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August 2014

A Healthy Bottom Line Means Healthy Employees

Allan Posted by Allan Brown

In today's business world we are faced with escalating healthcare costs. Employees are asked to contribute more to the cost of their healthcare policy and employers are providing wellness programs and incentives to change behavior and ultimately improve employee's health and reduce costs. Smart investments can work to bring these costs down, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This remains true in health and workers' compensation. MEMIC prides itself on partnering with employers to create safe workplaces so injuries don’t happen and helping employees recover from injury as quickly as possible. Changing workplace culture by emphasizing prevention helped bring workers’ comp costs in Maine down by more than 50% and lost-time injuries down by about 40% since MEMIC’s inception in 1993.[i]

Preventing injuries still remains a primary focus but has become more complicated as the percentage of obese and overweight workers has reached epidemic proportions. The adult obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled in 20 years, from less than 12% in 1991 to more than 27% in 2011.[ii] Studies have shown what common sense knows: the range of medical treatment and time to recover are all greater for obese employees, with medical costs being three times higher in the first year and five times higher at 60 months.[iii] This is one reason why MEMIC has begun helping employers meet this challenge and in the past 3 years we have focused on expanding  the traditional emphasis of workplace safety to include ergonomics and wellness.

You don’t have to be a big company to be serious about employee wellness. In many states, like Maine, employers with 20 or fewer employees are allowed an annual tax credit for comprehensive workplace wellness programs.[iv] Putting a focus on employee wellness does not need to be expensive or time consuming. You may have heard people say “Sitting is the new smoking.” Something as simple as doing regular stand and stretch breaks can be a great place to start. See my other post about the little things that can cause back pain: http://memicsafety.typepad.com/memic_safety_blog/2012/05/the-little-things-can-cause-back-pain.html

 

Here is a list of workplace wellness program resources:

WellSteps has free webinars, presentations and tools as does the National Wellness Institute.

(Note: national groups like National Wellness Institute and WellSteps may have local partners with dual membership like Lifeline Center for Workplace Wellness or Wellness Council of Maine.)

WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) has free resources like case studies, presentations, surveys and samples.

The American Heart Associations’ Fit-Friendly Worksites Program has a free worksite wellness toolkit and employee resources, such as an online activity tracker, walking and exercise programs, and healthy eating resources.

National Business Group for Health offers resources and represents large employers' perspective on national health policy issues.

Partnership for Workplace Mental Health works with businesses to ensure that employees and their families living with mental illness, including substance use disorders, receive effective care.

National Health Awards offers descriptions of award winning employee health promotion programs.

Scoping paper by the Australian Government: “Overweight and obesity: implications for workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation

CDC (Centers for Disease Control) offers a variety of resources including Healthier Worksite Initiative, National Healthy Worksite Program and Workplace Health Promotion.

  Stretchbreak1



First Aid Supplies - When, Where, What...

Mike Havel 2013 Posted by Mike Havel

Many places of employment have first aid kits hung on walls of offices, break rooms, locker rooms, and production areas.  But what are some of the requirements for having these first aid kits, what should be in them, and where should they be located?

The OSHA General Industry standard 29 CFR 1910.151 Medical Services and First-Aid specifies three requirements for addressing employee matters of health:

a) Ready availability of medical personnel for advice and consultation on matters of plant health;

b) Adequately trained person or persons to render first aid, in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity;

c) Where the eyes or body of a person could be exposed to injurious corrosive chemicals, adequate facilities for quick drenching and flushing of the eyes and body shall be readily available.

Note: Logging operations are subject to the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.266 where the mandatory inclusion at worksites and required contents are specifically identified.  See the OSHA Safety and Health Topics page for Logging for specific information for the logging industry.

If an employer has selected to have employees trained to render first aid, then the supplies must be “adequate, should reflect the kinds of injuries that occur, and must be stored in an area where they are readily available for emergency access” per the OSHA Best Practices Guide: Fundamentals of a Workplace First-Aid Program. 

