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October 9, 2013

 

In week two of the government shutdown, we see no promising signs that a solution is imminent. We've tracked news and events related to workers comp, health & safety and employment law issues. View our first Shutdown update here - let's hope this is the last ion our series!)

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
After three recent mining fatalities, Ken Ward asks Can miners afford for MSHA to miss inspections?. While these deaths cannot be directly attributed to the shutdown, he explains the importance of inspections in protecting the lives of miners in light of the dangers of the mining industry and "the history of the industry's refusal to comply with safety rules, and MSHA's own weaknesses even when it's at full staffing." As Ward's reporting has demonstrated numerous times, the industry is not one that sets a high bar for its own safety standards (a recent example)

He explains why MSHA has a dedicated mission:

Congress was concerned enough about these dangers that it set mining apart from other workplaces, and actually mandated periodic inspections of four times a year for underground mines and twice a year for surface mines. Other dangerous industries -- whether oil and gas drilling, timbering, or construction -- don't have this mandate. Workers in those industries can go years without ever seeing an inspector from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

... and notes the historic effect of prior cutbacks in inspections:

Over the years, MSHA has had enough problems making its "twos and fours", and has only recently began to build back up an inspection force that saw huge staffing and budget cuts that paved the way for a series of mining disasters, from Sago, Aracoma and Kentucky Darby, to Crandall Canyon and Upper Big Branch. And we've learned from repeated reports published only after mining disasters (see here, here and here) what can happen when MSHA isn't on top of things in the nation's mines.

Injured Workers
Attorney Jon Gelman discusses other untoward effects that the shutdown is having in the workers'' comp arena in his post, Government Shutdown: Day 8 - Injured Workers Are Being Held for Ransom. He notes that:

"The Federal programs that adjudicate injured workers claims are closed. The State programs are beginning to feel the impact of the that lack of information flow from the collateral medical lien resolution process so resolution of claims are now stalled.
New Federal programs enacted under The SMART Act, to expedite the lien resolution programs have been halted in the public comment phases, and may face further delay in implementation and regulatory amendment.

The funding process for NIH grants to prevent and treat occupational disease and illnesses, as well as data collection and reporting, have been slowed if not stopped in their tracks."

Employment Law Matters

Health & Safety Matters


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October 3, 2013

 

It looks like the shutdown could extend beyond a few days so we've gathered information and resources, occupational health & safety edition. We'll update as we find additional news and resources.

Government Shutdown Reduces OSHA Inspection Force by More Than 90 Percent
More than 90% of its inspectors are on furlough. "OSHA head David Michaels said in the plan that the agency must have enough staff to respond to workplace fatalities, catastrophes and situations posing imminent danger."

Some states have their own state plans and these will remain open:
"OSHA has approved state plans in 25 states. Twenty-one of those states police occupational safety and health for all non-federal employees; four oversee public sector employees only."

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation - 3 out of 20 employees will remain active, but there are no investigators to respond to emergencies.

The World Trade Center Health Program and the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program can continue to operate because they draw from alternate funding sources.

Mine Safety (MSHA)
Ken Ward talks about the MSHA shutdown plans to furlough 1400 of 2355 employees nationwide. "The agency inspects and enforces safety rules at coal and other mines, writes health and safety regulations and reviews certain safety plans that need federal approval before operators can mine." He discusses United Mine Worker Safety concerns, as well as

Employment services
John Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law Blog discusses DOL, EEOC, eVerify, NLRB, IRS and other employment-related governmental services: How the government shutdown affects labor and employment law

Health Agencies
NIH, CDC feeling government shutdown's effects
CBS News reports on the National Institute of Health, already reeling from $1.5 billion in sequester cuts, must now shut its "hospital of last resort" and must turn away some 200 people, about 30 of them children, who want to participate in experimental treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control has furloughed about 8,000 workers, who would track "outbreaks of diseases and hospital-acquired infections, foodborne illnesses and the 2013-2014 flu season." A memo from the Department of Health and Human Services. says the CDC will be "unable to support the annual seasonal influenza program."

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April 8, 2013

 

In his recent column A Workers' Comp App Store? in Risk & Insurance, our friend Peter Rousmaniere poses the question, "When will mobile devices be used to improve work safety and injury response?" He notes that Personal Lines insurers are taking the lead and cites a few examples. He goes on to offer thoughts and ideas for a workers' comp mobile initiatives for this "ripe communication channel."

It's been about a year since we took the pulse of the workers comp mobile app scene here on Workers' Comp Insider: Last April, we posted 72 apps for your workers comp, risk management & HR toolbox, and shortly before that, a roundup of risk-related and occupational gizmos & gadgets. (As with all older posts, some links may no longer work, but most appear valid.)

In doing a Google search, we found an excellent post by Michael Allen who apparently has already done some of the heavy lifting for us: Mobile health - 40 "apps" for your workers' comp team. He lists a variety of apps ranging from workers' comp medical guidelines, claims-related, medication management, physical therapy, patient education, and Health, Wellness and Comorbidity management apps. (By the way, we'll be adding his great blog to our sidebar: Tech Talk for Workers' Comp)

Besides the listings, he offers insight into how many CIOs are building app stores from which employees can download vetted apps. He links to a piece by Clint Boulton in the WSJ about the rise of corporate app stores. Boulton says such stores, "...ensure applications used by employees, particularly those that are using their own devices, meet the company's security standards."

So Peter is right on the money (as usual) with his "Workers" Comp App Store" reference.

A further Google search for "OSHA apps" turned up this listing of safety apps using the keyword OSHA; Another search for ADA apps brought these results. A little digging in the "about us" section of Canvas, the site hosting these listings, says that "Canvas makes it easy to publish data collection apps on wireless Smartphones and other mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, bar code scanning devices, and Netbooks." Among other benefits and services, it also boasts, "Canvas also offers the first mobile business application store of its kind allowing business users to find mobile applications that work on a wide variety of mobile devices, with every application being customizable by Canvas users."

So if you want to compile a list of trustworthy insurance, business, or workers comp apps for your workforce, this might be a good tool to work with.

Meanwhile, here's a grab bag of a few workers' comp or risk related apps we've bookmarked for just such a post as this:



Many of the apps we see are ghost towns - few reviews, little traction. Still, we applaud the pioneers for forging the way because in our experience, insurance as an industry is infamous for leading from behind when it comes to adaptation to new technologies.

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February 7, 2013

 

The Insider is very much looking forward to the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) annual conference, taking place on February 27-28 in the virtual epicenter of wonkiness, Cambridge MA. There is always much food for thought in these annual gatherings of insurance execs, state officials, policy makers, attorneys, medical specialists, employers and safety/loss control practitioners.

This year's agenda has zeroed in on the fundamental medicine-related conundrums facing workers comp systems across the country. All of us in workers comp long for insights into the following:
- Unnecessary medical care and its impact on treatment guidelines. (Back surgery, anyone?)
- Medical price regulation: what are the essential elements of an effective fee schedule? (Beware of the state where the doctors love comp...did someone mention "Connecticut"?)
- The Opioid epidemic: treatment protocols involving the generous and prolonged distribution of opioids are destroying lives across the country. Why are so many doctors so clueless about the proper use of pain killers? Whatever happened to "do no harm"?

WCRI's head honcho, Dr. Richard Victor, will host a discussion on health care policy involving (the presumably liberal) Howard Dean and (the assuredly conservative) Greg Judd. The dialogue might not equal the fireworks of July 4th on the Esplanade, but it might come close. The Insider will be listening closely for any indications of that rarest of phenomena: a common ground.

From Gorilla to ?
Last year, Dr. Victor concluded the conference with a discussion of the "gorilla in the room": the enormous and perhaps insoluble problem of structural unemployment among the 20 million people who lost jobs in the recent recession. For many of these people, especially those in their 50s and 60s, there is little prospect of returning to jobs with anywhere near the same rate of pay as before. Many will find themselves lost in the new economy, cobbling together part-time employment without benefits, while struggling to hold onto housing where mortgages exceed the value of the home. Tough times and, so far, not much in the way of effective solutions.

This year Dr. Victor will have to find some other animal analogy to glean lessons from history: Giraffe in the closet? Rhino in the den? He tells us that the lesson might have something to do with the first century Ephesians, toward whom St. Paul addressed some rather famous snail mail. While some might find such a teaser a bit obscure and full of religious overtones, the Insider looks forward to the story. Indeed, we look forward to this year's entire conference with great anticipation. There are few things better for policy wonks - our people! - than listening to the latest research from WCRI. Diligent note-taking will be in order.

If you count yourself among those with wonkish tendencies and you haven't signed up yet, you'd best jump on it immediately. If you have any questions about the conference, contact Andrew Kenneally at WCRI: 617-661-9274.

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January 29, 2013

 

With ice encrusting a huge segment of the nation today, it's a good day to think about your organization's stance on telework. Are your employees among the 20-30 million people who work at home one day of the week or more? That's the most recent estimate from the Telework Research Network. They report that "Regular telecommuting grew by 73% between 2005 and 2011 compared to only 4.3% growth of the overall workforce (not including the self-employed)."

Telecommuting has a lot of benefits for employer and employee alike. A few of the benefits include:

  • Reduced traffic congestion, commuting time and costs - it's an environment-friendly option
  • Risk management in addressing disruptive nuisances such as weather and seasonal flus that pose threats to employee health and safety
  • Enhanced business continuity in emergency situations resulting from more extreme and catastrophic events
  • Improved job satisfaction and morale for employees, and a tool to strengthen work/life balance and reduce stress
  • Expanded pool of available workers, offering more flexibility for workers with disabilities, older workers,and workers with dependent care or caregiver responsibilities

Carol Harnett wrote more about the benefits of flexibility in the wake of superstorm Sandy in her article Telework is Good for Business, which appeared in Human Resource Executive. She credits telework policies as being "the keys to keeping many organizations - and even the federal government - open for business before and after Sandy's arrival."

The government as an early adopter
More than 20% of eligible federal employees now telework, with telework defined as work that occurs as part of a regular schedule. There's been a marked increase since President Obama signed the Telework Expansion Act of 2010. Roughly 21% of federal workers teleworked in 2011 compared to 10% teleworked in calendar year 2009. See the full report to Congress: Status of Telework in the Federal Government

Telework.gov is the official website of the federal government's telework program. While the site pertains specifically to the federal work force, it provides an interesting case study and reference point for employers on issues of policy, practice, training and more.

Workers Comp & Telecommuting Resources
Telecommuting and -based work opens a lot of compensability issues should an injury occur so policies and procedures need to be thought out carefully in advance.One of the best articles on the topic that we've seen is John Stahl's Mobile Workforce Issues: Home-based Employees and Traditional Workers Subject to Same Standards, which covered a session on the mobile Workforce at last November's Workers' Compensation & Disability Conference. Mark Noonan also has a good overview of some of the issues related to telecommuting and workers' comp, including tips to avoid claims.

Additional resources
Safety Checklist for Telecommuters

Telecommuting: Are Employers Liable for Home Office Injuries?

Promoting safety among lone workers

Telework / Telecommuting - resources from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety

Five tips for successful telework

Technology tools for effective telework

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August 16, 2012

 

Dr. Jaan Sidorov has posted A Brainy Health Wonk Review on Health Reform, the Affordable Care Act and Lots More! at Disease Management Care Blog. Health Wonk Review is on an abbreviated summer schedule but the wonkers still have a lot to share and Jaan does a great job dishing it up - check it out.

