Claims for our group tend to involve Motor Vehicle Accidents and Industrial Hygiene/Bloodborne Pathogens.Motor Vehicle Accidents – An estimated 40,000 Americans die on the road each year. The impact on families and businesses is enormous. Authorities cite distracted driving in 80% of traffic accidents. Fatigue is a factor in 100,000 crashes annually. Speeding is involved in about 33% of fatal crashes and more than 60% of people killed in traffic accidents are not wearing seat belts.
SAFE HAND TEXAS FLYER (English)
SAFE HAND TEXAS FLYER (Spanish)
Industrial Hygiene/Bloodborne Pathogens – Texas Mutual offers safety resources relating to these issues in their safety resource center at www.texasmutual.com. Safety resources include on online video titled “Bloodborne Pathogens: Universal Precautions” and a poster titled “Bloodborne Pathogens”. They also have a bloodborne pathogen sample program.
Excerpted from the Firefighter Support Cancer Network document August 2013
What is the Firefighter Cancer Problem? Firefighter cancer is a looming personal catastrophe for each and every firefighter. Cancer is the most dangerous and unrecognized threat to the health and safety of our nation’s firefighters.
Multiple studies, including the soon-to-be-released NIOSH cancer study, have repeatedly demonstrated credible evidence and biologic creditability for statistically higher rates of multiple types of cancers in firefighters compared to the general American population including:
■ Testicular cancer (2.02 times greater risk)
■ Multiple myeloma (1.53 times greater risk)
■ Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (1.51 times greater risk)
■ Skin cancer (1.39 times greater risk)
■ Prostate cancer (1.28 times greater risk)
■ Malignant melanoma (1.31 times great risk)
■ Brain cancer (1.31 times greater risk)
■ Colon cancer (1.21 times great risk)
■ Leukemia (1.14 times greater risk)
■ Breast cancer in women (preliminary study results from the San Francisco Fire Department)
We are just beginning to understand the horrific magnitude of the problem, the depth of our naiveté, the challenges involved and the changes required in education, training, operations, medical screenings and personal accountability to effectively address cancer in the fire service. The signs of firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens are everywhere:
■ Photos appear every day of firefighters working in active and overhaul fire environments with SCBA on their backs but not masks on their faces.
■ Firefighters still proudly wear dirty and contaminated turnout gear and helmets.
■ Some fire instructors wear their carcinogen-loaded helmets and bunker gear as symbols of their firefighting experience.
■ Diesel exhaust, a recognized carcinogen, still contaminates many fire stations — apparatus bays as well as living, sleeping and eating quarters.
■ Many firefighters only have one set of gear which means they are continually re-contaminated from previous fires.
■ Some diesel exhaust systems — even when installed — are not used, are used incorrectly or are poorly maintained.
■ Bunker gear still is stored in apparatus bays where it is bathed in diesel exhaust.
■ Bunker gear goes unwashed for months at a time, even after significant fires.
■ Many volunteers carry their contaminated gear in the trunks of their personal vehicles resulting in superheating and enhanced off-gassing of contaminants into the passenger compartment and sometimes even into their homes.
■ Firefighters put their contaminated gear into the cabs of their apparatus both before and after fires.
■ Some firefighters still take their contaminated bunker pants and boots into sleeping quarters.
■ The interiors of apparatus cabs are rarely decontaminated.
■ Many firefighters do not take showers immediately following fires.
“Pinpointing the cause of cancer is extremely difficult because firefighters are not exposed to just one agent. They are exposed to multiple cancer-causing agents. Because of the multiple exposures and the multiple routes of exposure — they inhale carcinogens and carcinogens are absorbed through the skin — it is also highly unlikely for firefighters to get only one type of cancer,” said Grace LeMasters, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of Cincinnati and the lead author of a 2006 meta-analysis of 32 published studies of cancer in firefighters.