The guide goes on to recommend that the minimal contents of a workplace first aid kit follow those prescribed by the American National Standards Institute ANSI Z308.1 - 2009, Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits.  The REQUIRED items are:

  • (1) First Aid Guide
  • (1) Absorbent Compress, 4" x 8" minimum
  • (16) Adhesive Bandages, 1" x 3"
  • (1) Adhesive Tape, 2.5 yard roll
  • (10) Antiseptic Treatment Applications, 0.9 gram each
  • (6) Burn Treatment Applications, 0.9 gram each
  • (4) Sterile Gauze Pads, 3" x 3"
  • (2) Pair Medical Exam Gloves
  • (1) Triangular Bandage, 40" x 40" x 56" minimum
  • (8) Antibiotic Ointment Treatment Applications, 0.5 gram each

The common ratio for these most basic kits is for there to be one kit per ten employees in the workplace at one time.  For large operations, employers should determine how many first-aid kits are needed, and if it is appropriate to augment the kits with additional first-aid equipment and supplies. 

Your first aid kit should be a part of a regular inspection program to ensure that it meets these minimum requirements and that any items with expiration dates are current.  One recommendation is to give a specific person the responsibility to regularly inspect the contents of the first aid kits and ensure that adequate supplies are available in the kit based on the kind of injuries that occur in the workplace. 

For additional information on recommended practices for workplace first aid programs, see the OSHA.gov website on Medical and First Aid or OSHA’s https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3317first-aid.pdf, available on the OSHA.gov website.


Workers' Compensation Fraud: A "Victimless Crime"?

Stephen Badger 2014 Posted by Stephen Badger

Workers’ Compensation insurance fraud is a “victimless crime” so no one really gets hurt, right?

Wrong!

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that insurance fraud in the United States tops $80 billion every year and costs each family approximately $950 in expenses that could be better used elsewhere .[1]  Everything from the insurance rates we pay, to the price for groceries, and the cost for household products are affected by fraud. 

There are truly no “winners “when it comes to insurance fraud.  The perpetrators of these crimes aren’t really winning since when they are caught, not only do they have to pay a large fine but they can also spend long periods of time in jail.[2]   And the perpetrator’s family doesn’t win, since their income and support is lost when imprisoned.

The unfortunate reality is that workers’ compensation insurance fraud is a common occurrence, but it often goes unreported even by the very people that are most affected by it. Employers and other employees often turn a blind eye to the problem because they do not want to get involved. Some of the more common reasons fraud goes unreported are:

• “It’s only a small amount of money…”
• “I’m not sure who to talk to about it…”
• “I don’t want anyone to know it was me that reported it…”
• “The big insurance company can afford it…”

Insurance fraud is still a crime, even if it’s only a few hundred dollars; there is no minimal amount of money that makes this crime acceptable.  Employers and employees alike need to address this issue and not just accept it as a fact of life.  If you believe workers’ compensation insurance fraud is occurring in your workplace, MEMIC has created two ways to report it anonymously:  1) fill out a confidential form on www.memic.com and submit it electronically to MEMIC or; 2) call 1(800) ABUSE WC.

You can also access additional information through MEMIC’s website at the following link:  10 helpful ways to prevent fraud from occurring in your place of business.

 

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[1] http://www.insurancefraud.org/fraud-backgrounder.htm

[2] http://bangordailynews.com/2014/06/02/news/aroostook/aroostook-county-man-to-serve-one-year-pay-restitution-for-workers-comp-fraud/


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): An Informative Infographic

Make Havel 2013 Posted by Mike Havel

This very informative infographic helps to detail the decision process for controlling hazards and implementing PPE for identified hazards.  As the graphic shows, elimination of the hazard or installing engineering controls are the most sustainable means for eliminating hazards while PPE is the last resort as the hazard is still present.

If PPE is to be used it must be implemented properly, and as the infographic details, the recommended path for implementation has multiple steps to ensure that the chosen PPE is adequate and correct for the identified hazard.

Workplace-PPE