WCI 2017 Conference Roundup


By Dara Barney

Orlando, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) - Missed out on the conference this year? Or maybe didn't attend all the sessions you wanted to? See below for a quick summary of some hot workers' comp topics covered this year. 



Marijuana and Opioids: How They Affect Workers’ Comp     

Mark Pew, Senior Vice President at PRIUM, started out the morning with Implications of Marijuana Legalization and Opioid Use to the Workplace and the Workers' Compensation System. Pew sent in a few words via email to WorkersCompensation.com on how the event went: “I judge audience engagement by how many people are using their cellphones. I didn't see anybody do that this morning. Beyond being attentive and engaged (with several good questions), word apparently spread as the crowd grew over time with additional chairs and people standing in the back…” Pew also had a post-event message: “Because I have observed firsthand the evolution of the opioid epidemic since 2003 and marijuana momentum since 2013, I personally believe that cannabis is more accepted now largely because of the death and destruction from the opioid epidemic (with a close second the number of people that have success stories from cannabis use to medical conditions),” he said. “I've heard constantly the comparison of opioids and marijuana (financial cost, addiction potential, side effects) as the rationale for switching, and I think that will continue in increasing measure.”

Industrial Injuries, Scars and Treatments     

Florida plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas J. Zaydon presented on Addressing Scars for All Cultures, educating attendees on pigmentation, how the skin works as the body’s largest organ, what it means for injuries on the job, and treatment. Dr. Zaydon emailed WorkersCompensation.com with a quick analysis of how things went and an observation: "PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma therapy) intrigued them (the audience); the treatment of scars has advanced considerably in recent years."      

Delayed Recovery: What it Means for the Injured Worker, Employer   

Dr. Marcos Iglesias, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President at Broadspire, tackled an interesting topic: Preventing Prolonged Disability by Addressing Psychosocial Barriers. He told WorkersCompensation.com via email: “It's always a pleasure to talk about restoring the lives of injured workers, and especially to outline ways to prevent delayed recovery. The session was received very well. The audience was engaged and posed very insightful questions.” Content-wise, risk factors were referred to quite a bit in his presentation, due to their importance. “I think that making risk factor identification simple and part of our everyday (sic) interactions reminds us all that our business is about caring and helping individuals in their time of need. I think the audience responds to the simplicity of the model I present and the ease with which they can put it into practice. I have enjoyed presenting this topic for over 15 years because it is helping us see health, injury and illness in a fuller and more satisfying way.”    

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane… Actually it’s a Drone, and it Could Be Delivering Groceries in the Near Future   

Attorney Timothy Crawley with Anderson Crawley & Burke, PLLC; had a few things to say about drones in Practical and Legal Issues Presented by the Use of Drones in the Workers' Compensation Setting. Okay, actually he had a lot of things to say about drones, which attendees seemed curious about. Crawley submitted some post-event thoughts via email to WorkersCompensation.com: “…It seemed the audience was very interested and engaged in the presentation — I think it opened the eyes for many folks to what drones are capable of doing, but what some of the risks could be inherent in those uses, and how to protect them and their companies from those risks.” Crawley showed everyone an ice fisherman video, which involved a drone beverage delivery, which was pretty cool, admittedly. But, Crawley wanted to emphasize the risks involved too, what it means for privacy, insurance and protection from liabilities involving this type of aircraft machinery. “…Drones are definitely on the immediate horizon for a myriad of commercial uses; it behooves us to be aware of the risks posed and the protections available as those uses increase,” he said.     



Snack-y Session: Medical Marijuana

How will medical marijuana impact physicians? Dr. Howard B. Weiss and attorneys George Waters/Tara Said addressed just that to a VERY full room, with attendees on the floor and leaning on the walls. WorkersCompensation.com was there to cover the event live via Twitter. Highlights included: “Medical marijuana benefits: Appetite stimulant, relieves certain pain types, restores normal sleep patterns and reduces anxiety,” from Dr. Weiss. The large crowd was interrupted by a “Dude Delivery” of chips and brownies! Dr. Weiss also noted, “Medical marijuana could eventually replace: painkillers, anti-anxiety meds, stimulants and sleep aids.” One member from the audience asked, “How do you ask your employee if they are carrying a medical marijuana card?” Attorney Said answered, “Get together with HR, develop a staff plan, put together a policy.”    

#bloggertrio Reunion 

Next to take the stage, paired with live Twitter coverage from WorkersCompensation.com? None other than the #bloggertrio: Bob Wilson, WorkersCompensation.com President and CEO; Mark Walls, VP of Communications and Strategic Analysis at Safety National; and Mark Pew, Senior Vice President at PRIUM. After the three panelists were introduced, they announced to the audience that they took an “improv” approach this year and planned to rely on audience questions for topic ideas. That’s when we all knew it was going to be good. Highlights included: “Like opioids, I think the Federal Government is also going to take a look at the shared economy,” Walls said. “We need to think about what’s happening between the injured worker’s ears and what’s happening at home,” Pew said, in reference to opioids and workers’ comp. “We should change the message, make it more about return to function and quality of life,” Wilson said of return to work awareness.   



