Things you should know

Employer control over medical providers can lower costs for spinal injuries

A study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found the greatest disparity in medical and indemnity costs between states that allow injured workers to choose their own providers and those that give employers more control is for spinal injuries. Researchers noted that there is more subjectivity in the nature of care for back and neck injuries, whether employees can go back to work, and the level of pain.
ISEA updates fall protection guide

In response to new regulations and standards, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has updated its Personal Fall Protection Equipment Use and Selection Guide. The 30-page document explains how to set up a fall protection program, details the major parts of fall protection systems, and advises on the selection of equipment based on industry. It also includes relevant OSHA regulations and U.S. and Canadian consensus standards.
New chronic pain guideline emphasizes physical activity

An “overwhelming theme” in treating patients for chronic pain is to keep them as physically active as possible, according to an American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine treatment guideline recently released, which has not been released to the public. The therapy needs to move beyond simply stretching to strengthening, aerobic conditioning, and functional improvement and one key is to not prescribe activity “as tolerated” or “as needed.”
Study of severe injury data finds poultry and meat workers at high risk

Every day, 27 workers suffer on-the-job amputations or injuries that require hospitalization, according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project. According to the data, employers reported 17,533 severe injuries between Jan. 2015 and Sept 2016.

Out of more than 14,000 companies reporting to the government, Tyson Foods ranked fourth, and JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride ranked sixth, in terms of the number of severe injury reports filed. Further, the poultry industry as a whole has the 12th highest number of severe injuries of all industries reporting-higher than the sawmill industry, auto, steel, and other high-hazard industries.
Large variation in worker attorney involvement by state: study

WCRI released a new FlashReport to help inform policymakers and stakeholders about worker attorney involvement in their state. According to the study, the percentage of claims with worker attorneys ranged from 13-14 percent in Wisconsin and Texas to 49-52 percent in New Jersey and Illinois. States included in this study are Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Mine safety rule implementation delayed until Oct. 2

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has extended the effective date for its rule on workplace safety examinations for metal and nonmetal mines to Oct. 2. The rule addresses the timing of workplace safety examinations and strengthens notification requirements.
MSHA launches lone miner safety initiative

MSHA announced it will begin focusing inspections and mine visits on lone miner situations after five of eight miner fatalities this year have involved miners working alone.
State updates

California

  • Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has issued a revised advisory pure premium rate, reducing rates by 16.5% to $2.02 per $100 of payroll effective July 1.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved a new regulation that serves to strengthen process safety management around the state’s oil refineries.
  • The start date for the planned drug formulary will be delayed by six months to January 1, 2018 to revise parts of the plan and receive public comments.

Florida

  • 14.5% increase in comp premiums upheld by appeals court.

Illinois

  • The average indemnity benefit per claim in Illinois was $21,275 in 2013, while the median state benefit per claim was $18,269 according to a WCRI study.
  • The Senate passed two pieces of workers compensation reform legislation that would reduce the cost of workers compensation insurance for employers and introduce market competition. The bills will be sent to the governor for signature.

Mississippi

  • The Workers’ Compensation Commission has adopted an amendment to its 2017 fee schedule, adding opioid guidelines.

 

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

Four troubling trends threaten worker safety

Despite the remarkable strides that employers have made in reducing workplace injuries, there are several persistent issues that threaten worker safety. Here are four of them:

  1. Disconnect between employer and employee perception of value of productivity over workplace safetyIn a recent survey, Employee Perceptions in Workplace Safety, by the National Safety Council (NSC), over one-third of the employees surveyed claimed that workplace safety is secondary to performing tasks. This perception was even much higher in certain industries: 68% in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; 58% in construction; and 45% in manufacturing or industrial facilities.

    The report also found that 32% of respondents agreed that employees “are afraid to report safety issues,” and 30% agreed “employees are resistant to working safely.” Of those surveyed, 39% agreed that management does only the “minimum required by law” when it comes to employee safety. 32% feel management ignores an employee’s safety performance when determining promotions.

    On the other hand, 71% stated that safety training is part of orientation, and 68% of those surveyed agreed that employees are well trained in emergency practices. 62% say everyone is involved in solving job safety issues. 63% of employees feel they work in areas or at stations that are ergonomically correct.

    Takeaway: Even in companies that have a safety strategy aligned with their organizational goals, there can be a safety-vs.-production dichotomy. This can come from unrealistic deadlines, poor supervision, inadequate communication, lack of accountability, workers’ perception that personal productivity solely drives raises, or a high tolerance for risk among some employees. Find out how your employees view safety and productivity. Are there conflicts, if so, what are they and how do they resolve them? Many successful companies have demonstrated that high value on safety and productivity can co-exist and help achieve long-term profitability.

  2. Motor vehicle crashes are leading cause of workplace fatalities and roadways are getting more dangerousIt’s not falls, fires, explosions, or chemical exposure that kills workers the most on the job; it’s motor vehicle crashes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2015 (latest data available), roadway incident fatalities were up 9 percent from 2014 totals, accounting for over one-quarter of the fatal occupational injuries in 2015.

