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Nancy Grover

Nancy Grover is co-Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference and Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Tobacco Risks

NIOSH Proposes Stepped-up Anti-Smoking Policies

NIOSH cites the reducing occupational disease and injuries — including workers’ comp costs — as the top reasons to implement workplace tobacco interventions.
By: | September 10, 2014 • 2 min read
Smoking

On the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General’s first report on smoking and health, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has drafted a new Current Intelligence Bulletin. It focuses on things such as tobacco use among workers, exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace, and electronic nicotine delivery systems.

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“While public health efforts to prevent disease and injury caused by tobacco use have had substantial beneficial impact, millions of workers still use tobacco products and smoking is still permitted in many workplaces,” says NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This draft document is aimed not just at preventing occupational injury and illness related to tobacco use but also at improving the general health and well-being of workers.”

While smokers are more likely to be injured at work than nonsmokers, specific explanations for this association are unlikely to be limited to mere distraction.

The bulletin is NIOSH’s third on the subject. It reflects “a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being,” according to NIOSH. Included are recommendations addressing smokeless tobacco, which is said to be “a known cause of oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.”

The annual cost to employ a smoker averaged $5,816 more than a nonsmoker, according to a study cited in the bulletin. Included were costs associated with smoking breaks, absenteeism, presenteeism, health care expenses, and pension benefits.

Reducing occupational disease and injuries, including workers’ comp costs, was cited as one of the top reasons to implement workplace tobacco interventions. For example, use of tobacco is said to be a distracting factor for drivers who smoke, increasing the risks of accidents.

“While smokers are more likely to be injured at work than nonsmokers, specific explanations for this association are unlikely to be limited to mere distraction,” the bulletin says. “Adverse smoking-associated physiological alterations in bone mineralization, blood vessels, and inflammatory response may also contribute to higher risk of occupational injuries and higher rates of associated disability among smokers.”

Tobacco smoking among workers and exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace have declined “substantially,” the document explains. However, about 20 percent of U.S. workers still smoke, especially in the construction, mining, and accommodation and food service industries.

The bulletin advises employers to consider:

  • Establishing and maintaining tobacco-free workplaces for all employees. The products to include are cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco. The products should be banned in all indoor areas and areas immediately outside building entrances and air intakes and all work vehicles.
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  • Providing information on tobacco-related health risks and the benefits of quitting.
  • Offering and promoting more comprehensive tobacco cessation support such as employer-sponsored programs.
  • Ensuring that any employment benefits policies based on tobacco use or participation in cessation programs are designed with the main intention of improving worker health and that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
Nancy Grover is co-Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference and Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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NWCDC Preview

Disability Track Focuses on Saving Money, Managing Absences

NWCDC's Disability Management track includes breakout sessions on integrated disability management, managing workplace absences, and making the most of workplace diversity.
By: | September 10, 2014 • 4 min read

The 23rd annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo takes place Nov. 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The confer­ence is produced by LRP Publications, which also publishes Risk & Insurance®.

ConferenceThis Disability Management track of the 23rd annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo includes breakout sessions on integrated disability management programs that are saving employers money, managing workplace absences, and making the most of workplace diversity.

The Productivity Challenge: Engaging Injured, Absent and Disconnected Workers

Speakers:

  • Teresa Bartlett, M.D., senior vice president of medical quality, Sedgwick
  • Kevin Confetti, employment practices and workers’ compensation, University of California

Managing workplace absences is as much an art as a science. Whether due to injury or disability, occupational or nonoccupational problems, or personal challenges that render employees unproductive, the results are the same: Less than optimal output for the employer.

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The speakers will offer insight to help employers integrate their health, wellness, safety, and quality care programs. Bartlett and Confetti will share a comprehensive employee-centric model they say has been shown to engage injured, absent, and disconnected workers and produce dividends for employers. They will identify ways to lessen the drain on workplace productivity, demonstrate the direct linkage between health, safety and wellness, quality care, employee engagement, and productivity, and compare traditional programs with those being integrated and expanded to improve performance.

Harley-Davidson Saves $3.5 Million Through Injury Prevention, Management Program

Speakers:

  • Sue Gartner, corporate health services HR manager, Harley-Davidson Motor Company
  • Beth Mrozinsky, corporate safety and health HR director, Harley-Davidson Motor Company

A 68 percent reduction in workers’ comp claims, a 63 percent drop in costs, and bottom line savings of $3.5 million are the achievements at Harley Davidson since 2009. Gartner and Mrozinsky will outline the challenges that led to their integrated approach focusing on occupational and nonoccupational injuries, and will share their strategies and successes to help other employers build a similar program.

They will provide strategies for employers to integrate absence management programs and build on the strengths of the employer’s partners, demonstrate how to manage an aging workforce from hire to retire, evaluate metrics to gauge progress and determine the need for modifications to continue ensuring successful results, and show how to use outside-the-box thinking to incorporate progressive solutions to issues previously considered just a part of doing business.

