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The inside story

Parents of fallen worker seek out claims manager who helped


May 8, 2014

By Dave Wasser

Adam Normoyle remembered the claim.

“It came in looking like a simple concussion,” he said, “the kind of claim that was usually handled within a short time.”

The claimant, 36 year old Bradley Bean of Renton, had slipped in the snow and received a head injury while working as a jet center manager.

Adam, who at the time was a claims manager in Unit A, handled the claim from the beginning.

A simple case becomes worse

Sadly, this seemingly minor injury kept getting worse. Complications developed, and six months after the accident, Bradley Bean was dead. His parents, Tom and Debra Bean were devastated.

A little over a year after his injury occurred, Tom and Debra were invited to the L&I Worker Memorial. They agreed to attend and indicated they would like to meet Adam at the event.

Adam attended the Memorial and met Tom and Debra. They asked him to sit with them during the ceremonies. A photograph of the three of them was included in several newspaper stories about the event – Tom holding a photograph of their son and Debra carrying a small urn that held his ashes.

A real connection

“They felt that I had really helped them through the process,” Adam said. “Because everything had gone smoothly during the claim, they felt that I had helped make things less stressful for them.”

Adam said the Beans sent him a photo of their son early on during the claims process. They shared more photos with him after the Memorial.

“We made a real connection,” he said. “Bradley was about my age. He was their only son and I have just one child. I think I have some understanding of how devastating it would be to lose your only child.”

Memorial brings it home

Often times a workers’ comp claim can be just a voice on the phone. Adam said the Memorial was always a time for him to “recharge” and remember that claims are about real people who are members of real families.

Adam left L&I late last year to join Strategic Consulting where he is now a vocational counselor, a job he felt would give him more direct client contact. He is enjoying his new job but says he misses friends from L&I.

“It was good to have a reason to return,” he said. “It’s always nice to hear the appreciation. I’m glad I went.”

See Olympian photo gallery of Worker Memorial event. Photo is second one in the gallery.


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It’s not a pirate SHIP, but there’s treasure to be had


May 13, 2014

By Amy Ray

Do you have an innovative idea for improving workplace safety and health or a creative solution to help injured workers return to work soon after an injury? If so, L&I would like to hear from you and may help fund your project.

L&I’s Safety and Health Investment Projects (SHIP) grant program offers grants to projects that:

  • Help prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
  • Develop and implement effective Return to Work programs that reduce long-term disability.

Port Orchard’s project

In April 2013, the SHIP program funded five grant applicants, including the City of Port Orchard. Awarded a $63,000 grant, the city began work in June 2013 to develop a Return to Work program that specifically addresses the unique needs of public works employees and police officers.

High claims rate signals need for new thinking

The city had experienced a high number of time-loss claims and several large claims in recent years. Deborah Howard, the city’s HR coordinator, saw the SHIP grant as an opportunity to help change the organization’s culture, and reduce claims.

The city knew that the employees most likely to be injured on the job are police officers and public works employees. However, due to the nature of their work, it’s often not possible for these workers to return to their normal jobs until they are 100% recovered. Traditionally, it’s been difficult for the city to provide medically-approved light duty jobs within the limitations set by an injured worker’s doctor.

Work paying early dividends

Port Orchard’s work is already producing results. The city has developed a light-duty job bank and a tool that allows medical providers to be specific about what injured workers can do in a light-duty job. Both improvements are helping injured workers get back to work in other roles while they heal.

Says Howard, “The Police Department has been the most supportive. They had three officers on light duty that are now back to full duty doing what they do best − protecting our city.”

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Officer Andrew Brandon (left) works a light-duty job at the front desk of the Port Orchard Police Department. Brandon’s colleague, Officer Randy Ernst, is pictured right.

Materials, and successes, can be replicated

Port Orchard isn’t the only organization that could benefit from the city’s work. Other organizations will have access to the city’s suite of materials once they are complete. That’s because anything created with SHIP grant funds becomes public domain. It’s an efficient use of state funds that helps ensure the widest possible benefit possible.

Howard is very clear on the benefit to her own organization.

“We want injured workers to know that we want them back to work with the city as quickly as possible and that we will do our best to help them get there,” she says.

You can learn more about the SHIP program on the L&I website.


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Felony conviction, probation for Lakewood landscaper who skipped out on workers’ comp coverage


May 28, 2014

By Debby Abe

Here’s a story about a landscaper who was sentenced recently for failing to pay workers’ comp insurance. He got caught when his employee was hurt on the job.

The worker said the employer threatened him and his family if he filed an injury claim with L&I. The landscaper later told an L&I investigator business had slowed and he laid off all his employees, except for the injured worker and part-time help. For details, read the news release.

Just so you know, L&I can help businesses experiencing hard times. In many cases, we can arrange payment plans and waive late penalties and interest to qualifying employers. But just not paying, and threatening workers against filing complaints, are both illegal, and serious consequences can result.

To learn more about flexible payment options:


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Return to Work keeps gourmet cookie ovens smoking


June 2, 2014
By Bob LeMay & Larry Laurence

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Cougar Mountain Baking Company, a small Seattle operation that bakes melt-in-your-mouth gourmet cookies, found some unexpected help when they teamed up with us to solve a costly problem.

One of the company’s bakers injured her dominant wrist and trigger fingers. She required a long and costly healing period. Her vocational rehab counselor determined she couldn’t return to her job of injury, nor would she benefit from further return-to-work vocational services.

Trouble was, she was 58 years old, with limited education and spoke only Cantonese. She was medically stable, but headed toward permanent disability.

The business owner was seriously worried about costs. In fact, he called us because he was afraid he’d have to bear the cost of a disability pension by himself.

We explained that, while L&I would bear the cost of the pension, his premiums would go up about 25% a year for several years.

The owner was relieved and alarmed at the same time. He started his business in 1988 as a college student when he realized the cookies he made for friends disappeared overnight. So he bet on himself and started Cougar Mountain Baking Company on a shoestring.

We met with the owner to see how he could avoid a lot of the cost by offering his injured baker a light-duty job.

The owner created a permanent job for his worker, which was approved by her physician. The worker initially accepted the position but then declined the job offer due to a non-injury related matter.

In the end, Cougar Mountain had to pay a bit more premium, but nothing like they would have had to pay without the return-to-work effort.

If you’re an employer or injured worker, L&I risk managers and vocational specialists are available to help YOU. To get started, go to www.lni.wa.gov/RiskConsultation


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Everything you want to know about your L&I account


June 5, 2014
By Chris Alcatraz

Intrigued? Glad to hear it!

This is the title of just one of the many classes offered at FREE Contractor Training Days scheduled monthly at locations across the state.

Informative? You bet!

Over 25 topics: from starting a business to managing contracts; plumbing code to fall protection.

Useful? Absolutely!

Lots of reference material and in-person Q&A with staff from L&I and the Department of Revenue, volunteers from the legal community and more.

When & where? Next event in Lakewood on June 27.

If you can’t join us in June, we’d love to see you at future events in Yakima, Edmonds, Spokane and Renton. See the complete schedule.

Can’t wait? There’s more!

Check out our website for all the resources we offer business owners: http://www.Lni.wa.gov/main/ForBusiness.asp


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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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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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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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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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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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