All posts by Kit Case

WA L&I NEWS: Cost of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Dropping for Many Yext Year

The price of workers’ compensation insurance will go down for many businesses in Washington next year. Today, the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced that the average amount employers and workers pay for the coverage will drop by 2.5 percent in 2018.

Unlike many states, Washington employers and employees share the expense of workers’ compensation premiums.

After proposing the decrease in September, the agency hosted several public hearings around the state to take input. L&I Director Joel Sacks made the final decision this week.

“We’ve made several improvements that are helping injured workers heal, return to work sooner and avoid long-term disability,” said Sacks. “We’ve also used small rate increases in recent years to make the workers’ compensation system healthier and to build our contingency reserve. As a result, we’re able to cut premiums in 2018.”

Lower rate means businesses and employees will pay millions less

The rate decrease means employers will pay about $34 less a year per employee for workers’ compensation coverage in 2018. As a group, Washington employers will pay $67 million less in premiums. Employees will also pay less for their share.

L&I attributes the decrease to several factors, including the improved economy, employers and workers focusing on safety, and L&I initiatives that are helping injured workers recover sooner and reducing workers’ compensation costs.

One example of an improvement to the workers’ compensation system involves providing injured workers vocational support and assistance much earlier in claims. It’s helping people hurt on the job return to work sooner. The rate of workplace injuries that develop into long-term disability is down by more than 18 percent from 2012.

The 2.5 percent workers’ compensation premium decrease is an average; individual employers may see smaller or larger drops depending on that employer’s industry and claims history. For that same reason, some employers will see increases.

Steady and predictable rates

L&I is working to avoid large rate swings that make it hard for employers to plan. The agency determines the proposed rate each fall by looking closely at expected workers’ compensation payouts, the size of the reserve funds, wage inflation and other financial indicators.

Employers and workers pay into the workers’ compensation system to help cover the cost of providing wage and disability benefits, as well as medical treatment. L&I is the state’s primary workers’ compensation insurance provider, covering about 2.8 million workers and nearly 180,000 employers. The agency accepts more than 90,000 claims a year.

The new rates go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. More information about 2018 workers’ compensation rates is available at www.Lni.wa.gov/Rates.

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U.S. DOL and TX Pottery Manufacturer Reach Settlement Following Worker Fatality

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Marshall Pottery, Inc., have reached a settlement agreement including a penalty of $545,160, after the death of an assistant plant manager.

On April 16, 2017, investigators determined that the manager was servicing a kiln and became trapped inside when it activated. The company was cited for six willful violations and 21 serious violations. Citations were issued following OSHA’s investigation into failures to implement confined space and lockout/tagout programs.

“This company was cited for similar violations in 2008 after another fatality at the plant,” said OSHA Area Director Basil Singh, in Dallas. “Failures to implement lockout/tagout and confined space programs are unacceptable. Employers must use all required safeguards and procedures to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies.”

The company had 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Upon receipt of the citations and penalties, the company scheduled an informal conference with the OSHA area director.  At the meeting, OSHA and the company reached a settlement. As part of the settlement, the company also agreed to abate the violations. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

OSHA News Release: 11/28/2017
Contact Names: 

Chauntra Rideaux

Phone Number: 
Contact Name: 

Juan Rodriguez

Phone Number: 
Release Number: 
17-1383-DAL

News Tribune: El Gaucho Restaurant Agrees to pay $1.5 million to Settle Lawsuit

 

El Gaucho has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle claims it improperly withheld wages and tips from employees working at some of its high-end restaurants, including the Tacoma location.

The proposed settlement is in response to a 2016 lawsuit originally brought against the company by a former server at the Tacoma restaurant, who alleged managers withheld tips and required off-the-clock work, among other labor-law violations.

About 400 current and former employees at the Tacoma, Bellevue and Seattle restaurants are affected and will be notified, according to the settlement, which was preliminarily approved by Pierce County Superior Court Judge G. Helen Whitener Nov. 17. Whitener will decide whether to finalize the settlement at a hearing April 20.

Chad Mackay, CEO of El Gaucho’s operating company, said in a statement Tuesday: “Our company consistently strives to be a great place for our employees to build their careers and we provide excellent compensation, benefits, training and work environment. Our decisions are always based on what is right for our team, our guests and our company. Therefore, we chose to settle this lawsuit rather than continue to spend company resources on legal fees.”

The former Tacoma server, Matthew Blasco, alleged El Gaucho gave employees cards with restaurant credit in lieu of payment for off-the-clock work, such as prep work or cleaning, and that servers were sometimes required to work without being clocked in.

His lawsuit also accused the company of giving management a percentage of the tips, and denying or not paying workers for breaks that are required by state law.

