Posts Tagged ‘reports’

WCRI’s Annual Conference: Two Days of Research Data. What Could Be Better?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, located in the heart of Geek Heaven, Cambridge, Massachusetts, begins its 32nd Annual Issues and Research Conference in less than a month, 23 days to be precise. The conference is always interesting and often highly informative. Looking at the Agenda, this year’s effort seems to hit on both marks.

The theme is Understanding Today to Prepare for Tomorrow, which I guess could be anyone’s daily Mantra, but is exactly what the WCRI has been doing since its founding in 1983.

A lot has happened in the workers’ comp world since then. Perhaps the most astonishing development is the tremendous rise in medical costs. In the mid-1980s, medical costs comprised about 44% of total loss cost dollars, while indemnity payments took the lion’s share of 56%. Today, we see something entirely different, with medical costs taking up around 60% of the total. How times have changed!

However, comparing medical to indemnity costs is a bit like the old apples and oranges cliché. By that I mean that medical costs, despite fee schedules, have been able to go on there own little rocket ride to the moon in most states. Indemnity payment increases, on the other hand, are everywhere limited and tied in some way to the rise in the average weekly wage in the various states. And since 1973, average hourly wages, measured in constant 1984 dollars, have increased by a paltry 4%. This is one of the reasons why, despite a continuing decrease in injury frequency, a concomitant increase in severity doesn’t move the indemnity needle.

WCRI’s conference will dive into workers’ comp’s thorny issues with both feet. The session entitled Impact of Fee Schedules on Case-Shifting in Workers’ Compensation promises to be interesting, indeed. The relationship of case-shifting to the ACA has been something that many have opined about, but now I presume we’ll see some solid data.

Another session that looks as if it will present both interest and fireworks is the Opt-Out Panel. Actually, there are two Op-Out Panels. WCRI is devoting nearly three hours to the subject. Seat belts should be fastened.

I’m looking forward to this year’s conference. It’s happening  March 10-11 at the Westin Copley Place Hotel. Hope to see you there.

There’s No Fairy Godmother For This Cinderella

Monday, July 13th, 2015

I’d like to make a bet with you. Here it is. I bet you will answer “Yes” to at least one of the following three questions:

  1. Do you know anyone who works as a Personal Care Aide or a Home Health Aide?
  2. Has anyone in your immediate family, now or in the last 10 years, been taken care of by a Personal Care Aide or a Home Health Aide?
  3. Do you personally know anyone who  now or in the last year employed the services of a Personal Care Aide or a Home Health Aide?

I like my odds. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six of the ten fastest growing occupations from 2012 to 2022 will be in the health care industry and numbers two and three on the list are – you guessed it – Personal Care Aides and Home Health Aides, growing by 49% and 48%, respectively, closely following Industrial-Organizational Psychologists, a profession that is expected to grow by 53% during the ten year period.

While Psychologists are projected to have the greatest rate of growth, they’ll only be adding about 900 jobs to the economy. This is dwarfed by the numbers of new jobs for the Aides, 581 thousand and 424 thousand, respectively. Taken together, they’ll be adding more than a million workers to the economy. A hefty number, indeed.

The rate of injury for both of the Aide groups is 2.5 times the rate for all public and private sector workers.¹ You would think that would get somebody’s attention, maybe somebody at OSHA, for example. And, you know what? It did. This from OSHA:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in nursing and personal care facilities with high injury and illness rates.

“Nursing and personal care facilities are a growing industry where hazards are known and effective controls are available,” said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. “The industry also ranks among the highest in terms of injuries and illnesses, with rates about two and a half times (emphasis added) that of all other general industries. By focusing on specific hazards associated with nursing and personal care facilities, we can help bring those rates down.”

Only one problem with that: It was written exactly 13 years ago this month!

Now read this:

Non-fatal injuries to health care workers requiring days away from work are on the rise, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Nov. 9, and OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels has vowed to launch a National Emphasis Program on Nursing Home and Residential Care Facilities.

