How to stay healthy and safe during disaster cleanup

Risk SignNow that the water has receded, communities are busy cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Harvey. Take a look below at our tips to stay safe during disaster cleanup, with specific tips for different safety hazards you may face. You can also refer to our blog post, 5 steps to prepare for an emergency, to shape your disaster preparedness.

Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE)

Flood waters are known to carry many contaminants and if water entered your home or business, it may have brought toxins with it, including untreated sewage and industrial chemicals. Flood water can also bring the rapid growth of dangerous mold that can cause respiratory problems. For these reasons, PPE is crucial for cleaning up flood-damaged structures. According to the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), sufficient PPE includes respiratory masks, long sleeve shirts, pants, work boots, gloves and protective eye wear. This will protect against bacteria, spores and debris.

Know how to dispose of trash and debris

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has shared details on what to do with trash and debris from the storm. The TCEQ has also approved 118 waste management sites to help with the cleanup. Certain types of waste and debris can be recycled or safely burned onsite, so it’s important to know what options are available. Click here for guidance on managing debris from the TCEQ.

Take caution with food and water

A natural disaster can leave homes and businesses without power, which interferes with kitchen refrigeration, and flood waters that enter a property can spoil food. Don’t take any chances. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises discarding any food that may have come in contact with storm water. When in doubt, throw it out.

Be sure to follow guidance from the EPA on the safety of your drinking water and boil it if necessary. The EPA is continuing to monitor the safety and health of water sources and wastewater treatment plants after Harvey.

Think about the health of emergency responders

Being the first on the scene, emergency responders brave the unknown to help others to safety. It’s important to monitor emergency responders’ health following a disaster. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a new free app to help monitor the health of emergency responders following a natural disaster or public health emergency. With the app, emergency responders can be monitored during and after a response to determine if they need medical attention or further health surveillance.

Find more resources below on staying safe when cleaning up after a disaster:

Visit the Safety Resource Center of your account for more than 2,000 free resources including emergency and disaster planning videos and presentations to keep your employees safe. If your business has been significantly affected by Hurricane Harvey, visit to see what Texas Mutual is doing to help and to find resources for your business.

Five steps to prepare for an emergency

In light of Hurricane Harvey, many families and businesses are reflecting on what they can do to better prepare for a disaster. Having an emergency plan in place can make all the difference during a crisis, and it’s important to create one before the event.

Be PreparedSeptember is National Preparedness Month, which is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is supported by relief organizations, like the Red Cross. In recognition of National Preparedness Month and in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we’re covering five steps to help you and your business prepare for an emergency. You’ll also find a list of resources below to help you implement each of the five steps.

  1. Assess potential hazards

It’s important to identify what types of risk exposures exist for your workplace. Consider the hazards that can occur from your type of business, such as chemical exposure or fire danger, but also consider what external factors could cause a crisis at your workplace, such as bad weather, an active shooter, or wildfire danger. Discuss these scenarios and how to manage them with your leadership team so that you, your employees and your workplace are protected as best as possible.

  1. Be informed

As a business owner, you have a responsibility to keep your employees informed and give guidance to them when it’s needed. It’s important to stay up to speed with what’s going on in your community, so take a moment to find out the best way to get information for your area.

Many local news stations offer text alerts, and state agencies and local governments often operate their own Twitter handles to disseminate important information quickly.

News travels fast by word of mouth, so get to know your neighbors in surrounding buildings. Talk about disaster planning and see how you could work together to keep each other informed, report emergencies and handle crises.

  1. Make a plan

Once you identify potential hazards and determine how your business will handle each type of situation, put your plans in writing. Having a written plan will help make sure everyone knows their role and will ensure consistency in your emergency response.

Your emergency action plan (EAP) should include specifics such as:

  • How to report emergencies
  • Who to report to
  • When and how to evacuate the workplace
  • How to lockdown your workplace

In addition to your EAP, prepare a crisis communication plan to document how you will communicate with internal and external audiences.

