Tag Archives: workplace accidents

Orchestrate A Culture of Quickly Reporting Workplace Injuries

September 27, 2018 by 

band in front of shipping containers for article, Orchestrate A Culture of Quickly Reporting Workplace InjuriesAn important role of the claims management team is to coordinate with employers and defense interests to make sure quickly reporting workplace injuries is a top priority of your organization.  It is easier for claims to be evaluated and decisions regarding primary liability to be made in an effective and efficient manner when injuries are quickly reported.  There are many steps claims management teams can make to develop important work injury compliance steps, which includes the use of evolving technology.

Emphasis the Importance of Reporting Workplace Injuries

There are several steps that employers can make to ensure workers’ compensation claims are reported in a timely manner.  This starts with developing a culture of understanding on the part of the employees.  This goes beyond making sure the proper posters are displayed in the workplace:

  • Make all new employees aware of workers’ compensation information at the time of hire. This includes providing documentation to new hires about the name of the company’s workers’ compensation insurer and other contact information;
  • Provide documentation on how work injuries should be reported and the information needed to make a report of injury; an
  • Ensure that the employer has a contact person to make sure the First Report of Injury is filed timely with the workers’ compensation insurer. In some instances, employers and their staff are unsure how the process generally works.  Making sure these persons understand the process is important.

All workers’ compensation insurance carriers and third-party administrators can provide information to their insured on these processes.


Occupational Fatigue—New Insights on Causes and Consequences

Elk Grove Village, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – matthew.hallowell@colorado.edu

inforgraphci for Occupational FatigueSleep loss and poor working conditions are the most important causes of occupational fatigue—which can impair mental and physical performance with the potential for serious errors and injuries, reports a review and update in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Matthew Hallowell, PhD, and colleagues of University of Colorado at Boulder analyzed previous research to develop a “comprehensive systems model” of the interrelated causes and consequences of occupational fatigue. Fatigue, which may be acute or chronic, is defined as “a decreased ability to perform activities at the desired level due to lassitude or exhaustion of mental and/or physical strength.”

Based on available data, the “major drivers” of fatigue were sleep deprivation and factors in the work environment—such as noise, vibration, and temperature. These causes could all interact with other factors, such as increased work load and long work hours.

The most significant consequences of fatigue were short-term degradation in cognitive (thinking) and physical functioning. Illnesses, human error, and injuries also occurred to a lesser extent. Evidence suggested that some consequences of fatigue can make other outcomes worse, reinforcing fatigue and leading to a “downward cycle.”

Occupational fatigue affects more than 20 percent of the US working population, resulting in more than $136 billion in lost productivity and health care costs each year. Unfortunately, the problem of fatigue may draw attention only after major accidents—the researchers cite the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Exxon Valdez disasters.


What Are The OH&S / Workers’ Comp Implications of “Voluntary” Events and Activities?


frowning kid with caption "Volunteered, Got Way Happier"Workers are often asked to “volunteer” for certain activities that have some association to employment.  The association may be strong (volunteering for overtime) or weak (attending a company picnic) but there are implications for safety and health as well as workers’ compensation.

Most volunteering” cases involve a worker working on a special project, putting in overtime to clear a backlog, or participating in a special events like conferences, open houses, or community event (parade, “home and garden” show, cultural festival) .  The connection to work in these examples is pretty clear.  A worker may volunteer to participate in these activities and events but injuries that may arise out of and in the course of these events are as work-related and typically accepted as compensable in most jurisdictions.

This coverage is an important protection for workers and employers. Workers continue to have access to the workers’ compensation coverage for themselves and their families; workers’ compensation coverage protects employers from suit for work-related injuries that may arise.  If the voluntary event were not deemed work-related, the employer might still be faced with liabilities in the event of injury.

Just because a voluntary event or activity such as working to clear a backlog may be covered by workers’ compensation does not mean an employer can forget about health and safety.  Occupational health and safety standards still apply.  Before initiating a voluntary weekend shift to clear a backlog or asking someone to pull an “all-nighter” to prepare a presentation for the next morning, an employer needs to ask questions about health and safety like:

  •  Are the protections normally provided available to the worker(s)?
  •  Are there special risks or hazards associated with this work that need to be identified? 
  • If the worker is working alone, what provisions are required and in place for his or her protection?

Suppose there is a big order due out on Monday and you ask for “volunteers” to work the weekend to fulfill the commitment.  Are the usual weekday resources for the health and safety of the workers available on the weekend?  Is there access to a qualified first aid attendant, open lunch area, alarm and production stops working, etc.? Does the week-end site security system change the risk of intrusion?  Are there scheduled maintenance activities such as floor washing and waxing or system purging that could increase risks to those not normally on site when these activities take place?

