Recently in Social media Category

October 23, 2012



We were delighted to learn that we were named as an honoree in the 2012 LexisNexis Top 25 Blogs for Workers' Compensation and Workplace Issues, That's terrific and we appreciate the recognition! In their gracious acknowledgement, they note that Workers' Comp Insider is in its 10th year, and my goodness, that's true - how time flies!

The insurance blog scene was a barren landscape when we launched, a lonely place indeed! Plus, it was months and months before we were able to scare up much of a readership beyond our family members, closest colleagues and a handful of clients. The general reaction was "What the heck is a blog?" or "Who would want to read a diary about workers comp?" But eventually, someone found us - over the last 2,000 days, we've had more than 1.2 million visitors representing 209 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe! Who'da thunk workers comp would have that much appeal?

One of the things that we find particularly gratifying is to see such a robust list of honorees on the LexisNexis list - we are happy to think we had a hand in inspiring that. Congratulations to the other 24 blogs that have also been named. As regular readers know, we're big fans of Joe Paduda and Roberto Ceniceros, who we cite frequently. There are many other blogs on the list that are among our favorites - you will see them in our blogroll in the right-hand sidebar. We're also delighted to find many new-to-us blogs listed that will be fun to explore. We encourage you to visit them all.

We should all feel good that workers comp has such a thriving blog scene -- and we'd be remiss not to point out the important role that the LexisNexis awards have played in fostering and promoting this. If the LexisNexis Workers Compensation Law center isn't in your "favorites" list, it needs to be! A tip of the hat to Robin E. Kobayashi and Ted Zwayer.

And last but not least, a tip of the hat, to you, our readers. You are our raison d'etre and our driving force. Whether you're praising us or panning us, we appreciate it all. Thanks for stopping by, thanks for coming back - group hugs all around! !

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February 6, 2012


ABC news has picked up a story out of Arkansas: Zack Clement suffered a hernia while moving a refrigerator for his employer, Johnson's Warehouse Showroom. He underwent multiple surgeries, but the pain lingered, so he filed for a continuation of benefits. Among the pieces of evidence at his trial were party photos posted on his Facebook page, which show Clement drinking (and little else). When his claim for reinstatement was denied, Clement appealed, citing the unfairness of the Facebook evidence.

ABC wrote as follows:

In an opinion, written by Judge David M. Glover, the Arkansas Court of Appeals states: "We find no abuse of discretion in the allowance of photographs. Clement contended that he was in excruciating pain, but these pictures show him drinking and partying."

"Certainly these pictures could have a bearing on a Clement's credibility, albeit a negative effect that Clement might not wish to be demonstrated to the ALJ or the Commission, " Glover continues. "We hold that there was not an abuse of discretion in allowing the photographs."

Justice in the Details
At first glance, the judge's comments might be cause for alarm. An injured worker suffering from chronic pain might well be capable of having a few drinks with friends. (One can only hope that the alcohol does not interfere with any prescribed -or unprescribed - pain medications.) If the photos were the primary evidence of Clement's condition and the basis for denying the claim, Clement would have good reason to object. However, this is not the case.

In the course of his carefully reasoned findings, Judge Glover reviews in detail the medical history of Clement's claim. Even after multiple surgeries and several changes in treating doctors, Clement complained of ongoing pain. Extensive medical testing revealed no abnormalities and no evidence for the pain itself. He has been released to full duty. It is this detailed history and the lack of medical evidence that lead Glover to conclude that any further treatment would fall outside of the workers comp system. The Facebook photos are by no means the foundation of his findings. Nonetheless, he decides that the photos are a legitimate piece of the case file and admissable as evidence.

In my limited experience, Facebook seems to be a platform for superficial news and, for the most part, images of the good times. It is difficult to imagine that Clement would have used this public forum to post pictures of himself suffering excrutiating pain. If he had chosen to do so, this might have provided evidence in his favor. However, his friends would likely have chided him for being such a downer and even then, the court might have dismissed the images as theatrical exaggeration.

Facebook may now be the preferred means of presenting our personal narratives, but it is unlikely to help us make our case in a court of law.

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August 3, 2011


Are Facebook, Twitter and other social media postings fair game when conducting a workers comp fraud investigation?

We've posted on this topic previously, including a reference to a successful Facebook-related investigation conducted by New York State Insurance Department's Fraud Bureau: social networking, workers comp & the law. Now, two of the experts that we cited in that post - Professor Gregory Duhl of the William Mitchell College of Law and attorney Jaclyn Millner - have a new article that is worth your attention: Social media and insurance fraud.

In the article, they answer our opening question with a strong affirmative, making a comparison between internet searches of public social networking profiles to the more common fraud investigation tool of video surveillance of property-casualty claimants. In fact, they make the case for why insurance investigators should be spending even more company time on Facebook, suggesting that postings or photos can substantiate some other evidence found in an investigation. While privacy issues are of concern, they state:

A privacy argument is unlikely to prevail in court because a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in whether he or she has a social networking account or in what is posted in his or her profile. Even if a claimant protects his or her social networking profile information with privacy settings, the information is available to at least some third parties, to whom the claimant gives access (the claimant's "friends").

Some courts have gone so far as to say that there is no privacy interest in information stored on the internet because even if information, such as social networking information, is protected with privacy settings, it could be accessed by certain members of the public.
The recent case of Romano v. Steelcase Inc. shows that anything posted on Facebook or any other social networking site, whether the user has privacy settings or not, is likely discoverable.

Social Media & Employment Law
The social media landscape is dynamic and the courts are grappling with many thorny issues. If it isn't one of the top issues you are tracking in employment law, it needs to be. While fraud investigation is one area of interest, there are many other significant issues: how social media is used in hiring and pre-employment screening; social media policies in and out of the workplace; monitoring employees in the workplace, and more. Here are some good resources to help you keep current with the dynamic intersection of social media and employment law:

Think Before You Click: Strategies for Managing Social Media in the Workplace is a newly released book that we can't wait to read. The book's authors and editors are among some of the legal authorities we most frequently turn to on the topic of social media - several are practicing bloggers. We would particularly cite the following two authors, who frequently blog on social media:

**Employment Law Attorney Jon Hyman: Ohio Employer's Law Blog

**Employment Law Attorney Daniel Schwartz: Connecticut Employment Law Blog

And from the plaintiff perspective, we would recognize attorneys Jon Gelman and Alan S. Pierce who paired up for a podcast on Privacy, Clients and Social Media. Gelman frequently posts about social media on his blog, Workers' Compensation (which is well worth reading on other topics, too). He also has authored articles on social media, such asFacebook Becomes a Questionable Friend of Workers' Compensation.

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September 22, 2010


In the past, we've featured assorted news items about how employers and insurers are turning to social networks to monitor employees for potential fraud. In fact, just last week, we learned about how the New York State Insurance Department's Fraud Bureau recently cracked a case as a result of a Facebook posting. But social media and how it intersects with workers compensation is all still pretty uncharted territory.

Given this, we were delighted to learn of a recent paper specifically dealing with this area of law: Social Networking and Workers' Compensation Law at the Crossroads, authored by Gregory M. Duhl of William Mitchell College of Law and Jaclyn S. Millner of Fitch, Johnson, Larson & Held, P.A. It's a substantial document - 75 pages, to be precise, that looks at the use of social networking evidence in workers' compensation litigation. It's scheduled to be published in the Pace Law Review, but you can download a free copy of the report at the above link. We'd encourage you to run, not walk, to get your copy - it's interesting, well written, and thoroughly annotated, and you don't need to be an attorney to find it valuable.

We think that the remarks which the authors make at the conclusion of their paper do an excellent job of explaining the importance of both the issues at hand and the value of this work in particular, so we are taking the liberty of reproducing them:

"The lawyers, judges, insurance companies, and parties within workers' compensation systems will increasingly confront the discovery, privacy, professional responsibility, and evidentiary issues that arise at the crossroads of workers' compensation law and social networking. In the absence of case law and ethics opinions that discuss these exact issues, this article starts with the rules that govern workers' compensation cases, and discusses how they might apply to lawyers gathering, producing, and introducing evidence from social networking sites. But this article is only a starting point. As workers' compensation systems are built on efficiency, flexibility, and discretion, workers' compensation is an ideal area of law for lawyers and judges to experiment with how to address some of the unique challenges and opportunities that social networking poses in litigation.

While there is a lack of legal authority on these issues, that should not cloud the reality that many employees are using social networking in their daily lives. One thing of which we are certain is that lawyers who practice in the workers' compensation field need to be able to navigate around social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, and know how they work. Social networking is no longer a new technology, and ignorance should not be an excuse to the applicability of evidence from social networking sites in litigation."

In the spirit of those remarks, we'd like to leave you with this video clip which gives a good overview of how social media is changing the landscape. Startling as it is, it's already almost a year out of date.

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February 2, 2010


For workers' comp news and other links in between blog posts, we encourage you to follow @workcompinsider on Twitter. If you aren't yet on Twitter, you may want to think about it. Even if you aren't ready to engage, it can be a great way to follow industry buzz. You may already be following many blogs and news sources through RSS (syndicated) feeds via news readers - we do, too. But Twitter feeds add diversity and immediacy as well as the potential for engagement. You don't have to have messages fed to your mobile devices, you can choose to follow folks on your Twitter home page or via a service like TweetDeck.

Here are just a few of the interesting Twitter feeds that we follow - most are insurance- or work-related:

@AIADC - The American Insurance Association "represents approximately 350 major insurance companies that provide all lines of property and casualty insurance"

@sthomas_eea - by Stephanie R Thomas, "economic/statistical expert & consultant specializing in employment issues"

@ijournal - daily insurance news headlines for the Property Casualty industry

@mashable - "The hottest Twitter news, Twitter tips and Twitter help"

@TheClaimsSPOT - Snippets from the blog of Marc Lanzkowsky, founder of Lanzko Consulting "Spotting process improvements & cost savings for claims & related orgs"

@ClaimsMagazine - by Eric Gilkey, Editor-in-Chief of Claims magazine

@safetycommunity - "the first online community created exclusively for the workplace safety industry," hosted and maintained by the folks at Ansell Occupational Health

@HRHero - by Tony Kessler, Group Publisher at HRHero. Information on employment law for HR and business pros from law firms in all 50 states, D.C., and Canada

@MWConsultingLLC - a company that focuses on OSHA compliance through employee training and proficiency

@NIOSH - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

@hpandpsafety - "Specialists in workplace safety with emphasis on maintaining OSHA compliance"

@OccHealthSafety - Occupational Health & Safety Magazine; Carla Saavedra, Jr. Web Editor

@Health_Affairs - "The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere"

@workforcenews - News about workforce management and HR issues from Workforce Management magazine

@fastompany - "empowers innovators to challenge convention and create the future of business"

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January 18, 2010


We're in the process of updating our blogroll to add some blogs that we've been following, as well as to delete some old favorites that have become inactive. Here are a few of the blogs we've added - check them out:

Work Comp Complex Care Blog - affiliated with Total Medical Solutions, a FL-based firm that focuses on home health care and complex care products and services for the workers' comp industry.

Lexis Nexis Workers Comp Law Blogs - this is a news feed of various law bloggers who post on workers' comp legal matters.

MEMIC Safety Blog - safety & loss control consultants from Maine's largest workers' compensation insurer post about workplace safety issues.

Advanced Safety & Health Blog - safety & prevention news sponsored by a company of the same name.

Coal Tattoo - investigative reporter Ken ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette blogs about West Virginia mining, mining safety, mining-related public health issues, and more.

Today's Workplace - a blog from, a non-profit organization that provides information, education, and assistance to individual workers and their advocates nationwide and promotes public policies that advance employee rights.

MassDevice Blog - This blog is associated with Massachusetts Medical Devices Journal, an online journal of the New England medical devices industry, with coverage of emerging trends, technology and devices that save lives.

Medgadget - this long-time favorite bills itself as the internet journal for emerging medical technologies.

WSJ Health Blog - Wall Street Journal's blog on health and the business of health.

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May 20, 2009


Hot off the presses - Richard Eskow has posted the most recent edition of Cavalcade of Risk. He's got a good round-up of risk-related posts, but he had hazardous duty posting it due to a huge number of spam submissions. Spammy, fly-by-night blogs seem to be proliferating, grrr. Guess that is one of the risks inherent in business blogging.

In other news ...
We've just joined the rank of Twitterers - just getting our feet wet so far, but check us out Twitter seems to be a love it or hate it type of thing for people ... some critics go to pretty creative lengths to weigh in with their opinion.

