Monday, April 29, 2013

State law leads to workers' compensation drops for firefighters in Northeast Pennsylvania

From the Towanda Daily Review:
Insurers are pulling workers' compensation coverage from cash-strapped municipalities in response to a 2011 law linking firefighting with increased cancer risks. 
Dubbed the Firefighters Cancer Presumption Act, Act 46 of 2011 recognizes every form of cancer found in a firefighter as a work-related illness. The onus to prove otherwise is on the municipality. Before the law, a claim could be filed going back 300 weeks. The law doubled that to 600 weeks. 
"Because of the financial risk to the companies suddenly having all these claims, they are choosing not to do the workers' compensation," Smith said.Many are choosing the State Workers' Insurance Fund for firefighters workers' compensation because it is deemed the most cost-effective way to provide the state-mandated coverage. Using SWIF for firefighter coverage allowed Clarks Summit to keep MRM coverage for everything else, Kehoe said. 
Lawmakers who support the law have balked at talk of making modifications.  "I support the measure in its entirety and would not support tweaks to the statute that protects our paid and volunteer firefighters who in turn protect our communities," said Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-112, Dunmore. "To say that those who are charged with protecting public safety are too costly for insurance carriers is an insult; especially those who volunteer to keep our families and communities safe and in doing so, have contracted cancer." 
Don Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, said lawmakers have a responsibility to look out for firefighters.  "We believe that protecting firefighters from financial ruin for doing their job is just good policy," he said.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bradford and Lycoming counties record most crash-related fatalities in 2012

From The Towanda Daily Review

"Bradford and Lycoming counties had the most crash-related fatalities in 2012 in Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 3-0.  According to information released by PennDOT, Bradford and Lycoming counties each had 15 such fatalities each last year.  In each county, 14 were on state roads and one was on a municipal road. 

In addition, Bradford County had the most crash-related fatalities involving large trucks in 2012, with three, PennDOT noted. PennDOT Assistant Traffic Engineer Bill Houpt said there is no particular reason for the number of fatal crashes. When asked for comment by The Daily Review, he stated, "Each crash would need to be evaluated, based on the crash report and its own specific circumstances. Crashes (and fatalities) tend to be cyclical."  For example, total crash-related fatalities in Bradford County in past years are as follows: 2009, 10; 2010, 20; and 2011, 10."

My immediate thought is that the high amount of large truck related fatalities is related to the gas industry and the huge increase in truck traffic in Bradford County and the surrounding counties of Tioga, Sullivan and Susquehana.  Obviously, we don't know for sure without looking at each incident specifically.  But it's a quite surprising that one of the most rural counties in the state has the highest vehicular related fatalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.