Giving Kids a Chance

WorkersCompensation.com’s President and CEO Bob Wilson presented a Kids’ Chance $10,000 scholarship to Gabriella Garcia, who plans to go into the medical field. Wilson said of the award announcement to Garcia, “It was the best Kids’ Chance call I’ve ever gotten to make.”

Workers’ Comp… The Second Time’s the Charm?

Workers' Compensation 2.0; hosted by Kimberly George, SVP Corporate Development, M&A and Healthcare at Sedgwick; and Mark Walls, VP Communications & Strategic Analysis at Safety National, drew on a futuristic scene: The year was 2019, and the panelists needed to start from scratch to create a second version of workers’ compensation. The panelists included: David Stills, Vice President, Global Risk Management of Walmart; David North, President and CEO of Sedgwick; Mark Wilhelm, CEO of Safety National and Matthew Peterson, CEO, Ancillary and Individual Chief Administrative Officer, Employer and Individual at UnitedHealth Group. “Looking beyond the silo of workers' compensation and considering how WC 2.0 would interact with healthcare and group disability (was the most interesting). We don't often look beyond what we know and we really tried to challenge people to do that. This forced people to think larger about a new model,” Walls said via email.  

Preparing for the Unthinkable

Talking and Training for the Unthinkable Event: How to Prepare Your Workforce for Events Like Active Shooters without Creating a Sense of Panic brought speakers Kelly Bernish, Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Certified Occupational Safety Specialist (COSS) at Global SHE Solutions, LLC in Colorado; and Kevin Plaisance, Safety Specialist in Colorado as well. Plaisance told the crowd that a big event isn’t limited to a shooting, it can include bullying, harassment or weapons possession of another type. When asked about the effectiveness of pulling a fire alarm to alert everyone of an active shooter, the two speakers agreed it might not be the best action as employees are trained to respond differently to a fire alarm, which could bring people together in a common space, such as a lobby, where the shooter might be.    

Spector told WorkersCompensation.com via email: “From my perspective it went well. There was a good turnout (better than I’ve seen at prior WCI conferences),” he said. “The audience was attentive and had some really insightful comments.” 

Violence and Mistreatment at Work 

Paul E. Spector, Professor at the University of South Florida, spoke to a full room for Workplace Psychological Mistreatment and Physical Violence. The effects of physical violence include injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), emotional strain, job attitudes, physical symptoms and muscular skeletal disorders. Psychological mistreatment effects include every single one of those except physical injury. “…The goal here is to try and eradicate it as much as you can,” he said of violence and mistreatment in the workplace. The elements of building a safe environment include: Sound climate, awareness, policies, practices and leadership.

Live Tweeting: Opioid Use and Weaning

Mark Pew, SVP of PRIUM moderated a panel including Dr. Melvin I. Pohl, Chief Medical Officer at the Las Vegas Recovery Center and William Zachry, Senior Fellow of Sedgwick Institute for Part II: The 360 View of Managing Opioid Weaning. WorkersCompensation.com was there to cover the event live via Twitter. Highlights included: “…Opioids can make pain worse, and we’ve got all sorts of great data to back that up,” Dr. Pohl said. Pew pointed out a few “Gotchas” in weaning, including: Improper expectations, closed mindedness about the resources, etc. Dr. Pohl also said, “Mindset/attitude affect the opportunity in improving… Abandon the opioid, not the patient.”



Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Other Workplace Challenges 

Penny Morey, HR Professional at RemarkABLE HR, Inc.; and Elizabeth Bradshaw, Victim Advocate, Special Victims Unit for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, spoke about topics that could happen to any employer or employee, no matter what the circumstance. “…The session was well attended and we felt that the perspectives that we shared held the interest of attendees as well as educated them about the subject of how domestic violence affects the workplace,” Morey told WorkersCompensation.com via email. “We heard from a number of attendees that the information was interesting and relevant — which is what a presenter most hopes to hear.” 

Bradshaw: “We were very well received and were provided with such positive feedback! Our session was the most attended and it seemed to get the conversation facilitated about DV (domestic violence) entering the workplace,” she wrote. “We had some audience members ask excellent questions about policies, background checks on potential employees, and also some safety issues for mediators with their clients. We did see a lot of head nodding affirming the suggestions we were offering about the importance of training and creating (or updating) policies related to DV in the workplace were being well received too.”

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