Unfortunately, there is no immediate visible impact of carcinogenic exposure, since the time between exposure to carcinogens and the appearance of malignancies can be 20 years or longer, known as the latency period.
“We are not making this up,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said. “The connection between firefighting and cancer is real, and there is scientific data to support our position. But we cannot stop there — we must continue to learn more so we can prevent our members from contracting this horrible disease and help them if they do.”
IAFC VCOS Chairman, Chief Tim Wall agreed. “Cancer does not discriminate between firefighters,” he said. “Volunteers routinely transport bunker gear in their vehicles, wear clothing contaminated after a fire into their homes and expose their families to these carcinogens. This is a terrible problem that requires our full attention and immediate action.”
via Texas Mutual
Texas Mutual’s board of directors voted unanimously to approve a copany-record $240 million dividend distribution in 2016. Qualifying policyholder owners across Texas will share the dividend, which will be distributed beginning in July.
This is the 18th consecutive year the board has voted to distribute policyholder dividends, bringing the total to over $2 billion. Over $1 billion of that has been paid since 2012.
Texas Mutual is owned by its policyholders, not stockholders, which means the company shares its success by distributing dividends to policyholder owners who have made a commitment to preventing workplace accidents and helping injured workers get back on the job.
“Texas Mutual has a long history of rewarding our policyholder owners for their contributions to our success,” said Bob Barnes, chairman of Texas Mutual’s board. “These dividends reward safe business practices and also help our policyholders’ bottom lines. Our policyholder owners play an important role in Texas’ economy, and we know the difference these dividends can make for them.”
Texas Mutual President and CEO Rich Gergasko said the dividend distribution is about more than just financial success and that it also signifies the commitment the company and its policyholders make to keeping workplaces safe.
“Texas Mutual measures success not just in terms of dollars and cents but also in the number of lives saved and accidents prevented when employers place an emphasis on workplace safety,” Gergasko said. “We’re proud to share our success and reward the safety efforts Texas employers make with this year’s dividend distribution.”
Gergasko noted that while Texas Mutual has awarded dividends each year since 1999, they are based on performance and therefore are not guaranteed. Additionally, dividends must comply with Texas Department of Insurance regulations.
By Roy Mercer, VFIS of Texas Director of Safety, Training & Education
The last article I wrote was the beginning stages of my Biggest Loser experience. “Three very important rules, even I have a problem maintaining are; stretching your body before you take on the activity, drinking 100 ounces of water a day or ½ your body weight in ounces of water a day, and taking small steps toward your goals.” In this article I will be focusing on setting those small goals. Setting goals are easy, staying on track is the hard part because life gets in the way. As many of you have already experienced through your emergency responses or even your classes, very similar to your ICS 300, setting goals need to be SMART.
What are SMART goals? Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Specific goals are those that guide the user and/or the participant to desirable results. Remember, when developing the SMART goals, it is for you and the life you are living, keep focusing on yourself, what are the desired results of your goals. An example, I will drink at least half my weight in ounces of water per day within three months, this is the desired result. Measurable, half my weight per day of water. Attainable, don’t make it hard to reach because when we accomplish something we feel good about ourselves. Keep in mind that experts state it takes 66 days to form a habit, according to a new recent study, “founded by the 2010 UK study, led by University College London research psychologist Pippa Lally”. Meaning, if your desire is to keep this goal ongoing, then set it up for 66 days to be attainable. You may want to start drinking 16 ounces a day at the beginning and by the end of the 66th day you have met your goal of half your weight in ounces of water per day. If you forget and don’t achieve a certain day, the 66 days start over. Remember, it is your life so make it attainable to your life style. If the goal was to create a habit of drinking half your weight of water a day, after you reach half your weight of water from that day forward you start counting the 66 days. Realistic, can it be accomplished? You need to stop and ask yourself, if I drink this much water when can I drink and please don’t forget, the water goes somewhere, so can I also get rid of the water. These are two important rules for me, I travel and when I am on the road I need to take the opportunity to stop. Planning is very important, I have been held up in traffic before and the pain was so bad that I was willing to relieve myself right there, haven’t done this yet but I am sure it will happen if I do not plan correctly. Lastly, Timely, we mentioned this already, the 66 days, but a time frame is very important, it sets the bench marks of the goal. During this 66 days’ experience of creating a habit, set up achievable bench marks along the way to keep yourself on task for the overall goal timeline.
