On the Road with Texas Mutual Recruiting

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

Recent visits to the University of Texas and Texas State Technical College wrapped up a busy first season of college recruiting. I’ve packed everything away until this fall, when our recruiting efforts will continue. The overall result? New relationships, building our brand at universities and a pipeline of talent that will serve Texas Mutual for years to come.   Now, we’ve set our sights on filling a new class of underwriter trainees that will start June 2.

Recruiting for a new class of underwriters made me curious about underwriting. I got a chance to find out more from underwriter and Baylor grad Scott Bonds in our Dallas office.   So Scott, what does a day in your life look like?

Scott says:

I’d say for an underwriter in Texas, my day is pretty darn good.

6:15 a.m. – 6:50 a.m. Wake up, shower, grab a quick glass of orange juice and head to a local networking meeting.

7 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Network with a group of business people from all industries (Baylor Business Network of Dallas) and listen to an interesting presentation given by a Baylor Alum. I talk with a few alumni and meet a few who are agents in Dallas. They know about Texas Mutual, and I tell them the latest news on our success and which industries I see growing in my book of business. They like the update and talk about the upcoming football season.

8:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. Travel into work and fight traffic. I dream about the day road construction will be finished and anticipate how much better the drive will be.

9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Pull up my email and queue to see what the day has in store. I have two voicemails from agents. The first is a question on how to classify a risk.   The second wants to discuss pricing on a new business account we quoted last week. His presentation to the client is Friday, so he needs a quick response.

I return the phone calls and respond to a few emails. The agent who wanted to discuss the submission thinks his account deserves better pricing. I ask about the safety procedures the account has in place and what the insured has done to prevent a few larger losses from happening again. He says he will find out and get back to me later in the day.

I process a few endorsements and review renewal accounts. I’m able to release them fairly quickly. Now it’s time to head to lunch.

11 a.m. – noon Grab lunch with a co-worker down the street at a local Italian restaurant. We talk about a few of the accounts we are working on and how the Dallas sports teams are doing.

Noon – 2:30 p.m. I get back to my desk. I have a voicemail from the agent who needs additional pricing. He has the answers I need. I review how the losses will develop in our pricing tool and document why I’m able to reduce the pricing. He is excited and thinks we will get the business.

I review a more complex account and discuss some of the exposures with my supervisor. We agree that we need a slight increase due to the losses being higher than expected.

I send a few emails, process three more endorsements and pack up for my agency visit later at 3 p.m.

2:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Our marketing representative and I drive over to meet with one of my agents. Their office is actually near my house, so I take my own car to head home afterward.

3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Our marketing representative and I meet with the agency owners to discuss accounts and check their outlook for the year. The agency projects they will grow approximately 10 percent with us in the coming year.

We finish up our meeting around 3:45 p.m., and I walk around the office talking with some of the account managers and producers. I visit with an account manager and learn about her commute. Then, I speak with a few producers who are Baylor alumni about my meeting that morning and talk football. The owner of the agency drops by and gives us a hard time about it, as he went to a different school. We discuss a few more accounts the agency is targeting that may be a good fit for Texas Mutual. I make a few notes in my notebook and tell the producer I will be on the lookout for them when they hit my desk. I shake a few more hands as I’m walking out and head home.

4:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. I make the short(er) drive home.

As Scott describes his “typical Tuesday,” I notice he is clearly well-versed in analysis, teamwork, negotiating, customer service and relationship building. And football, lots of football.

Join me next time, when I go “On the Road” with Austin regional office senior underwriter Nathan Rudolph and update progress on our underwriting class.

Prepare for Tomorrow’s Emergency Today

emergencyFor most of us, one day does not look much different from the next. We wake up at the same time. We take the same route to work. Maybe we take a coffee break around 10 a.m., followed by lunch at noon.

But what if something interrupts our routine? Not a traffic jam or a flat tire, mind you. Think bigger.

Fires, tornados, power outages and other emergencies can put your employees at risk and derail your business. In fact, up to 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen after an emergency, according to the American Red Cross.

Ninety-four percent of small business owners believe a disaster could seriously disrupt their business within the next two years, yet only 35 percent have comprehensive disaster recovery plan.

September is National Preparedness Month, a perfect time to prepare for tomorrow’s emergency today. Emergency preparedness plans vary by industry, but they should all address these five things:

Assigning accountability. Form a team of voluntary first responders (VFRs) that includes employees from across the company.