Additions to our blogroll
From time to time, we update our blogroll with new blog finds - and we also clear out some of the less active blogs. It's exciting to see such a thriving workers comp and insurance community online - back in 2003, when we started, it was a pretty lonely place! Check them all out under "Business Weblogs" in our right hand sidebar. We also have a variety of other useful tools if you haven't checked them out yet!

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August 7, 2012

 

Will the extreme heat that has plagued the nation in June and July continue on through August? If so, there's a tool that might provide some relief -- and safety -- for outdoor workers.

OSHA has a Heat Safety App that allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. It combines heat index data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the user's location to determine necessary protective measures.

Once a worker has determined the risk level, they can then access information about protective measures that should be taken for that risk level to prevent heat-related illness. These include reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

osha-heat-app.JPG

The free app is available for iPhones, Androids, and Blackberrys in English and Spanish. Access other tools and information in OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers.

USA Today has a story on how businesses are adapting to extreme heat and drought. It includes mention of some new "personal cooling system" technologies such as CoolWare and Polar Products, which offers some "Body Cooling Systems." We can't personally vouch for any of these because we haven't tried them - but there are still several weeks to summer yet!

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April 10, 2012

 

Here's a grab bag of apps for health & safety, human resources, insurance news - and even for ADA job accommodations.

EH&S Apps for All Seasons - Occupational Health & Safety compiled apps that have particular relevance to safety, health, and environmental professionals - and risk managers too, we might add. These range from weather and traffic alerts to tools for chemical safety, first aid and emergency response.

Top 5 Risk Management Apps - apps for insurance terminology, insurance publications and a mobile flood map.

Apps for ADA Accommodations - HR Daily Adisor offers a variety of suggestions from the Job Accommodation Network for apps that address speech, hearing and visual impairment.

10 Apps That Can Save a Patient's Life - Emergency Monthly scoured the MedGadget archives to compile the top 10 smartphone applications that can save a patient's life ... before they get to the emergency department. The 10 apps presented have been grouped into the four primary categories: workflow, emergency response, vitals, and diagnosis.

10 Mobile Apps That Promote Safety - SocialTimes offers a roundup of apps covering emergency preparedness, driving safety, alerts, first aid, and medical diagnostics for communications between patients and physicians.

In HR? There's an App for That - a roundup of apps from SHRM for recruiting, analytics, time-and-attendance tracking, performance feedback and more.

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January 26, 2012

 

It's a pop quiz style risk roundup this week where you can match wits with the riskmeisters. The Notwithstanding Blog hosts the Cavalcade of Risk #149: Single Best Answer edition.

In other matters, we will use this week's roundup here at Workers Comp Insider to highlight some useful gizmos and gadgets that have been accumulating in our bookmarks folder: a grab bag of work-related mobile apps and calculators that we hope you'll find useful!

There's an app for that

DOL data apps - Backed by prize money, last summer the Department of Labor issued an Occupational Employment Statistics challenge to developers to use DOL data in innovative, creative, and useful ways that would empower job seekers and consumers. Winning apps were recently announced - they include job trackers and occupational wage watchers - but our favorite is Eat Shop Sleep, an app that allows you to geographically shop for hotels and restaurants, and to narrow your results based on health and labor violations, as well as local reviews.

The DOL itself offers a few mobile apps - a labor statistics tool, a timesheet, and an OSHA heat safety tool. See the full menu of USA.gov features various mobile apps - a few that look particularly helpful include PTSD Coach, MedlinePlus Mobile, and U.S. Federal per-diem rates. And we can't resist pointing out the MEanderthal, a Smithsonian app that allows you to upload a photo and morph into a neanderthal - not particularly work-related, unless you want to create an unusual portrait bulletin board for your work team. (See a fun video of MEanderthal in action).

Accessibility App - Another app development challenge sponsored by the Knight Foundation and the Federal Communications Commission yields a tool with great potential for people with disabilities. Access Together, is a crowd-sourced Foursquare-style app, which incorporates user information about accessibility of various locations. All answers will be saved and become part of a searchable dataset, map and open API to be used by people with and without disabilities.

Distracted Driving - DriveSafe.ly is a mobile application that reads text (SMS) messages and emails aloud in real time and automatically responds without drivers touching the mobile phone. DriveSafe.ly bills itself as "the solution to texting while driving." It's available in either a personal or a business/enterprise edition.

Calculators

Push Pull Carry Calculator - Canada's WorkSafeBC is a great source of quality health and safety resources. Check out the Push Pull Carry Calculator, a tool designed to help prevent musculo-skeletal injuries.

Ergonomics Cost Benefit Calculator - The Puget Sound Chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has developed an Ergonomics cost-benefit calculator that helps you to estimate ROI by comparing three intervention options that offer estimates of benefits and payback periods.

Diabetes cost - The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has created Diabetes Cost Calculator for Employers, an evidence-based tool that employers can use to estimate how much diabetes costs them and the potential savings that would result from better management of diabetes. In a similar vein, see Blueprint for health, a free web-based tool for making value-based decisions for health and productivity management. This tool was developed by the Health as Human Capital Foundation in collaboration with ACOEM, and the National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH).

R.O.I. - Wellness Return on Investment Calculators are designed to help you to estimate the effect that a good wellness programs can have on health care costs, absenteeism, and presenteeism. For another tool variation on the theme of wellness program ROI, see the Calculate your Savings.

The cost of doing nothing - Quantifying the Cost of Physical Inactivity Calculator estimates the financial cost of physically inactive people to a particular community, city, state or business. The site also provides companion resources and information to re-allocate resources and plan for healthier workplaces and communities that are more supportive of physical activity.

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January 18, 2012

 

Falls in Construction - Reroofing

In Spanish: Caidas en la Construccion/Reparacion del Techo

Sprains and Strains in Construction/Pulling Cables

In Spanish: Torceduras y Desgarres en la Construccion/Tendido de Cables

Struck-by Accidents in Construction/Swinging Cranes

In Spanish: Golpes Causados por Accidentes en Construccion/Gruas en Movimiento


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July 28, 2011

 

The Disability Management Employer Coalition is a non-profit dedicated to advancing strategies and resources that improve workforce productivity by minimizing the impact of absence and disability. The organization offers a variety of tools and research materials - and we've just discovered a stash of video clips on a variety of topics from recent presentations. We think they are well worth checking out - here's an index:

Best Practices in Return to Work
This presentation is from the Leadership Series, an employer-only, focus group approach to the investigation of high-profile issues. This 6/23/2011 session (Length: 1:16) deals with Return to Work. Employers share best practices in both work-related and non work-related situations that can be easily incorporated into a company's culture. it also explores common characteristics of several programs and identifies the pros can cons of plan design.

Stress & Resiliency: Applying Research of Employer Best Practices @ Your Workplace
From the "Tools & Tactics" webinar series, 6/09/11, length 1:01
A report on research conducted in collaboration with DMEC, the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, and other organizations. Study participants included multidisciplinary representatives from 40 different workplaces, and offers specific examples from employers and strategies for applying best practices at your company.

What If There Were a Money Pill? Financial Security & Workplace Wellness
From the "Tools & Tactics" webinar series, 5/26/11, length 49:42
Dr. Ron Leopold explores both the financial and wellness aspects of disability and how it affects recovery and RTW. Learn how you can implement small changes to make the process run smoother and insure employees avoid costly disability events.

Absence, Wellness and Engagement: A Critical Link
From the "Tools & Tactics" webinar series, 5/12/11, length 57:27
What do patterns in absence and disability tell us about the health status of our workforce? And what can we do it about it? This talk Explores the results of research done at Nationwide Better Health to quantify the true impact of costly health risks and tells how several employers are getting results from a proactive management approach.

Johnny's Not Back at Work?: Corporate Strategies for the Less Than Motivated
From the Virtual Education Forum, 5/10/11, 1:12
The Virtual Education Forum is a series of web-based sessions where employers and service providers share their knowledge and first-hand experience in developing and running a successful disability and absence management program. This session deals with calibrating the likelihood of a successful RTW will be presented along with corporate worker's compensation and disability case studies applying a unique motivational model.

Managing Absence in Recessionary Times: Research Update
From the "Tools & Tactics" webinar series, 4/28/11, length 1:04
This session offers findings from Mercer's 2010 Absence Management Survey

I thought it could never happen to me
From the "Tools & Tactics" webinar series, 4/21/10, length 49:47
Dr. Ron Leopold on the emotional and financial impact of disability.

ADAAA Update: What the First Cases and New Regulations Tell Us
From the "Tools & Tactics" webinar series, 3/31/11, length 1 hour
This annual update provides insight into the implications of recent case law as well as offering suggestions on how to insure your program is set to respond appropriately.

Upcoming events
To learn about upcoming DMEC events, check the DMEC Virtual Education Forum events and the Tools & Tactics Webinars. Events are free to members; nonmembers can also attend for a reasonable fee.

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April 12, 2011

 

Events at the damaged Fukushima plant continue to deteriorate. Today we learn that Japan's nuclear regulatory agency has raised the Fukushima accident rating level to a 7, the most serious level. Chernobyl is the only other nuclear accident to have been rated a Level 7 event.

U.S. authorities and the news media have been quick to try to stem any public panic about the levels of radiation exposure here in the U.S. This is more than just spin - while many aren't aware of it, there is a national network of radiation monitors called Radnet. It is operated by the Environmental Protection Agency and includes at least 200 monitoring stations spread across the country. It measures radioactive substances in air, precipitation, drinking water, and milk. Reports are that only trace amounts of radiation have surfaced here in the U.S.

People may still have questions and heightened anxiety as the news plays out in alarming daily headlines. Many employees may also have questions about potential exposures related to their specific jobs. Employers would do well to stay informed and be prepared to address concerns.

For example, employees who travel for their jobs may have questions about exposure, particularity if work takes them to Japan or Southeast Asia. Employees in manufacturing firms that get parts or cargo from Japan may have concerns. Airline personnel, mail carriers, and package handlers may have concerns. People who work in or live near domestic nuclear facilities may have concerns.

OSHA and NIOSH have paired up to produce resources for both employers and workers. These include an OSHA resource on Radiation Dispersal from Japan and the Effect on U.S. Workers and a NIOSH page on worker information, which specifically addresses some of the concerns posed above.

Here are some additional resources:


Everyone reacts to news of national and international crises differently. With proper information and facts, most people should be able to put concerns in perspective. But for whatever reason, some people "get stuck" in worry and anxiety mode. Sometimes that can be the result of prior post-traumatic stress, or related to a particular health concern. Be sensitive to the potential for high anxiety - if information and facts don't relieve the stress, it may be a good time for a referral to your organization's EAP.

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April 5, 2011

 

Remember playing those "what's wrong with this picture" games in activity books when you were a kid? Well WorkSafe BC has adapted the concept as a safety tool. Every issue of WorkSafe Magazine includes a photo that has been staged to show at least six hazards or dangerous work habits - you can interact with the photo to position pushpins on identified hazards, describe the hazards, and then submit your response to WorkSafeBC for a possible prize (although it's likely that only B.C. residents are eligible). In each issue, they include the winning entry from the last issue, along with responses from other readers. Neat.

One of the really cool and useful things is that they keep an archive of all past photos online - you can either take the challenge online and then check the answer key, or you can print the photos and the answer keys and use them in safety meetings or toolbox talks.

