How To Have A Great Holiday Party At Reduced Risk

 

 
Holiday Parties Can Be Source of Large Liability
 
In this day of litigation any company event can become a source for injury and liability. I will cover how to hold a company party with or without alcohol that will be safe and free of the danger of serious litigation.
 
Of course the route of serving no alcohol is the one with the least risk for litigation, however, with the mood and frivolity of the holidays there is still risk. The company may have near the same liability potential if employees bring their own libations. If they do, the company must control this as if it was served by the company. Too many companies have suffered the tragic loss or injury of an employee after an event. These are even tougher during the joy filled times holidays bring. Tougher yet is when you get that first subpoena and the family of the injured is asking “how did you let him/her drive home from the party if he/she was under the influence?” Many a case law is of record that companies do not fare well under any circumstance, alcohol provided or not. So, what are we to do?
 
 
Rules for Great Time, Reduced Risk
 
Not have a company holiday party? No, quite the contrary, with some proper planning and a little extra expense you can have a great time, serve some drinks, be the boss everyone loves and keep the wolves away.
 
The following rules apply if you are serving or not:
 
1. Collect all car keys at the door, this can be made fun by giving a door prize ticket in exchange for keys. (Make it a nice gift) The person collecting the keys will be able to do a little “inventory” of condition at arrival and exit. If an employee is not capable of driving after the party, they just do not get the keys and alternative means of getting them home safely can be arranged.
 
2. I suggest ahead of time renting a van or town car and driver for the night, or making suitable arrangements with a cab company. This or any plan that has the same effect will allow for a great party, no regrets and of course healthy happy employees.
 
 
Proper Planning Keeps Holidays Merry and Bright
 
I have seen several variations of holding exceptional holiday parties with great success. Smaller companies or those with greater financial resources have held parties at a hotel with rooms for the night for all attending; this can be a great event at the right place. Do though keep a close eye on all and key control is recommended even here.
 
 
 
 
Author Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com
 
 
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  
 
©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.
 
 
 
 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

The Text Message That Could Be Your Last

 

Cell phone/texting use while driving is arguably one of the most important and controversial issues in workplace policy and regulation today.

 

 

You Know It is Dangerous, Don’t Do It

 

No one argues that texting or cell use and driving is dangerous, the evidence is clear as day. If you text/call and drive it is only a matter of time before you will either have an incident or narrowly avoid tragedy. Some companies will take heed and do what they can to stop this behavior; others will ignore common sense and continue. I present these facts in an effort to have as many implement change as possible.

 

Next what about cell phone use? Statistics indicate and law suit settlements speak loudly. Though we may feel that cell phone use is not as hazardous as texting, industry groups recommend a ban on cell use at all times while behind the wheel, most Fortune 500 companies have instituted a no cell policy. The cold hard facts are there in black and white. One can be certain these firms have conducted exhaustive risk assessments. To ignore these facts would be at your company’s peril.

 

 

Have a Written Policy and Enforce It

 

As employers we must put in place firm written policy as well as conduct training. I recommend furthering this policy and training by having each employee that drives a company vehicle, or uses their own for company business sign a document that indicates they have received this training and are familiar with company policy. As well, as the employer we must also show enforcement of this policy with written discipline for any violation. If you have had your policy in place for some time and an incident does occur you must be able to show that you have addressed any past employee violations, if not, in the event of a law suit you could be forced to show you did not put in place a ‘wink-wink” policy. If you do not show a constant policy and procedure you most likely will not prevail.

 

As employers we can chose to use the current progressive discipline program you have in place for other safety violations. I however recommend a no second chance status for this violation. It is that serious. One only needs to take a brief look at the results of recent settlements regarding texting and driving. You will find some of the highest payouts in employer suits. Just recently I have seen $21.6 million and $16.1 million dollar settlements in employee publications. I include these cases to make the point. I hope the dollar amounts shock many employers into solid changes. However, we should be doing this for more than the threat of loss, it is also the right thing to do.

 

 

Implement Training for Callback System

 

What kind of training should we have for this? I suggest including whatever it takes to get the point across. In this instance I would use shocking video, pictures of accidents and threat of discipline. In other words, until we see the type of compliance we do with seat belt use we need to be strong and direct in our resolve to change employee perception, habit and actions. We should also strive to change employee habits when driving for personal use. Your insurance carrier will have a program, many carriers will have already sent presentation items for you to use, If not ask for them. As well many carriers will send someone to conduct training. Safety consultants also offer training that can be customized to your individual needs. Whatever choice is best for you I suggest to do it NOW.

