Smartphone Apps Reduce Depression

September 22, 2017

New Australian-led research has confirmed that smartphone apps are an effective treatment option for depression, paving the way for safe and accessible interventions for the millions of people around the world diagnosed with this condition.

screen shot of smartphone app for treating drepression for article, Smartphone apps reduce depressionDepression is the most prevalent mental disorder and a leading cause of global disability, with mental health services worldwide struggling to meet the demand for treatment.

In an effort to tackle this rising challenge, researchers from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Harvard Medical School, The University of Manchester, and the Black Dog Institute in Australia examined the efficacy of smartphone-based treatments for depression.

The researchers systematically reviewed 18 randomised controlled trials which examined a total of 22 different smartphone-delivered mental health interventions.

The studies involved more than 3400 male and female participants between the ages of 18-59 with a range of mental health symptoms and conditions including major depression, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and insomnia.

The first of its kind research, published today in World Psychiatry found that overall smartphone apps significantly reduced people’s depressive symptoms, suggesting these new digital therapies can be useful for managing the condition.

Lead author of the paper, NICM postdoctoral research fellow Joseph Firth says this was an important finding which presented a new opportunity for providing accessible and affordable care for patients who might not otherwise have access to treatment.

“The majority of people in developed countries own smartphones, including younger people who are increasingly affected by depression,” said Mr Firth.

“Combined with the rapid technological advances in this area, these devices may ultimately be capable of providing instantly accessible and highly effective treatments for depression, reducing the societal and economic burden of this condition worldwide.”
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Technology Helps Bring Safer Driving Habits to Texas Mutual

09/20/17     Work Safe, Texas Blog

You’re driving down the highway, minding your speed, when a truck flies by, cuts in front of you and slams on its brakes. You’re rightfully irritated and then you notice the truck has a “How’s My Driving?” bumper sticker. Do you take the time to pull over, call and report your experience?

illustration of collision avoidance system for article, Technology Helps Bring Safer Driving Habits to Texas MutualMore often than not, drivers don’t make the call. For years, Texas Mutual relied on these “How’s My Driving?” stickers to encourage safe driving among our employees, but with no real way to confirm if they were making a positive difference to improve driving behavior.

Safe driving is an issue we are especially aware of here at Texas Mutual. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job injuries and death for our policyholders’ employees. It’s our mission to help our policyholders reduce these accidents and keep our own employees safe on the road as well.

That’s why in March 2015, we installed an in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) in more than 90 vehicles in our fleet. The IVMS uses telematics technology to transmit information about how someone is driving, which is used to identify potentially unsafe patterns.

For Texas Mutual, our IVMS is about more than just tracking driving behavior – it also offers peace of mind knowing those who travel for work on a daily basis stay safe by practicing good driving behaviors. We ask our policyholders to do all they can to ensure their workers are safe on the road, and we hold ourselves to the same standard.

How an IVMS works

The system, which takes less than one minute to install into your car’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, monitors real-time data. It tracks three risk indicators: speed, rapid acceleration and hard braking. Drivers and their department managers receive a weekly scorecard, similar to a school report card, which assigns an overall letter grade and a letter grade for each of the three risk indicators. The intent is to improve driving habits by informing employees of their driving behavior in a timely manner, and identifying potentially unsafe patterns of driving behavior. The reports are not used in performance reviews for disciplinary action or negative feedback.

The weekly scorecards also include distance traveled, driving time, idling cost and engine usage. To encourage friendly competition, you can also have the scorecards rank business groups within the company. Many businesses also use the technology to track deliveries and manage their fleet, and more sophisticated systems include on-board cameras that monitor the driver’s face and eyes for signs of fatigue and distraction. The cost of an IVMS varies with its complexity. Basic systems cost a few hundred dollars, while more advanced ones cost up to $1,000.

Safer drivers, fewer accidents

The IVMS technology provides reliable information and gives us insight into driving performance in a way we never had before. Since implementing our IVMS, we have seen a 61 percent decrease in preventable accidents. In its first week of implementation in March 2015, the average safe driving score at Texas Mutual was 90 out of 100, but that number has increased to 94.5 in the time since then. Our goal is for our employees to return home safely at the end of the day and the IVMS is a tool helping us meet that goal.


Opioid Crisis Is Taking Men Out of the Labor Market

By Josh Rosenblatt,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2017 7:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – The percentage of American men participating in the labor force dropped 3 percentage points between 1999 and 2014, and one economist believes a considerable portion of that drop can be blamed on the opioid epidemic, Fortune reports.

The drug crisis has hit certain areas of the country harder than others, so Princeton economist Alan Krueger looked at labor participation rates in those areas and concluded that the increase in opioid prescriptions over the last 15 years could account for as much as 20% of the decline.

