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Workplace Safety

Driving Records: review them often

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Automobile accidents are the number one cause of liability claims in business.  Automobile related claims, especially drivers under the influence of alcohol and youthful operators, are the most devastating to families as well.

Every risk manager and fleet manager needs to check drivers’ records frequently.

Quarterly is not too frequent.

Sounds overly intrusive or expensive?  Consider that good driving records not only reflect good driving habits; they reflect vigilance in these habits.

Fleet managers must view on-time deliveries and vehicle upkeep as major issues.  Risk managers view safety and long-term costs as major metrics.

Quality driver management and the reinforcement of vigilant, excellent driving habits support both sets of goals.

Set driving record standards for moving violations and accidents.  Limit drivers to a maximum number of points or moving violations and at fault accidents.  Be sold on the idea of intolerance for lesser histories.

Assign some intervention tactic for any moving violation or accident, even not-at-fault.  The fleet manager or risk manager can debrief the driver on the circumstances and measures of avoidance which were missed.  From this conversation, training can be assigned.

Emphasize the importance of excellent habits and vigilant execution of these habits.

The more touchy subject is checking driving records for spouses or children of employees who may access the vehicle, with or without permission.

In closely held corporations or partnerships, do not hesitate to perform this task.  Driving while intoxicated and youthful drivers are the major devastating liability issues for families.  Healthcare bankruptcies are not liability claims for these purposes.

Do you want your choice of partner dependent on your current partners’ sixteen year-old child’s driving?  For closely held companies, this scenario is real.

The child speeds through a red light and badly injures several people.  The claim exceeds the family coverage.  Next in line – the business.  The debts may be paid by liquidating that partners share, the victims may become the new partners, or a forced sale of stocks may occur.

For a public company, shares of stock or a garnishment of wages may occur for a personal automobile claim; but the company car exposes all the company assets.

Banning family members or unauthorized usage is one answer, but teens will be teens.  Check the records, suggest interventions for family members too before bad habits lead to disaster.  And it’s always possible to restrict car use to business only with the car left on the business campus; or take away privileges completely to at-risk employees.

Spring Cleaning: time to review your first aid kits and fire extinguishers

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How many times do you walk by fire extinguishers without checking those tags or past first aid kits without peeking inside to assure the contents are complete?

Most executives do not spot check these life saving tools.  That task is delegated to maintenance.  But these decisions are life and death, not simply profit or loss.  Show your employees you care; that you lead their safety program rather than follow pro forma insurance checklists.

Start your spring cleaning here: walk through your operation and stop occasionally to check if you can easily spot the nearest fire extinguisher.  Read the label.  Is it appropriate for the work area?

Stand at each fire extinguisher station and visualize successful deployment.  Is it easy and natural?  Can you travel unharmed to the nearest fire exit using the fire extinguisher to clear a path?

Observe any long pathways between fire extinguishers and exits.  Would another canister or different fire suppression device or system help?

Take some notes as you walk through the operation.  Review these observations with the person tasked to keep the equipment updated.

Repeat the above exercise with regard to first aid kits.  Are they easy to spot?  Easy to access one-handed?  Do they have instructions for calling emergency help?

These exercises do not require a great deal of time or scheduling.  Simply make a point of checking these items every quarter, something of an internal surprise inspection.

Add ten minutes every three months to your walk-through routine.  It doesn’t need scheduling or ceremony.  Simply observe, become conscious of the emergency response routine.  Are fire exits clogged with storage or debris?  Are aisles kept unobstructed?

Is a specific person charged with de-icing fire escapes?  As you walk through your operations, take notes of these questions.  Think through an emergency evacuation, then review the written plan for your company.  Does it make common sense?  Does it raise questions for your risk manager or safety specialist?

Does your at-hire training include safety orientation and procedures?  How about on-going communications on safety issues?  Both directions?

Corporate officers lead the safety culture.  Make these inspections in view of employees.  They will engage you if they have proper concerns.  They are a great resource.

CASE SETS WORKERS COMP SETTLEMENT RECORD

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In 2004, a California carpenter fell 20 feet from a scaffold, suffering a head injury that resulted in brain injury — and led to a structured settlement of $8.9 million (the highest on record in the Golden State).

According to attorney Christopher Asvar, his client is suffering from a variety of injury-related symptoms ranging from multiple personality disorder, depression, and psychosis to cognitive impairment and anxiety attacks that could last for the rest of his life. Asvar won the settlement despite the fact that CT and MRI scans showed no signs of trauma to the client’s brain, and medical experts described his disability as “mild.”

