(c) 2018 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Aviation Safety: F.A.A. Allows Use of Electronic Devices Throughout Flights

Finally, the US F.A.A. has taken a step forward in making the airplane flight experience a better one. For decades, passengers and crew have been battling flight attendants over turning off and stowing personal electronic devices (PED). With so many passengers and crew virtually attached to the Internet for  data, news and other media electronically, it was inevitable that PED use would be allowed on flights. Now the airlines will adjust its electronics to create a profit center for the sale of Internet and network access. The burden has also shifted to US airlines to commit to a testing program, and establish protocols for stowing devices. Today's post is shared from .  

The change will most likely take effect before the end of the year, the F.A.A. said. Rules for cellphone use are set by the Federal Communications Commission, and unlikely to change soon, because of the nature of the cellphone system.

The administrator of the F.A.A., Michael P. Huerta, said he expected that, with rare exceptions, airlines would allow the use of tablets, MP3 players and smartphones in “airplane mode,” with their cell network connections turned off. The airlines will have to conduct tests on their equipment and submit the results to the F.A.A. for approval, he said.

Soon after Mr. Huerta spoke, Delta and JetBlue announced that they would submit a plan for passengers to use electronics in flight.

The change would not be universal, Mr. Huerta said....
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Government Shutdown Simulates “Small Government”

The US Senate again set the stage for another governmental shutdown. The Republican's blogged the nominations of President Obama's nominee for the the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the nominee for the head of the Federal Housing Agency. This strategic move puts into play the potential of another filibuster and how far a minority party can thwart the majority party.  Today's post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm of The State of Washington.

Every news program announces the ongoing shutdown of non-essential federal government services.  News articles delve into the possible consequences.  Republicans and Democrats fight over whether the other is willing to negotiate.  Members of the Republican Party bicker within their ranks about the shutdown. 

Everyone should take note that what we are experiencing with the current shutdown provides us all with a practice-run for the level of government desired by the Tea Party members of the Republican Party.

Wikipedia notes that the current "small government" movement in the United States is largely a product of Ronald Reagan's presidency from 1980–88. The Tea Party movement is a modern reflection of this belief in small government. 

They claim that in the past the United States had a small government, and that it has turned away from that ideal. Some members of the Republican Party advocate small government, especially its libertarian wing, which includes politicians such as Ron Paul and his son Rand Paul

The Libertarian party, a third party, supports small government. A 2013 poll showed that the majority (54%) of Americans think the government is trying to do too much.
We now have an opportunity to define “essential” services.
Although 54% is only just a majority, Americans can now ponder the concept of small government and what the effect of shrinking the government would have on federal, state and local jurisdictions.  The “non-essential” services now halted would likely have to be replaced by those jurisdictions, where possible, were the federal government to be stripped down to the vision of the Tea Party and Libertarian Party members.  We now have an opportunity to define “essential” services.

Cities across the country will feel the pinch of the shutdown, particularly if it drags out beyond a few days. Furloughs of non-essential federal employees won't just affect D.C. and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Cities around the country host full-time, non-Post Office federal employee populations. New York is home to 26,696 federal employees; Atlanta is home to 23,718; Philadelphia is home to 19,940; Chicago has 16,069; Houston has 15,530; and Los Angeles has 14,689. The list of the top 50 cities with the highest federal employment is here.1

Governor Cuomo Details Improvements to New York's Workers' Compensation System That Cut Costs to Employers by 26% for 2014

Improvements Will Save New York State Employers $800 Million Next Year and $300 Million Annually

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today detailed a series of measures that reduce the cost to employers under the State’s workers’ compensation system by 26 percent in 2014, saving businesses and local governments $300 million in annual expenses. The Business Relief Act cuts the assessment to employers from 18.8 percent to 13.8 percent, the largest reduction since 1998, and provides a one-time workers’ compensation assessment savings to all self-insured employers of approximately $500 million.

“The improvements in the workers’ compensation system will deliver major savings for businesses across the state, giving them the opportunity to use that extra money to make investments and create jobs in their communities,” Governor Cuomo said. “With the cost reductions in the workers’ compensation system, we are saving New York employers $800 million in 2013 and $300 million for each year moving forward – a tremendous savings that will be felt immediately by businesses, municipalities and school districts statewide. As we continue to make state government more efficient and take actions to make doing business in New York easier, we are also spearheading a comprehensive review of the current workers’ compensation system so that we can continue to find ways to deliver for our employers.”

