May 3, 2013
In a recent memo, OSHA announced an initiative to help protect temporary employees from workplace hazards. The agency said it’s taking action after reports of temporary workers suffering fatal injuries – many during their first days on the job.
A major issue surrounding temp workers is that they can be overlooked – especially when it comes to adequate training, protective equipment, and even the proper reporting of injuries. Although employers are required to report and log all injuries, non-reporting for temporary workers remains a common practice today.
Some employers still have the mindset that since temp worker is being paid by someone else (the staffing agency), then the temp is not a real employee. This is not how OSHA sees it. Employers must treat temp workers as their own employees, and all OSHA rules apply. If they get hurt or need training, PPE, medical exams, or air monitoring, they must receive the same treatment as regular employees.
The new OSHA effort will result in inspectors using a newly created code in their information system to denote when temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations, and differentiating between temporary workers and permanent workers. In addition, they will verify that temp workers have received training in a language they can understand.
Below is an excerpt from OSHA’s memo:
Employers have a duty to provide necessary safety and health training to all workers regarding workplace hazards. In order to determine whether employers are complying with their responsibilities under the Act, please direct CSHOs in your region to determine within the scope of their inspections whether any employees are temporary workers and whether any of the identified temporary employees are exposed to a violative condition. In addition, CSHOs should assess- using records review and interviews – whether those workers have in fact received required training in a language and vocabulary they understand. Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections, among others.
Apr 30, 2013
Each year on April 28, we observe Workers Memorial Day – a day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made sick by their work. It is a time to renew the fight for safer workplaces and emphasize the need that worker safety be placed above corporate profits.
April 28 is also the anniversary of the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, (OSHA). With this act, was the promise of the right to a safe workplace. Although workplace safety has greatly improved over the years, there are still an alarming number of job-related tragedies.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Workers Memorial Day:
Each day in this country, 150 workers die from job injuries and occupational diseases. Last year in the United States more than 3.8 million workers were reported injured on the job, but this number understates the problem. The true toll of job injuries is likely two to three times greater. Around the globe, the toll is vast, with 2.3 million workers dying and 317 million workers injured on the job each year.
This year our thoughts are particularly with the families of West, Texas, where two weeks ago a horrific explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 15 people, injured hundreds more and caused widespread destruction. While the investigation is still under way, from all reports regulatory authorities had not inspected this dangerous facility in years.
This Workers Memorial Day we must speak out against all those who value profit over life and wealth for the few over prosperity for all. Corporations that exploit workers and put them in danger must be held accountable. We call on the Obama Administration to act without further delay to implement important regulations on silica, coal dust and other hazards. And we must strengthen our job safety laws to give all workers the protection they need and deserve.
Aug 10, 2012
It is OSHA’s job to regulate safety in the workplace. Failing to meet their standards can result in citations and hefty fines. But a visit from OSHA doesn’t have to bring on feelings of anxiety and fear for employers.
If employers take the necessary steps towards compliance, they can rest easy when OSHA comes knocking.
Here are the top 10 ways to avoid OSHA fines:
- Being Prepared – In most cases, OSHA won’t show up without a reason. Possible reasons for a visit to your jobsite include: a fatality or serious accident, employee complaint of unsafe conditions, and follow-up inspections.
- Hazard Communication (HazCom) – Failure to maintain adequate HazCom programs is one of the most common citations nationwide. The fundamental of this standard is that employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace have a right to know about the hazards and how to protect themselves. Some compliance with the HazCom standard involve having a list of all hazardous materials on your jobsite, training in the proper use of PPE, and MSDS sheets on site.
- Training - Failure to meet PPE requirements, which includes offering required PPE and training to employees as well as written certification, is also a common citation. Simply taking the time to train employees will not only prevent injuries, it will save you money in the long run.
- Paperwork - OSHA views maintaining paperwork as critical to safe operations. Inspectors are likely to review written HazCom or PPE program materials, training documentation and more. By having paperwork readily available, you are showing that you care about your safety program.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls – Because of the seriousness of fall-related injury, OSHA takes fall protection very seriously. Employers must be sure to properly install fall protection equipment, adequately train employees in the use of fall protection equipment, and use safe work practices.
Citations involving ladders have only recently became common. Data suggests that more and more people are using ladders when they shouldn’t. Ladders that are broken or bent should not be used – ever. Working on and around ladders can be hazardous, and proper is a must.
- Ergonomics – Overexertion is a leading cause of work-related injury, and is unique in that is can happen over a long period of time. Ergonomics is like designing the job around the worker through feasible engineering controls. This can greatly reduce the risk of injury – and an OSHA inspection – in your facility.
- Lockout/Tagout – If your employees operate any heavy machinery or equipment that needs to be shut down before performing any routine maintenance or service, you are required to implement a lockout/tagout program. Failure to comply can be costly – up to $7,000 per violation.
- Engineering Controls – Engineering controls are used to remove a hazard or place a barrier between the worker and the hazard. Examples include ventilation systems, sound-dampening materials to reduce noise levels, and safety interlocks. These things may come at an initial cost, but will be well worth it in the long run.
- Administrative Controls – These work practice controls are changes in procedures with the goal of reducing duration, frequency, and severity of exposure to hazards in the workplace. Examples include rotating workers to avoid repetitive motion injuries, requiring breaks when working in hot environments, and proper housekeeping.
