Definition of Accident NC vs VA Workers Comp

Posted on Sunday, September 5th, 2021 at 7:45 am    

Workers Compensation Lawyer Joe Miller here explains the concepts of “accident” as defined by North Carolina vs. Virginia Workers Compensation Law. NC typically requires a “slip, trip or fall,” unless it relates to a spine injury. VA does only requires a specific traumatic incident, which doesn’t necessarily have to include a slip, trip, or fall.
 

Fingertip, Finger, and Hand Injuries in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021 at 10:05 am    

Finger and hand injuries are all too common in the workplace. According to Occupational Health and Safety and data from the US Bureau of Labor – “Of the 286,810 non-fatal occupational injuries to upper extremities in 2018 involving days away from work in private industry, 123,990 involved hands, which is more than 43 percent.”  Human hands have 27 bones and 30 muscles – so there’s a lot that can go wrong.  (more…)

Pain Scale Tests – Part Two

Posted on Friday, May 7th, 2021 at 12:12 pm    

This is the second part of our discussion on the use of pain scale tests in North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation cases. As a reminder, pain scales are a way that doctors and others interested in your workers’ compensation case try to measure your pain. The results of pain scales test can affect your right to continued treatment and other work injury rights, such as pain management treatment.   (more…)

Pain Scale Tests – Part One

Posted on Monday, May 3rd, 2021 at 12:08 pm    

One of the difficulties in workers’ compensation cases is trying to measure the worker’s pain. Many parts of a medical diagnosis are objective. Disorders can be seen on X-Rays, CT scans, and MRIs. Diseases and other medical problems can be seen when doctors read blood test and other lab test results like stress tests. Medical problems can be confirmed when doctors perform surgeries. (more…)

Reasons Workers Treat with Orthopedists

Posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 at 11:06 am    

Orthopedists are medical specialists who help to correct bone and muscle deformities such as fractures. They treat the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedists are surgeons who also provide a range of non-surgical medical care. Workers often need the help of orthopedists when they fall, when a body part is crushed (such as in a forklift accident), when something drops on them such as tools from a scaffold, or due to a host of other reasons. In some cases, there is some overlap as between orthopedists and neurosurgeons, most typically in the case of spinal injuries. This is because in addition to bones, the spinal processes that make up the spinal column contain, surround, and protect the spinal cord, which is the main “trunk” or nerve which provides the body with feeling and function. Then again, there are orthopedists who specialize in spinal surgery.  (more…)

The Benefits of Physical Therapy After a Workplace Accident

Posted on Monday, February 15th, 2021 at 11:04 am    

Most employees who suffer a workplace accident begin their medical treatment with a visit to their local ER. Workers who suffer a spinal cord injury, a traumatic broken injury, compound fractures, and other serious injuries often need immediate surgery. Workers with chronic pain or acute pain often need to visit with a pain management doctor. In addition to treatment by physicians, these workers and most injured workers also need to treat with physical therapists.

One of the aims of physical therapy is to strengthen some parts of your body to minimize the pain in other parts of your body. Experienced physical therapists can workers select the correct exercises for their injuries and help workers manage their pain and recover from their injuries.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is a rehabilitation process in which therapists evaluate your physical abilities and limitations. Physical therapists generally have some medical training but they are not physicians. Physical therapists respond to your concerns by developing a plan of exercise, massages, and other methods to help you recover from your injuries.

In addition to addressing your pain issues, physical therapists focus on your range of movement and your ability to functionally use various parts of your body. Physical therapists also focus on helping you regain strength and endurance. Once there’s a clear plan (which may be adjusted as you work with the therapist) – you may work with the therapist as his/her location. You will likely also be able to do some exercises and activities at your home.

Many therapists include stretching exercises among other exercises. The therapist may also provide hands-on treatments in addition to continually encouraging you to stay with the treatment plan.

How does Physical therapy help injured workers?

According to Medical News Today, physical therapy is used to treat many different types of conditions (many of which may be due to work) including:

Some of the benefits of physical therapy include:

  • Better mobility. Many workers have difficulty with simple tasks. They find it hard to stand, move, walk, or sit – prerequisites for doing most jobs. Some activities like driving may not be possible if, for example, one of your arms or legs is in a cast. The inability to perform routine tasks also affects your home life too.

