Category Archives: Workplace Health Issues

How wildfires can threaten your health

By the time Thomas Dailey woke up on Tuesday, smoke from the Mendocino Complex Fire had drifted 150 miles south to his pulmonary practice in Santa Clara, staining the sunrise blood red.

For many Californians, the crimson sky was another reminder of the 19 wildfires burning across the state, a larger and more destructive threat than in recent years. It could become the worst fire season in state history.

info graphic for article, How wildfires can threaten your healthFor Dailey, a pulmonologist who has treated asthma patients for 29 years, it also signaled a growing health risk for his patients and the public. As wildfires burn through forests, vegetation and homes, they expel smoke and toxic pollutants, sending fine particulate matter into the air.

“It’s pretty sobering as soon as you see that,” said Dailey, whose asthma patients at his Santa Clara office recently began complaining about tightness of breath when they go outside. “You know there’s a lot of particulates in the air.”

[SEE FULL ARTICLE HERE]

Off Your Mental Game? You Could Be Mildly Dehydrated

Expanding the Paradigm of Occupational Safety and Health: A New Framework for Worker Well-Being

An article recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled Expanding theWorker Well Being Logo Paradigm of Occupational Safety and Health: A New Framework for Worker Well-Being describes NIOSH’s newly developed conceptual framework for worker well-being. Historically, worker well-being has been measured through job satisfaction, employee engagement, positive emotions, and good mental and physical health.

This framework seeks to define and operationalize the concept of worker well-being through the following domains:

info graphic for article, Expanding the Paradigm of Occupational Safety and Health: A New Framework for Worker Well-Being

  • work evaluation and experience,

  • workplace physical environment and safety climate,

  • workplace policies and culture,

  • health status, and

  • home, community, & society.

This framework can make a valuable contribution to the efforts of researchers, policymakers, employers, workers, and communities as they take steps to better investigate, understand, and improve the well-being of workers. To learn more about the framework and what it means for applications in occupational safety and health, please see the full article HERE.

6 Effective Claim Handling Tips For Undocumented Employees

July 24, 2018 by Michael B. Stack

farm workers for article, 6 Effective Claim Handling Tips For Undocumented EmployeesInterested stakeholders in workers’ compensation need to pay attention to the changing workforce as immigration continues to change the composition of the American workforce.  This includes being mindful of immigration laws and making good faith efforts to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act and the employment of individuals authorized to work within the United States.  Notwithstanding these efforts, people without such proper documentation enter the workforce and become injured.  This creates problems for employers and insurers that can add costs to a claim.

Understanding the Basics

The Immigration Reform and Control Act controls employment practices in the United States.  Under this law, only American citizens or non-citizens with the proper work permits are allowed to perform work legally.  However, employers continue to employ people without proper authorization – in some instances knowingly engaging in this type of employment practice.

A state’s workers’ compensation law defines eligibility for benefits.  In many instances, one’s legal employment status does not serve as a bar to benefits after following a work injury.[1]  The issue of hiring someone not legally allowed to work in the United States is not going away.  The only true way to deal with such issues is to make good faith efforts when verifying someone’s work status.  The reality is even if an employer undertakes these efforts, people not legally allowed to work will continue to seek employment.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

6 Opportunities to Improve Your Return to Work Program

July 23, 2018 by 

Lost time from work is a significant driver in workers’ compensation claims.  Consider some of the following statistics:

  • On any given workday, up to 5% of the total US workforce is off work;
  • Lost wages and productivity account for $267 billion per year – with roughly $88 billion of that amount attributed to work injuries; and
  • Time off from work due to injury accounts for additional stressors on employees, employers and the claims management team. This includes increased workplace dissatisfaction, loss of workplace morale, increased overtime (including mandatory overtime costs) and a reduction in the quality of work one performs.

Return to Work icon for article, 6 Opportunities to Improve Your Return to Work ProgramThe bottom line is nobody wins when an employee is off work due to an injury.  Based on these factors, interested stakeholder seeking to improve their workers’ compensation programs and improve efficiency should seek to return injured workers to work – and do so as soon as possible.

 

Opportunities to Return Employees to Work

Quick and effective return to work benefits all interested stakeholders.  There are countless ways to return an employee to work following an injury.  It takes time and energy, but it has many benefits to the program’s bottom line.  This requires a plan that needs to be in writing and strictly followed to drive program efficiency.

