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Knock, knock. Surprise! L&I’s here to sweep up unregistered contractors


July 31, 2014
By Debby Abe

Construction contractors working off the books to avoid tax, safety and insurance requirements don’t stop at 5 p.m. weekdays. Neither does L&I.

For the third straight year, the department is conducting so-called surprise sweeps that build upon our year-round, weekday efforts to check whether contractors are complying with state contracting laws.

During the sweeps, our construction compliance inspectors team up to pay unannounced visits to worksites in selected areas on Friday and weekend days and evenings.

They look for contractors who aren’t registered at all with the state. And, they search for those who aren’t registered for the work they are caught doing − say a registered painting contractor who’s installing drywall.

Infractions for unregistered contractors

Violators receive an infraction that carries a $1,000 fine on the first offense, and heftier penalties on subsequent offenses.

As of mid-July, inspectors had conducted 11 sweeps around the state, and checked 565 contractors. Most of those contractors were properly registered, but not all. For example, inspectors wrote infractions to eight of the 45 contractors they checked during a Kitsap County sweep in mid-May.

Inspectors discover other problems, too, which they refer to the appropriate L&I programs. Sometimes they spot safety hazards endangering workers. They often find contractors who are late paying L&I fines or premiums for workers’ compensation, the insurance that protects injured workers.

Finding dozens of delinquent accounts

A late June sweep in Wenatchee, for instance, netted two contractors who owed L&I a total of more than $190,000. A sweep in Kitsap and Clark counties in mid-May scooped up 17 contractors who collectively owed more than $326,000.

“Surprise sweeps are an effective tool to battle the underground economy in construction,” said Dean Simpson, chief of construction compliance. “They let people know that we’re out there after hours and weekends, looking for unregistered contractors.”

Putting consumers at risk

The problem with unregistered contractors is that they put consumers at risk, and gain an unfair advantage over competitors who follow the rules. Washington state requires construction contractors to register with L&I, carry a bond and have liability insurance, giving consumers some financial recourse if something goes wrong.

And as we’ve told you in previous posts, unregistered contractors have ripped off homeowners, right here in the Evergreen State.

So don’t be surprised if we sweep through your community next.

Surprise sweeps and job sites visited April through mid-July

  • Long Beach (14)
  • Yakima (18)
  • Walla Walla (24)
  • Kitsap County (29)
  • Clark County (79)
  • Kirkland/North Bend (11)
  • Kennewick (87)
  • Bothell/Everett (13)>
  • Pullman (15)
  • Wenatchee (26)
  • King County [Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Bellevue, Issaquah] (16)


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What do a Spokane motel, nightclub, and apartment have in common?


July 25, 2014
By Debby Abe

Spokane-area readers might be familiar with the Lascelle Motel, the now-defunct Sunset Junction nightclub, or the brick apartment building at 1010 W. Boone Ave.

A few years back, there were news stories about efforts to revive the Sunset Junction and the brick apartment building.

Now the businesses are the setting for an L&I-investigated criminal case that’s just been filed in Spokane County Superior Court. Read about it here.


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Unregistered contractor who dashed remodeling dreams now headed for jail


July 23, 2014
By Debby Abe

The case of an unregistered contractor that we let you know about 2 weeks ago came to a fast resolution.

The defendant, Gary Shannon Edwards, has admitted to pocketing deposits for home improvement jobs, like upgrading bathrooms and kitchens, without finishing the work. Sometimes he didn’t even bother to start the projects. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and must repay his victims more than $51,000. (Read more about the case here.)

Stopping contractor fraud
We take action when we learn about contractors working without registration. If you know of someone working as an unregistered contractor, please let us know by calling 1-888-811-5974 or going to www.Lni.wa.gov/Fraud.

We want to prevent you from becoming the next victim of contractor fraud.


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Too hot to handle


July 21, 2014
By Kyra Ingraham

As summer skips along, and the mercury creeps up, heat stroke and other heat related illnesses can become a major concern — but is it a claim?

The quick answer is yes. If a worker encounters heat that causes an injury, for example an extreme sunburn, heat stroke or heat prostration that requires medical intervention, it is considered an on the job injury and is an allowable claim.

The exposure is generally a one-time, specific incident or occurs over the course of one day. An example would be a roofer who is spreading hot tar on a 90-degree day and is diagnosed with sunstroke.

