Things you should know

DOL overtime rule on hold

In late September 2016, 21 states led by Texas and Nevada, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, challenged the new overtime exemption rule and sought a nationwide injunction preventing the rule from taking effect. The states argued that the DOL unconstitutionally overstepped its authority and took issue with the policy behind the rule change, arguing that salary level alone does not reflect the type of work an employee performs, and that the DOL’s regulation disregarded the text of the FLSA by imposing a salary threshold without regard to whether an employee actually performs bona fide executive, administrative or professional duties.


Workplace injuries decline in private sector

The number and rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector declined last year, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report. Private industry employers reported about 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2015, representing a decline of about 48,000 from 2014, despite an increase in total hours worked. The rate of cases recorded was 3.0 cases per 100 full-time workers, down from 3.2 in 2014. Nearly 2.8 million, or 95.2%, of the cases were injuries, with 75% of these injuries occurring in service-providing industries and the other 25% occurring in goods-producing industries.

Workplace illnesses accounted for the other 4.8% of the cases reported by private industry employers in 2015, with service-providing industries accounting for 64.7% of illnesses and goods-producing industries accounting for 35.4%, according to the report. Wholesale trade was the only sector with an increase in the rate of injuries and illnesses in 2015, rising from 2.9 cases in 2014 to 3.1 cases in 2015.

Important to note: More than half of the nonfatal injury and illness cases involved days away from work, job transfer, or restriction, according to the report.


Workers’ comp medical severity dips for the first time in two decades

Workers’ compensation medical severity fell about 1% from 2014 to 2015, marking the first time that medical severity has fallen since 1994, according to a report released by the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. (NCCI). A 3% decline in physician service utilization was “a major driver” in lower workers comp medical severity, which some attribute to more insured workers under the ACA. The mix of injuries covered under workers’ comp has remained stable between 2012 and 2015, with musculoskeletal and connective tissue injuries comprising the majority of workers’ comp medical payments each year.

The study concluded that prescription drug costs continue to represent a “significant portion” of medical costs, and “one of the most active subjects” of workers’ compensation-related legislative activity. For every $100 paid for medical services to workers injured in 2014, $17 was for prescription drugs. For claims older than 10 years, the prescription amount rises to 45% to 50%. The study did not include three of the four highest-population states – California, Texas and New York.


Health care law not limiting workers’ comp doctor access

According to a report released by the NCCI, a study of the first full year of the impact on workers’ compensation of the health care law found that the law has not limited workers’ comp claimants’ access to doctors. The report, “Impacts of the Affordable Care Act on Workers Compensation,” used medical data from workers’ compensation claims from 2012 to 2014 to compare primary care utilization per claim. The timeline included the first year of expanded medical insurance under the national healthcare reform law.


Workers in stressful, low-control jobs have higher risk of early death: study

Workers in high-stress jobs who have little control over workflow and other key decisions are at a higher risk of dying early, according to a study from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Researchers examined a seven-year, longitudinal sample of 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s who worked high-demand jobs. They found that workers in “low-control” jobs had a 15 percent higher risk of death. In contrast, workers in “high-control” positions had a 34 percent lower risk of death.


CDC resource to help reduce smoking

To help combat the use of tobacco in the workplace, the CDC foundation is offering resources in the latest edition of Business Pulse. Included are an infographic and a Q&A with Corinne Graffunder, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.


Communication tower association releases video on anchor corrosion

A new safety video from the National Association of Tower Erectors highlights the conditions and factors that contribute to anchor corrosion on guyed towers.


Workplace weight management lowers costs, improves quality of life

Employees who participate in a workplace weight management program-even those without significant weight loss-have reduced health care costs and improved quality of life (QOL), reports a study, Effect of workplace weight management on health care expenditures and quality of life, in the November Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).


State news
Florida – Workers’ comp attorney fees jump after high court ruling

A recent Florida Supreme Court decision has caused workers compensation attorney fees to increase 22% in the state, according to the NCCI. The average Florida workers’ comp claimant attorney fee per award was $4,978 between May and September 2016, compared with $4,095 for May through September 2015.


Pennsylvania battles opioid addiction crisis with slate of new laws

Legislation, including five separate bills that will go into effect within the coming months, is aimed at the opioid crisis. Among the new laws is the Safe Emergency Prescribing Act – House Bill 1699 – which prohibits hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers from prescribing opioids for longer than seven days and bans refills for opioid prescriptions.

Senate Bill 1202, which amends Pennsylvania’s Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program Act, requires continuing education for medication prescribers and dispensers related to pain management, addiction and dispensing, and requires prescribers use of the prescription drug monitoring database every time they prescribe an opioid or benzodiazepine.

Three other bills will now require more training on pain management in medical schools, restrict the ability to prescribe opioids to minors and permit certain facilities to serve as drop-off locations for unused prescription drugs. provides a summary of the five bills.

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