Category Archives: Uncategorized

Deaths from falls increase, but vehicles biggest cause of workplace deaths

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Workplace Deaths from Falls

The number of U.S. workers killed on the job as a result of slips, trips and falls rose nearly 10% in 2014, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were 647 fatal falls to a lower level last year compared with 595 in 2013, the bureau said in a statement.

Out of the fatal incidents where the height of the fall was known, more than 420 incidents involved falls of 30 feet or less, according to the statement.

In addition to the 8.7% increase in falls to a lower level, fatal falls on the same level increased 17.2% — from 110 in 2013 to 129 in 2014, the statement says.

Slips, trips and falls also include falls from collapsing structures or equipment and falls through surfaces or existing openings.

According to the bureau’s preliminary data, 4,679 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2014, up 2% from the revised count of 4,585 fatal work injuries in 2013. Revised data for 2014 will be released next spring.

Meanwhile, transportation incidents represented 40% of fatal workplace injuries in 2014, up 1.4% from 2013, data shows.

Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles accounted for the majority of all 1,891 fatal work injuries due to transportation incidents, the bureau said in the statement, adding that the number of reported roadway incidents is expected to rise when updated 2014 data is released.

Pedestrian vehicular incidents, including pedestrians struck by vehicles in work zones, accounted for 17% of deaths in…

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Have work, will travel: How digital nomads are redefining work

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The article describes a new reality facing workers’ compensation systems: if we can be at work anywhere, then an injury anywhere could be filed as a workers’ compensation claim. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in years to come. kc

coworking digital nomad

The Internet is enabling so-called digital nomads to travel and work from anywhere in the world. Is it an anomaly or a trend that’s here to stay?

The workplace is changing beyond recognition, thanks to new technologies like the smartphone (the new office in your pants) and near-ubiquitous Internet connectivity. Now, people don’t have to be tied to a desk or even an office; you can work remotely from home, from a café or really, any place that has WiFi. The freelance economy is growing as more and more people work for themselves, with some predicting that half of the American workforce will be self-employed by 2020.

Here on TreeHugger, we’ve discussed the ins and outs of this telecommuting phenomenon for the last decade. It appears to have now grown into a critical mass of location-independent digital nomads, who are eschewing the conventional 9-to-5 office job in growing numbers, freeing them up to travel to far-flung places like Asia, Europe and South America — while still earning a living. Todd Wassermann at Mashable explains:

A global surge in broadband ubiquity and a buyer’s market for programming talent have colluded to make digital nomadism a viable option for adventurous self-starters. While no one tracks their number, some 2.6% of U.S. workers — about 3.3 million people — telecommuted at least half the time in 2013, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Coworking hubs popping up in cities

The growth in the freelance economy has also prompted the…

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Who Is Really Covered Under New Overtime Rules?

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Luciano Lozano/Ikon Images/Corbis

The Obama administration has proposed new rules that will allow more salaried workers to be eligible for overtime.

Wait. Salaried workers? Overtime?

“I’m very glad that you asked that question and I think the way you asked it underscores what I think is a lot of misinformation about who’s exempt from overtime protections,” Heidi Shierholz, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “We have this core value in the United States of a 40 hour work week. If you work more than 40 hours, you should get time and a half for those additional hours. But we have this intended to be relatively small set of workers who are exempt from those protections.”

In the mid-20th Century, when these rules were written, those exempt workers were mostly executives, people who took home salaries in the $20,000 or $30,000 a year. The country believed they got paid enough, and could work as long as they wanted.

But just to make sure, the government devised a three-pronged test in order to be exempt from having to be paid overtime, workers had to be paid a salary, that salary had to be above a certain threshold, and you had to actually have the duties of an executive

This is where things became muddy over the years.

In the 1930s, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was written, most people were physical laborers, and the difference between support workers and executives was pretty stark.

Now, there are…

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Regulation seen as crucial to curbing opioid excesses in workers comp

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Painkiller Prescriptions

Prescription drug monitoring programs and “pill mill” laws can curb opioid prescribing and use, but observers say other regulatory tools such as closed formularies might control the opioid epidemic better as it relates to workers compensation.

Published online Monday by The Journal of the American Medical Association, a new study by researchers from the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program and pill mill laws were associated with “modest reductions” in opioid prescribing and use — including declines of 1.4% in opioid prescriptions, 2.5% in opioid volume and 5.6% in morphine milligram equivalents, or dosage — one year after their 2010 implementation.

The study, “Effect of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Pill Mill Laws on Opioid Prescribing and Use,” looked at 2.6 million patients, 431,890 prescribers and 2,829 pharmacies in Florida, the intervention state, and Georgia, the control state, between July 2010 and September 2012.

