51.28.010  <<  51.28.015 >>   51.28.020

Injury reportingFindingsDepartment educational initiativePilot program, employers to assist workers in applying for benefitsReport.

(1) The legislature finds that:
(a) In 1998, the joint legislative audit and review committee, in its performance audit of the Washington industrial insurance system, reported that one of the most significant causes for delayed benefit payments to workers and lack of employer involvement in claims was the manner in which claims were reported. Under this system of reporting, the worker generally reports the injury to a physician who, in turn, reports the injury to the department.
(b) The performance audit further reported that adopting a system in which the employee reports to the employer and the employer reports to the department would speed the first payment of benefits to the worker and involve the employer, from the beginning of the claim, in assisting in the management of the claim, including returning the worker to work.
(c) The performance audit also recognized that there would be instances in which workers would be reluctant to report injuries to employers and that, therefore, the system of physician reporting should be retained as an alternative, and employer reporting should be tested on a widespread basis.
(2) The department of labor and industries shall develop and implement an initiative to:
(a) Encourage the reporting of industrial injuries and occupational diseases by the worker to his or her employer and by the employer to the department;
(b) Encourage the employer to provide assistance to the worker in completing the application for compensation; and
(c) Educate workers and employers about the benefits and importance of prompt reporting of injuries and diseases.
(3)(a) By January 1, 2007, the department shall develop and begin a pilot program to allow employers to assist workers in completing an application for benefits. This pilot program does not replace the current method for reporting as provided in RCW 51.28.020.
(b) The department shall develop requirements or rules for employers who participate in the pilot program, including provisions to ensure prompt reporting of the claim and communicating a worker's rights and responsibilities under the pilot program. The pilot program shall include the voluntary participation of employers that represent a cross section of industries, geographic areas, union and nonunion workers, large and small businesses, and other criteria established by the department with input of business and labor leaders.
(c) During the pilot period, the department shall consider steps to address the unique needs and issues of small employers.
(d) The number of participating employers must not be more than five hundred during the first year of the pilot program. This number may be increased to seven hundred fifty during the second year of the pilot program.
(e) The pilot program expires July 1, 2009.
(4) On December 1, 2007, and December 1, 2008, the department of labor and industries shall report to the appropriate committees of the legislature the findings of a study of:
(a) Claims that are not reported promptly, including but not limited to a review of the circumstances of such claims, the type of injuries involved in such claims, and the reasons for the failure to report such claims promptly;
(b) The effect of the educational initiative required under subsection (2) of this section on whether the number of claims reported to employers increased, whether there was a reduction in delays in benefit payments, and whether there was an improvement in employer involvement in assisting with claims management and an increase in appropriate return-to-work and better outcomes for injured workers and employers;
(c) The results of the efforts of the centers of occupational health education in early reporting and early notification of employers, and the general lessons that can be drawn from these results for the larger workers' compensation program; and
(d) The results of the pilot program for workers to begin the process of applying for compensation through the employer and whether additional statutory changes are required or recommended to implement this process for all employers and workers.
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