A new approach to serious injury and fatality prevention

Since the advent of Heinrich’s Injury Pyramid in 1931, it has been generally accepted that there is a predictive relationship between the frequency and types of non-injury, minor injuries and the serious, life-altering or threatening injuries, at the top of the triangle. The safety triangle theorizes that for every major injury there are 29 minor injuries and 300 non-injury incidents. Though this triangle is considered a gold standard, many safety professionals realize that all non-injury or minor incidents are not equal and some have more potential to result in a serious injury or fatality (SIF).

A recent report by the Campbell Institute, Serious Injury and Fatality Prevention: Perspectives and Practices recommends a redesign or enhancement of the model. The new SIF prevention model would look at all incidents – namely, precursors to accidents, recordable injuries, lost-time injuries and fatalities – and seek out those with serious injury and fatalities potential. It encourages organizations to focus on the process factors that lead to SIF, rather than human error, which will always occur. They should focus on repairing gaps in their safety management system, workplace culture, and changing or modifying work processes that eliminate human error.

For example, a workplace with a production problem may ignore or even condone shortcuts and speed, which can lead to bad decisions by workers. A forklift operator may drive too fast and not wear a seatbelt, which can lead to a serious accident. While there can be a tendency to blame the worker, the production demands were the proximate cause and the precursor to the event. According to the author of the paper, Joy Inouye, a key to lowering the fatalities in the workforce lies in an organization’s ability to look inward. “Instead of blaming the worker for not putting on his seatbelt, start to look at those organizational factors that contributed to that.” The report includes examples of companies that have successfully revamped strategies for identifying risk factors.

Trends in injury patterns validate the need for a shift in thinking. While employers have done a good job in reducing the total recordable incident rate, there has been a disturbing increase in the number of workplace fatalities and catastrophic injuries. Diving deeper into near misses and smaller, less serious incidents could help prevent on-the-job deaths or catastrophic injuries. By identifying potential precursors to such events and educating employees about those precursors, companies can focus on eliminating the potential for such incidents to occur.

The report recognizes that isolating incidents with the potential for SIF requires serious groundwork. It suggests next steps like organizing a think-tank that defines “serious injury”, “precursor” and “potential.” To determine whether an incident is a potential SIF or not, it may make sense to define and use a Severity Scale that can be consistently understood by anyone, one that is tied to potential outcomes. For example, most severe could be an injury that would lead to the death of an individual, and the least severe could be first aid and immediate return to work. Including specific injury examples can be helpful.

Implementation raises the bar of safety management and requires a proactive, rather than reactive approach. It will take careful planning – both around the processes used and the responsibilities assigned.

What employers can do

  • Review and evaluate your near miss reporting system
    • Do workers fear the consequences of reporting something they may be blamed for or is there a culture of trust and all workers participate in reporting?
    • Is near miss training part of new hire orientation?
    • Are supervisors and management onboard and do they foster a reporting culture?
    • Is reporting simple and straightforward?
    • Does the report provide a solid log of what leads up to the incident?
    • Is the definition of near miss clear?
    • Is there a thorough investigation that identifies the root cause?
    • Are corrective actions taken and employees notified?
  • Have supervisors explain to employees why the company is focusing on the smaller incidents and near-misses, and how a minor incident can turn major. Explain the importance of looking at potential rather than actual outcomes for minor incidents.
  • Think-outside-the box. A recent article in Risk and Insurance described how Wente Family Estates vineyards teamed up with the criminology department at Holy Names University in Oakland to take a look at workers’ comp data to analyze injuries and near misses, pinpointing problem areas and gathering insight on how to prevent future losses. The idea was based on a partnership between United Airlines and the University of New Haven that used interns from the criminology department as part of a data visualization project, leading to a 23 percent reduction in employee injuries and a 29 percent reduction in aircraft damage on the ground.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

