Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

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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What is a Workers’ Compensation Claim Denial?

file for a workers comp claim

What is a Workers’ Compensation Claim Denial?

Have you received a Denial of your workers’ compensation claim? After you suffer a work injury, you as the injured worker are required to give “Notice” to your employer of your injury as soon as possible but no later than 120 days from the date of the injury or from when you receive a diagnosis from a physician relating it to your work.

After you give “Notice” to your employer, your employer must relay the notice of the work injury to their workers’ compensation carrier. From the date the assigned workers’ compensation adjustor receives the claim, they have twenty-one (21) days to either accept or deny your claim. There are several ways that your claim can be accepted and if a Denial is issued, there must be a reason checked off as to why it is being denied. For purposes of this article, let’s focus on the reasons why your claim could be denied.

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Can An Employee Be Laid Off While Receiving Workers’ Comp?

Laid Off

A layoff can be legal even while you are receiving workers’ compensation. But despite being laid off, you may be legally entitled to continue receiving your benefits until you are medically fit (released) to work. However, when this happens, your former employer will not rehire you as you were already laid off.

Assess Your Employer’s Actions

In this peculiar situation, it is important to closely assess your employer’s action. Your employer has a right to lay you off even when you have an active workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania. But the condition is that the layoff must not be related in any way to your claim.

If a number of workers have been laid off together, a work facility or an entire department has been closed (where you worked), your employer is not legally obligated to protect your job merely because you are receiving workers’ compensation.

But if you are the only worker who has lost the job, it is a matter that requires closer scrutiny. If the employer intended to protect themselves from liability and terminated your employment in the guise of a “layoff,” you may have a strong claim for wrongful termination, retaliation, or discrimination. It is best to seek legal advice from a proven and capable workers’ comp attorney in PA.

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What is a Vocational Interview?

vocational interview for workers comp claim

WHAT IS A VOCATIONAL INTERVIEW?
HOW CAN IT AFFECT YOUR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS?

Did you know… If you have an open workers’ compensation claim, and are receiving wage loss benefits, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier can and will try to reduce or stop your benefits at some point in time.

They will first send you for an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) with a doctor of their choice, which you must attend or face suspension of your benefits.  Once their doctor issues a report as to your condition and ability to return to some type of work, be it heavy, medium, light, or sedentary (desk work), the carrier will then approach your employer to see if there is work available within those restrictions.  If your employer does not have work for you to return to, then the workers’ compensation carrier will hire a vocational expert to interview you to review your past employment, transferable skills, and educational background. You should always be represented by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney during this interview process.

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Warehouse Pickers Can Become Injured in a Demanding E-Commerce Market

Warehouse Pickers

Today’s e-commerce driven market has created many job opportunities for warehouse pickers. Given the nature of this job, there are various workplace injuries that can occur – some more obvious than others. 

For order pickers at large e-commerce warehousing facilities, lifting heavy packages and objects can cause back injuries, which is one of the most common risks. 

However, order pickers at warehouses also face other serious injury risks, such as falling objects, arm, elbow, shoulder, and musculoskeletal strains, repetitive motion injuries, and trips and falls. Some accidents may also involve forklifts, cranes, and other forms of large material handling equipment.

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What is a Suspension of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Understanding a Suspension of Workers’ Comp Benefits

A Suspension of Workers’ Compensation Benefits is when the Workers’ Compensation Carrier tries to stop your wage loss benefits but not your medical benefits alleging that you are able to return to work in some capacity, whether it be regular, medium, light, or sedentary work according to an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) report or your own treating Dr’s report.

From the time you begin to receive workers’ compensation wage loss benefits once your claim has been accepted, it is the workers’ compensation adjustor’s job to try and find a way to stop paying you compensation, as it is costing the carrier and your employer premium dollars to have you on workers’ compensation. The workers’ compensation carrier will receive ongoing reports from your treating physicians and if there is an hint that you can return to your job, or the same category of job…ie., desk type work, light, medium, or heavy duty work, that pays the same as your pre-injury work,  the carrier will hire an attorney to file a Suspension Petition to try to stop your workers’ compensation wage loss benefits altogether. 

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Pre-Existing VS. Aggravation of Injury

Pre-existing Injury

My client injured his lower back while lifting metal piping, working as a welder. 

He properly gave “Notice” of his work injury to his employer who reported the same to their workers’ compensation carrier, who in turn denied the claim, indicating that he had a pre-existing work injury.

As my client could not work due to the current work injury, he had to apply for short-term and long-term disability benefits. As he knew that he truly injured his back at work, he wanted to pursue both wage loss and medical workers’ compensation benefits. 

I filed a Claim Petition that was assigned to a workers’ compensation judge, who recently ruled in my client’s favor after about nine months of hard-fought litigation.

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How Opioids are Affecting Workers’ Comp in PA

Opioids Workers' Compensation

Research has shown that injured workers who are administered higher doses of opioids for pain relief end up spending more time off work following their injury than those who are prescribed low-dose or non-opioid painkillers. 

The National Safety Council has cited a study which revealed that administering opioids for one week soon after a worker’s injury will double the risk of the worker not returning to the workplace even one year after the injury. 

Increased Workers’ Comp Claim Costs

The challenge with opioid use is that the patient can quickly develop a tolerance to it. In other words, an injured worker using opioids is more likely to require incrementally higher doses of the drug to maintain the same effect. As the worker uses more of the opioid, it increases sedation and reduces their ability to work. This can result in delayed return to the workplace, which in turn means higher lost wages for the injured worker. 

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University published in the Claims Magazine, long-acting opioids were associated with a nine-fold jump in the average workers’ comp claim costs. These additional costs could also include treatment for opioid dependency and addiction.

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