What is an Occupational Disease?

By Brendan Turley on February 28th, 2013

Posted in NY Workers Compensation Claims

chart of occupational diseases by industry
Occupational diseases by industry

Your work-related disability may not be the result of a single accident. Exposure to certain job related agents may have caused you to develop a debilitating condition over time. However, not all injuries that develop over time are occupational diseases that entitle you to benefits. The illness must be “the natural and unavoidable result of the conditions of employment”.
In other words, you can’t go out of your way to inhale fiberglass while working on a construction site or be gnawing at a lead pipe all day while working in an office and expect to receive benefits when you get sick.

The illness in question must be unquestionably linked to the type of work being done. So you may become ill at work but not be eligible for benefits. If someone is employed as a computer programmer at a building with asbestos containing materials, they are not entitled to benefits if they develop asbestos-related lung cancer. However, if an employee’s job entails handling asbestos, they may be entitled to benefits.

Workers Compensation Law Article 3 names 29 occupational diseases that are explicitly related to certain industrial processes. There is also a broader 30th category that contains “any and all occupational diseases” resulting from a hazardous environment.

Some examples of various work-related diseases and the occupational hazards they are linked to include:
• Anthrax -Handling of wool, hair, bristles hides or skins

• Lead poisoning– Any process involving the use of or direct contact with lead or its preparations or compounds

• Arsenic poisoning– Any process involving the use of or direct contact with arsenic or its preparations or compounds

•Dope poisoning (poisoning by tetrachloride-methane)- Any process involving the use or direct contact with any substance used as or in conjunction with a solvent for acetate of cellulose or nitro cellulose.

• Glanders– Care or handling of any equine animal or the carcass of any such animal

The Reality of Illness at Work and the Reality of Wellness at Home


chart of employees out sick, 2003 through 2013I was changing my daughter’s diaper the other night when I noticed some spots. There was a cluster of six or so around her belly button and a line of them tracing her bottom rib on the right. They were reddish-brownish-purple pinpoints and when I pressed on them, they did not blanch. She did not seem bothered by them at all. I, on the other hand, began to quietly freak out.

I am currently rotating on the pediatric hematology service where reddish-brownish-purplish spots that do not blanch are the opening line in a number of slow-motion tragedies involving such things as leukemia and bleeding disorders. Then again, they also play a part in a number of totally benign and boring stories like heat rash and bruises. Infant skin is like one of those word searches that looks totally random from a distance: a lot of what goes on there means nothing, but every once in a while you need to pay closer attention.

So I saw the spots and I wanted to call the doctor right away. It was 7:15pm, a totally reasonable time to call the on-call pediatrician. But I felt sheepish. When you are a doctor, calling the doctor can be awkward. You know all the questions they will ask. You have completed the physical exam that they would have completed if your child were in the office. You have your own differential diagnosis in your head, and you have a rational sense of when or if your child needs to be seen and what if any further evaluation they might need. Why, you wonder, are you calling someone else when you know the answer already? But then there is also a loud voice in your head that is screaming, “What if she has cancer? What if she has bacterial meningitis? I know everything is ok but what if it isn’t?!”

I called my partner, C, up to see the spots and she said, “Hmmmmm. Looks like she might have fallen against a toy.” I had to agree. I could almost make out the shape of said toy, a rectangle with one corner at the belly button and the other corner up near her rib. Still, I was not reassured. My partner doesn’t even know what petechiae are. “She’s fine,” C said and went back downstairs. Once again, the rational part of me had to agree. She was not sick. She was totally 100% well-appearing. This was a problem that could wait until the morning. This was likely a problem that was not even a problem. I resolved to let that be the end of it. I put my daughter to sleep and then got ready for bed myself. (Yes, I have the same bedtime as my one-year-old. This is what it means to be an intern).

