Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

The Workplace is Getting Safer – The Future of Workers’ Compensation

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from workers-compensation.blogspot.com

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has confirmed the steady decline in accidents and injuries on the job. They have declined for 14 years. This data mirrors the steady decline of workers’ compensation claims and the change of the US workplace from a manufacturing to service.

The question remains whether this trend will continue going forward given the elimination of US regulations about industrial and environmental pollution. Also, a major factor is that the workplace and the nature of work are changing in a computerized and robotic culture. As machines replace workers, compensation systems become more difficult to navigate, and what constitutes employment status versus independent contractor changes, the entire workers’ compensation system will be challenged to the core.

"There were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2017, which occurred at a rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Private industry employers reported nearly 45,800 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2017 compared to a year earlier, according to estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

  • The 2017 rate of total recordable cases (TRC) fell 0.1 cases per 100 FTE workers to continue a pattern of declines that, apart from 2012, occurred annually since 2004. (See chart 1.)
  • The rates for different types of cases—days…

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Robots at Sea-Tac Airport

Last year, Sea-Tac airport found a perfect place for a robot to take over a repetitive but necessary task. During a study to figure out ways to speed up the security checkpoint process, one team found that standing in the security lines and encouraging passengers to remove items like belts and laptops early on before they arrived at the checkpoint helped the lines move more quickly. “They were able to measure improvement to the overall security checkpoint process,” says Wilson. “But after a couple of hours our team was pretty exhausted from nonstop talking with passengers.”

The team decided that a robot named Tracy would be the ticket. The robot-controlled sign spoke and provided advice on how to get through security quickly, by removing scarves, belts, and jackets in advance — and “she” did it in six languages and never got tired. Wilson says the experiment yielded a potential gain of 18 percent to 20 percent improvement to the overall security checkpoint process. Plus, he notes, “Tracy was quite a novelty and many passengers, especially children, took selfies with Tracy while waiting in line.”

Tracy, the passenger service robot

Tracy was just a pilot project, but she may be back soon. And if you’re walking through the airport today, you may just stumble across robots doing another job most humans find tedious: cleaning floors. One of Sea-Tac’s vendors, C&W Services, recently set a fleet of six self-driving floor-care machines in action at the airport. Brain Corp. provides the artificial intelligence software that manages and deploys the self-driving machineThe cleaning staff doesn’t need to directly operate the machines, so floor cleaning becomes autonomous. This allows the janitors to multitask and complete other work that requires a human touch while the floors get cleaned.

Floor cleaning robot at Sea-Tac

Read the full release from the Port of Seattle here.

ZymoGenetics to Close Seattle Location

ZymoGenetics, after being purchased by Bristol-Myers Squibb, has been winding down their Seattle presence, first noted when they chose to not renew their lease of the historic Lake Union Steam Plant building in 2016.  ZymoGenefits has now alerted Washington State of their closure of this location effective December 31, 2018.  Sixty three employees will be laid. off as a result of this closure.

Staff from the local rapid response team of the Washington Emplyment Security Department and WorkSource center will perform outreach to employees of the organization to ease the transition.

The Lake Union Steam Plant building is slated to be taken over by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

 

Washington to Expand Programs to Help Injured or Ill Employees Return to Work

Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is celebrating a $2.5 million federal grant to help up to 400 workers who develop a potential injury or illness remain at work, return to work or attain a new job.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) will fund a demonstration project (WA-RETAIN) focused on two specific populations: state employees at risk of filing long-term disability claims and people not eligible for workers’ compensation who are at risk of leaving the  workforce. Washington is one of eight states to receive this grant funding for the next 18 months.

Generally, the longer injured workers are out of work due to disability, the less likely they are to return to work at all. In fact, an employee who is out of work for six months has less than a 50 percent chance of returning to gainful employment. If lost time reaches one year, the chances of successfully returning to work drop to 10 percent.

The RETAIN Demonstration Projects are modeled after a program operating in Washington state for injured workers covered under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Program. The success of this effort in helping workers return to work sooner is one of several reasons why the state Department of Labor & Industries was able to propose a reduction in workers’ compensation premiums for 2019. 

WA-RETAIN will engage the Center of Occupational Health and Education Alliance of Western Washington as well as other state and local partners, including the Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) in King and Snohomish counties. Securing this Phase1 grant makes Washington eligible to compete for one of four grants of up to $19.75 million each to expand on the model created in the demonstration project.

