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The inside story

Catch L&I’s TV ad during Mariners games

June 9, 2014
By Debby Abe

Hey, Mariners fans. Be on the lookout for home improvement contractor Mike Holmes and Labor & Industries the next time you’re cheering the Mariners on TV.

Holmes is featured on an L&I TV commercial urging homeowners to “Hire Smart” when choosing contractors to work on their home.During the ad, he tells viewers to check out L&I’s for tips on hiring a contractor.

The ad will appear during Mariner games throughout the month of June.

Holmes is a familiar face to viewers of home improvement channels HGTV and DIY Network. He’s hosted several cable TV shows, including Holmes on Homes, in which he repairs home improvement disasters caused by bad contractors.

Holmes donated his time to appear in the 30-second commercial for us. The ad is part of our public awareness campaign to teach consumers how to hire a contractor. As we, and Mike Holmes, like to say, take the time to “Hire Smart” to get the job done right the first time.



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Gitty-up on over to the Eastern Washington forklift rodeo

June 10, 2014
By Elaine Fischer


If you’re a professional forklift driver who would like to demonstrate your skills and compete for cash prizes, you’re invited to take part in one of the upcoming forklift rodeos:

  • An Eastern Washington regional qualifying competition will be held June 21 at the Spokane Fire Department Regional Readiness Center at 1618 N. Rebecca St.
  • A Western Washington forklift competition will be held August 23 at the Boeing Kent Space Center, 20403 68th Ave. S.

The top 5 individual qualifiers from each of these regional competitions will then proceed to the 17th Annual Forklift Rodeo at the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference held this year in Spokane on September 24.

We also encourage employers to sponsor in-house competitions.

The forklift rodeos have typically drawn the best forklift drivers from around the state.

Competitors must first successfully pass a written exam and be current on training requirements.

In the driving competition, the forklift drivers are timed as they negotiate a fun and challenging course that includes various tasks and hazards. For example, some courses have a basketball shot or an egg in a cone.

There’s prize money to be had! The top 8 drivers in these regional competitions earn cash prizes ranging from $50 to $300. In the finals, prizes range from $100 to $500 for the top 5 drivers.

Team awards are given for the top 2 teams at each region. A team is comprised of the top 3 scores of all entered at the region.

Sign up today! Participation is limited to the first 30 drivers who register. Visit for registration forms or call 206-281-3842 or 1-888‑451-2004. The entry fee is $40 for competitors.

Spectators are welcome and there is no admission charge.



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Thinking positive: Pregnancy and your job

June 11, 2014
By Kyra Ingraham


It’s positive. They are two lines that can change your life. And as thousands of questions race through your mind, one question is likely to be “How will this affect my job?”

Here’s what you need to know about workplace rights for pregnant women:

  1. Can they fire me for being pregnant?
    The simple answer is no. It’s illegal to fire an employee because she’s pregnant. However, if your employer is doing layoffs due to a slow or failing business, your position can be included, regardless of your pregnancy. In addition, you can still be fired or disciplined for performance problems.
  2. How much leave can I use, and is it paid?
    Employees are given 12 weeks of leave through the Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA). This law builds on the similar existing federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which also offers 12 weeks of leave. In both laws you have to:
    • Work for a company that has more than 50 employees in a 75 mile radius
    • Have worked for the company for at least 12 months. The months don’t have to be consecutive, but you must have worked at least 1,250 hours before your leave starts.
    Washington State Family Leave Act must run after your pregnancy disability has ended (which FMLA doesn’t account for), so depending on your medical needs throughout the pregnancy you may actually be eligible for at least 18 weeks of leave.
    It is important to remember, though, that none of the laws require that this leave is paid. Some employers may offer short term disability pay, but for the most part you’re on your own (squirrel it away now!) or you must use some sort of leave to get a paycheck.
  3. Is my employer required to hold my job for me?
    Yes and no. The employer is required to allow you to return to work, but they’re not required to hold your exact position open. If they choose not to return you to your exact position, they must then have a similar position for you.
  4. Do I have to tell my boss right away?
    Once your pregnancy has an estimated end date (so close but yet so far!), you’re required to give your employer at least 30 days’ notice of when you’ll be starting your leave. If, however, you don’t realize you’re pregnant (hey, there are TV shows on it so it obviously happens), or you’re adopting a child where the placement is less than 30 days, the law simply requires you to tell your boss as soon as possible.
  5. How can L&I help me?
    If you feel your rights or benefits have been violated, call L&I at 1-866-219-7321. If it’s a bona fide complaint, L&I will investigate the complaint and, if warranted, issue a citation. You also have the right to sue your employer in a civil court.

