely applies only modest civil penalties for hazardous materials safety violations, even though inspectors request penalties only for serious or repeated infractions, according to a report by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general. Although the FRA processes hundreds of safety violations each year, it appears that not a single case has been referred for criminal investigation…MORE

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Truck, bus inspections, enforcement saved 500 lives in 2012
Commercial vehicle roadside safety inspection and traffic enforcement programs saved 472 lives in 2012. Since 2001, these programs have saved more than 7,000 lives, according to the FMCSA…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

New NIOSH Web page elevates aerial lift safety
A New Jersey employer failed to stress the importance of setting aerials lifts up on level ground. That training oversight cost a worker his life when the lift he was using tipped over. A new NIOSH Web page offers resources for setting up and using aerial lifts safely…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Employers brace for OSHA whistleblowing app
From setting up ladders properly to gauging the risk of heat stress, apps are a powerful tool for workplace safety advocates. Now, developers are leveraging technology to make it easy for employees to report unsafe working conditions to OSHA. Here’s how it would work: The employee would take a picture of the questionable condition and answer a series of questions. The app would then transmit the information to the local OSHA field office…MORE

What to expect from OSHA in 2016
OSHA will increase its fee structure between 80 and 90 percent this spring, according Dr. David Michaels, head of OSHA. Speaking at an Association of Energy Service Companies meeting, Dr. Michaels also said OSHA’s walking working surfaces and personal fall protection systems final rule is far from dead despite some media reports to the contrary. Michaels said OSHA will likely release the final rule before he leaves office at the conclusion of the Obama administration…MORE

New rapid response investigation requires employers to provide more details about workplace accidents
OSHA reporting ruleIn an effort to manage the influx of reports OSHA has received under its revised injury and illness reporting requirements, the agency is now triaging incident reports. The goal is to determine whether to conduct an onsite inspection or gather more information via a rapid response investigation (RRI). The RRI requests more details than OSHA’s traditional phone and fax inquiry…MORE

The long arm of OSHA reaches all the way to the wild west
There are no specific OSHA regulations addressing firearms used in wild west theme park shows. But the general duty clause was all the ammunition OSHA needed to cite a New Jersey park after an employee broke protocol, loaded real ammunition instead of blanks and shot a co-worker…MORE

OSHA addresses hazards of purging hydrogen gas-cooled electric generators
Those hazards include flash fires and dangers related to working in confined spaces. OSHA requires employers to ensure hydrogen gas is purged completely before workers perform maintenance on generators. It also recommends placing detectors in areas that may accumulate hydrogen gas, testing atmospheric conditions in permit spaces before allowing entry, and establishing ignition control procedures…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

New report shows traffic crashes cost employers $47.4 billion in 2013
Investigating a car wreckA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report notes that direct crash-related expenses include medical care, liability, lost productivity and property damage. The study showed that employers could control costs by promoting safe driving habits, including seat belt usage and the elimination of speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving, whether or not employees are on the clock…MORE

Studies weighs how human behaviors affect self-driving cars
How much people trust technology and what type of driving alerts they respond to may have as much or more to do with the success of autonomous vehicles than technological, legal and security concerns, according to two new studies. One study suggests drivers will respond best to verbal prompts, as opposed to sounds or visual displays, alerting them to driving conditions and the state of the vehicle…MORE

E-cigarette explodes, knocks woman’s teeth loose, destroys car
The woman parked her car outside a friend’s house to use the e-cigarette and charge her car. When she pressed the device’s button, it exploded, loosening her teeth and flying from her hand…MORE

Hearing conservation: Listen up
earplugsSince 2004, about 125,000 U.S. workers have reported “significant, permanent hearing loss” associated with their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers should monitor area noise regularly and use engineering and administrative controls before handing out hearing protection. One of the most effective engineering controls is buying quieter equipmentMORE

Grain entrapments decline in 2015: report
Grain bin entrapments and other confined space incidents on farms declined 34 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to a Purdue University study. The 47 incidents in 2015 marked the lowest number since 2006…MORE

My car does what?

David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Until recently, I fancied myself a hip creative/musician type. At some point, and I don’t remember exactly when, I began the slow, inevitable slide toward middle age and everything that comes with it:

  • Family – check
  • Two-car garage – check
  • Aging body against which I harbor a growing list of grievances – double-check

Today, I am the cliché I used to snicker at. My 40-something-year-old boring guy resume has been spotless for years, save for one glaring omission. I’m happy to report I recently remedied that.

Last week, my wife and I received a well-timed tax return. We celebrated our modest windfall by purchasing….wait for it…a minivan.

I haven’t bought a new vehicle in years, but the experience hasn’t changed much.

It starts with a promise that goes something like, “We’ll get you out of here in no time.” And it ends five hours later, when you leave the dealership with a belly-full of “complementary” coffee and an even heavier financial obligation.

While the process of purchasing a vehicle hasn’t changed, the act of operating one certainly has. Driving is no longer a one-way task that relies on old-fashioned human know-how. Technology is transforming it into an automated process that removes us and our shortcomings from the equation.

For example, my van is equipped with a camera that activates when I shift into reverse, showing me whether other vehicles or people are behind me.


This infographic explains how to get the most out of your car’s backing assist feature.

When I hit my right-hand turn signal, a camera activates to show me what’s in my blind spot.

If I stray outside my lane or approach traffic in front of me too quickly, the system notifies me. In fact, it borders on chastising me.

All these bells and whistles take some getting used to, especially for “mature” drivers.

My wife admits that she almost backed over a pedestrian during her first week in the new vehicle. She was exclusively relying on the back-up camera to navigate safely out of a parking spot. Unfortunately, the pedestrian had not quite made it into the camera’s field of vision. My wife looked up just in time to avoid an accident.

So it seems technology is a complement to, not a substitute for, safe driving practices. Let’s take a few minutes to dust off those best practices for our own safety and the safety of everyone we share the road with.

Buckle up
Wear your seat belt, even if you’re just going “up the street,” and make sure passengers do the same. In a crash, everything becomes a flying object that can harm you. Your seat belt is the one thing that can save you.

Avoid distractions
You probably think you can multitask with the best of them. You’re probably wrong. Cell phones are the low-hanging fruit when talk turns to distractions. But remember that eating, grooming, adjusting your GPS and tapping along to the radio also take your hands, eyes and mind off driving.

In this 60-second video, Texas Mutual’s Woody Hill explains the hazards associated with distracted driving.

Control your speed
The law allows you to drive up to 80 miles per hour on toll roads, but that doesn’t mean you should. Slow down when roads are slick, visibility is poor or you are hauling heavy, awkward loads.

Stay alert
If you’re blinking, your eyes are burning or you’re having trouble concentrating, find a safe place to pull over and rest.

Keep your cool
Can you think of anything you do better when you’re angry? Probably not. Driving is no exception. Keep your cool if someone cuts you off, and give aggressive drivers plenty of space.

My car does what?
Safety-related bells and whistles are becoming standard features on new vehicles. If all that technology has you scratching your head, the National Safety Council can help. Visit mycardoeswhat.org to learn about your vehicle’s safety features, test your knowledge with interactive games and watch short instructional videos.

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