March 8, 2006
Division of Industrial Accidents
600 Washington Street, 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02111
Present: Chairman Paul Byrne; Vice-Chairman Thomas M. Jones. CM: Robert Banks; John D. Boyle; Edmund C. Corcoran; John A. Pulgini; Mickey Long; Robert Fitzsimmons; John Ziemba (Gayl Mileszko).
Also Present: DIA: Henry Swiniarski, Commissioner; James LaMothe, Senior Judge; Jack Tynan, Deputy Commissioner of Administration; Soledad Johndro, Director of Finance & Accounting; William Taupier, Deputy Director of Administration and EDP; Tony Salido, WCRIB.
Advisory Council Staff: Andrew Burton; Evelyn Flanagan.
Absent: CM: Tony Frias; Jeanne-Marie Boylan; Edmund C. Corcoran; Jill S. Brown;
Ken Paradis; Bruce Cochrane; Department of Business & Technology.
Judicial Update - James LaMothe, Senior Judge
DIA Vital Statistics - William Taupier, Deputy Director of Administration & EDP
Assessment Audit Quarterly Update - Jack Tynan, Deputy Commissioner
Minutes - December 14, 2005
FY'07 Budget Subcommittee Update
Workers' Compensation Redraft - House Bill 4637
Executive Director Update
Chairman Paul Byrne began today's meeting at 9:00 a.m. Chairman Byrne requested that Senior Judge James LaMothe proceed with his judicial update.
Before beginning his update, Senior Judge LaMothe thanked the Advisory Council Members for taking the time to interview judicial candidates at the last meeting.
Senior Judge LaMothe updated Council Members on the information contained within the DIA's vital statistic report for March of 2006 (see attached). Conference Queue: 517; Hearing Queue: 1,697; Reviewing Board Inventory: 144; Impartial Exams for FY'06 (to date): 3,638 (85 waivers). In fiscal year 2005 there were 4,779 Impartial Medical Examinations (119 waivers).
Senior Judge LaMothe stated that he is pleased with the level of the conference queue because it allows adequate time (6-8 weeks) for a case to reach a conference. As for the hearing queue, the Senior Judge noted that it is presently higher than he would like. He explained that he is working to reduce the hearing queue to approximately 1,500 cases.
The Senior Judge stated that Dispute Resolution has recently experienced a 25% increase in the number of appeals, thereby increasing the Reviewing Board inventory. The Senior Judge noted that he is investigating the cause for this jump in appeals. As for the Impartial Unit, the Senior Judge stated that they were scheduling more impartial examinations than the previous year.
Council Member John Boyle recommended that the Senior Judge and the DIA administration consider updating and improving the technology for the judges. CM Boyle reported on new technologies that could increase the speed of transcription and provide savings for the DIA.
Stop Work Orders/Caseload Statistics
Mr. Taupier updated Council Members on the Stop Work Order (SWO) and Caseload Statistics for February of 2006 (see attached). SWO compliance and fine collection remains at 100%. Total compliance investigations completed during February: 1,981; total SWOs issued in February: 12; total SWOs issued for FY'06 (to date): 133; total number of SWOs issued for FY'05: 173; total fines collected for February: $4,322; total fines collected in FY'06 (to date): $141,131; total fines collected in FY'05: $267,061.
Mr. Taupier continued his update of the monthly vital statistics. Total number of cases filed for February: 1,241; total number of cases filed for FY'06 (to date): 10,060; total number of cases filed for FY'05: 16,276; total number of First Report's filed for February: 3,514; total number of First Reports filed for FY'06 (to date): 24,513; total number of First Reports filed for FY'05: 37,461. For FY'06, a total of 6,772 First Reports were filed online using the DIA's Information Portal on the Internet (28% of FRI filings).
Mr. Taupier proceeded with his update on uninsured claims (§65). Total number of §65 claims paid by the Trust Fund for fiscal year 2006 (to date): $3,689,501; number of §65 claims filed for FY'05: 247 (with 201 actual uninsured injuries); uninsured claims paid by the Trust Fund for fiscal year 2005: $6,052,205.
Council Member Mickey Long requested that the DIA provide at the next Advisory Council meeting a breakdown of the uninsured employers for the last three years.
Mr. Taupier proceeded with the vital statistics for the Second Injury Fund (§37/37A). Number of §37/37A petitions paid in fiscal year 2006 (to date): 362; amount paid on these claims in fiscal year 2006 as of February 28, 2006: $9,597,742; number of §37/37A petitions filed in fiscal year 2005: 316; number of §37/37A petitions paid in fiscal year 2005: 530; amount paid on these claims in fiscal year 2005: $25,299,116; COLA reimbursements to insurers in FY'06 (to date): $12,875,967; COLA reimbursements to insurers in FY'05: $16.1 million.
Mr. Taupier reported that as of February 2006, the number of employees whose salary is paid by either the Special Fund or the Trust Fund was 270 (236 DIA employees, 34 WCTF employees). The DIA has no contract employees at this time. Seven (7) temporary employees are being utilized within the DIA as of this report. The Office of Legal Counsel is utilizing the services of 3 legal interns. Each intern works on a part-time basis (the total hours each week add up to one position).