OSHA: 2018 enforcement facts and what to watch for in 2019

What happened in 2018

A recent webinar by Conn Maciel Carey L.L.P., a Washington-based law firm, took a look at OSHA enforcement action in 2018 with surprising results:

  • Despite expectations that many of the enforcement programs would be retired, the agency continues to implement the same number of enforcement emphasis programs as were implemented at the end of the Obama administration (150 local and regional programs and nine national)
  • There was a $5M increase in the FY 2019 budget and state OSH programs received a $2M increase, the first since FY14, rather than the expected budget cuts
  • Still no Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA (longest ever vacancy)
  • Statutory requirement to increase penalties annually remains in place
  • Number of inspections was similar to FY2017, and larger than FY16, the last year of the Obama administration – 32,202
  • Total violations issued was slightly lower than FY 2017 – 52,141 – and about 12% lower than FY16
  • A high percentage of inspections result in the issuance of violations – 28%. This has been relatively stable over the past eight years, indicating it is very difficult to have a clean OSHA inspection
  • The average penalty per serious violation increased significantly – 37.6% to $5,016
  • Although the number of $100,000+ penalty cases dropped from the record-setting 218 in FY17, there were 168 in FY 2018. This is still one of the top five years of $100,000+ enforcement actions
  • The heavy use of repeat violations has continued, with 5.1% of all violations in this category. The percentage has been over 5% since FY2016
  • A 2016 site-specific targeting inspection plan offers insights on how OSHA will use the 300A injury data collected under the new e-recordkeeping rule. Establishments with elevated DART rates and those that did not submit the required data are the primary targets, but others can be inspected
  • There has been continued expansion of the general duty clause to cite employers for heat stress, ergonomics, workplace violence, and chemical exposures below PEL
  • A May 2018 memo formalized the use drones to collect evidence, including the requirement that the agency obtain employers’ consent. Some fear the use of drones has the potential to expand OSHA’s violation-finding capabilities during any inspection and that the guidelines are too vague

Significant case decisions

  • The Obama administration expanded the “look-back” period, which is the basis of repeat violations to five years from the three years that was in the field operations manual. In Triumph Construction vs. Sec of Labor, the court found that OSHA is not bound by any look-back period since it is not in the statute or the regulations. Although the five-year period is still in the manual, legally there can be an indefinite look-back period.
  • The ability of OSHA to expand an unprogrammed injury inspection (based on a reported hospitalization) to a wall-to-wall inspection was addressed in U.S. v. Mar-Jac Poultry. The 11th Circuit court rejected the warrant to inspect the facility based on the injuries recorded on the 300 log, which it found did not establish reasonable suspicion of violations.
  • OSHA successfully defended the legality of its multi-employer policy and ability to cite a general contractor as a “controlling employer” in Acosta vs. Hensel Phelps.
  • Under the Obama administration, there was an effort to expand “per day” violations, which a grain handler challenged. The OSHRC ALJ granted Summary Judgment to the employer, noting per day penalties are inconsistent with the statute except when regulation language is clear such as for failure to abate.
  • EPA tried to delay the implementation of the EPA’s RMP amendments that were made in the final hours of the Obama administration, but the court found the delay rule unlawful.

What’s happened in 2019?

  • OSHA was fully funded so its enforcement activities were not affected by the government shutdown
  • There was a delay in the annual increase in penalties because the Federal Register was shut down, but the increase is in place now (see OSHA Watch below)
  • Scott Mugno was re-nominated for Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA on January 16
  • A final rule on electronic recordkeeping eliminates the requirement for large and certain high-risk establishments to annually submit 300 logs and 301 incident reports. The establishments are still required to electronically submit information Form 300A and to submit their employer identification number

What’s expected

  • Further amendments to beryllium standard
  • Final rule to remove critical language of “unexpected energization” from Lockout Tagout standard
  • Hazard Communication standard revisions to align with the current version of Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS)
  • Possible changes to Table 1 of the new Silica rule
  • Further challenges to electronic recordkeeping

Takeaway: To date, there has not been the pullback on enforcement that was expected under the Trump administration. It remains aggressive and citations are more expensive. If a company is inspected there is only a one in four chance that it will not receive a citation. Forward-thinking companies are vigilant about compliance.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

Things you should know

2018 WorkComp Benchmark Study released

The sixth annual Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study Report by Rising Medical Solutions, Inc. focuses on key issues influencing medical management performance and the most potent strategies to address these issues.

