Bike-share and motorized scooter workers’ comp risks

Electric scooters and dockless bikes are popping up everywhere. Some employers are encouraging their use by paying rental fees. Yet, the laws for operating scooters are just emerging, operation and safety information varies from company to company, and some are not properly maintained. Helmets may not be available. User agreements limit users to binding arbitration and/or disclaim liability, which can make an employer vulnerable if an employee injures others. While state legislatures are beginning to consider scooter bills, this craze is new and few regulations currently exist, so employers need to evaluate their use as part of a risk management plan and update their policies.

Although an employee’s travel time to and from work is generally not covered by workers’ comp, employers that subsidize transportation costs should be clear that such arrangements are voluntary and that the employer is released from liability for injuries or harm caused by or to employees during their commute. Also, the employee should accept financial responsibility for any injuries caused to third parties while using the commuter benefit.

If an employee uses a motorized scooter or bike for a work-related purpose, such as to and from a meeting or for a business-related errand, and is injured, a workers’ compensation claim could result. Employers may decide to prohibit all use of bike-share and scooter services during work hours. Those that wish to allow their use need to make sure that their workers’ compensation and general liability coverage cover such incidents and develop policies that employees agree to abide by.

New transportation technology is developing rapidly. Employers must be aware of what technologies their employees are using for business, ensure appropriate coverage, and set reasonable terms of use.

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

More than 60,000 employers submit data not required by OSHA

General confusion surrounding OSHA’s electronic record-keeping rule may spell trouble for some employers that voluntarily submitted data even though they are not regulated by the rule. Although the “courtesy” submissions may seem harmless, OSHA is using the data to target enforcement activities.

In a webinar, Daniel Deacon, a Washington, D.C.-based associate in Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s OSHA and labor and employment practice groups, reported that in 2017 there were 60,956 so-called out-of-scope submissions of Form 300A data, up from 52,171 in 2016. He noted confusion about the rule, misunderstanding of the thresholds for employment figures, and states that have not adopted the rule all contribute to this surprisingly high number.

According to OSHA, there is significant underreporting problem. The agency reported that more than one-third of the workplaces did not submit required reports in 2016. Under its Site Specific Targeting 2016 Program, the agency is targeting inspections of employers that should have reported, but did not. Moreover, compliance officers have been directed to review reporting records on all inspections.

March 2, 2019, was the deadline for employers to electronically report OSHA Form 300A data for calendar year 2018. The establishments covered by this requirement are specified on OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application webpage.

Other reporting challenges

Although employers are getting more comfortable with the severe injury reporting rule adopted in 2015, incidents are being reported to OSHA that should not be reported. On the other hand, OSHA has issued at least 400 citations for late reporting or failure to report.The rule requires employers report the inpatient hospitalization of a single employee as well as all amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours.

Here are some key provisions:

  • If the injury or illness resulted in the employee’s death within 30 days of the incident, it is reportable to OSHA within eight hours of learning the outcome.
  • If the injured worker went to the hospital, was the employee formally admitted to the inpatient service of the hospital? If yes, did they receive medical treatment (more than observation or diagnostics) after admission? If yes, reportable to OSHA within 24-hours of learning the outcome.
  • Common mistakes in reporting: reporting when employee spent more than 24 hours in emergency service before being formally admitted; inpatient medical treatment was deferred for more than 24 hours; medical treatment was provided beforeadmission to the inpatient service; not reporting inpatient first aid treatment.
  • Did the injury result in a body part becoming severed from the employee’s body, either during the incident or after the incident in a medical amputation? If yes, did the amputation occur within 24-hours of the work-related incident? If yes, report to OSHA within 24 hours of learning of the outcome.
  • Did the injury result in loss of an eye? If yes, report to OSHA within 24-hours of learning of the outcome. Note: this does not include loss of eyesight.

Other common issues are reporting injuries that are not work related, misunderstanding when the 24-hour timeclock begins, and responding inappropriately to a rapid response letter by blaming the employee for the incident or not offering corrective actions.

The challenges of keeping up with OSHA’s rules and regulations are enormous. While it’s critical to strictly adhere to OSHA requirements, providing unnecessary information or not reporting when you should can lead to something you don’t want…an inspection. If you need help, contact us.

