How to fulfill your new year’s resolutions in the workplace

dumbbell and apple with measuring tapeIt’s a new year, and gym-goers are filled with high ambitions for a healthier lifestyle. It’s likely some of this determination will taper off, so we are sharing practical solutions that are easy for you and your employees to sustain year round. Wellness is one of the best investments you can make. Keep reading to find our top tips for wellness and how you can make a difference in your workplace in 2018.

Healthy choices

  • Drink eight glasses of water a day. Encourage your employees to bring water bottles to work. Consider providing them with company-branded ones to help them achieve their recommended water intake.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies. Try providing complimentary fruits or vegetables or recruit team members to help stock the fruit bowl.
  • Skip the soda. Lay off the sugary beverages and try offering sparkling or infused water options in vending machines or during company events.

Get active

  • Opt for the stairs. Add posters in the stairways that commend your employees for taking the extra steps and posters in the elevators that encourage them to make the change.
  • Move more. Try leading group stretch breaks or conduct walking meetings.
  • Team effort. Consider finding a group 5K or walking challenge to give your employees a common goal to work toward.

Strike a balance

  • Quality time off. Help your employees maximize their time away from work by letting them disconnect when they are off duty.
  • Give back. A great way to boost morale and build comradery is through community volunteer events. Try organizing a community giving event at a local soup kitchen or make care packages to donate to area shelters. See some of our TXM for Texas projects at Texas Mutual for inspiration.
  • Stay away if you’re sick. A healthy workplace is a more productive one. Encourage your employees to take the time they need to recover from illnesses to help prevent the spread of germs.

As a leader in your organization, you have the opportunity to set an example for your employees. Your actions speak volumes about the tone and vision you have for your employee’s wellness in the new year. See why wellness pays and find more tips for a healthier workplace.

From all of us at Texas Mutual, we wish you and your employees a prosperous and healthy 2018.

Safety focus on caught-in/between hazards

Construction assessmentWorking with any type of equipment can expose your workers to safety risks, and one of the most common hazards in the construction industry is getting caught in or between equipment. Oftentimes, these types of incidents are deadly. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, contact with objects and equipment was the cause of almost 15 percent of workplace fatalities in 2014. Caught-in/between incidents are also one of OSHA’s Focus Four hazards for the construction industry.

Keeping your workers safe takes working smarter and safer through consistent training and education. We’ve gathered some of the best resources to help you avoid these incidents in your workplace. Get started with five quick tips, in addition to coordinating e-Learning courses and other resources below.

Safety tips

  1. Never place yourself between moving equipment and an immovable structure or other equipment.
  2. Always power down equipment when you exit a vehicle, and set the parking brake, if available.
  3. If the vehicle or equipment is on an incline, chock the wheels.
  4. Flaggers or spotters should wear high visibility clothing.
  5. Vehicles or equipment should only be operated on roadways or grades that are safely constructed.

Texas Mutual’s Safety Services Support Center offers more than 2,000 resources to our policyholders in the form of e-Learning training courses, videos, training presentations, and more. Below you’ll find a list of relevant courses to help your workplace avoid caught in or between hazards.

e-Learning courses
e-Learning is Texas Mutual’s newest interactive training tool. With e-Learning, employers can assign training, view results, send announcements and keep records easily. Here are four recommended courses to help you avoid this Focus Four hazard:

  • Construction safety
  • Equipment hazards
  • Heavy equipment safety
  • Heavy equipment visibility

To access e-Learning, log in to your texasmutual.com account, select the Safety tab and choose e-Learning.

You can find more Focus Four resources on the OSHA website. If you have questions, we encourage our policyholders to call our safety services support center at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST.

How to keep new employees safe on the job

new employee forkliftMore than half of the 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2015 involved days away from work, job transfers, or days with restricted job duties, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these injuries and illnesses occur among new employees, but that includes more than just brand new employees. It also includes people who transfer to a new position, return to work after an extended absence, operate a new piece of equipment or implement a new procedure.

Keeping your employees safe on the job means ensuring safety among every employee in every role. Here are a few safety tips to help you bridge the gap on safety training for your new employees.

Start early, and be thorough

The sooner new employees start practicing safe work behaviors, the more likely those behaviors are to become habits. Don’t just explain what to do; take time to explain what not to do and what the consequences may be if safe work procedures are not followed. Ask employees to repeat procedures or tasks until you are confident they can do the job safely.

