Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

FULL DISCLOSURE IS BEST POLICY

Full Disclosure

When you are receiving Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier is entitled to find out if you are working during your receipt of workers’ compensation benefits or if you are receiving certain types of benefits. Pennsylvania workers’ compensation falls under the PA Department of Labor & Industry Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Pennsylvania workers’ compensation is twofold, where you can receive both wage loss benefits and medical benefits. As the workers’ compensation carrier is paying wage loss benefits out on a weekly basis, they are entitled to a credit for any earnings or certain benefits received by a workers’ compensation injured worker.

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The Dangers of Shifting Job Responsibilities

Dangers Shifting Jobs

In a highly demanding and market-driven business environment, many companies want to cut their costs of operations to remain competitive. As a result, companies may try to increase output while using a reduced workforce. The workers may face the pressure of new added job responsibilities that they may not be well-versed with. Worse still, the employers may cut back on the costs of training, safety measures, and protective equipment. All of these combine to make the working conditions more hazardous for the workers.

High Risk Factors for Workplace Injuries

Constantly shifting job responsibilities (with an aim to maximize productivity) are a known risk factor for workplace injuries. Poor employee communication, inadequate training, and lack of PPE in these circumstances typically contribute to higher risk of injuries. 

Workers may be moved to a new location frequently or may have to work in multiple locations. Unfamiliarity with new places, different equipment and multiple systems increases the likelihood of injuries and illness. Operating with new co-workers each time reduces the ability of teams to communicate effectively with each other, which further increases the workplace hazards.

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Safety Concerns in Manufacturing in a “Post-Pandemic” World

Safety-Concerns-Manufacturing

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted almost every industry. From travel to hospitality to the manufacturing industry, each segment has faced massive disruption since the pandemic. With the government imposing nationwide lockdown, industries were forced to stop operations temporarily.

While restrictions are being lifted off gradually, keeping the workers safe is still a significant challenge for manufacturers. Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) and also the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) have issued guidelines about the safety of workers. Despite these efforts, the threat of Covid-19 still looms over workers.

Here are some of the key concerns related to the safety of workers in the manufacturing industry:

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Workers’ Compensation While Working From Home

With a growing number of companies boosting their digital infrastructure, work-from-home (WFH) is becoming an increasingly popular concept for businesses. However, this has given rise to an important question: what happens when a remote worker suffers an injury while working from home? Are you still eligible to receive workers’ compensation for your injury? Let us address this issue in the context of workers’ comp laws in Pennsylvania.

How to Determine if a WFH Injury is Work-Related? 

According to the workers’ compensation laws in PA, off-site injuries (which occur outside the workplace) are covered for workers’ comp as long as the injury is work-related. This can be somewhat difficult to prove when you are working remotely because, in theory, the injury could also have occurred at home or elsewhere at a time when you were not working.

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Going Back to Work Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic caused thousands of businesses in Pennsylvania to temporarily shut down or operate at reduced capacity. Many of these businesses – particularly those in the yellow and green phases – are starting to reopen gradually, as the government has lifted its stay-at-home and business closure orders in many counties. 

With businesses reopening, employers have a duty to provide a clean, safe, and hazard-free environment for their workers. Apart from following OSHA’s guidelines regarding workplace safety, they are also required to take additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus at the workplace. 

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Robinson Law LLC Never Stopped

I am Paula Robinson, owner of Robinson Law LLC and I only practice in the field of PA Workers’ Compensation, being Certified as a specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Section on Workers’ Compensation Law as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

While many law firms in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been forced to temporarily close down, lay employees off, or have a decline in their new cases coming in the door due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, I have fortunately been virtually open and practicing almost as normal.

The PA Department of Labor & Industry implemented a new electronic system for workers’ compensation, which went live on September 3, 2013 known as WCAIS, PA’s Workers’ Compensation Automation and Integration System. (dli.pa.gov). The workers’ compensation system allows injured workers to file claims for their injuries, which if accepted, can result in receipt of both wage loss and medical benefits. 

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COVID-19 Contracted in the Workplace and PA Workers’ Compensation

According to the PA Department of Labor and Industry, “an illness caused by work exposures can be considered an injury or an occupational disease.” Under the PA Workers’ Compensation Act, when a person suffers an illness, it can either be categorized as a work related “injury” or an “occupational disease”. 

An “injury” in PA workers’ compensation can be a one-time incident such as a motor vehicle accident, fall, or strain/tear of a body part. It could also be repetitive in nature, injuring a body part by doing the same work over and over again. Also, pre-existing conditions can be aggravated by one’s work, being categorized as an injury.

Occupational diseases, on the other hand, are usually typical with specific occupations. An example of this was asbestosis and silicosis illnesses related to the steel industry in its heyday. Workers can be exposed to certain chemicals or poisons on a daily basis with their work which can lead to illness and/or death.

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Pennsylvania Workers Affected by COVID-19

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. This type of illness may be considered an injury or an occupational disease. Occupational diseases are identified in the PA Workers’ Compensation Act. Contracting COVID-19 at your place of work would most likely be considered an injury but could also be an occupational disease depending on the type of work performed.

If you suspect that you may have been infected at work, you should immediately report it to your supervisor/employer. You can file your claim in one of the following two ways: 

  • Notify your PA employer to file a workers’ comp claim for “disease-as-injury”. In this case, you will be required to prove through medical evidence that your COVID-19 exposure occurred at your workplace. 
  • Notify your PA employer to file a workers’ comp claim for “occupational disease”. In this case, you will be required to prove that the frequency of occurrence of COVID-19 is higher in your industry or occupation when compared to the general population.
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Virtual Service

Yes, we are open and working remotely to serve our new and existing clients. If you have questions or want to review your case, please call us at 215-530-7166.

Work Injuries & Risks During a Pandemic

While the devastating health and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic are in the spotlight, many people are unaware of the increased risk of injuries for workers during this time. Workers are operating not only at an increased risk of coronavirus exposure but are also more vulnerable to workplace accidents and injuries in these challenging circumstances.

Increased Risks due to High Work Pressure 

The fear of the pandemic has led Americans to stockpile essential commodities and order just about anything they can through e-commerce websites such as Amazon. To fulfill this surge in demand, manufacturers of various products are willing to pay overtime to their workers. 

This is particularly true for the manufacturers of critical medical devices such as ventilators, surgical masks, hand sanitizers, and pharmaceutical products. Manufacturers, packagers, and suppliers of essential commodities such as food products and groceries are also impacted.        

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