This decision speaks for itself — and it carries a warning to every business.

FOUR WAYS TO SIMPLIFY HANDLING COMP CLAIMS

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When it comes time to work with an adjuster on a Workers Compensation claim, you can make life easier for everyone concerned by following these guidelines:

Get the main contact involved in the process from the get-go and be sure that they provide all the information the adjuster needs: The claimant’s personnel file, documentation of the injury, eyewitness testimony, etc. Get this information to the adjuster as soon as possible, preferably within an hour after his or her initial inquiry — or at least on the same day.

Be sure to have a specific occupational clinic or physician treat the claimant — this will facilitate the process and eliminate any possible uncertainty about dealing with an unfamiliar health-care provider. Work with a clinic that understands your business and can recommend options for light activities the client can perform, rather than having to take them off the job entirely.

If you have any questions about working with adjusters to expedite claims, we’d be happy to help!

Do You Need To Purchase Workers’ Compensation For Seasonal Workers?

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Seasonal employees add value to your company and remain an asset for your business. You may wonder, though, if you must provide these temporary employees with Worker’s Compensation. Understand the law and your responsibility to your employees as you maintain a safe workplace environment.

Why Hire Seasonal Workers?

Temporary employees can provide numerous benefits to companies any time of the year. You may hire these employees to:

  • Cover duties when a regular employee takes sick leave or a vacation.
  • Meet temporary production booms.
  • Perform seasonal duties such as snow removal or landscaping.
  • Diversify your workforce.
  • Assess available talent before you expand operations and hire more employees.

What Dangers do Seasonal Workers Face?

You may provide safety training to all your employees, but this training might not be adequate for your seasonal workers. They may forget safety procedures, transfer to a department that features unfamiliar equipment or simply receive in injury as they perform their assigned duties. Common injuries among seasonal workers include:

  • Overexertion while lifting, pushing or holding items
  • Strain from improper carrying posture
  • Repetitive injuries from repeatedly performing the same task

If an employee suffers a job-related injury or illness, he or she can file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ Compensation is insurance that covers occupational illnesses or injuries. It will pay for medical treatment and other expenses, including lost wages, rehabilitation, job training and temporary disability, as the injured or ill employee recovers.

Must you Provide Workers’ Compensation to Seasonal Employees?

The United States Department of Labor oversees Workers’ Compensation. However, individual states determine the specific Workers’ Compensation requirements for businesses in that state. Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws as you determine your specific Workers’ Compensation obligations.

Also, remember that you are ultimately responsible for the safety of your employees. This requirement generally means you must provide Workers’ Compensation for every worker whether they work full-time hours year-round or only seasonally.

If you are required to provide Workers’ Compensation for seasonal workers but don’t and someone is injured or becomes ill, you could face fines and court costs. Plus, you’ll still be responsible to cover the costs associated with treating the work-related injury or illness.

How do you Purchase Workers’ Compensation for seasonal Workers?

Discuss your specific hiring practices with your insurance agent. He or she will recommend the right insurance products, including Workers’ Compensation, for your business and ensure you purchase policies with adequate coverage for all your employees.

As you meet your staffing needs, ensure you purchase the right insurance for all your employees. It’s important for all your employees, including seasonal workers.

Minimizing Workplace Injury Risks

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Although the costs of work-related injuries sustained by employees are usually covered by Workers Compensation coverage, there is no coverage for hidden costs to the business the employee works for. Most plans cover medical expenses and lost wages of the injured employee. However, increased overtime expenditures, reduced efficiency and the expense of training replacements are not covered. These costs can greatly affect a smaller business.

Injuries that are sustained in the workplace or in vehicles owned by the business are not limited to occupations that are known to be dangerous. For the majority of cases reported, the main three causes of workplace injuries are falls on level ground, bodily reaction and overexertion. Injuries sustained from pushing, excessive lifting, pulling, carrying a heavy object, throwing things or trying to hold a heavy object are all activities that lead to overexertion injuries.

These types of injuries can seriously affect workers in any environment. It’s important for employers in every industry to be aware of these risks to avoid paying for costly preventable injuries to employees. It’s essential to train employees to recognize hazards, report unsafe conditions and to be aware of what the consequences of injuries are. Employers should encourage employees to actively contribute to a safer working environment by reporting unsafe conditions and making suggestions for changes to correct problems.

