Health, Safety, & Security Questions of the Week

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Avoid Prison: Strategies to Promote a Safe Workplace

Question:

I’ve read a few articles about individuals at companies potentially getting sentenced to prison for accidents in the workplace. What is my responsibility as an HR Professional in ensuring a safe workplace?

Answer:

Human resources professionals play an important role in ensuring employee health and safety. In some organizations, health and safety are responsibilities within the human resources department. While in others, human resources professionals may not be directly involved in the daily operations of workplace health and safety. In either case, human resources should ensure that the company is proactively doing their part to ensure a safe workplace, and know and respond to employee concerns around health and safety.

As reported in an article from EHS Today in December 2015, OSHA and the U.S. Department of Justice put employers on notice in December 2015 that “serious jail time could be in their future if employees die as a result of violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other Department of Labor Statutes.”

With this memorandum, prosecutors now have been encouraged to consider utilizing Title 18 and environmental offenses, which often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, to enhance penalties and increase deterrence.

Below are three strategies HR professionals and their companies can implement to promote health & safety and avoid potential OSHA violations and penalties:

  1. Clarify policies, roles, and responsibilities.

In order to meet these heightened responsibilities, human resources professionals must take an active role in safety. They need to understand and clarify the health and safety responsibilities of employers, managers, supervisors, and employees within the organization and implement policies to ensure everyone is aware of and practicing his/her responsibilities. In addition, Human Resources needs to establish effective ways of ensuring individuals can fulfill their health and safety responsibilities.

  1. Implement ways to improve collaboration.

Often times, since HR professionals are not out in the field or on the shop floor, it’s difficult to monitor what’s going on and be able to react quickly when an incident does occur, as many companies are still managing these processes manually via paper and email. That’s why we like technology solutions, like iReportSource.  iReport helps alert human resources when an incident occurs and provides easy access to one system of record for collaboration with the appropriate parties to get the incident resolved quickly and accurately.

  1. Make steps to cultivate a proactive culture.

In addition, Human Resources needs to monitor activities to ensure that safety audits, site inspections, near-misses, training, and appropriate interactions are happening consistently. A system like iReport proactively tracks these best practice measures, along with the data from accidents that occur, to allow HR professionals to not only monitor what’s happening but to identify where the next accident might occur, so that measures can be taken to prevent accidents from happening. This data isn’t possible to get to easily or quickly when you are using a manual, paper-based process. Better yet – the data is yours. It eliminates relying on your TPA or insurance company for this data.

Having a safe workplace is the basis to having a productive and engaged workplace. As a Human Resources professional, the responsibility is yours to ensure your company is actively managing safety. Employing a tool that makes it easy, helps reinforce the right behaviors consistently, and gives you insight to improve your outcomes makes it a no-brainer.

A special thanks to iReportSource for sharing their insights on safety in the workplace. For more information on iReportSource contact Nancy at nkoors@ireportsource.com and 513-442-8595.

 

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Preparing For a Potential Active Shooter Incident

Question:

How do I prepare my staff for the possibility of workplace violence by an active shooter incident?

Answer:

Active shooter incidents are an unfortunate reality that every workplace must face and be prepared for. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. It is important to arm your employees with the information needed to help prevent and prepare for a potential active shooter.

Typically, there is no pattern in the selection of victims in an active shooter incident. Common motives include: anger, revenge, ideology, and untreated mental illness.

How to Prepare – create an Emergency Action Plan:

  • Clearly identify possible evacuation routes – have at least two.
  • Maintain up to date emergency contact information for all employees to provide to local authorities.
  • Practice your evacuation and response plan annually.

How to Respond – it is important that you act swiftly as an active shooter situation often evolves quickly:

  1. Run: Safely evacuate the area when possible to do so and call 911 when out of the line of fire. Help others evacuate when possible and stop anyone from entering the active shooter zone. It is important to keep your hands visible so that responders on the scene do not view you as a threat and follow all instructions given by the police responding.
  2. Hide: If you cannot evacuate safely, barricade yourself as best possible and stay quiet. Lock the door or block an entrance with a heavy object. Remember to silence your phone, including vibration, and dim your screen if possible.
  3. Fight: Lastly, if you are unable to escape or hide, be prepared to fight and to act decisively. Improvise weapons from your surroundings and throw things at the shooter. For example, a fire extinguisher makes an excellent defense tool both in weight and to spray at the shooter. Work as a team to disable the shooter and remember that you are fighting for your life.

