New OSHA Target: Midwest Manufacturers

OSHA has a new focus areaosha_logo_pub for targeted inspections – Manufacturing industries in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska (OSHA Region 7).   The safety agency has what it calls regional emphasis programs that identify industries with injury and illness rates that are above national averages.

When OSHA adds an industry to its regional emphasis program, companies in that industry are more likely to receive inspections and those inspections tend to be much more detailed.  One of the main criteria OSHA uses in placing an industry on the emphasis program is its Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate.  The national DART rate for private industry is 3.3.  The other criteria is what is called serious violation rate per inspection (SVPI).

Five Things Companies Should To to Prepare for OSHA

  1. Aggressive Occupational Health Management – Research has shown that one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce OSHA recordables, like DART, and lower workers comp costs is to help workers stay healthy.  That means strength and functional assessments on the front end to make sure workers aren’t assigned duties that exacerbate pre-existing conditions.  It also means that, if there is an incident, the company helps get workers the right treatment at the right time.  Many incidents are mis-characterized as OSHA recordables because the worker was not given the right level of treatment immediately after the incident occurs.   Lifeline Strategies is working with one of the leaders in integrated occupational health, CORE Health Networks.
  2. Safety Program Management – Start by looking at your overall safety and training, because that is the first thing OSHA will look at.   Many companies that think they have safety programs really just have a bunch of policies gathering dust on the shelf.   Make sure your program is up-to-date and addresses the actual risks that workers face on the job.
  3. Communicate and Train to Your Safety Program – Safety programs are useless if the workers who need to rely on them don’t understand them and follow them every day.  OSHA has realized that and is increasingly looking at management commitment and worker engagement on safety.
  4. Prep For OSHA Inspections – Some companies with great safety records can look very bad in an OSHA inspection if they don’t know what to expect.  Make sure safety professionals and management know what takes place during an OSHA inspection, what inspectors will want to see and management’s responsibilities under the law.  It may be worth holding a surprise inspection drill.
  5. Understand Changing OSHA Requirements – The rules on what needs to be reported, when and how to follow-up have changed and will change again in the next few months.  Companies that didn’t know about the changes or ignored them have been hit with thousands of dollars of fines.

If you need help with any of these recommendations, contact us at info@lifelinestrategies.com.

According to its criteria, OSHA will target the following industries in those states:

For DART rates

  • food
  • nonmetallic mineral products
  • fabricated metal products
  • machinery
  • computer and electronic products
  • furniture and related products (337).

For SVPI data

  • beverage and tobacco products
  • wood products
  • printing and related support
  • primary metal
  • miscellaneous

 

Weird Workers Comp Claim: Shot at the Shooting Range

Law enforcement officers regular face dangerous situations, but Dalworthington Gardens Police Chief Bill Waybourn didn’t expect the shooting range to be one of them.  The chief was teaching a concealed handgun class when one of his students shot him in the hand.  Officials in the town of 2200 agreed that the shooting came in the line of duty and OK’d workers comp.  Although the class wasn’t officially a city-authorized function, town fathers decided it helped with public awareness.

That would have been the end of it, except that Waybourn is now running for sheriff and it has turned into a bit of a campaign issue.   The chief had made headlines by offering free classes to teachers after a school shooting and to military personnel after an attack on service personnel in Tennessee last year.   This time, though, the student was a doctor and the shooting occurred after the gun jammed.  In the campaign, there were questions whether the injury was truly work-related.

No word on whether the student got a failing grade, but we can only assume.

 

 

Oh, My Aching Back!

ferrari-1111580_1280Companies that want to hold down workers comp and other occupational health costs should take a hard look at how they are addressing back problems.   OSHA says one-in-five workplace injuries is are back-related.  It causes untold misery for employees and limits their on-the-job ability.  For employers it is a nightmare.  According to the Integrated Benefits Institute, low-back pain costs employers $51,400 annually per 100 employees in lost productivity and medical treatments.

What can employers do to reduce painful back injuries and the related costs in the workplace?  CORE Health Networks, a leading provider of integrated occupational health, practices a three-pronged approach:

  1. Make sure new hires are fit for their new job duties – CORE arranges and reviews simple exams or more involved functional assessments from more than 1300 occupational clinics to make sure new hires do not have congenital or existing conditions that could put them at risk for particular duties.
  2. Medical surveillance – Some of our most experienced, valuable workers are the most at risk because of the potential for injury in an aging workforce.  If an employee’s health or medical conditions change, CORE can review the change to help determine if they are fit for their current duties and what alternative duties may allow them to return to work without increasing the risk of injury.
  3. Post-incident intervention – The company provides a hotline to RNs with experience in injury care, workers comp and OSHA recordkeeping requirements.  Medical studies have shown that early intervention and ongoing communication with workers is effective in getting them the right care at the right time and allowing them to return to work sooner.  Under one study, early intervention was shown to reduce time away from the job for back injuries in half.

What else works?   Certainly it is important to train workers on proper techniques for lifting object.  It is more important to analyze whether there are alternatives to lifting those objects at all.  Some companies have even started stretching exercises with their workers and reporting surprisingly good result.

If you would like more information on back injuries and prevention techniques, OSHA has a good resource here. 

If you would like to learn more about CORE Health Networks, feel free to contact me at kwells@corehealthnet.com.

Occupational Medicine: Right Care/Right Now

COREHEALTHlogoI am pleased to announce that I have taken on CORE Health Networks as a client.   If you are not familiar with CORE, it is one of the leading providers of integrated occupational medicine.

Maintaining a healthy workforce is one key to  managing bottom line costs and to ensuring both productivity and employee engagement.   Unfortunately, businesses that try to tackle management of worker occupational health on their own can find that it eats up their time and the potential savings.   A high level of expertise and administrative support that is required to handle:

  • Substance abuse testing, compliance and medical screening and other steps that may be involved in bringing on new employees,
  • Ongoing medical surveillance during a worker’s career, and
  • The potential for injury, OSHA recordables and worker’s comp expense if there is a workplace incident.

How important is it to have a handle on workplace health and injuries?  CORE did a case study of one client’s major projects.   More than 1500 employees were given functional assessment exams before they were cleared to work the project.   Some 17% were found to have existing conditions that could have resulted in injuries or health problems given the nature of the work.  In five of those cases, the employees were found to have serious medical conditions that required immediate attention and most had been unaware of their condition.  In the end, the test potentially saved the company an estimated $2.5 million.

What attracted me to CORE was its hands-on approach to employee occupational health and the medical recordkeeping that it requires.  Their approach includes:

  • Building a coast-to-coast network of 1300 clinics so that clients can find convenient locations, know that the right tests and paperwork will be in place and benefit from negotiated pricing.
  • Hands-on management of medical clearances to get qualified workers on the job as efficiently as possible.
  • In the event of an incident, an employee or supervisor can be on the phone immediately with an RN with experience in patient care, OSHA recordkeeping and local Workers Comp laws.  This early intervention and follow-up case management means employees get the right care at the right time.
  • Maintaining an electronic medical records system to meet HPAA requirements and store records for OSHA’s mandatory 30-year period.

Please contact me if you want more information at kwells@corehealthnet.com.