You can also learn more about OSHA Recordkeeping, and benchmarking your injury results at http://www.premiumreductioncenter.com/osha-incident.html, as well  access to FREE OSHA 300 Log recordkeeping software.

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

The daunting challenge of maintaining a drug-free workplace

With a national opioid crisis that defies holistic solutions, the legalization of medicinal marijuana in more than 30 states and recreational marijuana in 10 states, increases in deadly overdoses in the workplace, changing state laws, confusion over OSHA’s anti-retaliatory drug testing rule, and concerns about medical privacy, no employer should think they are immune to the problem. In fact, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), 15.6% of American workers live with a substance disorder and The Hartford reports that 64% of HR professionals are ill-prepared to help a worker with an opioid addiction.

These factors, coupled with a tight labor market and low unemployment, have led some employers to soften zero-tolerance policies for jobs where safety is not critical and there is a low risk of injury or error. The decision to relax zero-tolerance policies requires buy-in from company leadership and supervisors as well as serious evaluation of the consequences. Although the legalization of marijuana exponentially increases the complexity of the issue, the reasons for maintaining a drug-free workplace remain constant: safety of employees and customers, lower absenteeism, reduced turnover, fewer workers’ comp claims, fewer workplace conflicts, and reduced liability for workplace accidents.

It’s also troublesome for supervisors because substance abuse often falls below the radar of the workplace. Yet, for five consecutive years, unintentional workplace overdose deaths have increased by at least 25%. Drug testing, which is often a critical component of a zero-tolerance policy, can identify those at risk.

Here are five things to consider when evaluating a drug policy:

Legal concerns

While federal law regulating drug testing affects some heavily-regulated industries, there is no comprehensive federal law regulating drug testing in the private sector. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires all recipients of federal grants and some federal contractors to maintain a drug-free workplace.The ADA does not consider drug abuse a disability and allows drug testing; however, disability discrimination is a significant legal risk. If an applicant is not hired or an employee is terminated because of a positive drug test and the medication was legally prescribed for a disability, the employer could be liable. Reasonable accommodations must be provided at application, hiring, and during employment.

State laws that do regulate workplace drug testing vary widely and are constantly changing. Generally, state laws allow employers to drug test job applicants. However, many have rules about providing notice, preventing discrimination, and following procedures to prevent inaccurate samples. The laws governing testing of current employees varies widely by state, with some prohibiting random testing and others requiring ‘reasonable suspicion.’ There are also laws governing post-accident testing. It’s critical to understand and stay abreast of the laws in all the states in which you operate.

Marijuana

Marijuana is one of employers’ biggest worries and one of the driving reasons for employers to relax pre-employment drug testing. There is legitimate fear that it will reduce the pool of qualified candidates. Some address this issue by removing marijuana from the test panel for many positions that are not safety-critical.

The laws vary significantly with states that have legalized marijuana and case law is limited and evolving. Some states have card holder anti-discrimination statutes and some states prohibit firing of an employee who tests positive for marijuana while others allow it. Although all marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, state courts across the country are deciding cases on medical marijuana use and accommodation. Employers are wise to consider whether positive drug tests are connected to medicinal use before making employment decisions.

Employers should be careful about penalizing employees for off-duty marijuana use, since some states have statutes protecting employees. However, most states permit employers to prohibit marijuana use on their premises and to discipline employees who come to work under the influence.

While the uncertainty is unnerving for employers, a growing number of states are writing statutes to remove the ambiguities. Statutes in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington DC, and West Virginia address employment protection for medical marijuana patients. It’s still possible to restrict marijuana use in these states, but care needs to be taken in crafting and enforcing a policy.

If you choose to differentiate marijuana policies from other drug policies, consider these questions:

  • Will treating marijuana differently create problems in the workforce?
  • Under what circumstances will employees be tested for marijuana?
  • What are the consequences of not testing (i.e. more injuries, absenteeism)?
  • What is the process to determine a medical exception to the policy?
  • What happens when an employee fails the test?

Workers’ Comp

Substance abuse can contribute to workplace accidents and a drug-free workplace helps prevent accidents, thus lowering workers’ comp costs. In some states, employers implementing a drug-free workplace receive a premium discount. As of October 2018, 13 states had such laws. While the requirements and discounts vary, the states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming.

