Frequency, Severity of Injuries and Illnesses Down
“Slightly more than 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2013, resulting in an incidence rate of 3.3 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers,” announced the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The rate reported for 2013 continues the pattern of statistically significant declines that, with the exception of 2012, occurred annually for the last 11 years.”
The first of two reports from the BLS last month noted that the reduction in the rate was “significant” for workers in the manufacturing, retail trade, and utilities sectors. Other sectors had similar results from the previous year.
For private industry workers, the incidence rate of injuries only in 2013 was 3.1 cases per 100 FTEs, down from 3.2 in 2012. The rate of illnesses was statistically unchanged.
The rate of injuries and illnesses for state and local government workers combined is “significantly higher than the private industry rate.” However, it decreased to 5.2 cases per 100 FTEs in 2013 from 5.6 in 2012.
“We are encouraged that the rates continue to decline over the past few years even during this period of healthy economic growth when we would expect the rate of injuries to rise,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “But we cannot ignore those 3 million workers. The severity of their injuries and illnesses varies widely; some are amputees, some suffer back injuries while others have to struggle for each breath.”
The second report released by the BLS tracked injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2013.
“The overall incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases requiring days away from work to recuperate was 109.4 cases per 10,000 FTEs in 2013 down from the 2012 rate of 111.8,” the report said. “The median days away from work to recuperate, a key measure of severity of injuries and illnesses, was eight days in 2013, one fewer than reported in 2012.”
The rate for days away from work in the private sector in 2013 was 99.9 cases per 10,000 FTEs, relatively unchanged from 2012. However, the rate of falls on the same level increased to 15.4 from 14.8 in 2012. The BLS said that rate was up in:
Construction: from 12.6 to 16.1.
Wholesale trade: from 9.9 to 11.4.
Transportation and warehousing: from 22.9 to 28.3.
The rate for cases involving days away from work, job transfer, or restriction (commonly referred to as DART) declined for the first time since 2009.
Musculoskeletal disorders comprised 33 percent of all injury and illness cases in 2013 requiring days away from work with the highest numbers affecting nursing assistants and laborers and freight, stock and material movers.
The report also noted that violence and other injuries by persons or animals accounted for 4 percent of the cases in the private sector. Violence among workers in the health care and social assistance sectors accounted for 13 percent of injuries and illnesses with the rate increasing for the second year in a row — to 16.2 cases per 10,000 FTEs from 15.1 in 2012.
Study ‘Raises Concerns’ About Unnecessary Drugs
Reforms addressing physician dispensing might need to target specific drugs in addition to prices, suggests a new study.
A review of workers’ comp claims in Florida points to evidence that physicians allowed to dispense medications prescribed unnecessarily strong opioids.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute looked at claims both pre- and post-reforms to curb physician dispensing in Florida. The results surprised the researchers.
“If the pre-ban strong opioids were necessary, researchers would expect that workers who received weaker physician-dispensed pain medications after the ban would later need strong opioids (that can be dispensed only at a pharmacy).
But only 2 percent of those with weaker physician-dispensed pain medications in the first six months after the ban received strong opioids at a pharmacy in the next six months,” the report said.
“This raises concerns that a significant proportion of pre-reform physician-dispensed strong opioids were not necessary, which means injured workers in Florida were put at greater risk for addiction, disability or work loss, and even death.”
The researchers looked at the prescribing behaviors of physicians after Florida banned physician dispensing of strong opioids.
They found no material increase in pharmacy-dispensed strong opioids but instead an increase in the rate of patients receiving physician-dispensed weaker pain medications — nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
The percentage receiving weaker opioids increased from 9.1 to 10.1 percent.
The study comes as policymakers in several states focus on the prices charged by physician dispensers compared to pharmacies for the same medications.
But increasingly there is speculation that economic incentives associated with physician dispensing lead to unnecessary medications prescribed for injured workers.
“When we compare pre- and post-reform prescribing practices, it appears that physician-dispensers not only reduced their dispensing of strong opioids but also reduced prescribing of strong opioids,” said Richard Victor, WCRI’s executive director.
“Since Florida has banned physician dispensing of strong opioids, the lessons of this study are relevant for the other states concerned about eliminating unnecessary costs in their system while protecting injured workers from unnecessary medical care.”
Diversifying Top Management in Workers’ Comp
The panel at the inaugural Women in Workers’ Compensation (WiWC) Forum. From left to right: Eileen Ramallo, Elaine Vega, Nina Smith-Garmon, Nancy Hamlet, Michelle Weatherson, Nanette de la Torre, Danielle Lisenbey.
Across the country, the business community is engaged in a robust conversation about women being under-represented among c-level positions.
