Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation
Information Bulletin

December 17, 2001 Christine Baker
(415) 703-4220

CHSWC Approves Projects on California Health, Safety and Workers' Compensation

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation (CHSWC) approved plans for additional research projects and activities at its public meeting on December 14, 2001 in San Francisco.

CHSWC voted to engage in a study of occupational health prevention and workers’ compensation issues of low-wage workers. In California, over 5 million workers are employed in occupations whose median wage is less than $10 an hour. These workers—sewing machine operators, restaurant and food service employees, health aides, cashiers, janitors, hotel maids, assemblers, and farm laborers, among others—are disproportionately immigrant, minority and non-union workers, and are also the workers least likely to have health insurance or sick leave benefits from their jobs.

Though frequently at high risk of occupational injury and illness, low-wage workers often do not complain or seek treatment. Some fear retaliation by employers, while others are apprehensive about being deported or denied citizenship. Most do not have access to health care providers with expertise in recognizing and treating occupational injuries and illnesses. The complexity of the workers compensation system, the lack of information and assistance in using the system, language barriers and prohibitive out-of-pocket expenses while waiting for claims to be processed are a few of the other obstacles low wage workers confront when they seek medical care for work-related injuries and illnesses. Equally critical is the lack of prevention efforts, which ideally should include outreach and assistance to the many small businesses that employ these workers and often do not have the resources or expertise to develop effective prevention programs.

The goal of this two-year project is to document barriers and identify strategies for providing effective occupational health treatment and workplace injury and illness prevention efforts for low-wage workers. The project will produce a series of reports and recommendations for improving treatment services for low-wage workers and enhancing workplace prevention efforts in the small businesses that employ them. A plan will also be developed for estimating levels of underreporting of occupational injuries and illnesses among these workers.

CHSWC voted to host a "Research Colloquium on Workers’ Compensation Medical Benefit Delivery and Return to Work", tentatively scheduled for 2002. For the research colloquium, CHSWC will present a series of papers that designed to inform the public and the health, safety and workers' compensation community on what can be done to reduce costs and improve the outcomes and quality of care.

CHSWC also voted to join with the California Division of Workers’ Compensation in co-sponsoring the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) Annual Convention, tentatively scheduled for September 2003 in Sacramento. The IAIABC is an organization formed in 1914 with the goal of providing a forum to discuss interpretation and administration of the new workers’ compensation laws and to adopt uniform practices and statistics in the application of these laws.

CHSWC, created by the workers' compensation reform legislation of 1993, is charged with overseeing the health and safety and workers' compensation systems in California and recommending administrative or legislative modifications to improve their operation. The Commission was established to conduct a continuing examination of the workers' compensation system and of the state's activities to prevent industrial injuries and occupational diseases and to examine those programs in other states.

Since its inception in 1994, CHSWC has held meetings, conducted fact-finding hearings, and directed several studies to determine how these crucial programs are serving California employees and employers. These studies, conducted by independent research organizations under contract with the Commission, and other activities were aided by the involvement of state agency personnel and interested members of the workers’ compensation community. This cooperative public-private partnership continues to work together to identify, describe, measure and propose solutions to problems and difficulties in the current health and safety and workers’ compensation systems.

For any questions regarding this bulletin, please contact:
Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation (CHSWC)
455 Golden Gate Avenue, 10th Floor, San Francisco,  CA  94102
Email:     Phone:  (415) 703-4220    Fax:  (415) 703-4234     Contact Person:  Christine Baker