OSHA watch

Anti-retaliation provisions of electronic record-keeping rule survives employer challenge

An Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) administrative law judge’s decision to reject two defenses offered by the U.S. Postal Service to a citation preserves the controversial anti-retaliation provisions under its electronic record-keeping rule. The USPS allegedly issued a seven-day working suspension to a carrier because he reported a work-related injury. The USPS argued that the alleged standard and/or penalties were invalid because they were beyond the legal power or authority of OSHA and/or were arbitrary and capricious.

Process Safety Management standard extended beyond hazardous chemicals in ruling

Legal experts warn that a recent OSHRC ruling regarding safety violations in a deadly oil refinery explosion in 2012 could have wider implications for companies dealing with highly hazardous chemicals. OSHRC affirmed 12 violations of Process Safety Management standard by Wynnewood Refining Co, which argued the PSM was never intended to include processes that do not manage such chemicals – such as the steam boiler involved.

Prior to this ruling, it was widely understood that utilities unrelated to the manufacturing process were not included in the requirements for PSM. Experts say it is unclear how far the standard extends now.

Social media campaign to educate young workers

#MySafeSummerJob, a social media campaign to educate young workers about their rights in the workplace, how to speak up about dangerous work conditions, and how to protect themselves on the job, was launched in concert with several worker safety organizations. From April 15 through May 17 outreach will promote safety among young workers. Check out materials and ideas at the #MySafeSummerJob website.

Regional construction safety campaign shifts focus to falls

In concert with the Mid-Atlantic Construction Safety Council, a four-month campaign was launched to address the four leading causes of fatal injuries in construction. In March, the campaign focused on electrical hazards, and during April the emphasis was on struck-by hazards. This month is falls, and caught-in / between hazards will be the focus in June. The campaign serves employers and employees in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Email OSHA-Focus4-Region3@dol.gov for more information.

OSHRC finalizes revisions to its procedural rules

The OSHRC has finalized what it calls “comprehensive” revisions to its procedural rules, in part to reflect technological advances. Slated to take effect June 10, the changes include mandatory electronic filing for “represented” parties and a new method intended to streamline calculating time periods.

Proposal to watch: joint employer revisions

The Department of Labor announced a proposal to “revise and clarify” the issue of joint employers. The department is proposing a four-factor test “based on well-established precedent” that would consider whether the potential joint employer actually exercises the power to hire or fire the employee; supervise and control the employee’s work schedules or conditions of employment; determine the employee’s rate and method of payment; and maintain the employee’s employment records.

The proposal could differ from the interpretations put forth by other federal agencies and would not nullify regulations promulgated by individual states that have different standards.

The public has 60 days from April 1 to comment on the proposal.

Webpage on radiation emergency preparedness and response launched

A webpage intended to educate workers about how to protect themselves in radiation-related situations ranging from a small, isolated spill in a laboratory to a potentially catastrophic release at a nuclear facility is now live. The Radiation Emergency Preparedness and Response webpage provides resources on health and safety planning, medical monitoring and dosimetry, and other relevant topics for workers “who may be impacted by radiation emergencies” or “who may be involved in emergency response operations or related activities.”

Cal/OSHA proposing to re-adopt emergency rules for e-filing injury reports

Emergency rules were adopted Nov. 1, 2018 and the re-adoption would give additional time to proceed with regular rulemaking on a permanent basis. In addition to requiring electronic reporting for companies with at least 250 workers, the rules require businesses with 20 to 249 employees in industries such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture to electronically file injury logs.

A notice for proposed permanent rules is expected to be published by May 10.

MIOSHA launches emphasis program on roadway accident

The state emphasis program on roadway accidents will run through December 31, 2019 and is intended to increase the priority of inspections related to construction roadway safety and initiate inspections upon observing a roadway project with workers present.

Enforcement notes

California

  • Cal North Farm Labor Inc., a farm labor contractor and Crain Walnut Shelling Inc. face more than $100,000 combined in proposed penalties after a worker was fatally crushed by a bin dumper at a walnut processing and packing facility in Los Molinos.
  • Staffing agency Priority Workforce Inc. and JSL Foods Inc., a maker and distributor of pasta and baked goods face more than $300,000 in fines for serious citations after a temporary worker lost two fingers cleaning machinery at a Los Angeles food manufacturing facility.
  • Accurate Comfort Systems Inc. received four citations and faces $75,750 in penalties after a worker suffered serious injuries in a fall from a ladder on a 12-foot-high work area.

Florida

  • Inspected as part of the Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction, Florida Roofing Experts, Inc. faces $132,598 in fines after inspectors observed workers performing residential roofing activities without fall protection.

Georgia

  • Investigated under the National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation, Riverside Military Academy Inc., a military college preparatory academy in Gainesville, was cited for exposing employees to trenching hazards, faces $381,882 in penalties, and was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Citations included allowing employees to work inside a trench without cave-in protection and a safe means to enter and exit the excavation, and failing to locate underground utilities prior to work.
  • Specialty chemical manufacturer, Plaze Aeroscience, operating as Plaze GA, was cited for exposing employees to fire and burn hazards at the company’s facility in Dalton and faces $107,164 in penalties.

Michigan

  • Mt. Clemens-based Powder Cote II received seven citations and faces $65,000 in penalties for failing to provide fall protection or guardrail systems, guard rotating shafts and machinery, and failing to control the startup of machinery during maintenance.

New York

  • Remington Arms, LLC, based in Madison, North Carolina was cited for 27 violations of workplace safety and health standards and faces $210,132 in penalties after a worker’s fingertip was amputated while using an unguarded metalworking machine at its Ilion manufacturing plant.

Pennsylvania

  • Framing contractor, Navy Contractors, Inc. was cited for willfully exposing employees to fall hazards at residential construction sites in Royersford, Collegeville, and Center Valley after inspections saw employees working without fall protection. The company faces $603,850 in penalties.
  • A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District has found that Lloyd Industries Inc., a manufacturing company based in Montgomeryville, and its owner William P. Lloyd unlawfully terminated two employees because of their involvement in a safety investigation. Damages will be determined in phase 2 of the trial.
  • A jury has concurred with the findings of a whistleblower investigation and awarded $40,000 for lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages to a former employee of Fairmount Foundry Inc. The employee claimed that the Hamburg iron-casting company terminated him for reporting alleged safety and health hazards.
  • New Jersey contractor, Brutus Construction, Inc. was cited for exposing workers to fall hazards at a Souderton residential construction site. Inspectors saw employees working on roofs without fall protection and the company faces nearly $182,000 in penalties.