“It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness,” said Michaels.

According to BLS, the incidence rate for health care support workers increased 6 percent to 283 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, almost 2.5 times the rate for all private and public sector workers (emphasis added) at 118 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. The rate among nursing aides, orderlies and attendants rose 7 percent, to 489 per 10,000 workers. Additionally, the rate of musculoskeletal disorder cases with days away from work for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants increased 10 percent to a rate of 249 cases per 10,000 workers.

“The rates of injuries and illnesses among hospital and health care workers underscore OSHA’s concern about the safety and health of these workers,” said Michaels.

That was written by OSHA in November, 2011.

A National Emphasis Program is becoming kind of predictable for OSHA. Maybe we’ll see another one around 2020. Until then, or until ever, Personal and Home Health Aides will be the Cinderellas of the health care universe. Except their story won’t have a “happy ever after” ending, and they’ll never get to meet a Prince.²

 

¹ And this rate of injury does not include the thousands of Aides who are hired to take care of Grandpa and Grandma in the home and who are paid minimum wage.

² Paying lip service to this issue goes back at least as far as 1997 when the BLS, using 1994 data, published an Issues Paper, and said this:

Overall, the 1994 injury rate in home
health care services (474 lost workday
cases per 10,000 workers) is about 50
percent higher than the injury rate in
hospitals, the institutional setting from
which many home-care patients are
released, and 70 percent greater than the
national rate.

 

Related: A Living Wage For Caregivers, New York Times, 10 July 2015

 

Hospital Medicare Charges: You Don’t Always Get What You Want

Monday, June 8th, 2015

In early June of this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) let loose a treasure trove of data. One data set lists inpatient charges of 3,000 hospitals for the 100 most frequently billed diagnoses of 2013. The differences between what the hospitals billed and what Medicare paid are eye-popping, as are the differences between what hospitals within just a few miles of each other charged.

The inpatient data shows Medicare paid about $62 billion to cover more than 7 million discharges. Our good friends at Modern Healthcare have analyzed the data. This, from Modern Healthcare’s Bob Herman:

Hospitals have been under intense scrutiny for their billing practices, often triggered by extremely high charges—or sticker prices—for common procedures. Consumer groups and patient advocates argue hospital pricing is shrouded in secrecy, which has put patients on the hook for costly bills. But hospitals have said the listed charges are irrelevant because they only serve as a starting point for negotiations with insurers and that patients rarely, if ever, pay those prices.

The CMS data is shining a light on the process. The agency has now released data from 2011, 2012 and 2013. Charges for various inpatient and outpatient procedures differed significantly again in 2013 as they did in prior years. In many instances, charges fluctuated greatly among hospitals in the same region.

A Modern Healthcare analysis of the inpatient payment data shows Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., had the largest gulfs in charges between the top and bottom hospitals. For example, in Philadelphia, the average difference in average hospital charges across all procedures was $123,847. In Los Angeles—an area rife with academic medical centers such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center—the average difference between the highest-charging hospital and the lowest-charging hospital was about $112,000.

Did you catch the part about the listed charges being irrelevant, because they’re only starting points for negotiations? Reminds me of the last time I bought a car.

You might be tempted to say, “That’s crazy! Why do hospitals do that?” Let me answer with a little story.

A few years ago, I was a Trustee at a major teaching hospital in Massachusetts, a tertiary care facility, one of the biggies. At one Board meeting early on in my trusteeship I asked the CEO how the hospital was compensated for uninsured people who were indigent. His answer? “We charge them the moon.” Note to reader: he’s talking about the indigent patient, here. “Then, when the state’s uncompensated care pool gets around to paying us, we’ll get a lot more than if we just charged them what the procedure cost, in which case we’d get a lot less than what the procedure cost.” I never forgot that lesson in hospital economics.

