Things you should know

Opioid abuse rises with length of prescription

According to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of opioid abuse rises with lengthy prescriptions. If received a one-day prescription, 6% were still on opioids a year later; when prescribed for 8 days or more, this rises to 13.5%; when prescribed for 31 days or more, it increases to 29.9%.

Blacklisting rule repealed

President Trump repealed the so-called “blacklisting rule” that required federal contractors to disclose labor violations. The executive order had required employers bidding for federal contracts worth at least $500,000 to disclose any of 14 violations of workplace protections during the previous three years.

FMCSA will not reinstate overnight rest regulations for commercial drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulation that required CMV (Commercial Motor Vehicle) drivers to take breaks in the hopes of preventing driver fatigue has been suspended since 2014 so that further research could be done to understand the efficacy of the program. A study from the Department of Transportation found that stricter mandated breaks did not do much to reduce driver fatigue or improve safety. Thus, the rule will not come out of suspension.

Study reveals occupations with sleep deprived workers

If your industry is health care, food service, or transportation, your workers are probably not getting adequate sleep, according to a study published March 3 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Workers who averaged fewer than seven hours of sleep per night were classified as having short sleep durations. Occupation groups that failed to average seven hours of sleep included:

  • Communications equipment operators: 58 percent
  • Rail transportation workers: 53 percent
  • Printing workers: 51 percent
  • Plant and system operators: 50 percent
  • Supervisors, food preparation and serving workers: 49 percent
  • Extraction workers: 45 percent
  • Nursing, psychiatric and home health aides: 43 %

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults 18 to 60 years old get at least seven hours of sleep every day. A lack of sleep can contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and other health issues, as well as contribute to more injuries on the job.

NIOSH announces free health screenings for coal miners

A series of free, confidential health screenings will be available for coal miners as part of the NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program. The first set of screenings will take place from March 26 to April 15 in coal mining regions throughout Alabama. The second set will occur from May 10 to May 31 throughout Indiana and Illinois. Finally, testing will take place from July 30 to Aug. 26 throughout Eastern Kentucky.

NIOSH updates mine hazard assessment software

Mine operators and workers now have access to updated hazard assessment software from NIOSH. According to the agency, EVADE 2.0 – short for Enhanced Video Analysis of Dust Exposures – offers a more comprehensive assessment of the hazards miners face by pulling together video footage and exposure data on dust, diesel and other gases, as well as sound levels.

Study: PT as effective as surgery for carpal tunnel

Physical therapy is as effective as surgery in treating carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a new study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Researchers in Spain and the United States report that one year following treatment, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome who received physical therapy achieved results comparable to outcomes for patients who had surgery. Further, physical therapy patients saw faster improvements at the one-month mark than did patients treated surgically.

When hospital inspectors are watching, fewer patients die

A recent report in the New York Times cited a study in JAMA Internal Medicine which found death rates dropped when inspectors were onsite. In the non-inspection weeks, the average 30-day death rate was 7.21 percent. But during inspections, the rate fell to 7.03 percent. The difference was greater in teaching hospitals – 6.41 percent when the inspectors were absent, and 5.93 percent during survey weeks. While the difference may seem low, an absolute reduction of only 0.39 percent in the death rate would mean more than 3,500 fewer deaths per year.

Although the reasons for the effect are unclear, it was suggested when docs are being monitored, diligence ramps up.

Wearing eye protection can prevent 90 percent of work-related eye injuries, experts suggest

Ninety percent of on-the-job eye injuries could be avoided if workers wore eye protection, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). AAO offers the following tips for avoiding workplace eyestrain or injury:

  • Wear protective eyewear appropriate for the type of hazard you may encounter
  • Position your computer monitor 25 inches away
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Reduce glare on your cell phone or digital device
  • Adjust environmental lighting near your workstation


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HR Tip: Emerging employment issues top EEOC priorities

The EEOC recently announced its updated Strategic Enforcement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2021. The new plan continues the priorities outlined in the plan for 2013-2016 but adds two areas to the previous “emerging issues” priority. Those additions encompass:

  • “Issues related to complex employment relationships of the 21st century workplace,” specifically focusing on temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy; and
  • “Backlash discrimination against those who are Muslim or Sikh, or persons of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, as well as persons perceived to be members of these groups.”