Wisconsin

  • A follow-up inspection revealed that Beloit-based Avid Pallet Services, LLC, failed to correct violations related to wood dust and respiratory hazards. The company faces penalties of $188,302.

For additional information.

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

Understanding the drivers of serious injuries by industry Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index

Produced annually, the Liberty Mutual 2019 Workplace Safety Index identifies the leading causes of the most disabling non-fatal workplace injuries (resulting in more than five days of lost time) and ranks them by total Workers’ Compensation costs. While the findings have always provided insight into critical risk areas so businesses can better allocate safety resources, this year’s report delves deeper by reporting the causes and costs of the most serious workplace injuries by eight industries.

U.S. companies lose more than $1 billion per week due to workplace injuries, according to the report that is based on data from Liberty Mutual, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance. The top causes of the most serious workplace injuries have been stable over the past several years, with overexertion (lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying) and falls from the same level topping the list. Here are the top ten causes and their costs:

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources. Cost: $13.1 billion
  2. Falls on the same floor level. Cost: $10.4 billion
  3. Struck by object or equipment including falling objects from above. Cost: $5.2 billion
  4. Falls to lower level from a ladder or platform. Cost: $4.9 billion
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions from activities (crawling, reaching, bending, twisting, climbing, kneeling, or walking). Cost: $3.7 billion
  6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle. Cost: $2.7 billion
  7. Slip or trip without fall. Cost: $2.2 billion
  8. Caught in or compressed by equipment or object. Cost: $1.9 billion
  9. Repetitive motions involving microtasks, such as working on an assembly line. Cost: $1.63 billion
  10. Struck against object or equipment. Cost: $1.2 billion

Even when broken down by eight industry sectors, there was consistency with overexertion and falls on the same level in the top five causes for each of the sectors. Here are the industry results:

Construction – $9.87 billion in losses ($189.81 million a week)

  1. Falls to a lower level
  2. Struck by object or equipment
  3. Overexertion involving outside sources
  4. Falls on the same level
  5. Slip or trip without a fall

Professional and business services – $7.86 billion in losses ($151.15 million a week)

  1. Falls on the same level
  2. Overexertion involving outside sources
  3. Falls to a lower level
  4. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle
  5. Struck by object or equipment

Manufacturing- $7.62 billion in losses ($146.54 million a week)

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources
  2. Falls on the same level
  3. Struck by object or equipment
  4. Caught in or compressed by equipment or object
  5. Repetitive motions involving microtasks

Health care and social services – $5.17 billion in losses ($99.42 million a week)

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources
  2. Falls on the same level
  3. Intentional injury by person
  4. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions

Retail – $5.09 billion in losses ($97.88 million a week)

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources
  2. Falls on the same level
  3. Struck by object or equipment
  4. Other exertions or bodily reactions
  5. Falls to a lower level

Transportation and warehousing – $4.37 billion in losses ($84.04 million a week)

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources
  2. Falls on the same level
  3. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle
  4. Other exertions or bodily reactions
  5. Falls to a lower level

Wholesale – $4.04 billion in losses ($77.69 million a week)

  1. Overexertion involving outside sources
  2. Struck by object or equipment
  3. Falls to a lower level
  4. Falls on the same level
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions

Leisure and hospitality – $3.46 billion in losses ($66.54 million a week)

  1. Falls on the same level
  2. Overexertion involving outside sources
  3. Struck by object or equipment
  4. Struck against object or equipment
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions

While James Merendino, Vice President and General Manager at Liberty Mutual Insurance, acknowledges that efforts to improve safety need to be based on a specific employer’s operations and employees, he says there are three techniques that have proven successful in improving safety in a variety of industries.

  • Establish a strategic safety plan. This involves identifying the top safety risks facing the company and how they will be mitigated and managed. This includes existing risks, as well as integration of new technologies or procedures.
  • Set expectations. The commitment of senior management must be unwavering, consistent, and visible. It must be an integral part of the business plan for the company’s success.
  • Directly involve front line employees in the strategic safety program. This is an on-going process that benefits both the employer and employees. These are the people who do the work, are closest to the hazards, and know the shortcuts that can be taken.

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

Occupational health and safety risks now top cost disruptor

Employers looking to boost the bottom line would be smart to closely examine the costs of their health and safety incidents. While high-profile disruptions such as cyber-attacks, IT outages, or extreme weather get more attention, health and safety incidents are the leading financial loss drivers for businesses around the globe, according to the BCI 2019 Horizon Scan. The eighth report in the series analyzes the risks and threats recognized by 569 organizations worldwide, comparing them against the impact of actual disruptions in the past year.

Employers perceive occupational and health issues to be low risk (ranking #12) in the coming 12 months; yet, it was the most frequent and costliest cause of disruption in the past 12 months. It cost companies $1.1186 billion, almost four times the $307 million for IT disruptions and eight times the $144 million for cyber-attacks. Further, the report notes that there is a likely relationship between the health and safety incidents and the high costs of reputational damage.

Howard Kerr, CEO at the BSI, commented: “It’s easy for business leaders to be kept awake at night by high-profile risks such as cyber-attacks, technology disruptions and IT outages, but they must not ignore the smaller, more frequent risks that steadily erode the bottom line. Organizations that don’t take all threats they face seriously, or otherwise develop plans to manage them, are exposing themselves to not only reputational loss, but also what can become quite severe financial costs. Achieving true organizational resilience means identifying not only the big risks, but also the under-rated issues that may just seem like ‘business as usual’ and can easily be missed.”

This disconnect can stem from a failure to understand the true costs of injuries, general acceptance of injury rates as a cost of business, an unfounded belief that there is a trade-off between profits and measures to keep the workplace safe, other priorities, and so on. While many executives give lip service to “safety pays” and the value of caring for their employees, they also feel the pressures to increase profits by cutting costs. Yet, safety and profitability can coexist.

Culture comes from the top down and management commitment is the key performance indicator. Executives may believe that the mantra “we want you to go home safe each day” reflects the company’s culture but it is often viewed skeptically as drivel by employees, who feel that production trumps safety. It takes a lot more than words to demonstrate a real commitment to safety.

