Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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WA Concrete Contractor Charged with Felony Theft and Unpaid Workers’ Comp Premiums

A Richland, WA concrete contractor faces unregistered contracting and felony theft charges in an alleged scheme to steal thousands of dollars from consumers.

Jesse Scott Espinoza, owner of Jesse’s Custom Concrete, is accused of accepting down payments for two concrete jobs as an unregistered contractor, then never working a single day on the projects. 

The 38-year-old is scheduled for arraignment on Friday, Oct. 20, in Benton County District Court on two gross misdemeanor charges of unregistered contracting and two misdemeanor counts of failing to respond to civil infractions for unregistered contracting.

He pleaded not guilty last month in Benton County Superior Court to two felony, second-degree theft charges involving these same cases. His trial on the felony charges is scheduled for Dec. 11.

The Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s office is prosecuting the cases based on contractor compliance investigations by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). 

“It’s so important for people to make sure contractors they hire are registered with L&I,” said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of L&I Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. “Hiring a registered contractor gives people a way to get some financial recourse if something goes wrong with the project or the contractor.”

State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I. The agency confirms the contractors have a business license, liability insurance, and a bond, and meet other requirements. Construction contractors can’t legally work or advertise as contractors if their registration is suspended or they never were registered.

Paying for work that never started

Espinoza’s registration was suspended May 2, 2017, after he failed to follow through on an L&I payment plan to pay off thousands of dollars in late premiums for workers’ compensation insurance. 

One week after the suspension, he accepted $3,000 from a Richland man and woman for a concrete job, according to charging papers. About three weeks after that, an L&I inspector caught Espinoza’s workers installing sidewalks in Richland, and issued Espinoza an infraction for unregistered contracting, according to L&I records.

Within a week of the infraction, Espinoza accepted a $2,000 down payment on June 5 from a Kennewick homeowner for a driveway project.

Despite accepting the two down payments, Espinoza never showed up for work on either project and never returned the money, charging papers said.

Owes more than $18,000 to L&I

In addition to the criminal charges, Espinoza has received four civil infractions this year for unregistered contracting. He owes L&I more than $6,500 for late workers’ comp insurance premiums, and more than $12,000 in fines for the infractions. 

Photo credit: Foter.com

Feds might force table-saw makers to adopt radically safer technology

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

Enlarge John Loo

In 2015, 4,700 people in the US lost a finger or other body part to table-saw incidents. Most of those injuries didn’t have to happen, thanks to technology invented in 1999 by entrepreneur Stephen Gass. By giving his blade a slight electric charge, his saw is able to detect contact with a human hand and stop spinning in a few milliseconds. A widely circulated video shows a test on a hot dog that leaves the wiener unscathed.

Now federal regulators are considering whether to make Gass’ technology mandatory in the table-saw industry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced plans for a new rule in May, and the rules could take effect in the coming months.

But established makers of power tools vehemently object. They say the mandate could double the cost of entry-level table saws and destroy jobs in the power-tool industry. They also point out that Gass holds dozens of patents on the technology. If the CPSC makes the technology mandatory for table saws, that could give Gass a legal monopoly over the table-saw industry until at least 2021, when his oldest patents expire.

At the same time, table-saw related injuries cost society billions every year. The CPSC predicts switching to the safer saw design will save society $1,500 to $4,000 per saw sold by reducing medical bills and lost work.

"You commissioners have the power to take one of the most dangerous products ever available to consumers and make it vastly safer," Gass said at a CPSC public…

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Seattle Art Museum Presents: INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH

SAM GALLERY PRESENTS: INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH

See the hidden beauty of the factories, ships, boxcars, bridges, and vintage signage of the industrial landscape at SAM Gallery during Industrial Strength.

Featured Artists

Join the artists for the free opening reception!

INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH OPENING

THU SEP 146–7:30PM
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM

Image credit: Iskra Fine Art, “South Holgate Gantry”

CBC: B.C. Wildfire Smoke Partly to Blame for Washington State Farmworker’s Death


By Cory Correia, CBC News
 Posted: Aug 10, 2017

A temporary farm worker has died in Washington state and advocacy groups have blamed poor working conditions, in part due to smoke from B.C. wildfires.

Honesto Silva Ibarra, 28, of Mexico, died in a Seattle hospital Sunday after he became ill last week at the blueberry farm where he worked near Sumas, Wash., just south of the Canadian border. 

An advocacy group, Community to Community Development, said Silva became sick from dehydration, and died after going into cardiac arrest. (Silva used his second name as a surname)

The group’s executive director, Rosalinda Guillen said poor working conditions at the blueberry farm have been aggravated by wildfire smoke that has blown across the border.  

