Your guide to keeping your employees safe in the Texas heat

Love it or hate it, the Texas summer heat is here. As we creep closer to the inevitable triple digits in many parts of the state, keep in mind that temperature is not an accurate representation of how it really feels and how you should protect yourself. The chart below, known as the hierarchy of controls by safety professionals, identifies what level of protection is needed based on the heat index, which gives you a better idea of how much discomfort you will feel when you go outside.

thermometerPeople who make their living outdoors, as well as those who do physical work in warehouses and other hot indoor spaces, will be at risk of heat illness. As an employer, you need to take steps to protect your staff.

Fortunately, you don’t need a PhD in thermodynamics to avoid heat illness. To avoid heat illness, you need a system for identifying the best ways to protect you and your employees this summer. Safety professionals call it the hierarchy of controls. The rest of us can call it an easy way to keep our cool with hot, humid weather descending on Texas.

How hot does it feel?
When talk turns to heat safety, it’s tempting to take our cues from the thermometer. But temperature only shows half the picture. The heat index, which combines temperature and humidity, is a more accurate reflection of the climate and how it will affect you.
Heat index Risk level Protective measures
Less than 91 degrees Fahrenheit Lower caution Basic heat safety and planning
91 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit Moderate Implement precautions and heighten awareness
103 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit High Additional precautions to protect workers
Greater than 115 degrees Fahrenheit Very high to extreme Triggers even more aggressive protective measures

Engineering controls

Engineering controls deliver the most effective protection against heat illness. Engineering controls eliminate the hazard at its source:

  • Provide air conditioning and/or cooling fans
  • Increase ventilation; provide portable ventilation when possible
  • Install local exhaust ventilation, such as exhaust hoods in laundry rooms and other hot, moist workplaces
  • Redirect heat with reflective shields
  • Insulate hot surfaces, such as furnace walls

Administrative controls

Administrative controls are the second-most effective way to control heat illness. Administrative controls change the way employees do the work. The goal is to reduce exposure to the hazard:

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE is your least-effective control against workplace hazards because it carries risk. PPE could be damaged, and it could give the user a false sense of security. So PPE should always be your last line of defense against workplace hazards:

  • Broad-brimmed hats with neck flaps
  • Light-colored, breathable clothing
  • Safety glasses with tinted, polarized lenses
  • SPF 15-25 sun block
  • Water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, cooling vests and wetted over-garments
  • Insulated gloves, insulated suits, reflective clothing and infrared reflecting face shields
  • Thermally conditioned clothing, such as a garment with a self-contained air conditioner in a backpack
  • A garment with a compressed air source that feeds cool air through a vortex tube
  • A plastic jacket with pockets filled with dry ice or containers of ice

Remember, if you can’t take the heat, follow the hierarchy of controls. For more tips on heat safety, watch our “Keep your cool this summer” webinar.

Commit to safety and health in your workplace

Graphics_Logo_TaglineIn recognition of OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week June 12-18, we’re sharing some of the practices in place at Texas Mutual that create our safety culture. To unite your workplace behind safety, we encourage you to participate in this weeklong event with resources from OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week that best fit your workplace, provided below.

OSHA recognizes the three essential pillars of any effective safety and health program as management leadership, worker participation, and a strategic approach to finding and fixing hazards.

Take the lead on safetyGraphics_Core_Elements_Icons_Leadership
At Texas Mutual, we know that a foundation in safety is best driven by management. We are in the business of keeping workers safe and that goes for own employees as well. One example of leadership working to create safety of culture is  our recently introduced phone-free driving policy.  Texas Mutual CEO Rich Gergasko unveiled the new policy by sharing his commitment to go phone-free any time he is behind the wheel, and asking employees to do the same

To demonstrate management leadership this week, visit OSHA Safe + Sound Week for resources on:

Empower your employeesGraphics_Core_Elements_Icons_Worker_Participation
At Texas Mutual, we energize our employees on their first day on the job by sharing our vision of safety in the workplace. Employees can volunteer to be a part of our Verified First Responder (VFR) team. This team steps up in a time of emergency such as a tornado warning to help with directing employees to a safe location or if an employee needs emergency medical attention by coordinating with paramedics.

