Back Injury Prevention

Every seven seconds a worker is injured on the job. Even more shocking, after the common cold, “back injuries are the most common reason for nonattendance in the general workforce.” Back pain, irrespective of how the employee came to be injured, can make it difficult to concentrate on their work. Even employees who spend the majority of their day behind a desk can incur back pain.

 

Whenever possible, create a work environment for yourself that is “back friendly.” Store items on shelves in the middle, with higher and lower shelves reserved to store lighter objects. Remember to be conscious of repeating certain movements that involve twisting the spine, as this could cause injury over time.

 

This is our high-level look at preventing back injuries in an office environment. Contact us to learn more and about risk management and workers’ compensation programs offered at Vensure.

 

 

The Good Body: 15 Shocking Back Injury Statistics

 

 

Preventing Eye Strain

Eye strain has become a major job-related issue for many who spend most of their day looking at a computer screen(s). Tips for helping reduce eye strain include adjusting your monitor position and height, reducing glare from overhead lighting, and giving yourself regular breaks, in addition to annual exams. The American Optometric Association recommends the 20-20-20 rule: “take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.” Vensure can help to ensure your employees have access to a competitive benefits program. Contact us to learn more.

 

 

https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome

 

 

 

Telehealth Basics

Telehealth, or telemedicine, “is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access healthcare services remotely and manage your healthcare.”

 

Telehealth offers a number of benefits for both doctors and patients including making healthcare services more readily available for people with limited mobility or transportation, easier access to medical specialists, digital communication with doctors or nurses, prescription refill requests, and more.

 

Here are the top reasons why clients are providing telehealth as a supplementary product:

 

Millennials
As the largest growing percentage of today’s workforce, Millennials are more likely to adopt new technology than other generations in the workplace. Telehealth options are great for Millennials and for employers who are looking for other ways to show employee appreciation.

 

Fewer PTO Requests
Telehealth alleviates the concern for employees who stress about having to take time off work to physically attend doctor visits. Employees will no longer feel like they have to miss appointments or cancel preventive care appointments. Rather, telehealth allows the employee to connect with a doctor from their home, on the road, on their lunch break…wherever!

 

No Training Required
Unlike some other supplementary products, telehealth doesn’t require any additional training to participate. The employee should be able to access the virtual doctor/health visit through their PC, smartphone, or tablet. For those less tech-savvy individuals, most telehealth providers offer phone visits, as well.

 

 

Telehealth has given hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities the ability to provide care to patients anywhere they require access to services via phone, mobile app, or web.  If you’re considering telehealth for your employees, contact Vensure to learn more about combining technology with employee health.

 

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878

 

 

 

After an Injury: The First 24-Hours

A series of events are set in motion the moment an injury occurs. The repercussions of the injury can last for weeks or months. This is what makes the first 24-hours after an injury the most crucial. Much of the success around properly handled workplace injuries comes from having a well-designed and tested 24-hour response plan in place.

Training and Communication
Train employees in advance, so they are not confused about their responsibilities. Advance training for supervisors will allow them to take an active role in managing the situation and response. Training should take place annually to reassure employee confidence.

Prompt Medical Treatment
Injuries need to be assessed by a licensed medical professional as quickly as possible. It is incredibly important to determine the type and severity of the injury and to take appropriate medical action.

Judicious Reporting
After the employee has received medical attention, the next step is to report the injury to appropriate parties. Timely reporting is one of the most critical outcomes of adequate training and results in a rapid return to work.

Returning to Work
Whenever possible, employers should facilitate a return to work program. These programs result in better health outcomes and preserve many essential benefits for the employee that is contingent on attendance. Let the injured employee know that you care about their well-being. Give the injured employee forms to take to their doctor allowing the medical provider to authorize their return to work along with noting any temporary restrictions. Finally, follow-up with the employee to formulate a plan to return them to work.

Vensure’s goal is to assist the injured employee in making a full and timely recovery so they can get back to work through careful monitoring and processing of their claim. Learn more about our underwriting and claims services!

 

Use Technology to Improve Workplace Safety

U.S. companies shell out close to $60 billion each year to cover workplace injuries where employees miss six or more days of work. It is no wonder that tech companies are opting to help find ways to improve workplace safety. Technology focused on improving safety conditions for employees and their health is getting better each year. But when people think about technology in the workplace they typically think about improving workers’ productivity. Employers are starting to embrace new technology, such as virtual reality, wearables, and drones.

Virtual Reality (VR)
This technology replicates physical environments while simultaneously presenting training opportunities for employees. VR also allows workers to simulate hazardous tasks and identify safety needs. As the technology matures in this area, additional benefits will be uncovered.

