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Expert Insights

Safety Headlines, Substance

Severe Weather: Plan Now or Pay Later

Even though it may be cold, early spring is a great time to develop or review a severe weather plan. Thunderstorms, heavy rains and flooding occur on a regular basis during spring and summer in Missouri. Severe weather can affect a business in many ways including utility and communications outages, structural damage, machine and fleet damage, and temporary loss of employee base. Develop a plan for both your family and your business that includes discussion about proper sheltering and protection of employees and protection of critical business assets or processes.

Create your plan with a back-to-the basics approach.

  • Identify weather threats that are most likely to affect your business.
  • Provide all locations and job sites with a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) weather alert radio that is appropriately programmed and activated at all times.
  • Locate and label hardened inner rooms in your facility capable of sheltering all employees, including visitors.
  • Create and maintain a current employee roster to be used when accounting for all employees.
  • Develop a communication plan for employees concerning a severe weather threat.
  • Identify critical processes that must be addressed, controlled or shut down in the event of severe weather.
  • Execute regularly scheduled severe weather plan training for all employees.

What if your employees don’t work in a building? Consider the following:

  • Know the forecast. Use smart phones to stay abreast of weather changes.
  • Know where the nearest hardened shelter is and if possible, create an agreement with a neighboring business for jobsite severe weather sheltering.
  • On multi-employer jobsites, know who assumes command of the incident and how the chain of command works.
  • Create a severe weather warning system for employees on loud jobsites, such as a canned air horn or emergency light.
  • When driving, pay attention to the weather. If things look rough employees should pull over and get out of the vehicle and into a hardened building.
  • If trapped in a vehicle, employees should keep their seat belt on and stay inside the rigid protection of the vehicle. Many people have been ejected and killed when winds tossed their vehicle.

Sever weather safety resources for businesses:

NOAA Tornado Safety

Ready.gov Severe Weather

OSHA Severe Weather Planning

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  • 03/21/2014
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Asbestos 101: Exposures, Risks and Resources

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that there is no safe level of asbestos fiber exposure. Asbestos fibers become a human health hazard when they are inhaled and can create health problems including lung disease and cancer, even short durations of exposure have been known to cause mesothelioma. If your employees are working around asbestos you owe it to them and your company to make sure they are protected.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is excellent at absorbing heat and its uses have included pipe insulation, noise barrier and fireproofing on walls, structural members and insulation. Although it has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency for some uses, pre-ban asbestos materials are still found in many older structures, especially commercial or institutional buildings constructed after World War II.

Disturbing insulation and coatings during construction, remodeling and maintenance activities in older buildings can expose employees to airborne asbestos fibers that can be inhaled. Hazardous asbestos dusts are known as respirable dusts, which means that fibers are too small to be seen with the naked eye and can be inhaled directly into the lungs. These fibers create scar tissue inside the delicate air sacks of the lungs that can, over time, reduce lung capacity and cause cancer.

Keep in mind that not all uses of asbestos are banned. These include brake linings, roofing materials and cement products. Vehicle maintenance employees may be exposed to asbestos during brake, clutch or transmission work.

Do your homework, plan accordingly and take proper precautions before beginning work in buildings or structures suspected of containing asbestos products. Educate yourself about the risks and make sure employees are protected whenever there is any exposure to airborne asbestos. Even short durations of exposure can cause life-limiting disease. Proper work around asbestos includes accreditation in your state, training, personal protective equipment with respiratory protection, work methods that minimize dusts, and air monitoring. In addition, asbestos-related occupational disease workers compensation claims can be very costly to your organization.

There are many online resources available to help you recognize potential asbestos exposure and protect your employees.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Missouri Employers Mutual

Environmental Protection Agency

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mine Safety and Health Administration

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  • 02/11/2014
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Combine Wellness with Risk Management to Help Curb Work Comp Costs

Employers are always looking for ways to reduce business costs while improving productivity. One way to accomplish this is by including a wellness program in your employee benefits package. This type of program can be as simple or elaborate as you make it and the results will be good for you and your employees.

Wellness benefits can create a healthier workforce and reduce your workers compensation liability. Employees who are aware and in tune with their personal wellness are not only are more productive, but also tend to recover from injuries at a faster rate. The end result is that the healthier employee will return to work quicker, reducing work comp costs.        

A recent report from Lockton Insurance Brokers Wellness Programs: The Positive Impact on Workers’ Compensation Claims examines the role that health-risk (or "co-morbid") factors, such as obesity play in workers compensation claims, and the steps that companies can take to reduce claims costs by improving employees’ health.

“Effective corporate wellness initiatives have shown to be successful in not only reducing the duration of lost-time workers compensation claims, but also in promoting healthy behaviors that potentially inhibit unsafe or inattentive workplace behavior," wrote the report's author, Michal Gnatek, Vice President at Lockton Cos. "Risk managers and claims professionals should be adding employee wellness to the available arsenal of weapons to combat increasing claims.” (SHRM, Dec 13, 2013)

Helping employees create healthy habits will lead to employees that spend more time on the job and less time in the doctor’s office. For more information on the effectiveness of and creating wellness programs check out online resources from the Society for Human Resource Management and Wellness Council of America.

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  • 01/28/2014
  • Written by Theresa Seeman
    Human Resources, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Missouri Employers: Stay Up to Date on the Primary/Excess Split Point Value Changes

The new year always brings about many changes and one that Missouri employers may want to take note of is the primary/excess split point value. The 2014 increase is part of a four-year transition period that began last year.

Why the increase?
The $5,000 split point had not changed for approximately 20 years. In the meantime, the average dollar amount per claim tripled. Because of this, the portion of each claim that flows into the experience rating formula at full value is much smaller than it was 20 years ago. The transition plan now gives less weight to each employer’s actual experience and the individual employer experience modifications have gravitated toward the current all-risk average over time.

What is the transition plan?
The initial change to the primary/excess split point Missouri’s was effective Jan. 1, 2013 and the value increased to $7,500. As of Jan. 1, 2014, the split point value in Missouri increases to $10,000 and $13,500 in 2015. The final transition year will occur in 2016 when it reaches the inflation-adjusted $15,000 value.

For more information regarding changes to the primary/excess split point value please visit NCCI.com.

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  • 01/06/2014
  • Written by Ralph Gifford
    Underwriting, MEM
  • Global, Global

2014 Missouri One Call Meetings Provide Valuable Knowledge and CEUs

Contractors and utility industry professionals won’t want to miss the free excavation meetings January-March across Missouri. Learn about safe excavation practices and how to deal with challenges as an excavator or member of Missouri One Call.

The meetings will inform you about how to properly use the one call system and you are invited take part in a candid discussion on issues that excavators and utilities professionals face on the job. In addition to the conversation of problematic areas, new tools and resources will be unveiled that will help you document and manage your locate requests.

Insurance representatives will present a valuable perspective on workplace safety and specifically examine a case study on a trench collapse. This meeting will prove to be invaluable in helping you avoid placing yourself, coworkers, and communities at risk for accidents and costly repairs.

FREE continuing education credits will be offered to DNR licensed operators and DHSS septic installers.

Calling all agents: The Missouri Department of Insurance will also be granting one hour of continuing education credit to licensed insurance agents. Certificates of completion will be provided upon request for any other professional designations that you may hold.

Find a meeting near you and register today.

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  • 12/30/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Simple Winter Preparations Increase Workplace Productivity and Decrease Accidents

Winter weather has already gripped many parts of Missouri this year, and it seems like just yesterday we were shoveling snow by the foot. Simple safety preparations go a very long way in preventing budget breaking workplace accidents. The two minutes it takes to read this article could save you months of headaches.

Being prepared for dangerous conditions starts by following the weather forecast for your area. Get a good idea of what is headed your way in the short- and long-term by checking out forecasts from local stations or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s online resources.

Start the day right by having snow and ice removal crews arrive before employees. Communicate severe weather safety policies year-round, including the requirement to wear proper footwear and your company policies for traveling in winter weather conditions.

Outdoor preparations
During big snow or ice storms, it’s almost inevitable that some of your employees, even with the support of your snow removal contractor, will need to spread ice melt or shovel snow—so keeping them safe on the job is critical.

  • Pre-treating sidewalks, ramps and parking lots can make a big difference in the ability to effectively clear surfaces. Employees who assist with these tasks should wear reflective vests.
  • Maintain parking lot lighting and use yellow caution tape to outline safe pathways.
  • Consider blocking off areas that cannot be cleared effectively.
  • Remove snow as it falls, reducing the risk of injury due to overexertion. Make sure you are only utilizing employees who are healthy enough for this task.

Indoor preparations
Slips and trips and falls are problems that require everyone’s attention. You don’t have to be a safety manager to spot hazards in the building including slick hallways and entrances from wet weather.

  • It is important to require that all employees report slip and trip hazards as soon as they find them.
  • Sand and rock salt used to melt snow outside can be tracked inside the building, creating slick areas. Inside your workplace make sure floor runners and rugs are securely placed in areas that could become wet and slick.
  • Place signage and communicate warnings about slick walking areas to all employees.
  • Find easy ways to combat the problems created by slips, trips and falls in the workplace by watching WorkSAFE Center’s video.
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  • 12/12/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Tire Safety: Smart Purchasing and Regular Maintenance

MEM has long advocated the use of seatbelts as a motor vehicle’s most important safety device. Arguably, an equally important safety device on a vehicle is the tires. Whether it be for business or personal use, nobody enjoys buying tires—they are expensive and take time to install and maintain. However, these four small patches of contact with the road are truly the first line of defense against accidents.

“Where the rubber meets the road” is more than a cliché used in business—the size, type, and condition of your tires makes a huge difference in how your vehicle performs, especially in inclement weather or emergency scenarios. Some of MEM’s most serious claims have involved single-vehicle motor accidents caused by tires which blew out due to neglectful condition or inappropriate use. Many of these claims resulted in fatalities and/or serious injury, all of which could have been avoided through regular inspection or replacement.

There are differences in the driving requirements of passenger cars, light trucks, and heavy-duty trucks. Accordingly, tires for these vehicles vary in purpose, particularly for vehicles used for towing or hauling heavy loads. A specialist can answer technical questions, but here are a few things to consider prior to purchase.

Buy the right tires for your vehicle
The manufacturer of your vehicle chose the size of its tires for a reason and many important components and systems were designed around the tires. Steering, braking, ride quality and handling can all be majorly impacted by changing the size of the tire on the vehicle. Different sized tires can fit improperly on your factory wheels causing irregular wear or a poor seal leading to issues with air pressure. Even with the correct size, there may also be slight variances among tire manufacturers as some may run big or run small in spite of the stated size. Going up or down a tire size can cause changes in speedometer and odometer readings. More importantly, different sized tires can adversely affect braking systems, particularly those which use electronically controlled anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control and/or stability control systems. Although there is some safe degree of allowance in changing tire size, please refer to the manufacturer or a tire specialist before doing so.

Long wear, dry traction, wet or winter traction, ride comfort, low noise and low are all basic characteristics of tires. Consider carefully the type of environment for which your vehicle will be used. A vehicle used by a sales representative for interstate or urban travel will encounter much different conditions than a work truck used to carry workers and equipment to muddy worksites. Summer tires are generally made with a softer compound focused on handling and road holding at the expense of longevity and inclement weather performance. Likewise, snow and mud tires provide inclement weather traction at the expense of longevity and reduced road noise. Before purchasing tires, do your research. Many retailer websites have consumer feedback which can be filtered to show reviews of tires used on your particular vehicle.

Passenger vehicle tires are not trailer tires
There is an even bigger difference in the tires used on trailers versus those used on passenger vehicles. A vehicle used to tow a trailer is a leader, which means traction is the primary purpose for its tires—traction in acceleration, pulling the load, handling and in braking. In addition, tires for passenger vehicles whether they be cars or trucks must produce a comfortable ride and thus allow for varying degrees of flex in the sidewalls.

Trailers, on the other hand, are followers designed to be pulled by a lead vehicle and carry heavy loads. This means that traction and ride comfort are not design considerations. Trailer tires are designed with stiffer sidewalls to carry heavy loads and reduce trailer sway. Although there are some tires which can be used in light trucks or trailers, consider carefully how much weight you plan to carry on the trailer. The number of axels on the trailer also make a difference in the type of tire. In addition, trailer tires generally require significantly higher air pressures to operate safely.     

Replacement and maintenance
After purchasing tires, it is your responsibility to inspect the tires regularly for wear. Most manufacturers recommend replacing tires every 6 to 10 years regardless of mileage or condition due to the degradation of the rubber compound. Towing heavy loads, driving on rough roads or environmental conditions (sun exposure, inclement weather, etc.) may reduce safe tire life significantly. Rotating your tires and having your vehicle aligned regularly will greatly increase the longevity of your tires. 

Safety checklist
Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following as a safety checklist:

  • Check tire pressure regularly (at least once a month), including the spare,
  • Inspect tires for uneven wear patterns on the tread, cracks, foreign objects or other signs of wear or trauma. Remove bits of glass and other foreign objects wedged in the tread,
  • Make sure your tire valves have valve caps,
  • Check tire pressure before going on a long trip,
  • Do not overload your vehicle. Check the tire information placard or owner’s manual for the maximum recommended load for the vehicle, and
  • If you are towing a trailer, remember that some of the weight of the loaded trailer is transferred to the towing vehicle.
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  • 12/02/2013
  • Written by Brad Williamson
    Claims, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Emergency Planning for Construction Jobsites

Safe jobsites and trained employees are the best way to prevent emergency situations. However, life is unpredictable and not having an emergency plan in place will only make the situation worse. Proper planning, good communication and ongoing training will help employees take control a bad situation. The good news is that emergency plans are simple to prepare and put in place.

A good jobsite emergency plan requires some prep work. Each jobsite should have a separate, custom emergency response plan, because emergency services and response times are always unique. It’s very likely that in many rural parts of Missouri, it could take 30 minutes to get an ambulance to your jobsite. When things go wrong, don’t make the problem worse. With a co-worker’s life on the line, you have to be ready to respond and control the incident.

Consider the biggest risks for injury on construction jobsites including falls, struck-by, caught-in-between, trench collapse and electrocutions when making your emergency plan. Your jobsite safety efforts should also include preventing leading types of injuries such as lacerations, eye injuries, strains and sprains.

Plan preparation tips
Take a back-to-the-basics approach and keep essential information close by.

  • Post the jobsite address clearly at the jobsite and at the road.
  • Know the landowner’s name and have contact information available.

Consider communication capabilities:

  • Find out if your cellphone will get a signal before work begins.
  • Determine how far you would have to go before cell service is available.
  • Locate the closest land-line.
  • If you don’t have phone service, make sure your two-way radios can communicate with local emergency responders.
  • Post all emergency phone numbers in a central location.

Emergency services:

  • Know where the closest fire station or ambulance base is located.
  • Determine where law enforcement would have to respond from.
  • Estimate how long it will take first responders to arrive.
  • Find out what the emergency responders in the area are trained in, i.e. trench rescue, confined space rescue, and chemical incident response.

Prepare supplies:

  • Place fire extinguishers near vehicles, supply areas or where any sparks or heat is produced.
  • Make sure first aid kits are stocked with trauma supplies and CPR one-way masks.
  • Keep drinking water handy and for immediate use whenever hyperthermia is suspected.
  • Keep distilled water or eye flush in case of a chemical splash or debris gets into an eye.
  • Consider purchasing an automated external defibrillator. For roughly $1,000 your employees can have access to an effective life-saving tool.

Don’t send a crew out to a jobsite without the tools they need to act quickly in an emergency. Use this article along with the construction industry tutorial resources when you develop your plan for each jobsite.

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  • 11/22/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Violence Aganist Teachers: Be Ready, Have a Plan

Schools should be a safe haven for both children and school employees. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration two million employees in the United States become the victims of workplace violence each year. No school is immune to these types of incidents, therefore all school employees should receive regular workplace safety training on what constitutes a security risk and how to report problems.

Have a policy and a plan
Protecting employees starts with preparing.

  • Develop a school workplace violence policy that includes dealing with students who become violent or threaten other students and school staff. Communicating this policy with all parents/guardians each year is vital.
  • Train all staff regularly. Employees must know their rights and responsibilities when dealing with issues such as bullying, threats, violent acts and worst-case scenarios like school shooters.
  • Evaluate the building for physical security risks like unsecured doors, poorly lit areas and unsecured storage areas.
  • Employees that have extensive contact with the public, work in community settings, or during late night/early morning hours have additional exposure to workplace violence. Be sure your plan includes protection for bus drivers, coaches transporting athletes to and from late night games, food service and janitorial employees.

Warning signs
Pay attention and know the warning signs that a student may be experiencing problems.

  • Socially withdrawing.
  • Falling grades.
  • Where the students hang out on school property, i.e. blind spots, and stairwells.
  • Reports of bullying/cyber bullying among students. Following up on these reports is critical.

Next steps

  • Equip your employees with the knowledge of how to respond to threats or abuse.
  • Get to know the parents/guardians whenever possible.
  • Develop a close relationship with local law enforcement and fire department. Include these resources in your training exercises.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

A proactive and slightly aggressive approach is necessary to take control of your employees’ safety. Be sure to check out the school safety tutorial on WorkSAFE Center for additional complimentary resources.

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  • 11/12/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Employee Assistance Programs Provide Real Solutions for Real Problems

It is a known fact that a healthy and happy employee equals a more productive employee. Life is unpredictable and every employee needs help from time to time. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be an easy and affordable option that allows businesses to retain valued employees while they are coping with life’s twists and turns.

The resources provided through an EAP connect employees and their dependents to help with substance abuse, mental, emotional, family, health, or other personal problems. An EAP is also an excellent source for employees who are searching for ways to simply improve their overall personal and financial wellness. Assistance programs also provide help with topics including:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight loss
  • Starting an exercise program
  • Budgeting
  • Financial planning

EAPs programs are considered an employee benefit and are typically funded by the employer or an employee union. This benefit pays for itself when the costs of EAP services are compared to the expenses of hiring and training a new employee.

As an employer you may not have control over unresolved personal problems that directly affect an employee’s ability to perform on the job, but the services provided by an EAP give you and your employees more control of the future. Don’t have an EAP program? Check with your insurance broker for a list of recommended programs.

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  • 10/18/2013
  • Written by Theresa Seeman
    Human Resources, MEM
  • Global, Global

2013 Damage Prevention and Excavation Safety Summit: Free Training, Valuable Knowledge

The 2013 Damage Prevention and Excavation Safety Summit is just around the corner—Nov. 6-7 at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Columbia, MO. Attendees may participate in their choice of fifteen educational sessions—provided free of charge. Sessions will address underground utility damage and employee safety during excavation and utility work.

Presenters at the Summit include some of the best safety educators in the nation. Certification classes offered include OSHA 10 Construction and MODOT’s Certified Flagger. Activities that compliment the educational sessions include equipment demonstrations like vacuum excavation, horizontal boring, static displays of equipment, door prizes, raffles and a very special kickoff in the opening session.

In 2012, an estimated $300,000 in safety training was provided free of charge to the more than 800 Summit participants. The amount of free resources available makes the Summit a perfect opportunity for Midwestern counties, municipalities and construction crews that operate on tight budgets to receive free training and certifications with little overhead. Simply budget the time and one overnight and your crew will receive invaluable training for little cost.

Registration fills up quickly, so register your crew today. Want to know more? Check out the DPESS video. Questions? Contact Mark Woodward at (573) 289-5990.

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  • 09/13/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Global, Global

Man in the Machine: Lockout and Tag Prevents Life-Changing Injuries

Approximately 100 employees are killed each year while repairing or maintaining machines, with thousands more injured (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). These statistics could be much improved if machine operators and maintenance personnel include a lockout and tag process in their daily routines.

What is lockout and tag?
OSHA defines lockout and tag as the process of shutting down and locking out machines before maintenance begins, in order to prevent accidental start-up during machine maintenance, cleaning, or other similar operations. Locking out equipment provides a physical means (i.e., a lock) that ensures that power will not be restored to the machine and that the machine will not be started until work on the machine has been completed.

Lockout and tag is a truly effective safety control. Missouri Employers Mutual uses the lockout and tag (as opposed to lockout and tagout) terminology because it refers to a physical padlock with warning tag versus a warning tag only. The process saves lives, extremities and money.

Man in the machine injuries
Pinch-point, nip-point and struck-by injuries are gruesome and life-changing. Employees pulled into machines suffer from amputations, deep tissue lacerations, complex bone fractures and nerve damage. Electrocutions can occur and cause deep burns to hands and feet, blindness and infection. Post-incident care often includes multiple surgeries and post-traumatic stress related conditions are common. These types of injuries often occur in the following situations:

  • A machine automatically kicks on while an employee is servicing a gear box.
  • An electrician is shocked with 480V when a circuit breaker is turned on by a coworker.
  • A switch is accidentally hit while clearing a jam.
  • A hammer mill is activated while employees are changing the blades.

Establish a lockout and tag program
Not only is lockout and tag a safety must, it’s also federal safety law 29 CFR 1910.147. Electricians are also covered by federal safety law 29 CFR 1910.333 which requires protection for employees working on electric circuits and equipment. MEM fully supports this standard and businesses can protect their employees by establishing a lockout and tag program.

  • Survey your workplace for machines that require service and maintenance including mills, presses, compressors or conveyors.
  • List power inputs for each machine: compressed air, electric, hydraulic, etc.
  • Determine if there is a risk for the machine falling or rotating during service.
  • Assess whether stored energy may be present even when it is turned off.
  • Identify what lockout and tag devices you’re going to need for each machine including locks, hasps, cable locks, and tags.
  • Write a lockout and tag procedure for each machine that details shutdown and energy isolation steps.

Additional lockout and tag resources:

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  • 09/10/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2013 Offers Simple Safety Solutions for All

Over and over again, safety has been proven to help businesses run more efficiently and economically. Safety doesn’t just happen, it takes proactive effort with a dash of aggressiveness. In an effort to support employers, reduce injuries and workers compensation costs, Missouri Employers Mutual's WorkSAFE Week encourages employers to take advantage of some simple solutions that are just a click away.

Implement or review safety policies
There is no time like the present to set aside time to determine how effective your safety policies are and if you don’t have any, take time to develop some including:

  • Seat belt,
  • Drug and alcohol-free workplace,
  • Use of company vehicle, and
  • Use of cell phones while driving.

When these types of policies are enforced, they are effective and save lives. Did you know that up to 20 percent of employees killed in work-related accidents have drugs or alcohol in their system? Did you know that vehicle crashes are the number one way to die on the job? (Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA) Keep these numbers in mind before it affects your business.

Review or develop an employee wellness program
There is a link between good health and fewer workplace injuries. Healthier employees heal faster and resist orthopedic injuries better. Everyone thinks more clearly and is more alert when they exercise regularly, eat well and get the proper amount of sleep. Health insurance and workers compensation premiums decrease or are maintained when employees are healthier. Take time to review health and wellness with your employees and explain how their current benefits work so they can take advantage of ways to prevent chronic diseases.

Return to work programs are a win for everyone
What if you could provide an environment for your employees that supports their recovery after an injury and allows them to be productive? Return to work programs do just that, while ensuring better communication between the treating physician, employer and employee. Providing light and transitional duty options can positively affect medical outcomes by keeping the employee active and increasing their morale. Contact MEM to discuss implementing a return to work program in your company.

Personal responsibility
Life is a fragile thing, and so is business success. One unsafe action by an employee can severely impact an organization’s finances, putting everyone’s job at risk. Every employer has a culture and safety needs to be a part of it. A positive safety culture can impact other areas of the business in a favorable way as well, work quality increases and turnover and injuries decrease. All due to your safety efforts.

Workplace safety is achievable
MEM supports your safety efforts 24/7. WorkSAFE Week 2013 should be a celebration of your safety efforts and successes. Success only comes from figuring out what went wrong in the past, so don’t be afraid to reflect on past incidents, evaluate your policies and make sure employees know their duties and responsibilities.

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  • 08/21/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Global, Global

Missouri Statutes Support Keeping Drugs and Alcohol Out of the Workplace

In 2005, the Missouri legislature added strength to safety and drug-free workplace programs—placing some accountability on the employee. These changes are good news for any business owner wanting to strengthen their safety efforts. Missouri Employers Mutual offers a breakdown of the ways Sections 287.120.5 RSMo and 287.120.6 protect employer’s safety efforts.

Safety Policies and Equipment
If an employee has an injury caused by their failure to use safety devices provided by the employer or obey an employer’s reasonable safety policies, then workers compensation and death benefits are reduced by at least 25 percent, but not more than 50 percent.

Drug-free Workplace Policies
In 2005, the state legislature made significant changes to the drug and alcohol reduction sections of the workers compensation statutes.

