Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

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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Workers’ Compensation as It Relates to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania

As of March 20, 2020, the Workers Compensation Insurance Organizations (WCIO) approved new codes, referred to as “Nature” and “Cause” codes to help in the reporting of workers’ compensation claims related to COVID-19 claims.  The Cause is Pandemic and the Nature is COVID-19.

As of March 24, 2020, Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation system has been updated to accept these codes for reporting COVID-19 claims effective as of December 2019 or later. The International Association of Industrial Accidents, Boards, and Commissions (IAIABC) recommends that Workers’ Compensation Insurance Companies modify their reporting and collections systems to recognize these codes by April 1, 2020.

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Brain Injury in The Workplace

Brain Injury Workplace

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month in the US. As many as 137 Americans die every day because of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and many more suffer lifelong disability. 

Accidents at the workplace are a leading cause of brain injury. Falls from heights and struck-by object accidents together comprise more than half of all TBI-related injuries, according to the Brain Injury Awareness Association (BIAA).

Common Causes of Brain Injuries at the Workplace

Construction Site Accidents

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggest that preventable falls from heights at construction sites result in a large number of occupational traumatic brain injuries. 

Apart from falling from heights, construction workers are exposed to additional brain injury risks, such as getting struck on the head by heavy construction equipment, falling objects or metal beams, or getting hit by a moving construction vehicle.

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PA Workers’ Comp Numbers in 2018

Impact of Stress on Job Safety

Impact of Stress

Even though February is traditionally the month for lovers, it is also the American Heart Month. Studies show that work-related stress affects the heart health of as many as 83% of employees in the US, taking the lives of nearly 120,000 workers each year. 

How Workplace Stress Affects the Employees

The first thing workers need to realize is that constant stress – whether from heavy workload or traffic-choked daily commute – can have real physical impact on the body. Stress has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including appetite problems, poor sleep, mood swings, and of course, heart diseases.

Medical researchers at the University of Rochester, NY, have said that long-term stress leads to high levels of cortisol, which causes the person to experience enhanced levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and hypertension. All these factors result in a poor heart condition which can trigger a variety of issues, including increased risk of stroke. 

Chronic stress also causes inflammation which is a well-known instigator of heart disease. 

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