“The workers have been overworked, underfed, have not been hydrated enough, and this has been going on for weeks, and that is what led to the death of Honesto,” said Guillen.

Silva had been working as a berry picker for Sarbanand Farms since the spring. He was married with three children, all of whom are in Mexico.

Guillen said Silva fell ill last week while at work. He went to a local hospital, where Guillen said he suffered cardiac arrest. He was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he died, the hospital said.

But a spokesman for Sarbanand Farms said Silva’s death was caused by complications from his diabetes. In a statement sent to local media, chief administrative officer Cliff Woolley said one of Silva’s relatives told the company that Silva ran out of medicine but did not tell anyone else.

When Silva fell ill last week at work, the company said it called for an ambulance and he was taken to hospital.

Silva’s illness sparked protests among his co-workers who complained that working conditions at the blueberry farm were unsafe. Nearly 70 workers were fired Saturday after the demonstrations.

Protests continued Tuesday after workers heard news of Silva’s death. 

Meanwhile, Guilllen said other workers have also fallen ill.

“The smoke coming in over our area has aggravated those situations already and caused the workers to say ‘We’re going to die if we don’t do something about this,’ because they were collapsing,” said Guillen.

On Monday, five people were taken to clinics, suffering from advanced dehydration, she said.

Washington state’s department of Labour and Industries is investigating the case, looking into workplace safety factors. It has not decided whether to proceed with a formal investigation. 

Read the rest of the CBC report here…

Photo credit: CBC News

Suspension of OALJ Proceedings Impacted by Hurricane Harvey

Due to Hurricane Harvey, the Chief Administrative Law Judge has issued an Administrative Order, 2017-MIS-00004 (Aug. 30, 2017), postponing OALJ proceedings, and tolling hearing releated deadlines, for cases scheduled to be heard within 150 miles of Houston, Texas during the months of September and October 2017. The Administrative Order also postpones hearings and tolls deadlines for proceedings scheduled for the months of September and October 2017 in any part of the country where a party, attorney or law firm is located within 150 miles of Houston.

Icebreaker leaves jagged, beautiful Arctic icescapes

Today’s post was shared by APImages.com and comes from apimagesblog.com

Lovely photos of icy waters for a hot summer’s day.

Icebreaker leaves jagged, beautiful Arctic icescapes
Icebreaker leaves jagged, beautiful Arctic icescapes

There’s ice, and then there’s ice.

We encountered the first floes around Point Barrow, the northernmost tip of Alaska. Much of it was already rotten, as our ice navigator David “Duke” Snider explained. The ice was fraying at the edges. Some of it was covered in sand and dirt from crashing against the coast, while larger floes had pools of turquoise meltwater on top.

A trained eye can tell how old the ice is and where it is likely to have come from.

So-called first-year ice formed during the last winter. It is typically between 30 centimeters (1 foot) and 150 centimeters (5 feet) thick. First-year ice can pose a threat to regular ships but heavy vessels with hardened hulls, such as the MSV Nordica, can slice right through it with only a dull thud and a rumble as debris rolls along the underside of the hull.

Once it survives a summer melt — typically the cut-off date is Oct. 1 — it becomes second-year ice. As ice grows older, the sea salt leeches out and it becomes denser. Being able to spot such ice is key as it is harder and more of a hazard than younger ice.

The toughest sea ice is called multi-year ice and it can grow several meters thick, with the consistency of concrete. As a general rule, the older ice gets the more it turns blue and acquires mounds — so-called hummocks — on top from years of crashing into other floes.

Icebergs aren’t sea ice, despite being best…

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Opioid Litigation and Workers’ Compensation

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

The newly initiated litigation by public entities against Big Pharma may prove to be a huge boost to the workers’ compensation system. The lawsuits have the potential curtailing a massive drain of benefit dollars and may provide for subrogation as a result of the nations’ opioid epidemic.

At a recent NJ State Bar Association meeting in May 2017 Atlantic City, Mark B. Zurulnik, an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation law, referred to the potential of a such a lawsuit.

NPR reported today that, "A wave of litigation by state attorneys general against the biggest opioid manufacturers and distributors feels reminiscent of lawsuits brought by states in the 1990s against the tobacco industry." Click here to read the entire NPR report.

Third party litigation can impact workers’ compensation programs in multiple ways. Historically, both the tobacco and asbestos litigation curtailed the use of the hazardous products going forward. Subrogation is yet another situation though. It requires the ability of the parties to establish specific liens. While this was easily done in asbestos occupational exposure litigation, it was much more difficult to seek individual reimbursement or set-off in claims caused by or complicated by tobacco use in the workplace.

Notwithstanding the public entity, opioid litigation is yet another social cause that may, in fact, improve the lives of injured workers and in the long run provide tremendous benefits to both employers and their…

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