Here's one example: Can you spot the safety hazards in this commercial kitchen? Note: the image below is only a sample pic - the online interactive version is accessible at Kitchen Safety and here's the commercial kitchen answer key to check your responses.

WorkSafeBC.jpg

Archived "What's wrong with this photo" tools
There's a pretty good array of work scenarios representing a variety of industries. Here are direct links to each:

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November 2, 2010

 

In the interests of doing our part to foster good citizenship, we're providing some election day resources to help you with last minute voting preparation and tracking results. While there are only two ballot initiatives involving workers comp that hit our radar (let us know if you are aware of others), electing public officials has a downstream effect on both employers and employees. We've compiled a list of some of our favorite online voting resources.

Google Election Center - or simply enter "vote" into the Google search box.

Facebook Polling Place Locator

Vote 411 is a non-partisan source that offers a polling place finder. You can also select by state to find out about your state ballot and the election rules and process in your state.

Ballot Measures - a database from the National Conference of State Legislators

Guide to state ballot measures - from Stateline.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan online news site.

Ballotpedia is a free, collaborative, online encyclopedia that focuses on state elections and ballot measures that typically receive less attention.

Open Secrets is an independent research tool that tracks the influence of money on U.S. politics. The site sheds light on who is paying to finance a candidate or an issue.

Election Forecasts: Five Thirty Eight - we like to follow statistician Nate Silver, who achieved acclaim in the 2008 election for correctly predicting the winner of 49 of the 50 states and all 35 Senate races that year.

Election Polls: Real Clear Politics - is an aggregation of the latest polls from various sources, which can be sorted by Senate, House or Governor races.

Watching results
All the major TV news and cable stations and their online websites will be providing coverage of the election results. Here are a few less obvious resources:

C-Span Politics will provide live election coverage beginning at 7 PM. This is our choice for bipartisan viewing without high drama.

NY Times Election Results will have live updates, including state-by-state and county-by-county maps, and exit polls.

Twitter Vote Report - voters can share and map their experiences and resources with one another. Learn more about how to participate. We're not sure how this will actually play out, but it's a real-time initiative that looks interesting.

Workers Comp on the ballot
Washington - Initiative 1082 would privatize workers comp. The state is one of four in the US that offers workers comp through a government agency. Business groups, insurers and agents support this privatization while attorneys and labor unions oppose it, and local news sources report there is sharp divide among voters. Fact Check Washington reports on the initiative's top funders. You can also find more information at BallotPedia's page on Initiate 1082.

Louisiana - Proposed Amendment No. 9 - Act 1051 of the 2010 Regular Legislative Session
"To provide that, in civil matters only, when a court of appeal is to modify or reverse an administrative agency determination in a workers' compensation claim and one judge dissents, the case shall be reargued before a panel of at least five judges prior to rendition of judgment, and a majority shall concur to render judgment. (Amends Article V, Section 8(B))"

Labor & employment initiatives - Labor and Employment issues - Go to the center column and select "Labor and employment" and then search either "all" or select your state. This will call up any labor and employment related ballot initiatives.

State legislative activity - The Insurance Information Institute tracks many significant state initiatives on their workers compensation page, which is updated several times a year. This is a good resource to bookmark!

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October 21, 2010

 

We have just one item to share today - an important and useful tool from the folks at Oregon's Department of Consumer & Business Services: 2010 Oregon Workers' Compensation Premium Rate Ranking, which ranks all 50 states plus the District of Columbia for rates that were in effect in January 2010.

oregon.jpg

We've taken the liberty of excepting a graphic to give you a sampling of the information, but you really want to save a copy of the report for future reference - the data is updated every two years. The chart offers a bird's eye comparative view of state rankings; and accompanying chart breaks data down by state. As might be expected, there is more detail for Oregon.

Montana and Alaska continue to be among the two most costly states but shifted order since 2008. In 2008, Ohio ranked third highest costs, but has dropped to #17, while Illinois moves up to the #3 spot, a dubious distinction. North Dakota, Indiana, And Arkansas are the three least costly states in 2010. Massachusetts had previously been #49, rising in the ranks to #44 in a list where higher means less costly. For comparison, see the 2008 report.

For commentary on this report and other related matters, see our past posts:

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September 24, 2010

 

The folks at American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) know something about doctors. They also know quite a bit about workplace injuries in that most of the members are physicians actively practicing in the field, in one capacity or another. That's why we sat up and took notice when we saw their recent publication, A Guide to High-Value Physician Services in Workers' Compensation - How to find the best available care for your injured workers. ACOEM joined forces with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) to produce the 11-page "best practice" summary, which includes the best thinking and contributions from a diverse group of workers' compensation system stakeholders in a meeting convened by ACOEM and the IAIABC last April. You can see the list of participants on page 11 - a group of heavy hitters that includes a geographical and industrial sampling. It's great to see a think tank of employers and insurers sitting down at table with policymakers and physicians to come to some agreement about best practices. The only thing we might suggest for improvement would be to add a representative from labor at any future convocations.

The stated purpose of the document is to provide specific guidance and resources to all stakeholders in the workers comp system - from injured workers and employers to insurers and TPAs - to help identify the best physicians for care of both everyday, uncomplicated injuries, as well as for specialized medical services addressing catastrophic injury or administrative tasks required by the workers' compensation process.

It identifies ways to find physicians who:

  • Are willing to accept patients covered by workers' compensation insurance
  • Employ best practices in providing high quality and compassionate medical care
  • Respect and fulfill the extra responsibilities that the workers compensation system creates
  • Produce better overall outcomes at comparatively better total cost over the course of an injury or illness. (High-quality care produces better outcomes for workers and better value for payers.)

The Guide offers both a "High value" checklist and a step-by-step process for identifying physicians, verifying credentials, working with, and measuring performance. We put this one on our "required reading" list. And for adjunct reading, we also recommend ACOEM's Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed.

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May 5, 2010

 

The latest edition of Cavalcade of Risk is up, hosted by Healthcare Economist. The menu is short and sweet, full of tasty morsels. If you have an appetite for risk, you'll want to delve into these items:

  • Did Goldman Sachs do anything wrong?

  • When does a double digit increase in health premiums reach the point of gouging?

  • Does travel insurance cover volcanoes?

  • The answers - or, at a minimum, well-informed opinions, reside here.

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    February 10, 2010

     

    A new issue of Cavalcade of Risk has just been posted at John Leppard's blog, Healthcare Manumission. Check it out!

    Check out our sidebar resources
    In other matters, we'd like to direct your attention to our sidebar of resources, which you can find over in the right hand column of this blog. If you haven't checked it out in awhile, you may find some handy resources. Over the past few weeks, we've double checked all links, deleted a few broken ones, added a few news ones, and generally tidied things up.

    Here are a few of the newest resources we've added:

    • National Crash Statistics - stats for large trucks and buses involved in fatal and non-fatal crashes that occurred in the United States. These statistics are derived from two sources: the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). Crash Statistics contain information that can be used to identify safety problems in specific geographical areas or to compare state statistics to the national crash figures.
    • Workers Comp Matters - legal podcasts on a variety of workers' comp topics hosted by Massachusetts plaintiff attorney Alan S. Pierce at the Legal Talk Network.
    • Workplace Safety - safety articles from Reliable Plant, a publication which focuses on manufacturing processes and plant operations.
    • City Data - If need to research any city, zip code, or neighborhood for any reason, this is is a good starting place. It compiles and presents a wide variety of data, stats, photos, maps, news, and reports.
    • American Agent & Broker - magazine aimed at property & casualty agents and brokers. Related: editor Laura Mazzuca Toops' blog, Agent for Change.
    • Mashable - Whether you're a newbie just venturing a toe in the Web 2.0 water or an early adapter wanting to stay up on the latest Twitter and Facebook news, this site has a lot to offer - from "how to" guides and tips to breaking news and technology trends.
    • Communicating With and About People with Disabilities - the Office of Disability and Employment Policy offers a chart with affirmative and negative phrases when speaking about people with disabilities, as well as general communication tips when interacting with people with disabilities.
    • Legistalker - Wanting to follow your congressperson during key issues? Try Legistalker, a site that makes it easy to stay on top of what your elected officials say and how they vote. The database is updated every 20 seconds, and relies on data from Twitter, YouTube, Capitol Words, literally hundreds of different news sources, and others.
    • Dictionary Of Occupational Titles - This is the complete Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) revised fourth edition, as supplied electronically by the US Dept. of Labor, provided as a public service by
      Information Technology Associates.
    • Work Matters- a good blog on labor and employment law by Texas attorney Michael P. Maslanka.
    • eLCOSH images - a collection of images intended to educate and promote safety and health in construction. The searchable collection includes images that may illustrate good practices or bad practices. Images are available for free use (with some restrictions) in print publications, training presentations, videos, websites, etc. and can be downloaded in resolutions appropriate for both print use and screen use.
    • U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board - independent federal agency charged with conducting root cause investigations of chemical accidents at fixed industrial facilities. Root causes are usually deficiencies in safety management systems, but can be any factor that would have prevented the accident if that factor had not occurred. The agency does not issue fines or citations, but does make recommendations to plants, regulatory agencies such as OSHA and the EPA, industry organizations, and labor groups. Congress designed the CSB to be non-regulatory and independent of other agencies so that its investigations might, where appropriate, review the effectiveness of regulations and regulatory enforcement.

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    October 13, 2009

     

    States offer public tools to curb premium fraud
    Massachusetts has recently announced an online tool to verify that an employer has workers' compensation coverage. The tool can be accessed from the Department of Industrial Accidents site.

    In addition to helping employees to verify that they will be covered should they be injured on the job, businesses may also want to verify that their competitors are not gaining unfair advantage by avoiding their workers compensation obligations. Officials say the stated goals of the program are to:

    • Permit homeowners to ensure that hired contractors have workers' comp insurance
    • Allow general contractors to ensure that all subcontractors are properly insured
    • Assist medical providers with coverage questions when treating an injured worker
    • Aid state and municipal officials with ensuring workers' comp compliance with licensing, permitting, and awarding public contracts
    • Help protect employers from agent and broker fraud allowing them to verify their own coverage
    State officials have noted that 36 other states have similar public services online - we've seen such services on the NY, CA, FL, IL and TX workers' comp sites, although on some sites, it can be a devil of a time to find the services. See All 50 States' and D.C.'s Home Pages and Workers' Compensation Agencies

    While most states have some type of anonymous fraud reporting system on their websites, some states are getting more aggressive than others in promoting their services to the public. Florida has been touting the results of their workers comp whistle blower site, which allows citizens to submit referrals of alleged violations of workers compensation rules. As of August, after only two months of operation, the site had already produced hundreds of new complaints and over $500,000 in penalties. Fraud reporting systems aren't just for reporting noncompliant employers. They can also be used to report suspected employee, physician, or attorney fraud related to workers comp.

    Fraud is on the rise
    According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, workers comp fraud referrals were up by 2% in the first half of 2009. Premium fraud was down by 21%, but other types of fraud such as medical provider fraud and claimant fraud have risen.