 

I recently called a vendor I use and got the following message. “In the interest of safety we do not answer any calls while driving, if you have received this message during regular work hours I am on the other line or driving, I will call you back promptly when call is done or I have reached my destination”. I was impressed; I immediately gained respect for this firm.

 

In reality just how many calls require such immediate action that we can not wait until we have reached our destination? I suggest considering the following if possible with your employees that drive for you. One possible policy is to require your drivers to pull over every so often to retrieve messages and deal with clients. In reality we may think “we are only answering the phone”, if you think on it, if the call is for business it will also require writing down information from the client. Can you drive and write down an order or take customers info or address and be safe? The answer is obvious, if we are driving, how can we keep our mind on the road and take down an order, directions or a number to call.

 

I suggest the following if you have employees that use a cell for their work. Have them include in their answer message that in the interest of safety your policy is not to take calls while driving, you can refer them to someone at office for immediate response, set a time limit for retrieving messages. Have employees stop at this interval and retrieve messages and return calls.

 

It is very important where employees stop. I often see people stopped on the side of the road or even in the stop lane on expressway. THIS IS HAZARDOUS! Do not allow this and include in training the reasons this is dangerous. Ask any police officer, they will tell you that just being on the side of a road is a hazard. Other driver’s eyes are diverted momentarily at your car and many accidents are caused just by a cars presence on the roadside. Instruct employees to exit the road and park in a parking lot or convenience store to take and receive calls. There they will be safe and can give your customer the undivided attention they deserve. In addition your firm will be perceived to be on the cutting edge of safety and that you care about them and your employees.

 

 

Be Aware of Other Distractions

 

Cell phone/texting use is not the only distracted driving hazard.  Also included in your policy and training should be eating, grooming and any other distractions can kill. Open up your training for employees to share other examples of distracted driving, much will be gained by encouraging them to participate. I have found in classes I conduct that much good information relevant to each client comes from asking the class to participate.

 

Start Today

IN short, this is a critical policy change that I find far to many companies not addressing. The risk is high and the work and time involved to make required changes is small. Consider beginning today if you do not have a policy in place

Author Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com


 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

It is HOT Outside, Steps Employers Should Take to Beat the Heat

 

BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT

It is summer and great time to review your heat stress compliance.
I am sure all of those who work outdoors have seen information on heat stress or heat exhaustion. As employers, we have much responsibility when it comes to temperature extremes.
 
 
Just like any safety situation, OSHA requires us to follow the standard Administrative, Engineering or PPE hazard assessment. So let’s start with this in mind and go through a few possible actions. All of these actions will reduce exposure, increase productivity, and complete compliance requirements. I can not stress enough how many times following this line of thinking has increased productivity by leaps and bounds. If you are diligent you WILL see bottom line results that will have you smiling.
 
Steps You Can Take As an Employer
 
Administrative Actions
 
First we must look at the administrative actions we can take to keep workers safe. This is accomplished by looking into time spent in the sun. Can we rotate workers from tasks in direct sun limiting the exposure time? This is difficult and will only be an option on a small percentage of jobs. However, if possible, this can be a very effective means of limiting work time in the sun. Other administrative possibilities are changing the time the work is done. Can it be done at night? Can employees show up early each day and do the hardest labor first? Think along these lines and many solutions are likely to become clear.
 
Engineering Controls
 
Our next step will be with engineering controls. Can you install cover for shade? Shading your workers from direct sunlight will lower the temperature enough to make work more comfortable. Other engineering actions include installation and use of fans. Local and general ventilation will lower temperatures. These are just a few examples of engineering controls possibile. All jobs are unique – many solutions are there if you are diligent about assessing each situation.
 
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
 
Finally we have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Advances in PPE that provide protection and give significant cost returns are many; with new products appearing on the market regularly and often. I can not stress enough the importance of contacting your safety vendor and having a long talk with them about the type work you do. They will have several options and you can choose what fits your task best
 
Personal Protective Equipment starts with clothing. The most common error many of us make is to remove clothing. Covering the skin is very much like the shade. Take a look at anyone that comes from a country with constantly hot temperatures. Have you ever seen a Sheik from the Middle East in shorts and a T shirt? NO! They come from a place on earth where the ambient temperature is always high and they cover almost 100% of their body in white.
 