A few good blog finds this week to add to your reading list:

Risk Management Monitor - the official blog of Risk Management magazine, providing daily stories, commentary, interviews, podcasts and videos related to the world of risk management and insurance. Meet the bloggers.

And two international entries:

Ramazzini - a blog on work and health by Annet Lenderink, trained occupational physician and a journalist, who works as coordinator of knowledge dissemination at the Netherlands Center of Occupational Diseases. The blog is named after the Italian founder of Occupational Medicine Bernadino Ramazzinni (1633-1714).

Safety At Work Blog - an Australian blog focusing on news and opinion on important workplace safety issues. The blog was founded by workplace safety consultant and Kevin Jones. Meet Kevin and the other blog contributors and you can also follow them on Twitter.

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May 13, 2009


We surf the web so you don't have to! From time to time, we like to bring your attention to some new or noteworthy blogs related to workers' comp, healthcare, or other work-related matters. Now we're finding some Twitter feeds, too. Here's our current crop:

Judge Tom Talks - Judge Tom Leonard is one of ten judges at the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court, and in his blog, he offers his thoughts about issues affecting the efficient handling of claims. Congrats to Judge Tom for recently passing his one year "blogiversary."

MySafeWork Blog is the blog of Canadians Rob Ellis and Jessica Di Sabatino, who lost a son and brother to a workplace accident in 1999. David was only 18 when he died and his Dad and sister have been devoted to educating young workers - as well as parents and employers - about the importance of workplace safety related to youthful workers.

New Englanders and those interested in healthcare should take note of Boston Health News, authored by Tinker Ready. She is a health care journalist who has covered health and science news for a variety of notable publications, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Esquire, to name a few. We discovered her blog through Health Wonk Review, which - incidentally - we are hosting here tomorrow!

We note that NIOSH has a Twitter feed. Not sure how long the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has been tweeting, but it has been a useful format for disseminating news about the H1N1 outbreak.

In addition to his Workers Compensation blog, noted workers comp trial attorney and author Jon Gelman can also be found on Twitter at jongelman.

SafetyNewsAlert - edited by Fred Hosier, this site is more of an e-zine than a blog, but has useful articles, news, and links on various workplace health and safety issues.

Lloyd's has several bloggers now, all accessible from the Lloyd's blog page.

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January 21, 2009


Ah, we remember the good old days just a few short years ago when the insurance blog landscape was barren and lonely. Now, we are delighted to see a profusion of insurance related blogs, with new entries cropping up every month. Here are a few recent discoveries that we've found noteworthy.

MEMIC Safety Blog by Paul Caret focuses on safety and prevention - just as the name would suggest. We liked his recent post on Machine Guards and the Cost of Cutting Corners. Also see The ABCD’s of Fire Extinguishers.

The Medical Quack is an entertaining blog that might be likened to a medical "cabinet of curiosities." Blogger Barbara Duck (thus the genesis of the blog name) offers an interesting grab bag of medical news that is part serious, part silly, with a penchant for technology. See Twitter Surgery - In the Operating Room.

Our client partner, Renaissance Group, has introduced a new Consumer Insurance Blog which is designed to provide news, videos, information, and tips for consumers on a variety of topics, such as renter's insurance, identity theft, and auto insurance.

Gregory's Business Insurance Blog by Gregory Boop is part of the's family of informational sites. Gregory's posts are informed by his experience as a business trial lawyer, authorized OSHA trainer, and consultant to businesses on risk management.

LexisNexis Workers Compensation Law Blog is an index of blog posts from attorneys on a variety of workers' comp related topics.

Colorado Workers Comp Blog by plaintiff attorney Richard E. Falcone brings a perspective on issues particular to the Colorado workers comp system.

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December 17, 2008


Nancy Germond, blogger at Insurance Copywriter makes a fine debut as host of this week's Cavalcade of Risk #67. It's a good issue. Plus, we like Nancy - we've linked to some of her risk management columns at AllBusiness before. Note her recent timely column: Top Ten Ways to Avoid a Santa Suit.

Other blog reads
While we tend to focus on workers comp and insurance in our blog recommendations, we read many peripheral blogs that we like so we thought we would bring a few new finds and favorites to your attention.

Through a good post on safety glasses, we've just discovered Assembly Blog, a web adjunct of Assembly magazine - that's great, maybe we aren't looking hard enough, but we haven't discovered too many manufacturing themed blogs.

We've recently added Corporate Wellness Insights to our sidebar. Of recent note: Three Wellness Issues to Watch in 2009

Thoughts from Training Time is a substantive blog that we like to read now and again. As might be expected, the general theme is on training, but posts run the gamut on a variety of human resource and productivity topics.

Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog is a great filter for some of the best weekly business reading. Wally usually begins each week with a roundup of good posts he culls from the business press and often features a midweek roundup from business blogs.

We wish there weren't a need for this blog, but unfortunately there is since homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women in the workplace. Domestic Violence and the Workplace is written by Kim Wells, Executive Director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. It's an important issue, and Kim highlights some of the best practice initiatives by some of the nation's largest employers. Also on the topic, see last month's article in Fortune: Domestic violence: Your coworker's dark secret

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September 9, 2008


Yay us! This month is our 5th year blogging anniversary so we were pleased to be named to Lexus-Nexus Top 25 Blogs for Workers Compensation -- and to see a few of our esteemed colleagues on the list, too. We have to laugh because when we started, we weren't sure we would find enough to post about to make it to year 2, let alone year 5. And back then, the business blogging landscape was pretty thin indeed, so we'd never have foreseen such a robust community emerging for such a niche topic.

You are reading post #934. In the 1680 days we've been keeping track, we've had 900,000 visits from 600,000 unique visitors. We generally have about 18 to 20 thousand visitors a month, and as would be expected, about 85% of our visitors come from the U.S., but Canada, the UK, and Australia also make a good showing. We've had visitors from about 200 countries, including some that challenged our geographic awareness: Kiribati? Burkina Faso? (sidetrack: how many countries can you name in 5 minutes?)

In honor of the event, we thought we'd dish up our top 15 all-time greatest hits. These posts reflect the most searched for topics, as well as the ones that you, our readers, have clicked on the most:

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May 20, 2008


Time for a blogroll and sidebar update! We're always looking for new resources to keep things fresh - we've been told we have the best compilation of workers' comp link resources on the web - we hope it's useful to you.

Noteworthy blogs
The Safety Blog - this blog is sponsored by Safety Services Company. Since December, they've been offering news and tips for safety professionals. There's really substantive information posted - a good addition to the health & safety blogosphere.

Health Blog - WSJ - reporter Jacob Goldstein spearheads this Wall Street Journal blog that focuses on health and the business of health. Scott Hensley an erstwhile WSJ reporter on the drug industry is also a frequent contributor.

GoozNews - We've linked to Merrill Goozner's site through Health Wonk Review before, but hadn't added him to the sidebar. "Gooz" is an author and former journalist for some of the nation's premier news publications - in the area of health policy, he always has something interesting to say.

GotSafety Blog - This appears to be more of a safety news aggregator than a blog, culling excerpts and links from various places around the Web.

Does this Workers Compensation settlement require a Medicare approval or set-aside? (PDF) - this handy flow chart offers guidelines on when and where Medicare Set-Aside are required.

An Unhealthy America - "the economic burden of chronic disease" - Over 162 million cases of seven common chronic diseases — cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions — were reported in the U.S. in 2003. A clickable map shows how states compare based on the prevalence of these diseases.

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April 9, 2008


If you have bloggers on the payroll, both you and they may be at risk for work injuries - or even death! At least that's the word according to a recent article by Matt Richtel in the New York Times, In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop. Richtel describes a growing work force of sedentary workers who toil around the clock under great competitive stress to cover the latest news, "a digital-era sweatshop." While many bloggers are either non-paid or self employed, many are employees or contractors. Some work on a piece-work basis paid by the post and others depend on pay-per-click advertising.

The article cites the examples of two prominent bloggers who recently died of heart attacks, noting that while the deaths cannot be definitively linked to blogging, certain aspects of the blogger lifestyle can lead to weight gain, inactivity, poor nutrition, and sleep disorders. Plus, many suffer stress and blogger burnout.

Of course, the story has been buzzing through the blogosphere to mixed reactions. There is no shortage of bloggers having fun with the story (Five Brooklyn Bloggers Die Over the Weekend, Latest Victims of New, High-Tech Disease; The NYT Covers Blogging) - bloggers can be a very snarky and cynical group. But while many fault the story for being a bit on the dramatic side, it raises some good points that employers should consider: sedentary workers have unique health risks. Of course, this isn't limited to bloggers - it also includes IT workers, telemarketers, assemblers, managers, typists, receptionists, office workers - just to name but a few. Sedentary work environments can contribute to obesity, diabetes, circulatory problems, deep-vein thrombosis, musculoskeletal disorders, and other health problems.

While we haven't seen any workers comp claims for blogging yet, employers need to keep an eye out for sedentary workers, particularly any home-based teleworkers, to ensure that health risks are mitigated and that workers comply with health and safety standards. Set an expectation that work be punctuated with periodic breaks for activity or exercises and ensure that workstations have good ergonomic design. Blogger LifeDev shares some other pointers for keeping web workers healthy.

And as for us hard working bloggers at Workers Comp Insider, we offer assurances that we are not pulling all nighters to update the blog or struggling to feed our families on a click-by-click basis. But after this article, I am wondering if our readers' insatiable demand for the latest workers comp news might have something to do with my recent 10 pound weight gain.

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March 27, 2008


Ernesto the Insurance Geek is hosting this week's Cavalcade of Risk at He has sifted through a whopping 18 submissions, thereby providing easy access to anyone with an interest in risk - and that is just about all of us. Check it out.

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January 28, 2008


Recessions effect on WC - Joe Paduda offers his analysis of what the recession will mean for workers comp. Citing a 2002 Minnesota study, he notes that costs rise during recessions for two reasons: claims rates and disability duration both increase. He notes that other factors may well have a larger impact on costs than the recession. Some of these include rising drug costs, a de-emphasis on loss prevention, the soft market, and declining investment returns.

The cost of physician services Maggie Mahar of Health Beat has been examining the issue of health care spending, specifically how much we spend on physicians services (and part 2). Of the $2.1 trillion that we spent on health care last year, 22 percent year went directly to doctors. Maggie notes that is up from 19.4 percent in 1960. She raises the question as to whether the expenditures for physician’s services need to be redistributed. She makes the case that the perverse financial incentives in our fee-for-service system mean that we are paying physicians for the quantity of work that they do rather than the quality, leading to overtreatment. She uses data from physicians in other countries as a point of comparison:

Stowe, a research fellow at Americans for Generational Equity, points out that primary care doctors and other “generalists in the United States earn on average $173,000 a year or 4.2 times gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. In other countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), generalists earn roughly half as much – or $94,000 on average –based on purchase power parity dollars.” Thus, Stowe puts the salaries in the context of what these earnings can buy in each country.
Meanwhile, he continues, “specialists in the United States earn an average of $274,000 a year or 6.5 times GDP per capita. In other OECD countries, specialists earn on average less than half that at $129,000 or 4 times GDP per capita.” So, Stowe concludes, “even adjusted for higher wealth and earnings in the United States, the gap between what physicians earn here and elsewhere in the developed world is large, as is the gap between physician earnings and the average American’s earnings.” (Stowe recognizes that American doctors pay more for malpractice insurance than their peers abroad, but in his comparisons, this is already factored into the numbers.)

These small snippets and summaries of her thoughtful posts don't do them justice - there's much food for thought. It's well worth setting aside the time to read them both.

Undocumented workers and workers comp - We've blogged about Edgar Velázquez and Billy G’s Tree Care, an undocumented worker seeking workers compensation from a rather unscrupulous Rhode Island employer. Now, Peter Rousmaniere of Working Immigrants brings us the news of a $30,000 settlement awarded to Velázquez in a groundbreaking case against his former employee. One highly unusual aspect of this case was the matter of an injured undocumented worker having been allowed to return to the U.S. to face an employer in court. In commenting on the ruling, Chief Workers’ Compensation Judge George E. Healey Jr. said the settlement should put employers on notice.

“I think that it’s important that employers realize they cannot employ undocumented workers without consequence,” Healey said.
“My concern in this whole process is that unscrupulous employers will assume that they don’t have to provide a safe workplace and don’t have to be answerable for injuries which occur in the workplace,” he said. “And the resolution of a case like this demonstrates otherwise.”

