OSHA watch

Citation penalties increase for inflation

Effective January 15, the DOL increased civil penalty amounts for violations to adjust for inflation by 1.01764%. Here are the new maximum penalties:

Type of Violation Penalty Minimum Penalty Maximum
Serious $964 per violation $13,494 per violation
Other-than-Serious $0 per violation $13,494 per violation
Willful or Repeated $9,639 per violation $134,937 per violation
Posting Requirements $0 per violation $13,494 per violation
Failure to Abate N/A $13,494 per day unabated beyond the abatement date (generally limited to 30 days)

Coronavirus resource

An online resource on a new coronavirus outbreak that includes a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interim guidance, quick facts about the outbreak, and information on preventing exposures is available.

Letter of interpretation addresses headphones in workplace

Although there is no specific regulation that prohibits the use of headphones on a construction site or any other workplace, there are permissible noise exposure limits under the Hearing Protection standard and employers must protect employees subject to sound levels exceeding these limits. While the letter acknowledges that some manufacturers promote their products as “OSHA-approved” or “OSHA-compliant,” these are misleading as the agency does not register, certify, approve, or otherwise endorse commercial or private sector entities, products, or services. It further cautions that the use of headphones may produce a safety hazard by masking environmental sounds that need to be heard and it is the employer’s responsibility to protect workers from such hazards.

Earthquake safety resource

A new Earthquake Hazard Alert focuses on keeping emergency response workers safe.

Recent fines and awards

California

  • In Nolte Sheet Metal Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board, the Court of Appeals, 5th District in Fresno unanimously affirmed citations for four serious violations, although the file prepared by the Cal/OSHA office on the day of the inspection was later taken during a car burglary. The company had argued it did not consent to an inspection, the lack of the original inspection file amounted to spoliation and denied the company due process, and the violations were improperly classified as serious.

Georgia

  • In Packers Sanitation Services Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta unanimously upheld an administrative law judge’s finding that the company failed to protect its employees from dangerous machinery.

Florida

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has found a Jacksonville-based roofing contractor, Travis Slaughter owner of Great White Construction Inc. and Florida Roofing Experts Inc, in contempt for failing to pay $2,202,049 in penalties. The court ordered the companies and Slaughter to pay the outstanding penalties of $2,202,049 plus interest and fees, and required them to certify that they had corrected the violations within 10 days of the court’s order. If the companies and Slaughter fail to comply, they face coercive sanctions, including incarceration and other relief the court deems proper.
  • In addition to the above, Florida Roofing Experts Inc. was cited for failing to protect workers from falls at two work sites in Fleming Island and one in Middleburg. Roofing Experts Inc. faces penalties totaling $1,007,717.
  • Inspected under the Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction, CJM Roofing Inc., based in West Palm, was cited for exposing employees to fall and other hazards at three residential worksites in Royal Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie. The contractor faces penalties totaling $291,724.
  • An employee of Shooting Gallery Range Inc. in Orlando will receive $30,000 in back pay and compensatory damages under a whistleblower settlement. The employee alleged he was fired for reporting safety concerns relating to lead exposure.

Illinois

  • Goose Lake Construction Inc. was cited after an employee suffered serious injuries when an unprotected trench collapsed, burying him up to his waist at a Glencoe, worksite. Proposed penalties are $233,377.

Massachusetts

  • National retailer, Target Corp., was cited for emergency exit access hazards at stores in Danvers and Framingham and faces a total of $227,304 in penalties.

Pennsylvania

  • Webb Contractor Corp. was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards at three separate worksites in the Lehigh Valley area. Inspected after a compliance officer observed employees performing residential roofing work without protection, the roofing contractor, based in Bala Cynwyd, faces $605,371 in penalties.
  • Metarko Excavating LLC was cited for exposing employees to trenching hazards at a Cranberry Township worksite. The company faces $59,311 in penalties.
  • Philadelphia Energy Solutions was cited for serious violations of safety and health hazards related to process safety management (PSM) following a fire and subsequent explosions at the company’s Girard Point Refinery Complex in Philadelphia. The company faces $132,600 in penalties.

Wisconsin

  • Milwaukee Valve Company Inc., based in Prairie du Sac, was cited for exposing employees to lead and copper dust at rates higher than the permissible exposure levels. Proposed penalties are $171,628.

For additional information.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

OSHA: A review and look ahead

Unlike other agencies, such as the EPA, OSHA has not experienced the scale back in enforcement and rulemaking that was expected under the Trump administration. Most attribute this to the fact that there is still no Assistant Secretary of Labor – the longest vacancy ever for the top job at OSHA. Given the present political climate and election year activity, few expect the position to be filled during this final year of President Trump’s first term.

In addition, two vacancies on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) meant that it could not issue decisions since March 28, 2019, because it did not have a quorum. However, it can now resume its work because the Senate confirmed Cynthia Attwood and Amanda Wood Laihow by voice vote Jan. 9, 2020.

What’s been unexpected?