The study didn’t look at workers comp claims, but the reductions in opioid prescribing and use are comparable to the single-digit decreases “we’re seeing in (workers comp) pharmacy benefit management drug trend reports,” which address comp systems in all states, said Michael Gavin, Duluth, Georgia-based president of medical cost management company PRIUM. “It makes me wonder whether the Florida…

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Going across the border to Canada? Workers’ Comp issues to understand

Today’s post was shared by Workers Compensation and comes from

With the globalization of the economy, more employers have workers in multiple countries, creating complex Workers' Comp issues. Photo: Shutterstock
With the globalization of the economy, more employers have workers in multiple countries, creating complex Workers’ Comp issues. Photo: Shutterstock

For many employers in the U.S., Canada offers an attractive market for business expansion. Culturally and economically close, Canada shares a strong western economy, one of the world’s largest disposable incomes, a higher paid price for goods, and on occasion, less competition for market share.

Even with all the advantages, businesses should also be aware of the risks when considering expansion across the border. Workplace legislation and the legal policies companies must follow are significantly different from those in the United States. Notably, the Workers’ Compensation system has some unique and costly elements.

No employer wants to see an accident or injury in the workplace, but when they do happen, employers in Canada need to understand how to negotiate the complex maze of the local Workers’ Compensation Board.

The Canadian Workers’ Compensation system

The Canadian Workers’ Compensation system is more than 100 years old and was cultivated in the rich and hazardous landscape of a booming industrial and economic revolution. In 1910, Chief Justice of Ontario, Sir William Meredith, was asked to head a Royal Commission studying Workers’ Compensation systems throughout the world.

In his Royal Commission report, Meredith said that the true aim of compensation law was to provide for both injured workers…

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FedEx drivers get return trip to trial court in Missouri to determine employee status

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A federal appeals court has ruled that a trial judge improperly ruled that Missouri FedEx drivers weren’t independent contractors and should’ve left the issue to a jury to determine. (Photo: pio3/
A federal appeals court has ruled that a trial judge improperly ruled that Missouri FedEx drivers weren’t independent contractors and should’ve left the issue to a jury to determine. (Photo: pio3/

(Bloomberg) — FedEx Corp. drivers will have to start over in a fight over their employee status in Missouri.

A federal appeals court said on Friday that a trial judge improperly ruled that the drivers weren’t independent contractors and should’ve left the issue to a jury to determine.

A jury awarded thousands of dollars in back benefits to the drivers in April 2014, after the federal judge determined their status. That was something the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis declined to tackle.

“That issue is not before us,” the appeals court said. “There remains a genuine dispute as to whether plaintiffs were employees or independent contractors. That issue should have been submitted to the jury.”

Drivers throughout the country have filed claims against the company, which have been consolidated in a federal case in Indiana. Laws of each state, however, determine the employee- contractor issue, the appellate court said.

The ruling gives the company a chance to defend anew what had been a core component of its business model. The decision comes as some drivers for ride-sharing services Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. are also fighting in court to be treated as employees rather than contractors.

FedEx drivers typically…

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Is Tesla going to start its own Uber competitor with self-driving electric cars?

Today’s post was shared from This might help Uber out of the controversy surrounding their drivers – are they employees, or are they independent contractors? – if there are no drivers, there is no controversy (or, workers’ compensation premiums to pay).

Tesla Uber self-driving car autopilot

Or will the two companies do it in partnership?

It is well known that both Tesla and Uber are very interested in self-driving car (Tesla calls it ‘Autopilot’, no doubt to evoke the familiar airplane technology). Elon Musk has publicly stated that he thinks entirely automated self-driving cars will be ready in about 5 years and that they’ll eventually be orders of magnitude safer than human-driven cars, which makes sense when you really think about it. Computers can react instantaneously, sensors can be positioned all around the vehicle (like having eyes behind your head) and they never blink or get tired, they can even see through fog (radar, ultrasonics), they don’t get drunk, can coordinate wirelessly, etc.

An Uber would clearly love to have a fleet of self-driving vehicles out there that can be hired via its app. While drivers might object to the very idea of driverless cars, the rest of us could see benefits from lower car ownership; rather than almost everyone owning a car and letting it parked 95% of the time, a single shared car could drive around dozens and dozens of people around the clock. And if it’s electric, powered by clean energy, the benefit would be compounded further.

Elon Musk

The question that arises for the next few years is: Will Tesla and Uber get together in some way or other to push self-driving cars forward? Or will Tesla decide that it has everything it needs to start its own transportations service and launch its own equivalent to Uber, powered by its…

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California Law Agencies Get $34.9M to Fight Workers’ Comp Fraud

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Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has awarded $34.9 million in grants to 37 district attorney offices representing 42 counties in California to combat workers’ compensation insurance fraud.

The grants are funded through employer assessments, and they support law enforcement efforts in investigating and prosecuting workers’ comp fraud.