In addition, some states have enacted laws to make it easy for employers who properly drug test to deny workers’ compensation benefits. For example, Florida law provides that if the employee tests positive for drugs, then “it is presumed that the injury was occasioned primarily by…the influence of the drug upon, the employee.”

Medical marijuana raises thorny issues for employers. Can a claim be denied if an employee tests positive for using state-approved medical cannabis? Can an injured employee receive medical marijuana to treat a workplace injury? Both are new and evolving issues that will be the subject of future court cases and state regulations. The Minnesota Department of Labor & Industries issued rules allowing cannabis as a reimbursable form of medical treatment.

OSHA

The anti-retaliatory provisions of OSHA’s e-Recordkeeping rule resulted in considerable confusion about post-injury drug testing policies, which was somewhat clarified in a guidance memo in October 2018. Before doing post-accident drug testing, employers should:

  • Have a reasonable basis to conclude drug use could have contributed to the injury
  • Test all employees whose conduct could have caused an accident, even if they were not injured
  • Identify high hazard work as a reason for testing
  • Determine if the drug test can provide insight to the root cause of incident
  • Consider whether drug test is capable of measuring impairment at the time the injury occurred
  • Ensure employees are not discouraged or dissuaded from reporting injuries

Remember, the rule does not affect new hires, random testing, or testing to comply with state or federal laws or required by Workers’ Comp insurers.

Privacy

Although challenges to workplace drug testing policies on the grounds that they violate employees’ privacy have generally not been successful, the manner in which the test is conducted and how the results are used have been successfully challenged. Drug test results are considered protected health information and must be kept confidential. Further, as laws on employee privacy continue to evolve, testing that is not clearly authorized by law could be open to legal challenges.

Conclusion

Zero-tolerance policies are strong stands that send an important cultural message, but like any policy it should be evaluated periodically. How effective has it been? Has it hampered recruitment and retention efforts for positions that are not safety-critical? Has it prevented workers from seeking the help they need to deal with substance abuse? Does it impede flexibility?

Anecdotally, more employers are tailoring drug testing to the job and adding a fitness-for-duty component. Any policy changes require serious consideration as protecting employees remains the top priority. However, no change in policy should excuse an employee who is impaired while working. There’s just too much at risk.

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

Legal Corner

ADA 
More appellate court decisions support regular attendance as an essential function of most jobs

In Trautman v. Time Warner Cable Tex., LLC, (5th Cir. Dec. 12, 2018), Vitti v. Macy’s Inc., (2d Cir. Dec. 21, 2018), and Lipp v. Cargill Meat Sols. Corp., (8th Cir. Dec. 19, 2018), the Fifth Circuit, Second Circuit, and Eighth Circuit each found that employees claiming disability discrimination were lawfully terminated for attendance policy violations and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer. While the decisions show that unreliable attendance can render an employee unqualified for his or her job, it’s not a given and rests on the facts of the case- employers need to be vigilant in their documentation and process and consistent in the treatment of all employees.

FMLA 
Employee must turn over social media posts

In Robinson v. MGM Grand Detroit, LLC, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan found that an employer does have the right to Facebook and other social media accounts when an employee sues for discrimination and violations of the FMLA. The case alleged that an employee of MGM Grand was terminated because of his race and disability and in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. In discovery, the employee refused to provide his social media posts. A federal magistrate ruled that the employee’s Facebook, Google Photo, and Google location accounts were relevant for the case and ordered the employee to turn them over for the time he was out of work.

Workers’ Compensation 
NLRB: independent contractor test overturned

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has returned to a previous standard for evaluating the status of independent contractors versus employees. In the SuperShuttle DFW Inc. case, which involved shuttle-van-driver franchisees of SuperShuttle at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, the board concluded that the franchisees are not statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act, but rather independent contractors excluded from the law’s coverage.

This decision overrules FedEx Home Delivery, a 2014 NLRB decision that modified the applicable test for determining independent-contractor status by severely limiting the significance of a worker’s entrepreneurial opportunity for economic gain.