As I lay there in the dark, it became clear that I would not be able to sleep. I worried about the spots. I thought about my patients and the day ahead. Then I worried about the spots again. That very day on rounds, our attending had told us about a case from his residency, a boy who presented to the ED with petechiae, eating his McDonald’s lunch, and was dead twelve hours later from overwhelming sepsis. Sure, he had sickle cell disease, and a fever, but I couldn’t put it out of my mind. Continue reading The Reality of Illness at Work and the Reality of Wellness at Home

Ergonomic Concerns With An Aging Workforce

By ReduceYourWorkersComp 4 hours 31 minutes ago

[NOTE: Central Coast Industrial Care offers, at no charge, ergonomic evaluations of your workplace or job site  by our Physical Therapist, Ed Donahue]

illustration of workplace ergronomicsThere has been a lot of industry talk about the risk of an aging workforce and how this can affect your workers compensation program.

A main risk is how ergonomics plays into injury prevention, not only for an aging worker but for all workers.

Here are several ergonomic issues, and ways to try to trim your exposure:

Why should employers be concerned about this issue?

I recently read in the paper where it is projected that 50% of workers expect to work into their 70s, some into their 80s, and some plan to never retire! The reasons for such a statement would vary per the individual needs of the person, so it is hard to say exactly why this phenomenon is occurring.

Truly there are a number of different factors all combined into why this is happening, I do not think it is solely due to financial needs, or solely due to people just liking to work and be out of the house, on so on. The reality is that it seems there are older workers out there who just are not removing themselves from the workforce. Whether or not this will change in the future is unknown, but the current trend is that workers are not in a hurry to retire.

What are the risk factors?

Ergonomics are intended to maximize worker productivity while minimizing fatigue and discomfort. When work stations are designed based on production demand and not on the human element, the result will be increased injury. Worker injury exposure should look at the overall ability of the worker performing the job. It could loosely be said that a 75 year old worker cannot perform as quick nor have the physical stamina of a 25 year old worker. But, you have to take into account worker experience, motivation to perform at a high capacity, overall occupational education, and so on. This would be the human factor of a particular job. Job station risks would include repetitive motion, awkward postures such as bending/stooping and overreaching for items are all ergonomic workstation factors.

When a worker is manually handling heavy objects, it forces the body to comply and this can cause injury. An aging workforce most likely cannot continue to meet strict production demands that stress the body at a high capacity without experiencing injury at some point.

How can I reduce the risk?

The best thing for employers to do is to contact ergonomists and/or risk control professionals for their expertise on how to control and reduce the risk of ergonomically related claims. Many insurance carriers have adequately trained risk professionals that can help, or they can refer you to an outside vendor for further expertise.
Employers can also start to look at work duties and tasks for all of their employees. They should bear in mind necessary accommodations for an aging worker in a high demand, fast-paced work station.
Continue reading Ergonomic Concerns With An Aging Workforce

Professional Athletes Cash in on California’s Workers’ Comp

File this under, “Who’s Minding the Store?”

Associated Press

Posted: 02/24/2013 10:04:21 AM PST
Updated: 02/24/2013 10:04:35 AM PST


Sports leagues and their insurers are working to stop the practice, which has paid an estimated $747 million to about 4,500 players since the early 1980s, according to the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/XLiSkD ).

professional athlete salaries compared to other professionsSome of the athlete splayed as little as one game in California.

Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, got a $199,000 settlement for injuries related to football. This came despite the fact Davis was on the roster of a Colorado team and played just nine times in the Golden State during an 88-game career, the newspaper said.

Among other sports stars receiving settlements were NBA star Moses Malone, who was awarded $155,000, and Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin, who received $249,000.

The athletes are taking advantage of a provision in state law that provides payments for the cumulative effect of injuries over years of playing.

The benefits usually come as lump-sum settlements but sometimes provide lifetime medical services.
California taxpayers are not responsible for these payments; workers’ compensation is an employer-funded program. Anyone who is employed in the state for any period of time can be eligible for benefits to pay for medical expenses and compensate for work-related disabilities.

“The system is completely out of whack right now,” said Jeff Gewirtz, vice president of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, told the Times.

Players, their lawyers and their unions plan to fight to protect these payouts. They say some pros, particularly football players, have short careers and end up with costly, debilitating injuries that aren’t sufficiently covered by league disability benefits.

