Category Archives: Health & Safety

Wellness Benefits

The need for workers to have access to a workplace wellness program has been touted as an essential component in the drive to combat obesity. The 2007/2008 Staying@Work survey released last week by Watson Wyatt indicates that employers are listening. According to its findings, nearly half (46 percent) of employers surveyed currently offer financial incentives to encourage workers to monitor and improve their health or plan to offer incentives next year and by 2009 that number is expected to surpass 70 percent. The survey also found that a healthier workforce makes for a healthier company. Companies with effective health and productivity programs demonstrate superior performance, achieving 20 percent more revenue per employee. They also have 16.1 percent higher market value and deliver 57 percent higher shareholder returns (2004 to 2006 data). Those companies that invest in improving the health and productivity of their workforce also have cost increases that are five times lower for sick leave; four and one-half times lower for long-term disability; four times lower for short-term disability; and three and one-half times lower for general health coverage. Check out further I.I.I. information on obesity and workers comp.

Happy Halloween

The extension of daylight savings time means that it will get dark later this Halloween, helping to make for a safer holiday. Still, parents need to keep in mind steps to minimize the risks as their kids go trick-or-treating. I.I.I. advises parents to accompany small children around the neighborhood and to make sure children old enough to explore the neighborhood on their own visit homes where they know they’ll be welcome. Once darkness does fall a well-lit porch is a signal that kids are welcome. Motorists need to remember that kids may be distracted by all the costumes and candy. Parents should also warn children to stay on the sidewalks and to cross the streets carefully. Reflective tape on costumes and trick-or-treat bags is a good idea, as is arranging for youngsters to go out in groups rather than alone. Further I.I.I. safety tips include: make sure costumes fit properly as loose-fitting costumes can cause a child to trip and fall; use make-up instead of masks as some masks can obstruct vision; make sure all costumes are made of non-flammable materials; keep lighted jack-o’-lanterns and candles away from children and flammable materials; inspect all treats before allowing children to eat them. Have a safe and happy Halloween!  

Psychological Impact of Wildfires

As California residents displaced by  last week’s  wildfires begin the recovery process a reissued RAND study is a reminder of the potential impact of the event on their mental health. The study, conducted after the October 2003 California firestorm, surveyed 357 people who sought assistance from the American Red Cross and government relief centers. Within days of the mandatory evacuation participants completed baseline self-administered questionnaires assessing demographic characteristics, initial subjective reactions and degree of fire exposure. A follow-up mail-in survey three months later measured symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression. The results found that 33 percent showed evidence of probable major depression, while 24 percent exhibited probable PTSD. Check out latest I.I.I. information on the wildfires.  

Obesity Update

Evidence of the growing economic and social costs of obesity continues to dominate the news. Research by Emory University published in the journal Health Affairs reveals that Americans are nearly twice as likely as Europeans to be obese. Apparently while 17.1 percent of European adults are obese, the rate is 33.1 percent for U.S. adults. Older U.S. adults are also more likely than their European counterparts to be diagnosed with costly chronic diseases and to be treated for those diseases, adding about $100 billion to $150 billion per year to the U.S. health care tab, according to the study. Interesting stat: Emory professors believe the U.S. could save $100 billion a year if it could bring its obesity rates more in line with Europe. Point to bear in mind: explanations for the TransAtlantic differences in disease prevalence remain varied. While  it’s possible Americans are actually sicker than Europeans, it’s also possible that more aggressive diagnosis and pretreatment of chronic diseases in this country raises disease prevalence rates, researchers say. Meanwhile, another  study of 663 patients with HIV at Navy hospitals in San Diego and Bethesda, Maryland, found that 63 percent of them were overweight or obese, while only 3 percent were underweight.  Check out further information from the I.I.I. on obesity.

Obesity Epidemic

A report just published by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) confirms the continuing alarming rise in adult obesity rates across the U.S. According to its findings, rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and nine in 2005. Mississippi – at 30.6 percent – topped the list with the highest rate of adult obesity in the country for the third year in a row. Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Even Colorado (the leanest state again this year) recorded an increase in its adult obesity rate over the past year from 16.9 to 17.6 percent. Of even more interest, a new public opinion survey within the report found that 85 percent of Americans believe that obesity is an epidemic. At the same time, 81 percent of Americans believe the government should have a role in addressing the obesity crisis. If any  further incentive was needed, the report also found that the rates of overweight children (ages 10 to 17) ranged from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, D.C. to a low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight children were in the South. Among its recommendations for combating obesity, TFAH notes that federal, state and local governments should work with private employers and insurers to ensure that every working American has access to a workplace wellness program. As always, we welcome your comments. Check out further information from the I.I.I. on obesity.  Ã‚  

