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Published on Friday, March 17, 2017

Costly bill allowing stress-related occupational diseases for police and firefighters set for hearing in the Senate

HB 1655 would exempt police officers and firefighters from current prohibitions against claiming stress-related mental conditions as occupational diseases. The bill is set for a hearing in the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee March 22.

AWC has and continues to strongly oppose this costly expansion of occupational disease.

HB 1655 creates a new occupational disease category that has not been fully vetted. Employers are already burdened with increasing workers’ compensation rates for these classifications (see the chart below) that are driving up costs.

Additionally, employers do not have adequate pre-employment or ongoing screening tools to determine if an employee has a pre-existing stress-related condition. The fiscal note prepared for the bill estimates costs for existing claims to range from $45 million to $124 million and then ongoing costs of $2.7 million to $7.6 million annually. We are asking the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee not to take further action on this proposal.

As employers of first responders, we are committed to their wellbeing and want to do what we can to reduce work-place injuries. We have committed to the bill proponents that we are willing to work over the interim on prevention approaches that provide options for first responders to address mental health related issues.

AWC encourages cities to reach out to members of the Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee and share these concerns.

L&I workers’ comp rate increase history

 

4-year increase

2017 rate increase

2016 rate increase

2015 rate increase

2014 rate increase

Firefighter

53%

10%

13%

20%

10%

Police officer

34%

5%

11%

7%

11%

Public works

10%

-1%

4%

4%

3%

(per FTE)

4-year cost increase

2017 cost increase

2016 cost increase

2015 cost increase

2014 cost increase

Firefighter

$1,405

$321

$394

$488

$202

Police officer

$689

$119

$254

$135

$181

Public works

$202

($10)

$98

$84

$30

Categories: Personnel
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