A crisis communication plan should include:

  • Who you will notify within your company of a crisis situation and how you will notify them
  • What information you will share with employees and how you will communicate with them
  • Who will handle conversations with external audiences such as local, state, and federal authorities
  • Pre-prepared message templates or samples, such as e-mails, letters, tweets, press releases, or text messages, that you can easily update for a specific situation
  1. Get equipped

Prepare your workplace for emergencies with the right supplies and equipment, such as a first aid kit, cardiac defibrillator, fire extinguisher, and an eye wash station, if one is needed for your type of work. Your employees should know where to locate these resources, and you should regularly check them to make sure they are fully stocked and in working condition.

  1. Practice

After you put your plans in writing, it’s important to practice. It can be difficult to remember what to do when an emergency arises, so practicing specific scenarios will help your employees react smoothly. Your plan is only as strong as the people that understand it and know how to execute it. Schedule regular planned and unplanned drills throughout the year.

Emergencies can happen at any time, but these five steps will help you prepare for the unexpected. You can also find more than 2,000 free resources for policyholders, including emergency and disaster planning videos and presentations, on

Find more resources below from other organizations that can help you in your emergency planning:

If your business has been significantly affected by Hurricane Harvey, visit to see what Texas Mutual is doing to help and to find resources for your business.

Technology helps bring safer driving habits to Texas Mutual

You’re driving down the highway, minding your speed, when a truck flies by, cuts in front of you and slams on its brakes. You’re rightfully irritated and then you notice the truck has a “How’s My Driving?” bumper sticker. Do you take the time to pull over, call and report your experience?

driving car on highwayMore often than not, drivers don’t make the call. For years, Texas Mutual relied on these “How’s My Driving?” stickers to encourage safe driving among our employees, but with no real way to confirm if they were making a positive difference to improve driving behavior.

Safe driving is an issue we are especially aware of here at Texas Mutual. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job injuries and death for our policyholders’ employees. It’s our mission to help our policyholders reduce these accidents and keep our own employees safe on the road as well.

That’s why in March 2015, we installed an in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) in more than 90 vehicles in our fleet. The IVMS uses telematics technology to transmit information about how someone is driving, which is used to identify potentially unsafe patterns.

For Texas Mutual, our IVMS is about more than just tracking driving behavior – it also offers peace of mind knowing those who travel for work on a daily basis stay safe by practicing good driving behaviors. We ask our policyholders to do all they can to ensure their workers are safe on the road, and we hold ourselves to the same standard.

How an IVMS works

The system, which takes less than one minute to install into your car’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, monitors real-time data. It tracks three risk indicators: speed, rapid acceleration and hard braking. Drivers and their department managers receive a weekly scorecard, similar to a school report card, which assigns an overall letter grade and a letter grade for each of the three risk indicators. The intent is to improve driving habits by informing employees of their driving behavior in a timely manner, and identifying potentially unsafe patterns of driving behavior. The reports are not used in performance reviews for disciplinary action or negative feedback.

The weekly scorecards also include distance traveled, driving time, idling cost and engine usage. To encourage friendly competition, you can also have the scorecards rank business groups within the company. Many businesses also use the technology to track deliveries and manage their fleet, and more sophisticated systems include on-board cameras that monitor the driver’s face and eyes for signs of fatigue and distraction. The cost of an IVMS varies with its complexity. Basic systems cost a few hundred dollars, while more advanced ones cost up to $1,000.

Safer drivers, fewer accidents

The IVMS technology provides reliable information and gives us insight into driving performance in a way we never had before. Since implementing our IVMS, we have seen a 61 percent decrease in preventable accidents. In its first week of implementation in March 2015, the average safe driving score at Texas Mutual was 90 out of 100, but that number has increased to 94.5 in the time since then. Our goal is for our employees to return home safely at the end of the day and the IVMS is a tool helping us meet that goal.

car-crash-emergency-workersWhen used as part of a comprehensive fleet safety program, in-vehicle-monitoring systems can help change the behaviors that contribute to traffic accidents, the number one cause of on-the-job fatalities. The technology allows you to monitor risky driving behaviors so that accidents are reduced and most importantly, employees are safe on the road.

Texas Mutual has seen tremendous success from these systems. The majority of employees consistently receive a score of A, and habits are changing for the better, both on the clock and in their personal time.

In-vehicle-monitoring systems work best when it’s part of a comprehensive safe driving program. At Texas Mutual, it does not take the place of our ongoing effort to spread the message about safe driving. Take a look at how we are reshaping our company culture to put the brakes on distracted driving. We continue to educate our employees on safe driving, and those who are on the road as part of their job must still complete a defensive driving course every two years.

