With workers’ compensation, knowledge is power!

Project Help is here to assist injured workers in getting ‘sure and certain relief’



(Oct. 19, 2020) — At the end of the day — labor, business, government — we all want the same thing: for every worker to return home safely from work each day. But when that doesn’t happen, and someone is injured at work or becomes sick due to work-related exposure, that’s where Washington’s workers’ compensation system comes in.

“The welfare of the state depends upon its industries, and even more upon the welfare of its wage worker,” reads the state law that established the system more than 100 years ago. “The state of Washington (declares) that sure and certain relief for workers, injured in their work, and their families and dependents is hereby provided regardless of questions of fault.”

It is a noble and appropriate enterprise. But in practice, as the nature of work and sophistication of health care have evolved over the past century, providing “sure and certain relief” is easier said than done. It requires a complex and ever-changing system of laws, rules and regulations. So if we want to make sure we preserve and protect the rights of injured workers and others, we must continually educate ourselves about trends and changes in those rules and regulations. Knowledge is power!

Every two years, union members and others interested in our workers’ compensation system gather for the “Meeting of the Minds” conference, sponsored by the Project Help program. Jointly administered by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Project Help’s mission is to assist injured workers in the swift and successful resolution of workers’ compensation claims. It is a free service available to all workers in Washington state.

Participants at this year’s first-ever virtual conference held Oct. 8 heard from expert speakers and presenters about the changes and policy issues affecting our safety net for injured workers. The day kicked off with opening messages from WSLC President Larry Brown and L&I Director Joel Sacks. The Project Help team — Claims Specialists Kathy Petruzzelli and Jessica Gallardo, and myself — presented a webinar featuring regional leaders and key decision makers explaining recent changes to workers’ compensations laws, rules and administrative policies for Washington state. We had record attendance or more than 200 and based on the feedback we’ve received, the event was a rousing success.

“Project Help is a great partnership between the Department of Labor and Industries and our labor movement,” Brown said at our Oct. 8 conference. “The dedicated staff of Project Help serve the needs of injured workers when they are at their most vulnerable. This work benefits all workers navigate the challenges of the workers’ compensation system.”

If you or a loved one have been injured on the job or developed a medical condition from the performance of job duties (an occupational disease), you need to be proactive about ensuring your “sure and certain relief.” You may encounter what seems like a frustrating bureaucratic tangle with special forms and a language of its own. And you may get conflicting information about laws and rules from others who have dealt with the workers’ compensation system. That’s why Project Help is here for you.

For more than 34 years, Project Help has made a difference for the betterment of countless injured workers. We have two areas of focus, education and individual one-on-one claims guidance. We have developed a hands-on approach by helping and teaching people about their rights and responsibilities in the claims process. We help individuals with information, resources, and unbiased free assistance with claim-specific concerns so they can become proactive in resolving their claims.

Please help us spread the word about Project Help’s services. Download our English and Spanish brochure, visit our webpage, and share that information. If you need workers’ compensation advice or a listening ear, contact Project Help at 1-800-255-9752 or via this email form.

The next “Meeting of the Minds” conference will be in 2022. In the meantime, I encourage folks to reach out and request workers’ compensation assistance, or a group workshop or presentation for your union’s leaders, shop stewards, general membership, apprentices and others via our website.

Viona Latschaw is Project Help Director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.






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