Tag Archives: workplace safety

What is OSHA and Why is it Important to Your Business?

Why is job safety and health important?

In 2013, 4,585 employees died from occupational incidents, and there were a staggering 3.0 million total recordable cases of workplace injury and illness. On average, each of these 3.0 million cases required eight days away from work, which means U.S. employers as a whole paid for millions of days of lost work time. Experts estimate that workplace injuries and illnesses cost U.S. businesses more than $125 billion annually. Effective job safety and health programs not only help reduce worker injuries and illnesses, they save employers money in the long run.

How does OSHA contribute to job safety and health?

The primary goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to carry out the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which Congress originally passed in 1970. The OSH Act has undergone several amendments and revisions since its inception, but it is still in place “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions to preserve our human resources.”

OSHA contributes to job safety and health by enacting regulations that forward this ideal. Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CF), Parts 1902 – 1990, houses all the OSHA standards, though OSHA also states to enact occupational safety and health laws of their own under federally-approved plans. State-run programs are at least as strict, and sometimes more so, than federal standards. This ensures a minimum standard of job safety and health that all employers must follow to protect employees.

Are all employees covered by the OSH Act?

The OSH Act covers all employees except public employees in state and local governments and those who are self-employed. Public employees in state and local governments are covered by their state’s OSHA-approved plan, if applicable.

Federal employees are covered under the OSH Act’s federal employee occupational safety and health programs, which are outlined in 29 CFR Part 1960. United States Postal Service employees, however, are subject to the same OSH Act coverage provisions as those in the private sector.

Other federal agencies that have issued requirements affecting job safety or health include the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and some agencies of the Department of Transportation (DOT), including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Employees in these industries are subject to their respective regulations.

Additionally, businesses in the retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors that are classified as low-hazard are exempt from most OSHA requirements, as are small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Exceptions are discussed in 29 CFR Part 1904, which also explains which OSHA regulations exempt employers are still required to follow.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

If you are an employer covered by the OSH Act, you must provide your employees with jobs and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. You must also comply with the OSHA statutory requirements, standards and regulations that require you to:

  • Provide well-maintained tools and equipment, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Provide medical assistance and guidance for employees sustaining workplace injuries/illnesses
  • Provide required OSHA training
  • Report accidents that result in fatalities to OSHA within eight hours
  • Report accidents that result in the hospitalization of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours
  • Keep records of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses and their causes
  • Post annual injury/illness summaries for the required period of time

What are your rights as an employer?

When working with OSHA, you may do the following:

  • Request identification from OSHA compliance officers
  • Request an inspection warrant
  • Receive a reason for inspection from compliance officers
  • Accompany compliance officers on inspections
  • Request an informal conference after an inspection
  • File a notice of contest to citations or proposed penalties
  • Apply for a variance from a standard’s requirements under certain circumstances
  • Be assured of the confidentiality of trade secrets
  • Submit a written request to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for information on potentially toxic substances in your workplace

What are employees’ responsibilities?

All employees are obligated to help prevent exposure to workplace safety and health hazards by becoming familiar with and adhering to all applicable OSHA requirements.

What are employees’ rights?

With regards to OSHA regulations, employees have the right, among other actions, to:

  • Review employer-provided OSHA standards, regulations and requirements
  • Request information from the employer on  emergency procedures
  • Receive adequate, OSHA-required safety and health training on toxic substances and emergency action plan(s)
  • Ask the OSHA area director to investigate hazardous conditions or violations of standards in the workplace
  • Have his or her name withheld from the employer when filing a complaint with OSHA
  • Know what actions OSHA took as a result of the employee’s complaint and have an informal review of any decision not to inspect or issue a citation
  • Have an employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer on inspections
  • Observe monitoring and measuring of toxic substances or harmful physical agents and review related records (including medical records)
  • Review the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 300 Form), if applicable, at a reasonable time
  • Request a closing discussion following an inspection
  • Object a citations’ set abatement period
  • Seek safe and healthful working conditions without your employer retaliation

Why is OSHA important to your business?

OSHA plays a key role in making your facility a safe, healthy place to work. Beyond providing the tools and guidance to work toward an injury- and illness-free workplace, OSHA is important to identifying businesses that are not committed to safety. Employers that do not carefully follow OSHA regulations often face hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in fines.

How can you get more information on safety and health?

OSHA provides free publications, standards, technical assistance and compliance tools to help you understand the nuances of the regulations. OSHA’s website also offers extensive assistance by way of workplace consultation, voluntary protection programs, grants, strategic partnership, state plans, training and education to guide you in your quest for workplace safety. To learn more about OSHA and the critical elements of a successful safety and health management system in your workplace ,visit www.osha.gov.

