Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Calculating the Cost of Disability

In an article about workers’ compensation reform in Wyoming the Jackson Hole Star-Tribune poses the question, “What's a leg worth? $15,000? $20,000?”

Is the loss of an arm worth more to a welder or to a parts delivery person?

If a workplace accident results in a serious back injury, should compensation cover the degenerative effects throughout the body as a person ages?

Under Wyoming's workers' compensation program, it's the job of a claims analyst to apply a fixed standard when determining fair compensation for a workplace injury. Yet the results may differ greatly due to the complex nature and consequence of individual circumstances.

There’s a move afoot to change how payments for permanent disabilities are calculated in Wyoming.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Paramedics Challenged During Imperial Sugar Fire

Emergency workers who responded to the Imperial Sugar Fire in Port Wentworth, Georgia were unprepared for the injuries that they encountered.

The fire, which occurred as the result of a buildup of combustible dust, killed 13 plant workers and has resulted in several lawsuits by families of killed and injured workers.

It was the state of Georgia’s worst industrial accident.

Eight people died in the explosion, but five others died after being transported to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia. Four others are still being treated at the burn center for horrific injuries they sustained in this industrial accident that by most accounts could have been prevented if the company had done more to reduce the amount of combustible dust inside the sugar refinery.

The firefighters, paramedics and EMT who responded to the industrial disaster had never encountered the types of burns and injuries that the victims suffered, but they did a good job with initial treatment and triage, a burn center official said.

Here’s an excerpt of her assessment from the Savannah newspaper:

They did an outstanding job with triage, transport and initial burn-victim care,
said Jeanne Haid, an instructor from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta,
where 20 victims were treated after the sugar-refinery explosion Feb. 7 in Port
Wentworth.

The assessment and management of burn patients during the first 24 hours of post-event injury is most critical, Haid told nearly 40 paramedics, nurses, physicians and other first responders gathered Saturday in Garden City to learn just how critical the first hours are after a burn injury.

Haid and other educators from the Augusta burn center, along with the Grady Health System Burn Center in Atlanta and DeKalb Technical College, shared information on their best practices.

"One of the things you have to watch for is infection," Haid said. "Sugar-refinery people had a high
infection rate."

Saturday's workshop organizer - Don W. Williams, firefighter outreach liaison for the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation in Atlanta - said the Advanced Burn Life Support class helps initial responders assess and stabilize patients with serious burns.

The Atlanta burn foundation and the Southeastern Firefighters' Burn Foundation help to promote burn education. The two groups also support burn-care facilities and survivors in their recovery.

"The psychological is much worse than the physical, and the physical is unbearable," Williams said of how burn victims describe their pain. "A burn injury lasts a lifetime and affects the entire family."


The 8-hour course dealt with many types of burns, including smoke inhalation injury, shock and fluid resuscitation, wound management, electric injury, chemical injury and pediatric patient care.

Later, several volunteers, including Jimmy Sheldon of Southside Fire & Emergency Services in Savannah, applied makeup to simulate burn injuries for those in the class to identify.

The sugar-dust explosion Feb. 7 was the state's largest industrial burn incident and sent the largest number of patients at one time to the Augusta burn center, Haid said.

The Port Wentworth disaster killed a total of 13 workers - eight died in the explosion, and five died at the Augusta burn center.

Four remain there - three listed in critical condition, and one in good condition. Two others are being treated at the inpatient rehabilitation unit at nearby Doctors Hospital.

Haid said the hospital began preparing for mass casualties after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then fined-tuned its burn treatment in responding to the sugar-refinery incident.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Protecting Vegas Construction Workers is Government’s Business, NY Mayor Says

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a call to action to government officials in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada that they’re responsible for ensuring that workers remain safe on the job.

In the past 17 months, 10 construction workers have died while working on projects along the famed Las Vegas strip.

Two months ago, after a string of tragic construction fatalities shook New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave an address to the city’s building inspectors.

“Your job is to save lives,” Bloomberg said. “That means that it’s your duty to make sure that anyone reporting to any construction job ... shouldn’t have to worry about going home safely that night.

“And let me make it as clear as I can: Simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘Well, after all, construction work is a dangerous occupation,’ is behavior that will not be tolerated from anyone.”

In Clark County, where 10 construction workers have died in accidents on the Las Vegas Strip in the past 17 months, no one has uttered words as forceful as Bloomberg’s. But last week, local officials did begin to question whether government could do more to protect workers. New York City is one place they can look for answers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Texas Business Owner Gets Probation, Fine for Workers’ Comp Fraud

A Texas businessman has been convicted of workers’ compensation fraud after lying about the number of people his company employed.

A Travis County district court ordered Jerry Don Calicutt, owner of ZIPCO
Services Inc., to serve 18 months probation and perform 100 hours of community
service. The court also ordered Calicutt to pay $61,461 to Texas Mutual
Insurance Company and a $4,000 fine.

ZIPCO Services Inc. is an oil and
gas contractor located in Kilgore, Texas. Calicutt misrepresented the size of
ZIPCO's operations and number of employees to Texas Mutual Insurance Company.
Because workers' compensation insurance premium is based in part on payroll, the
scheme allowed the company to pay less premium than it actually owed.