  • If an employee fails to obey any drug and alcohol-free workplace policy adopted by the employer and tests positive following a workplace accident, then the employee’s compensation and death benefits shall be reduced by 50 percent.
  • If the use of drugs or alcohol is determined to be the proximate cause of the workplace accident and injury, then benefits are forfeited.
  • If an employee refuses to take a drug or alcohol test at the request of an employer, it could result in a forfeiture of benefits.
  • Employees who test positive for non-prescribed controlled substances or alcohol following a work-related injury may have workers compensation benefits reduced up to 50 percent. Benefits could be forfeited entirely in the right circumstances.

MEM recommends that employers have a written drug and alcohol-free workplace policy that is properly administered, trained regularly and enforced. Include the requirement that employees are screened as soon as possible for illicit drugs and alcohol after any injury that requires medical treatment. Make sure your preferred physician is aware of your policy, as well as your preferred emergency room. It is also important to have employees sign your safety and drug and alcohol-free policies on an annual basis.

Employers should consider expanding their drug and alcohol-free workplace policies to include the following types of screens:

  • Post-offer, new-hire testing
  • Random testing
  • Reasonable suspicion testing
  • Post-incident testing

The point is to save lives, minimize needless injuries and reduce workers compensation costs. WorkSAFE Center offers resources for developing your workplace drug and alcohol-free program including:

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  • 07/29/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    MEM, Loss Prevention
  • Drug-free Workplaces, Substance

Dangers of Overloading Dump Trucks

Drivers of all vehicles have a responsibility to drive defensively, protecting not only themselves, but also other drivers and pedestrians around them. Dump truck drivers have additional responsibilities because their trucks are higher, longer and heavier than most vehicles on the road.

Overloading
Overloading is a bad habit. Loading dump trucks isn’t an exact science. When a loader operator at a quarry, excavation or demolition site loads a dump truck they get it as close to the legal weight limit as possible. At quarries, trucks usually weigh in and out to determine how much rock they’re taking out of the quarry. If the truck is overloaded the driver must remove some of the load. Unfortunately, many drivers elect to drive on, hoping that the Department of Transportation doesn’t have an inspection roadblock and portable scales set up along their route.

Overloading exceeds the load rating of tires and braking system on a dump truck and extends the total stopping distance of the vehicle. In an emergency braking scenario, brakes get hot quickly and lose their effectiveness. Routine and regular overloading increases the wear and tear on structural, steering, chassis and suspension components which leads to a less than reliable hydraulic system. When drivers attempt to lift the dump bed, the hydraulic ram isn’t strong enough to lift the load. When the truck is parked on an angle, the additional weight of an overloaded dump bed causes the truck to tip to the side.

Inspect the load and the truck
After loading the truck, drivers should inspect it for loose gravel or material that has landed on the flat surfaces of the cab, frame or dump bed. This material can fall and strike other vehicles, causing damage or an accident. Check for large rocks that get caught between the tires and may be pitched out into the road when the truck gets to roadway speed. Keep all mirrors adjusted and clean. Check your blind spots, before changing lanes or making turns. Equip your west coast mirrors and hood with add-on convex (fisheye) mirrors. Remember to use the Get Out And Look (GOAL) method and ask for assistance or a spotter when backing up on a job site.

Safe driving principles
After inspecting the truck and load for safety, dump truck operators must follow the principles of safe driving:

  • Always wear a seat belt and have a seat belt policy in place
  • Slow down, drive the speed limit or a speed appropriate for conditions
  • Never tailgate
  • Avoid driving distractions including cell phones and texting while driving
  • Scan the roadway ahead

When a dump truck is involved in an accident, pre-trip inspection documents, maintenance records and scale records are reviewed by enforcement agencies and attorneys. If it is determined that the truck was overloaded and the driver was aware of it, civil liability could be incurred by the driver and the business owner. Documentation of an overloaded truck could lead to increased civil penalties.

In 2010, the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled out the Compliance, Safety and Accountability program. This new safety data tracking system monitors not only the motor carrier, but the driver as well. State accident and inspection data is maintained in this program. Drivers can have a positive or negative effect on a carrier’s DOT safety record when they’re cited for an overloaded truck.

Overcorrection
Another danger in the world of driving heavy trucks is over steering, also known as overcorrection. This occurs when the right side tires fall off of the edge of the pavement and the driver reacts by slamming on the breaks and jerking the steering wheel back to the left. Many times this reaction causes the truck to skid, resulting in a head-on crash or rollover incident. An overloaded truck is much harder to control during an off-the-road recovery.

Keeping transport vehicles loaded correctly is a safety basic. Make it clear that the company expects safe driving, including seat belt use, safe speed management and loads that are legal. Don’t let a simple mistake like overloading cause a life-changing incident.

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  • 06/05/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Work Comp Fraud 101

Fraud can find its way in to any business and workers compensation claim. Although the types of fraud may vary, each one can damage either your business, bottom line, career or work comp rates. Missouri Employer Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit breaks down the most common types of workers compensation fraud and what the consequences are.

Employee Fraud
This type of fraud occurs when an employee knowingly makes a claim for workers compensation benefits that they know they are not entitled to. A good example of employee fraud is when an employee knowingly presents multiple claims for the same injury. Employee fraud is a class D felony and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater. A subsequent violation is a class C felony.

Employer Fraud
Employer fraud can happen in a number of ways. When an employer intentionally misrepresents an employee’s job classification to obtain insurance at less than the appropriate rate, it is a class A misdemeanor and a subsequent violation is a class D felony. Employer fraud also occurs when an employer knowingly make a false or fraudulent statement regarding an employee’s entitlement to workers compensation benefits to discourage the employee from making a legitimate claim or when the employer makes a false or fraudulent material statement or material representation with the intent to deny benefits to an injured employee. These are considered class A misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $10,000. A subsequent violation is a class C felony.

Insurer Fraud
Employers aren’t the only ones capable of fraud, insurance companies can play a part as well. Insurer fraud occurs when an insurance carrier or self-insurer knowingly and intentionally refuses to comply with workers compensation obligations to an entitled employee. Insurer fraud is a class D felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater. A subsequent violation is a class C felony.

Suspect fraud?
If you believe you have accurate information with regard to someone not complying with workers compensation laws, or know someone who may have committed fraud, please report it. Missouri Employers Mutual’s SIU is designed to work specifically with suspected fraud. MEM policyholders should call the Fraud Hotline at 1.800.442.0592 to report suspected fraud, calls to the hotline can be made anonymously. If the investigation reveals a violation of a fraud statute, MEM will send a referral to the state’s Fraud and Noncompliance Unit. If fraud is discovered the case will be referred to the Missouri Attorney General for prosecution. All fines or penalties levied and received as a result of prosecution are paid to the Missouri Workers Compensation Fund.

For more information on ways to prevenrt workers compensation fraud check out our free resources.

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  • 05/21/2013
  • Written by Bill Byington
    Claims, Missouri Employers Mutual
  • Global, Fraud

The Dark Side of Employee Injuries

Traumatic injuries have long-lasting effects on a person’s body, but there are also social and emotional effects after serious employee injuries. It can take many years for injured employees, co-workers and family members to get over the intense emotional trauma of a serious workplace injury. Employee injuries take away things like strength, mobility and quality of life. The impact runs deep and lasts a lifetime.

Everybody hurt
Injured employees often blame themselves for their injury. They can’t let visions of the incident go. They remember the incident vividly and replay it over and over again in their mind. They may have a strong sense of guilt. The pain and blame will continue to add mental stress, ultimately requiring therapy.

Co-workers who witness the incident often suffer from long lasting effects as well. In emergency situations, coworkers often render care immediately often including CPR or attempting to control bleeding. They may be tasked with keeping the injured employee conscious and talking. After the incident, the very same employees may assist with clean up or go to the hospital and stand by during surgery until the family arrives. Business owners and management may have to notify the family of a death or catastrophic injury.

If your business has an Employee Assistance Program in place, make sure your employees are familiar with it and are encouraged to use it. The services are very beneficial not only for injured employees, but for those who witnessed the trauma.

Serious workplace injuries also take a terrible toll on the family. After a traumatic event, families bear the burden of raising children, caring for and transporting the injured employee to doctor appointments and managing the finances. Relationships are strained after traumatic stress disorder takes hold of a recovering employee and divorce, bankruptcy or lawsuits are often among the results.

If only…
How many serious injuries can be prevented? All of them. Machines are left unguarded causing amputation. Electrical circuits aren’t locked off and cause electric shock. Drivers are ejected during vehicle crashes because seat belts aren’t worn. Injuries from falls occur because fall protection gear isn’t used. History tells us how employees get hurt. We know how to protect each other.

Nobody wants to see the dark side of an employee injury. Unfortunately, safety is not always made a priority and both business owners and employees choose to ignore common sense protective measures. Business owners must step up to the plate and support safety by demanding safe work from their employees. Every business should have an enforced set of safety rules because they protect employees and the business. Check out the general safety rules available on WorkSAFE Center as either a great refresher or a great place to start. 

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  • 05/07/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

April Awareness Month Targets the Employees of Tomorrow

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. The theme this year is “Healthy Choices, Healthy Communities: Prevent Underage Drinking." Underage drug and alcohol abuse is a problem for employers because eventually the same adolescents with drinking and drug problems will mature and seek employment.

If you think drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t affect your workplace, think again. Consider the following statistics from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and OSHA:

  • 30 percent of fatal crashes in Missouri were alcohol-related (2009)
  • 15 percent of installation, maintenance, and repair workers reported heavy alcohol use in the past month
  • 75 percent of drug and alcohol users are employed
  • 80 percent of heavy alcohol users are employed
  • 90 percent of drug and alcohol users work for small businesses

Just because you can’t detect alcohol on an employee’s breath or they don’t appear to be under the influence, doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Some of the warning signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Showing up hung-over
  • Regularly discussing binge drinking at parties or events
  • A recent theft or out of the ordinary instances of damage or abuse of equipment
  • Higher than normal absenteeism rate or are regularly late for work

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have employees that are working under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol, or suffering the aftereffects of them.

Taking action
Employers must develop a written drug and alcohol policy, train employees about the policy and make sure that pre-employment, random and post-incident screens are administered regularly and in a timely manner. Download WorkSAFE Center’s sample drug-free workplace program.

Responsibility and the law
Missouri workers compensation statutes (specifically 287.120.5) support drug-free workplaces. Drug-free workplace policies help reduce the direct and indirect costs of drug and alcohol abuse, including theft, fights, incidents, damage or poor work quality. Penalties could be issued during the benefits phase of a workers compensation claim if it is determined that an employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the injury. Read more about the work comp law as it relates to drug and alcohol screens.

Resources
Communities, schools and families that get out in front of this problem and address underage drug and alcohol abuse are setting these young people up for financial, educational and employment successes down the road.

Do your employees understand their health insurance benefits and what treatment services are available through their plan? Most adults read at a seventh and eighth grade level so when they are given insurance reading materials, there’s a good chance that it won’t get read or that they may not be able to comprehend the technical information. If your employees have access to an Employee Assistance Plan make sure you make the effort to communicate what it is and how to access it. Consider sitting down on a regular basis to clearly explain these benefits to your employees and encourage use and participation.

Don’t forget about local governmental, social service or church organizations. There are many low-cost or no-cost counseling programs and treatment centers throughout Missouri. A simple web search will reveal many local choices, or contact the local health department for guidance.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. provides online resources for adult and child drug and alcohol dependency at www.ncadd.org.  Business owners and supervisory staff can use this website to learn more about recognizing drug and alcohol abuse and how to help coworkers or family members that need help.

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  • 04/23/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Drug-free Workplaces, Substance

One Text or Call Could Wreck it All

Life is not getting any easier or slowing down. The demands placed on all of us to juggle work and home life is ever present. So we multi-task—but this really means doing two or more things at the same time and not necessarily giving each job the attention it truly deserves like texting, eating or making phone calls while driving. The result is 3,000 roadway fatalities in the United States each year from distracted driving, that’s an average of about nine people a day.

The National Safety Council reports that 25 percent or more of traffic crashes include a driver on the phone or texting. Additional studies show that texting or dialing while driving leaves the driver impaired, just as much as if they were drunk. Texting or dialing requires you to take your eyes off the road, your hand(s) off the wheel and your mind away from driving—all a recipe for disaster.

We all know that these distractions are not safe, but we take the chance and we get away with it. Nobody gets hurt. Nobody dies. We continue to engage in this poor behavior or even encourage it by requiring employees to pick up the phone, even while driving. A recent survey by AT&T reported that almost half of all adults admit to texting while driving. The line of thinking is that we are better, smarter or faster than the rest of the statistics. The interesting thing about statistics is that in the blink of an eye, you can go from not being one to being one.

As a member of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, I routinely get updates about pending legislation concerning cell phone use, teens, texting, etc. Laws are certainly useful but ultimately it is up to each of us as business owners, parents and friends to just eliminate the distractions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a catchy slogan right now, “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All”. Missouri Employers Mutual encourages all business owners to formally implement driver safety rules that include wearing seatbelts, obeying traffic laws, adjusting speed to the conditions and eliminating distractions. Visit WorkSAFE Center to find sample policies and procedures.

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  • 04/02/2013
  • Written by Flint Walton
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

How Johme v. St. John’s Mercy Healthcare Changed Work Comp as We Know it

In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a decision which limits what has traditionally constituted a workers compensation injury. In a 5-2 decision, the Court ruled that an employee injured while making coffee at work was not entitled to workers compensation benefits. The decision in Sandy Johme v. St. John’s Mercy Healthcare not only overturned the ruling of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC), but also formally applied strict construction when determining compensability in workers compensation claims in Missouri.

The decision is consistent with the new language and strict construction implemented in the reforms made to the Missouri Workers Compensation Act that went into effect in August 2005.

The incident
Sandy Johme worked as a billing representative for St. John’s Mercy Healthcare. After clocking in, she made a pot of coffee in the company’s break room/kitchen. Although not an official company policy, it was customary that the employee who took the last cup of coffee would make a fresh pot. As Johme turned to walk back to her desk, she turned and twisted her ankle, slipped off her shoe, and fell to her right side, fracturing her pelvis and hip. It should be noted that there were no hazards on the floor (i.e. grease, slippery liquids, debris, uneven surfaces, etc.), nor were there any irregularities with Johme’s footwear (a sandal). She simply turned and fell.

The Administrative Law Judge’s decision
The presiding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied Johme’s claim for workers compensation benefits for two reasons:

  • she was not performing her work duties at the time of the accident, and
  • she would have been exposed to the same hazard or risk outside of the work environment.

In his rationale, the ALJ relied upon the language in Missouri statute §287.020.3(1) which defines an injury as one that has arisen out of and in the course of employment. The statute provides two requirements:

  • the accident must be the prevailing factor in causing the injury, and
  • the accident does not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to the employment to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to the employment in normal non-employment life.

The ALJ did not feel that making coffee was a primary work function. Since there was nothing in the facts of the case to suggest that Johme’s fall was caused by her work duties or that she was exposed to some risk at work that she would not have been exposed to elsewhere, benefits were denied.

The LIRC decision
Johme appealed the ALJ’s decision to the LIRC. There was no issue that Johme’s fall was the prevailing cause of injury. Instead, the LIRC focused on whether the act of making coffee was work related. In its rationale, the LIRC relied upon the personal comfort doctrine, a doctrine which states that basic human needs (hunger, thirst, elimination) must be met throughout the workday. Tending to those needs benefits both the employer and the employee so long as the means of doing so is reasonable in nature and there is no great departure from work duties. The LIRC found that Johme’s act of making coffee was such a basic need that was incidental and related to her employment under the personal comfort doctrine. The LIRC then relied upon an earlier case (Pile v. Lake Regional Health System) which states that once an injury has been determined to be work related, there is no need to consider whether or not the worker would have been equally exposed to that risk outside of work. Once the LIRC determined that the act of making coffee was related to Johme’s employment, there was no need to assess the risk under the test in Pile. Johme was awarded medical expenses and indemnity benefits under the Act. St. John’s appealed, and the Missouri Supreme Court ultimately heard the case. 

The Supreme Court decision
The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed with the LIRC’s analysis. The Court noted that there was much focus on whether Johme’s act of making coffee was incidental to her employment. Those circumstances were irrelevant since it was undisputed that Johme’s fall was the prevailing cause of injury. The fact that she was making coffee was mere context. Instead, the focus should have been on the second part of Missouri statute §287.020.3(2)(b) which states that an injury shall be deemed to arise out of and in the course of employment only “if it does not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to employment to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to the employment in normal non-employment life.” The evidence did not link the activity of making coffee as the cause of injury. The issue should have been whether Johme’s act of turning, twisting, and falling off her shoe had a causal connection to her work activities.

The Court found that this was not a risk specific to the workplace; Johme could have fallen in such a manner anywhere at any time. Thus, the Court reversed the LIRC and denied workers compensation benefits.

What it means to employers
Under the Court’s current interpretation of the statute and case law, certain injuries will not be compensable under workers compensation just because the injury occurred at work. Once a worker proves that an injury arose out of and in the course of employment, he or she must also prove that the risk of said injury is related to an employment activity. Prior to Johme, injuries that occurred from basic daily activities such as walking, kneeling, sitting, or standing were usually compensable. Now, such injuries may no longer be compensable under workers compensation. Even if the employee is performing job duties, some injuries will no longer be compensable if the risk is also not specific to those job duties. This should greatly reduce the number of claims being accepted, particularly in conjunction with the current views toward pre-existing conditions.      

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  • 03/22/2013
  • Written by Brad Williamson
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Public Sector Safety Programs Save Lives and Money

A workplace injury or fatality in a public sector environment is by definition a risk management failure. All municipal, county or other publically-funded organizations should make safety a priority. Injuries and damage cause increased insurance costs which reduce flexibility in an already tight budget.

If you think safety won’t fit in to your tight budget, consider the financial ramifications of a fatality:

  • The Missouri Department of Labor investigates public sector on-the-job deaths and submits recommendations. Their findings are discoverable and could be used in a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Wrongful death lawsuits are common when the employee’s immediate family determines that an unsafe condition led to death of their loved one. These types of lawsuits have led to millions of dollars in penalties.

Protecting your municipality and your employees is possible because accidents don’t just happen—workplace injuries and fatalities are predictable and preventable. Making safety a part of your municipality’s culture starts with the following practices:

Develop or update written safety rules. Focus your rules on your greatest exposures such as driving, seat belt use, trenches and excavation, fall protection or confined spaces. Explain the safety rules to every employee and require their signature annually. Key safety rules include seat belt policy, post-offer new hire and post-injury drug and alcohol screening program.

Commitment from management. Remember that safety rules that aren’t enforced are of little value. Develop a progressive disciplinary action policy to help enforce your safety rules. It is also important to reward employees who are working safely.

Routine safety meetings. Safety expectations must be reviewed. Review incidents that have occurred in other municipalities. Remember to document attendance and the topic of each meeting.

Inspect work areas, vehicles and facilities on a regular basis. Find problems before they cause injuries to your employees. Involve employees and management in a self-inspection program.

Taking the time to implement a safety program in your municipality is one of the most cost effective moves you can make. The return on investment from a safety program includes greater production, higher morale and controlling insurance costs. Implement or refresh your program today.

WorkSAFE Center is here to help whether you're just getting started with a safety program or looking for ways to make yours complete, check out our safety tutorial specifically designed to meet the needs of a municipality.

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  • 03/11/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Teach Your Employees the Right Way to Recover from Driving Off the Road

Vehicle crashes remain the top cause of on-the-job fatalities in Missouri. Many of these fatalities are a result of drivers trying to overcorrect after running off the edge of the road. Educating your employees about the right way to recover from driving off the road can mean the difference between life and death.

Almost every driver has felt the need to overcorrect. Unfortunately our instincts don’t provide a safe response. A typical overcorrection scenario often plays out as follows:

  • The vehicles’ tires fall off the pavement edge at the shoulder.
  • The driver panics by jerking the steering wheel back to the left.
  • Tires skid sideways causing the vehicle to roll.
  • When seat belts are not worn, the occupants are most likely ejected resulting in extreme trauma to the body or crush injuries as the vehicle rolls over them.

The good news is that this scenario never has to play out. Provide your employees with some simple defensive driving instruction as seen in this video from the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP). Create and enforce a seat belt policy that applies to all employees, including those driving a personal vehicle for work-related travel.

The MSHP will provide DVD copies of the video for $10 each and all proceeds will fund future MSHP safety video projects. Contact the MSHP Education Division at (573) 526-6115 to purchase your copy.

Adding the video to your next safety meeting and enforcing a seat belt policy are two of the most cost effective ways to promote safety in your workplace.

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  • 03/04/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Snow and Ice Removal Strategies Protect Your Employees and Your Business

Winter weather may be out of your control, but what you can control is how your business deals with dangerous conditions. A little planning can go a long way in shielding your employees and operations from potential workplace accidents, even when Mother Nature has plans of her own.

Be Prepared
It sounds simple but being prepared for dangerous conditions starts by following the weather conditions forecast for your area. Get a good idea of what is headed your way in the short- and long-term by checking out forecasts from local stations or the  National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s online resources.

Be ready in the morning by having snow and ice removal crews arrive before employees. Communicate severe weather safety policies year-round including the requirement to wear proper footwear and your expectations for traveling in winter weather conditions.

Outdoor Strategies
During big snow or ice storms, it’s almost inevitable that some of your employees, even with the support of your snow removal contractor, will need to spread ice melt or shovel snow. Pre-treating sidewalks, ramps and parking lots can make a big difference in the ability to effectively clear surfaces. Employees who assist with these tasks should wear reflective vests. Maintain parking lot lighting and use yellow caution tape to outline safe pathways. Consider blocking off areas that cannot be cleared effectively.

When it’s time to push snow, utilize employees that are healthy enough for the task. Snow removal requires intense physical activity. Remove snow as it falls, reducing the risk of injury due to overexertion. Push snow into areas where it won’t melt and run onto walkways and refreeze overnight. Rotate employees removing snow and make sure they stay hydrated.

Indoor Strategies
Slips and trips are a problem that requires everyone’s attention. Every employee can assist in finding slip and fall hazards before the hazards find them. You don’t have to be a safety manager to spot accidents waiting to happen inside the building including slick hallways and entrances from wet weather. It is important to require and expect that all employees report slip and trip hazards as soon as they find them.

Inside your workplace make sure floor runners and rugs are securely placed in areas that could become wet and slick. Sand and rock salt used to melt snow can be tracked into the building, creating slick areas. Place signage and communicate warnings about slick walking areas to all employees. Find easy ways to combat the problems created by slips, trips and falls in the workplace by watching  WorkSAFE Center’s video.

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  • 02/20/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Missouri One Call System Travels Missouri to Communicate the Latest in Utilities Safety

During the first quarter of each year, the Missouri One Call System, Inc. (MOCSI) travels the state providing free safety training for Missouri excavation crews, municipal workers and industry groups. Starting your day with a MOSCI meeting could help you and your employees end the day safely.

MOCSI dispatches all underground utility locates in the state and with a mission to protect life and property. Their message is simple: Use the free one call system to keep your crew safe and reduce unwanted damage and utility interruption. The MOCSI meetings begin with utility safety messages and provide attendees with legislative and system updates. MEM finishes the meetings by discussing excavation safety, why accidents are truly preventable and how damage and injuries hurt the profitability and productivity of Missouri businesses. MEM has worked with MOCSI to educate roughly 10,000 workers since 2011.

Underground utilities are extremely dangerous to anyone involved in digging or construction activities. Damage to fiber optic cable and steel natural gas lines are expensive to repair and could interrupt services to homes and businesses. MEM’s WorkSAFE Center provides a free safety tutorial for industries working with and around utilities—and downloadable resources for safety meetings.

The MOCSI meetings are a great way to supplement your safety efforts. Take an hour during an upcoming morning and bring your crew or subcontractor to a MOSCI meeting for valuable safety training and a free breakfast. Register for a meeting near you at mo1call.com.

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  • 02/08/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Global, Global

Managing Safety in a Small Company Can Help Make or Break a Business

Workplace injuries or a fatality can be devastating for a small business. Costs associated with damage to morale, production, fines and insurance could put a company out of business. Don’t get trapped in the thought that your business is too small for a safety program. Creating a safety program can begin with a few simple steps—steps that can protect your business and employees.