Any accident, first aid incident or near miss should be reported to employers. After receiving reports, employers should investigate the incidents thoroughly. If possible, the investigation employers carry out should take place immediately. Both hourly employees and management professionals should be involved in the investigation process.

The purpose of investigations is to identify the cause of the incident without blaming anyone. The overall goal should be to improve the situation and make the workplace a safer environment for everyone.

A team should be formed that can review incidents from past years and the current year to identify patterns. In addition to this, the team should be able to identify the problems. Hospitals, police departments and fire departments should be conferred with each year for assistance in identifying risks and forming plans for emergencies. Loss of power, accidents, explosions, fires and violence are all issues that each business must address.

Drills for these situations should be planned and implemented. It’s important to ensure that employees are properly trained to face any situation. They should also know the emergency and disaster plans thoroughly. Some businesses may also want to provide CPR and first aid training from the Red Cross for their employees. If this is the case, there should be at least one person who is responsible for keeping first aid kits stocked and accessible. To learn more about risks in an individual workplace and how to obtain protection, contact an agent.

‘IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!’ – PROTECT YOUR OUTDOOR WORKERS

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The nation’s record-breaking “polar vortex” cold snap last month reinforces the need for businesses to reduce the risk of injuries or accidents to employees working out of doors under winter conditions. The human body has a core temperature of 98.6°F. Unconsciousness can occur at 86°F, and death below 73°F. Symptoms of a dangerous temperature decrease include persistent and severe shivering, fatigue, lack of co-ordination, drowsiness or apathy, hallucinations, resistance to help, and skin that turns blue before becoming pale and dry.

Employees working outdoors in extremely cold weather face two major health problems: frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite freezes and crystallizes the fluids in body tissues and cellular spaces, which causes blood clotting and reduces the flow of oxygen to affected areas and deeper tissues. Hypothermia develops when the body can no longer maintain its core temperature and attempts to reduce heat loss by shutting down blood flow to the skin, arms and legs, as well as shivering to increase internal heat.

To help protect your outdoor workers against these risks, make sure that they:

dress warmly and carry extra dry clothing if they’re likely to get wet stay dry (wet skin freezes quickly)

drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration

work during the warmest part of the day, as much as possible

avoid sitting still outdoors for long periods and take regular breaks from the cold

don’t touch metal or wear metal jewelry outdoors – metal conducts cold, increasing the risk of frostbite

avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and too much coffee or caffeinated beverages. Smoking decreases circulation, while alcohol increases the rate of body cooling; caffeine also lowers circulation, its diuretic effect speeds dehydration, and its stimulant effect can hasten hypothermia)

For more information, feel free to get in touch with our agency.

Five Overtime Dangers And Solutions

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Holiday, seasonal or regular overtime allows your company to handle increased sales demands or cover employee absences. While you may enjoy the extra money, long work hours affect workplace safety. Know five common overtime dangers and their solutions as you remain safe at work

Health Problems

Working 10 hours or more a day can increase your non-fatal heart attack risk by 60 percent. Long work hours may also increase workplace injuries and cause health problems such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased alcohol and tobacco consumption
  • Stress
  • Mental health problems
  • Obesity
  • Depression

Address potential health risks when you take care of your physical health. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and perform regular self-care.

Personal Problems

A Cornell University study found that three in 10 employees who work more than 60 hours a week experience severe family conflicts, including divorce. Personal problems at home can affect your concentration, attendance and productivity on the job.

Relieve personal problems when you leave your work at work and focus on your loved ones when you’re at home. Your employer may also offer professional counseling that addresses any ongoing challenges caused by overtime.

Workplace Safety Risks

Numerous studies link overtime with an increase in workplace accidents that could be caused by fatigue, performance impairment, low morale and decreased attention span. These safety risks can occur after a single or several long work days.

Carefully follow safety procedures, and encourage your co-workers to do the same. If you feel fatigued, stressed or distracted, talk to your employer since safety always comes first.

Low Moral

Poor morale affects 31 percent of employees who work more than 10 hours of overtime a week. When you don’t want to be at work, your attention wanes and you may make unsafe or costly mistakes.

Prioritize self-care as you improve your morale. Try to avoid negative conversations about work, too. A healthy work-life balance also helps you stay motivated to appreciate your job and do your best.

High Turnover Rates

Companies with high overtime rates also experience high turnover rates as employees decide that long work long hours are not worth the monetary rewards. Companies then must hire and train new employees who require time to learn workplace safety protocols.