“Labor force participation has fallen more in areas where relatively more opioid pain medication is prescribed, causing the problem of depressed labor force participation and the opioid crisis to become intertwined,” Krueger writes in his study published by the Brookings Institution.

As New York notes, it’s possible that dropping out of the labor force prompts men to turn to drugs, rather than the opposite, but the report still seems genuinely troubling.

info graphic of opioid deaths by gender for article,       Clean Needles Aren't the Only Tattoo Concern     San Diego Ramps Up Efforts to Squelch Hepatitis A Outbreak     Lost Interest in Sex? This Could Help     Bad Diet a Factor in 20% of All Deaths     Texas Cities Are Top in Uninsured Residents     Breakthrough Could Transform Vaccine Shots     Selena Gomez: I've Been on the Mend From Kidney Transplant     Hundreds Infected in Deadly Hepatitis Outbreak in California     School Board: Students Can Use Miniature Horses as Service Animals     BK Night Employees Work 2 Unusual Shifts in a Row     Bernie Sanders Wants to Give You a 'Universal Medicare' Card     Puppies From Petland Are Making People Sick: CDC  Health / opioids Go to Grid|Next Story Opioid Crisis Is Taking Men Out of the Labor Market It offers “compelling evidence that America’s painkiller habit isn’t just producing 100 overdose deaths in our country each day, but also impairing our economy’s capacity to grow.”

The report comes at a dire moment in the country’s opioid crisis. 33,000 Americans died in 2015 as a result of the epidemic, and while President Trump declared it a national emergency last month, since then no official paperwork has been released and no new policies have been enacted, the Hill reports.


Lower Back Pain and Better Outcomes

09/08/17     Safety National

Millions of dollars are spent annually on treating low back pain (LBP). It accounts for one third of all occupational musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses resulting in work disability. At the 2017 CWC and Risk conference a panel of experts discuss lower back pain and the latest research.

Illustration representing lower back pain for article, Lower Back Pain and Better Outcomes

Conservative treatment options

There is no magic bullet. There is moderate evidence for multiple forms of conservative treatment. Acute lower back pain(LBP) treatment options include reassurance, remain active, heat, manipulation and acupuncture.

Meds can include NSAIDs or muscle relaxants (not opioids). Chronic LBP options are exercise, mindfulness based approaches, cognitive behavioral therapy, multidisciplinary rehab. Meds can include NSAIDs, tramadol. Bed rest is not advised. Physical agents and modalities are of unproven benefit to justify their costs in patients with acute LBP. There is evidence against traction for acute LBP but there is some support for chronic LBP. There is building evidence for stratified care based on risk profile that includes psychological and physical characteristics. Some patients may need a little more than reassurance and simple education. Others may need more advanced “psychologically informed” rehabilitation.

Central sensitization is becoming better understood and represents significant changes within the nervous system. This may require multidisciplinary care that includes specialized physical rehab and pharmacotherapy. People with uncomplicated LBP who are first sent for MRIs are more likely to receive a surgical or injection intervention, require specialty care or visit to an emergency system and LBP related medical charges were higher. MRIs can trigger catastrophic thinking and disability beliefs.

The Power of Words

Words can:

• Reassure or frighten

• Signal interest or not

• Build trust /confidence or distrust or insecurity

• Create expectations – positive or negative

• Grow relationships or not

Words are most powerful when you are seen as a credible authority (benevolent, trustworthy and expert in the matter at hand. When you are familiar with and respect the worker’s specific situation: What are they wondering or worrying about, and what they want to accomplish.

University of California – WorkStrong program

The WorkStrong program is a University of California system-wide program developed with the expertise and collaborative support of UC staff in wellness programs, occupational health and recreational services. It is designed to promote recovery and prevent future workplace injuries. Each UC campus has its own unique program to suit the needs of the employees on its campus. All campuses offer the core services of WorkStrong, which include a 6 month gym membership, exercise guidance and nutrition counseling, while each campus offers their own unique programming to suit the needs of its campus.

Some of the program benefits include:

• Post-rehab wellness program (pre- and post-body composition assessments included)

• Pre- and post-flexibility/mobility and strength assessment

• Flexible hours geared towards what works best for you

• Focused on functional strength for your workplace


ADA vs. WCC – Return to Work & the Interactive Process

What does it mean to return to work for a work related injury versus a non-industrial injury? What is reasonable accommodation? What is are the consequences for failing to accommodate adequately?

Return To Work logo graphic to go with article, ADA vs. WCC - Return to Work & the Interactive ProcessAt the 2017 CWC and Risk conference a panel leads a discussion on return to work and the interactive process.

Outcome is the same regardless of the type of injury. Whether the injury is work replaced or non industrial injury you must follow the interactive process. Tips for return to work include require a medical status authorizing return, internally designate who receives the status, and find out if the work restrictions are temporary or permanent. Company should have the employee sign the job analysis or job description upon return.