OSHA Safe + Sound Week has resources to engage your employees on safety and health through:

Find where you can improveGraphics_Core_Elements_Icons_Find_and_Fix
Outside of Texas Mutual’s VFR team which conducts a monthly facility walk through, we also emphasize the motto “See something, say something” for all employees to report hazards when they see them so they can be promptly addressed. We also conduct annual ergonomic surveys and employees can easily report concerns online, to their supervisor, or by calling facilities or safety personnel.

Try one of OSHA’s approaches below on finding and fixing hazards:

With the resources above, you have the tools to create an event in your workplace to show your commitment to safety. If you’re ready to make it happen, be sure to promote your event and get your certificate of recognition for participating in OSHA Safe + Sound Week.

Putting the brakes on distracted driving

When you are behind the wheel, do you glance at your new texts or Facebook alerts? It only takes a second to lose focus on driving and mistakes behind the wheel can be fatal. While not all accidents can be prevented, at Texas Mutual, we’re putting the brakes on distracted driving by changing our culture.

Texting while driving using cell phone in carSmart phones give us the power to be constantly connected, but our new company policy requires that our employees eliminate the use of phones, even handheld devices, while operating any vehicle during work hours or when on a company trip. We’re asking our employees to wait to return a call or text until they make it safely to their destination or pull over behind picking up the phone and conversely, we should be mindful of our coworkers’ schedules. It’s about more than just putting the phone down. It’s about shifting our mindset about what safe driving looks like.

We invite you and your employees to adopt this same habit as well. The risk is just not worth the reward. By requiring your employees to drive distraction free, you can eliminate near misses, lower the number of driving accidents your workforce experiences and most importantly, help employees stay safe on the road and on the job.

Here are some tips on what you should do to eliminate distractions before you start driving:

  • If needed, alert any coworkers or family members that you will be unavailable while you are driving.
  • If you use your phone for navigation, make sure you have a safe docking solution so that you can stay focused on the road.
  • Pick your podcast, music or audio book before the wheels start rolling.
  • Put your phone in a center console or better yet, just turn it off.
  • Don’t contact employees when you know they could be on the road.
  • Let go of the expectation for employees to answer or return your message immediately.
  • Set an example for your workforce by adopting safe habits and letting your team know what and why you’re doing it.

For a sample policy from the National Safety Council, click here. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or EndDD (End Distracted Driving) for statistics and resources to educate your workplace on the dangers of distracted driving. Also, watch our 60 Seconds to Safe Driving series for practical tips to be safe behind the wheel.

Bottom line, when you are behind the wheel, you should be focused on one thing: driving. We want to make sure our company culture supports that mindset for employees, and we hope you will as well.

Your Claims Questions Answered – How do I create a return-to-work program?

It’s our goal at Texas Mutual to get injured workers back to a productive life as soon as medically possible. With a return-to-work program, you can save on claim costs, business expenses and injured workers can heal sooner and get back to contributing to the team.

We cover how to create a return-to-work program in our next episode of the Your Claims Questions Answered series. Watch the video below and take a look at the steps to create a return-work program in your workplace. Keeping these steps in mind will help you be prepared if the unexpected happens.

Get started now.
A return-to-work program should begin before an injury occurs. For all your employees, make sure you have a current record of their daily job duties, such as a job description, and encourage cross training. That way if an injury occurs that requires leave time, your team can make sure the job duties get fulfilled and you don’t miss a beat.

It may seem like a quick fix to bring someone new in, but the time and expense of hiring a new employee to replace an experienced worker is 50 to 150 percent of their salary.