Call and Text 911 for Help – provide as many details as possible, including:

  • Location of the shooter.
  • Your current location.
  • Context of the situation.
  • Number of shooters.
  • Describe the shooter as accurately as possible.
  • Number and types of weapons.
  • Number of people in the locations.
  • Any actions taken.

How to Interact with Law Enforcement on Scene:

  • Remain calm, follow instructions and keep your hands visible at all times.
  • Put down anything in your hands; raise your hands and spread fingers.
  • Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling.
  • Do not stop an officer for help during evacuation.
  • Do not share anything on social media.

Law enforcement will be on scene to stop the active shooter as quickly as possible. Any injured victims will not be helped until the shooter has been neutralized and the area is safe.

For more detailed information, visit Welcome to IS-907 – Active Shooter: What You Can Do training.

 

Would your organization benefit from a customized Active Shooter Training? strategic HR, inc. has two previous military employees that have developed an Active Shooter Training program to customize to your workplace.  Contact us right away to learn more and get your training scheduled.

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What Does It Mean To Be a Partially Exempt Industry Under OSHA?

Question:

According to our company’s NAICS code it says we’re a Partially Exempt Industry. Do we have to complete the OSHA Form 300A each year?

Answer:

If your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code classifies you as a Partially Exempt Industry, it is not necessary to complete OSHA injury and illness records (including the OSHA Form 300A). Unless you are asked in writing to do so by OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), or a state agency operating under the authority of OSHA or the BLS. 

SHRM’s article “Am I Exempt from OSHA’s Recordkeeping Requirements” notes that there are two exceptions to OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements.

  1. First, businesses with 10 or fewer employees must keep these records only if the agency specifically requires them to do so. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees throughout the previous calendar year do not need to complete recordkeeping forms. Keep in mind that if there are more than 10 employees at any time during that calendar year, the employer may come under the requirement. When counting employees, business owners must include full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.
  2. The second exemption is for establishments classified in certain industries. For example, restaurants, banks, and medical offices do not have to complete the forms. For a complete list see the OSHA List of Partially Exempt Industries.

Please note that all employers, including those partially exempt by reason of company size or industry classification, must report to OSHA any workplace incident that results in a fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. Make reports to the local OSHA office or to 1-800-321-OSHA within eight hours of when managers become aware of the incident.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety and Security page for more information on any of these services.

 

Should HR Be Concerned About Cybersecurity And Phishing Scams?

Question:

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about cybersecurity and phishing. What is it and does HR need to be doing anything about it?

Answer:

You’re concerned. That’s good! Phishing is a complex problem that is not easy to deal with. The Federal Trade Commission describes phishing as “when internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information.” While this is a good definition, it isn’t comprehensive. Phishing at its core, is not reliant on any form of technology. Phishing in and of itself is using the perpetrators wit and guile to persuade the victim to ignore common sense or best practices and give them the requested information or object.

Phishing is something that you must be prepared for at any time. How are you supposed to know when someone is going to try and trick you into giving them information? As such, there are three major things to remember and make sure your employees are aware of:

  • Check phishing reports quarterly to see what’s trending and what’s changing with how the common scams operate.
    • Kaspersky Labs, maker of Kaspersky Antivirus, publishes a quarterly report containing examples, trends, and statistics of everything that has happened in that quarter.
  • Always be sure to double and triple check who’s asking you for information.
    • Attackers are becoming more and more intuitive in how they reach out to you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your mother, your boss, or your best friend who emailed you, check where the email came from and be certain before you respond.
  • Never let your guard down.
    • This is probably one of the most important things to remember. It’s not easy to do, but phishing is only a problem if it succeeds. And phishing will succeed. We’re all human and we will make mistakes. It’s these mistakes that attackers capitalize on. Remember these three rules, and you’ll be much safer and prepared to deal with any phishing scams that come your way.