Federal appeals court sends Browning-Ferris joint employer standard back to NLRB

The federal appeals court in the District of Columbia has partially upheld the Obama-era Standard in Browning-Ferris Industries of Cal., Inc. v. NLRB. The court said that it was permissible for the Board to create a standard that considered both an employer’s reserved right to control and its indirect control over employees’ terms and conditions of employment. However, the Board failed to articulate the scope of what it considers “indirect” control, so the issue was remanded. The impact on the Board’s rulemaking remains to be seen.

Employer not vicariously liable for a fatal car accident caused by an intoxicated employee – California

In an unpublished decision, Pryor v. Fitness International, an appellate court ruled that an employer was not vicariously liable for a fatal car accident caused by an intoxicated employee. When a supervisor determined that a membership counselor was impaired and sent him home early, the counselor’s car struck a bicyclist, who died from his injuries. The widow asserted the company was vicariously liable for the employee’s negligence because he was acting within the scope of his employment when he became intoxicated, and/or when he struck her husband. Further, they were negligent in hiring, retaining and supervising.

The court found that the employee was acting in a purely personal capacity when he became intoxicated and killed the bicyclist. The fact that he was sent home by the supervisor did not implicate the “special errand” rule under workers’ comp. Further, the company had no duty to try to prevent the collision, so it could not be held directly liable for negligence.

Job placement agency can’t be sued by worker who passed drug tests but was not offered job – Florida

In McCullough v. Nesco Res. LLC, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a job applicant who was required to take two drug tests (and passed) but was not offered a position cannot sue the placement agency. The Drug-Free Workplace Program Statute does not provide an aggrieved applicant with a private right of action. The Court said the “penalty” for the employer’s failure to abide by the statute was its loss of the discount in workers’ compensation premiums that it could enjoy with full compliance.

Lawsuit against employer for off-duty worker’s death can proceed – Minnesota

In Henson v. Uptown Drink, the Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit filed against a bar after the death of an off-duty employee may proceed. The bartender and other employees, including an off-duty employee, forcibly removed two men who had become drunk and belligerent. The off-duty employee fell and hit his head on concrete, causing a traumatic brain injury that led to his death. His family sued, but the district court ruled the suit was barred by the exclusive remedy of workers’ comp.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the death arose out of and in the course of his employment. The case then proceeded under innkeeper negligence and violation of the Dram Shop Act and went through several appeals. The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court decision, ruling in part that “a reasonable fact-finder could determine that (the patron’s) intoxication, violent outburst, and subsequent physical resistance, taken together, were the proximate cause of the fall that killed…”

Comp carriers must split death claim in spite of mistaken duplicative coverage – Missouri

In Employers Preferred Ins. Co. v. Hartford Accident and Indem. Co., a husband and wife each procured a workers’ compensation policy for a bakery they owned. An employee died in an automobile accident in the course of his employment and Employers paid the claim, but sought an equitable contribution from Hartford. When a Hartford agent told the husband after the accident that the Hartford policy was active, the husband filed a cancellation request, Hartford retroactively cancelled the policy, and issued the bakery a full refund of the premium and maintained it did not owe any contribution to Employers.

However, the Eighth Circuit found state law barred Hartford from cancelling a policy and eliminating its duty to defend and indemnify, after an insured had become liable for a workers’ compensation claim.

Nebraska resident hired in state but injured in Alaska cannot collect in state – Nebraska

A Washington seafood company recruited, drug tested, and hired prospective employees in Nebraska, but did no actual work in the state, therefore it was not an “employer” for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act. In Hassan v. Trident Seafoods & Liberty Mut., an appellate court held that a resident who was hired in Nebraska and later sustained work-related injuries in Alaska, receiving some workers’ compensation benefits from that state, could not maintain a workers’ compensation claim in Nebraska

Worker must sue third party in state that paid benefits – Nebraska

Drivers Management LLC, a Nebraska trucking company, contracted with Eagle KMC LLC, an Arizona company, to train employers. A truck-driver-in-training was injured and collected workers’ comp from Drivers Management. Almost two years later, she filed a personal injury suit against Eagle and other parties. Because Drivers Management had a subrogation claim against any third-party recovery, it was named as a defendant. The suit was filed in Arizona and upon appeal, the court held that Arizona laws do not apply because workers’ compensation benefits were adjudicated and paid in Nebraska, which “governs subrogation, lien, and assignment rights in this action.”

