Archive for June, 2017

Indoor Workers Can Also Get Heat Illness; Here’s How to Protect Them

Making iron at metallurgical plant..........

As temperatures soar this summer, it’s not only outdoor workers that toil under the sun who are at risk of heat illness.

Workers in warehouses, boiler rooms and factories are also susceptible to heat illness, which can cause severe symptoms – and even death. The temperature inside these facilities can often exceed 80 degrees, the threshold at which employers with outdoor workers are required by Cal/OSHA to take certain steps to protect their workers from heat illness.

And on extreme heat days, even the air conditioners can sometimes not keep up with cooling down the building, making workers uncomfortable and even feeling sick.

While OSHA does not have specific regulations that require employers to take action to protect their workers against indoor heat illness, you should strive to ensure that you offer your workers the protection they need.

Cal/OSHA has created draft regulations to prevent indoor heat illness, although they have not been codified due to procedural hurdles, and has also issued a report on the issue. Those documents advise the following:

  • Take steps to protect workers when:
    The dry bulb temperature exceeds 90 degrees, or
    2. Employees perform moderate, heavy, or very heavy work and the dry bulb temperature exceeds 80 degrees.
  • As a way to help prevent indoor heat illness, workers and employers can draw a floor plan of the workplace or of specific work areas. On the map, they can mark all sources of heat, and also areas where some respite from it can be found.
    For example, they can mark areas where there is good ventilation; where there is heat-generating machinery and equipment, such as dryers, steamers and ovens; and also tasks in the work process, such as physically demanding tasks, which can contribute to the body heat load.
  • Rotate workers in hot, strenuous jobs.
  • Slow the work pace on hot days.
  • Change schedules to an early start during the summer.
  • Require workers to take frequent rest breaks.
  • Allow workers to take breaks in areas with air conditioned spaces or an area with good ventilation to seek relief from the heat.
  • For workers who wear personal protective equipment, make sure they get more frequent breaks that include doffing the gear to help them cool down.
  • Encourage heat stress prevention through:
  1. Drinking water (make sure cold water is easily accessible and encourage them to drink water).
  2. Watching out for each other.
  3. Monitoring heat.
  4. Taking rest breaks.
  • Train workers in:
  1. How to recognize heat illness symptoms and how to respond to emergencies.
  2. The importance of immediately reporting to the supervisors symptoms of heat illness in themselves or co-workers.
  3. Your procedures in responding to symptoms.

 

A Cautionary Tale

Don’t think indoor heat illness is a big deal? Amazon.com discovered quite the opposite in 2011 when a number of its workers suffered from heat exhaustion at its Allentown, Pa., warehouse.

Employees were forced to work in heat that hit 114 degrees at the warehouse and Amazon kept paramedics in the parking lot to treat those who were fainting, or suffering from dehydration or exhaustion.

After workers complained to OSHA, Amazon added temperature controls to its facilities nationwide.

Creating a Strong Safety Program for Your Fleet Drivers

freight services. commercial delivery vans in row at transporting carrier shipping service company parking

While most operations with an automotive or trucking fleet focus on safety, few businesses are actually monitoring their drivers to make sure they are adhering to the company’s rules, a new study has found.

Many companies only pull reports on their drivers’ records on an annual basis, which means they miss important developments like a DUI or a few moving violations that will increase the cost of insuring them.

In fact, 70% of companies with fleets do not even monitor their drivers and 60% don’t have a safety program in place, according to the study by SambaSafety, a firm that provides background screening and driver safety records for companies.

The key to having a successful driver safety program in place requires management buy-in and a company-wide culture focused on safety that encompasses not only a company’s fleet drivers, but also anybody in the operation that may drive their personal vehicles on occasional company business.

SambaSafety recommends:

Motivating staff to be safer – The company advises against just issuing warnings like “slow down” and “put away the phone,” and instead focusing on what’s at stake if they don’t. Instead of numbers and checklists, make a presentation that lets them think in terms of their well-being, or even loss of life, for the best response.

Providing strong safety leadership – Creating a safety culture requires leadership to model the behaviors that all employees should adopt.

Not just focusing on fleet drivers – Any employees that use their vehicles for work must also be part of the training and they should know that you expect the same safe behavior of anybody you employ that drives.

