Monthly Archives: November 2012

Report: Poor Health Costs Cost U.S. $576 Billion Yearly

The U.S. loses more GDP to poor health than Sweden’s total GDP

Today’s post comes from guest author Nathan Reckman from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

The Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), a nonprofit health and productivity research organization for businesses, recently reported that poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion per year. Of this amount:

  • $227 billion is lost due to sick days or reduced productivity due to illness,
  • $232 billion is spent by employers on medical and pharmacy treatments, and
  • $117 billion is spent on workers’ compensation and short- or long-term disability wage replacement.

To give you a sense of the scale of this loss, it is larger than the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of all but the top 20 countries. Our $576 billion loss dues to poor health costs would fall directly behind the GDP of Saudi Arabia (2011 GDP: $577.6 billion) and in front of the Swedes (2011 GDP: $538.2 billion). For comparison, the U.S.’s $15,090 billion GDP was the largest in the world, followed by China at $7,298 billion.

…for every $1 employers invest in improving their employees’ health and wellness they save $3…

Sean Nicholson, Ph.D., quoted in the IBI report, has stated that for every $1 employers invest in improving their employees’ health and wellness they save $3 (quite a good return on their investment!). As wisely pointed out by IBI’s President, Thomas Parry, Ph.D., this report puts employers on notice that their investment in workers’ health and wellness will benefit both the workers and their employers.

This report, in addition to  pointing out the dual benefits posed by increased employer investment in their employees’ health and wellnes, points out one of the important choices facing our country’s healthcare system.

Source for 2011 GDP information: CIA World Factbook

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Walmart v. Workers in a Black Friday Showdown

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today’s guest post comes to us from Kit Case of Washington state.

The Nation Magazine reports today in their “E-Mail Nation” communication that Walmart has filed a National Labor Relations Board charge against the United Food & Commerical Workers Union alleging that the pickets are illegal and asking for a judge to shut them down, weeks into a wave of historic strikes, and days before a planned Black Friday showdown.  This also coincides with recent news reports that Walmart is soon expected to offer stock dividends to their shareholders and at a time when stock prices have been hitting all-time highs, in spite of an international bribery scandal that is still unfolding.

An excerpt from the recent The Nation article, by Josh Eidelson

Walmart’s letter to the UFCW accuses the union of “enlisting [workers] in orchestrated schemes to disrupt Walmart’s business operations by telling them that federal labor law protects their participation” in strikes that are in fact illegal, and thus could get them fired (the letter also alleges that the protests involve a range of crimes beyond those in the NLRB charge, including trespassing). A Walmart spokesperson drove a similar message home Sunday, telling CNN that if workers don’t show up on Black Friday, “there could be consequences.” The target audience for that statement, and for Walmart’s latest legal salvo, may not be the media, or the courts, or the UFCW, but the thousands of workers who want to see change at Walmart but have haven’t yet decided whether going on strike is worth the risk.

Read the full article on The Nation’s site, here.


UPDATE: Walmart has sent store managers a message to employees saying they could “get disciplined” for striking.


Image credit: 40 Years of Faulty Wiring.


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Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer (On The Job)?

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer.

Today’s post comes to us from Thomas Domer of Wisconsin.  New York’s standard for an occupational disease claim is very similar to Wisconsin’s in that  an occupational disease must be caused by a recognizable link to the employee’s occupation. The harmful condition (cancer here) must have been caused by some aspect of the employment to be compensable.

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer. Italy’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling linking a business executive’s brain tumor and excessive mobile phone use. While much of the scientific opinion generally suggests there is not enough evidence to declare such a link, those studies were co-financed by the same companies that produce mobile telephones. The evidence in the Italian case was based on studies conducted between 2005 and 2009 by a group led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden. The Italian court, relying on this research, noted this was independent research unlike other research financed by mobile telephone companies. The business executive Innocenzo Marcolini developed a tumor in the left side of his head after using his mobile telephone for 5 to 6 hours a day for a dozen years. He usually held the phone in his left hand while taking notes with his right hand.  He developed a “neurinoma” which affected his cranial nerve, and sought worker’s compensation from the Italian Worker’s Compensation Authority. The initial application was rejected because of a lack of proof but a court in Brescia later ruled there was a causal link between the use of mobile and cordless telephones and tumors.