Stretching your muscles today is being questioned by some officials. Evidence has not proven that stretching helps reduce injuries during exercise. Additionally, there’s no evidence that stretching will harm you before and even after you exercise. The Biggest Loser’s group supports the idea of stretching the body before working out. By far I am not an expert in the subject but personally I like the idea of stretching. We were asked in the at the Biggest Loser campus to join the group at 6 am. I always enjoyed this hour of stretching, preparing you mentally and physically each day before your exercising experience. This year at the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals’ Association convention, a stretching class has scheduled each morning at 6 am. I will be facilitating the event with SWorkit App. This program will help you get started in your regular day. Through my travels across the state I have seen and heard new approaches to stretch your body before starting work. One department, don’t remember the name, has implemented stretching before the trucks get checked at the start of each shift, a pat-on-the-back for those departments for implementing these processes. The SWorkit App will guide you through the process. In closing, come out June 25 – 28, 2016 in McAllen, Texas to start your days right.
By Shawn Henners, Safety Officer, Montgomery County Hospital District
Montgomery County Hospital District (MCHD) provides indigent care, 911 EMS service, and public health for a county of about 500,000 residents, the 13th fastest growing county in the nation. On the EMS side, we have about 200 EMS field personnel, and in 2015 we ran just shy of 60,000 calls.
In 2014, the Safety Committee noted that the number of reported employee injuries caused by “combative patients” was starting to rise. That year, 14 of our 44 (32%) employee injury reports identified “combative patient” as the immediate cause. One of those incidents aggravated a pre-existing back problem, effectively ending the career of one of our paramedics and costing over $100,000 in workers’ comp claims. 2015 was not very different – 12 of 52 (23%) employee injury reports identified “combative patient” as the immediate cause, including a concussion caused when a paramedic’s head was slammed against a cement floor. Thankfully, that employee recovered quickly and fully.
In May 2015, the Safety Committee considered several training solutions on the market, both nationally and locally. In the end, we chose DT4EMS (Defensive Tactics 4 Escaping Mitigating Surviving). We chose this particular solution because it was designed for EMS/fire, and includes training on the legal and ethical responsibilities to our patients (and how to recognize an attacker vs. a patient), how to de-escalate a situation by providing great customer service (a high value at MCHD), and finally, how to physically defend yourself from an attack while minimizing liability to the organization or individual. The class is a perfect combination of lecture & practical skills – it seems like you’re never in your seat for more than 30 minutes at a time.
We hosted a train-the-trainer in October 2015 and trained nine employees (plus one local firefighter). After a few months of planning and looking at policies and SOGs that might need to change to better align with the training, our in-house trainers trained EMS command staff and some of our training department in January 2016. Although some of them were rather skeptical at first of the need for training, by the end of the 16-hour class, they were 100% behind it. We will begin training our field crews in March, integrate the class as part of our new employee training plan in May, and plan to extend the training to our call-takers and dispatchers as soon as possible.
Future expansion also includes training other first responder organizations in our region, and providing an 8-hour class to all of our non-EMS staff. We will be tracking our injury rate as we roll this training out, and we expect to see a significant decrease in the number of injuries caused by aggressive patients. And although our customer satisfaction scores are consistently very high, we expect to see those improve, too. Our employees will have the training they need to stay safe, we will make better use of taxpayer money as our workers comp insurance premiums go down, and our patients and their families will receive the best pre-hospital care possible. It really is a win-win.
