The Heat is Still On!

Hot sun photo from NASA
Hot sun photo from NASA

Since the current heat wave began on July 11, Cal/OSHA has conducted 167 inspections of outdoor workplaces identifying over 200 violations while checking for compliance to the heat illness prevention regulations. Gaining compliance from employers is the goal to successfully reducing the number of illnesses and fatalities for all outdoor workers across the state.

“Our increased enforcement and outreach efforts demonstrate the commitment we have to ensuring the safety and health of California workers,” said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan.  “We are also working with industry, community, and labor groups to educate employers and the public so they understand how to comply with the nation’s first regulation to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths.”
Cal/OSHA continues to conduct targeted enforcement efforts, especially during periods of high heat.  This year so far a total of 1,702 inspections have been conducted to enforce compliance with heat illness prevention regulations and 472 violations of regulations have been documented with a total of $415,398 in penalties assessed.
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6 Training Guidelines for Workers Comp

28 July, 2009 03:27:20 Republished with permission from

Training ALL your employees to know injury procedures before a work-related injury occurs – just as you would plan a fire drill – is instrumental in holding down your company’s workers’ compensation costs.

Six Training Guidelines to Follow

1. Implement a training seminar, lasting one hour, to introduce and reinforce injury management program concepts to your management and to distribute new workers’ compensation materials. The goal is to inform management of workers’ compensation concepts and how workers’ compensation costs are affecting the company.

2. Schedule an in-service training session for supervisors to train them in correct post-injury responses in the event of a work-related injury.

3. Like fire drills, when a work-related injury occurs, every supervisor and employee must be able to demonstrate exactly what to do, where to go, and how to obtain help.

4. Convene small-group employee training sessions to discuss post-injury response training and integrate new roles and responsibilities into the work culture.

5. Training includes instructing employees on who to notify when a work-related injury occurs and what their responsibilities are if they witness a work-related injury.

6. Have employees sign an in-service acknowledgement indicating they have received post-injury response training.

Author: Robert Elliott, J.D.

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Santa Barbara County Swine Flu Update

Beth Soderberg, MSN, CS, FNP-C

The newest member of our professional team, Nurse Practitioner, Beth Soderberg has an extensive background and interest in communicable diseases and she always has up-to-date information.

According to Beth, “Right now I’m educating the Industrial Care staff about the upcoming release of the two stage vaccine for H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu). As of July 8th, 2009 there have been 33 confirmed cases and one hospitalization in Santa Barbara County. And these numbers are not a complete or accurate picture because testing is so limited.”

Beth adds, “For the upcoming fall and winter flu season health care providers need to be ready to offer both information and the new vaccines to our community.”
If you have questions about vaccinations and special programs for Santa Maria businesses, give our Industrial Care Manager, Cody Matthews, a call at (805) 614-9000 or email him here.

Here’s some more details on the Vaccine Administration:

While clinical trials are currently underway to confirm the final process, it is likely that the vaccine administration will be as follows:

  • Seasonal flu vaccine available in August – will be handled normally in all respects
  • Novel H1N1 vaccine will likely require 2 doses – at least for some segments of the population
  • H1N1 vaccine dose 1 will be able to be administered at the same time as seasonal flu vaccine
  • H1N1 vaccine dose 2 will be administered 21-28 days following the first dose

Qualified Medical Evaluator Forms In Spanish

The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has posted on its Web site a Spanish-language version of the qualified medical evaluator (QME) panel request form for unrepresented employees, including instructions on how to use Form 105 at:

Additionally, an example with Spanish language instructions on how to complete the Employee’s Permanent Disability Questionnaire (DWC-AD Form 100 [DEU]) can be found here.

The forms can be downloaded or printed from the DWC Web site at no charge and are in Spanish. However, the user is directed to complete the answers on the forms in English.
The division is hopeful that the Spanish-language versions of these forms will make the QME process easier to understand for injured workers and employers who are primarily Spanish-speaking.

Swine Flu Update

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the H1N1 flu is the fastest-moving pandemic ever, spreading as much in less than 6 weeks as past pandemic flu viruses spread in more than 6 months. Because of this rapid spread, the agency has revised its reporting requirements so that authorities need not report every case but only clusters of severe cases or deaths caused by the virus or unusual clinical patterns.

