Workers' Compensation ruling could set the tone for more lawsuits

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A recent court ruling could significantly change or even disassemble Oklahoma's new Workers' Compensation system. 

Latest Changes in Oklahoma Workers' Compensation for 2014

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iStock 000011180219XSmallBeginning February 1, 2014 we will see a change in the Workers' Compensation laws and adjudication system in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Workers' Compensation - what you need to know about the upcoming changes

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OK WC Bulletin Aug 2013

Oklahoma's Work Comp court system ranks the fifth worst performing by the Work Loss Data Institute.

OSHA Recording Guidelines

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Stay up-to-date with the current OSHA Recording guidelines required for posting from 2/1/2013 to 4/30/2013

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Customize Your Safety Training

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Not all jobs on a construction worksite are the same; each job comes with its own set of unique safety risks. To ensure workers safely complete their jobs, customize their safety training for each job by doing the following:
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DID YOU KNOW?

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Portable generators caused 172 carbon monoxide poisonings in the United States between 1999-2004, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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Quick Tips for Using Generators Safely

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Mishandling the generators used on your worksite can cause carbon monoxide, electrical and fire hazards. Make sure your workers use generators safely by following these quick tips:
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Include Experienced Workers in Safety

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Inexperienced or newly hired employees are a company’s biggest safety liability, accounting for a disproportionate number of accidents and injuries. Because of this, employers spend significant time and resources training new hires. Sometimes lost in the effort to train new workers is the importance of safety training for experienced workers. As a result, accidents among experienced workers are on the rise.

The Hidden Costs of Accidents

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Many employers are shocked to discover that direct costs—such as medical expenses and indemnity payments—account for less than half of the total cost of workplace accidents.

What's the Real Workers' Comp "Secret Sauce?"

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Though many of our insureds are always looking for the quick fix, or the "magic pill" that will keep their employees from becoming injured on the job, consistent Safety, Protective equipment use, well maintained machines, tools, and workplace are all a part of the equation that make for a successful reduction in Workers' Comp costs.

DID YOU KNOW?

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Construction workers are at an increased risk for developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which is a painful and potentially disabling condition of the fingers, hands and arms.

Symptoms of HAVS include numbness, tingling and loss of nerve sensitivity, and can lead to the loss of strength and grip in the hands.

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Protect Workers from West Nile Virus

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It’s been more than 10 years since the first case of West Nile Virus appeared in the United States, but it’s still a risk that affects outdoor workers during the summer months.

Transmitted by mosquitoes, West Nile Virus symptoms can range from as mild as a fever, to as severe as encephalitis or meningitis.

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Don’t Rely on Employee "Common Sense"

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 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry had the highest number of fatal occupational injuries in 2010.

Relying on employee "common sense" and assuming workers know how to identify hazards are not surefire ways to prevent accidents.

Accident prevention training should be provided for all workers and incorporated into every job site, especially before starting new job tasks. Training should include:

  • Knowing when to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Recognizing and avoiding hazards
  • Following specific procedures to avoid accidents
  • Inspecting all equipment and tools to ensure they work properly
  • Reinforcing the importance of proper housekeeping
For accident prevention posters and additional resources to help your employees identify hazards, contact CFR, Inc. today.

My Doctor Urgent Care: How to Prevent Heat Related Illness

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Most forms of heat illness can be avoided by following basic prevention guidelines. Even so, it's essential for athletes and coaches to know the warning signs of developing heat-related emergency and understand the level of severity of each condition. (see: Heat Illness - Symptoms and Severity)

Normally, our body temperature is regulated by sweating. A number of factors can limit the sweat response, including intense exercise in high temperatures or high humidity, age, obesity, fever, dehydration, illness, medications and alcohol. When anthlete develops a heat illness, it usually occurs after several hours of exertion and excessive sweating that leads, first to dehydration, and then to electrolyte imbalances.

OSHA Working on Cadmium Regulations

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Good Housekeeping Increases Safety

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Good housekeeping is more than just mopping up a spill at the end of the day. Housekeeping should be done throughout the workday and in all areas of the plant, including aisles, stairs, storage areas and employee facilities.

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Did You Know: Manufacturing Workers and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

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Workplace Injuries More Likely for Hispanic Construction Workers

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According to the Center for Construction Research, a construction worker has a 75 percent chance of suffering a disabling, work-related injury over the course of a 45-year career period, with Hispanic workers having a 20 percent greater risk of dying than white, non-Hispanic workers.

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Flexible Work Schedules - What Works and What is Illegal

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According to a report by Regus, 67 percent of Singapore employers claim that flexible working practices have helped increase their productivity. Sixty-six percent of the employers reported that "flexi-working" is directly linked to an increase in revenues.

Employers reported that flexible working practices make workers feel more energized and motivated. Globally, flexibility also enables organizations to reduce employee turnover because of improved worker morale and health. In fact, 58 percent of respondents say their employees feel healthier because of flexible working practices. Sixty-seven percent of employees are now working more on the move compared to the time when flexible working practices were not yet popular. At the same time, more employees are likely to work part-time at some point in their careers.

Despite the clear productivity benefits of flexible working practices, small businesses are accepting flexible working practices more readily than are large firms. The study shows that 80 percent of workers from small businesses work flexibly compared to only 60 percent of workers in large firms.

