June 8, 2015

Two worthwhile conferences in Chicago this week

Two conferences on worthy topics are going on simultaneously in Chicago this week.   One is a first-time event on a topic that deserves more attention:  the special workplace risks faced by workers with disabilities and their employer’s responsibilities under OSHA and the ADA.  The other is a 35th annual workers’ compensation and occupational medicine event that delivers high quality programs every year.  The profile of attendees at the two conferences also will probably be quite different.  Which one will expand your horizons and be most useful in your career or your service to clients?  Read on, learn more, and take your pick — if you can get to Chicago this week!

To my knowledge, a conference on Promoting Health & Safety for Workers with Disabilities being held on June 9 in Chicago may be the first of its kind.  It explores the implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended) for workplace safety and health programs.  I predict this will be the bottom line:  Individualized protection plans are a natural part of “reasonable accommodation” — and the need for them should be part of any template for the interactive process.

Beth Marks, RN, PhD, came up with the idea and is the main organizer of the event. Originally trained as a nurse, she believes that people with disabilities who are trying to lead full lives and work deserve support.  She also has personal familiarity with the kinds of unusual workplace hazards faced by workers with vulnerabilities.  Among her many roles, she is co-Director of the National Organization of Nurse with Disabilities (NOND.org)

This event is being hosted by the NIOSH-funded ERC and the NIDRR-funded RRTC at UIC.  It is being co-sponsored by a unique set of organizations:  unions, disability advocacy groups, medical centers and other ERCs,  (Pardon the acronyms:  To fully disclose who is hosting it: the Illinois Occupational and Environmental Health & Safety Education and Research Center funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago  in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health in the Department of Disability and Human Development in the College of Applied Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Now, is that better? )

The second event is the 35th Annual SEAK Conference on Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Medicine.   Historically held on Cape Cod every summer, this SEAK meeting is being held in Chicago this year while the Massachusetts conference facility is being remodeled.   I have attended, spoken at, and conducted all-day workshops at this annual event many times.  It is an information-rich but not overly academic learning opportunity.  That’s because the focus is on practical application:  how to use information or how to do something important. (SEAK also offers other educational events on more specialized topics.)  The speakers come from a variety of disciplines (medicine, nursing — especially case management, law — including judges, and insurance).  They tend to have deep expertise in their topics, and the pace is lively.  The focus is mostly on the mechanics of workers’ compensation, with less emphasis on wellness, prevention, safety, large issues of social justice, etc.

If you decide to go to one of these events, please let me know which one you attended — and whether it was worth your while!

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