Regulatory Roundup, December 30, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is a weekly compilation of employee wellness and safety news. Please share this information with your policyholders as appropriate. For suggestions, contact Ashley Mikytuck at 512-224 3986.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
workplace-violenceOSHA considers workplace violence standard for healthcare

The rate of workplace violence against employees in healthcare and social assistance is significantly higher than in private industry. This month, OSHA published a Request for Information (RFI) in order to develop a potential standard to prevent workplace violence in these industries. They will be taking comments until April 6, 2017…MORE

OSHA can help you prepare for emergencies

Emergency situations can happen to any business. OSHA’s fact sheet summarizes elements that your business needs to have in place, from establishing a plan to providing the proper equipment…MORE

safety-inspectorRuling updated for injury and illness records

Current recordkeeping regulations have been amended to clarify the maintenance of workplace injury and illness records. The ruling is scheduled to take effect January 18, 2017 and will allow OSHA to issue citations for employers failing to record an injury or illness up to six months following the mandatory five year retention period…MORE

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH updates IDLH level for 1,3-Butadiene

Exposure to 1,3-Butadiene, used in the production of synthetic rubber, can lead to neurological effects and frostbite. Because of the danger of explosion, NIOSH recently updated the immediately dangerous to life or health level (IDLH) for this chemical to ten percent of the lower explosive limit…MORE

pagesNIOSH releases Total Worker Health workbook

There are five key factors in Total Worker Health that can boost workplace safety at your company. This month, NIOSH released a downloadable workbook to help you develop this concept for your workers and improve your safety initiatives…MORE

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

flu-seasonSeasonal flu guidance is updated

The flu is capable of spreading like wildfire in your workplace. CDC recently updated its guidance for helping protect yourself and coworkers from the flu. This flu season, only injectable vaccines are recommended and new technology has removed the requirement for the use of flu virus…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Look back at the safety and health industry in 2016

From Zika and Opiods, to the new silica and electronic reporting rulings, this year has been eventful for the safety and health industry. Occupational Health & Safety magazine summarized the key events in 2016…MORE

Massachusetts middle school launches workplace safety program

Monomoy Middle School was in the news this week for launching a program called “Safety Matters” to teach kids about workplace safety. A volunteer for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) spoke to the students about taking safety seriously and their right to a safe workplace, using stories from real teen workers…MORE

small-smartphoneGuidelines proposed for the use of electronic devices

Distracted driving has become a key factor in the amount of vehicle-related incidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed voluntary guidelines for the use of mobile and other electronic devices while operating vehicles. They ask that these electronic devices be designed to reduce driver distractions with technology such as pairing…MORE

This week in comp, December 22, 2016

This Week in Comp is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of workers’ compensation news.

Let’s put the power of 5,000 workplace fatalities to work

By David Wylie Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie
Senior Technical Writer

A longtime friend and bandmate of mine is one of the best songwriters you’ll probably never hear of. He’s a newspaper-reporter-turned-teacher who once believed in the power of the pen to make the world a better place. So it’s no surprise that his songs typically opine on a hot button political issue or expose some social injustice. Simply put, they make you think.

I’m thinking a lot about workplace fatalities, thanks to this line from one of my friend’s recent numbers:

“Not much can be done to write the wrongs now. The best you can do is write the wrongs down. If you keep them inside, they’ll drive you berserk. I say take their power and put it work.”

Approximately 5,000 Americans die in on-the-job accidents each year. Their stories are sufficiently “written down” by the media, industry publications and even bloggers like me. A quick scan of the news turns up headlines like “OSHA investigating fatal trench collapse,” “Colleagues struggle after deadly workplace shooting” and “Contractors cited after worker dies on first day.”

We’re all busy, and we can’t possibly digest social media’s daily information dump in its entirety. So we skim these stories at best, shake our heads and say, “Someone should do something about that.”

Then we go on with our lives. After all, it’s not our problem. Workplace accidents are best left to the experts.

But what if we changed our paradigm?

What if we took time to read about these tragedies and, instead of passing the proverbial buck, looked for the lessons in them? And what if we went a step further and considered how we could apply those lessons in our own workplace?

What if, as my friend suggests, we put the power of 5,000 workplace fatalities to work?

There’s a good chance someone will die in a workplace accident while you’re reading this post. By the end of the day, 13 workers will perish. But their stories have the power to live beyond today’s blink-and-you-missed-it news cycle. If you believe that, you’re not alone.

Texas Mutual measures success not in profit margins and balance sheets, but in lives saved. For us, strong financial results are a means to the ultimate end: helping every worker get home safely at the end of the day.

