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July 28, 2016

Confusion Coming for Workers’ Comp

Summary:

An Uber-style app to summon someone to pick up a pet's poop raises interesting questions for workers' comp. (Call of doody, anyone?)

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Today, dog lovers all over this great nation walk their dogs through neighborhood streets, and after the dogs “do their business” or “deposit a love biscuit,” the dutiful owner takes a moment to pick up the waste and carry it home. The telltale swinging plastic bag of poop is a sign the responsible dog caregiver is keeping their neighborhood clean.

After all, only in America can placing a naturally degradable substance inside a plastic bag where it will last 10,000 years in a landfill be considered ecologically responsible.

But all of that difficult work is about to end, thanks to a ridiculous bit of technology —  and signals the sort of confusing adjustment that workers’ comp will have to make as the definition of work and work sites changes.

Imagine, not so far in the future, the dog owner does not pick up his pooch’s steaming pile of love. Rather, they grab their cell phone (which they were probably holding because they’ve been on Facebook for most of the walk), snap a picture of the pile, tag its location with an app and simply walk away. Somewhere, an “Uber style driver” is notified that fresh feces is afoot. They race to the geographically tagged location and, quick as a flash, scoop up Fido’s poop. They will have the onerous and odoriferous task of keeping your neighborhood safe from unwanted piles of poop. One and done — and you are good to go. I suppose the picture is useful for identification purposes. You wouldn’t want to scoop the wrong poop, after all.

You read that right. There will soon be an app that will allow you to summon someone else to clean up after your dog.

See also: Five Workers’ Compensation Myths

Beyond being the ultimate sign of a lazy and slothful society teetering on the brink of self-destruction, this idea actually just stinks. Imagine, if you will, the physical machinations of the concept. You are standing in your neighbor’s yard, taking a picture of dog shit. As your neighbor stands in their living room window, drinking their morning coffee, what could they possibly be thinking? You might just be arranging for a pick up, but, in their mind, you’ve now been labeled an irresponsible pervert who commemorated the officious occasion of your dog dumping in their yard.

Maybe Fido should get a ribbon for his effort.

While the developers of the “Pooper App” claim it is an “Uber-like service,” it seems to lack an actual verification factor. How do we know the poop was actually purloined? I mean, with Uber, we know whether the guy showed up or not. With the pooper app, you may be able to see the pooper scooper drove by, but you’ll have no idea if they actually scooped the poop. Maybe they have to take a selfie with the poop as proof.

It is certainly going to be an interesting morning in your neighbor’s yard.

And who would actually want this job? I know that services already exist that clean out yards and such on a scheduled basis, but who will want to troll an area waiting for an app to notify them that there is poop afoot? The developers tell us pet owners of all types will take this job because they love animals so much that scooping their poop is a pleasure. I would conjecture that if people loved bagging poop so much, we wouldn’t need the pooper app to begin with.

No, these scoopers must be experiencing a serious call of doody. That is the only explanation.

From a workers’ compensation perspective, I suppose these Uber scoopers will have the same challenges now being faced by other participants in the sharing economy. Who will cover them? What if they are hurt on the job; say shot for trespassing on your neighbor’s lawn? And if they are covered under workers’ comp, what class code would we possibly assign them?

See also: How Should Workers’ Compensation Evolve?  

Technology continues to challenge our industry. At least we can be comforted by the fact that it is challenging our common sense, as well.

This article first appeared on WorkersCompensation.com.

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About the Author

Bob Wilson is a founding partner, president and CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, based in Sarasota, Fla. He has presented at seminars and conferences on a variety of topics, related to both technology within the workers’ compensation industry and bettering the workers’ comp system through improved employee/employer relations and claims management techniques.

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