Wisconsin provides benefits for an employee’s death or disability due to a cancerous condition if causally related to work exposure to carcinogens. There are numerous potential cancer causing agents in the workplace, but none so far have been linked to cell phone use. The causation standard is straightforward in Wisconsin. If the patient suffers from a condition caused by an “appreciable period of workplace exposure” the physicians are asked whether that exposure was either the sole cause of the condition or at least a material, contributory, causative factor in the condition’s onset or progression. This Italian court case suggests a further inquiry into the subject may be appropriate.

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The Costs and Complications of The Other Disease on Workers’ Compensation Claims

Source: NCCI

Today’s guest post comes to us from Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

Employers and their insurance companies are responsible for the treatment of all medical conditions that arise from an industrial accident or exposure. A recent study published by NCCI concludes that costs are soaring as medical conditions become more complicated by other conditions known as comorbidity diagnoses. These conditions are frequently: obesity, hypertension, drug abuse, chronic pulmonary conditions and diabetes.

While the average medical cost for a workers compensation claim is approximately $6,000, the medical cost of an individual claim can be a few hundred dollars or millions of dollars. In 2010, an NCCI study found that claims with an obesity comorbidity diagnosis incurred significantly higher medical costs than comparable claims without such a comorbidity diagnosis. Relative to that study, this study expands the number of comorbidities examined and provides additional information on both the types of claimants receiving comorbidity diagnoses and the types of providers submitting comorbidity diagnoses.”


  • The share of workers compensation claims with a comorbidity diagnosis nearly tripled from Accident Year1 2000 to Accident Year 2009, growing from a share of 2.4% to 6.6%Claims with a comorbidity diagnosis have about twice the medical costs of otherwise comparable claims
  • Comorbidity diagnoses for hypertension are the most prevalent of those investigated
  • The initial comorbidity diagnosis tends to occur early in the life of a claim
  • Hospital and physician visits account for a majority of visits resulting in a recorded comorbidity diagnosis
  • Only a small portion of visits result in the recording of a comorbidity diagnosis

View complete report: Comorbidities in Workers Compensation



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Workers’ Compensation Is About Relationships

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

Prevention of accidents should be the first step in establishing a successful workers’ compensation system. If an employer were truly concerned about the health and safety of the employee there would be no need for workers’ compensation. Unfortunately the profit motive of the employer sometimes corrupts the process, and shortcuts are taken at work to increase production at an anticipated lower cost to the employer.

Employers need to understand that the human and financial costs of industrial accidents and exposures can be devastating. Injured workers, through the workers’ compensation process, may seek the payment of medical benefits, lost time payments and permanent disability awards.

Hopefully, the relationship between employees and employers can improve, and the workplace can become a safer environment.

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Hurricane Sandy Cleanup Safety Fact Sheet

The Mount Sinai-Irving J Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine has published a fact sheet describing hazards for those engaging in the response to or cleanup from hurricane Sandy. They also list some services the Center provides and their locations and phone numbers. You can read the fact sheet here.

If you or someone you know was injured during the response and cleanup of Hurricane Sandy please contact Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP at (800) 692-3717


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Hurricane Sandy: Resources for Protecting Cleanup Workers and Volunteer (NYCOSH)

The New York City Central Labor Council, the Long Island Federation of Labor and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) have released a fact sheet: CAUTION: HURRICANE SANDY CLEAN UP CAN BE HAZARDOUS! with information on how to avoid illnesses and injuries during hurricane cleanup. A list of links to government resources is included.

“There are a wide range of hazards to which workers, volunteers and home owners may be exposed,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council. “These include safety hazards such as electrocution, asphyxiation and exposure to toxic substances such as asbestos, lead, silica and biological hazards such as mold and bacteria from backed up sewage.”   According to John Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor, “Previous emergency events such as World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina and Deepwater Horizon have demonstrated that there are significant gaps in responding to emergency worker and volunteer health and safety needs – resulting in tens of thousands of rescue and clean up workers becoming ill.   The fact sheet produced by NYCOSH provides information about safety and health hazards cleanup workers can expect to encounter and links to other useful information.”

