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Ways Technology Changes Workers' Compensation

Bookmark and Share Computers, smartphones, tablets and wearable technology change the way we live our daily lives, and now they're changing Workers’ Compensation, too. Learn more about how technology can decrease accidents, improve recovery, lower claim costs and allow employees to return to work sooner.

Improve Communication With Employees

Employers must share important Workers' Compensation information with employees. Employee handbooks or memos can be effective, but these papers are not always accessible or easy to understand.

Smartphone mobile applications provide employees with the information they need. At a glance, an employee can stay safe while discovering:  

  • Injury prevention tips
  • Updates to safety procedures
  • How to file a claim
  • Claim updates
Share Workplace Training

Many companies offer safety trainings to employees. Held throughout the year, these trainings share important safety procedures, tips and protocols.

Formerly conducted in person, safety trainings can now be shared and viewed online via podcasts, videos and infographs. Employees can access the latest safety trainings directly from their computer or mobile device at work or at home.

Monitor Employee Activities

Workplace accidents and injuries occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, faulty equipment or slippery stairs are the culprits, but fatigue and employee error can also be causes.

Wearable technology such as watches, glasses, vests and helmets can reduce injuries, accidents and Workers' Compensation claims as they:

  • Monitor an employee's movements, alertness and other potentially dangerous or hazardous situations.
  • Vibrate or send a visual alert about threats to the employee, a co-worker or a supervisor.
  • Promote safety and prevent claims.
  • Assist training efforts.
  • Prevent fraud.
  • Improve wellness programs.
Improve Care for Injured Employees

Employees who are injured on the job are encouraged to file a Workers' Compensation claim as soon as possible. Unanswered or incomplete answers and poor penmanship can delay treatment, though.

With technological advances, incident reporting rates and accurate claim filings have risen. Employees can use an app or call an 800-number to file a claim which is then distributed automatically to a supervisor, safety coordinator or Human Resources department. Additionally, online resources assist employees in finding doctors and decrease wait time for necessary treatment.

Simplify Claim Management

After an employee files a Workers' Compensation claim, they will need treatment. Tracking doctor appointments and test results can be complicated.

Technology simplifies claim management and increases the likelihood that an injured employee will receive the treatment they need. Customizable email or text alerts send appointment reminders and prescription refill or pickup notifications. Employees can also access online medical records, see which claims have been paid or call a nurse for answers to medical questions.

New technology improves Workers' Compensation in many ways. Talk to your Human Resource manager about these options as you promote safety at your workplace.

Summer Safety Tips

Bookmark and Share Although the human body naturally cools itself, continuous exposure to extreme heat can overwhelm those mechanisms, leading to illness and even death.

The following are four types of heat-related ailments listed in order of severity (four being the most severe). Even a less severe condition can become more severe unless steps are taken to remedy the problem as early as possible.

Heat Cramps - painful muscles spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen, often with dizziness, weakness, and profuse sweating. Such cramps actually occur more often in well-conditioned people after prolonged heat exertion and are caused by the loss of sodium through sweating. Increasing daily sodium intake slightly during hot weather exertion can help prevent cramping.

Heat Syncope - fainting caused when the body compensates for too much heat by diverting blood from the brain to the skin. Heat Exhaustion - extreme fatigue with muscle aches, nausea, and fever. Additional symptoms can include clammy skin, diarrhea, rapid pulse, vomiting, and weakness.

Heat Stroke - failure of the body’s temperature control systems. Symptoms can include disorientation, agitation, hyperventilation, racing pulse, lethargy, convulsions, and eventually loss of consciousness. The body temperature rises to extremely high levels, sometimes above 110 F.

Helping a victim of heat-related illness:
  • Take the person out of the heat.
  • Loosen their clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths (not freezing or cold) and/or soak the victim’s clothing with water.
  • Elevate the feet eight to 10 inches.
  • And, if the person is conscious and not vomiting, offer plenty of fluids.
Preventing heat-related illness:
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn, which can hinder the skin’s ability to cool itself.
  • Wear a hat that provides shade and allows ventilation.
  • Limit vigorous activity during hot, humid weather.
  • Drink plenty of water -- even more than you need to satisfy your thirst -- before, during, and after exercise. Drinks with sugar and/or caffeine will not help; they actually rob your body of fluids. Alcohol causes you to lose more fluid than you consume.
  • Avoid hot, confined places. If you can’t, then work in shifts. Work a while, and then rest in a cooler place for a few minutes.
  • Electric fans might provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness.
  • Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Discuss with your doctor whether any of your medications might have this effect and, if so, be especially careful to limit your exertion and drink plenty of water.
At the first sign of heat illness such as cramps, nausea, dizziness, or severe headaches, get away from the heat. Find a cool spot and rest for a few minutes and get some fresh air. Remember, it is easier to prevent heat illness than to treat it once symptoms develop. And always seek immediate medical help if you or a co-worker develops any of the symptoms described above.