What should you do with conflicting medical reports?

    • still need to engage in interactive process(this is required under ADA)
    • gap between workers’ compensation and employment law
    • engage employee
    • ultimately the employer has the final decision
    • stay consistent with each employee
    • fitness-for-duty exam is an option
    • no return to work should be considered where there is a safety concern for workers or others

What is acceptable medical documentation?

Require for all medical status or certifications must include statement that worker has a disability or medical condition that requires accommodation or restriction, sufficient detail of the restrictions or accommodations required, and length of expected restriction or accommodation.

What is a “disability?” FEHA definition of disability is:

Physical: physical condition or disorder that affects a major bodily system and that limits a major life activity

Mental: having any mental or psychological disorder or condition that limits a major life activity

“Limits” means simply that the condition makes achievement of the major life activity difficult.

Under workers’ compensation there is no requirement that the employer must accommodate temporary modified duties however, under FEHA, the employer must determine if they have a “disability” and is this employee disabled under ADA.

Essential job functions

If the workers is disabled, must accommodate to effectively enable him or her to perform an “essential” job function.

    • Proving a job function is “essential”
    •  failure to perform the job function has legitimate business consequences


Torque Tool Use

09/06/17        Maureen Graves Anderson

Homer Simpson Tool Safety poster for article, orque Tool UseRecently I was asked about safe torque levels when using electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically powered screwdrivers or wrenches. These tools are often used in assembly jobs in the manufacturing industry.

Basically, torque is a measure of the turning force on an object. A person holds the tool in place while the tool delivers a specified amount of force, measured in English units, inch-pounds (Newton-meters [nM] in the metric world). As the tool delivers the force, the body braces against the force. When the specified force is reached, the machine stops abruptly. It is this jerking reaction force that causes the problem – over time this repeated force can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). How much force, torque in this case, can a person safely handle? The amount of torque force that a person can tolerate over the course of day varies greatly. Overall, strength, age, sex, posture, grip size and type are all factors that determine tolerance to torque forces.

For healthy adults, we know the range of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), the measure of strength for this type of force. But that tells us only the maximum a person can generate. This is not a good indicator for someone repeatedly doing this type of work. For that, we need to modify the MVC with a percentage. 14% of MVC is used for intermittent static contractions and 8% for continuous static contractions over the course of day. So doing the math, I calculate that for 95% of women, the range is 6.7 inch-pounds to 14.6 inch-pounds, with 10.66 inch-pounds being the average. For 95% of men, the range is 13.6 inch-pounds to 21.3 inch-pounds, with 17.6 inch-pounds being the average.

What do you do if the torque tool generates more force than a person can comfortably handle over the course of the day? There are two approaches: engineering controls and administrative controls. Engineering controls should be the first line of defense. Here are a few options:

  • Reaction arm for conventional tool: When a torque tool reaches its specified force, it abruptly stops. A reaction arm transmits the force to the frame rather than the human body. It is interesting that the industry recommends torque reaction arms for forces greater than 12 pounds; this is a pretty good estimate for males. For women, I recommend using these torque reaction arms for forces greater than 10 inch-pounds. There are many on the market, click here for an example.
  • Pulse tools: These tools apply the force by pulsing, and are very quiet and do not require a reaction arm. However, they are more expensive upfront and require more maintenance. In the long run, they may be cost-effective depending upon how they are used.


Best Practices for Display Screen Equipment Use

Display Screen Equipment; laptops, tablets,, computer workstations, and touch screens are pervasive in the workplace. It should come as no surprise that there are guidelines for their safe and healthy use.

infographic for correct computer screen setting and placement for article, Best Practices for Display Screen Equipment UseWhat is display screen equipment?

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) is sometimes referred to as Visual Display Units (VDU) or Computer Workstations and includes laptops, touch-screens and other similar devices that incorporate a display screen.

Any item of computer-related equipment including the computer, display, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair can be considered part of the DSE work station.

Other important definitions:

User: an employee who habitually uses DSE as a significant part of their normal work. If someone uses DSE continuously for periods of an hour or more on most days worked, they are likely to be classified as a user.

Operator: a self-employed worker who habitually uses DSE for a significant part of their work.

The risks of using display screen equipment

Many employers and employees are completely unaware of the impact on health that a poorly arranged work station can have.

A poorly equipped and arranged work station is a major contributing factor in the development of many work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs). Conditions can be both short and long term but in most cases cause a lot of avoidable pain, discomfort and stress. Other associated symptoms include temporary eyestrain and headaches, and fatigue/stress.

The hazards associated with DSE work stations must therefore be properly assessed so that they are adequately equipped and adjustable to suit the user’s needs.

Legal duties and obligations around display screen equipment

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