Washington State’s Move Over Law Changes, Makes Work Zones Safer

On June 7, Washington State traffic laws changed to improve roadway work zone safety. The new law requires drivers to proceed with due caution, slow down, and, if safe, move over or change lanes when approaching any authorized construction or maintenance vehicle or worker in a designated roadway work zone. 

The new rules describe work zones to include adjacent road lanes 200 feet before and after stationary or slow-moving construction, maintenance, solid waste, or utility service vehicles that display flashing or rotating lights that meet state requirements for vehicle warning light systems. 

Fines range from $136 for failing to move over to $1,000 for reckless endangerment offenses. Penalties can also include jail sentences and driver’s license suspensions. The changes follow House Bill 2087, which passed with full legislative support to expand the previous “move over law” for first responders and emergency vehicles. 

Read more on the Keep Trucking Safe Blog

 

 

Serious Injuries at Two Worksites Lead to Fines and Citations for National Products, Inc.

A Seattle, WA company that manufactures electronics mounting systems and other products is facing more than $250,000 in fines for multiple serious and willful worker safety and health violations.

The state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) recently cited National Products, Inc. after finding numerous violations during three separate inspections this year.

L&I opened one of the inspections after a worker was burned by molten aluminum, and another inspection followed amputation injuries at another National Products worksite. The inspections identified 26 total violations including multiple serious and willful violations collectively resulting in fines totaling $253,320.

“We’ve cited this employer before for several of these very serious hazards, but the company continues to put its workers at risk,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

The amputations, which involved several fingers of one worker, occurred in a facility where there were five trimming presses, each of which was in some sort of disrepair. Among other problems each machine had an emergency stop button that was either blocked, missing or in disrepair. Worn out and unaligned springs that made the operator visually line up levers were a contributing factor in the injury.

The burn injury happened at another National Products facility where workers were carrying molten aluminum from one machine to another in ladles slung over their backs, and they were not wearing proper personal protection equipment.

“Workplace injuries and illnesses are preventable, and many of these hazards are easy to control,” Soiza said. “L&I offers free tools and expertise to help Washington employers create safer workplaces so they can save lives and money. There’s just no excuse for continually putting workers at risk.”

Since National Products, Inc. has been cited in the past for similar situations, the company is now considered a severe violator — a designation that carries consequences, such as follow-up inspections at any of their facilities or sites that could have similar hazards.

The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citations.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Herbicide Occupational Exposures – The Next Wave of Serious Compensation Claims

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

A liability trial commenced this week in San Francisco against Monsanto for the alleged carcinogenic propensities of its popular herbicide RoundUp. The claim was brought on behalf of a school groundskeeper who is suffering from a terminal cancer. He alleged that his exposure to the glyphosate-based herbicide caused his disease. The case is one of 5,000 that are now being cued-up for trial.

The case mirrors the trajectory of asbestos exposure claims, the longest run tort in US history. The initial two liability cases, brought against the manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of asbestos fiber in the 1970’s, trigged a mass onslaught of workers’ compensation cases on a national basis.

Glyphosate, N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine, is one of the most widely used herbicides. It is the active ingredient in products such as Roundup, Rodeo Aquatic Herbicide, and Eraser. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that tis used on broadleaf weeds, grasses, and woody plants.

Occupational exposure cases usually turn on the opinions of medical experts and this case is no exception. Reuters reported, “ One of the experts is Beate Ritz, a public health professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who has criticized EPA studies of glysophates as flawed and concluded based on her review of available research that glyphosate-containing products "to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty" cause the lymphoma cancer….. The other is Alfred Neugut, a…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

The Latest Buzz: New Jersey Employer Must Reimburse Injured Employee for Cost of Medical Marijuana

Today’s post was shared by Workers Comp News and comes from www.jdsupra.com

Executive Summary: Rejecting Freehold Township’s claim the entire case was barred by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a workers’ compensation judge ruled the municipality must reimburse its employee for the cost of medical marijuana to treat his work-related injury. This contrasts with a recent decision from Maine’s highest court, which held that compliance with an administrative order compelling an employer to subsidize an employee’s use of medical marijuana constitutes aiding and abetting, which is a violation of the CSA.

Analysis: On June 28, 2018, Workers’ Compensation Judge Lionel Simon heard an application by Steven McNeary asking the court to compel Freehold to reimburse him for his medical marijuana purchases. Though McNeary met all criteria to obtain and use medical marijuana under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA), Freehold refused, claiming it would be violating federal law if forced to pay for McNeary’s use of a controlled substance. Judge Simon rejected that argument, finding no conflict between the CSA (designed “to curtail the use and distribution of illicit narcotics for the purposes of the overall general public health”) and the CUMMA (which promotes a “safer, less addictive” treatment for pain).