Overcoming Psychosocial Barriers to Recovery: It’s Not Just a Theory Anymore

Speakers:

  • Sherri Burrell, head of operations, Briotix Inc.
  • Ruth Estrich, chief strategy officer, MedRisk
  • Carrie Freeland, manager of the Integrated Leave Department, Costco Wholesale

Despite advances in medical care, many rehabilitation programs fall short of the main goal: returning injured workers to preinjury functional outcomes. According to the speakers, these programs typically are symptom-based and lack effective elements to address the psychosocial issues that stall recovery in the claims responsible for 80 percent of the workers’ comp spend.

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They will address how cutting-edge behavioral modification programs that effectively address these psychosocial barriers can help practitioners identify at-risk injured workers, facilitate faster return to work, and promote reintegration into life-role activities. The three will explain how psychosocial risk factors impact disability and drive costs; differentiate cost-effective rehabilitation programs designed to improve return-to-work, health, and socioeconomic outcomes; and illustrate how the integration of physical therapy and a behavioral modification program can result in reduced medical and disability costs for occupational and nonoccupational injuries.

Making Integrated Disability Management Work for You

Panelists:

  • Loyd Hudson, integrated disability management manager, American Electric Power
  • Terri Rhodes, executive director, Disability Management Employer Coalition
  • Sarah von Schrader, assistant director of research of the Employment and Disability Institute, Cornell University

Reduced lost time, lower costs, and simpler processes are some of the benefits of a well-run integrated disability management program. But making the business case for IDM can be a challenge.

The speakers will offer advice to lay the groundwork for workplace policies and climate in conjunction with best practices in regulatory compliance with best practices in ADA compliance using IDM. They will offer a variety of tools, steps, and resources for an effective program and describe how American Electric Power achieved a regulatory compliant and fiscally successful IDM program. The speakers will outline the building blocks of integrated disability management, demonstrate how to build a successful IDM program, and review research on RTW and ADA and the aging workplace and how they impact IDM.

How Diversity Impacts Workers’ Compensation and Disability Strategies

Speakers:

    • Jennifer De La Torre, executive director of workforce diversity, AT&T
    • Elizabeth Demaret, executive vice president, chief customer relationship officer, Sedgwick
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The increasing diversity in today’s workforce is impacting the way companies conduct business. Workers today exhibit a range of differences in age, race, religion, gender, and physical abilities with each individual providing a unique contribution to the products and services delivered. The speakers will address some of the diversity shifts in the workforce and offer strategies for employers to manage these differences. Additionally, they will examine the impact diversity has on workers’ comp and disability programs. Finally, the two will outline ways employers can capitalize on diversity and improve productivity.

For more information, visit NWCDC’s website. To post your thoughts on the conference, join LinkedIn’s National Workers Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo.

Nancy Grover is co-Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference and Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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Telecommuter Risks

No Comp for Telecommuter’s Death From Embolism

After a telecommuter died of an embolism, her husband claimed it was because her work required her to sit for long hours. The court disagreed.
By: | September 4, 2014 • 2 min read
court bench

The husband of a New Jersey AT&T worker who died after spending more than 10 hours sitting at her home office will not receive workers’ comp death benefits. The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the controversial decision.

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An appellate court had upheld a ruling that Cathleen Renner’s death was caused by prolonged sitting due to her work, but the higher court said the woman’s husband had not proven that.

“Where a workers’ compensation claimant fails to demonstrate that cardiovascular injury, disease or death resulted from a work effort or strain involving a substantial condition or event, he or she is not entitled to compensation” under New Jersey statutes, the court said. “Prolonged sitting, uninterrupted by breaks to stand, walk, or exercise, was not a condition compelled by Cathleen’s job.”

Renner had a telecommuting agreement with AT&T that allowed her to work out of her home several days a week. On the day of her death in 2007, she had spent more than 10 hours sitting at her desk to finish a work project.

Her husband, James Renner, successfully filed a dependency claim in the Division of Workers’ Compensation and alleged that her death was compensable as an occupational disease as defined by state statutes. But the Appellate Division concluded that the judge had applied the incorrect standard to the facts presented and remanded for the DWC to determine whether dependency benefits could be awarded pursuant to the cardiovascular injury, disease, or death standard.

The DWC ruled in Renner’s favor after hearing a physician testify that within a reasonable degree of medical probability, the sedentary nature of Renner’s work was the precipitant in the pulmonary embolism that resulted in her death.

“Prolonged sitting, uninterrupted by breaks to stand, walk, or exercise, was not a condition compelled by [the deceased worker's] job.”

That decision came despite testimony by a physician for AT&T who said Renner had several risk factors — morbid obesity, birth control pill use, age, and an enlarged heart — which he said contributed significantly to the embolism’s formation. He also said it was impossible to state within a reasonable degree of medical probability that her death was related to her work effort. AT&T appealed to the Supreme Court.

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“In discharging her work duties, Cathleen read, took telephone calls, sent and received e-mails, had conferences with her superiors and co-workers, and made decisions. These responsibilities did not require her to remain in a seated position for long, uninterrupted stretches of time,” the high court said. “We reverse and hold that James has failed to demonstrate that Cathleen’s death resulted from a ‘work effort or strain’ within the meaning of [state statutes] and has failed to present a compensable cardiovascular claim pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation law.”

Nancy Grover is co-Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference and Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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