Top 10 Ways to Control Your Mod

Your experience modification factor, or mod, is an important component used in calculating your workers’ compensation premium. If you can control your mod, you can lower your price — so we’ve gathered top tips to help you impact your bottom line.

  1. Investigate accidents immediately and thoroughly; take corrective action to eliminate hazards, and be aware of fraud.
  2. Report all claims to your carrier immediately. Alert the carrier to any serious, potentially serious or suspect claims. Frequently monitor the status of the claim, and communicate with the adjuster to resolve them as quickly as possible.
  3. Take an aggressive approach to providing light duty to all injured employees upon their release from treatment. Supervise light duty employees to ensure their conformance with restrictions.
  4. In serious cases that involve lost time, communicate with the claims adjuster to demonstrate your interest in returning the injured employee back to gainful employment.
  5. Set safety performance goals for those with supervisory responsibility. Success in achieving safety goals should be used as one measure during performance appraisals.
  6. Develop a written safety program, and train employees in their responsibilities for safety. Incorporate a disciplinary policy into the program that holds employees accountable for breaking rules or rewards them for correctly following safety procedures.
  7. Frequently communicate with employees, both formally and informally, regarding the importance of safety.
  8. Make safety a priority – senior management must be visible in the safety effort and must support improvement.
  9. Evaluate accident history and near-misses at least monthly. Look for trends in experience, and take corrective action on the worst problems first.
  10. Hire Libertate Insurance to ensure success.
osha fine updates

OSHA Fines Updates: What You Need to Know

As an employer, you’re probably aware of how important it is to maintain a safe working environment. Failing to comply with OSHA standards can result in costly fines and bad publicity. OSHA fines updates were recently announced, and companies who violate regulations will face much stiffer penalties moving forward.

 

What Are the Implications?

In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation that mandated federal agencies such as OSHA to raise their penalties to account for inflation. OSHA’s penalties had remained unchanged for over 25 years (since 1990), so this new adjustment is designed to ensure that violating companies pay accordingly.

According to information on OSHA’s website, “The new penalties took effect August 2, 2016. Any citations issued by OSHA on or after this date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015.”

The specific amount of the increase for violation is 78 percent, which is quite substantial. Here’s a breakdown of how the maximum penalties have increased:

 

Type of Violation Current Maximum Penalty New Maximum Penalty
Serious
Other-Than-Serious
Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation $12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $70,000 per violation $124,709 per violation

 

Continued Increases in the Future

Not only did this bill result in higher penalties in 2016, it will mean rising fines every year to keep up with the inflation rate. Although the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act kept OSHA and a handful of other federal agencies exempt from increasing their fines for years, you should now see an annual increase in fines by no later than January 15 each year.

 

 

How Will This Affect My Business?

These OSHA fines updates are a wake up call for companies who may not have been making safety a priority. If you incur a penalty moving forward, it’s going to be significantly more costly than it would have been in the past. This is especially true for a willful or repeated violation. In theory, a serious violation such as this could put a small company out of business.

 

Protecting Your Business

If your safety standards aren’t necessarily where they should be, it’s a good idea to consult OSHA’s Small Business Handbook. It contains a wealth of valuable information on OSHA regulations and can minimize your chances of being penalized.

You may also want to participate in a free, on-site consultation where an OSHA representative visits your workplace to assess your safety level and looks for potential hazards. You won’t receive any citations or penalties during this visit, and you may qualify for a one-year exemption from OSHA inspections. If you’re interested, you can learn more via this section of the OSHA website.

The recent OSHA fines updates prove just how vital workplace safety is. If you’ve been slacking in this area for whatever reason, it’s time to make safety a priority. Fortunately, OSHA is more than willing to help you improve your safety and can help you steer clear of penalties.

 

Creating A Safer Workplace

One of the most important responsibilities of any employer is ensuring the safety of employees. Establishing and maintaining a safe working environment is not only critical to the health and well-being of your workers, but it maximizes productivity and reduces your liabilities.

 

Meeting OSHA Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was created in 1971 to ensure that employers uphold safety regulations and don’t put employees in jeopardy. If an employee ever feels that their employer isn’t upholding OSHA standards, they’re entitled to file a complaint. If the employer is found to be in violation and lacking compliance, they may be subject to fines ranging from $5,000 to $70,000.