In addition to the cumulative benefits, California also offers a longer window to file a claim than other states.

“California is a last resort for a lot of these guys because they’ve already been cut off in the other states,” said Mel Owens, a former Los Angeles Rams linebacker who is now a compensation lawyer.

Legislation in Sacramento being drafted by team owners would not limit the ability of athletes for the Los Angeles Lakers, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and other in-state teams to seek cumulative trauma benefits under California law, the Times said. However, it would protect those teams from being hit by big claims from out-of-state players, who might have spent just a few weeks at a training camp with a California team at some point in their careers.

A legislator to sponsor the bill is expected to be named next week.

Engaging Employees With a Healthy Nudge

Interactive wellness wheel
Click graphic for interactive version

3 strategies that are proving to be effective in moving employees to better engagement in healthy practices.

By Peter Saravis, CEO and Co-Founder, Evive Health

One of the fundamental goals of any Human Resources professional is finding the most effective way to motivate employees and to engage them in ways that allow them to be their very best. But central to this simple truth is the reality that employees cannot perform as hoped if they are not healthy. And that puts corporate America at a disadvantage.

Poor health is costing American business billions of dollars annually in health-care premiums, absenteeism, accidents, and other related costs. In one telltale example, the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Indexreports that workers who are above normal weight or have at least one chronic health condition take an extra 450 million sick days compared with healthy workers —resulting in more than $153 billion in lost productivity annually (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150026/Unhealthy-Workers-Absenteeism-Costs-153-Billion.aspx?utm_source=tagrss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication).

Amidst that reality, it is no wonder that health and wellness programs are becoming more and more common in the workplace. The 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust annual survey of employer health benefits found that 67 percent of companies with three or more employees that offered health benefits also offered at least one wellness program (http://ehbs.kff.org/pdf/2011/8225.pdf). These may include annual physical examinations, exercise or physical fitness programs, vaccinations, and preventive screenings.

With increased data to support their assumptions, employers see evidence that making such programs available to their employees makes sense—dollars and cents. But what they also are seeing is that offering such programs isn’t enough. Getting employees to use them is turning out to be the real challenge.

The Power of Behavioral Economics

Fortunately, there are ways to engage employees in health maintenance activities that are proving to be effective. Research that appeared in the summer 2011 issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that “nudging” employees in the right way can lead to significant improvements in their level of engagement in health initiatives. The research was conducted by researchers at The Wharton School; Stanford University; Yale University; Harvard University; and Evive Health, an innovator of technology solutions that provides individuals with personalized health and wellness tools that improve their health decision-making.

Continue reading Engaging Employees With a Healthy Nudge

Construction Fatalities Cost California Residents $2.9 Billion

new construction collapse

February 4, 2013 By Michael B. Stack

168 Construction Workers Killed in Workplace Accidents

Occupational injuries and fatalities in the construction industry cost California residents $2.9 billion between 2008 and 2010, a new Public Citizen report shows. Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.

The report, “The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in California’s Construction Industry,” quantifies the estimated costs of deaths and injuries in the state’s construction industry by considering an array of factors.

From 2008 to 2010, 168 construction workers were killed in workplace accidents in California. Additionally, the state recorded 50,700 construction-industry injuries and illnesses that required days away from work or a job transfer.

Drawing on a comprehensive 2004 journal article that analyzed the cost of occupational injuries, and combining the paper’s findings with updated fatality and injury data, the group determined that such incidents cost the state’s economy $2.9 billion during the three-year period.

Report Proposes Safety Required for State Contracts

As a partial solution, the report proposes that California pass a law requiring companies to demonstrate adherence to safety standards in order to be eligible to bid for state contracts. Such a solution not only would ensure that public-sector projects are fulfilled by responsible contractors but also would provide incentives for companies to maintain clean records while working on private-sector sites.
Continue reading Construction Fatalities Cost California Residents $2.9 Billion

Training Bystanders to Spot Opioid Overdose Saves Lives

people administering first aid to prone personEducating and training potential bystanders to recognize opioid overdose may reduce deaths, new research suggests.

