How To Make Unions An Asset To Workers Comp Cost Savings

Many employers may be suspicious of working with unions, thinking that they support the filing of questionable workers’ comp claims. However, in some cases working with labor unions may lead to decreases in workers’ comp costs. Unions are usually strong supporters of improved safety policies, like following OSHA guidelines, use of safety gear like hard hats and protected eyewear and improved ergonomics. Unions can track workplace accidents and make suggestions over ways to improve safety.

 

 

Workers’ Compensation Policy Planning

 

Bring labor unions into your workers’ compensation policy planning. After all, a good company cares for its employees and wants them to be treated fairly. Leaving unions out of the process creates an “us vs. them” mentality that can drive up long-term costs. Including union input builds buy-in to the company’s workers’ comp process.

 

Here are some suggestions for working with labor unions:

 

  • Talk to union representatives early in the planning process.
  • Ask for the union’s perspective on issues such as how seniority affects injury management and their policies on things such as supplemental pay for the injured worker. Does the union have “collateral source benefits” that are a disincentive to returning to work?
  • Listen to the union’s input on issues such as safety planning and how to return employees to work post-injury.

 

 

Drug Testing

 

One area where unions and employers have disagreed is over the use of drug testing. Unions may object to drug testing as infringing on its members’ privacy rights or question the science behind drug testing. If employers work with the unions to explain how drug testing protects the safety of members, everybody wins. Unions may respond to the employer’s rationale of keeping intoxicated, unsafe workers from endangering the safety of the workforce, provided that the drug testing policy promotes employee treatment rather than termination. Having a written drug testing policy that is fair and equitable can go a long way towards convincing a union that your concern is for safety, not punishment.

 

 

Union Representatives Can Guide Injured Workers through the Workers’ Compensation Process

 

Union stewards or representatives can help guide injured employees through the workers’ compensation process, starting with arranging immediate medical care. This can help reduce costs as the sooner the injured employee is treated, the higher the probability of a quicker recovery. Make sure that communication with the union remains positive and proactive so that a disgruntled union representative does not urge the employee to stay off work longer because the union has some non-related dispute with management. Also, keeping communication positive and flowing can keep the employee from hiring a lawyer out of frustration over miscommunication or unreturned phone calls.

 

 

Complying with Labor Relations’ Laws

 

Make sure that your company complies with all required federal and state labor laws. Employees have the right to join together with co-workers to address issues at work, with or without a union. Most employers are required to post notices advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). You do not want to give unions ammunition to attack your company by forgetting to do a simple thing such as hanging a poster in the workplace. You can find out more about employers’ obligations under the NLRA at http://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/whats-law/employers.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Professional Employer Organization (PEO) 101

Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) are companies that provide administrative services for their clients – other employers. These services include handling the functions normally done by the various administrative departments of the client employer including:

 

• Workers’ compensation insurance

• Recruiting and hiring

• Background checks

• Training and development

• Drug testing

• Health insurance

• Payroll administration

• Human resources activities

• Employee benefits

• Safety and risk management

• Taxes

 

The PEO will tailor their services to provide the combinations of services the client employer needs and/or selects.

 

There are currently over 700 PEOs operating in the United States. By outsourcing these administrative functions to the PEO, the client employer is able to focus on the core business, reducing the administrative cost to the client employer and lowering the cost of benefits provided to the employees. This also allows the client employer to offer a better package of benefits than the client employer could provide on their own.

 

A PEO can be utilized by just about any type of small business, but are prevalent in industries with a higher than average risk of loss, including:

 

 • Construction

• Trucking

• Mills

• Landscapers

• Warehousing

• Temporary staffing agencies often use PEOs due to ever changing workforce.

 

If a part of the services requested by the employer, the PEO will also take on the role of recruiting and hiring employees. The primary reasons an employer would want the PEO to hire the employees and to lease them to the employer is for the PEO to be the employer of record for workers’ compensation purposes and for tax purposes. While the employee is working for the employer, the PEO is also considered the employer. This is commonly referred to as co-employment.

 

 

PEO Obtains Workers Compensation Insurance In Its Own Name

 

As the PEO is a co-employer, the PEO is able to obtain workers’ compensation insurance in its own name. This is legal because of the co-employment arrangement. There are several benefits with PEOs providing workers’ compensation coverage.