Workplace Safety Focus

We blogged recently (see Aug 6 posting) about the continued declining claims frequency for workers comp injuries in 2006. A PowerPoint report by I.I.I. president Robert Hartwig, presented at the 62nd Annual Workers Compensation Educational Conference in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week, offers further details on the state of the workers comp line. Dr. Hartwig notes that workers comp insurers should be justifiably proud of the historical role they have played in reducing workers’ injuries. In fact, workers comp insurers and the entire workplace safety community have contributed to a 14 percent decline in workplace fatalities since 1994. Further, the rate of fatal work injuries continues to drop and is down 26.4 percent since 1994 – nearly double the 14 percent decline in the number of on the job fatalities. The report underlines that workers comp insurers are a major force in saving workers lives, increasing productivity and preserving worker incomes. For additional data on workers comp insurance, access Mega-Trends Influencing the Workers Compensation Insurance Industry online.

Two Sides to Workers Comp

The saying that there are two sides to every story really resonates in workers compensation and the latest research brief from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). On the one hand workers, employers and their insurers can take comfort from the fact that the decline in claim frequency for workers compensation injuries continued into 2006 and continues to be widespread. For example, NCCI notes that all geographic regions of the country experienced significant declines over the last five years and despite some variation the decline in claim frequency occurred in all major industry groups across almost all occupations. But while workers comp claim frequency is down, NCCI cautions that indemnity and medical severities continue to rise. Indemnity severity increased by an estimated 5.5 percent in 2006, while the estimated rise in medical costs for 2006 is 7.5 percent. Medical price inflation and the utilization of medical services (including prescription drugs) are significant drivers of this trend, according to NCCI. What do you think? Check out further I.I.I. facts and stats on workers comp.  

Back Pains Large States

Employee back problems are frequent and costly. That’s the upshot of a new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). The report analyzes data from 14 large states (AR, CA, FL, IL, IN, LA, MA, MD, MI, NC, PA, TN, TX, and WI) from claims with an average of three years’ experience. WCRI found that nearly 14 percent of medical costs were paid to treat workers with back conditions involving disc conditions or radicular symptoms (e.g. radiating pain into the limbs). Nonspecific low back pain accounted for about one in seven claims and 11 percent of medical payments. Conditions involving the neck accounted for nearly 4 percent of claims and nearly 8 percent of medical payments. WCRI also found that shoulder or arm conditions – both inflammation due to overuse as well as sprains and strains – accounted for a significant share of medical costs and claims. For example, sprains and strains represented close to 7 percent of medical payments and nearly 6 percent of costs. Another interesting stat, carpal tunnel conditions were diagnosed in about 1 percent of cases, but accounted for more than 3 percent of medical costs. We’re wincing just thinking about it. Check our further I.I.I. information on workers compensation and workplace safety.  

Health Study

While we’re on the subject of take-up rates, a just released RAND Corp study finds that price is not the only barrier in the decision to purchase health insurance. The study contradicts suggestions that large numbers of people without health insurance would sign up for coverage if government provided subsidies or tax credits to reduce the cost of health insurance. An estimated 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance, but government subsidies that would halve the price of health insurance would reduce that number by just 3 percent, according to RAND. Apparently, people surveyed for the study cited numerous factors influencing their decision to purchase individual health policies, including: personal attitudes toward risk; whether they believe they can get good health care without insurance; perceived difficulty in selecting a health care plan; and even concern that insurers require too much personal information for individual plans compared with group plans. So, price alone does not solve the take-up issue. I.I.I. has further info on health insurance online.  Ã‚  

Red White and Blue

Tomorrow is July 4th, a holiday along with Thanksgiving when us Brits residing in the U.S. generally run for the woods and hide under a rock. After all, it’s not exactly a time to be proud to be British. Personal sensibilities aside, on the eve of the 2007 Independence Day celebrations and in light of the substantial fire risk posed by fireworks, we feel bound to bring you some red white and blue safety tips. The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, a group of 22 health and safety organizations coordinated by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) urges families to think twice about home-grown fireworks shows, noting that even legal consumer fireworks pose significant risks. NFPA stats reveal that in 2005, some 10,800 people were treated at hospital emergency rooms for firework-related injuries. The NFPA also warns that this year’s severe nationwide drought raises the fire risk. Fireworks cause approximately 25,000 grass, brush, dumpster and other fires each year. In 2004, fireworks started an estimated 1,600 structure fires and 600 vehicle fires which were reported to local fire departments, costing $21 million in direct property damage, says the NFPA. Meanwhile, if you are planning on holding your own fireworks display, the National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends that you only buy fireworks from a licensed store or stand, never from an individual’s house or from someone on the street. It urges people to prepare a designated spectator area that is far enough away from the shooting area site. It’s also important to obey all local laws regarding fireworks. Five states (DE, MA, NJ, NY, and RI) ban the use of fireworks by consumers. Have a safe and happy holiday!