“We want all Washington workers to have access to great employment opportunities and resources they need to be successful,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “The WDCs of King and Snohomish counties have been highly successful in serving workers with disabilities and their employers to date and we look forward to working with them on this moving forward to amplify and grow their efforts.”

“We are honored to receive these funds to build a model that helps workers reattach to the workforce,” said Erin Monroe, CEO of Workforce Snohomish. “The longer workers stay out of the workforce, the less likely they are to return to work. Our goal is to help people on the pathway to economic prosperity.”

“With the staggering rate of one in 10 working age Americans having a substantial disability that impacts their opportunities to work, we’re thrilled and honored to continue to support our workforce on their pathways towards self-sufficiency,” said Dot Fallihee, interim CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. “Our WDC’s 47 WorkSource sites are proud to offer a depth of employment resources and opportunities for our residents.”

The WA-RETAIN project supports Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of increasing the employment rate of working age people with disabilities in Washington and supplements efforts by the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment (GCDE). Toby Olson, Executive Secretary for the GCDE, will lead the project.

More information about the RETAIN grant is available at the US Dept. of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy site. 

Photo by anjan58 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

H.R. 7109 Seeks to End Mandatory Arbitration Agreements for Workers

On October 30, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and a group of House Democrats, including Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and 57 other co-sponsors, introduced the Restoring Justice for Workers Act (H.R. 7109), which would ban businesses from requiring workers to sign arbitration clauses. Employers would not be able to force workers to sign these agreements, and could not retaliate against anyone who chooses not to. It would also be illegal to require workers to waive their right to join a class-action lawsuit or file claims in arbitration as a group.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a similar version of the bill in the Senate. To make it through both chambers of Congress, the bill would need bipartisan support, but Republican leaders have shown no interest in previous bills aimed at limiting mandatory arbitration.

House Democrats have a sweeping plan to protect millions of workers’ legal rights,” published by Vox.  You can also read the full text and follow the progress of H.R. 7109 here.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images on Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Upcoming documentary will highlight health risks of asbestos

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.bgdailynews.com

Upcoming documentary will highlight health risks of asbestos
Upcoming documentary will highlight health risks of asbestos

Western Kentucky University graduate Bryan Lemon said he encountered some of the strongest people he’s ever known while making “Dirty Laundry,” a documentary about people affected by mesothelioma.

“These people are some of the most positive individuals for having something so horrific happen to them,” said Lemon, one of two WKU graduates who produced the film, which will be screened at Van Meter Hall at 6 p.m. Nov. 13. The event is free.

After mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, killed their 90-year-old grandmother, cousins Conor Lewis and Zack Johnson set off on bicycles across the country in an effort to find answers.

Their journey features surviving family members, doctors, activists and communities still living with active, toxic asbestos sites, according to a news release.

Lewis, the film’s director and producer, graduated from WKU’s art department in 2012 and began a career in digital media in St. Louis, where he grew up, the news release said. Lemon, who graduated from WKU’s photojournalism program in 2012, works as a photographer for WKU public affairs and contributed to the film as a producer and writer.

The film, which has been shown at 10 film festivals, was shot between August and October 2016 and produced the following year. It debuted at its first film festival in March, Lemon said.

“Reception has been really…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

The Evidence Mounts on the Causal Link of Cell Phones and Cancer

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from workers-compensation.blogspot.com

The US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences [NIH} has just published a final report linking cell phone radiation exposure to the production of tumors in mice. This animal study that confirms the causal relationship between radio frequency radiation of cell phones and cancer in animals is a significant step forward to establishing a causal relationship in humans.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors, according to final reports released today. There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR. The final reports represent the consensus of NTP and a panel of external scientific experts who reviewed the studies in March after draft reports were issued in February.

“The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone,” said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist. “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies…

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Injured workers served poorly with AMA “cookbook” on causation

DON”T GET ON THE AMA CAUSATION GUIDES SHIP!!!

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

My friends and colleagues on the WILG listserv were discussing the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Disease and Injury Causation, 2nd edition. The consensus was that the new guidebook treats injured workers, to quote the President, very unfairly.

Lawyers in Illinois and Montana have encountered the AMA Causation Guide. I encountered the causation guide in Nebraska this spring/summer in Tapee v. Nestle (available on NWCC Decision and Order Search by clicking here). My experience was that the trial judge was not impressed by the opinions of an examining expert who relied generalizations from studies rather than looking at the particulars of my client’s injury.