    Drivers are often lulled into a false sense of security with hands-free and in-vehicle technology. An NSC survey found that 47% of motorists are comfortable texting while driving. There’s also a false sense that summer is a safer time to drive with better weather and road conditions. However more auto accidents occur during the summer time than any other time of the year.

    According to the NSC, the increased serious injuries and fatalities from motor vehicle crashes continue a troubling multiyear surge that experts believe is being fueled, in part, by more people driving while distracted by cellphones, infotainment screens, and other devices. Other factors include an improving economy, lower gas prices, and younger, more inexperienced drivers.

    And then there are the challenges that face the trucking industry. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers incurred 745 fatal work injuries in 2015, the most of any occupation.Truck drivers also had more nonfatal injuries than workers in any other occupation. Half of the nonfatal injuries were serious sprains and strains; this may be attributed to the fact that many truck drivers must unload the goods they transport. A driver shortage, a rapidly aging driver population, as well as issues with driver fatigue, obesity, and other co-morbidities challenge the industry. And in many delivery zones, there has been an increase in pedestrian strikes, not caused by drivers but by distracted pedestrians.

    Takeaway: Any company utilizing vehicles for business purposes – even if those vehicles are employees’ personal cars – can feel the impact of rising accidents. The average work-related motor vehicle injury claim costs $72,540, which is twice as much as other work-related injuries. Those who have not instituted policies to minimize distracted driving need to do so. Random checks on compliance with the policy and discipline for non-compliance are key. Employers can also strengthen hiring practices and use fleet telematics, when appropriate.

    These policies should be regularly communicated to help reinforce the message. There are good public awareness campaigns, including an informative website, distraction.gov, in which employers can download forms to use in obtaining a pledge to not engage in distracting activities while driving. Recently, the NSC created a webinar offering recommendations not only on eliminating distractions in vehicles, but also on how to be alert and react to the actions of other distracted drivers on the road.

  3. Fatalities in construction outpace employment growthThe number of fatalities among construction workers climbed to 985 in 2015 after dipping to 781 in 2011, an increase of 26% compared to employment growth of 16%. Fall-related fatalities increased at a faster pace – rising 36% to 367 in 2015, according to the report by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR).

    Data presented in the report comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other findings:

    • 55 percent of fatal falls came from heights of 20 feet or less.
    • 33 percent of fatal falls involved falls from roofs, 24 percent involved ladders, and scaffolds and staging accounted for 15 percent.
    • Fatal falls in residential construction rose to 61 in 2015 from 26 in 2011.
    • Roofers continue to experience the highest rate of fatal falls to a lower level: 31.5 per 100,000 full-time workers, although this represents a decrease from 39.9 in 2014.
    • Workers at an increased risk of fatal falls include Hispanic workers, foreign-born workers, and workers 55 years and older.

    Takeaway: The findings in this report emphasize the need to reduce falls and the importance of ongoing vigilance. CPWR, OSHA and NIOSH have a variety of resources available and the Campaign to Prevent falls in construction website includes Eleven Ways to keep your fall prevention program alive all year long.

  4. Impaired workforce: drug use at 12-year highCocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use continues to climb among workers, though opioid use is down, according to a May 2017 study by New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics Inc. Cocaine positivity increased 12 percent in 2016, reaching a seven-year high of 0.28 percent, compared to 0.25 percent in 2015, and seven percent among federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers to 0.28 percent, compared to 0.26 percent in 2015. Marijuana positivity increased dramatically over the last three years with increases in Colorado and Washington double the national average. In oral fluid testing, which detects recent drug use, marijuana positivity increased nearly 75 percent, from 5.1 percent in 2013 to 8.9 percent in 2016.

    Amphetamines (which includes amphetamine and methamphetamine) positivity continued its year-over-year upward trend, increasing more than eight percent in urine testing compared to 2015. Throughout the last decade, this rise has been driven primarily by amphetamine use, which includes certain prescription drugs such as Adderall.

    On a positive note, heroin detection remained flat, while prescription opiate detection declined.

    Takeaway: The efforts to control opiate prescribing in workers’ comp have produced promising results. However, the answer to the problem of drugs in the workplace remains elusive. The regulations governing drug testing are more restrictive, there is no established standard of what constitutes impairment when it comes to marijuana, alternatives to chronic pain treatment are still emerging, and employees often do not understand the perils of some prescription medications. In addition to a carefully crafted drug-free workplace policy, training supervisory staff to identify and know what to do if they suspect an employee has a problem and educating employees on their role in keeping the workplace safe are key.

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

 

Things you should know

Attention motor carriers: “Roadcheck” annual event – June 6 – 8

Nearly three times more roadside inspections take place during the 72 hours on June 6 – 8 than on any other time of the year. Sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), the intensive annual “Roadcheck” is a good opportunity for those in the motor carrier industry to improve their Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores. In 2016, 62,796 truck and bus inspections were completed throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Top construction risks: geopolitical instability, workforce management issues

In a survey of executives in the construction sector, Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. found geopolitical instability and workforce management issues as the biggest challenges facing the industry. Geopolitical issues included uncertainty of government support and financing, postponement and delays, changes in strategy, and commitment to project pipelines. Workforce management issues include increasing need for digital skills, a global employee network, disparate labor laws, difficulty to attract talent, and an aging population. The Construction Risk Index report can be downloaded here.