Luckily, for Santa Maria, our newest staff member, nurse practitioner Beth Soderberg, is a communicable disease specialist (among other things) and is up to date on the new two stage vaccination process and all things swine flu related.
If you’re a Santa Maria resident and want to know more about the swine flu threat or the newly announced vaccine, please feel free to give her a call (after August 31st) at our offices.

Continue reading Swine Flu Update

Expensive Paperwork

Paperwork is driving up health care costs by as much as $9 billion annually in California, according to a public interest group that suggests physicians and insurers spend way too much time on processing insurance claims.

In California, physicians typically spend about 45 minutes a day on insurance paperwork, according to a report released Thursday by the California Public Interest Research Group.

“If we can do it more cheaply, it’s a win-win for everybody,” said Michael Russo, a health care advocate and staff attorney with CalPIRG. “When costs are skyrocketing, it’s best to go for the low-hanging fruit. This is an area where we spend a lot of money.”

In all, CalPIRG estimates that $9 billion is spent by insurers and medical practices in California to process insurance claims.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Dr. David Kosh, a family physician in Sacramento. He said his billing staff spends most of its day on the phone with insurers.

Source:: Bobby Caina Calvan | The Sacramento Bee

To read the complete article, visit

Top 10 Best Emergency Actions!

Top Ten Supervisor Best Practices When Handling Work Related Injuries

Supervisors are the front-line reporters of work-related injuries and accidents and bear the primary responsibility for making sure employees perform post-injury response procedures in accordance with the employer’s workers’ compensation policies.

Ten Actions Supervisors Must Take
1. Make sure injured employees take a Work Ability Form (WAF) with them when they go to the medical provider.
2. Accompany injured employees to the medical provider.
3. Inform medical providers the WAF must be returned (by mail or fax) to the supervisor (or injury coordinator) within 24 hours of a work-related injury. If the supervisor has a problem retrieving the completed WAF from the medical provider within 24 hours, the issue should be referred to the injury coordinator for action.
4. Compile a Post-Injury Package consisting of completed WAF together with Witness, Supervisors, and Employee Reports of Incident and fax to injury coordinator.
5. Train employee subordinates in the basics of workers’ compensation benefits such as Rights and Responsibilities under the WCMP, Post-Injury Response, and Transitional Duty Program.
6. Demonstrate to employees how to obtain emergency medical care for injured employees.
7. Demonstrate to employees how to get non-emergency care for injured employees. (workersxzcompxzkit)
8. Describe what forms and documents to give to (and get from) an injured employee.
9. Participate in weekly meetings with the injury coordinator and injured employee.
10. Train employees in post-injury response roles and responsibilities.

Central Coast Industrial Care has posters and business card size “Who to contact in case of injury” materials available at our office.
You can also download a PDF  of the 8″ x 10″ version here.

Health Reforms Come Home

The Obama administration’s plans to move forward with a technology driven “medical home” initiative as part of overall efforts to reform the nation’s health care system is generating speculation about potential long-term impacts on the practice of occupational medicine.

The administration’s support of prevention initiatives as well as studies aimed at improving quality and lowering costs also are expected to have a halo effect. The federal budget introduced by the Obama administration sets aside a reserve fund of more than $630 billion over 10 years that will be dedicated to financing health care reforms, and the president says he is committed to working with Congress to find additional resources.

1 “Reforms will affect all medical specialties and practices,” Clarion Johnson, M.D., global medical director for Exxon Mobil Corporation, said during a session on health care reform at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s annual conference in April. “Occupational medicine physicians will encounter challenges that reflect on the many settings in which we practice.
How proposed reforms look depends on where you are standing, but even a few, if enacted, will make things better than they are now.” There is a difference in opinion between experts and average consumers about problems with the U.S. health care system, according to polls conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Experts target unnecessary and troubling variations in care. Consumers appear to be more concerned about under-service than over-service, and they are worried about how they are going to pay for the care they receive. In an April survey, a majority of respondents said they or a member of their household have delayed or skipped health care in the recent past.

