Contact Us

Phone: (713) 681-2500

Fax: (713) 684-1600

Email: Send Email

facebook  twitter

Community Outreach
ribbon
STORM SEASON
Important Note:

June through November our agency may become prohibited from binding coverage should a “Tropical Disturbance” enter the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

In these cases we may be unable to bind new coverage quoted in open proposals until the storm leaves our area and our binding authority has been restored.

Please arrange your coverage protection early to avoid this type of delay. While we regret any inconvenience, the carriers impose these restrictions on all agencies.

Archive for the ‘Workplace Safety’ Category

Managing Occupational Stress

Stress is present in nearly any workplace. Daily challenges, deadlines, overtime and more can create short-term stress. For many, this short-term stress can evolve into harmful, long-term occupational stress. For an increasing number of Americans, long-term occupational stress poses serious risks to their mental, physical, and emotional well being.

Several studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) support this. In a 2012 study on stress, 65% of respondents reported their occupation as a leading cause of stress. A 2013 survey by the same organization found chronic occupational stress affected over a third of those surveyed. In both surveys, respondents reported lacking sufficient personal and professional resources for coping with stress.

For most people suffering from occupational stress, the stress and worry follow them home. Physical symptoms such as nausea, hyperventilating, anxiety and more can affect sleep patterns, diet, and much more. Over time, this can take a heavy toll on the body and immune system. Compounding the effects, many choose to self-medicate with alcohol, cigarettes, overeating or other mechanisms. These can lead to other health complications.

While it may be impossible to avoid workplace stress completely, taking steps to better manage occupational stress is. Learn how to identify and manage stress to reduce the impact of stress, and improve health.

Identifying Occupational Stressors

Occupations vary across the board yet many share similar causes of stress. These can include:

  • Feeling a lack of control in the workplace
  • Insufficient salary or benefits
  • Volatile workplace
  • High amounts of work
  • Excessive overtime
  • Mundane workload
  • Conflicts with management

From the trades to the tech industry and everywhere between, occupational stress affects people of all ages.

Managing Occupational Stress

After spotting the causes of workplace stress, taking steps to manage stress may be easier. Knowing the root cause of stress can help with managing the related symptoms, and can help with removing the cause completely.

  • Keep a journal. Keeping a record of stress-causing situations can help establish patterns. Over two weeks, record stressful experiences in the workplace. Include the persons involved, the scenario, and your own response. Also, include the effect the stress had on the remainder of the day both at work and at home. With a record, it may be possible to find patterns and establish healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Establish healthy coping mechanisms. For many people, the immediate response to stress may be a cigarette, cheeseburger, or a beer after work. The next time stress becomes a bear, try a healthier alternative. Walking, stretching, and practically all physical exercise can help reduce stress. For others, the right coping mechanism may be pursuing a hobby or favorite activity. Getting the mind on something else can help reduce stress and anxiety while keeping the body healthy.
  • Create communications boundaries. This can be one of the most challenging to accomplish. The benefit of smartphones is balanced by an unbroken tether to the workplace. It can be challenging for both employees and employers to keep communication to established working hours. The right balance will depend on the person and profession yet setting schedules for checking email and other correspondence can help alleviate a great deal of occupational stress.
  • Take personal time. Oftentimes, ambition and capability are greatly mismatched. Many experience occupational stress by working too hard, or too much. To help reduce stress and stay physically charged, take personal time. This can be in the form of vacation, a weekend, or simply disconnecting for the evening. A break can perform wonders for energy levels.
  • Speak to a someone. Most supervisors want their employees feeling healthy and motivated. If workplace stress is taking a toll, speak to a supervisor for possible solutions. This can be creating strategies for avoiding or coping with stress, or other resources the company may have access to such as counseling, or an Employee Assistance Program. A good supervisor should appreciate proactive, personal care and be willing to help overcome these challenges.

