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October 05, 2004 7:53 PM
Workers' Compensation News - January 25, 2004 Volume 2 Issue 4

 Silica Exposure and Systemic Vasculitis: Work in Department of Energy (DOE) facilities has exposed workers to multiple toxic agents leading to acute and chronic diseases. Many exposures were common to numerous work sites. Exposure to crystalline silica was primarily restricted to a few facilities. 

-President Bush Recognizes $2 Billion Federal Workers' Compensation Losses: The cost of Federal workplace injuries, when measured by workers' compensation losses, is more than $2 billion and 2 million lost production days annually. In fiscal year 2003, the Federal workforce of almost 2.7 million filed more than 168,000 injury claims. 

-Amicus to "twist government's arm" on corporate crime: A trade union says it intends to increase the pressure on ministers if the government fails to introduce a corporate killing law. 

For these stories and more visit http://www.gelmans.com

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LEGISLATION
The NJ Workers' Compensation Death Penalty Still Continues!

S1522 Concerns workers' compensation for occupational disease claims and workers' compensation benefits rates for surviving dependents. 
Bills and Joint Resolutions Signed by the Governor 
1/12/2004 Passed Assembly (Passed Both Houses) (69-5-0)
1/14/2004 Approved P.L.2003, c.253.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No.1522 (2R). 
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2002/Bills/S2000/1522_R2.HTM
Senate Bill No.1522 (2R) revises the workers' compensation law to (i) enhance, in some cases, the amount of the death benefit payable under the law, and (ii) provide that certain claims for an asbestos-related occupational disease shall be payable from the uninsured employer's fund.

Death benefit rate. The bill provides that the standard workers' compensation death benefit for surviving dependents shall be 70 percent of the employee's wages, regardless of the number of dependents. Currently, these benefits are set at 50 percent of the employee's wages for one surviving dependant, plus 5 percent for each additional dependant up to a maximum of 70 percent.

Liability for asbestos-related claims. The bill provides that in the case of a claim for compensation for an occupational disease resulting from exposure to asbestos, compensation shall be made from the uninsured employer's fund if, after due diligence

* (1) The workers compensation insurer, the employer, or the principals of the employer where the claimant was last exposed cannot be located, or

* (2) The employee making the claim worked for more than one employer during the time in which the exposure to asbestos may reasonably be deemed to have taken place, but the employer or employers where the petitioner was last exposed cannot reasonably be identified.

Compensation will be based on the date of last exposure if known or, if not known, as determined by a workers' compensation judge. To ensure sufficient funding for the prompt payment of these claims, the bill directs that moneys necessary to cover them be transferred each calendar quarter to the uninsured employer's fund from the Second Injury Fund. The uninsured employer's fund will have a right of subrogation against any insurer or employer identified as liable or against the appropriate compensation security fund. 

The bill also repeals R.S.34:15-33, which requires the worker or the worker's dependents to notify the employer within five months after an exposure to an occupational disease ends, or within 90 days after the worker knew or should have known about the disease and its relation to the employment, whichever is later. Any claim for compensation will still be subject to the provisions of R.S.34:15-34, which require claims for compensation for occupational disease to be filed within two years after the claimant first knew the nature of the disability and its relation to the employment.

As reported by the committee, this bill is identical to Assembly Bill No.1927 (1R) as amended and reported by the committee.
Note: The bill allowing an increase to 100% was not enacted.
See A1835 Increases workers' compensation benefits for dependents. 
Labor 
Identical Bill Number: S1416 
Last Session Bill Number: A1125 
Cohen, Neil M. as Primary Sponsor
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2002/Bills/A2000/1835_I1.HTM

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"I Can't Sleep"
Insomnia and other sleep disorders are wreaking havoc on our health and taxing the economy.
And our wired, 24/7 society makes it worse, bombarding us with news of mad cow disease and other coming calamities while beckoning us late at night to finish our work online
Business Week Cover Story
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_04/b3867001_mz001.htm?c=bwinsiderjan16&n=link1&t=email

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U.S. Workers Risk Financial Hardship
More than 40 percent of the nation’s workers risk losing their homes and their ability to support their families because they lack income replacement protection if a disability strikes, according to a survey by the Hartford Financial Services Group.
Claims Magazine Jan 2004
http://www.claimsmag.com/Issues/Jan04/national.asp

