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Severe Violator Enforcement Program

Last week the US Department of Labor announced an update to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Since 2010, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program has focused resources on enforcement and inspection of employers who either willfully or repeatedly violate federal health and safety laws. Or further, employers that demonstrate a refusal to correct previous violations. In addition to being included on a public list of the nation’s severe violators, employers are subject to follow-up inspections.

“The Severe Violator Enforcement Program empowers OSHA to sharpen its focus on employers who – even after receiving citations for exposing workers to hazardous conditions and serious dangers – fail to mitigate these hazards,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.

The changes will broaden the program’s scope with the reality that additional industries will fall within its parameters. Previously, an employer could be in the program for failing to meet a limited number of standards. The new criteria include violations of all hazards and OSHA standards. It will continue to focus on repeat offenders in all industries.

The updated Severe Violator Enforcement Program criteria include the following:

  • The expanded program criteria now include all hazards and OSHA standards.
  • Program placement for employers with citations for at least two willful or repeated violations.
  • Employers that receive failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of high-gravity serious violations.
  • Follow-up or referral inspections are made one year – but not longer than two years – after the final order.
  • Potential removal from the Severe Violator Enforcement Program three years after the date of receiving verification that the employer has abated all program-related hazards.
  • Employers’ ability to reduce time spent in the program to two years by consenting to an enhanced settlement agreement that includes the use of a safety and health management system that includes seven basic elements.

If an employer agrees to an Enhanced Settlement Agreement they may elect to reduce the SVEP term to two years. In such cases, SVEP removal is contingent on the employer agreeing to develop and implement a safety and health management system. This must be completed within two years. It must include effective policies, procedures, and practices. These should recognize occupational safety and health hazards. As well as protect employees from those hazards. The employer’s SHMS must include at least the seven basic elements outlined. Lastly, the implementation must be verified by an independent third party subject to the approval of OSHA.

Seven Basic Elements in OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs:

  • Management Leadership
  • Worker Participation
  • Hazard Identification & Assessment
  • Hazard Prevention & Control
  • Education & Training
  • Program Evaluation & Improvement
  • Communication & Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors, and Staffing Agencies

Parker further stated, “It is the goal of this administration to maximize all tools available to us to ensure employers comply with their legal obligation to provide safe and healthful workplaces. These changes to SVEP will hold a microscope to those employers who continue to expose workers to very serious dangers and help ensure America’s workers come home safe at the end of every shift.” National Safety Compliance offers many training products to help businesses stay OSHA compliant and avoid ever being included in the severe violator program.

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Personal Protective Equipment: Essential for Workers’ Safety

Recently, the term Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become fairly common and many Americans immediately think of facemasks and possibly gloves when they hear it. However, PPE has been around the safety industry much longer than our recent challenges. Furthermore, PPE includes much more than a facemask and is a vital component to keep workers safe in many work environments. Hazards exist in every workplace in many different forms. OSHA requires that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury. Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect employees. However, when mitigating workplace hazards does not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide PPE to their employees and ensure its use.

The Requirement for PPE

Specific requirements for Personal Protective Equipment are presented in many different OSHA standards, published in 29 CFR. Some standards require that employers provide PPE at no cost to the employee while others simply state that the employer must provide PPE. In order to ensure the greatest possible protection for employees, employers and employees must cooperate in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.

Employers are responsible for:

  • Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
  • Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
  • Training employees in the use and care of PPE.
  • Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
  • Periodically reviewing, updating, and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.

Employees should:

  • Properly wear PPE.
  • Attend training sessions on PPE.
  • Care for, clean, and maintain PPE.
  • Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE.

Some Types of required Personal Protection Equipment:

  • Eye and Face Protection: safety spectacles, goggles, welding shields, laser safety goggles, & face shields
  • Head Protection: hard hats (Types A, B, & C)
  • Foot and Leg Protection: leggings (with safety snaps), metatarsal guards, toe guards, combination foot and shin guards, & safety shoes
  • Hand and Arm Protection: protective gloves, leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves, fabric and coated fabric gloves, chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves,
  • Body Protection: laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns, and full-body suits.
  • Hearing Protection: single-use earplugs, pre-formed or molded earplugs, earmuffs

PPE can help save lives. It can only do this if it is worn. Further, it must be worn properly and worn throughout the job. All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration. Selecting appropriate items for each workplace is essential. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, they must be compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it may not provide the level of protection desired. This can discourage employee use. Tragically, it also can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed.

Training Employees in the Proper Use of PPE

The best way to ensure compliance with the Personal Protective Equipment policy is to train workers. Employers should make sure that each employee demonstrates an understanding of the training as well as the ability to properly wear and use PPE before they are allowed to perform work requiring the use of the PPE. They must know the risks posed by the job, and how PPE can protect them from these risks. Training in the proper use, care, and storage of PPE are equally necessary. Furthermore, the employer must document the training of each employee required to wear or use PPE. This documentation must include a certification containing the name of each employee trained, the date of training, and clear identification of the subject of the certification.

In addition to proper equipment and training, knowing how to inspect PPE to determine when the equipment should be removed from service is vital. A visual inspection is not always enough. When it comes to PPE the rule is: when in doubt; throw it out. It pays to err on the side of caution. It might be time to purchase new PPE.

Appropriate PPE is important in protecting workers it plays a pivotal role in keeping workers safe.

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Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace Part 1

What Employees Should Know About COVID-19 Protections in the Workplace

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads mostly among unvaccinated people who are in close proximity to each other. The virus spreads particularly indoors and especially in poorly ventilated areas.