The first step in overcoming occupational stress is recognizing it. Stress can feel like a large, immovable boulder yet with the right tools, it’s possible to manage and overcome. Check with us often for more on tips for living a healthier life.

WS – Managing Workplace Stress

Feeling a little frazzled at work? You’ve got company. Americans are dealing with increasing levels of stress in the workplace at the cost of their health. Some of it makes sense; after all, we’ve got a reputation for being workaholics. Of all those offered vacation days each year, only around half report taking any. Many employees also work weekends and overtime on a regular basis, leaving little time for decompression.

A 2014 study spearheaded by NPR revealed over half of American employees suffer from occupational stress in a given year. Of those, 1 in 5 reported suffering a great deal of stress. Occupational stress follows you home. Office anxiety can affect the body and mind at all hours.

The Top Causes of Occupational Stress

The study highlights a number of stressors common in the workplace. While these represent those occurring most, there are a large number of potential stressors to elude. The most common causes of occupational stress listed in the study are:

  • Occupational effects on personal health
  • Safety hazards in the workplace
  • Insufficient wages/Excessive Workload
  • Unmet benefits demands

The list goes on but it’s clear overwork and under-appreciation rank high. Excessive stress can manifest physically through insomnia, high blood pressure, and a reduced capability to fight illness. High-stress levels are linked to anxiety levels and fluctuations in weight, leading to further complications. Before succumbing to occupational stress, take steps to manage workplace stress.

Managing Occupational Stress

Many management techniques are available to help reduce and eliminate stress. The right combination will depend on the individual. For some, there may be multiple stressors to manage. Tips for managing occupational stress include:

1. Find the source. Stress will be easier to manage once the stressors have been established. Personal methods may vary but experts recommend recording stressors over several weeks. What happened, your reaction, who was there and how you responded will all help in creating a record.

2. Choose healthy methods for coping. There are many ways to relieve stress and remain healthy. Exercise, reading, yoga, and meditation are just a sample of activities to get your mind off work.

3. Create boundary lines. Today, the lines between work and home are getting blurry. If work intrudes on your personal time, set times to ignore devices and decompress.

4. Remember personal time. While setting boundaries, remember to leave time for yourself. Half of the American workforce is leaving vacation time on the table. Take a vacation and relax a little.

5. Speak to a manager. If the stress continues to be an issue, speak to a manager. Good supervisors want to know if their team has an issue. Sharing concerns about workplace stress can lead to improvements.

6. Find a support structure. Some companies have employee assistance programs for supporting staff. For others, community and family may be the right solution. Overwhelmed? Speak to your physician or contact a psychologist.

Fight back. Learn how to spot, manage, and eliminate workplace stress to support living a happy and healthy life.

Place Safety First and Avoid Injuries in the Workplace

This past year, employees across the nation suffered debilitating injuries in the workplace. For many, injuries led to amputation and permanent disability. For other, their injuries led to death. After any workplace accident, questions arise about fault, and if future accidents are preventable. In the worst cases, companies place profits above people with often disastrous consequences.

A recently published study in the Journal of Accounting and Economics highlights the correlation between profit and injury. Utilizing OSHA statistics and earnings information, the results are a bit unsettling. For companies meeting or slightly-beating earnings forecasts, the impact on staff is the most significant.

Employment illness rates for firms with stressful quotas increase by 5-15%. Firms falling below expectations had high percentages of affected staff as well. On average, for companies just meeting earnings goals, approximately 1 in 24 employees will fall ill or become injured. For companies falling below, the ratio is only slightly less-alarming at 1 in 27.

According to the study, this is largely thanks to two main contributing factors:

  • First, in firms striving to meet earnings goals employees often shoulder larger workloads to meet expectations.
  • Second, firms may cut corners on safety and wellness measures to meet goals.

Managers pressured to perform often pass stress along to their teams. This can include longer hours, increased workloads, and more. A fatigued staff is often more prone to illness or injury. Maintenance of machinery and other equipment, safety training, and other welfare measures are oft overlooked in exchange for short-term earnings.