Read the rest of The News Tribune story here…

Photo by sniggie on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 
 
 
Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article186987933.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article186987933.html#storylink=cpy

Port of Seattle Shares Janitorial Contract Between Small Businesses

New custodial contracts to increase service & opportunities. 

Small and disadvantaged businesses will gain new opportunities under janitorial contracts recently awarded by the Port of Seattle for Sea-Tac Airport.

The Port broke up its large exclusive contract for custodial services into more opportunities that will improve customer service and accountability, and provide revenue opportunities for more small and disadvantaged businesses. The four new contracts cover different parts of the facility, but each will increase performance standards, project an increase in labor hours and number of jobs, and include employee retention and labor harmony provisions to protect workers.

Local, woman-owned small business joins non-profit social enterprise and minority-owned small businesses in awards.

Under the new contracts, small businesses will perform services equal to about 45 percent of the four contracts combined. In addition, each new contract is required to provide employee retention by extending an offer to existing employees for a minimum of 180 days, as well a written labor peace guarantee with the current custodial labor union, SEIU Local 6.

The winning bidders include:

  • C&W Services, a national company based out of Massachusetts, partnering with Whayne Enterprises, a small, minority-owned business based out of Denver, won bids to operate in South Satellite, Concourse A, Concourse B, public pre-security areas such as the ticketing and baggage claim areas.
  • PRIDE Industries, a non-profit social enterprise based in Roseville, California that creates jobs for people with disabilities and veterans, partnering with Evergreen Building Services, LLC, a small, woman-owned business based in Mill Creek, Washington, won a bid to operate in Central Terminal, Concourse C, Concourse D, and North Satellite.
  • Whayne Enterprises won a bid to operate independently in non-public areas such as the bagwell, Airport Office Building, Police/Security areas, and remote facilities.

Read the full story on the Port’s website.

Photo by jronaldlee on Foter.com / CC BY

WA Construction Company Cited for Crane Safety Violations

Power lines and cranes a very dangerous mix — construction firm cited for putting workers at risk.

A Kirkland, WA construction company is facing a large fine for workplace safety violations for operating a crane too close to high-voltage power lines without taking  proper safety precautions. Workers are hurt and killed every year when cranes come in contact with power lines. It’s a significant workplace safety issue, with very specific requirements that must be followed.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Compass General Construction for two willful violations, the most serious, and one general violation. The company faces fines totaling $96,000.

The violations were discovered last May, just a few days after an L&I safety inspector visited the job site and went over the crane operation safety requirements with the site superintendent. At that time, there was a crane on site, but not near power lines.

A few days later, L&I received a referral from Seattle City Light that the crane was operating near the power line without the required safety precautions. L&I returned to the site and verified that the crane was operating near the power lines without a warning line, such as highly visible flagging or caution tape to keep the crane a safe distance away, or a dedicated spotter to alert the operator if he got too close. 

As a result, Compass has been cited for one willful violation for not appointing a lift director to oversee the crane lifts and rigging crew. The company was cited for a second willful violation for not ensuring that power-line safety requirements were met, including having an elevated warning line a safe distance from the power lines, along with a dedicated spotter. Each violation carries a penalty of $48,000.

Both violations are considered “willful” because the L&I compliance officer went over the specific requirements with the site superintendent just three days earlier.

Cranes and power lines a known hazard

Last September, two workers were severely injured and nearly killed while working near the same West Seattle power line when a high-voltage jolt of electricity traveled down a crane’s hoist line to the men below.

The dangers of cranes and overhead power lines are well known. There were nine deaths in Washington from crane contacts with power lines from 1999 to 2012, including a double fatality in 2010.

L&I issued an alert in 2012 warning companies of the deadly hazard after receiving reports of six power line contacts by cranes in just six months.

Company on severe violator list

Along with the two willful violations for the recent incident, Compass General Construction was cited for one general violation for not documenting that the rigging supervisor had passed the required tests showing he was qualified.

As a result of the willful violations, Compass has been placed on the severe violator list and will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist.

The company has appealed the 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.

For media information or a copy of the citation, contact Elaine FischerL&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

Connect with L&I: Facebook (facebook.com/laborandindustries) and Twitter (twitter.com/lniwa)

Photo by gerhard.haindl on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

2018 Social Security Changes – COLA Increases

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

The Social Security Administration has announced based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2016 through the third quarter of 2017, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will receive a 2.0 percent COLA for 2018.

The change in the COLA impacts totally disabled workers receiving both Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability Benefits. Total benefits paid to disabled workers prior to age 62 years old cannot exceed 80% of pre-disability earnings.

