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Friday, May 31, 2013

“Opting Out” of Worker’s Compensation Hurts Workers and Employers

Tom Domer

Guest Blog Authored by Tom Domer, a member of the Wisconsin Bar, of Domer Law.

More than a century ago, Wisconsin’s initial efforts in worker’s compensation led the nation. In 1911 Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to place a broad constitutionally valid worker’s compensation system into operation. 

Recent events, specifically Oklahoma’s passing legislation to allow employers to “opt out” of worker’s compensation (following the “lead” of Texas) calls into question the great bargain made between employers and workers over a century ago. Prior to the enactment of worker’s compensation in the early 20th Century, workers who were injured on the job had to overcome three common law obstacles in order to recover from their employer.

Under contributory negligence, a worker could not recover from the employer if the worker had been negligent in any way and that negligence contributed to the accident, regardless of how negligent the employer may have been.

CDC Reports Hospital Infections (MRSA) Can be Dramatically Reduced With Soap and Water

Many injured workers, and other hospital patients, reportedly contract compensable serious hospital infection as a result of poor hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that increased use of better hygiene in hospitals will dramatically improve the problem of contracting hospital infections.

English: Magnified 20,000X, this colorized sca...
English: Magnified 20,000X, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicts a grouping of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. See PHIL 617 for a black and white view of this image. These S. aureus bacteria are methicillin-resistant, and are from one of the first isolates in the U.S. that showed increased resistance to vancomycin as well. Note the increase in cell wall material seen as clumps on the organisms’ surface. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, on CDC's Safe Healthcare blog, lead author of the REDUCE MRSA trial, Dr. Susan Huang, discusses the results of the landmarkstudy and provides insight into what the findings mean for infection prevention and patient safety. The REDUCE MRSA trial found that using germ-killing soap and ointment on all intensive-care unit (ICU) patients could reduce bloodstream infections by up to 44 percent and significantly reduce the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in ICUs.

Dr. Huang is an Associate Professor at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine and Medical Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at UC Irvine Health.

Join the conversation at

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

US Publishes Guidelines to Minimize Distracted Driving

Transportation accidents rank on the top of the list for worker fatalities. Now the federal government is attempting to reduce that number by restricting distractions while driving.driving. Voluntary guidelines reduce visual-manual distraction - the greatest safety risk to drivers in NHTSA's new study

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today released distraction guidelines that

encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk connected to electronic devices built into their vehicles, such as communications, entertainment and navigation devices.

"Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation's roadways," said Secretary LaHood. "These guidelines recognize that today's drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need. Combined with good laws, good enforcement and good education, these guidelines can save lives."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shortcuts at the Social Security Administration Mean Mistakes

Today's post comes from guest author Roger Moore from Rehm, Bennett & Moore of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Social Security Administration (SSA), frustrated by the backlog of applications for Social Security disability benefits, started pressuring the 140 doctors the agency uses to help evaluate some of the claims. 

In an effort to encourage the quick processing of claims doctors were paid a flat rate of $80/case in stead of the previous $90/hour to review the cases. Many times these cases have hundreds of pages of records to be reviewed and can turn on a few sentences.
In this setting it’s every more important to seek the help of a treating physician in offering a supportive report.
Also, doctors were assigned to evaluate conditions that were not in their areas of expertise. One of the more interesting quotes came from Neil Novin, former chief of surgery at Baltimore's Harbor Hospital, who worked for Social Security part time for about 10 years. He said "People who shouldn't be getting [disability] are getting it, and people who should be getting it aren't getting it". In my experience

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cancer Alley: NJ Meadowlands to be Tested for Cancer Causing Substances

The area around the NJ Turnpike has long been called "Cancer Alley," the the US EPA is now going to investigate past dumping of cancer causing substances in the New Jersey Meadowlands near the Hackensack River.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a legal agreement with

Apogent Transition Corp., Beazer East, Inc., Cooper Industries, LLC and Occidental Chemical Corporation to conduct a study of the contamination at the Standard Chlorine Chemical Company, Inc. Superfund site in Kearny, New Jersey as part of the cleanup plan for the site. The site, which is in the New Jersey Meadowlands and is next to the Hackensack River, is contaminated with a number of hazardous chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin. The study of the nature and extent of the contamination and an evaluation of potential cleanup methods are essential steps in the cleanup process. The estimated value of the study work is $750,000. The companies will also pay for the EPA’s costs in overseeing the performance of the study.