This is the second recent case of state courts upholding undocumented worker rights to compensation for work injuries. last week, Peter reported on South Carolina's Supreme Court unanimous ruling in favor of benefit eligibility for an illegal immigrant.

Health and safety - The Pump Handle is fast becoming one of our important weekly reads for occupational health and safety issues. In a recent post, Celeste Monforton follows up on with more information on December's massive explosion at the T2 Laboratories plant in Jacksonville, Florida. The Chemical Safety Board recently issued a report that in addition to the 4 fatalities, 33 people were injured, more than double the number originally reported. And in another post, occupational health news roundup, Liz Borkowski links to a variety of news reports about problems that injured veterans face in getting appropriate services and care for injuries. She also links to a story about injured soldiers being redeployed to Iraq on "light duty. "

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November 8, 2007


Cavalcade of Risk is up, hosted by MyWealthBuilder. It's a delectable potpourri ranging from personal risk (auto and health insurance choices, avoiding Alzheimers through diet) to global issues (a history of the subprime mortgage mess). The wide ranging subject matter reminds us that risk management is something we all do, every day, even if we limit our thinking to professional implications. This week's Cavalcade is fun and informative - well worth checking out.

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September 17, 2007


birthday cake Today marks the fourth anniversary of Workers' Comp Insider. Since the Insider was the first insurance blog, and by extension the first workers' comp blog, in the nation, I thought that perhaps a moment of reflection might be in order. Jon gave his thoughts on "why we blog" a few days ago, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter.

In July, 2003, Julie Ferguson, who knows more about blogs than any three people I know, came into my office and said, "Tom, I think Lynch Ryan should create a weblog."

Up until that time, it seemed to me that two kinds of people had blogs, rabidly radical political reporters who posted five or six times a day whenever anyone in Washington sneezed, and teenagers who wanted the world to know what they ate for breakfast. So, when Julie proposed that we join the crowd all I could say was, "Why on earth would we want to do that?" Thus began my education. Over the next few days Julie persuaded me that this was a natural for Lynch Ryan, because we had always been innovators and path-finding pioneers. Blazing the trail of insurance blogging would continue that tradition. Plus, fostering open communication between employer, employee, physician and insurer has always been one of our core missions. A blog would be the perfect medium to take that communication to an even higher level.

We went to see Chris Miller, our Internet technology guru, from Artefact Design in Worcester, MA. We said, "Chris, how’d you like to build a blog?" I think, initially, he wanted to run away, because Chris is a corporate technology specialist, and at the time there were no corporate blogs – anywhere. But, after thinking about it for a bit, he said, "Sure, why not."

Julie discovered that inexpensive software was available to build the blog, so we anted up the licensing fee and went to work. It was Julie, too, who came up with the name, "Workers Comp Insider." I thought it was a bit long, but, once again, she convinced me, and on 17 September 2003, the Insider was born.

That first entry arrived with a whimper, not a bang. The topic was October Events, and it was about eight lines long. Not particularly auspicious for the first insurance blog entry in America, but, then again, neither was "Watson, come here. I need you," another communications first.

We didn’t start to count readers until February 2004. That month, we had about 75 readers per entry, and most of those were family and friends. It’s since grown to closer to 20,000 and seems to keep growing a little bit nearly every month.

The entries have changed, too. We discovered that we had quite the writer in Jon Coppelman, our resident Ivy Leaguer (Columbia, in case you were wondering). Jon is the one who set the tone for entries that more closely resemble thoughtful, well-sourced op-eds with a tiny hint of attitude. His informed and colorful posts have developed quite a following.

Since that first entry in 2003, there have been more than 800 others spanning 15 categories. Julie has created and refined our endless sidebar, and it’s become the best workers' compensation reference library in the world. Along the way, we've met and come to know and respect many others who've joined the workers comp blogosphere. For instance, Jordan Barab, at Confined Space, who showed us what passion for safety really is; Joe Paduda, at Managed Care Matters, who brilliantly bridges the workers' comp and health care fields; and Peter Rousmaniere's Working Immigrants, a blog that covers an important and timely topic. We're also proud to have played a role in helping to create and support Health Wonk Review, the premier health policy carnival or "aggregator." And, similarly, we're proud of our affiliation with Cavalcade of Risk. These carnivals help to foster community and promote our industry.

Early on, we decided not to allow advertising on the Insider. We wanted to keep it pure, the message focused. Every once in a while, we reconsider that (Google calls every month, or so), but, so far, we've held firm.

So, four years in, we think we've created something good, something valuable, something that helps and supports the larger community. We thank you, our readers, for your loyalty as well as your comments (yes, even when you disagree with us – we believe that if we can't defend our position, we don't deserve to hold it). But, most of all, we thank you for your constant encouragement over these last four years. You make us want to make the Insider ever better, the best that it can be. I promise we’ll keep trying to do that.

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February 9, 2007


Congratulations to Peter Rousmaniere on his one year "blogiversary" - it's been just over a year since he launched Working Immigrants to serve as resource for the exchange of information and ideas about the business of immigrant work: employment, compensation, legal protections, education, and mobility. To commemorate his one year mark, he's compiled a post listing notable entries from the first year of his blog, a "greatest hits," of sorts.

Those who follow the blog regularly are aware that Peter is diligent about tracking research reports and public policy matters, and his blog has become an authoritative resource and repository for facts and data on the topic of immigrant workers. His "notable posts" entry serves as a handy cheat sheet on such matters as the size of the illegal work force, where illegal workers work, what the economic impact of the illegal work force is, and much more.

Thanks for an invaluable resource, Peter, and here's to many more years of blogging!

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December 4, 2006


When we launched this blog some three plus years ago, finding related topical blogs was quite the task - the landscape was fairly barren. But it seems that nearly every week now, we are discovering terrific weblogs that are either new or that we just hadn't found before. We thought we'd share a few of our recent discoveries:

Effect Measure - according to this blog's "about" page, "the editors are senior public health scientists and practitioners whose names would be immediately recognizable to many in the public health community," but who choose to blog anonymously to allow maximum freedom or expression. Topical matter revolves around far-ranging issues related to public health matters and epidemiology, and it's quite a fascinating read. See the recent post on Polonium-210 poisoning. which offers informed commentary about potential public health risks that goes beyond the mainstream news snippets. Another post of interest to any who may be keeping an eye on potential pandemics is the post entitled cholera, bird flu and humility in science, which discusses John Snow's search for the cause of cholera in Victorian London and the theory of poultry as a vector for the spread of bird flu today. We were also interested in the post on construction scaffolding spam in New York. In addition to being illegal and a public nuisance, these posters and advertisements are often a public safety hazard: "Often these oversized parapets are a safety hazard because they catch the wind like giant sails, making the entire structure more likely to collapse."

Enterprise Decision Management - this is a weblog by James Taylor and colleagues at Fair Isaac. The blog focus is on the latest uses of business rules and decision automation, covering such topics as Business Activity Monitoring, Business Agility, Compliance, and Business Process Management. James recently posted about the LA Times article on the changing face of risk, which Jon Coppelman blogged about here last week. His recent post about Enterprise Fraud discusses a recent Towers Perrin report and adds his perspective.

Health Affairs Blog - we cited this blog once before when it was just launching, but we thought we would point it out again now that it seems to have its sea legs. This is the weblog adjunct to the respected Health Affairs Journal. Currently, many of the posts and essays revolve around health and human rights since this was the theme of November's gathering of 13,000 attendees at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in Boston. The most recent post informs us that more than half the uninsured can't afford health coverage and are ineligible for public programs. The post offers free limited-time access to an Urban Institute research report on this topic.

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August 17, 2006


Blog carnivals - catch up on news from the blogosphere. Stop by My Money Forest, which features this week's edition of Cavalcade of Risk. Also, we are bit tardy in pointing out last week's edition of Health Wonk Review, hosted by The Health Care Blog.

Workplace fatalities - Jordan Barab of Confined Space brings us the good news and the bad news about the 2005 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Here's a related story from Occupational Hazards, courtesy of our friends at rawblogXport.

New HR weblog - we welcome our friends at ESI Employee Assistance Group to the blog world with HR Web Cafe. We liked the post on the five key competencies that a manager needs to develop high emotional intelligence quotient.

Language barriers - we've talked about health and safety issues related to the multilingual work force on several occasions. HealthLawProfBlog points us to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine on Language Barriers to Healthcare.

Psychiatric disability - attorney Alan S. Pierce's Workers Comp Matters most recent segment on The Legal Talk Network discusses psychiatric disability with attorney Bernard Mulholland, a legal expert in the field of workers comp and psychiatric disability.

Market trending - Joe Paduda tells us that the property and casualty industry is looking good, for now, but advises you might want to keep your eye on the weather channel.

Certificates of insurance - Specialty Insurance Blog cites a recent legal in discussing certificates of insurance, and why the issuance of such certificates alone may not confer coverage.

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March 9, 2006


The biweekly roundup of the best blogging about health care policy, business, and technology - Health Wonk Review - is freshly posted at Matthew Holt's The Health Care Blog. With more than 57% of the claims dollar now spent on medical benefits rather than indemnity, the trends and costs of health care are worth watching. In terms of the total health care market, workers comp only represents about 3% - a mere whisper - so it's worth keeping an eye on the 300 pound gorilla in the room.

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March 7, 2006


As part of its public relations offensive, Wal-Mart has taken to the blogwaves. They are encouraging bloggers sympathetic to their cause to publish positive news about the ubiquitous company. According to an article by Michael Barbaro in today's New York Times, the bloggers are using the tidbits, but not necessarily identifying the source.

Here's a sample: One blogger in Iowa wrote that a new Wal-Mart opening in Illinois had received 25,000 applications for 325 jobs. "That's a 1.3 acceptance rate," the message read. "Consider this: Harvard University (undergraduate) accepts 11 percent of applicants." Insider readers can probably figure out the difference between applying to Harvard and applying for a job at Wal-Mart, but as they say, the numbers speak for themselves. My guess is that any new jobs in a depressed area will generate a lot of interest. But the original source of the unusual comparison is not the blogger, but Wal-Mart itself.

According to Wal-Mart's Mona Williams, this is "part of our overall effort to tell our story. As more and more Americans go to the Internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources, Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation."

As one who tries to represent a "varied, credible and trusted source," I beg to disagree with Mona. There is a significant difference between setting up your own blog and ghost-writing your way into the blogs of others. Even in the wide open frontiers of blogging, there is a strong notion of integrity. Wal-Mart "participates" in the conversation in the same way they "provide jobs in local communities": on their terms, using their own value system, and with zero consideration for the local businesses they are nudging toward oblivion.

The author of Wal-Mart's "blog feeds" is someone named Marshall Manson (no relation, no relation?), a senior account supervisor at the Edelman pubic relations firm, a contractor to Wal-Mart. Manson writes for a number of conservative Web sites trying to limit the role of government. Obviously, Manson - and many others - are alarmed by state initiatives to force Wal-Mart into higher levels of health insurance coverage for its many employees. These bloggers are more than willing to use the Wal-Mart feeds, some with attribution, others without.

Wal-Mart has invited a number of bloggers to attend a media conference in Bentonville, Arkansas. Alas, they are not footing the bill for the trip. I would point out to the behemoth retailer that the Insider has consistently covered Wal-Mart news: we are fascinated by their locking in (illegal immigrant) cleaning crews, targeting loyal employees for termination, forcing employees onto public assistance to survive, and telling managers with differing views to find another job. We're doing our part to "tell Wal-Mart's story." Nonetheless, I am still waiting for my invitation to Bentonville.

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February 27, 2006


Peter Rousmaniere is watching the developments in the McCain guest worker bill, along with a rundown of the bill's supporters and opponents. How big is the issue of immigrant workers? Check out his recent posting on an estimate of the number of undocumented workers by state and their workforce share.

Joe Paduda covers the latest in the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation coingate scandal. Now Sotheby's is involved in trying to assess the value of the rare coins. Also, if you operate in California and didn't catch his recent posting on drug repackagers' margins, go read it now - there's a loophole in the fee schedule that is costing payers a lot of money.

Jordan Barab follows two important stories: First, he notes how trench deaths and near deaths are occurring at a rapid clip, despite being preventable with appropriate safety standards. Yet, all too often, companies that violate these standards get little more than a wrist-slap when workers die on the job. He also covers the rising death toll for 9/11 rescue and recovery workers - at least a dozen have succumbed to respiratory disease. They won't be the last. "... Of the roughly 70,000 people currently enrolled in Mount Sinai's World Trade Center health study, more than 60,000 suffer some kind of respiratory problem."