Light color is the first consideration as it reflects sun rather than absorbing it as dark colors do. Garments made of cotton or other material that absorb water and allow for slower evaporation will cool your body. Next we have cool vests; new technology in these has resulted in light weight vests at a reasonable cost. They have cool packs that insert into pockets in the vest and last up to two hours. You can purchase extra cool packs as needed to keep in a cooler and rotate them through the day. These are very effective; I have client that tells me productivity is up 25% or more since adding cool vests. They can pay for themselves in one pay period. Employees love them and you can expect an increase in morale.
 
Of course, employers are responsible for providing sufficient water and disposable cups for all employees. I highly recommend in extreme heat days or high work load days to also provide electrolyte drinks.
 
Note: While not required, I highly recommend keeping an ear thermometer on all jobs. I advise at least one in each first aid kit. These will easily and quickly assess core temperature, which is key in determining if an employee is at risk of, or is overheating, which can rapidly turn into an unnecessary tragedy without prompt intervention.
 
 
Training is Critical
 
Finally, training is critical. In the summer heat any of us, even those with training, can quickly fall victim to heat stress. Train your employees with the solutions you have learned from your hazard assessment. You should purchase PPE that works best or your situation and train employees how to properly use it.  Encourage team involvement; this is one area where we all need to watch out for each other as it may well mean saving a life. Keep eyes on your fellow workers, if you see them having any symptoms, stop them from working and follow the steps below. Employers, I encourage posting the signs and symptoms below on the worksite.
 
Bottom line here is that with a bit of planning, forethought, and action you can protect your employees, increase productivity and have a safe and compliant worksite. I encourage all to take a look at this time of year at these and other possibilities. It is a win-win situation that your employees will appreciate. When properly implemented, your heat stress program will not only keep you in compliance, it will increase productivity and morale.
 
Heat Stress Symptoms & Action Steps
 
Heat exhaustion, or heat stress, can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion often begin suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration, and inadequate fluid or salt intake.
 
Signs and symptoms resemble those of shock and may include:
 
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid, weak heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cool, moist, pale skin
  • Low-grade fever
  • Heat cramps
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dark-colored urine
 
If you suspect heat exhaustion:
 
  • Get the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned location.
  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.
  • Loosen or remove the person's clothing.
  • Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.
  • Cool the person by spraying or sponging with cool water and fanning.
  • Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke.
 
Call 911 or emergency medical help if the person's condition deteriorates, especially if fainting, confusion or seizures occur, or if fever of 103.F or greater occurs with other symptoms.
 
 
 
Author Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com
 
 

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com


 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

OSHA Seeing Unprecedented Increase In Whistleblower Enforcements

 

Industry is seeing an unprecedented increase in whistleblower driven enforcements. OSHA has been hiring at an increased pace and announcing enforcement actions regularly.

 

Expectations and Actions

 

OSHA is putting increased effort into whistleblowers. It is an efficient way for them to find industry members who are cutting corners or exposing workers to unsafe conditions. While OSHA is adding compliance officers at a high rate, they could never hire enough to conduct inspections at even a fraction of the businesses they have jurisdiction over. I am somewhat critical of this action. However, since it is an efficient method to conduct enforcement; we can expect to see even more of it. There are many controllable actions you as the employer can take that will lessen the chance this type enforcement will impact your business.

 

What can we expect from OSHA? This is difficult to accurately quantify. However, OSHA compliance officers, other safety professionals, and OSHA itself by its actions and its own press suggest we are in for a level of enforcement never before seen. Plainly the decision has been made that preventable workplace injuries and fatalities are unacceptably high. While I agree with this, I would like to see those who are found in violation be required to spend more on safety rather than be fined. The high amount of OSHA fines has the reverse action in my professional opinion. Taking many thousands of dollars from a firm puts many in a position to not be able to afford the positive changes required.

 

While OSHA, like most federal agencies, does have its problems, for the most part OSHA guidelines provide a base outline to properly administer safety. If you are in compliance and do it efficiently, following the OSHA guidelines (as well as industry standards),and have unwavering management commitment will provide a defense against OSHA inspections, a good return on money spent, keep your employees safe, and promote an excellent negligence defense to workplace accident legal actions.