Management commitment to safety includes financial investment, amount of time and team members involved, technologically advanced tools such as wearables, training hours, capital projects for high-risk issues and so on. Committed leaders are familiar with the major risks and risk mitigation efforts in their facilities.

Successful executives often require a report on every serious injury and review it with the leadership team. This sends the message to mid-management that safety is an integral part of operations. They also develop a set of leading indicators that encourage a continual focus on risk reduction.

The BCI report illustrates that the cost of injuries slowly erodes the bottom line, but falls under the radar. Workers’ Comp is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cost of an injury. There are many indirect costs such as lost productivity, hiring and training replacement employees, higher overtime, incident investigation, repairing damaged equipment or property, lower morale, and implementation of corrective measures. There also can be legal and administrative expenses and higher Workers’ Comp premiums for at least three years.

The National Safety Council provides helpful information on the ROI of safety at an aggregate level. But employers can take a deep dive and analyze the costs associated with two or three injuries in their organization. It’s worth the effort to quantify all the related figures. The results not only paint a clear picture of the economic value of improving safety to top management, but also help employees understand the costs come out of profits and affects their wages, bonuses, and benefits.

Unless there is a catastrophic event, health and safety incidents do not have the immediate, malicious impact that an IT disruption or cyber-attack can create. But they are highly costly and disruptive and will slowly erode the bottom line. Failure to recognize that this is not “business as usual” will have serious consequences for the longevity and resiliency of the company.

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

OSHA watch

“Good-faith” employers get grace period to comply on crane operator documentation requirements

The requirement that employers must evaluate their operators before allowing them to operate cranes independently is being enforced, but employers making good-faith efforts to comply have a 60-day grace period, according to the enforcement guidance effective on Feb. 7. Employers who have evaluated operators in accordance with the final rule, and are making good-faith efforts to comply with the new documentation requirement are offered compliance assistance, in lieu of enforcement. The grace period ends April 15.

New bulletin for workers wearing devices containing lithium batteries

A new Safety and Health Information Bulletin warns employers and workers of potential fire and explosion hazards stemming from lithium batteries used to power small or wearable electronic devices.

New video on ammonium nitrate emphasis program

A new YouTube video deals with inspections under the ammonium nitrate emphasis program.

Employers urged to prevent worker exposure to carbon monoxide

Employers are reminded to take necessary precautions to protect workers from the potentially fatal effects of carbon monoxide exposure. To reduce the risk of exposure, employers should install an effective ventilation system, use carbon monoxide detectors, and take other precautions as described in the Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet.

Other resources include videos (in English and Spanish), QuickCards (English) (Spanish)and a fact sheet on portable generator safety.

Alert to Nebraska employers: Increase in amputation injuries

A review of Nebraska workers’ compensation claims found 42 employees suffered amputation injuries in 2018, and employers failed to report more than 65 percent of those injuries within 24-hours, as required. The National Emphasis Program for Amputations targets inspections at workplaces with machinery and equipment that cause, or are capable of causing, amputations. Information and resources are available to help employers identify and eliminate workplace hazard.

Enforcement notes

California

  • Solus Industrial Innovations, a plastics manufacturing plant in Rancho Santa Margarita was cited for willfully, knowingly and intentionally maintaining an unsafe and hazardous work environment after two workers were killed in an explosion caused by a water heater that was never intended for commercial use. The case was referred to the local district attorney’s office and a $1.6 million judgment was obtained in a civil case.
  • Platinum Pipeline Inc., based in Livermore, received a $242,600 fine after a worker died when a trench built for a storm drain project collapsed.
  • A joint venture of Shimmick Construction Co. Inc., of Oakland and San Francisco-based Con-Quest Contractors Inc. faces a $65,300 fine after a worker was fatally struck by a steel beam in 2018 while working on a light rail tunnel project in San Francisco.

Connecticut

  • The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut ordered Eastern Awning Systems Inc., a manufacturer of retractable fabric patio awnings based in Watertown, and its owner Stephen P. Lukos to pay a total of $160,000 to two discharged employees who filed safety and health complaints. The judgment also requires the employer to provide neutral letters of reference for the two discharged employees, and to post the judgment and notice of employees’ rights prominently at the workplace.

Florida

  • Inspected under the Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction, Crown Roofing LLC was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards at two separate residential worksites in Port St. Lucie and Naples. The Sarasota-based contractor faces penalties of $265,196. It has been inspected 17 times in the past five years and 11 inspections have resulted in repeat violations.
  • OSHRC affirmed two serious violations, and reinstated one stemming from an inspection of gas line work – overturning an administrative law judge’s decision – and increased the fine from $5,500 to $9,000 against Dade City-based Florida Gas Contractors Inc.

Georgia

  • Hilti Inc., a hardware merchant wholesaler, was cited for exposing employees to struck-by hazards after an employee was injured while operating a forklift at a distribution center in Atlanta. The Plano, Texas-based company faces penalties of $164,802.
  • Eye Productions Inc., a motion picture company, was cited for failing to provide adequate head protection during stunts while filming the “MacGyver” show in Chattahoochee Hills. Proposed penalties total $9,472.

Massachusetts

  • In Secretary of Labor v. HRI Hospital Inc. d/b/a Arbour-HRI Hospital, an administrative law judge vacated a citation that HRI Hospital Inc., based in Brookline, failed to adequately protect its employees from being physically assaulted by patients.

Minnesota

  • In Secretary of Labor v. SJ Louis Construction of Texas Ltd. (a division of SJ Louis Construction Inc., of Rockville, Minnesota), the ALJ determined that SJ Louis, an underground utilities contractor, failed to construct a trench in Cypress, Texas, in compliance with regulations and failed to provide employees proper egress. A penalty of $36,000 was assessed.

Pennsylvania

  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District has entered a consent judgment ordering Blown Away Dry Bar and Salon, based in Kennett Square, to pay a $40,000 settlement to a fired hair stylist. Investigators determined the defendants retaliated against the employee when her husband reported workplace safety and health hazards to OSHA, a violation of the (OSH) Act.
  • An administrative law judge of the OSHRC affirmed a general duty clause citation against Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital’s facility in Fort Washington for exposing its employees to workplace violence, as well as a $12,471 penalty.
  • KidsPeace Inc. was cited for exposing employees to workplace violence hazards at two behavioral and mental health facilities in Orefield. The company faces proposed penalties totaling $29,010.