Several standout figures emerged from the study:

  • Companies with union labor tend to have better safety records than others. This is largely a result of negotiated safety equipment, workload, and schedules. There is speculation that union employees may feel more comfortable addressing safety matters as well.
  • Workers compensation rates may motivate companies to be safer. The study found that companies operating in states with high workers compensation rates tended to have a reduced number of workplace injuries. It’s theorized this is a result of companies employing better safety measures to reduce claims expense.
  • Companies contracted by state or federal agencies scored higher for safety. This is likely due to government standards necessary for placing bids.

The study represents reported workplace injuries. It’s quite likely a large number of workplace accidents go unreported each year. In some cases, management creates a hostile environment. Other times, employees may be in fear of reprisal or termination. For many companies profits take precedence.

When companies sacrifice safety standards any short-term financial gains will be forfeited. An injury or death in the workplace, beyond the obvious tragedy, can have a significant impact on a business. Damaged reputation, insurance claims, and lengthy legal battles are the tip of the iceberg. Safety is always the best choice. If you own a business, practice safety and get protection. Call an agent for more information about commercial insurance and liability protection through GR Little.

Overcoming Digital Eyestrain

The modern world is damaging eyes. Prolonged exposure to computer screens, phones, tablets and other digital devices can damage vision. The Vision Council estimates 83% of Americans spend 2 or more hours per day on a digital device. For many, this can be alleviated by limiting time spent on phones and e-readers yet for the average office employee, that may be a bit of a challenge. The American Optometry Association concluded the average American spends up to 7 hours per day looking at a computer screen.

Today over two-thirds of Americans report symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Also referred to as digital eyestrain, CVS includes painful short- and long-term symptoms such as:

  • Neck and shoulder strain
  • Blurred and interrupted vision
  • Migraine headaches
  • Lost vision and more

Proximity to the screen, ambient lighting, and screen brightness can also contribute to CVS. The American Optometry Association warns of further complications should symptoms go untreated.

Approaching Digital Eyestrain

There are several steps to take that may help reduce the risk for developing Computer Vision Syndrome:

  • Maintain an upright posture while viewing screens
  • If prescribed corrective lenses, be sure to wear them
  • Position device screens approximately 2 feet from the eyes
  • Employ effective lighting to minimizes screen glare
  • Look away from screens at 20-minute intervals for 20 seconds
  • Reduce fatigue and dry eye by blinking often

A comprehensive eye exam can help detect signs of digital eyestrain. A medical professional can make recommendations for individual treatment solutions.

Check back often for more health and insurance information for getting the most from life. For questions about insurance, contact an agent today.

Fire Safety in The Workplace

Office fires are responsible for approximately hundreds of deaths each year and thousands of injuries. That’s according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), tracking workplace safety and hazards. OSHA identified inadequate prevention measures, inaccessible exits, and poor training likely contributed to these numbers. Many fires can be prevented and the right training can help employees escape in case of danger. Evaluating current fire prevention measures, equipping facility and staff with responsive equipment, and incorporating employee training can all help reduce risk and injury from office fires.

1. Evaluate

The first step in improving fire response and prevention is to inspect and evaluate the workspace for any potential hazards for causing fires or preventing escape. Be sure to check:

  • Electrical wiring. Overuse of extension cords and power strips can lead to potential fire risk. They also create trip hazards. Seek safe and permanent solution for electrical needs.
  • Storage. Flammable materials have special storage instructions for preventing fires. Establish safe storage and ventilation procedures around the office or job site.
  • Smoking areas. Designated smoking areas and cigarette-butt collection containers reduce the risk of accidental fire.
  • Tools and appliances. Some tools and appliances have greater electrical requirements which may contribute to electrical fires if used in an unsafe manner. Check for the UL safety mark before turning plugging tools and appliances into electrical sockets.
  • Exits. Check for the proper number of building and room exits and clear for ease of use.
  • Emergency lighting. Check emergency lighting for function.