Because some states have individual plans, business owners must be sure that they’re compliant with state as well as federal safety laws. You can find more information on state laws on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

 

Importance of Workplace Safety

There are several reasons why you should strive to create a safe workplace, aside from the obvious reasons of avoiding claims and costly fines.

  • Lower absenteeism rate – If workers are injured, it’s going to lead to absenteeism and can put a strain on other employees. When employees are safe, you can have the necessary manpower and won’t have to scramble to cover the workload.
  • Less turnover – When employees are concerned about their safety, retention rates can suffer — and it’s not realistic to expect workers to stay for long. A safe work environment allows employees to feel comfortable and know that their employer is concerned with their well-being. This tends to translate into deeper loyalty, causing more employees to stick around for the long haul.
  • Increased productivity and profitability – There’s usually a correlation between workplace safety and efficiency. Employees can perform tasks with less friction, which often results in greater output and higher profit margins.
  • Better reputation – When your company is known for putting an emphasis on safety, you can gain a positive industry reputation. Conversely, consistent complaints and penalties can hurt your public perception.

 

Creating a Safer Workplace

A safe working environment usually starts with establishing safety policies and training employees on how to perform their jobs while minimizing the potential for hazards. The specific policies and safety measures implemented will differ depending upon the industry, so you’ll need to address the unique safety concerns that your company faces.

Another good idea is to request an OSHA consultation visit where a professional will assess your workplace and identify the primary risks and hazards. This is free, and you can get more information at the U.S. Department of Labor website. It’s also smart to invest in ergonomic equipment because this too makes for a safer workplace. Not only does this allow workers to operate with more comfort while reducing the chances of illness/injury, it can also be a catalyst for increased productivity.

 

Workplace safety isn’t something to take lightly and should be an area of focus when running your business. Familiarize yourself with relevant laws and regulations, and put forth the effort to improve safety, to place your company in a position to thrive and avoid a lot of unnecessary complications.

If you’re looking for more helpful information on the topic of safety, the Q & A’s for Small Business Employers Guide on the OSHA website offers sound advice.

 

Photo by Leonard John Matthews

The Correlation Between Winter Weather and Worker’s Comp Claims

The winter months are a time when much of the nation gets hit with inclement weather like snow, ice and sleet. This can create hazardous workplace conditions where workers are more likely to incur injuries. Let’s now discuss the specifics behind the correlation between winter and weather and worker’s comp claims, and how you can prevent accidents.

 

Primary Workplace Dangers

Just as you might think, the vast majority of accidents are due to slips and falls. Whenever there are snowy or icy conditions, it turns a normally innocuous environment into one that’s teeming with dangers. It’s all too easy for employees to get injured in the parking lot, walkways or any other slick surface. Here’s a breakdown of the percentage of worker’s comp claims that are due to slips and falls in five states.

  • Minnesota – 29%
  • Illinois – 32%
  • Michigan – 32%
  • Wisconsin – 33%
  • Indiana – 37%

 

The Negative Impact on Business

According to Mike Britt, president of Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, “Winter-related slips and falls have a significant negative impact on American businesses each year, resulting in time off work, temporary employee costs, overtime for existing employees and increased insurance costs.” Without taking the proper safety precautions, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets injured on the job. All of a sudden you’re lacking a valuable member of your workforce and suffering a financial loss. Not to mention that it can be disruptive to overall business operations and cause a lot of headaches.

 

How to Prevent Accidents

Although you can’t eliminate the threat of slips, fall and other accidents entirely, there are several ways to minimize them. For starters, you will want to have an effective snow removal plan so employees, customers and vendors have safe and convenient access. It’s smart to hire a snow removal contractor and have them on standby whenever a big storm hits.

They should have a strong reputation and be licensed and bonded in your state. A contractor should also have current coverage for liability and worker’s comp. Going this route is smart because they will usually have access to serious equipment like snowplows and know what it takes to keep your workplace safe.

You should also take the time to educate your employees on some basic safety techniques. This starts with wearing slip-resistant footwear with good rubber treads. Having pullover boots close by is ideal because employees will be prepared at any time. When walking on a potentially slippery surface, it’s advised to take short and slow steps.

If possible, it’s also best to not carry items under inclement conditions. If an employee has their arms and hands free, they can walk with greater stability and are more likely to catch themselves if they do slip. For more information on staying safe, this guide from Appalachian State University can be helpful.

Because of the link between winter weather and worker’s comp claims, it’s important to take a proactive approach and prevent problems instead of waiting until it’s too late. Click here to learn more about workers’ compensation claims and how to simplify the process.

Photo by Extra Zebra