EEOC Speaks Out on Workers Compensation ADA Obligations

Employers Must Begin Interactive Process for Return to Work Sooner Than Thought
Dated: December 4, 2014

[WorkCompRoundUp is authorized to provide this information on behalf of EEOC’s Aaron Konopasky, JD and Jennifer Christian, MD.]
EEOC’s Aaron Konopasky, JD and Jennifer Christian, MD Provide Guidance on When Employers Must Start Discussion Regarding Return to Work Accommodations

 

This may be surprising news for some readers: In workers’ compensation, MMI should not be viewed as the trigger for ADA-related protections and obligations.

 

Background: A common practice in workers’ compensation claims management may not be legal. Employers / claims organizations that postpone the reasonable accommodation process until an injured worker’s medical condition has reached MMI (maximum medical improvement) may be violating the ADA, now that the definition of “disability” has been broadened. Prior to MMI, if medical restrictions have been established by the treating physician, employers often decide whether to offer temporary transitional work without involvement of injured workers. If not, the workers remain out of work – and may end up losing their jobs. Jennifer Christian, MD, MPH who chairs ACOEM’s Work Fitness & Disability Section, asked Aaron Konopasky, JD, PhD, a senior attorney advisor to the EEOC about this. She was surprised to hear that the ADA does apply at any time – whenever a medical condition has the potential to significantly disrupt an employee’s work participation. This means that injured workers will need to be active participants in their employers’ stay-at-work and return-to-work decision-making process. Christian and Konopasky agreed to co-author a brief summary of the way these two programs interact during the post-injury period, which appears below. Please forward this on to anyone who needs to know.

 

In the Worker’s Compensation context, ADA-related issues can arise at any of several points along the injury management timeline. As a practical matter, employers should be pro-actively evaluating and managing Worker’s Compensation and ADA legal issues concurrently.

 

This is because an employer’s reasonable accommodation-related obligations begin as soon as the employer knows that an individual worker is having trouble at work because of a serious medical problem. By definition, if a doctor informs the employer that a worker has medical restrictions/limitations due to a work-related condition, whether or not the employee is actually working, the employer is now aware that a medical problem is having an impact on the employee’s ability to work. If the condition has the potential to significantly disrupt the employee’s work participation, the employer should immediately engage the worker in an interactive process to look for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

 

Although the employer can stop at this point to determine whether the individual is a “qualified individual with a disability,” it may not be worthwhile. Since employees with workers’ comp injuries are already employed at the time of injury, one can presume they meet the requirement of being “qualified” for the job. And, under the much broader standards established by the ADAAA, any conditions serious enough to require medical restrictions/limitations for more than a few days or weeks (and even some conditions that have not yet caused any work disruption) are likely to meet the definition of an ADA “disability.” An extended inquiry regarding the applicability of the ADA could result in unnecessary delay during a critical period.

 

Thus, whether or not the worker’s condition is stable and has reached maximum medical improvement (is at MMI) has no relevance, either (a) to the time when the employer’s obligation to engage in the interactive process begins or (b) to the time when a worker should be considered a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA. For more details about specific times when the ADA may apply, read below.

 

1. At the time a person is injured.
No matter whether the resulting condition is already stable or is still evolving, the ADA may require the employer to provide a reasonable accommodation that would enable the individual to perform his or her essential job functions, unless doing so would involve significant difficulty or expense. Examples might include specialized equipment, removal of non-essential job functions, and special scheduling. Individualized assessment is a key precept of the ADA, so a blanket policy is not appropriate. Employers might also choose to reduce job demands or productivity expectations on a short-term basis, although this would not be required by the ADA. It should be noted, though, that the ADA cannot be used to deny a benefit or privilege to which the employee is entitled on a separate basis. If, for example, the individual has other types of leave available at his or her discretion, whether paid (such as vacation leave) or unpaid (such as FMLA leave), the employer cannot deny that leave based on the fact that he or she could remain on the job with a reasonable accommodation.