Fish consumption advisories have been issued for the Hackensack River due to the PCBs and dioxin contamination, originating in part from the Standard Chlorine site. PCBs are likely cancer causing chemicals and can have serious neurological effects. Exposure to dioxin can also result in serious health effects, including cancer.

“This agreement marks an important step in the cleanup of the Standard Chlorine Chemical site,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Today’s agreement illustrates how the Superfund law works to make polluters, not taxpayers, pay to clean up sites like this one.”

The 25-acre site was formerly used for chemical manufacturing by various companies from the early 1900s to the 1990s. Operations at the site included the refinement of naphthalene for use in the production of certain industrial products, the processing of liquid petroleum naphthalene and the manufacturing of lead-acid batteries, drain-cleaner products and the packing of dichlorobenzene products. The soil, ground water and two lagoons were contaminated with dioxin, benzene, naphthalene, PCBs and volatile organic compounds. The site was originally littered with tanks and drums containing hazardous substances including dioxin and asbestos. Prior to placement on the Superfund list, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection sampled and studied the site and partially cleaned it up along with instituting measures to contain the pollution in the short-term. At the request of the NJDEP, the EPA added the site to the Superfund list in September 2007.

EPA Adds the Riverside Industrial Park in Newark, New Jersey to the Superfund List

Seven Acre Site along the Passaic River Contaminated with PCBs and Volatile Organic Compounds

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has added the Riverside Industrial Park in Newark, New Jersey to the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. After a 2009 spill of oily material from the industrial park into the Passaic River, the EPA discovered that chemicals, including benzene, mercury, chromium and arsenic, were improperly stored at the site. The agency took emergency actions to prevent further release of these chemicals into the river. Further investigation showed that soil, ground water and tanks at the Riverside Industrial Park are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Benzene, mercury, chromium and arsenic are all highly toxic and can cause serious damage to people’s health and the environment. Many volatile organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals and can cause cancer in people. Polychlorinated biphenyls are chemicals that persist in the environment and can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and are potentially cancer-causing.

EPA proposed the site to the Superfund list in September 2012 and encouraged the public to comment during a 60-day public comment period. After considering public comments and receiving the support of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for listing the site, the EPA is putting it on the Superfund list.

“The EPA has kept people out of immediate danger from this contaminated industrial park and can now develop long-term plans to protect the community,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “By adding the site to the Superfund list, the EPA can do the extensive investigation needed to determine the best ways to clean up the contamination and protect public health.”

Since the early 1900s, the Riverside Industrial Park, at 29 Riverside Avenue in Newark, has been used by many businesses, including a paint manufacturer, a packaging company and a chemical warehouse. The site covers approximately seven acres and contains a variety of industrial buildings, some of which are vacant. In 2009, at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA responded to an oil spill on the Passaic River that was eventually traced to the Riverside Avenue site. The state and the city of Newark requested the EPA’s help in assessing the contamination at the site and performing emergency actions to identify and stop the source of the spill. 

The EPA plugged discharge pipes from several buildings and two tanks that were identified as the source of the contamination. In its initial assessment of the site, the EPA also found ten abandoned 12,000 to 15,000 gallon underground storage tanks containing hazardous waste, approximately one hundred 3,000 to 10,000 gallon aboveground storage tanks, two tanks containing oily waste, as well as dozens of 55-gallon drums and smaller containers. These containers held a variety of hazardous industrial waste and solvents. Two underground tanks and most of the other containers were removed by the EPA in 2012. 