Evacuating. Establish mulitiple evacuation routes, and clearly mark them. And don’t forget a process for sheltering in place. Practice both processes so employees know exactly what to do during an emergency.

Treating victims. Your VFRs might have to deliver first aid while you wait for the ambulance . It is crucial that first aid kits, defibrillators and fire extinguishers be clearly marked, easy to get to and in good condition.

Reporting emergencies. If you stay calm when you call 9-1-1, your chances of getting prompt support increase. Calmly describe the emergency. Tell the operator the address where the emergency happened, and provide directions. Let the operator guide the conversation, and stay on the line until he or she tells you it is okay to hang up.

Getting back to business. Your employees’ safety should be your priority during an emergency. Afterward, work toward recovering and returning to business as soon as possible. Identifying core business functions and the employees who perform those functions is crucial.

Get more information

The federal government launched an emergency preparedness website at ready.gov. The site includes information on preparing your home and your business for an emergency.

Texas Mutual policyholders can also visit the safety resource center at texasmutual.com for an online video titled, “Disaster Readiness.” The video is available in English and Spanish.

This article originally appeared in CompNews, Texas Mutual’s policyholder newsletter. Click here for the unabridged version on page three.

Put a Safe Spark in Your July 4th Celebration

FireworksFireworks are a staple of America’s Independence Day. Unfortunately, while fireworks can produce a nice visual, they can also present safety hazards.

According to the National Council on Fireworks Safety, between 7,000 and 11,000 people are injured in fireworks-related accidents each year. In addition to physical injuries, more than $36 million in property damage is reported annually. Many of these accidents can be prevented.

Carelessness and misuse of fireworks are the most common causes of injuries and accidents. Here are some tips that will help ensure a safe and happy Fourth of July celebration:

  • Most municipalities ban discharge of fireworks within city limits.  Avoid an unplanned discussion with law enforcement by checking on the restrictions in your area.
  • Only buy fireworks from licensed retail outlets.
  • Never experiment with homemade or altered fireworks.
  • Carefully read and follow all of the directions on the package.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors, away from buildings and dry grass, and on a flat surface.
  • Keep wet towels, a water hose, a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Light one firework at a time, and then move away quickly.
  • Never shoot fireworks from a glass or metal container.
  • Never point roman candles, bottle rockets or other shooting fireworks at people or animals.
  • Do not hold lit fireworks.
  • Never position any body part over lit fireworks. 
  • Never point or throw fireworks at animals or people.
  • Always have emergency contact information available and an emergency plan in place.
  • Do not try to reignite malfunctioned fireworks.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as gloves and goggles. 
  • Keep spectators and pets a safe distance away.
  • Don’t overestimate a child’s ability to handle fireworks. Always make sure there is adult supervision.

In Texas, high temperatures and dry conditions create another concern for fireworks users. It’s important to know if there is a fire danger in the area before planning a fireworks spectacle.

There are plenty of resources to find out what condition county and city grounds are in or if there is a burn ban in the area. Watch the local news, visit the city website, or call the local police department or city office for information.

The most important safety tip is to use common sense when lighting fireworks. Follow safety procedures, and closely monitor children. Better yet, leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Many communities host events that provide large-scale fireworks shows in a controlled environment.

Highlights From TDI’s 15th Annual Safety Summit: Part II

Close your eyes and imagine the five people who you would not want to be involved in a tragic accident. Who came to mind? Your spouse? Your kids? Parents and close friends?

What about yourself?

Most of us believe accidents happen to other people, not us. Eric Giguere is living proof that we need to change our paradigm.

Ten years ago, Eric was buried alive on a construction site. Nowadays, he tours the country, pleading with anyone who will listen to avoid making the same mistakes he made.

In May, Eric told his story to a banquet hall full of workplace safety professionals at TDI’s safety summit in Austin. Here are some highlights, in case you missed it.

The Buried Truth Uncovered
Presented by Eric Giguere
Motivational Speaker

  • Taking shortcuts on the job can end tragically.
  • We think serious accidents only happen to other people, but Eric is living proof they can happen to anyone.
  • Your employer is not responsible for your safety; you are.