Use the following best practices when developing a small business safety program:

  • Understand your insurance costs. If you have an experience modifier rate over 1.0, you are losing money due to injuries. If you have an experience modifier rate below 1.0, make sure you have a plan for keeping it low. Work with your insurance agent to understand your experience modifier and how it affects what you pay for workers compensation insurance.
  • Survey work areas for unsafe conditions. Hazards may include missing machine guards, fire hazards or electrical hazards. Check out walking and working surface quality to prevent slips, trips and falls. Encourage safe lifting techniques and provide lifting aids. Make corrections to hazards as quickly as possible after they are identified.
  • Put safety expectations in writing and communicate them regularly with employees. To ensure that your employees understand the safety rules, have them sign a copy at least once a year. Your safety rules should address the top hazards and most the common injuries in your industry.
  • Hold regular safety meetings. Small businesses have an advantage because you can accomplish a lot just sitting around a table and discussing safety measures over coffee. Whatever your method is, gather employees regularly to discuss hazards on the job and safety rules. Be sure to document the attendance and topic you discussed so you can make sure you have communicated your safety expectations with each employee.
  • Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of on the job fatalities in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Transportation reports that in 2011, 97.5 percent of drivers not killed or injured in traffic crashes were wearing a seat belt. If you have employees that are required to drive for work-related reasons, put a seat belt policy in place and post it in a highly visible area. Even employees that make only incidental trips should be required to wear seat belts whenever driving for the company.
  • Put a drug and alcohol policy in place. According to OSHA, 10 to 20 percent of employees killed on the job test positive for illicit drugs. Require drug and alcohol testing post-offer for new hires and post-incident when a workplace injury requires treatment. This process can save you money in the long run by deterring drug and alcohol abusers from applying. Post-incident testing may also decrease work comp benefits to an injured employee who violated your drug and alcohol policy. 
  • Educate your employees on your injury reporting protocol. All injuries should be reported to your workers compensation insurer within 24 hours. In addition, make sure employees are reporting injuries to you in writing.
  • Use employer-directed medical treatment. Take the time to set up a relationship with a physician that has experience in workplace injury treatment. Make sure employees and supervisors know where to get treatment for a workplace injury, before it occurs.

Managing safety in a small company helps keep your employees productive and healthy. Don’t let uncontrolled workers compensation costs eat away at your profitability.

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  • 01/22/2013
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Medical Cost Containment is Possible

Medical expenses now account for more than 60 percent of workers compensation claim costs. The rising cost of medical care and medical provider fraud has contributed to this percentage. As an employer, you may feel like you are at the mercy of the system, but the good news is that there are ways to help manage these costs.   

Medical and disability management programs
Medical and disability management programs are designed to reduce, or mitigate the medical costs inherent to most workplace injuries. Missouri Employers Mutual utilizes a medical and disability management program that incorporates a medical bill review process. This process allows each bill to be examined in detail to quickly identify and eliminate medical provider fraud. All charges must correlate with applicable state fee schedules and/or the usual and customary rates. This process also identifies duplicate billing, coding or other potential errors and also enables MEM to take advantage of preferred provider discounts when applicable.

Preferred provider organizations and specialized services networks
Using preferred provider organizations (PPO) and specialized services networks provides access to negotiated discounts for key medical services. MEM’s use of PPO networks involves most major hospitals, physicians, occupational health, clinics and surgical centers. This also includes specialized services such as durable medical equipment, diagnostic services, medical transportation, home health services and physical therapy.  Providers in the networks are subject to regular review to ensure compliance with documentation and billing procedures.

Nurse case management and claim representative oversight
Other medical cost containment mechanisms include nurse case management and claim representative oversight. MEM’s registered nurses and claim representatives work in conjunction with all  parties involved in the claim to ensure medical treatment and disability issues are handled appropriately. Payments are presented for review by a claim representative as an additional check and balance.

Pharmacy programs
MEM understands the increasing costs of prescriptions in workers compensation claims. Consequently, MEM uses a pharmacy program that bills at a discounted rate—saving the employee any out-of-pocket expense. MEM compiles monthly reports to identify any red flags in the prescribing patterns of our provider network.

Return to work and transitional duty programs
Returning employees to work is the ultimate goal and MEM encourages employers to participate in return to work and transitional duty programs. These programs often incorporate light or modified duty depending on the severity of the injury, and when appropriate, duties in a different environment until the employee is medically approved to return to work. Return to work programs also offer the benefit of reducing the length and intensity of medical care that is required.

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  • 12/18/2012
  • Written by Ed Uebinger
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Danger Lurks in Ignoring Workplace Violence Risk

Workplace violence is a threat for all businesses, so it’s dangerous for organizational leaders to ignore the steps to control the risk. Many of them are common sense, basic actions that can dramatically increase employees’ safety.

More work settings than you may realize have an increased risk of workplace violence. The largest share of homicides in retail establishments happen at convenience and other grocery stores, eating and drinking establishments and gas stations (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1997). But, according to research, your organization is also at risk if the following operations occur:

  • Contact with the public
  • Exchange of money
  • Delivery of passengers, goods or services
  • Working alone or in small numbers
  • Working late night or early morning hours
  • Working in high-crime areas

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends developing a workplace violence prevention plan that includes these five facets:

  • Management commitment and employee involvement
  • Worksite analysis
  • Hazard prevention and control
  • Safety and health training
  • Evaluation

Start with these basic principles and actions:

  • Know what employee acts and behaviors constitute crime.
  • Develop a good relationship with local law enforcement.
    • Stay abreast of local crime trends.
    • Attend local public awareness meetings.
    • Invite law enforcement into your building for a tour and safety discussion.
  • Provide training for employees. Start with this simple MEM Tool Box Talk full of basic do’s and don’ts. Then develop a session that covers security plans, facility evacuation, common violent crimes for your industry, and how property crimes can be indicators that workplace violence could occur.
  • Conduct routine and random criminal background checks for all new hires and current employees.
  • Commit to physical security basics, such as keeping parking lot lighting in good working order, locking back doors, making sure the building security system actually functions and being accountable for visitors.

There are many additional online resources available to help you manage the risk of workplace violence:

 

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  • 12/11/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Vehicle Accidents More Deadly to Police than Gunfire

According to Law Officer magazine's Officer Down Memorial Page, 38 percent of law enforcement officer deaths are labeled as accidents. Contrary to popular belief, the most deadly threat faced by officers isn’t an armed criminal, but the roads they patrol. Vehicle deaths have outnumbered gunfire for all but one of the last 15 years.

There are ways to prevent vehicle deaths among law officers. Below 100 is an initiative to reduce police line-of-duty deaths to fewer than one hundred per year. The initiative is led by Law Officer magazine, with support from outside sponsors and is based on five tenets of safety.

  • Wear your seat belt
  • Wear your vest
  • Watch your speed
  • WIN – What’s important now?
  • Complacency kills

Do your officers wear seat belts? There are training tactics that work in concert with seat belts that include the skills to remove their weapon, avoid and respond to ambushes, and make a quick exit of their patrol vehicle.

Keeping Missouri employees safe is part of our mission and Missouri Employers Mutual supports the Below 100 cause and their efforts. MEM also supports the following safety management practices for our law enforcement policyholders.

  • Have a written and enforced seat belt policy.
  • Use bullet resistant vests.
  • Avoid using TASERs on other officers for training purposes.
  • Perform quality, documented training often.
  • Expect safe work and enforce safety policies through effective management.

Do your part to keep your officers safe by reviewing training tactics, preparedness, personal protective equipment, and weapons deployment. Refer to WorkSAFE Center for more safety information on defensive driving.

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  • 11/09/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Scholarships Provide Opportunity for Fallen/Injured Workers' Legacies

When an employee is injured or killed on the job, their future changes and so does their children’s. Kids’ Chance of Missouri was established in 1996 to grant post-high school scholarships to children of a parent who sustained a disabling injury or died in an accident covered by Missouri’s workers compensation laws.

Each year 40-50 children of injured or killed employees receive scholarships from Kids’ Chance of Missouri. To-date more than $1.2 million in scholarships has been awarded to deserving students.

Scholarship recipients must meet standards set by the Kids’ Chance Board of Directors.  Kids’ Chance scholarships include provisions for tuition, educational materials, living and other expenses related to the child’s education that are not covered by other scholarships and/or grants. The scholarships are for one school year and recipients may reapply after one school year or the end of the school term.

MEM believes in truly living out our corporate value of good citizenship. In 1998, MEM adopted Kids’ Chance as a favored charity. Corporate donations and employee fundraisers have provided more than $140,000 to date for this worthwhile organization.

For more information about Kids’ Chance of Missouri please visit them online.

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  • 10/18/2012
  • Written by Shirley Johnson
    Public Affairs, MEM
  • Global, Global

New Insights in Pain Management: Focusing on Pharmacy Management

Prescription narcotics caused nearly 16,000 deaths in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workers compensation payors will spend an estimated $1.4 billion this year on narcotics, with OxyContin being the most frequently prescribed drug according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance. This statistic is only getting worse and as a result, employers are facing increased medical and indemnity costs, death benefit exposure, and unlimited liability and reputational risk.

Narcotics impact on workers compensation
Exposure goes far beyond the cost per pill. In fact, a single claim can cost millions of dollars. According to a 2008 study of claims by the California Workers Compensation Institute cited in a recent New York Times article, workers who received high doses of opioid painkillers to treat injuries stayed out of work three times longer than those with similar injuries who took lower doses. In addition, the cost of a workplace injury is nine times higher when a strong narcotic such as OxyContin is involved, according to a 2010 analysis by insurer Accident Fund Holdings referenced in the same article. (“Pain Pills Add Cost and Delays to Job Injuries,” New York Times, June 2, 2012)

Opioids for treating pain
There is no doubt that strong pain medications can help some patients return to work. However, oftentimes workers’ underlying injuries are not being addressed when high doses of opioids are prescribed during initial treatment periods. In many cases opioids only lessen the perception of pain and really do nothing to resolve the causes of the pain, which can have a devastating long-term impact on patient health and the overall cost of workers compensation claims.

Improving pain treatment through education
To mitigate risk and prevent instances of workers compensation claimants ending up on chronic opioid therapy without resolving their underlying injuries, claims managers must look to physician leaders who have effectively treated pain with narcotics while minimizing the potential for negative consequences.

These physicians know the importance of identifying poor candidates for opioid therapy and limiting the treatment duration. Outpatient programs with this in mind help patients improve function, optimize medication and achieve independence. This approach produces positive results through patient education in four key areas:

  • Manage patient expectations
    It is important to have the patient understand that complete relief from their pain is not necessarily achievable for chronic pain sufferers.
  • Understand the limits of modern therapy
    This is important for both physicians and patients. Traditional treatments for acute pain affecting a particular body part include ice, heat, rest, stretching and analgesics. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain extends beyond a particular body part and can affect a patient’s perception of him or herself. Simply providing focused medical treatments like those used for acute pain may not be able to change the course of a chronic condition. Helping patients understand this and other limitations will enable them to better manage their expectations.
  • Clarify potential risks
    Each treatment option is a good way to begin showing patients their role in effective pain management. Many patients may ask their doctor about treating with medications or the need for surgery. Chronic pain patients need to realize their pain will likely not go away, there are no simple solutions, and their active involvement is essential to managing pain.
  • Encourage behavioral changes
    This is a key component of functional restoration programs. Fear, avoidance, poor coping skills, catastrophizing, learned behaviors and senses of entitlement are all psychological issues that require attention. Physicians can help patients change their perspective of pain and realize ways to improve overall life circumstances.

There have been many success stories from these types of interdisciplinary outpatient programs. The key is to have the right skills, support and direction. Unlike a typical healthcare environment, effective chronic pain management requires a team of specialists that collaborate and focus on the total patient, not just the pain.

Article contributors:

Kim Hulsey, MEM Claims

Mitch Ritter, MEM Claims

Paul Morizzo, CorVel

 

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  • 10/10/2012
  • Written by
    Claims, MEM/CorVel
  • Claims Management, Substance

Back to Basics: Your Keys to Safe Driving

Drive Safely Work Week, Oct. 1-5, 2012
Today, 84 percent of the U.S. population is buckling up. Unfortunately, there are still 45 million who are not wearing a seat belt all the time—and some not wearing one at all. Are you or your employees part of the 45 million? Using a seat belt is a key to driving safely and requiring your employees to wear one is a great place to start. The keys to safe driving and lowering your work comp costs are in your hands.

 

One way to promote safe driving in your workplace is to take advantage of Drive Safely Work Week, Oct. 1-5, 2012 sponsored by The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. This campaign emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining a safe-driving foundation—whether employees drive on behalf of your company, commute to and from work or teach a young driver in their family. Preview and download the campaign materials today.

 The DSWW materials are not dated and can be used indefinitely for continued promotion of safe driving practices. Pick a week or five days throughout the year to remind your employees about how safe driving makes a difference.

Day one     BUCKLE UP! Seat belts should never have time off!

Day two     Steer with a clear head

Day three  Drive distraction-free

Day four   Parking and backing basics

Day five   Fine-tune the fundamentals

You may also want to check out our WorkSAFE defensive driving tutorial for additional workplace safe driving program information. 

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  • 09/22/2012
  • Written by
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Deer Can Be Hazards on the Roadway: Time to Sharpen Your Defensive Driving Skills

It’s that time of year, deer are moving in Missouri. Whether you drive in a city or rural environment, deer can be hazardous on the roadways. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, October and November are the two most dangerous months for deer-related crashes. Now is the time for you and your employees to refresh your defensive driving skills.

Think deer in the road aren’t much of a problem and you won’t encounter one? Think again. The Missouri Highway Patrol has some convincing numbers from 2010 that suggest otherwise.

  • There were 3,420 deer-related traffic accidents.
  • A deer strike occurred every 2.6 hours.
  • Two people were killed and 352 were injured in traffic collisions involving deer.
  • Most deer related crashes occurred between 5-10 p.m.
  • Counties with the most deer strikes included St. Louis, Jackson, Platte, Clay and Jefferson.
  • Cities with the most deer strikes included Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, Wildwood, Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City.

 Missouri State Highway Patrol. Analysis of Deer Involvement in Traffic Crashes in Missouri, 2010.

Most drivers’ initial reaction to deer in the road is to try and to avoid them by going around them, but taking evasive action such as swerving is one of the worst things you can do. You may actually send your vehicle into oncoming traffic or skid out of control. It’s usually safer to strike the deer than another object such as a tree or another vehicle. Keep yourself and your employees safe by doing the following:

  • Require the use of seat belts when employees ride in vehicles or drive for the company. Wearing a seat belt increases your chances of staying in control of the vehicle if you strike a deer and may minimize your injuries.
  • Encourage employees to focus solely on the road and not drive distracted. Concentrate on the road and be able to react to deer that may be along the shoulder.
  • Keep your personal and fleet vehicles’ glass and mirrors clean.
  • Keep up with routine maintenance on your personal and fleet vehicles.
  • Get enough sleep and be drug-and-alcohol free. Safe driving always requires clear focus and concentration.
  • Increase your following distance and slow down. Have time to react if a deer enters the roadway. Avoid panic braking and never jerk the steering wheel to avoid the deer.

Remember, driving is the most dangerous job you can do. It’s the #1 killer of Missouri workers. Check out WorkSAFE Center’s fleet management tutorial for additional fleet safety information.

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  • 09/17/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

School Safety 101: Update and Implement Your Security Plan

Schools are encouraged to review their security programs on a regular basis. When school security procedures are not evaluated, updated or drilled on a regular basis, the result is improper decision making. When employees make the wrong decision under extreme stress because they haven’t been trained, it affects lives.

School security plans are never finalized or finished. They constantly evolve and require maintenance in the form of adapting to new threats, routine evaluation and implementing improvements. When evaluating your school safety and security procedures, consider the following suggestions:

  • Staff and students must take school security drills seriously.
  • Security drills should include lockdown scenarios.
  • Weaknesses in the security plan should be addressed as soon as possible.
  • School employees must know and understand their roles in protecting both students and staff.
  • Multiple school employees should be trained in CPR, First Aid and automated external defibrillator usage.
  • Employees should have immediate access to a phone that can dial 911.
  • Know how long it takes for custodians, maintenance and administration to lock down the building.
  • Perform self-inspections of all rooms, doors, locks, security systems, fire suppression systems and alarm systems.
  • Panic buttons should be installed in multiple locations throughout the building.
  • Main office staff should be able to see who is entering and exiting the building.
  • Budget for alarm and surveillance system maintenance and improvements.
  • Report and correct damage or vandalism to any school security component.
  • Report any instances where security devices were bypassed or damaged including: propped open doors, coined magnetic locks, or security lights with deliberately broken bulbs.
  • Report any unauthorized persons in the building.
  • Encourage parents to follow school security programs, such as checking in at the office before visiting children.
  • Make sure all parking areas, doorways and awning areas are well lit.

Many types of threats can compromise a school’s security. Common high-frequency events include bullying, assault and verbal threats. Don’t forget to have plans and training that address high-risk, low-frequency events like a gunman in the building, bomb threats and kidnapping. Remember that you may not be able to physically stop a dangerous, armed person from entering the building. But you do have the ability to properly respond when the threat arises. Involve local law enforcement and security experts when designing or evaluating your school security program. Invite your local police and fire departments to take a tour of your building and/or assist with employee training.

An effective school security program takes diligence, training and drills. All school security procedures require regular updates, staff training, parent education and drills with staff and law enforcement.

For additional safety information, check out WorkSAFE Center’s school safety tutorial.

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  • 09/12/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Boat Dock Safety: Protecting Against Electrical Shock

With more than 25,000 docks located in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks alone, it is important to address boat dock safety. In 2006, Ameren and Lake area fire districts adopted requirements for electrical installation on floating structures at the Lake of the Ozarks. Unfortunately, only docks that are newly constructed, moved to a new location, added onto or expanded must meet the requirements. 

The following are suggestions on what to do if you are in the water and feel an electrical shock, how to rescue a shock victim, and how to avoid creating an electrical shock situation. Many of the suggestions were provided during a recent dock safety forum presented by Lake Regional Hospital.

What to do if you feel a tingling or shock in the water:

  • Swim away from the source such as a ladder, dock or boat.
  • Do not touch the dock or cables.
  • Stay upright in a treading water position.
  • Exit the water by the shore.
  • Call for help but don’t ask help to jump in the water.

How to save a shock victim:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Throw a fiberglass shepherd’s crook or rescue hook, life jacket or ring buoy to the swimmer. If possible push the swimmer away from the source with the hook.
  • Shut off the power to the dock.
  • Do not enter the water to help until all power is off.
  • Once it is safe, remove the victim from the water and place them on a hard surface.
  • Provide CPR until help arrives.

How to prevent electrical shock around docks and boats:

  • All electrical wiring on boats and docks should be installed and maintained according to the National Electrical Codes and installed by an experienced electrician.
  • Do not swim around marinas due to the large number of boats, electrical outlets, submersible equipment and current sources.
  • Use only ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets/switches in areas that are near or exposed to water.
  • Test GFCI outlets/switches monthly. A tester can be purchased at local hardware stores.
  • Do not disable GFCI outlets or switches.
  • Use electrical leakage circuit interrupter outlets/switches on boat electrical systems.
  • Keep electrical wires, cords and appliances at least five feet from the water.
  • Use only grounded extension cords that are the correct size for the equipment and are rated for outdoor use.
  • Do not alter or tape electrical wires/cords and dispose of any frayed or damaged cords.
  • Do not use submersible water pumps.
  • Swimmers should wear life jackets when swimming near docks or boats.
  • Do not use non-metallic sheathed (Romex) cable around water.
  • Have a sub-panel at the seawall next to the dock with a disconnect.
  • Receptacles, switch boxes and junction boxes must not be within six feet of a ladder for the dock.
  • Have your dock and boat inspected on a regular basis.

Talk to your friends and family about what to do in the case of an electrical shock. The first instinct of someone who is in danger in the water is to swim toward the dock and ladder to get out of the water. Touching the dock or ladder could result in an increased electrical shock and make the swimmer inaccessible to help. Have conversations that instruct swimmers to to stay upright in the water and paddle away from the shock. Everyone present should know how to call for help, where the electrical disconnect is and how to turn it off, and how to assist a swimmer without going in the water.

Additional resources:

WorkSAFE Toolbox Talk: Water Hazards

WorkSAFE Safety Rules: Working Near Water

Osage Beach Fire District

Missouri State Highway Patrol

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  • 08/27/2012
  • Written by Terri Sweeten
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Continuing Education Pays Off for Water/Wastewater Industry and Employees

Continuing education is important for every industry. For the water and wastewater industry it’s not only important, it’s required. Those requirements are proving to be time well spent.

Water treatment plant operators, wastewater plant operators and water and sewer line employees are required by Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources to be licensed. This license requires 30 hours of continuing education every three years.

Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance invests heavily in educating Missouri’s water and wastewater employees regarding workplace safety. In recent years MEM has teamed up with organizations including the Missouri Water and Wastewater Conference, Missouri Rural Water Association, Department of Natural Resources and Missouri One Call System, Inc. to offer safety training as part of the continuing education requirement. We greatly value these relationships and the safety of the employees.

The investment in safety is paying off. Data shows total injuries for the industry are down. The Missouri Division of Workers Compensation reported an average of 607 water employee injuries per year for the last four years. Injuries were down in 2011 with 566 injury reports and 2012 has also seen fewer injuries to date. The National Council on Compensation Insurance is showing that loss costs for every $100 in payroll is trending down in two of the three class codes that encompass water and wastewater work. This means that fewer employees are getting hurt, the job is getting done and money isn’t being wasted.

Water and wastewater plant operators and construction crews should review the following information regularly at your safety meetings:

Be sure to check out the additional safety resources and seminars available on worksafecenter.com.

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  • 08/10/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

The Relationship Between Workers Compensation and Occupational Disease

Occupational disease is defined as a condition that develops over time as opposed to an injury that is attributed to a single incident. Since the workers compensation legislative reform in 2005, there has been speculation that the new law created a loophole which allows employees claiming an injury due to occupational disease to pursue a civil remedy instead of filing a workers compensation claim. So how does this potentially affect Missouri businesses?

A case decided in September 2011 by the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals announced a "substantial departure from prior law" in holding that an employee who claimed he contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos during his employment with Kansas City Power and Light, had the option to sue his employer in civil court. The Court held that workers compensation is not the only forum for an occupational disease claim under Missouri Law.

In response, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill in the 2012 session to keep occupational disease cases in the workers compensation system, but it was vetoed by Governor Nixon. Missouri business associations worked with the Governor's office and legislative leaders to craft a new bill that would close the loophole and bring injuries caused by occupational disease back into the exclusive remedy of workers compensation. No bill was passed prior to the end of the 2012 session and the issue will likely re-emerge in the next legislative session.

Many employees will still choose to pursue a remedy through workers compensation because it provides medical treatment, payment for lost wages and permanent disability without the employee having to prove negligence in a potentially lengthy legal proceeding. However, an employee that can prove negligence has the potential to recover much more in damages in a civil suit than what is possible through the workers compensation system.

Take control of occupational disease
Employers can take steps to identify and reduce risks for occupational disease claims.

  • Identify harmful conditions in the workplace and take immediate action to eliminate them. Steps may include performing regular facility safety and health inspections and surveying employees about the current safety conditions and how they can be improved.
  • Review chemical inventory of hazardous substances and make conscious efforts to utilize equally effective products that contain lower hazard ratings as defined by the National Fire Protection Agency.
  • Encourage employees to report injuries promptly so they can receive timely medical treatment to prevent accidents from becoming repetitive-use injuries.
  • Evaluate insurance coverage including workers compensation and other liability policies to ensure coverage for occupational disease claims.
  • Consult with workplace safety experts on a regular basis about updating your safety plan, avoiding any additional workplace safety hazards and complying with the most current regulations.
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  • 07/27/2012
  • Written by Jennifer Barth
    Legal, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

The Cause and Effect of Work Comp Premium Fraud

The cost of doing business never goes down and companies are always looking for ways to decrease their expenses. Cutting costs by obtaining workers compensation coverage at less than the appropriate rate may seem like an easy way to decrease expenses, but it is a crime under Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 287, Section 287.128. And everyone pays for it in the end.

The cause
Deceptive practices often begin during the application process when a business owner purposefully provides false information, and misrepresents their risk and/or estimated premium. Workers compensation insurance application fraud may include:

  • An inaccurate description of the business or its operations
  • Underreporting of the number of employees
  • Underreporting of payroll
  • Inaccurate information about the employees’ job duties

Premium fraud can also occur with established policyholders. Examples include:

Underreported or unreported payroll. This occurs when employers don’t list all their employees or pay some with cash so they are excluded from payroll reporting.

Misclassified roles and responsibilities. Employers may intentionally misclassify the job functions of new hire so that it reduces the business’ risk and premium.

Additional business operations that are not reported. This occurs when a business moves employees back and forth between operations without submitting additional job classifications. Sometimes they will mask business operations through fictitious entities or shell companies. 

Closely related, are instances where policyholders choose not to report legitimate claims of injury or attempt to dissuade a legitimately injured employee from filing an injury claim.      

