Synopsis: Turning Around the Local Government Entitlement Approach to Work Comp.
Editor’s comment: We saw two important articles in our research last week. First, the City of Los Angeles is calling for a review of LAPD and LAFD workers’ comp protocol and exercise programs after a pair of audits of the city's police and fire departments' workers' comp claims found the costs have jumped 35 percent in five years.
Among the audits' findings:
· The LAPD spent more than $140 million in workers' comp claims over the three-year period studied, with 60 percent of officers filing at least one claim during that period and 42 percent filing two or more;
· The LAFD spent over $120 million in workers' comp claims over a 3-year period studied, with 66 percent of firefighters filing at least one claim and 44 percent filing two or more;
· Police and fire claims made up 60 percent of all workers' comp filings the city paid in the past four years.
Second, a solid article from The Chicago Tribune quoted Waukegan IL Mayor Wayne Motley who described an "almost unmanageable" situation with IL WC claims and settlements. Mayor Motley asserted his city’s workers’ comp claims are an “epidemic,” as WC settlements in Waukegan totaled $905,000 in February alone. Waukegan officials have an additional 108 open workers' compensation cases. Yikes!
The Tribune reported on at least one “repetitive working” hearing loss claim. A firefighter asserted he had 18 percent hearing loss in one ear and 6 percent in the other. The settlement approved by the council included $9,455 to cover the 6 percent loss in both ears plus $6,000 for hearing aids. Please note such settlements now set up the payment of the full cost of hearing aids for any firefighter who wants them. We don’t agree with this settlement and we assure Mayor Motley the City should have fought and not settled such a claim. We are happy to outline how and why they could have fought and won this claim—you can’t “win” when you settle claims.
The remaining WC settlements included
A. $94,500 for a public-works employee who claims he tore a quadriceps muscle while crawling under a vent system;
B. $102,048 for a police officer who allegedly injured a bicep muscle shoveling gravel into a shooting-range trap;
C. $112,834 for a public-works employee who injured both knees falling on collapsed pavement; and
D. $128,225 for a firefighter who suffered a back injury lifting a back-boarded patient onto a cot.
4th Ward Ald. Harold Beadling was quoted to say: "Our State Legislature needs to do something about workman's compensation. Can you imagine if you owned a business? You'd be out of business." With respect to Alderman Beadling, we think Waukegan officials need to look in the mirror and change what you are doing with your claims to make better sense of workers’ comp costs.
Here are our thoughts on such shenanigans:
Start fighting such claims in all directions. First, start with a safety/training program. you may note of the four claims outlined above, all of them may involve unquestioned safety violations and process mistakes. There is no reason a public-works employee was crawling under a vent system without appropriate and inexpensive knee pads. We are not sure why a sworn police officer would be shoveling gravel but we vote buy a smaller shovel for this task to avoid injuries moving forward. The firefighter who was severely injured lifting a patient onto a cot may not have used appropriate lifting techniques. Stop complaining about the legislature and start with global safety training!
Second, ramp up accident investigation to insure you are only paying for work-related accidents. If you need our KCB&A accident investigation form, send a reply. You can’t “defend” your organization without aggressive accident investigation. Once you have a solid accident investigation completed, target return to work and MMI and make these goals a strong priority for your worker and your managers.
Third, join an IL WC PPP to insure you are getting quality care for your workers while paying medical reimbursements at rates lower than our IL WC Medical Fee Schedule. Just by offering an IL WC PPP, you cut choice of medical provider for your injured workers. We aren’t aware of a single municipality or county government that has joined an IL WC PPP. You can’t blame the legislature if you aren’t going to follow their rules to save money. If you want contact information to join an IL WC PPP, send a reply.
Fourth, consider merging your police and fire forces into one “public safety” body so you aren’t paying for idle workers who are looking for ways to make WC claims and get more dough from taxpayers. We assure our readers fire safety codes have worked and there are way less building fires in your local suburb than 30 years ago. The model for “public safety” with police officers that are also firefighters and EMT’s comes from Glencoe, IL where they have been doing this for over thirty years with great success. Please note most local fire departments send out lots of unneeded equipment on any routine call—the reason to waste taxpayer money in this fashion is to make the idle workers appear busier than they are.
Fifth, consider buying this book: It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best D**n Ship in the Navy. The story of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and his command of the U.S.S. Benfold became legendary inside and outside the U.S. Navy. Abrashoff offers this fascinating tale of top-down change for anyone trying to navigate today's uncertain business/government seas. He basically took his ship from being last to best. The same model would work in Waukegan. How did Abrashoff do it?
· See your organization through the eyes of your workers: By soliciting workers’ suggestions, Abrashoff drastically reduced tedious chores that provided little additional value.