Communication is crucial. Employers have to make sure employees are comfortable reporting unsafe conditions and doing the job the safe way, even if it slows them down.

Tools for Safety TrainersSafety tools
Presented by Dian Mahaffey
TDI-DWC Program Specialist II

  • After 2 weeks, people remember only 20 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, and 50 percent of what they see and hear. But they retain up to 90 percent of what they hear, say and do.
  • Identify the ABCD’s of Performance Objectives: Audience (who will be trained?), Behavior (what task will learners perform?), Condition (what will learners be given to perform the task?) and Degree (how well will learners be expected to do the task?).
  • Tell them what you will tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.
  • Set ground rules for the training, and then RAP: make it Real, Active and Participatory.

The Globally Harmonized System and Hazard Communication
Presented by Joann Natarajan
OSHA Austin Area Compliance Assistance Specialist

  • All employees must be trained on new label elements and safety data sheets by December 1, 2013.
  • Major changes include hazard classification, labels (symbols, signal words and hazard statements), safety data sheets, and information and training.
  • GHS includes a new list of chemicals presenting a “physical hazard.”
  • OSHA’s website contains numerous resources on HazCom under “Safety and Health Topics.”

More to come

Employees are more likely to embrace safety when they see management doing the same. In next week’s @TexasMutual blog post, we will provide a few more highlights from this year’s safety summit. Topics will include management commitment, ergonomics and required OSHA training.

Workers’ comp: What’s on your mind?

healthy livingPost-accident cost control tops the list of employers’ workers’ compensation concerns, according to a 2013 study released by ZyWave. Ironically, accident prevention ranked a close second, indicating some employers are putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

Also weighing heavily on employers’ minds are obesity and diabetes, as well as workplace violence.

If you share these concerns, you’ll love this week’s list of best workers’ comp practices.

Accident prevention
The best way to control claims costs is to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. Texas Mutual recommends that every employer create a documented safety program and, just as importantly, enforce the program.

If you don’t have a safety program and you’re not sure where to start, visit texasmutualsafetyfirst.com for three simple steps to preventing workplace accidents.

Employers can take advantage of other free resources at worksafetexas.com, safehandtexas.org, the Texas Department of Insurance, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Post-accident cost control
What do you do when an employee gets injured on the job? File the claim and let your insurance company handle it? If so, you are missing valuable opportunities to control your claims costs and, ultimately, your premium.

A return-to-work program is a proactive way for employers to manage their claims. You should customize your program to meet your needs, but it should include these core steps.

Before an accident:

  1. Put your return-to-work program in writing.
  2. Assess job tasks, documenting the physical demands.
  3. Identify modified duty injured employees can do while they recover.

After an accident:

  1. Communicate regularly with the injured worker, the doctor and the insurance company.
  2. Make a bona fide offer of employment when you have identified a modified duty assignment. See DWC Rule 129.6 for more information on bona fide offers of employment.

Texas Mutual and the Texas Department of Insurance offer free resources to help employers launch a return-to-work program or improve an existing program.

Unhealthy habits can affect work performance, motivation, quality of life and self-worth. From an employer’s perspective, an unhealthy worker can contribute to increased health care costs and workers’ compensation claims related to health problems.

A Duke University Medical Center study found that obese workers filed twice as many workers’ compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from those claims, and lost 13 times more days of work from on-the-job injuries or illnesses than non-obese workers. Ultimately, obesity costs employers $73 billion per year.

An employee wellness program can help reduce those costs and promote a happier, more productive workforce.

Workplace violence
Do your employee work late hours, exchange money with the public or guard valuable items? If so, they may be at risk of workplace violence.

Workplace violence is the second-leading cause of on-the-job fatalities, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and NIOSH found that each week in the United States, there are nearly 20 homicides and 18,000 assaults in the workplace. Preparation and planning can help minimize the number of employees involved in a violent workplace incident.

Electrical Safety: It’s Not Just for the Pros

Safety toolsLook around your workplace. If you’re on a construction site, you probably see power saws, drills and other electrical tools. If you’re in an office, you’re surrounded by computers, telephones and coffee pots.

The point is that regardless of your industry, you use equipment that runs on electricity. If you do not have safety procedures in place, that equipment can cause serious workplace injuries, up to and including death. The most common emergencies associated with electricity are shocks, burns, fires and explosions.