Physical therapists help you regain movement and functionality through exercises that generally strengthen your joints and muscles and stretch them so you can move more freely. While you’re exercising and receiving treatments, your physical therapist may also help you with assistive devices. For example, a physical therapist may help you walk using a cane or crutches.

Physical therapy is often used when workers suffer chronic pain or repetitive stress injuries. 

  • Helping you avoid surgery. Many employees who suffer workplace accidents understand that their options for managing their pain generally include medications and physical therapy. If these treatments still cause an unbearable amount of pain, the employee will likely review whether there are any surgical solutions to their pain. Surgeries include risks. Most people prefer to avoid surgery if at all possible. One aim of physical therapy is to help reduce your pain so you can live with the exercise and treatment routine instead of having surgery.

According to Medical News Today, other benefits of physical therapy include:

  • Improving your balance
  • Pain management
  • Preventing falls
  • Age-related disorders

Physical therapists may also help with arthritis.

Insurance companies and physical therapy

Most employers understand that workers do need physical therapy to help them recover – so workers can do their job again. Unfortunately, most insurance companies for employers often fail to appreciate just how many sessions an employee needs with a physical therapist to see improvement. Many insurance companies, after a specific number of visits (such as 10 visits) or a specific period of time (such as 3 months) will request that the worker undergo a defense independent medical examination (IME). Usually, the doctor who conducts the IME is a company doctor who will quickly say that your injuries have healed well enough that you should be able to return to work.

Experienced workers’ compensation lawyers help injured workers who need continual physical therapy when employers try to terminate their medical care and force them back to work – in two ways.

  • First, we advise workers on what to expect at the IME. For example, we review which questions are likely to be asked and what physical tests the physician is likely to conduct
  • Second, we work with your authorized treating physician. Normally, a doctor recommends that you receive physical therapy. We show your physician the report from the doctor who conducts the IME. Often, your doctor can point out the flaws in the medical report. Often, your doctor will be able to explain why you still need to treat with your physical therapist. In any event, both the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission and the North Carolina Industrial Commission typically favor the reports of your treating doctor over the defense IME doctor. 

In some cases, your physician may allow you to return to work – but with restrictions. These restrictions can include such things as not being required to lift items that weigh more than 20 pounds. The restrictions may also be conditioned on your right to continue your physical therapy visits.

One of the things that can ruin a workers’ comp case is where an injured worker treat his or her  prescribed physical therapy in a casual way, by missing physical therapy appointments and failing to re-schedule. This is a huge mistake and could lead to an Application to Terminate Benefits in Virginia or a Form 24 in North Carolina from the defense due to your failure to follow your doctor’s medical treatment plan and that could mean the end of your case.  Accordingly, please make sure you attend all of your PT appointments to the best of your ability. 

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller has been fighting for injured workers for 31 years. He’s helped thousands of employees obtain full recoveries including payment of the medical bills they need to recover. In many of these cases, the workers need to treat with a physical therapist. To discuss your work injury claim with a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to schedule an appointment. 

Employees in North Carolina and Virginia can also now fill out our New Electronic Case Review. The link is a new way of communicating with clients that we’re offering – to allow workers to contact us remotely during the pandemic.

What is Maximum Medical Improvement?

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 at 9:52 am    

When you’ve been hurt at work, there comes a time when continuing to treat with your doctors doesn’t improve your medical condition. When additional medical treatments won’t improve your medical condition and the healing process is stopped – you’ve reached the point of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). 

This does not mean that you no longer require medical treatment such as pain management. It just means that according to the opinions of your doctors, you are unlikely to improve your permanent outlook with additional treatment. 

Workers have the right to get medical treatment for any injuries they suffer due to a workplace accident. Most workers start with a visit to an emergency room doctor or they see a physician designated by the workers compensation insurance company, or in some cases, their personal physician. Depending on the type of injury and the severity of the injury, injured workers may need surgery. They often need to see a specialist; maybe several specialists to address their work injuries.  Injured employees often treat with physical therapists, occupational therapists, and/or rehabilitation therapists. Some workers also need to see a psychologist and/or psychiatrist.

Employees who are injured at work who suffer a compensable claim have every right to try to maximize their health and minimize the consequences of their injury at work. During the time they are working to improve their health, they are entitled to have the insurance company for the employer pay their medical bills and generally, 2/3rds of their average weekly wages for the time their authorized physician holds them out of work or for a maximum of up to 500 weeks.  Some injuries completely heal with time – such as many minor fractures. Other injuries never completely heal and may require the insertion of hardware or other drastic methods of repair. 