 

• By using economies of scale, the PEO is able to purchase workers’ compensation insurance at a lower cost than the small client employer can obtain.

 

• The PEO negotiates the cost of insurance for both its own employees and all the employees of the client employers.

 

• When selling their services, the PEO will promote how they improve the client’s cash flow by reducing or eliminating the down payments associated with the purchase of workers’ compensation insurance.

 

• The client employer often does not incur the finance charges they would have incurred if they had bought workers’ compensation insurance on their own.

 

• Some PEOs provide a pay as you go work comp program charging monthly work comp premiums and extending work comp coverage on a month to month basis.

 

• Large PEOs often provide their own workers’ compensation claims department (third party administrator) and administer the work comp claims. As a part of this arrangement, the PEO will require the client employers to participate in a return to work program to minimize the time off work and size of the work comp claims.

 

 

Safety programs are another service provided by PEOs.

 

• The client employer is responsible for administering the safety program provided by the PEO.

 

• The PEO will retain the right to perform safety inspections and to verify the client employer is providing a safe place for the employee to work.

 

• The safety programs benefit all of the PEO’s client employers by lowering the number of workers’ compensation claims for all members of the PEO.

 

• PEOs often turn down potential new clients who have a substandard safety record or who decline to accept the safety inspections and safety requirements of the PEO.

 

 

Employers who are considering joining a PEO should evaluate the PEO in the following areas:

 

• The cost of workers’ compensation coverage

 

• The insurer providing the workers’ compensation coverage for the PEO (A or higher rating with A.M. Best)

 

• The third party administrator if the workers’ compensation claims are not handled by the insurer

 

• Experience in the employer’s industry

 

• The risk management assistance

 

• The safety program

 

• The return to work program

 

• The financial stability of the PEO

 

• The cost of the other administrative functions selected by the employer

 

 

Professional Employer Organizations tout their ability to save money for the small business while relieving the small business owner of the day to day administrative functions of operating a business. Many small businesses join PEOs for the workers’ compensation savings. However, the cost of the other administrative functions provided by the PEO, and the cost savings of eliminating most of the administrative functions, should be considered by the employer in their PEO decision.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Is Workers Compensation Taxable?

According to IRS Publication 525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income, amounts received as workers’ compensation for an occupational sickness or injury are fully exempt from tax if they are paid under a workers’ compensation act or a statute in the nature of a workers’ compensation act. The exemption also applies to survivors. The exemption, however, does not apply to retirement plan benefits receive based on age, length of service, or prior contributions to the plan, even if you retired because of an occupational sickness or injury.

 

 

Social Security and Railroad Retirement Benefits

 

Social Security disability benefits, when combined with other sources of income, may become taxable. If part of the workers’ compensation reduces social security or equivalent railroad retirement benefits received, that part is considered social security (or equivalent railroad retirement) benefits and may be taxable.

 

 

Return to Work

 

If an employee returns to work after qualifying for workers’ compensation, salary payments received for performing light duties are taxable as wages.

 

 

Disability Pension

 

If a disability pension is paid under a statute that provides benefits only to employees with service connected disabilities, part of it may be workers’ compensation. That part is exempt from tax. The rest of the pension, based on years of service, is taxable as pension or annuity income. If the employee dies, the part of the survivors’ benefit that is a continuation of the workers’ compensation is exempt from tax.

 

 

When a Court Reverses a Compensation Award

 

When a large award of workers compensation benefits is reversed by a court, what were untaxed workers compensation benefits become fully taxed ordinary income.

 

 

Structured Settlements

 

Tax codes create a significant financial benefit to injured employees through how structured settlements are not taxed. Congress passed the Periodic Payment Settlement Tax Act of 1982 (also known as Public Law 97-473) to provide severely injured liability claimants with tax relief. In 1986 Congress codified the structured settlement rules in sections 104(a)(2) and 130 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Congress later expanded the law to cover workers’ compensation injuries as a part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.

 

With a structured settlement the injured employee agrees with the self-insured employer (or work comp insurer) to release the employer of any further responsibility for the medical cost or indemnification obligation in exchange for a stream of periodic payments. The self-insured employer or insurer normally transfers the obligation to pay the employee to a life insurance company through the purchase of an annuity that meets the agreed to periodic payment schedule.

