Category Archives: Uncategorized

Creation of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Opioid Task Force

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from www.workerscompensation.com

Raleigh,NC(WorkersCompensation.com) – 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.

 

Photo credit: schani via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Chicago Metal Container Manufacturer Faces Penalties After 3rd Worker Suffers Amputation Injury

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from www.workerscompensation.com

Chicago, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – For the third time since the summer of 2015, a worker with a metal container manufacturer has suffered an amputation injury. In each incident, federal safety investigators found that, if the employer had complied with workplace safety standards, the injuries were preventable.

On Dec. 27, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued B-Way Corp. one repeated and one serious safety violation, carrying proposed penalties of $81,062, following its investigation of the most recent injury. On Sept. 10, 2016, a machine amputated a 52-year-old temporary worker’s right middle finger tip when it came in contact with the machine’s operating parts – as he cleared a jam.

Agency investigators determined the employer installed the machine’s safety guards improperly. They also found the company did not instruct workers properly in procedures to prevent machine movement during service and maintenance, a process known as lockout/tag out.

"Each year, manufacturing workers suffer hundreds of preventable injuries because employers fail to install safety guards properly and train workers in machine safety procedures," said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in Calumet City. "BWay Corp. needs to review its machines’ operations corporate-wide immediately to ensure they have adequate and properly installed safety guards. They must also be sure that workers are using lockout/tag out procedures to…

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N.J. man’s medical marijuana should be paid by workers’ comp, judge says

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

TRENTON — A south Jersey man injured on the job at a lumber company will have his medical marijuana tab paid by his employer’s workers compensation insurance, according to a state administrative law judge ruling in what appears to be the first decision of its kind in the state.

Andrew Watson of Egg Harbor Township qualified for the state’s medicinal marijuana program in 2014 because of a hand injury he suffered while working for 84 Lumber in Pleasantville, according to the administrative law judge’s ruling.

Watson bought 2-1/4 ounces of state-sanctioned marijuana in the spring of 2014 but when his employer refused to pay, he stopped using it, according to the ruling.

The price of one ounce of cannabis ranges from $425 to $520 for an average of $489 in the Garden State, not counting the 7 percent state sales tax, according to a state Health Department analysis. At those prices, New Jersey’s medical pot is the most expensive in the nation. The law does not require insurance to cover the expense.

Why new wave of patients signing up for medical marijuana

Administrative Law Judge Ingrid L. French said based on Watson’s testimony, "the effects of the marijuana, in many ways, is not as debilitating as the effects of the Percocet. The pharmacy records show that, ultimately (Watson) was able to reduce his use of oral narcotic medication."

"As a result of his improved pain management, he has achieved a greater level of functionality," according to the judge,…

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Cannabis > Opioids?

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from www.workerscompensation.com

The title of an article published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on November 4 certainly piqued my interest – "Advisory panel backs medical cannabis as tool in opioid war." While not binding or official until the Health Secretary decides how to proceed, the advisory board to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program voted 5-1 to add "opiate use disorder" to the list of qualifying conditions. Let that sink in for a little bit.

The proposal drew support from health professionals, addiction specialists and lawmakers. Medical Advisory Board Chairman Dr. Mitch Simson cast the only vote against adding opioid addiction to the cannabis program, saying he was concerned about substituting one addiction for another.

So there you have it, the argument distilled into two simple sentences. Can cannabis help resolve our opioid epidemic? Or are we just trading one problem for another?

I heard this argument when lobbying for HB 195 earlier this year in Santa Fe that would have removed the case precedent requirement for Work Comp to reimburse injured workers for medical cannabis. On both "sides". Opponents of the bill made the argument that opioids are dangerous (I’ve been preaching that since 2003) and that cannabis could help resolve the epidemic. Proponents of the bill were mostly focused on the financial and legal repercussions but there certainly were concerns about sanctioning marijuana use by reimbursement.

I was quoted in a WorkCompCentral article today

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50-State Survey Finds Slower Growth in Total Medicaid Spending Nationally in FY 2016 and Projected for FY 2017 as Earlier Increases from the Affordable Care Act’s Coverage Expansions Taper Off

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

After record increases in fiscal year 2015, growth in Medicaid enrollment and total Medicaid spending nationally slowed substantially in FY 2016 and are projected to continue to slow in FY 2017 as the initial surge of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions tapered off, according to the 16th annual 50-state Medicaid Budget Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Despite recent trends, Medicaid officials identified high cost and specialty drugs as an upward pressure on total Medicaid spending.

