News Roundup: Mining, frequency and severity, CA fraud, WTC deadline, CPR

August 15th, 2007 by Julie Ferguson

The most dangerous job in the U.S. – The nation has been following the desperate efforts to rescue 6 miners in Utah, our thoughts are with the miners and their families. The Pump Handle posts about the outreach bySago victims, who are offering support to Utah miners’ families. Wall Street Journal notes that this awful vigil underscores the failure of the safety overhauls initiated last year. And while all eyes are on the Utah situation, Tammy at Weekly Toll reports on 3 miners who died on the job in Indiana last week. Workplace Prof Blog notes that mining is still the most dangerous job in the U.S..
Frequency continues down, severity is up – Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance reports that in its annual study, NCCI states that workers comp frequency – the number of claims that occur – continues in its multi-year downward trend, and is pervasive across all industries. However, the cost of those claims continues to rise, as wage replacement and medical costs continue to increase. However, the rate of the severity increase is slowing. Ceniceros notes that “Increases in average medical cost per claim “remain substantial” and rose 7.5% in 2006, NCCI said. Medical costs per claim have increased an average of 8.5% per year over the last five years, which is less than a 10.3% annual increase from 1997 to 2001.”
NCCI’s full report on the 2006 drop in claim frequency (PDF) attributes the trend to a combination of factors:

  • Continued emphasis on workplace safety in all employment classes
  • Increased use of robotics
  • Increased use of modular design and construction techniques
  • Increased use of power-assisted processes
  • Advances in ergonomic design
    # Proliferation of cordless tools

  • More and better job training
  • Improved fraud deterrents

High employer fraud in CAa new report says that employer fraud in CA is rampant, and may be as high as $100 billion in under-reported payroll. The report studied rates from 1997 through 2002 because there is a significant time lag in reporting rates to the public.
The 42-page report was released last week by the Committee on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation from the University of California Berkeley researchers Frank Neuhauser and Colleen Donovan. It is the first to quantify the extent of fraud in workers’ comp payroll reporting in California. An article on the fraud report in the San Francisco Chronicle explains how this type of fraud works and how it results in honest employers paying significantly higher rates.

“To insure a roofer, he said, the employer may have to pay a dollar in workers’ comp premium for every dollar in payroll. In other words, it costs the honest boss about twice as much per hour to send a worker up on the roof than the paycheck would suggest. But to get workers’ comp coverage for a clerk in that same office, the boss may have to add only a penny in workers’ comp costs for every dollar in payroll.
So one easy-to-commit but tough-to-detect fraud, Walters said, is to classify a roofing foreman as a clerk. That person’s cost , instead of doubling, is increased a tiny fraction. But if the fake “clerk” falls off the roof, the insurer still has to pay all the costs of treating them because, under law, the worker is not at fault.
Meanwhile, the insurer, who bases premiums for all roofers on the total number of accidents for all the workers in that class, has been robbed of 99 cents that should have gone toward covering the costs of such accidents.”

Filing deadline extended for NYC Recovery workersN.Y. extends deadline to sign up for 9/11 benefits. Responders who aided in the rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts now have until August 14, 2008, to register with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to maintain eligibility for the federally funded benefits. This isn’t registering for benefits; rather it is putting a stake in the ground to establish eligibility should a need later arise. Many recovery workers are experiencing delayed onset of respiratory illnesses.
Health and safety – Good news on the CPR front. The length of time that typical trainings take – 3 to 4 hours – is often a factor that discourages more people from taking the classes. But new studies show that CPR training can occur in as little as a half hour. In preliminary studies, these shorter courses are proving as effective as longer ones. Thanks to Healthbolt for this item, and also for this great link to Learn CPR – You Can Do It!, a collection of online videos and illustrated guides offered in a variety of languages.