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Current Updates and Information

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Please see the attached flyer below for important information from the ERA (Employers Resource Association).

 

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ERA HR Legal Alerts

 

Ohio House Bill 447 Amends

Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Remote Employees

 

Over the course of two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic changes throughout almost every aspect of society. The pandemic has had an especially significant impact on the workforce and the manner in which work is performed. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. workers are working from home all or most of the time, with an additional 18% working from home some of the time. Comparatively, only 23% reported working from home frequently prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though these numbers represent a decline from the heights of the pandemic, the number of workers choosing to work remotely, as opposed to their workplace being closed or unavailable, has nearly doubled. This growth has led to questions about worker’s compensation for these remote employees.

 

On June 24, 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 447 (“H.B. 447”), bringing a long-anticipated amendment to Ohio’s law regarding eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits when an employee sustains an injury when working for their employer in the employee’s home. As provided in Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C), and subject to certain exceptions, an employee’s injury is compensable in the workers’ compensation system in Ohio when that injury was received in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment. Prior to this enactment of H.B. 447, Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C) provided four exclusions for injuries that might otherwise be compensable under workers’ compensation when sustained in the course of, and arising out of, the employee’s employment namely:

 

1. Psychiatric conditions except when the claimant’s psychiatric conditions have arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant or when the claimant’s psychiatric conditions have arisen from sexual conduct in which the claimant was forced by threat of physical harm to engage or participate;

2.   Injury or disability caused primarily by the natural deterioration of tissue, an organ, or part of the body;

3.   Injury or disability incurred in voluntary participation in an employer-sponsored recreation or fitness activity if the employee signs a waiver of the employee’s right to compensation or benefits under this chapter prior to engaging in the recreation or fitness activity;

4.   A condition that pre-existed an injury unless that pre-existing condition is substantially aggravated by the injury.

 

H.B. 447 amends Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C) to provide a fifth exclusion to the definition of “injury” for an “[i]njury or disability sustained by an employee who performs the employee’s duties in a work area that is located within the employee’s home and that is separate and distinct from the location of the employer[.]”

 

H.B. 447 does permit, however, an injury or disability sustained at home to be compensable under workers’ compensation if all of the following apply:

·     The employee’s injury or disability arises out of the employee’s employment;

·     The employee’s injury or disability was caused by a special hazard of the employee’s employment activity; and

·    The employee’s injury or disability is sustained in the course of an activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer.

 

Prior to the enactment of H.B. 447, an injury sustained in the course of, and arising out of one’s employment when working at one’s home was treated in the same way, from a workers’ compensation compensability context, as an injury sustained at the employer’s workplace. H.B. 447 limits the compensability under workers’ compensation for work-from-home injuries. For instance, while the standard definition for “injury” under the statute requires the injury to occur “in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment,” the work-from-home-injury will only meet the statutory definition of an “injury” if it occurred “in the course of activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer” and was caused by a “special hazard” of the employee’s employment activity. This requirement puts the burden on the employee when seeking workers’ compensation benefits for an injury sustained when working at their home.

 

The types of injuries that will ultimately be compensable in the context of workers’ compensation in Ohio for an employee when working at home are unclear, and the determination will likely be very fact-specific. As such, employers should ensure that they have implemented policies for job expectations and requirements for employees working remotely and have processes in place for reporting and investigating injuries sustained by employees working remotely from home or other locations.

 

As always, if you have any questions, ERA can help. Email the hotline at or call 888-237-9554 #2.

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March 2019  –   OSHA Increases Fines Again By: Gary W. Hanson

In 2016 OSHA started to index the fines they would issue as a result of a specific violation to the annual inflation index. Up to that time the fine for a serious violation was $7,000 maximum and for willful $120,000 maximum. These fines had stayed steady up to that time. OSHA felt that the existing fines did not take into consideration inflation.

Each year since 2016 OSHA has adjusted the rates upward according to the Consumer Price Index. As of January 24, 2019, the new penalty fines will be:

Serious $13,260 Maximum Willful or Repeat $132,598 Maximum Failure to Abate $13,260 for Each Day Beyond the Abatement Date Willful Violation Minimum Fine $9,239

The above fines can be adjusted downward by the OSHA area office. OSHA takes into consideration how serious the violation was, the size of the company, good faith and prior history. If a company has not had any previous citations during the past five years, this is taken into consideration.

In addition, OSHA has the capability of reducing proposed penalties at an Informal Conference for smaller companies that can be up to 50%, but for most companies the reduction is around 40%. However, this reduction only takes place if a company has corrected the noted violations to OSHA’s satisfaction and shows OSHA that they will be working to improve their overall safety effort.