Follow-up training should be part of the new employee orientation process. Those first days at a new job are filled with many new procedures, rules and activities. Frequent follow-up gives new employees the opportunity to ask questions with less hesitation. When new employees consistently demonstrate they understand the new task, less frequent follow-up is necessary. If employees do not understand a procedure, encourage them to ask questions. It takes more than one day to turn a new employee into a safe, productive worker.

Provide a clear and concise safety policy

New employees need to know there is a comprehensive commitment to safety throughout the company. Put your commitment in writing, and make it visible for new staff, as well as current personnel. It is critical that new employees avoid taking risks. Encourage them to ask questions if they do not understand safety procedures. New employees have to trust that management will not reprimand them for seeking help.

Enforce this simple rule among all employees, including new employees: If a task or action makes you uncomfortable or raises a concern, don’t do it!

Think prevention

Most injuries can be avoided if employees learn to recognize unsafe situations. Encouraging new employees to think about prevention will make them more aware of unsafe practices and better prepared to help their co-workers.

Management takes the lead

Management often relies on employees to report unsafe conditions or hazards in the workplace. Therefore, employees must feel comfortable approaching a manager or supervisor about these conditions. Employees should not be reprimanded for reporting unsafe working conditions. If management demonstrates a commitment to safety, new employees are likely to follow their lead.

Observe often, and provide feedback

While new employees are learning and adapting to the job, it is essential to observe and monitor their work practices and behaviors. Observation helps to determine whether new employees are taking safety training to heart. It also creates an opportunity for supervisors to provide feedback on a new employee’s performance.

Make safety resources available

Providing employees with clear, written communications about your company’s safety expectations and practices is key to ensuring there is a consistent message about workplace safety.

Remembering these precautions when introducing a new hire to the company’s safety practices can greatly increase efficiency, productivity, morale and profitability. More importantly, it can prevent accidents and injuries.

As you get ready for the New Year and prepare for internal changes and new hires at your business, follow these guidelines to prevent workplace injuries. Visit the safety resource center of your texasmutual.com account for more than 2,000 free resources, including 200 e-Learning courses to keep your employees safe.

4,000 newer Texas Mutual policyholders earn dividends

More than 68,000 business owners rely on Texas Mutual to meet the needs of 1.4 million workers every day. We have a responsibility to promote safety and help prevent workplace injuries, and that’s why we recognize the great efforts that many businesses take to keep these workers safe.

One way we recognize our policyholders who share our commitment to safety is through our dividend program. As we announced earlier this year, Texas Mutual distributed a record $260 million in dividends. We recently completed the final phase of the dividend payout by distributing $3 million to 4,000 newer policyholders who are already exhibiting safe workplaces.

Early qualifier dividend recipients are those who haven’t been a Texas Mutual policyholder long enough to qualify for a regular dividend but are implementing safe practices in their businesses. This includes those who have a good loss ratio on their first-year policy with Texas Mutual and have renewed with us during the first half of the year. Early qualifier dividends allow us to reward newer policyholders for their safe habits sooner. Watch the video below to learn more about our dividend program

You can find more than 2,000 safety resources in your Texas Mutual account, exclusive to policyholders, to support the safety culture at your workplace. We offer online training with our new e-Learning, posters, flyers and videos, available in both English and Spanish, to help you keep your workers safe. Workplace accidents can disrupt production and morale, and when you do your part to avoid them, we do our part to take notice.

Policyholders who earn a dividend can use the funds to support their safety programs, or invest it right back in to the bottom line. See how some of our policyholders celebrated their dividends earlier this year. Visit texasmutual.com/ownershippays to learn more about our dividend program.

How to avoid OSHA’s top 10 most-cited violations

Every year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list of the top 10 most frequent workplace safety violations. OSHA shares this list to help you avoid the violations in your workplace and keep employees safe. Earlier this month, Texas Mutual reviewed OSHA’s 2017 top 10 list in our policyholder webinar and discussed how to reduce your risk and maintain compliance. Our webinar includes visuals to help you understand these OSHA standards and the most common violations. You can watch the webinar here, or keep reading for a recap.

Each standard and its associated OSHA code are included below. The codes beginning with “1926” are standards specific to the construction industry, and those beginning with “1910” apply to other general industries.