Our 30-plus safety consultants have seen every type of workplace accident. They’ve dedicated their lives to extracting the lessons from those accidents and sharing them with anyone who will listen.

If you are among the 66,000 employers who protect your business and your employees with a Texas Mutual policy, I’m singing to the choir. If you’re not, we’re still here for you. From free regional safety courses to statewide workshops to online resources, Texas Mutual is on a mission to prevent workplace accidents and minimize their consequences.

Before I sign off and send you into a happy, healthy and safe holiday season, I want to issue a challenge.

The stories of those 5,000 workers who die each year aren’t written by some anonymous author working under an obscure pen name. They are written by executives, supervisors and front-line employees, and they play out in oil fields, manufacturing shops and within the confines of seemingly safe office environments every day.

No matter what role you play in your organization, you have the power to write a new story. I challenge you to exercise that power.

Wherever your career aspirations take you in 2017 and beyond, Work safe, Texas.


Regulatory Roundup, December 16, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is a weekly digest of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Sick of the same old flu-prevention tips?

Texas Mutual works hard to make this blog your go-to resource for stopping fraud, managing claims, preventing workplace accidents and protecting your business from seasonal illnesses such as the flu.

If your doctor, mother and well-meaning friends can't convince you to protect yourself from the flu, maybe these five singing, dancing snowmen can.

If your doctor, mother and well-meaning friends can’t convince you to protect yourself from the flu, maybe these five singing, dancing snowmen can.

By now, you’re probably sick of people advising you to get a flu shot, wash your hands regularly and stay home if you have flu symptoms. It’s all good advice, especially with flu season peaking in December and January. Unfortunately, it’s also low-hanging fruit that’s over-served on blogs like this one.

So we’re taking a different approach.

We scoured the internet for little-known facts about the flu. We hope they’ll pique your interest enough to stay with us until the end, when we’ll deliver the payoff: our call to action.

It’s not Greek to us
More than 60 percent of English words have Latin or Greek roots. Influenza is an exception. Influenza is the Italian word for influence. It reflects the one-time belief that the planets, stars and moon influenced the flu…Source

The flu is costly
The flu causes Americans to miss 70 million work days each year. The indirect costs, which include reduced productivity, lost wages and higher medical expenses, register between $3 billion and $12 billion per year…Source

The flu can be serious

Flu vaccines prevented an estimated 5 million cases of the flu last season. That's the same number of people who use Denver International Airport in one month.

Flu vaccines prevented an estimated 5 million cases of the flu last season. That’s the same number of people who use Denver International Airport in one month.

The flu claims between 250,000 and 500,000 lives each year. The deadliest flu pandemic in history, dubbed Spanish flu, killed 20 million to 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. For comparison’s sake, the Swine flu of 2009 resulted in 20,000 deaths across the world…Source

Save the sanitizing wipes

The flu’s ability to live outside the body ranges from a few minutes to 24 hours, depending on the surface. The virus lives longest on hard surfaces. Still, attacking phones, door knobs and desks with sanitizing wipes might not be as effective as we think. Experts agree that contact with infected people is the most common way people get the flu…Source

Grandma knows best?

Grandmothers are infamous for concocting their own cures for common illnesses. Typically, those cures show complete disregard for conventional wisdom about infectious diseases. It seems grandma’s been adding her two cents for centuries. Unicorn horns, garlic necklaces, pine tar and horse manure are just some of the suspect cures for the flu offered up over the years…Source

What now?
We hope you enjoyed this short list of interesting facts about the flu. Before we wrap up, we’ll leave you with the call to action we promised.  If you want to protect yourself and your business from the flu, advise your employees to:

  1. Get a flu shot; it’s not too late. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccination should continue throughout flu season.
  2. Wash their hands regularly.
  3. Stay home if they have flu symptoms.

It might be low-hanging fruit, but it’s still sound advice from health care experts. We hope you have a safe, flu-free holiday season.

Get a free flu toolkit
The CDC encourages employers to download its free flu prevention toolkit. The kit includes fact sheets, website banners and links to more resources.


Regulatory Roundup, December 9, 2016

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

The new face of substance abuse

Every day, 54 people die from prescription drug overdoses, according to the National Safety Council,

Every day, 54 people die from prescription drug overdoses, according to the National Safety Council.

When talk turns to substance abuse, we tend to think of shady deals that transpire between equally shady characters in dark alleys. It’s time to toss that narrative out the window. Today’s substance abuse epidemic is driven by a familiar cast of characters assuming historically unfamiliar roles.