After evaluating current measures and practices improvements and additions can be made.

2. Equip

Lighting, sprinkler systems and alarms, and fire extinguishers all contribute to workplace safety. Depending on the size and layout of a workplace a combination of safety measures may help reduce risk. Fire extinguishers are an affordable and simple way to improve employee safety and reduce the risk of fire.

Different types of fire extinguishers are available for fighting different types of potential fires in the workplace. Individual requirements will help determine the right type of fire extinguisher for the workspace:

  • Type A: Fights fires made from wood and paper materials.
  • Type B: Extinguishes fires caused by flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and industrial solvents.
  • Type C: Fights electrical fires.
  • Type D: Fights fires related to combustible metals like magnesium, potassium, and titanium.
  • Type K: Fights kitchen and grease fires.

Follow the regular maintenance schedule to keep fire extinguishers operable and ready in case of fire. Maintain access to fire extinguishers at all times.

3. Train

Equipment and training go together. Teach staff on fire responsive measures and hold regular safety training to keep employees safe. Employee fire safety training can be structured to include training on:

  • Finding and triggering fire alarms.
  • Locating and identifying safe exits.
  • Selecting and operating fire extinguishers.

Employers and staff should always place safety first. Train employees to evacuate any time they feel unsafe, the fire is too large, or exit may be threatened by remaining.

To learn more about workplace fire prevention and for other safety information, contact an agent. Fire prevention affects insurance premiums and coverage. Add safety measures and reduce risk. For more information about commercial fire insurance or for answers to insurance questions, call today.

Workplace Safety & Corporate Culture Go Hand in Hand

Small-business owners rely on strong employees. The challenge for nearly all is finding strong employees, to begin with. Today firms of all sizes are using creative strategies for attracting and retaining great talent. For many, this means unique vacation incentives and other tantalizing packages, yet often-overlooked is simply creating a safe work environment. A safe environment promotes well-being and productivity.

Insurance veteran David Quezada says it is important for management to prioritize safety. This protecting the workplace, staff, and any visitors. Mr. Chris Edmonds, the founder of The Purposeful Culture Group, concurs with thinking. Edmonds says managers ensuring a risk-free workplace will reap significant rewards. It is important organizations of any size to invest in safety and accountability measures. Safety should be the required standard.

They may be on to something. Research shows companies operating in positive, risk-free work-spaces outperform those working elsewhere. Customers respond well to safe employees, and the opposite holds true as well. Firms neglecting safety soon find the phone lines quiet.

Recent small-business research shows only 17% of employees receive adequate workplace safety training. That number is eclipsed by those without any training, a whopping 25% of respondents. Employees without training will have difficulty adhering to safety standards. Initial and ongoing safety training is recommended for companies of all sizes.

Edmonds underscored the importance of safety-related correlating safety with competence and security. Safe employees are shown to perform better. A culture of safety begins at the top and spreads throughout an organization. Safety classes, manuals, and other materials may be helpful for training and reference purposes. Safety is an ongoing conversation in which employees and management should be actively part. Respond to safety concerns swiftly.

Safety assessments are recommended to evaluate employee performance and knowledge of safety policies and procedures. Safety is an active consideration. An organization with a well-defined safety culture stands to gain. Safety always takes precedence over profits. Be ready to invest in tangible and intangible safety measures to improve workplace safety and morale. Safety is easily achieved with the right attitude and strategy.

Insurance-related topics have a surprisingly large bearing on health and finances. Call anytime for answers to insurance questions.

Why Safety Issues Go Unreported

Most people go to work expecting a safe workplace. OSHA messages abound recommending safety tips and encouraging reporting of safety issues. Despite this, a large number of incidents occur each year, sometimes serious. To explain this, two groups conducted studies into workplace safety. The studies each reached a similar result: the solution to workplace safety lay in proper supervision.