While you can’t control the turnover rate, you can advocate for safety at all times. Encourage veteran and novice employees to follow all safety protocols, too.

Overtime may be mandatory at your workplace, so be aware of the dangers and the solutions that help you ensure safety. Ask your employer about the company’s wellness and mental health programs, too, that help you and your co-workers achieve balance and maintain safety as you work long hours.

Top Workplace Eye Safety Tips

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Employees who work in construction, carpentry, manufacturing, auto repair, welding and maintenance are most likely to experience eye injuries. However, almost every work environment contains eye hazards, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 2,000 people suffer from workplace eye injuries every day. As many as 400 of those accidents causes vision loss. The correct eye protection can prevent up to 90 percent of these accidents.

Common Causes of Workplace Eye Injuries

The most common causes of eye injuries include:

    • Chemicals and cleaning products
    • Tools
    • Flying metal, glass, pencils, nails, staples, wood slivers and other objects
    • Particles
    • Harmful radiation

How do Eye Injuries Happen?

Eye injuries typically occur in three ways.

    • Penetration occurs when a sharp object enters the eye and causes trauma.
    • Burns damage the tissue in and around the eye. They are caused by chemicals or cleaning products and include thermal burns from welding.
    • Striking or scraping involves small particles or objects and is the most common workplace eye injury. The offending material can affect the eye, eyeball or socket.

Ways to Prevent Eye Injuries

You and your employees can take several steps to protect sensitive eyes.

    • Perform an eye hazard assessment. Walk around your business and identify any workstations, objects or other potential hazards.
    • Eliminate as many hazards as possible. Work with your safety manager or insurance company to identify and remove the hazards you find.
    • Install safety measures. Consider installing screens, machine guarding or engineering controls as well as other necessary safety precautions.
    • Teach eye safety to your employees. Your team members should understand the potential dangers they may face on the job and the protective measures they should take.
    • Provide proper eye safety gear. The gear you provide depends on your specific workplace hazards and on your employees’ personal preferences and needs. Examples include prescription and non-prescription safety glasses, side shields, goggles, face shields, helmets and full-face respirators. Be sure the safety lenses follow OSHA requirements, are comfortable and allow peripheral vision.
    • Train team members on how to handle an eye injury emergency. Everyone should know where the eye wash station is located and how to use it.
    • Continue to take eye safety seriously. Perform regular hazard assessments, update safety equipment and provide ongoing eye safety training.
    • Update your Workers’ Compensation insurance. While you do your best to ensure workplace safety, accidents can happen. Your Workers’ Compensation insurance will pay for medical treatment and other related expenses if an employee suffers an eye injury on the job.

Workplace eye safety is important. Use these top safety tips to prevent as many eye injuries as possible.

‘IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!’ – PROTECT YOUR OUTDOOR WORKERS

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

The nation’s more extreme weather patterns reinforces the need for businesses to reduce the risk of injuries or accidents to employees working out of doors under winter conditions.

The human body has a core temperature of 98.6°F. Unconsciousness can occur at 86°F, and death below 73°F. Symptoms of a dangerous temperature decrease include persistent and severe shivering, fatigue, lack of co-ordination, drowsiness or apathy, hallucinations, resistance to help, and skin that turns blue before becoming pale and dry.

Employees working outdoors in extremely cold weather face two major health problems: frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite freezes and crystallizes the fluids in body tissues and cellular spaces, which causes blood clotting and reduces the flow of oxygen to affected areas and deeper tissues. Hypothermia develops when the body can no longer maintain its core temperature and attempts to reduce heat loss by shutting down blood flow to the skin, arms and legs, as well as shivering to increase internal heat.

To help protect your outdoor workers against these risks, make sure that they:

  • dress warmly and carry extra dry clothing if they’re likely to get wet
  • stay dry (wet skin freezes quickly)
  • drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
  • work during the warmest part of the day, as much as possible
  • avoid sitting still outdoors for long periods and take regular breaks from the cold
  • don’t touch metal or wear metal jewelry outdoors – metal conducts cold, increasing the risk of frostbite
  • avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and too much coffee or caffeinated beverages. Smoking decreases circulation, while alcohol increases the rate of body cooling; caffeine also lowers circulation, its diuretic effect speeds dehydration, and its stimulant effect can hasten hypothermia)

For more information, feel free to get in touch with our agency.