· Communicate, communicate, communicate: The more Abrashoff communicated the plan, the better the crew's performance. His crew would eventually call him “Megaphone Mike," since they heard from him so often.
· Create discipline by focusing on purpose: Discipline skyrocketed when Abrashoff's crew believed what they were doing was important.
Sixth, consider calling on the great defense team at KCB&A to audit your toughest WC claims without charge and insure you are paying what you owe and no more. We create a one-page action plan with a focus on prompt and efficient closure. Our defense team does this on a regular basis and we assure you we save millions for the companies that use this service.
In summary, there is no time like the present, folks. You can’t manage our organization to complain/whine about the legislature and IL Workers’ Comp Commission while ignoring the various strategies that are certain to turn things around. We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.
Synopsis: The “Demolition of Workers’ Comp” Authors Are Being Similarly “Demolished” By the Facts on All Sides.
Editor’s comment: You may have hear an organization named ProPublica along with National Public Radio issued what we feel was a very biased report about how workers’ comp benefits have dropped across the U.S. in recent years. Obviously, they don’t mention the problems faced by Los Angeles or Waukegan, IL that we report above.
Numerous national pundits have tried get the ProPublica and NPR reporters working the WC beat to see all sides of an intricate group of national and local WC “systems” and to better understand the nuances and subtleties, and correct their errors publicly. These same observers now agree the positions being presented by these folks are advocacy and PR fluff.
It appears obvious the reporters don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t agree with their subjective view of work comp systems and they are intent upon misusing industry data to support their position and have an agenda they are determined to promote. The latest reports from ProPublica continues an obvious advocacy effort using anecdotal evidence to promote their ideological positions.
Joe Paduda of Health Strategy Associates noted In the original “Demolition” article, reporter Michael Grabell said:
“In 37 states, workers can’t pick their own doctor or are restricted to a list provided by their employers.”
That statement is categorically false. And the nationally renowned Mr. Paduda sent the reporter a detailed explanation of why and where this is false. He also provided the background documents from WCRI, and followed up. His analysis confirmed Mr. Grabell refused to update his article and/or claims. We consider this critically important because in many of the five states where KCB&A has defense lawyers, there are limitations on choice of doctors/medical care. We don’t feel that is a bad thing for workers in those states—in many situations, they are being provided the best possible care with early intervention.
Our point for our readers is to understand there is a strong bias and advocacy surrounding this whole concept of “Demolition of Workers’ Comp.” We hope legislators and other administrators see through the propaganda and fluff.
We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.
Synopsis: Dealing with OSHA and Your Workers That Don’t Speak English.
Editor’s comment: Employers who hire non-English speaking workers have to insure all employees, regardless of the language they speak, receive and “comprehend” safety-related instructions, programs and training. Numerous OSHA standards, from lock-out-tag-out to hazard communication, require employers to train or instruct employees. OSHA treats safety training as “performance-based.” This means OSHA defers to the individual employer to fashion the best manner by which to accomplish the goal of safety standards. For that reason, none of OSHA’s training standards require employers to use particular documents, teaching methods, or language to train employees. Instead, OSHA requires employees to present information in a manner your employees are capable of understanding.
For example, if an employee is not literate, you cannot satisfy OSHA training requirements merely by telling the employee to simply read your training materials or participate in safety programs. Basically, if an employee or group of employees does not speak, read or understand English, training must be provided in a language the employee understands.
OSHA inspectors have the duty to determine whether the safety program or training provided by you their standard. In effect they want to be sure your employees receiving training or undergoing a safety program actually understood and fully comprehend that training. One method for an OSHA inspector to make this evaluation is to try to interview your workers away from your managers. During such meetings, OSHA inspectors may attempt to hold employees to high standards of safety knowledge, asking employees questions regarding specifics or particulars of your program.
Another issue involving employee interviews is whether the employee speaks or comprehends conversational English. Many OSHA inspectors are bilingual, particularly in Spanish, and those who are not may request another employee act as an interpreter to translate during an OSHA-employee interview. Translation issues can present bias problems during employee interviews, whether the interpreter is another employee, a management representative, or an OSHA official. For this reason, you need to ensure your employees understand their right to have a management representative present during the interview.
OSHA believes employers must take into account your employees’ language capabilities and educational levels, and adjust all training programs accordingly. If you have a workforce that speaks predominantly Spanish or Polish, OSHA will require you to provide training in those languages. Further, if you have an uneducated and/or illiterate workforce, OSHA will expect you to provide the training in very simple terms and use pictures or similar materials, as opposed to written materials.
If you have questions or concerns about OSHA requirements or are facing an OSHA complaint, KCB&A has licensed lawyers in five states, IL, IN, WI, MI and IA to handle such concerns at very reasonable rates. Simply send a reply.