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Workplace Safety

Save Your Hands!

By Workplace Safety

Our hands are used in almost all daily activities, work or leisure. But, for some reason, we often overlook just how frequently our hands are used until they are injured.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the hands are involved in one of every five occupational injuries. This statistic really isn’t all that surprising once a worker stops to consider the array occupational hazards, such as tools, solvents, and chemicals, that are capable of causing burns, contusions, and lacerations to the hands. That said, workers can protect their hands and avoid a lot of unnecessary injuries by taking a few precautions.

Material Safety Data Sheet.

Some chemicals can burn your hands immediately following contact. Before handling any chemical, it’s of vital importance that you’re familiar with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), as these forms will instruct you on the safe handling and use of certain potentially harmful chemicals.

Hand Washing/Cleaning Procedures

Apply lotion if your job requires frequent hand washing.
Use mild soap and water to wash hands; dry them thoroughly.
Avoid harsh and abrasive cleaners.
When removing tar, grease, or paint, use a waterless cleaner.
Never wash hands with benzene, paint thinner, gasoline, or other harsh solvents.
Flush hands under running water for 20 minutes or longer after your hands come into contact with any corrosive chemical.
If a minor skin laceration occurs, wash it immediately and seek medical treatment.

Using Gloves

The MSDS can alert you to what type of glove should be donned when handling potentially harmful chemicals.
Throw any frayed, tattered, or worn gloves away.
Never share gloves with co-workers.
Never immerse your hand in chemical agents, even if gloved.
Asbestos or leather gloves are used to protect against heat.
Neoprene or rubber gloves are used to protect against corrosive chemicals.
Cotton, leather, or PVC gloves are used to protect against abrasives.
Synthetic knit or cotton gloves with gripping dots are used when hand-grip is needed.
Kevlara, heavy leather, or metal-mesh gloves are used to help prevent cuts to the hand.
Never wear gloves with any metal features when working near electrical hazards.
Avoid wearing gloves around moving equipment.

Contusions and Lacerations

Avoiding All tools should be properly maintained on a regular basis.
Safety guards should never be removed and a tool without the appropriate guard shouldn’t be used until it’s in proper working order.
Lockout equipment when making repairs or cleaning it.
Wear metal-mesh, leather, or Kevlara gloves when handling or operating sharp and bladed tools.
Don’t do a job if you don’t have the appropriate tool.
These simple safety precautions can help you keep one of your most important assets, your hands, intact.

Tips for Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

By Workplace Safety

Most employers are responsible for providing employees with Workers’ Compensation insurance. These important benefits cover your medical treatment, a portion of your lost wages, disability compensation and vocational training. However, you may need to hire a Workers’ Compensation lawyer. Follow these tips as you take this step.

Why Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Workers’ Compensation insurance covers an injury or illness that occurs on the job. The claims process can be confusing, though, and claims are sometimes delayed or denied. Hiring a qualified lawyer can protect your rights and ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.

Consider hiring a lawyer in these circumstances.

•  Your claim is denied.
•  You don’t have adequate proof that your injury or illness is job related.
•  You suffer significant injuries.
•  You become permanently disabled.
•  Your doctor orders extended recovery time.
•  You cannot return to work.
•  You don’t understand or cannot navigate the claims process.

What Your Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Will Do

Your Workers’ Compensation lawyer will work methodically to build your case. They will:

•  Organize medical records.
•  Arrange for witnesses to testify about your medical needs or vocational limitations.
•  Accurately estimate your future medical treatment needs.
•  Negotiate successfully with the insurance company.
•  Advise you on filing additional personal injury or product liability claims.

How to Find a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Check online directories for qualified and experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyers. You can also ask friends and family members for recommendations.

Experience Matters

The Workers’ Compensation lawyer you hire should have experience in this field. He or she should be familiar with your particular injury or illness, your state’s Workers’ Compensation laws and how to file an appeal.

Be Prepared to Contact Several Lawyers

Because Workers’ Compensation lawyers are paid a fee based on a percentage of the benefits you receive, they usually only take cases they believe they can win. This means you may need to contact several lawyers before you find one who will take your case. Most Workers’ Compensation lawyers will provide a free initial consultation, though, so keep searching until you find one who will work with you.