According to William Willems, regional vice president for Regus, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, technology and network improvements along with employee demands for a better work/life balance are making flexible working schedules the norm. "Flexible working practices increase productivity," business.asiaone.com (Feb. 13, 2012).

Commentary and Checklist

Compressed workweeks are one form of flexible scheduling. Other examples are staggered shifts or flexible daily hours.

The benefits of flexible scheduling are many: from boosting morale to reducing commute times to improving employee health and productivity. Furthermore, an employer providing flexible scheduling has a recruiting and retention advantage over employers not offering flextime.

Flexibility is a favorite employee benefit, and the productivity reward might make many employers want to establish a flextime policy. There are, however, some risks of having a flextime policy.

Consider the EEO risks associated with flexibility benefits. In particular, feelings of unfairness may arise in employees who are not allowed, or who are unable, to participate in a flexibility program. When feelings of unfairness exist, the employer faces a higher risk of discontent and discrimination claims. Employers offering flextime must evaluate the risks as well as the benefits of flextime.

A flexible work schedule is generally a matter of agreement between an employer and employee. The Department of Labor (DOL) has compiled a list of resources that addresses the subject. Go to Work Hours-Flexible Schedules to learn what the DOL has to say about flexible scheduling.

Employers considering flextime should review these suggestions:
  • Offer flextime to men and women equally.
  • Offer flextime to employees with or without families.
  • When selecting positions for flextime, make certain that other positions are not overly burdened when flextime is chosen.
  • Make certain that positions that do not have flextime as an option have other additional benefits that make the position attractive.
  • Consider coupling the flextime choice with a cost such as fewer vacation days or the choice of refusing flextime with a benefit such as a higher bonus potential.
  • Make certain that employees on flextime are monitored so that their production is consistent with their position and the benefit.
  • Before implementing a flextime policy, make certain to have an attorney review the policy.


This informational piece was published on April 4, 2012.

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Requesting Social Network Passwords - Invasion of Privacy or Due Diligence?

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Hiring managers have reviewed job applicants' and employees' public profiles since the widespread popularity of social media. But what happens when users set their profiles to private so that only selected people or certain networks can view them? The answer for some employers - ask the job applicant for his or her password or ask the applicant to "friend" the hiring manager so the manager can view the applicant's private posts.

In one example, a security guard at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services returned to his job after taking a leave for his mother's death. At his reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password. According to the agency, it checks employees' and applicants' social network posts for gang affiliations.

Although the man was surprised by the request, he complied. "I needed my job to feed my family. I had to." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) complained about the practice, and the agency amended its policy. Hiring managers now ask job applicants to log in themselves during interviews. The case has inspired Maryland legislators to propose a law that forbids public agencies from asking for access to private social networks.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, the McLean County sheriff's office is one of several sheriffs' departments that ask applicants to sign into social media sites for screening. The practice has been part of the background check process since 2006. The chief deputy explained that applicants have a right to refuse, but no one has ever done so. When asked what sort of information would jeopardize job seekers, he said that it depends on the situation, but might include inappropriate pictures or relationships with people who are underage or other illegal behavior.

Some organizations, like the sheriff's department in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, ask applicants to "friend" background investigators for jobs at the 911 dispatch center or law enforcement positions. Other employers require new hires to sign non-disparagement agreements that prohibit them from posting negative comments about an employer on social media.

According to E. Chandlee Bryan, a career coach and co-author of the book The Twitter Job Search Guide, individuals seeking employment should always stay aware of what information is on their social media profiles and assume an employer is going to see it. Although Bryan is concerned about employers demanding login credentials, she feels that as long as an employer asks to see a social network profile through a "friend" request, there is no violation.

Giving out one's social media login information violates the social network's terms of service. But experts say that those terms do not have any real legal weight. The Department of Justice (DOJ) considers it a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service. However, during recent congressional testimony, the DOJ admitted they would not prosecute violations. "Proposed laws would forbid employers from asking for job seekers' social media passwords," www.foxnews.com (Mar. 20, 2012).

Commentary

On March 23, 2012, Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, issued a statement regarding employers seeking access to profiles of job applicants. According to Egan:

This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user's friends. It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability. . . . We don't think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don't think it's the right thing to do. But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don't hire that person.

While Facebook and others protest the practice based on privacy concerns and remind employers not to discriminate during the hiring process, employers, nevertheless, have a responsibility to perform due diligence when hiring. Employers have a right and duty to check job applicants' and employees' public posts as part of background checks to make sure they are hiring the right person for the job.

Furthermore, employers should check public postings on social networking sites on a regular basis to make sure that illegal discrimination and harassment does not occur. Just as an employer can incur liability for discrimination in hiring, discriminatory social media posts made by or against its employees may support EEO charges against the employer.

Currently, there is no law prohibiting private employers from asking to view job applicants' social media posts, public or private. The challenges described in the source article were referring to the tougher scrutiny public employers face when their policies and practices are challenged on privacy grounds.

Employers should watch closely in the future for proposed legislation, new laws, and developing case law on this issue. Most importantly, before asking for access, employers should ask for the opinion of an attorney to make sure that such requests are compliant with the law.


This informational piece was published on April 12, 2012.

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