The suppliers are friends, family members, even physicians. The drugs – Oxycontin, Vicodin, Demerol and other powerful pain medications known as opioids – are perfectly legal when taken as prescribed. And what about the down-on-their luck addicts no epidemic can survive without?

They’re increasingly being joined by mothers, fathers and others who look much like the rest of us. In fact, some of them might work for your business.

The National Safety Council (NSC) notes that 23 percent of the U.S. workforce has used prescription drugs non-medically.

So what? If employees abuse opioids, they’re only hurting themselves, right? Not necessarily.

Prescription painkiller abuse costs employers about $18 billion a year in lost productivity and medical expenses. That figure doesn’t account for the impact abuse has on workplace accidents and claim costs. When injured workers are prescribed even one opioid, their claims cost, on average, four times more, according to the NSC.

Most employers understand that substance abuse is bad for business. Many have taken preventive measures by creating policies and programs that account for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other street drugs. But a comprehensive approach to addressing substance abuse includes prescription drugs. The NSC offers these tips for employers who want to protect their employees and their business from opioid abuse:

  • Educate employees about the health and productivity issues related to prescription drug abuse.

    Click on the image to learn five things little known facts about opioids.

    Click on the image to learn five little-known facts about opioids.

  • Incorporate information about substance abuse in workplace wellness programs or strategies.
  • Offer health benefits that provide coverage for substance abuse disorders.
  • Expand drug testing to include prescription drugs.*
  • Publicize drug-free workplace policies, and incorporate guidelines regarding prescription drugs.
  • Provide employee assistance programs, wellness and work-life programs that include information and services related to substance abuse prevention, treatment and return-to-work issues.
  • Train managers to recognize and respond to substance abuse issues so problems can be addressed in uniform, cost-effective and business-sensitive ways.

The next chapter
Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It has infiltrated every facet of our lives, from the living room to the board room. What often starts as a legitimate prescription for severe pain ends in abuse and death.

Every day, 54 people die from opioid overdoses, according to the NSC. And opioids are involved in most of the country’s 47,000 annual overdose deaths.

It will take a coordinated effort among health care providers, legislators, insurance carriers and employers to reverse the trend.

For more information about your role in curbing the opioid epidemic, download the NSC’s guide, “The proactive role employers can take: Opioids in the workplace.” The guide will help you partner with your benefit providers, assess workplace policies, prioritize education efforts, and improve access to confidential help for your employees.

*Consult an attorney before you launch a drug testing program to ensure you comply with applicable laws.

Regulatory Roundup, December 2, 2016

This week in comp is a weekly digest of workers’ compensation news from across the country.


Construction firm underbids competitors by cheating workers’ comp system
auto-insurance-fraudA New York construction firm allegedly altered workers’ compensation forms to make it appear as if it was exempt from workers’ compensation coverage. The scheme allowed the company to underbid the next-highest competitor on a project by about one-third. Companies that commit premium fraud gain an unfair advantage over honest competitors…MORE

Fraud by any other name
An Ohio man used aliases to continue working while collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Investigators calls this type of scam double-dipping…MORE


What you need to know about OSHA’s new electronic reporting rule
The retaliation and drug testing components of OSHA’s electronic injury reporting rule went into effect on Dec. 1, 2016. Texas Mutual’s blog explains what employers need to know about the new rule…MORE

Oklahoma airport shooting likely case of workplace revenge
violenceA man who gunned down a Southwest Airlines employee outside of Oklahoma City’s airport likely did so in retaliation for having lost his own job with the airline last year. The tragedy underscores the importance of recognizing and responding to the signs of workplace violence…MORE

Texas logs first case of locally-acquired Zika
A Brownsville resident became the first person to contract the Zika virus from an infected mosquito in Texas. Until now, all of the state’s 250-plus cases of Zika have involved travel to areas that have experienced local Zika transmissionMORE


IDC predicts health care ransomware attacks to double by 2018

The average data breach costs $665,000.

Health care is a soft target when it comes to cyberattacks because the industry hasn’t invested in security technology to the extent that other industries have. Additionally, the increase in internet of things technology results in the convergence of mobile, social and sensors. The result could be a doubling of ransomware attacks against health care institutions by 2018, according to IDC Futurescape…MORE


Free tool gives context to medical costs
The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute has rolled out a new tool that helps stakeholders understand increasing costs for treating injured workers. The tool details medical prices in 31 states, allowing stakeholders to compare pricing, see how policy choices affect pricing, and determine whether fluctuations are local or consistent with national trends… MORE



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