    Steve Tuckey is currently writing an in-depth series on fraud for Risk and Insurance. The first installment, Transparency of Evidence, deals with fraud by doctors, hospitals and other healthcare professionals. He notes that "grayer areas of so-called abuse or overutilization continue to vex payers, insurance companies and lawmakers eager to maintain the financial stability and integrity of the system that has protected workers for nearly a century." Evidence-based medicine standards are helping to curtail both the egregious fraud as well as "softer" abuses. Part 2, Vanishing Premiums, deals with the issue of premium fraud and the myriad schemes employers use to avoid paying their fair share.

    Social networks provide clues
    Some employers and insurers are finding that social networking sites are a useful new tool in com batting employee fraud. In fact, in many cases, fraudulent employees are outing themselves as cheats by bragging about false claims or posting photos or videos of themselves engaging in activities that are incompatible with the injuries they are claiming.

    "Some claimants supposedly too disabled to work post locations and dates for their upcoming sports competitions or rock band performances, boast of new businesses launched, and include date-stamped photographs of their physical activity, investigators say.

    Others have openly bragged about fooling their employers with "Monday morning" workers comp claims for injuries that occurred the weekend prior and away from the workplace."

    However, employers need to ensure that they stay within the law when using online information about employees. New Jersey attorney Jonathan Bick suggests some best practice policies for employers when mining social networks. The issue of employee privacy can be a murky one. A good rule of thumb is that an employer should avoid duplicitous methods to spy on private, nonpublic pages - a New Jersey jury recently upheld a group of employees' rights to privacy in just such a case. Information that employees post to public pages may be another matter. As Bick notes, "In order for a person's privacy to be invaded, that person must have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

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    April 29, 2009

     

    To follow up on my colleague Jon's Monday post on Swine Flu Meets Workers Comp, we've compiled a list of swine flu news and planning resources for employers.

    How Employers Should Respond to the Swine Flu Outbreak - the Workplace Safety Compliance Practice Group of the employment law firm Jackson Lewis suggests 8 steps for employers to take in responding to employee concerns.

    PandemicFlu.gov - Workplace Planning - HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed guidelines, including checklists, to assist businesses, industries, and other employers in planning for a pandemic outbreak as well as for other comparable catastrophes.

    Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic - a new guide for employers from OSHA

    CDC Swine Influenza - news, updates, and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    WHO Swine Influenza - global updates and news from the World Health Organization.

    MedlinePlus: Swine Flu - excellent page with news, articles and links to a variety of resources.

    Taking Care of Yourself: What to Do if You Get Sick with Flu - from the CDC
    Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home - from the CDC

    Maps
    Global disease alert map from HealthMap
    H1N1 Swine Flu

    News feeds
    CDC Emergency Twitter feed
    What's new on the CDC Swine Flu page
    CNN Health News
    Y! Health Cold & Flu News

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    February 28, 2008

     

    From time to time, we like to share a mixed bag of useful tools ranging from health and safety resources to productivity enhancers. Here are our latest finds:

    Compliance - State labor legislation enacted in 2007 - the Monthly Labor Review's 29-page PDF offers a summary of major labor changes on a state-by-state basis, including minimum wage, immigration initiatives, child labor, worker privacy, and many other legal matters.

    Trucking - Safe Stat is a safety resource for trucking, transportation and fleet safety. It's a Department of Transportation site that includes such features as SafeStat, Crash Profile, Program Measures, and Current Analysis Results.

    California - PD Rater bills itself as "a free benefits calculator for California.

    Georgia - Georgia Tech's OSHA 21D Consultation Program provides a free, confidential, on-site consultation service for small companies (fewer than 500 employees) in Georgia that need assistance in occupational safety and health.

    Spanish - Georgia Tech's OSH program also offers construction safety information in Spanish: Seguridad en la Construcción. The program includes posters, fliers and PowerPoint presentations. Other Spanish safety programs are also available.

    Annoyances - Do you ever make a quick call and find yourself stuck in a nightmare automated loop and you can't access the service you called for? Grrr. Here are two services that might help. Get Human is a company-specific database of phone numbers that will bypass the robots and get you directly to a human customer service rep. Sometimes they provide a direct number and in other cases, they give you the magic formula code numbers that will get you through. I've used this service a few times and it works. Someone also recently pointed me to an alternative service along the same lines, except it will do most of the work for you. Bringo! allows you to choose a company that you'd like to call from a list, you enter your number, and Bringo will call you back and connect you after they get through the phone tree and reach a human.

    Travel productivity - If you travel a lot for work, FlightStats might be a lifesaver. The site allows you to track lights in real time, check on airport delays and wait time, and a links to a variety of other flight-related tools.

    Search - Google has more search tools and web tools than you probably realized, some tucked away in various corners of Google that you may not have occasion to visit. Simply Google lets you access all Google's tools one page without having to poke around to find them.

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    January 24, 2008

     

    A new edition of Health Wonk Review is being hosted by Vince Kuraitis at e-CareManagement blog, including posts about in-store clinics, physicians, problems and solutions in health systems, and cats, dogs and kangaroos. Suffice it to say that this is the first time kangaroos have surfaced in HWR, and I will leave it to you to discover why. This edition is Vince's debut as HWR host, and he carries out his duties with style and grace. His blog focuses on issues and trends in chronic disease management and technology. While there, you might check out his take on Disease Management Megatrends for 2008, a post which is also available in a 20-minute podcast version.

    New tools for our sidebar
    In other matters, here are a few handy tools that have recently come to our attention - we'll be adding them to our sidebar:

    Health care - HealthExecLynx is a huge compendium of links related to all things health care - an absolute must for your bookmarks. It lists thousands of links, including health care news sources, blogs, associations, governmental concerns, career resources, and more - an excellent resource.

    Safety signs - Safety Sign Builder 2.0 - this free service includes a number of web-based tools that facilitate the creation of custom general and safety signs. Each Sign Builder tool has unique options designed to make the creation of any custom sign quick and easy. Build Hazmat signs, ANSI signs, or OSHA-compliant Lockout Tags in English and in Spanish. Safety Sign Builder 2.0 is sponsored by St. Claire, Inc.

    OSHA - OSHA recently announced eight new OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers. Current OTI Education Centers offer training courses on OSHA standards and occupational safety and health issues. The Centers provide safety and health training to private sector and federal personnel from agencies outside OSHA.

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    September 26, 2007

     

    The good news is there are new technologies that hold the promise of ending fraudulent or inappropriate disability and workers' compensation claims. The bad news is that you'll need to get in the business of harvesting and tracking your employee's DNA to get there, venturing into relatively uncharted legal waters. Workforce Management and BBC both discuss the new technologies in DNA Technology May Curb Bogus Disability Claims and DNA test hope over damages claims. According to the Workforce article:

    Developed by the Cytokine Institute, a research and consulting firm affiliated with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, the technology uses DNA to determine a link between exposure to a toxin and a serious illness. It does so by identifying a toxin's unique DNA signature on a person's affected cells.

    The technology, launched in June, has already been used in two dozen civil lawsuits between workers and insurance companies to verify the connection between exposure to toxins and a serious illness, says CEO Bruce Gillis, a doctor specializing in medical toxicology.

    "It will get rid of all the nuisance and frivolous lawsuits once and for all," Gillis says.

    In addition to the application for illnesses and exposures to toxins, testing may also be able to tell if an injury has even occurred. The Workforce article also discusses technology that can measure cytokines or small proteins in a person's cells, which elevate when an injury occurs. Cytokines can be measured as a before and after baseline to verify that an injury has occurred.

    Exercise caution when jumping in the gene pool
    Before you get too excited, you might check in with your lawyers, many of whom are likely to advise caution due to potential problems with privacy and discrimination issues. While there are no federal prohibitions against genetic testing, at least 30 states have laws that may say otherwise. HR Hero sheds light on the status of federal legislation putting limits on genetic testing in Lifeguard on duty: Congress patrols the gene pool, excerpted from Arizona Employment Law Letter. While many of the legal prohibitions deal with matters related to hiring discrimination and insurance denial rather than work injuries, attorneys advise a conservative approach in matters dealing with employees' genetic information.

    Genetic testing is already a hot button employment issue. Its application to workers' compensation and other disability matters is an issue that bears watching. For a handy reference guide, the National Conference of State Legislatures offers a chart on State Genetics Employment Laws.

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    May 14, 2007

     

    We've learned about a few free seminars that we thought we would pass along to you. We don't have any connection with either of these groups, but they are both sponsored by reputable organizations and sound interesting.

    Standard/Universal Precautions: Compliance, Beliefs, and Barriers - Wednesday, May 16
    The North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center is sponsoring a free NORA Interdisciplinary webcast on Wednesday, May 16 from 1:00 - 2:30 pm EST. Kathy Kirkland, Executive Director, Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics in Washington, DC, will present "Standard/Universal Precautions: Compliance, Beliefs, and Barriers." The seminar can be viewed live via webcast, or an archive link will be available a few days after May 16 for viewing at your convenience.

    Access the seminar here at 1 pm EST on May 16, and log in as a guest. Type in your first and last name and click the "Enter" button to launch the OSHERC meeting space. You may need to download the meeting plug-in (Flashplayer). There will be an interactive question and answer session. Slides and an evaluation form are available.

    The seminar topic has been approved for 1.5 contact hours or 0.15 CEUs through the University of North Carolina. To receive the CE credit, you must complete a registration form (hard copy available only) and send a $4.00 check payable to *Friday Center for Continuing Education* to Susan Randolph by *May 25, 2007*; you must also complete an evaluation form after the seminar.

    More info: Susan A. Randolph, FAAOHN Clinical Instructor Occupational Health Nursing Program University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1700 Airport Road, CB #7502 Room #337 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7502 - Phone: 919-966-0979


    Improving Communication with Spanish Speaking Employees - May 24
    Benefits Management Online Forum & Expo is sponsoring this free online forum on Thursday May 24 at 2:00pm EST. Register for attendance here

    The notice for this forum states:
    If you are an employer with Spanish-speaking employees, an HR director responsible for the success of Spanish-speaking teammates, or a benefits specialist who must communicate plans to Spanish-speakers, this online forum is for you.

    Spend an hour with Melissa Burkhart, founder and president of the consulting firm Futuro Solido USA, as she shows why developing Spanish straight talk es muy importante. Melissa will explain the different workplace behaviors and values held by English-speaking and Spanish-speaking workers and reveal the secrets to successful trouble-shooting and team-building with Spanish-speaking employees.

    In this presentation, you will learn about:
    * Culturally rooted beliefs
    * Common pitfalls and employer frustrations
    * Strategic solutions for optimizing communication and building more effective teams

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    March 19, 2007

     

    We've just completed some housekeeping on our sidebar resources, making a few additions and deletions to ensure things are up to date. If you haven't noted this part of our blog yet, take a quick scroll through the column to the right - we've compiled hundreds of links in various categories to workers compensation and related resources. Here are some of the new resources we've just added:

    Insurance Information Institute - Bob Hartwig is one of the nation's most knowledgeable workers' comp experts - we can't believe we didn't have this essential resource in our sidebar yet!

    Ergonomics in the News - is a news blog by Usernomics featuring articles for workplace ergonomics, safety, and biometrics. In addition to sourcing some really useful articles like the one on kitchen foot protection, they also keep us up on some cool and futuristic technology innovations and tools.

    The Naval Safety Center Photo of the Week features a new photo each week highlighting a frighteningly unsafe work practice. We've linked to it before, but we will be adding it to our sidebar.