 

Once the injured employee and the self-insured employer (or the workers’ compensation insurer) have agreed to settle the work comp claim in exchange for periodic payments, the full amount of the periodic payments are tax-free income to the employee. If the injured employee opts for a lump-sum settlement, the lump-sum is not taxed; but all future earnings (both interest and dividends) on the lump-sum are taxable to the employee. Hence, even if the employee is a skilled money manager (most injured employees are not), there is a large future income tax savings benefit to the periodic payments of a structured settlement.

 

The IRS is not totally benevolent with structured settlements. The IRS code states that in exchange for tax free periodic payments, the injured employee agrees not to alter the periodic payments. The injured employee cannot increase or decrease the periodic payments, cannot change the agreed to time frame of the periodic payments, and cannot delay or defer the periodic payments to a later date.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Undocumented Workers Eligible for Workers’ Comp Benefits

In November, 2013 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the case of Staff Management v. Jimenez that undocumented workers can receive workers’ compensation benefits. Pascuala Jimenez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, had two hernias while on a job assignment in 2007 through the temporary employment agency Staff Management. In January 2008, Staff Management fired Jimenez because she did not have authorization to legally work in the United States. In November 2006 the agency was notified through e-Verify, a federal program that verifies employment authorization, that her name and social security number did not match social security records. Jimenez claimed she was terminated because of her injury.

 

 

Undocumented Workers Do Not Preempt Workers Compensation Law

 

In July 2009 Jimenez applied for workers’ compensation claiming that her ongoing health problems stemmed from her initial hernia surgery. A workers’ compensation commissioner ordered Staff Management to pay for her medical expenses and future medical care. Staff Management appealed the ruling, arguing that Jimenez was ineligible for benefits because she was an undocumented worker.

 

The case eventually made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court. That court ruled that an undocumented worker is within the state’s meaning of an employee and that ”an employment contract with an undocumented worker does not inherently have an illegal purpose, and it is not void as illegal merely because the contract is with an undocumented worker.” The court further held that the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which makes it unlawful for employers to hire undocumented workers, does not preempt Iowa workers’ compensation law.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Lifting Safety Can Avoid A Work Comp Pain In The Neck (And Back)

Many workplace accidents occur because of improper lifting techniques. Workplace lifting may cause employees to suffer from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist injuries, elbow injuries, spinal injuries and other injuries. For example, nursing homes have a high rate of back injuries because of improper lifting mechanics when moving patients. Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds increases the risk of injury.

 

According to OSHA, shoulder and back injuries accounted for over 36 percent of injuries involving missed workdays in 2001. Overexertion and cumulative trauma were the biggest factors in these injuries.

 

 

Avoid Repetition

 

Holding items for a long time, even if loads are light, increases risk of back and shoulder injury, since muscles can be starved of nutrients and waste products can build up. Repeatedly exerting, such as when pulling wire, can fatigue muscles by limiting recuperation times. Inadequate rest periods do not allow the body to rest.

 

 

Avoid Awkward Postures

 

Another cause of lifting injuries is awkward postures. Bending while lifting forces the back to support the weight of the upper body in addition to the weight being lifted. Bending while lifting strains the back even when lifting something light. Bending moves the load away from the body and significantly increases the effective load on the back, which increases stress on the lower spine and fatigues muscles. Reaching moves the load away from the back, increases the effective load, and strains shoulders. Carrying loads on one shoulder, under an arm or in one hand creates uneven spinal pressure.

 

 

Lifting Basics

 

When lifting, your workers should remember these basics:

 

Hug the spine- Move items close to your body and use your legs, especially when lifting an item from a low location. Keep your elbows close to your body and keep the load as close to your body as possible. Do not start a lift below mid-thigh nor end the lift above shoulder height.

 

Bend the knees

 

Don’t bend over- Minimize bending and reaching by placing heavy objects on shelves, tables, or racks.

 

Keep legs a proper width apart

 

Avoid twisting, especially when bending forward while lifting. Turn by moving the feet rather than twisting the torso.

 

Assess the item for size and weight before beginning to lift. Break down loads into smaller units and carry one in each hand to equalize loads. Ask for assistance or use lifting assistance devices such as hand trucks, forklifts, lift gates and ramps when necessary.