Signed by the Governor as part of the 2013-14 budget, the Business Relief Act achieves $800 million in savings by reducing the cost to operate the workers’ compensation system, otherwise known as assessments, in two ways. Closing the Re-Opened Case Fund initially saves all New York State employers a $300 million annual assessment. In recent years, the cost of the Re-Opened Case Fund has grown exponentially while failing to serve its originally intended purpose. Closing the fund also reduces unnecessary litigation in the workers’ compensation system, another cost savings for employers.

End of Life Care: Withholding Antibiotics

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with my good friend, Melissa Brown, A Law School Professor who teaches Elder Law and Social Policy, and expert in workers' compensation law. We discussed End of Life Care , and the withholding of antibiotics to treat infections. The moral and ethical issues are far reaching when balancing the quality of life issues in older patients.  Today post is shared from . I would encourage readers to read the entire article and linked material as the important issue will soon be in the forefront of care protocols in the US.

The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; press release, PDF] Wednesday that Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [official website] was justified in its decision that withholding certain invasive treatments would be in the best interests of critical care patient David James, despite resistance from the patient's family. James was admitted to Aintree's critical care unit in May 2012 for an infection acquired during his treatment for colon cancer, where he was reliant on ventilator support and suffered multiple severe setbacks. Despite opposition from James' family, the hospital brought proceedings to the Court of Protection [official website] in September 2012. The hospital sought judicial declaration that withholding the specified treatments would be in James' best interest, pursuant to the 2005 Mental Capacity Act [text, PDF; Code of Practice] provision that it may in the best interests of a patient to withhold life-sustaining treatment "where treatment is futile, overly burdensome to the patient or where there is no prospect of recovery." The trial judge ruled against the declarations on December 6, and Aintree appealed. James subsequently suffered "further dramatic deterioration," and the Court of Appeal reversed [judgment, PDF] the decision on December 21, 2012. James died of cardiac arrest only 10 days later. Wednesday's ruling by the Supreme Court subsequently determined that the trial judge was correct in opposing the declarations and that the Court of Appeal was also correct in light of the changed circumstances since the initial ruling.

Click here to read the entire article.

DePaolo's Work Comp World: Trucks, WBV and Cancer

The National Cancer Institute (NC!) reports that over 230,000 males in the US will diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013 and that 29,790 deaths will result. David DePaolo, published of WorkCompCentral®, writes today of the potential new wave of workers' compensation claims arising from the association of whole-body vibration syndrome (WBV) experienced by truck drivers and its relationship to prostate cancer. He links source material to support the argument. This post is shared from .

You just never know what the next big risk category is going to be in workers' compensation.
I had been persuaded by an argument offered by Charlie Kingdollar, Vice President emerging issues unit for General Re Corp., that nanomaterials would be the next asbestos.

OSHA has been particularly concerned with silica in the past couple of years.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Florida Workers' Compensation Fillings Continue to Decrease

The national trend of far fewer workers' compensation claims is reflected in recent Florida statistics. One must look beyond the statistics and evaluate whether claims are not being filed because they have been regulatorily or statutorily been barred; whether there has been a major decrease in riskier jobs; whether the workplace is actually becoming safer; or whether lawyers are not taking the claims to adjudication because they go uncompensated for their efforts. Perhaps a combination of all. If the claims are not being filing as work related compensable events, where are benefits being sought. One certain path is Medicare and Medicare and Social Security Disability Benefits, especially those with catastrophic injuries Today's post is shared from Judge David Langham and I would encourage to read his entire blog post on his site at: David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims and Division of Administrative Hearings. 

"Petition filings and new case filings continued to decline last year. Remember, the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC)(and the rest of the state) runs on a fiscal year, which begins each July 1 and concludes the following June 30. So, fiscal 2013 ended last summer, and the OJCC has been compiling and preparing statistics and measures since then. It is a long process that includes verification of data that our district staff has entered into the database through the year.

"In 2012-13, 58,041 PFB were filed. In 1995-96 the total PFB filing was 56,298. So, after a significant increase in litigation following the 1994 reforms, PFB volumes are approaching the pre-reform volumes. This is an imperfect comparison. Before the 1993 reforms, "claims" were the operative pleading for identifying the dispute, and jurisdiction of this Office over such disputes was effected by filing an "application for hearing" regarding the claim. With this significant change in 1993, it is difficult to compare filing volumes to periods before 1993. 