    Gruntled Employees is a blog by attorney Jay Shepherd. The blog's premise is that "Managers, executives, in-house counsel, and HR people know all about disgruntled employees. They cost employers billions of dollars each year in lawsuits, attorneys' fees, lost productivity, and wasted time. Here we discuss how to keep employees gruntled. We also talk about dealing with your lawyers." Here at Workers' Comp Insider, we're all for gruntled employees!

    Google Blog Search is Google's blog-specific search engine, helpful if you want to track news on just the blogs.

    In a bit of housekeeping, we moved Confined Space archives to our Safety Resources. It won't be updated regularly, but the archives are very valuable. We hope our friend Jordan Barab is making progress in DC! On the safety front, we would also remind you to visit Weekly Toll. We also note the address change for Brent Hunsberger's At Work blog from OregonianLive.

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    January 30, 2007

     

    Here are a dozen new links ranging from safety resources to tech tools. We'll be adding most of these to our sidebar, where we have collected an ever-expanding array of organizations, publications, resources, and tools - check them out!

    Florida Agsafe - a great resource page of agricultural safety and disaster information from the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department of the University of Florida and The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

    Workers' Comp Executive - published 22 times per year and is the journal of record for the workers' comp community in California.

    Cal-OSHA Reporter - a Weekly Publication For The Occupational Safety & Health Community

    Appeals Board Reporter - California workers compensation legal publication featuring up to the minute cases, objective status and reviews, a place to research issues and much much more.

    Risk Manager's Guide to All 50 States - links to state offices relevant to risk management.

    Employer state labor posting requirements - a handy reference list.

    State health facts - a resource from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation designed to provide free, up-to-date, and easy-to-use health data on all 50 states.

    Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist - the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed this activities checklist to help large businesses be prepared for a pandemic or other emergency.

    I want a freeware utility to... - 450+ free utilities to solve common problems and save money.

    Periodic table of visualization methods - planning a report, training session or presentation? This handy chart will help you to think through data, concept, and information presentation.

    Research Beyond Google: 119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources - research like a librarian using a variety of alternative search tools.

    Common errors in English - an alphabetical list of common goofs.

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    November 6, 2006

     

    Here’s a question for you: If you were to ask any employer in America how his or her workers’ compensation costs compare to similar employers in other states, what do you think the answer would be? Well, I’ve been doing that with employers I meet for a long time, and I have yet to meet one who thinks his or her costs are lower than those of employers in other states.

    Moreover, if you expand the question to inquire about employee benefits, most employers will venture that indemnity benefits paid in other states are most likely lower than what’s doled out in theirs.

    It’s the old, “The grass is always greener” thing. But is it really, and how would you know? And here’s one last question: Suppose those employers really wanted to know the comparative cost and benefit data for their state and decided to ask a room full of insurance professionals about it. What do you think the insurance professionals would say?

    For many years, we at Lynch Ryan have tracked research reports from three highly credible organizations that produce state rankings of workers’ compensation costs and benefits, one a private actuarial firm, another an Oregonian governmental entity and the third a non-profit, Washington, DC, foundation.

    Actuarial & Technical Solutions, Inc, an actuarial consulting firm located in Ronkonkoma, NY, has been publishing state cost and benefit data annually since 1992. Its 2006 report, Workers’ Compensation State Rankings – Manufacturing Industry Costs and Statutory Benefit Provisions, has been released within the last month.

    The Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services publishes comparative cost data every two even-numbered years. Oregon’s 2006 Workers’ Compensation Premium Rate Ranking Summary Report was released this past Friday, 4 November 2006 (the complete report won’t be published for another two to three months).

    And the National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation (UWC), headquartered in Washington, DC, has, since 1984, published annual, and class specific, comparative state data in a report titled, Fiscal Data for State Workers’ Compensation Systems. In this report. you’ll find annual data and total indemnity and medical benefit payments over the last 12 years.

    The UWC has also published a Research Bulletin called, State Workers’ Compensation Legislation and Related Changes Adopted in 2005. Perusing that somewhat eye-glazing, 77 page report offers up such tidbits as Maryland’s House Bill 461, which “Applies workers’ compensation occupational disease presumptions to Montgomery County correctional officers who suffer from heart disease or hypertension (my italics) resulting in partial or total disability or death,” effective 1 October 2005. Wow!

    The Oregon reports are free; Actuarial & Technical Solutions charges $105 for a single report, and the UWC reports costs $25 for those who are not members of the Foundation ($20 for those who are).

    The first thing you need to know about the three comparative cost reports is that, while they use different methodologies, they all pretty much arrive at the same place. For the most part their rankings are in general agreement. One state may be ranked #5 in one report and #7 in another. Personally, that’s close enough for me.

    All three reports contain some rankings that appear predictable, but there are surprises and paradoxes, too. For example, notwithstanding changes to its law, most workers’ compensation professionals would expect California to be at or near the top of the cost rankings, and they’d be right. But who knew that my home state, Massachusetts, which so many of my conservative friends continue to call Taxachusetts, would rank way down at the bottom, either 43rd or 47th, depending on whose report you read? That’s a surprise, and here’s a paradox: Despite ranking as the least costly of the major industrial states in which to buy workers’ compensation, Massachusetts provides higher benefits than any other state except Nevada, which ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of cost.

    We have found the data mined from these reports, as well as others, invaluable as we consult to employers and insurers around America. Searching out and understanding this research, and doing our own, as well, allows us to put costs and benefits in perspective and is very helpful in designing reasonable and achievable cost reduction targets for our clients.

    I urge the workers’ compensation professionals among our readers to get and read the reports. It’s time well spent. If you’d rather not do that, but have some questions about them, you can email us at communicationsATworkerscompinsiderDOTcom (insert the @ and "." where indicated - we avoid spelling it out to foil the spam bots). Or, if you’d prefer, call anyone at Lynch Ryan (my direct line is 781-431-0458, Ext 1). We’d love to hear from you.

    By the way, if you do get in touch, let us know what you think of the Insider and if there’s anything you‘d like to see us do to make it even better.

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    June 5, 2006

     

    West Virginia - Employers will be facing some confusion - and likely some change in rates - as BrickStreet Mutual Insurance, the entity that has replaced the prior state fund, switches over to the NCCI system of employee classification and rating. Under the prior state system, there were only 94 employee classifications, and under the new system there will be more than 470. Employee classifications all have different rates based on the risk of the work performed.

    WTC Workers - Another sad story about the difficulty that Ground Zero clean-up workers are facing in securing workers compensation benefits. Many disabilities are surfacing now, but the statute of limitations was only for two years following 9/11. Mayor Bloomberg recently interceded to get benefits for a former deputy mayor who is suffering from debilitating respiratory illness.

    Health care - Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters tells us to expect national health care within about five years.

    New blog - Check out our newest addition to the blogroll - InsureBlog, written by H.G. Stern, LUTCF and Bob Vineyard, CLU. It's new to our blogroll, but not new to the Web - it's been up for 18 months. They are launching a new blog carnival called "Cavalcade of Risk" - we'll keep you posted.

    Ohio Coingate - More developments late last week - Terrance Gasper, the former CFO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, is now facing federal and state racketeering charges for violating RICO by accepting bribes and laundering money. Thomas Noe gave Gasper $25,000 in exchange for Gasper's funneling BWC investments to Noe's rare coin company. Apparently, Gasper's interest in investing public funds didn't stop at the state border - he has also been named in an influence-peddling scheme associated with the New Hampshire Retirement System, activity that occurred after leaving the BWC. You might think he would have been treading a bit more carefully after the Ohio experience began making waves, but apparently not. If the New Hampshire allegations prove true, then perhaps Mr. Gasper should be nominated to this illustrious organization.

    Meanwhile, things are heating up considerably for Thomas Noe. In addition to facing both federal and state charges for stealing millions in BWC monies, he is now facing serious violations of campaign finance law by using 24 friends and associates as conduits to illegally funnel more than $45,000 to the Bush presidential campaign. Both Noe and his wife Bernadette are former Lucas County Republican Party Chairs and Bernadette Noe was Chair of the Board of Lucas County Elections. The vote tally for Lucas County was hotly disputed in the last election - it's not particularly reassuring to know we had this dubious crew minding the store, heh?

    Ohio's Coingate is a topic we have covered several times and will no doubt discuss again. Part of the shame in this whole sorry mess is the burden and stress that this puts on all the diligent workers who are innocent of any wrong doing. The Ohio BWC had a solid reputation and embarked on many progressive initiatives prior to this scandal. It must be difficult for all the good workers to see their place of employment subject to such unflattering and harsh public scrutiny. As the Enron workers learned, when the so-called leaders fail to lead, it's often the workers who pay the steepest price.

    Misc. Insurance news
    The billion dollar derriere. Thanks to RiskProf for pointing us to an fascinating article in Slate on specialty insurance for celebrity body parts. Ah, the scintillating world of insurance!

    Catastrophic events. Hurricane season is here, and Specialty Insurance Blog covers an recently released AM Best Hurricane Study - if there were a $100 billion plus catastrophic event, 20 to 50 insurers would be vulnerable to failure.

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    April 21, 2006

     

    State Premium Ranking - Thanks to Mike Manley for pointing us to the 2004 Oregon Workers' Compensation Premium Rate Ranking Summary, which offers a comparison of premium by state. Mike is the Research Coordinator at the Information Management Division of Oregon's Department of Consumer and Business Services. He also points us to some other workers comp studies that look very valuable - thanks, Mike.

    Safe patient handling - Ann Hudson, RN, BSN commented on our recent post about Washington passes "Safe Patient Handling" legislation, noting that: "Substantial savings could be realized by insurance carriers and employers, and the nurse shortage could be eased, if workers' comp carriers assisted employers to retain back-injured nurses in other non-lifting nursing positions."

    Her comment led us to the Working Injured Nurses Group or WING USA, a site that provides information, advice, and support to injured nurses. Anne is a founder of this group as well as co-author of Back Injury Among Healthcare Workers: Causes, Solutions, and Impacts. She has been active in championing the cause of back-injured nurses - both in terms of prevention and also in advocating for reemployment of injured nurses in positions that don't require lifting.

    We appreciate informed comments from our readers. If you have resources, information, or just opinions, we encourage you to jump in!

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    March 2, 2006

     

    Is a good employer also a good investment? That's a question that Brent Hunsberger from The Oregonian's At Work blog explores in some depth in a recent posting. Jerome Dodoson of Parnassus Investments noted that companies listed in Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work for regularly outperform the market. That's a philosophy we ascribe to: doing the right thing is not just "nice", it usually makes good economic sense too.

    About.com's Human Resources Guide, Susan Heatherfield, usually provides solid content that is well worth a read. One recent feature of note: Top 10 Ideas About What Employees Want From Work: Employee Motivation. For future articles, here's the main Human Resources page.

    Check out The HR Lawyer's Blog - a new look and a new name for the Texas Employment Law Bulletin. The HR blog world keeps expanding - lots of great free resources and advice for employers that take note. George's Employment Blawg keeps a good list of recommended HR blogs.

    Compliance Aid e-Library provides a comprehensive list of links to federal, state, and general Web resources - worth a bookmark.

    What's the employment forecast look like over the next few years? The Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections home page offers information about the labor market for the nation as a whole for 10 years into the future.

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    November 3, 2005

     

    Kudos - Congratulations to friend and colleague Joe Paduda on the one-year anniversary of his excellent blog, Managed Care Matters. If this blog isn�t on your regular reading list yet, it should be!