Thank you to Tyler Throckmorton with SafePhish for sharing your insight on cybersecurity and how to train employees to be aware of the scams.  

It’s not negative thinking to plan for a devastating event that could harm employees or impact your company’s ability to function – in fact it’s a good business practice. Bad things happen, but it’s how we prepare for and recover from a disastrous event that often leads to success or failure. Strategic HR, inc. has a variety of resources to help you prepare for such emergencies. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn more about how we can help you with your Emergency Preparedness needs OR pick up our Emergency Preparedness Toolkit and do-it-yourself.

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OSHA New Recordkeeping Rules

Question:

Can you explain OSHA’s new electronic recordkeeping rules?

Answer:

OSHA’s new recordkeeping rule goes into effect January 1, 2017.  The rules require certain employers to not only continue to maintain the logs they have in the past but to now submit their injury and illness data electronically to OSHA.  The amount of data you are required to submit will depend on the size of your company and the type of industry you are in.  For many employers the new rule means that the OSHA summary (300A) for 2016 will need to be posted by 2/1/2017 but it also must be submitted electronically by July 1, 2017.

For example, employers with 250 or more employees must submit the information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017.  Subsequently, 2017 forms will be due by July 1, 2018 but starting in 2019 and thereafter, the information is due by March 2.

The site is not yet ‘live’ so it is hard to say how it will work.  The OSHA website provides additional information.

Some are asking why? According to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, “Our new rule will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent work injuries to show investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target compliance assistance and enforcement resources, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the safety and well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure your policies and procedures are compliant and protect your staff. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Zika Virus Impacts on the Workplace

Question:

I have an employee who has Florida as her territory and she is refusing to go there because she is pregnant.  What do I do?

Answer:

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.  Under the Act, employees may refuse to work when there is a “reasonable belief that there is imminent death or serious injury”.  Although some employers may say that there is a risk that is beyond their control (public health) and refuse to accommodate the request, it would be in the best interest of the employer to make the accommodation in this example.

The jury is still out regarding this public health threat but sometimes it is best to use good judgement in working with our employees in instances such as this. Below are a few additional resources to help you protect your company and workforce

OSHA Fact Sheet  on Protecting Your Workers from Occupational Exposure to the Zika Virus.

US Department of Labor summary on how to protect your workers from Zika exposure.

 

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

 

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House Bill 523: The New Law that Legalizes Medical Marijuana

Question:

As an Ohio company, I am confused about what changes, if any, I need to make as a result of the implementation of House Bill 523, the new law that legalizes medical marijuana on September 6, 2016.  Does this mean my drug free workplace policies are no longer valid?

Answer:

No, this does not mean your drug free workplace policies are no longer valid.

Employers are still free to have drug free workplace policies and now is the time to look at your policy and make sure it can withstand the change.  Some legal counsels are recommending that policies be updated to state specifically that medical marijuana is prohibited under the policy.  If you make the change, be sure to distribute and explain the policy and have employees sign off on the acknowledgement.

With such a policy in place, employers may still have the right to discharge employees who fail a drug screen, even if it was due to the use of medical marijuana.  The discharge would be considered ‘just cause’ making them ineligible for unemployment.  In addition, an employee may not be eligible for workers’ compensation for their injury if their injury was the result of being under the influence of marijuana.

Be sure to make sure your policy is up to date and all employees are treated equally under the policy. (For the nitty gritty details, click here)

Do you struggle with doing what is right for your company and right for your employees when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace? Sometimes the “right” solution isn’t always easily identified. Strategic HR, inc. understands your dilemma of being between a rock and a hard place. We can provide you with best practices, policies and training when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace or any needs concerning the Health, Safety and Security of your workforce. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security or Training page for more information on any of these services.

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What is a powered industrial truck according to OSHA? Do you need proper training?