Tennessee

  • Hankook Tire Company received 11 citations and faces $85,200 in penalties for failure to conduct periodic crane inspections, provide adequate personal protective equipment for workers handling hazardous chemicals, ensure that proper lockout/tagout procedures were followed, and guard machinery.

For additional information.

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

OSHA alert: Injury reporting records take on increased importance and upcoming deadlines

Form 300A posting deadline: February 1, 2019
Electronic rule making update
Form 300A electronic submission deadline: March 2, 2019
How the data is being used: Site-Specific Targeting Initiative

This month, all employers required to keep Form 300, the Injury and Illness Log, should be reviewing the Log to verify that entries are complete and accurate and correcting any deficiencies. Two important dates are approaching. The annual summary of injuries and illnesses recorded on OSHA Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, must be posted where notices are customarily located in workplaces, no later than February 1, 2019 and kept in place until April 30.

Under the electronic record-keeping rule, certain employers must submit the form electronically to OSHA by March 2, 2019. And there is now an inspection targeting plan based on the data submitted under this rule, subjecting employers to further scrutiny of their injury and illness rates. Given the potential impact for inspections, employers should carefully ensure they submit accurate records. They should also proactively monitor and address patterns in their injury and illness rates to lower recordable injuries.

Form 300A posting deadline February 1, 2019

When an accident occurs, an employer must document a recordable injury or illness on the OSHA Form 300 log within seven days. Employers should pay careful attention to their logs and the work relatedness of safety incidents, particularly in light of the electronic submission rule. Some employers tend to focus on medical treatment or days away from work, rather than beginning with – was this work-related? The OSHA Regulation 29 C.F.R. §1904.7 contains an in-depth overview of recordable injuries and illnesses. Additional information on determining medical treatment and first aid can be located at 29 C.F.R. §1904.7(b)(5).

Standard interpretations on recordkeeping issued in 2018 include:

  • Prescription medications, such as an Epi-Pen considered medical treatment beyond first-aid. – [1904.7]
  • Clarification on the use of a cold therapy only setting on a therapeutic device is first-aid – [1904.7(b)(5)(ii)]

A Form 300 log is required for each physical establishment location that is expected to be in operation for at least one year. Form 300A summarizes the total number of fatalities, missed workdays, job transfers or restrictions, and injuries and illnesses as recorded on Form 300. Even if there were no recordable incidents in 2018, companies required to maintain records still must post the summary with zeros on the total lines. Copies should be made available to any employee who might not see the summary (such as a remote employee who works from home).

A company executive, as defined by OSHA, must certify the summary. Employers must keep the records for five years following the calendar year covered by them, and if the employer sells the business, he or she must transfer the records to the new owner.

Electronic rule-making update

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss litigation challenging OSHA’s decision to suspend parts of its electronic record-keeping rule. Initiated by three public health advocacy groups, Public Citizen Health Research Group, the American Public Health Association and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the lawsuit argued that OSHA’s action was not simply an exercise of enforcement discretion, but rather a complete suspension of a regulatory deadline subject to review.

However, importantly, the federal court also denied a preliminary injunction barring OSHA from implementing its planned delay, noting the advocacy groups had not demonstrated that they will suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief. Also, the court decision was not on the merits of the case, but rather on whether the group had standing to sue or the case should be dismissed as OSHA argued.

Originally, as part of its electronic recordkeeping rule, OSHA mandated that certain employers submit 2017 data from Forms 300, 300A and 301. However, on July 30, 2018 a proposed rule officially eliminated the Forms 300 and 301 data submission requirements. While the Fall 2018 Regulatory agenda had predicted that the proposed regulation would go over to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on time for the standard to be issued in June 2019, the final draft was submitted earlier than expected on December 7, 2018.

But for many employers this proposed rule does not go far enough. Since it does not rescind the agency’s plan to publish employer information, they argue it puts employers at risk for improper disclosure and release of sensitive employer information. Nor does it formally repeal the provisions regarding post-incident drug testing or incentive programs, although an October 2018 memorandum was issued to clarify these provisions. And the anti-retaliation provisions are unchanged.

Form 300A electronic submission deadline: March 2, 2019

Establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep injury and illness records under the Recordkeeping Standard, as well as establishments with 20-249 employees that are also covered by the Recordkeeping Standard and operating in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses are now required to submit their calendar year Form 300A electronically by March 2, 2019.

How the data is being used: Site-Specific Targeting Initiative

On Oct. 16, 2018, OSHA launched a “site-specific targeting” plan, SST-16, that uses employer-submitted data from 2016 to select non-construction worksites for inspections. The SST-16 directs that “OSHA will create inspection lists of establishments with elevated Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate, together with a random sample of establishments that did not provide the required 2016 Form 300A data to OSHA.” The employers are chosen using software that randomly selects the establishments.

Although establishments with elevated DART rates and those that did not submit the required data are the primary targets, establishments with lower DART rates can also be inspected. A random sample of low injury rate establishments on the inspection list will be selected to verify data accuracy.

While OSHA inspections are generally unwelcome, SST inspections are particularly onerous. They are unannounced, comprehensive, and can take significant time and resources. They are not limited to recordkeeping practices, potentially hazardous areas, or operations with an elevated DART rate, and often result in substantial citations. Employers that failed to comply with the electronic reporting requirements for 2016 or reported a high elevated DART rate (compared to industry average rates) would be wise to begin preparing for an inspection.

Despite the expectation that the Trump Administration would significantly lessen the burden of data submission requirements on employers, much of it appears here to stay, at least for a while. There have been fewer shifts in OSHA enforcement and rulemaking than expected by experts, who point to the leadership void at the agency. While Scott Mugno’s nomination was sent to the Senate on Nov. 1, 2017, it has been stalled and OSHA still does not have a Senate-approved Assistant Secretary – the longest ever vacancy.

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

OSHA’s removal of the term “unexpected energization” from the LOTO standard likely to lead to more citations

Under the Obama administration, OSHA began an effort under the Standards Improvement Project 4 to fix minor, noncontroversial issues in several existing regulations, including the lockout/tagout regulation. While these issues typically include correcting typos, eliminating redundancies and clarifying vague language, the proposal to remove the term “unexpected energization” from the lockout/tagout regulation is a significant change, according to many experts.