 

Your Defense Against Whistleblowing

 

How do we defend against OSHA promoting Whistleblowing? First if you have a good safety program that is administered correctly, you have little to be concerned with. A complete safety program is much more than just PPE, a fancy written manual, or memos. A complete program should, as well, promote the communication from the bottom to top of the management chain. (Note that direction).

 

With an effective safety program, employees feel that they can express any concerns to their immediate supervisor and/or safety committee member and receive a quick resolution to the situation they feel needs attention. This can only be accomplished if procedures are in place so that if the lowest level of employee squeaks it is heard rapidly up the management chain as far as required for quick resolution.

 

In fact a solid safety program will recognize employees that do so with praise or incentives. This is the area of safety where human nature comes into play. If your safety program is this evolved it is unlikely that any employees will feel the need to become whistleblowers.

 

Exceptions to the Rule

 

There are exceptions to this of course. Unfortunately a small percentage of employees are mal -adjusted, ill content, or have a bad outlook no matter how acceptable the working conditions are. As such this is where additional training of your supervisors in these specific areas of behavioral sciences can, along with the company probation period, attempt to weed out this type problem before it becomes permanent. If your program is thorough and all levels of management are properly trained, if an employee does call in a complaint, OSHA will see the complaint for what it is. When a worker initiates the first contact, OSHA officers are trained to ask pointed questions to validate a situation. Again, if you have your house in order, the complaint may well show OSHA that your firm is in a ready state of compliance. If a site visit results, it will most likely not be without advanced notice and your firm will represent a safe and compliant company.

 

Stay the Course on Safety

 

I am fond of an old adage about safety that I feel is pertinent here. It goes like this: "It is not easy but it is simple" If you have initiated a safety program in the past and it has degraded a bit, do not be discouraged. You will not be the first to have to seemingly start from the beginning again. Take heart in one aspect, I can promise no actions taken in the past were for naught. Any past training or commitment have life left in them. Remember the number one factor in any safety program is consistent management commitment.

 

Remain committed, retain professional help if needed, and it will pay off. Many safety vendors are fond of touting the studies that show that many dollars are returned for every dollar spent on safety. What is often left out, in an attempt to sell you some new hot product, is that the money must be properly spent. Tossing dollars at random targets may give short lived results. However, to realize the real benefits that go far beyond safety and will result in increased worker moral, production and profits requires specific actions that require many repetitions. This is where being persistent and continuing the commitment will pay off.

 

Conclusion


Bottom line here: consistency through repetition and unwavering management commitment will see you arrive at a point at which your overall safety and risk program becomes self correcting. It is one of those things that may be hard to visualize for management that has not yet experienced this level program. If you follow through remain committed you will arrive sooner than you can imagine. When you are there you will recognize it. It is truly a very special day.

 

 

Author Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com
 
 

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com


 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Numbers Do Not Lie When Proving Safety First

How much money does your company spend on safety? This seems like a simple question on the surface. One would think there would be a column in the company spread sheet that accurately reflects this number.



As a consultant who is called on to gather this information for attorneys, I can report many companies need improvement in this critical area of accounting. If ever sued for negligence this will be a number to have close at hand. It should be an accurate number that reflects between 3-5% of gross sales. This is a base figure that can be lower if the company is in a very low risk category. It can also be higher if the company is in a high risk undertaking. [WCx]


I can see the jaws dropping from here. Yes this is a number that will give a solid answer when you are asked to prove that you put safety first.


Actuaries have crunched the numbers from a wide variety of company types to arrive at a figure that represents what safety first firms use. This may well be the first of subpoenaed items a Plaintiffs lawyer will request.  The number supplied may well decide if he takes the case. If numbers have not been tracked, giving an estimate may not produce a  solid negligence defense.  Just a number will not suffice, they will want the accounting.


This amount is probably being spent without your realization. The first mental calculations may have you scratching your head and thinking.  “Well I have the first aid kit, PPE and …… WHAT ELSE?! Oh no I am in trouble.”


Take a real look at what should have been tracked and see if 3-5 % is not a reasonable number.


Employee safety training will most likely be the largest cost. There should be a column in the books that represents every hour of pay the hourly employees are in safety training. If a ten minute toolbox training is completed every day on a construction site or a manufacturing company holds daily stretch/exercise breaks for safety reasons, these are costs that count and add up fast. With the assistance of an accountant, add the cost of time for any salaried employee or supervisor directly involved with safety. If there is a dedicated safety director with no other duties, his entire salary should be in this column. Other employee safety costs may come from office employees who maintain the Haz-com program. There are many hours in maintaining MSDS sheets, chemical inventory, and ordering safety supplies.