If you have any questions about using an IVMS, read more here or call the safety services support center at 844-WORKSAFE. Our safety service representatives can help you determine if this system would be a good fit for your business and help you keep your drivers safer on the road.

How Texas Mutual will continue to serve those affected by Hurricane Harvey – Updated 9/12/17

The thoughts of all of us at Texas Mutual are with our fellow Texans in Houston and the Gulf Coast region affected by Hurricane Harvey, including the employees in our Houston Regional Office. Everyone’s focus should be on the security and safety of themselves, their loved ones and their property at this time.

Disaster relief.jpgBecause of the storm, some of our Houston area employees are not available for calls or emails. However, our employees in Austin, Dallas and Lubbock are available to meet your needs. Please call (800) 859-5995 with any questions, and our information services team will provide you with necessary assistance.

Texas Mutual stands ready to help, and has the following resources available for our policyholders, injured workers and insurance agency partners. This information will be updated as further details are available.

The Texas Department of Insurance has developed a helpful resources page for anyone affected by Hurricane Harvey, including tips for claim filing, ways to avoid fraudulent contractors and more.


Texas Mutual will provide a grace period for premium payments and suspend any policy cancellations for those in areas affected by the storm, in accordance with guidance from the Texas Department of Insurance. Our premium audit team will make accommodations to ensure that our business processes do not affect your recovery operations.

On Friday, September 8, we notified policyholders who have been selected to receive safety grants that the deadline has been extended to submit receipts for reimbursement by 60 days. These policyholders can contact the safety services team at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) with any questions.

Texas Mutual is pledging $10 million to the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort for policyholders. Current policyholders who have sustained significant damage can apply for up to $10,000 in grant funds. Grant applications open September 13 at noon. Visit for information on how to apply and for other resources for your business.

Injured workers

The primary focus for injured workers should be getting appropriate care. Workers in the affected area participating in our Texas Star Network can seek treatment with any medical provider, regardless of network status, in order to ensure that their needs are met. We will try to contact workers receiving paper benefit checks to see if an alternate delivery method is necessary due to flooding.  Your adjuster is here to help, but feel free to call our main number if you are not able to reach us.

If an injured worker in one of the affected areas misses a designated doctor or requirement medical exam because either the worker or provider was unavailable, benefits will not be suspended. Further, claim reporting and filing deadlines for claims in the affected areas are suspended for the duration of the Governor’s disaster declaration.


We value our partnership with our agents, and will do everything we can to help you continue to serve our mutual clients. Underwriting operations will continue out of our Dallas and Austin regional offices for as long as necessary to ensure that it is safe for our Houston employees to return to the office.

Remember that you can check the ‘Documents’ page on Texas Mutual Online to review any policy or agency documents you may need while mail service is unavailable. Call our main number if you need assistance with your online account.

Supporting recovery efforts

For those of you in other parts of the state who wish to help, the following resources are available:

Texas Mutual ADRN

Texas Mutual employees volunteered with the Austin Disaster Relief Network over the weekend. Our employees are ready to continue relief

  • United Way of Greater Houston is on the ground and providing support to those affected. You can give to the disaster relief fund here. United Way of Greater Houston also has a helpful resource guide available for those affected by the storm.
  • Texas Mutual is partnering with the Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) to get much needed supplies for hurricane survivors. Central Texans are encouraged to bring donation items to ADRN’s Hope Family Thrift Store receiving dock at 1122 E. 51st Street, Austin, Texas, 78723. Donations are accepted at the receiving dock Monday through Saturday (closed Sunday) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit ADRN’s Hurricane Harvey response page for a list of items needed or for more information.


How to survive an OSHA inspection

When business is good, your team operates like a well-oiled machine, but that doesn’t always mean it’s working safely. If safety falls by the wayside, you could earn a visit from OSHA, which costs up to $126,749 for the most serious violations. Needless to say, that’s a line item you don’t want in your books.

OSHA’s fee structure

Type of violation Penalty
Posting Requirements
$12,675 per violation
Failure to Abate $12,675 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $126,749 per violation

Most employers will never cross OSHA’s radar, but what if OSHA does come knocking? Take a look at our tips for surviving an OSHA inspection.