- Research – If you are unsure if your facility is in compliance with any OSHA standards, the web has a ton of useful information. OSHA’s website has a variety of materials, supplies, handbooks and articles that will help you to avoid violations during an inspection.
On any jobsite, accidents can and do happen. But by taking the proper steps, you can work with OSHA to ensure all employees work in safe and healthy conditions in order to prevent injuries.
Jan 3, 2011
So the first working day of 2011 sees California introduce a new set of workplace safety laws. The state’s worker safety agency – Cal/OSHA – will now find it easier to investigate safety violations that occur in California workplaces following a revision to its labor code laws.
Susan Kemp, a labor law attorney for the California Chamber of Commerce, describes how the new laws will work.
She says the boost to Cal/OSHA’s enforcement powers applies mainly to businesses that own and operate heavy equipment. “Any type of machinery that involves anything that can pinch you, push you, cut you, smush body parts, anything with the height that you can fall, tunneling, people in ditches where there’s a cave-in, those kinds of things,” Kemp said.
Cal/OSHA will enforce a new safety standard this year to prevent farm workers from getting sick from the heat. Farm and orchard managers now have to provide each worker with a quart of water an hour – and five minutes of rest in the shade if the employee asks for it.
Susan Kemp says the new law also requires employers to train managers on how enforce the new regulation. Kemp explains, “The employer has to monitor the weather and make arrangements in advance, and supervisors and managers have to be trained to do that as well.”
The new laws in detail include:
New Off- Duty Meal Break Exemptions
AB 569 provides greater legal clarity to Labor Code section 512(a) which requires employers to provide their employees, who work more than six hours in a day, one 30-minute off-duty meal break after five hours of work. The new law adds section 512.7 to the Labor Code and will exempt from the off-duty meal break requirement workers in specific industries who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that contains meal period provisions. The employee groups include: construction workers, commercial drivers, security officers and employees of electrical and gas corporations or local publicly-owned electric utilities. These are industries or positions where it was deemed an off-duty meal break can be impractical. The revision was made to better meet the requirements of the particular positions. The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet).
Workers’ Compensation Extended Eligibility for Public Service Workers
AB 2253 expands workers’ compensation eligibility for firefighters and law enforcement officers who have developed certain types of cancer that are reasonably linked to their jobs. Existing law establishes that this presumption be extended for a period of three months for each full year of service the employee worked, not to exceed 60 months beyond their last day of service. The pending legislation will expand that time frame to up to 120 months and will amend Labor Code section 3212.1. The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Joe Coto (D-San Jose).
Organ / Bone Marrow Donors’ Leave and Benefits for Employees of Private Employers
SB 1304 requires private employers to permit employees to take paid leaves of absence for organ and bone marrow donation, similar to provisions existing for California state employees. Under the new law, private employers are prohibited from interfering with employees taking organ or bone marrow donation leave and after the conclusion of the leave of absence must allow them to return to the same job or an equivalent job. The bill, introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), further prohibits retaliation of the employee for taking the leave and provides employees to seek restitution if these rights are violated.
New Procedures Established and Definition Clarified for Cal/OSHA Serious Citations
California employers are legally bound to provide employees a safe workplace. California law has authorized DIR’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, to enforce applicable safety and health regulations and issue citations when investigations reveal that an employer has committed violations of those standards, including serious violations that cause an employee to suffer or potentially suffer, among other things, “serious injury or illness” or “serious physical harm.” AB 2774, introduced by Assembly member Sandre R. Swanson (D-Alameda), amends labor code section 6432 to define serious physical harm and establishes a rebuttable presumption as to when an employer commits a serious violation of these provisions. The bill further establishes new procedures and standards for an investigation when issuing serious citations.
Learn more at the California DIR.
Nov 5, 2010
According to a recent federal study, both North and South Carolina have been deemed to be the safest places to work in the country with the least number of injuries reported.
As this report states:
North Carolina’s Labor Department said Thursday the state’s rate of injuries or illnesses at private companies dropped to a historic low in 2009. The 3.1 percent rate compares with 3.4 percent in 2008.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were just over three cases of illness or injury per 100 full-time workers in both Carolinas. Injury rates in both states were near the country’s lowest along with Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and New York.
But, the workplace safety in South and North Carolina has been heavily criticized by the US Labor Department for suggesting paltry fines to companies flouting the laws and not taking safety issues seriously enough.
Another state OSHA that has also come under fire recently, California, has hit back at the US Labor Dept’s audit suggesting that its criticisms asking for better complaint resolution and improved safety training are irrelevant due to the audit relying heavily on out of date information and lacking understanding of the state’s process.
As reported by ABC:
Cal/OSHA chief Len Welsh said in an interview Thursday that the federal audit didn’t provide documentation for many of its claims, making it difficult to pinpoint failures and make effective changes.
Cal/OSHA could change the way it responds to complaints as a result of the audit’s criticism that the state takes an average of 24.5 days to initiate an investigation after a complaint is received, a process that should only take three days.
To speed up the process, Welsh said the department may stop sending on-site inspectors to workplaces for low-priority complaints — those alleging non-serious hazards — to reduce inspection workload. Cal/OSHA can make the change unilaterally, Welsh said, but it wants to vet it with stakeholders before changing protocol.
“As time goes on and resources dry up we’re going to have to find ourselves prioritizing what we do more and more,” Welsh said.