BLS report: Fatal injuries remain over 5,000

The number of fatal work injuries dropped slightly in 2017 to 5,147 down from 5,190 in 2016. Fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the BLS’s reporting, accounting for 17.2% of employee deaths, while transportation incidents again account for the most deaths with 2,077, or 40.4%.

In 2017, 15.1% of fatally injured workers were age 65 or over – a series high. The number of deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers rose 2.7% to 903 in 2017.

Report: Injured restaurant workers miss an average of 30 days

AmTrust Financial Services Inc., a provider of workers compensation insurance, took a deep dive into common restaurant injuries, lost time, industry loss ratio trends and how to implement loss control best practices in its report, Restaurant Risk Report. Cafés and coffee shops had the highest lost time, on average 45% more time lost than all other restaurant types. Wrist injuries are the biggest danger for coffee shop workers, with “barista wrist” resulting in an average of 366 days to return to work.

Study: Musculoskeletal injuries to long-haul truck drivers

Nearly half of all musculoskeletal injuries reported by long-haul truck drivers are to their arms, backs or necks – the majority being sprains and strains – according to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Drivers most often were injured because of a fall (38.9 percent) or contact with an object or equipment (33.7 percent).

Of those injured, 53 percent required time away from work, at a rate of 355.4 incidents per 10,000 full-time workers, which is more than double those of other hazardous professions. The researchers said the study suggests the need for injury prevention and interventions and ways to improve recovery when injuries occur.

Report ranks states by risk of violence from Black Friday

A report ranking states by risk of violence during Black Friday was recently released by Reviews.org. Included in the report are the employers that have the most incidents during Black Friday.

State News

Florida

  • Department of Economic Opportunity announced that the statewide average weekly wage paid to injured workers by employers will be $939 starting Jan. 1.

Minnesota

  • A total of 101 fatal work-injuries were recorded in Minnesota in 2017, an increase from the 92 fatal work-injuries in 2016 and 74 fatal work-injuries in 2015. More information

Missouri

  • The Department of Insurance is recommending a 3.5 percent decrease in workers’ compensation insurance loss costs for 2019, the fifth year in a row rates will decrease.

New York

North Carolina

  • The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s (WCRI) Benchmark shows that medical payments per workers’ comp claim decreased significantly since 2013, falling 6 percent each year through 2016.
  • The Industrial Commission has finalized settlement agreement rules, The “Group 2” rules aimed to clean up some inconsistent language and streamline the settlement process, as well as clarify wording relating to attorney’s fees. The rules took effect Jan. 1.
  • The Commission approved Group 1 rule changes, which took effect Dec. 1. Medical motions, responses and appeals on medical motions must be submitted electronically and must include the opposing party’s position on the matter.

Pennsylvania

  • Insurance commissioner approved two loss cost reductions that together will amount to a 14.74% decrease, starting Jan. 1. Loss costs are one of many factors that determine premiums for workers’ comp insurance.
  • Department of Labor and Industry reported that the maximum compensation rate will rise by 2.3%, to $1,049 per week, starting Jan. 1. It’s website offers a chart to determine compensation based on the employee’s average weekly wage.
  • Department of Labor and Industry announced that it has adopted the Red Book, published by Truven Health Analytics, to determine the average wholesale price of prescription drugs.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

Legal Corner

ADA
Bank pays $700,000 for inflexible disability policy

A bank has agreed to pay $700,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit for violating the ADA. Hudson City Savings Bank, which merged into Wilmington Trust Co., a subsidiary of Buffalo, New York-based M&T Bank Corp. in 2015, had a long-standing inflexible policy of placing employees with impairment or disabilities on involuntary leave or discharging them until it received a medical provider’s clearance to return to work with no restrictions.

