Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brian Wright Chairs Workers’ Compensation Seminar

Causey Wright featured prominently in the annual statewide workers’ compensation seminar conducted by the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ). This event, held last month in Seattle, provides education to legal professionals working on behalf of workers injured on-the-job.

Brian Wright had the honor of co-chairing the event. Also on the program was Jane Dale participating in a panel discussion of ethics topics. Jay Causey was awarded WSAJ’s President’s Award for a lifetime of achievement in the field of workers’ compensation.

Yay, Team! 


Photo credit: Erik Bell

Asbestos Deaths Remain A Public Health Concern, CDC Finds

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People are still dying of cancer linked to asbestos, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says, despite decades of regulations meant to limit dangerous exposure.

Starting in 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has regulated how much asbestos workers can be exposed to, because it contains tiny fibers that can cause lung disease or cancer if they are swallowed or inhaled.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates asbestos too, setting requirements for inspecting, demolishing and renovating buildings that contain materials made with asbestos, like insulation, vinyl tiles, roofing, shingles and paint.

But, a recent CDC analysis found that thousands of people are still dying each year from a type of cancer called malignant mesothelioma that is associated with inhaling asbestos fibers, even briefly or in small amounts. Even after decades of regulation, between 1999 and 2015 there were 45,221 mesothelioma deaths in the U.S. The majority of those who died were men.

The greatest increase is among people over 85 years old, who were likely exposed to asbestos many years ago. It can take anywhere from two to seven decades for mesothelioma to develop after a person inhales asbestos fibers. And early deaths among people 35 to 65 are down overall.

But, investigators say, the fact that people younger than 55 are still dying of a disease linked to asbestos means that workers are still being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos despite federal regulations.


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Amazon to hire 5,000 at-home workers in massive hiring binge

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Editor’s Note: work-from-home, particularly on a large scale, can make for interesting workers’ compensation coverage questions. – kc

Amazon announced Thursday it plans to add 30,000 part-time positions in the U.S. over the next year, part of a massive hiring binge by the online retailing giant.

The part-time hiring includes 5,000 jobs in Virtual Customer Service, which would allow employees to work as a customer service agent from home. The remaining 25,000 would be at Amazon warehouses. Any part-time employees who work 20 hours or more a week are also eligible for benefits.

"There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job — whether they’re a military spouse, a college student, or a parent — and we’re happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live,” said Tom Weiland, Amazon’s vice president for worldwide customer service, in a statement.

It’s not clear how many warehouse jobs will be coming to Tennessee, but the state has one of Amazon’s largest shipping footprints with multiple warehouses around both Nashville and Chattanooga.

The part-time plan is part of a larger hiring spree by Amazon. In January, the company said it would add 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. with full benefits over the next 18 months. Most positions will be filled at fulfillment centers and in new fields including cloud technology and machine learning.

Amazon has bolstered its workforce over the last several years. In 2011, Amazon had more than 56,000 full- and part-time employees. By the end of its 2016 fiscal year, that number swelled to more than…

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Port of Seattle Effort to Address Urgent Need for Skilled Workers as Current Workers Retire

Port of Seattle opens 150 paid high school and college summer internship slots, expands comprehensive effort to address urgent need for skilled workers as current workers retire.

The Port of Seattle announced their kick off of its 2017 summer intern program with 150 paid roles for high school and college students. The internship program, which tripled the number of positions offered from two years ago, is one element of the Port’s community-based effort to close the labor gap as the Boomer Generation leaves the workforce.

“We need to tackle three fundamental challenges in our economy right now: a coming labor shortfall in skilled trades and Port-related industries, fewer industries creating good paying jobs that support the middle class, and a lack of opportunities in disadvantaged communities,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “Port-related industries offer those good paying jobs. We designed our internship program and partnerships to do more to inspire students to explore these industries, learn about skills training and get connected to opportunities.”

In addition to the open roles at the Port, area businesses in the maritime and manufacturing sectors are participating in an expanded pilot program to host and train their own interns. In 2016, companies like Vigor and Status Ceramics partnered with the Port to create additional opportunities for students.