New pamphlet spotlights Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome

Scientific research organization IRSST has released a pamphlet intended to help workers recognize Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome. Aimed at workers who use vibrating tools or frequently strike, press or twist objects with the palms of their hands, the free pamphlet outlines syndrome warning signs and prevention methods.

Mayo Clinic study: second opinion leads to new or refined diagnosis for 88% of patients

Many patients come to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion or diagnosis confirmation before treatment for a complex condition. In a new study, Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 88 percent of those patients go home with a new or refined diagnosis – changing their care plan and potentially their lives. Conversely, only 12 percent receive confirmation that the original diagnosis was complete and correct.

These findings were published online in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Study links participation in weight-loss programs to reduced absenteeism

Obese workers who took part in a structured weight-loss program reported fewer hours missed on the job after six months, a recent University of Michigan study shows.

Researchers surveyed 92 people who had an average body mass index of 40 and worked in various occupations. Before entering the program, participants stated in a self-evaluation that they worked an average of 5.2 fewer hours a month than their employers expected. After six months and an average of 41 pounds shed, participants reported working 6.4 more hours a month than expected.

WCRI’s CompScope™ Benchmark 2017

The 17th edition of CompScope™ Benchmarks Report is available from the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). The report looks at the impact of state workers’ compensation reforms on things like claim costs, rate of litigation, and disability duration and included 18 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. In California and North Carolina, the total costs per claim have been steady between 2010 and 2013. Illinois saw total costs per claim decrease by 6.4 percent since 2010, which researchers attribute to a 30 percent reduction in fee schedule rates for their medical services. Indiana’s total costs per claim decreased by 4 percent from 2014 to 2015, a product of a 10 percent decrease in medical payments, but a 5 percent increase in indemnity benefits per claim. In Florida, total costs per claim increased between 2010 and 2015, but there were decisions last year from the Florida Supreme Court that may slow or stop those increases in costs.

Rising pedestrian death toll

The latest report on U.S. pedestrian deaths, from the Governors Highway Safety Association, estimates that last year’s total rose 11.6 percent to nearly 6,000, or more than 16 fatalities a day. If that projection proves accurate – it is based on fatality records from only the first half of 2016 – it would mark the sharpest yearlong increase since records have been kept.

Analysts are putting much of the blame on drivers and walkers who are looking at their smartphones instead of watching where they are going. Tipsy walking also is part of the problem, with one in three victims legally drunk when they were struck and killed.

Workplace death rate hits a 10-year high in Massachusetts

Seventy Massachusetts workers lost their lives last year, marking a 10-year high in the rate of workplace-related fatalities, according to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, known as MassCOSH. Sixty-two of those workers were killed on the job, many in construction; the rest were firefighters who died from occupational illnesses, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

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

Things you should know

Opioid abuse rises with length of prescription

According to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of opioid abuse rises with lengthy prescriptions. If received a one-day prescription, 6% were still on opioids a year later; when prescribed for 8 days or more, this rises to 13.5%; when prescribed for 31 days or more, it increases to 29.9%.

Blacklisting rule repealed

President Trump repealed the so-called “blacklisting rule” that required federal contractors to disclose labor violations. The executive order had required employers bidding for federal contracts worth at least $500,000 to disclose any of 14 violations of workplace protections during the previous three years.

FMCSA will not reinstate overnight rest regulations for commercial drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulation that required CMV (Commercial Motor Vehicle) drivers to take breaks in the hopes of preventing driver fatigue has been suspended since 2014 so that further research could be done to understand the efficacy of the program. A study from the Department of Transportation found that stricter mandated breaks did not do much to reduce driver fatigue or improve safety. Thus, the rule will not come out of suspension.

Study reveals occupations with sleep deprived workers

If your industry is health care, food service, or transportation, your workers are probably not getting adequate sleep, according to a study published March 3 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Workers who averaged fewer than seven hours of sleep per night were classified as having short sleep durations. Occupation groups that failed to average seven hours of sleep included:

  • Communications equipment operators: 58 percent
  • Rail transportation workers: 53 percent
  • Printing workers: 51 percent
  • Plant and system operators: 50 percent
  • Supervisors, food preparation and serving workers: 49 percent
  • Extraction workers: 45 percent
  • Nursing, psychiatric and home health aides: 43 %

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults 18 to 60 years old get at least seven hours of sleep every day. A lack of sleep can contribute to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and other health issues, as well as contribute to more injuries on the job.

NIOSH announces free health screenings for coal miners

A series of free, confidential health screenings will be available for coal miners as part of the NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program. The first set of screenings will take place from March 26 to April 15 in coal mining regions throughout Alabama. The second set will occur from May 10 to May 31 throughout Indiana and Illinois. Finally, testing will take place from July 30 to Aug. 26 throughout Eastern Kentucky.

NIOSH updates mine hazard assessment software

Mine operators and workers now have access to updated hazard assessment software from NIOSH. According to the agency, EVADE 2.0 – short for Enhanced Video Analysis of Dust Exposures – offers a more comprehensive assessment of the hazards miners face by pulling together video footage and exposure data on dust, diesel and other gases, as well as sound levels.