 

2. While recovering out of work due to injury
The ADA may apply as soon as the worker’s condition becomes stable enough that on-the-job reasonable accommodations might allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the job (whether or not there has been a formal declaration of MMI). A blanket policy is not appropriate at this juncture, either. At this point, the employer should re-engage the interactive process to determine whether a reasonable accommodation would allow the individual to return to their usual job. As mentioned above, employers might also choose to reduce job demands or productivity expectations on a short-term basis, although this would not be required by the ADA.

 

3. When the individual has exhausted his or her leave and workers’ compensation benefits, and is still unable to return to the original position, even with an on-the-job reasonable accommodation.
At this point, whether or not the medical condition has reached MMI, the employer should consider other forms of reasonable accommodation, such as additional unpaid leave or, if the individual is not expected to regain the ability to do the essential functions of his or her current position, reassignment to a vacant position (if one is available). Again, a blanket policy is not appropriate.

 

In summary, legal obligations under Worker’s Compensation and ADA legal issues should not be assumed to be sequential, because they may run simultaneously. Duration is not the key issue; the main issue is the nature of the condition and its impact on the ability to function at work.

 

 

CLARIFICATION To MEMO dated December 4, 2014
Dated: December 11, 2014

The EEOC’s Aaron Konopasky and I were glad to see many thoughtful comments in response to our message about the ADA in workers’ compensation last week in the forums where it was posted. Our summary was primarily written to dispel two common myths:

  1. In workers’ compensation, the time to think about the ADA is at MMI. This is NOT true. MMI is late among several points in the post-injury timeline when the ADA needs to be considered.
  1. The ADA’s requirement for an interactive process doesn’t apply in decision-making about transitional work assignments. This is NOT true. Injured workers do need to be active participants in the workers’ comp stay-at-work and return-to-work process.

 

However, based on the comments we have received, we want to clarify that the ADA has several other significant implications for how employers should respond to existing employees who develop health problems. The ADA is about civil rights for people with disabilities, not financial benefits of one kind or another. The fundamental purpose of the ADA’s employment provisions is to help people with disabilities get and keep jobs, as long as they are qualified to do the work and can meet productivity standards. The cause of the disability is irrelevant. It does not matter what other types of policies or programs are also involved — whether workers’ compensation, FMLA, sick pay, or disability insurance programs. A disability can be newly acquired, transitory, fluctuating, progressive, or longstanding and stable. It can be the result of injuries, illnesses, congenital conditions, or the natural aging process. The only relevant question is whether the disability is now or is perceived as potentially having a significant impact on someone’s ability to perform their job, take home their regular paycheck, and stay employed.

 

Here are 5 more practical implications for management of ALL types of health-related employment situations:

 

  1. As the Federal agency that enforces the employment provisions of the ADA, EEOC’s biggest concern in situations involving disability leaves of any type will be that someone with a disability is being forced to take leave even though he or she could do the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation. Everyone involved in the decision to keep someone out of work — doctors, third-party benefit administrators, managed care companies, workplace supervisors and employee program managers — should keep that fact firmly in mind, so that people with disabilities are not needlessly forced out of the workplace.

 

  1. Only the employer is accountable for complying with the employment provisions of the ADA. However, treating physicians and the employer’s vendors (benefits claims administrators, managed care companies) who fail to communicate with the employer during the stay-at-work and return-to-work process may be exposing the employer to increased risk/liability. When a vendor or a doctor (especially one who has been selected by the employer) fails to notify the employer that an employee described difficulty working or an adjustment that might allow them to work, the employer could be held liable for failing to provide that accommodation — even though the information was never properly passed along. Doctors and vendors also can help educate employees and small or unsophisticated employers to ensure that the law is followed.