Target Bans the Box

Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from

Sanctions that make it more difficult for ex-offenders to obtain jobs, housing and even basic documents like drivers’ licenses only serve to drive them back to jail. With that in mind, a growing number of states and municipalities now prohibit public agencies — and in some cases private employers — from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until the applicant reaches the interview stage or gets a conditional job offer. These eminently sensible “ban the box” laws are intended to let ex-offenders prove their qualifications before criminal history issues enter the equation.
A Target store in Daly City, Calif.Earlier this year Minnesota extended its existing law to cover private employers. Now, the Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, one of the nation’s largest employers, has announced that it will remove questions about criminal history from its job applications throughout the country. The announcement represents an important victory for the grassroots community group TakeAction Minnesota, which had been pressuring the company to change.

This comes on the heels of a similar development earlier this month in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown signed a ban-the-box bill that applies to government employers. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave this movement a lift last year, when it expanded and updated a ruling that barred employers from...
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Leading Coal Industry Law Firm Withheld Evidence of Black Lung Disease

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

A miner’s struggle for benefits due to black lung disease spotlights aggressive tactics by a mining company law firmJackson Kelly recently was named by U.S. News & World Report as the nation’s top firm in mining law. But its actions are sometimes unethical, according to current and former judges, lawyers and state disciplinary officials. As a result, sick and dying miners have been denied benefits and affordable medical care. The firm, documents show, over the years has withheld unfavorable evidence and shaped the opinions of doctors reviewing miners’ medical claims by providing the physicians only what the lawyers wanted them to see. In a pending case involving a West Virginia miner named Gary Fox, Jackson Kelly was found to have withheld pathology reports from two doctors who concluded that Fox likely had black lung. The Center for Public Integrity - See more at:
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Stryker Corp. Settles FCPA Case, Pays $13 Million

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

Stryker Corp. settled a long-running U.S. foreign bribery case, agreeing on Thursday to pay $13.3 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve the allegations — without admitting or denying them.
The Kalamazoo, Mich.-based medical device company first disclosed in 2007 that the SEC and the U.S. Justice Department had made inquiries regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars the use of bribes to foreign officials to get or keep business.
An SEC investigation found that Stryker’s subsidiaries in Argentina, Greece, Mexico, Poland and Romania made about $2.2 million in illicit payments, describing them in company books as legitimate expenses such as charitable donations, service contracts, travel expenses and commissions. The company made about $7.5 million in profit as a result of the payments, the SEC said.
“Stryker’s misconduct involved hundreds of improper payments over a number of years during which the company’s internal controls were fatally flawed,” said Andrew Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York office, in a statement.
Joe Cooper, the director of communications for Stryker, said in an email the company has enhanced its company-wide anti-corruption compliance program, and was advised that the Justice Department closed its investigation.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
The SEC issued an administrative order (pdf) against Stryker requiring the company to pay...
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Retailer sandblasting bans have changed little in the garment industry

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

Three years ago, when Levi Strauss announced it had banned the use of sandblasting, labor advocates hoped the move by the top-selling jeans maker would help end the deadly practice, which gives denim a fashionable look but is linked to a fatal lung disease.
But even as Target and Gap joined Levi Strauss in proclaiming bans, sandblasting persists in factories that make those retailers' clothes in China, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh, countries responsible for the bulk of the five billion pairs of jeans made each year, research by nonprofits, medical groups and labor organizations shows.
"There clearly is sandblasting going on. I don't know how anyone could really deny it," said Katie Quan, associate chair of the Labor Center at UC Berkeley.
Counterfeit jean production, outsourcing in the supply chain and vast factories that make jeans for dozens of brands under one roof make it difficult to track jeans from production to the shopping mall. But the groups say their research establishes that workers in many of these overseas factories are sandblasting -- spraying sand on denim to make it appear bleached or distressed -- without the necessary protective gear.
Levi Strauss says its suppliers have removed sandblasting equipment from their factories and that it regularly conducts on-site inspections at factories.
"No Levi Strauss & Co. products utilize sandblasting in product development, design, finishing or in any other aspect of garment...
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Study: No helmet brand can save football players from concussion risk