Study: PT as effective as surgery for carpal tunnel

Physical therapy is as effective as surgery in treating carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a new study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Researchers in Spain and the United States report that one year following treatment, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome who received physical therapy achieved results comparable to outcomes for patients who had surgery. Further, physical therapy patients saw faster improvements at the one-month mark than did patients treated surgically.

When hospital inspectors are watching, fewer patients die

A recent report in the New York Times cited a study in JAMA Internal Medicine which found death rates dropped when inspectors were onsite. In the non-inspection weeks, the average 30-day death rate was 7.21 percent. But during inspections, the rate fell to 7.03 percent. The difference was greater in teaching hospitals – 6.41 percent when the inspectors were absent, and 5.93 percent during survey weeks. While the difference may seem low, an absolute reduction of only 0.39 percent in the death rate would mean more than 3,500 fewer deaths per year.

Although the reasons for the effect are unclear, it was suggested when docs are being monitored, diligence ramps up.

Wearing eye protection can prevent 90 percent of work-related eye injuries, experts suggest

Ninety percent of on-the-job eye injuries could be avoided if workers wore eye protection, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). AAO offers the following tips for avoiding workplace eyestrain or injury:

  • Wear protective eyewear appropriate for the type of hazard you may encounter
  • Position your computer monitor 25 inches away
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Reduce glare on your cell phone or digital device
  • Adjust environmental lighting near your workstation

 

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

Truckers’ medical conditions can increase crash risk

Commercial truck drivers who have at least three health issues can quadruple their crash risk compared to healthier drivers, according to a study from the University of Utah School of Medicine. Researchers examined medical records for nearly 50,000 commercial truck drivers, 34 percent of whom had signs of one or more health issues associated with poor driving performance, such as heart disease, low back pain and diabetes.

The crash rate involving injury among all drivers was 29 per 100 million miles traveled. The rate rose to 93 per 100 million miles traveled for drivers with at least three ailments. Researchers took into account other factors that can impact driving abilities, such as age and amount of commercial driving experience.

The study was published online Jan. 10 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Employee takeaway: It is well documented that truck drivers often have difficulty staying healthy because they tend to sit for long periods of time and sleep and eat poorly. With the industry facing a critical shortage of drivers, employers need to do all they can to keep their drivers healthy. There are a host of tools available to help drivers, including smart phone apps with guidance about nutrition and exercise on the road, customized in-house wellness programs, bio-screenings, coaching, sleep apnea testing and treatment, encouraging brown bagging and walking or bicycling during breaks, and so on. Some companies are ramping up their new-hire pain diagnostics, so they have a baseline for whether a new driver has pre-existing muscle pain. In an industry of high turnover and high claims, this puts the driver on notice and effectively deters claims.

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

Top 10 Non-Fatal Work Related Injuries

Overexertion tops list of serious, nonfatal work injuries for third straight year – Liberty Mutual

The 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index uses Liberty Mutual workers’ comp claims data, as well as information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Washington-based National Academy of Social Insurance, to determine the costliest workplace injuries and those that result in employees missing six or more days of work.

For 2014, the injuries cost employers more than one billion dollars a week, or close to $60 billion a year.

The top ten include:

  1. Overexertion ($13.79B) 23%
  2. Falls on same level ($10.62B) 17.7%
  3. Falls to lower level ($5.50B) 9.2%
  4. Struck by object or equipment ($4.43B) 7.4%
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions ($3.89B) 6.5%
  6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle ($3.70B) 6.2%
  7. Slip or trip without falling ($2.30B) 3.8%
  8. Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects ($1.95B) 3.3%
  9. Struck against equipment or object ($1.94B) 3.2%
  10. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks ($1.81B) 3.0%

While overexertion, which includes lifting, pushing, pulling and other actions involving objects did decrease somewhat from 2013, falls on the same level and roadway incidents continue to trend upward.

Employer takeaway: Many employers have done a good job of implementing safety measures, adopting automation and new processes that reduce injuries, and fostering a strong safety culture, but injuries still happen. Understanding injury causation is a complex process. Factors ranging from human error, unsafe behavior, stress, and inadequate skills to unsafe conditions, insufficient training, faulty equipment, lack of supervision and so on come into play. Analyzing data to discover trends and problem spots that are driving the serious workplace injuries can help develop safety programs that target those causes. Moreover, employers have found success by increasingly involving employees in safety leadership, encouraging workers to be the “eyes and ears” of safe working practices, including the authority to stop work without fear of repercussion.

Related article: Overexertion accounts for more than 25% of the top ten injury costs: Liberty Mutual WorkComp Adv!sory – December 2015

 

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

New report weighs in on marijuana’s health benefits – nearly 100 conclusions

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine offers a rigorous review of scientific research published since 1999 about the health impacts of cannabis and cannabis-derived products – such as marijuana. It lays out substantial evidence that associates the use of cannabis with the development of psychoses and schizophrenia, but also provides studies that show its potential benefits, such as relief of chronic pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea. Other benefits include: improvement of multiple sclerosis spasticity, improvement of short-term sleep in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis, potential improvement of anxiety symptoms, and increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss in patients with HIV and AIDS.