Question:

Our Warehouse Manager just got a new piece of equipment that I would describe as a type of pallet-jack. When I questioned him about training on the equipment, he said that because an employee does not sit on the piece of equipment to operate it, so there was no required training under OSHA. Is that true? What is the definition of a powered industrial truck according to OSHA?

Answer:

Actually, the Warehouse Manager is incorrect. When most people think of required OSHA standards for that type of equipment, they think of lift trucks. OSHA’s standard for “Powered Industrial Trucks” , however, is much broader than that. OSHA defines a powered industrial truck as “Any mobile power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier materials. Powered industrial trucks can be ridden or controlled by a walking operator.” The standard does designate and say that earth moving and over the road haulage trucks are not included in the definition. Equipment that was designed to move earth but has been modified to accept forks are also not included. Your Warehouse Manager better get his policy in order and start training under the standard.

See OSHA’s Q&A on the standard here: https://www.osha.gov/dte/library/pit/pit_q-a.html

Accidents happen! But they’re called accidents because they weren’t anticipated. Once the accident does occur it’s up to employers to make sure accidents don’t repeat themselves. Strategic HR, inc. has the tools and knowledge needed to help you break the cycle of accidents in the workplace. We offer expertise in everything from safety audits to writing safety manuals and procedures.

For more information on how we can keep your employees safe please visit our Health, Safety & Security page.

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Are You Compliant With The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals?

Question: 

My organization has updated all the required safety data sheets and labels for the new Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Is there anything else I need to do to be compliant?

Answer:

By June 30, 2016, all employers must be in compliance with the revised Hazardous Communication Standards known as GHS. This includes complete training of employees on hazards in the workplace and the revisions to the program including the new labeling and safety data sheets. Be sure you have trained all of your employees on the new program and document that the training has occurred.

 

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the safety and well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure your policies and procedures are compliant and protect your staff. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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OSHA – GSH Forms

Question:

I have been receiving notices from my suppliers that the new GHS forms are available. What is this and what do I need to do?

Answer:

In March 2012, OSHA released an updated standard for Hazardous Communication which included a four phase adoption program of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The revised program focuses on hazard classification, labeling, safety data sheets, and training. The forms (most likely) you are referring to are the new safety data sheets provided in the new format. These forms must be made available to your employees similar to the old Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). These new forms should be obtained for compliance.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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How Does the Flu Impact FMLA?

Question:  

The flu is starting to hit our workplace.  Are employees who are out with the flu covered under FMLA?

Answer:  

As many HR answers can be…..”it depends”.  29 CFR 825.113(d) defines serious health conditions covered under FMLA and specifically, the common cold, the flu, ear aches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, and headaches other than migraines are listed as examples of conditions that do not qualify for FMLA UNLESS complications arise.  So, no, the flu does not automatically qualify as a serious health condition, however, if the conditions associated with the disease cause the FMLA-eligible employee to be incapacitated for more than three full days AND they either consult with a doctor two or more times within thirty days OR consults with a doctor once and receives a regimen of continuing treatment (prescription) the condition could be qualifying.  So…”it depends”.  Make sure you have all of the facts  before making a determination.

It’s not negative thinking to plan for a devastating event that could harm employees or impact your company’s ability to function – in fact it’s a good business practice. Bad things happen, but it’s how we prepare for and recover from a disastrous event that often leads to success or failure. Strategic HR, inc. has a variety of resources to help you prepare for such emergencies. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn more about how we can help you with your Emergency Preparedness needs OR pick up our Emergency Preparedness Toolkit and do-it-yourself.
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How Soon Do You Need to Submit Injuries to OSHA?

Question:

I was told that I am required to report the total of my 2015 injuries to OSHA by February 1.  Is that true?

Answer: 

No, actually, that is not the case.  OSHA recordkeeping requirements required covered employers to complete and post a summary of their 2015 work-related injuries and illnesses by February 1, 2016 on Form 300a. These forms do not need to be sent in to OSHA.  They are completed and posted at the workplace until April 30, 2016.  