In addition to such widespread hazards, NYCOSH is particularly concerned about clean up of areas such as the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek in which the storm water is likely overflow into nearby residential areas. Sewage poses very significant threats to human health. Safe and effective cleanup or removal of sewage-contaminated materials is usually best left to technically qualified, environmental professionals. “The Gowanus Canal,” said Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health “is a federally designated Super Fund site. The canal contains highly toxic substances and it is imperative that special precautions be taken and that only workers who are appropriately trained participate in the clean up.” 

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must provide a safe and healthful workplace free of recognized hazards and follow OSHA standards. Employers’ responsibilities also include providing training, personal protective equipment appropriate to the cleanup tasks. Employers are also required to provide medical examinations and recordkeeping. Workers should report hazardous conditions to OSHA (1-8000 321-OSHA(6742).

The New York City Central Labor Council (NYCCLC) is a non-profit labor membership organization 1.3 million workers in 300 local unions from every trade, occupation, public and private sector of the New York economy.

The Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, is the voice for the Long Island labor movement representing over 160 unions of workers in a wide range of occupations on Long Island

NYCOSH is a membership organization of workers, unions, community-based organizations, health and legal professionals, and other activists.  The mission of NYCOSH is to insure that every worker is provided a safe and healthful work environment. NYCOSH believes that all workplace injuries and illnesses are preventable. 

(Click here for fact sheet)

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5 Resources For Victims Of Hurricane Sandy

1. Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance Now Available to New Yorkers Affected by Hurricane Sandy

New Yorkers Who Work and Live in Bronx, Kings, New York, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester Counties Can Apply

Department of Labor Staff to Deploy to Disaster Areas to Register Impacted New Yorkers

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that federal disaster unemployment assistance is now available to all New Yorkers who lost their jobs as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Disaster unemployment benefits are available to provide financial support to anyone who has lost their job and live or work in the Bronx, Kings, New York, Richmond, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester counties.

This assistance will supplement New York’s existing unemployment insurance system and will expand eligibility to include individuals who might otherwise not be covered. The United States Department of Labor has committed to providing additional assistance if needed.

Department of Labor staff will be deployed to hard-hit communities to help register impacted New Yorkers for Disaster Unemployment Assistance in person.

Anyone unemployed due to Hurricane Sandy is immediately eligible and can submit a claim to the Department of Labor. The criterion for collecting disaster assistance is broader than for collecting regular unemployment benefits. Specifically, an individual can collect disaster assistance in any of the following cases:

  • Injured in the disaster and unable to work, whether the person is an employee or self-employed.
  • Workplace is damaged, or destroyed, or the person cannot work because of the disaster.
  • Transportation to work is not available because of the disaster.
  • Cannot get to work because must travel through the affected area, which is impossible due to disaster.
  • Planned to begin working, but cannot because of the disaster.
  • Derived most of income from areas affected by the disaster, and business is closed or inoperable because of the disaster.

Examples of self-employment include small business owners, independent taxi drivers, vendors, independent commercial fisherman, and farmers.

State Department of Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera said, “These people want to work and are unable to because of circumstances far beyond their control. This money will directly help workers who have families to feed and bills to pay. Contact the Department of Labor and we will determine which program you qualify for.” 

To apply for unemployment benefits or disaster unemployment assistance, those affected by the storm and have lost their job or income should call the Telephone Claims Center (TCC) at 1-888-209-8124, or 1-877-358-5306 if they live out of state. Applicants should answer the questions to indicate they lost their job due to Hurricane Sandy. In order to receive benefits you must apply by December 3, 2012.


2. After Sandy, Family Health Centers Are Open in the Bronx – Everyone Welcome 

The Institute for Family Health, a non-profit organization, announced that its six family health centers in the Bronx are open following Hurricane Sandy. Doctors and mental health staff are available to see patients of all ages – babies, children and adults. The health centers accept all patients, regardless of their insurance type or ability to pay.