Drive home the point that an employer can be responsible for anything that happens when employees are conducting company business, even if they are running to the office supply store for you.

Being consistent – Just because you have a safety policy, it may not be enough to get you off the hook if one of your drivers causes an accident. Companies can be held responsible if they do not have proactive intervention policies and detailed documentation.

Using data to your advantage — Collecting data on your employees’ driving habits can greatly improve your ability to make sure you have a safe fleet of drivers. And the best way to do that is through continuous driver monitoring.

“The right data can help employers accurately reward those who are doing well, too, and securely keep up with disciplinary actions toward those who are missing the mark,” SambaSafety says in its report.
Do you have a strong safety policy for your drivers? The company recommends that you ask the following of your safety program:

  • Was the policy established with input from key stakeholders?
  • Has it been clearly communicated to all employees?
  • Does it tie in to company goals and mission?
  • Do employees receive regular reminders and updates about safety policies?
  • Is it aspirational and values-based rather than simply disciplinary?
  • Is there complete buy-in from top management?
  • Is the policy uniformly enforced?
  • Is there a fair, diverse, professional board for incident review?
  • Is data properly used to increase compliance?
  • Is it time for an update?

Will OSHA Conduct an Inspection after an Employee Complaint?

A young woman possibly a single parent or housewife sits at home trying to pay the household bills. She has the phone in her left hand and has a look of worry on her face.

OSHA will make inspections of a workplace for a variety of reasons, including following a worker injury and always after a worker’s death.

Inspections may also occur randomly or part of a program aimed at a particular industry that OSHA has decided to target.

The other way an inspection may occur – and the main focus of this article – is if an employee contacts the agency to complain about possible safety violations.

These complaints may or may not result in an inspection of your workplace based on certain conditions, including the timing of the complaint. Under OSHA regulations, a worker can only report an alleged violation.

After OSHA receives a complaint it will decide whether it is worthy of an on-site inspection.

The agency has a set of criteria, at least one of which must be met in order for it to conduct an on-site investigation or an investigation that includes sending the employer a questionnaire to determine if it is complying with its safety regulations.

A current employee or employee representative must submit a written, signed complaint:

  • That includes enough details to help OSHA assess whether the employer is violating its safety regulations or if there is an imminent danger of physical harm to employees.
  • That alleges the worker was injured or made ill by a hazard that is still present in the workplace.
  • That claims an imminent danger to workers exists in the workplace.
  • About a company in an industry that is part of an OSHA local or national emphasis program, or a high-hazard industry that is the focus of such a program.
  • Against an employer that has been cited in the past three years by OSHA for egregious, willful or failure-to-abate citations.
  • Against a facility that is scheduled for or already part of an OSHA inspection.

If any of these conditions are not met, OSHA will typically make a complaint inquiry by phone or e-mail.

How a complaint inquiry works

If, for example, one of your employees contacts OSHA to complain that you are not using proper lock out/tag out procedures when cleaning certain machinery, the agency would likely contact your company.

It would tell you about the alleged hazard and ask that you assist in determining whether a hazard or violation exists.

During that first point of contact, the agency would ask that:

  • You promptly investigate to see whether the violation does indeed exist and that if it does, you abate the hazard to ensure employee safety and regulatory compliance.
  • After investigating, you document your findings and detail what kind of corrective action you took or are undertaking.
  • You post a copy of the complaint letter from OSHA in a conspicuous area so that all of your employees can see it.

OSHA usually requires that you respond with the results of your internal investigation and provide the report of findings and action taken within five days of being contacted by the agency.

If you don’t respond to the initial contact, do not provide a report within five days or if OSHA deems your response inadequate, it may then decide to inspect your facility.

OSHA will also provide a copy of your response to the complaining employee. If the employee thinks you have not made the corrections or have not been honest with OSHA, they can ask the agency to conduct an on-site inspection.

Silica Safety Enforcement Delayed for Construction Industry

Stonecutter's Workshop

Cal/OSHA has delayed enforcement of its crystalline silica safety standard for the construction industry for another three months to ensure the California rules are in synch with federal rules on the dangerous airborne matter.

The move came after Fed OSHA announced April 6 a delay in adoption of the crystalline silica standard for the sector “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.”