The first study, conducted by the National Safety Council, was published in volume 45 of the Journal of Safety and Security. This study discovered a large number of younger employees unwilling to report safety issues due to real or perceived minimal workplace influence. Recognizing safety issues may also mean awkward interactions with supervisors, a refusal to work in a hazardous environment, or contacting safety entities.

Campaigns encouraging younger workers to recognize and report safety issues have been minimally successful, with many choosing to work rather than stir things up. Often, young workers hope someone else reports safety issues before an incident, or the safety hazard will resolve itself.

This sense of having little influence stems from age and experience. Many younger works assume any reports will go ignored or will amount to very little due to influence. Some employees find strength in each other and may report safety issues after building consensus.

The second set of results comes from a study from the AFL-CIO-affiliated Center for Construction Research and Training. This study surveyed construction workers, coming to similar conclusions. According to this study, construction workers may leave injuries unreported on the job site for many reasons. Of the 235 construction workers surveyed, 27% responded with having left one or more injury unreported.

Of the unreported injuries, over 70% went so because the worker involved deemed the injury “too small”. Other reasons for leaving injuries unreported included:

  • Becoming injured is part of the job
  • Avoiding appearing weak
  • The problem can be corrected at home
  • Unsure if the injury is work-related
  • Fear of losing a job or contract
  • Lacking paid time off to visit a medical professional
  • Keeping other work-related benefits

Regardless of size, injuries should be reported. Minor injuries left untreated may lead to greater problems later on. Some injuries will go unnoticed for months or years following an incident. Report all issues to safety personnel so they can make the decision. Unreported issues are bad for the company and staff. In the long run, untreated injuries may cost both parties far more than initial treatment or some rest.

According to the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, Volume 19, Number 1, the solution may lie in creating a culture of communication in the workplace. This method, also called positive error management encourages the sharing of near-accidents with management as a tool for learning instead of punishment. Learning how to avoid future accidents can help the company more than punitive actions.

Daily, open communication between management and junior staff helps employees feel comfortable reporting safety issues and other hazards. Supervisors can demonstrate they care by asking employees to share concerns before someone is harmed in the workplace.

This will likely send a powerful message to both new and existing employees. A supervisor has the ability to back up the talk with motivating actions that will get the point across. Encourage open communication and work toward a safer work environment.

Return for more great tips and info about insurance topics affecting health, home, and the pocketbook. For any insurance-related questions, call anytime.

Supervisors Are Responsible for Safety

Supervisors have a lot to keep track of. Management means more than assigning work. Managers maintain a list of responsibilities affecting workplace safety. Effective supervisors create safe environments through action and training. Staff trained to spot and report safety issues create a safer environment. To promote a safe environment for industry, apply the following methods to the workplace:

Staff Training

Encourage staff to locate hazards, maintain awareness, and perform work safely. Train staff on any protective equipment necessary, and label all steps for emergency response. Ensure completion of all mandatory safety training courses, and keep accurate records.

Safe Methods

Supervisors are responsible for more than getting the job complete, it must be completed safely. Safe practices apply to careers from the office to construction. In some cases, managers may need to create methods to reduce risk in the workplace. Employees with open communication with a manager will be able to report any safety concerns.

Fast response to safety concerns builds trust and creates a safer environment. For situations beyond a manager’s control to resolve, take any immediate action necessary to keep worker’s safe. Report to higher management and follow-up until resolved.

Clear Hazards

The majority of workplace claims begin with an unsafe environment. Managers training staff to spot safety hazards and remove them to see reduced workplace-accidents. Once hazards are located, take any proper safety and removal measures. Prevent further employee contact with hazards until resolution.

Follow-Up on Claims and Reports

Effective managers investigate all reports of unsafe situations in the workplace. Inform staff members on the proper steps for reporting workplace incidents to the OMS (Occupation Medical Service). Stay compliant. The National Institute of Health (NIH) requires reporting of all workplace injuries. Working with OSHA, the OMS investigates and resolves workplace hazards and injuries. Address any official employee-claims forms promptly.

