News for Small Business - April 2006

News

NFIB and L&I join forces to fight accidents

Washington’s 15,000 small-business members of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) now have a non-threatening way to get advice on how to build and maintain a safe workplace, and the chance to get a break on L&I safety inspections.

Participating businesses go through a safety education and self-audit process, then get their safety program recognized through a consultation and audit from L&I or the Evergreen Safety Council, a non-profit safety organization serving Northwest businesses.

Carolyn Logue of NFIB and L&I health and safety chief Steve Cant sign the safety alliance agreement.Carolyn Logue of NFIB and L&I health and safety chief Steve Cant sign the safety alliance agreement that can reduce safety inspections for participating businesses.

Businesses that complete this process do not receive routine, scheduled enforcement inspections from L&I for a 12-month period, and can renew for another 12-month period with another consultation and audit. L&I will still inspect the site if a serious work-related injury or fatality occurs, or if a worker complains to L&I about a safety problem.

NFIB has a similar agreement with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and with two other states, Arizona and Ohio, but Washington’s is the first that includes a “safe harbor” for participating members from immediate penalties.

“L&I wants to help small-business owners build a safe and productive workplace,” said Steve Cant, who leads Washington’s workplace safety and health program. “By joining forces with NFIB, we make it easier for small businesses to work safely, and can give them credit for a job well done.”

“This alliance will help educate us and allow us to self-audit without the concern and time-consuming nature of an audit by WISHA,” said Scottie Marable, owner of Bellevue-based Pinnacle Marketing and chairwoman of the 15,000-member NFIB/Washington Leadership Council. “Knowing that we now have time to fix any problems without being penalized right away makes good business sense. I truly appreciate the Department of Labor & Industries’ willingness to join in helping small businesses do the best job we can to prevent and reduce accidents on the job."

L&I recently completed a similar agreement with the Washington Farm Bureau which is available to that organization’s 35,000 members.

Want to know more?


Final decision on outdoor heat stress coming late April

(Updated April 13, 2006, with new information.)

A final decision will be made in late April on what approach to take to address the problem of heat-related illness. We've had extensive meetings with stakeholders on how to best protect workers and we've received really good feedback from business organizations, labor organizations and individuals.


We are committed to an educational campaign to raise awareness on how to prevent heat-related illness and how to recognize the symptoms.

Stay tuned to next month’s newsletter for an update.


Tools to Save Time and Money

Contractors: Don't get stuck paying your subcontractor's workers' compensation bill

If you use a subcontractor who doesn't’t pay their workers’ compensation premiums, you could end up with the bill. Don’t let that happen. Use L&I’s Verify Workers’ Compensation Premiums online service to learn whether your subcontractors are keeping up on their workers’ compensation.

But how will you know if they stop paying while they’re working for you? No problem. You can ask L&I to notify you if the subcontractor gets behind in paying premiums or becomes unregistered or unlicensed during the next year. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Go to www.PremiumStatus.LNI.wa.gov. Under “Protect Yourself,” click on Verify Workers’ Comp Premium Status.
  2. Follow the instructions to conduct a search.
  3. If you confirm that the subcontractor is in good standing, fill out the tracking request form so you can be notified if that subcontractor’s status changes.

Select this link www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/262-262-000.pdf to learn more about protecting yourself from liability for a subcontractor’s unpaid premiums.


Featured L&I web page

Gimme a break! Get fast information on employee breaks and meal periods

When do you have to give your workers a break? And what about all of those questions your workers ask you when you do give them a break:
• Can I take several "mini" breaks instead of a 10 minute break?
• What am I allowed to do during a rest break?
• Can I smoke while on break?
• Can an employer require workers to stay at the workplace building or site during rest breaks and meal times?

These questions and more are answered on the L&I web site at: www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Wages/HoursBreaks/Breaks.

Need more help? Call L&I toll-free at 1-866-219-7321.


Focus On: Tracking down problem claims

What’s that “Miscellaneous” charge on my workers’ compensation bill?

Last November, L&I started running every open workplace-injury claim through software that helps detect workers’ compensation fraud, and adding a charge to employers' workers' compensation bills in the "Miscellaneous" category to cover the cost.

This software, developed and operated by Fair Isaac Corp., is similar to a popular fraud-fighting tool for private-industry insurance companies and firms that issue bank cards. L&I uses Fair Issac to scan every open workplace-injury claim at least once, and each month scans any open claim in which a worker is receiving partial wage replacement (known as “time-loss” payments). An employer is charged only once per claim for Fair Issac services, at $16.26 each, no matter how many times the software scans that claim.

The software screens claims based on more than 100 criteria, looking for irregularities such as delays between doctor’s appointments and care that is inconsistent with the injury. Claims scoring high are given special attention by claim management staff. Questionable claims are turned over to L&I fraud investigators.

“Detecting fraud early and preventing it is one of our top priorities,” said L&I Director Gary Weeks. “This software gives us a cost-effective way of targeting our anti-fraud effort so that we identify and close a fraudulent claim before we’ve paid out thousands of dollars in benefits.”


Small Business Contact at L&I:

Ron Langley
Small Business Liaison
Phone: 360-902-4205
Fax: 360-902-5420
E-mail: SmallBusiness@LNI.wa.gov

Want to subscribe to L&I News for Small Business? Contact Ron via the contact information listed above.

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