While a Trump presidency will undoubted impact how the EEOC pursues its enforcement agenda and the resources it has available, historically, the agency has pushed its enforcement priorities.

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Six common mistakes employers make in preventing bullying and workplace violence

Because of recent tragic events, workplace violence is sometimes thought of synonymously with active shooters. Yet, these are rare and workplace violence is much broader and more pervasive. The FBI defines workplace violence as “actions or words that endanger or harm another employee or result in other employees having a reasonable belief that they are in danger.” It encompasses bullying, harassment, stalking, robbery, and physical assault, as well as shootings, and happens daily. It can involve coworkers, supervisors, customers, clients or patients, and relatives of employees.

In fact, at 16 percent, workplace violence is the third-leading cause of on-the-job deaths according to 2015 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Violent injuries comprise 6.3 percent of all employer-recordable injuries. According to the BLS, the industries with the highest propensity for workplace violence include retail, financial, food and hospitality, protective services operations (law enforcement and firefighters), and health care.

While certain industries have a high propensity for violence, it cuts across all sectors and incudes companies of all sizes. More than one-quarter of U.S. workers say they have been bullied at work, and another 21 percent say they have witnessed such abusive conduct, including threats, intimidation, humiliation, work sabotage or verbal abuse, according to the 2014 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey conducted by ZogbyAnalytics for the Workplace Bullying Institute. Whether a specific workplace is particularly vulnerable to bullying depends on a variety of factors, including the culture, the personalities drawn to that line of work, and the organization’s structure.

All workplaces can do more to combat workplace violence. Here are six common mistakes employers make:

  1. Failure to recognize workplace factors that can trigger violence While uncertainty of employment, mergers, downsizing, and heavier workloads are common workplace conditions that can increase the risk of workplace violence so are everyday changes such as new technologies, reorganization, new employees, and new processes. Indeed, stress is a key trigger. When people are under pressure, they are more easily agitated, less cooperative, overly sensitive, and unforgiving of mistakes.Poor hiring practices also are a harbinger for workplace violence. Failure to properly vet applicants on personal traits, behaviors, and cultural fit can lead to hiring potentially violent individuals.

    A company’s culture also plays a large role. Supervisors who motivate by fear or intimidation, are intolerant of individual differences, or refuse to believe that bullying is happening foster an environment ripe for violence. Employers need to take a hard look at their culture and how change, schedules, and promotions are managed.

  2. Inadequate policies Many companies have programs in place they think are effective, but some are too complex, others lacking in details, and still others outdated. While no policy can cover all possible scenarios, it needs to be clear and specific and reviewed and revised regularly. For example, it is not sufficient to say bullying will not be tolerated. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a policy prohibiting bullying should list specific examples of unacceptable behavior, such as:
    • Constant and unfair criticism
    • Excessive teasing
    • Yelling, shouting and screaming
    • Insults and behind-the-back put-downs
    • Hostile glares and other intimidating gestures
    • Malicious gossip
    • Monopolizing supplies and other resources
    • Aggressive e-mails or notes
    • Overt threats, aggression or violence

    In the case of outside threats, such as domestic violence, the policy should encourage workers to come forward and take protective measures.

    According to OSHA, a written program should include management commitment and employee participation, a worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and recordkeeping and program evaluation. Make sure all employees understand the policy, there is open communication, and your organization is committed to preventing workplace violence.