This year, even more companies are encouraged to take part. Participation in the program means the placement of a Port-recruited intern and support in the form of training for intern supervisors, access to youth counselors, and off-site education and enrichment opportunities.

“Some of our students are looking to join the workforce immediately after graduating, and they need to make a living in this rapidly growing region,” said Chris Names of the Aerospace Science and Technology Skill Center program of the Seattle Public Schools. “These jobs can provide the solid skills and industry connections for kids that want to start a career here.”

The Port of Seattle, private employers, and other public sector agencies are applying lessons from the aviation and technology industries that drove students to careers in STEM. Sarah Scherer is managing the recruitment program for the Youth Maritime Collaborative, an organization of maritime industry companies, educational institutions, non-profits, community service providers, and public agencies established to help address the maritime industry’s urgent need for skilled workers.

“The Seattle Maritime Academy welcomes this partnership with the Port of Seattle. Classes at the academy can put students in trades paying around $70,000 a year, well above the state average,” Scherer said. “Our region was built on the skill and vision of an entire generation of workers and we must carry that work forward to keep our region inclusive and competitive.”

“Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Skills Center are excited for this opportunity to collaborate with the Port of Seattle and our other partners in the Youth Maritime Collaborative to help prepare our students for careers in the maritime industry,” said Dan Golosman, Principal of the Seattle Skills Center. “With thousands of job openings predicted in the next five years in maritime manufacturing and transportation and logistics, we need to provide opportunities for training that will prepare our students for these careers. Whether our students go straight into a job right after high school, continue into post-secondary education, or complete post-graduate work, the Career and Technical Education training we can provide through partnerships like the Youth Maritime Collaborative will help prepare students for the careers of the 21st Century.”

On March 30, the Youth Maritime Collaborative hosted an interactive event where those interested in maritime careers could meet potential employers and explore a variety of opportunities in the field. The event allowed participants to learn about and experience:

  • marine safety
  • cold water survival techniques without getting wet
  • some seamanship skills like knot tying and line handling
  • the science of oil spills
  • oceanography
  • hydrography and nautical charting
  • commerical diving
  • a research submarine
  • USCG damage control simulator
  • bridge and engine room simulations
  • boat tours

The Port supports year-round workforce and career development programs with youth and adults. In addition to youth career exploration events, the Port supports programs with local private employers and unions to improve career pathways for airport workers looking to take on more challenging and higher wage work, and is working to increase adult referrals to pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and union trades job opportunities through a trades partnership with local governments and nonprofits.

 Photo credit: Port of Seattle

PBS: California Reports Thousands of Workers Exposed to Elevated Lead Levels

The highest lead levels were found in the blood of people who work with guns and ammunition, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

More than 6,000 California workers in munitions, manufacturing and other industries have elevated levels of lead in their blood that could cause serious health problems, according to a recent report from the state’s public health agency.

The report, containing the results of tests conducted between 2012 and 2014, comes as the state’s workplace health and safety agency, Cal/OSHA, is considering a major update of its safety standards for workplace lead exposure for the first time in decades. The current standards are based on 35-year-old medical findings, which at the time did not recognize the dangers of even low-level exposure to lead. More recent science shows chronic, low-level lead exposure can cause lasting harm.

“It doesn’t surprise me. This is a huge problem,” said Doug Parker, executive director of Worksafe, a worker health and safety advocacy organization based in Oakland. “Clearly, there haven’t been adequate actions taken” by some employers, he said.

READ MORE: 7 things you didn’t know about lead

Lead is a naturally occurring element. The soft gray metal and its various compounds have been used in many products, including pipes, paint, batteries, ammunition, industrial equipment and gasoline. Workers can be exposed to lead in the form of dust, either inhaled or swallowed, or by handling lead-tainted items.

Most public health actions have focused on protecting children from lead exposure and quickly treating those who are exposed, since the metal can severely impair their development.