Know the Fees

Workers’ Compensation lawyers only receive payment if they win your case. The fee they charge is typically 15 to 35 percent of your total settlement, so if you are awarded $50,000, you would pay your attorney between $7,500 and $17,500. While this fee is significant, understand that you probably will receive a larger award when you hire a lawyer versus if you represent yourself.

A Workers’ Compensation lawyer will work on your behalf to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. Use these tips as you hire the right lawyer for your needs.

Understanding the Costs Related to Accidents and Lawsuits

By Workplace Safety

Risk management experts, safety experts, accountants, actuaries, and other professionals make the distinction between direct and indirect costs of accidents, lawsuits, and so forth. For example, the cost of turnover in the HR That Works Turnover Cost Calculator includes the direct costs (such as paying for a Help Wanted ad) and indirect costs (such not growing the business due to lack of manpower).

Two of the most commonly insured employee risks are those for work-related injuries and employment practice claims. This means that the direct costs associated with a Work Comp injury are those related to medical expenses and expense reimbursement, which the Workers Compensation carrier usually pays.

We usually recommend that our clients pay the compensatory portion of the claim because if they don’t, the insurance company will pay it and then get their money back by increasing your experience modifier over the next three years. In a sense, they don’t pay these claims, they finance them.

In addition to the increase in the experience modifier (MOD) and cost of future insurance, there are also indirect costs:

•  Damage to property (building, tools, machinery, etc.)
•  Emergency supplies, cost
•  Possible media exposure/brand change
•  Investigation time, claim management time
•  Affect on employee morale
•  Overtime, costs of replacing employee
•  Increased experience modifier
•  Damage to client relations if accident is “on site”
•  Injury to third parties
•  Additional legal fees

Of course, these ratios depend on the type of claim or injury, type of business, days lost from work, and so forth. When it comes to an employment practices claim, direct costs are for attorney fees, litigation costs and any settlement or verdict payout. The indirect costs include: Loss of employee morale, damaged customer and client relations, copycat claims, loss of knowledge base, training, and experience.

The risk management literature offers a wide range expert opinion on the range of direct to indirect costs. Only one out of seemingly dozens of surveys identifies indirect costs as lower than a 1:1 ratio to the direct costs. Some go as high as 20 times the direct costs (for example, when an expensive piece of machinery is destroyed in the process). Based on my personal experience and that of experts I agree with, we can safely assume at least a 1:1 ratio in most circumstances. For example, you might have to pay out $50,000 to settle the lawsuit, plus another $50,000 to replace the employee! Unfortunately, these indirect costs are often uninsurable, and in many cases dwarf the insurable costs in a given risk scenario.

Interestingly, the indirect cost ratio has been diminishing as medical and legal expenses continue to soar.

These ratios also depend on such factors as:

•  Type of claim/injury
•  Type of business
•  Claim value
•  Days lost from work
•  Legal jurisdiction
•   Management response

Overview of Workers’ Compensation Benefits

By Workplace Safety

Worker’s Compensation benefits are important if you are injured or become ill on the job. Understand the benefits you’re eligible to receive so you know what to expect if you need to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Cover

Your Workers’ Compensation benefits cover several expenses.

•  Medical treatment and related expenses
•  Payments for time off work as you recover
•  Temporary or permanent disability compensation
•  Job retraining
•  Death payment to beneficiaries

When Workers’ Compensation Benefits Start

Some of your Workers’ Compensation benefits start immediately. Depending on your state, your employer may cover your medical bills right away, even before your claim is approved.

After your claim is approved, you are eligible to receive the other relevant Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, you may need a letter from your physician stating that you need to be off work, are disabled or require job training before you receive those benefits.

The Financial Amount of Benefits You Will Receive

Expect to have all of your medical bills covered by your Workers’ Compensation benefits. The total of your lost wages or temporary disability payments is typically 66-2/3 percent of your normal wages, depending on your state’s Workers’ Compensation laws.

