“Down On The Farm” Is A Hotbed for Work Injuries

Caution. This is a working farm sign graphicThis article is based on a report from Australia but, as you’ll see, it’s applicable to our Santa Maria Valley agricultural industry, as well.

April 26, 2013 by Michael B. Stack

With plenty of land to farm, one might think most farmlands in Australia are safe for those working the soil.

As it turns out, however, a new report sheds light on some of the inherent dangers facing those working farms.

According to a recent report from Safe Work Australia, one in half-a-dozen employees who were fatally injured in Australia were working on a farm. The report monitored statistics over an eight-year period until June 30, 2011.

The major findings of the Work-related injuries and fatalities on Australian farms were reported by Safe Work Australia Chair, Ann Sherry AO. She stated that the figure was staggering considering only 3 percent of workers are employed in the agriculture sector.

“On average 44 farm workers are killed each year and another 17,400 suffer a work-related injury,” Sherry said. “This is a significant number of injuries and deaths occurring within the agriculture sector. While the statistics themselves are alarming, they don’t reflect the many more families, work colleagues and communities who are affected by a farm-related fatality or injury.

Vehicles Have Major Role in Work-Related Deaths

Other key findings from the report include:

●     Vehicles accounted for nearly three quarters of work-related fatalities on farms.

○   In the eight years of the study 93 workers died while using a tractor. Half of these workers were aged 65 years and over one-third of the deaths involved a rollover.

○   Aircraft incidents while undertaking tasks such as mustering or crop dusting claimed the lives of 48 workers.

○   Quad bikes were involved in 27 fatalities of which 20 were due to a rollover.

●     Almost one-third of work-related fatalities on Australian farms involved workers aged 65 years or over. This is nearly three times the proportion the age group represents of all worker fatalities in Australian workplaces.

●     Young farm workers had more hospitalizations for a motorbike or horse-related incident while older workers had more hospitalizations from contact with machinery.

●     Only half of Australian agriculture workers are covered by workers’ compensation as 46 percent are self-employed. The report showed that nearly one in four workers’ compensation claims were due to working with animals, one in five were from working with mobile plant and transport including motorbikes and nearly one in five were from working with non-powered tools and equipment.

In analyzing the information it garnered, Safe Work Australia has identified the agriculture sector as one of its priorities under the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 and is working with regulators, industry, unions and the farming community to find practical and cost effective ways to reduce the hazards farmers and their workers face on a daily basis. This might include incentives from regulators to adopt safer plant and increased awareness raising activities in this sector.

Some of the risks and hazards being addressed at the national level in the farming sector are use of quad bikes and labeling of pesticides. Quad bike safety is being addressed through consultation on the fitting of crush protection devices to quad bikes and restricting the use of quad bikes by children.

Recent changes to pesticide labeling requirements unveiled under the new harmonized Work Health and Safety Regulations will bring greater consistency with labels of hazardous workplace chemicals in other sectors. This change aims to bring greater awareness of the hazards of farm chemicals and result in improved safety outcomes from chemical handling on farms.

Finally, work health and safety regulators across Australia are also seeking to improve work health and safety in the agriculture section and decrease these alarming statistics.

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

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New Diabetes Guidelines Have It Both Ways

By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

Published: April 23, 2013
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

A new guideline calls for a tailored approach to treating type 2 diabetes while maintaining the use of an algorithm-based model, researchers said.

The new recommendations from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) offer an algorithm that involves every FDA approved class of medications for managing hyperglycemia, while still suggesting consideration of individual patient characteristics such as age and comorbidities, Alan Garber, MD, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues reported in Endocrine Practice.

“The majority of patients aren’t reaching goal,” Garber told MedPage Today. “We think a more assertive recommendation of treatments will help physicians get patients to goal and avoid the pitfalls of certain medications.”

Last year, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) relinquished the use of an algorithm in its updated guidelines for managing type 2 diabetes. But Garber said the AACE’s step-wise approach is not all that different from the ADA/EASD guidance.

“I don’t think they gave it up completely,” he said. “They use broad guidelines … and we agree that you have to consider [multiple factors], but we also evaluate and recommend agents within categories.”

Continue reading New Diabetes Guidelines Have It Both Ways

California Health Insurance Exchange Guide

Covered California (health exchange) logo
Are you Covered in questions?