So, you see, when hospitals say their charges are “starting points,” they’re telling the truth. And that is one spooky scary example of what a first-class horrendoma the American healthcare system (if you can call it that) has become.

Cavalcade of Risk and other news items of note

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Emily Holbrook does a stellar job hosting Cavalcade of Risk #164 at Risk Management Monitor. A sampling of recent posts on varied topics may tell you why Risk Management Monitor is on our regular reading list and one of our favorite blogs: The Formal Demands of a Somali Pirate, The 3 Most Curious Claims, and Insurance Claims from Colorado Wildfires at $450 Million and Growing.
Industry pulse – At propertycasualty360, Stephen Klingel offers an explanation of conflicting signals in the latest NCCI Workers Comp State of the Line report. He discusses why the market remains “worrisome” despite a number of positive developments. On the plus side, we see that claims frequency is down and written premium is up, but the industry’s reserves are deteriorating and the residual market is growing – indicators that bear watching. He cites claim frequency, the underwriting cycle. uncertainties related to healthcare and financial services reforms, and efforts to expand alternatives to Workers’ Comp as additional areas of concern that NCCI is monitoring.
Paid sick leave & workers comp study – A recent NIOSH-related study revealed that workers with paid sick leave were 28% less likely to report an occupational injury that needed medical care than workers without paid sick leave. Also, workers in high risk jobs appeared to benefit more. The survey encompassed 38,000 workers and was based on data collected by the National Health Interview Surveys from 2005 through 2008. While survey authors caution that the survey does not establish a a cause-and-effect relationship between paid sick leave and the incidence of workplace injuries, it does raise the issue that workers who do not have paid sick leave may feel economically pressured to work while sick, exposing them to greater likelihood of injury.
Right to safe workplaces – Kevin Jones raises the question of whether safe work is a basic or fundamental human right on the Australian SafetyAtWorkBlog. He raises this question both specifically for Australia, but also from a global perspective.
Healthcare & politics – Wondering about the healthcare implications of Romney’s vice presidential pick? Joe Paduda is on the case: At Managed Care Matters, he posts about Paul Ryan’s evolving stance on deficits and Medicare spending.
Healthcare workers and mass trauma – Dr. Camilla Sasson was on duty in the Emergency Department of the University of Colorado Hospital on the night of the Aurora shootings. She talks about her experiences that night on the RWJF Human Capital Blog, offering insight into the extreme stress that healthcare workers face during and after a mass casualty event – as well as how patients help the doctors heal.
Other news of note

Workers’ Comp Annual “Must-Read” Doc: The NCCI Issues Report

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Workers’ comp geeks and nerds, your wait is over: NCCI’s 2012 Workers’ Compensation Issues Report is out. For the uninitiated, NCCI stands for “National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc.” NCCI manages the nation’s largest database of workers compensation insurance information, supplying data to more than 900 insurance companies and nearly 40 state governments.See the NCCI state map for a quick glance of states that use NCCI as their licensed rating and statistical organization. NCCI describes the services it offers as “analyzes industry trends, prepares workers compensation insurance rate recommendations, determines the cost of proposed legislation, and provides a variety of services and tools to maintain a healthy workers compensation system.”
So the Annual Issues Report is a rather big deal – arguably one of the most important workers’ comp documents of the year. It offers an annual checkup on the health of market, along with discussion of trends, legislative changes, and the like. Plus, informed commentary on hot topics from various industry leaders.
The cornerstone document in the report is President and CEO Stephen Klingel’s annual update, this year entitled Workers Compensation Market Struggles to Identify a Direction (PDF). Klingel notes that it’s no easy matter offering any forecasts because we are in a time of uncertainties and adjustments as we make the long, slow climb from the recession. A few of his observations we found noteworthy:

  • In what is referred to as “the most surprising and disturbing negative
    development,” claims frequency saw its first increase in 13 years.
  • After 6 years of decline in the residual market (aka, “market of last resort” or “the pool”), NCCI is seeing initial signs of an increase.
  • Direct written premium is showing some growth.
  • State results show deterioration, with the ratio of increases in loss costs to declines doubling in just two years, a trend that is expected to continue in 2012.
  • Key quote: “With investment yields at historic lows, the current levels of underwriting losses are not sustainable. Even with what appears to be a temporary increase in investment gains, the combined ratio needs to decline substantially to earn a reasonable return on capital.”