  • No reduction in enforcement emphasis programs. OSHA continues to implement the same number of national (NEP) and regional (REP) emphasis programs as under the Obama administration.
  • Number of inspections has increased. While the number of compliance officers (CSHO) is lower, the number of inspections in 2019 was 33,401, compared to 31,948 in 2016. Although this means the average CSHO’s hours per inspection is lower, it demonstrates a continued commitment to enforcement.
  • Average penalty per serious violation increased dramatically. Under $1,000 in 2009, the average penalty per serious violence reached a high of $5,232 in 2019.*
  • Records for the number of $100,000 penalty cases. In the first year of the Trump administration, there was a record-setting 218 cases with penalties of over $100,000. Last year it was 179 and the three years average is 199 cases, compared to a high of 202 cases in 2011 and an average of 168 cases under the Obama administration.*
  • Little change in the percentage of inspections that result in a serious, willful, or repeat violation. If an employer gets a knock on the door, there’s a very good chance that at least one serious, willful, or repeat violation will be issued. For the past two years, only 28% of inspections closed as “in compliance.” For those that were not in compliance, 87% had at least one serious, willful, or repeat violation in 2017 and 2018 and 86% in 2019.*
  • No let-up on repeat violations. Under the Obama administration, there were significant changes that increased the likelihood of a repeat violation. Workplaces in a corporate family were no longer treated as independent establishments, but as one workplace; in the guidance document, the Federal Operations Manual, the look back period was extended from 3 to 5 years, and there was proactive targeting of past violators for inspections. These practices have not changed. In fact, in 2018 OSHA successfully defended the case, Triumph Construction Corporation v. Secretary of Labor and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that OSHA is not bound by any look-back period on which to base a repeat violation, a significant expansion of the scope of repeat classifications.

    However, there was one bright spot for employers. In July 2018, the OSHRC issued its decision in Secretary of Labor v. Angelica Textile Services, Inc., providing employers guidance on rebutting repeat violations and clarifying the defenses that employers may have in combating repeat violations. Although the violations involved the same standards of LOTO and confined spaces, the OSHRC found that they were not “substantially similar” because the original violations involved wholesale deficiencies and the company had taken significant abatement actions, and therefore, the conditions differed. OSHA, however, remains committed to repeat violation enforcement, and the case is on appeal to the Second Circuit.

  • Increases in budget. Typically under a Republican administration there are budget cuts to limit enforcement, yet the budget has been increased twice with a 4% increase for FY20, including the enforcement category.
  • Penalties keep rising. Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the maximum allowable penalty amount for OSHA violations is adjusted annually. The latest increase occurred on Jan. 15, 2020. The maximum penalty for “willful” or “repeat” violations is now $134,937 and the maximum fine for serious, other-than-serious, failure-to-correct (per day), and posting-requirement violations increase is $13,494.
  • Criminal prosecutions continue. Two Department of Justice (DOJ) memos that expanded worker safety criminal prosecutions issued by former AG Sally Yates continue to be enforced by AG William Barr. The first relates to individual accountability for corporate wrongdoing and the second encourages the DOJ to use other environmental laws with more teeth and longer statute of limitations to prosecute worker safety crimes.
  • Site Specific Targeting Plan implemented. In Oct 2018, OSHA initiated the Site-Specific Targeting 2016 inspection program (SST-16) that uses the injury and illness data electronically submitted by employers in 2016. These are tough wall-to-wall inspections. The SST list includes 3,000 establishments and 1,000 inspections have already been conducted.*

Scale back in rules and public shaming

  • The first significant deregulation action was the overturning of the Volks rule by Congress under the Congressional Review Act in 2017. The Volks rule gave OSHA the ability to issue citations to employers for failing to record work-related injuries and illnesses during the 5-year retention period.
  • There also was a scale back of the e-recordkeeping rule, adopted in January 2019, that eliminated the requirement for the largest establishments (250+ employees) to annually submit electronically 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports. However, the rule did not roll back as many provisions as expected, notably the anti-retaliation provision and public reporting concerns.
  • There has been a slowdown in rulemaking. Some rules moved to “long term actions,” including the Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard, Drug Testing Program and Safety Incentive Rules, and Combustible Dust.
  • There’s been a significant decrease in the number of enforcement press releases issued by OSHA, which can be inflammatory and issued before employers have an opportunity to respond. In 2019, 176 press releases were issued, compared with an average of 463 per year under the Obama administration.* However, the tone hasn’t reverted to the factual reporting of the Bush administration but has remained aggressive.

A look ahead

Inspections

It is projected that the number of inspections will remain steady or rise slightly as the budget includes funding for an additional 26 FTE CSHOs and five FTE whistleblower investigators. Expect to see an aggressive continuation of the SST-16 program that targets non-construction workplaces with 20 or more employees with elevated Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate, together with a random sample of low-rate establishments and those that did not submit the required electronic data.

The top four priorities are investigation of imminent danger, fatality and catastrophe investigations, response to complaints, and programmed inspections, such as SST and emphasis programs. In Oct. 2019, for the first time since 2015, OSHA changed the weighting system it uses for inspections:

  • Group A, criminal and significant cases (those where fines total more than $180,000): 7 Enforcement Units (EUs)
  • Group B, fatalities and catastrophes (hospitalization, amputation, physical loss of an eye), chemical plant National Emphasis Program, process safety management inspections: 5 EUs
  • Group C, the “fatal four” – caught-in, electrical, fall and struck-by hazards: 3 EUs (expect an uptick in construction industry inspections under this group)
  • Group D, priority hazards: amputation, combustible dust, heat, non-PEL overexposures, workplace violence, permit-required confined space, air contaminants, noise, and site-specific targeting: 2 EUs
  • Group E: everything else: 1 EU.

With these priorities, employers can expect to see more six-figure penalties.