There was a 6th Circuit court case in 1996, Reich v. GM Delco interpreting the term “unexpected energization” that is used in the standard. Employers have relied upon this decision for over 20 years. In this case, the court found that alarms and flashing lights provided sufficient warning of a machine starting up and removed the risk of unexpected energization and overturned the willful lockout/tagout violations.

In so doing, the court noted that the standard “unambiguously renders LOTO inapplicable where an employee is alerted or warned the machine is about to activate.” It went on to say that it applies “where service employee is endangered by a machine that can startup w/out employee’s foreknowledge.” It is not unexpected if:

  • Alarm gives clear, audible, timely warning
  • Controls located so servicer is necessarily aware of start-up
  • Equipment unplugged & exclusively controlled by servicer

Experts postulate that the change will result in more citations because it removes one well known method of addressing hazardous energy. OSHA also is scheduled to complete its Standards Improvement Project IV in FY 2018.

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

OSHA news

Deadline for electronic injury, illness reports was Dec. 15 now Dec. 31.

OSHA delayed reporting requirement until Dec. 31 for employers to electronically submit injury and illness data. The agency’s final rule was published in the Nov. 24 Federal Register. According to OSHA, the delay allows “affected employers additional time to become familiar with a new electronic reporting system.”

The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule, as it is formally known, mandates that employers with 250 or more workers, as well as those with 20 to 249 employees in high-risk industries such as agriculture, forestry, construction and manufacturing, electronically submit OSHA’s Form 300A. OSHA then would make the information public on its website.

OSHA is currently reviewing the other provisions of its final rule and intends to publish a notice of proposed rule-making to reconsider, revise or remove portions of that rule in 2018.

For the next reporting deadline of July 1, 2018, if you want to be able to more easily and efficiently manage reporting work related injuries and OSHA recordables, please feel free to look at our Free OSHA Software at http://www.stopbeingfrustrated.com/osha-logs.html

 

Few citations given under the anti-retaliation provisions of the electronic record-keeping rule

The electronic record-keeping rule’s anti-retaliation provisions went into effect Dec. 1, 2016 and required employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation, specifically barred employers from retaliating against employees, and mandated that employer procedures to report work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not discourage reporting. Employers were encouraged to evaluate employee incentive programs related to injuries to be sure they did not violate the rule.

In addition, OSHA’s interpretations of the anti-retaliatory provisions warned that post-incident drug and alcohol testing could deter employees from reporting injuries and illnesses. Therefore, post-injury drug and alcohol testing policies should be limited to situations in which there is a reasonable possibility that an employee’s drug or alcohol use was a contributing factor to a reported incident.

These provisions were controversial and the basis of some litigation against the rule. However, according to a recent article in Business Insurance, OSHA has issued only a handful of citations under anti-retaliation provisions since they went into effect last year, with several open investigations.

The article noted that Ann Rosenthal, associate solicitor for the division of occupational safety and health with the Labor Department’s Office of the Solicitor in Washington, told attendees of the American Bar Association’s annual Labor and Employment Law Conference some citations were issued against unnamed employers related to incentive programs in which employees were penalized for injury and illness reporting. This included one employer whose program gave bonuses to employees who did not report lost-time days while those who reported them did not get bonuses. But several employers quickly settled these complaints by agreeing to change their policies and giving employees the incentives. “The rule can’t really outlaw the incentive programs,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “You can have the policy – you just can’t apply it to penalize the workers who report the injuries.”

She also noted she was not aware of a single drug testing case under the federal OSHA plan since the anti-retaliation provisions went into effect. Even though this information is encouraging for employers, it does not mean the rule can be ignored. Implemented properly and in compliance with the rule, incentive programs and post-accident drug testing are possible.
Fatality and serious injury reporting rule lessons from past three years

OSHA’s Fatality & Significant Injury Reporting Rule, which went into effect January 1, 2015, required employers to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours. A recent webinar by Conn Maciel Carey, a boutique law firm focused on Labor & Employment, Workplace Safety, and Litigation, noted that each year the rule has been in effect, the number of reports has increased. This, in spite of the fact that overall workplace injuries have declined.

Through October 2017, there were 7,248 hospitalizations reported and 2,403 amputations reported. On an annualized current year basis, this is projected to be 11,581 total reports, compared to 10,395 in 2015. Once a report is made, one of three things happen: a mandatory inspection occurs, the Area Director has discretion to decide a course of action, or a rapid response investigation letter is sent. In 2017, there is a 47% inspection rate for reported amputations and a 26% inspection rate for fatalities.

In the webinar, Conn Maciel Carey noted that there are several instances where reports are submitted when they are not required under the rule. For example, the rule requires reporting “formal admission to the inpatient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment.” It does not include admission for observation or testing (even after receiving medical treatment in ER), outpatient care or care in a hospital prior to formal admission, and no longer requires overnight stay. An example they obtained from OSHA:

“Employee breaks leg, goes to ER where he begins to bleed out. ER replenishes blood before setting leg, but sends patient from ER to a ward where he is admitted for monitoring because of blood loss – NOT Reportable”

Timing is also a source of non-mandatory reporting. Injuries/fatalities are reportable only if:

  • Fatality results within 30 days of the day of the incident
  • Hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the incident
  • Amputation / eye loss occurs within 24 hours of incident

Hospitals will often delay admissions because reimbursements for emergency services are higher or they may do major medical treatment in the emergency room followed by in-patient admission for observation only. For this reason, it is important to determine if the incident is truly reportable before making the report.

In addition to the over reporting of hospitalizations, other common mistakes include failing to report minor fingertip amputations, reporting non-employee injuries, making verbal or written admissions in the report, and only identifying “employee misconduct” as the reason. It’s important to note, that California has stricter rules and the federal rules should not be followed there.

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PPE: Eleven common mistakes made by employers

One of the top safety issues for most employers is the purchase of personal protection equipment (PPE). The market for PPE has grown significantly and the options can be daunting. While a common goal is to keep workers safe by finding the most appropriate PPE for the demands of the tasks and the hazards faced, costs, sustainability, comfort, and employee acceptance also influence the decision.