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The Kaiser survey also shows an increase in state Medicaid spending growth in FY 2017 tied to the requirement for the 32 Medicaid expansion states (including Washington, DC) to start paying a five percent share of expansion costs beginning January 1, 2017. The federal government paid 100 percent of the expansion costs in 2014-2016.

Among expansion states, the median growth in state Medicaid spending is projected to be 5.9 percent in FY 2017 (higher than the national average of 4.4%), up from 1.9 percent in FY 2016 (lower than the national average of 2.9%). For non-expansion states, state Medicaid spending is projected to increase by 4 percent in FY 2017 (just below the national average), compared to 3.9 percent in FY 2016 (above the national average). Total Medicaid spending and enrollment growth in expansion states outpaced growth in non-expansion states in FY 2016 and are projected to do so again in FY…

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New Scrutiny for Oklahoma Workers’ Comp System

Today’s post was shared by Workers Compensation and comes from www.insurancejournal.com

Three years after passage of sweeping legislation that revamped Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system, courts are scrapping significant parts of the law in decisions that say the regulations violate the state constitution and do not provide adequate protection to workers.

The new regulations were touted by the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Legislature as a way to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation insurance for employers and improve health outcomes for injured workers by moving the workers’ compensation system from an adversarial court-based system to an administrative one.

But since the new law went into effect on Feb. 1, 2014, 38 provisions have been found unconstitutional, invalid or inoperable. And while dozens more challenges remain pending before state trial and appeals courts, including the Oklahoma Supreme Court, a new research report on the cost and efficacy of workers’ compensation systems in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., says that while the cost of workers’ compensation insurance in Oklahoma has declined since the new law went into effect, the cost is still high compared to other states and the level of benefits to injured workers has plummeted.

The report by the National Academy of Social Insurance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on social insurance, states that between 2010 and 2014, total workers’ compensation benefits paid per $100 of covered wages…

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Election of Judges Important – Our Recommendations

Friends –

We’re all suffering from election fatigue this year, perhaps more than ever before.  But election ballots will be mailed out this week, and in the past many of you have sought our recommendations on the judicial races.  Washington is one of only eleven states that elect our judges at all levels, and in ostensibly a non-partisan, non-political fashion, which makes your participation critical in the construction of this state’s judiciary.  We say “ostensibly” because this year – as we have warned clients in past judicial races – there are distinctly “political” efforts, some from outside Washington State, to affect the outcome of our Supreme Court’s lineup.

Our recommendations for Washington State Supreme Court are as follows:

Position #1 – Justice Mary Yu – a distinguished jurist, a former prosecutor, and formal social justice organizer, who is the only candidate receiving the highest possible rating from every peer and legal group.  Every major bar association which gives “judge of the year” awards has recognized her.  Her opponent’s only talking point revolves around the Supreme Court’s decision on school funding and charter schools, which occurred because of the failure of the state legislature to do its job.

Position #5 – Justice Barbara Madsen – chosen by her colleagues on the Court to be the Chief Justice, she leads a state supreme court that is rated by conservative and legal scholars alike as one of the top three in the nation.  Her opponent is similarly a one-issue campaigner, sponsored by a local billionaire because of the charter school ruling.

Position #6 – Justice Charles Wiggins – a recognized national leader on the issue of judicial ethics, with extremely high ratings from all Bar groups, and has been the most prolific writer and workhorse on the Court in the last term.  He is perhaps the most experienced appellate lawyer on the bench, versus an opponent with little or no appellate experience, running solely on school funding/charter school issue.

Of course, feel free to get further information on these candidates from the voters’ pamphlet and from www.votingforjudges.org.  Polls predict that many voters will delay or not cast ballots this year because of dissatisfaction with and disinterest in the candidates at the top of the ticket.  How our state functions depends upon Washington citizens voting all the way down the ballot this year.  We urge you to do your part!

