Governor Inslee appoints Linda Williams as chair of the BIIA
Last week, Governor Jay Inslee appointed former judge and assistant attorney general Linda Williams as the chair/public member of the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, effective December 5th. Williams returns to the Board most recently from the Attorney General's office, where she was the Labor & Industries section chief for the Tumwater office. Prior to that, she was a Hearing Judge at the Board for 12 years, and a Mediation and Review Judge for nine years. Her undergraduate and law degrees are from the University of Washington. The Board also announced that former chair Dave Threedy will reassume his prior role as the Board's Executive Secretary when Williams takes office.
House Labor Committee holds work session on workers' comp issues
Earlier today, the House Labor & Workforce Standards Committee of the Washington State Legislature held a work session on a variety of workplace topics, including three within workers' compensation -- structured settlements, a catastrophic claims pilot project, and occupational health best practices aimed at reducing long term disability. WSIA presented comments on the structured settlements report, noting that the recent study by the Upjohn Institute on the efficacy of structured settlements supports legislative efforts to liberalize their use. You can catch the workers' comp portions of the work session at this link, starting at approximately 20:40 in.
Department formally adopts 2017 State Fund rate increase
On Wednesday, the Department of Labor & Industries formally adopted its rate increase for the State Fund for 2017, settling on the 0.7 percent overall average increase it had previously proposed. This decision came despite opposition from many business organizations, suggesting the Department should adopt an overall rate closer to the 2.4 percent reduction it forecasted for next year's benefit and administration costs. The 3.1 percent increase above break even is meant to continue to shore up the Department's contingency reserves. See the Department's news release here. Self-insurance assessment rates are announced separately, although self-insurers are impacted by the very slight increase (.0952 cents per hour to .096 cents per hour) increase in the Supplemental Pension Fund assessment, adopted as part of the 2017 rate-setting.
Court denies injunction on OSHA post-accident drug testing rule; now in effect
On Monday, a federal district court in Texas denied a request for a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of OSHA's new rules on mandatory post-accident drug screenings and safety incentive programs, workplace retaliation, and electronic submission of OSHA logs. While the litigation over the validity of the rules continues, the court's action means they went into effect as planned yesterday, December 1. OSHA's recent guidance on the rule seems to indicate the agency will not consider drug/alcohol testing to be retaliatory if it is conducted in accordance with state or federal law, including voluntary participation in state "drug free workplace" programs. For more on the rules and the litigation, click here.
WSIA Safety Committee to discuss OSHA rules next Thursday
In response to the court's handling of the new OSHA rules, WSIA's Safety Committee, which meets next Thursday, December 8th at 2:00 p.m. online, will focus on the issue. Committee chair John Shervey and attorney members of WSIA will discuss the implementation of the new rules and the interpretations that are in force while the case is further pursued. This is a great meeting to refer to your safety personnel! It's a fully online meeting over the GoToMeeting platform. To obtain the login information, contact Patrick Koenig.
Don't forget: L&I needs your help to keep the SIRAS/EDI project moving
The Department of Labor & Industries' Self-Insurance section now has the medical bill electronic data interchange (EDI) feature of the upcoming SIRAS (Self Insurance Risk Analysis System) in place and ready to begin testing. However, employer and vendor sign-ups for the system have been lagging. Reporting medical bill data to the EDI will become a regulatory requirement as soon as next year, so now is a great time to sign up and test out the system. Take a look at the Department's request for help here, and note the internal links in the document to further resources.
WISHA and Workers' Comp Advisory Committees to meet next week
Next week, the Department of Labor & Industries' major advisory committees on workplace safety and workers' compensation are scheduled to meet. The WISHA advisory committee meets Thursday December 8th from 9:00 a.m. to Noon at the L&I headquarters in Tumwater while the Workers' Compensation Advisory Committee meets the following day, Friday, at 9:00 a.m. to noon at the Department's Tukwila location. Agendas for the meetings have not yet been released. Both committees' meetings are open to the public.