The mission at Texas Mutual has always been to build a stronger, safer Texas and that mission has never been more important than this past year. As we continue navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing at Texas Mutual has remained the same – Texas Mutual commitment to Texas Mutual customers. Texas Mutual nearly 1,000 employees seamlessly transitioned to conducting business virtually to support over 8,000 agents, more than 70,000 employers and 1.5 million hard-working Texans. As the year winds down, we want to share highlights that reflect how Texas Mutual have supported customers and Texas Mutual work toward making Texas Mutual state a better place to live and work in 2020.
TXM for Texas
At the heart of Texas Mutual community program is taking care of Texans. Through TXM for Texas, we have stepped up to help communities across the state. In addition to other philanthropic initiatives, Texas Mutual has delivered over $4 million in grant funding to help with COVID-19 relief and recovery, address community issues as a result of the pandemic and support workforce development.
$4 million in COVID-19 grant funding for nonprofits and organizations in the fight against COVID-19.
When the pandemic reached Texas in March, we committed $2 million to 47 organizations across Texas that are vital to COVID-19 relief and recovery, including food banks and other organizations on the frontlines. We completed Texas Mutual delivery of these grants in May.
Texas Mutual also delivered $2 million in grants to several organizations across the state to help address community issues as a result of the pandemic. Funding is helping address health care disparities, support essential workers as they continue to provide critical services, improve childcare systems and more. Organizations include The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, United Way for Greater Austin and Paso Del Norte Health Foundation.
Solving economic issues
We are also supporting organizations that are strengthening the Texas workforce in their regions. Workforce development grants went to several organizations throughout Texas, including Workforce Solutions Capital Area, Texas State Technical College and Educate Texas.
This year, we awarded $213,643 in scholarships to 32 students. The Texas Mutual scholarship program, exclusive to injured employees of a Texas Mutual policyholder or their dependents, offers support through education and opportunity.
In response to Hurricanes Laura and Delta, we delivered $50,000 to the Orange County Disaster Rebuild to support ongoing recovery efforts and $95,000 to Texas Mutual policyholders affected by the hurricanes.
$500,000 in first responder grants
Together with Volunteer Fireman’s Insurance Services of Texas (VFIS), we awarded a total of $500,000 through two separate grant programs for volunteer first responders and nonprofit emergency service organizations. $200,000 was designated for a financial relief grant program to help provide funding assistance to organizations affected by COVID-19 and $300,000 went toward health and wellness grants.
$1 million in community sponsorships
With the widespread cancellation of programs and events during this time, we made a commitment to Texas Mutual longtime partners, many of which are nonprofits, to continue to fund sponsorships like rodeos, galas or luncheons. This commitment represented $1 million in funding to Texas Mutual partners across Texas.
$330 million in dividends
This year, Texas Mutual’s board of directors voted to distribute $330 million in policyholder dividends two months ahead of schedule. Historically, Texas Mutual paid dividends in June but in response to the uncertain economic climate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Mutual recognized an immediate need to support qualifying policyholders at a time when they needed it the most. See how ownership pays at Texas Mutual.
Texas Mutual dedicated team of fraud specialists, who work to protect Texas Mutual policyholders from those who take advantage of the system, received 2,925 referrals and identified $11.3 million in fraud and abuse in 2019. Their work helped prevent over $7.8 million in fraud and abuse while also protecting Texas Mutual policyholders’ premium dollars.
Virtual Safety Summit
Texas Mutual hosted the first-ever statewide online summit on September 2 featuring employers and industry experts discussing how businesses can work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The live webinar reached the 1,000-person capacity throughout the event with many participating in the live Q&A.