Today's Insurance Journal includes a story on a report that shows that the chromium industry withheld key data from the government involving the health risks of workers exposed to the carcinogenic metal in an attempt to influence OSHA's rulemaking and standards for the industry. Also of note: an update of workers compensation reform legislation in South Carolina. Among other things, the new law would abolish the state's Second Injury Fund and would address issues to reduce litigation.

The Actuarial Outpost discusses why companies hire actuaries, with a resulting mix of serious and not so serious commentary. My favorite quote: "Actuaries are the people who enter the battlefield after the battle is over and bayonet the wounded."

Hat tip to Jottings By an Employer's Lawyer for consistently excellent postings on issues of employment law. While generally not directly related to workers comp issues, they are often peripheral - or just plain interesting - workplace issues. Drop by if you've never been there. And in the HR department, another regular read George's Employment Blawg.

... and while on the HR issue, I just noticed that BusinessWeek Online has added a Working Parents blog to its growing roster of weblogs. Good idea. BW now has a baker's dozen of blogs on various topics (look in the top left of the sidebar on the Working Parents blog) - one of the mainstream business publications that seems to be successfully integrating the blog format into its regular news lineup.

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February 24, 2006


Stop by Joe Paduda's blog today to check out the first edition of Health Wonk Review, a compendium of the best of the health policy blogs with posts from health policy, infrastructure, insurance, technology and managed care bloggers, including our own Jon Coppelman. These roundups are a great way to learn about new blogs by sampling "the best of the best." A hat tip to Matthew Holt as co-founder, and and to Nick Genes, whose popular and ever-excellent Grand Rounds provided inspiration.

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January 27, 2006


From time to time the Insider has focused on the many compelling issues relating to undocumented workers. If you enter the words "immigrant workers"in our blog's search engine, about 30 responses pop up. There are probably 10 million undocumented workers throughout the country, performing some of the most hazardous and least desirable jobs. They usually work without the protection of any training, personal protective equipment or the fundamental rights and benefits accorded to most people who work. It's a dangerous situation that requires constant monitoring. In fact, the issue calls for a blog of its own.

We are pleased to see that our colleague, Peter Rousmaniere, has undertaken responsibility for just such a blog. His immigrant worker blog was launched earlier this week and promises to provide a steady focus on the myriad issues confronting undocument workers. While the Insider will continue to track immigrant workers occasionally, for readers in need of a daily dose, Peter's site will prove indispensable.

Day Labor
Peter guides us to a recent national study of day labor: On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States. This is a detailed survey of 2,600 day workers from across the country, written by scholars from UCLA and the University of Illinois. It's not surprising to find that among the day laborers surveyed, fully three quarters are undocumented workers. The workers report wide-spread harassment and abuse, including non-payment and underpayment of wages and frequent injuries that go both untreated and unreported.

According to the study, most day laborers are hired by contractors (43 per cent) and by "homeowners" (49 per cent) - but the homeowner category probably includes the ad hoc crew pulled together by an unincorporated, uninsured and in all likelihood, equally undocumented supervisor. What are these people doing? Landscaping, house cleaning, roofing, carpentry, painting, demolishing buildings and cleaning up debris from hurricane Katrina. Although they are invisible and below the radar screen in most conventional respects, they are working everywhere.

The study points to a number of solutions for improving the plight of these workers:
- better enforcement of existing labor laws, including fair labor standards and workers comp
- better education and advocacy for immigrant workers through worker centers such as the Brazilian immigrant center highlighted in Peter's blog
- improvement in the immigration laws - not from the enforcement side but in finding ways to legitimize undocumented workers.

I suspect that the prevailing "head in the sand" approach to undocumented workers derives from a combination of racism and blunt economics: heck, many of these workers cannot speak English and anyway, it saves money. To be sure, it's cheaper for the consumer when the worker is paid in cash, does not receive any benefits and is on his own when it comes to injuries. Cheaper, but unconscionable. The first step toward solving this huge problem is paying proper attention to it. Peter's new blog will help us do just that.

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January 13, 2006


Workplace health & safety is good for business (PDF). So says the Ontario's Ministry of Labour, which has established the goal of "reducing workplace injuries by 20 per cent by 2008. That would translate to 60,000 fewer injuries a year. The ultimate goal is to eliminate all workplace injuries and deaths." To back up this commitment, 200 inspectors are being added. I'd like to see us establish a goal like that here in the U.S. - we will have to keep an eye on Ontario's progress. Via Michael Fitzgibbon's Thoughts from a Management Lawyer

Are 15 percent of your workers under the influence of alcohol? - rawblogXport points to a study by the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions, along with some resources for creating an alcohol and drug free workplace.

Weyco Demands Healthy Workers - a post at Workplace Prof Blog discusses the aggressive approach that Weyco is taking in mandating healthy lifestyles for its employees, and whether these measures violate the ADA. We previously discussed Weyco's policy of terminating employees who smoke.

U. S. Health spending is up 7.9% - Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters discusses the whats and whys in health care cost trends. And in another post, he discusses the impact of TRIA extension provisions.

15 Internet legal research tips - good search tips that aren't just for lawyers. Via Boley Blogs.

Insurance Agents Compensation Disclosure Guide - Specialty Insurance Blog points to resources developed by the Insurance Brokers & Agents of the West that offers a resource to agents and brokers about disclosing compensation practices. Self policing might be better than having Eliot Spitzer knocking on the door.

Tom Peters "Top 41" Quotes (PDF) - business guru Tom Peters offers words to live by.

Pfadenhauer's List of Top Workplace Events of 2005 from Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer.

Homeshoring and its impact on small business - we're all familiar with offshoring. Homeshoring is the trend of moving work to home-based workers. Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends discusses the growth of this employment trend.

Grand Rounds - this week's summary of the best posts in the medical blogosphere is hosted at Clinical Cases and Images.

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December 29, 2005


We are catching up on blog reading after an erratic holiday schedule, and offer this grab bag of interesting posts from our fellow bloggers.

Legal matters - Michael Fox of Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer has recently posted on suits involving workers comp issues. The first is a recent $15 million judgment involving a safety incentive program run amuck. This was a bad faith suit filed against the employer. Bad faith suits generally involve claims handling on the part of the insurer, such as nonpayment of claims, mass denials of claims, and the like. This South Dakota case involved a construction company that had a goal of less than one day of lost time due to injury for every 100 employees. The firm offered substantial cash bonuses to supervisors for achieving that goal, resulting in the suppression and underreporting of legitimate claims. This is the second South Dakota bad faith suit involving incentive programs that has come to our attention. See our prior post on exclusive remedy, "bad faith" claims, and the $12 million lawsuit.

The second item is about the upcoming Supreme Court review of case involving an employer's RICO liability for hiring of illegal workers. The 11th Circuit court offers this summary of the case:

"The plaintiffs filed this class-action complaint alleging that Mohawk’s widespread and knowing employment and harboring of illegal workers allowed Mohawk to reduce labor costs by depressing wages for its legal hourly employees and discourage worker’s-compensation claims, in violation of federal and state RICO statutes. The plaintiffs also alleged that Mohawk was unjustly enriched by the lower wages it paid, as well as the reduced number of worker’s compensation claims it paid."

TX networks and industry performance - Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters offers a rundown on the new rules governing Texas workers comp networks. He also points to and comments on John Burton's discussion of industry performance in 2004. He notes there are indications that the market is softening, the key being what happens with reinsurance rates and availability.

Medical matters - For a good smorgasbord of notable recent posts from medical and health care bloggers, visit Grand Rounds, hosted this week by Matthew Holt at The Health Care Blog.

What were they thinking? - Thanks to Workplace Prof Blog for pointing us to Challenger & Gray's compilation of The Most Unbelievable Workplace Events of 2005 (pdf). According to the release, these are stories that are likely to make you ask, “What was that person/company thinking?” or “Can a company actually do that?”

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November 22, 2005


S.C. Carrier to Stop Writing New Workers' Comp Policies - The Companion Property and Casualty Insurance Group, a Columbia-based subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, announced that as of December 1, it will have a moratorium on new policies, blaming the decision on five years of losses and deteriorating business conditions. The company says that it will not renew customers who limit their coverage to workers' compensation only and the moratorium "will remain in effect until we see adequate evidence that sufficient changes are in motion to help return the marketplace to profitability."

CT: Work-Related Deaths Rose 50% in 2004 - "The number of deaths in Connecticut due to work-related injuries increased by 50 percent last year, rising from 36 to 54, according to a state report. Connecticut is one of 27 states to have reported an increase in workplace fatalities in 2004, according to the report that was issued by the state Department of Labor. The work-related fatalities is the most recorded in Connecticut since 2000, when 55 deaths occurred."

More on Work Fatalities: the Weekly Toll November 20, 2005.

Latino Forest Workers: Abuse, Mistreatment and Death - Jordan Barab reports on a three-part series in The Sacramento Bee exposing the shocking work conditions facing pineros, the men who work in the pines. "Guest forest workers are routinely subjected to conditions not tolerated elsewhere in the United States, The Bee investigation found. They are gashed by chain saws, bruised by tumbling logs and rocks, verbally abused and forced to live in squalor."

Congratualtions to Strategic HR Lawyer - Diane Pfadenhauer's great blog recently marked one year anniversary. She s featuring two interesting items this week - one on BNA's annual survey of year-end holiday plans that indicates that many employers are offering time off, but the old tradition of giving turkeys to employees has largely died off. The other item of note is a story in the Christian Science Monitor noting that, after inflation, American workers earned 2.3 percent less than they did a year ago.

Maybe salary has something to do with why 3 out of 4 employees looking to change jobs? Michael Fox at Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer points to a 2005 survey on U.S. Job Recovery and Retention Survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and The survey points to a potential mass exodus of workers so retention may become an issue for employers. In light of this, an article on how Applebees� reduces turnover using metrics, accountability, and rewards posted bt Michael Harris at George's Employment Blawg might be a timely read. The article notes: "The system is based on a working assumption that the loss of a top 20 percent hourly employee costs the company $2,500. The loss of a middle 60 percent employee costs $1,000. But the loss of a bottom 20 percent employee actually lets the company make $500."

Job Tracker - Job seekers can get a report card on future employers. Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has created a search function that allows users to find out which companies have OSHA citations, NLRB labor violations, recent layoffs, and more. Users can search by company name, zip code, or state.

Insurance price increases post-Katrina
- Martin Grace at RiskProf gives us a lesson in how catastrophic events affect price. Here's a excerpt: "The capacity constraint model suggests that insurers experience sharp price spikes and capacity swings following capital shocks because of the high cost of accessing external capital markets. Winter and Gron argue that insurers will respond to a sudden loss of surplus, by reducing capacity and slowly building capital internally rather than seeking to raise costly external capital (a la Myers and Majluf�s (1984) pecking order theory) immediately."

Wex - a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia - this collaboratively built, free resource from Cornell Law School is in a similar vein to Wikipedia. Thanks to BoleyBlogs! for the pointer.

Code Blog is hosting this week's Grand Rounds, the best of the medical blogs

Joe Paduda blogs on survey of 1400 employers by the Rhode Island's Insurance Commissioner on the availability of health insurance, employee adoption rates, premium increases, and the wage status of the employees ... a quarter of the surveyed employers do not offer health insurance, and half said health care costs are driving down profits.

HealthLawProf Blog reports on new national standards for health care interpreters that were developed by The National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC). These standards provide guidance on the qualifications and proper role of the interpreter and define what constitutes good practice. This is good news. These standards might be a helpful starting point for workplace prevention efforts, too.

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November 8, 2005


Want to sample some interesting new blogs and find out what the hot news and trends are in the medical arena? This week, Rita Schwab at MSSP Nexus is hosting Grand Rounds, a rotating weekly roundup of eclectic posts from medical bloggers. Even though none of us at Lynch Ryan are medical providers, Rita was kind enough to ask us to participate - thanks, Rita! Working in the occupational arena, we have a window seat on issues related to occupational medicine, prevention, and quality care -- and as some of you may have noticed, we have no shortage of opinions -- so we are happy for the opportunity to participate.

Many pioneer physician blogs were inspiration to us back in the "olden days" of blogging and provided great role models when we were getting started. Check out Grand Rounds to see why.