2 “These differences between experts and the public matter because key elements of health reform which elected officials expect to resonate with the public could get a decidedly less enthusiastic reception than expected if more is not done to close the gap in basic premises and beliefs between experts and the public.”
Drew Altman, Ph.D., Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO says in a recently published commentary. “Most fundamentally, the challenge is to educate the public about why health costs are rising as fast as they are in the U.S.” According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a research institution whose mission is to improve the health of all Americans, the key driver of spending—accounting for an estimated one-half to two-thirds of spending growth—is technology, not changing demographics or medical malpractice. Other important drivers of health care spending include health status, particularly obesity, and low productivity gains in the health care sector. In addition, higher spending does not achieve better outcomes, the foundation reports.

While there are many proposals on the table, Dr. Johnson said he expects expanded coverage for the uninsured and federally supported insurance plans to top the federal agenda, along with expanded use of communications technology, a greater focus on wellness and improved incentives or payment for better care. He noted that Exxon Mobil is a self-insured company, and when it comes to the health and well-being of its employees, there is no room for compromise. Consequently, the company’s ongoing focus is on cost savings and quality. For example, it is working with multiple vendors on information technology solutions, improved care management capabilities through the use of evidence-based medicine and the development of safer work environments for its employees.

Integrated Coverage is among the many proposals under consideration, various permutations of the integrated, or 24-hour care, delivery model are likely to be resurrected as part of reform discussions in the coming months, predicts Doug Benner, M.D., an occupational medicine physician who coordinates the occupational health program for Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.

However, while workers’ compensation is on the radar, it is not yet clear how prominent a role it might play given the overall magnitude of the nation’s heath care crisis, he said. There are a growing number of integrated disability management programs, but many barriers to a fully integrated health care delivery system remain.

State-specific regulations and the entitlement mentality inherent to workers’ compensation are two reasons why it is challenging to integrate occupationally focused care with non-work-related medical treatment and disability management programs.
However, despite these obstacles, Dr. Benner says considerable efficiencies and better outcomes can be gained when patients are treated by the same physician or medical group under the same health plan, regardless of the cause of their injury or illness.

“A lot of physicians don’t want to do workers’ compensation,” in part because it is so paperwork-intensive, he said during a presentation in May at a Workers’ Compensation Forum sponsored by the Council on Education in Management. “We need physicians who understand workers’ compensation, return to work, disability and function.” Aetna, one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, recently reported results from a set of analyses of members with access to integrated benefits compared to control groups without integrated benefits.
The most significant finding from the studies showed members with integrated benefits were more likely to take a health risk assessment and enroll in wellness and disease management programs that contribute to healthier behavior and improved health risk.

“When we have a more complete picture of our members and all the benefits available to them, we can have a much greater impact on their health outcomes and on their overall willingness to engage in their health care,” said Laurie Brubaker, head of Health and Productivity Solutions for Aetna.
Aetna offers an Integrated Health Solutions (IHS) product that includes a risk assessment with questions on work limitations and productivity based on health and emotional conditions. Risk indicators trigger one-on-one wellness counseling to address conditions holistically through other Aetna programs, often before they involve costly acutecare services, company officials said.

“The results suggest that increased coordination of services and member engagement in managing their health condition may be the keys to decreased short-term disability (STD) durations and fewer complications,” Ms. Brubaker said. “Earlier Aetna studies demonstrate that STD claim durations were 3.2 days shorter with integrated health and disability benefits.”

Excerpted from article by Karen O’Hara in VISIONS
The Periodical of the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals

Hello world!

When we launched our eLetter, “Central Coast Industrial Care News,” last May we didn’t anticipate how much news, discussion and employer resources that our subscribers would find useful. A lot more than we could fit into a monthly newsletter … at least more than most would want to scroll through onscreen!

That’s what inspired us to launch this blog; to include more of the information about Workers’ Comp as it relates to California employers. And as a place where you can share your opionions and ideas with your fellow emloyers in the Santa Maria Valley.

Who would have predicted even a year ago that health care would be daily front page news? Please comment with any suggestions or specific questions you have about occupational medicine and our services.

Thanks for looking and stay tuned as we will add content several times per week.