And then there are the “voluntary events” like corporate picnics, softball tournaments and project celebration parties.  Are these truly voluntary or are they “work-related”?  Depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances, injuries arising from participation in such events may well be compensable.  Each case will be determined on its own merits but adjudicators tend to look at the expectations for attendance, where the event takes place, how involved the employer is in sponsoring the event, and the degree to which the activity or event furthers the objectives of the organization.

Expectations for attendance and participation are tricky.  A worker may feel compelled to participate particularly if the firm organizing or sponsoring the activity promotes it as a “team-building” event or if there is an implied advantage or accepted requirement of participation as part of career development.  Failing to participate may be what we used to call a “career-limiting” decision.   Is a participant really “free” to choose non-attendance in the event?

Continue reading What Are The OH&S / Workers’ Comp Implications of “Voluntary” Events and Activities?

CA.Dept. of Insurance Warns Homeowners About Verifying Workers’ Comp Coverage

beware of unlicensed contractors sign(WorkersCompensation.com) -A multi-agency task force led by the California Department of Insurance, consisting of more than 100 detectives and investigators focused on curbing California’s underground economy, conducted a sweep across major metropolitan areas statewide issuing more than 60 citations for various violations and six work stop-orders. Investigators also took the opportunity to educate homeowners about their responsibility to verify contractors have a license and workers’ compensation insurance before they hire them.

Homeowners who hire contractors or vendors that do not have proper licenses or workers’ compensation insurance may risk their home and assets if someone is injured on their property or shoddy work results in damage to their home.

Many homeowner policies have a criminal activity clause that means the insurance company may not cover damage caused by shoddy work performed by an unlicensed contractor or liability coverage if a worker is injured and the contractor does not have workers’ compensation insurance.

“Homeowners must be aware of their obligation to verify that contractors they hire have proper licenses and valid workers’ compensation insurance,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “It is not worth risking your home or other assets because you hired an unlicensed contractor or didn’t take the time to verify their license and insurance coverage. A few minutes spent ensuring your contractor or vendor is following the law is a small investment to protect yourself and your assets.”

At a private home in the Los Angele area investigators found a sub-contractor working on the job site without workers’ compensation insurance. According to detectives, the homeowner was surprised to learn he was responsible for verifying not only the general contractor’s workers’ compensation insurance, which he had done, but also for all sub-contractors.


Lifting Safety Can Avoid A Work Comp Pain In The Neck (And Your Back)

by Rebecca Shafer, J.D.

lifting safety yellow diamond signMany workplace accidents occur because of improper lifting techniques. Workplace lifting may cause employees to suffer from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist injuries, elbow injuries, spinal injuries and other injuries. For example, nursing homes have a high rate of back injuries because of improper lifting mechanics when moving patients. Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds increases the risk of injury.

According to OSHA, shoulder and back injuries accounted for over 36 percent of injuries involving missed workdays in 2001. Overexertion and cumulative trauma were the biggest factors in these injuries.

Avoid Repetition
 Holding items for a long time, even if loads are light, increases risk of back and shoulder injury, since muscles can be starved of nutrients and waste products can build up. Repeatedly exerting, such as when pulling wire, can fatigue muscles by limiting recuperation times. Inadequate rest periods do not allow the body to rest.

Avoid Awkward Postures
 Another cause of lifting injuries is awkward postures. Bending while lifting forces the back to support the weight of the upper body in addition to the weight being lifted. Bending while lifting strains the back even when lifting something light. Bending moves the load away from the body and significantly increases the effective load on the back, which increases stress on the lower spine and fatigues muscles. Reaching moves the load away from the back, increases the effective load, and strains shoulders. Carrying loads on one shoulder, under an arm or in one hand creates uneven spinal pressure.

 Lifting Basics
When lifting, your workers should remember these basics:

Hug the spine– Move items close to your body and use your legs, especially when lifting an item from a low location. Keep your elbows close to your body and keep the load as close to your body as possible. Do not start a lift below mid-thigh nor end the lift above shoulder height.

Read Rest of Article: www.ReduceYourWorkersComp.com Lifting Safety Can Avoid A Work Comp Pain In The Neck (And Back) http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/2014/04/lifting-safety-can-avoid-work-comp-pain-neck-back/#ixzz2xf3VP8Dr

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Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

5 Workers Compensation Myths

By J. Bradley Young

TravAttorney J. Bradley Youngelers Insurance recently passed Liberty Mutual to be the largest workers compensation insurance carrier in the United States.  Coming from the length and breadth of knowledge and experience that comesfrom yearsof handling comp claims, Travelers published their list of 5 common workers comp myths from a small employer’s perspective:

1.   “I only have a few employees so I don’t need comp insurance.”
2.   “My employees won’t sue me.”
3.   “Comp insurance is too expensive so I’ll just pay out of my pocket if an injury occurs.”
4.  “I provide a safe workplace so my employee’s won’t get injured.”
5.  “Medical costs in the workers comp system are just too high.”