Rulemaking

  • LOTO. Many employers were relieved when the term “unexpected energization” was not removed from the LOTO standard as proposed; however, OSHA left open the door to remove it in the future. In May 2019, the agency issued an RFI seeking input on control circuit type devices and robotics, but to date, OSHA has not provided updates on rulemaking action. There has been an uptick in requests for variances from businesses to consider safe robotic systems as energy-isolating devices. This is an opportunity to change the standard beneficially to reflect technological advances and bears watching.
  • Silica rule. The silica standard requires that medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020. Employers with silica present need to document objective data that they do not have exposures at or above the action level under any circumstances.

    It’s anticipated that the recently requested feedback on expanding table 1 of the standard will result in additional engineering and work practice control methods that effectively limit silica exposure for the tasks and equipment currently listed in the table.

  • Beryllium. The compliance date for ancillary provisions in the beryllium standards for construction and shipyards is September 30, 2020. Enforcement of the engineering controls in the general industry standard starts March 10, 2020.
  • Workplace violence. OSHA plans to initiate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review panel that will begin an effort to create a standard designed to address workplace violence in the healthcare and social services industries.
  • Other. Other possible new rulemakings will deal with powered industrial trucks, walking-working surfaces rule to clarify its requirements for stair rail systems, cranes and derricks in construction, communication tower safety, welding in construction confined spaces, occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in construction and shipyard sectors, and updates to the Hazard Communication Standard.

*Conn Maciel Carey webinar, Annual OSHA Update: 2019 in Review and 2020 Forecast

Note: The information above applies to OSHA in federally mandated states. If you are located in a state where a state agency enforces the OSH Act, the information may differ.

 

OSHA watch

Inspections increase in FY 2019

In FY 2019, which ended September 30, 33,401 inspections were conducted. This is more inspections than in each of the previous 3 years – 32,023 in FY 2018, 32,408 in FY 2017, and 31,948 in FY 2016. The agency also provided a record 1,392,611 workers with training on safety and health requirements through its various education programs.

CIC certifications no longer accepted

Certifications issued by Sanford, Florida-based Crane Institute of America Certification LLC (CIC) for crane operators engaged in construction activities are no longer valid because the CIC is no longer considered a nationally recognized accrediting agency. Employers will not be cited for work performed by crane operators holding CIC-issued certifications obtained before Dec. 2, 2019, if those crane operators acquired the certification with the good faith belief that it met government standards. However, CIC certifications or re-certifications issued on or after Dec. 2, 2019 are not acceptable.

Minor corrections and clarifications to Walking-Working Surfaces regulations published

notice published in the Federal Register corrects minor errors and clarifies requirements in the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards.

Update to NEP on amputation hazards in manufacturing

Updated guidance was issued for Compliance Safety and Health Officers conducting inspections in manufacturing facilities that could potentially have incidents involving amputations. There is a new method for targeting industries that involves using amputation reports submitted by employers as well as Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) incident and amputation rate data. The 75 NAICS codes covered under the National Emphasis Program (NEP) can be found in Appendix B of the compliance directive.

There will be a 90-day outreach program offered to employees.

Recent fines and awards

Florida

  • Garabar Inc., based in Lake Worth, was cited for exposing employees to fall and eye hazards at a worksite in Royal Palm Beach. The roofing contractor faces $64,974 in penalties. The inspection was conducted under the REP for Falls in Construction.
  • Action Roofing Services Inc., based in Pompano Beach, was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards at Palm Beach Gardens and Port Saint Lucie worksites. Inspected under the REP for Falls in Construction, the roofing contractor faces $146,280 in penalties.

Georgia

  • Kittrich Corp., operating as Avenger Products LLC, was cited for exposing employees to amputation, fire, and electrical hazards at the company’s Gainesville facility. The pesticide and agricultural chemical manufacturer faces $90,801 in penalties for lockout/tagout violations, improper storage of chemicals, failure to update and give employees access to safety data sheets, and more.
  • Wright Metal Products Crates LLC, based in South Bend, Indiana, and operating as WMP Crates was cited for exposing employees to amputation, chemical and other safety hazards at a worksite in Lavonia. Inspected under the NEP on Amputations and the REP for Powered Industrial Trucks, the company faces $195,034 in penalties.
  • Mavis Southeast LLC, operating as Mavis Discount Tire, was cited for exposing employees to fall, struck-by and other hazards at the company’s distribution facility in Buford and faces $191,895 in penalties.

Massachusetts

  • United Parcel Service Inc. was cited for exposing employees to multiple hazards including exit access, fire, and electrical at the shipping and delivery facility in Vineyard Haven. The company faces $431,517 in penalties for four repeated and seven serious safety violations.

Missouri

  • Martin Davila, operating as Davila Construction, was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards at job sites in Wentzville, Grover, and St. Louis. The residential roofing company faces $205,098 in proposed penalties.

New York

  • Frazer & Jones Company Inc. was cited for 33 workplace health and safety violations at the manufacturer’s Solvay iron foundry. The company faces $460,316 in penalties for multiple violations, including exposing employees to crystalline silica, iron oxide, combustible dust, falls, struck-by and caught-between hazards, unsafe work floors and walking surfaces, inadequate respiratory protection and more.
  • A whistleblower investigation found that Bouchard Transportation Company Inc., B. No. 272 Corp, a petroleum barge company based in Melville, and its officers violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA) when it retaliated against a seaman who cooperated with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

Pennsylvania

  • Dana Railcare, based in Wilmington, Delaware, was cited for confined space hazards after an employee asphyxiated while servicing a rail car containing crude oil sludge in Pittston. The railcar service provider faces $551,226 in proposed penalties and was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Wisconsin

  • An administrative law judge of the OSHRC affirmed a citation of $2,800 against Guaranteed Home Improvements LLC after a worker was seriously injured in a ladder fall for using the ladder in icy and slippery conditions and failing to secure it to prevent accidental displacement. There was, however, an issue of fact regarding the side rails of the ladder, and the second citation of $2,884 was vacated.