Encourage a Speedy Return

The longer employees remain away from the workplace, the less likely it is they will return at all. Encourage workers absent from the workplace due to injury to return to work as soon as medically cleared. Consider any physical limitations caused by injuries, limiting employee duties if possible. Keeping teams motivated, safe and effective helps managers succeed.

A lot can happen in a workplace. Add the human factor and anything is possible. The right training, communication, and processes can help keep employees safe and insurance costs low. Talk to an insurance agent today for tips on keeping rates low through workplace safety.

Check often for more valuable information about insurance topics affecting health and wallet. Have a topic to share? Please send any topic requests. For any insurance-related questions contact an agent today.

Active Shooter Preparedness

The recent shooting in Vegas is a grim reminder: active shooter scenarios occur all too often. According to the Department of Homeland security, over 1500 workplace shootings happen in the past year. Many of these shooters are on destructive paths, bent on hurting as many people as possible.

The National Safety Council recommends active shooter preparedness become part of workplace safety plans. These strategies can help workers survive an active shooter:

1. Run

Run as quickly as possible. Take the opportunity and encourage others to as well. There may be active gunfire. Avoid any unnecessary risks and leave the area.

Emergency responders may already be on-scene. For safety, keep hands visible and follow instructions from emergency personnel. Keep hands above the head. Relay any information about the shooter to police and rescue personnel.

2. Hide

Unsure of shooter location, blocked from exiting, or otherwise unable to leave the area? Hide. Lockable rooms and doors make good barriers. Place objects against the door for added security.

Turn electronic devices off. Workplace shooters may hear a ringing phone, text message, or other audible tones. Turn phones and other devices off.

3. Fight

Shooters may be too close to run or may force action. As a last option, fight active shooters and overcome them. Attack and aim for weak areas such as the neck, groin, and face. Anything in the area becomes a weapon of opportunity. Chairs, extinguishers, and other office supplies are fair game. Subdue a shooter as best possible and let law enforcement handle the rest.

Safety and security are important. Speak an agent today about this or other insurance-related material.

Addressing Digital Eyestrain

Too much computer, phone, or e-reader use may harm your vision. Computer Vision Syndrome (also referred to as digital or electronic eyestrain) results from prolonged use of electronic devices. This concerns the average American worker who according to the American Optometry Association averages seven hours per day using a computer or electronic device. CVS has many painful symptoms. You may experience a single symptom or any combination. Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Migraines
    Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Head, neck, and shoulder pain
  • Vision loss, and more

Poor lighting, screen proximity, and screen glow can further exacerbate these conditions. Persons with poor posture and those with poor baseline vision may be at increased risk for CVS. For most people, CVS symptoms and discomfort cease after time away from a computer or device screen. Yet for some, symptoms continue long after. American Optometry Association (AOA) warns these symptoms, left untreated, may cause further damage.

What to do About Eyestrain

Evidence of CVS is detectable with a comprehensive eye exam. If diagnosed with CVS your eye-care professional will recommend the best treatment plan for you. Treatments vary due to symptom and patient but often, the following recommendations may help alleviate eyestrain:

  • Train your eyes. Vision therapy can help train and improve how your eyes and brain interact, reducing the workload.
  • Position your screen. Keep your computer, tablet, phone and other devices at the right distance and angle from your eyes. The best position for your screen is 15-20 degrees below eye level and 20-28 inches from your eyes.
  • Avoid the glare. Avoid screen glare by closing any blinds or drapes on your windows. Use lower watt bulbs in lamps or overhead lights. Anti-glare screens are available as well.
  • Sit upright. Keep your chair upright and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Look away. Try to budget 15 minutes every two hours for a screen break. This can help your eyes recover. You can also practice the use 20-20-20 method. Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Blink! Blinking regularly helps maintain eye moisture, reducing fatigue.

We’re always on the lookout for great information about insurance topics that may impact health and finances. If you have any insurance-related questions be sure to reach out to us.