Again though, that’s the short answer. The longer answer is that, like many L&I claims, it’s taken on a case-by-case basis. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s a situation where the heat exceeds something the general public has to deal with, and the worker suffers an actual heat-related illness, then it’s a claim. For example, if an inside office worker feels overheated but no one else in the office is suffering, that isn’t likely an L&I claim. However, if we go back to our friendly roofer working outside in the sun who overheats and is on the verge of collapsing — that is likely a claim.

Stopping heat stress before it happens
So now that we know is a claim and what isn’t, let’s look at the symptoms and how to stop heat stroke in its tracks! Here’s what to look for:

Training
Washington State has an outdoor heat exposure rule that applies to all employers with employees working outdoors. According to state law, all employers are required to provide training regarding outdoor heat exposure from May through September for employees that will be working in a hot environment.

If your employer isn’t providing this training, bring the issue up, with your supervisor, other employees or Human Resources. Be proactive! If that doesn’t work you can report the issue online or call your local L& I office or 1-800-423-7233.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Exhaustion/weakness
  • Fainting/light-headedness
  • Paleness
  • Headache
  • Clumsiness/dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Irritability

Symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Sweating may or may not be present
  • Red or flushed, hot, dry skin
  • Confusion/bizarre behavior
  • Convulsions before or during cooling
  • Collapse
  • Any symptom of heat exhaustion, but more severe
  • Panting/rapid breathing
  • Rapid, weak pulse

Note: Heat stroke may resemble a heart attack.

First aid tips for heat exhaustion:

  • Move the victim to a cool shaded area to rest; do not leave him or her alone.
  • Loosen and remove heavy clothing that restricts evaporative cooling.
  • Give cool water to drink, about a cup every 15 minutes.
  • Fan the person, spray with cool water, or apply a wet cloth to his or her skin to increase evaporative cooling.
  • Recovery should be rapid. Call 911 if he or she does not feel better in a few minutes.
  • Do not further expose the person to heat that day. Have them rest and continue to drink cool water or electrolyte drinks

First aid tips for heat stroke (this is a medical emergency):

  • Get medical help immediately, call 911 and transport as soon as possible.
  • Move the victim to a cool shaded area and remove clothing that restricts evaporative cooling.
  • Seconds count! Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can and continue cooling until medical help arrives. Examples of cooling methods:
    • Immerse the victim in a tub of cool water.
    • Place the person in a cool shower.
    • Spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose.
    • Sponge the person with cool water.
    • If the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instruction.
  • Do not give the victim water to drink until instructed by medical personnel.

Solutions for other heat-related illnesses
The heat can cause more problems than heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which are the 2 most dangerous heat-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, other heat-related illnesses include cramping and fainting from the heat or developing a heat rash. In these cases, the CDC recommends:

  • Getting out of the sun.
  • Sitting in a cool place.
  • Drinking water, clear juice or a sports beverage.

For more of the CDC’s tips on preventing heat related illnesses go here http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress


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New video raises awareness of ladder hazards


July 16, 2014
By Elaine Fischer

Every year, many workers in Washington State are seriously injured from falling off ladders at work. These injuries include dislocated limbs, broken bones, and head injuries. Sadly, in some cases, workers die from their injuries or are permanently disabled.

That’s why L&I produced a this 30-second video and other video shorts focused on falls as part of its “Eye on Safety” campaign. You might see this ladder safety video in a YouTube or Hulu ad this summer.

You can also find more video shorts at EyeOnSafety.info. These short entertaining videos were developed to raise awareness about fall hazards in a variety of workplaces.


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Message for young workers: A workplace injury can change your life forever


July 14, 2014
By Xenofon Moniodis

The recent tragic death of a 19-year-old worker, is an important reminder that young workers aged 16-24 are at much higher risk for injuries on the job than older workers.

L&I’s Injured Young Worker Speakers Program focuses on raising workplace safety awareness among young workers to help them avoid these types of injuries. The program brings speakers who were severely injured on the job as young workers to high schools and worksites around the state with the message that a workplace accident can change your life forever.

Speaker Matt Pomerinke of Longview, Washington, was just 21 and working at a paper mill when his arm was caught in an unguarded conveyer drive chain and ultimately amputated just below the elbow. Here’s a glimpse Matt’s compelling story (includes graphic details).


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When should injured workers return to work?


July 10, 2014
By Mary Kaempfe

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Short answer: As soon as they possibly can.

Did you know that over half of all injured workers miss less than 1 month of work? We often forget that 3 months after an injury, 80% of injured workers are back at work.

What about the remaining 20% of injured workers? These are the claims that drive more than 80% of system costs. These workers need more medical appointments and more coordination of care by the provider, and their absence is keenly felt by the employer and their coworkers. The longer these workers are off work, the more challenging it is to get them back on the job. If they’re off work for 6 months, the likelihood of ever going to back to work is slim.