Customer experience enhancements
Building on Texas Mutual focus to modernize and enhance Texas Mutual customers’ online user experience in 2019, Texas Mutual teams have continued to update and modify Texas Mutual services and systems to better serve you. They completed large-scale initiatives like launching Texas Mutual new policyholder safety resource catalog, automating five of the most common policy changes for agents, and redesigning the homepage experience for policyholders and agents. Texas Mutual proud to continually improve Texas Mutual systems and tools to make workers’ comp work for all of Texas Mutual customers. Read more about all of Texas Mutual enhancements in 2020.
Sharing customers stories
This past year, Texas Mutual told the stories of Texas Mutual policyholders and their employees, from businesses on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to those pivoting their operations to support Texas communities. Texas Mutual ads for agents showed the different ways Texas Mutual serving their needs because they’re not just Texas Mutual partners, they’re also a part of Texas Mutual team. Texas Mutual proud to be able to tell these stories and share how they continue to be committed to Texas Mutual customers during this time. Through all the challenges the pandemic has brought on they continue to invest and support in the success of Texas Mutual policyholders and agents, because when you succeed, Texas Mutual succeeds.
Company awards and recognition
Taking care of people is not something they do, it’s who they are at Texas Mutual, so Texas Mutual humbled when Texas Mutual culture of service is recognized by others. See some of Texas Mutual achievements from this past year:
- A.M. Best affirms ratings for 2020: A.M. Best, the industry standard for insurance providers, affirmed Texas Mutual “a+” issuer credit rating and Texas Mutual “A” financial strength rating. This represents Texas Mutual financial strength and commitment to Texas Mutual policyholders. For the latest Best’s Credit Rating, access ambest.com.
- 2020 Governor’s Volunteer Award for Corporate Community Impact: Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott and the OneStar Foundation recently recognized Texas Mutual work with the Central Texas Food Bank. In 2019, Texas Mutual partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank to revamp their Mobile Food Pantry logistics to better serve Central Texas families. Through this partnership, Texas Mutual committed volunteers distributed 90,655 pounds of food to 6,619 families.
- 2020 Greater Austin Business Awards Honoree and Recipient: The Austin Chamber of Commerce recognized Texas Mutual as an honoree for the 2020 Greater Austin Business Awards. In addition, Texas Mutual’s President and CEO, Rich Gergasko, was recognized as an Austin CEO/Site Leader award recipient.
- 2020 PR News CSR & Nonprofit Award for Corporate Partnership: Texas Mutual partnership with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and KVUE, Austin’s ABC broadcast affiliate, to launch Trade Up Texas, was nationally recognized by PR News as the 2020 Winner for Corporate Partnership. The Trade Up Texas campaign helped connect over 1,000 individuals with Workforce Solutions to begin a new career.
- 2020 Austin Gives Generous Business Award Finalist: This past year, the Austin Chamber of Commerce recognized us as a finalist for the Austin Gives Generous Business Awards for Texas Mutual philanthropic efforts in the community.
- 2020 Texas Mutual Driving Concern Traffic Safety Award Exemplary Recipient: For the third year in a row, the National Safety Council, in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation, recognized Texas Mutual for Texas Mutual safe-driving initiatives.
- 2020 Ethics in Business Award: RecognizeGood, a local nonprofit highlighting community service in the greater Austin area, recognized Texas Mutual with the 2020 Ethics in Business Award in the large business category for Texas Mutual work on improving communities with fair, ethical and sustainable initiatives.
- 2020 Best Company to Work for in Texas: Texas Mutual honored to be named a 2020 Best Company to Work for in Texas for the ninth time and recognized as 13th best company in the large employer category, which is one ranking higher than Texas Mutual recognition in 2019.
As we look back on 2020, Texas Mutual continue to stand strong in their commitment for a stronger, safer Texas. Texas Mutual proud to continue to serve their customers as the leading provider of workers’ compensation, during this challenging time.
It would be fascinating to travel into the future and see what history will say about 2020 . As the year closes out, we all have experienced life-altering events that will be forever etched in our memories. Time will determine the impact of these events, but certainly “new normals” have and will be formed. Virtually every facet of our lives has changed – socially, financially and professionally.