Causal link must be more than a “possibility” – New York

In Bufearon v City of Rochester Bur. of Empl. Relations, a worker was injured in a work-related auto accident and received medical treatment for his left shoulder, left hip, low back,and cervical spine. The self-insured employer accepted liability for all treatment except for the cervical spine.

While a workers’ compensation law judge found that the cervical spine injury was compensable, the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed and the appellate court agreed, noting the Board had the power to determine the causal relationship based on substantial evidence. The court found the medical testimony conflicting, and neither treating physician reviewed the employee’s medical records from his prior cervical spine surgery. Therefore, the Board’s finding the physicians’ opinions regarding causation were mere expressions of possibility and speculation was proper and the injured worker failed to prove that his cervical spine issues were causally related to his accident.

No “grave injury” nixes 3rd party claim for indemnification – New York

In Alulema v. ZEV Electrical Corp., a worker allegedly suffered a brain injury while at work, resulting in disabling cognitive and emotional symptoms and filed a tort claim against a subcontractor. The subcontractor filed a third-party complaint against the employer, seeking indemnity or contribution.

Under state law, if an employee suffers a “grave” injury, the employer may be liable to third parties for indemnification or contribution. To be classified as a grave injury, it must leave the worker unemployable “in any capacity.”

An appellate court overturned the trial court and found no grave injury. Testing did not substantiate his claims of cognitive and emotional symptoms and he was actively looking for employment and had obtained his GED.

Court dismisses worker’s claim against Trump campaign for distress – North Carolina

In Vincent Bordini v. Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and Earl Phillip, an appellate court ruled it had jurisdiction rather than a workers’ compensation court over a suit alleging a Trump 2016 presidential campaign data director pointed his gun at a co-worker causing emotional distress and other damage. The director, who possessed a concealed carry permit, allegedly took out his gun and held it against the worker’s knee with his finger on the trigger while in the car.

While the campaign contended the case should be heard as a workers’ comp claim, the court noted, “The risk of being intentionally assaulted at gunpoint by a coworker is not one which a reasonable person may have contemplated when accepting an information technology job on a presidential campaign.” Therefore, it was not preempted by workers comp law.

Nevertheless, the court found that the campaign could not be held vicariously liable because the director was an independent contractor, not an employee. He was hired through a political consulting firm, had no set work hours, and was not under a regular employment contract.

Disability commences on the work day following the injury – Pennsylvania

While neither the statute nor case law addresses when a disability commences if an injured employee is paid full wages the day of their injury, the Commonwealth Court ruled the disability commences on the work day following the injury. It noted the bureau’s interpretation states that payment is to be made “on the date the claimant is unable to continue work by reason of injury unless he is paid full wages for the day.”

In Stairs v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board, a worker was injured and taken to the hospital by ambulance and did not return to work, but received full pay for the day of the injury. The employer sent a notice of temporary compensation payable, acknowledging the worker had suffered a back injury on Friday, March 27, 2015, and stated that the 90-day period to contest his claim would run from March 30 through June 27, 2015.

Under state statute, if the employer does not file to contest within 90 days its notice of temporary compensation payable will be converted into a notice of accepting liability for the claim. On the 90th day of the disability the company filed to contest the claim, although the Bureau issued a notice of conversion the following day. The worker appealed but the commonwealth court ruled that the employer’s notice was timely filed and the notice of conversion issued by the bureau was void.

Although symptoms abated, bricklayer entitled to ongoing benefits but not penalties from employer – Pennsylvania

In Kurpiewski v. WCAB (Caretti) and Caretti v. WCAB (Kurpiewski), the Commonwealth Court found a bricklayer was entitled to ongoing benefits, although he no longer had symptoms nor did he need treatment for a skin condition arising from his long-term exposure to chromium. His chromium sensitivity prevented him from working as a bricklayer. The worker also sought penalties, based on the employer’s failure to timely accept or deny liability for his claim.

The court found the employer had violated the law by failing to acknowledge or deny the claim within 21 days. Although it filed an answer contesting his claim, it did not issue a separate notice of denial. However, the court noted not every violation requires a penalty and remanded the imposition of a penalty to the judge.