Judge Simon considered and distinguished Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC, 2018 ME 77 (2018). There, the appellate court affirmed a workers’…

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After 5 Year Run, Arvato to Close Digital Services Center in Yakima, WA

Arvato North America has notified the Washington State Employment Security Department that they will be laying off 168 workers in the Yakima area effective September 28, 2018 due to a closure of their facility.

Arvato opened the customer care center in Yakima in January, 2013 after a search for a suitable home for the venture. The announcement at the time of the opening stated that Yakima was selected by Arvato after conducting an extensive evaluation of communities across the country.

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

 

National Paid Family Leave Debate Highlights Washington’s New Program

National paid family leave debate highlights Washington’s new “best-in-the-nation” program. 

OLYMPIA, WA – A U.S. Senate Finance subcommittee hearing related to paid family leave last week brought renewed attention to Washington’s upcoming Paid Family and Medical Leave Program. This statewide insurance program is currently under development at the Employment Security Department (ESD). As laid out in bipartisan legislation, passed in the 2017 legislative session, premium collection begins Jan. 1, 2019 and benefits become available Jan. 1, 2020.

“Our state is leading the way on paid family leave policy by creating the most business- and worker-friendly program in the U.S., and we’re excited to see this issue being discussed at the national level,” said ESD’s commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “I am proud to lead the organization building a program that will ensure workers in this state won’t have to choose between collecting a paycheck and putting family first.”

When fully implemented in 2020, Paid Family and Medical Leave will allow working Washingtonians to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, as needed, to care for themselves or a family member in times of serious illness or injury, for certain military connected events or as parental leave to bond with a new child coming into the family. The program is funded through premiums paid by both employees and employers, and with few exceptions, most Washington workers and businesses will participate in the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program.  

“Whether you work part-time, in multiple jobs, for a small business or a large corporation, by 2020 almost anyone working in this state will be able to take necessary time off to care for themselves and their loved ones. We have also talked to many employers who are excited to be able to soon offer this benefit when they otherwise couldn’t afford to do so,” LeVine said.

Washington’s program is unique in many ways, including having the highest rate of wage replacement for workers of any similar program in the U.S., business assistance grants that provide financial help to small and mid-sized employers when workers take leave, and portability of the benefit for those who work multiple jobs or change employment. Washington is also leading the nation as the first state to create a Paid Family and Medical Leave program without an existing statewide or temporary disability program in place. With the exception of Hawaii, all other states will be required to follow Washington in building a Paid Family and Medical Leave program from the ground up, should they pass similar legislation.

In written testimony submitted to the Senate subcommittee, LeVine noted there are many benefits of paid family and medical leave to both workers and employers. These benefits include better health outcomes from newborns and their parents, reduced costs and lower staff turnover for businesses, and improved health outcomes for the elderly when they have a family member helping with their care.

“Washington’s best-in-the-nation program is a testament to the good that comes from everyone having a voice in the discussions around paid family and medical leave,” LeVine added. “Because whether you need back surgery, time to care for a family member with cancer or the opportunity to welcome a child into the family, everyone will need to use Paid Family and Medical Leave at some point.”

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Legislation Introduced to Ensure Social Security is Funded

Social Security Administrative Fairness Act (S. 3147/H.R. 6251)


Justice in Aging 

Cuts to the Social Security Administration’s budget have been slowly eroding the quality of customer service the agency provides. These cuts include staffing, field office, and infrastructure cuts, meaning people who apply for or receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits have to contend with longer wait timesincreased delays for appeal hearings, and fewer field offices in which to get in-person assistance from Social Security staff. 

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative John Larson (D-CT) recently introduced legislation to ensure that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has the resources it needs to provide beneficiaries with the services and support they deserve. The Social Security Administration Fairness Act (S.3147/H.R. 6251) establishes a set funding level for SSA equal to a percentage of the overall benefit payments the agency pays out. The legislation would also impose a moratorium on Social Security field office closures to halt the loss of additional field offices. 

In addition, the legislation would also assist those eligible for or receiving disability benefits. Currently, those approved for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are subject to a five-month waiting period before they can receive disability benefits and must wait two years before they are eligible for Medicare. This delay in disability or health care benefits can be detrimental for people already dealing with the effects of a serious disability, in addition to other health problems. Sanders’s legislation would eliminate these waiting periods for disability recipients, allowing them to immediately access disability benefits and Medicare coverage.  

Co-sponsors to this legislation in the Senate are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The corresponding legislation in the House of Representatives has over 30 co-sponsors

We’ll be tracking and reporting on any progress on the bill. Advocates can show their support for the bill by writing or calling their Member of Congress and asking them to sign on in support or thanking them for co-sponsoring. 

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Asbestos Removal Company Fined $229,700 for Exposing Workers and Public to Unsafe Conditions

An Edmonds, Washington based asbestos removal contractor has been cited by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for multiple willful safety violations for improper handling of asbestos. Along with the citations, the company faces fines totaling $229,700.

