Category Archives: Uncategorized

Workplace injury, illness costs being foisted on workers, government, OSHA’s Michaels says

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

Workers and taxpayers writ large are shouldering the costs of workplace injuries and illnesses, as the changing nature of work leaves states and employers with increasingly less liability, according to a report released today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The OSHA report, “Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job,” notes that employer-provided workers’ compensation insurance benefits cover only 21 percent of the actual costs of a workplace injury or illness, including lost wages, medical expenses and rehabilitation.

Only a fraction of workers apply for or receive benefits, the report says, because of job insecurity, fear of retaliation from employers, or because they don’t know they’re entitled to such benefits.  As  many as 97 percent of work-related illnesses  go uncompensated because symptoms are often linked to workplace exposures long after employment ends, if they are linked at all.

Most of the costs of injuries and illnesses are borne by workers themselves, according to the report.  Government programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicaid cover 16 percent, private health insurance 13 percent.

“By forcing the costs of injury and illness onto workers, their families and the taxpayer, unsafe employers have fewer incentives to eliminate workplace hazards and actually prevent injuries and illnesses from occurring,” the report…

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The workers’ compensation system is broken — and it’s driving people into poverty

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.washingtonpost.com

There’s a good news/bad news situation for occupational injuries in the United States: Fewer people are getting hurt on the job. But those who do are getting less help.

That’s according to a couple of important new reports out Wednesday on how the system for cleaning up workplace accidents is broken — both because of the changing circumstances of the people who are getting injured, and the disintegration of programs that are supposed to pay for them.

The first comes from the Department of Labor, which aims to tie the 3 million workplace injuries reported per year — the number is actually much higher, because many workers fear raising the issue with their employers — into the ongoing national conversation about inequality. In an overview of research on the topic, the agency finds that low-wage workers (especially Latinos) have disproportionately high injury rates, and that injuries can slice 15 percent off a person’s earnings over 10 years after the accident.

“Income inequality is a very active conversation led by the White House,” David Michaels, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, said in an interview. “Injuries are knocking many families out of the middle class, and block many low-wage workers from getting out of poverty. So we think it’s an important component of this conversation.”

There are two main components to the financial implications of a workplace injury. The first is the legal…

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Insult to Injury: Is Income Inequality Tied to Worker Safety?

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

guadalupe

Guadalupe González doesn’t know if she’s going to be able to make it much longer.

The East Boston resident used to hold a full time position as a cleaner for Sodexo. Much of her time working was spent on the campus of Lasell College, located in the wealthy Boston suburb of Newton, where she was paid $10.80 an hour for her labor. Weighed down by her buckets and supplies, she would rush, at Sodexo’s insistence, from building to building across the campus often on uneven terrain.

When Guadalupe fell it was devastating; she knew instantly what her mangled ankle meant. She was going to have to take a break from her physically demanding job, a break she just couldn’t afford. Three surgeries later, Guadalupe is no closer to returning to work than the day she was injured. She is in nearly constant pain and requires a cane to walk. Worse yet, Guadalupe now receives a mere 60 percent of her former earnings, making it almost impossible to buy food, pay bills and make rent. Sadly, Guadalupe is not alone. She is one of at least three million workers seriously injured every year in the United States. She is one of many workers who will lose more than 15 percent in wages over ten years because of their injury while bearing nearly 50 percent of its cost. For workers like Guadalupe, the American dream quickly becomes a nightmare. These injuries and illnesses contribute to the pressing issue of income inequality: they force working families out of the middle…

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Employers Complain of Rising Premiums, But Workers’ Comp Is at 25-Year Low

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

Source: Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Note: There are two additional data sources available for understanding employer costs in regards to workers’ compensation — the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance. ProPublica selected Oregon’s data because it was the most suited for comparisons between states. While all three studies vary in exact cost from year to year, the downward trend is reflected in all three. A specific company’s premium will be determined by its industry, injury experience, and any discounts offered by its insurance company.

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Working in a Winter Wonderland: 4 Things to Know in the Snow

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

The bite of winter is fast approaching, with some areas already covered in frosty white. While many workers will be earning a living indoors, plenty of people in the United States will be working outside in the coming months, often in bitter cold. Employers should be aware of the dangers, and plan accordingly.

Here are four things every employer should know in the winter:

1. What do I need to know about shoveling snow?

Shoveling snow can be a strenuous activity, particularly because cold weather can be taxing on the body, and can create the potential for exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries, or heart attacks.

  • Take frequent breaks,
  • Drink plenty of fluids (while avoiding ones with caffeine or alcohol),
  • Warm-up before starting,
  • Scoop small amounts of snow at a time,
  • Push the snow instead of lifting where possible, and
  • Use proper form if lifting is necessary: keep the back straight and lift with the legs.


