A Blue Bell worker who had been with the company for five years was disassembling a machine to clean it when the machine suddenly turned on. The worker, who was also a college student, lost three fingers on his left hand. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Blue Bell for having no program to lock out machines during cleaning or maintenance. The student received roughly $2,000 in workers’ compensation, but nothing else for his disfigurement.
Hopefully, the upcoming 2017 legislative session will include changes, so workers in similar situations are able to receive more than a couple thousand bucks following a horrible workplace injury.
Texas House Committee is Calling for Major Workers’ Compensation Reforms
Though the 2017 legislative session is almost a year away from now, House committee members are already calling for some major reforms for the state workers’ compensation program. Many committee members are pushing to change the coverage rules that currently leave thousands of workers without insurance or benefits. In last month’s meeting, the House Committee on Business and Industry grilled state Insurance Department officials on two issues.
Firstly, the officials were questioned on employers who continue to fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Granted, Texas doesn’t require most private employers to carry workers’ comp insurance. Typically, when a worker is injured under one of these non-subscribers, the injured worker receives medical treatment. However, many of these injured workers do not have their own insurance and as a result, taxpayers end up paying for the treatment of injured workers.
Secondly, the House Committee inquired about ongoing complaints regarding the state designated-doctor program. Texas’s Designated Doctor Program essentially has doctors who are approved by the state conduct medical examinations on injured workers to settle disputed workers’ compensation claims. The problem with this is the workers’ comp insurance hires the designated doctor, which instantly creates a bias, and has created many complaints about the program.
Hopefully, The Texas House Committee Enacts Major Improvements to Texas Workers’ Comp
The bottom line during this meeting was that the current workers’ compensation law is outdated and has one of the worst reputations in the country (for good reason). It limits benefits to survivors of workplace accidents and, more often than not, does not properly compensate families who lose their loved ones and that portion of income. Hopefully, we see some action taken towards improving the workers’ compensation system next year.