 

Train all workers in use of lifting assistance devices and lifting mechanics. Provide back support belts.

 

Use good housekeeping. Poor housekeeping limits proper access to objects and forces awkward postures. It increases the risk of a worker slipping or tripping while carrying or lifting objects.

 

Use adequate rest breaks to avoid overexertion. Switch between tasks to avoid overexertion of certain muscles.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

What Is Indemnity?

Indemnity is the monetary compensation an injured employee gets for lost wages. Indemnity benefits replace the employee’s wages while the employee is unable to work because of the work-related injury or illness.

 

 

What are the different types of indemnity benefits?

 

There are generally four types of indemnity benefits. These types depend on whether the illness or injury results in a temporary or permanent disability and whether the injury is total or partial.

 

 

Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

 

TTD is the most common indemnity benefit. In most jurisdictions, the amount paid for TTD is based on a formula of 2/3rds multiplied by the employee’s average weekly wage (AWW). A few jurisdictions will use 75 or 80 percent of the employee’s net pay after income taxes to compute the AWW.

 

 

Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)

 

A treating physician may determine that the employee can return to work but only for a limited amount of time per day. This is when the TPD benefit comes into play.

 

For example, an injured employee can return to work 4 hours per day but before the injury was working 8 hours per day. The TPD amount is then calculated by multiplying the AWW by the amount allowed within the jurisdiction by the fraction of the day the employee is unable to work (4 hours divided by 8 hours =1/2). For example, if the AWW was $900 per week before the injury and the state statute allows the employee to collect 2/3rds of his AWW, the TPD rate is calculated as $900 X 2/3 X 1/2 = $300. This injured employee on TPD would collect half his normal wage or $450 plus his TPD of $300 for a total of $750 per week.

 

TPD is paid until the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) or is able to return to work full time, whichever occurs first. Some jurisdictions place limits on the number of weeks (or years) an employee can collect TPD.

 

 

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)

 

When the employee’s treating physician determines that the employee has reached MMI, the physician determines the amount of permanent disability, if any, the employee suffered due to the injury. The amount of the PPD indemnity benefit may be a set scheduled amount, a percentage of a body part, or a percentage of the whole body.

 

 

Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

 

When a treating physician determines that the employee will never be able to return to work, the employee becomes eligible for PTD benefits. In cases where the employee is rated as 100% disabled to the whole body, PTD is almost automatic.

 

Determining PTD is less clear when the employee has suffered severe injuries and is unable to return to work for that employer, but is not classified as 100% disabled. The nature and degrees of physical impairment, the educational level of the employee, the age of the employee, and the ability of the employee to be retrained for other suitable work, plus the availability of the other suitable work, are all factors in the determination of PTD.

 

The amount of PTD varies among jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions the PTD rate is the same as the TTD rate. In other jurisdictions the PTD rate is lower than the TTD rate and is a percentage of the TTD rate.

 

PTD benefits are paid until the employee is able to assume work in another field, or until the jurisdiction’s maximum number of benefit weeks is met (in most jurisdictions), until death (in a few jurisdictions), or until the employee reaches his full social security age (in a few jurisdictions).

 

 

How long can indemnity benefits last?

 

The indemnity benefits continue as long as the employee is medically unable to work, with limitations in some states on the maximum number of weeks.

 

 

Can the employee collect indemnity benefits while working another job?

 

If the employee is able to do similar work for another employer the employee is no longer medically unable to work and temporary indemnity benefits should cease immediately. A possible exception to this would be for PPD benefits where the employee is unable to resume a manual labor position with your company, but locates less strenuous employment with another company.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

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SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

Do Not Get Burned By Poor Electrical Safety

Electrical hazards can cause burns, shocks and electrocution. Having a comprehensive electrical safety program is the key way to prevent electrical workplace injuries and fatalities. Electrical injuries are some of the most severe and preventable workplace injuries. Keeping facilities and electrical equipment in good repair should be of paramount concern to every cost aware employer. Saving money by not fixing faulty electrical building systems or equipment can result in huge workers’ compensation and fire-related building costs when a preventable accident occurs.

 

Here are some easy tips to prevent electrical accidents:

 

• Always use caution when working near electricity.