But adults also can face serious health problems from lead exposure, including heart disease, reproductive problems, cognitive difficulties and kidney failure. Some workers exposed to lead dust in the workplace have unwittingly carried it home on their clothes, exposing their families to it.

The authors of the report examined data from the California Occupational Blood Lead Registry, which tracks workplace exposures. From 2012 to 2014, 38,440 workers had their blood tested for lead, and 6,051 workers were identified with an elevated level of 5 or more micrograms of lead per deciliter (about 3.3 ounces) of blood. Most of these workers were men between the ages of 20 and 59 and had Hispanic surnames. Many lived in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The California Department of Public Health, which released the report last month, did not make an expert available for comment.

About 14,000 of the workers had two or more blood lead tests, which showed about a fifth of them had elevated blood lead levels, according to the report. More than one elevated blood test suggests chronic exposure linked to health problems, the researchers noted.

[Read the rest of the PBS article here.]

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How Long Should Injured Pro Athletes Get Workers Comp?

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from

NOTE: In Washington State’s workers’ compensation system, any injured worker receives time loss compensation benefits until they recover medically to the point that they are again able to return to “reasonably continuous, gainful employment,” regardless of projected retirement age. There is no provision for long-term lost earning capacity and the monetary benefits paid for permanent impairment are quite limited. kc

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 01: Center Jeremy Zuttah #53 of the Baltimore Ravens lays injured against the San Diego Chargers during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
BALTIMORE, MD – NOVEMBER 01: Center Jeremy Zuttah #53 of the Baltimore Ravens lays injured against the San Diego Chargers during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Should injured pro athletes be allowed to earn worker compensation benefits until they are 67 years old, like other workers, even if their athletic careers normally would have ended more than 30 years earlier?

That issue is being debated between the Chicago Bears and the NFL Players Association in the Illinois Legislature as one unlikely element of a compromise proposal to end a nearly two-year-long fight over the state’s budget.

The Bears are leading other Chicago sports franchises in backing a measure that would reduce a former player’s ability to tap into workers compensation after a career-ending injury. They want to cap certain payments to athletes at no older than 35 or five years after their injury. Currently they can claim benefits up to age 67, like other workers.

Neither the teams nor players’ advocates will say how much money is at stake. They agree it is not a relatively big pot — while theoretically some could claim millions, most if not all athletes settle their claims for reduced sums up front, the players association says.

Only a handful of pro players filed for the benefit here in the past four years, although the association would not identify them or describe their individual cases.

But one…

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Workers’ comp attorney praises Wisconsin governor for proposed elimination of review board

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CHICAGO – An Illinois workers’ compensation attorney is saluting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his proposal to eliminate an independent review board that handles work comp cases.

Keefe believes Illinois should take notes on Walker's budget proposal.
Keefe believes Illinois should take notes on Walker’s budget proposal.

Keefe believes Illinois should take notes on Walker’s budget proposal. | Shutterstock

Eugene Keefe, a partner with Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates, believes Illinois should learn from Walker.

“The problem we have in Illinois is we have too much government,” Keefe told the Record.

In Walker’s 2017-19 budget plan, the governor has proposed $593 million in tax and fee cuts including the defunding of the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) by 2019.

By defunding the LIRC, the governor believes he will save about $3.2 million over a two-year span.

“Scott Walker is a genius in my opinion,” Keefe said. “He has cut annual spending by like $5 billion a year.”

“In Illinois, we’ve gone the other way,” Keefe continued.

The LIRC is a three-member board that is responsible for reviewing appeals of disputed workers’ compensation claims.

“Walker, by getting rid of the board, is saying ‘we don’t need that much government,’” Keefe said.

In Illinois, workers’ compensation claims go through five levels of hearings and appeals.

“All of those processes cost Illinois taxpayers a lot of money,” Keefe said.

According to…

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CSB Releases New Safety Video Detailing Investigation into 2013 Fatal Fire and Explosion at the Williams Olefins Plant in LA

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Washington, DC ( – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety video of its investigation of the June 13, 2013 explosion and fire at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, Louisiana, which killed two workers and injured an additional 167. The deadly explosion and fire occurred when a heat exchanger containing flammable liquid propane violently ruptured.