There are costs most companies do not think of as being in the safety column. If there are supply water or electrolyte supplements for outside workers, this amount goes into the total.   Do not forget all first aid items, safety signage, and even motivational posters are fair items for this calculation.


Next look at items taken for granted:
 
Fire extinguishers and their annual care.
Emergency exit signage and back up lighting.
Annual maintenance.
If your company is in an area where icing is common the amount spent on salt or any other anti-ice chemicals is fair game.[WCx]


Each company spends on safety in a unique way. Take some time and add to this list any other obvious safety expenditures. You may have to be firm with the accountant as some may be less than excited about making this change. From experience, I can tell you it will be well worth the time and effort if this information is ever needed. In addition to the negligence defense this will provide, it will give you a valuable tool in calculating real time safety costs. You may also find this extra step has bottom line benefits. Take it from one who has done this forensically, it is much better to have it accounted as you go.

Also use our FREE calculators  to help your management team understand your true Workers' Comp expense and how it impacts your bottom line, as well as the annual revenue of your stakeholders.
 
 
Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com
 
 


 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

How to Handle the Worst News in Company History

 

There are fire extinguishers in case a fire starts. We hope one never does, yet the fire extinguishers are kept in good working order and hung in many appropriate places. As well, we keep first aid items available in case of injuries, and we hope we never put them to use.  This is proper planning. At its base is the most elementary of risk management processes. It is on this premise that I write this article. [WCx]
 
 
Today I want to take a short walk with you into the possible outcomes of having employees work in most any environment. Take, for example the office, a very low risk workplace, but none the less there is that potential for serious injury or even a fatality.  I will leave this to you, the reader, to add to this any other potentially increased risk that may occur at a particular place of employment.
 
 
Have you thought about what would happen in the event you, the owner, or CEO, ever gets that dreaded call? The call no one ever wants to hear.  It is from your site or plant foreman and the person can barely get out the words. There is a  worker or workers severely injured or killed at the worksite or plant.
 
 
WHAT DO YOU DO RIGHT NOW? The next actions taken may well mean the very survival of a company decades in the making. As well, with current case law regulatory requirements and court precedents, there may as well be criminal charges at hand.  Am I being theatrical? NO, Unfortunately I deal with just these events several times a year and have seen things go from bad to worse just for the lack of proper action being taken in the beginning.
 
 
What you do, how you do it, and how you respond to those around you is critical at this point. What words you choose and the actions you take at this critical time can make all the difference.  It is difficult to use an example here. Literally thousands of variables exist due to business type and the individual details that would make any real or example based case just a story. [WCx]
 
 
The point is your firm is unique and the situation will be as well. I can offer no checklist other than the basics.
 
 
This is where planning and forethought to your exposures is critical. Every owner or CEO should have a plan that has been thought out before hand and reinforced down the lines of responsibility. Just like the annual fire extinguisher or emergency drill, there has to be a plan. A well conceived plan that is communicated and reinforced with all down line supervisors and management often.  If I were to give you a scenario of an event at a competitor’s firm and ask you what they would need to do (or not do) in the event of a serious situation, you could do a relatively decent job with the details.
 
 
However, this is YOUR firm, it involves YOUR employees. The injured or killed are possibly your close friends or even a family member in the case of many firms.
 
 
 As well as having frank talks with all front line management, you also must have a relationship with a labor law firm and consultant that you can call to action with a single phone call. You likely will be in shock at this time and prone to distracting emotions in a situation that is critical.  For this reason the first action in the plan should be to call the labor law firm with whom there is a prearranged relationship. The firm can handle, and you can refer, any questions requiring immediate answers to them.
 
 
Most likely media will be on site right behind the emergency responders. As part of the action plan the law firm will assist in creating an initial statement that can be drilled into the supervisors and employees. All must be instructed on what to say. A standard that works is: “We have encountered a tragedy, details are not yet available, and I will get with you as soon as I have any answers Nothing more.  Your labor law firm, due to your individual circumstances, may have something different in mind. If so, rely on them.
 