For more information visit:



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Avoid booking inflatable flights

June 16, 2014
By Matthew Erlich


With bounce houses taking flight recently, parents are understandably concerned about how safe their children will be at carnivals and fairs this summer.

There’s an easy way to help ensure your child’s safety on inflatable and carnival rides: See The site includes:

  • A list of certified amusement ride operators in the state.
  • An amusement ride safety checklist so you know what to look for. For example:
    • Making sure the bounce house is securely anchored using steel stakes or sandbags (depending on the ground).
    • Ensuring that a ride operator is present and paying attention.

See something that’s a concern? Talk to the event manager and call L&I at 360-902-5570.



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Medical providers play an important part in returning injured workers to jobs

June 19, 2014
By Ryan Guppy

How can medical providers ensure the most successful recovery for injured worker patients?

Most occupational medicine specialists will say a successful outcome for recovery from a workplace injury includes maximum medical improvement and return to work.

Providers who treat injured workers are often the most crucial link to both a medical recovery and their patient’s economic well-being because they are:

  • The “first responders” in terms of patient contact during the time occupational health interventions have been shown to be the most effective.
  • Respected opinion leaders in the eyes of patients, and can help assure appropriate expectations and involvement of patients in their own recovery.
  • The first to become aware of recovery barriers and impediments in return to work.

Providers also play a pivotal role in setting the stage for teamwork with the worker, employer and the workers’ comp system to return the injured worker to a job.

Being off work costs an injured worker more than money.

Although time loss payments can offset lost wages while someone is off work, they do not replace them entirely.

A worker who earns $2500 per month could lose nearly $12,000 in wages during a year of time loss. A worker on time loss for 10 months could lose more than $22,300 in 2 years, compared to returning to their original job and salary.

These same workers, with the support of their medical provider, employer and resources from L&I, may have been working on a light-duty or transitional jobs over most of the the time loss period.

When added to the potential loss of employer benefits such as health insurance and retirement plan contributions, the economic cost to a worker can be staggering. The impact on a worker’s family, in addition to their sense of self-worth and mental state can be significant as well.

The good news is, there are 20,000 medical providers in L&I’s Medical Provider Network who can help. In just a few minutes, each of these providers can help get a patient back to work by asking the right questions and steering injured workers toward helpful resources.

For more information, order the free Attending Provider’s Return to Work Desk Reference.



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Who you gonna call? EMPLEO…

June 23, 2014
By Matthew Erlich

EMPLEO doesn’t have anything to do with ghosts, but it is a way for recent immigrants to find out about workplace rights and other issues.

What’s the number: 877-552-9832 or 877-55AYUDA.

EMPLEO, Employment Education and Outreach, is in its 10th year as a federal program with partnerships among states, consulates and nonprofit organizations.

The line, with operators who speak Spanish and English, recently opened for Washington state. L&I Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards Assistant Director Elizabeth Smith (in the pink jacket) highlighted the partnership and the need for farmworker services.

For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor site.



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Stay at Work program reaches milestone

June 25, 2014
By Amy Ray

During the first week of June, the Stay at Work program reached an impressive milestone — benefitting its 10,000th injured worker.

To date, the program has also paid employers nearly $24 million to keep employees working in medically-approved light duty jobs.

Stay at Work encourages employers who pay workers’ compensation premiums to Labor & Industries to bring their injured workers quickly and safely back to light-duty or transitional work. The program offers a financial incentive and reimburses some of the employer’s costs.

Eligible employers can be reimbursed for:

  • 50% of the base wages they pay to the injured worker.
  • Some of the cost of training, tools or clothing the worker needs to do the light-duty or transitional work.

The Stay at Work program launched in January 2012. 



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New web page helps businesses “know what they don’t know”

June 30, 2014
By Amy Ray

An old, unattributed quote says simply, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

But if you’re a business regulated by L&I, what you “don’t know” could get you into trouble. This is particularly true for small businesses, which often don’t have the resources to research L&I requirements that apply to them.

We want it to be easy to do business with L&I, and we don’t want a businesses’ first interaction with the agency to be when they are cited for non-compliance.

That’s the thinking behind a new tool on the L&I website: Check to See If You’re Meeting L&I Business Requirements.

The business requirements page is a one-stop-shop to help businesses discover which requirements apply to them. They can then get the information they need about how to comply without having to search across multiple program areas. An intuitive design makes for an effective Web experience, and we tested the page with small business owners and operators to verify the site was relevant and easy to use before its launch.

Check out the Business Requirements web page today:



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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

You can also learn more about the grants at



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When should injured workers return to work?

July 10, 2014
By Mary Kaempfe


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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