The key to avoiding this situation is to get these workers back on the job, engaged with their employer and coworkers, more quickly. Health care providers are often asked to identify job restrictions. Employers are asked to accommodate these restrictions for light duty.

What if we turned this around and thought instead of capabilities?

Example: A provider limits someone with an arm injury to 10 pounds lifting.

This would mean the patient can’t lift a typical bag of groceries, a child older than an infant, a case of beer, or some women’s purses. Is this really the intention?

We forget to consider the person’s capabilities. These capabilities, including use of the uninjured arm and what can still be done with the injured one, allow the worker to complete all the above tasks and much, much more. An employer can probably make accommodations with this information.

We offer resources to help a worker return to work safely and as soon as possible:

  • For claims covered by self-insured employers or L&I (State Fund):
    Your claim manager can identify resources for specific cases.
  • For L&I claims:
    • Stay at Work (SAW) benefits: Financial incentive for employers to bring injured workers back to light duty or transitional work.
    • Early Return-to-Work program: Available in all parts of the state to work with employers, doctors and injured workers to facilitate return to work with the employer of record.  Contact your claim manager or local L&I office to take advantage of this FREE service.


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Don’t let this happen to you and your home renovation project


July 8, 2014
By Debby Abe

We can never say it enough: If you’re getting work done on your home, make sure your construction contractor is registered with the state.

A King County case shows what can happen if you don’t. According to criminal charges filed this week in King County Superior Court, a Seattle contractor gave two property owners estimates for jobs, one to repair a sewer pipe, another to install flooring. The same day, he accepted their checks as down payments and cashed them. That was the last the owners saw of the contractor, charging papers say.

He’s also charged with starting other jobs, then walking away without finishing them, all while being an unregistered contractor. (Read more about the case here.)

Working or offering to work as a contractor without being registered is a crime, a gross misdemeanor to be exact. It carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Though hiring a registered contractor doesn’t guarantee you won’t have problems, it allows for some financial recourse if the project goes awry. Registered contractors must show L&I they have a bond, liability insurance and meet other requirements.

It’s easy to check if a contractor is registered with L&I. Go to Verify.Lni.wa.gov or call 1-888-811-5974.


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5 tips for filing your quarterly report successfully


July 7, 2014
By Andrea Ruiz and Roseann Collins

It’s that time again. Quarterly Report filing and premiums for the 2nd quarter (April 1, 2014 – June 30, 2014) are due on July 31, 2014.

Remember, even if you don’t have any worker hours or payroll, you still have to file a report.

What’s the easiest way to file your quarterly report?
Online! To file online, go to www.QuarterlyReports.Lni.wa.gov.

  • You can file on-the-go from any mobile device. Try it at www.QuickFile.Lni.wa.gov.
  • You can file your quarterly report in 3 minutes or less.
  • We calculate the rates for you.
  • You can print a confirmation page for your records.

New to online filing?
Here are some tips to help you file successfully:

  1. Watch a tutorial and see step by step how easy it is to file online. image
  2. Don’t wait until the deadline — file early. If you have any issues or questions, you won’t be pressured by time constraints.
  3. Look up your Account ID or UBI number.
  4. Choose the payment option that works best for you. You can schedule your payment (up until 7/31), mail in a check, or pay with a credit card.
  5. Don’t forget to hit the submit button, and then print a copy of your report for your records.


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Safety and health grant $$$ used to showcase construction safety “best practices”


July 2, 2014
By Elaine Fischer

Maybe you’ve heard that L&I has grant money available to fund innovative ideas. It’s true!

If you’d like to know more about what a grant project looks like, check out this great article from Central Washington University (CWU) about a grant project currently underway at CWU’s Safety and Health Management program.

CWU formed a partnership with Associated General Contractors of Washington and were awarded a $113,000 SHIP grant. They are now working to identify best practices in the construction industry and create a comprehensive construction safety handbook that showcases the industry best practices and the companies who are safety leaders.

This handbook will be a great new resource for construction companies in our state! When completed, it will be freely available online and updated regularly.

Do you have a great idea for a safety and health or return-to-work project? If so, there is grant money available and we’d like to hear from you!

We can help you determine if you are eligible, if your project qualifies, or just discuss your ideas with you. Call the SHIP program staff at 360-902-5588 or send an email to Invest@Lni.wa.gov.

You can also learn more about the grants at www.SafetyGrants.Lni.wa.gov.


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