For additional information.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

Watch out for 20 costly workers’ comp mistakes in 2020: Part Two (11-20)

Part 2

For many employers, workers’ comp was a bright spot in 2019. Rates were low, workplaces continue to be safer, and the industry made significant strides in controlling opioids. Yet, there are unresolved issues and persistent trends that can spell trouble for complacent employers in 2020.

As employers continue to grapple with long-term labor shortages, it’s important to be mindful that workers’ comp cannot be separated from employee retention and engagement. It’s a core business practice of comprehensive risk management that protects your most valuable asset – your employees.

The order of the following listing does not reflect importance and some may not apply to your workplace. We hope you will use the list to establish your priorities:

  1. Not updating job descriptionsJob descriptions are critical in the recruitment and hiring process, promote greater accountability, enable medical providers and employers to work together in recovery at work, and provide protection in litigation complaints under a host of laws, including the ADA and FMLA. Don’t underestimate the importance of reviewing job descriptions as an integral part of work processes.
  2. Not adapting training to the generational span in the workforceToday, organizations face the challenge of motivating, training, and engaging individuals that span from Gen Z (born after 1997) to Baby Boomers (born after 1945). Companies must recognize the different skill gaps, communication styles, and expectations and find creative ways to reach all generations. While much is written about adapting the workplace to the declining physical abilities of an aging workforce, Gen Z, which is expected to represent 20% of the workforce in 2020, has only recently gotten attention.

    Gen Z grew up immersed in technology and constant interaction, multitasks across five screens on average, freely expresses themselves online, is visually oriented, and has a very short attention span. Many do not have hands-on industrial and mechanical experience, making concepts such as lock-out tagout hard to grasp. Expect the trend of personalized and microlearning to continue in 2020.

  3. Failing to foster mental health resilienceMuch of the legislative activity for presumptive laws is focused on public safety personnel, but there is movement to extend it to other employees such as nurses, teachers, private company EMTs or others on the front lines in crises. There has also been an uptick in workers’ compensation claims for post-traumatic stress disorder following shootings and other violent incidents along with claims for extreme stress. These are complicated and the state laws for coverage vary greatly, although most are limited. Even when the injuries are not deemed compensable, mental health issues can adversely affect recovery.

    These factors, coupled with an increase in workplace suicides, mean that employers cannot ignore the mental health of their employees.

  4. Having cybersecurity myopiaWhile most people think of data and information when they think of cybersecurity, it also can involve safety risks. As operations become more digital and connectivity increases, IoT networks become more vulnerable. Cyber invasions and infections can be used to create havoc or cripple essential equipment for financial gain. Hackers may be insiders or outsiders or the issue may be worker errors.
  5. Overlooking heat stress hazardsWith rising ambient temperatures, 18 of the last 19 years have been the hottest on record according to NASA. The problem is not limited to the Sun Belt states. OSHA recently fined a utility-pole service provider in Nebraska for a heat-related death. Heat stress poses a serious health hazard to workers and also increases safety risks.
  6. Not evaluating telemedicineThe use of telemedicine has been slow to take hold in workers’ comp, but some employers have used it successfully to speed access to care, improve patient compliance, and reduce costs. It’s being used effectively for employees working in remote areas, integrated with the nurse triage process, particularly for minor injuries, and follow up care.
  7. Having a claims denial mindsetDenied claims often lead to higher medical costs and litigation, as studies show about 67% of initial denials are approved. When the claim is legitimate and the claim is denied, it leads to bad feelings and low morale. If you suspect fraud, strongly present the case to the adjuster. But denying claims to lower costs is going to backfire.
  8. Hiring undocumented workersThe national debate on immigration has left undocumented workers in the precarious position of deciding whether to pursue medical care and benefits at the risk of arrest and deportation. While employing undocumented workers is illegal, they represent a good percentage of the workforce in construction, agriculture, and hospitality. In some cases, they are knowingly hired and in others, they have presented false documentation. The statutes vary by state, but many states cover workers compensation for undocumented workers.

    It makes good business sense to validate legal status through E-Verify at the start of employment.

  9. Not staying abreast of legislative and regulatory changesIn addition to the items identified above, drug formularies, medical treatment guidelines, opioids, and Medicare Set Asides regulations will significantly impact workers’ comp. Challenges to the constitutionality of the ACA and single-payer healthcare also bear watching.
  10. Not planning for the changing nature of workThe year 2020 begins a new decade destined to see humans and machines working as integrated teams, with the Fourth Industrial revolution bringing technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres across all sectors. Retail had more injuries than manufacturing in 2018. Hazards from employee interactions with motorized equipment like autonomous forklifts and robots, high-stress holiday hours, slips and falls, and overexertion have all contributed to the increase.

    Companies are struggling to implement safety protocols that match the pace of automation and protect employee privacy. Drones, wearables, and apps continue to gain traction in workplace safety, but cost, privacy, understanding the proper use and how to analyze the data remain barriers, particularly for smaller employers.