Disability discrimination case of health worker who refused vaccine dismissed

In Janice Hustvet v. Allina Health System, a unit of Minneapolis-based Allina Health System merged with Courage Center in Minneapolis. Allina required Courage Center employees who had patient contact to get a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella as part of a preplacement health assessment screen. An independent living skills specialist refused noting she had many allergies and chemical sensitivities.

When she was fired, she filed a disability discrimination suit under the ADA. The court found that the requirement to undergo a health screen was job-related and consistent with a business necessity. Further, there was insufficient evidence that her chemical sensitivities or allergies substantially or materially limit her ability to perform major life activities.

Workers’ Compensation
Apportionment for pre-existing, asymptomatic conditions allowed – California

In City of Petaluma v. WCAB (Lindh), a police officer suffered head injuries during a training exercise, experienced headaches and lost vision in his left eye. A medical assessment determined that he had a pre-existing vascular condition that predisposed him to a loss of eyesight. While an administrative law judge and the WCAB granted a 40% permanent disability without apportionment, the 1st District Court of Appeal noted statutes provide that permanent disability must be apportioned based on causation, as long as there is substantial medical evidence that the disability was caused, in part, by nonindustrial factors. The condition does not have to manifest itself; an asymptomatic condition, means a condition that is present but for which there aren’t any symptoms.

The court therefore ordered the case sent back to the board to issue an award apportioning 85% of Lindh’s disability to his pre-existing condition, and 15% to his industrial injury.

Workers’ fraud means carrier can seek modification of benefits – Florida

Florida’s statute allows a judge of compensation claims to change benefits if there is a change in condition or if there was a mistake in a determination of fact. In U.S. Fire Insurance Co. v. Hackett, the carrier had been paying for around-the-clock attendant care provided by the husband and daughter of the injured worker. Over 25 years after the accident, the injured worker stopped seeing her treating doctor.

The carrier then conducted surveillance and found she was not receiving all the attendant care for which they were paying and questioned the need for continued care. While a judge agreed that the husband and daughter were deceiving the carrier, she denied the carrier’s petition for modification, reasoning that the evidence established fraud, not a change in medical condition. She also stated she did not have the authority to compel an IME. The Court of Appeal for the 1st District disagreed and reversed the decision.

Injured worker cannot sue third party – Illinois

In A&R Janitorial v. Pepper Construction Co.; Teresa Mroczko, an employee of a janitorial service was cleaning an office building. At the same time, a subcontractor was replacing carpets and a desk that had been placed in an upright position fell and injured the custodian. She collected workers’ comp benefits from her employer, but did not file a timely personal injury action against the construction company.

Under Illinois law, if a worker does not file a personal injury action, her employer can. While the litigation was pending, the worker filed her own action, but was denied as untimely. Later, she filed a petition to intervene in her employer’s case. While a judge denied the petition, the Appellate Court reversed and the case went to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reversed on res judicata grounds – the matter had already been adjudicated by a competent court and may not be pursued further by the same parties.

Temporary staffing employee cannot sue assembly plant – Indiana

An employee of a temporary staffing agency was assigned to work in an assembly plant. When her hand was crushed by a punch press and a finger was severed, she collected workers’ comp from her employer, the temporary staffing agency. Later she filed suit against the assembly plant, claiming negligence.

The assembly plant argued that it was immune from civil liability since the worker was an employee and the courts agreed. The Indiana statute provides “a lessor and a lessee of employees shall each be considered joint employers of the employees provided by the lessor to the lessee.”

Attorney’s text message to IME does not bar medical report and testimony – New York

In Robert G. Knapp v. Bette & Cring LLC, Workers’ Compensation Board, a divided appellate court ruled that the Workers’ Compensation Board erred in barring the introduction of the IME’s report and testimony at a later hearing because the attorney sent a text message to the physician and not the opposing counsel.