  • Prepare a written RTW policy: This policy should encourage all employees regardless of their age, tenure with the employer or position to return to work following a work injury.  It should require contact between all interested stakeholders.  One key consideration is the number of weeks an employee can perform light duty work with the date of injury employer.  Doing so tends to motivate employee’s to return to return quickly to work.
  • Prepare a written job description: When it comes to job descriptions, the devil is the details.  Important information should conform to the state’s workers’ compensation act and what is considered “suitable gainful” employment.  Items that need to be defined include both the essential and marginal functions the employee will perform.  The wages and hours and employee will work are also important;[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Updated Osteoporosis Screening Guidelines Released by USPSTF

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published its final recommendations this week on the screening of women for osteoporosis to prevent fractures. The updated guidelines include level B recommendations for the screening of women aged 65 years and older, as well as for younger women who have experienced menopause and also have an increased risk.

graph of osteoporotic fractures compared to other diseases for article, Updated Osteoporosis Screening Guidelines Released by USPSTF“Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken and potentially break, which can lead to chronic pain, disability, loss of independence, and even death,” the USPSTF said.

“Clinicians can help women avoid fractures by routinely screening those who are 65 and older, as well as younger, postmenopausal women at higher risk for osteoporosis — such as women who have low body weight, who smoke cigarettes, or whose parent has broken a hip.”

The final recommendations, which were published online June 26 in JAMA, apply to older adults without a history of prior fragility fractures or health conditions that could weaken bones.

The USPSTF noted that evidence was insufficient to determine whether men would benefit from osteoporosis screening to prevent fractures.

“While both men and women can develop osteoporosis, there’s less evidence to know whether screening and current treatments prevent fractures in men without a history of fractures,” USPSTF vice chair Alex H. Krist, MD, MPH, said in a news statement.

“More studies are needed that look at how well treatments work in men who have not had a fracture,” he said.

In updating its similar guidelines from 2011, the USPSTF conducted an evidence review of 168 articles on the issue of osteoporosis screening that were determined to be of fair or good quality.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

When does a condition become a medical issue?

 | MEDICAL CONDITIONS  

Doctor shrugging shoulders for article, When does a condition become a medical issue?It has become a sign of legitimacy to call a personal problem “medical.”  This aims to distinguish the problem from those of morality or character.  It implies both that the problem is serious, and that it is unbidden and largely out of the sufferer’s control.  Unfortunately, it isn’t clear what exactly qualifies as “medical,” so this label serves more as a rhetorical device than a scientific finding.

Alcoholism is the paradigm and perhaps least controversial example.  Through the 19th Century, alcoholism was variously declared a disease, or a matter of will and character.  The disease model gained prominence in the 1930s and 40s with the “powerlessness” identified in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as researcher E.M. Jellinek’s descriptions of progressive stages and subtypes of alcoholism.  The American Medical Association declared alcoholism an illness in 1956 and has endorsed the disease model ever since, partly as a strategy to ensure insurance reimbursement for treatment.

The model expanded to include other abused substances with the formation of Narcotics Anonymous in the 1950s, and as a result of widespread recreational drug use in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The specialty of addiction medicine was first established in 1973 in California.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine now states: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.”  Proponents of the disease model of addiction cite many documented brain changes and a plausible neuropathology, as well as the presence of genetic risk factors, cognitive and emotional changes, impaired executive functioning, and disability and premature death.  The model purportedly destigmatizes addicts — they are no longer “bad” or “weak” people — thereby making it more acceptable for them to seek treatment.

Nonetheless, the disease model of addiction remains controversial.  In addition to the existence of alternative models, the disease model itself has been criticized.  Some believe it removes personal choice and responsibility, and actually contributes to the problem of addiction.  Others cite surveys of American physicians who consider alcoholism more a social or psychological problem — even a “human weakness” — than a disease.  Critics note that about 75 percent of those who recover from alcohol dependence do so without seeking any kind of help, and that the most popular and recommended treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous, is a fellowship and spiritual path, not a medical treatment.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

Know Two Types of Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE)