The effect
Unfortunately, when workers compensation related risks are not properly covered, it impacts the carrier’s ability to cover the claim costs. It also results in disproportionately higher premium-to-loss cost ratios for insurers and ultimately leads to increases in premium for everyone. Another residual effect of unreported or underreported payroll is that it leads to the avoidance of state payroll taxes. Businesses who engage in this type of illicit behavior are at risk of being charged with a crime under Missouri State Law and may incur heavy penalties from the Attorney General’s Office.

A better way
There are legitimate ways for businesses to save money on premium costs. The road to savings starts with assessing the actual risk and taking action to decrease it. Start by developing a safety program that includes:

A safety program should reflect the goal of reducing claims and the experience modifier. An effective safety program directly impacts the reduction of claims and premium.

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  • 07/13/2012
  • Written by Ed Uebinger
    Claims, MEM
  • Global, Fraud

Building Safely Builds Bottom Line for Ken Otke Construction

Management at Jefferson City-area builder Ken Otke Construction know safety pays, and they recently received more proof. MEM presented the company with a dividend check in recognition of its outstanding safety record.

Representatives from MEM and Ken Otke Construction’s insurance agency, Naught-Naught Agency, presented the check to co-owner Carol Otke Griffin. “Receiving this dividend gives us a feeling of success—that we’re doing something right in making our employees aware of jobsite hazards,” Griffin said.

And doing it right, they are. Ken Otke Construction was injury-free in 2009, the year for which the dividend was awarded. Griffin intends to repeat the success thanks to this encouragement from MEM. The company plans to use the MEM dividend to purchase additional fall protection gear.

Many Missouri business are cashing in on safety. MEM has paid just more than $2 million in dividends to 11,033 policyholders. Policyholders at all premium levels received a percentage of premium they paid based on their loss ratio results. Payments went to policyholders with policies effective in 2009 because workers compensation is a “long‐tailed” line of insurance. Policies from 2009 don’t expire until 2010; claims are still reported and loss ratios are still developing in 2011.

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  • 07/02/2012
  • Written by Rachel Verslues
    Sales and Marketing, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Workers Compensation for Small Businesses—Why it is Important

If you own a small business, and have just a few employees, you may not understand why it is important for you to purchase workers compensation insurance. There are a number of reasons why it is critical for you, your employees and your business to be protected by a policy.

Missouri work comp law
In Missouri, employers are statutorily required to carry workers compensation insurance, with very few exceptions. There is nothing in the statute that gives small businesses any concession from this requirement. Every business, not involved in the construction industry, must carry workers compensation insurance if it employs five or more persons—either full or part-time. For the construction industry, as defined by statute, the requirement drops down to one or more employees—either full or part-time.

If you are thinking of not carrying workers compensation insurance, you might want to consider the penalties. The state insurance regulator employs field investigators who visit businesses and work sites unannounced and require proof of workers compensation insurance. If you are required to carry it and you do not, the investigators have the authority to shut down operations on-the-spot. You will not be able to resume operations until you can provide proof of coverage. Additionally, if one or more of your employees are injured, and you do not have workers compensation insurance, the employee(s) may file a claim with the insurance regulator. In either of these scenarios, you may be subject to large fines that increase each day you continue to not carry the coverage.

Injuries can devastate
Under the law an injured employee is eligible for certain benefits. These benefits include any medical treatment required to remedy the injury. There is no dollar limit on the costs associated with treatment. There are also benefits for lost wages if the injury results in lost time at work and disability payments if the injury results in temporary or permanent impairment.

If you do not carry workers compensation insurance, the financial responsibility for those benefits falls on you. If your business is a sole proprietorship or partnership, you and/or your partners could become personally responsible for paying the benefits typically paid by a workers compensation policy. If your business is an LLC or corporation, the business is financially responsible for benefits, in the absence of a workers compensation policy. In the case of a serious injury, it could be financially devastating to you and your business.

Coverage equals protection
The big take-away for business owners is that whether you are required to carry workers compensation insurance or not, it is important to have it so you, your employees and your business are protected. Consider it a part of the cost of doing business in Missouri. Another benefit to workers compensation insurance is that many carriers, including Missouri Employers Mutual, provide services such as loss prevention and safety training to help reduce your number of workplace injuries. Check out the extensive resources available on worksafecenter.com.

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  • 06/28/2012
  • Written by Barry Kelly
    Sales and Marketing, MEM
  • Global, Global

Safety Fuels Non-profit OATS, Inc. Transportation

The safety record of Columbia-based OATS, Inc., a statewide not-for-profit public transportation system, recently earned the company more fuel for the operation. MEM, along with OATS’ insurance agency, Naught-Naught Agency, presented the company with a significant dividend check in recognition of its safety success.

“OATS has been a great partner to MEM because they, like us, understand the value of safety,” said MEM President and CEO Jim Owen. “In workers compensation, safety equals success. As a mutual company, MEM shares success in reduced rates and now—for the first time—a dividend.”

What might be just another accounting transaction for some companies means much more to a company funded by grants and donations. For non-profit OATS, this MEM dividend check could mean:

  • Full tanks of gas for 200 of the 800 OATS vans.
  • New tires for the Columbia region fleet.
  • A year’s worth of safety talks for the entire OATS staff.

Celebrating success
The team at OATS earned it. Their safety focus helped the company achieve an outstanding 23 percent loss ratio for 2009, the year for which dividends were awarded. The loss ratio is a measure of losses compared to the premium paid; the average across the entire Missouri work comp market for 2011 was 63.8 percent, nearly three times as high as OATS’ loss ratio.

Many Missouri business are cashing in on safety this month. MEM is paying just more than $2 million in dividends to 11,033 policyholders. Policyholders at all premium levels receive a percentage of premium they paid based on their loss ratio results. Payments are going to policyholders with policies effective in 2009 because workers compensation is a “long‐tailed” line of insurance. Policies from 2009 don’t expire until 2010; claims are still reported and loss ratios are still developing in 2011.

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  • 06/25/2012
  • Written by Rachel Verslues
    Sales and Marketing, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Teen Employees and the Law: Staying Within the Guidelines

Employing teenagers can be a great solution to labor needs both seasonally and year round. Before hiring teens, employers should become familiar with the state and federal laws that are in place to protect young employees. Now is the perfect time to refresh your child labor law knowledge.

Often times, federal and state laws differ on the same topics. In those instances, the stricter law applies, but employers must comply with both sets of laws. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act applies if a company conducts more than $500,000 in annual business or if the employees engage in interstate commerce. Missouri laws concerning youth labor are contained in section 294 of the Missouri Revised Statutes and for the most part mirror federal laws.

Missouri law

  • For purposes of child labor, Missouri law defines a child as under the age of 16 years old.
  • Missouri requires a work certificate for employees who are 14 to 15 years old.
  • Children under the age of 14 are allowed to work in the entertainment industry with certain provisions.
  • Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work in certain hazardous occupations, usually involving dangerous machinery or toxic materials.

Acceptable work hours for 14 and 15 year old employees

School in session

  • Only between the hours of 7 a.m. -7 p.m.
  • Non-school days—no more than eight hours
  • School days—no more than three hours
  • Maximum days of work per week—six

School not in session

  • Only between the hours of 7 a.m.-9 p.m. (with the exception of 10:30 p.m. when employed at a regional fair while school is not in session)
  • No more than eight hours a day and no more than 40 hours per week
  • Maximum days of work per week—six

Violation of any provisions of this law is a Class C Misdemeanor.

Compensation rates for injured teen employees
Because teens lack work experience or technical skills for most occupations, their wage rates are typically lower. However, in the event an employee under the age of 21 is seriously injured, the Missouri Workers Compensation Statute does allow for a higher wage rate in certain situations. In claims involving permanent partial disability, permanent total disability or death, the wage rate may be adjusted to reflect the potential for increased earning power until the employee reaches the age of 21. This same statute also provides allowances for apprentices or trainees whose earning potential is reasonably expected to increase. It is also important to note that an additional 50 percent increase in compensation may be awarded in cases where the employer knowingly violated state child labor laws.

With the proper safety training and adherence to child labor laws, employers can save significant payroll expenses by utilizing teens for the right jobs. The key to maximizing these benefits is the same as it is with traditional employees—safety first.

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of Labor (youth labor laws)

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

Missouri Statutes on Child Labor

Missouri Workers Compensation Statute (employees under the age of 21)

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  • 06/25/2012
  • Written by Brad Williamson
    Claims, MEM
  • Global, Global

Teens and Summer Employment: Manage the Risks

As the school year comes to a close, many employers will hire teenagers for summer jobs. Although the number of employed teenagers dropped drastically since 2008, those numbers are slowly rising again. In 2011, the number of youths (16 to 24 years old) employed in the United States was 18.6 million—an increase of 1.7 million from 2010 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Hiring teens can prove to be very beneficial for employers, teens and the community. With the trend on the rise, it is a great time to revisit the best ways to manage your risk.  

Higher injury rates
Injury rates are higher among teenagers. Statistics for 2011 shows that the non-fatal injury rate for employees 15 to 17 years old was double the injury rate for employees 25 and older. The higher injury rate can be attributed to a lack of experience and an under-appreciation for workplace hazards. The lack of work experience disqualifies most teenagers from more technical jobs, so they accept positions that are more hazardous by nature or involve manual labor which is inherently more risky. According to the National Consumer League, the five most dangerous jobs for teenagers last summer were:

  • Agriculture—harvesting crops and using machinery
  • Construction and height work
  • Driver/Operator—forklifts, tractors, ATVs
  • Outside labor—landscaping, grounds keeping and lawn service
  • Sales crews—traveling

Managing the risk
OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) suggests following these simple steps to prevent injuries to working teens:

  • Give clear instructions and safety precautions to take.
  • Ask for your instructions to be repeated and give an opportunity for questions.
  • Demonstrate how to perform tasks.
  • Observe tasks being performed and correct any mistakes.
  • Demonstrate how to use safety equipment.
  • Prepare teens for emergencies.
  • Ask if there are any additional questions.

Taking these simple steps can drastically reduce risk of injury while encouraging safe working habits for all employees.

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  • 06/04/2012
  • Written by Brad Williamson
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2012: Make a Difference by Making it Happen

Does your company have injured employees? Are insurance and injury costs affecting the bottom line? If so, the time you invest during WorkSAFE Week 2012 will be well worth it. There are simple ways to get started and see results.

 

WorkSAFE Week 2012, June 11-15 encourages businesses to evaluate their safety programs, educate employees and create safe working environments.

“There Are No Accidents” is the theme for 2012. Business owners, company leaders and management must understand that all workplace accidents have an aspect of preventability. WorkSAFE Week 2012 resources provide business owners with direction on identifying the preventable aspects and working to eliminate future incidents.

Company leaders must make time to be safety leaders in order to make safety improvements, keep employees safe, and increase productivity. Putting safety first is the right thing to do and it is a legal requirement to provide a safe and healthy work environment for your employees.

Where do you begin?
Take time during WorkSAFE Week 2012 to do the following:

Develop a written seat belt policy. Seat belt policies address the number one killer of employees in Missouri.

Develop written safety rules. Train, educate and encourage workers to take personal responsibility for their safety with a set of comprehensive safety rules.

Implement a drug-free workplace policy. The U.S. Department of Labor provides some convincing data: 75% of illicit drug users are employed, nearly 17% of food service and accommodations employees and 14% of construction workers have used drugs in the last month. A drug-free workplace policy lets employees and potential employees know where you stand on drug and alcohol use on the job.

If you don’t already have these documents, MEM can help you develop them. If you already have these documents in place, hold a meeting to refresh everyone’s memory and get up-to-date signatures.

Hold safety meetings
If you don’t hold regular safety meetings, WorkSAFE Week is the perfect time to start! If you already include these as a part of your safety program, make sure you are including the following points:

  • Let employees know that you care about their safety.
  • Discuss common causes of accidents in your industry. 
  • Discuss unsafe acts that commonly injure workers.
  • Talk with employees about how all accidents have an aspect of preventability to them.
  • Encourage workers to report hazards, maintenance or co-worker safety concerns.
  • Show employees support by taking action to remove a hazard.

Document best practices
Proper documentation of safety rules and policies can help reduce incidents and company liability. Some recommended examples of safety rule documentation include:

Signed and dated seat belt policy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that using seat belts reduces the risk of death among front seat occupants in passenger vehicles by about 45 percent; the risk reductions among occupants of pickup trucks are estimated to be 60 to 65 percent.

Signed and dated company safety rules. Although many general safety rules are common sense, posting them in high traffic areas and reviewing them with employees can help keep the rules top of mind.

Signed and dated drug-free workplace policy. Under workers compensation law in many states, workers compensation benefits can be reduced or even eliminated if drugs or alcohol were involved in the injury, if the employer has a documented drug-free workplace policy.

Signed and dated disciplinary action policy. Document all corrective measures taken when a safety violation occurs. This policy enforces the commitment the business has made to workplace safety and that repeated violations will not be tolerated.

WorkSAFE Week 2012 is an opportunity for your company to hit the reset button. MEM is here to help your company prevent injuries, reduce risk and increase profitability. For additional safety information contact MEM’s Loss Prevention department at 1-888-499-SAFE or worksafe@worksafecenter.com.

 

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  • 05/30/2012
  • Written by MarkWoodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2012 to Celebrate and Encourage Workplace Safety

Each year Missouri Employers Mutual fields thousands of workplace injuries, some of them proving fatal. The majority of these injuries could have been prevented through simple safety measures. MEM encourages employers to set aside time during June 11-15, 2012 and take steps to provide employee training, document safety expectations and perform an overall review of their safety efforts.

Simple safety measures including seat belt policies, pre/post-incident drug and alcohol testing and written safety rules can increase productivity, profitability and morale in Missouri workplaces.

During WorkSAFE Week 2012, MEM is providing information on the following topics:

  • “There Are No Accidents” incident reduction philosophy;
  • seat belt policy resources;
  • resources on the development of post-incident drug and alcohol testing programs;
  • the importance of written safety rules; and
  • documentation practices.

If your experience modifier rate is 1.0 or above, you have room for improvement. Take time during WorkSAFE Week 2012 to improve your loss prevention and claims management practices. MEM can help and can provide you with the resources you need to reduce injuries.

Go above and beyond to make your organization incident-free! Get started by viewing our safety policies video on YouTube and downloading our WorkSAFE Week 2012 materials.

For more information on WorkSAFE Week 2012 or how you can implement it in your workplace contact us by phone 1.888.499.SAFE(7233) or email worksafe@worksafecenter.com.

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  • 05/09/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Public Sector Fatalities in Missouri Now Investigated by the State

Did you know that OSHA does not have jurisdiction over public sector employees in Missouri? This means they do not conduct investigations into public sector workplace fatalities. Public sector fatalities in Missouri have typically only been investigated by insurance companies and attorneys. A recent municipality fatality shed light on the investigation gap. So how has Missouri resolved this problem? 

After the gap was revealed, it was identified that Missouri statute RSMo Section 286.147 empowers the state to perform investigations of all workplace fatalities. In response to this discovery, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR) established a public sector fatalities investigations unit.

How it works
DOLIR enforces its statutory authority to investigate public sector fatalities by looking at contributing factors such as machines involved, safety policies, training and maintenance records. Additional information is also obtained by interviewing management and co-workers if necessary. The final DOLIR report may be subpoenaed and forwarded to the Attorney General if an investigation finds gross negligence, criminal neglect or criminal liability.

To reduce duplication, DOLIR does not conduct fatality investigations when another regulatory agency is involved. For example, in the case of work-related vehicle crashes DOLIR will use Missouri State Highway Patrol reports. Private-sector fatalities will be investigated by OSHA and DOLIR will then use OSHA’s report.

Working for a safer tomorrow
The purpose of the investigations is to find cause, not fault. According to Leon Lawson, Assistant Director, Division of Labor Standards, the investigations are used to correct safety problems and develop information to prevent future fatalities. The investigations are documented and forwarded to the Governor’s office, per statutory requirements. At this time there is no reporting requirement, method or statutory authority for levying fines.

Providing a safe work environment is a way to avoid workplace fatalities and injuries. Employers can start by implementing the following:

  • Provide routine safety training.
  • Develop and enforce formal safety rules including a seat belt policy.
  • Properly maintain vehicles and equipment.  
  • Train employees to do their job correctly and recognize hazards.
  • Provide safety gear including confined space air monitors, trench boxes and lockout-tagout equipment.

Want to get started on building a safety program or just need to refresh some policies? Check out WorkSAFE Center’s general safety rules.

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  • 05/04/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Global, OSHA

Breaking Down the Proposed NCCI Experience Plan Rating Changes

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) is proposing changes in the Experience Rating Plan formula along with Missouri’s approved loss cost filing effective January 1, 2013. Why the changes and what do they mean for policyholders?

Increase primary/excess split point  
Proposed changes include an increase to the primary/excess split point. The primary/excess split point is the dollar value that splits a loss into its primary cost and excess portions. Currently, the first $5,000 of a loss is considered the primary cost and the portion above $5,000 is considered excess. The proposed increase would bring the primary/excess split point to an inflation-adjusted $15,000 over a three-year transition period.

The $5,000 split point has been in place for approximately 20 years and the average dollar amount per claim has tripled since then. Currently, the primary loss amount that goes into the experience rating formula is much smaller than it was 20 years ago and does not meet the current needs. The proposed changes increase the split point to $10,000 in the first year and to $13,500 in the second year. In year three, the changes will further increase the split point to $15,000 plus two years of inflation adjustment (rounded to the nearest $500).

Revise the maximum debit modification formula
The proposed changes also include increasing the maximum debit modification to 10%, which is more reasonable than the current 0%. The revision also more fully accounts for differences across states in claim severities.

Predicted effects
NCCI does not feel the proposed changes will have any impact on the overall state premium. On an individual risk basis, most employers currently receiving credit experience modifications will receive larger credits. Most employers currently receiving debit experience modifications will receive larger debits. During the initial split point increase to $10,000, NCCI estimates that 93% of risks will receive less than a 10 point change in their experience rating modification. Additional information on this regulatory activity is available on NCCI’s website.

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  • 04/25/2012
  • Written by Ralph Gifford
    Underwriting, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Public Sector Fatalities in Missouri Now Investigated by the State

Did you know that OSHA does not have jurisdiction over public sector employees in Missouri? This means they do not conduct investigations into public sector workplace fatalities. Public sector fatalities in Missouri have typically only been investigated by insurance companies and attorneys. A recent municipality fatality shed light on the investigation gap. So how has Missouri resolved this problem? 

After the gap was revealed, it was identified that Missouri statute RSMo Section 286.147 empowers the state to perform investigations of all workplace fatalities. In response to this discovery, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR) established a public sector fatalities investigations unit.

How it works
DOLIR enforces its statutory authority to investigate public sector fatalities by looking at contributing factors such as machines involved, safety policies, training and maintenance records. Additional information is also obtained by interviewing management and co-workers if necessary. The final DOLIR report may be subpoenaed and forwarded to the Attorney General if an investigation finds gross negligence, criminal neglect or criminal liability.

To reduce duplication, DOLIR does not conduct fatality investigations when another regulatory agency is involved. For example, in the case of work-related vehicle crashes DOLIR will use Missouri State Highway Patrol reports. Private-sector fatalities will be investigated by OSHA and DOLIR will then use OSHA’s report.

Working for a safer tomorrow
The purpose of the investigations is to find cause, not fault. According to Leon Lawson, Assistant Director, Division of Labor Standards, the investigations are used to correct safety problems and develop information to prevent future fatalities. The investigations are documented and forwarded to the Governor’s office, per statutory requirements. At this time there is no reporting requirement, method or statutory authority for levying fines.

Providing a safe work environment is a way to avoid workplace fatalities and injuries. Employers can start by implementing the following:

  • Provide routine safety training.
  • Develop and enforce formal safety rules including a seat belt policy.
  • Properly maintain vehicles and equipment.  
  • Train employees to do their job correctly and recognize hazards.
  • Provide safety gear including confined space air monitors, trench boxes and lockout-tagout equipment.

Want to get started on building a safety program or just need to refresh some policies? Check out WorkSAFE Center’s general safety rules.

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  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Global, OSHA

Cell Phones on the Road: Banned for Some, Dangerous for All

Cell phones, smart phones and texting make our lives easier. But this convenience is one of the leading causes of vehicle accidents today, and it doesn’t have to be. On Jan. 3, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a ban prohibiting truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating vehicles. Learn more about the regulations and consequences on the FMCSA website. Even if you are not in the transportation business, it’s important to work toward preventing distracted driving accidents.

Take a stand, develop a policy
Distracted driving affects every industry, and the only way to prevent it is to face it head on. All company drivers, not just drivers of commercial vehicles, put themselves, other drivers and their employers at risk when they text or use cell phones while driving. Missouri Employers Mutual recommends that all employers develop and enforce a cell phones and driving policy.

An effective distracted driving policy should:

  • apply to all employees driving for company business.
  • clearly state that using smart or cell phones is prohibited while the vehicle is in motion.
  • be reviewed annually with each employee and documented.

Employers that contribute to and condone distracted driving open the company to liability. OSHA investigates vehicle crashes that are caused by texting and fines employers under the General Duty Clause. It’s not difficult to determine if a cell phone contributed to an accident because phone records are subject to discovery and can be used against an employer in a criminal and/or civil court. Data logs can prove that a driver was distracted and that the accident was preventable.

Support the policy
Employers can support their employees in smart driving by asking them not to multitask while behind the wheel. Make sure you encourage your employees to stop and check messages, return calls, eat or refresh before asking them to get back on the road. Don’t exacerbate the problem by requiring employees to take phone calls from dispatchers or the office while driving.

Learn more about keeping your employees and everyone else safe on the road at WorkSAFE Center.

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  • 03/12/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Slips, Trips and Falls Plague School Districts and Increase Work Comp Premium

Employee slips, trips and falls are pervasive in Missouri’s schools. In 2011, MEM received more than 2,000 claims originating from these types of incidents. Injuries that result from slips, trips and falls can be physically painful and costly. Perhaps what hurts the most is that these injuries are preventable.

Slips, trips and falls are a major cause of employee injuries in Missouri and the second-most common work-related injury in the United States. A U.S. Department of Labor study shows that the average cost for treating slip, trip and fall injuries is $28,000. The good news is that you can do something about the frequency of slip, trip and fall injuries.

Prevent slips, trips and falls where they start.

  • Stairways and ramps
  • Loose tiles, loose carpet squares or worn out floor runners
  • In close or direct proximity with young children
  • Around storage areas, table or chair legs
  • In restrooms or kitchen areas with wet floors
  • Parking lots, curbs and gutters along sidewalks and school entrances

Take action now to prevent future injuries.

  • Review your workers compensation injury records and the financial impact.
  • Download safety resources from our school safety tutorial and share them with staff members.
  • Add a safety tip during regularly scheduled meetings.
  • Survey all walking and working surfaces for potential slip and trip hazards.
  • Plan ahead, and be prepared to keep walking and working surfaces safe during winter weather.
  • Require slip-resistant footwear when working both indoors and outdoors.
  • Send regular safety-related emails and texts to all employees.

Encourage employees to be an active part of their safety every day.

  • Report slip and trip hazards immediately.
  • Keep work areas organized and free of trip hazards.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Walk slowly and avoid running.
  • Use handrails on stairs, and don’t carry boxes or items that block your view.
  • Use ladders properly, don’t over-reach and do not stand on chairs.
  • Wear over-the-shoe ice cleats when needed.
  • Wear rubber-soled shoes with tread when working or walking outdoors.
  • Report all injuries immediately.

Implementing these safety strategies in your buildings will have an impact on the health of your employees and your bottom line. Is your experience modifier rate over 1.0? If so, your school is experiencing too many injuries and paying more for workers compensation premium than other safer schools.

Your safety efforts must improve in order to get control of injuries and associated insurance costs. MEM can help your school create a plan to reduce injuries and control workers compensation costs. MEM policyholders should contact our Loss Prevention Department for a consultation at 1.888.499.SAFE (7233) or worksafe@worksafecenter.com. Check out other safety resources available on WorkSAFE Center including the school safety rules.

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  • 01/27/2012
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

The Link Betweeen Stress and Workplace Injuries

Stress is an unavoidable emotion that finds its way into all facets of life, and the workplace is no exception. Stress is commonly associated with headaches and upset stomachs, but it can also lead to more serious problems for both employees and employers.

Working under intense stress caused by personal life, family or work related issues can cause people to be distracted from their responsibilities. If high levels of stress are not addressed, they can lead to safety hazards in the workplace. Over-stressed employees can place themselves, coworkers, customers and the organization at extreme risk. Unhealthy levels of stress can:

  • affect productivity;
  • cause coworker conflicts;
  • increase tension in the workplace; and
  • sometimes lead to violence.