Determine modified job duties.
The treating doctor will determine the injured worker’s ability to perform job duties. If they are unable to return to the same job, determine what parts of the job they can still do or find a different area in which the employee can make a positive contribution.

Make an offer to the injured worker for the modified position. It’s best to put it in writing, and it should include a DWC Form-073 (Texas Workers’ Compensation Work Status Report) completed by the physician.

Keep open lines of communication.
A little bit of motivation can go a long way for someone recovering from an injury. Stay in touch with the employee and check in with them. This can help them avoid feelings of isolation and the disability mindset. If the employee is back on the job with modified duties, see how they are adjusting to the new role.

Open communication is also important with Texas Mutual. If you have questions or concerns about the injured worker’s claim or recovery, call us at (800) 859-5995.

While every case is different, one of the best ways to control workers’ compensation costs is with a return-to-work program. Call the Texas Mutual safety services team at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) for help getting started or visit for more resources. Watch the Your Claims Questions Answered series here and read our key takeaways from how claims affect your e-mod, reporting an injury, and your role in the claims process.

Regulatory Roundup, May 26

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

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

eToolkit is released to aide emergency responders

hazmatEmergency responders can be exposed to numerous chemicals and although many resources are available for inhalation exposures, there aren’t many for dermal exposures. NIOSH recently began promoting the DERMaL eToolkit, which emergency responders can access on a phone or tablet to receive information about chemicals. The kit holds information on health effects, exposure assessment, control measures and medical management…MORE

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

Pre-shift examination ruling is delayed

The final rule for improving pre-shift examinations of mines was originally scheduled to go into effect on May 23. The effective day has now been delayed until October 2, which will give MSHA more time to educate the mining community, and mine operators more time to implement recordkeeping systems for compliance…MORE

Studies, resources, trends, news

2018 proposed budget foreshadows changes to safety

Dollar BillsThe proposed federal budget has been released for fiscal year 2018 and it shows a 21 percent reduction for the Department of Labor. While MSHA would receive a small increase in funds, OSHA and NIOSH are both scheduled for a decrease in resources. Labor Secretary Acosta is adamant that the budget reflects a commitment to safe jobs in a financially responsible manner, but the American Industrial Hygiene Association has voiced concerns…MORE

Earnings pressure may lead to more injuries

Harvard Business Review recently conducted a study on the relationship between workplace safety and managers’ attempts to meet earnings expectations. The study showed that companies meeting or just beating analyst forecasts had a five to fifteen percent higher rate of injuries and illnesses. The reasoning came down to higher workloads as well as cuts to safety budgets…MORE

A lesson on the consideration of mental health

The U.S. Department of Labor shared a blog post about the importance of employment to the mentally ill community. The article urges employers to provide those with mental health disabilities the same accommodations they would for an employee experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis or cancer treatment. Links for resources pertaining to mental health disabilities are also provided…MORE

CVSA to hold 30th annual International Roadcheck in June

TruckThe Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will hold their 30th annual International Roadcheck this year June 6-8. Each year the alliance focuses on a specific category of violations while inspecting commercial motor vehicles and their drivers. Although inspectors primarily conduct level-1 inspections (considered the most stringent) this year’s focus is cargo securement…MORE


Paying an injured worker’s medical bills out of pocket: What could go wrong?

If you’ve ever caused a fender bender, you may have weighed the option of asking someone to settle with you rather than going through your insurance company. While it might make sense when the damage is limited to a vehicle, it’s much riskier when a person’s health and wellbeing are involved. Still, some employers choose to pay for seemingly minor medical care out of pocket, without involving their workers’ comp carrier. In these employee/provider small-claim arrangements, the employer signs a formal, binding contract making them directly responsible to pay for the services rendered. The employer also submits the insurance carrier’s contact information to the health care provider. The provider then sends all medical bills directly to the employer, as well as a “for information only” copy to the insurance carrier.

While the law allows small-claim arrangements, they are not always in employers’ best interests.

