News for Small Business - March 2006

News

New fraud fighters work evenings and weekends

L&I is canvassing the state for contractors and electricians who are ignoring registration and licensing laws and gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

The three contractor-compliance inspectors will move throughout the state, but concentrate on the Interstate 5 corridor between Bellingham and Vancouver. Their primary focus will be finding unregistered contractors.

The three electrical compliance officers will work with local inspectors and city jurisdictions to find unlicensed electrical contractors, uncertified electricians and those who fail to obtain required electrical permits.

All six will make referrals to other L&I programs for violations of industrial-insurance and job-safety laws.

L&I fraud manager Carl Hammersburg said inspectors are much more effective when they’re following up on a solid lead. If you see unregistered contractors or unlicensed electricians on a job site, call L&I’s fraud hotline at 1-888-811-5974.

Construction safety program members get a break from L&I

Imagine a health and safety inspector from the Department of Labor & Industries spending half as much time on one of your job sites as he or she did the last time — or maybe bypassing your site altogether.

It can happen.

When you’re a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington Safety Alliance or the Associated General Contractors of Washington Safety Team, you meet standards that give L&I inspectors more confidence that you have an effective safety program up and running on your site. Show the L&I inspector your safety program credentials and you will get what’s called a “focused inspection,” which generally takes half as much time to complete (2-3 hours) as would a full inspection.

The “Focused Inspections” program, established last May, allows an L&I inspector to limit a job-site safety and health inspection on a participating contractor’s site. The safety inspection would be limited to the four most common major hazards — fall protection, electrocution, overhead hazards, and trenching and excavation — while the health inspection would be limited to control of respiratory hazards, and appropriate use of respirators and noise protection.

Lorne Sanford, head of L&I safety and health compliance, said in some cases an inspector may choose to bypass a safety program member. “When an inspector knows that you’re in an ABC or AGC safety program and has already inspected you for the common major hazards, it makes more sense for the inspector to spend time at someone else’s site,” he said.

Sanford said safety program membership does not exempt a contractor from all inspections. He said L&I will still look into complaints about any site or investigate significant hazards found by an inspector, and will issue a citation if appropriate.

To join the ABC Western Washington Safety Alliance, contact Ann Jarvis at 425-646-8000 or 800-640-7789 or see information online at www.abcwestwa.org/.

To join the AGC Washington Safety Team, call Stori Sanders at 206-284-0061 or see information online at www.agcwa.com/public/Safety/safety_team.asp.

L&I moving toward common sense emergency rule on heat stress

A man standing in the hot sun.L&I is aiming to have an emergency rule covering outdoor heat stress in place by June, but is heeding advice from business groups that the rule must be practical to carry out on job sites.

L&I managers have met twice so far this year with business and labor representatives on the rule, which would help protect workers from injury and death related to heat stress during Washington’s warmer summer months. They discussed the emergency rule and how to keep business and labor leaders involved, and agreed that an education and information campaign is needed.

The agency is sorting through more than 4,000 comments on its draft concept for a rule and is making adjustments based on those comments.

The current schedule for developing the emergency rule, information campaign, and permanent rule:

  • March and April - Redraft and finalize the emergency rule while beginning work on the education and information materials and campaign.
  • April – Launch the education and information campaign in preparation for the hotter summer months.
  • June – Adopt emergency rule while continuing to work on a permanent rule.

To join L&I’s education and information campaign or to be on a distribution list for information, contact Ken Mettler, WISHA Outreach Manager, at mett253@lLNI.wa.gov or by phone at 360-902-6307.

L&I closes Okanogan and Walla Walla offices

A computer kiosk that allows direct access to L&I's online services and other government sites.

L&I closed its Okanogan and Walla Walla offices in January and is now helping local customers to keep doing business with us conveniently. The two offices cost more than $150,000 per year to maintain while serving only a small number of customers each day.