The message requested an update on the loss of use of the worker’s left foot, which had been determined at 40.5% for comp benefits. Following the exam, the IME found an 88% scheduled loss and the Board reopened the case. The Board credited the employer’s physician’s report and awarded a 50% loss, precluding the IME’s report.

In overturning the decision, the appellate court noted the message ‘appears to be a limited communication’ and did not reflect an effort to influence the physician’s testimony or opinion.

Injured employee can continue medication beyond its recommended short-term use – New York

In Matter of Byrnes v. New Island Hospital, an appellate court ruled that an injured nurse could continue use of Amrix, a muscle relaxant, which is recommended for only short-term use on the board’s Non-Acute Pain Management Guidelines, but which she had been using for over 16 years. The injured worker’s doctors argued that the medication, in combination with other therapies, allowed her to perform the activities of daily living and to continue working as a nurse and the effects of the drug vary by individual.

The court supported the board’s finding that the medication was medically necessary.

Additional compensation awards subject to durational limits – New York

In Mancini v. Office of Children and Family Services, the state’s highest court ruled the additional compensation awards permissible under Section 15 (3) (v) of the Workers’ Compensation Law are subject to the durational limits set out under Section 15(3)(w) – those for workers with non-schedule injuries. The ruling is a continuation of the state’s trend toward caps on benefits that started with the 2007 reforms.

Supreme Court overturns compensability award based on preexisting condition – North Carolina

In Pine v. Walmart Associates, a long-time employee fell and was released to return to work, but continued to experience pain. A few months later, imaging revealed nerve damage and she filed a workers’ compensation claim. Walmart accepted liability for the right shoulder and arm injuries, but denied liability for the condition of her cervical spine as well as other injuries, since she had a pre-existing degenerative disc disease.

The Industrial Commission found her injuries and subsequent pain were the result of the earlier fall and were compensable based on the Parson’s presumption that injured workers should not be required to prove their need for treatment was related to the original injury every time they seek further medical care. While noting the commission applied the incorrect standard in determining compensability, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

While this was under appeal, legislation was enacted that amended the statute, Section 97-82(b), to clarify that the Parsons presumption applies only to the specific injury that was accepted on a Form 60. Since the statute was applicable to all cases not yet resolved, the worker was not entitled to a presumption that her other conditions were compensable. Further, it was unclear if the commission made findings of causation independent of the application of the presumption; therefore, the decision had to be set aside.

Petition for civil contempt cannot compel interest payments on benefits delayed while employer appealed award – Missouri

In Smith v. Capital Region Medical Center, a widow was awarded benefits for the death of her husband. When the employer appealed the award, there was a delay of about 1.5 years before the Court of Appeals affirmed it. The widow filed a petition for civil contempt to compel the employer to pay the interest owed, but the court noted Section 511.340 prohibits the use of civil contempt to enforce the mere payment of money.

First employer liable for reoccurrence of injury of worker hired through labor union – Nebraska

In Weyerman v. Freeman Expositions, a stagehand was a member of a local union. The union had a collective agreement with Complete Payroll, which was considered the employer of members of Local 42 when they worked on its jobs, but the union also had agreements with other companies, including Freeman Expositions, which specified it was the “employer” when union members were working on its jobs.

The stagehand was injured while working for Freeman and the treating doctor cleared him to return to work in about a week. Complete Payroll sent the worker to another job, but he was unable to perform because of back pain. Then he was cleared to return to work, but did not go back and began seeing another doctor and filed for workers’ compensation.

The workers’ compensation court found he suffered an injury to his back while working for Freeman Expositions and that he suffered a recurrence of the injury several weeks later and he had not reached MMI. While the Court of Appeals acknowledged conflicting evidence, it affirmed the decision that Freeman was liable for both injuries.

