Your Tax Dollars At Work
Jan 19, 2017

The New Year is always a good time to rethink and review safety and loss prevention programs. What did we learn last year? What can we apply to the New Year? The nice people in our Federal government have been working on some of these issues for us. Here are a couple of recently updated resources that might help to jog a thought or two about on the job safety.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just updated their compendium of on the job fatalities. While this makes for grim reading, it also reminds us that certain regular, everyday, non-heroic jobs carry some risk of death in the normal line of duty. For example, in 2015 the drivers of big rigs had the most fatalities of any job classification, while construction remained the type of business most likely to have a fatal accident. One eye-catching stat: 17% of fatally injured workers were contract labor from a PEO or other labor rental source. Question for risk managers: is your loss reduction/safety program fully inclusive of tasks performed by casual or leased labor? Are you sure?

Meanwhile, everyone's favorite department, OSHA, has published on their internal blog their "Top 10" citations for 2016. While the citations listed by OSHA largely involve the manufacturing and construction industries, being familiar with the incidents that attract OSHA's attention is a good idea for all risk programs. OSHA calls their greatest hits list "a starting point for workplace safety" and the point is well taken. For example, OSHA explores the many ways in which falls, scaffolds, and ladders combine to kill and severely injure workers every year. You might want to check it out. This is a good Top 10 list to avoid.

HOW GREEN WAS MY COLLAR?

We have a new term of art in talking about our work forces, "green collar". Green collar jobs are defined as those involving wildlife protection, reducing pollution and/or waste, monitoring/reducing energy usage or lowering carbon emissions. While you may not employ a lot of forestry workers, think about the latter parts of that definition. You may have more green collar workers than you think.

The lead article in the current edition of The Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine (JOEM) [subscription or purchase required] takes a look at the dominant psychosocial hazards which impact workplace health and thus workers' compensation exposures in this emerging workforce. The new green collar workforce is largely male, white and relatively well educated. The researchers used the 2010 National Health Interview Survey and the 2010 Occupational Information Network data resources, so the picture which emerges is based on reasonably recent information.

Relative to their white and blue collar counterparts, the green collar workers showed somewhat more job insecurity and work-life imbalance issues. On the plus side, workplace harassment issues were less. Why should a risk manager care? This study is one more example of why you need to look at your workers' comp exposure from many different angles. Various segments of your workforce are more prone to different issues which may frustrate RTW or other aspects of your comp program. Have you identified your green collar occupations or worked with your claims organization to deal with the problems that arise in this class of workers?

RTW programs, for example, often need to be tweaked to work well for different groups of employees in different job classifications, even in the same corporation. Contrary to what you may read about tube socks, one size does not fit all.

HORSING AROUND?

The current Workers Compensation Issues Report, 2016 from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) includes a timely reminder concerning the workers' comp consequences of horseplay on the job. While the case cited by the NCCI commentary occurred in South Dakota, the trail of legal reasoning, which went all the way to the State Supreme Court, should remind us all that tolerating or not actively discouraging horseplay on the job can result in large claim dollars out the door. Note that the Court's decision leaned heavily on Larson's Workers' Compensation Law which is often cited in many different states.

The NCCI report concludes with a strong suggestion that employers know the law regarding horseplay in their exposure states. The author notes that "the outcomes of these [horseplay] cases are as varied as the facts and jurisdiction of each case...," but the key takeaway is that no employer should look the other way when employees goof off. The record is rife with workers' comp claims where presumably good natured fun went terribly awry, resulting in permanent impairments. In short, leave horseplay to the horses.

SPEAKING OF WHICH

If you think workers' comp statistical studies are all boring, dry as dust and generally to be avoided at all costs, check out Joe Paduda's sumptuously illustrated commentary on the California Workers' Compensation Institute's latest study of carpal tunnel in the Los Angeles region ("WTF's with LA?") on his blog. You may never see workers' comp research in quite the same way again.

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