Goring forward, uncertainties prevail. There are many wild cards that make forecasting difficult, with two big ones being the effect of the economic recovery and the 2012 election. And while there have been both troubling indicators (a rise in frequency, signs of residual market growth) and more positive indicators (improved investment scenario, growth in written premium), it is too soon to say if any of these are the beginnings of a trend.
Here’s an overview of other articles included in the Issues Report – all available for download, and all worth your time.

  • Robert P. Hartwig looks at the labor market recovery and the impact on insurers
  • Harry Shuford talks about the economy and what it will take to get us moving again
  • Peter Burton offers a legislative outlook, in which he recaps some of the major changes in 2011 and looks ahead to 2012
  • Joe Paduda looks at some key issues driving medical costs, opioid overprescribing and physician dispensing
  • Nancy Grover offers an overview of the state of insurance technologies
  • Tanya Restrepo and Harry Shuford write about the aging workforce and its effect on comp
  • Jim Davis and Yair Bar-Chaim examine the first rise in injury claims frequency in more than a decade
  • Dennis Mealy and Karen Ayres discuss the history of ratemaking in workers compensation
  • Charles Tenser examines four of the most discussed legal challenges involving workers comp

Follow-up on the death of Sheri Sangji: a painful path to academic lab safety

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

In March, UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran and the UC Board of Regents will be facing an ordeal they likely never anticipated: a court arraignment on felony charges related to a 2008 laboratory fire that killed Sheri Sangji. They face three counts each of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards. According to the Los Angeles Times, the charges are thought to be the first stemming from an academic lab accident in the United States.
By way of background: In December 2008, Sheri Sangji was working with t-butyl lithium, a substance that ignites on contact with air. A drop spilled on her clothing causing an instant conflagration. She suffered second and third degree burns over 40% of her body, and died 18 days after the fire. In the wake of this accident, Cal/OSHA imposed a $31,875 penalty, citing safety lapses and lack of training. (Chemjobber has followed this case diligently . See all his posts on the Sheri Sangji case, with the most recent at the top.)
UCLA officials call the recent criminal charges outrageous, saying this was a tragic accident and Sangji had been trained to do the dangerous work she was doing. But a 95-page Cal-OSHA investigative report contradicts that defense, saying Sangji was neither experienced nor well trained, terming the risk “foreseeable,” and stating that the death was preventable had Sangji worn appropriate clothing. Further, “The report states that UCLA, by repeatedly failing to address previous safety lapses, had “wholly neglected its legal obligations” to provide a safe environment in campus labs and that Harran was personally responsible.”
In the wake of Sangji’s death, we posted about this tragic incident a few times. First, we raised the issue of why university labs aren’t safer, suggesting, among other things, that lab safety be added as a criteria of evaluation for federal funding sources. We got some push back from commenters who thought that such a suggestion was naive and that health and safety personnel were unqualified to oversee “exotic” scientific protocols. We followed with a response to these criticisms, as well as provided links to other articles and places where the death was being discussed by students, scientists, private lab workers and safety professionals. (See More on the
UCLA lab death of Sheri Sangji
.)
While Harran and UCLA are facing charges, this is apparently not a random or isolated incident. In December, Beryl Lieff Benderly of Science Careers posted Taken for Granted: A Blueprint for Safety Action Now. Here’s an excerpt:

Issued in October, a CSB report entitled Texas Tech University: Laboratory Explosion lays out in 23 pages of straightforward, nontechnical language what went wrong in a near-fatal 2010 incident on the Lubbock campus and what needs to be done to prevent anything like it from happening again.