2. How do you walk safely on snow and ice?

Walking on snow and ice puts workers at an increased risk of slips and falls.

  • Where appropriate, clear walking surfaces of snow and ice and use salt or its equivalent.
  • Proper footwear is essential – insulated boots with good rubber treads are a must for walking during or after a winter storm.
  • When walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway, take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction.
  • If the sidewalk is not cleared and you have to walk in the street, walk against the traffic…

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The Cold Winds of Workers’ Comp Reform Are Blowing in Wisconsin

Today’s post comes from Bob Wilson at workerscompenstion.com.

I have it on excellent authority that major changes to the Wisconsin workers’ compensation system will be proposed with the release of the state’s budget bill on February 3, 2015. The rumored changes are said to be significant, with some viewing it as a complete dismantling of the current workers’ comp system there. In the absence of the release of the actual budget and proposals, it still sounds like the most dramatic reforms to hit a state since Tennessee and Oklahoma conducted complete overhauls of their WC systems.

Currently in Wisconsin, the Workers’ Compensation Division is part of the larger Department of Workforce Development (DWD). On January 12, 2015, WC Division managers apparently learned of this proposal from the DWD Secretary’s office. It is believed that the person behind this effort is DWD Secretary, Reggie Newsom. Under Newsom’s proposal, the Worker’s Compensation Division would be entirely removed from the auspices of DWD. Other agencies would absorb some of the functions, while some current practices and procedures would cease to exist.
One group that appears to be subject to the greatest changes would be Wisconsin’s current Administrative Law Judges. Under the proposed changes, they would only be responsible for trying cases.  They would not manage claims functions or act in any advisory role for industry stakeholders. They would also be barred from reviewing compromises in cases where attorneys represented the parties.

Other elements of the proposal include moving the insurance bureau staff to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI).  Administrative Law Judges would report to the Hearings and Appeals section at Department of Administration (DOA).  Many of the proposed changes will require alterations to the Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Act, and it is unclear what level of legislative support exists for those statutory changes.

From this point forward, this story will likely take similar trajectories to other reform efforts we have seen around the nation. Opponents will cite the relative stability and success of the Wisconsin workers’ compensation system, and object to the disruption of a system they view as working well. Proponents will claim that the changes are necessary to streamline operations and improve efficiency within an evolving work environment. The changes, which appear will lessen staff in the WC Division, along with a potential reduction in Administrative Law Judges by shifting responsibilities to other existing divisions, will be seen by some as a reduction in bureaucratic overhead.

I will say that this news will be, for many, unexpected as Wisconsin hasn’t exactly been the bastion of controversy in the workers’ compensation arena of late. There are many other jurisdictions where needed reforms are more apparent – like California where reforming comp is seemingly a full time and permanent position…

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Jury awards $7M in New Fairfield Boy Scout trial

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.ctpost.com

Siegfried Hepp, right, arrives in Court accompanied by an unidentified man. Photo: Carol Kaliff / The News-Times

WATERBURY — A state Superior Court jury awarded $7 million Friday to a man who claimed he was sexually abused by the leader of a New Fairfield Boy Scout troop when he was a boy in the 1970s.

The $7 million is the largest compensatory damages verdict ever against the Boy Scouts of America and the first such verdict in the northeastern United States, the plaintiff’s attorney said.

In addition to the verdict for compensatory damages, the jury, after seven hours of deliberation, found the Boy Scouts of America should be held liable for punitive damages, in an amount to be determined by the trial judge in a separate hearing to take place in the near future.

"It’s very important to our client both that the jury has publicly said the Boy Scouts should be held accountable for keeping this important information secret and also that the jury recognized how much his abuse has impacted his life," the plaintiff’s attorney, Paul Slager, said Monday.

During the two-week trial, the plaintiff, who was 11 and 12 at the time of the alleged abuse, testified that he was sexually molested three times by Siegfried Hepp, a long-serving Boy Scout troop leader from New Fairfield. Evidence in the case showed another boy in the troop also claimed to have been molested by Hepp around the same time.

In 1993, Slager said, a parent sent a letter to the local Boy Scout council expressing concern that Hepp was a pedophile. He remained a troop leader until his conviction.

In 1999, Hepp pleaded guilty…

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As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Today’s post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from www.nytimes.com

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology would create as many jobs as it destroyed. Now many are not so sure.

Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary, recently said that he no longer believed that automation would always create new jobs. “This isn’t some hypothetical future possibility,” he said. “This is something that’s emerging before us right now.”

Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at M.I.T., said,…

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