Here are eleven common mistakes made by employers:

  1. Relying on what’s worked well in the pastWork processes change, the compliance environment is more demanding, and PPE improves. While employers generally rely on their PPE suppliers to stay ahead of the curve, it’s not enough for suppliers to offer a full range of effective, cost effective equipment and innovative technologies. Suppliers should be strategic partners – understanding your unique processes and hazards and how your employees work in your facility. They should also be helpful resources in navigating new standards and regulations such as the fall protection standards from OSHA and new equipment guidelines from ANSI.In addition to working with you to identify the most appropriate PPE, their services should include testing the equipment in your workplace, training for managers and employees, and evaluating the effectiveness of the choices. PPE should perform well over time, be used properly by employees, and improve business performance and safety.
  2. Seeking the “one product” solutionWhether it’s trying to simplify the purchasing process or provide the highest level of protection, well-intended PPE choices can produce unintended results. Cut-resistance gloves are a good example. When there is an increase in cuts and lacerations on the job, the tendency is to go to a glove that addresses the greatest cut hazard in your operation, with the thought that a higher cut rated glove will also protect less significant hazards. However, the PPE must match the task and risk and a higher ANSI cut level may not provide the necessary dexterity and create too much hand fatigue to do the task at hand. Rather than focusing on the glove, the entire process for hand safety needs to be examined.
  3. Failing to consider PPE part of an overall strategyA processing plant was experiencing a high number of slip and fall injuries. The company took an exhaustive look at flooring conditions, floor mats, and housekeeping behaviors as well as testing various footwear types. Protective footwear is designed to reduce hazards and improve safety, but it can’t provide total worker protection. PPE should be viewed as a supplement to engineering or job controls that can eliminate or minimize hazards and to workplace practices and procedures aimed at enhancing safety.
  4. Lacking a plan for everyoneWhile most employers have moved beyond the “one size fits all” approach to PPE, there are still areas that warrant improvement. Most PPE has been designed based on average male body measurements and offer limited options for women. But the workforce has changed and savvy suppliers are addressing the issue. This was recognized in the new ANSI standard 107-2015 that addresses some of the long overlooked issues with Hi-Vis apparel and accessories, including size and fit. The updated standard became less design-restrictive allowing for smaller sizes to accommodate smaller body frames without compromising protection, a welcome change for women.
  5. Failing to consider comorbidities, including obesityThe obesity epidemic has affected most industries, yet many are still using PPE and ergonomic tools that were designed for workplace populations that were more fit. Falls from height are common in construction. Much of the fall equipment is typically rated to only 310 pound, although there is equipment available that exceed this limit. The sobering fact is the percentage of workers on the job whose total weight (body weight, tools, and PPE) exceeds the design specifications of some fall protection equipment.
  6. Not involving employees in the selection processWhen selecting PPE, there are many factors to consider – regulatory compliance, contractual agreements, type of exposure, cost, durability, and appropriateness. But if your employees won’t wear it when it is needed, day in and day out, all your effort is for naught. Top reasons employees do not wear PPE are discomfort, poor fit, unattractive, feel it is unnecessary for the task, or don’t have time. This is why it’s important to involve employees in the testing and selection of equipment.
  7. Getting caught off guard by fashion trends or cultural eventsFrom full-on beards to trimmed moustaches, facial fringe continues to be a top trend in 2017. This trend plus popular cultural events such as “Movember” or “No-Shave November” – the male health counterpart to the popular Susan G. Komen pink ribbon campaign – pose safety concerns for employees who use respiratory protection. Even if an employee can pass a quantitative fit test using a PortaCount, the NIOSH requirement states that you may not have facial hair that interfers with the seal of a facepiece. Employers need to be aware of trends and make sure their written program includes relevant policies and that employees are trained, monitored, and understand the requirements for worker safety.
  8. Failing to maintain and replace PPEA supervisor may try to look good and save money by telling workers to use chemical protective gloves for a week, rather than the specified one day limit, a worker is protected from falling debris by his hard hat and deems it his “lucky” hat and wears it every day, workers keep reusing earplugs inside their hard hats, harnesses are not cleaned nor stored properly, and so on. These workers have failed to maintain and replace PPE as needed and have put themselves at risk. Employers need to know when to replace PPE and when to purchase PPE versus having it tested for repeated use. And test tools need to be up to date. Establishing a regular schedule of testing and replacement helps ensure PPE is not used past its prime.
  9. Don’t enforce useLack of enforcement is one of the main reasons why employees don’t use PPE. PPE compliance does not happen in a vacuum; it’s dependent on work practice control and manager buy-in. When a hazard cannot be engineered out, companies rely on safe working practices and PPE. Failure to enforce use is widespread across many industries. One example is healthcare. Despite an increase in sharps injuries and exposure to blood and bodily fluids, many health care workers are not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, according to the International Safety Center. It found that fewer than seven percent of workers exposed to blood and bodily fluid splashes reported using eye protection, although about two-thirds of the workers’ eyes were splashed. Collecting data on use can be a wake up call for many companies.
  10. Using technologies for surveillance under the veil of enhancing safetyWearable technology, which involves gathering data via smart sensors, is growing in prevalence in PPE and can help managers understand where workers are and when they are in an unsafe condition or place. The possibilities seem endless – from helping ergonomists to engineer risk out of tasks to a smart construction helmet that increases user efficiency through connectivity with the control room. But, it can raise privacy challenges, particularly when used for surveillance or other sensitive issues. Employers need to be upfront about what data is being collected and how it will be used, and have a written policy.
  11. Inadequate trainingTraining is not one and done and, in some cases, there seems to be the expectation that employees already know PPE protocols, afterall much of it is common sense. There are many points that need to be covered in training and reinforced in implementation from donning to doffing PPE:
    • When employees have to use
    • Limitations of protection
    • How to inspect
    • How to put on and adjust
    • How and when to remove safely
    • How to care for and store
    • Useful life
    • How to replace worn or damaged PPE
    • Where to dispose of PPE that might be contaminated by hazardous substances

    A trained supervisor or manager should verify that PPE is being utilized according to protocol.

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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.

 

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Legal Corner

ADA
Part-time schedule not required when the essential duties of the job cannot be performed

In Green v. BakeMark USA LLC, 6th Cir., the manager had been granted several leaves for cancer surgery and subsequent complications and returned with hour restrictions for a limited time. Shortly after returning to full duty and working a 24-hr shift, he collapsed and his doctor again issued work restrictions. At the employee’s request, the company provided information on the hours he was expected to work to the treating physician. It also attempted to reach the employee by phone and email, but received no response, which led to mediation.

At mediation, the employee, in effect, requested an indefinite leave of absence. The company terminated the employee who filed several claims under the ADA. A federal district court granted summary judgment in favor of BakeMark and on appeal, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal.