Why aren’t more women breaking into upper management roles? Does gender bias still exist? And, perhaps more importantly, what can women and men do to add more diversity to top leadership ranks?
Elaine Vega and Nancy Hamlet, of Healthcare Solutions, the Duluth, Ga.-based health services provider to the workers’ compensation and auto liability/PIP markets, have discussed the issue between themselves many times over the years.
The duo agreed that starting an industry-wide conversation would be an effective start to addressing the challenge. After three years of internal discussions, the inaugural Women in Workers’ Compensation (WiWC) Forum became reality. Judging by the attendance, content and feedback, it was an auspicious, very successful, debut.
Specifically, Healthcare Solutions and LRP Publications teamed up at the National Workers’ compensation and Disability Conference (NWCDC), held Nov. 18-21, 2014 in Las Vegas, to present the first WiWC event focused on the development of women as leaders within the industry. The WiWC debut featured a keynote speaker, a panel discussion and a networking cocktail hour.
“We believe this is just the beginning for the WiWC organization,” said Hamlet, senior vice president of marketing, adding that the event’s main theme was the conversation regarding challenges that still exist for women in the workplace is “current, real … and relevant.”
Originally the forum was allocated a room to hold 150 people. Vega and Hamlet worried about the room being too large, so they asked LRP what the contingency would be to make the room smaller if they couldn’t fill it. They needn’t have worried, as more than 400 women, and some men as well, registered and attended, requiring an even larger room.
“Clearly, the topic is relevant and there was plenty to discuss,” said Vega, senior vice president of account management.
Hamlet explained that WiWC was formed to create an open forum to promote a strong sense of community and support for current and future female leaders in the workers’ compensation industry. Going forward, the WiWC forum will provide insight and ideas with opportunities for members to:
- Engage … with accomplished industry professionals and build lasting relationships.
- Enrich … their knowledge base with tactical insights from speakers and panelists.
- Explore … opportunities and challenges facing women leaders today.
- Encounter … senior executives’ perspectives on leadership.
- Examine … leadership strategies and how to effectively apply the strategies.
- Empower … themselves and others to achieve success and groundbreaking results.
At the inaugural event, keynote speaker Peggy Holtman, co-author of “Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition,” discussed how a seemingly unconnected historical event can offer critical lessons on leadership in the workplace, especially for women looking to move into top executive spots.
After Holtman’s talk, a panel discussion, moderated by Vega, offered the perspectives of five workers’ compensation industry executives on ways in which women can navigate past the glass ceiling. Panelists included Eileen Ramallo , EVP Healthcare Solutions; Danielle Lisenbey, CEO Broadspire; Nanette de la Torre, VP Zenith; Nina Smith-Garmon, EVP Mitchell International; and Michelle Weatherson, Director, Claims Medical and Regulatory Division, State Fund of Calif.
The panelists discussed a wide range of topics related to women in workers’ compensation. For example, one topic focused on the need to take the big risks when it comes to moving past workplace barriers. Other topics included the importance of women in higher positions serving as sponsors and advocates for younger, less experienced women; and the impact of industry consolidation on women’s careers and how to best manage that change. Another topic was how women could best master conflict and emotions in the workplace.
“What’s clear is conflict has to be managed; it will not go away. It will only get worse,” said Healthcare Solutions’ Ramallo. “It then can create other rifts that won’t necessarily be visible immediately, but can have a very large impact. You have to be able to understand what it is early on from another’s perspective, why the situation exists, and then encourage and try to resolve a conflict situation, whatever may be driving it.”
In the wake of the first WiWC Forum, Hamlet noted that while there are countless general reports showing that women have not yet achieved equal representation in top leadership positions in the workplace, studies deal with averages rather than individual stories. And while women must continue to look at the data and work toward closing the gap, hearing from accomplished women in the workers’ compensation industry at NWCDC drove home critical messages on a person level.
Today, Vega and Hamlet are looking to expand WiWC to make it “truly owned” by the industry. For example, they expect to recruit companies interested in becoming sponsors, forming an advisory council, creating a charter and discussing future possibilities for the organization on both the national and regional levels.
“Much remains to be done, but I have confidence that we will come together and make the organization stronger so that it prospers for years to come,” Hamlet said. “After all, it’s clear that our industry is filled with talented women who can make things happen!”
Vega added that WiWC has already received requests to live stream the event in the future, so it will examine the feasibility of that option in an effort to be even more inclusive.
“We have a shared vision for improving opportunities for current and future women leaders in workers’ compensation,” Vega said. “It doesn’t matter our gender or our title, it’s all about supporting the greater vision. As was said several times at the event, this is just the beginning. We hope more women and men will join us in this continued dialogue.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Healthcare Solutions. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.