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October 14, 2005


Addition to the blogroll. We welcome the Brooklyn Dodger to our growing list of resources in the sidebar. Brooklyn Dodger comments on research in occupational and public health and current events in politics related to public health, occupational health, and the environment. The blog reports on studies and articles from Journals that may not be readily available. Here's a sampling of recent posts:
Increased Colorectal Cancer Observed Among Asbestos Exposed Workers
Association of Risk Factors for Breast Cancer with Types of Work
Workplace violence in Health Care Settings

Gulf recovery workers. Jordan Barab has been covering the health risks posed to Gulf recovery workers in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes and some legislative efforts to ensure worker safeguards. And rawblogXpoat points us to this article on the exploitation of immigrant workers who are subject to harsh living and working conditions, and facing serious risks with little in the way of safety precautions or protective equipment.

Managed care. Joe Paduda discusses "the wild world of workers comp managed care," offering informed commentary on the competitive arena, with a rundown of the key industry players in terms of networks and service providers.

Pay for Performance. DB's Medical Rants has an excellent post on medical pay for performance that reports on some initial studies. Initial data analysis would seem to indicate that "Paying clinicians to reach a common, fixed performance target may produce little gain in quality for the money spent and will largely reward those with higher performance at baseline."

More on genetic testing. We've been discussing this issue over the last few days, and we note that Workplace Fairness has more discussion on genetic testing in its October 11th post.

FMLA mistakes. Strategic HR Lawyer points to common mistakes that employers make in connection with the Family & Medical Leave Act.

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October 7, 2005


Thanks to all those of you who have taken our reader survey - the survey is still active if you'd like to take it, but we thought we would report on results to date.

So far, we've learned that 63% of the survey respondants visit daily or several times a week; 84% rated the blog as excellent or good; 61% work in the insurance industry; 27% of respondants are clients or friends of Lynch Ryan while 73% have no connection; respondants come from 20 states, as well as Canada, Australia, and Egypt.

Areas of interest:
-Claims management 80%
-Legal issues 80%
-Medical issues 65%
-Online tools, links, resources 61%
-Safety & prevention 59%
-Employer loss reduction tips 55%
-Injured worker info 51%
-Human resource issues 47%

How respondants self identified:
-Employer/manager 22%
-Insurer or TPA 10%
-Regulator 10%
-Law 10%
-Agent/broker 8%
-Health & Safety practioner 8%
-Educator/librarian/trainer 5%
-Consultant 5%
-Employee/injured worker 4%
-Case manager 4%
-Media 4%
-Risk manager 4%
-Financial industry 4%
-Union 2%

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October 5, 2005


Medical inflation - B. Janell Grenier at BenefitsBlog links to and comments on the 2006 Towers Perrin Health Care Cost Survey. One excerpt: "Employees are paying 64% more in health care costs today than they spent five years ago. Employers, meanwhile, are paying 78% more in health care costs today than five years ago."

OSHA - thanks to Mike, one of our readers, who mailed us an interesting link to The Memory Hole which has posted OSHA data on companies with the highest levels of work-related injuries and illnesses. Background info: The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has for several years tracked lost work day injury and illness (LWDII) rates at about 80,000 worksites in selected high-hazard industries across the country. OSHA kept secret its LWDII database, claiming that the data are confidential. Reporter David Barstow of the New York Times, seeking the names and rates of the most injury- and illness-prone worksites, requested the data under the Freedom of Information Act in October 2002. His request was rejected, and when his appeal was also turned down, he sued for the release of the data in mid-2003. As a preemptive move, in February 2004 OSHA released a list of the workplaces with the highest rates, but the list didn't contain the rates themselves. That list can be found on The Memory Hole here.

Work safety - if you are interested in workplace safety, Confined Space should be on your reading list. Here's a sampling of a few recent items:
Pandemic Flu Awareness Week
W.R. Grace and the asbestos-containing vermiculite exposure at several sites
Worker fatalities that OSHA ignores
New Jersey invites worker participation in chemical plant inspections

George's Employment Blawg. Congratulations to George, Michael, and Catherine on a spiffy new look and a new site address. This is one of our favorite reads - always a good quality of information to be found.

Management - Rita Schwab of MSSPNexus offers 10 Easy Ways to Know You're Not a Leader. If you identify with that post and want to turn over a new leaf, start with her post on Developing Effective Communication Skills.

Case law - Judge Vonada's Pennyslvania Workers' Compensation Journal deals with recent court rulings. The Sept 12 post deals with a case where an employee suspension was reversed due to the employer's failure to file a Notice Of Ability To Return To Work prior the suspension. The September 3rd post deals with the case of a volunteer who was denied workers comp when he was injured while performing community service.

Health Law - via HealthLawProf Blog, an overview of the Supreme Court's Health Law Docket, 2005 Term.

Agent domino effect - Bob Sargent of the Specialty Insurance Blog discusses the so-called agent domino effect in relation to insurance agents and their state-to-state regulatory requirements. "The failure to report an insurance regulatory violation by an insurance agent or broker ("producer") can lead to violations in other states.

Disintermediation out, personalized service in - Anita Campbell posts on a trend that should offer some welcome news to independent agents and consultants: anti-disinternediation. For some time, it was thought the Web might empower consumers, rendering many intermediaries superfluous. Anita discusses how this concept has played out over time. While it may be true for commodity types of products and services, it has not proven true for more complex services - indeed, there may be an increasing trend to personalized service.

Salary planning - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer reminds us that it is the time of the year when many companies should be planning for 2006 salary increases. Raises are likely to fall in the 3.5 to 3.8% range, with variable compensation increasing to about 11.4% of payroll, up from 9.5% in 2004.

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September 19, 2005


We don't often toot our own horn but we're in a celebratory mood after marking our second anniversary of blogging this past weekend. When we embarked on the blog, we weren't entirely sure what level of interest we'd find for our news and commentaries, but we were gratified to break the 10,000 visitor mark last month.

We thank you, our readers, for keeping us motivated. We'd like to be sure that we address issues that are relevant to you, so we're running a brief survey to try to learn more about who you are and how we can match your interests. The survey is just a few questions and we respect your anonymity and privacy, so we'd greatly appreciate your participation. Click here to take the survey (Please excuse the pop-up invitation to participate - it should only occur once.)

As part of our anniversary "festivities," we thought that it might be interesting to take a retrospective look at the posts that garnered the most interest from you, our readers.

1. Independent Contractors, Revisited

2. Independent Contractor or Employee?

3. Exclusive Remedy, "Bad Faith" Claims, and the $12 Million Lawsuit

4. Ohio BWC scandal widens

5. Exception to the "Going and Coming" Rule: Operating Premises

6. Alcoholism and Work: The Devil's Brew

7. A new prescription for back pain

8. Measuring Success 2

9. 2004 Workers Compensation Premium Rate State Ranking Summary

10. Blowing the Roof Off Workers Comp

11. The Worst Jobs in History

12. The history of workers compensation

13. Iraq Contractors and Workers Compensation

14. Cell Phones and Driving, Revisited

15. Jockeying for a Safer Workplace

16. Independent Contractors: The Solution is a Problem

17. Guns at Work

18. Insurance Industry Scandal Watch

19. Fixing Workers Comp

20. "What Are My Rights?" Employer Frustration With Workers Comp

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September 6, 2005


Local reports from the blog community: Noted legal weblogger Ernie the Attorney, a New Orleans resident, has been posting his perspective of Katrina-related events, along with resources and links to reports from other local bloggers. We're relieved that he is OK, and we extend our condolences to him for the tragedies that are befalling his beloved city.

GruntDoc is a blog by an emergency physician in Texas who has been posting some great items about medical response, medical issues, and first-person accounts from medical staff. Two that we found interesting were five days of reports from Dr. Mattox at the Astrodome and a reporter's notebook about treating those left behind.

For other local reports: The Times Picayune has a breaking news weblog; WWLTV, Channel 4 in New Orleans, also has a breaking news weblog; and The Interdictor is a blog run by an entrepreneur who runs a network operations center in downtown New Orleans. He's kept the business running throughout the entire disaster, all the while posting regular updates about the experience. He also has had a webcam trained on Poydras Street throughout.

Job loss and employment: One of our readers recently posted a comment about how a job is closely entwined with identity, so loss of a job as a result of a disability can add insult to injury. It's a good comment, and we can't help but note that this loss of job/identity will be one more blow for many of Katrina's victims. Many lives that are already shattered may suffer further devastation from loss of job and livelihood. HR Blog looks at the anticipated toll on jobs in the Delta region, and Strategic HR Lawyer posts about some preliminary employer responses to Katrina. George's Employment Blawg urges employers to hire refugees and posts a message from SHRM on the importance of jobs.

Regulatory relief: Two interesting posts from BenefitsBlog. One is about the status of federal courts affected by hurricane Katrina and another discusses relief measures that some federal agencies offer affected employers in terms of filing requirements for benefits.

Economic and insurance costs: Katrina's economic impact could be much broader and more prolonged than originally thought. Several bloggers are discussing the specific impact on insurance. Specialty Insurance Blog discusses Katrina and insurance prices; RiskProf specifically addresses Katrina's effect on Florida insurance prices; and Joe Paduda discusses Katrina's anticipated impact on specific insurers.

Giving or getting help: RawblogXport suggests some ways to help. Inter Alia points us to a site by the American Bar Association offering Katrina-related resources for victims, for lawyers needing help, lawyers wanting to volunteer, military personnel needing help. MSSPNexus suggests that this might be a good time to review your FEMA's Emergency Preparedness Information.

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August 23, 2005


Danger Flying Objects. M.R.I.'s Strong Magnets Cited in Accidents is a fascinating yet scary article from the NYT about safety concerns surrounding MRI equipment. It linked to a site with incredible images of wheel chairs and other objects being sucked into the MRI machines. Yikes - a safety hazard for patients and workers alike! (via MetaFilter).

Ohio Coingate. Investigations into BWC-related problems reeled in a big fish last week with Governor Taft's criminal conviction for ethics violations. Follow the Toledo Blade's ongoing coverage of the evolving Ohio scandals. Or read how these scandals are playing on the blogs.

Racial disparities. HealthLawProf Blog has a post on recent published NEJM reports on the disparity in health care services that face African Americans.

Investigations. Computer Forensics and Its Impact on Employment Litigation - "Computer forensics companies are the private investigators of cyberspace. They can uncover everything from "deleted" files (which do not actually disappear from the computer but are simply moved out of the portion normally accessible) to Web surfing, from profiles to "metadata" (data about data), from e-mail histories to data movement (i.e., evidence about data being written or "burned" to disks). (via our neighbor form the north, Thoughts from a Management Lawyer.)

Pharma. Matthew Holt dicusses the Vioxx trials.

Benefits. Cost of Benefits in Small and Large Businesses (pdf) - a study by the Small Business Administration, found via Michael Fox at Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer

Toxic waste. Jordan Barab discusses Where Computers Go When They Die (And who pays the consequences). In a global economy, we often outsource costly, dangerous work to counties where worker protections are lax or nonexistent. Even though many think of high tech as a very clean industry, high-tech waste can be very toxic. Unfortunately, many Chinese workers may be blocked from reading Jordan's post.

How to attract good workers. Diane Pfadenhauer at Strategic HR Lawyer posts about a survey on attracting and keeping employees.

Work shifts and safety. rawblogXport links to various CDC reports on the impact of shift work and long hours. From one of the reports: "Based on the pooled frequencies across these eight data sets, risk increased in an approximately linear fashion, from morning to night, with an increased risk of 18.3% on the afternoon shift, and of 30.4% on the night shift, relative to that on the morning shift."

Insurance industry results. Joe Paduda reports on 2004 Property and Casualty industry results. As the industry shifts from a seller's to a buyer's market, he advises insurers that, "Now is NOT the time to scrimp on the basics of insurance - risk selection, loss prevention, and claims management."

HR issues. George's Employment Blawg does a great weekly roundup of the HR Employment Blogosphere - check it out if you haven't yet seen this week's edition.

Legal case study. California Labor and Employment law reports on Leegin Creative Leather Products v. Diaz, a case where the employer apparently let emotion rather than reason be their guide.

Veteran disabilities. Disabled Worker Law blogs on the increase in brain cancer deaths and disability claims for veterans of the Gulf War Veterans.

Blogging news: Anita Campbell has a good essay about Blogging Trends - Good and Bad posted at the Egoist ... Martin Grace aka RiskProf came back from vacation with a nice new blog look. We're glad to welcome him back! ... Belated congratulations to Inter Alia on a 3-year blogging anniversary. Thanks for the truly informative array of legal and technical links and resources!

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July 28, 2005


We'd like to welcome two new weblogs to our sidebar. We nicked them both from Joe Paduda's blog, one of our frequent reads.