Question of disability limits benefits for daughter with incurable eye disease – Pennsylvania

In Aqua America v. WCAB (Jeffers), a worker was killed in an auto accident, leaving behind a wife and four children. Under the law, payment of benefits to minor children continue until they reach the age of 18 and beyond, if they have a disability.

His daughter suffers from an incurable, progressive eye disease, which will eventually leave her legally blind. The widow sought dependency benefits that would continue after her daughter turned 18.

While a workers’ compensation judge and the Workers’ Compensation Board approved the daughter’s benefits beyond the age of 18, until the employer could prove she was capable of self-support, the Commonwealth Court overturned. It noted disability involves “not merely physical impairment, but loss of earning power” and there was no evidence regarding loss of earning power.

Patient’s ulcer not attributable to pain medications – Tennessee

In Steak N Shake v. Yeager, a restaurant worker suffered serious injuries in a fall and was given prescriptions for several pain medications. A week after his fall, he returned to the hospital complaining of weakness, dizziness and chest pain and a doctor posited that the ulcer was likely caused by the combination of meds. The Department of Labor ordered the restaurant to pay for his care.

His hospital bill was over $48,000 and the restaurant contested it by filing a civil suit against the worker. In so doing, they obtained admissions that the worker had taken more meds than prescribed and he consumed an average of three ounces of liquor daily. While a trial judge upheld the award, the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel reversed and the Supreme Court upheld the Panel’s decision not to award benefits.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

OSHA watch

Revised Beryllium Standard for General Industry proposed

The proposed rule, published in the Dec. 11 Federal Register, would revise provisions regarding recordkeeping, personal protective clothing and equipment, written control exposure plans, disposal and recycling, medical surveillance, and hazard communication. It also would change or add six terms in the “definitions” paragraph of its regulations: beryllium sensitization, beryllium work area, chronic beryllium disease, CBD diagnostic center, confirmed positive and dermal contact with beryllium.

Another proposed change is removing Appendix A, which lists suggested controls, and replacing it with a new Appendix A, “Operations for Establishing Beryllium Work Areas.”

The enforcement date for the provisions affected by this proposal was December 12, 2018. While this rulemaking is pending, compliance with the standard as modified by this proposal will be accepted as compliance. The deadline to comment on the proposed rule is Feb. 11.

Initiative to increase awareness of trenching and excavation hazards and solutions launched in southeastern states

As part of the agency’s focus on trenching safety, area offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi have launched an initiative to educate employers and workers on trenching safety practices. They are reaching out to excavation employers, industry associations, equipment rental organizations, water utility suppliers, and national and local plumbing companies to educate them to identify trenching hazards. Compliance assistance resources are available on the updated Trenching and Excavation webpage.

CPWR infographic provides trench safety tips

CPWR, The Center for Construction Research and Training, developed an infographic focusing on trench safety, including best practices to protect workers in trenches.

(English / Spanish)

Winter weather resources

The Winter Weather webpage provides information on protecting workers from hazards while working outside during severe cold and snow storms. This guidance includes information on staying safe while clearing snow from walkways and rooftops.

Court ruling: general contractors can be cited for hazardous conditions at multi-employer worksites, even if those conditions do not directly affect their own employees

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, recently overturned a ruling of the OSHRC that Hensel Phelps Construction Co., a general contractor, could not be held liable for violations from one of its subcontractors, under the multi-employer work site policy despite it not having any employees exposed to the hazard.

In Acosta v. Hensel Phelps Construction Co., the Fifth Circuit aligned with seven other federal circuit courts in granting OSHA authority to issue citations to controlling employers.

Certification organization releases employer guides on updated crane operator requirements

The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators has published three employer guides on the updated crane operator requirements, which went into effect Dec. 10. The two-page guides address the rule’s training, certification and evaluation regulations.

(Training / Certification / Evaluation)

Area offices must use four-part test when citing respiratory hazards without PELs

Area offices must apply a four-part test before issuing General Duty Clause citations for respiratory hazards that do not have a permissible exposure limit, according to a memorandum sent to regional administrators.