• Never operate electrical equipment while standing in water.

 

 

ELECTRICAL CORDS AND OUTLETS

 

• Do not run extension cords across doorways or under carpets.

• Have additional circuits or outlets added by a qualified electrician. Avoid using extension cords.

• Avoid overloading outlets. Plug only one high-wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time.

• Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.

• If outlets or switches feel warm, or there are frequent problems with blowing fuses, tripping circuits or flickering or dimming lights, call a qualified electrician.

• Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry, basement and outdoor areas.

 

 

APPLIANCES AND EQUIPMENT

 

• Follow manufacturers’ instructions for appliances.

• Place lamps on level surfaces, away from things that can burn. Use bulbs that match the recommended wattage.

• Cover bare bulbs.

• Never operate electrical equipment while standing in water.

• Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized.

• Have a qualified electrician inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.

• Before working in damp locations, inspect electric cords and equipment to ensure that they are in good condition and free of defects. Use a GFCI.

 

 

OVERHEAD WIRES

 

• Never touch a fallen overhead power line. Call the electric utility company to report fallen electrical lines.

• Assume that all overhead wires are energized at lethal voltages. Never assume that a wire is safe to touch even if it appears to be insulated.

• Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead wires. If working at heights or handling long objects, inspect the area for the presence of overhead wires before starting work.

• If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle, stay inside the vehicle and drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call the local electric utility company and emergency services.

 

 

Where to get more information:

 

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes electrical safety. They recommend the following steps to ensure that your safety program addresses electrical safety:

 

Step 1: Awareness

Make sure that safe electrical practices are known to and vital to everyone in your business.

 

Step 2: Assessment

Make sure that your company’s electrical safety program is up-to-date and comprehensive. They have an Electrical Safety Self Assessment tool that will help you review and analyze your company’s electrical safety practices related to facilities, personnel and procedures.

 

Step 3: Improvement

After you identify areas that need to be addressed, make sure to follow up on the improvements that need to be made. See more at: http://www.esfi.org/index.cfm/pid/12386#sthash.xxkspphT.dpuf

 

 

Also, OSHA has more information available at: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/electrical_safety.html

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Know Your Federal Acts in Workers Compensation: ADA, ERISA, FMLA

The various aspects of hiring, accommodating, providing modified duty in the case of workers’ compensation and firing an employee with a disability can be tricky. But being informed and communicating policies clearly takes the mystery out of managing disabled workers and those who may become disabled following a work-related injury.

 

 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

 

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.

 

Disability discrimination occurs:

 

• when an employer treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because of the disability

• when an employer treats an applicant or employee less favorably because of a history of a disability

• or because the employee is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if the employee does not have such an impairment)

• when an employer treats an employee differently because of the employee’s relationship with a person with a disability (even though the employee is not disabled)

 

The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability to perform the “essential functions of the job”, unless doing so would cause “undue hardship.” Undue hardship means a significant difficulty or expense for the employer when considered in light of factors such as the employer’s size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.

 

Reasonable accommodations may include things like:

 

• making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable

• job restructuring

• modifying work schedules,

• reassignment to a vacant position

• acquiring or modifying equipment or devices,

• adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies,

• providing qualified readers or interpreters

 

 

 

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

 

ERISA is administered by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). The provisions of Title I of ERISA cover most private sector employee benefit plans. ERISA grants employees several protections such as the right to receive information about their pension or health benefit plans, to participate in timely and fair processes for benefit claims, to elect to temporarily continue group health coverage after losing coverage, to receive certificates verifying health coverage under a plan and to recover benefits due under the plan.

 

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) includes provisions for continuing health care coverage. These provisions are in Part 6 of Title I of ERISA. They apply to group health plans of employers with 20 or more employees. COBRA gives certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses and dependent children (“qualified beneficiaries”) the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. This coverage, however, is only available when coverage is lost due to certain specific events (“qualifying events”) such as termination of employment. Group health coverage for COBRA participants is usually more expensive than health coverage for active employees because usually the employer pays a part of the premium for active employees while COBRA participants generally pay the entire premium themselves. Plans must give covered individuals an initial general notice informing them of their rights under COBRA and describing the law.