DB's Medical Rants is a blog by an academic general internist who comments on medical issues and the current state of medicine. Recent posts range from how patients are increasingly participating in decision making to physician report cards.

The Health Care Blog by Matthew Holt offers excellent and informed commentary on the healthcare industry and public policy issues related to healthcare.

And if the healthcare side of the equation is where your interest lies, we encourage you to check out Medlogs where you can access newsfeeds for dozens of blogs by physicians, nurses, and industry insiders. We have a variety of other good reads in our sidebar, too - check them out.

July 11, 2005


I'm just back from a 10-day vacation jaunting around Quebec, Maine, and Cape Cod. I am suffering from that addle-pated fuzziness that so often occurs on work re-entry, so in this foggy state, I quite enjoyed Michael Fitzgibbon�s post about vacations at Thoughts from a Management Lawyer. He presents some interesting factoids: "30% of employees do office-work during vacation" and "32% of paid vacation time is spent doing non-vacation activities." I assure you, none of this was true in my case. In fact, I totally eschewed any use of the computer whatsoever during my travels and it wasn't as bad as I feared. The facial tics are barely noticeable today.

I've had quite the day catching up on some of my favorite blogs. Here are a few items of note:

Your people are your brand. Check out Fostering a Loyal Workforce at Trader Joe�s - a good study on an employee-friendly company and the way your employment practices translate to your customers and help build your brand. (Via The HR Blog)

Worker safety. As usual, Jordan Barab covers a number of important bases at Confined Space. In his post Tell Congress Not To Weaken Worker Protections he details pending legislation that would further erode employer responsibility for worker safety. And in Work Hard, Die Young he graphically reminds us of the mandate we have to protect young and inexperienced workers. This is a follow-on to a prior post when he reports on a study naming the five most dangerous jobs for teens:
1. Agriculture: Fieldwork and Processing
2. Construction and Work in Heights
3. Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping, and Lawn Service
4. Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATVs
5. Traveling Youth Crews

This posting is well worth a visit, Jordan has linked to a number of safety resources for teen workers.

Construction industry safety. A recent study reports that scaffolding, and fall prevention top the list of construction violations in New York: "A review of more than 2,500 OSHA construction site inspection records in New York from 2003 found that nearly one-third of all OSHA construction violations in the state were of OSHA's scaffolding or fall protection requirements - more than for any other standard." (via rawblogXport).

Market dynamics. At Managed Care Matters, Joe Paduda explains the dynamics of hard and soft commercial insurance markets and predicts that although workers comp is in a soft market now, the continual rise in medical costs make it unlikely that buyers will enjoy the pricing advantages for as long as the last soft market. And if I may insert one cautionary note to employers here: in the cheap pricing of the mid to late 1990s, we saw many employers relax in their efforts to prevent and control losses only to suffer blowback when the market tightened. With workers comp, no matter what the vagaries of pricing, there is only one meaningful goal: reducing losses to the lowest possible level by preventing injuries from occurring, and providing the best medical care to foster the earliest recovery for any injuries that do occur.

Employment law: Michael at George's Employment Blawg has a good update on background checking during the hiring process. It includes some answers to frequently asked questions such as whether you should be conducting checks on employees, and if so, on whom. It includes some good pointers in the types of questions should you ask former employers when checking references.

Employee or independent contractor? We've talked about how the murky status of contractor versus employee can wreak havoc with comp claims. B. Janell Grenier at Benefitsblog posts on worker classification and other problems occurring with long-term disability claims that fall under ERISA. To illustrate this, he cites the rather interesting case of Ruttenberg v. United States Life Insurance Company, involving a commodity trader who suffered disability by way of losing his voice. The ensuing legal wrangle was waged on several fronts, but a key issue revolved around the plaintiff's status - employee or independent contractor? In trying to make the case that the trader was not covered because he was not an eligible employee, the court disagreed, stating that:

The inclusion of form 1099 in defining the contractual term "employee" thus indicates that the term includes more than just common law employees, and that other workers may be eligible under the policy. Those other workers may include independent contractors like Mr. Ruttenberg, but the scope of the contractual term is ambiguous. . . Allowing Mr. Ruttenberg to purchase insurance for which U.S. Life now claims that he is ineligible constitutes the type of "trap for the unwary" that contra proferentem is meant to prevent. The district court correctly found the term "employee" to be ambiguous, and properly construed the term against the policy�s drafter, U.S. Life.

Hmmm, if the trader is considered an employee for these purposes, wouldn't that open the possibility that his disability should be covered by workers compensation? Isn't that the exclusive remedy for any work-related injuries that befall employees? I am not a lawyer, perhaps an attorney could weigh in on this.

Ohio BWC coingate. In checking in with our workers comp scandal du jour, things are still fairly hot in Ohio. Last week, a firm was fired after losing $71 million of the Bureau of Workers Comp's funds. This followed in the wake of other investment losses: $215 million in an unregulated offshore hedge fund, and up to $13 million in a rare coin venture. This seems to go beyond mere bad judgment and into the realm of political cronyism and influence peddling. Stay tuned on this one - it doesn�t look like it's over yet.

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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 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. - 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 21, 2005


Fishing Safety
Strategic HR Lawyer points us to Dangers of the Deep, an article in which Alex Markel of recounts the sad story of last December's sinking of the Northern Edge, a scallop boat fishing in the waters off Nantucket. Five fishermen drowned and one survived. The article discusses attempts to impose safety standards on the industry.

"Fishermen are a famously independent bunch, and they have long resisted the sort of safety regulations that are compulsory in other workplaces. Against their opposition, the first and only law aimed at improving the industry's safety record was passed by Congress in 1988. The Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act requires boats to carry life rafts, survival suits, and emergency beacons in the event of an accident--steps that Coast Guard officials say have since helped lower the number of annual fatalities."

Carbon monoxide, noise tied to hearing loss
RawblogXport points us to a story in The Vancouver Sun that reports on a study showing that the presence of carbon monoxide can intensify hearing damage when coupled with high noise levels.

"They found that workers who were exposed to carbon monoxide and noise levels over 90 decibels (comparable to the noise produced by a chainsaw) displayed significantly poorer hearing thresholds at high frequencies than workers who were exposed to noise levels alone.

The reason, Leroux said, is that the human ear needs oxygen to translate sounds into electrical impulses, which are then transmitted to the brain. Cells in the blood carry the oxygen to the ears, and the louder the noise, the more oxygen is required.

But the presence of carbon monoxide, he said, results in decreased levels of oxygen, which means blood cells carrying oxygen to the ear have to work that much harder if the person is going to hear properly."

Failure to get to the root cause: BP blames employees for fatal blasts
Jordan Barab at Confined Space discusses the tendency to blame the worker for industrial accidents, as again evidenced in a recent interim report about the BP tragedy. He analyzes the BP report and recent news coverage of the report, pointing out that in this case as in most others, scapegoating doesn't get to the root cause of an accident, the one that will truly help to prevent future deaths.

"The fact is that human beings inevitably make errors and errors by operators must be expected. But rather than focusing on the operators who make the errors, effective accident analysis - analysis that actually wants to get to the root causes and effective solutions -- looks for the conditions which made the errors possible.

These errors can be rooted in poor design, gaps in supervision, undetected manufacturing defect or maintenance failures, unworkable procedures, shortfalls in training, less than adequate tools and equipment. In addition, these conditions can be present for many years before they combine to result in a tragic incident. In fact, BP made the point that they had been operating with questionable equipment for many years with no problem."

Jordan's post on the matter is well worth a read - as per his usual thorough style, he discusses the topic in depth as it relates to the BP incident and other work disasters, and he provides links to several other posts he's made on the same topic.

Belated congratulations to George and Michael at the ever-excellent George's Employment Blawg on passing the two year mark of blogging. They cover a fascinating and instructive array of legal and human resource issues ranging from tattoos in the workplace to employment at will. Here's to many more years ahead!

Other items of interest
Judge Robert Vondada of Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Journal posts on artificial spinal disks and a recent ruling about a claimant that prevailed in a case involving the costs of litigation.

Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters discusses the worsening problems for AIG.

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April 29, 2005


AIG Probe - Business Insurance reports that New York officials are appointing an outside consultant to audit insurance premiums at American International Group Inc. because workers compensation premiums were improperly booked for more than a decade, according to a Spitzer spokesperson. Law Professors Peter Henning and Ellen Podgor discuss this in greater detail in Ignoring Legal Advice at AIG on their intriguing White Collar Crime Prof Blog. Thanks to Doug Simpson of Unintended Consequences for the pointer.

California watch - Employers' Attorney Criticizes Cuts In Workers' Comp Benefits. An article in states "In a surprising critique, a former president of an attorneys' group that represents employers and insurers says benefits for disabled workers have been slashed to "socially unacceptable" levels under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger."

New business blog - BusinessWeek Online has launched its own blog, Blogspotting, where the worlds of business, media and blogs collide - we'll add this to the sidebar. Thanks to B. Janell Garnier at Benefits Blog for the pointer.

Safety pays in Ohio - Employers that actively participate in the BWC's safety council program from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006 will receive a 4 percent one-time workers compensation premium discount. Thanks to KivaCom for the pointer.

P&C Results - Joe Paduda has a good post on Property and Casualty 2004 results - trends show that premium rates are likely to decline and price competition to increase.

Worker Memorial Day follow-up - Jordan Barab offers a summary of the days news coverage.

Family Medical Leave Act - Michael Fox at Jotting By an Employer's Lawyer covers a recent court judgment upholding the dismissal of a suit by an employee who was fired after an FMLA leave. The court held that the application of the "as the crow flies" FMLA provision - or the 75 mile rule - was valid. "Under the FMLA, if there are less than 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite, even though you meet all other conditions, you are not eligible for FMLA leave."

Skin Deep - So Much for That Merit Raise: The Link between Wages and Appearance. Related - Appearance-based lawsuits are on the rise. (Thanks to Martin Grace of RiskProf for the pointer.)

Good entrepreneurial blog - If you've never visited Dane Carlson's Business Opportunities Weblog, take a few minutes to check out. The topic is entrepreneurship and small business - and although not usually directly related to workers comp or insurance, it's one of my favorite regular reads. Another favorite: Anita Campbell's Small Business Trends.

Employment Law - George Lenid of the always excellent George's Employment Blawg releases the greatest hits - the seven most popular posts on his blog so far this year.

Roofing Contractors and comp - Read Cary Duke's article on Roofing Contractors, Workers' Compensation Insurance and Profits. Duke blogs at The Comp Expert.

Wacky employment lawsuits - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer points us to a National Law Journal article entitled The 10 Most Bizarre Employment Cases of 2004.

E-mail as a safety hazard? - Apparently, while weve been catching up on our e-mails, we might as well have been smoking pot. According to a study conducted by King's College, London University with 1,100 people, e-mail is a threat to your IQ. "The average IQ loss was measured at 10 points, more than double the four point mean fall found in studies of cannabis users." Via Rob at Business Pundit.

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April 26, 2005


If you are reading this post, you are among the 27% of Americans who read blogs...that means you are a relatively early adapter. If you are reading this over an RSS feed or a service like Bloglines, NewsGator or My Yahoo, you can count yourself among the ranks of the geek elite ;-)

According to Business Week, there are now more than 9 million blogs, with 40,000 new ones popping up each day. Yikes. In an article entitled Blogs Will Change Your Business, BusinessWeek Online discusses how blogs are migrating from the personal and hobbyist realm to the business arena. The article is interesting and informative in so far as it goes, but I was hoping it might focus on some real world examples of small businesses that are actually using blogs.

Needless to say, we are a strong proponent of business blogging, but with some caveats - it would be our hope that blogs can help to create a more authentic dialogue with business customers and the general public, not simply be another advertising channel. No one is interested in reading more sales brochures disguised as dialogue.

I'm a bit of a Web obsessive so I've been reading and following blogs almost since they first came on the scene in the late '90s - even before they were called blogs. I first followed a few favorite tech, art, and general interest blogs, and now I have several hundred favorites I visit with varying regularity. Even though blogs were assumed to be personal in nature almost by definition, I thought they could and should play a role in business communication, too. They afford an unfiltered way to communicate with various constituencies. But the trick for business blogging would be to achieve authenticity - and since most companies are only accustomed to speaking to constituents through the filters of advertising and PR, achieving authenticity is a distinct challenge.