 

  1. Some employees may express the desire to remain on leave, rather than return to work with a reasonable accommodation. Of course, employees with disabilities must be allowed to use accumulated sick or annual leave, just like any other employee. And they may have a legal right to insist on leave if, for example, they qualify for FMLA. But if an individual with a disability has no discretionary leave, and a reasonable accommodation would allow performance of job functions in a manner that is safe and consistent with his or her medical needs, then the employee may be required to return to work with the accommodation.

 

  1. Paying people money to sit home who are well enough to do something productive does not count as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, especially when they were not part of the decision-making process that has put them out of work. The employee must be actively involved in arranging any temporary or long-lasting adjustments to their usual jobs in order for the employer to meet the interactive process obligation. With respect to specific cash payments made under workers’ compensation—

 

A.  Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits – There is little difference between cash payments under workers’ comp TTD and disability benefit programs for personal health conditions except how the amounts are calculated. Employees are usually receiving them for one of four reasons:

 

  1. The doctor wrote “no work” because their patient’s medical condition is so severe or unstable that it is unsafe for them to do anything except try to get better;
  2. The doctor wrote “no work” because of a perception that the employer cannot or will not provide safe and suitably modified work on a temporary or long-term basis;
  3. The doctor released their patient to work with restrictions, but state or federal law, or a union contract means that the employee cannot work until fully able to do the essential functions of their job, so the employee is put out of work temporarily.
  4. The doctor released their patient to work with restrictions, but the employer said they cannot meet those restrictions (cannot find appropriate work to assign them within their current work capacity) so the employee is put out of work.

 

In all but # 1 above, the ADA may apply. However, the employee is often not consulted as these decisions are being made. As stated above, giving the employee money is not a reasonable accommodation, and the ADA requires that the employer interact with the employee in looking for a solution that will enable the employee to stay at work.

 

B. Other types of cash benefits: Temporary Partial Benefits, Permanent Partial Benefits and Permanent Total Benefits -These cash awards help compensate employees for economic loss as a result of their injuries. However, as stated above, giving people money is not a reasonable accommodation, and does not accomplish the public purpose of the ADA.

 

5. Employers sometimes limit the length of transitional work assignments (TWA) in order to avoid them turning into required permanent accommodations or becoming subject to union job bid rules. To avoid ADA liability, a “usual” 90-day limitation policy that provides for an individualized assessment of the individual’s situation and possible extension is more appropriate. If there is a specific reason why extending a particular employee’s TWA or granting extra (paid or unpaid) time off to heal more completely will allow them to keep their job that might be a reasonable accommodation. Some temporary adjustments are reasonable accommodations (including, for example, temporary use of adaptive equipment or temporary relocation of a workstation to the ground floor) and may need to be extended unless doing so would involve significant difficulty or expense. However, TWAs may have other aspects that can be discontinued without fear of ADA liability, including temporary reductions in productivity requirements and elimination of essential job functions. These measures go beyond what the ADA requires.

 

 

Please note that this material is an informal discussion and does not constitute an official opinion or interpretation of the EEOC.

 

 

Aaron Konopasky, J.D., Ph.D
Senior Attorney Advisor
ADA/GINA Policy Division
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Email: aaron.konopasky@eeoc.gov

 

Jennifer Christian, MD, MPH
President, Webility Corporation
Chair, Work Fitness & Disability Section
American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine
Email: Jennifer.christian@webility.md

 

If you would like to hear directly from the EEOC, inquiries can be submitted by mail to:

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel
131M Street, NE
Washington, DC 20507

 

Download A Printable Copy of This Memo

Ohio Man Sentenced for Falsely Receiving Comp Payments

Trying to cheat the workers compensation system oftentimes leads to bad results.

 

Case in point, a Lima (Allen County), Ohio man was recently sentenced for working while receiving disability payments from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) for a prior workplace injury. Joshua Schlosser was ordered to repay nearly $29,000 he improperly collected from the BWC.