The memo, issued Nov. 2, notes that area offices cannot base a General Duty Clause citation on only a “measured exposure” in excess of an occupational exposure limit or a documented exposure to a “recognized carcinogen.” Instead, they must use the following tests in those situations:

  1. The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed.
  2. The hazard was recognized.
  3. The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or physical harm.
  4. A feasible and useful method to correct the hazard was available.

Enforcement notes

California

  • Santa Cruz-based Future2 Labs Health Services Inc., a manufacturer of cannabis products faces $50,470 in penalties for 10 violations, following an explosion that left a worker seriously injured.
  • A Riverside construction company, Empire Equipment Services Inc., was cited $66,000 for serious workplace safety violations that resulted in the death of a worker when a 17-foot-deep trench collapsed.
  • The U.S. Army Reserve 63 Regional Support Command at a Sacramento maintenance facility was issued safety violations, after a federal civilian employee was fatally injured when the automated lifting mechanism of a utility vehicle cargo box failed and pinned him between the bed and the vehicle frame
  • Southern California Edison received six citations, totaling $95,435 in penalties, after a worker suffered a serious electric shock. Inspectors determined that the company failed to control hazardous energy, isolate exposed underground cables with protective coverings, and eliminate all possible sources of backfeeding energy.

Florida

  • Jacksonville-based Derek Williams, operating as Elo Restoration Inc., was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards at two separate worksites in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. Inspected under the Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction, the roofing contractor faces $116,551 in penalties.
  • Elo Restoration was also cited, along with Travis Slaughter, operating as Florida Roofing Experts, Inc., for exposing workers to fall hazards at another St. Augustine worksite. Responding to a complaint of unsafe roofing activities, inspectors determined that the companies failed to ensure workers were attached to a fall protection system. Both companies were issued the maximum allowable penalty of $129,336.
  • L.A. Disaster Relief and Property Maintenance LLC, a property maintenance and land clearing company, faces $94,415 in penalties for failing to implement a hazard communication program after an employee suffered burn injuries at a McDavid worksite.
  • Doral-based Nupress of Miami, Inc., a commercial printer, faces $71,139 in penalties for exposing workers to amputation, electrical, and other hazards.
  • Turnkey Construction Planners Inc., a roofing contractor based in Melbourne, was inspected under the Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction and faces $199,184 in penalties for exposing employees to fall hazards.

Georgia

  • Parts Authority LLC, doing business as Parts Authority Georgia LLC, a wholesale auto and truck parts distributor based in Norcross, faces $133,406 in penalties for exposing employees to fire, electrical shock, and struck-by hazards.

Missouri

  • World Wrecking and Scrap Salvage Services Inc., a demolition company, was cited for failing to provide fall protection after two employees suffered fatal injuries at a demolition site in St. Louis and faces penalties of $23,280.

Nebraska

  • Clearwater-based Thiele Dairy was cited for failure to develop and implement safety and health programs related to grain bin entry after an employee suffered fatal injuries and faces penalties totaling $78,899.

Pennsylvania

  • In Secretary of Labor v. J.D. Eckman Inc., an administrative law judge of the OSHRC vacated citations against the bridge and highway construction company related to a workplace incident in which an employee was fatally struck in a traffic control zone. The citation was issued under the General Duty Clause, which the judge found inapplicable under the circumstances.

For more information.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

Important takeaways from recent studies and reports

Outlook for workers’ comp is stable, but rising medical and legal costs and payroll threaten profits – AM Best Co. Inc.

Currently, AM Best has a stable outlook on the U.S. workers’ compensation industry, the largest component of the U.S. commercial lines segment. However, the well-known rating agency sees some threatening headwinds that can alter the industry’s course. In 2017, growing payrolls helped offset rate decreases and overall soft-market conditions, according to the report. The agency believes that the use of technology, which has provided greater insights into underwriting, pricing and claims decisions, has helped support the line’s health and will continue to do so.