How to Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Always report injuries or illness right away, and file a Workers’ Compensation claim as soon as possible. Then visit an approved Workers’ Compensation doctor for treatment. These steps increase the likelihood that your bills will be paid by your Workers’ Compensation insurance.

Once your claim is approved, your medical bills are typically paid directly to the providers. You’ll receive disability, lost wage or job training payments via direct deposit or check weekly, bi-monthly or monthly.

How Long You Will Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Worker’s Compensation benefits typically last until you no longer need them. For example, when your doctor determines that you are well enough to return to work, you will stop receiving payment for lost wages.

Also, you will stop receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits if your claim is closed or settled. A settled claim could include a pension, permanent disability compensation or structured settlement agreement.

What to do if Your Workers’ Compensation Claim is Denied

If you file a Workers’ Compensation claim and it’s denied, file an appeal. You can contact a lawyer for help and begin collecting data that supports your claim as you seek the benefits you think you deserve.

Workers’ Compensation benefits provide you with financial resources as you recover from an injury or illness sustained on the job. For specific details on the Workers’ Compensation benefits you are eligible to receive, check your employee handbook or talk to your Human Resources manager or insurance agent.

Incident Investigations

By Workplace Safety

Employers should always make it a top priority to provide workers with a safe working environment. That said, accidents can still happen, even when employers strictly enforce safety practices and employees strictly adhere to them. Incidents happen due to a breakdown, departure, or failure in the acceptable method of performance. When an accident does occur, the incident investigation report will serve in several important objectives. So, it’s vital that a timely and thorough incident investigation takes place.

The Purpose of Incident Investigation. 

The main purpose of an incident investigation is for the employer to learn why the breakdown happened and determine procedures that could be put into place to prevent it from reoccurring. The employer should gather and examine the data they collect to figure out where and why the departure from acceptable behavior happened. Employers can learn from errors and increase future productivity from knowing if there was any indication of the breakdown prior to it occurring, or if there was any possible point that the breakdown could have been interrupted and stopped.

Legal liability is another purpose of investigating the incident. During the investigation, the employer will gather information that could be paramount in mounting a possible defense against any resulting lawsuit(s). The defense team in such lawsuits will build their strategy based on the what, when, who, where, why, and how of the incident, data that’s often revealed during the incident investigation.

How Should the Investigative Process Take Place?

The investigative process will begin as the scene of the incident is reviewed and examined. This can provide an exact reason, or possible scenarios, as to why the incident happened. Pictures should be taken of the incident scene. The pictures can later be compared to blueprints, diagrams, or drawings of the area to help determine what chain of events led up to the incident occurring.

Now, it’s time to question all witnesses that might have information leading up to, during, or just after the incident. You can use forms created by regulatory agencies or internally created forms to guide the questioning process.

Either way, using the completion of the form as a format for the questions asked will help to maintain objective questioning of witnesses, no matter who is asking or being asked the questions. It’s human nature for most people to immediately form assumptions and theories following the incident. Keep in mind that this type of non-factual information is useless and adds nothing to the validity of the investigation.

All the gathered information will be carefully analyzed by the investigator to determine what elements are explainable and what elements still need an explanation. The chronology of the chain of events will be explored. Then, the actions of those involved are examined alongside concurrently occurring actions to see if any of the concurrently occurring actions had any bearing on the incident.

Following the analysis, the investigator will make a written report that contains a description of the incident, the circumstances and elements that led to the incident occurring, why the incident occurred, and any recommendations to prevent it from reoccurring. The report should accompany the physical documentation collected by the investigator.

Although an incident investigation is initially about investigating, it makes little sense to know the what, how, and such of the incident if nothing is done to prevent it from reoccurring. So, the last stage of the incident investigation is about implementing the recommended changes suggested in the final report. For optimal success during the implementation stage, the employer should assign a task force to ensure that the recommendations are put into place, supported from the top down, and are subsequently followed by everyone.

Workers’ Compensation for Martial Arts Instructors

By Workplace Safety

Teaching martial arts is a way for you to share your skills with students of all ages as you equip them to protect themselves. Whether you own your own martial arts school or teach martial arts as an independent contractor, understand Workers’ Compensation for martial arts instructors. It protects you and your assets.