Worker awarded benefits in spite of “close question” on causation – Tennessee

In Butler v. Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool, a laborer worked on installing a water line at the county landfill. Two days later he was diagnosed with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis and has not returned to work.

While he argued it was a result of working in the trench, the pool said he had developed it on his farm. Since aspergillus spores are everywhere, causation is difficult to prove. However, through the testimony of his coworkers, it was established that several workers developed respiratory ailments after installing the water line at the landfill. In addition, four doctors opined that the invasive aspergillosis was caused by a massive exposure to the aspergillus fungus while digging the trench.

In overturning the denial of benefits, the Supreme Court’s Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel noted it was “strangely coincidental” all of the men fell ill with similar symptoms while working at the landfill and given the beneficent purpose of the workers’ compensation system, it found in favor of the worker.

Falling asleep at the wheel nixes benefits – Virginia

In Norris v. ETEC Mechanical Corp., a master electrician fell asleep while driving home from a job site and suffered serious injuries.The court found that the accident occurred in the course of employment, but did not arise out of his employment. The state uses the “actual risk” test to determine whether an injury arose out of employment. While he said he fell asleep because he was tired, he did not relate the drowsiness to his work.

To keep benefits, employee must be bound by release – Virginia

In Giles v. Prince George Cty. Pub. Sch, a worker suffered multiple injuries and filed several claims. Later, with the help of an attorney, she entered into a settlement agreement that included some exceptions to her treatment and prohibited further claims arising from the accident. Shortly after the settlement, she demanded benefits for her right shoulder, which was an exception in the agreement. The commission treated this as a request to review the settlement, but the worker argued she did not want a review, but wanted additional benefits. The Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s denial of benefits, noting she could not keep the benefits of her agreement and at the same time not be bound by her release.

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

Things you should know

Updated Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Reference guide issued

The updated guide, version 2.9, addresses spinal cord stimulators and the inclusion of off-label prescription drugs, particularly Lyrica as well as updating Life Tables and examples of settlements not meeting The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) review thresholds, but which would still require consideration of Medicare’s interests.

The NGHP User Guide was also updated and CMS will maintain the $750 threshold for no-fault insurance and workers’ compensation settlements, where the no-fault insurer or workers’ compensation entity does not otherwise have ongoing responsibly for medicals.

Some experts suggest that the changes are another indication that CMS intends to make Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) enforcement a priority in 2019.

New app can help determine what’s allowed in MSAs

The CMS launched its “What’s Covered” app to give consumers more information about their Medicare benefits. It also can be a valuable assist for injured workers with MSAs.

Study: Most manufacturing workers experience fatigue

study by the American Society of Safety Professionals suggests that the automation of manufacturing processes may be contributing to worker fatigue, which was found in 58% of the workers studied. Fatigue monitoring, such as wearables that monitor heart rate, are a possible solution. The report also notes three interventions to help mitigate fatigue: posture variance, chemical supplements and rest breaks.

Work comp insurers cite top concerns

Every year for the past decade, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) surveys carrier executives in the workers’ compensation industry to better understand their market perspectives, needs, and challenges. Learn what keeps them up at night.

New guidance for pain management in the age of the opioid epidemic

draft report from the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, which acts in an advisory capacity for the federal government, calls for individualized, patient-centered pain management. Public comments are welcome.

Study: Injured workers in the mining and construction industries and those in rural areas more likely to receive opioid prescriptions

study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found 33% of injured workers employed in mining and 29% in construction received opioids for certain injuries and are more likely to receive higher doses and for longer time periods. The study also found that older workers were more likely to receive opioid prescriptions compared with younger workers, with 49% of injured workers age 49 or older receiving opioids compared to 42% of workers between the ages of 25 and 39.

Meanwhile, a higher percentage – 66% to 79% – of workers who sustained fractures, carpal tunnel and neurologic spine pain received at least one opioid prescription for pain relief. It’s postulated that those in rural areas receive more opioids because there are fewer pain management options available.

New video on performing tower modifications

new video from the National Association of Tower Erectors highlights the importance of understanding and following the proper sequence of performing tower modifications.