The report goes far beyond the usual accident investigation’s list of technical mishaps. It views the maiming of Texas Tech University (TTU) graduate student Preston Brown not as an isolated series of individual errors but as the predictable outcome of a culture, set of values, and system of organization prevalent not only at TTU but also at many other campuses. Having collected at least “preliminary information” on 120 other such incidents, CSB declares itself “greatly concerned about the frequency of academic laboratory incidents in the United States.”

Academia has evaded some of the scrutiny that private employers face in safety standards. The issue of lab safety still sparks controversy. Many still think that the environment is too exotic and too specialized to incorporate safety standards and that regulations would stifle creative research work. That’s little more than obfuscation and foot dragging. Lieff Benderly posted another article Taken for Granted: How to Live With Danger outlining the contrast between chemical laboratory safety and that of another industry, airlines.
In The Sharp Knife of a Short Life, the blog Chembank frames the issues well:

“Changing the culture of an institution–especially one as intractable as chemical academia–is extraordinarily difficult. But so long as we forgo meaningful changes in favor of cosmetic ones that we don’t even bother to sustain anyway, we will continue to experience frustration and tragedy. One wonders what magnitude of disruption is necessary for our community to commit itself to improvement. Apparently, it is much greater than the death of a twenty-something student.”

We repeat a comment that we made in 2009:

Some workplaces come by safety voluntarily with a commitment from the top. Other employers – even generally well meaning employers – don’t truly embrace safety until they have had paid some very steep price. Sometimes that price is a gut-wrenching human one, as when a worker dies; other times, the toll is purely economic, in high workers comp costs, ruinous lawsuits, and bad publicity. Unfortunately, money is often the best change agent. That, and the push provided by standards and enforcement under OSHA.

Outlook for Workers Comp: Centennial in a Storm

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In this summer of weather extremes, workers comp is celebrating its 100th birthday in America. The weather forecast – along with the prognosis for workers comp – probably sound familiar: periodic storms, heavy rain, damaging winds. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has issued its “state of the line” report for workers comp: 2010 was a tough year and the outlook for 2011 carries a severe weather warning.
The key indicator for insurance health is the combined ratio: add up the accumulated losses and the expenses, subtract investment income and hope you end up somewhere around 1.0. The combined ratio for 2010 went up to 1.15, five points above the previous year. Despite improved returns on investment (otherwise known as the “jobless” recovery), pretax losses for the industry averaged one percent – the first such loss since 2001.
Insurers are suffering from a convergence of negative factors: poor underwriting results, a drop in premiums (due to reduced payrolls), and an increase in claims frequency, which is perhaps the most alarming trend of all. For a number of years the increase in severity (the average size of claims) has been balanced by a decrease in frequency. If frequency continues to trend upward, the warning flags for severe trouble will be flapping in a very stiff breeze.
Politics as Usual
Further complicating matters for insurers, state level politicians are single minded in their effort to keep the costs of comp insurance as low as possible. As part of their relentless struggle to stay competitive, state regulators are reluctant to increase rates. NCCI has applied for rate increases in 14 of the states which they directly manage, up from eight in the previous cycle. Any move toward higher rates may signal at least the beginning of the long-awaited end of the soft market that has endured for over a decade.
Finally, there has been a lot of turnover among the state officials who regulate workers comp: there are 24 new insurance commissioners across the country. As NCCI puts it:

The number of newly elected and appointed officials means that the industry will face a challenge in terms of education and information for next few months at least.