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the safety and well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure your policies and procedures are compliant and protect your staff. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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What is Telehealth and Why Should I Consider It For My Employees?

Question:

My insurance broker mentioned that I should consider offering a Telehealth benefit for my employees.  What is that and is it really a good benefit that I should offer?

Answer:

According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, Telehealth is defined as follows:

“Telehealth encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery.”

Previously referred to only as “telemedicine” it has grown to be a more encompassing service with delivery via telephone, videoconferencing, health monitoring in the home, or even the sharing of files or medical records including x-rays, MRIs, etc.  The programs have seen explosive growth in the past ten years and anticipates continued growth.  Increased disease prevalence, an aging population, and an increase in the number of high deductible healthcare plans, create a need for these types of plans that are cost effective and appealing to both employers and patients.

Telehealth is definitely a benefit you should look into for your employees and families.  The product is not enticing to everyone but the cost-benefit of the plans appears worthwhile.  Talk to your insurance broker about these programs.

Having healthy employees is a key reason for developing a company wellness program; but also consider the cost savings. Not only does a healthy workforce impact costs related to ever increasing healthcare expenses, but also impacts other expenses that are being trimmed as the economy necessitates a tightening of the belt in all areas of the company. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn how we can assist you with creating a wellness program in your company.

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How to Handle Drugs & Alcohol Affecting Performance in the Workplace

Question:

I have a supervisor who just approached me because they are concerned that one of their employees is either drunk or on some type of drug that is inhibiting their performance.  We have a drug policy that allows us to test if we have reasonable suspicion, is that enough?  What should I do?

Answer:

The first step would be to document, specifically, what the behavior is that concerns the supervisor.  Is it behavior that is not typical, appearance, odor, etc.?  It is typically advised that two parties observe and document the behaviors to collaborate reasonable suspicion but it is not required if you do not have the ability to do this.

Once the concerns are documented and collaborated, it will be important to confront the employee regarding the concern.  The policy should be reviewed with the employee and it should be explained that they are being required to be tested and fully explain the consequences if they refuse to comply (this should be addressed in your policy).  The conversation should not be accusatory but rather one of concern.  In addition, it is not necessary to identify the specific drug (or alcohol) you are accusing them of using, only that they appear to be impaired in some way.

The individual will need to be transported to the drug/alcohol screening facility and should not be allowed to drive to the facility.  You should also alert your testing facility of the situation and that you are on the way.  Keep in mind, if you have a facility where you do not have instant results, you will also need to transport the employee to their home or ask someone to come pick them up.  IF you feel they are impaired it is up to you to make sure they are provided an opportunity to get home safely until you receive the result from the drug testing company.

Whether the result is positive of negative, the situation must be handled with respect and professionalism.  It is an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved and should be treated with the utmost discretion for all parties involved.

Do you struggle with doing what is right for your company and right for your employees when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace? Sometimes the “right” solution isn’t always easily identified. Strategic HR, inc. understands your dilemma of being between a rock and a hard place. We can provide you with best practices, policies and training when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace or any needs concerning the Health, Safety and Security of your workforce. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security or Training page for more information on any of these services.

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OSHA’s Requirements by June 2015

Question:

I have seen notices about a June 2015 change to OSHA’s hazardous communication standard.  My company did training back in 2013, is this another change?

Answer:

No, this is not another change but rather the second step in the issuance of the revised standard from March 2012.  The concept or backbone of the standard is basically the same, however, the revised standard requires employers to provide hazardous chemical information to employees using the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.  In 2013, employers were required to train employees on the new labels and safety data sheets, but it was not until June 15, 2015 that all manufacturers, importers, and employers must comply with the new requirements.  No doubt, you will (or have been) seeing an influx of new safety data sheets coming in on hazardous chemicals in your workplace.  Now is the time for you to organize the new sheets and maybe even review your processes for tracking hazardous chemicals in your workplace.

 

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, customers and visitors safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you to stay on the right side of SAFE.

