TX Resources: Can Responsiveness Determine Long-Term Impacts of Disasters?

FJ Thomas

Houston, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) – The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Harris County allotted $14.5 million to update flood maps. The project is expected to be completed by 2023. In August, Houston voters also approved $2.5 billion in bonds to be used for flood control projects.

The new initiative comes in response to the $125 billion in damages from Hurricane Harvey and perhaps gives some insight into an April 2018 article from NCCI on ‘Employment and Workers’ Compensation Claims in the Aftermath of Hurricanes.’ The article indicated studies show there is a drop in workers’ compensation claims the year following a hurricane, and that besides slight growth from rebuilding efforts, there doesn’t appear to be any longterm effects on employers or workers’ comp claims.

Kate Sidora of the Texas Department of Insurance told WorkersCompensation.com via email:

“DWC saw no significant uptick in reported claims in relation to Hurricane Harvey and overall, the storm did not have a considerable or disruptive impact to the Texas workers’ compensation system. After the hurricane, DWC substantially increased our outreach efforts to system participants to ensure there was minimal interruption in services and benefit payments provided to injured employees.”

DWC issued a bulletin on Aug. 29, 2017 that provided guidance for the workers’ compensation system on claims handling and deadlines, medical services, and proceedings for those affected by the storm. That bulletin remained in effect until Jan. 10, 2018.

Other DWC efforts included:

  • Sending staff to disaster recovery centers and other sites to provide information to injured employees on how to contact insurers, reschedule appointments, and answer other questions
  • Extending customer service hotline hours
  • Allowing staff to take time off to volunteer in cleanup efforts
  • Coordinating with federal agencies such as FEMA and OSHA
  • Creating a Hurricane Harvey resource webpage for injured employees, insurance carriers, and employers affected by the storm

DWC also helped employers affected by the hurricane through our OSHCON program (DWC’s free occupational safety and health consultant program) by helping Texas businesses identify health and safety hazards the storm left behind.

  • DWC’s consultants contacted 562 businesses across affected areas in Texas after the hurricane.
  • Consultants helped 48 companies find and remove hazards safely.

Texas OSHCON also added a link on the program’s homepage at www.txoshcon.com, entitled “Safety After a Storm” that included beneficial hurricane and disaster recovery resources for employers.

In more recent news, Hurricane Michael has taken a major toll as well. For updated WorkersCompensation.com post-storm coverage, click here.

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