A colleague in Montana seemed to have a similar experience.  Another weakness of the AMA Causation Guides is that doesn’t address the fact that states have different standards for medical causation. For example, even if it’s true that occupational causes aren’t a prevailing factor in causing carpal tunnel syndrome, that doesn’t matter in Nebraska because a worker only needs to show that occupational factors were a contributing factor to the injury.

Even among WILG members, the AMA Guide to Causation is still confused with the better known AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment that have been subject to numerous court challenges. The so-called AMA 6th has long been a target of plaintiff’s lawyers because of how it reduces compensation for many types of permanent injuries. When the AMA 6th came out about 10 years ago, plaintiff’s lawyers were good about educating courts about the problems with the AMA 6th.

Nebraska isn’t bound by the AMA Guides to Impairment, but courts often follow them in determining permanent disability for scheduled member impairment. In 2010, one trial judge criticized the AMA 6th in Endorf v. Chief Industries (click here for NWCC Decisions and Orders Search) But the insurance defense bar was relentless in pushing the AMA 6th and it is often used as a basis to pay permanent impairment in Nebraska despite early misgivings by some workers’ compensation judges.

I suspect the insurance defense bar will be as relentless in pushing the AMA Causation Guides. From discussion on the WILG listserv, it appears as if there is a nationwide push to use the AMA Causation Guides. The AMA Impairment Guides are sometimes referred to as a “cookbook”. (Hence the headline and artwork for this post) But at least in Nebraska where the AMA Guides to Impairment are generally just applied to so-called “scheduled members” that are paid on a loss of use basis, I can see why a judge may rely on those guides. (The distinction between scheduled member disability being paid on a loss of use basis and non-scheduled injuries being paid on a loss of earning power basis in Nebraska seems to be largely a judge-made distinction)

But causation would seem to be a different story. Causation would seem to be an issue that Judge’s would still want to decide on an individualized basis rather than deferring to a book. But prolonged use of the AMA Causation Guides may eventually lead to an informal heightening for medical causation standards by workers’ compensation judges. 

Maybe this is burying the lead, but the more acute danger is that stae legislatures will adopt the AMA Guides to Causation like they did with the AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment.

Plaintiff’s lawyers have some studies they can use to the counter the AMA Guides to Causation. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have compiled studies about carpal tunnel syndrome that would contradict the studies that form the basis of the AMA Causation Guide. Plaintiff’s lawyers may also want to bone up on rules regarding expert testimony. At least in Nebraska, those rules don’t govern admissibility of medical evidence, in workers’ compensation but they can certainly be helpful to a court in weighing medical evidence.  NWCC Rule 10 narrowly defines who can testify by written report in our workers’ compensation court. In my experience, “non-Rule 10 experts” can make good witnesses for the plaintiff on cross-examination.

Lawyers for injured workers need to see recognize the threat posed by the AMA Guides to Causation and make every available factual and legal argument against its application at every opportunity –whether in a courtroom, a legislative committe hearing, at a legal confernece and/or on social media.

 

Maritime Training – Sea School Northwest

Sea School Northwest, located in Aberdeen, WA, offers a new type of education for aspiring mariners that functions as a springboard into the maritime industry.  Sea School Northwest’s curriculum incorporates weekly USCG licensing guidance, hands-on skill development, lessons in maritime systems, industry readings and video content, and professional development round table discussions.

Sea School Northwest grew out of an effort to address the existing challenges in the maritime industry, and guide the professional development of sailors in new and exciting ways. Their initial discoveries revealed the following:

  • In Washington state, the maritime industry is experiencing a growth of 6.4% annually, but the workforce is “greying” and is struggling to recruit workers with entry-level skills.  

  • Currently, there is a homogeneous male-dominated workforce on the commercial side of the industry, with only 2% of the global industry identifying as female. 

  • 49.6% of experienced tall ship sailors are unable to afford the expense of professional licensing that would allow them to be competitive hires in the rest of the industry.

SSNW students take away from the program a real life experience on the water, a clear understanding of the professional path that they hope to pursue, and an USCG Ordinary Seaman Credential to make them competitive entry-level hires.

Contact SSNW for more information on upcoming workforce training opportunities, tuition and the application process.

Photo credit: SSNW

 

Published by Causey Wright