    Guns at Work - Thanks to Michael Fitzgibbon for pointing us to a post at Workplace Prof Blog about guns at work: "Oklahoma and Kentucky have enacted laws prohibiting employers from excluding guns from the workplace. A bill has been introduced in Utah to do the same thing; a bill introduced in Florida would allow employees to keep guns in their cars even when the cars are at the workplace."
    Also, see our prior post on the topic - it yielded an interesting discussion.

    Wal-Mart Watch - The hits just keep on coming. Jordan Barab of Confined Space reports about a sweetheart deal between the Labor Department and Wal-Mart. Some officials apparently agreed to give the company 15 days advance notice before conducting any inspections for child labor safety violations.

    Unhappy docs in California - The Sacramento Bee reports: "California Medical Association vow to cut back or stop treating injured workers in the wake of sweeping changes to the state workers' compensation system. While slashing costs, the historic overhaul has spawned an environment "that is hostile to physicians and often harmful to the patients they serve," according to a report released Monday by the medical association."

    Aetna to pay for depression - Identifying depression as a cause of absence and a factor that exacerbates major illnesses, Aetna has agreed to cover a program to manage depression. (New York Times, free registration)

    Healthcare translation - Bookmark this handy site! Rita Schwab of MSSPNexus points us to a terrific resource - Health Information Translations. There are nearly 40 million people in the U.S. who are not proficient in English, and some of them probably work for you. Three Ohio healthcare organizations provide fact sheets and health care information in 11 languages - and the service is free.

    BP deaths were preventable - 15 deaths and 170 injuries could have been prevented if the refinery had installed a flare system years before, as OSHA had recommended, and heeded past warnings. Read more at Confined Space and rawblogXport.

    New HR blog - Check out Ashraf Al Shafaki's AnswerOnce weblog that provides answers to many HR questions, such as "How can I manage employee retention?" and "How do I design a questionnaire?" It looks promising.

    Business jargon - Look up more than 2,500 common business terms in the Dictionary of Small Business. Thanks to Dane Carlson of the always excellent Business Opportunities Weblog.

    Insurance web service lacking - In the fifth study of its kind, 47 health care, life and health, and property & casualty insurer Web sites fared poorly in a study measuring the "Customer Respect Index." From the report:
    The insurance industry remains the only industry sector evaluated with no Web site reaching the standard of excellent, noted the report. The insurance industry showed little or no improvement over the last study and in many key areas fell behind other industry sectors. For example, the industry failed to response to 26% of e-mail inquiries compared to an "ignore rate" of 16% for financial services. Read more about the report in Insurance Networking News.

    New CEO at Ohio BWC - William Mabe, a retired Nationwide Insurance executive, has taken the helm at the beleaguered Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. We wish him luck - things are still in considerable disarray. Follow the money in the Toledo Blade's excellent ongoing coverage of Coingate.

    A little levity - Maybe we are a tad too serious here at the Workers Comp Insider. Heck, even actuaries let their hair down now and again. So we post the following tidbits for your amusement:
    Interview with an honest boss (flash and sound alert) - (via Regina Miller.) Also, if you are looking for an educational craft project to while away the late fall evenings, you might consider knitting a digestive system. Fetching! (via Kevin, MD.)

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    October 17, 2005

     

    Have you checked out the Cool Tools in our sidebar lately? We periodically add insurance and business calcuators, glossaries, and other reference material and tools that we find in our travels. Here are a few recent finds we'll be adding:

    Glossary of Reinsurance Terms

    Manitoba Centre for Health Policy's Concept Dictionary

    Complete Glossary of Health Insurance Terminology

    Health & Safety Glossary

    Trench Safety Glossary

    Excavation Safety Glossary

    MSDS Hyper Glossary

    Bureau of Labor Statistics Glossary

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    October 6, 2005

     

    This week is Fallen Firefighter Memorial Weekend, a time to salute the brave people who sacrificed their lives to make the world a safer place for you and me. Firefighters are out there on the front lines every day, risking injury and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 100 firefighters die at work each year. At this time of year, my thoughts turn to six hometown firefighters who died in the line of duty some half-dozen years ago.

    So given that this weekend is a time set aside to recognize these fallen heroes, it seemed fitting when I got a note in my mailbox from the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) about a free online symposium entitled Fire Department Integrated Risk Analysis and Management that is scheduled for November 7 to 11. The program brings together authors and experts from the U.S. and U.K. to discuss an integrated risk management approach to injury prevention. According to PERI: "Each day during the program, PERI will email participants specially commissioned "Issues and Ideas Papers" that discuss aspects of the integrated risk management approach. Participants can read the papers at their convenience, and also make copies to distribute to colleagues. All enrollees can participate in an online discussion in the Symposium Center, exchanging ideas, posting comments, and asking questions about the issues and solutions presented in the papers.

    What better tribute could be offered to those who previously gave their lives than to learn more about how to make work safer for all the men and women who are at risk on the job every day? Learn more, or enroll for the seminar: Fire Department Integrated Risk Analysis and Management.

    August 16, 2005

     

    OSHA inspections. Meg Fletcher of Business Insurance reports that OSHA is targeting about 4,000 high-hazard worksites for inspections in the coming year. Inspections will first target sites that "reported 12 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer for every 100 full-time workers in 2003. Nursing homes and random sites will also be inspected.

    Ask the Donald a question about your business. We are pleased to welcome latecomer Donald Trump to the blogisphere. Donald, we are always happy to help out any noobie bloggers, so let us know if you have any questions. Meanwhile, if any of our readers have any questions they would like to ask the Trumpmeister, his site also features "Trump University" where you can pose questions to Mr. Trump or to his circle of experts.

    HR acronyms. Does industry jargon leave you flummoxed? We have several workers comp and managed care glossaries listed among the tools in our sidebar. Thanks to B. Janell Grenier of Benefitsblog, we will also add a new tool � the Benefits Acronym Lexicon.

    More costs for Ohio BWC. The Toledo Blade reports that the costs to investigate the widening Ohio Bureau of Workers Comp scandals are estimated at more than $6.5 million as the state hires forensic accountants, lawyers, financial consultants, and appraisers. The investigations focus on a series of losses ensuing from questionable investments, including up to $13 million lost in an investment in a rare coin fund and $215 million lost in a failed Bermuda hedge fund. According to the Blade, the scope of the investigation is complex: "There are already two convictions, three grand juries, 144 bureau investment managers under review, 420,561 pages of coin-fund records, and as much as $13 million missing from the coin funds managed by Tom Noe, the prominent Republican contributor at the center of the scandal."

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    August 6, 2005

     

    Today, a smorgasbord - the weekend is a good time to clean my bookmark file of a variety of tips and tools that I've been collecting:

    Experience Modification Factors - Understanding the Workers Compensation Modification Factor is a good 3-page overview of the factors that drive an e-mod. Also of note, Top Ten Ways to Reduce a Mod - the most frequent reader responses to a survey conducted by Specific Software Solutions.

    Fleet Control - The LWCC (the Louisiana Workers Compensation Corporation) notes that vehicle accidents are the state's leading cause of workplace fatalities - this is acutally pretty much true regardless of geography. The folks at LWCC have compiled a useful sheet of Fleet Control Tips designed to help employers reduce risk.

    HR Weblogs - We've unearthed a few notable HR weblogs to add to our sidebar. HR's Brand New Experience by Regina Miller explores the relationship of HR practices and branding. We're interested in this topic because we believe the way that employers treat employees has an enormous impact on how the company is perceived in the marketplace. This blog is part of the BNet family of business weblogs which also include our friend, Anita Campbell. And weve also recently discovered the Human Resource Megablog, a blog aggregator that culls out some of the best of the HR blogs daily. Topics include everything from recruiting to employment law - and we are happy to be included in the blogroll for workers compensation!

    Occupational Health News - Occupational Health Research has a very useful Occupational Health News & Analysis page that is updated monthly by Dr. William L. Newkirk. He selects a good array of important occupational health stories, primarily from government agencies. Here are links to a few recent stories:
    CDC Report on Exposure to Environmental Chemicals - National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
    Contact Lens Use in a Chemical Environment - NIOSH issues new guidelines
    ACIP Recommendations for the Upcoming Flu Season - recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the 2005-2006 flu season

    Research on the Uninsured - The CDC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issue an annual report on the uninsured every May. We've linked the report in 2004, but hadn't issued an update yet this year. According to the 2005 report, Characteristics of the Uninsured - A view from the States (pdf), more than 20 million working adults do not have health coverage. "In eight states, at least one in five working adults is uninsured. In 39 other states, at least one working adult in every 10 does not have health care coverage."

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    July 13, 2005

     

    If theres one thing that the web is good for, its uniting people with niche interests. When we first embarked on a workers comp weblog, we hoped there would be some interest in the topic but we werent quite sure what to expect. As we near the two-year mark, weve been gratified by the response and pleased that some other interested parties have thrown their hats in the blog ring, too. We welcome that there are a lot of stakeholders in this matter employees, employers, physicians, insurers, TPAs, attorneys, unions, safety professionals, case managers, claims adjusters, and regulators, to cite a few. Public dialogue and information sharing in what was intended as a no-fault system can only be healthy for us all.

    In terms of workers comp web pioneers, we'd be remiss if we didn't give a shout-out to the folks at workerscompensation.com who provide a variety of free services to the workers comp community, including some rich media offerings. They feature a Newsline Week in Review Video Report every Tuesday, as well as streaming interviews available through Comp Talk Radio. We also frequent their daily news aggregation service. They provide many excellent resources and we're big fans.

    Now, we note with interest that friend and colleague Alan Pierce is jumping onto the rich media bandwagon by hosting an audio show on workers comp legal issues on the Legal Talk Network. Alan is a respected plaintiff attorney in Massachusetts where he has served as a member of the state's Workers' Compensation Advisory Council. I first met Alan in his capacity as an author of a regular column on workers compensation case law for The Journal of Workers Compensation, a publication that I edited for several years. (Self disclosure - I still serve as a part-time editor for Standard Publishing Corporation.)

    The workers comp segments run for about 30 minutes on selected topics and include both a guest expert and a case of the day. Segments are free, although there are prominent ad breaks within the segments. Shows can be downloaded or listened to in streaming format. There are three segments posted thus far: sick building syndrome, ethics, and professional sports injuries. As might be expected, the discussion has a plaintiff viewpoint.

    I particularly enjoyed the segment on sports injuries. Also, any prospective attorneys that might be considering workers comp as a practice area or any employees looking for legal representation might find that the segment on ethics provides a good overview of legal competencies necessary for a workers comp attorney. We wish Alan well and will be checking in on future segments. Our legal readers - particularly trial attorneys - may be interested in other legal topics available at Legal Talk Network.


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    June 23, 2005

     

    When we first started Workers Comp Insider, related weblogs were far and few between. We are pleased to see new entrants are joining the so-called blogisphere almost daily now - be sure to visit our expanding blogroll to check out blogs that we find of interest. Here are a few that we've added today:

    We're pleased to see that our friends at the very useful workerscompensation.com have added a weblog to the many services they offer - visit them at Comp Blog. Today, they feature a radio interview with an attorney on the workers comp changes in Oklahoma. We wish them the best - they have been kind enough to feature our posts in their new daily blog center.