Maximum medical improvement is an important milestone in an injured worker’s case for a number of reasons: 

  1. It enables your doctor to refer you for a Functional Capacity Examination to determine whether you have any permanent, physical restrictions due to your injuries; 
  2. It enables your doctor to refer you for a Functional Capacity Examination to determine whether you have any permanent partial impairment in any specific body parts you may have injured in your accident;
  3. It is generally a signal to all parties that a potential settlement may be on the horizon; 
  4. It is generally a signal to the defense that they may want to engage you in a program of vocational rehabilitation after the results of your FCE come in. 

MMI evaluations

When workers reach MMI, several evaluations need to take place.

  • The first evaluation is whether you have reached the point of MMI. Often employers will argue that you’ve reached MMI in order to force an early settlement or try and force you back to work or to try to cut off your right to your 2/3rds share of your average weekly wages. You have the right to challenge any claim you’ve reached MMI if you still think medical treatment can improve your health. Normally, the doctor who is treating you makes the initial determination of when you’ve reached MMI. 
  • The treating doctor, in some cases, may be a “company doctor” meaning  he/she does have some bias towards getting you back to work per the insurance company’s wishes. 
  • In North Carolina, if you disagree with a determination that you’ve reached MMI, you have the right (with the help of an experienced North Carolina compensation lawyer) request an independent medical examination (IME). The IME is a medical review done by another physician of your choice. Unfortunately, there are no such provisions in Virginia; however, if you can afford to see a different physician, you can pay for the examination yourself. 
  • After the MMI determination by your physician, the second step is usually for that physician to order a Function Capacity Examination (FCE) by a licensed physical therapist’s office equipped for such exams. This evaluation is to determine if you can return to work with workplace restrictions. A typical workplace restriction is that you can work but you can’t lift or move any objects that weigh more than 20 pounds. 
  • After the FCE occurs, some employers may decide to adjust or accommodate your work routine so you can work with these restrictions. This way, you can earn your salary; however, this accommodation does not come without risks. Note that If the employer reduces your pay because of the workplace restrictions, you should be able to continue to receive pay loss benefits – but the benefits are adjusted to reflect 2/3rds of the difference in pay between your pre-injury wages and your new wages. 
  • If the employer doesn’t have a job for you that you can do based on your work restrictions, then you can continue to receive your 2/3rds per week disability payments. In Virginia, if you are not under an Award for benefits, or if your claim in in North Carolina, if your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, you must look for a job you can do with those restrictions. If you are under an Award in Virginia, then you are under no obligation to look for other work. The burden shifts to the employer in cases of an Award to find you work and if they choose to do so, this is done via vocational rehabilitation. 
  • Oftentimes, the FCE also includes a portion of the exam which is designed to decide whether you are eligible for permanent partial disability or permanent partial impairment (PPI) benefits. When you’ve reached MMI, the treating doctor, after reviewing this portion of the FCE report, will normally also assign an injured worker a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) or Impairment rating (PPI). Here, the physical therapist is performing tests on your injured body part to determine if you there exists a permanent disability in the injured body part. Based on that evaluation, the physical therapist— and later your doctor– will assign a percentage rating to that disability (called an impairment rating). 

 

An example of a permanent partial disability/impairment is the loss of function of a hand. An impairment rating is an assignment of the severity of that loss of hand such as 90%. This means you’ve lost 90% of the function of your hand. If you are entitled to permanent disability benefits, the amount of the benefits (a specific number of weeks such as the maximum of 200 weeks for the hand– what North Carolina law permits) is multiplied by the impairment rating. So, if you would normally be entitled to 200 weeks for a permanent disability and you have a 90% impairment rating, you will be entitled to 90% of 200 – or 180 weeks. Note that this is NOT in addition to any weeks you remain out of work. 

  • After you have reached MMI and these evaluations occur is typically a good time to determine whether you want to consider a lump sum settlement. If you are unable to return to your former job and so far you are unable to find alternate employment or the insurance company has not been able to find any for you, then you have the potential for a maximum of 500 weeks of payments ahead of you. These potential future weeks, along with the value of the medical side of your claim can then form the basis of a lump-sum settlement demand by your attorney. 