But it also points out potential risks: worsening of respiratory symptoms and more frequent bronchitis with long-term smoking, increase in motor vehicle accidents, low birth weight in offspring of maternal smoker, and higher risk of cannabis overdose in children in states where cannabis is legal.

The report also acknowledges that it has been difficult for researchers to do rigorous research on marijuana, partly because of the federal classification of it as a Schedule 1 substance.

Employer takeaway: This report demonstrates how much more needs to be done – many health questions remain to be answered by better research. The increased legal availability of cannabis products in many states and the uncertain legal landscape has complicated workplace policies. It’s prudent for employers to establish a clear policy and communicate it effectively to employees as well as stay abreast of all legal decisions and regulations in the states where they do business.

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

Things you should know

DOL website has new section on worker misclassification

The DOL has compiled information on worker misclassification on a new section of its website.

Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) “Re- Review” process

In Calendar year 2017, CMS expects to update its existing re-review process to address situations where CMS has provided an approved amount, but settlement has not occurred and the medical care that supported the approved amount has changed substantially.

Workplace deaths up in 2015

According to the Department of Labor, 4,836 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2015, a slight increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries in 2014. 2,054 of these involved transportation incidents, with roadway incidents accounting for 26 percent of all fatal work injuries. Almost half of these fatalities involved some kind of tractor-trailer truck. The information includes U.S. workplace deaths resulting from traumatic events but does not include workers who die from long-term exposure to workplace hazards, such as toxic chemicals.

MSD checklists by industry

The Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention Program at the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has released six industry-specific checklists and summary reports aimed at helping employers identify risk factors that may contribute to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The checklists are available for agriculture, construction, healthcare, manufacturing, services, and wholesale and retail trade.

US tops lists for days lost and highest costs of sleepy workers

Lack of sleep among U.S. workers results in an increased risk of death and the loss of 1.2 million working days per year, and costs the economy up to $411 billion annually, according to a new report from RAND Europe. Researchers said workers who increase their sleep duration to between six hours and seven hours per night could bring an additional $226.4 billion to the economy. The researchers recommended that employers understand the importance of sleep and promote it, create brighter workplaces, provide settings for naps, and discourage lengthy use of electronic devices after work.

FMCSA to establish database of CMV drivers who fail drug, alcohol tests

Commercial motor vehicle drivers who fail a drug and alcohol test will be listed on a national clearinghouse to be created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to a final rule published Dec. 5. Motor carriers will need to search the system for information related to current and prospective employees who might have unresolved violations that prohibit them from driving. Employers and medical review officers also will be required to report information about drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol, refuse to comply with drug and alcohol testing, or participate in the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process.

FMCSA to develop minimum training standards for entry-level CMV drivers

Entry-level commercial truck and bus drivers seeking a commercial driver’s license or select endorsements will soon face national minimum training requirements under a final rule. The new rule will apply to first-time CDL applicants; drivers seeking to upgrade their CDL to another classification; and drivers seeking an endorsement for hazardous materials, passenger or school bus operations for the first time.

Workplace weight loss programs lower health care costs, improve quality of life: study

People who participate in a weight management program at work experience lower health care costs and better quality of life, according to a study from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Researchers examined data on 1,500 University of Minnesota workers who attended group meetings about weight management over a three-year period. Participants typically were older women who had a higher body mass index and were more likely to have a chronic disease. The average annual savings in health care costs was $876 per participant.

 

State News
California

Starting July 1, doctors who wish to repeatedly prescribe opioids to injured workers will have to subject the claim to a review process, according to an overview of the proposed workers’ compensation prescription drug formulary set to go into effect next summer.

Illinois

A new rule requiring some Illinois employers to provide collateral for large-deductible workers compensation policies was approved. The rule implements Senate Bill 1805/Public Act 099-0369.

Massachusetts

A new pilot program is aimed at helping injured workers get pain management treatment after settling workers’ compensation claim. The voluntary program is designed for individuals with settled cases, who are still being treated with opioids, but the insurance company seeks to stop payment for continued use of opioids.

New York

New health insurance reforms that went into effect Jan.1 and target the heroin and opioid epidemic require small and large group health plans, and individual plans, to cover inpatient treatment for New Yorkers suffering from opioid addiction.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and slashing Insurance Costs visit www.PremiumReductionCenter.com

OSHA watch

Anti-retaliation provisions effective now

The enforcement of anti-retaliation provisions in the injury and illness tracking rule went into effect December 1, after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied a motion that challenged the new provisions.

 

Final rule on walking/working surfaces, fall protection issued

A long-awaited final rule has been issued updating the standard on walking/working surfaces that addresses slips, trips and falls in the workplace and establishes employer requirements for the use of personal fall protection systems. The most significant update to the rule allows employers to choose the fall protection system that is most effective for them based on a variety of acceptable options, including the use of personal fall protection systems.

The rule also allows employers to:

  • Use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level
  • Prohibit the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system
  • Require worker training on personal fall protection systems and other equipment designed for falls

The final rule does not change construction or agricultural standards. The final rule for general industry updates requirements for ladders, stairs, dockboards, and fall and falling object protection.

It’s expected that this rule will stand under the Trump administration since it is uncontroversial and employer-friendly.