This is a fairly common type of workers’ compensation fraud – much more common than fraud committed by employees illegally collecting benefits. When companies lie about the number of employees they have or misclassify employees as independent contractors, their workers’ compensation insurance rates go down. This gives them an advantage over honest companies who end up paying more for their workers’ compensation coverage.

Safe businesses receive financial rewards in Colorado

Businesses in Colorado with strong safety record are receiving dividends on their workers' compensation insurance.

Pinnacol Assurance, a provider of workers’ compensation insurance, is rebating $525,480 to businesses throughout Morgan County, Colo., for example. These companies are receiving performance dividends based on their track record of employee safety.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Pinnacol has issued the general dividends, funneling a total of $227 million back to Colorado businesses.

This rebate program, administered by an insurance company proves that workers’ compensation isn’t necessary to lower costs or workers’ compensation premiums. Companies can cut their costs by keeping their employees safe.

Check Out BulldogLawyers.com for More Workers Compensation News from Around the Nation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Falls to Blame for a Quarter of Massachusetts Workplace Deaths

The Boston Herald ran an article about workplace deaths and injuries to coincide with Workers’ Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor people who have been killed on the job.

Eighty people died in Massachusetts last year from workplace-related injuries, nearly a quarter of them in falls, according to statistics released Monday by the AFL-CIO and a coalition of labor groups.

The groups compiled the data to commemorate the 21st annual Workers’ Memorial Day on Tuesday. They want more staffing at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as stiffer penalties for employers allowing unsafe workplaces.

Friday, June 13, 2008

California Considers Increasing Benefits for Workers with Permanent Injuries

Permanently disabled workers in California may soon be eligible for higher workers’ compensation benefits, if new reforms are passed, but some workers’ rights advocates say the increase is too small to help most seriously injured workers.

Californians permanently injured on the job would get an average 16 percent increase in disability payments under new rules proposed by the state Division of Workers' Compensation.

The formula proposed is based on new data that links wage losses to the type of injury suffered by the worker. The formula calculates payments to disabled workers based on estimates of how much they would earn if they weren't permanently injured.

Division Director Carrie Nevans said the new formula is based on a review of how wage losses relate to injuries under the worker compensation formula in use since
2005.

"We've been studying how those two factors intersect ... and now have enough data and analysis to support this increase," Nevans said in a statement.

The proposed formula would bring larger increases for workers who suffer the highest wage loss and increase benefits for some of the most common and serious injuries like those to the back, wrist, hand and ankle, Nevans said. The proposed formula would also eliminate age as a factor in setting benefits.

What would the 16 percent increase in benefits mean for an injured worker:

  • The average payment for a permanent shoulder injury would increase from $7,693 to $8,153
  • The average payment a hip injury would increase from $14,490 to $15,755.
  • The average payment for an ankle injury would increase from $6,003 to $7,521.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Preventing Injuries Will Help Companies Save on Workers’ Compensation

A recent seminar for business owners in Maine is worth mentioning. The topic of discussion was how much workers' compensation can cost in terms of productivity and overall corporate profitability.

That’s a reminder that workers’ comp costs can be controlled through innovative return-to-work programs and stringent safety measures.

The key to reining in workers’ compensation costs is not by cutting worker benefits. To really save money on workers’ compensation, companies must prevent workplace injuries. Most workers’ comp insurance premiums are tied to claims.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Calculating the Cost of Disability

In an article about workers’ compensation reform in Wyoming the Jackson Hole Star-Tribune poses the question, “What's a leg worth? $15,000? $20,000?”

Is the loss of an arm worth more to a welder or to a parts delivery person?

If a workplace accident results in a serious back injury, should compensation cover the degenerative effects throughout the body as a person ages?

Under Wyoming's workers' compensation program, it's the job of a claims analyst to apply a fixed standard when determining fair compensation for a workplace injury. Yet the results may differ greatly due to the complex nature and consequence of individual circumstances.

There’s a move afoot to change how payments for permanent disabilities are calculated in Wyoming.

Workplace Safety in High Tech Fields

Dangers may be lurking for workers in the high-tech nanotechnology industry, according to bloggers over at the Pump Handle, which is focused on public health issues.

An international survey published in the May issue of Environmental Science and Technology addressed precisely this question: are nanomaterials firms and laboratories installing adequate, nano-specific environmental health and safety (EHS) programs, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, exposure monitoring and product stewardship programs?

The results of the survey?

Workplace monitoring and nanospecific waste disposal were uneven and were only associated with the subset of organizations believing in special risks. A majority of organizations expressed a need for more toxicological information and EHS guidance.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Preventing Injuries Will Help Companies Save on Workers’ Compensation

A recent seminar for business owners in Maine is worth mentioning. The topic of discussion was how much workers' compensation can cost in terms of productivity and overall corporate profitability.

That’s a reminder that workers’ comp costs can be controlled through innovative return-to-work programs and stringent safety measures.

The key to reining in workers’ compensation costs is not by cutting worker benefits. To really save money on workers’ compensation, companies must prevent workplace injuries. Most workers’ comp insurance premiums are tied to claims.