L&I has cited Above & Beyond Asbestos Removal in connection with two separate inspections. Along with citing and fining a company, L&I may also decertify an asbestos contractor for multiple willful violations. This company is under review. 

“This company has demonstrated a continuous indifference to Washington’s asbestos handling rules which protect workers and the public from harm,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This fine delivers a clear message that asbestos is a deadly hazard and we won’t tolerate any company that doesn’t follow the rules to keep the public and workers safe.”

Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Only a certified abatement contractor that follows the specific asbestos related safety and health rules may remove and dispose of asbestos-containing building materials. 

The two recent inspections of Above & Beyond each uncovered several similar violations. One worksite involved the emergency removal of boiler insulation in a Seattle apartment complex, and the other concerned the removal of asbestos popcorn ceiling material in a single-family residence.

In both cases, the workers did not use proper safety equipment, required air sampling was not performed, and asbestos-containing material was left exposed to the public and was improperly taken through public areas. Asbestos-containing dust can harm both workers and the public until it is eliminated.

The two inspections resulted in multiple willful and serious violations. A willful violation is one where L&I finds evidence of plain indifference or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. 

Above & Beyond has been cited in the past for similar violations and has been identified by L&I as a severe violator — a designation that carries consequences, such as follow-up inspections at any of their facilities or sites that could have similar hazards. 

The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citations. 

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job. 

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

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Washington State Average Wage Neared $61,900 in 2017

Washington’s average annual wage grew by 5.0 percent in 2017 to $61,887, according to the state Employment Security Department—representing the largest percentage increase year over year since 2007.

The average weekly wage rose from $1,133 in 2016 to $1,190 in 2017. These figures include only those wages that are covered by unemployment insurance.

Much of the increase was driven by a 7.7 percent increase in total earnings, which grew by nearly $14.1 billion in 2017. Overall, the average number of workers in Washington covered by unemployment insurance grew by just over 81,790 in 2017.  

The industries with the largest average wage growth in 2017 were retail trade, up 14.5 percent; information, up 8.2 percent; and accommodation and food services, up 6.9 percent.

The average annual wage is used to calculate unemployment benefits for jobless workers. The minimum weekly unemployment benefit, calculated at 15 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $9 to $178, for new claims opened on or after July 1. At the same time, the maximum weekly benefit, which is the greater of $496 or 63 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $36 to $749. 

Currently, about 20 percent of unemployment insurance claims are paid the maximum benefit amount, and 10 percent receive the minimum.

In addition to unemployment benefits, the average annual wage is used in computing employers’ unemployment taxes. Beginning in 2019, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $49,800 paid to each employee—up from $47,300 in 2018

The state average wage also is used by the Department of Labor & Industries in calculating worker’s compensation benefits.

Web link: Employment Security Department – www.esd.wa.gov

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Flight Attendants May Face Increased Risk for Many Cancers

Smithsonian Magazine reports that flight attendants are exposed to a number of possible or probable cancer-causing factors that may lead to an increased risk for many cancers.

SMITHSONIAN.COM 
JUNE 27, 2018
 
A new study has found that American flight attendants are more likely than the general population to develop several cancers, including breast cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

 
According to Alice Park of Time, the new report, published recently in the journal Environmental Health, is based on data collected by the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study (FAHS), which was launched in 2007. The researchers behind the study sought to shed light on an understudied occupational group. Though flight attendants are frequently exposed to a number of possible or probable cancer-causing factors—like sleep disruptions, radiation, and pesticides and other chemicals in the cabin—the long-term effects of this exposure have not been well documented.
 
Between 2014 and 2015, researchers studied 5,300 flight attendants through surveys that were disseminated online, via mail and in person at airports. The surveys asked respondents about flight schedules and cancer diagnoses. The researchers then compared the responses to the health status of 2,729 non-flight attendant adults with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which surveys around 5,000 Americans each year.

The comparison revealed higher rates of uterine, cervical, breast, gastrointestinal, thyroid and melanoma cancers among flight attendants. The disparity was especially pronounced with breast, melanoma and non-melanoma cancers. Flight attendants had more than double the risk of developing melanoma, and more than quadruple the risk of developing non-melanoma cancers. They were also 51 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than the general population.

To the researchers’ surprise, they found a higher risk of breast cancer in female flight attendants with three or more children; typically, a woman’s risk of breast cancer decreases as she has more children.

“This study is the first to show higher prevalences of all cancers studied, and significantly higher prevalences of non-melanoma skin cancer compared to a similarly matched U.S. sample population,” lead study author Eileen McNeely of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tells Lisa Rapaport of ReutersMcNeely also notes that “[n]on-melanoma skin cancer among women increased with more years on the job, suggesting a work-related association.”

Read the rest of this story on Smithsonian.com

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Published by Causey Wright