Wearables
Used for more than just personal fitness, wearables, or wearable devices, offer real-time monitoring of workers’ vital signs and can send alert the operator if any environmental dangers present. An added bonus to employers is that wearables can provide an idea of what may have caused an employee’s injury before filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Drones
Sending drones into high-hazard areas in place of humans allows workers to safely assess the damage and plan the emergency response. Additionally, drones can be used for commercial building or rooftop inspections.

These technologies have provided companies a way to overhaul the way they not only interact with each other and their workers but also how they keep themselves and their employees safe.

Connect with Vensure Employer Services to learn more about our comprehensive workers’ compensation outsourcing program.

https://www.libertymutualgroup.com/about-liberty-mutual-site/news-site/Pages/2017-Liberty-Mutual-Workplace-Safety-Index.aspx

Construction Job Site Cellphone Use Risks

Mobile technology is a valuable tool for the construction industry. However, construction workers are asked to leave their devices behind due to possible site risks.

 

Cellphones, a necessary method of communication on job sites, distract workers from potential hazards and recommended safety practices. Despite an absence of OSHA regulations pertaining exclusively to cellphones on the job site, OSHA can cite employers for violating the General Duty Clause, which states the requirement to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. Cellphones fall into that category.

 

Minimizing Safety Risks
Employers in the construction industry should consider the following recommendations regarding cellphone use on construction sites:

    • Enact and enforce clear policies that prohibit texting and talking on a cellphone while operating any kind of motorized vehicle on-site.
    • Limit or prohibit cellphone use in specific areas where distractions could create employee hazards, regardless of whether the employees are operating motorized vehicles.
    • For company-issued cellphones, consider the use of applications that block internet access and texting functionality while in a moving vehicle.
    • Make construction sites cellphone-free zones, and post signs in designated areas to remind workers. Only allow workers access to their cellphones during break periods and in designated areas.

 

Insurance rates can be affected by job site cellphone use, also. As distracted employees may cause an increase in accidents, the cost of workers’ compensation and other insurance coverage is likely to increase.

 

Even without distractions from cellphones, construction sites can be hazardous. Enforcing safety practices and consistently holding workers accountable can prevent unnecessary workplace accidents and costly liability.

 

Contact Vensure Employer Services for more information on minimizing the risk of job site cellphone use or sign up for our next OSHA Construction Training program today!

Four Commonly Overlooked Office Hazards

Generally, most people assume that a desk job in a well-designed, modern office environment would be safer than working at an industrial site. Unfortunately, while office-related injuries are not as dramatic as those obtained at a construction site or manufacturing plant, they are incredibly common and are every bit as costly to employers.

 

According to the National Safety Council, the top work-related causes of injury “account for more than 85% of all nonfatal injuries involving days away from work.” The top three causes include overexertion and bodily reaction, contact with objects and equipment, and slips, trips, and falls.

 

Here is our list of the top four commonly overlooked office hazards and suggestions for preventing them:

    • Ergonomic Strain
      Posture and repetitive movements (mouse and keyboard) can result in ergonomic strain and injury. In addition to regular safety training, employees should receive annual instruction on how to set-up, adjust, and best operate equipment to ensure the best workstation fit.

 

    • Preventable Falls
      Many falls could be prevented if the employee was alert and distraction-free (not walking and texting/answering emails), stood up to reach something, closing desk or file drawers, and ensuring electrical cords/wires are tucked away. Remind employees to help each other stay safe by reporting any loose carpet or flooring, cleaning up spills (including any dropped ice), and stay alert when walking around the office.

 

    • Equipment Degradation
      Desks and chairs are equipment just like any other office equipment. This means that they can wear out just like any other equipment, also. However, companies are slow or reluctant to replace desks and chairs due to upfront costs. Inspect employee desks and chairs regularly, replacing or repairing any damaged equipment right away. Additionally, it is a good idea to build these regular types of repairs or replacement into your annual budget.

 

    • Inclement Weather
      Many times it is the inside of the building where employee safety is a concern when it comes to slips, trips, and falls. However, inclement weather (rain, snow, ice, etc.) can bring upon outdoor hazards on steps, ramps/walkways, entries and exits, and parking lots. Invest in nonslip runners or non-skid pavers to ensure employee safety without compromising your outdoor look and feel.

 

Download our Loss Control and Safety forms here!

 

Looking to get OSHA certified? Click here to view our training schedule and book your seat. Classes are filling up quickly!