Since January 1, 2012, the most common causes of injury among Emergency Services Organization Safety Group members have been strains, slips, trips, and falls, miscellaneous causes, industrial hygiene incidents, and being struck by objects.
During this time period, the causes of injury with the highest average claim costs were motor vehicle collisions, strains, slips, trips, and falls, being caught in, under, or between objects, and being struck by objects.
Common Industry Hazards:
A list of activities or situations that contributed to the safety group’s injuries is provided below in order to raise awareness of common hazards within the industry. After reviewing this list, download the Common Control Strategies document from the Texasmutual.com Safety Resource Center to learn how to protect your employees from these hazards.
Slips, Trips, And Falls:
Being Struck by Objects:
Among Emergency Services Organization Safety Group members, the three most common causes of injury are strains, slips, trips, and falls, and miscellaneous causes. The three causes of injury with the highest average claim costs are motor vehicle collisions, strains, and slips, trips, and falls.
Texas Mutual recommends that you implement control strategies to protect your employees from these causes of injury. You can use the free safety resources available through the texasmutual.com Safety Resource Center to implement new company policies, train employees, and document your safety activities.
Slips, Trips, And Falls:
Control Strategies for Additional Common Industry Hazards:
Being Struck by Objects:
When the Zika virus began making headlines, the message was that Americans were relatively safe unless they travelled internationally. But new information about the virus has emerged at a dizzying pace. It seems the only thing we know for certain about Zika is that we don’t fully understand it or its potential impact.
That’s why it is critical that you comply with 29 CFR 1910.1030, OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard. The standard protects workers who can reasonably be anticipated to come into contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) as a result of doing their jobs. Here are a few highlights from the standard.
Use universal precautions. In layman’s terms, treat all human blood and OPIM as if it is infectious for bloodborne pathogens.
Documentation is key. Put your bloodborne pathogen program in writing. Update it annually, and document that you have considered and begun using appropriate, commercially-available effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure.
Train employees on the program. Training is a core element of any successful injury and illness prevention program. OSHA requires you to train your employees on your bloodborne pathogen program on initial assignment, at least annually thereafter, and when new or modified tasks or procedures affect a worker’s occupational exposure. Again, remember to document that you provided the training.
Engineering controls are still king. Engineering controls are the best way to protect employees from any hazard, including bloodborne pathogens. Engineering controls remove the hazard at its source. Examples include providing needless systems, sharps disposal containers and self-sheathing needles. The second-most effective hazard control strategy is to change the way employees do the job. Finally, personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns and masks, are the least-effective protection against hazards. They should always be your last line of defense.
Make post-exposure evaluation available. Evaluation and follow-up must be at no cost to the worker. The health care professional will provide a limited written opinion to the employer, and all diagnoses must remain confidential.
More information For more information, refer to OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen Web page, and download a sample bloodborne pathogen program.
Over the holiday weekend, 11 tornadoes swept the Dallas area, prompting Gov. Gregg Abbott to declare a state of emergency across much of North Texas. State and federal agencies are working alongside volunteers to assess and reverse the damage. If your business participates in recovery efforts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages you to educate your employees about the hazards they might encounter and teach them how to protect themselves.
For tips on weathering tornadoes and the hazards that often accompany them, visit Texas Mutual’s blog post titled “Lessons from the Field: Tornadoes Carve Path of Destruction Across North Texas.”
For information on preparing your home and your business for an emergency, leverage these free tools:
WOW, family life, work life, food choices, stress, this fast-paced world and still thinking of ourselves as losers, we just can’t live up to everyone’s expectations. Time, time, and more time is what the demand is today. In the 1920’s and 1930’s society was overworked so employees took action and the government reduced and made regulations to help give us personal and/or relaxation time. Today, we are reliving history by being connected to our work environment and the emergency response processes 24/7. Face it, let’s put it on the table, we are overweight, getting older, and exercise and proper eating becomes quite difficult as a worker and a community driven individual. It is TIME to take time for YOURSELF. However, can we even live up to our own expectations? The BIGGEST LOSER campus in Niagara Falls, NY last spring taught me how and I wish to share an experience that can benefit you.