Injured Massachusetts teen workers lacked health and safety training: report

Nearly half of the teen workers in Massachusetts who were injured on the job between 2011 and 2015 said they did not receive health and safety training from their employer, according to a Massachusetts Department of Public Health annual report on teen worker safety. Four industries – accommodations and food service (37 percent), retail trade (19), health care and social assistance (11), and construction (4) – accounted for more than 70 percent of all work-related injuries involving teens in the state.

NIOSH releases resources on dampness and mold assessment

NIOSH recently introduced checklists to help employers assess damp areas and identify mold. The Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool has two versions – one for general buildings and one for schools – as well as a four-step assessment cycle.

CPWR releases alert, toolbox talk on lightning safety

Stressing the importance of lightning awareness while working outdoors, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) has published a hazard alert and toolbox talk addressing the topic.

State News

California

  • Division of Workers’ Compensation has updated its formulary for injured workers to include drugs to treat traumatic brain injury, effective Feb. 15
  • FMCSA granted a petition to pre-empt the state’s meal and rest break rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers

Florida

  • OSHA resumes normal enforcement activity following Hurricane Michael

Massachusetts

  • A new law applies OSHA standards to all public employees, including municipal workers and quasi-public agency workers

Michigan

Minnesota

  • New law recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder as a compensable condition for first responders

New York

  • Governor vetoed bill that would have regulated and permitted acupuncturists to treat injured workers in the state’s workers compensation
  • WC Board launches virtual hearing app, WCB VHC, which is free in the iOS App Store

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

OSHA watch

Maximum penalty of repeat or willful violation rises to $132,598

The cost of non-compliance is on the rise with the annual adjustment for inflation, effective January 24, 2019. The chart below shows the 2019 increases for each type of violation:

Violation Type/Description CFR Citation 2018 Max Penalty 2019 Max Penalty
Serious 29 CFR 1903.15(d)(3) $12,934 $13,260
Other-than-Serious 29 CFR 1903.15(d)(4) $12,934 $13,260
Willful 29 CFR 1903.15(d)(1) $129,336 $132,598
Repeated 29 CFR 1903.15(d)(2) $129,336 $132,598
Posting Requirement 29 CFR 1903.15(d)(6) $12,934 $13,260
Failure to Abate 29 CFR 1903.15(d)(5) $12,934 $13,260

Reminder: Feb. 1 was deadline for posting Form 300A

Each year, from Feb. 1 to April 30, OSHA’s Form 300A, which summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses logged in the prior calendar year, must be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted. Details can be found in our January 2019 issue.

Final rule on electronic recordkeeping issued

As expected, the final rule eliminates the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees or those with 20 to 249 employees in certain industries with historically high occupational injury and illness rates to electronically submit information from Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) each year. These establishments are still required to electronically submit information from Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). The final rule also requires covered employers to electronically submit their Employer Identification Number with their information from Form 300A.

The deadline for electronic submissions is March 2, 2019. More information.

A lawsuit has already been filed by the Public Citizen Health Research Group, the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists arguing the final rule violates of the Administrative Procedure Act.

FAQs on silica standard for general industry published

The FAQs, which include answers to 64 questions organized by topic, provide guidance to employers and workers on the standard’s requirements, including exposure assessments, hazard communication and methods of compliance.

Free compliance assistance resources on falls offered online

To help employers prepare for the sixth annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, set to take place May 6-10, the following resources are online:

Requirements for trainers in Outreach Training Program revised

Among the 18 changes, which are scheduled to go into effect April 1, is eliminating the 90-day grace period after a trainer card expires, as well as updating the trainer code of conduct and responsibilities.

New safety resource on safe operation of tractors

A new rollover protection brochure provides information in English and Spanish on the safe operation of tractors. It emphasizes the importance of using rollover protective structures and seat belt systems to help reduce worker injuries.

Enforcement notes

California

  • US Postal Service faces fines of $149,664 for not addressing worker safety in high-heat conditions after a mail carrier was found dead in a postal vehicle on a record-setting 117-degree-Fahrenheit day in July.