Employers may be paying for non-compensable claims
Insurance carriers investigate accidents to determine whether claims are compensable (claims eligible for compensation) under the Texas Labor Code. By paying for claims out of pocket, employers do not give carriers the opportunity to conduct investigations. Consequently, employers may be paying for non-compensable claims. They may also be paying for co-existing conditions the carrier would have uncovered during an accident investigation.

The law allows health care providers to bill employers their usual and customary fees. Insurance carriers, conversely, reimburse providers according to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation medical fee guidelines, which are typically much lower than usual and customary fees.

Many insurance carriers also offer workers’ compensation health care networks. In these networks, carriers negotiate rates with providers and those rates are generally lower than usual and customary charges.

Minor injuries can get worse
Assume an employee cuts his finger. After the accident, he goes to the doctor, gets five stitches and returns to work the next day. What if a week later, the employee gets a secondary infection that requires a hospital stay?

The point is that minor injuries can get worse, and their associated costs can skyrocket. If the policyholder reports the accident to the carrier, the carrier will manage the claim and act on the policyholder’s behalf. If not, the employer’s costs could pile up quickly.

Employees could be denied care
If an employer owes a provider for a previous claim, the provider may turn away the employer’s injured workers until the employer pays the bill. An injured worker’s health is always the first priority after an accident, and this is an obstacle that could keep them from getting the care they need.

Policyholders assume an administrative burden
Under the Medicare, Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Extension Act (MMSEA), carriers that provide liability, no-fault and workers’ compensation insurance, as well as employers who pay their own claims, must identify the Medicare beneficiary status of claimants and report claim data quarterly to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Insurance carriers comply with MMSEA requirements on employers’ behalves. Employers who pay claims out of pocket are responsible for complying with the requirements. This added administrative burden leaves less time for running a business.

For more information on this topic, visit the small claims page at, and consult these sources:

Your Claims Questions Answered – What do I do if an employee gets hurt?

In our new YouTube video series Your Claims Questions Answered, we address the most commonly asked claims-related questions. We covered your role in the claims process recently on the blog. Next up, we are discussing what to do when an employee gets hurt while at work. Watch the video and take a look at our key takeaways below.

Address the employee’s health

If an employee is injured on the job, the first thing you should do is assess the situation and determine if it is an emergency. Call 911 if needed and make sure the employee gets timely care to facilitate a quick recovery.

Using the Texas Star Network can help employees get the care they need and can help you manage claim costs. Injured workers can search for a treating doctor, pharmacy, or specialist through the Texas Star Network’s provider portal online or through the Texas Star Network’s mobile app.

Report the claim to Texas Mutual

To report an injury, we will need a DWC-1 Form known as the Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness. We’ve made it easy to report claims to Texas Mutual online, by phone, fax or mail. Whichever way you choose to report, it’s best to make a report as soon as you can, so Texas Mutual can help you with the claim. The law allows employers up to eight days to report the injury.

Keep open lines of communication

Open communication supports a culture of safety by empowering employees to voice their concerns. Make sure employees know how to report safety hazards and how to access the resources they need to be safe on the job.

In the event someone is injured on the job, getting them back to a productive life is always best. Stay in touch with the employee throughout their recovery to help mitigate their feelings of isolation and maintain team comradery.  A return-to-work program can be started before an injury occurs. Visit the Return-to-Work page at for more resources.

Training and preparation

There are steps you should take to be as prepared as possible for when a workplace injury occurs. Making safety a habit starts with providing the right training for your employees to do their jobs safely. Texas Mutual has free resources available for you and your employees including webinars and e-Learning online training courses.

Assign a point person to take the lead during injury incidents and create an action plan that is accessible for your employees. Practice drills can help your workplace prepare for an emergency situation and can help you identify any shortfalls in training.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you be prepared when a workplace injury occurs. Next in the Your Claims Questions Answered series, we’ll cover how claims affect your e-mod.

%d bloggers like this: