Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category

LexisNexis: Furthering the Workers Comp Community

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

I am not a lawyer, thank you very much, but I am married to one. So, you may imagine that I am familiar with more than a few members of the breed. I’ve heard every lawyer joke there is (but if you want to send me a couple of your favorites, that would be OK).

In the mid-1980s, the early days of Lynch Ryan, I often heard my attorney friends saying they had to search “Lexis” for one thing or another. Since they were occasionally charging me for doing that, I wanted to know a bit about “that Lexis thing.” Over lunch one day I was educated about this remarkable innovation for the legal community, an innovation that was actually saving me money.

The whole thing began as a searchable database experiment of the Ohio State Bar in 1967. In 1970, the Mead Corporation’s Mead Data Central took it over and named it Lexis. In 1973, Mead made Lexis’s full text search available for all cases in Ohio and New York. In 1980, after a 7-year key punch effort (you read that right), Lexis went nationwide for all federal and state cases. That same year, Mead launched the Lexis sister, Nexis, which allowed journalists to search news stories related to law.

In 1994, Mead sold LexisNexis to Reed Elsevier for $1.5 billion. Not a bad return on investment from those Ohio State Bar days.

Starting in 2000, LexisNexis began to get into the risk solution business, primarily by acquisition: Riskwise in 2000 and ChoicePoint, a data aggregator, in 2008. By the time of the ChoicePoint buy, LexisNexis had become profoundly involved in risk, especially workers compensation. It became a leading publisher of workers compensation material, including Larson’s Workers Compensation Law.
The LexisNexis Senior Editor for all things workers compensation is Robin Kobayashi, a ridiculously smart and talented person (Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA — by contrast, the closest I ever got to Phi Beta Kappa was admiring Gary Anderberg’s pin).

Robin is the visionary who decided to recognize workers compensation bloggers, beginning in 2009. That year there was only one winner, and I’m proud to say we were it. However, beginning in 2010, Robin expanded the award to the top 25 blogs, realizing that there was a wealth of insightful Web commentary that cried out for recognition.

Recently, LexisNexis announced the top 25 workers compensation blogs for 2014, a most distinguished list, and we congratulate everyone on it. However, during this time of recognition, I thought it might be a good idea to shine the Workers Comp Insider arc light on the far-sighted professional who made this award possible, thus deepening and expanding the workers compensation community in a meaningful and long-lasting manner.

For her vision and dedication, we salute Robin Kobayashi.

A Friday Eulogy

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Sitting here in Massachusetts on this dreary, dour and dank day, looking out the window and watching all manner of birds at the feeders (they’re really fond of the suet), I was planning on writing something about Roberto Ceniceros’s excellent article, “Taking the Psych Out of Psychosocial,” published this week in Risk & Insurance’s Workers Comp Forum.
Roberto suggests that the prefix “psych” in “psychosocial” causes confusion in the payer community, because it is difficult to distinguish between social co-morbidities and true psychological ailments. He also quotes our friend and colleague Jennifer Christian,M.D., who recently started a LinkedIn thread that gained immediate traction on the same subject.
Whatever you want to call them (how about co-morbid issues?), what we now know as psychosocial issues as well as the predictive analytics for identifying them early form the basis for an interesting and necessary discussion.
But we’re not going to do that today. No, today we’re going to sing the praises of someone most of you have never heard of – Ted Coughlin.
Over the years, the Insider has written about the shortage of skilled workers in the US, especially in manufacturing, which has become highly technical. The country’s educational systems were not keeping up with the speed-of-light technological advancements that bombard us continuously. This was especially true in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Worcester VoTech had become a city embarrassment. For twenty years, Worcester businessman Ted Coughlin devoted his considerable energy and local power to changing that. A one man force of nature, Ted was the person most responsible for the creation of Worcester Technical High School, a state of the art, nationally envied educational institution.
Early this year, the school won the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School Award, an award won by only 0.2% of the nation’s public and private high schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured the school in March. In April, the school’s Robotics and Automation Technology Team, the Commandos, one of 420 teams from 23 countries, won the VEX Robotics World Championship. In June, President Obama came to deliver the Commencement Address and acknowledged the extraordinary commitment of the city to lead the way to education’s future. But he saved his greatest praise for Ted, without whom the school would never have happened.
We lost Ted last night. He took a fall at home and died. He was a big-hearted, charismatic Prince of a guy who was loved and admired. In the years to come, graduates of Worcester Technical High School, as well as those from the other schools that Worcester inspires, tomorrow’s leaders, will owe a debt of gratitude to this wonderful man.
And so, that’s why, with apologies to Roberto and Jennifer, we’re postponing the column on psychosocial issues.
Rest in peace, Ted.

9/11 Remembrance

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

If you’re looking for something about workers’ compensation, might as well stop reading now, because this isn’t about workers’ compensation, although we know that 9/11 produced a slew of claims .
No, this is a brief post to share my 9/11 tribute song recorded on 28 September 2011 at one of the three greatest small concert halls in American – Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Peter Clemnte is on guitar. As the song says:
We must be strong
For friends who’ve gone.

I hope the song brings comfort on this sad anniversary.

Women of Steel

Friday, June 27th, 2014

women-of-steel
Are there many women in construction? They represent about 9% of the industry. Dorothée Moisan offers an excellent feature on New York’s Women of Steel, illustrated beautifully with photos by Jonathan Alpeyrie. Early pioneers talk about what it was like to break into the field. One little vignette from days gone by:

“I remember a young woman very well,” Janis says while smoking a cigarillo in her New York office. “This was really early in the game, in the late 1970s. The boss sent her into the field in order to do the kind of job that a superintendent would do. But the men yelled and threw rocks at her. The boss came and said, ‘Guys, what’s the matter with you? I want to train her.’ And their response was, ‘We don’t want her here because now we can’t pee on the steel!'”

Things have changed considerably since those days, as women in the article relate. You can also get a current feel for the profession in these associations:
The National Association of Women in Construction was founded in 1953 by 16 women working in the construction industry. Today its an an international association of women employed in construction, which promotes that industry and supports the advancement of women within it. In addition to its national charter, NAWIC has International Affiliation Agreements with the Canadian Association of Women in Construction, NAWIC-Australia, NAWIC-New Zealand, NAWIC-United Kingdom and South African Women in Construction. They offer women in construction stats in the chart below (or click here for the original Fact Sheet (PDF))
Another key organization is the Professional Women in Construction, with 6 chapters and over 1,000 members. PWC serves a constituency of close to 15,000, representing a broad spectrum of the industry. As its mission, PWC encourages and advances the goals and interests of woman and minority owned businesses.
nawic

What Are They Breeding In Snohomish, Washington?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Yesterday was a dank, dour, dreary, drizzling day, so, rather than diving deep into work, I spent a good part of the day devouring dumb and dumber insurance stories from the internet.
I came away asking, “What are they breeding in Snohomish, Washington?”
But before I tell you about Danny Calhon, a 19 year old from Snohomish who has achieved his 15 minutes of fame in a way you could never in your entire lifetime conceive, permit me a small digression and a bit of a rant.
I grew up in Massachusetts in the idyllic Leave It To Beaver and Dobie Gillis era. Maynard G. Krebs was the closest thing to a weird kid as one could encounter, and he was tame fiction. True, we had our share of “Whoops, Billy and Betsy have to get married” moments, but that was about as far as anyone my friends and I knew strayed from the beaten path, and that wasn’t often. Just often enough to make you sincerely grateful you weren’t Billy.
In those days, the closest one came to technology was the party line rotary dial phone sitting on the bench near the kitchen and the black and white, 15-inch television resting in the living room, gathered around which, every night at 6:30, the entire family would take in NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report. Fifteen minutes of all the news in the world. “Good night, David. Good night, Chet.” There was no internet. There weren’t even area codes. Calculators were “adding machines,” and they were hand-cranked. People hand-wrote letters. The postal service was a marvel of efficiency. Mail a letter then and within three days it would be delivered by hand through a mail slot in your front door by your own, personal, smiling, friendly (except when there were dogs around – no leash laws then) mailman. Sorry, no women. Feminism and women’s rights hadn’t hit the post office yet, or anywhere else for that matter, which is a real pity. Gloria Steinem had yet to go undercover for 11 days as a Playboy Bunny in Hugh Heffner’s New York Playboy Club. That wouldn’t happen until 1963.
That world blew up, and this may surprise you, in 1967 with the appearance of Texas Instrument’s hand-held calculator, which added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. That was it. In the early 1970s, I bought one for our office. It cost $479. After that, there was no stopping the communications bullet train (which didn’t exist back then, either). Pretty soon, Al Gore invented the internet and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and, eventually, Mark Zuckerberg dragged everyone kicking and screaming into the galaxy we now inhabit. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Everyone’s a reporter and everything gets reported. If a Bumble Bee farts in Pasadena, we know it in Boston within five minutes.
One of the fun games my friends and I used to play when we were 11 or 12 was to take a deep breath and hold it while blowing really hard on our thumb, which we had stuck in our mouth. We’d then pass out for a second or two, and a friend would catch us before we hit the ground. Seems a little childish now, but, well, we were children.
Which brings me back to Danny Calhon. Remember him? Danny – he’s going to put Snohomish on the map – Calhon made it into the local newspaper, and now all over the country, maybe the world, for – get ready now – causing a three-car crash after fainting due to intentionally holding his breath while driving through the 772 foot long Dennis L. Edwards Sunset Tunnel near Manning, Oregon.
You can be forgiven right about now for asking yourself if you read that last bit correctly. Trust me. You did.
There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news (my wife always wants the bad news first – seems counterintuitive, but there you are) is that after he fainted, Danny’s 1990 Toyota Camry, which was carrying him and his friend, 19-year-old Bradley Meyring, drifted across the center line and crashed, head-on, into a Ford Explorer being driven without a care in the world just before the roof caved in – literally – by 67-year-old Thomas Hatch. His wife Candace, 61, was in the front passenger seat. The good news is that there are no life-threatening injuries.
Young Mister Calhon faces a laundry list of charges. At this time, we don’t know why in the world he was holding his breath enough to faint while driving through the tunnel. Neither does Lt. Gregg Hastings, with the Oregon State Police, who drew the short straw to investigate. Maybe Danny doesn’t even know, himself.
Back in Leave It To Beaver country, we would never have known about this. Think of all we were missing.

Santa’s workshop: “OSHA problems galore” say whistleblowers

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

santa-warehouse
Not to be a holiday killjoy, but if Santa does not show up at your house we think we know why. We just saw a press release about a lawsuit alleging that Santa promotes hostile and unsafe work environment in shelf-elf program. The suit is filled with some pretty shocking allegations which, if true might ground the big guy. What’s more, it follows on the heels of some other recent charges by Buddy the Elf, a whistleblower who revealed some horrible and unsafe labor practices in Santa’s workshop. Charges range from elves being paid in candy canes to exposed to terrible health hazards due to being housed with wild ruminants and exposed to their waste. The horror.
elf-safety-hazard
Part of the reason Santa has been able to get away with questionable practices is that his workshop is located outside of OSHA’s jurisdiction. He’s not beholden to US labor laws. At the oshatraining blog, Curtis Chambers does a great job explaining other safety problems that were identified at Santa’s North Pole workshop – no machine guarding, no personal protective equipment and no fall protection to name a few. Apparently Santa is getting fed up with all the criticism and bad publicity. Curtis explains that in recent years, to improve his image, Santa has entered a voluntary OSHA compliance program. It hasn’t all been easy, there have been some bumps in the road. You can read all about it in In Curtis’ post How OSHA nearly killed Christmas.
We are hoping Santa will be getting some help soon, though. Between Amazon’s delivery drones and Google’s somewhat terrifying BigDog and PetMan robots, things may get a little more mechanized in his workshop of the future. Then Santa can ditch the sleigh and ride in a driver-less car.

Thank you, LexisNexis and Julie Ferguson

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

While we don’t usually make a fuss over these things, I want to thank the good people at LexisNexis for once again recognizing Workers Comp Insider as one of the top three national blogs of the year. We’re highly appreciative and grateful for the honor.
I also want to take a moment to thank the Mother of Insurance Blogs, Julie Ferguson.
Julie and I have worked together for more than 20 years, and I cannot tell you how much I value her considerable talent, dedication, professionalism and vision. But even I was a bit confused and surprised when, in early 2003, she came to me to suggest that we might want to create something called a “weblog” for workers compensation. At that time, I viewed these things as the fad du jour, something teenagers used to memorialize what they had for breakfast and what they thought might be neat for the rest of the day, at least until lunch.
But Julie told me that this would be a way to reach a much larger constituency and, if we stuck to it, we had a chance to shape the future of workers compensation communication. I was highly skeptical, but she was persuasive and would not let it go.
And she was right. Thus was conceived and born the first insurance blog in the world. The Insider debuted in September, 2003, and has been going strong ever since. And all the credit goes to Julie. Early on, she said that many blogs would be created, but few would survive because of all the hard work, persistence and dedication it takes to keep them going, to keep them fresh, informative, readable and compelling. She was right about that, too.
So, thank you, LexisNexis, and thank you our faithful readers, but most of all thank you, Julie Ferguson, my visionary friend.

Scary, but for the wrong reasons: Halloween mining disaster “attraction”

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Three and a half years ago, 29 miners died in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. About 300 miles east from the locale of that tragedy, up until a day or two ago, you could walk through a “haunted” Halloween maze called The Miners’ Revenge at King’s Dominion theme park. The “attraction” was described this way:

“Alone in the darkness . . . the only sound is the pulsing of your heart as the searing heat slowly boils you alive . . . It was reported to be the worst coal mine accident in history. The families of missing miners begged for help but it was decided that a rescue was too dangerous. The miners were left entombed deep underground … “Lamps at their sides and pick-axes in their hands they are searching for the men who left them to die . . . waiting to exact their revenge.”

Peter Galuszka writes about this “amusement park” attraction in an opinion piece in the Washington Post: Miners’ deaths aren’t a theme-park thrill – or a copy can also be accessed at The Charleston Daily Mail.
Galuszka, who researched mine disasters for a book, said that the description and promotions are too close to reality.

“To promote the maze, Kings Dominion’s website features a garish picture of a badly mutilated half-skeleton.

That depiction, unfortunately, is true to reality. At Upper Big Branch, 10 of the 29 dead were blown apart by the explosion. The rest died of carbon monoxide intoxication.

So powerful was the blast that the remains of one miner were not found for days. He had been blown into the ceiling, and rescuers tended to look down.

So extensive was the physical trauma to five miners that pathologists couldn’t find enough lung tissue to probe for pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, in their remains.”

The Kings Dominion “attraction” closed for the season on 10/27 — and none too soon. Families of deceased miners were understandably appalled and troubled. While King’s Dominion says the attraction wasn’t meant to depict a specific situation, families say that it hits too close to home.
In the WCHSTV story linked above, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant shared her thoughts:

“I am appalled that Cedar Fair Entertainment Company is using the heartbreaking loss of our coal miners’ lives and the very real guilt of their colleagues and rescuers to make a buck,” Tennant said in a statement. “Our miners work hard and honorably, and for Cedar Fair Entertainment to exploit tragedies such as the 1968 explosion at Farmington or the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010 for ‘amusement’ is too unbelievable for words.”

Hopefully, this tasteless chapter ends with the season and will not be revisited in future years. It does indeed hit close to home for far too many. In 2013 to date, 18 coal miners have lost their lives. See Faces of the Mine for a more fitting remembrance of those affected by the Upper Big Branch disaster.

Greatest Hits, 2012 Edition

Friday, December 28th, 2012

The following are the 20 posts with the most number of reader views in 2012. Some posts have racked up a goodly number of views since we began tracking. Although we began the blog in September 2003 (so we’re embarking on our tenth year!), we didn’t start tracking until March 2007. We’ve been visited 1,625,623 times since then.

You’re fired! Should you terminate an employee who is on workers compensation?
Views in 2012: 8,783
All time views: 35,612

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Who Should Pay?
Views in 2012: 6,790
All time views: 25,001

Independent Contractor or Employee?
Views in 2012: 6,012
All time views: 27,190

Can You Terminate an Employee on Workers Comp?
Views in 2012: 4,346
All time views: 11,976

Heart attacks on the job: are they covered by workers compensation?
Views in 2012: 2,325
All time views: 7601

The Cost of Volunteers
Views in 2012: 1,637
All time views: 5,130

Exception to the “going and coming” rule: operating premises
Views in 2012: 1,425
All time views: 8,038

You think your job is tough?
Views in 2012: 1,351
All time views: 5,186

Experience Modification Alert: NCCI Changing the Rules
Views in 2012: 1,236
All time views: 2,110

OSHA: Is Your Safety Incentive Program an Act of Discrimination?
Views in 2012: 1,119
All time views: 1,119
1,093 / 1,093

NCCI Experience Mod Changes: The (Ominous) Future is Now
Views in 2012: 1,093
All time views: 1,093

Cool work safety tool from WorkSafeBC – “What’s wrong with this photo?”
Views in 2012: 1,091
All time views: 2,254

The “here’s a guy doing stupid things” safety photo genre
Views in 2012: 1,090
All time views: 1,948

Dangerous jobs: window washing at extreme heights
Views in 2012: 1079
All time views: 2,195

Predictive Modeling in Workers’ Compensation
Views in 2012: 993
All time views: 993

The history of workers compensation
Views in 2012: 965
All time views: 12,077

Bankruptcy and Workers’ Compensation: Broken Promises, Broken Lives
Views in 2012: 942
All time views: 4,133

Cavalcade of Risk #113 and a scary work scenario
Views in 2012: 939
All time views: 6,297

“What are my rights?” Employer frustration with workers comp

Views in 2012: 896
All time views: 3,643

Underwriting for Dummies?
Views in 2012: 856
All time views: 4,463

Marijuana: coming to a state near you – and probably sooner than you think!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

OK, this is something we never contemplated…straight from the Seattle Police Department’s Blotter, we bring you Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle.
The guide offers an FAQ for citizens about the recently enacted Washington law, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults over the age of 21. And Washington is not alone… in Colorado, 55% of the voters recently voted to legalize individual possession of small “recreational” amounts of marijuana. Contrary to what you might think, the vote wasn’t all cast by erstwhile hippies and young pot aficionados – some conservative proponents cited the potential billions in tax revenue and the benefits of unclogging the court systems and freeing police time by removing nettlesome petty criminal prosecutions
These voter approvals for recreational use mark a new twist – prior legislative approvals have dealt with medical use of the drug. Last week’s election saw other marijuana ballot initiatives in this vein – medical marijuana use was approved in Massachusetts, making it the 18th state (plus DC) to give the nod to medical marijuana use; however, Arkansas voters nixed their ballot initiative 51% to 48%.
The Devil is in the Details
Even with state initiatives, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Plus, as with most things, the devil is in the details and most states are scrambling to figure things out. But the train has left the station and is definitely gathering steam so this is an issue that employers need to take seriously. In the Seattle Police guide linked above, we note that the police are looking at the employment-related implications of the law, as well as other matters.

Q. Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?
A. As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue.
Q. If I apply for a job at the Seattle Police Department, will past (or current) marijuana use be held against me?
A. The current standard for applicants is that they have not used marijuana in the previous three years. In light of I-502, the department will consult with the City Attorney and the State Attorney General to see if and how that standard may be revised.

“Complicated issue” sums things up nicely. We’ve compiled some commentary on the matter from various employment law authorities (and will no doubt bring you more in the future!)
Over at the LexisNexis Employment Law Community, attorney Donna Ballman reminds employees that Legal Marijuana Use Can Still Get You Fired. She cites case law on issues ranging from drug testing to the ADA. Most interestingly, she also discusses state laws that prohibit discrimination against medical marijuana users and prohibitions against termination/discrimination based upon an employee’s lawful activities off-duty.
Vance O. Knapp writes about Amendment 64: how do employers address the legalization of marijuana in Colorado? He discusses this new law and the state’s prior law allowing for medical marijuana use, and offers thoughts for employers. He cites this passage from Colorado’s law:

Nothing in this Section is intended to require an employer to permit or to accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.

His post appears at Lexology, which has a good library of employment-law related articles on medical marijuana
Greg Lamm of the Puget Sound Business Journal spoke with labor and employment attorney James Shore, who offered five tips for employers to prepare for the new law. You should read his comments in full detail, but here’s a quick summary of key points:
1. Have a written policy covering substances such as drugs and alcohol.
2. Make sure that policy covers any drugs that are illegal under state, federal and local law
3. Make sure that the policy prohibits any detectable amount of illegal drugs, as opposed to using an “under the influence” standard.
4. Employers with multiple locations in multiple states should have one consistent policy
5. Be prepared to see marijuana come up in collective-bargaining and termination negotiations with unionized employees.
We’ve also dusted off a few prior posts that we made on medical marijuana because they outline some issues employers will need to consider.
The current buzz on medical marijuana and the workplace
One Toke Over the Line
You can find more of our blog posts about pot by searching “marijuana.”