 

“Mr. Schlosser held several positions while receiving thousands in disability and was prohibited from working,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Thanks to our dedicated Special Investigations team, I’m happy to report that this money is now being recovered and will be used to assist injured workers who really do require assistance to get back on their feet.”

 

 

Worker Got Wages from 4 Employers, Collected Disability

 

The BWC’s Special Investigations Department began investigating after identifying that Schlosser received wages from four employers while collecting disability payments from the agency. Investigators found Schlosser performed security work for two companies, worked as a meter reader for another and also served as a caretaker/maintenance technician for a fourth company, all while collecting disability.

 

Schlosser pleaded guilty June 17 to one count of workers compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was found guilty, sentenced the same day and placed on community control for five years.

 

Schlosser was ordered to pay restitution to BWC in the amount of $28,919.56.

 

He must also have a urine screen, maintain/obtain employment and remain violation-free, or else he will serve 12 months in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

OSHA: Violation To Discipline Employee Who Reports Injury

Violating the rights of workers can lead to fines and a bad reputation for the employer at fault.

 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one such employer went too far on impeding the rights of a worker recently.

Grand Trunk Western Railway Co. in Michigan violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act when a carman was suspended following a workplace injury, according to OSHA.

 

The employee was seriously injured by a 20-foot section of crane chain while changing defective railcar wheels in the company’s Ferndale rail yard. As a result, OSHA ordered the company to pay $137,618 in back pay, along with interest, punitive and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.

 

 

 

Worker Safety A Concern When Disciplined For Reporting Injury

 

“For an employer to place blame on an employee who got injured on the job while following the instructions of his supervisors is unjust,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago. “When employees are disciplined for injuries and the reporting of safety concerns, worker safety becomes a serious concern.”

An OSHA investigation upheld the 23-year Grand Trunk Western Railway Co. employee’s allegation that the railroad issued him a 90-day suspension after the employee was struck and injured by the crane chain.

 

Following his injury, Grand Trunk Railway Co.’s internal investigation determined the worker had violated company safety protocol, leading to his injury, and issued the carman a 90-day suspension from service. The carman returned to work after 53 lost days.

 

OSHA’s investigation found that the employee had been directed by the mechanical supervisor to change the defective tires in a manner which violated company safety protocols, and that the employer used the injury as a pretext to suspend the employee.

 

 

 

Employer Must Provide Whistleblower Rights Information

 

The railroad carrier has been ordered to remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and to provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Grand Trunk Railway Co. will also pay a total of $137,618, which includes $5,242 in lost wages and $125,490 in punitive and compensatory damages.

 

Either party in the case can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

 

On July 16, 2012, OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration signed a memorandum of agreement to facilitate coordination and cooperation for enforcing the FRSA’s whistleblower provisions.

Between August 2007, when OSHA was assigned responsibility for whistle-blower complaints under the FRSA, and September 2012, OSHA has received more than 1,200 FRSA whistleblower complaints. More than 60 percent of the FRSA complaints filed with OSHA involve an allegation that a railroad worker has been retaliated against for reporting an on-the-job injury.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

Ohio BWC Investigations Nab 5 Individuals on Workers Comp Fraud

Given how workers compensation fraud impacts both employers and the public in general, it behooves those looking into such acts to spend whatever resources necessary to nab defendants.

 

Such was the case in Ohio recently, as the state’s Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer reported five individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system in May. The court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC’s special investigations department (SID). The department works to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers compensation fraud.

 

Following are the cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction recently:

 

Sandy Givens (Dayton, Montgomery County) pleaded guilty May 21 to one felony count of workers comp fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID opened an investigation after receiving an allegation that Givens was working while receiving disability and found that she was operating a pony ride business in the greater Cincinnati area. She was also selling tack equipment at Horsefeathers Tack Shop at Caesar’s Creek Flea Market in Wilmington. The investigation revealed that Givens had $11,119.50 in business deposits from these two businesses over a period of a year. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Givens to eight months of community control and ordered her to pay court costs. The judge indicated her probation will be terminated once court costs are paid and if Givens does not comply with the terms of community control, she will serve six months in prison. Givens had already settled her BWC claims and the entire overpayment of $32,189.01 has been recouped.

