Paula Robinson's Blog for Workers Compensation & Disability

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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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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