Local electrical and contractor-compliance inspectors are still working in Okanogan and Walla Walla. You can find them by calling the following numbers:


Okanogan
Electrical: Earl Lathrop 509-997-3080; Dan Stanley 509-997-2262
Contractor Compliance/FAS: Wayne Keith 509-826-7074
WISHA Compliance: Curtis Cargile 509-422-1373
Vocational Services: Thomas Hartman 509-422-1580


Walla Walla
Electrical: Steve Newhouse 509-525-1472; Tony Mosbrucker 509-526-4019
Collections: Mark Mayer 509-529-5493


For other L&I services in Okanogan or Walla Walla, you can use L&I’s web site (www.LNI.wa.gov) either at your home or business, or at computer kiosks at the following locations:


• Port of Walla Walla Bldg., 310 A St.
• Okanogan City Hall, 120 Third Ave. N.
• Oroville City Hall, 1308 Ironwood

You can also get direct help from the nearest L&I office by calling toll-free:


E.Wenatchee: 800-292-5920
Moses Lake: 800-574-2285
Kennewick: 800-547-9411
Yakima: 800-354-5423

 

Tools to Save Time and Money

New cards put you in your worker’s wallet at a workplace accident scene

Wallet card sample (front and back)When one of your workers has, or sees, a workplace accident, you want to know right away. Do they know who to call?

Let them know with free wallet cards from L&I that tell a worker about his or her responsibility to promptly report a workplace injury to you, the employer. On the back of the card is a place for employers to fill in the name and phone number of the person at work who should be contacted.

Why does this matter? When employers learn quickly about a workers’ compensation claim, they can help control costs by offering light-duty work or keeping the worker on salary, and help encourage their employee to return to work as soon as medically possible. Claim costs directly affect the amount an employer must pay in workers’ compensation premiums.

When downloading the cards from the web site, you can enter your contact information online and print the cards in whatever amount you need. Just go to www.WalletCards.LNI.wa.gov.

Printed cards also can be ordered from L&I by faxing the L&I warehouse at 360-902-4525 or email whsemail@lni.wa.gov. The wallet card form numbers are F200-010-000 (English), F200-010-999 (Spanish). There are eight cards on each page. When ordering the cards, please include your name, address, a telephone number, the form number for the cards and the quantity you need.

 

Featured L&I web page

You’ve got to see this!
Read actual workers’ compensation claim documents online

If you’re an employer with a workers’ compensation account, you can use the L&I Claim and Account Center to keep track of your account and your active or recent claims. Plus, you now can use the system to view documents from your claim so that you know exactly what the doctor, claim manager and injured worker are saying. No more requesting documents and waiting for them to arrive while your costs grow and you lose touch with your injured worker.

Get these questions answered on the Claim and Account Center site:

  • Has the claim been accepted?
  • Did L&I receive my Report of Accident?
  • Who is the claim manager?
  • Have time-loss payments been approved?
  • What are my rates?
  • What are my risk classifications?

Other things you can do on the Claim and Account Center:

  • Complete and send an Employer’s Report of Accident
  • Skip phone-tag frustrations by sending a secure message to the claim manager
  • Download retro reports and check on your retro account status

Sign up for the Claim and Account Center at www.ClaimInfo.LNI.wa.gov.

 

Focus On: Preferred Worker Program

Get a good worker and save money if the situation is right

It’s often hard to find good help these days. What if you could find a good worker and get a break on worker’s compensation premiums and not pay any claim costs on that employee for three years?

In the past 15 years, employers have hired more than 13,000 workers through L&I’s Preferred Worker program, which finds jobs for injured workers who can return to work but have restrictions that don’t allow them to return to their old jobs.

Everyone wins. If you have a job that meets a worker’s needs, you can hire the worker and pay only a small portion of the typical workers’ compensation premium for that worker for 36 months. Plus, your workers’ compensation rates will not be affected by any claim filed by that worker during that 36-month period, regardless of whether the claim is related to their previous injury or not.

The program usually works well for all parties as long as the employer is careful to follow the rules for hiring a preferred worker:

  • The worker must have a valid preferred worker certificate from L&I. Check with L&I to make sure your prospective hire is a valid, current preferred worker.
  • A preferred worker is certified for a total of 36 months. The worker may have used part of his or her preferred worker time with another employer, so check to see when your prospective employee’s preferred worker status ends.
  • L&I must receive an “Intent to Hire Preferred Worker” form from you within 60 days of hiring the worker. Otherwise, you are not eligible for preferred worker benefits even if the worker has a valid certificate.

Any job you give the worker must meet the worker’s medical work restrictions.

Options for more information:

  • Select this link, www.PreferredWorker.LNI.wa.gov, on the L&I web site.
  • Call Donna Spencer, Preferred Worker Program Manager, at 360-902-6576.
  • Call toll-free for recorded information at 1-800-845-2634.

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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