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NCCI releases economic outlook and its impact on workers' compensation

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) reports that little has changed in the key economic drivers of workers' compensation. "Premium increases continue to reflect the slow but steady growth in employment and payrolls frequency has resumed its moderate pace of decline, and the growth in medical and indemnity severity remain subdued. The most notable change is the modest tightening in workers' compensation premium rates that began in 2011." The complete report includes the outlook for 2014.

NIOSH report offers tips on assessing worker posture

A recent report from NIOSH aims to help safety professionals assess and improve worker posture and prevent musculoskeletal disorders. The use of digital video, computer software, training and visual cues comprise the main components of the research-based approach advocated in the report. NIOSH's recommendations for recording and analyzing worker posture include:

CMS to launch Medicare set-aside calculator for prescription drug costs

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to launch an online tool allowing workers' compensation claim payers to determine how much money should be allocated for prescription drugs in Medicare set-aside accounts. The CMS Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Portal will include the calculator as of Oct. 6. According to CMS, the tool will allow workers' comp payers to search for medications used by a workers' comp claimant, and determine how much money should be placed into a set-aside account. The calculation will be based on information such as the drug's dosage, frequency and price per unit, as well as the claimant's life expectancy.

NIOSH: Prevention through Design can help stop construction falls

A fall prevention guide recently aims to help building owners and designers build more safety features into their facilities rather than relying on back-end controls.

Fist bumps spread fewer germs than handshakes: study

Fist-bumping transmits significantly fewer bacteria between people than either handshaking or high-fiving, according to a recent study from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

FMCSA unveils changes to carrier safety ratings website

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced it has updated the Safety Measurement System website, which provides ratings of truck and bus carriers. The revamped website will not affect any methodology or carrier's safety ratings, but includes a "Take a Tour" segment outlining the site's features, new ways to download safety data on motor carriers, and information about motor carriers' enforcement case histories and associated fines.

Executive order will require contractors to disclose safety and labor violations before getting government work

Set to take effect in 2016, the executive order will cover new federal contracts valued at more than $500,000. As explained in a fact sheet prospective contractors will have to disclose violations of 14 federal statutes and equivalent state laws that address wage and hour, safety and health, collective bargaining, family and medical leave and civil rights protections. Agencies also will have to require contractors to collect similar information from many of their subcontractors.

Worker hopes story of chain saw injury will help prevent future injuries

A timber faller from Washington is hoping that his story of suffering a chain saw injury will help prevent others from experiencing similar injuries. The story of the injured worker (whose name was not released) was reported in a hazard alert released by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The worker was wearing Kevlar safety inserts inside of his jeans while he was cutting a vine maple tree with a chain saw. The saw kicked back, rolled the safety inserts aside, and cut through the worker's jeans and into his leg.

Changes in opioid classifications

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began labeling tramadol, an opioid pain medication, as a Schedule IV controlled substance. Tramadol, which is sold under the names Ultram and Ultracet, is used to manage moderate to moderately severe pain.

In addition, restrictions on hydrocodone are tightening. In the future, products such as Vicodin that combine hydrocodone with another substance such as acetaminophen or aspirin, will be classed as Schedule II products, in line with the opioids oxycodone and morphine. Hydrocodone itself has been a Schedule II drug for decades, but combination products have had a less restrictive Schedule III designation. Reclassifying the products will make them harder to obtain, both by addicts and legitimate pain patients. Physicians will not be allowed to call in a prescription to a pharmacy. Patients will have to present a written prescription.

Early MRI for lower back pain often yield expensive, unnecessary treatment and longer disability periods - Study

Research conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety finds that inappropriate early use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to diagnose work-related lower back pain correlates with higher medical costs, unnecessary and ineffective procedures, and prolonged disability. Consistent with earlier research, the study was published in the August 2014 Spine.

NIOSH shares sleep tips for truck drivers

NIOSH has released a brochure with advice on how truck drivers can achieve better sleep while on the road or at home. The brochure shares information on preparation for better sleep and sleep disorders, as well as additional resources.

NIOSH: Workers face chemical exposure during fracking

Workers who gauge tanks during oil and gas extraction flowback procedures may be exposed to dangerous levels of benzene and other volatile chemicals, according to NIOSH. The agency released its findings in an Aug. 21 blog post that detailed exposure assessments for workers involved in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." NIOSH offered nine recommendations to reduce the potential for occupational exposure.