When a physician is treating an employee for a back injury or other job related injury, the decision on when to return the injured employee to work is often a subjective decision. The physician who is unsure of the employees physical capability will often turn to the physical therapist for an objective opinion of the employees ability for work. The physical therapist will provide a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) by administering various tests to determine the employee’s functional capacities and limitations.

illustration of physical therapist and patient for article, Know Two Types of Functional Capacity Evaluations

Comprehensive Examination and Evaluation

The FCE is a comprehensive examination and evaluation by the physical therapist that objectively measures the employees level of functioning. The testing will document the employees ability, or the lack of ability, to perform the essential job related task over a specific time frame. The FCE will provide objective information to the physician in several areas:

the employee’s functional abilities and job demands

  1. the disability evaluation
  2. when to return the employee to work
  3. whether or not the employee can return to the job held prior to the injury
  4. the employee’s functional abilities away from the job
  5. to information to design a rehabilitation plan, if needed
  6. the need for other medical intervention and/or treatment

    [SEE FULL STORY HERE]

The Impact of Fatigue and 10 Ways to Mitigate the Risks

If one of your employees is sleeping on the job, he may actually be doing you a favor. Lack of adequate sleep is a major risk factor for injuries, errors, and chronic diseases. In fact, ‘shiftwork sleep disorder’ has been deemed a carcinogen because of the increased risk of breast cancer.

worker fatigue poster for article, The Impact of Fatigue and 10 Ways to Mitigate the RisksThose most at risk are workers with frequent overnight shifts, rotating shifts, or early morning start times. While you may not be able to change the need for workers on shifts other than daytimes, there are strategies you can take that can help employees be less fatigued and save you significant amounts of money.

The Sobering Stats

Employers and payers are likely unaware of the stunning costs associated with workplace fatigue. Here are the numbers for a hypothetical Florida construction company with 800 workers:

 • Decreased productivity: $590,463

• Absenteeism: $249,962

• Healthcare: $458,075

The National Safety Council’s Fatigue Cost Calculator also estimates the number of employees likely suffering from specific sleep risks at this sample company:

• Obstructive sleep apnea: 101

• Insomnia: 69

• Restless Legs Syndrome: 40

• Shift work disorder: 1

‘Shiftwork sleep disorder’ occurs when a person’s internal clock becomes misaligned with his sleep/wake schedule due to shift work. Those affected may experience excessive sleepiness during night work and/or insomnia during daytime sleep.

The good news is the potential savings from taking simple actions to mitigate all these conditions are $625,250.

[SEE FULL STORY HERE]

3-Step Strategy to Prevent Workplace Violence

June 6, 2018 by 

More than 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence every year. While healthcare clearly leads the industries reporting workplace violence, many other industries are also at risk. Employers and payers can significantly impact the rate of violent incidents by understanding the risks unique to their industries and worksites and developing strategies to mitigate them. 

The Issue

clipboard with violence checklist for article, 3-Step Strategy to Prevent Workplace ViolenceOSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening, disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. That includes everything from verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.

The most recent statistics show that violence in workplaces is increasing, despite lower overall crime among the general population – including homicides. In healthcare, the numbers are 7.8 cases of workplace violence for every 10,000 employees. In the sales industry, half of the work-related deaths are due to homicide. School districts also report higher rates of violence, aside from the much-publicized mass shootings.

Despite the high prevalence of workplace violence incidents more than 70 percent of U.S. workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses the issue, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Create the Policy

There are three steps to creating a violence-free workplace.

  1. Assess the risk. First, you need to determine the violence hazards affecting your workforce. They could vary among employees. A healthcare establishment, for example, could have staffers who deal with potentially violent patients in the emergency room, along with nurses in the field. The risks facing each are very different.

ER workers should be aware of potential incidents not only from patients themselves but from family members who may become frustrated. A nurse who conducts home health visits may be vulnerable to risks because she or he is alone. The home health worker should know to ask questions, such as whether there are firearms in the home.

Some ways to assess the risks facing your organization include

  • Find out from staff members whether, where and when they feel threatened.
  • Review past records. Incident reports can reveal areas where violence has occurred, and they should be a focus of prevention policies.
  • Check the research. Studies provide clues to areas vulnerable to violence. Within healthcare facilities, inpatient and acute psychiatric services, geriatric long-term care settings, and urban ERs have been shown to be at higher risk than some other areas.

    [SEE REST OF STORY HERE]