Why we blog
Two years ago, a few of us began talking about a blog for Lynch Ryan. We thought it would be a great vehicle for helping our client employers to learn how to manage their workers comp programs more effectively. The Lynch Ryan philosophy is one based on the idea that workers comp is essentially a human issue and a management issue rather than one of merely dollars and cents. We believe that when it comes to comp, treating workers fairly is not only the right thing to do, but it is actually the least costly thing to do. Hundreds of conscientious employers that we've worked with over the years have demonstrated that point. We believe that one of the failures of the system has been that many employers lack an understanding of what comp is, and all too often, simply outsource it to insurers. Unless an employer is knowledgeable and fully engaged, the end results are likely to be disappointing.

So we thought a blog would be a good forum for interacting with our constituencies. We decided we would post workers comp news and use the news items as a springboard for us to provide further information and discussion. We'd also be able to highlight and filter some of the great free resources available on the Web. While our intent was not to use the blog as a sales channel, we hoped that if we did a good enough job demonstrating expertise and delineating our philosophy, new business might be a byproduct.

Early on in our posting, we became mindful that we actually weren't just speaking to employers but to all other participants in the system too - injured employees, physicians, regulators, insurers, unions, attorneys, and many others. We saw this as a great opportunity because it's no secret that part of the frustration bedeviling workers comp is that the various parties involved the system aren't communicating effectively with each other. There are a lot of misunderstandings, misperceptions, and mistaken assumptions about what comp is and what it isn't. We hoped that by providing information, we might shed some light on the matter.

Taking stock
So 20 months into our endeavor, what's the verdict? Has it been beneficial from a business viewpoint? We would answer a resounding yes. We are rather awed that for such a narrow niche topic, about 300 of you visit the site each day. We are honored to have earned kind words from such disparate sources as safety advocate Jordan Barab and industry trade publication Business Insurance, and to be read by labor unions and employment lawyers alike. We've had enough positive client feedback to know that our goal of being a useful educational resource is being met, at least in part. Also, blogging keeps us on top of our game - we have to stay up on the news, and because our posts are public and open to comment, we also have to go the extra yard to ensure accuracy. By visiting other bloggers who post on related topics, we are exposed to different ideas and perspectives. Also, we learn what's on our readers' minds: we see which search terms brought you here, and what information you are looking for when you search our site. This feedback loop helps us to better understand and address your concerns, or at least we hope so.

The debits? We don't see any, really. Well OK, maybe the spam. We had hoped we could spark more dialogue from readers through comments on posts, but a relentless flood of comment spam from unsavory hucksters forces us to shut down comments after a few days, if not sooner.

So far, we have found business blogging to be a viable and worthwhile endeavor. Our advice to others considering the leap would be this: you are a topic expert in your field of business. Speak on your area of expertise, speak often, and speak authentically. Smaller businesses might be better poised to achieve this authenticity than a larger business. Giant behemoths with investors and large legal departments may find this unfiltered medium a challenge.

Really, we should be asking you, our readers, what the verdict is. Does business blogging work from your perspective? Is it different from "just another website"? What would make it better or more useful to you? We'd love to hear from you, both on the general topic and on Workers Comp Insider - but your challenge in commenting will be to beat the spammers!

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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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March 28, 2005


Sometimes it�s good to look at the forest, and other times it�s good to look at the trees. To get a take on macro economic and business trends that affect the day-to-day work place, check out Library Journal's recommendations for Best Business Books of 2004 .

Managed Care Matters reports that the Second Annual Survey of Prescription Drug Management in Workers' Compensation has been completed. Prescription drug costs are seen as an increasingly significant cost component in benefit payouts. Joe also has a good post on managed care and physician choice.

Dedicated safety activist and blogger Jordan Barab is on vacation, but in his absence, Tammy and Kelly bring us the Weekly Toll and an update on the BP explosion.

George's Employment Blawg has an excellent post on functional capacity and similar testing, information that can be helpful in building ADA-compliant job descriptions as well as in identifying appropriate temporary return-to-work assignments.

Strategic HR Lawyer notes that staffing company employment is up in 2004. Nearly 12 million temps and contract workers were engaged, an increase of about one million over the prior year.

Thanks to Inter Alia for pointing us to 10 Things To Know About Evaluating Medical Resources on the Web - useful advice that should actually apply to evaluating the credibility of most online sites.

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March 3, 2005


Diane Pfadenhauer at Strategic HR Lawyer offers workplace violence prevention resources and Michael Fox at Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer reports on a $2.25 million award in a recent case revolving around violence in the workplace.

Professor Martin Grace at Risk Prof comments on our discussion about volunteers. Ted Frank at Overlawyered has been following the $17M award against Archdiocese of Milwaukee that these posts were based on.

We are happy to see that is back after a hiatus, a great resource for workers comp news, with an emphasis on Ohio.

Jordan Barab at Confined Space continues to shine light on some of the nation's most important work safety issues as well as some of the nation's most egregious violators. Be sure to read his recent discussion The New AFL-CIO: Wither Safety & Health? on role that unions have played in health and safety, and the murky future ahead with declining union membership.

RawblogXport points us to a story in Hazards about the approximately 2 million people killed by their work every year throughout the world.

Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters discussed future health care costs - a timely topic since medical expenses now represent the greater part of the benefit dollar. He also offers a preview of the prescription drug management in workers comp survey that his firm conducts each year.

Ever wonder about how many employers there are in a similar size to your company? Anita Campbell offers a nice pyramid chart depicting size of various market segments.

Workplace Fairness - Flash in the Pan, or Threatening Trend: Workplace Smoking Restrictions.

Congratulations to Thoughts from a Management Lawyer for a crisp new look and new site address. While visiting, catch the post on the recent Nova Scotia Court of Appeal reversal of a workers comp stress claim.

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January 30, 2005


Strategic HR Lawyer offers a reminder that as of February 1, employers have annual OSHA posting requirements for job-related injuries that occurred last year.

Phillip Wilson of Laboring Away at the Institute links to a recent BLS report on union membership. Last year, union membership in the private sector fell to less than 8%; in the public sector, it fell to 36.4%, a drop of a percentage point form the prior year. In another post, he discusses possible reasons for the decline. Also of interest is his post on why workers join unions.

Managed Care Matters points to an article in Health Affairs reporting that medical inflation was 7.7 percent in 2003. Joe Paduda notes that this is significantly less than the prior year's 9.3 percent rate, but still higher than the overall rate of inflation. He also notes out that the news for workers comp is less optimistic with a medical trend rate of 12 percent.

Workforce features an excellent article discussing employment at will and terminating employees while preventing lawsuits. Thanks to George's Employment Blawg for the pointer.

Jordan Barab at Confined Space has blogs about the rise in steelworker deaths and injuries and he also has a comprehensive post on the shocking work conditions in the meat and poultry industry, including a link to a recent 100+ page report by Human Rights Watch entitled Blood, Sweat, and Fear, Workers� Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants.

RawblogXport points us to an article on the health hazards and control measures for lead in the workplace.

Two of our favorite bloggers have speaking engagements this week. On February 1, Judge Robert Vonada is presenting a Workers' Compensation Law Update at Joyner Sportsmedicine Institute in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania. On February 2, attorney Michael Fitzgibbon will be speaking at the Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario (HRPAO) Annual Conference on Progressive Discipline in the Non-Union Workplace.

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January 21, 2005


The Comp Expert is a new workers comp weblog by Texas Workers Comp Specialist, Cary Duke. He features an excellent update on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and a recent report on TRIA by the Congressional Budget Office. TRIA is scheduled to expire this year, and Duke points out that a failure to renew the act would lead to higher workers compensation rates. (More on TRIA) is a weblog and newsfeed about global actuarial news. It looks to be a fairly comprehensive resource for all things actuarial.

George's Employment Blawg offers tips for catching resume fraud. According ro a 2003 survey, about 52% of resumes had some "discrepancies.

Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters updates us on the impact of the California reforms and discusses hospital cost drivers.

Jordan Barab is scheduled to appear on Air America Radio on Saturday from 6 to 7 pm. Jordan is a former OSHA official, a tireless safety advocate, and author of Confined Space weblog.

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December 20, 2004


Lots of interesting news from our blog friends this weekend...we'll just rely on short pointers.

CA doctor, attorneys find widespread denial of care for workers "A physician and an attorneys' group said Thursday that efforts to overhaul California's workers' compensation system have led to widespread denials of care for employees who suffer job-related injuries."

The folks at HealthLawProf Blog point to the Kaiser Family Foundation's bimonthly report on public opinions on health care. The current report finds that health care costs top the list of Americans' concerns and outpace concerns about quality and access of care.

Douglas Eisenhart at HR Blog posts about a UMass-Harvard study that says many area workers are misclassified. "Misclassifications enable employers to avoid payroll taxes and such mandated employee benefits as unemployment and workers' compensation insurance ... The study revealed misclassification is prevalent in a variety of business sectors. For example, 17 percent of all audited employers in transportation and utilities misclassified workers. In addition, 16.1 percent of the firms in education and health services, 14.3 percent of those in information services, 13.5 percent of the employers in professional and business services, and 11.4 percent of those in construction misclassified workers."

Workplace injuries and illnesses in 2003. This is part 3 in a scontinuing series of reports from BLS. Thanks to LaborProf blog for the pointer.

Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters reports on the workers compensation liability implications of the Celebrex and Vioxx fiascoes.

Ronald Ryan responds to a query about Michigan benefits available for a work-related death.

It's nice to see that Judge Robert Vonda has retuned to the blogging scene.

Companies that ban guns put on defensive "Employers have long banned guns from the workplace as part of a violence-prevention strategy, but those policies are being tested as states pass laws making it easier for residents to carry concealed guns � in some cases, crafting legislation that strikes down employers' attempts to keep guns off company property."
Thanks to rawblogXport for the pointer.

Michael Fitzgibbon, our neighbor in the North conistently who runs a fine blog, reports on shift work and overtime as a health and safety issue.

Confined Space runs through The Weekly Toll which should be required reading every Monday for all of us who work in the insurance industry so we remember what this business is really all about.

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December 5, 2004


We're delighted to see that the numbers of business weblogs keep increasing. In particular, we are happy to see new bloggers cropping up in the workers comp, risk managment, and labor relations area. Here are a few "neighbors" we've added to our blog list:

Managed Care Matters is a blog by Joseph Paduda that focuses on managed care, covering health-care cost containment, health policy, health research, and medical news. His most recent post points out that health care costs are back on the rise again.

Risk Noodle is a weblog by Jim Paugh covering a varietyof risk-related topics. Jim was a principal at Lynch Ryan for many years so we are happy to give him a plug - he helped us to build many of the systems and programs that are still being successfully implemented at employer worksites today.

RiskProf is a weblog of Martin Grace, a professor of Risk Management and Insurance at Georgia State University. His weblog discusses liability law and economics, plus occasional other subjects.

Workplace Fairness is written by Paula Brantner, Program Director of Workplace Fairness, focusing on legal and political information relevant to employee rights and fairness issues in the workplace.

What's an actuary? is the blog of Atlanta-based Alberto Dominguez who works in the actuarial and benefits consulting field.

Oregon Labor and Employment Law is the weblog of Oregan law firm Bennett Hartman, covering topics in labor, employment and public pension law.

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December 2, 2004


We were very pleased to learn that the November 29, 2004 issue of Business Insurance magazine named LynchRyan's "Workers Comp Insider" weblog as "best of the web" for safety and loss control services. Each year, Business Insurance editors surf the web to "identify sites that they regarded as interesting, informative and innovative." To be eligible for consideration, a Web site must provide "relevant information or services to Business Insurance's audience of commercial risk management and benefits management professionals."

In his profile of our winning site (the article is available only to subscribers), reporter Roberto Ceniceros recommends the workers comp insider to risk managers for both help in confronting traditional safety challenges and for tracking current events in workers compensation.

Ceniceros likes the blog format, with each item linked to other Web sites where more information is available. He also takes note of our balanced approach, focusing on the concerns of both labor and management. Under our philosophy, when it comes to safety and post-injury management, labor and management need to sit at the same side of the table.

He appreciates the lack of self-promotion in the site (today's blog being the exception!). Our goal is not to advertise our services, but to share our abiding interest in workers compensation and related risk management issues.

We've been blogging for over a year now. We've tried hard to keep the site lively and interesting. It's very gratifying to have our work recognized by such a prestigious publication as Business Insurance.

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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. 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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July 9, 2004


George Lenard reminds us that exit interviews are important and points us to this sample exit interview from Workforce.

Ronald Ryan tells us how workers compensation settlements are calculated in Michigan.