Despite the positive results, AM Best believes the trend of declining rates likely will trigger profit margin compression, possibly as soon as 2019. Unemployment has decreased steadily since 2010; however, AM Best notes that long unemployment rate declines typically are followed by sharp spikes in unemployment, and believes that workers’ compensation writers should be prepared for a downside scenario as well.

In addition, while there has been a decline in loss frequency, medical cost inflation, as well as the potential for accelerating frequency if employers hire less-qualified candidates are a concern. Rising medical loss cost severity, the declining benefit from prior accident year reserve redundancies and high average settlements on cases stemming from attorneys’ growing involvement and litigation, also put pressure on pricing.

Employer takeaway: The report is good news about the stability of rates in the short term. It also provides insights as to how insurers will be evaluating risk. The continued growth of technology in underwriting and pricing means that a company’s risk profile is critical. Insurance companies have become quite sophisticated and rates will be based on their perception of your risk. The way to get the best rates is to improve your risk profile – not bidding and quoting. There are trends and claims that are red flags for underwriters, including claim severity, high medical costs, and excessive attorney involvement. If you have claims in these categories, it’s a good idea to document special circumstances as well as actions taken to prevent future occurrences.

Employee care concern and satisfaction -WCRI

An average of 10.5% of workers across 15 states never return to work as the result of a workplace injury, and an average of 16.7% reported difficulties getting the health services they wanted or their physicians requested, according to Comparing Outcomes for Injured Workers reports by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). Telephone interviews were conducted with close to 10,000 injured workers from 15 states who were hurt at work between 2010 and 2014. The workers interviewed live in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Among the findings:

  • An average of 10.5% of workers across 15 states never return to work as the result of a workplace injury, and an average of 16.7% reported difficulties getting the health services they wanted or their physicians requested.
  • Between 12% and 21% of injured workers reported “big problems” getting the service they or their primary provider wanted, with 10 of the states falling in the 17% to 18% range. Pennsylvania had the lowest rate of 12%.
  • Between 11% and 20% reported being “very dissatisfied” with their care.
  • Thirteen percent of workers said they did not return to work for at least a month after their injury.
  • Between 6% and 11% of injured workers report a significant loss of income due to injury at the time of the interview.

Employer takeaway: The data reinforces the message that employers must be proactive and vigilant in managing workers’ comp. This is not new “news” – recovery-at-work programs, medical management best practices, and open lines of communications among all stakeholders are the cornerstones of a successful program.

First-ever industry breakdown of drug use in the American workforce – Quest

Quest, a leading drug-testing provider, announces the rate of positive drug test results annually based on an analysis of 10 million urine tests. The new data marks the first time Quest has broken it down by industry.

The rate of positive test results for illicit drugs was highest in retail (5.3%), health care and social assistance (4.7%), and real estate rental and leasing (4.6%) sectors in 2017, while the utilities (2.8%) and finance and insurance (2.6%) sectors had the lowest rates. Drug use by the workforce increased each year, and by double-digits over the two years between 2015 and 2017, in five of 16 major U.S. industry sectors analyzed. The highest rates were in consumer-facing industries.

Marijuana was the most commonly detected substance, with the highest drug positivity rate of all drug classes across the majority of industry sectors. Marijuana positivity was highest in accommodation and food services, at 3.5 percent in 2017, more than 34 percent higher than the national positivity rate of 2.6 percent for the general U.S. workforce.

Employer takeaway: With low unemployment and tight job markets as well as legalized recreational marijuana in many states, many employers have dropped pre-employment drug tests for positions that aren’t safety sensitive. The analysis suggests that employers can’t assume that workforce drug use isn’t an issue in their industry. Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of workers, customers, and members of the general public and this is one of the more vexing areas. Review your written drug policies, clearly communicate expectations and company rules to all employees, and be sure supervisors know how to recognize signs of impairment.

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