One of the first tasks of the reconstituted Workers' Compensation Advisory Council will be proposed changes in the Utah Occupational Disease Act.
Council members have only a short time to look at the proposed changes, which apparently have been endorsed already by the State Industrial Commission, but they are pressing to reach a consensus so their recommendation can go to a legislative interim committee Oct. 17.In order to reach that goal, the council will meet Oct. 5 to make any last minute changes. Commission chairman Stephen M. Hadley asked council members to submit any proposed changes to the draft by Oct. 1.
According to Dennis Lloyd, attorney for the Worker's Compensation Fund of Utah, an ad hoc committee of the advisory council has spent considerable time revising the occupational disease code and has reduced the number of sections from 65 to 11.
Commissioner Thomas Carlson said the ad hoc committee spent so much time on the proposed changes it would be unfortunate if too much more time was spent in studying the act.
Lloyd said the ad hoc committee's goal was to streamline the code and make it easier to understand. The group also made some changes to define compensation for hearing loss.
One of the most significant changes in the law is the definition of occupational disease. The new law defines it as "any disease or illness which arises out of and in the course of employment and is medically caused or aggravated by such employment, but is not of a character to which the employee may have had substantial exposure outside of employment or to which the general public is commonly exposed."
The draft provides that any employee suffering an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment shall provide notification to his employer promptly of the occupational disease. If the employee is unable to make the notification, next of kin or an attorney can do it.
Any employee who fails to notify his employer or the commission within 180 days after the cause of action arises is barred for any claim of benefits arising from the occupational disease.
The draft says an employer's or physician's injury report filed with the commission, employer or insurance carriers or the payment of any medical or disability benefits by the employer or the employer's insurance carrier constitutes notification of an occupational disease.