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OSHA 300-A Log

Question:

I know I am supposed to take my OSHA 300-A log down on April 30.  How long do I have to keep it after I take it down?

Answer:

You are correct!  The log can come down on April 30, but according to OSHA Standard – 29 CFR -1904.33(a), employers must save their OSHA 300 Log, the Form 300-A (annual summary), and the Form 301 Incident Report forms for 5 (five) years. The stored OSHA 300 Logs must be updated by the employer to include any newly discovered recordable injuries or illnesses…even after the log had been posted.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you or contact us now at info@strategicHRinc.com.

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Obesity in the Workplace

Question:

According to SHRM’s 2014 Global HR Trends Report, obesity is on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide. If current trends continue, more than 50% of the U.S. adult population will be obese by 2030. The growing number of employees and candidates who are obese concern me as an employer because I have heard that they are deemed as having a disability.  Is that true?  What does that mean to me as the HR Manager?

Answer:

Yes, under the ADAA, the courts have expanded the legal definition of when obesity constitutes a disability. Employees are no longer required to establish that their obesity is due to another physiological condition or disorder. Obesity alone – whether morbid, severe, or simple obesity – can cause sufficient impairment that a person can be deemed as “disabled”.  Morbid obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher; severe obesity is a BMI of 35-39.9 and simple obesity is a BMI of 30-34.9. Under the new amendments, the EEOC states that basic obesity alone can sufficiently impact life activities like bending, walking and transportation and it could now be treated as a physical impairment.  As in most potentially legal situations, each situation is unique and should be looked at carefully before taking any action.

As an HR Manager, the bottom line is that there are many more potentially disabled employees in the workplace. Employees who may be entitled to nondiscrimination protection and potentially reasonable accommodations if necessary.  Keep in mind, accommodations can be simple.  Things such as a large ergonomic chair, seat belt extenders for industrial equipment, or even allowing an employee to use a scooter.  Bottom line, be sure to treat obese employees as any other potentially disabled employee in the workplace and work with the employee to determine if an appropriate accommodation is necessary and can be made.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the safety and well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure your policies and procedures are compliant and protect your staff. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements for 2015

Question:

I heard OSHA put new recordkeeping requirements in for 2015.  What are the changes that  I need to be aware of?

Answer:

Effective January 1, 2015, OSHA updated the reporting requirement for covered entities.  Covered employers must report fatalities that occur as a result of a workplace injury/illness within 8 hours of finding out about it.  Employer’s are only required to report fatalities if the death occurs within 30 days of the workplace accident. 

In addition, employers are required to report any inpatient hospitalization (for care or treatment – not just observation), amputation, or eye loss.  These must be reported within 24 hours of learning about it. Employers only have to these inpatient hospitalizations if they occur within 24 hours of a work-related incident.

You may use the OSHA hotline or call the local office to make the required report.  OSHA promises a new “online” reporting option, “soon”.  For details on the new recordkeeping requirement, go to:  https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/OSHA3745.pdf

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you.s.

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Rating Employees On Safety

Question:

How do we rate employees on safety?

Answer:

Rating employees on safety starts by having an organization whose norms, beliefs, attitudes,and practices are concerned with minimizing exposure of employees to workplace hazards.Having an effective Safety Incentive Programs can definitely help and, although all are not alike,it is important to consider some of these basic elements:

  • Identify the objective – Determine why you want to establish the program. It could be to decrease workers’ compensation premiums by reducing the number of worker injuries, or your goal may simply be to reinforce general safety principles.
  • Select participants – Decide which employees need to participate in the program to achieve the long-term goal.
  • Establish a theme – Having a focus reminds participants of the goal you want your employees to achieve.
  • Select appropriate prizes with increasing value – Prizes don’t have to be expensive, but they should have meaning. Prizes that reinforce the contest theme can be very effective; for example, safety glasses, work shoes, hard hats, etc. Give prizes based upon the company’s safety record (i.e., 1,000 accident free days, 50,000 hours worked without lost-time accident, etc.).
  • Determine the program’s length – It should be intermittent and last for a specified period of time. If carrying out a program idea will require a prolonged period, you might consider having several short contests. This will maintain employee interest and allow managers to stress various safety issues.
  • Communicate the goal – It is important that the program is fun and relevant to the work experience of all participating employees. Also, make recognition for working safely more significant than the value of the prize.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security Page to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Firearms At Work

Question:

Many of our employees, including the owner of our company, have concealed carry permits. We are open to allowing employees to have their weapons at work, but what is the best way to address this from a policy perspective?

