State of California

Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation

Information Bulletin



August 26, 1998 Christine Baker

(415) 557-1304




Commission Approves Research Agenda and Obtains Funding for 1998/99 Fiscal Year



SAN FRANCISCO -- The Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation has approved its research agenda for the upcoming fiscal year. The Commission's research budget for fiscal year 1998-99 includes an additional $1.2 million augmentation to carry out the continuation of its comprehensive study of permanent disability.

This study will be conducted in three phases.

The goal of the first phase of the study is to provide policymakers with all the information necessary to implement policies that encourage return-to-work, if such policies are found to be effective and valuable. The project will consist of three parts. First, the study team will estimate the value of improved return-to-work in terms of long-term uncompensated wage loss. While the impact of return-to-work programs on Temporary Disability costs are readily apparent and often estimated, the impact of improved return-to-work on long-term wage loss has never been estimated. Second, the study team will describe the programs used by California employers and identify the best practices encouraging return-to-work. Third, the study team will conduct a literature review and qualitative interviews with selected administrators and firms in other states to assess the effectiveness of policies adopted by other states to encourage return-to-work.

The Second Phase of the continuation of the study will consist of a detailed evaluation of the disability rating schedule in order to provide empirical findings that can guide a revision that will be consistent with the economic losses experienced by permanently disabled workers. As part of its research, the study team will identify empirically the components of the schedule that contribute to inconsistency and make recommendations to reduce it. They will also analyze the usefulness of increased reliance on objective medical findings in disability ratings, including the extent to which such an approach can improve consistency and whether it can also improve the targeting of benefits.

The Third Phase will compare the wage loss experience of other states to the results for California. Estimation of the wage loss experience of other states can improve the ability to understand the causes of wage loss. Differences in wage losses across states can be analyzed so that reforms can be identified that will be effective. A focus of this analysis will be on differences across states in return-to work. In addition, the effectiveness of the policies of other states can be evaluated and the impact of other differences in the workers' compensation system can be examined.

Other projects approved by the Commission for Fiscal Year 1998/99 include:

The Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation with the cooperation of the workers' compensation community and under contract with the Labor Occupational Health Program of the University of California, Berkeley will design a return to work factsheet to accompany the six injured worker factsheets already developed and made available to the public through the Commission earlier this year. In addition, the format of the existing factsheets will be improved and the information updated. Employers will be informed how to use the material to fulfill legal obligations to inform workers of their rights.

This is the third year of study of the medical-legal reform using the WCIRB permanent disability survey. Two years of data analysis have already been completed and preliminary findings are available through the Commission.

This project will identify benefit notice problems that contribute to problems with claims, develop criteria to improve benefit notices, identify requirements that cause the greatest problems with benefit notices; and identify steps to examine and address these requirements.

In its continuing effort to improve education and protections for young workers, the Commission will explore the following three areas:

    1. California Resource Center on Young Worker Health and Safety - A Resource Center to collect and provide information and material
    2. Public Awareness Campaign - A campaign to focus attention on young workers' rights, protections and responsibilities.
    3. Series of Joint meetings of Enforcement Agencies - Convene and facilitate a series of two to four meetings for various enforcement agencies that protect young workers to explore the strategies developed by the Youth Work Group, a working group funded by the Commission.

The Commission, 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.

Further information about the Commission and its activities may be obtained by writing to Christine Baker, Executive Officer, Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, 30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 2122, San Francisco, California 94102, by calling (415) 557-1304, or by faxing a request to (415) 557-1385. Information is also available through the Department of Industrial Relations' Internet servers' Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation home page. The address is