Even with the possible reductions the new rates mean a significant increase in the actual fines a company will receive. Companies that do not take their safety program seriously will be facing much higher fines for any OSHA violations. These fines will continue to increase each year now that OSHA had indexed these to inflation.

I recommend that the client companies we work for do the following:  Audit their written safety programs at least annually and update as necessary.  Develop an annual employee safety training plan and ensure all employees receive training in the OSHA mandated standards.  Address employee safety concerns.  Conduct regular OSHA style safety inspections to identify any physical violations and correct these as soon as possible.  Document everything so there is a record showing what has been done to comply with the appropriate OSHA standards.  Stay up with the changes in the OSHA

OSHA is not going to go away, so do not be caught unaware. A good safety program will go a long way to reducing exposure to OSHA violations and penalties.

If you have any questions about OSHA or your safety program or have a need with your program, please give me a call at (330)495-3437 Cell or (330)854-4577 Office.

 

Implementing a Safety Training Plan

Executive_Summary_Installment_Rule_Changes

Rule Changes

Heat Related Illness – http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-174/default.html

OSHA3862

Ohio Administrative Code OAC4123-17-68

Ohio Safety Congress

OSHA Update Information

OSHA_Announces_Major_Changes_in_Injury_and_Illness_Reporting_and_Recording_Requirements

BWC’s Other States Coverage

 When in Doubt Lock It Out

MCT-approved Group Rating Safety Accountability Letter 

OSHA Recordkeeping Fact Sheet

Lifting ARTICLE

Understanding Employee Behavior

Raising the Bar for Safety

Grow Ohio options.pdf

Critical Importance of Management Leadership in Safety

Scam+Phone+Calls+Continue

Live to Work Another Day

BWC assignments

BWC column

Emergency exits and routes – safety article

10 steps to prepare for an OSHA Inspection  

Preventing Accidents Before They Happen   

PREVENTION Heat Stress Season Reminder 

Changes in the Hazard Communication Standard

Conducting Effective Ongoing Safety Training

Safety – Have To vs Want To

Making_Safety_Committees_Work

Safe Use of Fire Extinguishers

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Please Contact one of our Third Party Administrators for detailed BWC Questions !

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Hunter Consulting Company

Contact Person  Jeff Price (513) 231-0423 –

 

 

Sedgwick – Contact Person  Julia Bowling (513) 218-4062

 

 

 

Each year Ohio employers have the opportunity to participate in BWC’s Group-Experience-Rating Program or Group-Retrospective-Rating Program. While these programs are not required, they do provide you with an opportunity to significantly reduce your workers’ compensation premiums, while increasing your awareness of safety and risk-management strategies.

Workplace safety is an important component of these programs. To succeed in accident prevention, we encourage you to use the many resources available to you. We believe a group-rating program is a partnership that includes you and your employees, your sponsoring organization or third-party administrator (TPA) and BWC. Each has specific roles and responsibilities, all designed to assist in preventing workplace accidents. This information in this PDF Document outlines the safety services expectations you should have as an employer enrolled in a group-rating program.

10 Step Business Plan for Safety

With BWC’s 10-Step Business Plan for Safety employers can focus on implementing a more effective safety plan one step at a time as opposed to getting lost in the “where to start” phase of the big picture. While some of the BWC programs require employers to complete the 10-Step Business Plan for Safety, it can also be a good resource for companies looking to implement a new safety program or simply improve an old one.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5
Step 6 Step 7 Step 8 Step 9 Step 10

Safety Talk Employee Orientation

No business organization can expect good safety performance unless its top management demonstrates that safety is a key organizational value. A leader must communicate the need for safety to all employees. Accountability is one of the key factors to commitment. Every level of your organization needs to be accountable for its safety responsibilities. Make safety orientations for new and transferred employees a part of your organization’s basic safety processes.(Read More)

Safety Council Rebate Program

Thousands of Ohio employers find value and workers’ compensation premium savings by actively participating in their local safety councils. And you can join them. The Huber Heights Chamber has a Risk Management series that meet quarterly. Watch the website for calendar announcements at www.huberheightschamber.com (Read More)

 

Making Safety Committees Work

One of the Nine Key Safety Program Parameters that has been issued by the Division of Safety & Hygiene, for Group Rated Companies, is employee involvement and recognition. It is believed that the more involved employees are in the Safety Program, the more willing they will be to participate in it and follow the guidelines established. I personally believe this. One of the ways to get employees involved is to set up an active Safety Committee.(Read More)

Calculating the OSHA Incident Rate

Each year the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the OSHA Incident Rate, the Lost Time Incident Rate and Cases with job transfer or restrictions, for each NAICS Code (North American Industrial Classification System).(Read More)