The Institute invites anyone in need of primary care or mental health services to visit its centers. “There is no need to wait to see a doctor, or go to the emergency room if you don’t absolutely need to,” said Dr. Neil Calman, the Institute’s president and CEO. “We know everyone has had a very difficult few days. We are here to help. If you need health care, please visit us in the Bronx at any of our six locations.”

A list of the Institute’s Bronx health centers, including phone numbers and hours of operation, is attached. For more information about the Institute or its Bronx health centers, please visit


3. Partnership to Help New Yorkers Find Poll Sites on Election Day by Text Message  

New Yorkers seeking information about where to vote on Election Day will be able to locate their poll site by text message starting today. While Hurricane Sandy has forced last-minute changes to many planned poll sites in Tuesday’s election, up-to-date information on voting locations is now only a text message away.

Text “NYCVOTES” to 877-877
Message and data rates may still apply. Customers can text ‘STOP’ to opt out of further messages.
Spanish speakers can text “DONDE” to 877-877 to receive prompts in Spanish.

The text system allows users to look up multiple poll sites. Follow the instructions provided to enter the address of the voter whose poll site you believe may have changed.

“During this especially trying week, Tuesday’s election is only one among many pressing concerns,” said Art Chang, Chair of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee. “With many poll sites affected by the storm, it’s even more important that we help New Yorkers find their way to the polls to make their voices heard. Thanks to this service, voters need only a cell phone to keep themselves informed.” 

The poll site locator was developed by Mobile Commons, a mobile strategy company based in DUMBO and is being provided pro bono to New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Mobile Commons uses official elections information provided by the Voting Information Project and powered by Google for their Polling Place Locator that will help millions of Americans locate their polling place this election cycle. The Voting Information Project is a partnership between election officials, the Pew Center on the States, Google, Microsoft, and several other technology partners with the shared goal to bring official election information to voters wherever, whenever they need it.


4. Health Department Issues Food Safety and Water Guidelines for New Yorkers as Power is Restored in Some Areas

To help restaurants reopen safely, the Health Department is suspending regular restaurant inspections until Tuesday, November 12.   

The Health Department is announcing food safety and water guidelines to help New Yorkers stay healthy and safe as power is restored in neighborhoods across the City. Food that came into contact with flood waters is potentially contaminated and may cause serious illness or death and must be discarded. When frozen food thaws, and refrigerated food warms, bacteria and other pathogens grow that can also cause serious illnesses, and also needs to be discarded.

Learn more 


5. Health Care for Hurricane Sandy Workers and Volunteers

Mount Sinai Irving J. Selikoff Centers for Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Hurricane response and cleanup activities can put your physical health and emotional wellbeing at risk. For those workers and volunteers responding to Hurricane Sandy, you might be exposed to physical hazards and emotional stressors during the course of your work or volunteer effort.

Such hazards might include:

  • Electrical hazards, such as electrocution from downed wires. Be extra cautious around downed wires that might still be alive with electricity.
  • Injuries from electricor gas-powered tools, including chain saws. Always wear a full face mask, gloves and hearing protection when using a chain saw.
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Falls
  • Fires
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals and contaminated water
  • Traumatic and stressful situations

How can the Mount Sinai Selikoff Centers help me?

  • Our doctors, nurses, and social workers have over 30 years of experience in the identification and treatment of occupational and environmental health problems. We can provide:
    • Confidential medical exams and treatment for health problems related to your Hurricane Sandy work
    • Confidential counseling services to help you cope with the emotional stress of your Hurricane Sandy work
    • Social work services to help you identify benefits and resources you and your family might need
    • Assistance with Workers’ Compensation, line of duty injury, and other benefits to which you may be entitled.

How Much Do Services Cost?

No one will be turned away due to an inability to pay. If you are eligible for Workers’ Compensation or line of duty injury benefits, you will not be billed. For charges not covered by workers’ compensation, line of duty injury, or other insurance, we have a sliding fee scale. 

How do I get help?

If you think you have been injured or made ill by your Hurricane Sandy work or volunteer activities, please contact the Mount Sinai Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at 212-241-5555.

We have clinic locations in:
345 East 102nd Street, Suite 215 
New York, NY 10029

1020 Warburton Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10701

For more information, please visit our websites at  or



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