Answer:

It’s not uncommon to hear of an organization wanting a policy to ban all weapons at work, however, it is important that this is not the case with all organizations. Before implementing and all-out ban, determine what is right for your organization and culture. Ultimately you want a work environment that is a positive and comfortable place for all employees. If you determine that you are open to allowing employees to have their weapons at work, consider a policy that’s something along the lines of “[the Company] requires that any weapons that are brought on site must be registered and legal.”

Be sure to keep in mind the specific regulations of your industry or State when creating your firearm policy.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the safety and well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure your policies and procedures are compliant and protect your staff. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Emergency Preparedness

Question:

What are some things we need to consider in the event of an emergency?

Answer:

It’s that time of year again…tornadoes, severe storms and flooding are sure to come. It is critical for companies to prepare for emergency situations – events as small as a temporary power outage to major disasters like a tornado hitting the workplace. One important planning tool is to develop a Business Emergency Preparedness and Resumption Plan detailing your company’s commitment to the safety and protection of employees and the public.

An emergency plan should contain information including, but not limited to:

  • Identifying the hazards that the business could face (natural, technological disasters, civil emergencies, pandemic and other business interruptions).
  • Detailed instructions on how emergency response and recovery actions will be organized by position and within what timeframe.
  • Maintaining emergency contact information for company staff.
  • Identifying a minimum of two (2) emergency contact persons for your business.
  • Determining orders of succession/Human Capital Management (HCM) to ensure leadership as well as essential function sustainability during an emergency to obtain business resumption.
  • Identifying who will be named as “in charge” during an emergency situation to ensure continuous leadership authority and responsibility.
  • Determining the company’s essential functions (i.e., functions that should be resumed within 12 hours of a disruption and be able to continue for at least 30 days following a disruption).
  • Describing the vital records and databases that are necessary to complete the essential functions identified in the plan.
  • Identifying an alternate location where your business can carry out the identified essential functions during an emergency.
  • Information cross referencing other necessary documents such as emergency evacuation plans, shut down procedures, and federal requirements under The Homeland Security Act, etc.

These are just some areas that should be examined when developing a thorough Business Emergency Preparedness and Resumption Plan, but it is also imperative that once the program is in place it is periodically reviewed and evaluated.

It’s not negative thinking to plan for a devastating event that could harm employees or impact your company’s ability to function – in fact it’s a good business practice. Bad things happen, but it’s how we prepare for and recover from a disastrous event that often leads to success or failure. Strategic HR, inc. has a variety of resources to help you prepare for such emergencies. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn more about how we can help you with your Emergency Preparedness needs OR pick up our Emergency Preparedness Toolkit and do-it-yourself.

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Wellness Certification

Question:

Since I’ve been working on a corporate wellness program I am thinking about getting the certification. I have been considering The Corporate Health and Wellness Association (CHWA). Can you provide your insight on whether one credentialing program is more highly regarded than another?

Answer:

There’s been a surge of wellness certifications popping up over the last couple of years. This is probably due to the fact that there is an increased emphasis on employee health as more companies recognize that good health can impact employee productivity and decrease their health care costs, ultimately impacting the bottom line. Providing a certified program lends value to the wellness program. Certification instills confidence, lends a degree of professionalism and provides knowledge and experience with important tools for tracking return on investment and success.

A Certification program you might consider is the Chapman Institute (www.chapmaninstitute.net). Folks in the industry really recognize Larry Chapman as he has a long standing credibility in the industry. We have not taken his certification but it was said that most of what Larry does is solid and best practice. He is also quite savvy at making lots of money!!!