The silica rules have already been in effect for general industry since 2016 and the delay in enforcement is only for the construction industry. Enforcement for the construction sector was slated to start June 23, but that’s been changed to Sept. 23 under the new order.

Under the new silica standard, the permissible exposure limit is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, compared to the old standard of 100.

The California standard is similar to the federal standard, which the industry is challenging in a federal lawsuit. One outfit, the American Chemistry Council, wrote to the Cal/OSHA standards board that the 50 micrograms level is unnecessary and that the current standard, in place since 1971, has markedly reduced the cases of silicosis.

Industry has complained that the cost of complying with the new standard for employers nationwide will be about $6 billion, although Fed-OSHA says it will cost $371 million for employers to fall in line.

The sticking point for the federal construction silica rule is that it requires wet cutting of silica-containing materials to reduce the chances of particles in the air.

The California rules allow for wet cutting and dry cutting with vacuum saws that suck in the particles before they escape into the air. Contractors would rather cut dry rather than wet.

Fed-OSHA’s requirements were also scheduled to take effect on June 23, but the agency announced that implementation would be delayed by three months to give industry a chance to provide data showing that dry vacuum cutting is just as safe in reducing crystalline silica dust as wet cutting.

While Cal/OSHA’s move only delays enforcement, the silica rule is already on the books and employers should comply with it.

All construction employers covered by the standard are required to:

  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
  • Designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • Offer medical exams – including chest X-rays and lung function tests – every three years for workers who are required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

 

If you have not started complying, you should get your new safety protocols in place now. You have an additional three months to do so.

 

Right Mix of Benefits Crucial to Hiring, Retaining Millennials

Cropped shot of two businesspeople shaking hands during a meeting in the boardroom

As the millennial generation continues filtering into the workforce amid a tightening job market, nearly one-third of them have turned down a job offer because of poor insurance offerings, a new study has found.

Making sure that you have the right mix of benefits, including voluntary benefits, is important considering that other studies have found that millennials are already hard to keep on the payroll. This has been underscored by studies that found that one in four millennials were considering looking for new work in the next year.

In addition, they are more cautious than boomers or Gen Xers in choosing their financial portfolios and more focused on planning for their long-term future. Millennials even value health insurance almost as much as older adults do – despite the fact that they’re much less likely to use it.

Also, having seen the hardships the recession had on their families and/or their friends’ families, they are more likely to watch their wallets and are more inclined to start saving for retirement at an earlier age.

In addition, many of them are saddled with levels of student loan debt that are much higher than previous generations.

These factors all add up to a generational shift towards more financial security through improved benefits.

Here are some of the most telling findings of the study by Anthem Inc.:

  • 27% of 18- to 34-year-olds said they’d rejected a job because of poor benefits, or a lack of them.
  • 29% of 18- to 34-year-olds had engaged in long-term financial planning over the past year. That’s compared with 19% of 35- to 54-year-olds. Besides 401(k) plans, that means millennial workers are also more apt to take up disability insurance which protects their income if they are unable to work because of injury or illness.
  • Of survey respondents who did not have disability insurance, 53% said they didn’t have it because their employer did not offer it. Another 32% said they didn’t have disability insurance because it was too expensive.

Earlier study had similar findings

Towers Watson’s “Global Benefits Attitudes Survey” found that 59% of millennials were willing to sacrifice higher pay for a guaranteed retirement benefit, while 32% said they were also willing to pay a higher amount for a lower or more predictable health cost.

When asked how they would spend money if their employer provided them with an allowance to spend on a variety of benefits, millennials said they would allocate more than half to health care and retirement plan benefits (27% each).

 

The takeaway

As an employer in a tight job market, you will need to ensure that you have a good mix of health, retirement and voluntary benefits that can give your employees peace of mind that they can meet their obligations even if they get sick.

Millennials, because of their financial situation, are concerned over how to make ends meet, but they also recognize they have long-term financial risks as well, and many agree with having their employer play an active role in encouraging them to better manage their finances.

This puts you, the employer, in a unique position to help them shape their benefits package for the long run, with a plan towards the future.

That means offering a solid health insurance benefits package, a 401(k) plan so they can start early saving for retirement, and voluntary benefits like critical-care coverage or disability insurance that can protect their finances in case of a catastrophic event.