A workplace with an otherwise strong foundation can be weakened by stress. When stress is at the forefront of an employee’s mind, judgment can be impaired, safety procedures and policies are more likely ignored, attention to detail is compromised and reaction time is slower. All of these add up to increased workplace accidents and injuries.

Employee Assistance Programs
Since stress is unavoidable, what can be done to decrease the risks involved with it? Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are an ideal solution that provide confidential and free or low-cost counseling services. EAP counselors work with employees to address the issues that may be causing distractions and inattention to job function requirements.

An active, visible EAP can actually help a company reduce the risks of workplace injuries, accidents, liability and costs related to the inappropriate use of medical resources. If your business already subscribes to an EAP, then don’t forget to inform new and existing employees about the services available on a regular basis. If subscribing to an EAP is not an option for your business, it is a good idea to keep a list of local free or low cost resources employees may find helpful in a time of need. Taking a new approach to stress management can benefit both the employer and employees. 

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  • 01/09/2012
  • Written by Shann Sievers
    Human Resources, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Everyone Wins with Sound Safety Incentive Plans

Business owners and safety managers are often undecided about whether incentive plans actually work. The answer is yes, they do. Incentive plans are a great way to thank employees for safe work now, encourage future safe behavior and develop a positive safety culture.

Successful by design
To be effective, you must be careful when designing your safety incentive plan. An incentive plan that is designed incorrectly can result in fraud or false-positive safety results. Test your plan by asking, “Can a worker be dishonest about damage or injuries and still receive the reward?” Some incentive plans are seen as bribery because they discourage employees from reporting injuries. If their safety bonus or the entire company’s safety bonus is on the line, they won’t report injuries. Low incident rates, combined with the wrong incentive plan could mean that you are rewarding the wrong behavior.

Base your incentive plan on what matters most to your company. Tie the incentives to losses and inspections. What injuries has your company been having? Combat your losses by providing training, safety gear and a reward system that encourages employees to look out for specific hazards. When you perform a jobsite inspection, watch for safety policy compliance. Reward your employees when you find a jobsite or work area that is maintained well and safe.

No strings attached
It’s easy to make mistakes when setting up your incentive plan, even with the best intentions. A few do’s and don’ts to consider:

  • Don’t link safety bonuses to overall company safety results.
  • Don’t base your incentive plan on any measurement or behavior that you can’t witness yourself or aren’t in total control of.
  • Link the reward to safe behaviors or conditions that you witness now, in real time. And when you see something good, reward employees on the spot. If employees are wearing their safety gear - including seat belts – thank them immediately.

How much will it cost?
The cost of incentives has always been a sticking point. Why reward an employee for doing what is expected as part of their job? True, safety is a part of the job. You want your employees to be safe because they want to—not just because they have to.

Don’t let cost be a hang up. The cost of injuries far outweighs a handful of gift cards. Keep a couple $10 or $25 gift cards in your pocket so when you visit a jobsite, you’re ready to spot good, safe work. Remember, you’re building safety culture. Specifically pick out and reward an employee that is doing the right thing. Document each time you reward an employee and the reason for the reward. Be fair and make sure that you spread the incentives across all departments, verifying the same employee isn’t getting all of the incentives.

When cost is still an issue, try this: Write down 10 ways to thank a worker for less than $1. It might seem impossible, but you can reward employees in cost-effective ways. Consider these examples:

  • Recognize their efforts by documenting the safe actions in their personnel files or in the company newsletter.
  • Post the safety reward event on the company website.
  • Let the employee come in an hour late or go home an hour early, paid.
  • Allow for a couple longer breaks that day.
  • A simple handshake and a sincere “thank you,” can often be the most effective incentive.

Put an effective safety incentive plan in place and you’ll see: your employees will be pleasantly surprised to receive recognition geared toward safety. And the benefits don’t end there. Your appreciative employee will continue to do good, safe work and talk to others about doing the same. Don’t squabble over $25 when the cost of just one accident can result in thousands of wasted dollars. The return on making your employees safety experts far outweighs the cost you put into it. 

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  • 11/29/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Personal Protective Equipment: Provide, Train, Require

Personal protective equipment can be a broad and somewhat vague term. By definition, PPE applies to any gear worn on the body that creates a barrier between the hazard and the employee. However, simply creating a barrier is not enough. Employers can follow a few simple steps to ensure employees are getting the best protection possible.

Survey the jobsite and duties required
Document this survey. It’s called a risk assessment, which is required by OSHA. Once you’ve determined the hazards, protect your employees. You’ll find that just about every type of job has a need for some sort of protective gear. It’s a basic business safety practice to survey the organization for hazards like:

  • falling objects;
  • sharp objects;
  • heat, flames or sparks;
  • flying objects.

Provide the gear
There are countless brands and types of PPE available. It’s very easy to find dealers or retailers that can help you purchase the right gear. PPE is much cheaper than even a minor injury. There is no excuse for not providing good quality PPE to your employees.

Train on proper and required use
When employees are required to wear personal protective equipment, training needs to occur. Don’t throw away the operator and owner’s manual. Base your training directly on the information supplied in the manual. Document the training by requiring employees to sign it. Topics that must be included in training are:

  • care and maintenance.
  • when it’s required.
  • limitations.
  • how to put it on and wear it.
  • replacement policy when equipment is broken or lost.

Did you know that penalties may be levied on workers compensation benefits when it’s determined that the employee was not using PPE and an injury resulted? An employer must prove that the employee was required to wear the PPE and that the company made a good effort to ensure employees use the equipment.

PPE limitations
Did you know that many eye injuries still occur even when workers are using safety glasses? When gross amounts of flying particles are encountered, safety glasses lose effectiveness. Do workers understand that in certain instances they can still fall and injure themselves even when wearing a personal fall arrest system? Vertical displacement is the distance that you’ve fallen before your fall arrest system kicks in. You and your employees must understand that PPE doesn’t remove the hazard, it only reduces the exposure. During PPE training, make sure employees understand the limitations and proper use of the gear they are issued.

Send a safety message
Can you send a safety message to your employees by how you manage PPE? Yes! Is the PPE comfortable or is it of poor quality? How does it look? Do you require employees to wear it? If so, do they comply with your safety rules? Do supervisors model safe behavior and wear their PPE? You’ll find that nonverbal messages are sent with PPE. If supervisors don’t wear their gear, employees won’t. If the gear is poor quality and difficult to wear, employees won’t wear it. If you constantly run out of PPE, employees are forced to work without it. When these problems arise, it not only invites injuries, but also degrades the safety culture and how the workers feel about safety in your organization.

PPE is an important part of protecting employees, but it’s more than just handing out the gear.

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  • 11/22/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Audits are on Your Side

You might be surprised to know that insurance audits don’t have to be painful or negative in nature. With a little preparation and a knowledgeable consultant, audits can be one less thing you don’t look forward to.

Contrary to popular belief, the audit experience is not meant to be stressful or foreboding. It is a time for policyholders to ask questions, learn about the workers compensation process, and determine actual exposures as compared to estimates. You should expect to work with a knowledgeable staff of consultants from your workers compensation insurance carrier. Depending on the size and complexity of a risk you may be asked to complete a physical, telephonic, or voluntary audit.

With the guidance of an auditor, you will go through the process of answering basic questions related to your business operations and types of job responsibilities. Want to make the audit process less time consuming? Prepare documents with updated job descriptions. Locate financial records you may need including payroll journals, check registers, general ledgers, and income tax statements.

Without the perspective an audit provides, your insurance policy could be completely out of line with your needs. The goals of an audit are to ensure that you understand your workers compensation policy and that you are paying the correct premium as it relates to your exposure.

Questions? MEM policyholders should contact the Premuim Consultation department for more information. 

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  • 11/09/2011
  • Written by Chonna Patterson
    Premium Consultation, MEM
  • Global, Global

Return Employees to Work with Confidence and Cost Savings

Light duty, transitional duty, modified work schedule—no matter what you call it, a return to work program is a valuable tool for any business. Statistics indicate that successful return to work programs can result in cost savings to an employer of $8-10 for every dollar invested. In today’s economic conditions, it’s hard to find many solutions with such a high rate of return. The best part is that putting together a return to work program isn’t difficult or costly when you follow some best practices.

Now is the time
Not having any accidents or injuries? Then now is the perfect time to implement a return to work program so that the process is in place in case an employee is injured. Being prepared will increase communication, reduce the number of lost time days and return the employee to work in a timely manner. Having a lot of claims and don’t have a program? Now is also the perfect time to start a program that will reduce future lost time costs, improve morale and save money.

Personally, I’ve seen policyholders reduce their experience modifier simply by starting a light duty return to work program. A successful program must be supported by management and incorporated in to day-to-day practices. Implementing your return to work program should include a few best practices:

  • Emphasize the importance of prompt injury reporting.
  • Perform audits regularly of what tasks are available to employees participating in a light duty return to work program.
  • *Stay in close contact with the preferred medical provider regarding progress and reasonable expectations.
  • Closely monitor the program and adjust duties as needed.
  • Prepare a transitional plan that addresses the different stages of the employee's recovery.

*In Missouri an employer has the right to direct medical care when an injury occurs. Having this right allows an employer to: stay in contact with a medical provider to determine what restrictions the employee may have, explain your light duty program to the physician and work in cooperation with the employee, medical provider and insurance provider to successfully return an injured employee to light duty work.

Ask your workers compensation insurance carrier to assist you in developing and implementing a properly administered light duty return to work program. For example, Missouri Employers Mutual can send Field Service Managers and Loss Prevention Consultants to your workplace and design a return to work program that fits your business. Benefits you may not have thought of include: reducing employee turnover, maintaining productivity, reducing workers compensation costs and the time you spend managing workers compensations accidents and injuries.

No matter how big or small your business, an effective return to work program can save you money and time. There are tasks are within every business environment that allow an injured employee to return to work on light duty and be a productive valued employee.

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  • 10/24/2011
  • Written by Terri Sweeten
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Safety on the Job Can Stop a Flood of Injuries for Water Districts

Lives and livelihood depend on making safety a priority for water and wastewater district employees. Employee injuries and damage are preventable and result in suffering and financial waste. Roughly 45% of Missouri water and wastewater districts are paying more than the suggested retail price for their workers compensation insurance. Why? Injuries cause insurance costs to rise.

Most water and wastewater districts in Missouri have an experience modifier rate (e-mod). A 1.0 e-mod rate is considered average, meaning you pay suggested retail price for your insurance. A 1.25 e-mod rate means the district is paying 25% above suggested retail price—all due to injuries. A .90 experience modifier rate means that the customer is paying 10% less for insurance. There are real, measurable savings when a district maintains an e-mod rate below 1.0.

What should a district do to obtain a lower e-mod and save on insurance?

  • Keep pushing to make your safety program better.
  • Work with your board to improve safety training and equipment.
  • Continue sending employees to MRWA educational seminars.
  • If you don’t have a safety program, develop one. Safety efforts are an investment in the livelihood of your personnel, equipment and infrastructure.

Focus on injuries
Review your insurance loss runs. What injuries has your organization experienced? Are they strain and sprain injuries? Slips, trips and falls? Pinched fingers? It is recommended that employees receive safety training to include safe lifting, shoulder injury prevention and slip, trip and fall. Refer to your insurance records and develop a safety training program to combat your injuries.

Identify jobs and hazards
What jobs are the most dangerous? Address high-risk jobs and fatality prevention. Are your employees trained to recognize and avoid common hazards? Do they know how to handle dangerous situations? Do not rely on common sense because even your most seasoned employees have put themselves in unsafe positions.

Dangerous jobs that should be addressed include driving, trenching, excavation, electrical safety, confined spaces and chemical safety. Employees should receive safety training about all of these topics and the appropriate personal protective equipment must be provided.

Safety program
Employers must know that their employees are trained and that expectations have been set. That’s why it is important to have a safety program in place. Hold safety meetings regularly and review guidelines. Many Missouri districts are small, but it’s no excuse to avoid safety meetings. An accident is even more devastating when it happens in a district with only a handful of employees.

Currently the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have jurisdiction over municipal or public works organizations in Missouri. However, it is a best practice to model your safety program after OSHA guidelines. Confined space entries, trenching and electrical work should be performed following OSHA standards. If an accident occurs and severe injuries or damage results, OSHA guidelines will most definitely be used in court.

A seat belt policy is a must have for any safety program. The number one way to die on the job in Missouri is a vehicle crash. Remember that seat belt use is a Missouri state law—which means your seat belt policy should apply to all of your employees. Missouri Employers Mutual reports that since 1995 a staggering 42% of on the job fatalities were a result of vehicle crashes. Similarly the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2010, 42% of the 142 on the job fatalities in Missouri were also a result of vehicle crashes.

Remember that implementing a safety program will go a long way in saving lives and reducing both injuries and premium.

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  • 10/18/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Don't Let Slips, Trips and Falls Take Your Employees Down

All industries have exposure to slips and trips injuries. What is your company’s experience? How much time and money have you spent on slips, trips and falls injuries? When you review your records, you might be surprised. Your workers compensation carrier can produce a report that itemizes each injury and how it affects your experience modifier rate and premium. There is some good news, claims as common as slips, trips and falls can be prevented with a minimal investment.

Anatomy of slips, trips and falls
Slips occur when the body bears weight on the heel just after it makes contact with the ground. The heel slips forward causing the body to fall backwards. Trips are mid-stride, when the forward-swinging foot strikes an object causing the body to fall forward. Backward falls to the ground can cause injuries to the back of the head, lower back and hips. Trips to the ground can cause injuries to the face, knees, hand, wrist and forearm. Slips and trips can occur with or without a fall. People can receive a strain or sprain when they catch themselves during a slip or trip. Serious injury results when an employee actually falls to the ground.

Injuries after slips, trips and falls can be painful and costly. They can be deadly as well, such as when an employee hits their head during the fall. Think about the lasting effects of a fall injury like surgery, physical therapy and pain management. As we age, strains and sprains can also result in limited joint flexibility and arthritis.

Slips, trips and falls are a real problem
The numbers don’t lie, if you’re still wondering whether it’s worth your time to add slips, trips and falls prevention to your to do list, take a look at these statistics from Missouri Employers Mutual:

  • Slips, trips and falls (from the same level) accounted for 57% of claims reported in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, slips, trips and falls injuries on liquid or grease spills accounted for 513 claims totaling $3.3 million.
  • During 2004 through 2008, slips, trips and falls injuries (from the same level) accounted for 774 claims totaling $5.3 million.
  • In five years, falls on ice or snow resulted in 1223 claims totaling $10.5 million in losses.
  • Miscellaneous falls between 2004 and 2008 resulted in 5,199 claims totaling $68.2 million in losses. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports:

  • Slips, trips and falls are the second-most common workers compensation claim.
  • The US Department of Labor states that the average slip, trip and fall injury costs $28,000.
  • 15% of work-related fatalities are due to slips and trips.

Take action to prevent slips, trips and falls
Be progressive in your safety activities, and get in front of the hazard before it results in an injury. Evaluate your work area for contributing factors including wet, greasy or muddy floors. Do you find items not properly stored or trash scattered around the worksite? Do employees wear correct footwear in the parking lot and then when inside? Do you find trip hazards and have them repaired or removed? To reduce your exposure to injuries, take action against the slips, trips and falls contributing factors.

Educate your employees about slips and trips hazards. Encourage employees to correct a hazard when it is discovered. Require proper footwear while at work or slip-on ice cleats when working in snowy or icy conditions. Cultivate more buy-in and develop personal responsibility for safety by having employees sign written safety rules that set expectations for footwear and safe working conditions. Have extra shovels and ice melt handy. Encourage workers to use them, not just ignore the hazard or say “it’s not my job”. Make sure employee entrances are free of water, sand or ice buildup and make sure stairs or curbs are free of ice or snow.

It’s the little things that count when it comes to slips, trips and falls prevention. Train employees to scan their walking path and watch out for the little hazards that could cause big injuries.

WorkSAFE Center believes in the power of prevention, check out our industry specific slips, trips and falls safety resources.

Construction

Food Service

Healthcare

Municipality

Retail

Schools

Transportation

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  • 10/11/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Put Drug and Alcohol Screenings to the Test in Your Workplace

Common sense tells us that work does not mix with drugs and alcohol. In addition to workplace accidents, drug and alcohol use can cost a business in other, very insidious ways. One of the most effective ways to combat the problem is by implementing a drug screening process for current and potential employees.

Substance use in the workplace is often a precursor to accidents and injuries. Studies released by numerous organizations show that alcohol alone is present in fatal workplace accidents up to 20% of the time (OSHA, RAND). The National Safety Council reports that 39% of traffic accidents on the job are drug or alcohol related. According to OSHA, 80% of heavy alcohol users are employed.

Consider the impact of a worker that comes to work after a night or weekend of binge drinking or substance abuse—the impact on their productivity is significant. Persons under the influence or recovering from drug or alcohol use don’t think as clearly or work as efficiently. Employees can also suffer injuries away from the job, causing them to lose time from work, again impacting your bottom line. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this problem costs employers $140 billion each year.

What is the answer? One important element of the solution is very cost effective and simple. Institute a comprehensive drug screening process. A comprehensive program includes pre-employment, random, and post-accident drug screenings. Publicize your zero tolerance policy and make sure that your workforce understands it. Check out the WorkSAFE tutorial and sample policy. MEM policyholders that follow the required steps may be reimbursed up to $55 of the cost of post-accident drug screening.

Pre-employment screening can prevent the introduction of employees with substance abuse issues from ever punching their first time card with your business. Many businesses prominently place signs letting prospective employees know that they will be screened—this may cause potential problem employees to keep on walking and not even apply.

Random and post-accident screens serve as a strong deterrent for current employees considering drug and alcohol use on the job. Employees that know they will be tested randomly and post-accident are far less likely to engage in substance abuse. In fact, a 2002 construction industry study published in the Journal of Drug Education showed injury rates at companies that instituted drug screening programs saw injury rates reduced by as much as 51 percent. Companies in the study that did not begin drug testing regimens did not see a change in their injury rates.

Another important element of a successful drug screening program is to make certain that it has teeth. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that employees are far more likely to take drug screening programs seriously when they have significant penalties for policy violations.

Drug screening programs may work even better when they are part of a comprehensive effort by an employer to create a drug-free culture. This holistic approach may include benefits such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and educational opportunities to help employees learn about the dangers of drug use, and develop the skills needed to deal with life’s challenges without turning to substance abuse.

Take advantage of the free resources from MEM today to start your company on the path to a safer, healthier, more profitable future.

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  • 09/27/2011
  • Written by Ted Jeffries
    Claims, MEM
  • Drug-free Workplaces, Substance

Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policies are a Must Have

MEM recommends drug-free workplace policies for all Missouri businesses. Employers can and should require employees to work free from the aftereffects of drugs and alcohol. Making the the investment in drug-free workplace policies and training is guaranteed to pay off —increased productivity and decreased claims.

Drug-free workplaces consist of a written policy, training, and testing procedures. Employers in Missouri have the right to administer any combination of the four major types of sampling which include post-offer, post-incident, reasonable suspicion and random testing.

When developing your program, first consider developing a post-incident testing program. Typically, employers require a post-incident drug and alcohol test after any incident that required treatment by a physician. Second, develop post-offer testing for new employees. Post-offer testing is seen as a best practice. Post-offer testing is seen as a gatekeeper because the policy requires all new employees to be tested, providing verification that the new employee is safe for work and free of the aftereffects of drugs and alcohol.

Missouri statistics show that there’s a good chance that you have an employee with a drug or alcohol problem. If you become aware of the problem and it’s not addressed, there may be liability after an accident. Take a look at these statistics to help justify your efforts in developing a drug-free workplace program:

  • Jobs with the highest rates of drug use are the same as those at a high risk for occupational injuries, including accommodations, food services and construction.
  • 90% of drug and alcohol users work for small businesses
  • 75% of drug and alcohol users are employed
  • 80% of heavy alcohol users are employed
  • Between eight and 10 percent of all post-incident drug/alcohol tests are positive
  • The National Safety Council states that 39% of work-related traffic crashes are drug or alcohol related.
  • 30% of all 2009 fatal Missouri crashes were alcohol-related.
  • The Bureau of Labor states that up to 20% of all work-related fatalities in the U.S. are drug or alcohol related.

Think about the direct and indirect costs to your company. Direct costs include injuries, theft of merchandise or equipment, and damage. Indirect costs include poor production quality, absenteeism, stress, and morale issues. Employers get caught in the middle managing accidents, injuries, damage, production problems, theft, and crime on their property.

Missouri reformed the workers compensation law in 2005 to encourage safe work environments. The law now allows for penalties when a worker fails a post-incident drug and/or alcohol screen. If a screen is positive, workers compensation benefits could be decreased by as much as 50%. In some cases of drug and alcohol use workers compensation claims can be denied. Download a sample drug-free workplace program.

Drug-free workplace programs are a best practice for Missouri employers, and are considered a critical component of you safety efforts. Any successful safety program starts with good employees that are free of the aftereffects of drugs and alcohol. Contact MEM's Loss Prevention department or your workers compensation insurance carrier for assistance in the development of your drug-free workplace program.

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  • 09/16/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Drug-free Workplaces, Substance

Start New Employees Off Right with Safety Orientation

Employees should have the expectation that their workplace will offer a safe environment where they can complete their assigned tasks. Workplace safety is a tremendously important responsibility, but with the proper start to an employee’s career with your organization, everyone wins.

Workplace safety is a process to reduce or eliminate risks of injury or illness to employees. The main objective of workplace safety is to protect an organization’s most valuable asset—its employees. Workplace safety is achieved through a variety of methods including policies, procedures, and specific hazard control techniques.

The most effective way to achieve the highest level of workplace safety is to highlight its importance from the minute an employee joins your organization, and that starts with new-hire orientation. The following are some important keys to communicating with new-hires about the prominence safety has in your workplace.

  • Ensure that your new employees are made aware of how important workplace safety is to the organization from top level executives, down.
  • Make sure every new-hire understands company policies and procedures and that they are they are integrated into the organization’s overall management and administrative processes.
  • Emphasize specific job task procedures established for working with or around equipment, hazardous environments or other forms of high-hazard conditions.
  • Safety procedures and policies should also include accountability requirements to ensure that prescribed practices are followed.

Workplace safety should rank high on the list of goals for every organization. Every employee should know from the start their employer clearly cares about their safety and enforces the policies.

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  • 09/06/2011
  • Written by Shann Sievers
    Human Resources, MEM
  • Global, Global

Emergency Response in Ambulances: Avoiding Head-on Collisions on Two-Lane Roadways

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, there were 168 ambulance crashes in Missouri in 2009. In 26% of those crashes, the ambulance was on an emergency run. In that same year, 60% of Missouri ambulance crashes involved striking another vehicle and a person was killed or injured in an ambulance crash every 4.5 days. The following article provides safety best practices to ambulance crews responding to emergencies using sirens and lights.

Responding with lights and sirens on two-lane highways is particularly dangerous because both traffic lanes will yield to the right. This is a good thing, but what happens when one driver, in that line of yielding traffic, doesn’t see the ambulance and decides to pass the stopped traffic? A glancing head-on collision could result.

In four Missouri crashes involving two-lane highways and motorists that didn’t see the oncoming ambulance, emergency lights or hear the siren, the driver side of the ambulance was struck and the driver was injured. A seated and belted ambulance driver is at risk of being injured or killed when an oncoming driver moves into the ambulance’s lane, causing a glancing head-on crash.

A driver that sees an oncoming ambulance will yield to the right. When multiple vehicles see the same ambulance, all will typically yield. This inadvertently creates blind spots for drivers at the back of the pack. Drivers that are distracted, blinded or simply not paying attention may not see or hear an oncoming ambulance and pull around yielding traffic directly into the path of the ambulance.

Why do drivers go around the stopped traffic right in front of them? Reasons could include driver inattention or distraction, intoxication or fatigue. Vehicles are insulated well minimizing the sirens’ effectiveness and sun blinds drivers. Ambulance lights and sirens only work when drivers hear or see them.

Yielding drivers on two-lane highways can inadvertently block the vision of other drivers. These drivers, when not aware of an oncoming ambulance will pull around stopped traffic and into the path of the ambulance.

Use these safety tips to avoid a head-on collision when driving to emergencies on two-lane roads or highways.

  • Scan far down the road ahead and identify vehicles that may not yield.
  • Look for cars that may be hidden around curves or behind stopped traffic.
  • Do not drive distracted. Do not use smart phones, texting or cell phones while driving emergency.
  • Focus on driving. Your crewmember must operate radios, sirens and read maps in order to minimize driver distractions.
  • Maintain a vehicle speed that allows for safe braking and evasive maneuvering.
  • Stop at all red lights and stop signs.
  • Do not tailgate and maintain room for stopping.
  • Stay to the right side of your driving lane.
  • Avoid crossing the center line.
  • Avoid driving in the oncoming lanes.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Crewmembers, in the back must also use seat belts when patients are stable.
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  • 08/31/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Understanding E-Mods, Not Just Another Number

Lots of employers have them. Some employers are happy with the one they have and some employers are not. Some employers don’t even qualify for one—Experience Modification (e-mod) factors. Making sense of your e-mod doesn’t have to be complicated and the more you know, the better. Get some practical answers to practical questions here.