 

Overlooking Health and Safety Can Come at a High Price

When David Lindsay, Senior Loss Control Analyst and Field Support for Vensure, began his career in loss control nearly twenty years ago, he was not sure what OSHA was. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was created after Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The primary function of OSHA is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. David’s desire to preserve the quality of human life and his love of meeting/talking to new people made him the perfect candidate for Vensure’s loss control team. The team, led by Bill Marshall, Director of Loss Control, has over 50 years of safety and loss control experience. Each member of the team has varying backgrounds with specialized experience in one or more of the following: Department of Defense safety standards, construction, transportation, and general industry. This combined experience allows each Loss Control Specialist to properly assess job risks associated with a company’s working environment.
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Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” Not only is providing a safe work environment for your employees the right thing to do, but it also increases employee morale, employee retention, and productivity. Too often an employers’ reason for not taking preventative safety measures in their work environment is the loss of productivity. David tells us, “In my first few months of being in loss control, I was directed to perform an accident investigation for a fabrication shop where an amputation involving multiple fingers had just occurred. During the investigation, the employer informed me that on occasion the metal shear on a machine would close on its own. When asked why he allowed the employee to operate faulty machinery, the manager responded that he told the employee about the issue and it was the employee’s responsibility to pay more attention.”

David states, “We stress to our clients the cost and time to put in safety measures, such as repairing faulty machinery, would prove to be less than the loss of productivity. The direct cost of the injury and the increased workers’ compensation rates alone could be enormous. Our goal as Loss Control Specialists for Vensure is to help our clients put measures in place to prevent employees from paying the highest price – losing their quality of life, or their life altogether, in exchange for production.”

Vensure’s loss control team offers OSHA 10-Hour General Industry and Construction training programs free to clients. The trainers are authorized by OSHA to conduct 10 and 30-hour courses under OSHA guidelines. They cover a variety of general industry and construction safety and health hazards that a worker may encounter at their worksite, as well as emphasize hazard identification, avoidance, control and prevention, fall protection, personal protective equipment, scaffolding, OSHA inspection procedures and more.

If employers were to make it a habit of not only valuing their employees’ input and feedback on safety issues and concerns but also taking advantage of a loss control preventative training program, they would see an increase in the safety and health of their employees and a decrease in their risk.

For assistance with your loss control needs, or to find out more about the free OSHA training provided by Vensure Employer Services, please reach out to the Vensure loss control department by emailing: losscontrol@vensure.com.

5 Tips to Manage Stress at Work

With deadlines, quotas, and projects, it’s normal to occasionally experience stress at work. However, when it affects your productivity or your life outside of work, it’s a problem. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce the stressful aspects of your job. Here are five tips that can help you manage stress in your workplace.

1. Use relaxation techniques

If it’s hard for you to leave the stress behind when you leave work, relaxation techniques can help. Physical activities, such as going for a walk outside or participating in a sport or hobby can help you unwind and relieve stress, as can more relaxing activities such as meditation, yoga, visualization or only listening to calming music or sounds. Any activity that requires you to focus on something else can help you forget about the stress at work.

2. Plan your work day

Poor time management creates stress at work and it leaves you unable to complete projects or to be in too many places at once, but planning your work day carefully will help you prioritize your tasks and obligations so you aren’t always running behind. Make a habit of creating a daily to-do list and prioritize your tasks. Not only will you stay focused, but you won’t waste time or fall behind doing unnecessary tasks.

3. Avoid overloading

Having too much on your plate causes you to work under pressure and creates stress. Learn to manage expectations when you are overloaded with work and don’t promise more than you can handle. Similarly, learn when to delegate. You can avoid unnecessary stress when you utilize team work. There are many free task management systems available that can significantly increase production, as well as cut down on the worry that you have forgotten something very important. If you have thought about a needing to accomplish a task more than once, you have spent too much time. Jot it down in your task management system, set the date and free your mind.

4. Communicate clearly

Poor communication with colleagues can also result in workplace stress. Instead of getting irritated, which creates tension and stress, communicate your problems and concerns with co-workers. Being respectful yet assertive with demanding or difficult co-workers can reduce unnecessary stress and make the work environment better for everyone.

5. Minimize interruptions

Emails, phone calls, and visits are distractions that make it hard to focus and keep you from getting things done. You can minimize these interruptions by setting aside a particular time for answering personal emails and phone calls. Simple things, such as closing your office door or putting on your headphones will let your co-workers know that you’re busy working and can’t be interrupted.

Workplace stress is a common issue faced by many people around the world. The good news is that there are ways to manage it and keep it under control. By learning to relax, planning your work day and communicating with your co-workers, you’ll reduce stress and make your job more enjoyable.

Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Don’t let it get to that point. Take the necessary steps to be on top of your workload.

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace: What Employers Need to Know

Whether for recreational or medical purposes, marijuana use is rising across the country. The legalization of marijuana in a growing number of states has left employers concerned about the impact the new marijuana laws will have on their businesses. Business owners must now ask:

  • How will marijuana use impact workplace safety?
  • Can I be sued for discrimination if my organization’s drug use policy doesn’t align with an employee’s medical marijuana use?
  • How do I create an effective workplace drug policy?
  • How will legalized marijuana use impact the organization’s bottom line?

The Cannabis Controversy

According to Christine Clearwater, President of Drug-Free Solutions Group, the legalization of marijuana doesn’t mean employers must adopt more lenient drug policies. Clearwater, who specializes in substance abuse in the workplace, says the polarized discussion surrounding marijuana laws tends to overshadow statistics business owners should be aware of, which include:

  • Car accidents involving marijuana use rose 300% between 2010 and 2013. This number is expected to rise as more states adopt laws legalizing the drug.
  • Marijuana is a psychologically addictive substance.
  • Today’s marijuana is 10 to 20 times stronger than the marijuana of the 1960s and 1970s.

Clearwater says business owners should put aside legal, moral, and ethical concerns when creating an effective workplace drug policy. Your drug policy is a business decision, albeit an important one.

How Will Marijuana Use Impact Workplace Safety?

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, affects coordination, reaction time, depth perception, and other motor skills. THC can also cause sensory distortion. Operating heavy machinery, driving a forklift, or even transporting materials in a vehicle can be dangerous for someone under the influence of THC.

According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees who used marijuana reported 55% more workplace accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% more absences compared to employees who tested negative for the drug. A few other ways marijuana use can impact the organization’s bottom line are:

  • Decreased productivity
  • High turnover
  • Lawsuits
  • Increased unemployment benefit and Worker’s Compensation claims

Clearwater says employers should expect to spend about $7,000 per year (excluding unemployment claims and legal action) on an employee who abuses marijuana. With an estimated one in six employees having a substance abuse problem, a company with 500 employees can end up spending almost $600,000 a year on employees who abuse drugs. Employers must consider how their drug policy reflects on the organization as a whole.

State Statutes Provide Protection for Employers

While marijuana use among employees presents several legal challenges, most case law sides with employers who penalize or discriminate against workers who test positive for cannabis, even if the employee or potential employee has a medical marijuana card. In some states, however, like Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine, the case law sides with the employee. The state protects employees’ rights and safeguards against punitive action for medical marijuana use.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, and it is still illegal. The drug has been deemed by federal law to have no accepted medical purpose and a high potential for abuse. Federal law supersedes state law.

Employers should be aware that:

  • When dealing with a claim, it must be proven that the marijuana substantially contributed to the cause of the accident and the employer must have a drug policy and not have been aware of the use. Since THC can stay in the blood for as long a month after use, it’s hard to identify when it was ingested. It is very difficult to fight a Worker’s Comp claim where marijuana was found
  • Most state health insurance will refuse to cover medical marijuana.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act sides with employers with respect to medical marijuana.
  • Certain industries/organizations are required to abide by federal law, regardless of the states they are operating in.

Building a Sober Workforce

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, new state marijuana laws make finding workers who meet strict drug-screening criteria increasingly difficult. This has negatively affected employers in safety-sensitive industries, who are more likely to maintain zero-tolerance policies with respect to marijuana use. One such construction company located in Colorado has had to look out of state to find workers to test drug-free.

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States and the most frequently detected substance in workplace drug testing. In 2014, 6.8 million adults between the ages of 18 and 25 (19.6%) and 13.5 million adults over the age of 26 (6.6%) were estimated to have used marijuana. Having a solid workplace drug policy is the best way to keep your organization drug-free.

What is Included in a Good Drug Policy?

Studies show drug testing is effective at reducing employee drug use. An employee is three times less likely to test positive for a substance if they are tested regularly. Consider expanding the testing panel to include commonly abused prescription drugs to further protect your bottom line.

A good drug policy will also include:

  • Support for employees who abuse drugs (i.e. drug assistance program, referrals to local resources)
  • Clearly defined rules for drug use and possession
  • Rules and procedures for post-accident testing
  • Training and instructions for managers and anyone else who must enforce the policy
  • Rules for handling an employee arrest or conviction

With the use of medical marijuana in a growing number of states, having each employee sign the drug policy you have in place, enforcing that policy and consistently reminding your employees of the expectations will help ensure you are doing what you can to avoid problems.