If, on the other hand, you have returned to work at a job at or higher than your pre-injury wages, and you have been determined to have a permanent partial disability and an impairment rating, then the number of weeks as determined by that percentage, plus your future potential medical treatment would be the basis of your attorney considering and possibly negotiating a lump-sum settlement (called a clincher agreement in North Carolina). In a lump-sum settlement, you’re a negotiated portion of what potentially is due to you in the future (the 2/3rds’ wages and medical bills) in one payment to you, so you control the money. The risk, of course, is that there is no do-over if your medical bills are more than you anticipated. On the other side, the risk to the insurance company is that you will, in fact, get better, require little further treatment,  and find a good job on your own, in which case would not have ended up paying you what they paid out in settlement. 

 

An experienced work injury lawyer will advise you about the pros and cons of a lump-sum settlement in your particular circumstance. 

It’s important to understand that you are still entitled to seek medical help – after you reach MMI – and to have the employer pay for that medical care. The key requirement is that the medical care must be needed to help ensure your medical condition doesn’t worsen. Many patients, for example, who have chronic back pain due to their workplace injury need pain management or orthopedic maintenance so their back pain doesn’t get worse.

You should also understand that if you are in an accepted claim or under an Award, the burden to switch from temporary total disability benefits to permanent partial disability benefits, or from temporary total disability benefits to a termination of benefits, is on the employer.

Talk with a seasoned North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer today

North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. understands that many employers try to push workers to return to work before they’re healthy. He works with your doctors and independent doctors to help assess your medical difficulties and concerns. When you reach maximum medical improvement, he also works to assist your doctors in determining whether you have a permanent partial or full disability as you look to your future.  To discuss your worker’s compensation case, call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment. You can also fill out our New Electronic Case Review. It’s a new way we’re offering so workers can contact us remotely.

More Information on Clincher Agreements

Posted on Thursday, August 1st, 2019 at 3:23 pm    

Why employees consider a clincher agreement?

For many workers, once it becomes clear that they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) (that no further treatments will improve their health), it makes sense to start thinking about their long-term position. Some of the reasons workers consider lump-sum payments are:

  • Plain and simple – the worker gets to control the money.
  • The worker can’t rely on the 2/3rds of your wage weekly checks, which only come once per week. It is more advantageous to have a lump sum, so the funds can be invested, or used for a business, so that the family can be taken care of, and for other reasons personal to the worker.
  • If the injured worker dies at any point, his or her checks will stop and so will all future, potential medical treatment. A settlement usually converts a significant future portion of the future checks and medical treatment the employee would receive to a lump sum of cash, which cash can be saved, invested, and passed on to one’s heirs. 

The disadvantages of a clincher agreement

  • If your condition gets worse than you expected, you can’t go back and ask for additional medical benefits. This is why it is critical that you and your attorney work with your doctors to fully understand your medical prognosis.
  • If you are out of work and unable to obtain an alternate job within your restrictions, you may run out of the clincher money. 

The amount you receive will be discounted to reflect the idea that the lump sum can earn interest over the time you normally would have waited to get your payments.

If, as we’ve pointed out before, you are receiving any unemployment compensation pay, you will lose the right to claim those benefits.

How is the amount of the lump sum payment determined?

The answer depends on your type of injuries. The basic types of injury categories in North Carolina are:

  • Permanent and Total Disability. This type of settlement is reserved for workers where it is clear you will never be able to return to work due to:

 

    • Your injuries from a workplace accident
    • An occupational disease
    • Your combination of skills, ages, and injuries means you can never expect to work again even if you are retrained
    • You have one of the categories of injuries that North Carolina considers to be permanently disabling, brain damage, paraplegia, or quadriplegia.

 

If all these criteria are met, you will be entitled to checks of 2/3rds of your average weekly wage for the remainder of your life.  

    •  Extended Compensation Application for extended compensation at 425 weeks.  This is a separate category of injury where your injuries are so severe that you have lost your entire residual capacity to work. This can come from any type of injury, but you must prove that you cannot work and you cannot file for extended compensation until you reach 425 weeks of compensation. If granted, the Industrial Commission may grant you benefits beyond the typical limit of 500 weeks for your weekly checks. That being said, even if granted, the defendants may, from time to time, challenge your ongoing rights to receive benefits beyond the 500 weeks, by forcing you to again prove that you remain disabled.
    •  Temporary Total Disability. For most employees, workers who are placed in this category are entitled to up to 2/3rds of the average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks. This type of settlement commonly entered by workers who have the ability to engage in some kind of work, but are unable to return to their pre-injury job.  Workers must prove that they are unable to find suitable work with these restrictions may seek a clincher agreement.

