Are You "Summerizing" Your Comp Program?
Jun 6, 2019

We are now into the unofficial beginning of summer when comp risks change from frostbite to heat prostration. Nancy Glover has a nice overview to help jog your thoughts. Here are a few more things to think about as summer bears down upon us:

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Heat exposure - seriously, heat exhaustion becomes a real hazard as we move towards the dog days of high summer. Note that this is true not only for your people who work primarily outdoors but also for the folks who work inside un air-conditioned facilities like assembly lines and warehouses. Make certain that your safety crew reminds workers at risk and makes certain that preventive measures are in place and everyone knows the signs of heat exhaustion and what to do.

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Wearables and other equipment - many wearables and safety gear can be annoying in hot, sticky weather. Up your compliance game accordingly. This is also the time of year when some employees are tempted to wear inappropriate clothing relative to their job. You don't need more - ahem - exposures for industrial accidents.

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Weekend warrior syndrome - while weekend injuries can happen as well at ski resorts as at the beach, the rate of recreational overexertion, strain, and sprain injuries goes up in summer. Be alert and work with your claims team to avoid having summer fun injuries hit your comp program.

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Summer help - seasonal employees present a special risk category, especially if they have never worked in an environment like yours before. Slap-dash safety training (here, watch this video while you bolt lunch) can buy you and them a world of hurt.

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Post-vacation syndrome - the first few days back at work after a serious vacation present special dangers. Even veteran employees can "forget" key safety procedures if their heads are still in, say, Cancun or Paris.

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Severe weather - we are now starting hurricane season as well as summer. Have you reviewed and reminded your people of how to prepare and respond if the next Cat 4 storm has your address on it?

There's more, of course, but this list of thought joggers should help you focus on the coming seasonal risks and the safety and training measures you'll want to implement.

Illustration: Urine color and dehydration warnings - seriously, people, you need to know this. Dehydration can be fatal.

 

All About Gigs and More

So what is the "gig economy" anyway - and how many gigs does it take to eat your lunch? In a brilliant piece in Workerscompensation.com, "Does everybody have a side gig?", Terry Bogyo provides a Grey's Anatomy tour (the book, silly) of all aspects of gigs and side hustles. The authorities disagree on the prevalence of gigs as part of US workforce participation, but the low official numbers, around 5%, are almost certainly wrong. Independent investigators put the real number at several times that. The Gallup organization has run polls on the question. They estimate "that 29% of all workers in the U.S. have an alternative work arrangement as their primary job. This includes a quarter of all full-time workers (24%) and half of all part-time workers (49%)." Ask your next Uber or Lyft driver.

Here's the point: how many of your employees have one or more side hustles? How might this impact your workers' comp situation if some of these gigs are not covered by someone else's comp plan? The compensability question is no longer "were you actively at work when the accident happened", but "which job were you working when the accident happened?" Bogyo puts the issue neatly:

No worker goes to work contemplating being injured that day but injuries occur; gig workers or multi-job holders may find they do not have the coverage they need. If the gig is covered by workers' compensation, there is no guarantee earnings lost from other jobs will be covered and compensated and vice versa. I doubt most gig workers and multi-job holders are aware of these potential gaps.

If this is potentially confusing for the employee, what about the employer? What happens to the investigation process or the calculation of wages? What about RTW? Which work are we talking about returning to? What happens if the injured worker can resume his or her side gig but not the regular job at your organization? We used to assume that secondary employment was (a) rare and (b) usually incidental to the employee's "real" job. When people routinely have to work two or three jobs to pay the rent, feed the kids, and generally make ends meet, what happens? How do you and your claims professionals work together to manage these very complex situations in ways that are fair to the injured worker and to your company?

The experts at Seyfarth & Shaw, whom we have quoted before, have offered an incisive list of the hazards and liabilities in the gig economy. Their focus is primarily on immediate issues for the gig employer, but a quick review of this material should help bring the spillover hazards for your organization into sharper focus. If many gig employers are as poorly equipped to handle on the job injuries as S&S indicates, where does that leave you as the "other" employer?

Your humble correspondent has a side gig - writing novels. Not a lot of job related hazards in this case, other than a really bad review (ouch, that hurts!), but the point is - side gigs are everywhere. Make no assumptions.

 

Quick Take 1:
What Do Cancer and Pregnancy Have in Common?

No, this is not one of those new studies that seem to show that yet one more part of normal life causes cancer. The folks at UNUM update their list annually for the five major causes of STD and LTD claims. Pregnancy and cancer are the only two significant causes of non-occupational disability claims (numbers 1 and 2 respectively) which are not also major causes of workers' compensation claims. The other three (numbers 3 through 5) are physical injuries, back disorders, and joint disorders. Sound familiar?

In case you were thinking that your colleagues across the hall in HR deal only in disease, this should point out how much you have in common. How about those non-occ back disorders? Had any occ back claims lately? Does HR have a well back program to help deal with these incidents? Are you using it for your comp back claims? How about those joints? Joint impairments are a common co-morbidity in comp. Are you referring injured workers with confounding joint complaints to any joint wellness plans your company contracts with? Most comp claims center on about 80 diagnostic categories. Surprise - these same categories are a big deal for HR and group health as well.

Are you sharing resources, making common cause? If not - well, as my friends in New Jersey say, whatsdumattuhwidya?

 

Quick Take 2:
With Friends Like These...

"I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!" So said the only US President closely related to your scribe, Warren G. Harding. Were cousin Warren running a major corporation today, he might well say the same thing in a slightly different context. A new report on cyber crime in Mondaq tells us, in part, the greatest threat to your corporate data security may be someone within your organization's own walls. More specifically, "An April 23, 2019 privacy notification by the FBI stated that U.S. businesses are reporting a significantly increased amount of data loss as a result of insider threat actors."

The article provides a guide to the basic common sense actions you need to take - and rigorously enforce - to minimize these insider threats. Why are insider incidents on the upswing? The authors try to be kind, but again and again we see a version of the recent paralysis of the City of Baltimore's 10,000+ computer workstations. Despite being hit by small scale hackers last year, the city's managers decided they didn't need to invest in better cyber protections. Now they have a mess of enormous dimensions and investing in the clean-up isn't optional. If you leave the gates open for insider hackers and your IT priorities and budget* make it clear that security is not a major concern, guess what happens?

Guarding against insider hacks is neither convenient nor free, but what are the alternatives? The inescapable fact: maintaining an active and thorough awareness of insider network activity at all times can be a company's best defense against the threat potentially sitting in the cubicle or even the corner office right beside you.

*Remember - priorities mumble while money screams.

Another view (not from a relative):

 
Marshall General of France under Louis XIV, who knew a thing or two about enemies

Bonus Points, our favorite recent headline:
"Prolonged Sitting is Expanding Among Adults"
What more do you need to know?

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