Electricians are trained to avoid the risks associated with working around electricity. The rest of us can follow a few simple tips to stay safe on the job:

Inspect and maintain equipment

Damaged or malfunctioning equipment increase your employees’ risk of getting injured. Before using power tools, cords and other equipment, make sure it is in good condition:

  • Check tools for broken casings, as well as loose screws, nuts, bolts and moveable parts.
  • Inspect power cords for exposed wires, cracked casing, and bent or broken prongs.
  • Make sure receptacle outlets are not cracked or broken, and have cover plates in place.
  • Ensure breaker panels have covers, and breakers are labeled.
  • Keep equipment clean and lubricated.

Practice safe behaviors

The safest way to do the job is not always the easiest way or the quickest way. Unfortunately, shortcuts get people injured. Every employee should understand that the company expects them to practice safe behaviors:

  • Understand which tasks require insulated gloves, metal-free shoes, hard hats rated for electricity and other personal protective equipment, and wear that equipment every time you do those tasks.
  • Stop using damaged and malfunctioning equipment immediately, and report it to a supervisor. Tag this equipment as “Damaged—Do Not Use” so others don’t get injured.
  • Remember that electricity flows easily through metal and water. Avoid using electrical tools in wet conditions. Remove metal jewelry, and do not use metal ladders or tools near power lines or other sources of electricity.
  • Follow the company’s lockout/tagout procedures. If you do not know the procedures, ask your supervisor.
  • Keep at least 10 feet between you and overhead power lines, per federal regulations. Additional minimum clearance is required for power lines carrying over 50,000 volts.
  • Respect high-voltage warning signs and barricades.

Be prepared

Prompt, calm actions save lives in emergencies. Electrical shocks and burns are no exception. Everyone should know how to respond if a co-worker is in danger:

  • Create an emergency preparedness plan that includes procedures for reporting emergencies, getting medical attention for victims, evacuating the building and safely maintaining critical operations.
  • Ask for volunteer first responders (VFRs). VFRs should be trained in emergency response procedures, including CPR and other basic first aid.
  • Clearly mark the locations of escape routes, first aid kits, emergency defibrillators and fire extinguishers. Before you use a fire extinguisher, check the label to ensure it is safe to use on electrical fires.
  • Stay calm if you call 9-1-1. Make sure you know the address where the emergency happened. Let the operator guide the conversation, and respond clearly and calmly. If possible, stay with the victim while you are on the phone.

The most serious consequence of any workplace accident is the human cost of pain and suffering. Businesses also have to consider the impact accidents have on productivity and employee morale. Working together, employers and their employees can create an environment in which workplace accidents are not an inevitable consequence of doing business.

Texas Mutual Board Approves $175-Million Policyholder Dividend Distribution

The policyholder owners of Texas Mutual Insurance Company will share a $175-million dividend distribution this year, the company’s board of directors announced after a unanimous vote on May 7, 2013.

This is the 15th consecutive year that the board has voted to distribute policyholder dividends, bringing the total to almost $1.4 billion. It has paid the majority of that total – $1 billion – since 2007.

Dividends reward loyal policyholders who share Texas Mutual’s commitment to preventing workplace accidents and helping injured workers get back on the job.

Texas Mutual plans to begin distributing dividends among qualifying policyholders according to its normal schedule.

“Texas Mutual is a policyholder-owned company,” Bob Barnes, chairman of Texas Mutual’s board, said. “Our singular focus is on delivering benefits to our employer owners and taking care of their injured workers. Dividends are part of our long-term strategy for helping Texas employers control their workers’ compensation costs.”

Texas Mutual President and CEO Richard Gergasko said the company’s dividend track record reflects its permanent commitment to Texas businesses.

“Texas Mutual is more than a workers’ compensation provider,” Gergasko said. “We are a business partner to Texas employers, and we understand the importance of these dividends to our policyholders. This money goes back into the Texas economy and help employers build their businesses for the future.”

Gergasko noted that Texas Mutual cannot guarantee future dividends, and the 2013 dividend plan requires Texas Department of Insurance approval.

3 Basic Steps to Ladder Safety

Everyone knows how to use a ladder. Of all the hazards your employees face on the job, ladders are among the least of their concerns, right?

Not necessarily. About 187,000 Americans are injured annually on ladders. Every year, more workers are injured in falls from ladders than from any other elevated surface.