    Further, this tectonic shift has implications for training and education as workers need new skills to adapt to their changing roles and responsibilities. Lifelong learning will become a primary driver for employee success and employees will seek employers that provide such opportunities. It’s got to be all about positioning for the future.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

Watch out for 20 costly workers’ comp mistakes in 2020: Part One (1 – 10)

For many employers, workers’ comp was a bright spot in 2019. Rates were low, workplaces continue to be safer, and the industry made significant strides in controlling opioids. Yet, there are unresolved issues and persistent trends that can spell trouble for complacent employers in 2020.

As employers continue to grapple with long-term labor shortages, it’s important to be mindful that workers’ comp cannot be separated from employee retention and engagement. It’s a core business practice of comprehensive risk management that protects your most valuable asset – your employees.

The order of the following listing does not reflect importance and some may not apply to your workplace. We hope you will use the list to establish your priorities:

  1. Not taking a holistic view of injured employeesRegardless of the size or type of claim, there’s been an overarching shift in treating injured employees as consumers, rather than claimants. This means not only advocating for them and giving them support and a voice in handling claims, but also recognizing the social and economic factors that affect recovery, and the psychology of pain. Taking the time to understand the needs of the individual employee both improves claim outcomes and bolsters employee morale.
  2. Relaxing claims monitoringWhen claims are down, it’s easy to divert attention elsewhere and leave the claim to the adjuster. Yet, three to five percent of claims drive 50 to 60 percent of the cost and it doesn’t take a catastrophic injury to create a complex, costly claim. Delayed recovery, which can be caused by co-morbidities, psychological or family problems, employment issues, attorney involvement, or prescription abuse increases the duration and cost of a claim. Early identification of these potential high-cost claims reduces costs.

    Also, when legacy claims linger on autopilot, by default, the employer commits to costly ongoing medical care that often involves opioids. While the industry has done a good job of controlling opioid prescribing for new claims, regular intervention is necessary for older claims to accelerate settlements and improve pain management.

  3. Not recognizing marijuana is here to stayThe continuing trend of states legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use in spite of the federal ban has made it one of the top challenges in maintaining a safe workplace. Staying abreast of evolving laws and cases, as well as a clearly defined policy on how marijuana will be addressed in the workplace, are necessary to ensure the safety of all workers and decrease the likelihood of adverse employment actions. Shifting cultural acceptance of marijuana as well as its legalization in many states means that employers need to thoughtfully evaluate their drug testing policies.

    Case law in 2019 moved toward protecting the medical use of marijuana in the workplace. Sixteen states provide workplace protections for legalized medical marijuana use either through their statutes or through case law, including Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Massachusetts.

    Experts postulate that there will be more law suits from employees or job applicants who were terminated or not hired because they failed a drug test and take medical marijuana. Further, the question of marijuana as treatment in workers’ comp claims will continue to be a hot issue in 2020.

  4. Failing to understand what’s happening at OSHAWhile many observers expected a decline in the number of OSHA workplace inspections, they increased to 33,401 in FY2019, higher than in any year since 2015. There’s been a record number of $100,000+ citations, higher penalties, more willful and repeat citations, as well as worker safety criminal prosecutions.

    On October 1, OSHA implemented major changes to how it prioritizes inspections and other compliance activities. Factors now considered in inspection weighting include:

    • Agency enforcement priorities
    • Impact of inspections on improving workplace safety
    • Hazards inspected and abated
    • Site-Specific Targeting (SST) program objective

    Further, the agency announced that it is moving away from its long focus on “OSHA recordables” as a way to measure the safety of a workforce and will focus its enforcement efforts on leading indicators, which are proactive.

  5. Failing to properly classify employeesWhile the contractor vs. employee status debate has existed for many years, it ramped up in 2019 and is expected to be a hot issue in 2020. Some estimate that over 30% of the workforce is part of the gig economy. With the passage of AB5 in California and a growing number of court cases, expect to see more legislation and court cases.
  6. Developing a false sense of security from distracted driving policiesOver the past five years, motor vehicle accident claims accounted for 28% of workers’ comp claims over $500,000. They now account for more worker fatalities than any other cause and savvy employers know they have to go beyond state laws to develop best practices. Employers are being held liable for employee crashes, even when employees use hand-free devices. The National Safety Council considers hands-free devices to be just as distracting as hand-held devices while driving.

    A distracted driving policy is only the beginning. It must be implemented, updated, and consequences for non-compliance enforced. There are growing options for discovering violations – locking devices, GPS monitoring, in-vehicle cameras, and so on.

  7. Being unprepared for workplace violenceWith more high-profile workplace shootings, fear of workplace violence is on the rise. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one in seven workers do not feel safe at work. Unfortunately, incidents and attitudes that lead to workplace violence are a reality at all workplaces. Workers feel safer and more valued when investment is made in security and preparation.
  8. Not reassessing your PPEWhen NASA was forced to cancel the first-ever spacewalk by two women because it did not have two appropriate space suits, social media erupted with stories from women in all industries about ill-fitting or no PPE. Through continued advancement and technological changes, “smart” PPE with sensors that monitor, collect, and record biometric, location, and movement data is on the rise. In addition, employees’ personal preferences and increased comfort have driven new innovations.

    Providing the right PPE is another way companies can recruit and retain more talent.

  9. Ignoring changes in workplace ergonomicsMusculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) develop over time, but are highly preventable at a reasonable cost. Yet, they account for close to one-third of all occupational injuries and illnesses and have a median of nine days away from work.