 

Joshua Gayheart (Shelby, Richland County) pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of workers comp fraud for filing a false claim. SID received an allegation that Gayheart had filed a false claim, indicating he was injured when a pallet of books fell on him. The investigation found the alleged injury was inconsistent with the medical conclusions of the examining physician and witness statements. Witnesses indicated that the books fell onto the floor without hitting anyone. The claim was denied by BWC and the case was referred to the Mansfield Municipal Court. Three days after the alleged injury, Gayheart appeared on a segment of the “Steve Wilkos” television show. The video showed Gayheart squatting, bending and jumping, which was inconsistent with his reported restrictions. Gayheart pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail with 60 days suspended and a $100 fine.

 

Kevin Swanson (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) pleaded guilty May 28 to one misdemeanor count of workers comp fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received an allegation through its fraud hotline that Swanson faked an injury with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and continued to work for a private security agency. The investigation found Swanson worked as a security guard at the Apostolic Faith Tabernacle Church while receiving temporary total disability benefits. The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, which is self-insured, paid the benefits. Investigators obtained employment records, and reviewed medical records and request for benefit forms submitted by Swanson, which contained false and misleading statements regarding his work activity. Swanson was sentenced to six months of community control and a $200 fine. The judge ordered restitution in the amount of $14,190.37 to the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and $2,000 to BWC for investigative costs.

 

 

Defendant Pleads Guilty to Submitting False Job Searches

 

Ruth F. Brock (Coshocton, Coshocton County) pleaded guilty May 14 to one misdemeanor count of workers comp fraud for submitting false job searches to BWC. SID received an allegation from a BWC employee that Brock was misrepresenting her job search activities, enabling her to continue receiving wage loss workers’ compensation benefits. Brock was receiving non-working wage loss, which is payable to injured workers who are unable to find suitable employment. In order to qualify, the injured worker must demonstrate a good faith effort to secure employment within physical restrictions. The investigation showed Brock knowingly misrepresented her job searches to BWC in order to continue receiving these benefits. Investigators reviewed the job searches Brock submitted and did not find a single business that had an application on file for her. She was also submitting the forms with future dates in order to ensure an uninterrupted income stream. Brock was ordered to pay $1,092.76 in restitution, and she paid in full. She was also sentenced to one day in jail, suspended for time served.

 

Bryan Starcher (Austinburg, Ashtabula County) pleaded guilty May 22 to one misdemeanor count of workers comp fraud for working while receiving benefits. BWC opened an investigation after receiving an allegation that Starcher had been working as a truck driver for a cement company and as a bouncer at a bar while receiving benefits for a prior workplace injury. An analysis of financial records and witness interviews showed that Starcher in fact did return to work as a truck driver at a cement company and as a bouncer at a bar while receiving Temporary Total Disability. Starcher was also interviewed and he admitted that he was not entitled to the benefits. A Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge sentenced Starcher to 30 days of incarceration. He also submitted a $1,500 payment to cover restitution.

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

Reasonable Compliance Found In Fatigue Management Law

Western Australia’s recently reported on WorkSafe’s participation in roadblock exercises, revealing a reasonable level of compliance with Western Australia’s fatigue management laws for commercial vehicle drivers.

 

 

WorkSafe participated in five joint roadblock operations undertaken by Police and also involving Main Roads WA, the Explosives and Dangerous Goods section of the Department of Mines and Petroleum, the Department of Transport and the Department of Agriculture and Food. The operations were conducted throughout May, and those that involved WorkSafe were at the Upper Swan vehicle assembly area, Northam vehicle assembly area, Neerabup, Peel District and Bedfordale.

