Workplace toxins – are you a victim?

Today’s post was shared by Workers Comp News and comes from


Every day throughout Illinois, and the rest of the country, workers in nearly every field and in a range of working environments are exposed to toxins, such as chemicals and gases, in the workplace. In some cases, this exposure can cause occupational injuries, ranging from an allergic reaction or pulmonary irritation to much more serious, long-term issues, like asbestosis or cancer. This makes it important for employees to know what they could be coming into contact with in their workplaces.

Common workplace toxins

These toxins can be in use themselves, or be present in other solutions and substances that are used for any number of purposes and processes by employees in many occupations. Additionally, toxins can be released as a result of, or in the course of, workers’ regular occupational activities. Some of the most common toxins that may be present in a workplace environment include the following:

  • Chemicals or materials used in, and released from, construction and manufacturing processes, including asbestos, benzene, lead, manganese, formaldehyde, and silica dust.
  • Solvents and chemicals used to repair and maintain motor vehicles and other types of equipment, such as antifreeze, gasoline, diesel fuel and oil.
  • Cleaning supplies and pesticides, as well as nail and hair care products often contain chemicals that can be harmful.
  • Some medical equipment and processes may use harmful chemicals, including the use of Beryllium in dental work and ethylene oxide in…

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OSHA Chief: Inequality in America Is About Workplace Hazards, Too

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from

Image: Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration attends a full committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 23 in Washington, DC.
Image: Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration attends a full committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 23 in Washington, DC.

Inequality and poverty have taken center stage in American politics in the years since the recession. Fast food workers have raised the profile of low-wage work, cities and states around the country are raising the minimum wage, and elected officials in both parties have made the struggles of poor Americans core political issues.

But David Michaels, Ph.D., M.P.H., who leads the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Obama administration, says that workplace inequality is more than just wages. In an interview, Michaels, who is responsible for enforcing federal laws to project workers from illness and injury, says the regulatory structures he oversees aren’t sufficient to protect vulnerable workers from harm.

NBC: The political conversation about inequality in recent years has focused on wages. You’ve made the point that when addressing inequality, we should focus more on workplace health and safety issues. Why?

Michaels: Wages are clearly a core component of the discussion of inequality and the ability to get into and stay in middle class. But workplace health and safety issues also have an enormous impact. Workplace injury and illness can push workers out of middle-class jobs and make it hard to enter into the middle class in the first place.

Studies show that workplace injury…

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Don’t Demean FMLA Leave

Workers do not have many rights.  It’s an unfortunate mantra I recite to many of my injured worker clients.  Of course, union protections exist in certain settings.  Protections against discrimination and harassment exist if unlawful conduct occurs.  However, in most circumstances, Wisconsin employees are “at will” employment–meaning they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.

An “at-will” employee who is forced to miss work for their own serious health condition (or for a child’s health condition) can face a difficult situation.  Missing work can put their employment status in jeopardy.   In these situations, the protections provided by the federal and state Family and Medical Act are crucial.  While FMLA leave only applies to certain employment settings (generally those with over 50 employees), the FMLA can provide job protection for a certain amount of unpaid weeks while an individual is out of work.

Given this invaluble security, a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caused me concern (“Agency scrutinizes family medical leave in Milwaukee County“).  The article raised questions about the amount of Milwaukee County workers using FMLA leave.  The article certainly paints this type of leave in a negative light, even suggesting the potential “abuse” of this FMLA leave by employees.

 FMLA leave is unpaid leave.  Unless an employee has other available/accrued leave benefits, when they are off on FMLA leave, the employer is not paying wages.  The employee is off work, not getting paid.  Thus, FMLA provides some job protection for the employee, but the employee is not getting rich being off work.  I find it questionable that many employees are abusing a benefit that does not pay them anything.  Demeaning the FMLA is concerning.





Trickle Down Consequences of Professional Athletic Head Injuries

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

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.
The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

The consequences of denying workers’ compensation benefits to professional athletes is having a profound effect on high school and community sporting programs. When a system that is supposed to provide medical benefits and disability payments in a summary fashion turns it’s back on professional players, the issue of safety becomes even more important to those who re considering entering the economic lottery of sports for success.

"The sport of football is changing. Revelations about widespread brain injuries have ushered in new rules and a lawsuit against the NFL. But what about the millions of kids who play football in elementary, middle and high school? We asked our network of Student Reporting Labs around the country to investigate the impact of new awareness of concussions on youth football programs in their communities."

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“Coming and Going” Rule Revisited

The Kansas Supreme Court has just reversed a State Appeals Court finding that an oil field worker was not entitled to worker’s compensation benefits after he was injured while riding home from his workplace.  The case is David C. Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC and Ace Fire Underwriters Ins. Co.  The Court reasoned that the nature of field work where an employee has no permanent place of employment but must travel from place to place to perform his duties was an exception to the “Coming and Going” rule.  That rule in most State Statutes indicates an employee is not entitled to worker’s compensation while coming to work or going home from work.