VTY,

Jay, Brian, Jane and Reed

 

 Photo credit: Scott* via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

 

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At -57’, Seattle to Become One of the Deepest Harbors in North America

Army Corps of Engineers Releases Seattle Harbor Draft Feasibility Report & Environmental Assessment

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comment on the Seattle Harbor Navigation Improvement Project Draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment released on August 2nd. Comments will be accepted through Aug.31, 2016.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Port of Seattle have agreed on a tentatively selected plan of -57 feet Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) for both the East and West Waterways. This depth will allow the Port of Seattle, part of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, to handle the current and future generations of ultra-large containerships.

“The Port of Seattle, part of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, is a strategic gateway for goods entering the U.S. and vital for Northwest exports,” said Port of Seattle Commission President and The Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair John Creighton.

“Large ships with deep drafts are being deployed globally and on the West Coast. Authorization of a depth of 57 feet will preserve our gateway’s ability to provide sufficient depth for the future fleet of ships,” stressed Port of Tacoma Commission President and The Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-chair Connie Bacon.

The study developed an array of alternatives for deepening the East and West waterways. It performed extensive economic, technical and environmental analysis and modeling to evaluate the alternatives. The selected plan maximizes the national economic development benefits, is technically feasible and environmentally sustainable. 

The environmental assessment identifies and analyzes the environmental effects of the alternatives for deepening, incorporates environmental concerns into the decision making process and determines whether further environmental analysis is necessary.

The Port of Seattle, a partner in The Northwest Seaport Alliance, is the non-federal project sponsor working with the Corps to complete this feasibility study. Public comments on the proposed plan and alternatives will be considered as the Corps works toward completing the navigation improvement plan. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Corps’ website to view the tentatively selected plan and supporting documents.

Comments on the Draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment may be submitted by email, at the upcoming public meeting or in written form.

Comments will be accepted via email to SeattleHarbor@usace.army.mil or can be mailed to:

Nancy Gleason
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
​CENWS-PM-ER
P.O. Box 3755
Seattle, Washington 98124-3755       

All mailed comments must be postmarked by Aug. 31, 2016.

 

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As Shipowners Slash Costs, Some Crews Are Left Behind

By Keith Wallis – Reuters, Aug 27, 2016

Unpaid, underfed, and thousands of miles from home on a rusting tanker, captain Munir Hasan says he is a victim of a shipowner who has slashed costs in the face of an eight-year shipping downturn. 

Marooned on the medium-sized tanker Amba Bhakti that is moored close to Shanghai and is in urgent need of repair, Hasan claims he and his crew of four from India and Bangladesh have not received their wages from the owner, Varun Shipping, since February and are now owed tens of thousands of dollars.

Hasan said the crew has had to rely on handouts of basic food, such as rice and noodles, from V.Ships, a company that had operated the ship under contract for the owner before resigning in July.

“In the last 29 years of my sea career, I have never faced such a situation,” said Hasan, a 50-year-old sea captain from Bangladesh. Reuters couldn’t independently confirm certain aspects of Hasan’s account.

Varun has not responded to repeated queries from Reuters via email, and it declined to comment when reached by phone. When a Reuters reporter went to its offices in Mumbai, India on Aug. 18, company officials declined to comment on the matter, saying that management was busy.

Scott Moffitt, a V.Ships representative based in Singapore, told Reuters via email on Aug. 4 that it terminated three ship management contracts with Varun, including the one for the Amba Bhakti, “due to unpaid fees, including crew wages.”

Moffitt said that V.Ships “became increasingly worried about their (the crew’s) plight” and that “legal arrangements are under way to secure the back wages.”

ENFORCEMENT DIFFICULT

The crew’s predicament underscores the desperate time faced by an increasing number of seafarers working on so-called “sweatships” around the world, as the shipping industry faces its worst downturn in 30 years.

Slack demand at a time when the size of the fleet of ships was increasing, drove dry cargo charter rates for products like coal and iron ore to historic lows earlier this year. It has led to the collapse of several shipping firms and has left many others fighting for survival.

The result is that crews and their support groups, such as the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), are finding it difficult to force ship owners, many of whom cannot be easily located, to meet basic obligations. While “minimum working and living standards for all seafarers” were set in 2013 by the International Labour Organization, enforcing them isn’t easy.