 

 

According to WorkSafe’s report, a total of 124 commercial vehicles were inspected by WorkSafe over the five locations, and 34 transport companies are currently undergoing follow-up inspections.  In the course of the roadblocks, one prohibition notice and a pair of improvement notices were issued.

 

 

 

‘Reasonable Level’ of Compliance Seems Apparent

 

 

 

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch stated recently that a reasonable level of compliance was apparent in the transport industry, but the number of follow-ups required suggested that there were still some concerns over fatigue management.

 

 

“Fatigue is a serious safety issue in the commercial transport industry, and it seems that most employers are in compliance with WA’s fatigue management laws,” McCulloch said. “However, operations such as Austrans continue to expose the fact that there are still problems with record keeping, mandatory medical checks for drivers, appropriate sleeper cabs and driver training.”

 

According to McCulloch, WorkSafe kicked off its participation in roadblocks eight years ago, and it seems that the transport industry has generally come to grips with the fatigue laws over that time and employers seem to understand that the laws are there to ensure that commercial vehicle drivers are given sufficient rest.

 

 

Adequate Sleep & Rest Essential For Safe Long-Distance Driving

 

“It is always worth reminding the industry that the human body has limitations, and adequate sleep and rest are essential to safely undertake long-distance driving,” McCullough added. “There is no room for complacency when it comes to fatigue, and WorkSafe intends to continue monitoring the commercial transport industry with roadblocks for some time to come.”

 

 

McCullough closed by noting that “A comprehensive code of practice for the management of fatigue has been in operation in WA since 1998, and it was updated in 2003 when the regulations came into effect.  All transport companies operating in WA need to ensure that this code of practice is available in all workplaces.”

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

Washington State Charges Woman With Work Comp Fraud; Awards Grant

Washington State’s Labor & Industries (L&I) Department recently reported charges levied against a woman for alleged workers compensation fraud, along with the awarding of a grant to return injured construction workers to their jobs sooner.

 

 

Woman Faces Five Counts of Theft For Fraudulent Work Comp Benefits

 

In the first incident, the 39-year-old Tacoma woman faces charges on five counts of theft for fraudulently collecting more than $50,000 in workers comp benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

 

According to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, Deana S. Cook filed workers comp claims for injuries that occurred in 2007 and 2009. The claims were allowed and Cook was able to receive the benefits based on her contention that she was unable to work due to the injuries.

 

Meantime, a routine check of social security numbers between L&I and the Washington State Employment Security Department allegedly showed that Cook worked for a pair of different employers during the time her work comp benefits were paid.

 

Cook faces three counts of first degree theft and a pair of counts of second degree theft. She has entered not guilty pleas to all five charges.

 

 

Grant Awarded For Construction Return to Work

 

In other news, (L&I) recently awarded the SMART Association and the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties an $85,000 grant to partner in creating a program to place injured construction workers back on the job sooner rather than later.

 

The Return-to-Work grant, which is part of the Safety & Health Investment Projects (SHIP) Program, will fund the creation of an Internet-based Return-to-Work Toolbox — a database of job tasks and documentation that can be shared with employers across the state.

 

 

Grant Project Solves Problem Many Companies Face

 

This grant project will solve a problem faced by many companies that find they have to create or recreate documentation for return-to-work job tasks for injured workers because there is no simple method for companies to share this information.

 

The SMART Association is a non-profit business association providing companies with resources necessary to manage and control risk in Washington state. The Master Builders Association serves Seattle, King County and Snohomish County as the nation’s largest local homebuilders association.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

Manitoba Fighting to Prevent Workplace Injury and Illness

Like others across Canada, the province of Manitoba is not taking a back seat when it comes to trying to prevent workplace injury and illness.

 

According to Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard, a new plan was recently unveiled to make conditions safer for workers.