    New technologies and devices, an aging workforce, temporary workers, more employees working remotely, the dramatic shift to e-commerce, coupled with massive changes in warehousing and office designs have introduced new ergonomic challenges. Moreover, employees want to work in a comfortable environment and embrace employers that take a holistic approach to ergonomics. A 2019 study by Future Workplace and View found that air quality and natural light were most important to employees, topping fitness facilities.

    Addressing new potential ergonomic risks now will prevent costly injuries in the future, improve productivity, and retain talent.

  10. Failing to stay in touch with your medical provider networkPerhaps you’ve had a few good years with no lost-time injuries. No real need to stay in touch with your medical network. But networks and providers change as do work processes. An ongoing face-to-face relationship ensures your workers get appropriate and priority treatment as well as leads to better outcomes for injured employees.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

Culture Issues: Having a Good Culture is More than being OSHA & HR Compliant (Benchmarking Your Culture)

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” – Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin).

Sure, you can think you’re improving something, but unless you know what the problem was in the first place you can’t truly fix it, and if you don’t truly fix it your improvement is nothing more than band-aid surgery. For example, a baseball player is in a deep slump and can’t hit a lick. Suddenly he’s goes four for five in a game and thinks he solved his problem. But what caused the problem? Without analyzing and benchmarking what he’s been doing all along, i.e. the angle of his bat, how high he holds his hands, the all-important “launch angle,” he will not have a true measure of if he is on the right track or just “having a good day.”

This is not uncommon in the business world. Let’s take for example your experience modifier, which is one of the biggest drivers of an employer’s workers’ compensation premium. The lower your experience modifier is the lower your premium will be.

Your experience modifier is based on your data, total claim dollars and audited payroll amounts over a three-year period.  Unfortunately, most insurance agents will come to you and say: “You have a 0.94 experience modifier. That is great! You are getting a credit of 6% for a great loss history.” In other words, your company is making money. Therefore, you must be stressing to your employees to be job safety conscious. But that’s not automatically the case.

Many times a business owner believes because they are making money they have a good culture, so all is good.  However, when they conduct an analysis, and do a deep dive into the all-important data points, they can see that there are issues within the company that is holding them back from real growth, productivity, accountability and profitability. From making real money.

To Continue Reading: Construction Today Magazine

OSHA alert: Form 300A deadlines approaching

This month, all employers required to keep Form 300, the Injury and Illness Log, should be reviewing the Log to verify that entries are complete and accurate and correcting any deficiencies. The information can potentially be used to target inspections; therefore, employers should carefully ensure they submit accurate records.

Two important dates are approaching:

Form 300A posting deadline: February 1, 2020

The annual summary of injuries and illnesses recorded on OSHA Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, must be posted where notices are customarily located in workplaces, no later than February 1, 2020, and kept in place until April 30.

For the forms

For access to Online OSHA 300/300A/301 reporting software: OSHA 300 Software

Form 300A electronic submission deadline: March 2, 2020

Under the electronic record-keeping rule, establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses must submit the form electronically to OSHA by March 2, 2020, using the Injury Tracking Application on OSHA’s website. OSHA began accepting forms on Jan. 2, 2020.

Remember, not all establishments with 250 or more employees need to submit their OSHA 300A data electronically. To review which establishments are exempt, click here.

Important note: In reporting 2019 data, establishments must now provide their Employer Identification Numbers (EIN). You’ll want to have that ready as you go to fill out the Injury Tracking Application.

What has to be recorded?

When an accident occurs, an employer must document a recordable injury or illness on the OSHA Form 300 log within seven days. Employers should pay careful attention to their logs and the work-relatedness of safety incidents, particularly in light of the electronic submission rule. Some employers tend to focus on medical treatment or days away from work, rather than beginning with – was this work-related? The OSHA Regulation 29 C.F.R. §1904.7 contains an in-depth overview of recordable injuries and illnesses. Additional information on determining medical treatment and first aid can be located at 29 C.F.R. §1904.7(b)(5).

Standard interpretations on recordkeeping issued in 2019 include:

A Form 300 log is required for each physical establishment location that is expected to be in operation for at least one year. Form 300A summarizes the total number of fatalities, missed workdays, job transfers or restrictions, and injuries and illnesses as recorded on Form 300. Even if there were no recordable incidents in 2019, companies required to maintain records still must post (and electronically submit, if applicable) the summary with zeros on the total lines. Copies should be made available to any employee who might not see the summary (such as a remote employee who works from home).

A company executive, as defined by OSHA, must certify the summary. Employers must keep the records for five years following the calendar year covered by them, and if the employer sells the business, he or she must transfer the records to the new owner.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

OSHA watch

Few changes in Fall 2019 regulatory agenda

The Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda, released Nov. 20, has few changes from the Spring agenda.

Final rule stage

Added to the final rule stage is Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Exemption Expansions for Railroad Roadway Work, which stems from a September 2014 settlement between OSHA and the Association of American Railroads. The other three in the final rule stage are carryovers from the spring:

  • Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records
  • Technical Corrections to 27 OSHA Standards and Regulations
  • Exposure to Beryllium to Review General Industry Provisions

Proposed rules

A rule on communication tower safety has moved to the proposed rule stage from the pre-rule stage. A pair of regulations has been added to the list of standards in the proposed rule stage. An NPRM of an update to the Safety Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks standard, which presently is based on ANSI’s 1969 safety standard, could be issued as early as January. Also, an NPRM clarifying regulatory language in the 2016 final rule on walking-working surfaces is expected by April.