Based on witness testimony and the job description for the position, the appeals court noted anything less than full-time hours would fundamentally alter the position, which is not required by the ADA. While part-time or flextime schedules can be a reasonable accommodation, they are not required when the essential duties of the job cannot be performed within the restricted hours.

 

Workers’ Compensation
Supreme Court tightens rules on where injury lawsuits can be filed – United States

The U.S. Supreme Court tightened rules on where injury lawsuits may be filed, handing a victory to corporations in a case involving Texas-based BNSF Railway Co. In an 8-1 decision, the justices threw out a lower court decision in Montana allowing out-of-state residents to sue there over injuries that occurred anywhere in BNSF’s nationwide network. State courts cannot hear claims against companies when they are not based in the state or the alleged injuries did not occur there, the justices ruled. In effect this significantly limits the ability to bring claims in friendly courts.
Work Comp policy can be rescinded for misrepresentation – California

A Workers’ Compensation Appeals Court determined that an insurer has the right to retroactively rescind a workers’ compensation policy, even if a worker has already been injured. In this case, the employer’s application for coverage implied that its employees did not travel out of state, but an employee was injured out of state.

In Southern Insurance Co. vs. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), EJ Distribution Corp. et al., EJ Distribution Corp.’s application indicated covered employees would not travel out of California or outside of a 200-miled radius. After the arbitrator found the policy could not be rescinded and the WCAB adopted the arbitrator’s report, Southern petitioned the court for a writ of review, which was granted.

“Contrary to the arbitrator’s ruling, a workers’ compensation insurance policy may be rescinded,” the court said in its ruling. “A recession is enforced by a civil action for relief based on recession or by asserting recession as a defense. Because the arbitrator and the appeals board did not address and determine whether rescission was a meritorious defense to the employee’s claim, we annul the appeals board’s decision and remand the case with directions to hear and determine whether the insurer was entitled to rescind, and did rescind, the policy.”
Court of Appeals allows apportionment to genetics – California

In City of Jackson v W.C.A.B., a police officer injured his neck and was diagnosed with cervical degenerative disc disease and cervical radiculopathy. A physician concluded that his injury was cumulative and caused by a combination of work and personal activities as well as a personal history of “heritability and genetics”, among other things.

After the neck surgery, the doctor changed the apportionment to 49 percent; saying that there was new evidence that showed genetics played a more significant role in cervical spine disability than previously thought, citing several studies. The WCAB did not agree, but the Court of Appeals noted employers are able to base apportionment on other factors such as a preexisting disability or the natural progression of a non-industrial condition. The Court determined that there was substantial medical evidence to justify the apportionment, since new medical studies showed that heritability had a role in about 75 percent of degenerative disc disease cases.
Injured employee gets lawn care but not home renovations for treatment – Florida

An employee was injured on the job, had a compensable spinal fusion surgery, after which she developed a dropped foot, and experienced balance issues and falls. She also suffered from depression. A Judge of Compensation Claims awarded her lawn care, home renovations, attendant care, a podiatrist, an AFO brace, and evaluation of the need for specialized shoes based on medical necessity.

The First District Court of Appeals upheld the award for lawn care because there was evidence that it would improve her depression and anxiety, both of which were compensable. The home care, podiatrist, AFO brace and specialized shoes were also upheld because the employer failed to contest their medical necessity in a timely manner. The home renovations proposed by a registered nurse, however, were denied. The court reasoned that while the orthopedic surgeon indicated that he agreed with some of the suggestions in a home assessment report completed by a registered nurse, the physician never identified which ones should be provided and the registered nurse was not qualified to establish the medical necessity.
Worker can request change in doctor even after discharge from medical treatment – Florida

In Dominguez v. Compass Group, the1st District Court of Appeals ruled that a worker was entitled to exercise her statutory right to a one-time change in physicians, even though her doctor had discharged her from care.
School employee due benefits for fall when senior prank day necessitates different parking location – Illinois

In Field v. Pinckneyville Community H.S. Dist. 101, a teacher was walking from her car to the building where she worked when she fell and fractured her lower leg. She was walking a much further distance than usual because vehicles blocked the entrances to the school parking lot as part of a senior prank day. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded the teacher permanent partial disability benefits based on 35 percent loss of use of the left leg and medical expenses of $80,791 for injuries. It noted the prank day is implicitly approved by the school administrators, and the blocking of the teachers from parking in their customary parking spaces is a known activity, therefore, the teacher was within the scope of her employment.
Chicago Bears pay over $12.5 million to settle comp claims – Illinois

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, over the past 20 years the football team has spent nearly $12.5 million to settle worker compensation claims filed by 141 players. And the team it still grappling with 144 additional claims from 55 other players. The Chicago sports teams have been arguing that the state’s laws regarding wage differential payments create a financial burden.
Highest court restricts admissibility about immigration status – Indiana

The Supreme Court ruled that an injured worker could pursue a damage claim for his lost future earnings in the U.S. job market, even though his immigration status did “not allow him to be legally employed.” It also restricted the admissibility of evidence about his immigration status to the jury unless the preponderance of the evidence establishes that he is likely to be deported and that his future lost earnings would therefore be limited to what he could earn in his native Mexico. Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Co.
EMT suspended for criminal charges due benefits – Massachusetts

In Brian Benoit v. City of Boston, an EMT suffered an ankle injury and one year later was indicted on charges relating to misuse of controlled substances intended for his emergency patients. The city refused to pay benefits citing a 1972 state law banning public-sector workers facing criminal charges from receiving compensation from a government agency. However, the court ruled unanimously that the benefits are not salary, but an insurance agreement between the injured worker and the insurer and benefits were due.

Request for work with a different employer in rehabilitation plan nixes termination of TTD benefits – Minnesota

In Gilbertson v. Williams Dingmann, LLC, an employee who had given her notice, was injured prior to her departure date. The employee’s rehabilitation plan stated that her vocational goal was to return to work, but with a different employer. Although her employer offered her the same position at the same pre-injury wage, with reasonable accommodations for her physical restrictions, it was not completely consistent with the rehab plan as required by law. The employer’s offer could not, under any circumstances, be consistent with that plan.
Teacher cannot sue school district for injuries incurred during student fight – Minnesota

There are three exceptions to Minnesota’s workers’ comp exclusive remedy provision, including an assault exception, an intentional act exception and a co-employee liability exception. In John Ekblad vs. Independent School District, a high school teacher also served as lunchroom supervisor for additional compensation. While his duties included intervening to break up fights if he could do so safely, he was not required to do so. He received workers’ comp benefits when he intervened in a fight and was injured.