 

  • Permanent Partial Disability Settlements, or ‘ratings only’ settlements. This category is for employees who can return to work but not the same job or same pay as before the accident or occupational illness. The amount of your weekly benefits is based on an impairment rating and your type of injury.

 

 

  • Partial Incapacity Settlements. Some workers who achieve maximum medical improvement can return to work but at a lower pay. They are generally entitled to the 2/3rds of the difference between the lower current pay and higher pre-accident or pre-occupational disease pay. Most workers, except those with very old claims, are entitled to this sum for up to 500 weeks.

 

  • Death Benefits to Survivors. If a worker dies, the spouse and/or other relatives may be entitled to long-term benefits which can be paid in a lump sum. An experienced work injury lawyer can explain what benefits are allowed including the costs of the funeral and who is entitled to the benefits.

How are future medical bills addressed in a clincher agreement?

 

It is typically not advisable for a worker to settle his or her workers’ compensation claim if the worker has not reached maximum medical improvement. Additional surgeries, treatments, and therapies may improve your condition. They can be quite expensive. You shouldn’t forfeit the right to get as healthy as you can by having the employer and insurance company pay for that treatment. Then again, each and every case is different. 

You may feel, for instance, that your skill set will enable you to obtain an alternate job where you can find health insurance which will likely cover future costs, in which case, it may make sense for you to examine settlement. 

Once workers have achieved their maximum health, some may not need additional medical care – for example, if they broke a bone and the bone has healed. Many workers, however, will need continuing health care to prevent their condition from getting worse. This is especially critical for workers with occupational diseases which often worsen with time. Workers with chronic injuries or other physical injuries may need constant help. If a worker needs a prosthetic, the prosthetic may wear out with time. The cost of medications must be part of the overall clincher settlement agreement.

There is always some risk in settling your case if you need more medical care. An experienced workers comp attorney can help you make an estimate as to what your future medical bills will be.

In any event, once it is determined that a full and final settlement of your case may be advantageous, your attorney will help calculate your future medical costs related to your injury by first estimating our life expectancy. This can be done by relying on certain statutes in North Carolina that actually provide the average life expectancies for both males and females each year across the State. 

Are there other issues to consider in a worker’s compensation clincher agreement?

One complicated problem is how your Medicare benefits and Social Security benefits are figured since many workers may be eligible for both Medicare and workers’ compensation benefits if they have a lifetime disability or were older when they first applied for work injury benefits. This is typically handled through something called a Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement or MSA. Basically, if you are a current Medicare recipient or if you are on Social Security Disability, you cannot settle your workers compensation claim without taking into account Medicare’s interests. 

Also, if you’re going through a divorce, you’ll need to review your marital rights with a family lawyer.

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for injured workers in North Carolina and Virginia for more than 30 years. He is highly respected by his legal peers and former clients. He’ll fight to get you every dollar you deserve. He’ll contest any effort by the employer to terminate or reduce your benefits. Call attorney Joe Miller today at 888-694-1671. or use my contact form to schedule an appointment. 

 

New Workplace Safety Applications for Wearable Technology

Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2019 at 1:28 pm    

In a previous article, we discussed some of the overall pros and cons of wearing workplace technology. In this article, we address some of the specifics.

According to Lanier Upshaw, a company that focuses on business risk, many businesses are exploring how wearable workplace technology can help employers and employees reduce the number of workplace accidents and the severity of workplace injuries. In addition to wearable technology, mobile applications, and sensors are becoming part and parcel of future workplace safety strategies.

Wearable technology is being used in many different professions and industry sectors including healthcare, police, firefighting, construction, and manufacturing.

