Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation Begins Work on Special Studies; Elects New Chair

SAN FRANCISCO -- Beginning work on its legislative mandate, the new Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation has initiated a study of one aspect of the workers' compensation system, while electing a new chair for this year.

At its January meeting in Los Angeles, the Commission unanimously elected Robert B. Steinberg as chair for 1995. Steinberg, an employer representative appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, succeeds Tom Rankin, a labor member. The Labor Code requires that the chair rotate annually between employer and labor members.

The meeting also focused on prioritizing projects and studies to be conducted under the direction of the Commission. Under the legislation which created the Commission, the panel must conduct an ongoing examination of the workers' compensation system and activities to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. The Commission will recommend any legislative or administrative changes to improve the operation of the workers' compensation system. It may contract for studies that it deems necessary.

The Commission approved a study to evaluate state services to represented and unrepresented workers in the workers' compensation system. The study will be conducted by the U.C. Berkeley Survey Research Center and the U.C. Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program. The study's objective is to assess the effectiveness of information services designed to guide injured workers through the workers' compensation system, analyzing the strengths and areas needing improvement in current information services. The study also will seek to systematically collect information from injured workers about their experiences with all aspects of the workers' compensation system.

Other projects proposed by the commissioners and under consideration include studies on the impact of the repeal of the minimum rate law, vocational rehabilitation reform, and medical-legal reform.

The Commission also has not yet taken action regarding a grant program during 1995. In 1994 and under the predecessor Health and Safety Commission, grants were competitively awarded to employers and organizations to develop effective injury and illness prevention programs. Instead, the Commission voted to redirect the $200,000 available for grants in the current fiscal year to special studies of aspects of the workers' compensation system and injury and illness prevention Programs. Funding has been requested for the 1995-96 fiscal year which could be applied to a grants program later in 1995.

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