On May 6, 2013, an initiative to overhaul the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation system was signed into law. The new rules become effective Feb. 1, 2014. Under the new law, businesses may qualify to opt out from the workers’ compensation system if, among other things, they have an approved written benefit plan and notify their employees of their intent to opt out. Also, a newly created Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) will replace the existing Workers’ Compensation Court in the administration and enforcement of workers’ compensation laws throughout the state. The following provisions are consistent with the rules that are effective until Jan. 31, 2014.
Notice to Employer
Within 30 days
From date of injury or the date the employee receives medical attention.
Claim Filing Requirements
Within two (2) years
Benefits must be claimed within two years of the date of injury, the date of the last medical treatment authorized by the employer or the date of the payment of any compensation or remuneration paid in lieu of compensation.
Employers Report of Accident
Within 10 days receiving a notice of injury
The report must be filed with the Workers’ Compensation Court and with the employer’s insurance carrier. Failure to file will leave employer liable for an administrative violation and subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
Indemnification Waiting Period
Seven (7) calendar days
Oklahoma Court Order 0004 amended the previous three-day rule by increasing waiting requirements to seven days and making benefit payments retroactive if the disability lasts more than 21 days.
State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW)
$801 per week
The new SAWW is effective from November 2012 through October 2013.
Temp. Total Disability (TTD) Max.
$801 per week
Maximum TTD benefits are 100 percent of the SAWW. Generally, an individual’s benefits are 70 percent of his or her average weekly wage (AWW). TTD benefits are available for up to 156 weeks, unless the Workers’ Compensation Court grants a 52-week extension.
Temp. Total Disability Min.
$801 per week (maximum)
Death benefits are usually 70 percent of an employee’s AWW for a surviving spouse and an additional 15 percent for each surviving child. Death benefits cannot exceed the SAWW. Lump sum payments are possible. Benefits end upon marriage or when children reach 18 years of age, unless the child is a student under the age of 23 or is physically or mentally incapable of self-support.
Up to $10,000
If other death benefit payments are made to a surviving spouse and/or surviving children, funeral benefits are payable in an amount not to exceed $10,000.
Permanent Partial Disability
$323 per week (maximum)
This rate remains in effect until August 26, 2015. Actual benefits are
70 percent of the employee's AWW up to $323 and depend on the nature severity of the disability.
Coverage of Minors
Employers should consider future earning capacity.
Coverage of Occupational Disease
Employment must be the major cause of the disease. This determination must be supported by objective medical evidence.
Occupational Hearing Loss
Eligible for 70 percent of the employee's AWW payable over a period that is determined based upon the loss. The eligibility period for deafness from industrial cause, including occupations which are hazardous to hearing, accident or sudden trauma is 330 weeks, and total deafness of one ear from industrial cause, including occupations which are hazardous to hearing, accident or sudden trauma, is 110 weeks.
Outsourcing Human Resources with Professional Employer Organizations
From: Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance
·Professional employer organizations (PEOs) enable companies to outsource the entire management of human resources. · Small and medium-sized companies are the best fit for taking advantage of PEO services. In selecting a PEO, carefully look at the background and capabilities of a number of firms, and thoroughly examine potential service agreements to ensure that they meet your needs. Professional employer organizations (PEO) are specialists in human resources management. They enable companies to subcontract the entire management of human resources, payroll, employee benefits and workers’ compensation. The mounting complexity of employee related issues such as workers’ compensation claims, employee benefits, and payroll tax compliance has made it increasingly difficult for many companies to effectively manage human resources. In the past, human resource functions, such as payroll, have been outsourced on an individual basis, leaving other complex issues to be handled by the company. PEOs help to solve more than just payroll issues by contractually assuming responsibility for the entire human resources management apparatus and providing expertise in all employee-related issues. This allows companies to focus on their bottom line by concentrating on core competencies such as production and operations.
What Specific Services Does a PEO Offer?
PEOs effectively serve as a human resource department for their clients. Although PEOs vary in the services they provide, they generally offer the following services: Human Resources Administration—new hire processing, payroll management, employee handbooks. Employee Benefits—health insurance, retirement plans, job counseling, employee assistance plans and educational benefits. Compliance Management—employment and labor laws, payroll taxes (W-2 and W-3). Worker’s Compensation—review and manage claims, keep clients abreast of changes in laws and regulations. Safety Management—safety inspections, record keeping, safety manuals.
Is a PEO Right for My Company?
Although many PEO firms will claim that their services will work for any size business, they are most effective for small and medium-sized companies. The average number of employees for a PEO client is 15, according to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO). Many PEO clients, however, have 100 or more employees. Because of their size and multiple client base, PEOs can normally provide employee benefits and human resource management on a more cost-effective basis than small individual companies. PEOs offer the further benefit of specializing in all aspects of employment and human resources administration. Busy managers of smaller companies often do not have the time or expertise to master all of the complex issues of personnel management. PEOs can help relieve this burden. In considering a PEO however, business owners should be aware that, while they are relieved of most of the responsibilities of human resource management, they still must share the liabilities. The type of arrangement specified in the contract and the specific state laws can affect the potential liability of the client company. The client may be jointly responsible, for example, if the PEO fails to properly file paperwork in a workers’ compensation claim, or if the PEO makes errors in deducting payroll taxes. Before starting an arrangement with a PEO, the client should fully understand exactly what their rights and responsibilities are in the relationship.