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

Health experts have some bad news for high school football players: There is no particular type or brand of helmet or mouth guard that will keep you relatively safe from a concussion.
The companies that make helmets and mouth guards often claim that their own products can reduce players’ risk of a sports-related concussion or lessen the impact of a concussion that does occur. These manufacturers cite “laboratory research” that purports to show one brand is safer than others, and a group of researchers wanted to see if they could verify such claims, according to a summary of a presentation they made Monday at a national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The research team, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin, tracked 1,332 high school football players from 36 schools during the 2012 season. Participating players completed a preseason questionnaire about their injury history and demographic information. Then, as the season progressed, athletic trainers from the schools kept tabs on the incidence and severity of any concussions that occurred.
At the start of the study, 171 of the players — or 13% — told the researchers that they had experienced a sports-related concussion in the previous 12 months. During the 2012 football season, an additional 116 concussions were sustained by 115 players — 8.6% of the student athletes in the study.
When the researchers compared...
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Toyota settles acceleration lawsuit after $3-million verdict

Today's post was shared by FairWarning and comes from

Toyota Motor Corp.'s first loss in a sudden acceleration case, in an Oklahoma courtroom this week, could embolden attorneys nationwide who are looking to bring hundreds of similar cases.
Worse for the Japanese automaker, the verdict centered on the company's electronics, which have been a focus for plaintiffs seeking to prove safety defects in the company's cars.
Toyota on Friday confirmed that it had reached a confidential settlement in the lawsuit, which involved the fatal 2007 crash of a Camry. The settlement came hours after a jury assessed $3 million in compensatory damages but before the panel could levy a punitive award.
The verdict could provide a road map for attorneys seeking to hold the automaker liable for injuries and deaths.
Toyota has denied any safety defects in its cars, arguing that many incidents of unintended acceleration stemmed from drivers who stepped on the gas instead of the brake. But plaintiffs in the Oklahoma case successfully argued that Toyota's electronic throttle system was flawed, causing the car to speed out of control.
The 2005 Camry crashed into an embankment, severely injuring the driver, 76-year-old Jean Bookout, and killing her passenger, Barbara Schwarz.
By striking a quick settlement, the company likely sought to avoid bad publicity and damage to its reputation, said Jill Wieber Lens, a product liability expert at Baylor University Law School in Waco, Texas.
The Oklahoma defeat could increase pressure on the automaker to come up...
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F.D.A. Shift on Painkillers Was Years in the Making

Narcotic pain killers have been the subject of concern and regulation by employers' and their insurance carriers nationally. The evolution of the FDA proposed action to regulate is revealed in today's post is shared from the

When Heather Dougherty heard the news last week that the Food and Drug Administration had recommended tightening how doctors prescribed the most commonly used narcotic painkillers, she was overjoyed. Fourteen years earlier, her father, Dr. Ronald J. Dougherty, had filed a formal petition urging federal officials to crack down on the drugs.

Dr. Dougherty told officials in 1999 that more of the patients turning up at his clinic near Syracuse were addicted to legal narcotics like Vicodin and Lortab that contain the drug hydrocodone than to illegal narcotics like heroin.

Since then, narcotic painkillers, or opioids, have become the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States and have set off a wave of misuse, abuse and addiction. Experts estimate that more than 100,000 people have died in the last decade from overdoses involving the drugs. For his part, Dr. Dougherty, who foresaw the problem, retired in 2007 and is now 81 and living in a nursing home.
“Too many lives have been ruined,” his daughter said.

The story behind the F.D.A.’s turnaround on the pain pills, last Thursday, involved a rare victory by lawmakers from states hard hit by prescription drug abuse over well-financed lobbyists for business and...
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Leaked documents reveal the secret finances of a pro-industry science group

As the judicial system is bombarded with evidential scientific research in order to ascertain the truth, the research process itself is subject to being influenced. Today's post is shared from and describes what happens when so-called "independent research" becomes tainted.

The American Council on Science and Health bills itself as an independent research and advocacy organization devoted to debunking "junk science." It's a controversial outfit—a "group of scientists…concerned that many important public policies related to health and the environment did not have a sound scientific basis," it says—that often does battle with environmentalists and consumer safety advocates, wading into public health debates to defend fracking, to fight New York City's attempt to ban big sugary sodas, and to dismiss concerns about the potential harms of the chemical bisphenol-A (better known at BPA) and the pesticide atrazine.

The group insists that its conclusions are driven purely by science. It acknowledges that it receives some financial support from corporations and industry groups, but ACSH, which reportedly stopped disclosing its corporate donors two decades ago, maintains that these contributions don't influence its work and agenda.

corporate researchYet internal financial documents (read them here) provided to Mother Jones show that ACSH depends heavily on funding from corporations that have a financial stake in the scientific debates it aims to shape.