Some of the benefits that makers of these wearable technologies say can help workers include:

  • Warnings. The technology can warn employees that noise levels are excessive which can harm an employee’s hearing, the temperature is too hot or too cold which can directly affect a person’s health, and the existence of chemical toxins. Toxins that are ingested can cause breathing and respiratory problems. Toxins that come in touch with the skin can cause itching, burns, and infections.
  • Body movement. Wearables can help identify when a worker isn’t lifting an item properly which can place excess strain on the back and spine. Back and spine injuries can lead to a lifetime of chronic pain.
  • Collecting data. Wearable technology devices use sensors to collect lots of data about work performance. The data can be analyzed to focus on increasing productivity while at the same time helping the worker avoid or reduce the risk of injury. The data can be used, for example, to help design ergonomic equipment and workplace environments that place fewer stresses on the body.

Various types of wearable technology

Some wearable technology is already helping workers in the following ways:

  • Warehouses are using wearable technology, which is worn on the wrist or arm, that gives workers an interface to managers and supervisors to discuss any issues that arise
  • Wearable technology can include barcode scanners to let workers minimize the time and stress of handwriting product and delivery information
  • In the manufacturing sector, workers wear headsets that let them communicate while keeping their hands-free to hold on to work with tools and equipment. Wristbands with software can also enable hands-free communication
  • Backpacks with sensors can include cameras that can scan and capture any environment. These devices can be useful in the construction arena where the landscape continually changes as the work is completed
  • Some workers are wearing smart glasses that have microprocessor and optics to get a 3-dimenisional view of an area
  • Sunglasses and smart-glasses can be used for mobile computing, video and photo recording, data collection, and “waveguide optics.”
  • Helmet clips with sensors can help workers and supervisors increase their knowledge of whether there are dangerous gases, the worker’s locations, and what the vital signs of the worker are
  • Footbeds with sophisticated technology are being used to collect biomechanical and physical data which can reduce the risk of “musculoskeletal injuries”
  • Smart wearable technology can help determine whether a worker is getting tired and needs a rest break or should even stop working until they get enough sleep. This can be especially useful for truck drivers who can easily get fatigued if they push their limits – by driving too many hours without getting proper rest. In one example, wearers have a “smart cap,” which alerts a remote operator to the fatigue. The remote operator then sends an alarm to the wearer. These devices detect brain signals through tiny EEG sensors.
  • Some companies have their workers wear “smart compression suits” to track the worker’s body movements. In some industries where the worker works in dangerous conditions, this technology can be valuable
  • There are holographic devices which give the user a better field of vision by including high-definition holograms to increase their understanding of the view around them.
  • There are devices which expand the viewing perspective so that workers can see things at a 75-degree angle. These devices even include earbuds for a broader audio experience.
  • Some devices can be used to examine the wearer’s perspiration level – specifically, the amount of alcohol in the perspiration
  • Workers who work in mine are using “wearable devices for geolocating personnel and equipment”
  • Shirts can help keep surgeons, pilots, firefighters and others cool through the use of “portable CO2 tanks.” These devices can help reduce the risk of death and heat stroke when the weather gets too hot.
  • Watches can transmit safety alerts
  • Glasses are being combined with Bluetooth technology to transmit emails and other notifications.
  • Bracelets with GPS systems can send data about a worker’s location to a supervisor
  • Some devices have point-of-view devices attached to helmets, headgear, and collars. This technology can help law enforcement be more aware of dangerous situations

There are concerns about all this wearable technology. There are privacy and security issues. Employees should have the right to raise questions about their effectiveness. Are they really helping the worker be safer or are they just being used to help a business make a profit or worse yet, spy on their employees?

Is the focus on protecting the worker or on gather data? There needs to be a balance between helping the employee and helping the company, but in all cases, the safety and security of the worker should always be the #1 priority. The wearable technology may improve worker morale but it may also inhibit worker morale because the devices can be cumbersome. Workers may also tend to over-rely on the sensors instead of their own instincts.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of attorney Joe Miller Esq., we understand that the workplace environment is constantly changing. While we appreciate devices that can help improve worker safety, when injuries happen (for any reason), we demand that employers and their insurance company take care of their workers. This includes making timely payments for medical expenses and wage benefits. We’ve helped thousands of employees get their full workers’ compensation benefits.  For help with your Virginia or North Carolina workers’ compensation case, call us today. Initial appointments are free. You can reach attorney Joe Miller at 1-(888) 694-1671 or by completing my contact form.

Wearable Technology and Workplace Safety

Posted on Friday, April 19th, 2019 at 3:10 pm    

New technology is helping workers avoid work-related injuries in many ways. Companies should always be on the lookout for ways to improve worker safety. They should understand and follow the latest guidelines and regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They should keep current with latest safety standards.

