If the State Industrial Commission could be compared to a basketball team and the legislative session a basketball game, the commissioners had a good time shooting with an 9-for-9 performance in the bills they supported.
Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley said none of the bills the commission supported this year had the impact as in years past, but some, nevertheless, will have an impact and others were of the housekeeping variety.Perhaps the most important bill the commission supported was SB9, the Utah Occupational Disease Act amendments. The amendments were the result of a one-year study by an ad hoc committee of the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council that attempted to eliminate inconsistencies and duplication and were aimed at streamlining the law.
As a result, Hadley said, the law was reduced from 59 sections to 11 sections.
The most important change deals with the statute of limitations that previously cut off a cause of action sometimes before it arose. For example, the old law didn't consider that some occupational diseases could be many years in the incubation stage after exposure so the statute of limitations ran out before people discovered what disease they had.
Under the new law, Hadley said, the statute of limitations will start when a person discovers from which disease he is suffering.
In the past, the terms impairment and disability were used synonymously, Hadley said, but the new law defines impairment as an anatomical loss of bodily function while disability is the inability to function in the labor market.
The amendments also standardized report filing and doctors reports for the Occupational Disease Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act that Hadley hopes will reduce the amount of litigation and benefit employers and employees.
Hadley said the Legislature also passed SB97, which increases the penalties for violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was mandated when Congress passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. That bill requires Utah, which administers the OSHA program, to adopt the penalties.
The maximum fine for willful or repeated OSHA offenses is $70,000 and the minimum fine is $5,000, Hadley said.
Also passed by the Legislature was HB17, which changes the length of terms for members of the Occupation Health and Safety Act Advisory Council, a group that meets quarterly to advise Utah OSHA officials on safety and occupational policies and problems.
Hadley said the advisory council has been nearly invisible, but HB17 will give the group "a fresh start." The seven-member council has two members form labor, two from industry and three at-large members appointed by the commission.
Other bills pushed by the commissioner were:
- HB26, which provides an alternative method of computing eligibility for unemployment benefits.
- HB107, which give the commission the authority to shut down boilers if it is deemed that would be in the public's interest.
- HB108, which repealed a section of the Labor Code, recodified last year. Hadley said one section was mistakenly left unrepealed.
- HB175, which brings the proceedings in a discrimination case in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act.
- HB232, gives authority to regulate surface blasters to the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.
- HB426, requires the Utah Department of Commerce to regulate registration of employee leasing companies.