What is Workers’ Compensation for Martial Arts Instructors?

You emphasize safety in all your martial art classes. However, accidents can happen at any time. You or one of your employees could be injured while sparring with an advanced student or receive a concussion from the blow of an inexperienced first-year student. An environmental or other condition in the studio could make you or your employees ill as you work, too. Workers’ Compensation protects you and your business.

A Workers’ Compensation insurance policy pays medical expenses, lost wages, vocational rehab and death benefits to employees who are injured or become ill because of work. It helps your employees get better and return to work as soon as possible.

It also protects your assets. You are responsible for the costs associated with treating an injury or illness that occurs on the job. These expenses can be high, causing you to lose your business or personal assets as you pay off the debt or cover related legal expenses.

Why Martial Arts Instructors Need Workers’ Compensation

In most cases, you must purchase Workers’ Compensation. Many states require this coverage.

Workers’ Compensation is also important for business owners. You will probably need to show it to your landlord when you lease your studio.

You will also want Workers’ Compensation if you teach martial arts as a self-employed independent contractor. Many martial art school owners will ask to see a copy of your policy before they hire you to teach.

Which Martial Art Instructors can Purchase Workers’ Compensation

All martial art instructors should purchase Workers’ Compensation. It protects you whether you use your skills to teach traditional martial arts classes, self defense classes or law enforcement or tactical defense classes.

Martial art instructor Workers’ Compensation does not cover military trainers, tournaments or competitions, athletic trainers or boxers.

For more details on which martial art instructors can purchase Workers’ Compensation, talk with your insurance agent. Discuss the types of classes you teach, how often you teach and where you teach as you determine how much Workers’ Compensation coverage you need.

How to Purchase Workers’ Compensation

Your insurance agent can help you purchase Workers’ Compensation for martial art instructors. He or she will also provide details about your coverage.

Workers’ Compensation for martial art instructors is an important part of your business. Be sure you have adequate insurance coverage before you teach your next class.

Cell Phone Safety Policies

By Workplace Safety

Employers with mobile employees should make sure that they are taking a proactive approach to ensuring that these employees are using their cell phones in a safe manner and not putting themselves and bystanders at risk of injury. Any employer with mobile employees should have a cell phone safety policy in place that clearly defines if and how cell phone usage is allowed while driving and what the repercussions for breaking the policy are. To help ensure that the cell phone safety policy is enforceable, reasonably fair, and realistic, employers might seek the input of their mobile employees and management team when creating the policy. Here are seven policy options to consider:

Safety Training For Drivers. 

Of course, you should ensure that all drivers of company vehicles have a valid driver’s license. Your policy should also definitely require that any mobile employee using a company vehicle complete a driver safety and defensive driving course before being handed the keys to a company vehicle. These safety courses often include demonstrations related to driver distraction from cell phone usage. This can be a real eye-opener for drivers that might have never seen the devastation caused by vehicle crashes firsthand.

Post Warnings in All Company Vehicles. 

A concise notice should be posted in all company vehicles. The notice should clearly state that cell phones shouldn’t be used while driving and that if the phone call is an emergency, then the operator should let a passenger make the call or pull over before using the cell phone.

Hands-Free Device Option. 

If feasible, your policy might be that mobile employees can only use hands-free devices when driving. While providing your mobile employees with a hands-free device isn’t going to ensure that the worker isn’t distracted by a phone conversation, hands-free devices have been shown to reduce distraction.

Answering Services or Call Forwarding Options. 

It might be hard for mobile workers and those trying to contact them to adjust to an answering service or call forwarding option, especially if workers have previously been allowed to make calls or answer their phone while driving, but the convenience of immediately answering or making a phone call during driving activities simply isn’t worth the risk and liability. After the mobile worker arrives at their destination, then they can check their messages and make appropriate return phone calls.

Turn the Cell Phone Off. 

Your cell phone safety policy could include the mobile employee shutting the cell phone off while he/she is driving the company vehicle. The employee can turn their cell phone on to make needed calls or check their answering or call waiting service once they’ve arrived at their destination. If turning the cell phone off is part of your cell phone safety policy as a method to reduce driver distraction, then the policy should also include any passengers turning their cell phones off as well.