Time to polish up the Gucci’s? The insurance industry hardly needs to crank up the lobbying apparatus – it’s always operating full tilt.
Candles in the Wind
As workers comp turns 100, we note that longevity itself is not cause for celebration. Just as it’s no fun to grow old, it’s not much fun trying to make money in workers comp these days. Despite a decade of tightened eligibility requirements and cuts (some draconian) in benefits, we have seen a continued deterioration in the financial health of comp carriers. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but I seem to detect a tone of anxiety as stakeholders gather to sing “Happy Birthday” to Workers Comp in America. The flames of the candles falter in the midst of a raging storm.

Massey Energy: The Don of an Era

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Last year 29 coal miners died in an explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Don Blankenship, Massey CEO, blamed the explosion on federal interference and a gigantic methane bubble that percolated up from below the mine shafts. The bubble has burst, but not in the way Blankenship would have you believe.
An independent team appointed by the former West Virginia governor, Joe Manchin, and led by the former federal mine safety chief Davitt McAteer, has issued its findings, which are both unambiguous and scathing. There was no methane bubble. There was, instead, a pattern of negligence by management that led directly to the deaths of the miners.
As summarized in the New York Times, the report is a searing indictment of Massey’s management style:

“The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris,” the report concluded. “A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coalfields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk-taking.”

The report goes on to say that a “perfect storm” was brewing inside the mine, combining poor ventilation, equipment whose safety mechanisms were not functioning and coal dust, which, contrary to industry rules, had been allowed to accumulate, “behaving like a line of gunpowder carrying the blast forward in multiple directions.”

Given the uncompromising language of the report, Massey management may not enjoy the “exclusive remedy” protections of the workers comp statute. They are now vulnerable to charges of criminal negligence. I suspect that attorneys for the widows and children of the miners will look rather closely at the assets of Massey’s (now former) CEO.
Farewell, My Ugly
Don Blankenship resigned from his CEO post in December of last year. Don’t bother putting up a collection to buy this ethically-challenged titan of business a gold watch. In 2009 he earned $17.8 million, which does not include deferred compensation of an additional $27.2 million. There is no question that Blankenship’s leadership created profits for the company. Unfortunately, these profits came at the expense of the environment and of the men who extracted the coal from the West Virginia mountains.
The anecdote that tells you a lot about Blankenship involves his personal water supply. When Massey Energy activity poisoned the water reaching his own home, Blankenship ran a private pipeline to the next town, where clean water was readily available. His neighbors, lacking Blankenship’s resources, have to make do with the local, polluted water.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. In a just world, Blankenship would be held accountable for his actions as Massey’s CEO. But we do not live in a world where justice prevails very often. Blankenship will likely continue to enjoy his retirement years, drinking clean mountain waters, railing about government interference, buying a few politicians and generally living the good life. We can only hope that each and every night his dreams are haunted by visions of the 29 miners and their struggling families. That would be one form of justice indeed.