What is an e-mod?
An e-mod is a calculation that uses an employer’s past loss experience to project future loss experience. In doing so, it predicts whether they are likely to develop loss experience that is better or worse than that of the average risk in a particular classification code.

An e-mod factor is calculated by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) for employers in states that have adopted the use of the NCCI plan. All insurance carriers in participating states are required to apply the employer’s e-mod to the premium calculation for qualified applicants. 

What data is used in the calculation?
An e-mod recognizes both the fact that a claim happened, as well as the cost of an individual claim. Because the occurrence of a claim is more easily predicted than the actual amount of the claim, more weight is given in the calculation to claim frequency than to claim severity. 

Each insurance carrier is required to submit unit statistical reports to NCCI for each policy it writes. NCCI will use that data including the payroll and loss history of the employer for the past four years, not including the current year, and calculate their e-mod. 

Example:
A qualifying employer with a policy that renews on January 1, 2012 will generally have an e-mod that incorporates the loss experience that occurred during the 2008, 2009 and 2010 policy terms.

The actual e-mod calculation takes the average loss experience for all employers in a particular classification code and then modifies it based on the individual qualifying employer’s own loss experience.

How does an e-mod impact premium?
In general, a qualifying employer with better than average loss experience receives a credit e-mod, while an employer with worse than average experience carries a debit e-mod. A credit e-mod will reduce the premium level paid while a debit e-mod will increase it.

What are the qualification requirements needed in order to receive an e-mod?
Each state determines its own qualifications. In Missouri, an employer must have a premium of $7,000 or greater for one year or $3,500 or greater for two or more years in order to qualify for an  e-mod. Once they hit that threshold, an e-mod will be calculated for their policy for the upcoming renewal. If they do not qualify, they are assumed to have a unity mod, which is 1.00 meaning no change is made to the premium.

 

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  • 08/26/2011
  • Written by Joyce Underwood
    Policyholder Services, MEM
  • Global, Global

Managing Claims for Successful Outcomes

Even with strongly enforced safety policies and a commitment to reducing workplace injuries, sometimes accidents do happen. There are several basic steps employers can take to ensure injured employees receive the most appropriate medical treatment and facilitate a fast, safe return to work—all while reducing the overall costs of the claim.

If a serious or potentially life-threatening injury occurs, you should get the employee to emergency services immediately.

Outside of emergency situations, there are steps you can take in partnership with your workers compensation insurance carrier to ensure that your employee receives the appropriate medical care while reducing the costs of a claim.

Report ALL claims immediately.
Regardless of how serious or minor a work-related injury appears to be, it is crucial to report all claims to your workers compensation carrier as soon as possible, even if medical treatment is not required. All states have reporting requirements for workers compensation claims, and most have penalties for failing to report within those timeframes. Missouri law mandates that all claims should be reported within 30 days to avoid penalties. However, your workers compensation insurance carrier may have additional requirements. For example, Missouri Employers Mutual policyholders are required to notify MEM within five days. This is so that your imsurance carrier can investigate the claim, assist in coordinating appropriate medical treatment as quickly as possible and begin paying any benefits that are owed. Longer delays can result in several possible consequences including:

  • Preventative Documentation. Even if no medical treatment is immediately required or if only minor treatment is needed, it is always good to have a record of an incident in the event that a ‘Report Only’ incident becomes an injury or a minor injury results in time off from work. This saves time in the long run and provides a record if there are questions later.
  • The injury may worsen. Prompt treatment may prevent a minor injury (such as a strain) from becoming a major one (such as a tear, herniation, etc.). 
  • The employee may seek unauthorized treatment. Although unauthorized treatment is technically not covered under a workers compensation claim, there are many instances where an Administrative Law Judge may order unauthorized treatment to be paid under the claim or unauthorized treatment must be paid in whole or partially as part of a settlement. These costs can be significant if the unauthorized medical provider is not familiar with the workers compensation system. Their goals may not consider modified duty, work hardening or other aspects of a workers compensation claim designed to get an employee back to work as quickly as safety allows. In addition, there is a good chance that the unauthorized medical provider is not part of your physician network that provides discounts and savings. Without these savings, the medical costs of the claim will be much higher.
  • The injured worker is more likely to retain an attorney. If the injured worker feels they are not receiving prompt attention and they are much more likely to retain an attorney. Legal involvement increases the overall cost of a claim and prolongs the length of time that a claim will remain open. It can also increase tension in the employer-employee relationship as direct communication regarding the claim is automatically restricted due to the attorney-client privilege.

If you are an MEM policyholder, you can report claims to MEM via the website, fax 800.442.0598, mail or phone 1.800.442.0593.

Select an appropriate medical provider. 
In Missouri, the employer (or the employer acting through his workers compensation insurance carrier) directs medical treatment. This means that the employer can ultimately choose which provider treats the injured employee. It is extremely beneficial to work with a medical provider who has experience with the workers compensation system, who understands the importance of assessing an injured employee’s capabilities and who provides work status and restrictions promptly to the employer/insurance carrier. 

Once a medical provider is selected it is highly recommended to provide job descriptions to the provider/physician so that they may become familiar with the type of work the injured employee performs. The physician can make informed decisions regarding work restrictions and possible return to work. There are few things more dangerous or harmful than unrealistic work restrictions. Work restrictions that are inappropriate for work expectations can aggravate the work injury, expose others to risk of harm, or force the injured employee to hire an attorney if he or she feels pressured into performing work beyond their temporary restrictions.

For example, MEM utilizes a provider network with significant discounts that reduce medical costs an average of 36% from billed charges. These savings are passed along to policyholders which ultimately reduces the cost of any claim. Lower claim costs have a positive impact on a policyholder's e-mod and premiums.

If you need assistance in choosing an appropriate provider in your area, please contact your workers compensation insurance carier for assistance.

Establish a modified duty plan for a return to work program.
Modified duty or light duty is a form of work with duties that follow the injured worker’s restrictions while they are healing from a work injury. This could mean shorter work hours or lighter work requirements.

A national study showed that the cost of a claim rises between 21% and 33% if an injured worker is off work for more than three weeks. The cost rises to 55% if the worker is off work for more than 30 days. While modified duty may not always be possible due to the nature of the business or the size of the business, the benefits of a program certainly encourage exploring possible duties. Examples include answering phones, cleaning, sedentary work such as inventory, office duties, or reduced hours. Some employers even loan employees to charitable organizations but continue to pay them. Not only does modified duty reduce the cost of a claim, but it also keeps the injured worker focused on healing and in touch with his employment and co-workers, a valuable support system.

If you would like to discuss developing a modified duty program that is right for your business, please contact MEM or your workers compensation insurance carrier.

Maintain contact with the injured worker.
In today’s economic environment, employment and stability are a concern for everyone.  This concern is intensified when someone is off work due to a work injury. While some injuries may be so severe that an injured worker is unable to return to regular work duties, alternatives may be available. If an injured worker’s time off from normal job duties is temporary, regular communication assures that their job will be waiting for them when they are released from care. These simple assurances go a long way in reducing the chance of attorney involvement or prolonging the life of a claim. Check in with your employee on a regular basis and have them contact you after doctor appointments. Communication among all parties is key to successful claims management. 

For additional information, check out our WorkSAFE injury management tutorial

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  • 08/09/2011
  • Written by Brad Williamson
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

How to Avoid Year End Audit Surprises

With the uncertain economy, the last thing you want to incur at the end of your policy year is is a large audit balance. The simplest way to avoid these unexpected charges is with proper record keeping. By monitoring overtime, subcontractors, and proper classifications the risk is better managed and financially maintained. Don't forget the possibility of a reduction in workers compensation premium.

Ways to Save
Collect certificates of insurance—By obtaining valid workers compensation certificates of insurance for subcontractors, the business owner can avoid added premium related to uninsured subcontractors. Collecting these at the time the work is performed without exception and continually maintaining a file, ensures there will be no surprises of uninsured subcontractor exposure.

Of course using only insured subcontractors is the ideal situation; however, there are instances, when an uninsured contractor is necessary. When these situations occur, every effort should be made to obtain invoices which include the breakdown of labor vs. materials. Per NCCI Basic Manual rules, the portion of the materials up to 50% of the contract price may be deducted from the exposure.

Maintain overtime pay separately in payroll records—It is possible to avoid paying premium on the entire gross payroll! The premium portion or the “extra” pay portion for overtime can be deducted from the exposure amount provided the overtime is shown separately by employee and in summary by classification.

Keep payroll separated by classification—In the construction industry where it is not uncommon for an employee to perform various tasks from framing to painting to concrete work, it is acceptable and encouraged to maintain the payroll records showing the payroll for each employee in each separate classification. This allows exposure to be calculated at various rates rather than the highest rated exposure the employee incurs. Records must reflect the actual time spent working within that job classification and show the actual payroll associated with that time. Estimates or percentages are not permitted.

Know standard inclusion amounts for officers/owners—A surprise can be avoided by remembering that in the state of Missouri officers, members, and owners are included at a flat amount for workers compensation premium determination. The amount recently changed to $35,600 with 10% being assigned to either the clerical or outside sales code depending on the job duties of the principal. This amount is often missed and is a factor of additional premium due to most owners and many officers not taking a paycheck. In this situation, bookkeepers are inclined to include $0 for the principal; however, the $35,600 is the inclusion amount no matter the actual salary. One bright note, if the actual salary is higher, premiums can be reduced by using the flat amount.

Taking a little additional time at the beginning of the policy year to organize the payroll and bookkeeping practices of the business can not only aide in the avoidance of surprises, but as shown, can save hard earned money on the back end.

For additional information or questions, MEM policyholders can reach our Premium Consultation department at premiumconsult@mem-ins.com or 1.800.442.0595.

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  • 07/28/2011
  • Written by Chonna Patterson
    Premium Consultation, MEM
  • Global, Global

Create a Safety Net With Fall Protection Gear

Gravity works and makes exceptions for no one—even the most experienced workers. Think of it as a rooftop seat belt. Performing work at heights without fall protection puts employees’ lives and your business at risk.

According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of work-related deaths among residential construction workers. Because of the dangers involved in residential roofing, OSHA developed a guide specifically designed to keep workers safe on the job. If you’re roofing without fall protection you’re making a losing bet. What if a worker trips over a hose or their own feet? What happens if a workers slips on a loose shingle? We know what happens—they suffer serious injury or death. Falls from rooftops are preventable.

On June 16, 2011 OSHA rescinded a 1995 guideline that seemed to offer more confusion than employee protection. Even after the fall protection standard was developed, falls remained high. OSHA noted that fatalities did not go down but remained the same and in some cases went up. The new fall protection rules (which are actually the “old” 1995 rules) should eliminate this confusion and has straightforward requirements. OSHA now requires guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems on all roofing work at a 4:12 pitch or greater.

Remember that we’re not just talking about roofers. Anyone working at heights over six feet in the construction industry must be protected by fall protection devices. This includes carpenters, HVAC installers, dry wall installers, and painters. If you work at heights over six feet, you must be protected by a guardrail, safety net, or a personal fall arrest system.

OSHA is on the lookout for violations
OSHA is vigorously enforcing the revised fall protection law. OSHA compliance officers are on the lookout for construction jobsites with exposed, unprotected workers. If a jobsite has fall hazards, you can bet that OSHA will stop by and that it will get expensive. The current fine for an unprotected roofing worker is $7,000. You can buy a lot of fall protection gear for that money. Other violations like poor ladder setup and improper personal protective equipment start at $4,000. OSHA jobsite inspections average four citations totaling $16,000 in fines.

Sadly, just by driving around town, you can see examples of rooftop workers without fall protection. It’s more common to see unprotected residential roofing crews than those protected by personal fall arrest systems. It’s important to remember that this is more than just OSHA compliance. We’re talking about saving lives. What job is worth the death of a worker? Do your workers have families? Just an ounce of prevention could stop a fatality and the associated financial, social and personal costs.

Don’t yield to excuses
Conventional fall protection is available and can be used for residential construction operations. Crews think that it’s impossible to tie off on roofing jobs. They say that it’s too expensive or that it takes too much time to set up fall protection. Those claims are false. There are lots of fall protection options on the market today. Just do a Google search for fall protection equipment and you’ll come up with hundreds of online stores that carry thousands of fall protection products. The gear is available you just have to use it.

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  • 07/21/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Keeping Up With an Increased Aging Workforce

An aging workforce is among the critical issues facing society. Great numbers of workers are approaching traditional retirement years, and fewer workers are coming into the workforce to replace them. By 2025, the projections state that there will be 31.9 million older workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) applies the term “older worker” as those workers whom are at least 55 years old. Employers will be presented with opportunities as well as challenges with an older workforce.

In order to maintain a competitive and growing economy, employers, government and social partners will need to work together to take a close look at past employment policies and reinvent the workplaces of tomorrow.

Does an aging workforce mean additional costs from illness or injury?
Studies show mixed results. The BLS states that, “Even though the risk of injury is relatively low, the cost implications of severe injuries are especially troublesome for the future.” BLS surveys have shown that the maturity, experience, and judgment of older workers actually lowered their injury rates.

A different study done by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) indicates that aging has a greater impact on severity of injury than on frequency of injury. 

A recent eight-state study conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute concluded that aging baby boomers should not have a dramatic impact on workers compensation costs overall, as they are often in or shift to a safer, less strenuous job and that makes them less prone to injury, a finding consistent with the NCCI and BLS findings. The study found that lower claim frequencies tend to offset the higher costs of seniors workers compensation claims.  

Aging workforce health considerations
While many older Americans state they feel ‘fine’, an appreciable minority report that they do not. Studies show that 1 in 5 people between the ages of 55 and 64 report only fair health. Although statistics show chronic disabilities are decreasing overall (a result of advances in medical treatment), senior workers in the 65 plus population appear to have many limiting health factors. Examples of these are arthritis, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

While many chronic conditions are not necessarily debilitating and can be alleviated by appropriate medical treatment plans, other conditions may limit the worker's ability to perform certain job tasks. This may require the employer to make accommodations or to reduce an employee’s work schedule to a part-time status.

Healthy workers are an investment
Employers have a vested interest in the physical well being of their workers, if for no other reason than because illness and injury can be expensive. The costs come in the form of sick leave, disability, and other benefits along with lost productivity. Most employers who promote wellness and fitness programs and provide health care and disability benefits have healthier workers and increased productivity.

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  • 06/28/2011
  • Written by Kim Woll-Hulsey
    Case Management, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Heat Stress: A Hot Topic for Employees and Employers

The temperature outside is rising, and from the look of things it’s only going to get hotter. This means that Missouri employers need to think about heat stress and how it affects their employees. Heat stress does not just include the danger of being exposed to extreme heat due to the weather; many occupations also have operations that create hot environments. In either situation, workers may be at risk of developing heat stress.

A variety of workers at risk of heat stress include those that work outdoors and in hot environments. Firefighters, farmers, construction workers, miners, and factory workers are just a few examples of those at risk, but there are many others. While heat stress can overwhelm anyone, those at greater risk include employees who: are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, and are taking medications that may be affected by extreme heat.

The exposure to extreme heat can present a variety of occupational illnesses and injuries. Heat stress can manifest as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. It is important that Missouri employers understand that heat can also increase the risk of injuries to their employees. Injuries often result from sweaty palms and fogged-up or sweaty safety glasses, causing the employee to drop a piece of equipment or have decreased vision. Dizziness is also of great concern especially if the employees are working off the ground or in a confined space. Employees using hot surfaces or steam may also receive burns as a result of accidental contact.

It is the responsibility of Missouri employers to provide training so their employees understand what heat stress is and how it affects not only their health, but their safety as well. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a fast facts publication that lists heat stress symptoms and first aid treatments that employers and employees should be familiar with to protect themsleves and others.

NIOSH recommendations for employers:

  • Schedule maintenance and repair work in hot areas for cooler months.
  • Schedule particulary hot jobs for the cooler part of the day.
  • Acclimate employees by exposing them for progressively longer periods to hot work environments.
  • Reduce the physical demands on employees.
  • Use relief workers or assign extra employees for physically demanding jobs.
  • Provide cool water or liquids to workers.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar.
  • Provide rest periods with water breaks.
  • Provide cool areas for use during break periods.
  • Monitor employees who are at risk of heat stress: 65 or older, overweight, and on certain medications.
  • Provide heat stress training that includes information about:
    • Employee risk                         
    • Prevention
    • Symptoms
    • The importance of monitoring yourself and coworkers
    • Treatment
    • Personal protective equipment

NIOSH recommendations for employees:

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
  • Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing.
  • Gradually build up to heavy work.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
  • Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity.
  • Take breaks in the shade or a cool area.
  • Drink water frequently.
  • Drink enough water so that you never feel thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.

It is difficult to predict just who will be affected by heat stress and when. Individual susceptibility varies and is subject to environmental factors such as ambient air temperature, radiant heat, air movement, conduction, and relative humidity. A person’s age, degree of physical fitness, metabolism, type of clothing, use of alcohol or drugs, and a variety of other medical conditions all affect a person's sensitivity to heat. It is also important to note that once you have suffered from a heat related injury, you are more susceptible to heat stress.

Additional resources:

OSHA Heat Stress Guidelines


Heat Stress Fact Sheet

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  • 06/23/2011
  • Written by Tyler Laughlin
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

100 Years of Workers Compensation

This year marks the 100th anniversary of workers compensation in the United States. This centennial is not just a reason to celebrate. The occasion also offers the opportunity to take a look at the American workers compensation system as it has evolved from being strictly benefits driven to an increasing focus on injury prevention.

The first real system of workers compensation originated in Germany in 1883, and by 1910 every industrialized country, except the United States, had adopted a plan to compensate injured workers. The first American law adopted was in Maryland in 1902, but was declared unconstitutional. In 1908, the first Federal Employers Liability Act was passed but applied only to the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, not the states.

The State of Wisconsin enacted the first constitutionally-valid workers compensation law in the United States in 1911. Before workers compensation laws were enacted, employees injured on the job had to sue their employers and prove in court some fault or negligence, on the employer’s part in order to be compensated. Under the common law system, the only responsibility of the employer was to demonstrate ordinary and reasonable care for the safety of employees while they were on the job.

The new workers compensation system established certain and guaranteed benefits for injured employees and in exchange employees gave up their rights to sue their employer for injuries on the job. This “exclusive remedy” was the foundation of the workers compensation system. Most importantly, benefits were paid to the injured worker solely on the basis of disability, impairment or loss, irrespective of fault. 

During the past 100 years, the state-regulated workers compensation system has protected both employers and employees alike. When properly implemented and administered, workers compensation programs have proven to be the most equitable distribution of social benefits yet devised. Workers compensation programs in place today:

  • make effective use of a competitive private enterprise market.
  • contain such strong financial incentives for workplace safety.
  • assure that injured people get unlimited, quality medical care.
  • emphasize the rehabilitation of injured people and the re-employment of the disabled.
  • seek to eliminate the very reason for its existence—workplace injuries and diseases.

For the workers compensation system to work effectively, legislatively mandated and state regulated programs must maintain a careful balance between the interests of both management and labor. After all, safe and healthy employees truly are an investment in the workforce.

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  • 06/14/2011
  • Written by Steve Millikan
    Public Affairs, MEM
  • Global, Global

What to Expect From Your Workers Compensation Provider

To some employers in Missouri, Workers Compensation insurance is a necessary evil. They do not understand why they are required to purchase this type of insurance coverage by law, even if they have as few as one employee. The reasons for the requirement are simple: protect employers and employees. Your Workers Compensation insurance provider should be a partner invested in the success of your business. Does your provider have the key ingredients needed to help you succeed?

Workers Compensation is a no-fault coverage that protects both the employee and the employer in the event an employee is injured on the job. The employee is provided medical treatment for their injuries at no cost, and if they are unable to return to work during recovery they are reimbursed for lost wages. By purchasing Workers Compensation insurance, the employer is protected against law suits due to an employee’s injuries.

Even for the vast majority of employers who understand and appreciate the reason they have to purchase Workers Compensation insurance, the cost can be a significant percentage of their overhead. Every insurance company’s Workers Compensation policy must conform to state statutes regarding the terms of the coverage, limits of liability, and benefits provided. To this extent, all companies are equal. After that however, there are a number of variables that determine the value an employer receives for the premiums they pay.

Just because an employer has to purchase Workers Compensation insurance, they should not assume that what they receive in exchange for their premium dollars will be equal from all insurance companies that provide this insurance in Missouri.

Here are some key ingredients for maximizing the value an employer receives from their Workers Compensation insurance company:

Customer Service—An employer should be able to easily access insurance company staff or a website regarding any questions or concerns they may have pertaining to employee claims, premium payment, loss prevention, or safety in the workplace.

Expertise—Many insurance companies that provide Workers Compensation insurance do so in addition to other types of insurance coverage such as General Liability, Automobile Liability, and Property insurance.  Look for an insurance company that specializes, and is an expert, in Workers Compensation insurance.

Local Knowledge—Very few insurance companies that provide Workers Compensation insurance in the state are based in Missouri, and their underwriting and claims staff are typically located outside of Missouri. In many instances, they are also responsible for work in multiple states. Look for an insurance company that is Missouri-based, with staff knowledgeable in the state Workers Compensation statutes. It is also important that the insurance provider understands Missouri industries and demographics, is very familiar with the legal environment, knows the medical providers, has employees in the critical areas of claims and loss prevention located throughout the state, and is active in local community affairs.

Fraud Prevention—To many insurance companies, Workers Compensation fraud is simply a cost of doing business. Look for an insurance company that has staff dedicated to seeking out and fighting fraud, and has documented success in doing so.

Mission and Values—Look for an insurance company that is accountable to its policyholders, and whose main purpose is safety, the prevention of injuries to Missouri employees, and taking care of those who are injured.

As an employer, the value you receive for your premium dollar should be of paramount importance. Each Workers Compensation insurance company in Missouri is allowed to file their own rates, which are used with other factors to determine their pricing for coverage.  An employer could find several different prices for the same coverage.

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is often true. Keep in mind, even in the current difficult economic conditions, that the cheapest price will not typically provide those key ingredients necessary to maximize the value received from Workers Compensation insurance. Unfortunately, you may not realize this fact until an employee claim is not being handled appropriately, fraud is suspected, help is needed in identifying hazards in the workplace and/or reducing employee injuries or timely customer service is required.

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  • 06/08/2011
  • Written by Barry Kelly
    Sales and Marketing, MEM
  • Global, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2011: Make Your Safety Program More Powerful with Documented Expectations

There should be no unwritten safety rules. All expectations must be clearly documented, and employers must never condone unsafe acts. Safety rule enforcement is a key aspect of creating a safe working environment. Employees must know that unsafe acts will not be tolerated. When management permits unsafe acts, they set a bad example and teach younger employees that it’s acceptable to work in an unsafe manner.

It’s in the best interest of the company to have written and signed safety rules, before an accident happens. Proper documentation reduces the confusion and he-said/she-said instances in the event that the issue is taken to civil or criminal court.

Document every instance of disciplinary action, no matter how small. Keep all enforcement documentation readily available for incident investigation purposes.

  • Type a narrative and maintain it in the employee’s personnel file.
  • Send an e-mail to yourself. Maintain it in a disciplinary action file.

Thick, three-ring binders full of safety and employment policies with a single signature page in the back make documentation easy for safety and HR personnel, but difficult for employees. Lengthy, difficult to read employee manuals with a single signature page stating “I have read and fully understand the contents of this employee manual” won’t help prevent accidents.

The binders also won’t help in a court of law. Attorneys ask, “When was the last time anyone actually read and fully understood this huge manual?” Safety rules that could save lives or prevent injuries should require a signature on each page.

Documentation=Protection
Proper documentation of safety rules and policies can help reduce company liability after an accident. Examples of recommended rule documentation include:

  • Signed and dated seat belt policy.
  • Signed and dated company safety rules that address most hazardous job duties first.
  • Signed and dated company drug-free workplace policy.
  • Signed and dated disciplinary action policy.

Remember that documentation must also be accompanied by employee training and rule enforcement. Employers should provide safety training on a regular basis to refresh employee knowledge and understanding of safety rules. Many companies conduct safety training on a monthly basis. Many construction companies have weekly safety meetings. Require new signatures on each safety rule or policy on an annual basis. 