 

Amputation prevention initiative launched in four states

Enforcement initiatives emphasizing the prevention of amputation hazards among workers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, began November 1. Inspectors will examine operations, working conditions, recordkeeping, and safety and health programs in these states for compliance. The program will also focus on employers in industries using machinery that can be hazardous to workers.

 

Regional emphasis program focuses on retail establishments in Pennsylvania

A Regional Emphasis Program for the Retail Industry will include a program of comprehensive safety inspections of certain retail establishments, with a focus on proper exits, material handling and storage and electrical hazards. The emphasis program will cover each of the counties that fall under the jurisdiction of the Wilkes-Barre area office, including: Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne and Wyoming.

 

Guide on silica rule compliance for small businesses

A compliance guide is available for small businesses in the construction industry to help them adhere to a final rule regarding exposure to crystalline silica in the workplace. The guide is intended as an advisory tool and does not create or change any obligations for employers.

 

NIOSH issues recommended exposure limits for chemicals linked to ‘popcorn lung’

NIOSH has released recommended limits for controlling occupational exposure to flavoring chemicals diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, both of which have been linked to reduced lung function in food flavoring and production industry workers. Published Oct. 31, Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and 2,3-Pentanedione lists the recommended exposure limits for diacetyl at 5 parts per billion and 9.3 ppb for 2,3-pentanedione as an 8-hour time-weighted average during a 40-hour workweek.

 

Recent fines and awards

California

  • Elite Electric Inc. of Riverside faces $130,125 in proposed fines for serious and willful safety violations after a worker installing solar panels fell 29 feet through a skylight.
  • AAA Roofing was fined $24, 575 after a foreman’s instructions to use a propane torch to loosen a discharge pipe on a tanker filled with liquid asphalt caused an explosion that injured two workers.

Florida

  • Flacks Painting & Waterproofing of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea faces nearly $90,000 in fines after an employee suffered neck and back injuries when the balcony he was working from collapsed. A willful citation was issued for not ensuring the walking and working surface where employees were working was strong enough to support the workers. There were also four serious and two other-than-serious safety and health violations.
  • Collis Roofing Inc. of Deland faces nearly $143,000 in penalties for failing to protect employees from falls. The inspection took place as part of the Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction.

Illinois

  • A mobile medical trailer fell and fatally crushed a 58-year-old electrician on his first day on the job at Advanced Mobility’s location in Monee. The company faces $58,792 in fines.
  • Coilplus Illinois Inc., a steel processing facility, faces penalties of $53,628 following the death of a 50-year-old employee after being pulled into a scrap metal baller. Penalties related to violations of confined spaces, machine guarding, and lockout/tagout standards.

Missouri

  • Magna Seating doing business as Excelsior Springs Seating System, a manufacturer of automotive seats, was cited for one serious health violation of the agency’s general duty clause after a May 2016 agency investigation found musculoskeletal disorder injuries. Proposed penalties are $12,471.
  • A Jefferson City roofing contractor, Weathercraft Incorporated, was cited for one serious violation of the general duty clause after a 47-year-old laborer died from suffering heat stroke on his third day on the job. Proposed penalties are $12,471.

Nebraska

  • Prinz Grain & Feed was cited for multiple violations at its West Point facility after a worker died when a wall of corn debris collapsed in a grain bin. Proposed penalties are $526,633 and the company has been placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

New York

  • A 23-year-old tree service worker was killed on the first day of his job after a wood chipper pulled him into the machine. Albany-based Countryside Tree Service was cited for willful, serious safety violations including failure to train and lack of PPE. Proposed fines total $141,811.

North Carolina

  • Smithfield Farmland Corporation in Clinton faces $77,000 in fines for failing to properly guard workers from a cutting band saw, exposing workers to amputation hazards.

Pennsylvania

  • An administrative law judge recently affirmed nine cited federal safety and health violations and assessed $344,960 in fines against Lansdowne masonry contractor, J.C. Stucco and Stone. The company has been cited 41 times since 2011 for exposing workers to life-threatening scaffolding hazards.
  • Philadelphia contractor, Hua Da Construction, was fined $72,000 for fall and trenching safety violations.
  • Crystal Window & Doors was cited for 8 violations at its Dalton facility and fined nearly $75,000 for not correcting safety hazards following the amputation of a workers’ finger.
  • Dollar General in Jonestown fined for blocking emergency exit again and faces $215,000 in penalties.

Wisconsin

  • KG Marketing and Bag Company of Waukesha, a manufacturer of plastic bags for commercial use, was cited for one willful violation of the machine-guarding standard and one other-than-serious violation for failing to report an amputation within the required 24-hour reporting period. The proposed penalty is $78,325.

Detailed descriptions of the citations above and other OSHA citations can be found here.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on slashing Workers’ Compensation Costs visit www.PremiumReductionCenter.com

OSHA watch

Expedited Whistleblower Review Pilot launched in western region

Effective August 1, a pilot program in the Western region allows whistleblowers, protected by certain statutes, to expedite the process by requesting that the agency stop an investigation and release findings to the Office of Administrative Law Judges. The western region covered by the new “Expedited Case Processing Pilot,” includes Nevada, Arizona, California, Hawaii, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

The case has to meet certain criteria to qualify for this expedited processing: it must be filed under a statute that allows for a fresh review from an ALJ, the whistleblower must have been interviewed by OSHA, the complaint must be evaluated to determine if the elements for a retaliation claim are there, both the complainant and the respondent must have had an opportunity to write responses and meet with OSHA to present their statements, and the complaint must have been filed at least 30 to 60 days earlier before the complainant can ask for an expedited review.