The EPA periodically proposes sites to the Superfund list and, after responding to public comments, designates them as final Superfund sites. The Superfund final designation makes them eligible for funds to conduct long-term cleanups. 

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The search for the parties responsible for the contamination at the Riverside Industrial Park site is ongoing.
For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.  Click here now to submit a case inquiry.

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Doctors and hospitals’ use of health IT more than doubles since 2012

More than half of America’s doctors have adopted electronic health records
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that more than half of all doctors and other eligible providers have received Medicare or Medicaid incentive payments for adopting or meaningfully using electronic health records (EHRs).
HHS has met and exceeded its goal for 50 percent of doctor offices and 80 percent of eligible hospitals to have EHRs by the end of 2013.
Adoption of Electronic Health Records by Physicians and Other Providers - Click for larger graphSince the Obama administration started encouraging providers to adopt EHRs, usage has increased dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey in 2012, the percent of physicians using an advanced EHR system was just 17 percent in 2008. Today, more than 50 percent of eligible professionals (mostly physicians) have demonstrated meaningful use and received an incentive payment. For hospitals, just nine percent had adopted EHRs in 2008, but today, more than 80 percent have demonstrated meaningful use of EHRs.
“We have reached a tipping point in adoption of electronic health records,” said Secretary Sebelius. “More than half of eligible professionals and 80 percent of eligible hospitals have adopted these systems, which are critical to modernizing our health care system. Health IT helps providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients’ health and save money at the same time.”
Adoption of Electronic Health Records by Eligible Hospitals - Click for larger graphThe Obama administration has encouraged the adoption of health IT starting with the passage of the Recovery Act in 2009 because it is an integral element of health care quality and efficiency improvements. Doctors, hospitals, and other eligible providers that adopt and meaningfully use certified electronic health records receive incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Part of the Recovery Act, these programs began in 2011 and are administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.
Adoption of EHRs is also critical to the broader health care improvement efforts that have started as a result of the Affordable Care Act. These efforts – improving care coordination, reducing duplicative tests and procedures, and rewarding hospitals for keeping patients healthier – all made possible by widespread use of EHRs. Health IT systems give doctors, hospitals, and other providers the ability to better coordinate care and reduce errors and readmissions that can cost more money and leave patients less healthy. In turn, efforts to improve care coordination and efficiency create further incentive for providers to adopt health IT.
As of the end of April 2013:
  • More than 291,000 eligible professionals and over 3,800 eligible hospitals have received incentive payments from the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
  • Approximately 80 percent of all eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals in the U.S. have received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR.
  • More than half of physicians and other eligible professionals in the U.S. have received an incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR.
For more information about the Administration’s efforts to promote implementation, adoption and meaningful use of EHRs and health IT systems, please visit: and
For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.  Click here now to submit a case inquiry.
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California Study Reveals Occupational Asthma Is A Major Problem

"It is estimated that over 974,000 adults in California have asthma that has been  caused or aggravated by their work, but work-related asthma (WRA) is often not recognized or diagnosed."

Work-related asthma (WRA) is under-recognized and often undiagnosed, but a new report
estimates that nearly a million adults in California have had work-related asthma. “Asthma in California: A Surveillance Report” tracks asthma data for the state of California, and includes a chapter on WRA. The updated chapter includes rates of WRA by industry and occupation, types of exposure, measures of the impact of WRA, and data on the characteristics of people with WRA, such as gender and age.

View WRA chapter: Work-related asthma (PDF)

View entire report: Asthma in California: A Surveillance Report (PDF, 6 MB)

View executive summary: Asthma in California: Executive Summary (PDF)

For more information on OHB work in this area, see Tracking Work-Related Asthma

For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.  Click here now to submit a case inquiry.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reflections On Apple's Factory Working Conditions

Today's post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

Our colleague Rod Rehm (Nebraska) shared a great post about Apple's inhumane factory working conditions in China the other day. It gave us pause because we use Apple products in our business all the time. 