The CSB’s newly released 12-minute safety video entitled, “Blocked In,” includes a 3D animation of the explosion and fire as well as interviews with CSB investigator Lauren Grim and Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. The video is based on the CSB’s case study on the Williams incident and can be viewed on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “Our investigation on the explosion at Williams describes an ineffective process safety management program at the plant at the time of the incident. We urge other companies to incorporate our recommendations at their facilities and to assess the state of their cultures to promote safety at all organizational levels to prevent a similar accident. ”

The CSB’s investigation found many process safety management program deficiencies at Williams, which set the stage for the incident. In particular, the CSB found that the heat exchanger that failed was completely isolated from its pressure relief valve.

In the video, Investigator Lauren Grim said, “When evaluating overpressure…

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Creation of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Opioid Task Force

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Raleigh,NC( – Chairman Charlton L. Allen of the North Carolina Industrial Commission is pleased to announce the creation of a Workers’ Compensation Opioid Task Force that will study and recommend solutions for the problems arising from the intersection of the opioid epidemic and related issues in workers’ compensation claims. “Opioid misuse and addiction are a major public health crisis in this state,” said Chairman Allen. “Many injured workers are prescribed opioid medications as part of treatment for their injuries, creating a nexus between the problems affecting the general population and the workers’ compensation system.”

In Session Law 2015-241, the General Assembly tasked the Industrial Commission with studying the potential implementation of a drug formulary in workers’ compensation claims filed by State employees. The Commission invested significant time and resources in the study and report, which was delivered to the General Assembly on April 1, 2016. The Commission’s report focused in part on the troubling issues of opioid misuse and addiction originating from or exacerbated by workplace injuries.

“It is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure that injured workers receive reasonable and necessary care for their injuries. As part of that responsibility, it is important for the Commission to understand how the opioid crisis interacts with workers’ compensation…

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Puyallup, WA Construction Co. fined for Repeated Safety Violations

Roof Trusses

A Puyallup construction company faces a large fine for numerous repeated safety violations that exposed workers to potential falls and other hazards at a residential construction site in Olympia.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited J & I Construction for 13 violations, including several that are considered willful and repeat-serious. The findings include penalties totaling $203,420.

The three willful violations, each with a penalty of $42,000, were for not providing proper fall protection to three employees who were working on the top edge of a wall nearly 20 feet off the ground. The company has been cited two other times for the same issue.

J & I was also cited for three repeat-serious violations for not having a plan outlining the fall hazards on the specific job, exposing workers to unguarded wall openings that they could fall through, and for not ensuring that workers didn’t stand or step on the top of a self-supporting ladder. Each violation carries a penalty of $21,000.

“Seven construction workers fell to their deaths last year in our state,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Falls continue to be the leading cause of construction worker deaths and hospitalizations, and yet they are completely preventable by using proper fall protection and following safe work practices.”

The company was cited for two additional repeat-serious violations for not having railings on open-sided stairs to protect employees from falls ($5,600), and for not ensuring that employees wore hard hats where there was a danger of flying or falling objects ($4,200). They were also cited for a serious violation for not having safety springs on nail guns to protect against accidental discharges ($2,800).

The employer was cited for a third-time repeat-general violation with a $700 penalty for not conducting walk-around safety inspections, and a fourth-time repeat-general violation with a $1,120 penalty because no one onsite had a valid first-aid card. L&I also cited the company for two general violations that did not include monetary penalties. 

The inspection began in May when an L&I employee saw three workers exposed to fall hazards while installing trusses.

A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or intentional disregard of a hazard or rule.

As a result of the willful and repeat-serious violations, J & I Construction is now considered a severe violator and will be subject to follow-up inspections to determine if the conditions still exist in the future.

The company has 15 business days to appeal the citation.

For a copy of the citation, contact DLI Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.


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