WorkComp Advisory
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Things you should know

Study: Workplace accommodations and proper medical treatment lower risk of disability after back injury

Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle interviewed 1,885 people who submitted Workers' Compensation claims for a back injury. Questions addressed medical issues, psychological status and job conditions.

Results of the study, published in the Dec. 1 issue of the journal Spine, indicated that significant baseline predictors of a one-year work disability were injury severity, specialty of the first health care provider seen for the injury, no job accommodations (e.g. light duty), number of pain sites, very hectic job, and previous injury involving a month or more off work.

OSHA final rule clarifies Personal Protective Equipment and training

OSHA issued a final rule on employer responsibility for providing workers with personal protective equipment and training.

The agency said the rule, effective Jan. 12, makes it "unmistakably clear" that each covered employee must receive PPE and training, and that each instance of noncompliance may be considered a separate violation subject to a separate penalty.

According to OSHA:
"The amendments add no new compliance obligations. Employers are not required to provide any new type of PPE or training, to provide PPE or training to any employee not already covered by the existing requirements, or to provide PPE or training in a different manner than that already required. The amendments simply clarify that the standards apply to each employee."

Website aims to help workers quit smoking

A new website, launched by the Center for Prevention & Health Services of the Washington-based National Business Group on Health, offers employers tools and guidelines to help establish or evaluate an existing smoking cessation program. It also includes statistics on the impact of smoking in the workplace and case studies of companies with successful smoking cessation programs.

According to NBGH, smokers who attempt to quit with assistance are 2-3 times more successful than those who attempt to go it alone.

Study: Smoke-free workplace law reduces heart attack death in Mass

According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health, the number of heart attack deaths in Massachusetts has declined significantly since the state's implementation of a smoke-free workplace law in 2004.

Researchers noted a significant decline in heart attack deaths beginning in July 2005 – one year after the smoking ban began. "While there may be several factors that played a role in this decline, we believe that the single most compelling reason was reduced exposure to secondhand smoke in workplaces across the state," DPH Commissioner John Auerbach said.

Helpful guidance on ADA changes

On January 1, 2009, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 goes into effect, making some major changes to the way the definition of disability has been interpreted in the past. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides an explanation of the changes as well as practical tips for employers. Click here.

New FAQs released on e-verify

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services posted Frequently Asked Questions concerning E-Verify addressing two major questions:

1) Although the E-Verify Final Rule becomes effective on January 15, 2009, employers are required to enroll in E-Verify only if and when they're awarded a federal contract or subcontract that requires participation in E-Verify as a term of the contract. If a contractor wins the bid on a federal contract that contains the FAR E-Verify clause, the contractor and any covered subcontractors on the project are required to enroll in the E-Verify program within 30 calendar days of the contract or subcontract award date.

2) Only those employers that win a contract or subcontract that includes the E-Verify clause may run existing employees through E-Verify. A federal contractor must verify their new hires and the "employees who are assigned to the contract," and may also elect to verify their entire workforce.

For the full text of the FAQs, click here.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) new worker visibility rule in effect

The FHWA rule requiring the use of specific high-visibility apparel for most workers on federally-funded roadways went into effect November 24. Under the rule, every worker or volunteer in the right-of-way of a federal-aid highway who is exposed to traffic or construction equipment within the work areas must wear high-visibility apparel. The definition of worker is broad – including construction workers, reporters, volunteers, etc.

The rule was recently amended to exempt firefighters in certain situations.
For more information, click here.

OSHA adds nanotech Web page, MRSA eTool

OSHA recently launched a Safety and Health Topics Web page on nanotechnology. According to the agency, the page is intended for businesses that deal with nanomaterials. It lists the health risks that may be related to nanotechnology, as well as applicable OSHA standards.

OSHA also added to its online "eTools" with a module providing information on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as MRSA. MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection on the skin.

Important ruling about nonresident workers in California

In the recent Sullivan v. Oracle case, the court ruled: "Contrary to Oracle's assertions, the California Labor Code is clearly intended to apply to work done in California by nonresidents. The California Supreme Court has held that California's employment laws govern all work performed within the state, regardless of the residence or domicile of the worker. In Tidewater Marine Western, Inc. v. Bradshaw, 927 P.2d 296, 301 (Cal. 1996), the Court wrote, 'Like the criminal laws..., California employment laws implicitly extend to employment occurring within California's state law boundaries'[.]"

As a result of this decision, these employees are entitled to overtime for the hours they worked in California.