While these myths do exist and are quite prevalent, I often see an additional five myths from my perspective as a workers comp defense attorney:

1. Every Injured worker needs an attorney.

While it is true that many injured workers do need to hire an attorney, there is certainly no need for most to obtain counsel. Most states have systems in place to resolve the claim directly with the injured worker without the time and expense associated with the claimant hiring an attorney and filing a formal claim.

The complaint against injured workers representing themselves is what gave rise to that old joke:  “A person who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.”  I agree that most claimant’s don’t know as much comp law as does the average claimant’s attorney.  That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.  But that doesn’t mean that every injured worker needs an attorney.

Most comp claims are compensable (if you don’t agree…sent Myth 5 herein).  As such, the only issue in most claims is the nature and extent of impairment of disability.  Does this mean that final settlement amount for an unrepresented claimant is always the same as in cases where the claimant has retained counsel?  Obviouslynot, but that doesn’t mean that the claimant gets less money.

Remember that in most jurisdictions, claimant’s attorneys take between 20% – 33% of the final settlement as a fee.  Add in a few thousand dollars for an IME report and discovery costs and you can see how the fees and expenses go up faster than the winnings on Wheel of Fortune.

If the claimant resolves the permanent partial disability portion of the claim on his own, he can afford to accept a lot less money for the final settlement amount and still take home nearly the same amount when compared to what he would actually receive if he had retained counsel and paid the fees and expenses out of his final settlement.

Additionally, there is also the time value of money consideration.  Claims where the injured worker is represented often take years to resolve, not weeks or months.  Which is better to receive – – $10,000 today or $12,000 three years from now?  Most people would chose the former over the latter and by resolving claims directly with the insurance carrier without hiring an attorney, injured workers are virtually guaranteed to get their money faster than if they retain counsel.


Infographic – The Most Common Workplace Injuries

The infographic shown gives an insight in the most common workplace injuries, the top ten most dangerous jobs, workplace accidents and distribution of injury cases. All in which can be avoided if accommodated with safety gear and equipment.

If you would like a complimentary ergonomic analysis of your job site, workspace or office, performed by our Physical Therapist, Ed Donahue, just give us a call at (805) 614-9000.

allsafetysupplies_infographics_450Written by the staff of Global Stores Group LLC, a leading provider of essential safety supplies to businesses of all kinds.

Construction Workers, Independent Contractors, Workers’ Comp & You

December 4, 2012 By Rebecca Shafer, J.D.

sign posts with factors to consider for hiring independent contractorsWho Is and Isn’t Covered by Workers’ Comp in Construction?

Employers in the construction industry are often perplexed as to who they should cover with their workers’ compensation insurance policy.  Full-time employees are covered, but what about part-time employees, day laborers, leased employees, borrowed employees and occasional volunteer work by a family member?  In most states all of these types of employees will be covered by the workers’ compensation insurance policy.  However, independent contractors are normally excluded from coverage by the workers’ compensation insurance policy.

The issue that arises most often between independent contractors and construction company employers is when the independent contractor does not have workers’ compensation insurance of his/her own and is injured while working for the employer.  When the injury is severe and the independent contractor does not have workers’ compensation coverage, often the independent contractor will try to collect workers’ compensation benefits from the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.

Employers Coverage Denys Claims From Independent Contractors

The employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will normally deny the claim as the insurer has not collected any premium for the additional exposure of the independent contractor.  The independent contractor (and his/her attorney) will often turn to the Workers’ Compensation Board/Industrial Commission and ask the governing authority to rule on whether or not there is coverage for the independent contractor.

The Board or Commission will normally look closely for any reason where they can classify the independent contractor as an employee of the construction company employer.  If the employer has not complied with all the requirements of hiring the independent contractor as an independent contractor, the Board or Commission will find the injured worker to be an employee.

Construction Employers Need to Know Law

For the construction company employer to protect itself from workers’ compensation claims of independent contractors claiming workers’ compensation benefits, the employer should know the law pertaining to independent contractors in their state.  Many states follow the federal government guidelines outlined in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  On the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times that there is not a single issue that makes a worker an independent contractor as opposed to an employee, but a preponderance of all the information surrounding the independent contractor-employer relationship.

Federal Fair Labor Standards Act 

Per FLSA, the following issues define whether or not the worker is an independent contractor or an employee:

1.    The extent to which the services rendered are an integral part of the principal’s business

Continue reading Construction Workers, Independent Contractors, Workers’ Comp & You