Questions about California’s new Health Exchange (Covered California) abound. And, although this “article” is a press release, it does a good job of summarizing the critical information that Californians, and employers in the state, need to know!

Posted by Zane Benefits on Tue, Apr 09, 2013 @ 02:25 PM

Starting in 2014, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance coverage for individuals and small businesses will become available through new state health insurance exchanges.

California will offer a state-based exchange. The exchange will open in October 2013 (for coverage starting in January 2014) under the name Covered California.

California Health Insurance Exchange – Covered California

The California Health Insurance Exchange, Covered California, will be an online marketplace making it “simple and affordable for California residents to purchase
high-quality health insurance and access financial assistance to pay for coverage.” California residents will be able to shop online, over the phone or in person to
find health care insurance options.

According to Covered California, both individuals and small businesses can compare different health insurance plans. Individuals can learn if they qualify for federal financial assistance (subsidies) or are eligible for public health programs like Medi-Cal. Employers with fewer than 25 full-time workers will be able to find out if they qualify for a small business tax credit that can help cover the cost of providing employee health care.

Covered California will be the largest state health insurance exchange, serving the largest number of uninsured residents (5.3 million people, 14% of the population). It is estimated that 2.3 million California residents will enroll in a health plan through Covered California by 2017.

Here is a look at the Covered California website (www.coveredca.com):

California Health Insurance Exchange – How Was it Formed?

California Health Insurance Exchange – What Plans Will Be Available?

California Health Insurance Exchange – How Much Will Plans Cost?

California Health Insurance Exchange – How will Insurance Professionals Benefit?


National Rx Drug Abuse Summit Focused National Attention, Efforts on Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse Issues

U.S. flag made with prescription pillsChampionsgate, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – A national outcry about the human cost of prescription drug abuse is needed if efforts to stop this national epidemic are to be successful, participants at the second National Rx Drug Abuse Summit were told.

“When are we going to take it seriously, because in the end these are friends and family members” who are paying for the cost of addiction, said Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy administrator for the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, echoing comments from many of the keynote speakers.

Nearly 900 people from 49 states and two other countries participated in the Summit, held April 2-4, 2013, in Orlando, Florida.

“People of great passion and perspective are here wanting to make an impact in their communities,” said Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-5th), chair of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, whose efforts to address prescription drug abuse have been recognized nationally.

“The first step is we have to admit there is a problem,” said Rogers, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “I don’t think the country is there yet. We’ve got to face up to it. We’ve got to make this known … and that we’re not going to hide from it.”

Continue reading National Rx Drug Abuse Summit Focused National Attention, Efforts on Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse Issues

Are Diagnostic Testing And Physical Therapy Overused In Workers’ Comp?

Cost of MRI in US compared to other countriesBy ReduceYourWorkersComp 04/10/2013 09:00:00

If you are handling a pesky claim that just will not go away, or the objective signs are just not lining up, chances are a key diagnostic test is what you need to tie it all together. A well done MRI or EMG could be just what the doctor ordered (literally). However you must keep in mind that not all diagnostic testing is warranted. Below we point out some surprising statistics, and ways to prevent you from authorizing testing that may not be of any help:

  1. The right EMG test needs to be done at the right time

This is especially true for insurance claims, whether it is work comp or an auto accident injury.And it is especially true when dealing with Medicare, although it’s not necessarily applicable to our thoughts here. Doctors and their businesses sometimes are under the impression that once an insurance claim arrives at the waiting room looking for treatment they have free reign to treat at will. This is a big no-no, since if you get the wrong test done in the wrong location, what good does it do? Sure, numbness in the hands can mean impingement at the wrists or elbows, but what about the neck? Cervical radiculopathy can be the culprit underneath what seems like simple and basic carpal tunnel syndrome.

So if a doctor performs an EMG at the wrist, which is negative, then they will be doing another test at the elbow, and possibly one at the shoulder, and one at the neck. When it is all said and done, they have performed 4 EMGs, when 1 would have sufficed if done properly at the neck level.

Adjusters need to think outside the box a little, and look at the other symptoms as well as the medical history. Adjusters can also utilize their Utilization Review department, a nurse case manager, or a Record review from another physician to see what type of test should be done. All of these steps need to be taken in order to avoid medical cost leakage due to a hunch from the treating physician.