Whether it's an iPhone to keep in touch with the office 24/7 or an iPad to help win our clients' cases in the courtroom, these tools have become an integral part of our lives and the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world. 

 We hope that through advocacy companies like Apple will improve their working conditions and increase standards of living across the globe. We also hope that as Apple moves to provide better working conditions for all of its workers and subcontractors, it can repatriate many of its jobs cost effectively. 

 In the video linked in Rod's post, Jon Stewart points out that right now Apple saves about 20% on the cost of production by outsourcing to China. We, as fans of Apple's products, would be willing to split the difference with them and pay 10% more for their excellent products if they'd absorb the other 10% and treat their workers humanely. 

 Here's Rod's original post (reprinted with permission): When Henry Ford invented the Model T, he revolutionized manufacturing and in the process created tons of high-paying jobs for ordinary people. His wealth was shared. When Steve Jobs and Apple invented the iPhone,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Don't Fry Friday - May 24th

Workers need to be aware about skin cancer and take preventative action to protect themselves from the sun's rays

Skin Cancer Remains the Most Common Cancer in US, Americans Urged to Take Action/EPA, CDC, FDA, National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention provide sun safety tips for 'Don’t Fry Day': May 24th

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), joined by the National Council on Skin Cancer
Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is recognizing the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day”, to encourage Americans to take a few simple steps to protect their health and prevent skin cancer throughout the summer.

“While we’re making progress toward restoring the Earth’s ozone layer, Americans need to take steps now for extra protection from harmful UV rays and skin cancer,” said Janet McCabe, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Americans can stay safe under the sun and enjoy the outdoors by taking simple steps such as using sunscreen and wearing UV-blocking sunglasses.”

“If current trends continue, one in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime, and many of these skin cancers could be prevented by reducing UV exposure from the sun and indoor tanning devices,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Of particular concern is the increase we are seeing in rates of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In the United States, melanoma is one of the most common cancers among people ages 15 to 29 years.”

“Spending time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. Everyone can get sunburned and suffer harmful effects of exposure to UV radiation from time spent outdoors,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Consumers can protect themselves by choosing a sunscreen that is right for them, wearing protective clothing and limiting time in the sun.”
To make it easier for people to choose products that effectively reduce the health risks of UV overexposure, the FDA has issued new labeling rules for sunscreen products. These include:
  • Sunscreens proven to protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can be labeled “Broad Spectrum.” Both UVB and UVA radiation contribute to the sun’s damaging effects.
  • Sunscreen products that meet the criteria for being called “Broad Spectrum” and have a Sunscreen Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher may state that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed with other sun protection measures.
  • Any product that is not “Broad Spectrum,” or has an SPF below 15, must have a warning stating that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. 
  • New water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.

    In addition to using Broad Spectrum sunscreen, here are some tips to help enjoy the outdoors safely this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer:
  • Seek shade, not sun: Seek the shade when the sun’s rays are strongest; avoid sunburns, intentional tanning, and use of tanning beds; use extra caution near reflective surfaces like water and sand.
  • Wear protective clothing: Wear sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Check the UV Index: EPA and the National Weather Service offer the UV Index--an hourly forecast of UV radiation that allows Americans to plan outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun. Download EPA's free UV Index app at
Nations across the globe have made steady progress toward restoring the Earth’s protective ozone layer through the groundbreaking environmental treaty called the Montreal Protocol. Signed by 197 countries, including the U.S. government, the Protocol is successfully working to phase out ozone-depleting substances. Scientists predict that the ozone layer will recover later this century. 
According to the CDC, the states with the highest melanoma death rates include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia. Americans are encouraged to learn more about skin cancer in their states at

More on EPA sun safety tips:
More on the Montreal Protocol:
More on FDA sunscreen labeling rules:

More on CDC skin cancer prevention efforts: and cancer statistics:

More on the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention:
Read more about "skin cancer" and workers' compensation:
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