    Specialty Insurance Blog by Bob Sargent, President of Tennant Risk Services, is aimed at insurance wonks, particularly those with an interest in specialty lines. Lately he's made a few posts on contingent commissions and the need for transparency, a topic that commands attention for many of us.

    MSSP Nexus is a lively blog by Rita Schwab with news and commentary aimed at medical professionals and those who work in healthcare management, medical staff administration, quality, accreditation, law, and provider credentialing. We found the link at Joe Paduda's blogroll a few weeks back, and have been keeping an eye on it since. Read her recent post on a federal court decision that held that a Louisiana hospital had a duty to disclose information about their medical staff members to a Washington hospital to protect future patients.

    The Disabled Worker Law Blog is a substantive blog by the staff at Turley, Redmond & Rosasco. We have several employer-leaning law blogs in our sidebar, so we thought that this would be a good addition to offer another perspective. Of particular interest is this post on how the proposal to raise the age for Social Security benefits to 69 is likely to put more workers on disability. We recently posted about older workers - such a change could add a further wrinkle to what is an emerging risk.

    Business guru and author Tom Peters has an interesting weblog as the main page of his website. Tom and his colleagues at the Tom Peters Company all contribute posts and can be counted on for interesting and informed business commentary. I like the fact that "work that makes a difference" is among his own company's values. Call me a little bit corny, but I like to think of that as a mission for all of us employed in workers compensation: making a difference for employers and employees alike. Social insurance is not really about pushing around pieces of paper - it's about people.

    And lastly, here are a few new tools we've found useful:
    Abbreviations and Acronyms of the U.S. Government - a handy little reference guide.

    HRTools.com - lots of good tools and resources here on many aspects of human resources. Some require paid registration, but many are free.

    National Guideline Clearinghouse - a public resource for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. NGC is an initiative of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NGC was originally created by AHRQ in partnership with the American Medical Association and the American Association of Health Plans (now America's Health Insurance Plans [AHIP]).

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    May 9, 2005

     

    We've blogged before about language in the workplace, the impact that language has on safety, and the increased risk of death that non-English speaking immigrants face at work. We've also talked about the need for cultural competence in health care in the face of changing worker demographics.

    In a post entitled People are dying because of their language, Jordan Barab at Confined Space carries a speech that Elisabeth Milos, an interpreter for injured workers, gave at a Workers Memorial Day rally at the state Capitol in Sacramento, California. It's well worth reading. The points that Milos makes are further bolstered by a recent New York Times article by Nina Bernstein entitled Language Barrier Called Health Hazard in E.R.

    Both Milos and Bernstein point out the many problems with leaving translation up to family members or untrained persons. It is important to have a qualified interpreter when serious matter about health or safety must be conveyed. In What does an interpreter do?, the author discusses the role an interpreter can play and distinguishes interpretation from translation.

    Employer Resources
    How can an employer cope with the challenges that a diverse and multilingual work force poses? I once worked for a progressive manufacturer that offered English-as-a-second-language courses on site, and that regularly brought community interpreters in to acclimate new immigrant employees, such as Vietnamese and Hmong workers. Many immigrant groups have local cultural support centers, and they can be a good source for interpretation or translation.

    One other alternative is for telephonic translation services via a three-way conference call. An advantage of such services is that they can be available on short notice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can't vouch for the quality of any of these services, but here are a few you might explore:
    Certified Languages International
    LLE Languge Services
    Tele-Interpreters

    Our legal system faces the need for interpreters on a daily basis, so their experience might be instructive. See the Court Interpretation Resource Guide (PDF), or the state links for court interpretation (PDF) which might provide a cookie trail to certified local resources.

    If any of our readers have resources to suggest, I would welcome them. This is a topic of growing urgency.

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    April 11, 2005

     

    Today, we have an array of new widgets and reference materials to add to the "Cool Tools" section of our sidebar, along with a few new weblog discoveries to add to our ever-growing list.

    Want to know what the cost of a poor hiring choice is? Compute the cost of a bad hire or calculate the cost of turnover - it generally makes good economic sense to invest in and keep your current work force happy.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration bills itself as the voice for small business in the federal government, as well as the source for small business statistics. If you are curious about statistics related to the size of firms, or how many nonemployer businesses there are, this site offers some good research data.

    With the shakeup in the brokerage world today, lots of innocent people are suffering job disruptions. Ultimate Insurance Jobs or Insurance Workforce are some resources that might come in handy.

    Among its many fine resources, the Insurance Information Institute offers a comprehensive Glossary of Insurance Terms.

    Noteworthy weblogs
    Actuarial News by Tom Troceen is a stylish weblog that is "a resource for both aspiring students and seasoned actuaries as a place to gather information on current events that affect how we do business and where we are headed."

    Medlogs is a medical news and weblog aggregator that displays headlines and excerpts from than 80 blogs by docs and medical professionals. Great source.

    Construction Law Blog by Dave Seitter is "dedicated to the explanation and clarification of the often complex legal issues involved in the day-to-day operation of a construction related business."

    Unintended Consequences is Doug Simpson's weblog of "research on the collision of law, networks and disruptive technologies."

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    February 7, 2005

     

    It's been awhile since we've added new resources to the toolbar on the right. We hope to create a one-stop shop of valuable workers compensation, HR, medical, and health & safety resources for industry practitioners, as well as for workers. Here are some recent finds:

    Since 1997, Pam Pohly's management guide for healthcare executives has been seeking and posting a broad array of healthcare resources, including legislative and compliance updates, professional association directories, employment search services, practice management tools, healthcare news and more. The site contains hundreds of links, including toolkits for health administrators, physician executives, HR managers and nursing managers. The glossary of managed care terms is a handy tool for workers comp managers, and the calendar of health observances is good reference for safety and wellness programs.

    EconData.Net has thousands of links to socioeconomic data sources, arranged by subject and provider, pointers to the Web's premiere data collections, and a list of the ten sites they judge as being the best sites for finding regional economic data. Need to find population or demographic data or trends? Employment statistics? Labor force by occupation? Wage trends? You'll find resources at this deep site.

    Interactive Tools
    The Liberty Mutual incidence calculator allows you to determine your own incident rates and compare your rates to other companies in your SIC group.

    American Express has an interactive hiring tool that helps you to think through the skills and characteristics you need to create a job description, and lets you generate a worksheet to use in your interviewing process, and provides questions that may be helpful in interviews.

    If you are an employer in Michigan, you can use an online calculator to estimate your workers' compensation costs. This analytic tool uses " ... your work force data to provide you with a general case study looking at your potential costs. Your actual results in the "open market" will vary depending on a number of factors."

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    January 17, 2005

     

    Some state workers compensation authorities have very robust educational materials and information on their websites, and from time to time, we will point to tools or resources that we find. Several states have state funds - that is, the state provides insurance to employers, either exclusively or on a competitive basis. One might expect a certain level of depth to the educational materials provided by state funds. Here are a few we've found:

    Utah Workers Compensation Fund Safety Topics. More than 60 safety topics, many in both English and Spanish, are available in PDFs.

    Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation Safety Publications. More than 40 guides and manuals are available in PDFs.

    Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has a variety of posters and safety guides available in PDFs. The site also offers some employee and employer training guides, including PowerPoint presentations.

    Lousiana Workers Compensation Commission Safety Articles. More than 60 archived articles on various safety topics are available online.

    A note of caution: workers compensation laws vary state to state, and while many of these materials are general in nature, certain materials may be state-specific.

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    October 20, 2004

     

    How do you hire the right worker for the right job but avoid violating the ADA in the process? Michael at George's Employment Blawg has done stellar work in unearthing some great Web resources on the topic so we are going to pass on the fruits of his labors and offer thanks for the pointers.

    First and foremost, every job should have a written job description that describes the essential functions of the job. The job descriptions section of the Job Accommodation Network is an excellent resource to help in building descriptions that are ADA compliant.

    Another unique set of tools that could be useful in developing job descriptions are 450 career videos available from America's Career InfoNet. These short clips depict people performing the job, and describe the nature of the work involved in the job. In addition to being useful for developing job descriptions, they might also be helpful in planning return-to-work assignments.

    Interviewing prospective employees is the next step in hiring. Michael points us to a good resource on asking the right questions to ensure ADA compliance. And to test your compliance quotient, take this quiz to see how successful you are at avoiding improper interview questions.

    More information:
    Job Accommodation Network
    U.S. Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act Home Page

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    October 18, 2004

     

    It's been awhile since we added any weblogs or tools to the sidebar, but we've been collecting some excellent new links. If you haven't checked out the sidebar over on the right, make sure you do...we try to dig up some of the best workers comp-related web resources. Take the time to browse around every now and again - you'll find some good tools. And be sure to visit some of the other fine webloggers in our "blogroll."

    TradePub allows you to sign up for dozens of free trade publications. Thanks to Anita at Small Business Trends for the tip.

    HR Blog is an adjunct to Boston Works, the Boston Globe's job site. It features links to human resources and recruiting information.

    LaborProf Blog is a weblog by Professor Rafael Gely of the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

    Laboring Away at the Institute is a weblog by Tulsa OK lawyer & organization development consultant Phillip Wilson.

    workerscompensation.com has a wealth of information. It's a comprehensive resource ranging from a news aggregator to state-specific information and links.

    American Journal of Managed Care and the Case Management Society of America are good managed care/medical resources.

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    July 22, 2004

     

    Construction site injury - can someone other than a comp carrier be liable? - subrogation case law from Michigan Comp Law.

    A few recent offerings from Jordan Barab at Confined Space: TB Control in DC and VA and Immigrant Worker Fatalities - the Facts

    Duke University CFO Survey - Duke University�s Fuqua School of Business polls the CFOs of both public and private companies in the U.S. representing a broad range of industries, geographic areas and revenues. (via Synergy Fest)

    10 Questions That Benefits Managers Should Ask Their PBM - "Pharmaceutical Benefits Managers are often known simply as �PBMs.� While they are largely unrecognized by most employees -- and even by many benefits managers -- they have a tremendous impact on US health care decision-making because they influence more than 80 percent of prescription drug coverage. ... So how can you, as a benefits manager, make the best pharmacy decision for your employees?"(via Benefitsblog)

    When good robots go bad - Industrial robotics provide unforeseen risks to humans. "In many of the reported cases, the injured workers were frequently found to have been inside the robot's safeguarded or restricted space during its automatic operation. In all cases the robot was following its programmed path; it was not behaving in an erratic or unexpected fashion. Finally, the injured workers were performing foreseeable tasks, such as repair or maintenance work, or were attempting to free up some kind of jam or problem."
    (Via rawblogXport)


    Cases Hold Date of Injury in Cumulative Trauma Case is Last Day of Work
    - recent case law in PA from PAWC.

    And two more legal resources to add to our sidebar: California Labor & Employment Law - A legal weblog (blawg) dedicated to news & issues surrounding labor & employment law in California. (via Inter Alia) and Lawyer News (via Ernie the Attorney).

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    May 19, 2004

     

    OK, I admit it. I have a penchant for benchmarking tools and calculators. Here are two cost estimating tools from AON:

    The Turnover Cost Estimator (TM) calculates your direct and indirect costs of turnover to determine the magnitude of the problem and provide a baseline for addressing turnover problems.


    The Absence Cost Estimator (TM) calculate both your direct and indirect costs of absence to determine the extent of the problem and establish a baseline for addressing absence problems.

