As summer begins to fade into fall, people everywhere are just beginning to enjoy five months of riveting football action. While most football fans do not link the sight of their favorite team’s colors with issues of employment law, the American gridiron has proved to be one of the most important arenas for the development of modern workers’ compensation law. Many dedicated football fanatics talk about Jack Lambert’s toothless grimace, Joe Theismann’s broken leg, or Drew Brees’ torn labrum. Not many football fans consider how Lambert’s busted mouth is repaired, Theismann’s leg is healed, or Brees’ shoulder is reconstructed, though. The answers are found in the ubiquitous workers’ compensation system.
Spring has finally arrived to relieve us from a long, dreary winter. With warmer weather and longer days, employers now have the opportunity to focus on outdoor projects that have fallen dormant for several months. However, while warmer weather offers employers a chance to get outside and work, moving that work outside can present some hazards to employees that are often overlooked. Whether your workplace is a saw mill, a factory, or an office, the natural inhabitants of your environment who are also awakening at this time of year can pose a threat to your employees. Employers should spend time identifying these potential threats and making to minimize the risks that they present.
In the past decade, it has become increasingly common to see employers devise new and innovative ways to reinforce the importance of safe workplaces to their employees. In an effort to achieve greater workplace safety, employers have frequently looked to implementing safety incentive programs (“SIPs”) to reward employees with cash, prizes, awards, or other recognition when the total number of injuries and near misses falls below the level specified by management. For example, an individual employee or department could be rewarded with anything from free t-shirts to a chance to win a new pickup truck in a company raffle if the injury tally falls below the threshold the employer establishes. Some employers have even used cash incentives or additional vacation time as rewards to encourage workers to be more safety conscious.
In the 75 years after its creation in 1913, the West Virginia workers’ compensation system generated an unfunded liability measured in the billions of dollars. In prior decisions regarding that system, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals noted that spiraling debt within the system could be attributed to the liberalization of permanent total disability (“PTD”) eligibility among West Virginia workers at rates far higher than the national average.
Recently, cases involving the NFL have put a new spin on a multi-jurisdictional workers’ compensation issue considered by leading scholars to be well-settled. These cases involved whether a federal court could enforce workers’ compensation choice-of-forum clauses contained within NFL players’ contracts. Surprisingly, the courts in these cases enforced the clauses. These rulings may provide a means for companies to ensure that the workers’ compensation act of a chosen state applies to its workers. This can be advantageous because the benefits provided by workers’ compensation acts differ significantly from state to state.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that more than two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. In fact, homicide currently ranks as the fourth-leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States. Recently, a psychiatric clinic associated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) unexpectedly, and unfortunately, became involved in these statistics.
In 2006, managed care of workers’ compensation claims went active in West Virginia. The move to managed care had begun in the early 1990s as increases in medical costs had become the primary drivers of workers’ compensation costs. Initial attempts to implement managed care systems involved the implementation of preferred care guidelines in states like Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota. As West Virginia faced an increasing crisis in its workers’ compensation system in the early 2000s, a managed care system gained traction as a popular measure to control spiraling costs.
In December 2010, OSHA issued Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction, rescinding the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction. The new standards took effect last week, but citations for fall protection violations will commence September 15, 2011, with a three-month grace period for employers complying with the old guidelines.
A recent directive from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) to its inspectors has provided employers with a bit more clarity on its responsibilities in providing Personal Protective Equipment – also known as PPE – to employees. That directive has also provided employers with a clue that hard hats, face shields and foot protection are all at the forefront of OSHA’s thinking. Don’t want an awkward moment with an OSHA inspector? Read on.