Businesses should know that providing workers with the best tools possible, the best equipment possible, and the best education possible can help reduce how often work injuries occur. The best way to avoid a work injury claim is to avoid the accident in the first place. When accidents at work do happen, workers should speak with experienced workers’ compensation lawyers to get the best advice possible.

The positives

Most new technology has some computer component and some data component. The wearable technology gathers the data by reading relevant responses from the worker who wears the technology. This new type of technology is often good at measuring things such as fatigue, work-related stress, ergonomic issues, proximity to danger, and other factors.

The overall goal of the technology is two-fold. The first is to improve the safety for the individual worker. The second is to improve the safety of the whole workplace organization.

According to Businessinsurance.com, these are some example of the desired benefits of wearable technology:

  • “Caterpillar Inc. demonstrated a solution it created to reduce accidents involving collisions between heavy machinery and construction personnel. Using a small beacon that fits inside a hardhat and a receiver mounted in the cab of a vehicle or machine, the solution can detect when a worker is dangerously close to the equipment and alert the driver with an alarm.”
  • Two analysts explained how new technology could be used in construction sites, one of the leading industry sectors for workplace accident claims. The new technology would give supervisors the ability to warn workers, through visual and audible alarms to the device they’re wearing – to stay away from certain unsafe areas. The technology was “a worker positioning system using wireless beacons placed around the room and safety vests outfitted with transmitters that allowed software to track their movements throughout the aisles and among audience members in real time.”
  • The analysts touted other wearable devices that could alert supervisors to accidents. Quicker response times could prevent harm to other workers and help the injured worker get more timely help. Workers could be notified when an evacuation of a dangerous site was necessary.

Wearable technology benefits typically, according to the BusinessInsruance.com article, the following three goals:

  • Collect data about the worker on certain activities such as bending and then comparing it to a benchmark or threshold. The hard part is determining the benchmarks and thresholds.
  • Change the worker’s individual behavior. Much of the analysis of this type of benefit has shown that it doesn’t help workers that much. In fact, in one study at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, an experiment was done to determine if wearable devices that monitored diet and physical activity helped or hurt with weight loss. The study actually found that the people who didn’t wear the devices lost more weight than those with the devices. The analysts in the article concluded that behavior is affected more by “organizational culture and systems that try to reinforce desired behaviors and discourage deviations.
  • Make changes to organizational behavior, “such as changing workflows or processes to make work safer or more efficient.”

The negatives

There are concerns with wearable technology. Most wearable technology focuses on collecting data about a worker’s performance. Some of the concerns raised by those who oppose these technologies include:

  • A lack of privacy. The collection of large amounts of data can affect the psyche and well-being of the workers. The information gathered may be used against the worker in various ways such as in the evaluation of the worker’s job performance. The worker’s privacy is impacted.
  • An improper focus. Focusing on the data often means missing many other parts of job performance. Doing a job well depends on experience, ambition, creativity, imagination, an ability to be a team player, and many other factors. Focusing on just physical and emotional responses can miss some of these crucial factors. Often, there are much better, more efficient, and more creative ways to improve worker safety and worker job performance.
  • Digital breaches. Some transfer of information might violate various laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which regulates access to medical health records.
  • A waste of time. All of the data collection isn’t worth the time to collect it if there’s no ability in the technology to assess and evaluate the data.

Wearable technologies should focus on things that can’t normally be evaluated by the human eye or human experience. How much bending a worker is doing can usually be assessed by just looking at the worker. Technology can be useful, for example, in determining (through a glove with sensors) how much “force a worker uses” while gripping.

General guidelines

Education matters. Workers should be told more than just how to use the technology. They should understand how the technology is being used to make for a safer and better work environment.

Employers tend to like wearable devices because the devices may help reduce their premiums while also helping to avoid workplace accidents. Employees may like them if they really help keep them safer.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of lawyer Joe Miller Esq., we’ve helped thousands of injured workers get justice. We fight to get employees all the benefits they deserve including payment of all their medical bills and their lost wages. We understand that holding employers accountable for workplace injuries is one way to force employers to focus more on workplace safety. For help with your Virginia or North Carolina workers’ compensation claim, call attorney Joe Miller at 1-(888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form to schedule a free appointment. Initial consultations are free.

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