Archive for August, 2013

News Roundup: Fatalities, Opioids, Extreme Heat, 33 Minutes of History & More

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Bucking the trend – There is good news in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2012: Worker fatalities in 2012 was the second lowest preliminary total since the census was first conducted in 1992. A preliminary total of 4,383 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2012, down from a revised count
of 4,693 fatal work injuries in 2011. But bucking this positive trend, there were a few troubling indicators:

  • Fatal work injuries involving workers under 16 years of age nearly doubled, rising from 10 in 2011 to 19 in 2012–the highest total since 2005
  • Fatal work injuries in the private construction sector increased 5 percent
  • Fatal work injuries in the private mining sector rose in 2012, led by an increase in fatal injuries to workers in oil and gas extraction industries. Fatal work injuries in oil and gas extraction industries rose 23 percent to 138 in 2012, reaching a new high for the series

Opioids Research – An article by Richard Victor of WCRI is featured in CFOFive Ways to Curb Workplace Drug Risks – “Significantly reducing the use of unnecessary narcotics in the treatment of injured workers is the task of all stakeholders in the workers’ compensation system: employers, labor, physicians, hospitals, insurers and public policymakers. But reforming a statutory system like workers compensation takes time. Fortunately, employers can take some beneficial actions immediately. A look at the latest research provides the insight needed for all to do the right thing. The WCRI study, Longer-Term Use of Opioids, identified a number of states where workers were most likely to be taking opioids long after their injury.” Also see: Preliminary data from Joe Paduda’s Opioids in Workers’ Comp survey.
Healthcare violence – NIOSH offers free free on-line Violence Prevention Training for Nurses. NIOSH partnered with nursing and labor organizations, academic groups, other government agencies, and Vida Health Communications to develop the training, which incorporates text and videos depicting workplace violence incidents, testimonials from real nurses, and module quizzes. Nurses can also receive free continuing education credits for completing the online course. The course has 13 units that take approximately 15 minutes each to complete.
Extreme Heat – What links these workers: a Medford, Massachusetts US Postal Service employee; a farm worker in Tulare County, California; an employee of a plumbing and HVAC company in Louisiana; a landscaping company employee in Wisconsin; a construction worker in Indiana; a recycling company employee in New York City, and a spa employee in New Jersey? They all died of heat exposure this summer while on-the-job. OSHA lists 16 possible heat fatalities between June 6 and July 26, 2013, when a heat wave engulfed much of the US. OSHA says that heat has killed, on average, more than 30 workers a year since 2003. Elizabeth Grossman posts
Heat Kills: As temperatures climb, workers succumb to heat at The Pump Handle.
Foreign-born workers – Peter Rousmaniere makes the case for cultural competence in healthcare facilities in his post about foreign-born workers in in Risk & Insurance: “Foreign-born workers (including legal and undocumented) comprised about one-tenth of the country’s workforce in 1990. Today, they amount to about 17 percent, and are more widely distributed geographically. The rise in immigrant labor has resulted in heightened work injury risk, which is complicated by language and legality issues.”
Journalism and ethics – Pia Christensen of the Association of Health Care Journalists’ blog posts how journalists were taken aback by AP’s tweets about pharmaceutical company: “Journalists on Twitter were surprised, even dismayed, on Tuesday when tweets from The Associated Press prompted followers to “Visit AstraZeneca’s YouTube channel.”
Intoxication and Workers CompNew Hampshire Court Outlines Drunk Defense in Workers’ Comp Claims – intoxication must be determined to be the cause of an accident for it to be a defense against a workers’ compensation claim. Roberto Ceniceros discusses more on this case at Comp Time and raises some additional issues. He notes that the claimant’s argument was that the employer should have known he was drunk because he is an alcoholic. The claimant is now also a quadriplegic as a result of the accident.
More news briefs below, but first we thought we would offer this newly restored documentary of seismic events from 50 years ago today: The March – 33 minutes of truly remarkable history.

Workers Comp and other news briefs:

Cavalcade of Risk

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Check out the recently posted Cavalcade of Risk #190 – August 21st, 2013 Edition posted at the My Personal Finance Journey blog. And watch this space for the next risk roundup, which we’ll be hosting here!

News Roundup: Health Wonk Review, Nurses & Violence, Opioid Survey & More

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Catch up on your Health Wonkery – David Williams has posted Health Wonk Review: Dog Daze 2013 over at Health Business Blog. Judging by the number and variety of entries, it would seem the health wonkers have not been vacationing!
Violence Prevention for Nurses – Free Training – According to NIOSH: “On average, over the last decade, U.S. healthcare workers have accounted for two-thirds of the nonfatal workplace violence injuries in all industries involving days away from work [2]. Healthcare workers face the risk of both physical violence and non-physical violence, such as verbal abuse, on the job. These numbers represent only the assaults that resulted in time away from work and not the less severe physical injuries or the psychological trauma that HCSA workers experience from workplace violence. Additionally, these data only capture the reported incidents. The literature suggests that the number of assaults reported by healthcare workers is greatly underreported.” NIOSH worked with various partners – including nursing and labor organizations, academic groups, other government agencies, and Vida Health Communications, Inc. – to develop a new free on-line course aimed at training nurses in recognizing and preventing workplace violence. The course has 13 units that take approximately 15 minutes each to complete and includes “resume-where-you-left-off” technology. Learn more about the courses at Free On-line Violence Prevention Training for Nurses and the actual course can be accessed here: Workplace Violence Prevention for Nurses CDC Course No. WB1865
Opioids, Workers Comp & iPad Minis – Are opioids a workers compensation issue for your organization? Joe Paduda is seeking participation in his online Survey of Opioids and Workers’ Compensation. You can further our industry knowledge in this area – and potentially win an iPad Mini for your participation. Who should participate? Industry vendors, Insurance Carrier/Providers, Managed Care Organizations, Medical Communities, Third Party Administrators.
Hotshot Firefighters & Workers Comp – At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros discusses workers comp issues related to the Arizona Firefighters who recently lost their lives in this year’s mega fire. There are coverage issues of part-time vs full-time workers at issue – one surviving widow is challenging the denial of benefits. In his post, Ceniceros also pointed us to this excellent article: Deaths in Idaho and elsewhere prompt agencies to reform how they protect firefighters.
Safety & Discipline – In a two-part series, Chris Kilbourne examines the issue of safety and discipline. He cites a survey conducted by the law firm Fisher & Phillips, that found “…most companies make little consistent effort to train supervisors on when and how to discipline employees. Too often, Mavity adds, the only time an employer learns that an employee was working unsafely is in the course of a postinjury investigation.” He notes that, “This is a problem for several reasons, including the fact that without a record of disciplinary action, an employer might not be able to demonstrate to OSHA that it is operating an effective safety program.” In part 1, Kilbourne looks at the question of whether employees should be disciplined for safety violations and in part 2, discusses the right way to use discipline to promote safety
Other items that caught our eye this week

What’s odd about this picture?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Delaine Davis has been sentenced to 4 to 6 years in Wyoming Women’s Center jail. Her crime was workers’ compensation fraud of $11,072. She knowingly collected workers comp benefits while being gainfully employed in another job. In addition to her jail term, she was ordered by Judge Marvin L. Tyler to pay $11,072 in restitution to the State of Wyoming.

Is it just us, or does that penalty seem a little harsh? Perhaps there are some extenuating circumstances that contributed to the sentence that weren’t revealed in news reports. Certainly, we would agree that fraud is bad and should be punished – we have no argument with that. Apparently, Ms. Davis willfully violated the law. She should indeed be required to pay restitution and suffer some punishment for her crime — but 4 to 6 years seems pretty steep to us — particularly in contrast to the “up to 6 month” jail penalty for a willful violation resulting in a worker fatality under OSHA’s general duty clause:

(e) Any employer who willfully violates any standard, rule, or order promulgated pursuant to section 6 of this Act, or of any regulations prescribed pursuant to this Act, and that violation caused death to any employee, shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or by both; except that if the conviction is for a violation committed after a first conviction of such person, punishment shall be by a fine of not more than $20,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by both.

In looking further into the data, we turned up this SHRM article: Report Finds OSHA Resources Lacking, Penalties Weak, which notes that:

“The median penalty for a fatality investigation conducted in FY 2012 was $5,175 for federal OSHA, and the median current penalty for the state OSHA plans combined was $4,200, according to OSHA enforcement data.

Criminal enforcement under the OSH Act has been and remains exceedingly rare, the report said.

Only 84 cases have been prosecuted since 1970, with defendants serving a total of 89 months in prison. During this time there were more than 390,000 workplace fatalities, according to Labor Department data. In FY 2012 13 cases were referred for possible criminal prosecution.”

Fraud is serious business and we all pay the price. Wyoming has chosen to wield a pretty big stick in doling out punishment, noting that “Workers’ compensation is intended to help workers injured on the job, We won’t stand for people who defraud and abuse this important program.” OK. But when it comes to protecting workers and keeping them safe, the state takes less of a hard line and more of a courtesy approach to safety, generally favoring carrots over penalties. This hasn’t produced great results: While there have been some small improvements of late, Wyoming has a pretty ignominious record when it comes to worker fatalities. Except for the most recent year, Wyoming has consistently ranked as the worst or the next-to-the-worst state for worker fatalities over the past decade.

Midsummer news roundup

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Happier times ahead? – Joe Paduda says that if higher total premiums are your barometer, things are looking decidedly sunny: Brighter days for workers comp. And related to these happier times that Joe notes is the resurgence of manufacturing. See : Are Engineering Schools the Unsung Hero in America’s Industrial Rebound?
WV “epicenter of the Oxycontin epidemic” – Ken Ward talks about Coal’s role in Appalachia’s drug problem. His post also points us to the documentary Oxyana, which is described as. ” A portrait of Oceana, WV, an old coal mining town that has become the epicenter of the Oxycontin epidemic, earning the nickname Oxyana.” You can see the Osyana trailer here and click through to watch the entire documentary online for $3.99. Related: At CompTime, Roberto Ceniceros recently wrote about Heroin and the Work Comp Connection. He’s also written about about a shift away from OxyContin use toward heroin abuse.
Obesity and workers comp study – In light of the recent AMA classification of obesity as a treatable disease, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) has issued a report that examines the effect on California workers’ compensate. “Using data from 1.2 million claims from accident years 2005 to 2010, the Institute found that claims with an obesity co-morbidity have had significantly higher rates of lost time from work, permanent disability, and attorney involvement, and have been much more likely to involve additional co-morbidities such as arthritis, hypertension and mental health issues, as well as prescriptions for opioid painkillers and psychotropic drugs – all of which are associated with higher claim costs. Indeed, after case-mix adjustment, the study found that paid losses on claims with the obesity co-morbidity averaged $116,437, or 81.3% more than those without; and that these claims averaged nearly 35 weeks of lost time, or 80% more than the 19 week average for claims without the obesity co-morbidity. The Institute notes that to the extent that such differences continue in the future, these results suggest that any increase in the number of job injury claims in which obesity is treated could have significant cost implications for workers’ compensation.” Access the full 8/7 report at CWCI.
ACAState Premium Watch: Pricing In The New Insurance Marketplaces – a good update from Kaiser Health News, who note that: “A growing number of states have released approved 2014 premiums and other details about individual and small group insurance plans that will available on the marketplaces, also called exchanges. Those rates do not take into account the federal tax credits that many people will be eligible for. In addition, the federal government must give final approval to the plans in September.”
Emerging risks – You’ve heard of distracted driving – anyone who works in workers comp and has seen the devastating impact of slips trips and falls will not be surprised that this is now a thing: Distracted walking is no joke
Aftermath of a disaster9,640 Fukushima plant workers reach radiation level for leukemia compensation – “According to figures compiled by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in July, 9,640 people who worked at the plant between March 11, 2011, when the nuclear accident started, and Dec. 31 that year were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more of radiation. Workers can receive compensation if they are exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year and develop leukemia one year after they began working at the plant. TEPCO figures showed that 19,592 people worked at the Fukushima No. 1 plant during the nine-month period and were exposed to 12.18 millisieverts on average.”
FMLA – Think that including a description of your FMLA policies and procedures in an employee handbook will protect you in court? Think again: Failure to Provide FMLA Notice Dooms Employer’s Effort to Terminate Employee for Excessive Use of Leave
Fraud corner Jon Gelman reports on an Illinois first: Employer Convicted of a Felony for Failure to Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
Ohio delivers $55 million fraud smackdown
Risk RoundupCavalcade of Risk # 189: What’s Going On In The World Of Risk – Check it out!
New Briefs

“He was the greatest roofer I knew and look what happened”

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

This powerful “digital story” about falls through skylights from the California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) would be an excellent training video for construction workers, builders, and anyone who works on roofs.

According to FACE: “More construction workers die from falls than from any other on-the-job injury. Fatal falls and serious injuries may result from inadequate guarding and fall protection for work around skylights. This video explains the events that led to a roofing supervisor’s death after he fell 30 feet through a warehouse roof skylight onto a floor. Photographs from the fatality investigation are supplemented with scenes recreated by co-workers who were there that day. Fall prevention recommendations are highlighted. Roofing and construction companies are encouraged to include this video as part of a comprehensive safety training program.”
The video was produced by the California Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program in the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health.
OSHA: Preventing Worker Deaths and Injuries from Falls Through Skylights and Roof Openings
Fall Protection: Traps that Workers Can’t Avoid
OSHA Safety Videos for Construction