In Wisconsin case law and statutory provisions have extended coverage to the employer’s designated parking lot, travel between the parking lot and employer’s premises, injury off premises from a “spilled over danger” and commuting to work in an employer-provided vehicle used from time to time for job duties.  Wisconsin courts have etched away at the “Coming and Going” exclusion.  While a typical commute is not covered until the worker reaches the company parking lot, if the employer pays wages for the travel time or commute (“on the clock”), an injury during the trip is compensable.  The worker is also covered during the entirety of a special errand or overtime trip required by or for the benefit of the employer.  Also, where the use of a company truck was a “substantial part of the employment contract” a worker killed while commuting to work was found to be in the course of employment. An argument can be made that an employee commuting to work should be covered if required by job duties to have access to the car while at work, even if not compensated for the expense of commuting.

Wisconsin’s Commission and Courts have also wrestled with the distinction between a “traveling employee” who receives statutorily broad coverage, and a regular commuter whose trip to work is barred by the “Coming and Going” rule.

Top 5 Careers for Women to Consider in 2014

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from

Looking for a new job? Thinking about switching careers? recently created a list of 12 great job opportunities for women in 2014 based on career projections from the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Of course, they’re great options for men, too!) All of them have these factors in common: strong projected growth, high average annual salaries, smaller pay gaps between men and women than other fields, and high percentages of women working in the field.

Here’s a closer look at the top five:

What do they do? Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.

What are the opportunities? The median pay in 2012 was $93,680 per year, and the predicted job growth in this field between 2012 and 2022 is 26 percent. (For reference, the average predicted growth for all fields is 11 percent.)

Make it happen: Actuaries need a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, and are expected to complete on-the-job training and must undergo exams to become certified. Strong backgrounds in business, mathematics and statistics are useful in entering the field. Find actuary jobs or training.

2. Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

What do they do? Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers design plans to promote products and services. They work…

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Opioid Use Prior To Spine Surgery Linked To Diminished Patient-Reported Outcomes

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from

The higher the level of opioid intake, the higher the level of post-surgery dissatisfaction

Rosemont, IL ( – A new study appearing in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery(JBJS) links the use of opioid pain relievers (prescription medications, such as Percocet) to less improvement and higher levels of dissatisfaction following spine surgery.

Between 1999 and 2010, a greater focus on pain management resulted in a four-fold increase in opioids sold to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors’ offices, and a related and ongoing increase in opioid-related complications, including opioid dependence, impaired cognition and poor treatment outcomes. Previous studies have found a link between opioid use and diminished spine surgery outcomes; however, the studies did not account for differences in opioid consumption among patients.

In this study, 326 out of 583 (56 percent) patients reported some degree of opioid use prior to elective lumbar, thoracolumbar or cervical spine surgery between October 2010 and June 2012. Researchers collected preoperative demographic data on all patients including age, sex, race, diabetes and smoking status, level of surgical invasiveness, relevant comorbidities and socioeconomic information. Daily opioid use, including opioid type, dosage, route and frequency of administration in a 24-hour period, was self- reported and converted into a morphine-equivalent amount in milligrams per day. The median patient preoperative daily morphine…

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Bad Time to be a Disability Lawyer

I passed through Customs after a trip to Europe this week and explained to the Customs official that I represented injured workers.  His first comment to me was “How ‘bout those guys that are scamming the system?”  I attempted to provide the disclaimer to his notion that “At least one out of every three is a fraud.” by explaining that in a long term study of fraud in Wisconsin, the incidence of fraud was literally one in 5,000.

Nonetheless, that notion persists.  I read with interest today the speech of Professor Jon C. Dubin accepting a Distinguished Service Award.  I sent Professor Dubin a congratulatory note and obtained his permission to reprint it in an upcoming issue of the Workers First Watch (the magazine of the Workers Injury Law and Advocates Group (WILG) which I edit.  He noted

“Sometimes it seems like the only thing less popular than a disability benefit claimant these days is a disability benefit claimant with a lawyer. But it bears remembering that you are the first line of defense against these stereotypes and misperceptions and against the insidious drumbeat of atypical anecdotes and calls for draconian policy change. You are also the only ones who can communicate your clients’ true and heartbreaking counter-narratives to those fraud stories. You are the ones who can describe the terrible injustices that routinely occur in assembly line administrative decision-making especially when there is a cloud of political pressure lurking above that process.”

References made to Social Security representation are also applicable in our worker’s compensation arena.  Congratulations again to Professor Dubin on his well-deserved award and his accurate perceptions of disability claimants and their representatives.