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Doctor links cancer cases to IBM plant: Expert Testifies
California's top occupational health doctor told a jury Tuesday that exposure to workplace chemicals caused two former IBM workers to develop cancer.
San Jose Mercury News
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/7707533.htm

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PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES' VIEWS ON OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY
Where do the presidential candidates stand on the issue of occupational safety and health? That was a question put to the major party presidential candidates by the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education, which posed a long questionnaire to the candidates, with two questions about safety and health: “How will you protect workers’ safety and health on the job?” And, “Do you support or oppose a new standard to protect workers from ergonomic injuries?”
The questionnaires have been returned by nine of the ten likely candidates. The only holdout is George W. Bush. All of the candidates answered the first question with a brief statement. All of the candidates said that they support a new ergonomic standard; many did so by checking a box marked “Support.” Some of the candidates also wrote something in response to the question about ergonomics.
For the complete AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education report, 
visit http://www.aflcio.org/issuespolitics/politics/candidates_2004.cfm

Health Care Reform Returns to the National Agenda: The 2004 Presidential Candidates' Proposals compares the candidates' plans for expanding health insurance coverage and improving the quality of care. It includes estimates of numbers of Americans covered under each plan as well as their projected costs. The Fund will continue to provide updates as details become available.
Commonwealth Fund

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Bush fires off belated safety alarm
US president George W Bush, in the wake of unprecedented press and public criticism of the government safety watchdog’s policing of private industry’s deadly safety violations, has called for closer scrutiny of safety standards in government workplaces and agencies. 'Clearly, government agencies should strive to do more to improve workplace safety and health and reduce the costs of injury to workers and taxpayers,' Bush said in a memo to federal executives. 'Many workplace injuries are preventable.' Bush directed Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to oversee a safe workplace initiative for all federal departments and agencies and to measure their performance in lowering work-related injuries and illnesses. The government’s performance at policing dangerous employers in the private sector has recently been denounced as 'an astounding record of failure' ( Risks 138 ). 'When workers die,' a series of articles in the New York Times, revealed that the official safety enforcement body, OHSA, rarely prosecutes employers in the 100 plus fatalities it investigates each year where the employer is guilty of 'wilfully' sending the worker into a dangerous situation. A report from international union confederation ICFTU this week accused the US government of 'a serious record of continuing labour rights violations,' including safety and union rights breaches.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=519&ncid=519&e=1&u=/ap/20040109/ap_on_re_us/workers__comp_1

Related:
Internationally recognised Core Labour Standards in the United States 
http://www.icftu.org/displaydocument.asp?Index=991218858

Statement by President Bush
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/01/20040109-9.html

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NY Workers’ Comp Board Resolves 315,000 Claims in 2003
Inventory of Open Cases Down 97,000 in Three Years 
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board resolved 315,000 claims in 2003, marking the third consecutive year that Board staff has reached the 300,000 resolution mark, Interim Chairman Jeffrey R. Sweet announced today. The Board’s inventory of open claims was reduced by 10,500 claims since January of 2003 and by more than 97,000 since January 2001.
http://www.wcb.state.ny.us/content/main/PressRe/2003resolutions.htm

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LOCKING IN WORKERS - revisited
Workers Assail Night Lock-Ins by Wal-Mart
Looking back to that night, Michael Rodriguez still has trouble believing the situation he faced when he was stocking shelves on the overnight shift at the Sam's Club in Corpus Christi, Tex. It was 3 a.m., Mr. Rodriguez recalled, some heavy machinery had just smashed into his ankle, and he had no idea how he would get to the hospital.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/18/national/18WALM.html

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ASBESTOS
Asbestos Victims Angered by Proposed Settlement
Lawmakers in Washington are considering a bill that would set up an asbestos trust fund but would also put an end to all jury trials for asbestos liability.
KUSA-TV (Denver)
http://www.9news.com/storyfull.aspx?storyid=23219

Workers Urge 'No' Vote on National Asbestos Compensation Bill
North Dakota workers who say they have suffered health problems from asbestos exposure in the workplace met Tuesday to urge North Dakota's senators to vote "no" on a bill that they say would delay and drastically cut compensation for workers and families of those hurt or killed by asbestos exposure.
Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune
http://www.bismarcktribune.com/articles/2004/01/15/news/state/sta04.txt

Groups Rally Against Federal Bill on Asbestos
Two workers groups rallied at the state Capitol on Monday to denounce federal legislation that they said would reduce or delay compensation to workers made critically ill from exposure to asbestos.