1. Report injuries and illnesses

OSHA requires employers to record and report all fatalities, as well as certain injuries and illness. You can avoid costly fines by complying with recording and recordkeeping requirements. OSHA launched an Injury Tracking Application on Aug. 1 to help with reporting injuries and illnesses electronically.

2. Know what triggers an inspection

OSHA conducts programmed and unprogrammed inspections. Programmed inspections are planned. They focus on high-hazard companies and industries. Unplanned factors, including fatalities, severe injuries and employee complaints, trigger unprogrammed inspections. OSHA is there to help you keep your employees safe and hold you accountable. Knowing what triggers an inspection will help you prevent accidents that can prompt a visit from OSHA and help you be prepared if an inspection arises.

osha-logo3. Understand the inspection process

OSHA inspections follow a strict process, starting with the inspector presenting his or her credentials. From there, the inspector explains the purpose of the visit during the opening conference. The inspector will then walk the job site looking for hazards. The process wraps up with the closing conference, where you learn about any violations the inspector found. Knowing the steps can help you explain the process to your employees, which can ease their concerns and help you know what to expect.

4. Create an I2P2

A written injury and illness prevention program, known in OSHA-speak as an I2P2, provides a road map for sending employees home injury-free. The plan identifies the hazards employees are exposed to, explains how the company will protect employees and assigns accountability within the program. If you do not have an I2P2 in place, it’s best to be proactive and create one before an injury occurs.

5. Keep accurate records

Accurate records are a critical component of any successful safety program and they’re also a key part of OSHA inspections. During the opening conference, you will present your written I2P2, safety training records, medical surveillance records and OSHA logs. The inspector will also ask about applicable OSHA-required programs, such as hazard communicationhearing conservationforklift safety and confined spaces. This means it’s vital to keep records along the way so that you’re prepared if and when an OSHA inspector comes knocking. For sample programs, visit OSHA and the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) online.

6. Don’t interfere with the inspection

Sometimes, an employer allows the inspector to enter but interferes with or limits an important aspect of the inspection, such as the walk-through or employee interviews. Remember that interference could result in legal action. Allow inspectors to see what they are there to inspect, provide them with requested documentation and allow them to speak to employees.

7. Apply for variances

If you are found to have violated an OSHA standard, you might qualify for a compliance exception, or variance. For example, some employers may not be able to comply fully and on time with a new safety or health standard because of a shortage of personnel, materials or equipment. You can speak to your local OSHA office about this option.

8. Get compliance assistance

If you’ve tried to navigate OSHA’s standards, you know there is a lot to consider. Fortunately, you’re not on your own. Take advantage of these free OSHA-sponsored compliance assistance programs:

  • OSHCON – OSHA partners with TDI to offer the Occupational Safety and Health Consultation (OSHCON) program. The program is a non-regulatory service that helps employers identify and correct violations without getting fined.
  • VPP – Qualifying employers can enroll in OSHA’s voluntary protection program (VPP). Participating employers are exempt from programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.
  • Discounted OSHA training – Texas Mutual offers policyholders a discount on OSHA’s 10-hour general industry or construction industry training. Visit Discounted OSHA Training on our website to learn more.

Maintaining a safe workplace is the best way to stay off OSHA’s radar, and Texas Mutual is here to help. Call our safety services support center at 844-WORKSAFE to connect with a dedicated safety consultant who can provide safety evaluations and training. Visit to access more than 2,000 free resources, including e-Learning training modules to educate your employees on safe procedures. We encourage every employer to leverage the free resources offered by Texas Mutual, and make safety a priority in their organization.

Getting schooled on safety

As parents send their kids back to school in the coming weeks, they are entrusting teachers to not only guide their children’s education, but also to keep them safe during their time away from home. Safety is an important component of school life, but it’s important for teachers to keep themselves safe as well. For teachers and school staff, the new academic year could mean an increased chance for the most frequent workers’ comp-related injuries we see in schools: slips, trips and falls.

Road signs in Japan : Warning signs, Children crossingFor teachers and all other school employees, including cafeteria and janitorial staff, the best way to prevent on-the-job injuries is to create a greater awareness of these potential hazards, which in turn will help every staff member prevent them.