Overall, shipping costs in the industry have come down by 20-30 percent from their peaks almost two years ago, shipping sources say. This has been achieved through savings in many areas, including fuel costs, reducing length of port stays, and cuts in provisions, crew travel costs and spending on equipment.

But the overcapacity in the industry is so great that it isn’t enough. Charter rates for tankers or container ships often don’t cover operating expenses, and both shippers and the analysts who follow them largely agree there won’t be any real improvement until 2018-2020.

For example, the average payment for a capesize bulk carrier capable of carrying 170,000 tonnes of iron ore or coal has been $5,393 per day so far this year, according to data from shipping services firm Clarkson. And yet, accountancy firm Moore Stephens pegs daily operating costs for a similar capesize ship at around $7,300 per day.

Not all shippers have cut crew provisions drastically, though a number say they have been reducing costs.

Duncan Telfer, commercial director at Swire Pacific Ltd’s Swire Pacific Offshore, which owns around 85 offshore support vessels, said his company was trying to trim costs where reasonable, without compromising crew safety.

“There are many ways of cutting costs. Bottled water is an example. Is it really necessary to have bottled water if you have potable water available on-board?” he asked.

DETAINING SHIPS

The number of ships being seized and held by the authorities because they are unsafe is rising. For example, there were 202 ships detained last year by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) for environmental or safety deficiencies, up from 143 in 2014, the USCG said in its 2015 annual report.

Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for Prevention Policy at USCG, told Reuters that because of the low shipping rates and overcapacity, “vessel maintenance can take a back seat in order to minimize operating costs.”

Shipping executives contacted in Singapore and Hong Kong also said some shippers were cutting back on food and drink costs. They said crews had faced a shift from steak to cans of spam meat, and from fresh to canned fruit, among other cost reductions.

 

Jason Lam, inspector for the ITF in Hong Kong, says in the first seven months of the year he dealt with 115 ship safety cases, a faster pace than the 161 cases recorded in all of 2015 and 126 in the whole of 2014, usually involving unpaid crew wages or poor working conditions. He said it was clear that some shipping companies are “refusing to supply their ships” because of the weak shipping markets.

In one case, the New Imperial Star – a large passenger ship that was used for gambling cruises in the South China Sea – failed Hong Kong safety inspections and has been detained in port since November, according to Hong Kong Marine Department records.

The ship was sold to a buyer in an auction by the Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday and the proceeds will be partly used to pay outstanding wages. The identity of the new owner couldn’t immediately be ascertained.

The telephone number of the ship’s previous owner, Hong Kong registered Skywill Management Limited, was not operable this week, and the company has differing addresses listed in Hong Kong company directories.

“LOW ON PROVISIONS”

In another case, the Five Stars Fujian, a coal carrier, has been sitting near the Great Barrier Reef, off Australia’s east coast, for a month with supplies diminishing and salaries going unpaid.

The ITF in Australia said that there were 21 Chinese men onboard as of August 14, and that the crew hadn’t received wages since June and were now “very low on provisions.”

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) said last week that it was “extremely concerned about the seafarers on the vessel, and that its crew had “effectively been abandoned by the owner.”

There were no signs of the firm at Five Stars Fujian Shipping’s registered address in Hong Kong.

Back at the Amba Bhakti, the crew have turned to outside groups for help.

Reuters has viewed an email that Hasan sent on Aug. 2 to the Mission To Seafarers, an international crew support group, and the ITF, in which he said that they had been “held up on board … without wages for six months,” adding: “We are requesting your immediate help to save our families.”

In response, the ITF has been pressing the owners and organizing support for the crew.

The sailors have been employed on various contracts lasting from two to nine months to meet international rules governing minimum crew levels even though the ship has been languishing near Shanghai for three years. The main and auxiliary engines that would power generators and deck equipment need to be repaired.

Two crew members had already given up and gone home, including the ship’s chief engineer, Mohammed Abdul Mazid, according to Hasan. Reuters was unable to reach Mazid for comment.

Hasan said Mazid left the ship in tears to return to Bangladesh in July despite being owed $73,000 in back pay.

(Reporting by Keith Wallis in HONG KONG, Aradhana Aravindan in SINGAPORE, and Rajendra Jadhav in MUMBAI; Writing by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Martin Howell)

Photo: The New Imperial Star casino cruiser is seen at Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, China April 15, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/iveile Photo

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