The biggest and most important lesson was spend time with those whom matter most, YOU being first on the list, because without you there is no need to worry about the rest. Most expert suggest picking the time of day you can focus on you. For example, I start my day around 4 a.m. each morning, having a cup of coffee, no cream and sugar. Is it good for you if you enjoy it? Let’s face reality, most everything we consume is not good for us in one way or another. Those of you that have to have that morning soda, keep in mind the ingredients are full of bad stuff, visit “Hunger for Change” on the internet to learn more. If you have to have a soda do something to counter the reactions. For example, if you drink all the bad stuff, exercise.
Exercise comes in many forms and programs, again our focus was “giving us choices”. On the average BIGGEST LOSER made us workout 5 ½ hours a day for a week. While this is not realistic, they were giving us choices in our workout plans. One workout day at BIGGEST LOSER was equivalent to one workout week back at home. You need to do the type of exercise you enjoy involving some kind of cardio and muscle strengthening. I have been very confused with this because I like running. As I get older it becomes more difficult, but trying is the key. Please don’t listen to others as they try to discourage you from doing what you like, most likely they really wish they could do it and they could if they make it a priority. We are not telling you to run, the best form of exercise is doing some type of outdoor activity you enjoy, anything from working in the yard to riding a bike 150 miles. Three very important rules, even I have a problem maintaining are: stretching your body before you take on the activity, drinking 100 ounces of water a day or ½ your body weight in ounces of water a day, and take small steps toward your goals. Stretching, has been echoed from the experts throughout my life. Looking back at my injuries during my career in the emergency services, if I would have stretched in the morning it would have prevented most of those injuries. At the BIGGEST LOSER we had a choice to get up early or sleep in, we took an hour of stretching to soft music every morning, remember this is a form of exercise. A recommended app is SWorkit. This app shows you how to stretch and gives you choices on what to stretch and has a timer, with music to relax you. Small steps toward your goals can be rewarding because you see the results and before you know it you will be setting bigger goals. Listen to your body, if something is hurting or not feeling right during the exercise STOP. Take time to examine the problem. Don’t confuse this with regular workout pain, our body is aging and undergoing a change so there will be some discomfort.
At BIGGEST LOSER we ate healthy and felt full all day long and I still lost 10 pounds during that week. Throw away the scale, you are trying to loss body fat, not regular scale weight; this is the term I use. One goal was to lose 1 pound of body fat a month. Yes it becomes difficult but it is one that sticks in our mind. If we are exercising and eating right you could actually gain weight not lose it because you are building muscle mass. BIGGEST LOSER encourages you to eat 45 minutes after you wake up or 45 minutes after your morning exercise, I prefer after morning exercises. They also recommend no food consumption 2 hours before bedtime.
Knowing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) also helps you understand yourself. The BMR is the minimum number of calories your body needs to function when completely at rest, these calories are what you need to survive the day. Are you eating over this rate? If so, counter balance with more physical activity. Equally as important is if you become more active and exercising more during the day then your calorie intake may have to increase. BIGGEST LOSER recommends you should consume half of your BMR for the day after you have eaten lunch. People will approach you and ask what type of diet you are on. If you are on a diet you could be depriving the body of nutrients to help your physical condition. Eat small portions, about five times a day. Another app I would suggest is Fooducate. This app recommends alternative healthy products to what you may already like.
Lastly, BIGGEST LOSER was the best medical treatment I have ever received. The experience will never be forgotten, relaxing, peaceful, and getting to know yourself. I will return. Take the TIME and go, call them first and they will be glad to help you through the process. Become that loser of weight, gain time for yourself, and maintain a happy life style.
By Roy Mercer, VFIS of Texas Director of Safety, Training & Education
ESO WC GROUP
VFIS of Texas