 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) amended ERISA to provide for improved portability and continuity of health coverage connected with employment. These provisions include rules relating to exclusions of preexisting conditions, special enrollment rights and prohibition of discrimination against individuals based on health status-related factors.

 

 

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

 

The FMLA is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL). The FMLA requires employers that have 50 or more employees to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child or parent. Employers need to be aware of a possible obligation to extend FMLA benefits if an injured worker does not want to participate in the company’s transitional duty (TD) program. On March 8, 2013 statutory amendments to the FMLA involving military families and airline crew became effective.

 

The DOL has an interactive FMLA Advisor tool to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities under the FMLA. The FMLA Advisor can help identify which employers are covered by the law, which employees are eligible for FMLA leave, what entitlements and benefits are provided under the law, and in what situations FMLA leave may be used. http://www.dol.gov/elaws/fmla.htm.

 

It’s important to coordinate your transitional duty (TD), light duty and modified duty policies with ADA and FMLA requirements. Disability and employment laws vary from state to state. Make sure your legal counsel and insurer review all policies and procedures you use for workers’ compensation.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Independent Contractor or Not Can Be A Costly Distinction

Employers are often looking for ways to cut the cost of doing business. One approach used by employers to cut labor cost is to have outside independent contractors to complete some of the work. In most states, the employer does not have to provide independent contractors with workers’ compensation coverage. The problem for employers arises when the independent contractor is injured and seeks workers’ compensation coverage from the employer.

 

Risk managers who foresee the possibility of an independent contractor getting hurt on the job will often have the independent contractor sign a document confirming the individual is an independent contractor and not an employee. This works, sometimes.

 

Industrial Commissions, Workers’ Compensation Boards, Departments of Labor, and other state administrative/judicial agencies will consider the Weight of Evidence in deciding who is and who isn’t an independent contractor, regardless of the independent contractor agreement. Also, some states use what is known as a Bright Line Test which has a specific set of criteria that must be met before an individual is consider an independent contractor.

 

Whether a jurisdiction used the Weight of Evidence or the Bright Line Test, or other criteria for determining the classification of an individual – either as an employee or as an independent contractor, the following criteria is often included in the determination of the individual’s status.

 

 

Employee criteria frequently includes:

 

• The individual does not work for any other company

• The individual does not have any employees working for him/her

• The individual has not control/have a say over who else will be assisting with the work

• The company controls the order or sequence in which work will be completed

• The specific time/hours worked are controlled by your company

• The means and methods by which the work is completed is controlled by your company

• The individual is provided the tools, supplies, equipment or materials needed to perform the required work

• The individual cannot earn extra profit by completing the work in less time than expected

• The individual cannot suffer a financial loss on the assigned work

• The company deducts income taxes and other taxes from the individual’s pay

• The company provides benefits other than wages (vacation time, health insurance, etc.)

• If a license is required to do the work, the license is held by the company

• The length of employment is open ended

• The company provides the workers’ compensation insurance policy, the general liability insurance policy and other types of insurance

 

 

Independent contractor criteria frequently includes:

 

• The individual has other company(ies) where he/she earns income

• The individual has employees that are working for him/her

• The individual has complete control over who assists him/her in the completion of the work

• The individual controls the order or sequence in which work will be completed

• The individual determines when the work will be done

• The individual determines the means and methods by which the work is completed

• The individual provides the tools, supplies, equipment or materials needed to perform the required work

• The individual earns extra profit by completing the work in less time than expected

• The individual can suffer a financial loss on the job assignment

• The individual is responsible for paying income taxes, self-employment taxes, etc.

• The individual is not provided any type of benefit except the agreed upon compensation amount

• If a license is required to do the work, the license is in the name of the individual and not in the name of the company

• The employment period ends when the project or assignment is completed

• The individual provides the workers’ compensation insurance policy, the general liability insurance policy and other types of insurance in his/her own name and not the company’s name

 

 

Improperly Classifying Employee Could Be Costly

 

Your company’s workers’ compensation insurance premium is based on the number of employees. If you inadvertently misclassify an employee as an independent contractor and an injury occurs, you could end up in a legal quagmire. The worker’s compensation insurance company will deny coverage as no premium was paid to cover the injured person. Your company will have to pay all medical costs and indemnity benefits owed, or could face tort litigation by the individual trying to recover the costs associated with the injury. Your company will have the legal burden of proving the injured person was an independent contractor and not an employee.