 
Non-management employees must also be given rules. All must understand that company policy is quite strict concerning the importance that they do not say anything to the media. This must be included in your initial new hire training, written in company policy, and reinforced regularly
 
 
I do hope this information will convince all senior management to initiate this kind of planning into your existing emergency procedures. The time to prepare is before you get that call no one wants to get. I do hope that your plan remains just that a plan. [WCx]
 
 
A few reminders:
 
  • Gather senior management and discuss what kinds of incidents your industry is vulnerable to.
     
  • Prepare a written policy for serious incidents.
     
  • Communicate and train all senior management.
     
  • Notify all non-management employees that they are not authorized to speak with media after an event.
     
  • Retain a labor law firm to assist and review procedures.
     
  • If there is an incident, immediately call on the law firm to direct you through any incident. Follow the instructions, remember emotions will be high. A trusted advisor is chosen. Listen to them at this time.
 
Also see our article on Immediate Injury Response for further information.  
 
 
Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com

 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Respirators Keep Roofers Safe and Keep Comp Costs Down

Roofers seldom think of their respiratory health. Having worked closely with roofers for over 20 years, I can say with certainty that most feel that this area of OSHA compliance and heath is not on their “top ten list”.

 
 
I will address this issue from the perspective of a group of roofers I have worked with recently for a large roofing contractor.
 
 
 
I can honestly say that I am always aware of these hazards, but in the interest of overall risk management, there were always just “bigger fish to fry”. Keeping roofers from falling off a roof just seemed more important all along.
 
 
Why Now?
As a whole, roofing
has seen the highest level of improvement in safety of any part of construction. However, we all have areas we need to address. If fall protection is conquered and other critical areas of safety in your trade, but respiratory health has not been addressed, it might be a worthwhile choice. But, why a formal respirator program? The reasons are many and varied. Let us look at a sampling of some critical items.
 
 
1.  Hazards
From the first cut of a saw into concrete, the silica requirement is met. And thanks to a recent addition to the welding standard, any welding will now put us into the hexavalent chromium standard. The very act of burning the welding rods makes for sufficient H/C to put us in the action level of the standard.
 
 
2.  Adhesive hazard
It is quite easy to get into trouble with PEL’s (permissible exposure limit) of these chemicals. The exposure will be higher on low wind days. Often, a false conclusion is made that wind direction or use of local ventilation is sufficient; however, a close read of the MSDS on newer adhesives will show that “respirator protection is recommended for all days, not just windy ones!
 
 
3.  Re-roof hazards
Other hazards face us on “re-roofs”. Hazards, such as mold, bacteria and unknown particles (asbestos, fiberglass) arise when disturbed while removing old covering layers. This is critical, as many roofing situations can create sufficient dust and unknown particles to be of real concern. Total dust and particulates alone can easily become a respiratory hazard. (You may want to scream,” I QUIT!”) Not so fast, though.  A compliant respiratory program can be simple and affordable, with proper thought and implementation.
 
 
Costs
First, who gets selected to be the respirator users? Cost is a considerable factor, here, so it is not advisable to use new employees. Can you say, “increased turnover costs”?
 
The costs are real. First, the employee(s) chosen are sent to a doctor, who performs respiratory testing including spirometry ( Read more about spirometry from Lowerwc.com here). OSHA requires employees be tested to see if their health is sufficient to use a respirator. Working, while breathing through a respirator, is harder than one might think. It is important to choose employees in excellent health preferably non-smokers, when possible.
 

Cost at an occupational medical center should be about $125 for first check and somewhere between $75 and $125 each year thereafter for OSHA required annual follow up. This is another reason why it is important to choose employees looking toward longevity.
 
 
Quality counts
Next, purchase “quality protection”. N-95 dust masks will suffice for exposure other than just that dust mold, and particulates in low levels.  We recommend a quality half-mask respirator, around $90, with interchangeable cartridges ($50 per exposure). This way, one mask can serve welding, adhesives and particulates, by changing the filter cartridge for the task at hand.
 
 
Training
Now the employee will need to be trained and fit-tested for the respirator. Cost?  $125, tops. So, that is around $500-$650 per trained and certified employee per year. This is a pittance compared to even the first medical claim or OSHA violation!

 
The OSHA Inspection
It makes for a compelling risk assessment; even if in your area (large city as opposed to rural costs) you find it on the high side of these estimates. But, make no mistake about it—YES the OSHA inspector will ask even a roofer about compliance with this standard, especially if the roofer is using the concrete saw or adhesives at the time the inspector is on site.
 