Florida

  • Compass Group USA Inc., operating as Chartwells Dining, was cited for exposing employees to burn and chemical hazards at its cafeteria in Coral Gables. The company faces $134,880 in penalties for exposing employees to hazards associated with exit routes, failing to provide suitable facilities for quick drenching for employees who work with cleaning chemicals, and for not providing effective training to the employees working with the chemicals.
  • Inspected under the REP for Falls in Construction, Ad-Ler Roofing Inc. was cited for exposing employees to dangerous falls at a Naples residential worksite, one month after similar violations were found at another worksite. The Fort Myers-based contractor faces penalties of $91,466.

Missouri

  • New Haven-based Franklin County Construction LLC faces $56,910 in penalties after an employee suffered fatal fall injuries when a roof truss collapsed.

Nebraska

  • Hastings-based Noah’s Ark Processors is facing $182,926 in penalties after an employee suffered severe burns caused by exposure to anhydrous ammonia at one of its meat processing facilities. Sixteen serious violations were issued relating to process safety management (PSM) program deficiencies, failing to guard roof openings, and electrical safety and lockout/tagout violations.
  • An administrative law judge of the OSHRC affirmed a serious violation and $11,408 penalty after an employee was hospitalized due to an arc flash. Jacobs Field Services’ policy of permitting employees to remove portions of their personal protective equipment after they had determined the load side – but not the line side – of an electrical disconnect box was de-energized violated the statute.

New York

  • St. Louis, Mo-based Western Specialty Contractors is facing criminal charges and $155,204 in penalties for exposing employees to serious injuries. Operated by an untrained employee, an unsecured mini-crane overturned and fell four stories at an NYC worksite.
  • An administrative law judge of the OSHRC affirmed a serious violation against Fairport-based Ontario Exteriors Inc. when a worksite policy that directed its employees to traverse a steep second-story roof without fall protection at the beginning and end of each work day resulted in the injury of one worker. The law judge reduced the fine in half to $1,811 noting that the court believes the company will comply with fall protection requirements in the future.

Pennsylvania

  • Spear Excavating LLC based in Pennsburg was cited for exposing employees to trenching hazards at a worksite in Malvern. The company faces $106,057 in proposed penalties. The inspection was initiated by a complaint.
  • An administrative law judge of the OSHRC affirmed a serious citation and $11,408 fine against Coastal Drilling East LLC after an employee’s finger had to be amputated following a workplace accident. Cited under the general duty clause, the company argued that abatement of the cited condition was infeasible and the violation was the result of unpreventable employee misconduct, but the law judge cited an absence of training, instruction, and supervision and inconsistent enforcement.

Wisconsin

  • Two utility contractors – Bear Communications LLC of Lawrence, Kansas, and subcontractor V C Tech Inc. of Ypsilanti, Michigan – were issued a serious safety violation, and face penalties of $12,934 each – the maximum penalty allowed when they failed to establish the location of underground utilities prior to beginning excavation work. A volunteer firefighter responding to the incident was fatally injured.

For additional information.

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

HR Tip: Have you updated these policies in your 2019 employee handbook?

Keeping the employee handbook updated with the latest laws and company policies is a challenging, but necessary, task. 2018 was a busy year particularly at the state and local levels as new and amended employment-related laws took effect in 27 states. Here are 20 areas that may need attention. Employers are encouraged to discuss with knowledgeable counsel the local, state, and/or federal laws that will apply to the employer’s workplace in 2019:

  1. Sexual harassment
  2. Discrimination protection based on gender identity
  3. Retaliation procedures
  4. Reasonable accommodations for women who are pregnant or breast feeding
  5. Update to leave laws (supplement may be necessary for multi-state employers)
  6. Medical and recreational marijuana
  7. Drug use
  8. Equal pay and wage discrimination
  9. Use of cellphone while driving
  10. Independent contractors
  11. E-cigarettes and other tobacco substitutes
  12. Weapons in the workplace
  13. Changes to employee benefits
  14. Remote work policies
  15. Data privacy
  16. Social media
  17. Workplace conduct
  18. Arbitration and At-will acknowledgement
  19. Minimum wage
  20. Problem areas requiring a clearer policy or different strategy

Updating the handbook is also an opportunity to train managers and reinforce policies with employees. Employers should also obtain acknowledgments of receipt each time they update their handbooks.

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