In the study, almost 3000 potential bystanders in Massachusetts underwent state-supported overdose education and nasal naloxone distribution (OEND) programs.

Results showed that these individuals participated in 327 rescue attempts. In addition, communities with OEND programs had adjusted death rates from opioid overdoses that were significantly lower than communities without the programs.

“This study provides observational evidence that by training potential bystanders to prevent, recognize, and respond to opioid overdoses, OEND is an effective intervention,” write Alexander Y. Walley, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts and from the Section of General Internal Medicine at Boston Medical Center, and colleagues.

“Because OEND targets not only the overdose risk behaviours of the trainee but empowers trainees to intervene in another person’s overdose, it makes a fuller impact at the community level,” they add.

The study was published online January 31 in BMJ.

Leading Cause of Death

“Poisoning, nine out of 10 of which are related to drug overdoses, has surpassed motor vehicle crashes to be the leading cause of death by injury in the United States,” report the investigators.

Continue reading Training Bystanders to Spot Opioid Overdose Saves Lives

Return to Work Conversations

Robin Roberts of Good Morning America
Robin Roberts in May 2012 by Official U.S. Navy Imagery via Flickr


On January 14, Robin Roberts (host of Good Morning America) made a scheduled announcement about her health status. She’s been away on medical leave since August 2012 because of a rare bone marrow disease. With all the brouhaha on January 13 to entice viewers to tune in and learn what the news would be, in addition to the smiles on every face that pronounced the upcoming announcement, it was a foregone conclusion that it involved something with regard to imminent return to work. And it was.

While the news about her return to work was celebratory for all, Robin talked about some of the expected and probably didn’t realize she also disclosed unexpected information. Most people diagnosed with and treated for a major illness are put on some degree of disability and remain in that status for the rest of their lives. They become part of the 47% that Romney and Ryan spoke during the 2012 campaign who subsist on entitlements and expect a handout in order to survive in an economy with increasing inflation and little real money. There are few exceptions where there is a discussion about return to work; there are fewer about accommodations in order to make that a possibility.

Robin talked about the partnership of her doctors and care providers had with regard to formulating a plan for how she will transition from being ill to gradually working her way back to the studio and full time work. She outlined the stepped process and the various types of subtle dangers of being in the studio and under the lights. She shared conversations about regaining her energy. She will not be left floundering for answers and searching for what may be appropriate and safe in the way of accommodations during her early days of work resumption and progressing to “normal” life.

Viewing Robin’s announcement and the recitation of her recovery and re-entry regimen could cause some with jaded healthcare perspectives to feel she is receiving privileged treatment. Some have the opinion that because she’s already in front of the camera as part of her livelihood and career, that there’s a foregone conclusion that she will be returning to work, not sidelined as disabled. Her non-visible disability, albeit temporary, does not color her employment opportunities nor her right to work and earn a living.

There are those who suffer from non-visible impairments but they are not counseled in clear and specific terms about what accommodations are required for them to resume full, meaningful employment in their chosen profession. Few are counseled about what to do or what restrictions could apply to them as it relates to their line of work.

My health issue focus of choice is coronary conditions. It could easily be other non-visible conditions such as back injury, emphysema, or venous stasis ulcers. Because the heart is so central to our well being but impairments of the organ are not visible, it is my focus. There are scales for measuring disability and whether a person is still employable. There is a presumption that the disability scale for physical activity is used by doctors in order to determine whether it’s feasible for a person to look forward to returning to full time work, with or without restrictions. Does that conversation happen so that the patient is aware of all of the options available to them? If they’re well below retirement age, they’re not savoring the idea of spending the rest of their life subsisting on social Security Disability Income and restrictions on whether or not they may work. Even if they are able to find various types of employment, they’re at a loss when it comes to truthfully responding to the question, “Are you able to satisfactorily perform the principle duties of this position with or without moderate accommodations?” And if they respond that they will probably need some accommodations, the question of which and what types of accommodations should be requested comes into play. Continue reading Return to Work Conversations