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Workers' Compensation
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Colorado Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Occupational noise: The silent workplace safety hazard?

When people think about workplace safety and health hazards, there are probably a few vivid examples that come to mind. Most of these musings are likely very clear health threats, such as chemical exposure, heavy equipment or long-term bodily wear and tear.

However, exposure to high levels of noise is a serious workplace health issue that people might not think much about. Being exposed to constant noise on the job may not present a problem after a day, but over time it can create irreversible hearing damage.

Repetitive stress injuries common in broad swath of industries

At first glance, industrial and office-based work may have next to nothing in common. However, the reality is that many roles in both fields are characterized by repetitive tasks. Those in the industrial sector might install the same component and office workers might complete tasks on their computers for the majority of the day.

The problem with repetitive motions like those mentioned above is that they can cause serious, painful medical conditions over time. Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably the most widely known illness in this category.

How soon must workers' compensation claims be filed in Colorado?

Every injury or illness is different. In some cases, the extent of an injury may become very rapidly. On the other hand, certain medical conditions may develop over a longer period of time, which can cause a delay in treatment.

In the context of a workplace injury or illness, timing is a key factor. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, employees must report an on-the-job injury within four working days of it occurring. If the injury becomes apparent immediately after an accident, then reporting within this timeframe may be relatively straightforward. On the other hand, if an incident occurs and it takes some time for symptoms to appear, employees may find themselves in a bind.

Colorado: Still room to improve workplace safety

There are many great things that can be said about living in Colorado. It's a naturally beautiful state and it's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Certainly, many people enjoy a relatively high quality of life in this state.

Not long ago, WalletHub released a list of the safest states. Using a broad range of criteria, including everything from financial safety to community safety to workplace safety, the organization put together rankings. Interestingly enough, Colorado ended up right in the middle, at number 25.

Looking closer, Colorado did better on workplace safety than on its overall score, receiving a rank of 13 in this respect.

America's workplace safety framework, Part 2: The cost of injury

In many cases, employers are very responsive to the needs of their employees. On a very basic level, this means making sure that all employees have what they need to be safe and successful on the job.

While some employers exceed basic workplace safety standards simply because it’s the right thing to do for employees, others simply do what is mandated by law. Of course, complete failure to meet safety mandates puts employees at risk, but meeting the bare minimum for safety can also be detrimental.

Is America's workplace safety framework broken? Rules, Part 1

As we have noted multiple times on this blog, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the biggest allies workers have in ensuring that they remain safe on the job. However, this agency can only remain as effective as it’s allowed to be.

David Michaels, head of OSHA, recently discussed some of the major issues that exist in the agency today. He indicates that the current rulemaking and regulatory structure does not resemble what it was originally intended to look like. Ultimately, this has had a detrimental impact on workplace safety.

Carriers Waiver of Overpayment in Subrogation Settlement Must be Specifically Negotiated

Milazzo v. Total Longterm Care, Inc, (ICAO June 11, 2014)

Under Colorado Law, the payment of workers compensation benefits for or on behalf of the claimant automatically assigns a cause of action against a third-party tortfeasor to the workers compensation carrier. A subrogation interest exists in favor of the carrier against the proceeds of a third-party settlement or judgment.

In the Milazzo case, the claimant had been overpaid temporary total disability benefits because she was actually working during a portion of the time that she was receiving TTD. This was obviously an overpayment and was found to be so by the ALJ. After offsetting temporary partial and permanent disability benefits owed to the claimant against the overpayment, there was still a remaining overpayment of $8,451.08.

Workplace injury and illness: Defining total permanent disability

Just like any type of injury or illness, work-related health issues can vary significantly in severity. In certain cases, a person might suffer a minor on-the-job injury that involves minimal time away from work and a straightforward medical remedy. On the other hand, a person's work-related health concern might be so severe that the possibility of being able to return to the job seems unlikely.

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, permanent total disability is defined by a condition that makes it impossible for a person to return to their previous job role or any other profession. This type of medical condition is obviously going to require a lifestyle change, in addition to potential ongoing medical care.

The health care industry: Less safe than construction work?

The health care industry is designed to help people deal with medical issues and work toward recovery or becoming comfortable. With this in mind, it's probably strange to think about health care workers suffering their own health issues in the process of tending to others. The reality, however, is that this problem is more common than some might realize.

Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that nursing home and long-term care employees suffered from twice as many work-related injuries and illnesses as construction workers. Interestingly enough, construction is traditionally considered a high-risk profession.

A double-edged sword: Construction fatalities accompany growth

In many respects, growth in the construction industry is viewed as a sign of economic growth and progress. Certainly, this is bound to inspire hope after a long recession. Construction projects are springing up in many corners of the country, which has allowed many construction workers to take their names off of the unemployment rolls.

This progress does have a dark side, however. Data recently released by the AFL-CIO indicates that the rate of construction-related fatalities is on the rise. In 2012, the rate sat at 9.9 per 100,000 workers, which represents a noticeable year-over-year increase. Just a year earlier, the rate was 9.1 per 100,000 workers.

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