Take a look below at our tips for reducing hazards and preventing falls in schools:

  • Hallways, classrooms and reception areas should be kept free of debris and clutter, and trash should be collected and removed daily.
  • Electrical and telephone cords should be routed around doorways and walkways.
  • Worn, torn or loose floor coverings should be repaired or replaced immediately.
  • Floors should be swept or vacuumed daily.
  • Spills should be cleaned up promptly and “Caution: Wet Floor” signs displayed.
  • Library and classroom bookshelves should be solidly constructed and neatly arranged to reduce the possibility of injuries sustained from collapsing shelves or toppling books.
  • Schools with stairwells should ensure the stairs are in good condition, covered with a non-skid material and equipped with sturdy handrails.

Free resources

A safe work environment requires proper training and a collective effort. You’ll find free resources below from Texas Mutual to help prevent slips, trips and falls, as well as safety material to help educators keep their students safe.

  • Utilize Texas Mutual’s free e-Learning online courses. With more than 200 courses to choose from, including fall prevention training, e-Learning helps educate faculty and staff on reducing common workplace injuries. To get started, select e-Learning under the safety resources tab in your account.
  • For a deeper look into why slips, trips and falls happen and how they impact your business, watch our webinar on Tips for a Slip, Trip and Fall-Free Work Day.
  • Visit the National Education Association for free educator resources about emergency planning and violence prevention, and material for parents on school safety issues.

Teaching is an important profession that often emphasizes preparation and education to students, but those values are just as important for teachers. Preparing for the unexpected and educating yourself about potential workplace hazards are the best ways to prevent an injury at work.

10 tips for a healthier workplace

Keeping Texas workers safe requires a foundation in wellness. At Texas Mutual, this is what we have put into practice for our own employees, and what we encourage for our policyholders. With healthy employees in your workforce, you can expect lower health care costs, increased productivity, and less absenteeism. We discussed these benefits in detail in Combining Work and Wellness for Healthier, More Productive Employees.

dumbbell and apple with measuring tapeFor every $1 you spend on wellness, you can get up to $3 savings on costs associated with health. Whether you launch a robust workplace wellness program or simply make small improvements along the way, there are numerous small changes you can introduce to help improve the health of your workforce. To help you get started, take a look at 10 ways you can start today:

    1. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make employees feel groggy, cranky, and hungry. Encourage employees to rehydrate by providing water coolers, offering reusable water bottles customized with your company’s logo, or keep the refrigerator stocked with water.
    2. Take stretching or walking breaks. Encourage employees to give their muscles the attention they need, especially if they are working physically demanding jobs. Stretching reduces stress and helps break up the day so that employees are more productive, and walking is a good way for office workers to stay active throughout the day.
    3. Offer flu shots on site. Getting a flu shot reduces your risks of contracting the illness and can keep your employees from missing work. If covering the cost of flu shots is not in the budget, consider offering a discount, or give employees tips on when and where they can get a flu shot on their own.
    4. Stock up on hand sanitizer and tissues. Having these items readily available help to prevent spreading germs and sickness.
    5. Swap out the candy bowl for fresh fruit. The US Department of Agriculture’s “Choose My Plate” website recommends most adults consume about 2 cups of fresh fruit daily. Help employees get theirs in with free apples, oranges and bananas.
    6. Start a fitness challenge. Bring healthy competition to the workplace with a low-cost fitness challenge. Visit 7 Simple, Fun Wellness Challenges to Start at Work for ideas.
    7. Provide health screenings. A wellness screening can identify potential health concerns by checking blood glucose levels, blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), and cholesterol. Motivate employees to improve their results with an incentive such as a gift card, catered lunch, or raffle prize.
    8. Help your employees quit tobacco. The American Cancer Society offers a Fresh Start program, a group-based tobacco cessation support program for workplaces.
    9. Get active with a local gym. Reach out to a local gym about offering discounted membership rates to your employees. Local gyms often provide lower rates in exchange for new members.
    10. Keep the sickness at home. Spreading germs is not worth the risk of making others sick. Make sure that employees who are ill and contagious stay home to recover.

Implementing one of these 10 tips can help you get started with wellness in your workplace or expand your current program. For more resources, call the Texas Mutual safety services team at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723) or visit

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