 
Summary
Now that the fall protection and other threatening safety “dragons” are slain, it may be time to look at the respiratory health and compliance in your company. [WCx]
 
 
The roofing industry is more aware of risk and compliance  as time passes . Also we are learning that some of our worst fears about compliance were unfounded and can actually make for good business. Stay safe!!
 
 
Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues. Contact Brian by email at:  oshasurebh@aol.com  For more information click on www.oshasure.com  or call 205-296-0601
 

 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Can There Be TOO MUCH SAFETY

 For roofers and safety professionals, I am about to touch that third rail of safety. Is there such a thing as too much safety? As a 20 year plus safety professional I never thought I would answer this with a resounding YES! But here goes.

 
 
Increasing compliance
I have been watching as OSHA has incrementally increased requirements, with an eye on the changes and how they affect daily operations. Up to now I have been able to live with the changes in our workplace and the added paperwork and responsibility and so have workers. [WCx]
 
 
Thoughtful preparation
I have no problem with the added OSHA requirements as they have proven to my watchful eye to have merit. With thoughtful preparation and combining of the standard morning briefing and with minimal documentation, we have managed to meet and even exceed the individual site pre-task planning and hazard analysis.
 
 
Documentation
In conjunction with a larger roofing contractor, we have come up with a single form (two pages) that covers all the requirements. Some creative additions to this form to have the added benefit of a 5 day term which in turn lowers annual paperwork.
 
 
We have a brief meeting of the minds each morning where we cover the day’s work to come and any new hazards. Add to this a forward looking checklist of potential hazards with a check off list, and we have a compliant situation.
 
 
 It sounds like we have it all covered, right? Well, not so fast.  
The roofing company I have just mentioned has been faced with two cases lately that ask for more, WAY MORE! How can this be?
 
 
Added requirements
First, I will relate one new contract with a large national general contractor. The requirements this company has added are, in my experience, nothing short of make work. They have added a requirement for a dedicated safety professional with at least an OSHA 500 card to be on site at any time work is under way. This for a crew of 6-10 that already has a supervisor with a 30 hour card and most team members hold 10 hour cards. As well, we are required to follow and document additional steps that I will not detail here to avoid “outing” the GC. These steps each require several daily forms.
 
 
Over tasked supervisors
We have an excellent team with an excellent safety attitude and culture. However all this added paperwork and over supervision is causing hard feelings among our supervisors. I fear that this will affect our existing safety culture and team sprit as it seems any real input from the team is no longer necessary or wanted, just the forms!  Additionally, the negative attitude growing among our crew is palatable.

 

 
Team Spirit trouble
My greatest fear is that this perception has trickled down through the ranks and has eroded a safety culture many years in the making. The barrage of forms and make work have my supervisors grumbling, and it comes off to the crew as being negative about safety in general. I ask, will this apathy lead to a team member not doing some basic safety requirement that will get them hurt? I say it is likely and fear the end result.
 
 
EM-385
The next situation is very similar yet involves work on a military base. This brings in a new set of requirements that is also troubling. If anyone out there has dealt with EM-385, then this concern is understood I do not need to detail here all of the steps and requirements past the daily JHA (job hazard analysis) of each work step every day. This of course requires a dedicated safety professional following the workers through the day completing mountains of paperwork. Not only will this add the risk of another person on the roof, it can create a distraction negative to our goals and contrary to our existing safety culture.

 

 
Over commitment
Is this trend a result of an over commitment to safety? Is this possible? In a world where we have finally started to see some positive safety cultures develop across the roofing trades, are some clients asking more than is sensible? Should well meaning general contractors add on steps and require them as part of the contract? I say no. We should use the OSHA guidelines as a measure and add what works is needed to develop individual safety cultures that fit with our tasks. A safe workplace is not a factor of the amount of paperwork generated, but by the compliance, attitude, and culture a good team develops and lives by.

 

Possible Solutions
Be sure to do all that is needed to have the safest possible workplace. If that includes recognizing and dealing with unnecessary safety protocols added on by well meaning General Contractors or clients, do not stay silent. If this is the case, I suggest bringing it up before the start date. If there are not agreeable terms, ask for a review by an outside and unbiased professional. Having a proper balance of safety and compliance and documentation is an important and fragile thing that can be overdone if the entire process is not understood. At times, a new view from above may be the best course of action.
 
