Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

The Maine Supreme Court is currently deciding whether a paper mill worker who was left suicidal by narcotic painkillers should receive workers’ compensation benefits for medical marijuana. It is the first time that the court has considered this question. The plaintiff, Gaetan Bourgoin, won a ruling from the state’s workers’ compensation board two years ago saying that the paper mill’s insurer must reimburse him for medical marijuana. He contends that marijuana is both cheaper and safer than narcotics. However, Twin Rivers Paper Co. and its insurer appealed the ruling, arguing that paying for pot use, even for medical purposes, could expose the company to prosecution, since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

Now that medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, insurers across the country have been confronted with the problem of whether they should cover medical marijuana. Compounding this problem is the byzantine tangle of state laws on reimbursement. For example, five states – Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Mexico – have found medical marijuana treatment is reimbursable under their workers’ compensation laws, according to the National Council for Compensation Insurance. Florida and North Dakota, meanwhile, passed laws this year excluding medical marijuana treatment from workers’ compensation reimbursement.

This issue is a bit more complex in Georgia. While patients who are suffering from certain conditions are legally authorized to possess low-THC cannabis oil in Georgia, the sale, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana are still illegal, meaning that doctors are not allowed to prescribe it. Although nothing in Georgia’s workers’ compensation law specifically bars legal marijuana treatment, the law does state that insurance companies only have to pay for medical treatment that is authorized by a medical provider. Thus, because doctors cannot prescribe marijuana, workers’ compensation insurance companies do not currently pay for it in Georgia.

ExxonMobil Corp. has been fined $165,000 by federal regulators for safety violations over an explosion that occurred in 2016 at a large oil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The  United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a total of nine citations, including citations for inadequate training and equipment maintenance at the aging facility. Exxon has stated that it is contesting OSHA’s most recent findings and the fines the agency imposed.

The facility in question is an alkylation unit that makes octane-boosting components for gasoline. The explosion occurred on November 22, 2016, when a worker removed the cover of a malfunctioning valve on an isobutane line and used a wrench to turn the valve system. As the operator turned the valve system, portions of the valve fell out, releasing isobutane and igniting a welding machine 70 feet away. As a result of the explosion, one worker was knocked off a scaffold and left dangling over the fire, while another worker was burned over most of her body. In total, four workers were injured, two of them severely.

This is not the first time the Baton Rouge facility has drawn the federal government’s ire; he facility was faulted five years ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to address corrosion on pipes and valves and for inadequate shutdown and emergency procedures provided to workers.In 2012, the EPA inspected the Baton Rouge refinery as part of a risk management prevention program and found Exxon had not examined more than 1,000 underground pipes in five years, many of which were corroded, according to the agency’s report on the inspection. The EPA also found that emergency and shutdown procedures failed to provide needed details for operators.According to the latest OSHA citations, Exxon’s safety procedures and training for operators on the alkylation unit were lacking, equipment was not properly maintained, and required safety inspections were not carried out within the required time periods. Eight of the nine citations were listed as “series,” each carrying a fine of $12,675. The ninth fine was for failing to carry out external visual and ultrasonic inspections of piping, and carried a fine of $63,373. The ninth fine was much higher than the fines for the other citations because OSHA cited Exxon in 2016 for violating the same inspection standard at a mother of its refining facilities in Baytown, Texas

The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault insurance system whereby employees give up their right to sue their employers for personal injuries in civil court in exchange for a fixed set of benefits they will receive if they are injured on the job, regardless of fault. If an injured employee were to sue his or her employer for personal injuries in civil court, he or she would have to show fault on the part of the employer and prove all the elements of a personal injury claim, while the employer would be able to defend itself using every legal defense available. In those cases, the injured worker might be able to recover more than he could get through workers’ compensation benefits, but, then again, he could end up getting nothing at all. The workers’ compensation solves this problem by barring personal injury suits by employees against their employers, but guarantees compensation to injured employees.

Each state runs its own workers’ compensation system and has different requirements for participation in the program.Here, we’ll take a look at Georgia’s.

Georgia Workers’ Compensation Eligibility

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