 

“This comprehensive strategy follows the province’s most extensive review of injury and illness prevention in more than a decade and doubles resources dedicated to injury and illness prevention,” commented Howard.  “It strengthens our safety and health laws and will ensure employers are rewarded for practices that make their workplaces safer and healthier.”

 

The Manitoba government’s Five Year Plan for Injury and Illness Prevention incorporates recommendations from a trio reports issued in early April as part of a wide-ranging review of workplace injury and illness prevention.

 

Strategy in Place to Better Protect Workers

 

The new strategy details plans for:

 

  • Doubling funding for prevention services,
  • Creating new requirements under the Workplace Safety and Health Act that more clearly define workers’ legal rights, require mandatory orientation of new workers and provide stronger protection when a worker refuses unsafe work,
  • Investing in resources that will ensure every high school student has access to workplace health and safety information in the classroom or online, and materials to help parents prepare their children to know about their rights to a safe workplace when they start their first job,
  • Strengthening support for emergency responders and other workers in high-trauma jobs,
  • Providing more ways for the public to report unsafe workplaces including a one-stop phone number for reporting unsafe workplace or injuries,
  • Requiring mandatory safety orientation for new workers,
  • Providing a mobile safety lab to bring safety awareness training and tools to rural worksites,
  • Ensuring every new business in Manitoba gets information about their responsibilities to prevent injuries,
  • Creating a leadership team of business owners and executives who have shown their commitment to safety and can help inform and mentor other business owners,
  • Increasing enforcement of rules to prevent bullying and violence in the workplace, and
  • Reviewing every workplace death to learn lessons about prevention.

 

 

“Dedicating more resources to prevention will help make Manitoba one of the safest places to work in North America,” added Howard.  “Enforcement is also an important part of injury prevention and our safety and health laws will be among the strongest in the country.  Safety and health officers will now have the tools needed to ensure compliance.”

 

 

Want to Eliminate Claim Suppression & Inappropriate Return-To-Work

 

The minister also announced the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba will develop a strategy to eliminate claim suppression and inappropriate return-to-work practices, while ensuring employers that engage in genuine injury prevention are recognized and rewarded.  That new strategy is expected in the fall of 2013.

 

More details on Manitoba’s Five Year Plan for Injury and Illness Prevention and on the recent reviews can be found at: www.gov.mb.ca/labour/safety/index.html.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

WA Updates Fatigue Management Law Compliance

Western Australia’s recently reported on WorkSafe’s participation in roadblock exercises, revealing a reasonable level of compliance with WA’s fatigue management laws for commercial vehicle drivers.

 

WorkSafe participated in five joint Austrans roadblock operations undertaken by WA Police and also involving Main Roads WA, the Explosives and Dangerous Goods section of the Department of Mines and Petroleum, the Department of Transport and the Department of Agriculture and Food. The operations were conducted throughout May, and those that involved WorkSafe were at the Upper Swan vehicle assembly area, Northam vehicle assembly area, Neerabup, Peel District and Bedfordale

 

According to WorkSafe’s report, a total of 124 commercial vehicles were inspected by WorkSafe over the five locations, and 34 transport companies are currently undergoing follow-up inspections. In the course of the roadblocks, one prohibition notice and a pair of improvement notices were issued.

 
‘Reasonable Level’ of Compliance Seems Apparent

 
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch stated recently that a reasonable level of compliance was apparent in the transport industry, but the number of follow-ups required suggested that there were still some concerns over fatigue management.

 

“Fatigue is a serious safety issue in the commercial transport industry, and it seems that most employers are in compliance with WA’s fatigue management laws,” McCulloch said. “However, operations such as Austrans continue to expose the fact that there are still problems with record keeping, mandatory medical checks for drivers, appropriate sleeper cabs and driver training.”
According to McCulloch, WorkSafe kicked off its participation in roadblocks eight years ago, and it seems that the transport industry has generally come to grips with the fatigue laws over that time and employers seem to understand that the laws are there to ensure that commercial vehicle drivers are given sufficient rest.