BLS data may shed a light on future enforcement priorities

BLS recently released the injury and illness data for 2018. While injury and illness rates remained the same as in 2017, some industries had increases. The retail trade industry saw an increase in its total recordable rate from 3.3 in 2017 to 3.5 in 2018. Similarly, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry saw its rate increase from 5.0 to 5.3.

The data drills down further to subsections. The highest subsector rates were pet care services at 11.4, veterinary services at 10.4, steel foundries at 10.2, and skiing facilities at 10.

Preventing cold stress and injuries from other winter hazards

Two resources are available:

Revised webpage on radiation safety

The revised webpage provides information on how to recognize and control ionizing radiation hazards.

New bulletin on shipyard hazards

A new Temporary Worker Bulletin focuses on shipyard safety.

Offshore renewable energy facilities responsibility of Department of Interior

The Department of the Interior will oversee workplace safety and health at offshore renewable energy facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf, according to a policy statement published in the Oct. 18 Federal Register.

Recent fines and awards

Massachusetts

  • The Connecticut Department of Labor cited Whitmore Poultry, based in Orange, for more than 500 violations of misclassifying employees as independent contractors and fined the company $90,000. The violations represented each worker for each week they performed work.

Missouri

  • Blue Nile Contractors Inc., based in Birmingham, was cited for failing to protect employees from trench collapse and electrical hazards. The company faces $210,037 in penalties.

New York

  • In Secretary of Labor v. Casale Construction Services Inc., an administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission rejected the construction company’s contention that its repeat safety citations should be vacated on the basis they were due to employee misconduct. Two citations carrying penalties of nearly $25,000 were upheld.

Pennsylvania

  • The Connecticut Department of Labor cited Five Brothers 1, based in Sunbury, for more than 600 violations of misclassifying employees as independent contractors and fined the company $180,600. The violations represented each worker for each week they performed work for Five Brothers 1. The company was also cited for failing to maintain workers’ compensation.

For additional information.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

OSHA watch

New video explains inspection process

new video explains the OSHA inspection process.

New fact sheet on taxi driver safety

A new fact sheet focuses on keeping taxi drivers safe.

Input sought on safety training

Public input on how to improve access to online classes through the Outreach Training Program can be given here.

Recent fines and awards

Florida

  • Westwind Contracting Inc. was cited for exposing employees to excavation and confined spaces hazards after a worker drowned when water and mud-filled a catch basin in which the employee was working at a Pembroke Pines worksite. The contractor faces $185,239 in penalties.
  • Two commercial and residential roofing companies, Cruz Enterprises & Construction LLC based in Dover and Intex Builders LLC based in Tampa, were cited for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards at a Greenacres worksite. Inspected under the Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction, the companies face a combined $83,348 in penalties.

Georgia

  • Discount retailer Dollar Tree Stores Inc. was cited for exposing employees to safety hazards, at its store on Atlanta Highway in Athens. The company faces $125,026 in proposed penalties for exposing employees to struck-by, trip and fall hazards by failing to keep passageways and walking surfaces in a clean, orderly and sanitary condition and for not maintaining access to portable fire extinguishers.

Illinois

  • AB Specialty Silicones LLC was cited for 12 willful federal safety violations after four employees suffered fatal injuries in an explosion and fire at the company’s Waukegan plant. The company faces $1,591,176 in penalties and was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Citations included failure to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with electrical standards and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition.

Massachusetts

  • A petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit asks that The Roof Kings LLC and its owner, Craig Galligan, be held in civil contempt for not fulfilling the terms of an order issued by the court in 2018. It also asks that The Roof Kings LLC provide written certification that they have abated the 32 cited violations affirmed in the settlement agreement, and pay overdue penalties of $206,090 plus interest, within 20 days.

Missouri

  • A food flavoring company, Kerry Inc., was cited for failing to provide fall protection to employees working in the company’s facility in Greenville after an employee fatally fell while trying to extinguish a fire at the plant. The company faces $223,525 in penalties for one willful and eight serious safety violations and was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Nebraska

  • Smith Mountain Investments LLC of Anson, Maine was cited for two serious safety and health violations for failing to protect workers from hazards associated with heavy physical activity in extreme heat conditions after a heat-related fatality at a jobsite in Inman. The utility pole inspection company faces $18,564 in penalties.

New York

  • The Dollar Tree Stores Inc. was cited for unsafe storage of material, obstructed exit routes and blocked electrical panels at the discount retailer’s Elmira location. The company has been cited several times at other locations and the citations, totaling $208,368, include three repeat violations.
  • Citations against Countryside Tree Service arising from a fatality where an employee was pulled into a wood chipper on his first day on the job at a Schenectady worksite were affirmed by an administrative law judge. Penalties are $66,986.

For additional information.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com

OSHA watch

Proposed revisions to Beryllium Standards for Construction and Shipyards finalized

The June 27, 2017 proposal to revise the construction and shipyards standards was finalized on September 30. A news release notes the rule:

  • Does not implement the proposal to revoke all of the standards’ ancillary provisions, but
  • Extends the compliance dates for the ancillary provisions to September 30, 2020 to account for the new proposal to revise or remove specific provisions; and
  • Maintains enforcement of the permissible exposure limit

Final rule issued for new respirator fit testing protocols

final rule which becomes effective September 26, 2019 adds two fit testing protocols to the agency’s respiratory protection standard (1910.134) was published in the Federal Register on September 26.

