In this session at the WSIA 2020 Annual Conference, Joel Stacks, Director of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, shared the latest updates on the state’s workers’ compensation system.
The governor has recently announced his plan to re-open Washington. That decision was driven by data with considerations on whether they had the infrastructure available related to testing, identifying cases and tracing. They started opening essential services, with a plan to move on to parks, construction, curbside retail and so on.
To re-open, they began with a focus on prevention. This included five key elements:
- Social distancing – Redesign roles to keep people six feet apart. When that cannot occur, they are adding engineering controls (like sneeze guards).
- Hand washing – Ensuring employees have various access to hand washing, hand sanitizer or wipes.
- Sanitation – Working toward making sure work atmosphere is disinfected often.
- Sick workers – Making sure employees do not come to work if they are sick in any way.
- Education – The best way to fight the disease is with knowledge, so they are asking employers to educate employees on hygiene, safety and reporting.
The Washington Department of L&I took those concepts and worked with the Department of Commerce to tailor these principles to apply to different industry work sites. For instance, construction workers have very different safety needs than a golf course or a car dealership.
They have received over 1,000 workers’ compensation claims to date. Nearly 80% of the claims have been accepted, and more than half of those claims are already closed. They are taking occupation into consideration to identify the claims that result from higher risk workers. Most of their claims have resulted from healthcare workers and first responders.