 

“It is always worth reminding the industry that the human body has limitations, and adequate sleep and rest are essential to safely undertake long-distance driving,” McCullough added. “There is no room for complacency when it comes to fatigue, and WorkSafe intends to continue monitoring the commercial transport industry with roadblocks for some time to come.”

 

McCullough closed by noting that “A comprehensive code of practice for the management of fatigue has been in operation in WA since 1998, and it was updated in 2003 when the regulations came into effect. All transport companies operating in WA need to ensure that this code of practice is available in all workplaces.”


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.

First Steps on Road to Justice for Devastated Families

The British Union Unite welcomed a recent April development regarding the fact that Clydeport Operations and Svitzer Marine will face criminal charges at the high court over the sinking of the Flying Phantom tug six years ago.

 

 

3 of 4 Crew Perished in Effort to Assist Bulk Carrier in Thick Fog

 

According to information from Unite, The Flying Phantom when down during its efforts to assist a bulk carrier in thick fog on the Clyde. Three of the tug’s four-man crew perished; only the mate managed to escape from the vessel’s wheelhouse and was later rescued.  

 

In September 2008, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) released a report into the sinking of the tug and identified a number of preventable safety issues which contributed towards to the deaths of the crew members.

 

 

Relatives Have Long-Since Demanded Justice

 

Relatives have long-campaigned for justice over the events which led to the deaths of their loved ones, including a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI). 

 

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty noted, “We hope today represents the first steps on the road to justice for the families devastated by the deaths of their loved ones.

 

Unite is demanding answers and accountability on the following issues:

 

  • Who are the individuals in each company responsible for the safety failures which led to the deaths of these workers? 

 

  • Why could the recommendations of the MAIB not be legally enforced?

 

  • Why has it taken over five painful years to get to this starting point?

 

Rafferty added that “Today’s events take place against a wider backdrop of increasing workplace fatalities across Scotland and funding for safety enforcement is being gutted by the Westminster government – it’s unacceptable. 

 

“Lives in the workplace must be better protected. The case of the Flying Phantom and rising workplace fatalities show we need stronger legislation to achieve this.”  

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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.

Ohio BWC Proposes 2.1% Base-Rate Comp Reduction

While prices continue to go up for many employers nationwide, some private Ohio employers got a bit of good news recently.

 

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) came forward with a 2.1% base-rate reduction for private employers at the BWC Board of Directors’ Actuarial Committee recently.

 

The recommendation would reduce employer premiums by $29 million for the July 1, 2014 policy year. If approved by BWC’s Board of Directors, it would be the third year in a row that workers comp insurance rates have remained steady or dropped.

 

“Conservative management and strong investments, coupled with favorable claim frequency, claim severity and payroll trends are allowing us to achieve our goal of setting the lowest possible rates while still maintaining the solvency of the fund,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “I’m pleased that over the past three years we’ve been able to provide both quality care and service to Ohio’s injured workers and stable, reasonable rates for Ohio’s employers.”

 

Ohio’s workers comp rate decreases over the last three years come at a time when the National Council on Compensation Insurance reports that nationally, states with rate increases are outnumbering states with decreases.

 

 

Aggregate Savings of Some $29 Million

 

The proposal represents an aggregate savings of $29 million over 2013 premium collections, and would bring the three year savings for Ohio businesses to an estimated $224 million. The three year savings is based on comparisons to 2011 rates and assumes a flat payroll, which is the basis for establishing premium.

 

Employers were presented with a 4% rate decrease in 2012 and flat rates in 2013. The actual premium paid by individual private employers depends on a number of factors, including their industry, their recent claims history and expected future costs, and their participation in discount and savings programs.

 

Employers are encouraged to visit ohiobwc.com to learn about the myriad of programs designed to improve safety, reduce workplace incidents, and transition injured workers back on the job, all of which provide additional savings.

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, 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.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


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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