Administrative Law Judges can order the same recompenses as OSHA and they can order back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, reinstatement, and attorney fees.

PSM standard: interim enforcement policy for Appendix A chemicals issued

A July field memorandum for regional administrators and state plan designees rescinds and replaces a June 2015 memorandum regarding the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and covered concentrations of listed Appendix A chemicals.

In response to concerns that the 2015 memorandum significantly expanded the scope of chemical mixtures covered by the PSM Standard and a legal challenge that this significant change to the PSM standard was made by way of an interpretation memo, rather than the formal “notice-and-comment rulemaking,” the new memorandum retains the new 1% Rule proposed to be adopted in the June 2015 memorandum for most chemicals listed on Appendix A to the PSM standard.

In determining whether a process involves a chemical (whether pure or in a mixture) at or above the specified threshold quantities listed in Appendix A, the employer shall calculate:

  • the total weight of any chemical in the process at a concentration that meets or exceeds the concentration listed for that chemical in Appendix A, and
  • with respect to chemicals for which no concentration is specified in Appendix A, the total weight of the chemical in the process at a concentration of one percent or greater. However, the employer need not include the weight of such chemicals in any portion of the process in which the partial pressure of the chemical in the vapor space under handling or storage conditions is less than 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The employer shall document this partial pressure determination.

The new interpretation is different than the 2015 memorandum, however, in that it carves out any chemical listed in Appendix A as “anhydrous” where such chemical is part of an aqueous solution or aqueous mixture.

Employers will not be cited through March 31, 2017, for violations of the PSM standard related to the memo. Through March 31, 2018, the agency will “make it a top priority” for compliance assistance specialists to help employers comply with changes to the standard.

Warning of methylene chloride hazards

A new addition to the Fatal Facts series emphasizes how quickly methylene chloride vapors can reach life-threatening levels when using common paint stripping products. It features the story of a temporary worker who died while using a paint stripper containing this hazardous substance to remove the coating from a bathtub.

New resources highlight tractor safety

A magnet encouraging tractor operators to practice safe handling when in the driver’s seat, is available in English or Spanish and is designed to be placed directly on tractors.

Start date for federal contractor disclosure requirements: Oct. 25, 2016

Beginning in late October, prospective federal contractors will be required to disclose previous labor law violations as part of final guidance recently announced by the Department of Labor and the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council.The final regulations, scheduled to go into effect in phases beginning on Oct. 25, require employers bidding for a federal contract worth at least $500,000 to disclose any of 14 established violations of workplace protections cited during the previous three years. Violations that must be disclosed include those related to safety and health, family and medical leave, civil rights protections, collective bargaining, and wages.

 

Tennessee OSHA to adopt upcoming changes for tracking workplace injuries and illnesses

The new controversial recordkeeping rule, which takes effect January 1, 2017, requires certain employers to electronically submit certain injury and illness data, which will be made available to the public. Tennessee OSHA is currently in the process of adopting the new rule and it is anticipated that the rule will be effective by January 1, 2017.

Georgia magistrate recommendation would restrict Regional Emphasis Program aimed at poultry processing facilities

The legality of the Regional Emphasis Program (REP) aimed at poultry processing facilities has been called into question, particularly whether a non-programmed inspection, e.g., one based on a complaint, referral, or report, can be expanded into a full plant-wide investigation. This issue was brought to a head when OSHA attempted to expand an inspection at Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., a poultry processor, from one focused on a report of a workplace accident into an REP inspection focused on numerous potential hazards, and the company refused.

When OSHA sought a warrant, a fact-finding hearing was held and the magistrate judge recommended to the U.S. District Court that OSHA had “probable cause” to investigate four of the 16 hazards because of the accident, but the agency lacked “administrative probable cause” to expand the investigation. The U.S. District Court will make the final ruling.

NIOSH’s Engineering Controls Database can help employers reduce risk of workplace illnesses and injuries

NIOSH’s new Engineering Controls Database provides information on effective engineering controls that can protect workers by eliminating or reducing hazardous conditions.

Recent fines and awards

California

  • LC General Engineering & Construction Inc. of San Francisco faces fines of $52,810 for safety and health violations after a worker was run over by a steamroller and hospitalized for serious injuries.
  • Garden Grove-based metal processing company, Kittyhawk Inc, faces $73,105 in penalties for serious safety violations following a confined space accident in which a worker was asphyxiated.

Georgia

  • Great Southern Peanut of Leesburg was cited for combustible dust, improper machine guarding and other safety and health hazard. Proposed fines are more than $110,000 for 17 repeated, serious violations.
  • JCG Farms of Alabama LLC, doing business as Koch Farms of Collinsville, A to J Electrical Services and D. Sims Inc., was cited for serious violations after a dust explosion kills one, injures five at a Rockmart chicken feed mill. The feed mill and two contractors based in Georgia are facing a combined $112,600 in fines.