Let Employees Take Responsibility. 

Most employees aren’t going to adhere to a policy that’s all talk and no action. The cell phone safety policy might also include making employees take responsibility for any fines or additional vehicle operation costs incurred from traffic violations related to illegal cell phone usage. The policy might also state a more harsh disciplinary measure for workers that acquire a certain amount of traffic violations.

Banning Cell Phones from Company Vehicles. 

Before making a total cell phone ban part of a cell phone safety policy, employers should understand that this could leave the employee unable to contact emergency services in the event of an accident or emergency. So, completely banning the use of company or personal cell phones during driving should only be considered after careful thought and as a last resort. It might be necessary if mobile employees continually ignore the above policy options or have repetitive cell phone traffic infractions.

Workers’ Compensation for Water Sport Businesses

By Workplace Safety

Owning a water sport business can be fun and a good investment, but you need to hire employees to help the business run smoothly. Be sure you purchase adequate Workers’ Compensation to cover your employees and protect your assets.

Covered Water Sport Businesses

Your water sports business could encompass dozens of activities in, on or near water. Whether you offer one or several sports, you will need Workers’ Compensation for your business. Example of water sports offerings include:

  • Fishing
  • Boating, Sailing, Yachting
  • Kayaking, Tubing, Canoeing
  • White Water Rafting
  • Jet or Water Skiing
  • Parasailing
  • Kneeboarding, Skimboarding
  • Kitesurfing, Kiteboarding
  • Hoverboarding, Flyboarding, Wakeboarding
  • Paddleboarding, Paddle Surfing
  • Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
  • Swimming and Diving
  • Polo
  • Surfing

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Many states require business owners to purchase Workers’ Compensation for employees, including seasonal and temporary workers. It pays certain expenses employees incur if they are injured or suffer an illness while performing work-related tasks.

Workers’ Compensation benefits can pay for:

  • Medical care
  • Lost wages
  • Death benefits
  • Vocational rehabilitation

Every Workers’ Compensation insurance policy has two parts.

Part One or Coverage A addresses your statutory liability, meaning the coverage your state requires you to carry. It includes no coverage limits and will pay all claims regardless of any benefit changes your state makes.

Part Two addresses employer liability for any employees that are exempt from Worker’s Compensation coverage. These employees could include independent contractors like boat owners or dive instructors who do not purchase their own Worker’s Compensation policy. Part Two can also cover legal expenses from third-party lawsuits.

Why you Need Workers’ Compensation for Your Water Sport Business

Whether your business operates year-round or seasonally, you value your employees and want to protect them from injuries or illnesses. However, accidents happen. You will want to provide financial resources that help your employees navigate their recovery and return to full health and work as quickly as possible.

Adequate Workers’ Compensation protects your business, too. It can protect your assets if you are sued by an employee, and it can pay legal expenses related to any lawsuits. Workers’ Compensation coverage also protects you from fines levied by your state if you don’t purchase adequate coverage.

Contact Your Insurance Agent

For more information on Workers’ Compensation for your specific water sport businesses, contact your insurance agent. He or she will assist you in understanding and complying with your state’s Workers’ Compensation laws. Your agent will also help you purchase the policy that’s right for your business and needs.

With the right Workers’ Compensation policy, you receive peace of mind. It protects your employees and your assets as you help your customers have fun while playing on the water.

Substance Abuse Programs Prevent Workplace Injuries

By Workplace Safety

According to statistics from the United States Department of Labor, 40% of industrial fatalities and 47% of individual injuries received on the job are due to intoxication from alcohol. This combined with the fact that businesses suffer related losses of five hundred million workdays and over eight billion dollars each year underscores the fact that alcoholic and drug-dependent employees are very dangerous for businesses. These unfortunate laborers drain the economy of much-needed growth and productivity.

Today, the troublesome situations created by employees suffering from addictions do not just apply to the usage of heavy machinery. Employees also have access to sensitive information about the company. This information when improperly handled leads to gaping liabilities that can exact a high toll on businesses.