Fall protection1 – Fall protection– OSHA wrote 6,072 citations in the construction industry for unprotected edges, open sides and failure to provide fall protection. To meet these requirements and keep employees safe, guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems must be used when an employee is working on an unprotected side or edge that is six feet or more above a lower level. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1926.501

2- Hazard communication – Hazard communication came in second with 4,176 violations. The most frequent violations included lack of a hazard communication program, no safety data sheets, and not providing access to safety data sheets. Train your employees on your written hazard communications program to avoid these violations in your own workplace. Your employees should know where the safety data sheets are kept, as well as know how to read them and read chemical labels. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1910.1200

3- Scaffolding – There were 3,288 violations related to scaffolding in the construction industry. Improper access to surfaces and lack of guardrails were the most frequently violated requirements. Scaffolds must be designed by a qualified person and inspected daily. The scaffold needs to be used according to design and employees need to be trained on working safely on a scaffold. They must wear hardhats if the scaffold is 10 feet or higher. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1926.451

4 – Respiratory protection – Coming in at number four is respiratory protection, with 3,097 violations for failure to establish a respiratory protection program or failure to provide medical evaluations. To reduce the risk of receiving a citation from OSHA, employers should have a written respiratory protection program. A respiratory protection program will establish practices and procedures for respirator use including guidelines for training, selection, proper storage, use and care of respirators. Fit testing and medical evaluations should be included in your respiratory protection program. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1910.134

5 – Lockout/tagout – The lockout/tagout standard was cited 2,877 times, with the most frequent violations for inadequate worker training and missing or incomplete inspections. Lockout/tagout should take place whenever the servicing or maintenance of machines happens. You should have documentation for this procedure covering the steps to turn off, de-energize, lock and tag machinery while servicing it, keeping the machinery in a de-energized state to avoid an unexpected start up. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1910.147

ladder6 – Ladders – Ladder standards were cited 2,241 times in the construction industry for improper use, damaged ladders, and the use of the top step. To avoid this violation in your workplace, make sure you and employees always choose the proper ladder for the job. Consider the height of the work, the surface the ladder will rest on, whether or not electricity will be involved, and what the maximum intended load will be when selecting the ladder.

Employees should be trained on how to inspect ladders before each use to avoid using a damaged ladder. Damaged ladders should be labeled “Do Not Use” and should be removed from use. When using a ladder, always face forward using the three-point contact rule, and do not stand on the top rung of the ladder. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1926.1053

7 – Powered industrial trucks – The powered industrial trucks regulation was cited 2,162 times. The most frequently violated requirements included inadequate worker training, as well as inadequate refresher training. Power industrial trucks include forklifts, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks and other specialized industrial trucks.

Employees must be given formal instruction, practical training and an evaluation of the operator’s performance in the workplace. This training must be conducted by someone who has knowledge, training and experience to train employees and evaluate their competence. Retraining is required for situations following an accident, or if the vehicle is seen being used in an unsafe manner. OSHA code: CFR 1910.178

8 – Machine guarding – This general industry citation was given 1,933 times for instances of no machine guards and exposure to points of operation. Machine guarding must be used to prevent the operator and other employees in the area from hazards created by the point of operation, nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks. The point of operation is the area on a machine where the work is performed on the material being processed. The guard must not create any new hazards or interfere with the standard operations of the machine. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1910.212

9 – Fall protection – training requirements – This standard, which was cited 1,523 times, is new to the OSHA top 10 list and is specific to the construction industry. The most common violations were failing to train workers on identifying fall hazards and failure to train them on the proper use of fall protection equipment. To avoid this violation at your workplace, employees should be trained in a language they understand. Training should cover recognizing the hazards of falling and how to minimize those hazards with different types of fall protection. Employees should also know how to inspect their fall protection equipment. OSHA code: 1926.503

Electrical box10 – Electrical-wiring methods– With 1,405 violations, electrical-wiring methods was number 10 on the list of the most-commonly cited OSHA standards in 2017. OSHA found boxes not covered correctly and too many or overloaded wires as the most frequent offenses. Any conductors entering boxes must be protected from abrasion and any unused opening must be effectively closed. Additionally, boxes must be fitted with a cover identified for the purpose. Conductors should also be protected against overheating due to motor overloads. OSHA code: 29 CFR 1910.305

Texas Mutual policyholders can access resources to help avoid these violations by logging into texasmutual.com and clicking the Safety tab. Our resource center includes a sample respiratory protection program, lockout/tagout e-Learning training and ladder safety posters in multiple languages, among thousands of other resources. Additionally, our safety services support center can help you to identify hazards in your workplace to help you stay off OSHA’s radar. Call 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) to speak to a safety services representative.

All employers can access free safety resources at worksafetexas.com.