Florida

  • D.R. Horton was issued one repeated citation for failing to ensure subcontractor employees were protected with a fall protection system when working from heights up to 25 feet at an Ocala job site. Garcia Carpentry was issued a repeated citation for the same violation and an additional repeated for allowing workers to use the top step of a ladder to access and exit the roofing trusses. This inspection was part of the Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction program. Proposed penalties: $107,785.
  • Chicken producer, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, of Live Oak was cited for medical mismanagement, fall, machine guarding, and other safety, health hazards. Proposed penalties: $75,000.

Illinois

  • Residential contractor, Robert Barringer III, was cited for the 19th time for failing to provide fall protection for workers. The contractor, who is in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), faces proposed penalties of $89,100 and is in default of $267,000 in fines. Robert Barringer III has been cited previously under the operating names Barringer Brothers Roofing, Barringer Brothers Inc., and Barringer Brothers Construction Inc.
  • Newark-based, trailer manufacturer, Dierzen Sales was cited for exposing workers to injuries from machine and welding hazards. It faces nearly $154,000 in proposed fines for seven violations.
  • Meyer Steel Drum Inc. of Chicago faces $46,800 in penalties for lack of adequate machine guarding after a worker has three fingers crushed at the steel drum manufacturer.
  • Arlington Plating Co., a Chicago-area electroplating company, faces $115,000 in penalties for five repeated and 16 serious safety violations related to dangerous machine hazards and other safety hazards.
  • A 42-year-old employee of Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services, fell 22 feet to his death at an Addison United Parcel Service facility after the company was cited for failing to provide workers with fall protection. Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services faces total proposed penalties of $320,400.

Massachusetts

  • Dorchester-based contractor, Roof Kings LLC, exposed employees to life-threatening falls, more than 45 feet off the ground, over a three-day period as they worked at a Haverhill church. The contractor faces $124,000 for willful, serious, repeat violations. The inspection was conducted in response to a complaint.
  • Rohm-Haas Electronics Material, LLC of No. Andover, doing business as Dow Chemical Co., was cited for exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards. It faces $129,200 in penalties following an explosion,
  • Lunenburg-based Force Corp. and Framingham-based AB Construction Group Inc., have been ordered to pay $2.4 million in back wages and liquidated damages to 478 employees for misclassifying most of them as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime and other benefits.

Michigan

  • Blue Diamond Steel Casting in Pigeon was cited for 23 safety and health violations and issued $205,400 in penalties. MIOSHA inspectors determined that the company overexposed workers to welding and iron oxide fumes, failed to provide training on how to prevent the unintentional activation of furnaces during servicing, and did not guard workers from several pinch points and movements from a robotic machine.

Mississippi

  • Contractor, Anthony Smith, doing business as Center Stage, exposed workers at a Mobile apartment complex to dangerous falls and faces $42,000 in penalties.

Missouri

  • Stahl Specialty Company did not use lockout devices and other machine safety procedures to prevent unintentional movement of the part – known as a ram – while a worker was inside the machine and he was crushed to death at the Warrensburg foundry. Proposed penalties total $105,000.
  • Homeyer Precision Manufacturing of Marthasville was cited for safety failures related to electrical work practices after the electrocution death of a 43-year-old welder. Proposed fines are $59,000.

Nebraska

  • A construction company that changed its name from Affordable Exteriors to R&M Equipt LLC and its owner, Rich Tiller of Lekhorn, were cited for a willful violation of failing to protect workers from falls with $70,000 in proposed penalties.

New York

  • Middletown fire extinguisher service company, Oprandy’s Fire & Safety Equipment, faces fines of $19,774 after two workers suffer severe injuries in a tank explosion.
  • Environmental Remediation Services of Schenectady was fined $142,000 for violations at a River Road site for exposing its employees to mercury poisoning and not providing proper safeguards to workers doing mercury removal work.

Pennsylvania

  • Mattocks Five Inc., doing business as Albion Mill, ignored previously identified severe combustible dust and grain-handling hazards and in a follow-up inspection faces $195,000 in fines for 26 violations, including five willful.
  • Liberty Master, Inc. of Scranton exposed employees to serious, potentially fatal fall hazards at Yardley worksite and faces $57,200 in fines.
  • US Steel exposed workers to asbestos hazards at a Pittsburgh coke production facility and faces fines of $170,000. The inspection was conducted in response to a complaint.
  • IFCO Services N.A. Inc., a pallet company, agreed to pay $105,000 for wrongfully firing an employee who complained – first to the employer and then to OSHA – about hazardous mold at the company’s Biglerville plant.

Wisconsin

  • Fraser Shipyards Inc. faces nearly $1.4M in penalties for exposing workers to lead, and other hazards while retrofitting vessels. Workers were exposed to lead at levels up to 20 times the permissible exposure limit. The company was placed in the SVEP.
  • Waupaca Foundry Inc. employees were found at risk for permanent hearing loss, respiratory illness, and other dangers from exposure to noise and silica. Proposed Penalties: $56,950.

Detailed descriptions of the citations above and other OSHA citations can be found here.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on slashing Workers’ Compensation Costs visit www.PremiumReductionCenter.com