Vaccination is an essential element in a multifaceted approach to protect workers. If your employer offers opportunities to take time off in order to get vaccinated, take advantage of the time offered. Vaccines authorized by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are effective at protecting those vaccinated against symptomatic and severe cases of COVID-19 and death. A growing body of evidence suggests that those fully vaccinated are less likely to have symptomatic infection or transmit the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many employers have created COVID-19 prevention programs that include precautions to keep unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk employees safe. Created prevention programs might include:

  • Telework
  • Flexible schedules
  • Engineering controls (especially ventilation)
  • Administration policies (e.g. vaccination policies)
  • PPE
  • Face coverings
  • Physical distancing
  • Enhanced cleaning programs, focusing on high-touch surfaces

The recommended precautions and policies of your workplace should be followed. These multi-layered controls are specific to your workplace and are particularly important to unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk employees.

In addition to these guidelines, the CDC now recommends those that are fully vaccinated wear a mask in public indoor settings where there is a potential of substantial or high transmission. Still, those fully vaccinated might choose to mask, regardless the level of transmission. This choice might depend on if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at an increased risk of severe disease, or if others in their household are unvaccinated.

Ask your employer about prevention policies and plans for your workplace. Additionally, employees with disabilities who are at risk may request reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If your employer does not have a COVID-19 prevention plan and you are unvaccinated or otherwise at risk, you can help protect yourself and others by following the steps below:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can. Check with your employer about paid leave opportunities, if necessary, to get vaccinated and for recovery time from any side effects.
  • Wear a face covering. When properly worn, face coverings are simple barriers worn over the mouth, nose, and chin. These coverings help prevent your respiratory droplets or large particles from reaching others. Higher quality masks are encouraged, as they provide a greater measure of protection. When working outdoors, you may opt to not wear a face covering; however, should you choose to, your employer should support you in safely wearing a face covering continuously, especially if you work closely with others.
  • Social Distance. Unless fully vaccinated or not otherwise at-risk, stay far enough away from others that you are not breathing in respiratory particles produced by them. This distance is generally 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths). Please note that this is not a guarantee that you will avoid infection, especially if you are in enclosed or poorly ventilated areas.
  • Take advantage of telework or flexible schedule policies, if offered by your employer.
  • Perform work tasks, hold meetings, and take breaks outdoors when possible.
  • Participate in any training offered by your employer to learn how rooms in your workplace are ventilated effectively, if offered. Encourage your employer to provide such training if it does not already exist. If you see any vents that are clogged, dirty, or blocked by furniture or equipment, notify your building manager.
  • Practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands often. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Do not spit. Monitor your health daily and check for COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
  • Get tested regularly, especially if you live in areas of substantial or high community transmission.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing you from getting COVID-19. If you are not yet fully vaccinated or otherwise at-risk, these multi-layered controls provide optimum protections that prevent exposure and infection.

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MID-YEAR LABOR LAW CHANGES

Keeping up with labor laws can be a daunting task. Changes seem to occur almost daily. And while this isn’t actually the case, it can sure feel that way. Changes to federal labor laws do not happen quite as frequent as those at the state level as a general rule. But in times of uncertainty, as we experienced with Covid in 2020, even federal labor laws can be enacted quickly as we saw with the passing of the CARES Act. The laws created by the CARES Act were of a temporary nature with many of the requirements ending in December of 2020. Most changes to labor laws are not temporary though. We find states often update various laws throughout the year. Some of those changes are considered minor such as address changes, website address changes, or department personnel changes. Other changes are considered major such as increases in minimum wages, newly enacted laws, and major changes to the text of an existing law.

Midyear often brings about many of those changes. The most common change is a state’s Minimum Wage. Although the Federal Minimum Wage has not increased since July 2009, many states, cities, and counties have a higher minimum wage. (Employers are required to pay workers the higher amount.)

The following states have mid-year minimum wage increases:

  • Connecticut: $13/hr. effective August 1, 2021
  • District of Columbia: $15.20/hr. effective July 1, 2021
  • Florida: $10/hr. effective September 30, 2021
  • Nevada: Minimum Wage and Daily Overtime Bulletin
    • For Employees offering qualified health insurance benefits: $8.75/hr. effective July 1, 2021. The daily overtime wage will increase to $13.125 per hour.
    • For Employers that do not offer qualified health insurance benefits: $9.75/hr. effective July 1, 2021. The daily overtime wage will increase to $14.625 per hour.

Additional changes to many state laws have also taken place and include:

California:

  • Safety and Health Protection on the Job: Address change

Florida:

  • Workers’ Comp Works for You: website change for reporting suspected insurance fraud online.

Illinois:

  • Your Rights Under Illinois Employment Laws: address change
  • Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act: added victims of gender violence to protected groups.

Louisiana:

  • Earned Income Credit: 2021 income limits for earned income tax credit updated.

Missouri:

  • Fair Employment: Statutory purpose updated.

Oregon:

  • Paid Sick Time: Clarifies that paid sick time also covers bereavement, parental leave and leave to care for a child whose school is closed for a public health emergency.
  • Family Leave Act: Allows leave to take care for a child whose school is closed for public health emergency.
  • Equal Pay Act: Illegal for an employer to pay an employee less than someone else based on pay history.

Virginia: Email and phone number changes

  • Virginia Human Rights Act
  • Low Income Credit

To keep up with the most current changes to the federal labor laws as well as your state labor laws you can sign up for a free email update service. Simply click here to enroll: https://www.nsccompliance.net/llp-updates/