News roundup: transportation fatalities, managed care, combustible dust, and common WC mistakes

March 10th, 2008 by Julie Ferguson

Transportation safety – Celeste Monforton at The Pump Handle talks about when a work-related traffic fatality is not a work-related traffic fatality in her thoughtful post When the Road is Your Workplace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts on-the-job traffic fatalities in its annual census of fatal occupational injuries – and last year, transportation-related fatalities represent ed 40% of all work deaths, or 2,413 deaths – the single largest source of fatalities. She raises an interesting question:

So, if transportation incidents are the single biggest cause of work-related FATAL injuries, does OSHA consider them work-related? No, not really.
Here’s why I say that:
OSHA’s reporting regulations for fatalities (29 CFR 1904.39) does not require employers to report to OSHA a worker’s death in a motor vehicle accident. Specifically, the regulation says:
“If the motor vehicle accident occurs on a public street or highway, and does not occur in a construction work zone, you do not have to report the incident to OSHA.”

This brings to mind the old management maxim of what gets measured gets done. Monforton expresses dismay that public safety agencies aren’t counting these incidents as work-related because the omission may mean a lack of focus on how to prevent at least a portion of these deaths.
Managed care – Joe Paduda offers a great market overview of the managed care side of workers comp. He notes that the workers comp medical market totaled about $27 billion in 2007 and is increasing at around 8% per year. He breaks down the medical spend into various segments and lists key players and issues. It’s well worth a read.
Web 2.0 workplace safetyOSHA Underground tells us that so far in 2008, there have been 9 combustible dust-related explosions or fires at workplaces, and harnesses the advantages of Web 2.0 technology to plot these combustible-dust related incidents out on Google map. It’s a great visualization tool that might help to increase public awareness.
Common mistakesAmerican Printer features a good article on 8 major workers comp mistakes by Frank Pennachio. It highlights common errors that employers make in overseeing their workers comp program, including confusing lower premium rates with cost reductions, focusing on direct costs only, separating workers compensation from employee retention, and measuring the wrong thing. We agree with many of these points. Many employers think of workers comp as a financial issue but we disagree. It is really a people issue, and when you manage the people component well, you will generally have a far more favorable financial outcome.
Risk manager’s role – Just what does a risk manager do? Rita Schwab of MSSPNexus discusses the hospital risk manager’s role using the Yale School of Medicine / Yale New Haven Hospital’s definition of the role. She notes that roles can vary considerably from organization to organization.
March is Workplace Eye Health and Safety Awareness MonthPrevent Blindness reminds us that every year, 800,000 eye injuries occur on the job, including 36,000 that require time off from work. It’s a good month to review your workplace eye safety programs.