Your phone can help you be a safer driver

Safe-Driving-AppIn 2015, distracted driving accounted for nearly nine fatalities each day in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These distractions often stem from our smart phones. We’ve shared tips on how to reduce these distractions, by alerting friends and family that you will be unavailable, setting up your podcast or music before the wheels start rolling, or turning your phone off. Following these tips can help you and your passengers stay safe on the road, but that’s often easier said than done. Now the same technology that has been blamed for distractions behind the wheel is helping drivers be safer on the road, through new apps and built-in features.

Apple recently launched iOS 11, which includes for the first time a safe driving option. When initiated, the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature will detect when you are driving and will silence your incoming calls or alerts. It can even respond to calls and texts so that you can focus on the road. If you are an iPhone user and have not already updated to the new iOS, make sure to do so to try out Apple’s newest safety feature.

There are also apps on the market to help prevent distracted driving or improve driving behavior. All of the apps covered below have free versions and are available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Take a look at a few that may help you, your employees or your family stay safe on the road.

EverDrive

EverDrive is a telematics app that tracks driving behavior just like an in-vehicle monitoring system, but through a user’s phone. It helps users improve driving behavior by scoring five areas: phone distraction, braking, acceleration, cornering and speeding. Using your phone’s GPS, the app detects when you are driving and tracks your behavior behind the wheel. You can compare scores with friends, coworkers or your family for competition.

EverDrive is developed by DriveWell, which also offers a mobile app solution that can be paired with a mobile tag for your vehicle to give further insight into driver behavior, and includes collision detection.

FleetSafer

FleetSafer is a mobile app that detects driving and puts the device in a safe mode when the vehicle is in motion. Employers can view individual or team driving performance and they can also receive real-time alerts. FleetSafer works as a standalone app using GPS, or can be paired with hardware for greater analytics.

LifeSaver

LifeSaver uses your phone’s GPS to track when your car is in motion and then sets the phone in safe mode. It blocks incoming calls and texts. Parents can download a free driver portal to help track their children’s driving behavior. It alerts parents if their child disables the app while driving, and provides feedback so that parents can reward safe driving performance. LifeSaver also offers a fleet management solution with an available 30-day free trial.

TrueMotion

TrueMotion tracks your driving trips and its free family version allows you to see your family members’ trips as well. Users are scored and have the chance to earn rewards for their safe driving. TrueMotion also offers Mojo, a free app that awards points when you drive safely which can be redeemed for cash or prizes.

Remember that texting and driving is illegal in the state of Texas as of last month. Hands-free devices are allowed but Texas Mutual advocates phone-free driving, because research shows that hands-free devices are still distracting. Safe driving is something that we take seriously and we want to do our part to help you reduce the number of traffic-related claims. We have a no phone policy for our own employees and installed in-vehicle monitoring systems in our company fleet. You can find more safe driving tips for yourself, your family and your employees in the safety resource center of your texasmutual.com account, including e-Learning training modules on safe driving and defensive driving.

Regulatory Roundup, October 20

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

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA resumes normal operation in Texashardhat gavel

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, OSHA ceased most enforcement actions and focused on compliance assistance and outreach to affected counties. Now, the agency is resuming regular enforcement operations in most of the impacted counties. OSHA will continue to provide compliance assistance and outreach in the most heavily impacted areas…MORE

New information on OSHA’s silica webpage

OSHA updated their silica page to include information on where silica is found and the associated health hazards. The page also contains tabs with information on compliance assistance for the construction, maritime and general industries…MORE

OSHA releases two fact sheets

osha-logoOSHA released new fact sheets on the Zika virus and shipyard competent persons. The Zika virus fact sheet focuses on biomedical laboratory workers and discusses how exposures can occur, best practices and tips for what to do if an exposure occurs. The shipyard competent person fact sheet includes information on determining the safety of a confined space as well as knowledge and skill requirements, and expected tasks for the competent person…MORE

Studies, resources, trends, news

Coalition against increase in poultry production meets with USDA

The poultry industry’s injury rate is currently two times the national average of all industries. However, an industry petition has been brought forward that would increase production speeds from 140 to 175 birds per minute. Poultry workers and officials from nonprofit organizations and unions recently met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to urge a denial of the petition based on worker safety, animal suffering and consumer protection…MORE

NFPA releases new edition of electrical safety code

FireThe newest electrical code from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), NFPA 70E 2018, is now available. The new version clarifies accountability for electrical safety and addresses job planning, hierarchy of risk controls and risk assessment. The code also includes modified definitions to align with OSHA standards and clarifies terms…MORE

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