ASSESSMENT AUDIT QUARTERLY UPDATE
Deputy Commissioner Jack Tynan reported to the Advisory Council that the Assessment Manager, Jim Boyle, was leaving the agency. Mr. Tynan commended the work of Mr. Boyle and noted that he has left the DIA in a strong position going forward. The Deputy Commissioner noted that he was pleased to see that in the first quarter, all insurers that were billed have sent checks to the DIA within 30 days. Mr. Tynan stated that there has been significant progress with the ongoing audit process.
Council Member Robert Banks suggested that the DIA consider obtaining software or hiring a student to develop software that would automatically calculate the assessments at the end of each fiscal year.
Chairman Byrne asked for a motion to accept the Minutes for December 14, 2005.
Motion made to accept the Minutes for December 14, 2005.
MMS - Passed.
FY'07 BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE UPDATE
Council Member John Boyle reviewed with Council Members the concerns and recommendations of the Budget Subcommittee. CM Boyle stated that the subcommittee was pleased to see that the Governor's Budget Recommendations included funding for the Department of Labor within their own line-item. CM Boyle suggested that the DIA consider increasing their information technology budget and requested the Council support the DIA in their need for electronic efficiency.
CM Boyle stated that the subcommittee was concerned with the current application requirements of the Safety Grant Program. He stated that the subcommittee was in agreement that the DIA could better serve the employees and employers of Massachusetts by focusing the grant program toward high-risk industries and the workers most vulnerable to injuries.
CM Boyle also raised concern about the DIA's Boston-lease, which is due to expire next year. He expressed the importance of beginning the search and negotiation process for new office space so that unnecessary disruptions do not affect the injured worker. CM Robert Banks reported that he had been in contact with the Construction Safety Alliance (CSA) that represents 75,000 workers. CM Banks noted that CSA has expressed frustration that they are barred from receiving a safety grant this year because they received a grant the year before. CM Banks stated that due to the increased restrictions, the Safety Grant Program might be experiencing unintended consequences with quality programs going unfunded.
CM Banks suggested that a subcommittee be put together, consisting of the business and labor community who utilize the grants, to discuss the criteria requirements of the safety grant program and how to make it more accessible.
Commissioner Swiniarski concurred with CM Banks that a subcommittee would be an excellent way to review the requirements of the safety grants in an effort to provide a more robust program.
Deputy Commissioner Jack Tynan indicated that one of the largest problems with the Safety Grant Program is that there is not enough outreach to the high-risk industries.
The Deputy Commissioner expressed his frustration that more high-risk groups do not apply for grants.
Council Member Tom Jones requested that the DIA provide a "boilerplate" example of a quality safety grant proposal on their web page.
Council Members Tom Jones requested that the Executive Director and his staff begin researching how other states administer their safety grant programs and what application requirements are used for awarding grants.
Chairman Byrne asked for a motion to accept the recommendations of the Budget Subcommittee to support the DIA's line-item contained in House 2 ($20,406,316) and support the separate funding of the Department of Labor.
Motion made to support the Budget Subcommittee's recommendations.
MMS - Passed.
Chairman Byrne requested that the Executive Director convey the Advisory Council's Budget recommendations to the appropriate legislative committees during the FY'07 budget process.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION REDRAFT - HOUSE BILL 4637
Executive Director Andrew Burton explained that House Bill 4637 is the result of ten workers' compensation bills that were redrafted into one bill. The Executive Director stated the Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development favorably rated this legislation during an Executive Session on January 12, 2006.
The Executive Director reviewed House Bill 4637 section-by-section with the Advisory Council members. Discussion followed. Chairman Byrne asked for a motion on House Bill 4637. Motion made to endorse Section 3 (Private Right of Action), Section 5 (Burial Allowance), and Section 6 (Scar-Based Disfigurement) of House Bill 4637. MMS - Passed.
Council Members were in agreement that that on the three sections of House Bill 4637 where there was no consensus, the Council would remain "silent" within any letters sent to legislative committees. Chairman Byrne requested that the Executive Director notify the House Ways & Means Committee of the Council's legislative recommendation.
Council Member Mickey Long informed Advisory Council Members that House Bill 1603, regarding the competitive determination of workers' compensation rates, was reported favorably as a redraft by the Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development. CM Long expressed his initial concern that this bill may eliminate input from both the Attorney General and the Advisory Council from the rate setting process.
Executive Director Andrew Burton stated that he had not received a copy of the redrafted language. Mr. Burton suggested that this bill be discussed in further detail at a future meeting.
Chairman Byrne thanked all parties for participating and asked for a motion to adjourn.
Motion made to adjourn.
MMS - passed. Meeting adjourned 11:35 a.m.
The next regular meeting of the Advisory Council is scheduled for Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 9:00 AM, at the Division of Industrial Accidents, 7th Floor Conference Room, Boston, MA 02111.