  1. Does an MRI really need to be performed?

The best way to see why a back injury will not subside is to obtain an MRI test. MRIs are probably the most common test performed, since a back injury is one of the most common injuries in the occupational world. However, if a back injury is not getting better after 3 weeks, obtaining an MRI may be jumping the gun.  Other symptoms need to be present, such as leg weakness, numbness, radicular pain, etc. If the claimant complains of just pain, should that warrant obtaining an MRI? Pain is a subjective complaint, not necessarily something that warrants expensive testing, other than possibly a series of routine X-rays. Continue reading Are Diagnostic Testing And Physical Therapy Overused In Workers’ Comp?

Acclimatizing Strategy Helps Prevent Heat Illnesses In Workers

Summer heat safety patchMost Californians know the oncoming summer heat signals a restriction in the amount of time they spend outdoors, but those who regularly work outdoors will need to be used to the heat as it rises throughout the day.

Among laborers who might face California’s withering heat are construction and agricultural workers, baggage handlers, electrical power transmission and control workers, and landscaping or yard maintenance workers. Others who work in direct sunlight, perform strenuous work or who wear heavy protective clothing may also face the dangers of heat-induced illness.

Employers may want to create and implement a worker acclimatizing plan so employees will be able to weather triple digits without succumbing to heat illnesses.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it usually takes five to seven days for humans to adjust to higher temperatures. During this smaller time frame the body’s responses to a hot environment — body temperature, pulse rate, sweat rate and general discomfort – all will increase. However, OSHA says it will take weeks for a body to fully acclimatize.

To ensure workers are fully acclimatized to heat, OSHA suggests employers begin with 50 percent of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment, gradually building up exposure and workload to 100 percent by the fifth day. Further, OSHA says new workers and those returning from vacations should repeat the five-day minimum adjustment period. Employers also may be aware of how workers who have been out sick react to the heat.

Knowing the signs of heat illness can protect workers from suffering symptoms that quickly can lead to death. Additionally, those workers with health conditions such as diabetes, kidney and heart problems or pregnancy can put them at greater risk of heat-related illness.

Continue reading Acclimatizing Strategy Helps Prevent Heat Illnesses In Workers

Mission Critical: Getting Vets With PTSD Back to Work

Barbara J. Meade, MD, DVM, MPH, PhD, Margaret K. Glenn, EdD, Oliver Wirth, PhD

Uncle Sam Care about PTSD posterUnemployment and Health

Thousands of service men and women leave active duty every year, returning to claim their place in civilian life. This transition can prove difficult, and for those returning from the recent campaigns of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), it is all too often complicated by mental health disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This article stresses the importance of work on health and social reintegration and provides guidance for those in the healthcare sector to assist veterans in returning to employment.

The link between unemployment and health has been long recognized. Studies have found that unemployment is associated with increased somatization, depression, anxiety, suicide, cardiovascular disease, medication use, visits to physicians, and days spent sick in bed. Furthermore, unemployment can lead to increased drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and poor dietary and exercise habits — all of which may affect the development and progression of chronic disease.[2] Unemployment during the working years has also been associated with poorer mental health of retirees.[3]

In contrast, research has shown that reemployment improves self-reported general and mental health, affecting bodily pain and vitality as well as social and physical functioning within as little as 6 months.[4] The interdependencies among health, work, and life are being increasingly recognized by health professionals and research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), where the concept of Total Worker Health™ has been developed to foster better integration of health protection and health promotion programs.[5] Consistent with this concept, getting veterans back to work may have vast implications not only for their economic and social well-being but also for the positive influences of work on their health.

The concept of primary care teams and the medical home is gaining popularity for all patient populations, but this approach is of particular importance in dealing with the complex medical and social issues facing veterans. Primary care teams, in addition to providing traditional medical care, have an opportunity to improve the overall quality of their patients’ lives by participating in their return-to-work efforts.

This article provides an overview of the return-to-work process and addresses the role that primary care teams may play. Resources are listed to further assist the team in providing care for this deserving population.

Employment Status of Veterans

Veterans may face barriers preventing them from successfully reintegrating into society and returning to the workforce; these include lack of requisite job skills, a competitive civilian job market, and mental health issues frequently resulting from their time in service. The 2011 overall unemployment rate for those who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 was 12.1%, with a rate of 29.1% among men aged 18-24 years. The unemployment rate for veterans with a disability was 10.4%-14.4%.[6] These rates are significantly higher than the 8.7% unemployment rate for all nonveteran populations.