The additions are:

  • The modified ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter quantitative fit testing protocol for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators
  • The modified ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol for filtering facepiece respirators

These new methods are in addition to the standard’s four existing protocols and are variations of OSHA’s original ambient aerosol CNC protocol, but have fewer test exercises, shorter exercise duration, and a more streamlined sampling sequence.

New secretary of labor

Eugene Scalia is the new secretary of labor, after the Senate confirmed him Sept. 26 in a 53-44 vote. Scalia, a corporate lawyer and the son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, replaces acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella who has been in charge of the department since R. Alexander Acosta resigned on July 19.

New weighting system for inspections

Under the current enforcement weighting system, certain inspections are weighted based on the time taken to complete the inspection or, in some cases, the impact of the inspection on workplace safety and health. The Weighting System (OWS) for fiscal year (FY) 2020 adds enforcement initiatives such as the Site-Specific Targeting to the weighting system and other factors, including agency priorities and the impact of inspections. It will incorporate the three major work elements performed by the field: enforcement activity, essential enforcement support functions (e.g., severe injury reporting and complaint resolution), and compliance assistance efforts.

For more information.

Tribal business not subject to OSH Act

In Secretary of Labor v. Red Lake Nation Fisheries Inc., an administrative judge dismissed citations levied against a fishery after two of its workers drowned, finding that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota, had previously held that the U.S. Secretary of Labor does not have the authority to enter tribal lands to inspect a workplace. Red Lake Nation Fisheries Inc., based in Redby, Minnesota, is owned and operated by federally recognized Indian tribe the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

New alert: working safely near overhead powerlines

The latest alert offers solutions for working safely near overhead power lines.

Oil and gas training tool

The updated Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool includes solutions to common well site incidents, hot work, and hydrogen sulfide hazards.

Joint guidance on GHS pictogram requirements

In concert with Health Canada, joint guidance on pictogram requirements for three hazard communication categories has been released. The categories are Hazards Not Otherwise Classified, Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified, and Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified.

Cal OSHA overhauls reporting requirements for serious injuries

Changes to the definition of “serious injury or illness” bring California injury reporting requirements more in line with the federal hospitalization and amputation rule. The new rule:

  • Eliminates the old 24-hour minimum time for a stay at the hospital for an inpatient hospitalization to become reportable;
  • Specifies an inpatient hospitalization must be required for something “other than medical observation or diagnostic testing”
  • Replaces “loss of a member” with the term “amputation”
  • Includes loss of an eye as a specific type of reportable injury
  • Deletes the exclusion for serious injuries or deaths caused by a violation of the Penal Code
  • Narrows the exclusion for injuries caused by auto accidents on a public street; accidents that occur in a construction zone are now reportable

Recent fines and awards

Florida

  • Twins Twins LLC, a tortilla company, was cited for exposing employees to amputations at the company’s facility in Labelle. The company faces $81,682 in penalties. Conducted under the National Emphasis Program on Amputations and Regional Emphasis Program for Powered Industrial Trucks, the inspection found several violations related to lockout tagout, machine guarding, and failure to report a partial finger amputation within 24 hours of the employee’s hospitalization. The company was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
  • Hough Roofing Inc., based in Palm Bay, was cited for exposing employees to fall hazards after a worker suffered a fatal injury from a fall while performing roofing activities at a work site in Melbourne. The roofing contractor faces $26,142 in penalties
  • UPS Inc. was cited for failing to protect employees working in excessive heat after an employee suffered heat-related injuries near the Riviera Beach facility. The company faces $13,260 in penalties, the maximum penalty allowed by law for a serious violation.

Georgia

  • Hyundai Transys Georgia Powertrain Inc., operating as Powertech America Inc., was cited for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards after a fatality at the company’s West Point facility. The automobile transmission manufacturer faces $68,194 in penalties.

Illinois

  • Polo Masonry Builders Inc., based in Park Ridge, was cited for exposing employees to fall and scaffolding hazards while working on a commercial building project in Chicago and faces penalties of $252,136. The company, which has been cited for fall protection violations 13 times since 2010, was placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Michigan

  • A settlement was reached with Kamphuis Pipeline Company, based in Grand Rapids, to resolve trenching hazard-related citations. The company agreed to cease business operations and pay penalties of $509,071 for willful and serious violations. Company owner and founder Daniel J. Kamphuis agreed to surrender his North Dakota contractor license and both he and the company also agreed not to have any ownership or managerial interest in any construction business conducting trenching and excavation activities within the United States in the future.

New York

  • Rex Harper, doing business as REH Property Maintenance, was cited for improper asbestos removal and disposal at Superior Steel Door & Trim Co. Inc. in Jamestown. Harper faces $168,772 in proposed penalties.

North Carolina

  • Oldcastle APG South Inc., based in Greensboro, and operating as Coastal, was cited for exposing employees to amputation, struck-by and silica hazards at the company’s facility in Riviera Beach, Florida. Oldcastle APG South Inc. faces $132,037 in penalties.

Wisconsin

  • Koller Industries operating as Aurora Castings Services was cited for continually exposing employees to machine hazards at the facility in Niagara. The company is contesting the citations that total $ 206,291 in penalties.
  • Wood Sewer & Excavation Inc. was cited for willfully exposing employees to excavation hazards at a construction site in Fox Point. The company faces $65,921 in penalties.

For additional information.

For Cutting-Edge Strategies on Managing Risks and Slashing Insurance Costs visit www.StopBeingFrustrated.com