 

To protect your company properly with workers’ compensation insurance, careful consider the above criteria AND the laws within your jurisdiction as to what constitutes an employee and what constitutes an independent contractor. If in doubt, you are normally better off to pay the workers’ compensation premium to cover the individual as an employee.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

Make Sure Injury Is Work Related Before Approving Treatment

The wise workers’ compensation adjuster during the initial investigation of the claim ties down the nature and extent of the injury. By limiting the medical treatment to the work-related injury that occurred, the adjuster prevents additional medical treatment for preexisting medical problems from being brought into the claim. In doing so, medical treatment is limited to what is necessary and due to the work-related injury.

 

The medical provider will obtain from the injured worker a description of how the accident happened. The medical provider assesses the nature of the injury and makes a determination if the accident caused the particular injury. For workers’ compensation coverage to apply there must be a direct relationship between the description of the injury and the medical diagnosis.

 

 

Second Injury During Recuperation Frequently Contentious Issue

 

The causal relationship between the accident and the injury is seldom a point of contention in workers’ compensation claims. However, when a second medical condition develops after an injury, the causal relationship between the original injury and the second medical condition is frequently a contentious issue that requires a significant amount of medical investigation by the adjuster. The simple fact that the second medical condition developed during the injured employee’s period of recuperation does not make the second medical condition compensable.

 

Examples of causal relationship medical questions that are frequently disputed include:

 

• An employee has an injury to a foot, ankle, leg or knee that creates an alter gait, causing the employee to have back problems

• An employee injures the dominant hand/upper extremity causing the employee to over use the other upper extremity resulting in strain/sprain to the non-injured upper extremity or shoulder

• An employee suffers a torn disc or a spinal herniation, causing pain and later develops fibromyalgia

• An employee suffers a hand fracture, has a very low pain threshold and does not use the injured hand which develops reflex sympathetic dystrophy

• An employee taking a prescription drug due to the injury develops a bad side effect from the medication

 

 

Request An Independent Medical Evaluation For Second Medical Condition

 

Any time a second medical condition is introduced into a workers’ compensation claim and the treating medical provider indicates there is a causal relationship between the original medical condition and the new, second medical condition, the adjuster should request an independent medical evaluation (IME) or peer review.

 

The IME doctor or the peer review doctor will need a significant amount of information to determine whether or not the second medical condition is related to the original medical condition. Included in the information that the IME or peer review doctor will need is:

 

• A detailed description of the accident which caused the injury

• A copy of all prior medical records for this injury

• A copy of all prior medical records, both injuries and diseases, of the employee for 10 years prior to the accident

• A detailed description of the employee’s job duties (never rely on the employee to advise the physician of the job duties)

Along with all documentation provided to the IME or peer review doctor, a list of questions about the causal relationship should be given to the doctor to answer. This includes:

• Is there medical evidence within a reasonable degree of medical certainty to establish a causal relationship between the original injury and the second medical condition?

• What is the medical rationale explaining the relationship between the original injury and the second medical condition?

• Was the second medical condition preexisting? Was it aggravated or accelerated by the original injury?

• Is the second medical condition permanent or temporary?

• Is the IME/peer review provider’s medical opinion conclusive or is there an element of speculation as to the causal relationship?

 

From the adjuster’s standpoint, the IME doctor’s or peer review doctor’s report needs to be conclusive on the causal relationship or lack of relationship between the original injury and the second medical condition. If the IME doctor’s or peer review doctor’s report states “could be related” or “uncertain” as to the causal relationship, the adjuster will be unable to properly accept the second medical condition, and it should be denied.

 

 

Detailed Investigation is Required

 

The determination of the causal relationship of a second medical condition is frequently resolved by the workers’ compensation board or industrial commission. It is imperative for the adjuster to do a detailed investigation into the medical relationship between the original injury and the second medical condition before accepting or denying the additional medical issue. If the employee’s treating doctor and the IME doctor disagree on whether or not there is a causal relationship between the original injury and the second medical condition, another independent medical evaluator agreed to with the injured employee is an alternative approach to a board decision on the issue.

 

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

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