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 texasmutual.com.

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 texasmutual.com/txmfortexas to see what Texas Mutual is doing to help and to find resources for your business.

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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.

Employers

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 texasmutual.com/txmfortexas 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.

Agents

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
Serious
Other-Than-Serious
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 texasmutual.com 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.

Combining work and wellness for healthier, more productive employees

Workplace safety is important for preventing injuries and keeping claims costs low, but there’s much more to the equation. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimates that employee obesity costs U.S. employers $73.1 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity. This expense can be minimized by building a foundation of wellness and promoting a healthy lifestyle in your workplace.

In fact, for every $1 you spend on wellness, you can get up to $3 in savings on health-related costs. Take a look below at why wellness is one of the best investments you can make.

Wellness pays

Reduce workers’ compensation costs.  Your employees likely spend at least 40 hours a week at work, which means that creating a healthy environment for them is key. A 2007 study of Duke University employees showed obesity had a significant effect on the cost and duration of workers’ compensation claims. The Duke report found that obese workers filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from those claims, and lost 13 times more days of work from  injury or illness than did non-obese workers.

To help fight this issue, educate your employees on body mass index (BMI) rates. Invite a nutritionist or fitness trainer to lead the training to discuss healthy BMI rates and steps your employees can take to get into the normal range.

Lower employer health care costs. Unhealthy employees can increase health care costs for a company. A study from the University of Michigan suggests that unhealthy lifestyle conditions like smoking, stress, or obesity account for one out of every four dollars employers spend on health care. The above mentioned Duke University study found the average medical claims costs per 100 employees were $51,019 for the obese compared to just $7,503 for the non-obese.

Increase worker productivity. The Harvard Business Review cites a 2009 study by Dr. Ronald Loeppke, which found that lost productivity costs are 2.3 times higher than medical and pharmacy costs. Health conditions like depression, anxiety, migraines, respiratory illness, arthritis and diabetes, among others, can contribute to lost productivity. Integrating exercise opportunities into the workday can make a difference. Encourage employees to take short breaks to stretch or walk, or offer an onsite fitness class like yoga for employees to attend.

Prevent employee absenteeism. Providing incentives for employee well-being encourages the improvement of an employee’s overall health and often results in less required sick time. A wellness program can help employees improve their health, which may reduce the number of missed work days. For example, low back pain is the leading contributor to missed work days according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Walking and stretching can help alleviate back pain for chronic sufferers and may reduce the number of days away from the office.

Wellness programs provide employees with tools to reduce health risks and the knowledge to make healthier choices. A wellness program can also lower stress in the workplace, improve health and morale, increase company loyalty and help you to recruit potential employees. If you’re ready to gain the benefits of combining work and wellness, visit worksafetexas.com/wellness for tips on getting started, and watch for 10 tips for a healthier workplace on the blog next week.

 

Apply for a Texas Mutual safety or wellness grant

Safety and wellness programs are proving their value in the workplace, and as a business owner, your employees are looking to you. At Texas Mutual, we want to make it easier for you to invest in safety and wellness, and our new safety and wellness grants do just that. This opportunity is exclusively for our Texas Mutual policyholders, and we encourage you to apply by July 21 for the best chance at receiving a grant. These programs are designed to help make your business a healthier, safer place to work. See the details below on how you can get funding to buy safety equipment or start a wellness program in your workplace.

Start a wellness program with a wellness grantdumbbell and apple with measuring tape

Healthier employees save you money on workers’ comp claims, health care costs, missed work days and so much more. Wellness grant recipients will get a one-year workplace wellness program, which includes health screenings for employees, ongoing support, wellness challenge ideas, helpful webinars and more. A program like this could transform the health of your employees. Click here for more information on the wellness grants.

Get new safety equipment with a safety grantProtective clothes

Safety grant recipients will receive reimbursement of up to $1,500 for the purchase of ergonomic, safety or industrial hygiene equipment to reduce and prevent workplace injuries. If you are awarded a safety grant, you’ll have 60 days to purchase the equipment and submit a form for reimbursement. Click here for more information on the safety grants.

How to apply

You could be one of the hundreds of policyholders awarded through our Safety and Wellness Grant Program. If you are ready to apply, log in to texasmutual.com and click the Safety menu option. Then, click the orange Safety and Wellness Grants button. See the steps below for more information.

Applying for Safety and Wellness Grants

If you have any questions, feel free to contact our Safety Services Support Center at 844-WORKSAFE (967-5723). We look forward to seeing the health and safety improvements this program will bring to Texas businesses.

Top three tips to make safety a habit

Workplace safety is a year-round endeavor but periodic reminders of just how important it is can be a great motivator to refresh or refocus your safety efforts. This week is one of those occasions as it marks North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week, May 7-13. This year’s NAOSH theme is “Make Safety a Habit,” which is the most effective ways to prevent workplace accidents. To start making safety a habit in your business, and among employees, take a look at our top three tips.

Safety First Sticky NoteTip 1: See something, say something.

To help build a safety culture in your workplace, empower your employees to speak up. Instill the motto “See something, say something” and review the methods in place to report concerns. Building an environment of open communication supports a safe workplace so that employees feel comfortable speaking up about unsafe practices and potential safety hazards.

It should become a habit to immediately report unsafe practices or conditions, and that starts with you. All too often, safety practices can still get overlooked even when open communication is welcomed. As an employer, it takes united leadership to begin the conversation. To embrace the “See something, say something culture,” make sure your employees know when and how to report concerns, then address the issue and show appreciation that it was brought to your attention. Encourage employees to speak directly with their supervisor, but also provide resources to report to HR or to do so anonymously.

Tip 2: Be consistent.

To keep safety top of mind, hold regular meetings. It’s important to provide consistent training to give newer employees the resources they need to be safe on the job and also avoid complacency with seasoned employees with a refresher.

Also remember that habits won’t become fully formed in a quarterly meeting.  While it’s easy to cross a mandatory safety meeting off the list and wait until the next one is due, provide resources outside of the regular meetings and enforce the safety practices you are teaching. Keep your content fresh with safety resources from Texas Mutual. We offer more than 2,000 free materials and tools for policyholders, including our new e-Learning online training program, streaming videos, interactive tools, and downloadable safety programs at texasmutual.com. Even those who aren’t policyholders can take advantage of free Texas Mutual resources at worksafetexas.com.

Tip 3: Encourage wellness.

Safety and wellness go hand-in-hand. Think of the last time you weren’t feeling well at work or didn’t get enough sleep the night before. More than likely you were not on your A-game. Taking care of our bodies by drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet, and staying active paves the way for happier employees and sets up employees to stay alert about safety on the job. In the unfortunate event an employee is injured, a healthy lifestyle also promotes a quicker recovery. Learn about the financial benefits of workplace wellness here: worksafetexas.com/wellness.

From empowering your employees to speak up with a “See something, say something” initiative, to being consistent in your training, and encouraging your employees to live a healthy lifestyle, making safety a habit starts with you. For more safety and wellness resources, log into texasmutual.com or visit worksafetexas.com.

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