Safety Meeting Talking Points

  • Thank employees for participating in safety meetings.
  • Tell employees that their safety efforts ensure the success of all employees and the company.
  • Remind employees why documentation is necessary: it helps create safe working environments by holding both employers and employees responsible for safety.
  • Let employees know that extra copies of all company safety rules will be provided for future reference.
  • Remind employees that the company expects safe work and that employees should follow documented safety rules. The company doesn’t prefer disciplinary action, but will take action in order to create a safe workplace.

Download this article in a handout format, distribute it to management, and review with all employees. Hang our poster in your workplace to remind employees about key safety topics.

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  • 05/31/2011
  • Written by Flint Walton
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2011: Drug-free Workplace Policies Help Attract and Retain Safe Employees

Assuming that drugs and alcohol aren’t a problem within your organization is risky. It’s even riskier to know you have a problem and fail to address it. The vast majority of drug users are employed, and when they arrive for work, they don’t leave their problems at home. Employees fall prey to binge drinking, alcoholism, methamphetamines, marijuana and heroin. Drug and alcohol use often develops into an addiction that affects all aspects of a person’s life, including their work.

Employers are caught in the middle managing accidents, injuries, damage, production problems, theft and crime on their property. Adding drug and alcohol use to the list may seem like a burden, but it is definitely a must have safety measure. Family, physical, and behavioral problems are often brought to work with employees. Co-workers report being in danger, injured, having to work harder, and re-do work or cover for the user.

Substance use on an employee’s off-duty time can affect safety when they’re on duty. It can slow reaction times, increase production errors, lower company morale and increase the potential for civil litigation. It can also cause fatigue and result in crimes like theft and abuse within your company. Employers have the right to expect that their employees remain free from affects of drugs and alcohol while on duty.

MEM recommends that all Missouri employers adopt a drug- and alcohol-free workplace program that includes at a minimum post-incident testing. Best practices recommend that post-offer, random and reasonable suspicion testing be performed as well.

OSHA reminds us about some of the very sobering statistics reagarding drug and alcohol use on the job.

  • 75% of drug and alcohol users are employed.
  • 80% of heavy alcohol users are employed.
  • 90% of drug and alcohol users work for small businesses.
  • 9% of Americans have worked with a hangover in the past year.
  • 3% of Americans report using drugs before work.
  • 3% report working under the influence of an illicit drug.
  • Jobs with the highest rates of drug use are the same as those at a high risk for occupational injuries including accommodations, food services and construction.
  • 8% of illicit drug users are employed full time.
  • 4% of education and public administration employees are illicit drug users.
  • 15% of installation, maintenance and repair employees reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.
  • 8-10% of all post-incident drug/alcohol tests are positive.
  • The National Safety Council states that 39% of work-related traffic crashes are drug- or alcohol-related.
  • 30% of all 2009 fatal Missouri crashes were alcohol-related.
  • The Bureau of Labor states that up to 20% of all work-related fatalities in the U.S. are drug- or alcohol-related.

Download a sample drug-and alcohol-free workplace progam and have it reviewed by your legal counsel.

Safety Meeting Talking Points

  • Make a copy of the drug- and alcohol-free workplace policy available to employees.
  • Drug and alcohol use will not be tolerated and can threaten the health and safety of co-workers.
  • Read the drug-and alcohol-free workplace policy and require that all employees sign the policy.
  • When an employee is impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol, it threatens the safety of everyone at a worksite.
  • Encourage employees to set a good example for others by working drug- and alcohol-free.
  • Encourage employees to seek help if they need it.
  • If you directly observe drug-free workplace policy violations or obvious on-the-job impairment you believe poses an immediate danger to any employee on the job:
    • DO NOT DELAY or ignore the situation.
    • ACT to prevent the employee from committing the unsafe practice, if at all possible.
    • NOTIFY your supervisor or foreman immediately.
    • BE WILLING to risk being wrong. When your safety and that of your co-workers is on the line, it is better to be safe than sorry.
    • All workplace drug and alcohol concerns will remain confidential.

For more information on drug- and alcohol-free workplaces, check out our tutorial.          

Download this article in a handout format, distribute it to management, and review with all employees. Hang our poster in your workplace to remind employees about key safety topics.

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  • 05/26/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • Drug-free Workplaces, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2011: Establish Safety Rules for a Strong Safety Culture

Written safety rules help prevent accidents by establishing guidelines. Formal safety rules share the responsibility of a safe work environment between employee and employer. Document safety expectations and require employee signatures on an annual basis. Enforce the rules when unsafe behaviors are discovered, and reward employees when they’re working safely.

If you haven’t established and committed to safety rules, you can’t expect your employees to be engaged in safety.

How does an employer know that an employee understands company safety rules? If an employee is new to the industry, how could they possibly know how to protect themselves unless you instruct them? If they’re seasoned employees how do you correct unsafe habits? Can you hold employees accountable or set expectations if you’ve never established what’s right or wrong?

How can safety rules benefit my organization? 
Losses will be reduced or even eliminated. Employees will be productive. Your management team will be focused on business and not on accidents, covering shifts, paying overtime and interviewing new-hires. Expenses on damage, medical bills and lost productivity will trend downward, improving your bottom line.

Let your employees know that you care about their safety by expecting them to follow safety rules. 

Keep it simple
Write safety rules that address the most dangerous hazards first. Which hazards are most likely to hurt your employees? Which safety rules would have the most impact on your work-related injuries? Some examples to consider include:

Safety Meeting Talking Points

  • Let employees know you care about their safety.
  • Employees must know that they share the responsibility for their safety.
  • Explain to them that unsafe work is not allowed.
  • Let them know that safety helps protect them and their coworkers, and makes the business more successful.
  • Distribute company safety rules to employees.
  • Make extra copies of safety rules available.
  • Review and discuss each safety rule with employees, and require signatures.

We encourage all of our customers to develop written safety rules. MEM has created sample safety rules for your use. Sample safety rules are available for several industries including:

Download this article in a handout format, distribute it to management, and review with all employees. Hang our poster in your workplace to remind employees about key safety topics.

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  • 05/23/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2011: Seat Belts Aren't Optional

If an employee doesn’t wear a seat belt and is injured in a wreck, could those injuries have been prevented or reduced? Were the injuries foreseeable and preventable? Is it reasonable to assume that a company driver could be injured in a vehicle collision? The answer to these questions is yes. Vehicle crashes are the most deadly form of work related injury. Seat belt use can change that statistic.

It’s the employer’s moral and financial responsibility to require seat belt use for all occupants of vehicles operated on company business. MEM enourages 100% participation from 100% of our customers. Injuries off-the-clock increase absenteeism, health insurance and overtime costs, it’s good business to encourage seat belt use outside of work too.

Crash facts:

  • Vehicle crashes are the most common work-related fatality (1,2).
  • Crashes represent 42% of fatalities handled by MEM.
  • 32,788 people died nationwide in 2010 in vehicle crashes (3).
  • 819 people died in Missouri vehicle crashes in 2010 (4).
  • The estimated economic loss to Missouri for crashes in 2009 was more than $3.3 million (4).
  • In 2009, every 3.7 hours a person was killed or injured in a Missouri commercial vehicle wreck. That’s more than 100 deaths and 3,500 injuries (4).
  • An unrestrained driver in a 2009 Missouri traffic crash:
    • had a 1 in 2 chance of being injured (4).
    • had a 1 in 30 chance of being killed (4).
  • A restrained driver in a 2009 Missouri traffic crash:
    • had a 1 in 8 chance of being injured (4).
    • had a 1 in 1,336 chance of being killed (4).

Use these statistics to drive home safe driving and seat belt use. Check out the fleet safety resource guide and a sample seat belt policy.

Seat belts help drivers maintain control of vehicles during crashes. They can also reduce injuries. Seat belts can also help prevent fatal contact with interior components of the vehicle and help prevent ejection.

Employers must take action to reduce the likelihood that an employee will be injured in a vehicle crash.

  • Require that all employees that drive for the company sign a written seat belt policy.
  • Train employees in safe driving practices, including seat belt use.
  • Reward employees that wear seat belts. Discipline employees that fail to wear seat belts.

Safety Meeting Talking Points

  • You are four times less likely to be injured when you wear a seat belt (3).
  • You’re 45 times more likely to be killed in a crash when you’re not wearing your seat belt (3).
  • We want to keep you safe, so we’re requiring seat belt use for anyone in a company vehicle or on company business as a driver or passenger.
  • Vehicle crashes are the most common way to be killed on the job, and we want to do everything possible to reduce the possibility of a terrible incident.
  • Our number one goal is to avoid crashes by following the rules of the road. These include maintaining proper following distances, eliminating distractions (cell phone use and texting), maintaining a reasonable speed and scanning ahead.
  • If a crash does occur, we want you to have the full protection that the vehicle can give you.

During your safety meeting distribute your written company seat belt policy and require employee commitment and signatures.

Download this article in a handout format, distribute it to management, and review with all employees. Hang our poster in your workplace to remind employees about key safety topics.

Sources:
1 Misssouri Division of Workers Compensation
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics
3 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
4 Missouri State Highway Patrol

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  • 05/19/2011
  • Written by Flint Walton
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2011: Create a "There are No Accidents" Attitude

All work-related injuries and fatalities are preventable. Unfortunately, they usually happen time and time again. The word accident implies that nothing could have eliminated the situation and is nothing more than an excuse. If Missouri business owners fall victim to the attitude accidents happen, they have enabled complacency within their workplace. Accidents cost Missouri companies money, resources, time, personnel and production. Often families pay the price, as well. How can you improve your safety culture and the way you look at accidents?

When we talk to our customers about their risks, we commonly hear the following excuses:

  • We’ve never had accidents before.
  • We’re just too small for a safety program.
  • We’re just too busy right now.
  • Safety is common sense, isn’t it?
  • I can’t afford to bring people in for safety meetings.
  • I can’t afford safety at the moment.
  • My employees know what to do.
  • Safety gear just gets in the way.

When you don’t take time for safety, chances are you’ll soon be making time to handle an injury.

Risky acts that lead to injuries.

  • Smoking in a dynamite factory.
  • Running with scissors.

We all know and understand that these are unsafe acts. But do they really cause accidents? Or, do they cause injuries that are unforeseeable and avoidable? Here are some common and avoidable workplace injuries:

  • Vehicle crash fatality due to the lack of seat belt use
  • Lawn care employee refuels a mower while smoking or the engine is hot
  • Employee falls from the top rung of a step ladder
  • Part-time employee falls on ice at the front door
  • Warehouse employee trips over a discarded pallet

Do the above examples really cause accidents? Or are they foreseeable and avoidable incidents that result in injuries?

Use your crystal ball: reflect on past incidents

  • How can you forecast the accidents your company WILL have in the future? The best predictor for future incidents in your company is past incidents.
  • Scrutinize your company’s accident and damage records.
  • Look at workers compensation insurance information. What past incident history do you have?
  • What types of accidents are prevalent in your industry?
  • Do the equipment and tools you use present specific risks?

With careful scrutiny and intentional safety training, you have the ability to make your workplace safe. Past data will help you focus your safety program on future injury prevention.

Safety Meeting Talking Points

  • Let employees know that you care about their safety.
  • Talk with employees about how all accidents have an aspect of preventability.
  • Discuss common causes of accidents in your industry.
  • Discuss unsafe acts that commonly injure employees.
  • If employees see an unsafe act or situation, they must take action to prevent injuries.
  • Let employees know you support taking action to remove hazards.
  • Encourage employees to report hazards, maintenance issues or co-worker safety concerns.

Download this article in a handout format, distribute it to management, and review with all employees. Hang our poster in your workplace to remind employees about key safety topics.

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  • 05/17/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

WorkSAFE Week 2011: Safety Strategies for No Accidents

Every year Missouri Employers Mutual dedicates the first week in June to encouraging employers and employees to increase their workplace safety knowledge. WorkSAFE Week 2011, June 6-10, encourages employers to adopt the attitude There are no Accidents. There are however, lots of opportunities to educate employees about how to prevent injuries. Taking some time out to implement five simple strategies can make all the difference in preventing workplace injuries.

MEM and workers compensation carriers field thousands of workplace injuries each year—most of which are largely preventable. WorkSAFE Week is about making time for safety throughout the year, not just the first week in June.  Make and take the time to review your safety policies and train employees. MEM and WorkSAFE provide the safety information you’ll need to have a great WorkSAFE Week and safety resources to use throughout the year.

WorkSAFE Week 2011 is just around the corner, check out the rest of worksafecenter.com now and in the next few weeks for detailed information on how to:

  • Implement a written seat belt policy.
  • Develop written safety rules.
  • Implement a drug-free workplace policy.
  • Utilize proper documentation practices.

Make plans now to celebrate WorkSAFE Week 2011 with your employees. Plan to have some fun! Reward employees for their dedication by having a safety lunch. Remind employees that you care about their safety and that you want them to do their job safely. Make the most of WorkSAFE Week 2011 and have an accident-free year!

Hang our poster in your workplace to remind employees about key safety topics.

Contact MEM’s Loss Prevention Department by email worksafe@worksafecenter.com or phone 1.888.499.SAFE (7233) for hardcopies or custom packets of safety information.  

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  • 05/13/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Home Health Employees Depend on Your Safety Plan

Home health workers go above and beyond each day to help others. But how can home health workers help others when they’re injured themselves? It’s not a surprise that home health workers are exposed to a variety of hazards including slips, trips, strains and sprains, violence and vehicle accidents. Home health agencies must recognize these hazards and act to prevent injuries that lower service levels, increase stress on other workers, and restrict their ability to help others.

Private home health agencies are covered by OSHA regulations. OSHA has developed training resources called e-Tools for hospitals and nursing homes. The e-Tools are a great source of crossover safety information for home health agencies. Another good resource is Occupational Hazards in Home Health Care provided by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It is important to remember that compliance and regulations alone cannot prevent injuries—culture is important too. All companies have a safety culture. Some are positive, some are negative. How would your employees describe your safety culture?

Safety starts with a commitment
Remember that management must be fully committed to accident prevention. Employee safety must be a top priority. Unfortunately, “we’re just too busy” is a common excuse for a poor safety effort. A commitment to safety will always yield positive results.

  • Develop written safety rules.
  • Have safety meetings on a regular basis.
  • Be willing to enforce safety rules and reward employees when they work safely.
  • Keep employees involved in the process.
  • Send out safety messages often.

Some of the biggest causes of injury can be prevented
Vehicle accidents
Did you know the most common cause of workplace fatalities is vehicle accidents? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of Missouri work-related fatalities are vehicle crashes. The single most important safety policy that a home health agency could adopt is a seat belt policy. Get your policy in writing, and require employees that drive or ride for business purposes wear their seat belt. This policy should apply to both company and personal vehicles used for business travel.

Slips and Trips
Be aware of areas where slips and trips are most likely to happen including sidewalks, parking lots and stairs. Employees should be required to wear appropriate footwear with slip-resistant soles. Winter footwear must be appropriate for snow and ice. Equip employees with slip-on ice cleats. Leisure footwear and flip-flops should be prohibited. Employees must survey sidewalks, stairs and home walkways for trip hazards and remove them. Once inside, employees should stop and survey each room for visible hazards including oxygen hoses before working with a patient.

Violence
Unfortunately home health employees are often targets for violence or can be caught up in violent situations. OSHA provides a good resource online titled Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Workers. The guidelines recommend that home health employees be trained in universal precautions for violence. Topics include early recognition of escalating behavior or recognition of warning signs or situations that may lead to assault. Tips include:

  • Discourage the use of dangling jewelry and tying hair up.
  • Research the customer’s background. Have there been any other instances of violence?
  • Are there family members present that have a violent background?

Employees must clearly document all instances of violence or threats of violence so that future contingency plans can be formulated. Employers must put in writing that they want their employees to avoid dangerous situations and to remove themselves from the area.

Musculoskeletal injuries
The simple location of a patient in relation to the room itself creates injury risks. All health care employees must be trained in safe patient lifting and transfer techniques. The common or easiest method may not be the safest work method. Employees must take a few extra moments to assess the situation, identify hazards and devise a plan to complete the work in the safest possible manner. If safety devices are provided, like slide boards or lifting aids, require in writing that they must be used. Employees must gain access to patients and take the time they need to lift safely. Remove trip hazards that could cause a strain or sprain. Some patients will be too large to move safely and will require assistance or a lifting aid to protect the employee.

Accidents don’t just happen. All accidents have an aspect of preventability. Employers must make every effort to keep their employees safe by providing training often and showing support for employee safety. Put safety rules in writing and grow your safety culture.

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  • 05/10/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention , MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Trucking Safety Done Right Saves Lives, Time, and Money

Did you know that the number one way for a Missouri worker to die is in a vehicle crash? When driving is your industry, this fact amplifies the need for effective safety measures that directly address work-related vehicle crashes. Every organization, especially those in the trucking and transportation industries, should have a written seat belt policy, safety rules, and a drug and alcohol-free workplace policy.

Each year workplace fatality statistics remind us that driving is the most hazardous activity that employees do. Forty percent of all Missouri work-related fatalities are due to vehicle crashes. Don’t forget that both on-and-off the job vehicle crashes can affect your organization through absenteeism, health insurance increases, and loss of productivity.

The average cost of a work-related vehicle crash fatality is $438,000. The injury cost from a typical vehicle incident is $31,000. Remember that these numbers only reflect workers compensation costs and exclude property damage, vehicle loss, freight damage, and civil litigation costs. Ethically and financially it’s in your best interest to adopt safety practices and promote safety with all drivers.

Adopt Written Safety Rules
It is important that clear expectations are established and formal written safety rules are a great way to communicate those expectations. Trucking safety rules should mandate seat belt use, mounting and dismounting trucks using three-point contact, and a cell phone/distracted driving policy. The safety rules should be reviewed by management and signed by employees each year. Check out the WorkSAFE transportation industry tutorial for sample fleet safety policies.

Refresh Safe Driving Skills
Drivers must fully understand safe driving principles. These include the use of safety belts, controlling distractions, maintaining a safe speed, maintaining a safe following distance and effective scanning. They must also know that unsafe driving habits, like texting behind the wheel, are not acceptable. Keep safe driving awareness high by providing periodic training. Communicate safe driving reminders on a routine basis, especially when inclement weather is approaching an area that drivers are operating in. Safe driving must be encouraged, enforced and rewarded. Learn more about how to implement a safe driving program using the WorkSFE defensive driving tutorial.

Require Seat Belt Use
Seat belt use is the first rule of driving safety, in fact, it is federally required for all commercial drivers. In Missouri, all licensed drivers must wear their seat belt. Employers must have a written seat belt policy to help ensure there are no questions about the need or requirement for seat belt usage.

Adopt a Drug-Free Workplace Policy
The United States Department of Transportation requires pre-employment, random, and post-crash drug and alcohol screens for all DOT drivers. DOT does not require post-incident screens on incidents such as falls, back injuries, or strains and sprains. Missouri Employers Mutual recommends that all employees, not just drivers, be subject to pre-employment, random and post-incident drug screenings—after any type of work–related incident. In the trucking industry everyone plays a part in keeping the roads safe, so don’t forget to screen your mechanics, bookkeepers, administrative and dispatch personnel. Make sure your drug and alcohol-free workplace policy is written, formally reviewed with all employees, and enforced. Download resources from our WorkSAFE drug and alcohol-free workplace tutorial.

Trucking companies are an inherently dangerous industry because driving is the most dangerous job duty in America. Companies have a responsibility to protect their employees and others on the road. Simple strategies that include adopting effective safety policies reduce the chances of a catastrophic vehicle crash. 

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  • 04/21/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Medical Management Has a Place Before, During, and After an Injury

Many policyholders have very few reportable injuries requiring medical assistance or none at all during the course of the year. Because of this, a supervisor may not know the protocol for dealing with an injury. Knowing what to do when an injury does occur can make the experience better for you as an employer and your injured employee. There are some easy ways to prepare. Check out MEM’s list of things to consider in your injury management plan.

Missouri Employers Mutual has a simple but effective philosophy of “Taking Care of Folks.” In keeping with that, we have trained our Claims professionals and nurse case managers to individually review the facts of claims when assisting policyholders in selecting a qualified physician for their injured employees. This way, the right physician is seen at the appropriate time.

Prevent the injury

  • Have a safety program that is written, active and in use daily.
  • Train workers to think safety first by holding regular safety training.
  • Perform facility and jobsite safety inspections.
  • Inspect work areas, machines, tools and equipment for hazards.
  • Require that employees sign off on the safety rules.
  • Utilize your workers compensation insurance carrier’s loss prevention services.

Be prepared 

  • Require employees to report injuries in writing by the end of their shift.
  • If medical treatment is necessary, require employees to submit to a post-incident drug and alcohol screen.
  • Report all injuries, even minor ones, to your workers compensation insurance carrier. Online reporting is a quick and efficient way to report injuries.
  • Identify a company-approved physician and medical facility. Establish a relationship by inviting the medical provider to your facility so they can be familiar with the type of work you perform.
  • Update job descriptions so they clearly outline the essential functions of the jobs within your company. Your physician can then assist you with a transitional duty early return to work program.

Inform supervisors and forepersons of your decisions

  • In Missouri, the employer has the right to direct medical care; exercise that right.
  • Before an injury occurs, inform supervisors where they should send injured employees for treatment. Identify a provider with 24-hour care if your operation runs on a 24-hour schedule.
  • Utilize standard resources, like an injury reporting kit, from your workers compensation insurance carrier as a guide for your supervisors.

Communicate

  • If your employee is off of work, contact them so they can stay informed and know that you care about them. An Intracorp study indicated that, “employees were most likely to return to work if they felt that their communication needs were met, and if they were satisfied with how they were treated by their employer.”
  • Talk to the physician and get progress reports after appointments so you can make accommodations for any job-related restrictions.
  • Regularly talk with your claim representative and/or your nurse case manager so they can discuss the next steps on any open claims.

Cooperate with your insurance carrier

  • Report injuries timely or within 24 hours.
  • Stay connected to employees. This will help you stay on top of any issues that might be pertinent to the claim.
  • The claim representative and/or nurse case manager assigned to your injury has years of experience and will be a good source of information regarding physicians and treatments. If you don’t understand, just ask!

Know the benefits of transitional or light duty, and identify those opportunities in your workplace

  • Form a partnership with your company physician to assist with restrictions you can accommodate.
  • Review job tasks that are necessary to be completed or can be performed with restrictions to facilitate a safe and early return to work.
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  • 04/13/2011
  • Written by Linda Karl
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

The Added Benefits of ADA Compliance: Safety for Every Employee

It is common knowledge that making accommodations in the workplace for employees or visitors with disabilities is required for compliance with the ADA. But have you ever considered that many of these accommodations might benefit others in your workplace? You might be surprised at how these requirements can make your workplace safer for everyone.

Bathrooms
Some of the most visible and common types of accessibility features required for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are seen in bathrooms. Even if a workplace does not have any employees with permanent mobility impairments, it could have one with a temporary need at any time. Employees and visitors recovering from a planned surgery or an injury can definitely benefit from accessible features including wider stalls and grab bars. The ADA also requires that exposed pipes located under the sink are wrapped to prevent a possible burn to someone using a wheelchair. This safety measure can also protect employees whose job may include maintenance work on the pipes.

Accessible door thresholds
Larger doorways with accessible thresholds are additional ADA requirements that make the workplace accessible to those who are permanently or temporarily disabled. These requirements also make the workplace safer by reducing the likelihood of trips and falls in an area that everyone must use at least twice a day.

Ergonomic work tools and supplies
Most tools needed for day-to-day tasks can be customized or are available in ergonomically compliant versions. Some of the common tools include staplers, computer mouse, monitors and keyboards. Employees with impairments may require customized tools, but in many cases, these tools can reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries in all employees.

Accessible software
Employees with visual impairments often require accessible software to perform their jobs. These accessibility features, routinely included in some of the most widely used software, including Microsoft Office® and Microsoft Operating Systems®, can benefit employees with and without visual impairments by cutting down on eyestrain that can lead to vision problems and headaches.

For more information about the ADA and benefits of reasonable accommodation, try the Job Accommodation Network or Great Plains ADA Center online or by phone 1.800.949.4232.

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  • 04/06/2011
  • Written by Julie Brinkhoff
    , Great Plains ADA Center
  • General Safety, Global

New OSHA Roofing Guidelines Reinforce Fall Protection

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls are the number one way to die on a construction jobsite. Any company that performs rooftop work inherits the risk of falls that could result in debilitating or fatal injuries. When a roofer’s luck runs out, fall protection equipment must be in place to catch them. OSHA is implementing changes to fall protection standards effective June 16, 2011. Are you ready?