 
In Summary
Is this actually over commitment or is it our old nemesis—communication? I say the latter. No one intends to overwhelm with minutia or mountains of paperwork. The GC is doing all the right things; they may not be aware of the current status of all subcontractors programs. When they see a compliant situation many of these duplications may just fall away. [WCx]
 
 
Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues. oshasurebh@aol.com
For more information click on www.oshasure.com  or call 205-296-0601 

 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Make Your Drug Free Workplace Program an Asset Not a Liability

As owner of OshaSure, a Birmingham-based safety and risk management firm, I evaluate workplace safety and risk for small to mid-sized companies. Falling into my scope of expertise is the company Drug Free Workplace Program (DFWP). It is troubling to report that a large number of my evaluations of this highly beneficial program reveal serious risk to the client.

 

Make no mistake about it; there is not another program that reduces the exposure to the employer more than does a well-crafted “DFWP”. The discount programs help offset the costs of the program. A well organized, legal “DFWP” will often equal in cost the amount of the discount or more. .[WCx]

 

Benefits of a Drug Free Workplace Program

The main benefit of the “DFWP” is the Workers Compensation carrier can deny a claim based on a positive test for drugs. Since initial development of the “DFWP” in the states, case law and precedent have determined that the “positive” drug test results must be causal to the injury. This means, in simple terms, that if the employee is standing somewhere on the job and a brick falls on the employee’s head, for example, the claim would not be paid even with a “positive” drug test result. This is due to the fact that the falling brick has nothing to do with the employee’s intoxication. This is fair and leaves most accidents well within the realm of denial of the claim.

 

 

Getting to the heart, here, my evaluations suggest that many firms are not placing a high enough emphasis on individual compliance with this program. I find glaring omissions such as little or no formal written policy or a lack of proper notification to existing employees and “new hires” about required testing. Further, not educating how prescription or “OTC” drugs can alter a test or alerting employees how and when to inform the employer that they are taking a prescription drug.

 

 

Customize the Program

Prescription drugs that can affect one’s ability to perform must be reported. Employers have the duty to place the employee in non safety sensitive positions, if applicable, for the course of the prescription.

 

 

This is just one of many reasons that all programs must be customized to the client.

 

 

The details of your program must be determined from the start to include situations unique to your company. The company policy should be developed by a knowledgeable HR employee or consultant and then reviewed by a labor attorney, familiar with your operations, and the DFWP laws and administrative codes in your state.

 

Training

Finally, training requirements vary from state to state; however, training in DFWP is required by all states; at minimum, employees are required to have initial and periodic training. Supervisors must have training in recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse and must be familiar with all related company policy and procedures. (I suggest annually for both)

 

 

 

Do Not Do it Yourself

Next, another troublesome finding with testing, I have found many companies selling “do it yourself testing” including hair, urine or saliva testing. The gold standard and all state programs rely on urine testing through a certified laboratory. A trained collector, along with a facility restroom dedicated and set up solely for drug testing is required. No matter the purported legality, the difference in cost of these types of “self tests” and a certified laboratory along with a medical review officer (MRO) is negligible considering what is at stake.

 

 

Remember, the discount is given not as a profit item but to help pay for the program and testing. There is no advantage in saving a small amount of money against the risk of losing a case due to improper testing. (This topic could well be its own article but for the purpose of this writing I assure you that using a nationally recognized laboratory along with a competent MRO is a “no brainer” to any risk assessment.)

 

 

Review your Program

Regular review of your DFWP is highly recommended. Make no mistake about it; this is a very punitive program that has the ability to take a huge amount of coverage from an employee.  As such, the stakes are high, the company will be viewed in litigation as the “big bad wolf” after “the little guy employee”. However, the law is clear and case law backs this up. If all ducks are in a row, the company can expect protection intended by the law.  .

 

 

It is not difficult or excessively costly to establish and maintain a program that is properly developed and funded from the start or at the point of re-establishing one after a deficiency is found.  NOTE:

Remember to receive your discount, you must verify annually that the program is complete. This consultant asserts that it is likely for the carrier to ask for a refund of discounts, if your program is not complete.[WCx]

 

 

Most challenges will be clear and your firm will be protected from excessive loss due to an employee’s violation of your company drug policy.

 

 

In closing, I suggest if you have not recently or regularly reviewed your DFWP, now rather than later is the time to do so.  Please see our workers comp resource center at LowerWC.com for more on state by state Drug Testing 

Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues. For more information click on www.oshasure.com  205-296-0601  oshasurebh@aol.com

WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

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