Understand The Jones Act And Maritime Injury Claims

Bookmark and Share Seamen who suffer an injury on the job are protected by the Jones Act. Also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, these laws include many components that support safe working conditions for employees in the vibrant maritime industry.

Who Does the Jones Act Protect?

According to the Act, seamen have the right to work in a safe environment. They may file a civil suit and maritime injury claim if they are the victim of an accident or injury on the job.

The act covers all seamen who work aboard or support the function of a maritime vessel on navigable waters. The seamen must spend at least 30 percent of their workday on the vessel to be protected by the Jones Act.

Why is the Jones Act Important?

The Jones Act makes vessels safer for seamen as it forces vessels to follow U.S. laws and holds employers responsible for their employees' safety. It supports the United States military as it ensures private vessels are safe and ready to function properly before, during and after war time. It also ensures the safety and productivity of seamen on the nearly 40,000 vessels that support the country's economy.  

Potential Jones Act Claims

Every Jones Act claim is treated individually, and damages depend on the individual situation and details. Seamen may claim several things when they file a Jones Act claim.

Lost Wages - Receive payment for present lost wages, a portion of future earnings and losses of vacation time, pensions, 401k contributions and other benefits.

Medical Costs - Receive payment for present and future medical expenses related to the accident or injury. These claims can include:

  • Medically-necessary equipment
  • Mental health care
  • Occupational or physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery
  • Transportation to treatment
Punitive Damages - Receive payment for medical costs, lost wages or pain and suffering from accidents and injuries caused by an unseaworthy vessel or employer negligence.   

Wrongful Death - Receive payment to cover the funeral or lost wages and special needs of the seaman's dependent children if the seaman dies while on duty.

Pain and Suffering - Receive payment for mental and physical pain suffered.

How to File a Jones Act Claim

When a qualified seaman is injured on the job, he or she may file a claim for damages. By law, the claim must be filed within seven days of the injury. It should also be reported to the Captain or supervisor, and an official maritime accident report detailing the injury or accident is required.

The Jones Act allows seamen to file maritime injury claims. It protects seamen and is important for the Americans they protect and support.

Substance Abuse Programs Prevent Workplace Injuries

Bookmark and Share According to statistics from the United States Department of Labor, 40% of industrial fatalities and 47% of individual injuries received on the job are due to intoxication from alcohol. This combined with the fact that businesses suffer related losses of five hundred million workdays and over eight billion dollars each year underscores the fact that alcoholic and drug-dependent employees are very dangerous for businesses. These unfortunate laborers drain the economy of much-needed growth and productivity.

Today, the troublesome situations created by employees suffering from addictions do not just apply to the usage of heavy machinery. Employees also have access to sensitive information about the company. This information when improperly handled leads to gaping liabilities that can exact a high toll on businesses.

The prevailing wisdom about alcoholic or drug-dependent employees is that they can be found in businesses of every size and more importantly every kind. Research actually reveals a different picture: employees with alcohol- or drug-related problems tend to seek out smaller businesses with no formal written policy prohibiting drug or alcohol consumption. This research would seem to explain a seeming disparity. The total population of illicit drug users is estimated to be just under fifteen million. Of those, 77% are employed. However, of heavy drinkers who are employed, just 17% work for companies that have employee rosters of five hundred or more.

Therefore, the best way to protect the workplace from alcoholic and drug-addicted employees is to instill a strict company policy against substance abuse combined with a drug- and alcohol-free program. Obviously each company must implement this program and policy in their own way due to their idiosyncratic circumstances, but there are five components that any program must have in order to succeed: drug and alcohol testing, employee education, employee assistance, the policy itself, and supervisor and manager training.

As each company takes the first steps towards setting up this program, the key element needs to be the formal written policy. In addition, the written policy should be displayed in as many areas as possible to remind employees of their responsibilities. Businesses must make it clear to their employees that the reasoning behind their adoption of this policy and program is for their employees’ benefit, in addition to preventing profit loss or liability resulting from employee injury. The written policy must include a description of prohibited behaviors and the consequences for engaging in those behaviors, set down in clear, understandable English.

Supervisor and manager training is necessary due to the influence and direct interaction supervisors have with their workforce. It is important to make a distinction between roles: supervisors are not meant to diagnose substance abuse problems, but their training should emphasize how to recognize poor employee performance and the possible symptoms of substance abuse, as well as where to refer employees for help. As for employee education, employees must be made aware of the personal and professional consequences of addiction as well as the specifics of the company’s policy and program efforts.

When starting a drug testing program, due to the multiple legalities involved, the Department of Labor recommends getting legal counseling before implementing a drug testing program. Finally, through the Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workforce, the DOL has set up many resources in order to help American businesses achieve the goals of helping employees end their substance abuse. These resources may be found at www.dol.gov/workingpartners.