Selecting a PEO
Once you have decided to contract with a professional employer organization, you should carefully consider your options. It is important to contact a number of potential organizations to compare prices and services and make sure that they have the capabilities to meet you needs. The following guidelines will help you to select the right PEO for your company: · Ask for a client list and references and check as many as possible. · Check the firm’s financial background and ask for banking and credit references. Ask the PEO to prove that it pays its own payroll taxes and insurance premiums in a timely manner. · Examine biographies and background of all senior staff. Check to see if the firm has experience and professional training in all of the regulatory and compliance issues related to your human resource functions. · Understand how employee benefits, including health insurance and retirement plans, are administered and funded by the organization and make sure that they fit the needs of your employees. · Carefully examine the service agreement. Make sure that the roles and responsibilities of both the service and client firm are clear. Understand what guarantees are provided. Are there provisions that permit you or the PEO to cancel the contract? · PEOs operate in all 50 states. Many, but not all, states require that they be licensed or registered with the state department of labor, workers’ compensation or similar agency. Check with your state agency to see if the firm you are considering meets all state requirements. =================================================================================
The workplace can be a dangerous place. Employees can get hurt in even the most innocuous of environments and in silent ways that often escape attention. The assembly line worker repeating the same motion, the retailer moving heavy objects, the office worker in front of a computer all day – all share the risk of “musculoskeletal disorders” (MSDs) that develop over time. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, shoulder and elbow problems, and back injuries are among the most common.
Such disorders accounted for one-third of all injuries that caused employee absenteeism in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and required an average recuperation time of 11 days compared to 8 days for all other injuries.1 The highest rate of injury was in businesses with 50-249 employees but smaller and larger companies also had their share.2
The effects of MSDs can be costly, with lost wages and potentially chronic injuries for employees, and absenteeism, lost productivity and workers’ compensation claims for employers. But you can take proactive measures to help minimize MSDs at your workplace.
Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace for the best fit between people and their work environment. Ergonomics can help to reduce employee fatigue and discomfort while making the workplace safer, more productive and more efficient.
If this seems like an expensive proposition, it doesn’t need to be.
“There’s a perception that ergonomics can be costly,” said Judy Sehnal, an ergonomics specialist with The Hartford, “but, in most cases, there are always simple, practical solutions that offer improvements.”
Here’s a lost-cost, common-sense approach to bringing ergonomics into your workplace.
1. Know the risks.
MSDs can be caused by a number of factors, including:
Awkward postures, such as repeatedly reaching above shoulder height, kneeling, squatting, leaning over a counter or twisting while lifting
Holding the same posture for long periods of time
Exerting excessive force to lift heavy objects or push or pull heavy loads
2. Identify the hazards in your workplace.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) website is a great resource on ergonomic risks for specific industries. The best source of insight, though, is within your own workplace. Review any injuries reported in your business’s recent past. Talk to your employees for their perspectives. Survey your workplace with an objective eye: What are your employees doing and how they are they doing it?
“What looks uncomfortable probably is, and could lead to problems later,” Judy said.
She gives the example of a warehouse staffer who needs to repeatedly bend over to pick a shipment up off the floor and then reach overhead to place it on a high shelf. Such awkward postures and repetitive motions, particularly over a long period of time, can be a setup for injury.
3. Problem solve.
With a little creative problem solving and an understanding of ergonomic principles, you and your employees may be able to come up with low-cost solutions for many of the risks you identify. For instance, lifting equipment could help the warehouse employee in our example, but a stack of pallets can also be used to raise the product and reduce bending. Overhead reaching can be reduced by using a lower shelf.
These common-sense recommendations apply to most workplaces:
Provide ample work space for the employee’s range of motion, including leg room
Adjust chairs and desk surfaces to fit the individual
Place heavy or frequently used items on shelving between waist and shoulder height
Stress the importance of good posture at the computer
Promote smart lifting techniques – bending at the knees and lifting with the legs rather than bending over and twisting.
Encourage occasional breaks from repetitive tasks and static postures. Simple stretching exercises can also help.
4. Train your employees.
The success of your program is largely dependent on your employees doing the right thing, so be sure they understand the ergonomic adjustments that apply to them and why they’re important. If they’ve been a part of the solution from the beginning, this part should be easy. Just know that you may need to issue reminders now and then. After all, habits aren’t always easy to change.
5. Encourage early reporting of problems.
Make sure your employees feel comfortable coming forward with symptoms early on. It’s the only way you can make ergonomic adjustments before a problem develops and becomes bigger and more costly – for you and your employee.
6. Continuously look for improvement opportunities.
Monitor the effectiveness of your program and make adjustments as needed. Consider ergonomics when you introduce new equipment to the workplace or make changes to your business operations or procedures. Think continuous improvement.
7. Ask for help.
Ergonomics doesn’t have to be rocket science. There is a lot you and your staff can figure out on your own. However, ergonomic specialists can be a helpful resource. Many insurance companies such offer ergonomic consultations to their policyholders as part of their workers’ compensation or disability insurance contract or on a fee basis.
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