NCCI Reports: A Sobering Look at Risk

Monday, May 9th, 2011

NCCI has released two reports that are essential reading for risk managers and anyone else who enjoys the Big – albeit somewhat gloomy – Picture.
The first report is a summary of workers comp performance through 2010: while many indicators are positive or at least neutral, the major concern is overall performance. The combined ratio for insurers (losses plus expense) is creeping steadily upward: 101 percent in 2008, 110 percent in 2009, 115 percent in 2010. In other words, in 2010 carriers spent 15 percent more than they earned through premiums. Even with improved returns on investments, insurers are caught in the zone where many are losing money, especially those whose combined ratios have drifted above the average.
The troubled economy has complicated matters: as payrolls go down, premiums go down with them. Comp premium peaked in 2005 at $47.8B; in 2010, premium totaled $33.8B. To be sure, fewer people are working, but that often results in increased stresses – and risks – for those who still have jobs.
Finally, there is the highly politicized issue of rates for comp insurance. No state wants to be the first raise the rates, as this increases the cost of doing business and makes the state less competitive in attracting new business. So states hold the line or even force reductions, making all businesses – except insurance related – happy.
The Really Big Picture
For those of you who seek perspectives beyond comp, into the broadest possible, world-wide view of risk transfer, Robert Hartwig of the Insurance Information Institute offers slides that are compelling viewing. He examines the dual specters of terrorism and natural catastrophe. Bin Laden’s unlamented death may increase the risk of attack in the coming months, resulting in open-ended exposures for workers comp and property insurance. As for natural disasters, with the spate of earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes, any actuary who is paying attention is having trouble sleeping these days.
Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown appears to be the most expensive natural disaster in history. The total losses are expected to run between $100-300B, of which only a relatively small portion ($45B) is insured. (Government will bear the brunt.)
Tornadoes tearing through mid-America thus far have avoided major population areas, but the recent event at the St. Louis airport raises the specter of urban disaster.
Who Pays?
When calamity strikes, the impact is greatest on reinsurance, which kicks in when limits are reached in-front line policies. With the unprecedented scale of recent events, the cost of reinsurance must go up, and as it does, the cost of insurance for the consumer (business and personal) goes up with it. We live in risky times and the increasing costs of risk transfer reflect our darkening world.
One final note: Hartwig reveals that the 9/11 attacks added 1.9 percent to the combined ratio for 2001, which totaled a robust 121.7 percent. That’s a sobering thought for this beautiful spring morning. My advice? Slap on some sunscreen and get out for a stroll. There’s no better cure for gloomy data than a walk in the sunshine.

Today is Workers Memorial Day 2011; New “Death on the Job” report issued

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Today is the annual day devoted to memorializing all those who died at work and honoring their memory by committing to work for safer conditions for the living. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada.
Each year, to coincide with this day, the AFL-CIO issues
Death on the Job – The Toll of Neglect (PDF) – A National and State-By-State Profile of Worker Safety And Health In the United States. This is the 20th Edition. It offers a detailed breakdown – here is a brief into:
In 2009 (the latest figures available), 4,340 workers were killed on the job–an average of 12 workers a day–and an estimated 50,000 died of occupational diseases. More than 4.1 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in private and state and local workplaces. But the report says the 4.1 million “understates the problem,” and the actual number is more likely 8 million to 12 million.
The safety report estimates that since the OSH Act become law 40 years ago tomorrow, it has saved an estimated 431,000 lives. The nation’s two mining laws, the 42-year-old Coal Mine Health and Safety Act and the 34-year-old Mine Safety and Health Act, have saved thousands more.
Last year’s string of major workplace tragedies, however, shows the desperate need for stronger safety and health rules coupled with tougher enforcement. Those disasters included the Upper Big Branch (W.Va.) coal mine explosion that killed 29 miners, an explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown, Conn., that killed six workers, another at the Tesoro Refinery in Washington State that killed seven workers and the BP/Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast oil rig explosion that killed 11 and caused a massive environmental and economic disaster. Says the report:
The nation must renew the commitment to protect workers from injury, disease and death and make this a high priority. Employers must meet their responsibilities to protect workers and be held accountable if they put workers in danger. Only then can the promise of safe jobs for all of America’s workers be fulfilled.
The number of workers killed on the job fell in 2009 and the rate of on-the-job deaths dropped, 3.3 per 100,000 workers, down from 3.7 per 100,000 workers in 2008. But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the economy was a major factor as the recession resulted in declines in hours worked, particularly in construction and other industries that historically have experienced large numbers of fatalities.
A state-by-state breakdown of job deaths and injuries in “Death on the Job” finds that Montana led the country with the highest rate of worker fatalities in 2009, with Louisiana, North Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska following close behind. The report also finds that Latino workers continue to be at increased risk of dying on the job, with a fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000 workers in fiscal year (FY) 2009.

(More at AFL-CIO)
For more on Worker Memorial day events:
AFL-CIO – about and 2011 events & resources
Weekly Toll
Statement By John Howard, M.D., Director, National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health (NIOSH)
Workers’ Memorial Day * 28 April on Facebook