"The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act permits an offset for social security disability benefits against workers’ compensation benefits. Those individuals under the age of 62 who receive benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act in accordance with either statutory section 34:15-95 or 34:15-12(b) are subject to having their benefits reduced by an amount equal to that payable under the Federal Old-Age, Survivor’s and Disability Insurance Act but in an amount not to exceed the reduction statutorily prescribed in 42 U.S.C.A." Gelman, Jon L, NJ Workers’ Compensation Law, 38 NJ Prac. § 18.1.

Additionally, recomputation of the offset based on COLA increased is prohibited in NJ. Therefore, NJ employers and their insurance carriers are allowed to benefit twice.

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Flight Attendants Face a New Safety Threat: Angry Passengers

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

The increasing number of in-flight injuries caused by angry passengers is a growing concern. Over the past year, flight attendants and passengers have suffered serious injuries due to angry, out-of-control passengers who take their aggression out on people on the plane.

Angry Passengers are Causing Safety Concerns

In-flight injuries are a growing problem. The FAA estimates that over 4,500 people are injured each year from falling luggage alone, and much more suffer because of airline negligence or malfunctioning equipment. Today, there is a new threat to the safety of flight attendants and passengers on aircraft – angry passengers.

According to an International Air Transport survey, airline passengers have become increasingly frustrated with flying due to long lines at ticket counters, airport security measures, higher ticket prices, cramped quarters, and in-flight services. Due to aircraft changes, passengers have lost free meals, in-flight comforts, and get increasingly less legroom, narrower seats and less room to recline. Coupled with stress and anxiety from flying and personal situations, many passengers are taking their anger out on the plane. Flight attendants say that angry passenger are causing safety concerns. Personal and on-the-job injuries filed by flight attendants with a workers comp lawyer have increased significantly over the past year.

  • May 2017 – A fist-fight broke out between two male passengers on a Nippon Airways flight from Japan to Los…

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Cleanup From California Fires Poses Environmental and Health Risks

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

Remnants of homes in the Fountain Grove area of Santa Rosa, Calif. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Dr. Karen Relucio has heard reports of people digging into the ashes of their burned homes in recent days without gloves, wearing only shorts and T-shirts, looking for sentimental items that might have survived California’s horrific wildfires. And as the chief public health officer in Napa County, one of the hardest-hit places, she has used her office as a bully pulpit to urge them to stop, immediately.

“Just think of all the hazardous materials in your house,” she said in an interview. “Your chemicals, your pesticides, propane, gasoline, plastic and paint — it all burns down into the ash. It concentrates in the ash, and it’s toxic,” said Dr. Relucio, who declared a public emergency over the hazardous waste from the fires, as have at least two other counties.

California’s fires are far from out. They have killed at least 41 people and burned about 5,700 structures and over 213,000 acres since they exploded in force on Oct. 8 and 9 — record totals for a state that is used to wildfires. Thousands of firefighters are still at work fighting blazes and tens of thousands of people remain under mandatory evacuation from their homes, though fire officials have expressed cautious optimism about bringing the fires into containment.

But even as the smell of smoke still wafts through this area north of San…

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Workplace Safety De-Regulation Continues

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

The con continues.  Many American workers were conned into initially voting for Donald Trump, and that con game continues with the Trump Administration and its views on worker safety.  Campaign promises of benefitting the US worker ring hollow with each and every anti-worker de-regulation push.

Recent reports reveal the administration is removing or delaying OSHA protective regulatory standards on numerous fronts.  (Updated OSHA agenda reflects Trump administration focus on de-regulation).   The administration previously acted against improved employer recordkeeping for workplace injuries and illnesses. Now, the anti-worker protection agenda continues with the administration effectively pulling important items from the regulatory agenda.  

From the above-linked report, some of the important issues “removed” from the OSHA regulatory agenda are: Preventing Backover Injuries and Fatalities; Noise in Construction; Bloodborne Pathogens; and Combustible Dust. 

Failure to have adequate regulations–and penalties–has real world consequences.  Just look at what happened in Cambria, Wisconsin in May 2017 when a corn mill exploded and workers died from what appears to be Combustible Dust.  This was and continues to be a devastating workplace accident for a smaller town in Wisconsin.  Sadly, a Journal Sentinel story indicated:

A review of online OSHA records shows the plant was cited in January 2011 for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards. The records state that plant filters lacked an explosion protective system.

The agency ordered the mill to correct the problem by April 2011. The records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013.

Such minimal OSHA fines or penalties likely provided corresponding minimal incentives to improve safety standards or hazardous practices.  The limited incentives are bolstered by relatively toothless “employer safety violation” penalty in a Wisconsin worker’s compenstion claim, which is capped at a maximum of $15,000.  

Further “anti-regulation” pushes likely increase the lack of safety incentives for employers. Those anti-regulation efforts are alive in Wisconsin and on the federal stage–especially in the Trump agenda.

Workers should be aware that anti-regulation may equal anti-worker.   And anti-safety.