Today, technology and equipment have improved drastically and fall protection equipment is available for almost every type of construction and industrial application. Despite these advances, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that fall deaths are still frequent on residential jobsites. To reduce the number of fatalities and injuries, OSHA’s new compliance directive STD 03-11-002 contains additional safety requirements and withdraws the 1995 guideline that allowed residential builders and roofers to bypass certain aspects of the fall protection requirements of the OSHA standard.

Guideline changes
Under the 1995 guidelines, roofers could use alternative fall protection measures like slide guards only when conventional fall protection equipment (harnesses, lanyards and anchors) were not feasible. New guidelines require anyone working on a 4:12 slope roof or greater must be protected by a guardrail, safety net or a personal fall arrest system that meets the OSHA guidelines. The new guidelines also apply to roofers working at heights over six-feet.

Employers still have the alternative of using a written fall protection plan. This is a site-specific document that outlines why conventional fall protection measures are not feasible or how fall protection equipment creates a greater hazard OSHA [29 CFR 1926.502(k)]. But with today’s technology and equipment, there are no excuses for exposing a worker to unprotected fall hazards and OSHA is unlikely to accept them.

Safety opportunity
Roofing and construction companies should use the changes in the fall protection standards as an opportunity to get the equipment that they need to keep workers safe. The initial capital outlay, training and usage expenses are much less than the costs associated with a preventable fall. Consider fines, injuries, fatalities and the resulting insurance and social costs as justification for using the proper rooftop safety equipment. It’s your obligation to keep workers safe.

Construction and roofing companies have until June 16, 2011 to comply. OSHA compliance officers will be vigorously enforcing residential rooftop safety this year.  Anyone performing roofing or rooftop work without fall protection equipment in place could be at risk for some hefty fines and exposure to a preventable, fatal fall.

For more information on changes that will affect residential constructors and roofers, please refer to OSHA STD 03-11-002.

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  • 03/29/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Impact of the Economy on Claims Management

Underwriting performance in the workers compensation industry is directly linked to economic recovery. You may not have ever made that correlation, but workers compensation claims and costs are reflective of current economic conditions. You can’t control the economy and where it is headed, but can take steps to understand how it affects claims and manage your workers compensation costs.

What is interesting is that although the labor market has added private sector jobs for the past 12 months, the unemployment rate has remained high, and job market recovery is not expected to improve until mid 2011. These factors place a huge burden on the economy, as millions of workers remain unemployed or under employed for extended periods of time.

  • Recent data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that private sector employment rose by 113,000 in December 2010 compared to 79,000 in November 2010.
  • However, government sector jobs continue to decline. For example, 10,000 government jobs were cut in December 2010 compared to 8,000 jobs cut in November 2010.

However, it is not all bad news. There are positive signs that the economy is beginning to move.  We are seeing an increase in consumer confidence, consumer spending, consumer and business lending , lower interest rates, and a more business friendly political environment. Although the housing market remains sluggish, experts expect improvement in 2011.

So what does this mean to you as a policyholder?
Since the workers compensation industry’s underwriting performance is directly related to labor market conditions, and those conditions will remain weak or sluggish at best, we anticipate that a hard market is still a way off.  In other words, increases in workers compensation premiums or claim frequency will remain subdued for several cycles to come.

The most obvious impact to a policyholder is related to the number of work-related injuries your employees incur. Let’s examine the two components of the workers’ compensation claim, the indemnity portion and the medical portion.

Indemnity
If the labor market continues to be weak, so will the wages associated with that weak labor market. From a workers compensation perspective that means we can expect the severity of claims or the average cost of claims to be lower. However, this would only be in the short-term because as soon as the labor market grows so will wages and the severity of claims.

The cost of a claim begins with the average weekly wage of the injured worker. The average weekly wage is impacted by two elements, hourly wages and the number of hours worked per week. If history is our teacher, then we have learned that wages increase (although slightly) even in a weak economy and more hours are worked during a weak economy. Accordingly, the average weekly wage will increase.

Medical
Another component of a workers compensation claim is the medical severity. Experts believe the price for medical services will continue to increase. This factor will continue to put upward pressure on the medical severity of the claim and ultimately increase the average cost of a claim.

What you can do to manage your workers compensation costs in this economy
Your workers compensation carrier should partner with you to manage your losses. Make sure your carrier has unmatched claim services that go beyond processing claims. Evaluate whether or not your carrier has a claims staff committed to prompt, professional claims management  that will work in partnership with you , the injured worker and the medical provider toward a safe and successful  return to work—all while helping to manage your claim cost. 

Review the following tips to help keep claims down in any economy:

Report claims timely—Effective claims management begins with reporting an injury. The sooner an injury is reported the sooner your carrier is able to ensure the best outcome for your injured employee and your business.

Direct medical care—As a Missouri employer you have the right and responsibility to direct medical care for your injured employee. This includes referring your employee to the appropriate medical provider and reporting the injury promptly to your carrier.

Claim savings—Missouri workers compensation law allows you to pay for claims that total less than $1,000, are clearly work-related and has lost time of three days or less.

Drug-free workplace—Develop and enforce a drug-free workplace program. Under Missouri law, an injured worker’s benefits can be reduced or even eliminated if drugs or alcohol are involved in an injury and you have drug and alcohol-free workplace policy and program in place.

Return to work program—Establish a return to work program to ensure an effective return to work. This is the ultimate positive outcome of any claim.

 

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  • 03/16/2011
  • Written by Annelle Whitt
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

What to Know When Hiring Temporary Employees

There are many reasons you may decide to hire temporary employees. Temporary work is just one of the ways that businesses can offer flexibility and at the same time better meet their own needs. It might be an easy way to manage the costs of seasonal or peak periods. To make your decision pay off, there are some critical financial and safety related points to consider when heading down the road of hiring temporary employees.

Using a hiring agency
Many employers choose to hire temporary employees through a leasing service agency. When you employ an agency, it—not you—becomes the temporary worker’s employer. The agency is responsible for and bears the financial burden of:

  • recruiting,
  • screening,
  • testing,
  • hiring,
  • payroll expenses and paperwork,
  • payroll and withholding taxes;
  • unemployment and workers compensation insurance, and
  • any additional employee benefits.

Even if you are hiring a temporary employee through an agency, you must make sure the agency provides you with a valid workers compensation certificate of insurance. If not, you may be held responsible for any injuries that may occur. Depending on the contract with the temporary or leasing service agency, the employer may still be required to carry the workers compensation coverage.

Safety training required
Whether or not you use an agency to do the hiring or hire temporary employees yourself, there are several issues that still need to be addressed when considering the workers compensation exposure this presents. You are still responsible for training temporary employees to do the job properly and safely. All temporary employees should be required to have the same training and follow the same safety rules as any permanent employee.

Certain types of jobs are inherently dangerous and require very specific safety training. Studies show that frequency and severity rates of on-the-job injuries are significantly higher with temporary employees. No matter how much experience a temporary employee has, care must be taken to see that all tasks are performed safely. Never assume a temporary employee is fully prepared to work unsupervised until you have taken the time to see that they can safely perform their work tasks.

Injuries affect everyone
Something else to consider is that an on-the-job accident may cause an injury to one of your permanent employees covered by your workers compensation policy. An indirect cost of a workers compensation claim is that other employees may need to stop working to assist the injured worker and/or take them to get medical attention. There is also the cost of investigating the claim and filing paperwork to help the injured employee file and receive workers compensation benefits.

Get more answers to your temporary employee hiring standards and regulations questions on OSHA’s web site.

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  • 03/16/2011
  • Written by Ralph Gifford
    Underwriting, MEM
  • Global, Global

Severe Weather is Just a Forecast Away: Is your plan ready?

The season for severe weather is here. Get creative in your planning efforts and use technology and communication to keep employees safe during severe weather. Don't wait until the warning sirens are sounding.

fWe’re not out of the first quarter of the year and Missouri is already experiencing severe weather. As we move from the dead of winter into spring the possibility of severe weather increases and it is important for your business to have a safety plan.

Plan required
Both OSHA and workers compensation insurance carriers require businesses to have emergency and evacuation plans. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.38 requires businesses and job sites to have an Emergency Action Plan. There’s a great eTool on OSHA's website that walks you through the simple steps to developing evacuation plans and procedures.

Businesses should clearly identify internal offices, storage areas and restrooms that can be used for severe weather shelter. Once the weather has passed, be prepared to evacuate the building if there is damage and perform a headcount. When local severe weather sirens are sounding, take action to shelter employees. Don’t send weather observers to the parking lot—if winds pick up suddenly, it will be too late to take action.

Have a severe weather radio
Regardless of regulation, all organizations should have a form of severe weather plan. Identify methods of communication that you can use to determine whether you’re in the path of severe weather. Have a severe weather radio on the job site or in the office. Severe weather radios are also multi-functional with FM frequencies. New weather radios are equipped with SAME (specific area message encoding) technology, which will only alert employees if they are in an affected county. SAME codes can be found on the NOAA weather radio all hazards website. The federal government also uses NOAA weather radios to provide notification about other types of national emergencies.

Use technology
Tap into the technology you already have available to enhance your emergency action plan.

  • Save weather websites on your iPhone or in web browser folders.
  • Check weather before heading to the job site.
  • Send e-mails to give workers a heads-up and safe areas to seek shelter.
  • For local weather reports, pre-program local AM & FM radio stations in vehicle or machine radios.

Construction sites
For notification, a construction foreman can use a canned-air horn for warning employees. Workers on job sites with little or no shelter need to identify neighboring businesses or buildings that may be used as shelter prior to arriving on the site. Job trailers, machines or trucks are not a safe alternative.

The bottom line is that every business must take some time and evaluate their severe weather plan (or create one) before an emergency develops. Management must be on board with the plan to include notification, sheltering and the resulting head-count or evacuation. Be prepared, stay informed and keep your employees safe!

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  • 03/07/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Refresher Training is an Investment That Pays You Back

It’s early 2011 and the pefect time to make sure it is an accident-free year. With the downturn in the economy and narrowing profit margins, businesses are having a harder time than ever absorbing the direct and indirect costs of accidents. Refresher training is an opportunity to get in front of your employees with an “accident-free year” message. There are some key things to consider when putting together your annual training.

Refresher training is essential in maintaining safety and operational skills. Afer all, you make that initial investment, so why not maintain it?

Meeting requirements
Refresher training is required to maintain certain certifications like CPR and first aid. It is also required by OSHA in many industries. For example, forklift recertification must occur every three years (1910.178(I)(4)(iii). Remember that refresher training is also needed when safety violations, accidents, or near-miss incidents occur.

Think potential risks and hazards
Certifications and compliance are critical but refresher training must also include education on key hazards and exposures that affect your workers. For example, a home health care company that uses personal vehicles for business purposes use may not have experienced a vehicle accident yet. Vehicle accidents are a key exposure that requires education, training and written rules to include seat belt usage—we all need regular reminders.

Target your training
Types of incidents common to your industry can also guide your safety refresher training. Prioritize by frequency and severity. Which types of accident cost your company the most in direct and indirect costs? Which incidents occur most often? Refer to your workers compensation insurance carrier to get help in categorizing your incidents and losses. Combat frequent and severe losses with good, quality, high-impact safety education.

Opportunity is knocking
Training helps maintain the education investment you’ve made in your employees over the years. People simply forget things or get comfortable, this is where routine refresher training comes in. Refresher training is an opportunity to verify job skills and determine whether or not an employee truly understands how to safely and efficiently do their job. It’s much easier to discover inconsistencies in job knowledge in a controlled training environment rather than during an uncontrolled jobsite incident.

Quality training is key
Trainers and managers that treat refresher training as a mundane exercise in compliance will not see the benefits of accident reduction and improvements in safety culture. If you treat refresher training as unimportant, workers won’t see the importance of your safety program. Give workers a reason to come to safety training. Challenge them to do better. Teach them something they didn’t know. Honor production demands and be responsible with training times. Refresher training must always be worthwhile and is an important avenue for creating a great safety culture!

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  • 02/23/2011
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Safe and Healthy Work Environments are a Win/Win Solution

Health is one of the most important and complex issues facing employers and workers today. The workplace is not only the source of health insurance for most Americans, but it also has significant influence on an individual’s physical and emotional health. A workplace with an environment that includes safety policies and preventative health programs can expect fewer workers compensation claims and more productive workers.

Safe and Healthy Workplaces Required
Workplace conditions can either protect or threaten your health and safety. The average working adult in the United States spends more than one half of their waking lives at work; approximately 8.7 hours a day.

Because most workers spend so much time in the workplace and are exposed to risks on a daily basis, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was established in 1970 to protect workers from preventable hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to enforce stafety standards nationwide pertaining to potentially dangerous situations ranging from chemical exposures to lifting hazards and anything in between.

Healthy Workers Contribute to a Healthy Bottom Line
Keeping workplace environments compliant with OSHA standards and providing health insurance is expensive.  Employers who provide group health programs are spending more and more each year. When you add the approximate $86 billion spent annually on employer’s workers compensation costs, health becomes big business.

The World Health Organization states that the workplace is a priority setting for health promotion. The workplace offers not only the ideal setting for health promotion but also provides the infrastructure to support it. In addition to making the changes required by OSHA, many employers are seizing the opportunity to voluntarily establish wellness or health promotion programs within their organizations.

Employers benefit immensely by implementing innovative solutions that integrate occupational and personal health issues. When employers promote wellness they tend to have a more productive workforce and are able to eliminate or decrease workers compensation injuries which equates to reduced premium. Research also indicates that workers in a safe and healthy environment tend to have a higher morale which equates to a lower turnover rate and a more positive work environment.  

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  • 12/30/2010
  • Written by Kim Woll-Hulsey
    Case Management, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Winter's Hidden Dangers: Slips and Falls

The snow and ice that come with a Missouri winter create conditions that produce a high number of injuries both on and off the job site. It is important not to underestimate the dangers of slips and falls to your employees and customers.

No matter how well the snow and ice is removed from streets and sidewalks, you will encounter some slippery surfaces. Preventing slip and fall injuries both on and off the job will make for a more tolerable winter season. A few simple preventative measures can go a long way!

  • Plan ahead; give yourself sufficient time and plan your route.
  • Choose function over fashion. Wear shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice such as rubber and neoprene composite, or consider over-the-shoe ice cleats. Avoid plastic and leather soles.
  • Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles; use the vehicle for support.
  • Walk in designated walkways as much as possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and areas where snow and ice removal is not feasible can be hazardous.
  • Look ahead when you walk; a sidewalk completely covered with ice may require travel along its grassy edge for traction.
  • Be mindful of “refreeze” on walkways that were previously cleared.
  • Remove snow and water from your footwear when entering buildings to prevent wet, slippery conditions indoors.  
  • Institute a winter weather initiative to alert employees to seasonal hazards, and develop an action plan to keep outdoor walkways safe.
  • Provide proper tools for control of snow and ice, including:

• Snow shovels
• Ice chippers
• Ice melting compounds
• Door mats and/or nonskid walk-off mats

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  • 12/03/2010
  • Written by Steve Holmes
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Food Service Safety Myths

Worker safety should be a priority in the food service industry. Injuries like falls, lacerations, strains and sprains are common and costly—but mostly preventable. Food service management can improve worker safety, reduce accidents and injuries, and maintain profitability by making safety the standard in the workplace. Learn the truth behind seven of the most common food service safety myths.

Myth 1:  Tennis shoes are appropriate for food service work. 
Tennis shoes are not rated for slip-resistance. Unless the shoe specifically states that it is indeed slip-resistant, consider it an inappropriate shoe for food service work. Slip-resistant footwear is recommended for wet and greasy environments. Maintain floors, clean them properly and establish acceptable footwear for employees.

Myth 2:  Slip-resistant shoes are all the same.
Did you know that there is no standardized method for determining slip-resistance in footwear? Before purchasing, take extra time to verify that the shoe is actually slip-resistant. Terms such as “oil-resistant” or “skid-resistant” may not necessarily mean “slip-resistant.” Slip-resistant shoes should have backup data to support the slip-resistant claim.

Myth 3:  Food service companies don’t operate fleets of vehicles.
The most common way to be killed on the job is in a vehicle crash. In fact, 42% of fatalities handled by Missouri Employers Mutual are related to vehicle crashes. Workers that drive vehicles on company business are at risk for a work-related vehicle crash. Work-related driving is compensable under Missouri workers compensation statutes. Require seat belt use and develop a seat belt policy. Also, establish a policy prohibiting cell phone use and texting while driving.

Myth 4:  Workers that slip or trip at work just need to watch out more and be careful.
Did you know that slip, trip and fall injuries are pervasive in the food service industry? Be proactive and evaluate the floor surface for slip dangers like liquids, powders or granular material. Re-examine the floor cleaning process. Evaluate floors for loose tiles, mats or changing floor heights. Re-evaluate workspace lighting, cleaning processes and employee footwear. Follow through with the improvements that need to be made.

Myth 5:  There’s just no time to do safety meetings. 
If you think there is not enough time to have a safety meeting, think about how much time you invest after an accident doing paperwork, light duty assignments and worker replacement tasks. Dedicate time each month for safety meetings. They’re an investment that will save you time and money in the long run. Effective safety meetings can be held in as little as 10 or 15 minutes. Discuss slips, trips, falls, lacerations and safe lifting.

Myth 6:  There is not much workplace safety information available.
Not true. The Internet is full of resources including worksafecenter.com provided by Missouri Employers Mutual. Reviewing material safety data sheets provided with chemicals, personal protective equipment directions and food service machine operator manuals is another great way to access safety information. 

Myth 7:  We don’t need a post-incident drug and alcohol testing program.
Did you know that food service is one of the three major industry groups with the highest prevalence of illicit drug use? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 10-20 percent of workplace fatalities are drug or alcohol related. According to the National Safety Council 39 percent of work-related traffic crashes are due to impaired driving. Develop a workplace substance abuse program, educate employees and promote a substance-free workplace. 

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  • 11/23/2010
  • Written by Mark Woodward
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Robinson vs. Hooker Challenges Exclusive Remedy

Based on the outcome of the recent case Robinson vs. Hooker, WD 71207 (Mo. App. August 3, 2010), an employee injured on the job can file a separate negligence lawsuit against a co-employee after they have settled the workers compensation claim. In Robinson vs. Hooker, the plaintiff and defendant were street cleaners working together. The defendant lost control of a high pressure hose and the water struck the plaintiff, causing blindness in one eye.

Prior to the 2005 workers compensation law changes, a co-worker could not sue another co-worker without showing something more than ordinary negligence. This “exclusive remedy” in Section 287.120 applied to employers and extended liberally through case law to include co-employees.

In 2005, the Missouri workers compensation statute was amended to require strict construction of the statute. Strict construction, as applied in the Robinson case, means the term “employer” can no longer be construed to include co-employees, opening the door for civil claims against co-employees for injuries sustained on the job.

What Robinson vs. Hooker Means for Your Workplace
The 2005 law changes, combined with this decision, mean your workers compensation policy may not provide coverage as it did before.

  • Most if not all workers compensation policies do not list employees as insureds. Therefore, in a fellow employee suit, the workers compensation policy is not triggered to provide any coverage under Part B (Employers Liability section) of the policy.
  • In rare instances, there may be some exceptions to this and you will want to contact MEM or your workers compensation insurance carrier for addtitional discussion.
  • MEM does not offer an endorsement to add coverage for employee civil liability into the policy and other carriers may not as well.

There may be options for additional protection against co-worker civil suits if you or your employees feel at risk.

  • Some Commercial General Liability and Auto Liability policies may offer the Fellow Employee Coverage endorsement for an additional fee. Check with your agent or carrier to see if such an endorsement is available. Most umbrella policies do not provide that coverage.
  • Employees may want to review their personal homeowners, auto and umbrella policies to see if coverage is available in these types of situations.
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  • 10/28/2010
  • Written by Annelle Whitt
    Claims, MEM
  • Claims Management, Global

Driving Myths

There are about 200 million licensed drivers in the United States and almost as many ways to be involved in an accident. Staying safe on the road starts with knowing the facts—not myths.

"I’m a good driver."
Take an honest look at your own driving habits and ask yourself some tough questions.

Do you keep a minimum of a three-second following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you?

Do you drive at a safe speed in accordance with the weather conditions?

Do you drive at or below the posted speed limit?

Do you wear your seatbelt and require others, including kids, to be properly restrained?

Do you try to multi-task while driving? If so, your driving focus is severly affected by: 

  • talking on the phone
  • texting
  • eating
  • lack of sleep
  • angry reactions to other drivers

Distracted driving is the number one cause of vehicle accidents.

"I’m a safe driver, so it won’t happen to me."
Being a safe driver includes being a defensive driver. You can still be injured or killed because of someone else’s negligence. It’s important to pay attention to what is going on outside of your vehicle. For example, when another driver runs a red light, it can impact the safety of your green light; being aware is a big part of being safe.

"My vehicle has an airbag, I’ll be fine."
Airbags only deploy in certain conditions. They vary by vehicle, impact speed and angles. If you are hit from behind, the impact will not set off the airbags, and unless your vehicle has side impact bags, you will have no protection there. Wearing your seatbelt is your best defense against serious injury in a car accident. Always buckle up. There are some sobering facts about seat belt use in Missouri you should know.

"I will just drink some coffee to stay alert."
Drinking caffeine is a temporary fix to fatigued driving and can have some unintended serious side effects, including aggressive driving and a severe drop in energy when the caffeine wears off. Getting the proper amount of rest and making frequent stops is the best way to stay alert while driving.

"I have an all-wheel drive vehicle, so I can stop better in snow."
Four-wheel or all wheel drive helps get you going in snowy or icy conditions, but once the vehicle is underway four-wheel drive does not aid in stopping. It’s important to slow down and adjust your speed to the current conditions.

The facts are simple: remember to drive defensively, buckle everybody up, watch your speed, give yourself plenty of room and don’t allow your emotions to affect your driving. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll improve your safety.

 

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  • 10/27/2010
  • Written by Flint Walton
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global

Safety Myths

In the world of safety there are some common myths about workplace injuries and how they happen. Businesses with a WorkSAFE attitude can make all the difference in preventing injuries on the job. Check out the most common misconceptions and see if any of them sound familiar.

Myth #1: Safety is not my job.
Have you ever walked up to a hazard—whether it was a spill at a restaurant, oil from equipment, or debris on a jobsite—and walked off and left it, thinking, “It’s not my job?” Many employees think that if they did not create the hazard they can’t be hurt by it and shouldn't be responsible for doing anything about it. This attitude has seeped into workplaces and has to be cleaned up! Any employee that sees a hazard should alert others, barricade off the area and get proper maintenance or cleanup started to help protect everyone. Next time it could be you. Safety is everyone’s job.

Myth #2: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Even with more than 20 years of safety experience I am always amazed when workers actively do something unsafe and then act as if everything is fine. Even after explaining the safe way to handle the situation to protect themselves and others, they respond with, “But, we have always done it this way.” Each day workers die doing their jobs unsafely, and many were simply doing it the way they have done it for years. Workers need to ask themselves if they want to rely on luck or being safe. Me? I’ll take safe.

Myth #3: I don’t have time to add safety to my list.
Have you ever played this game in your head: You left your safety gear elsewhere and it would take you longer to go back and get it than it would to do the job without the protection? You may not think you have “time for safety,” but does your company have the time and resources to handle an accident today, especially if it is serious? Does your family have time to adjust their lives for your injury?

Myth #4: I only need to worry about safety when the boss is watching.
Do you act differently if the boss is around? If the boss is not watching, is it OK to skip safety measures? Of course it is not OK. Safety procedures should always be followed, whether someone is watching or not. Shortcuts and hurrying get people hurt, and that hurts businesses and the families.

Myth #5: If I follow OSHA’s regulations, I will be fine.
This may come as a surprise to you, but OSHA standards are the minimum standards that you should follow. Some OSHA standards date back to the 1970’s, and we have learned a lot about safety since then. Employers should look at injuries and the potential for injuries on their jobs, refer to OSHA standards, but always ensure that workers are protected from all hazards.

Not all hazards are covered by specific OSHA standards. Some standards expose workers to fall hazards of 15, 30 and even up to 48 feet without any true safety measures in place.

For example, the number one way to die on the job is vehicle accidents and OSHA standards say nothing about them. Employers must ensure workers obey traffic regulations, follow company driving rules and always buckle up!

Myth #6: I don’t need safety training; I just use common sense.
When employers are asked about training workers and ensuring basic safety rules are understood, they often say, "that’s just common sense." It may seem like common sense, but unfortunately it’s not that common. Each workplace has hazards specific to the operation and just because you think employees should know something does not mean they actually know it. It is the employer’s duty to ensure that workers are aware of hazards, fully understand safety precautions and can demonstrate competency.

Most workplace injuries can be prevented with the right WorkSAFE attitudes in place. Make safety your state of mind.

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  • 10/22/2010
  • Written by Flint Walton
    Loss Prevention, MEM
  • General Safety, Global