The group also directly solicits donations from these industry sources around specific issues. ACSH's financial links to corporations involved in hot-button health and safety controversies have been highlighted in the past, but these documents offer a more extensive...
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Securing the Right to a Safe and Healthy Workplace | Center for Effective Government

Workers' Compensation is the remedy when workplaces aren't safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) promulgates safety rule in the workplace. Safer workplaces are needed and OSHA needs to be strengthened. This post is shared from .

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), passed in 1970, recognizes that workers play a critical role in ensuring their workplaces are healthy and safe. The OSH Act gives workers the right to report unsafe working conditions and the right to refuse to work under such conditions without reprisal.

The concept is for workers to function as the “eyes and ears” of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and help the agency prioritize its limited resources to focus inspections on the most dangerous work sites.

Workers will only report safety and health hazards in the workplace, however, if they can come forward without fear of reprisal. Thus, the law prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against employees who exercise the rights provided to them under the OSH Act.

Unfortunately, the weak guarantees written into the federal OSH Act leave workers with few protections against retaliation by an employer after reporting dangerous working conditions. Problems with current protections include the fact that the amount of time required to file a retaliation complaint is too short, investigations take too long, the burden of proof is too high, OSHA cannot preliminarily reinstate an employee once it determines that a complaint has merit, and employees cannot pursue a remedy independently, even if OSHA takes no action on their behalf.

Between 2005 and 2012, OSHA received 11,153 complaints of retaliation, 10,380 were reviewed, and 2,542...
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Spinal fusions serve as case study for debate over when certain surgeries are necessary

The necessity of medical treatment is coming under increased questioning as payers want to rein in costs. This article is shared from the

By some measures, Federico C. Vinas was a star surgeon. He performed three or four surgeries on a typical weekday at the Daytona Beach, Fla., hospital that employed him, and a review showed him to be nearly five times as busy as other neurosurgeons. The hospital paid him hundreds of thousands in incentive pay. In all, he earned as much as $1.9 million a year.

Yet given his productivity, some hospital auditors wondered: Was all of the surgery really necessary?

To answer that question, the hospital in early 2010 paid for an independent review of cases in which Vinas and two other neurosurgeons had performed a common procedure known as a spinal fusion. The review was conducted by board-certified neurosurgeons working for AllMed, a company accredited to audit health-care businesses.

Of 10 spinal fusions by Vinas that were selected, nine were deemed not medically necessary, according to a summary of the report.

Vinas is still working at Halifax Health, and a hospital spokesman said that, after the AllMed report, the hospital conducted an internal review that validated his surgeries. Another review conducted this year in response to litigation also validated them, the spokesman said. The hospital would not answer further questions or release details of those reviews.

Vinas “has never and will never perform an unnecessary surgical procedure on any patient,” his attorney, Robert H. Pritchard, said in a statement.

More than 465,000...
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Updates on America's Persistent Air and Water Pollution Challenges

The dirty little secret in the US is that pollution continues of the nation's air and water supply. Today's post is shared from

Houston cloaked in a haze of pollution on Oct. 23, 2013. Sources range from cars to oil and gas installations and refineries.
Andrew C. RevkinHouston cloaked in a haze of pollution on Oct. 23, 2013. Sources range from cars to oil and gas installations and refineries.
Houston cloaked in a haze of pollution on Oct. 23, 2013. Sources range from cars to oil and gas installations and refineries.Air and water problems mainly make headlines these days when extraordinary pulses of pollution surge in places like Beijing and Shanghai. But there are still enormous, if largely hidden, health and environmental costs in many parts of the United States that have failed to meet the goals set decades ago under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act (e.g., see Muller, Mendelsohn, Nordhaus, 2011). Sometimes the issue is visible. I visited Houston briefly this week and snapped the photo above on the airport approach. Not pretty.
Read on for excerpts from two relevant articles. The first, from the Allegheny Front, explores how lessons learned in trying to cut pollution from natural gas facilities in Houston can be applied in Pennsylvania’s fracking zone. The second, by my Pace University colleague and longtime water analyst John Cronin, digs in on the gap between Environmental Protection Agency statements on water pollution and the results in America’s waterways.
Here’s “Houston Air Pollution: Preview for Pennsylvania?” It’s the second article in a planned four-part series, “The Coming Chemical Boom,” that was in part paid for by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
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