    Want more benchmarking tools? Here are a few we've featured before:
    BizStats - "Benchmark your business in 5 seconds!"
    Compare your workers' compensation losses with others in your industry.

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    May 6, 2004

     

    What? You mean there's a world beyond insurance?! Here are a few good general business and technology tools and resources we've discovered recently.

    QuickMBA is an online knowledge resource for business administration operated by the Internet Center for Management and Business Administration, Inc. "Topics are presented as frameworks and summaries in the various subjects of business administration, as taught in the world's top MBA programs." (via Noise Between Stations)

    Want to see how you compare to others in your industry? Bizstats is a handy business planning tool that presents a collection of useful financial ratios, business statistics & benchmarks, and an effective and understandable online analysis of businesses & industries.

    Flummoxed by tech jargon? Held hostage by your technology department? WhatIs? provides definitions for thousands of technology and Web-related terms. Check out the Fast Reference section for some popular tools and topics.

    Tech Support Alert offers a hand-picked guide to The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities.

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    March 17, 2004

     

    Ohio - KivaCom is a useful site that aggregates workers' comp news extracts on such topics as health and safety issues, ADA, HIPAA, labor news, and legal news. The site also provide Ohio legal case summaries. While geared to workers' comp practioners in Ohio, the news abstracts cover national topics and are culled from a wide-ranging list of sources - including the Workers Comp Insider, upon occasion. KivaCom is updated frequently. We'll be adding this page to our resource sidebar.

    Utah - David Fletcher's Government & Technology Weblog is a weblog that describes itself as "news and perspectives from a long-time egov advocate." Among other things, David tracks how technology is making the government in the state of Utah more accessible to the people, and how technology is being used by governmental sites in general.

    Pennsylvania - PAWC is a weblog by Judge Robert Vonada, a workers' compensation Judge in the Altoona Field Office of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation Office of Adjudication. He blogs development's in the state's workers' comp practice and procedures.

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    March 11, 2004

     

    A few selections from our library of handy online risk management tools:

    Risk manager links to all 50 states includes a clickable list of state insurance authorities, workers compensation boards and divisions, risk management departments, and emergency management agencies. WorkersComp.com provides a clickable map leading to an extensive array of state-specific resources, including links to forms, statutes, rules, and more.

    Statistics galore - FedStats is a gateway page that offers links to statistics and statistical agencies from more than 100 federal agencies. BizStats provides useful financial ratios, business statistics & benchmarks.

    Alphabet soup - acronym finder, insurance acronyms, health care acronyms, and managed care acronyms .

    MSDS info - where to find MSDS sheets on the Internet offers a listing of free resources to find material safety and data sheets.

    Frequently cited OSHA standards allows the user to list the most frequently cited Federal or State OSHA standards for a specified 2, 3 or 4-digit Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

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    March 3, 2004

     

    Marsh offers an interactive tool to let you compare your workers comp losses with others in your industry. It entails entering a few bits of information, and it then generates bar charts that depict industry numbers and your variance from the norm. Of course, it's a rough benchmark, but it still offers an industry-specific yardstick, and most of us are eager to see how we measure up to our peers. The site has other interactive tools too - test your liability limits, or benchmark your Directors & Officers liability.

    The site also has a library of articles on various business insurance issues, including one entitled Controlling Workers' Compensation Costs. Here is an excerpt:

    "The average cost of a claim involving an employee who lost time from work was $30,000 in 2002, according to data gathered by Marsh. In the aggregate, these costs have a big impact on an employer's bottom-line. A business with $100,000 in workers' compensation losses and a one-percent margin (such as in retail) needs to generate $10 million in sales to pay its workers' compensation claims."

    Obviously, we think the best way to forestall these punishing costs would be to prevent claims from occurring in the first place; Marsh suggest that employers view workers comp initiatives in terms of pre-loss and post-loss initiatives. They offer their views on an effective claims management component:

    "To address post-loss issues, employers may need to sharpen their focus on the injury and claims management processes. This could involve establishing consistent policies for reporting claims and procedures for dealing with workplace injuries and providing medical referrals. A key element in any employer's post-loss activities involves implementing a return-to-work policy that gives employees an opportunity to begin working on a modified schedule as soon as they are physically able. Transitional or temporary work programs offer significant benefits to the employee and potential cost savings for the organization."

    At Lynch Ryan, we are ardent believers in the need to measure and benchmark losses against the industry and also against a company's own performance over time, so we are happy to see this handy tool from the folks at Marsh. If you haven't visited the Marsh site lately, you might find some valuable risk management or HR resources.

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    February 15, 2004

     

    Does your work keep you tied to the computer? Or too much time spent blogging? Cornell University Ergonomics Web offers several resources to help prevent back, wrist, or eyestrain. They offer a pictorial guide to setting up workstation components to prevent injuries and to ensure comfort while you work or play at the computer. They also have a "where it hurts" ergonomic guide that offers suggestions to address any discomfort or pain that you might experience.

    For another pictorial guide, try OSHA's computer workstation ergonomics e-tool, including a handy one-page workstation set-up and purchasing guide checklist. And Healthy Computing's office ergonomics offers set-up tips, a buyer's guide, and a variety of other resources, including a list of office exercises and stretches you can do at your seat to relieve stress in your back, eyes, wrists, hands, neck, and shoulders.

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    February 6, 2004

     

    Every industry has its own jargon, but am I wrong in thinking workers comp has more than its fair share? Not only are we loaded down with great heaping doses of inscrutable insurance verbiage, we also inherit legal, health care, risk management, and employee benefits lingo too. I have the sneaking suspicion that there is more than one CEO or CFO who is flummoxed by the language in the annual renewal policy, but I doubt we will find many who admit to that.

    A dictionary search on the word jargon will suggest that the word refers to a specialized technical terminology characteristic of a particular subject or, alternately, a characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves). Take your pick - I leave you to be the judge on that. Myself, I blame the proliferation on marketing folks who are continually trying to sex up what is essentially a rather dry topic.

    Since our continuing quest to translate all jargon-rich workers comp discussions into plain layman's English is still a nascent movement that has not yet reached a critical mass in terms of subscribers, you may want to visit this comprehensive workers compensation glossary courtesy of NILS INSource. They have also compiled glossaries on risk management, employee benefits, law and legal matters, and a host of other insurance related topics. Bookmark these handy links and at your next social event, you can regale folks with a discussion about contingent experience modification factor rating endorsements.

    Oh - and while we are on the topic of reference tools, bookmark this site: OneLook Dictionary Source. This is a dictionary search engine that indexes more than 900 dictionaries and specialized glossaries - go try it. Once you get hooked, it will be one of your main reference tools.

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    January 25, 2004

     

    If you have multi-state exposure, keeping up on the various laws can be a challenge. Here are two handy tools:

    The Department of Labor's State Workers' Compensation Laws & List of Benefit Tables offers 20 separate tables available in either html (web) or pdf (adobe) formats.

    The workers compensation insurance law tool at insure.com offers four search tools: a search for a summary of individual state laws; a sort of states by whether the employer or the employee has choice of physician; a sort of states by availability of a state fund; and a sort of states that allow self insurance for employers or employer groups.

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    January 18, 2004

     

    We've added a few new corporate weblogs to our resources sidebar:

    adjuster.com, featuring claims adjusting news.
    The Small Business Blog, a weblog for and about small business.
    BusinessPundit, a weblog focusing on corporate strategy, economics, neuroscience, and more
    Business 2.0, a weblog maintained by the editors of Business 2.0.

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    January 13, 2004

     

    One of the best things about weblogs is the news filtering function they fill - they find good things for you. Here are a few items we might have missed but for our fellow bloggers.

    40 government sites you can't live without via The Small Business Blog
    "Whether it's a loan, a contract or regulatory information you seek, these sites are just what you need to get acquainted with what the government can do to help you start or grow your business."

    Why can't we get anything done? via Circadian Shift
    "Stanford B-school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer has a question: If we're so smart, why can't we get anything done? Here are 16 rules to help you make things happen in your organization."

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    January 4, 2004

     

    PA Judge Robert Vonada of PAWC points to an article in the New York Times about two different treatment options for back pain and the methods hardware manufacturers use to market their products to doctors and hospitals. Would you be surprised to learn that the more expensive treatment is prevalent, despite lack of evidence that it is more effective? We weren't.

    Confined Space has a scathing indictment of OSHA for its abandonment of a workplace TB standard and the public health ramifications that this might have in the era of SARS which requires similar precautions.

    The Employers' Lawyer informs us that the 2000 Census Data has recently been released, and also reports on an a court judgement involving a police officer who was discharged for no longer being able to fulfill his job requirements and the disability/ADA implications.

    The HIPPA Blog has some advice for physicians on strategies for ensuring that medical privacy programs are in good working order.

    Small Business Trends has an interesting roundup of the top small business software in 2003.

    A story posted on the Harvard Law School blog leads to an article on the University's experience with building a community of 350+ webloggers among students and faculty.

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    December 28, 2003

     

    We're adding Small Business Trends to our "blogroll" over to the right. It's a weblog that tracks trends impacting small and midsize businesses. While not specific to insurance, it appears to have varied and interesting content. One recent item of note is a posting on Forrester Research's top 10 predictions for healthcare in 2004.

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    December 17, 2003

     

    As the property and casualty insurance industry continues to consolidate, more and more large employers are considering alternative risk financing arrangements for their workers' compensation programs. One of the increasingly popular alternatives is forming a captive. For many, there's a lot of mystery around exactly what a captive is or isn't. Captive.com provides an excellent round up of articles, white papers, and presentations on captive basics culled from a variety of authoritative industry sources.

    Around the end of the year when the bulk of the policy renewals are up for review, there is a tendency to think of workers' comp solely in terms of the financial arrangements that surround it. Yet fundamentally, workers comp is not a financial issue but a human event and a management issue. Manage the event -- or better yet -- prevent it entirely, and the dollars will follow. It should go without saying that employers who don't have their workers' comp experience rigorously under control shouldn't even think of alternative arrangements.

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    December 15, 2003

     

    The Ohio Bureau of Workers Comp and Ohio State University have teamed up on a research project that studies back injuries and reinjuries that can occur when people return to work. As an offshoot of the research, they developed an interactive lifting resource with guidelines intended to help employers and physicians in developing realistic transitional work programs. Considering that back injuries cause more time away from work than anything besides the common cold, it's a resource worth checking out.

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    December 9, 2003

     

    Workindex is a comprehensive Human Resources portal, sister site of the magazine Human Resource Executive. If you'd like to keep up on HR news, one of the site's interesting features is a daily news headline aggregator. There's also a selection of Editor's Site Picks, an updated guide to useful web tools.

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    November 20, 2003

     

    OSHA's e-Tools are a good online training resource for employers. The modules are interactive and illustrated, and currently cover a range of more than 30 industry-specific safety topics. including two in Spanish. Some of the newest additions include baggage handling, computer workstations, machine guarding and Legionaire's disease.

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    October 10, 2003

     

    The Workers Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts has introduced an Assigned Risk Premium Calculation tool to help producers and employers calculate workers' comp assigned risk premium to submit with their insurance application.

    For insurers, see the Residual Market Burden Estimator.

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    September 29, 2003

     

    Do you know your company's incidence rate? It can be a useful for tracking your own level of workplace injuries and illness over time, or it can serve as a benchmark for comparing divisions within your company, or with other companies in your industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has detailed instructions on how to compute your incidence rate.

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