The prevailing wisdom about alcoholic or drug-dependent employees is that they can be found in businesses of every size and more importantly every kind. Research actually reveals a different picture: employees with alcohol- or drug-related problems tend to seek out smaller businesses with no formal written policy prohibiting drug or alcohol consumption. This research would seem to explain a seeming disparity. The total population of illicit drug users is estimated to be just under fifteen million. Of those, 77% are employed. However, of heavy drinkers who are employed, just 17% work for companies that have employee rosters of five hundred or more.

Therefore, the best way to protect the workplace from alcoholic and drug-addicted employees is to instill a strict company policy against substance abuse combined with a drug- and alcohol-free program. Obviously each company must implement this program and policy in their own way due to their idiosyncratic circumstances, but there are five components that any program must have in order to succeed: drug and alcohol testing, employee education, employee assistance, the policy itself, and supervisor and manager training.

As each company takes the first steps towards setting up this program, the key element needs to be the formal written policy. In addition, the written policy should be displayed in as many areas as possible to remind employees of their responsibilities. Businesses must make it clear to their employees that the reasoning behind their adoption of this policy and program is for their employees’ benefit, in addition to preventing profit loss or liability resulting from employee injury. The written policy must include a description of prohibited behaviors and the consequences for engaging in those behaviors, set down in clear, understandable English.

Supervisor and manager training is necessary due to the influence and direct interaction supervisors have with their workforce. It is important to make a distinction between roles: supervisors are not meant to diagnose substance abuse problems, but their training should emphasize how to recognize poor employee performance and the possible symptoms of substance abuse, as well as where to refer employees for help. As for employee education, employees must be made aware of the personal and professional consequences of addiction as well as the specifics of the company’s policy and program efforts.

When starting a drug testing program, due to the multiple legalities involved, the Department of Labor recommends getting legal counseling before implementing a drug testing program. Finally, through the Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workforce, the DOL has set up many resources in order to help American businesses achieve the goals of helping employees end their substance abuse. These resources may be found at

Understand The Jones Act And Maritime Injury Claims

By Workplace Safety

Seamen who suffer an injury on the job are protected by the Jones Act. Also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, these laws include many components that support safe working conditions for employees in the vibrant maritime industry.

Who Does the Jones Act Protect?

According to the Act, seamen have the right to work in a safe environment. They may file a civil suit and maritime injury claim if they are the victim of an accident or injury on the job.

The act covers all seamen who work aboard or support the function of a maritime vessel on navigable waters. The seamen must spend at least 30 percent of their workday on the vessel to be protected by the Jones Act.

Why is the Jones Act Important?

The Jones Act makes vessels safer for seamen as it forces vessels to follow U.S. laws and holds employers responsible for their employees’ safety. It supports the United States military as it ensures private vessels are safe and ready to function properly before, during and after war time. It also ensures the safety and productivity of seamen on the nearly 40,000 vessels that support the country’s economy.

Potential Jones Act Claims

Every Jones Act claim is treated individually, and damages depend on the individual situation and details. Seamen may claim several things when they file a Jones Act claim.

Lost Wages – Receive payment for present lost wages, a portion of future earnings and losses of vacation time, pensions, 401k contributions and other benefits.

Medical Costs – Receive payment for present and future medical expenses related to the accident or injury. These claims can include:

  • Medically-necessary equipment
  • Mental health care
  • Occupational or physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery
  • Transportation to treatment

Punitive Damages – Receive payment for medical costs, lost wages or pain and suffering from accidents and injuries caused by an unseaworthy vessel or employer negligence.

Wrongful Death – Receive payment to cover the funeral or lost wages and special needs of the seaman’s dependent children if the seaman dies while on duty.

Pain and Suffering – Receive payment for mental and physical pain suffered.

How to File a Jones Act Claim

When a qualified seaman is injured on the job, he or she may file a claim for damages. By law, the claim must be filed within seven days of the injury. It should also be reported to the Captain or supervisor, and an official maritime accident report detailing the injury or accident is required.

The Jones Act allows seamen to file maritime injury claims. It protects seamen and is important for the Americans they protect and support.