He sued the school district, alleging negligence and negligent supervision. The assault exception covers injuries inflicted for personal reasons and he argued the students made references to his race, but the court found that racial animosity is insufficient to establish a personal connection. The court also ruled the intentional act exception did not apply because even if the district’s policies were substandard or ineffective, that did not establish a conscious and deliberate intent to inflict injury. Further, the co-employee liability exception did not apply because the duty to provide a safe workplace is a non-delegable duty held by the employer as part of workers’ comp law.
Employee’s death does not negate settlement agreement not yet approved by Commission – Mississippi

In Taylor v. Reliance Well Service, the Court of Appeals ruled that an employer must honor a $71,659.43 settlement for a comp case even though the worker died before the Workers’ Compensation Commission approved of the deal. The agreement was submitted to the commission for review on May 13, 2016, the employee was killed on May 16, and the Commission approved the settlement on May 18, assuming the employee was still alive. The company filed a motion to have the approval order vacated, which was initially granted.

Upon appeal, the court reversed noting Workers’ Compensation Law specifically provides that settlement agreements “shall not be made except when determined to be in the best interest of the injured worker” and therefore, the sole statutory basis for disapproval of a settlement is a finding that the settlement would not be in the best interest of the worker. The employee’s death wouldn’t affect the commission’s determination of this issue.
Eastern District refuses to approve post-award settlement, in direct conflict with the Western District – Missouri

In the Western District, cases have determined that the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission must sign off on a joint proposal to commute an award so long as it was not made as a result of undue influence or fraud, the employee understood his rights and benefits, and he voluntarily agreed to accept the terms of the agreement. In Andrew Dickemann v Costco Wholesale Corporation, the Eastern District says these criteria, derived from Missouri Revised Statutes Section 287.390.1, apply only when there is an unresolved claim for benefits.

If the worker has established his entitlement to an award, the Eastern District said the applicable Section is 287.530, which says that commutations are to be granted only in “unusual circumstances,” and it requires that the value of the commutation be equal to the present value of the future installments due to the employee. In this case, there was no evidence of “unusual circumstances” and the terms of the agreement did not provide a payment equal to the present value of the future benefits, therefore, the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission properly refused to authorize the deal. The Eastern District panel said it believed the case setting precedent in the Western District had been wrongly decided.

Liability for asbestos-related condition can not be apportioned – New York

In Matter of Manocchio v ABB Combustion Eng’g, the Workers’ Compensation Board appropriately refused to apportion liability for an employee’s asbestos-related disease despite some evidence that he had been exposed to asbestos at multiple employers over a long period of time. While a medical expert indicated that apportionment was appropriate in terms of exposure, the expert admitted that determining the exposure to asbestos at each employer was impossible. Therefore, the appellate court concluded there was no objective way to prove that the employee contracted pleural plaque while working for another employer, and could not be apportioned.
Employer stops negligence suit on labor law technicality – New York

In Robinson v. National Grid Energy Mgt. LLC, an electrical foreman’s negligence suit was thrown out after his employer argued that Labor Law § 240(1) did not require it to protect workers from electrical shock. The employee was installing wires for a company hired by T-Mobile, when he fell 12-15 feet to the ground from a faulty aerial bucket. Noting that the bucket was not equipped with the proper electrical protection and that the lift function on the truck was malfunctioning, he decided to climb down, but his foot became stuck in the part of the bucket typically covered by the electrical protection, and he slipped and fell.

When he sued, T-Mobile petitioned to dismiss the complaint, arguing the bucket was faulty because it did not provide adequate protection from electrical shock, not because it provided inadequate fall protection and that the Labor Law did not guarantee a protection from electrical shock. While a lower court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the decision to exit the bucket had caused his fall, the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s 2nd Judicial Department Appellate Division disagreed, but dismissed the case based on T-Mobile’s reasoning regarding the Labor Law.
Protz decision does not automatically nullify IRE rating – Pennsylvania

In William Gillespie vs. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) (Aker Philadelphia Shipyard), the Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision of the WCAB, reversing the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), who upheld the employee’s constitutional challenge to his impairment rating evaluation (IRE). The Commonwealth Court ruled that its 2015 decision in Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District) does not automatically allow injured workers who had their disability status converted through the impairment rating evaluation process to undo this change.

While the court’s decision in Protz declared the IRE rating standard unconstitutional, the court said workers who have already gone through the IRE process have 500 weeks to appeal the conversion of their disability status, and they need evidence of a full-body impairment above 50% to support their claim, which the employee did not provide. The court said it had already rejected the idea that the Protz decision invalidated all IREs performed using the fifth edition of the guides late last year, in the case Riley v. WCAB.
Lay testimony sufficient to prove exposure – Pennsylvania

In Kimberly Clark Corporation v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bromley), the injured worker was an electrician who was diagnosed with metastatic bladder cancer in the summer of 2005, and died a year later. His widow filed a Fatal Claim Petition and relied upon the testimony of two co-workers who detailed the various chemicals and substances known to cause cancer that her husband worked with, as well as an oncologist, who explained that the bladder cancer developed due to the exposure to these carcinogens. This testimony was considered more credible than that presented by the “environmental manager” for the Employer’s plant and the insurance company’s expert physician. The Fatal Claim Petition was granted by the WCJ and upon appeal, affirmed by the Commonwealth Court.

One issue addressed by the Court was whether the death took place within 300 weeks of the “injury.” When viewed as a repetitive or cumulative trauma case, the date of the “injury” is the date of the last exposure to the harmful source; thus, the death did take place within that period.
Co-employee immunity protects unpaid volunteer – Wisconsin

In Fitzgerald v. Capezza, an employee of a catering company suffered injuries in a car accident while en route to a work site as a passenger in a truck driven by a volunteer for the catering company. The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim, which she eventually settled. About a year later, she filed a personal injury action against the volunteer and her automobile liability insurance carrier. The case went through several appeals, but all concurred that the unpaid volunteer for the catering company was still a co-employee. As long as she received something of value in exchange for her work, and she received food, lodging and free admission into events, the court said she would be a “paid” worker for purposes of Wisconsin comp law.

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