The same is true of occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals. Throughout our careers, we have used our education and skills to help workers return safely to their families at the end of their workday. During COVID-19, many of us are using technology to perform those tasks from afar. We have had to learn new skills and alter our behaviors. We have all been challenged in new ways.
OSHA has been similarly impacted by the pandemic. Agency personnel have coped with COVID-19 while also working to help employers address hazards arising in essential industries. Like ASSP, during the pandemic, OSHA has had to reflect on how best to pursue its mission in the face of adversity and make many operational adjustments to meet that challenge.
As of this writing, a new administration will be in place in January 2021 and it will likely have a much different approach to OSH. As a result, the agency will be expected to quickly transition to a new operating philosophy.
Here’s a look at four key issues facing OSHA in early 2021:
- Agency Leadership
- Regulatory Enforcement
OSHA is perpetually challenged about the annual number of inspections performed. It seems to be THE metric against which the agency is gauged. Labor always demands more, while management always wants fewer. Much less focus is placed on the actual depth of the inspections.
At the beginning of the current administration, labor groups voiced concern that the number of inspections would be dramatically reduced. From 2016 to 2018, the number of annual inspections has remained fairly steady at approximately 32,000. Additionally, many inspections have generated relatively high levels of penalties consistent with past practice.
Consequently, there appears to be a relative level of acceptance about to the number of inspections. OSHA has established policies with respect to inspections in industries returning in the wake of COVID-19, although the current resurgence is affecting many of these industries. This will certainly affect the number and type of inspections performed in 2021, and there also appears to be several formal employee complaints generated from COVID activities. And while the agency has a well-structured, sustainable plan for performing inspections given its current staffing levels, it is likely that the new administration will be urged to increase enforcement activities.
- Federal Safety Regulations
In an effort to obtain a zero-net cost impact to industries, the current administration instituted a “one -in, two-out” order with respect to implementing new federal standards. Despite this executive order, OSHA remained active in rulemaking, promulgated standards and/or compliance guidance on topics such as beryllium, silica, recordkeeping, heat, whistleblowers, medical records and COVID-19.
It is important to note that several executive orders issued in 2020 require all government agencies to identify standards that may inhibit economic recovery and rescind/modify/waive requirements as necessary. Several of these orders urge government agencies to use latitude when enforcing standards that have significant impact on economic recovery. Another recent order requires government agencies like OSHA to post all guidance documents on a website, mandating that anything not posted would be viewed as rescinded for enforcement purposes.
The new administration will likely reverse these orders. It will also likely reinvigorate standards activity on topics such as workplace violence, heat exposures, infectious diseases and possibly even permissible exposure limits (PELs). As these standard activities increase, ASSP will call on its practice specialty member communities to help formulate our response.
- Potential Developments
A laundry list of other developments could emerge in the near future.
- The Trump administration may issue some “midnight rules,” although time is running out.
- OSHA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. Could a “new and improved” version of OSHA be in the making? The new administration could push for renewed congressional attention to the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would require significant OSHA reform.
- Any actions related to revising the many outdated PELs would be a significant development for OSH professionals and their organizations.
- OSHA might develop an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 as we have seen in several states.
- Look for renewed support of federal advisory committees such as NACOSH and MACOSH.
- Other activities could address recordkeeping, guidance on using drones for inspections and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order from 2014 that disqualifies contractors with poor safety records from obtaining federal contracts.
OSHA has been without an assistant secretary for this entire Trump Administration. Despite this, thanks to the leadership of an acting administrator, the agency has made progress and engaged effectively with key stakeholders, including professional organizations like ASSP, organized labor groups and employer groups.
What will happen with the incoming administration? The names of several candidates for this position are being discussed, and OSH organizations like ASSP have been contacted for information about them. While the question of the Senate majority remains unknown for now, it’s likely the incoming administration will quickly nominate a candidate and begin the confirmation process.