LEAD (BERYLLIUM) STORY
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will start enforcement of the final rule on occupational exposure to beryllium in general employment, construction sites, and shipyard industries. OSHA will also begin enforcing on May 11, 2018, the new lower 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit (STEL) for construction and shipyard industries. The start of enforcement had previously been set for March 12.
Approximately 62,000 workers are potentially exposed to beryllium in about 7,300 companies in the United States. Workers who inhale airborne beryllium in the workplace can develop a lung condition called chronic beryllium disease, or CBD. Occupational exposure to beryllium has also been linked to lung cancer. In the construction sector, exposure to beryllium is possible for welders, abrasive blasters, metal fabricators, metals recycling, and roofers.
CHECK THE SCORE BOOK
Switching gears, OSHA expected more than 350,000 electronic incident reports related to the final Electronic Reporting Rule for 2016 injury and illness data at the close of 2017. The rule requires reporting of summaries of work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred at a workplace in the previous year for posting on the agency’s website. The agency reports that just 153,653 reports were submitted. The agency reminds qualified employers that 2017 data must be posted by July 1, 2018. OSHA has until June 15 to inspect workplaces for violations of the electronic reporting rule.
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced legislation intended to curb workplace violence in health care facilities. The Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act would direct OSHA to create a standard that would require health care facilities to develop and implement facility- and unit-specific workplace violence prevention plans that stress prevention, training, and worker participation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported 58 fatalities among hospital workers resulting from workplace violence between 2011 and 2016. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted inpatient health care workers were 5 to 12 times more likely to encounter nonfatal workplace violence than all other workers.
Finally this week, the government of Alberta is accepting feedback from the public on its new Occupational Health and Safety Act until April 9th. The Act makes sweeping changes including new rules for workplace harassment and violence, including sexual and domestic violence. The proposed rules would require employers and supervisors to take reasonable steps to protect workers and to investigate incidents and promote training and operation of the joint work site health and safety committees beginning June 1. We’ll keep tracking these workplace safety measures.
THE GIG IS UP (TO THE GOVERNOR NOW)
The Tennessee Legislature approved a measure this week that will permanently classify a majority of “Gig” workers as independent contractors, removing them from employment related benefits like workers’ compensation. The measure now goes to Governor Bill Haslam. The Volunteer State is one of eight states around the country seeking clarity around employers’ roles and responsibilities in compensation and benefits for workers in the shared economy.
Right at the close the 2018 legislative session, the Florida General Assembly passed a tax measure that also included an independent contractor provision, like the one passed in Tennessee. We’re keeping an eye on this rapidly developing story.
Making Our Way Around the Country
An Illinois bill that would create a state-sponsored insurance company to provide workers' compensation was progressing through the Illinois House of Representatives. The measure (H.B. 4595) would create the Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Co. as a nonprofit organization authorized to issue insurance for workers' comp and occupational disease. The company would not be a state agency or receive taxpayer funding. It would be established with a $10 million loan from the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission Operations Fund. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner previously vetoed this proposal last year. In related news, Gov. Rauner won the GOP primary yesterday, but faces a tough reelection battle in November.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is expanding the department’s criminal investigations division as part of his vision to eliminate insurance fraud in North Carolina. This week, 15 new special agents were sworn officers to the NCDOI Fraud Control Group, nearly doubling the size of the existing team. Insurance fraud costs consumers between 15 and 20 cents of every dollar they spend on insurance premiums.
Governor Rick Scott signed legislation that limits opioid prescribing and provides tens of millions in new funding to combat an overdose epidemic. The measure now imposes a three-day limit on most opioid prescriptions, though doctors could provide a seven-day supply if “medically necessary.” The new limits would not apply to patients with pain related to “cancer, terminal illness, palliative care or serious traumatic injuries.” Physicians will now be required to check a prescription-monitoring database in an effort to prevent doctor shopping.
March is National Ladder Safety Month, an initiative designed to raise awareness of ladder safety and to decrease the number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities. Every year over 300 people die in ladder-related accidents, and thousands suffer disabling injuries. So to Sr. Jean and the rest of her beloved Ramblers, if you get the opportunity to cut the nets down in the South Regional this week, please be careful! From all of us at The Way, #OnwardLU!