Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

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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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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Preventing Injuries in a Warehouse

Warehouse Injury

Warehouses have multiple activities going on at any given point of time, with a regular stream of incoming goods, order picking, shipping, and replenishment. The risk of worker injuries is significantly higher in warehouses than retail centers and many other workplaces. 

Employers can take several steps to prevent workplace injuries in warehouses and reduce their risk of workers’ comp claims. Employers should also review the Guide on Warehouse Safety published by OSHA, which provides recommendations on safe warehouse practices and policies.

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What is a Modification of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Understanding a Modification of Workers’ Comp Benefits

A Modification of Workers’ Compensation Benefits is when the Workers’ Compensation Carrier will modify or adjust your wage loss benefits based on your ability to return to work based on an offer of return to work, usually in a light or sedentary capacity, as a result of an IME report or your own Dr. indicating your ability to work.

When you are receiving workers’ compensation wage loss benefits as you are totally out of work, the workers’ compensation carrier will eventually send you to an Independent Medical Examiner, a doctor they pay to examine you. This doctor will give an opinion as to whether you are still disabled, fully recovered, or capable of some type of work. For example, if this doctor indicates in his report that you are capable of light duty work, the workers’ compensation carrier will reach out to your employer to see if any light duty work is available for you to return to so that the carrier can limit the amount of compensation you are receiving.

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