“These grants will assist district attorneys across the state in uncovering workers’ compensation fraud schemes and prosecuting those who take advantage of the system,” Jones said in a statement.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones

Workers’ comp insurance fraud includes medical provider fraud, employer premium fraud, employer defrauding employee, insider fraud, claimant fraud and the willfully uninsured operating within the underground economy.

Grant funding is based on assessments from California employers. California District Attorneys apply for workers’ comp fraud grant funds.

The commissioner’s grant review panel reviews the applications and makes funding recommendations to the Jones based on multiple criteria, including past performance, the county’s problem statement and their program strategy for the upcoming year.

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Seattle Employer Fined $424,850 for Safety and Health Violations

Inadequate emergency response plan for fuel spills one of many concerns

A marine terminal operator in Seattle is facing more than $400,000 in fines from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) in connection with multiple serious safety and health violations at its facility on Harbor Island.

L&I recently cited Seattle Bulk Shipping for more than 50 workplace safety and health violations. The state began investigating the company after a worker was hospitalized with injuries when he fell into an underground grain storage pit in December 2014.

Seattle Bulk Shipping performs several operations at its facility including transferring large quantities of ethanol fuel from rail cars to tanker trucks, loading grain on rail cars and transferring it between trucks, and trailer and forklift repair.

L&I inspectors found several noticeable serious hazards during an initial visit to the location which prompted a comprehensive safety and health inspections of the entire worksite.

During the inspection, L&I placed an immediate restraint order on the company’s ethanol transfer operation because of inadequate emergency response planning. The department was concerned about the possibility of a catastrophic release of the highly flammable fuel, and the potential impact on workers and the traveling public on the West Seattle Bridge above the facility.

L&I worked with the Seattle Fire Marshal’s office and the employer to ensure that the most serious gaps in emergency response training were addressed before the hazardous material transfer operations were allowed to resume.

During several visits to the site, L&I safety and health compliance officers found that employees were routinely exposed to multiple hazards that could cause death or serious injuries or illnesses. The employer had been cited on multiple prior occasions for many of the same violations or issues.

In total, the company was cited for five “willful” and 33 “serious” violations, as well as two “failure to abate” for failing to correct previous violations, and 19 general violations. A violation is considered willful when an employer knowingly violates a rule or is plainly indifferent to employee safety and health, while a serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability of serious injury or death.

The $424,850 fine is among the largest L&I penalties of a business in recent years.

The violations and penalties include: 

  • Not ensuring personal protective equipment was available to use during an emergency response to a possible ethanol fuel release, $21,000.
  • Not establishing an employee alarm system to provide warning time for a safe escape in an emergency such as an ethanol fuel release, $63,000. This violation was previously cited in 2010 and had not been corrected.
  • Not developing an emergency response plan to address a possible ethanol fuel spill, $63,000. This violation was previously cited in 2010 and had not been corrected.
  • Using chain slings to lift loads beyond their rated capacity, $45,500.
  • Modifying a powered-industrial truck, or PIT, (such as an industrial forklift) to increase its load capacity by strapping concrete blocks onto the back end of the machine, $45,500.
  • Not ensuring that all operators were trained to safely operate PITs, $45,500.
  • Not ensuring that all PITs were maintained in safe working order, $45,500.

Among the 33 serious violations the employer was cited for were multiple “confined space” violations. Working around or inside a “confined space,” such as grain pits, without safety precautions can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers.

As a result of these violations, Seattle Bulk Shipping Inc., has been identified as a severe violator and will be subject to follow up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist in the future.

The company has appealed the safety violations and has until Aug. 6 to appeal the health violations. Penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

Medical marijuana a growing workers comp challenge

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Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana poses challenges for the workers compensation industry, but some experts and recent research say it could be an alterative to long-term opioid use.

There’s a growing consensus among workers comp payers and doctors that “any treatment that could reduce opioid dependency is something to look into, or something to keep an eye on,” said Tom Atchison, associate attorney at Heacox, Hartman, Koshmrl, Cosgriff & Johnson P.A. in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Long-term opioid use can be unsafe for injured workers and costly for payers, Mr. Atchison said.

On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry adopted a rule establishing criteria for long-term opioid treatment that also said medical marijuana is not an “illegal substance” for injured workers under state law.

It remains illegal under federal law, however.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for any medical condition, so it’s difficult to compare its effects with other drugs used in workers comp, such as opioids, said Dr. Damon Raskin, a Pacific Palisades, California, internist who specializes in treating addiction and substance abuse. However, “the risk of death and other severe addiction issues with opiates make looking at (medical marijuana) more palatable,” he said.

“Until I see good scientific evidence that this is something that works (for pain), it’s going to be hard to endorse,” Dr. Raskin said. “But if there’s a choice…

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