  3. Assume employees will report offenders It’s often difficult for employees to report bullying or harassment. They may worry about their jobs, fear further retaliation, consider it a personal matter, feel they lack the knowledge to identify a real problem, believe it’s not their responsibility, or don’t believe it will escalate. Worse, they may believe the company will do nothing about it. Create a clear reporting structure and encourage open communication. Aggressors thrive on the silence of victims and witnesses and a workforce that knows what to look for, is quick to report, and has someone to report to is the strongest weapon against workplace violence.
  4. Allow conflicts to escalate Because the definition of workplace violence is so broad, companies struggle with how to respond and do not handle threats properly or in a timely manner. There’s no doubt it can be a challenging balance of security versus privacy, but it’s important to be proactive and have a process in place that minimizes exposure and protects employees.Violence often stems from unresolved conflicts that fester.In some cases, bullies aren’t even aware they are bullies or they do not know how to effectively manage subordinates. With proper training, they can learn new ways to communicate. When coaching and confronting the offender fails, it’s up to the company to have a process that counsels and supports victims and disciplines and monitors the offender.
  5. Failure to document at an organizational level Even employers that do a good job of documenting individual incidents and have strong preventive programs often do not look at the data in the aggregate. Such a view can help identify departments, responsibilities, shifts and so on that are more vulnerable or exposed to violence. Furthermore, after determining how and why the workplace violence occurred despite the prevention measures, policies should be reviewed and strengthened.
  6. Inadequate support for victims It’s not easy for victims to take control and go back to work after a violent incident. Offering support and counseling as well as properly training supervisors on talking with victims and their coworkers can help with the transition. There are times when the employer might have to deliver bad news, such as a recent case in Florida. A restaurant worker was intentionally set on fire by her boyfriend and was critically burned. She had no insurance and since the boyfriend was not affiliated with the restaurant, workers’ comp will not cover the medical bills. A report on WJXT News4Jax indicates that the owners are supportive and helped with ways to raise money. Employers need to show compassion and understanding for workers in devastating situations.

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Save time & money by taking proactive steps to promote safety

Incident rates, lost-time rates, days away from work, restricted or transfer (DART) rates are common metrics that companies use to measure their safety performance. For some, it’s become routine, a habit, built around the reporting requirements of regulatory agencies. While these lagging indicators are relevant and important, they are reactive, focusing on how to fix problems, rather than prevent them.

Since safety is only one of the many business drivers that compete for management’s time and money resources, it’s critical that safety practices be high-impact. An integrated approach combining lagging indicators with leading indicators can help reveal weaknesses in an organization’s procedures or employee behavior that can trigger high workers’ compensation costs.

Leading indicators are proactive, designed to give advance warning of potential problems so corrective action can be taken. Yet, many companies face the conundrum of not knowing what leading indicators to use or how to use them. There is no perfect mix of leading indicators, so there can be no cookie cutter approach. Which indicators would be most likely to reduce injuries? Which indicators would motivate desired behaviors? How can the organization contribute to that motivation?

The Campbell Institute of the National Safety Council has spent the past two years researching best practices in leading indicators. They have identified three broad categories of leading indicators:

  • System-based: Indicators related to the management of an EHS System
  • Operations-based: Indicators relevant to the functioning of an organization’s infrastructure
  • Performance-based: Indicators that measure the performance or actions of individuals or groups in the workplace


A white paper, Practical Guide to Leading Indicators, explains the top-ranked indicators of each category and lists various metrics of each indicator. At first, the list may seem a bit overwhelming. It’s helpful to begin by determining desired outcomes and goals and start with a few indicators. What are you trying to accomplish? What leading indicators will best assess if you accomplish the goal? Choosing indicators that drive behavior is important to making improvement. Over time, add new ones and remove those that aren’t working. The paper includes helpful case studies.

As an example, consider training programs. One of the problems with many training programs is they provide information that is soon forgotten or is used only temporarily. Simply measuring the raw number of training hours or dollars spent on training does not tell anything about the quality or relevance of the training. If the program is not meeting the goal of educating workers and changing behavior so that the tasks are consistently performed safely, the program is ineffective.

By analyzing training hours against incident rates, a lagging indicator, it can be determined if an increase in training hours leads to a reduction in incident rates. Drilling down even further, it can be determined if certain aspects of the training have a larger impact on the incident rate than others. Further, it requires job observations and assessments to determine if the training is effective in changing behaviors.

Since the leading indicators chosen will vary by organization and no single indicator can be the solution to all needs, it is a continuous process that will take some effort to determine what works best. High impact leading indicators will ultimately drive better results, promote safer workplaces, and lower workers’ compensation costs. The focus on impact ensures the effort is worth the time and financial commitment.

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Author | Speaker | Certified Risk Manager | Certified Work Comp Advisor