Are personal injury lawyers in Pennsylvania looking to workers comp after tort reform? A cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice liability cases seems to have attorneys looking for other sources of income. Thanks to Judge Robert Vonada at PAWC for the article.

The Harvard Center for Disease Prevention features a series of online medical risk assessment tests that help you determine your risk for the big 5 - cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and stroke. We found this via Research Buzz, an excellent site by Tara Calishain that covers the world of Internet research.

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July 2, 2004


Asking us if we have lost our capacity for outrage, Tom Mayo reports on the disturbing trend of concierge medicine in a post at HealthLawBlog. The nub of the story is that a class of medicine is emerging where those who can afford it essentially pay an additional premium - or "a bribe," as some have called it - to ensure quality care. Read his post and the source article from Newsday entitled Good health care: for rich people only?.

Just in time for the 4th of July, OSHA announces and Alliance with the American Pyrotechnics Association to promote fireworks safety. Via rawblogXport.

Perhaps OSHA should be putting more efforts into enforcement and less into Alliances? Jordan Barab reports on another infuriatingly preventable trench death. If you follow Confined Space, this is a sad litany you will find over and over again in his posts. Yet as Jordan reports, compliance with OSHA standards could prevent trench deaths.

Workforce Insights is an online resource for HR practitioners that covers news about emerging labor trends and issues. It's sponsored by a Fidelity staffing company, Veritude. Thanks to Benefitsblog for the pointer.

Last week, we wrote about workers comp coverage for contract workers in Iraq. For more information on the topic of contract workers in Iraq, Workforce Management currently features an article about contract workers entitled Dangerous Business. Also, the Washington Post has a report about an underclass of foreign workers who are being recruited - often unwittingly - to work in Iraq. These workers get less pay, poor food and shelter, and inadequate safety measures in comparison to U.S. counterparts.

Have you visited KivaCom yet? We've pointed it out before, and it is among the resources in our sidebar. It's a great resource that culls some of the most significant national and regional (Ohio) news stories on workers comp, health care, legal, labor and safety issues...well worth a regular visit.

Over & out - have a happy and safe holiday weekend, people!

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June 22, 2004


The Weekly Toll - In his Father's Day post, Jordan Barab at Confined Space recounts last week's workplace deaths, noting the children who must grow up without fathers and the fathers who must bury their sons. It should serve as a sobering reminder to all of us who work in this business what our work is really all about: keeping workers safe on the job.

Summer Electrical Safety Tips for Kids - these are good rules for kids of all ages, actually. Thanks to rawblogXport for the pointer.

Michigan Comp Law features a recent post on the cost of workers comp claims in Iraq. We've been meaning to post on this topic too, perhaps we'll add to the discussion later this week.

Tom Peters has a weblog. Welcome to the "blogosphere," Tom.

Green Slime Syndrome - The Onion reports on this alarming work hazard. Thanks to Medpundit. ;-)

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June 2, 2004


We'll be adding the following weblogs to our sidebar under business weblogs:

Business Opportunities Weblog - Dane Carlson blogs entrepreneurial ideas and opportunities.

Labor Blog - a labor and employment weblog from the Institute of Industrial Relations Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Michigan Comp Law - a weblog hosted by the law firm of Ryan, Jamieson, Morris, Ryan and Smith that provides updates and information on workers compensation law in Michigan.

Thoughts from a Management Lawyer - attorney Michael Fitzgibbon's weblog about Canadian labour and employment law issues.

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April 21, 2004


As if the word blog weren't hideously unattractive enough, now we also have blawgs. Blawgs are law blogs, get it? We have a few excellent blawgs listed in our sidebar disguised as business weblogs, and we'd encourage a visit to any of them. Despite an innate propensity to caution, the legal profession seems to have taken to weblogs in a big way. It's probably all Ernie the Attorney's fault - he seemed to get the blawg rolling, so to speak.

Here's a call-out for a few more legal resources that we've recently to our sidebar.

BoleyBlogs! is the legal research weblog of the Boley Law Library of Lewis & Clark Law School. It's fairly new, but it looks quite promising - lots of good links.

In a similar vein, Inter Alia bills itself as "a internet legal research weblog, among other things." I find the frequent information on search engines quite helpful. is a directory of law and legal related weblogs. There are nearly 500 blawgs listed, and if you register, you can rate them. (Won't someone please rate us?)

At The Daily Whirl, you pick the sites and they snag the headlines. You can configure a page to load with headlines from more than 100 law-related sites.

If all this weblog jargon has you befuddled, Blogicon offers an amusing little weblog lexicon, although we note that "blawg" hasn't made the list yet. Maybe my blatant blog sponging will get it there.

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April 16, 2004


Carole Matthews at Fresh Inc. points us to this story on 10 rules for Corporate Blogs and Wikis from Nick Wreden at Marketing Profs. If you have a corporate blog, or would like to have a corporate blog, the article offers some good counsel, examples of companies that are using weblogs effectively, and links to other resources.

Also of interest, and perhaps less familiar to many blog readers, the article also discusses wikis as a collaborative tool.

Wikis (based on the Hawaiian word for quick) use open-source principles to transform KM and even the centuries-old relationship between reader and author. Wikis have a link at the bottom of the page that allows anyone to add, change or delete the text. Authoring tools, passwords or permission are not required. (To prevent disasters, older versions of each page are easily restored.) Changes are flagged via RSS alerts.

As a result, wikis represent an ideal medium for collaborative brainstorming. Imagine putting a plan for a new product on a wiki, and have it be modified to precisely reflect the requirements of potential customers! Think wikis cant work? One favorite resource is the Wikipedia. It has more than 237,000 informative articles on a wide variety of topics (ranging from Bush to dumpster diving), all with numerous links back to source material. All the articles can be changed by anyone at any time, which means that the great content results from survival of the fittest. The only downside of wikis is that they are text-based, but considering the way many abuse HTML, that is not always bad.

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March 30, 2004


Kudos and confetti to Jordan Barab at Confined Space who marked one year of fine blogging yesterday. He is a dedicated and tireless voice for the safety of the worker and we learn something new and important (albeit disturbing) every time we visit his site. Thanks for your efforts, Jordan -- it's excellent and important work that you do -- one could only hope that we would all see the day when you would have less sad news to report.

A warm note of appreciation is also in store for Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends. Yesterday, we enjoyed the unexpected distinction of having Workers Comp Insider featured in her PowerBlog Review. Very kind of you to say such nice things, Anita -- it's a mutual admiration society. Visit the sidebar at Small Business Trends to read about other business blogs that have been featured in this series - it's a good way to explore how businesses are using weblogs.

We've added a few new blogs and resources to our sidebar that visitors might want to note...Benefitsblog features tax, benefits, and ERISA law commentary and news; Corp Law Blog focuses on issues encountered by corporate attorneys; the HealthLawBlog tracks state and local news and matters in health law; and rawblogXport focuses on job safety, union news, and worker rights -- they are all worth a visit.

A few more sidebar additions: check out Occupational Hazards, a news headline aggregator on issues related to workplace health & safety; and if you just can't get enough blogs, The Blog Herald highlights news from the blog world.

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March 25, 2004


Fast Company has an interesting series of articles on the corporate weblog as a knowledge management tool. The primary article makes the case that weblogs are a cost effective, flexible, and efficient way for teams to communicate via intranet. It cites one example of use by an insurer:

The Hartford Financial Services Group is already finding success using blogs in one of its mobile groups. A team of 40 field technology managers, who serve as links between The Hartford's network of insurance agents and the home office, set up a blog in August. They use it to share information about e-commerce features and solutions to technology problems. Before, email and voice mail sufficed, but email threads would die, and there was no way to search past shared information. "We don't get a chance to talk with each other as often as we'd like," says Steve Grebner, one of The Hartford's field managers, who thinks of the blog a little like a town square. "To me, it's like there's 14--or 40--brains out there, and you might as well tap into that knowledge base."

That's a good use for weblogs, but it would be a shame if business America largely confines blogging to internal use. The article points to a few problems with taking a business blog to the public sphere - one, a company's reluctance to give employees a voice:

Letting employees speak directly to customers requires a huge amount of trust. A loose cannon might reveal corporate secrets, give out the wrong message, or even open up the company to legal trouble.

If the fear is giving the keyboard over to the rank and file employee, why aren't more CEOs keeping weblogs? Perhaps many companies may well be having trouble finding their web voice, which requires a greater level of transparency and authenticity than most other media...corporate communications are generally carefully crafted and packaged by PR and advertising people. For some businesses, a filtered voice is their only public "voice" to the world at large.

It is precisely this tendency to view marketing from such a narrow channel that leads to another unsettling corporate approach to weblogging. As the article in Fast Company points out, many a business foray into the blog world is a ham-fisted or blatant attempt to exploit the medium for a marketing end. Companies that view blogs as "ads" or that see the blog network as merely a channel in which they can foist or insinuate press releases will be doomed to failure.

But there should definitely be a place for serious business blogging as a public communications tool. Every business is - or should be - a topic expert on whatever it is they manufacture, deliver, sell, or service. Anyone who has an interest in the particular product, service, or industry at hand would likely find informed comment and trend monitoring of great value.

Some businesses are doing this well. Anita Campbell and David Patterson at Small Business Trends are a case in point, and The Small Business Blog is another.

And even in a niche as narrow and esoteric as workers comp insurance, we are encouraged to see the nascent network of interested parties that is emerging. Hopefully, we will stay tuned for more.

Oh, and did we mention that Fast Company has a weblog too?

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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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February 24, 2004


In a recent article entitled Business Blogging, Jack Schofield of The Guardian ponders the reasons why more companies don't have weblogs. He points to " ... a few pioneering American examples, such as Walt Disney and the state of Utah, but otherwise blogging seems to be a personal rather than a corporate stratagem."

One potential reason that he suggests:
"Businesses and governments just don't get it, because they don't see the difference between the medium and the message. It's like someone looking at a printing press and saying: 'Well, Mr Gutenberg, that's very interesting, but there is a finite market for Bibles.'"

I've wondered why blogging has been slow to catch on in the business world, too. It seems like a simple way to communicate with your constituents, internal and extrenal. After all, if you are an expert on the service or product that you sell, and if you are presumably following industry news anyway, doesn't it then make sense that you would want a platform for sharing that expertise with clients, vendors, and your industry at large?

Maybe it's caution on the part of corporate lawyers. Maybe it's not being able to think outside of the traditional advertising box. Maybe some large companies are trained to think of *solutions* as always having a big price tag. Or maybe it just takes a while for things to filter into the boardroom. Even tech companies don't seem to be blogging in any large numbers - journalists, attorneys, physicians, consultants, and marketers seem to be in the vanguard on the business blogging front.

Be sure to check out some of the business blogging pioneers under Business Weblogs in our sidebar. The Guardian article also has links to several business blogs and resources on blogging.

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February 4, 2004


For an expert legal perspective on the ADA, discrimination, harassment, and a variety of other workplace legal issues, check out George's Employment Blawg. George is an employment attorney in St. Louis. Among the many interesting items that I found on my visit to his site: Workforce Management conducted a survey ranking workers comp high on a list of regulatory issues that respondents would most like to change -- the only issue that ranked higher was FMLA; also, his site provided a pointer to these handy charts on state employment law topics from the National Council on State Legislatures.

We've added George's Blawg to our sidebar for future reference.

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January 18, 2004


We've added a few new corporate weblogs to our resources sidebar:, 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 16, 2003


Workers' compensation, insurance, workplace health & safety and HR weblogs are far and few between so we were delighted to chance upon the HIPAA Blog. This is a weblog that bills itself as "a discussion of medical privacy issues buried in politcal arcana." Besides frequent news updates, it has an impressive list of links to HIPAA-related resources. (for the unitinitated, HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.)

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November 6, 2003


We've added a few new links to our "blogroll." That's a sidebar of weblog links, for all of you weblog rookies ;-)

Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer is the latest addition. It's maintained by Michael W. Fox, a Texas attorney who specializes in labor and employment law. He offers some interesting news and pointers to regional and national issues. in the workplace and in employment law.

For the labor point of view, check out Confined Spaces by long-time labor leader Jordan Barab. Not surprisingly, his blog has a heavy focus on health & safety issues - he's a veteran safety consultant and served as a special assistant at OSHA.

Know of any other weblogs about workers compensation-related issues out there that we should add to our list? Weblogs have taken much of the on-line community by storm, and there's a growing roster of good health-care and legal blogs out there now...but there aren't too many insurance blogs yet!

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