If you train your employees to follow these three basic steps, you can help ensure they arrive back at ground level safely.

Step 1. Inspect the ladder:

  • Ladder is rated Type I (industrial use) or Type II (commercial use), not Type III (household use). The ladder’s rating should be listed on a color-coded label on the side rail.
  • Rails are strong and undamaged
  • Rungs and steps are solid, undamaged and free of oil, grease and dirt
  • Fittings are tight
  • Spreaders and other locking devices are in place
  • Non-skid safety feet are in place
  • No structural defects
  • All support braces are intact

Step 2. Set up the ladder properly:

  • Choose a clean, slip-free, level surface
  • Use the 4-to-1 rule, placing the ladder base 1/4 the height of the ladder from the wall when using an extension ladder. For example, if your ladder is 8 feet tall, the base should be 2 feet from the wall.
  • A straight or extension ladder should extend 3 feet beyond the level it is being used to reach when stepping off. For example, if you are using a ladder to access a roof, your ladder should extend three feet higher than the roof.
  • Secure or tie the extension ladder to prevent slippage. Have a second person hold the bottom of the ladder whenever possible.

Step 3. Use the ladder safely:

  • Face the ladder
  • Use both hands
  • Wipe dirt and grease from your hands and shoes
  • Never allow more than one person on a ladder
  • Use carriers and tool belts to carry objects up a ladder
  • Do not lean out from the ladder
  • Never shift the ladder while your weight is on it
  • See manufacturer label for maximum rung height to work safely from
  • If you are afraid of heights, don’t climb a ladder

Texas Mutual policyholders can get free materials on ladder safety in the safety resource center at texasmutual.com. Anyone can visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, laddersafety.org and the National Safety Commission for free resources.

Should Employers Pay Medical Bills Out of Pocket?

Some employers may be paying for seemingly minor medical care out of pocket, without involving their workers’ comp carrier. These employer/provider small-claim arrangements typically work like this.

The employer signs a formal, binding contract making them directly responsible for payment of services rendered. The employer also submits the insurance carrier’s contact information to the health care provider. The provider then sends all 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 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.

Furthermore, many insurance carriers offer workers’ compensation health care networks. Carriers negotiate rates with network providers. Again, 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.

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.

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 the business of running a business.

More information

For more information on this topic, visit texasmutual.com/news/smallclaims.shtm, and consult these sources:

  • Health care provider billing procedures. Title 28 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 133.20
  • MMSEA. 42 United States Code, Section 1395y(b)(7) and (8)
  • Workers’ comp benefits. Texas Labor Code, Chapter 408.00

Keep Your Head, Hands and Eyes in the Game

distracted driver

Distracted driving includes anything that takes your mind, hands or eyes off the task at hand.

A mechanic was driving highway speed during daylight hours. He did not notice that the semi-trailer in front of him slowed down due to traffic congestion. The mechanic rear-ended the semi-trailer. Though the mechanic was wearing his seat belt, he did not survive the accident. The police report showed that the mechanic sent several voice/text messages before the accident. In fact, he was in the process of sending a message when the accident happened.

Traffic accidents are the leading causes of workplace fatalities not only in Texas but also across the country. Accidents such as the one described here could have been avoided if drivers were not distracted.

Drivers are 23 times more likely to have accidents if they text while driving. But distracted driving is not limited to cell phone use. It includes anything that takes your mind, hands or eyes off the task at hand.

Texas Mutual encourages employers to adopt and enforce safe-driving policies that prohibit common distractions:

  • Using the phone. If you have to speak with someone, pull over to a safe spot and call the person back. This policy also applies to hands-free devices.
  • Searching for CDs, adjusting radios or MP3 players, and changing the temperature. Instead, wait until you come to a stop sign or red light.
  • Putting on makeup, combing your hair, shaving and doing other grooming-related tasks.
  • Watching accidents, construction or other things going on outside the vehicle.
  • Eating, especially packages that are difficult to open and foods that might spill.
  • Reading newspapers, magazines, books and maps.
  • Smoking.
  • Working on a laptop or making notes.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month
The National Safety Council declared April National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. As part of the event, NSC encourages everyone to take its cell-free driving pledge. It also offers free posters and other materials on its website.

You can also visit the federal government’s distraction.gov website for free information and resources.

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