Carpenter, Advocates Decry Plan to Curb Asbestos Claims 
Two local groups and one man afflicted with cancer took part in a demonstration last week urging rejection of a bill in the U.S. Senate that seeks to limit the compensation asbestos companies must pay to people afflicted with diseases caused by asbestos.
http://www.arkansasnbc.com/Global/story.asp?S=1597595&nav=F8n2K9DJ
Providence (R.I.) Journal

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LITERATURE
Mobile Phone Radiation - "Dead Brain Cells"
Swedes Find GSM Radiation Causes Nerve Damage at Very Low Doses
Leakage Through the Blood-Brain Barrier
In a new paper that is sure to reignite concerns over the safety of mobile phones, Drs. Leif Salford and Bertil Persson have shown that extremely low doses of GSM radiation can cause brain damage in rats.
http://www.microwavenews.com/j-f03rats.html

CDC launches online journal of chronic diseases
The free journal aims to put the latest science on prevention into the hands of physicians.
Washington -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a free, peer-reviewed electronic journal that focuses on chronic disease, a leading cause of death and disability in the United States.
Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy is available at the CDC's Web site
http::/www.cdc.gov/pcd

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CASES
"Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG & E) contends the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) erred when it awarded benefits to respondent Clifford Bryan for work-related psychiatric injury. In analyzing this claim, we must determine whether the circumstances cited by the WCAB constitute "events of employment" under Labor Code [FN1] section 3208.3, subdivision (b)(1). We conclude that some of the factors relied on by the WCAB were inappropriate. Employee stress that results from fluctuations in the value of an employer's stock or from uncertainty about an employer's future in the face of a downturn in the employer's business is not a compensable event of employment under the Labor Code. Accordingly, we will annul the WCAB's decision and remand for further proceedings."
PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC COMPANY v. WORKERS' COMPENSATION APPEALS BOARD
2004 WL 45147 (Cal.App. 1 Dist.)) http://www.westlaw.com $

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CALENDAR

ABA WC Section
The Midwinter Meeting of the Workers' Compensation Committee will be held at L'Auberge Del Mar in Del Mar, California on March 3-5, 2004.
.A panel on Medical Privacy issues, including dealing with HIPAA, is scheduled for Thursday morning. Ed Welch, the Director of the Workers' Compensation Center at Michigan State University, will present this issue.
--When an employer and/or insurance carrier file bankruptcy, who wins, who loses and who pays the bill. Mary Ann Stiles of Stiles, Taylor & Grace and other panel members will discuss how bankruptcy affects us in workers' compensation.
--On Friday morning, we will have a Medicare panel put on by some of the country's top experts discussing what we can, should and will have to do to deal with Medicare, including the latest Medicare legislation, as well as some proposed legislation.
-- How many times has your workers' compensation settlement been derailed when a health or disability carrier files a lien? Tim Schumann, the Committee's employer co-chair, will present: "Get Out of My Lawsuit! Resolving Group Health and Disability Liens."
Program and registration information is available on the Section's website (www.abanet.org/labor/calendar.html)
If you would prefer to receive the registration packet via fax, please contact the Section of Labor & Employment Law office at 312/988-5523 or laborempllaw@staff.abanet.org.

NJ Work Environment Council
Friday, February 20: Healthy Schools Forum, Cosponsored by WEC, the Education Law Center and others. (Rutgers University, Livingston Campus Center, New Brunswick.) 
http://www.njwec.org/

NJ ICLE Cosponsored by WILG-NJ
Wednesday, April 14: Top Ten Hot Issues in Workers'Compensation - NJ
ICLE, New Brunswick, NJ
http://www.njicle.com

Friday, May 14th, 2004 6 - 8:30 P.M.
NYCOSH’S 25th Anniversary Awards Celebration
http://www.nycosh.org/calendar.html

National WC and Occupational Medicine Conference
July 20-22, 2004
Cape Cod, Mass
http://www.seak.com

 

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