Another good program is the Health Management Resource Center (HMRC) at the University of Michigan (www.hmrc.umich.edu). Dee Edington, director of the HMRC, is another respected name in the wellness industry who has evolved to the point of talking about the importance of culture. This center is an excellent resource.

Plus, you should consider a membership with the Wellness Council of America WELCOA (www.welcoa.org) to be able to plug in to all the free webinar trainings offered. They offer some great stuff these days; great value for the investment and they refresh topics all the time. Its a continuous learning model. They also provide access to a wide scope of free resources, including surveys, etc.

Good luck on your wellness journey!

A special thanks to Karen Campbell with the Tri-State Workplace Wellness Collaborative (www.tristatewwc.org) and Denise Flickner with Healthworks (www.cincyhealthworks.com) for sharing their expertise with us. Please visit their respective websites for more wellness information.

Having healthy employees is a key reason for developing a company wellness program; but also consider the cost savings. Not only does a healthy workforce impact costs related to ever increasing healthcare expenses, but also impacts other expenses that are being trimmed as the economy necessitates a tightening of the belt in all areas of the company. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn how we can assist you with creating a wellness program in your company.

 

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Who’s Using Your EAP

Question:

We just implemented an Employee Assistance Program. What do I need to know about EAP use in order to better share this new resource with employees?

Answer:

Although depression is a primary reason employees call their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), many other services are available. In addition to personal and family counseling, most programs cover substance abuse, grief support, child care, elder care, financial education and legal assistance.

ComPsych, a leading provider in Employee Assistance Programs, recently analyzed data from the millions of calls they handle each year. The published results were quite interesting.

The top four types of EAP calls were:

  1. Psychological (mental and emotional) 41.7%
  2. Partner/relationships 19.9%
  3. Family/child (behavioral issues) 14.3%
  4. Stress/anxiety 10.5%

Though women callers still outnumber men (61 versus 39 percent), the percentage of men accessing EAP and work-life services has gradually but steadily risen over the past decade. Though fewer men call assistance lines, more men called for help with relationship issues than women (22 versus 18 percent). Furthermore, men were almost five times as likely to call about alcohol and chemical dependency issues.

Why are these statistics important? Because most employees won’t even think to use your EAP until they are in the middle of a crisis. By understanding your audience and their concerns, you can tailor your communications to meet their particular needs. Ask your provider for data on the EAP services most used by your employees. Then create a targeted, year-round communications plan to help employees understand the types of support they can receive and how to take action when they are ready.

How can you promote your EAP?

  • Display posters promoting the most-used services, focusing on one issue at a time. If possible, ask your provider to use images of people who reflect your audience. For example, are they blue-collar workers? What’s their age range and ethnicity? Always highlight the phone number and website so employees know where to go for help. And be sure to change the posters frequently, since different services are needed at different times.
  • Dedicate a portion of your benefits website to your EAP. List all the services available (putting the most-used at the top of the list) and provide simple instructions on how to get help. Emphasize that all services are provided by a third party who protects their privacy and never shares personal information with the company.
  • Promote your benefits website through a direct link on the home page of your intranet.
  • Cross-promote EAP services by featuring a variety of stories in your company newsletter, enrollment materials or postcards. Remember, spouses and other family members may not realize assistance is available, so include EAP information in materials sent to homes.
  • If a location suffers a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, actively promote your EAP services. If possible, have representatives from your provider available on site to assist employees and their families through the aftermath.

Statistics show both men and women are taking advantage of a variety of valuable EAP services. By understanding who’s using your EAP and why, you can create a targeted, year-round communications plan that increases awareness, acceptance and usage of your plan.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write On Target, for sharing her expertise with us. Sign-up on her website at to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com. Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or 937.436.4565 at extension 28.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Accidents in the Workplace

Question:

We seem to be experiencing a flare up in minor workplace accidents. What are some steps we can take to raise safety awareness and reduce the number of incidents?

Answer:

It happens to many organizations…it is easy to take safety for granted and that is when the bottom falls out and accidents start to rear their ugly head. With a recent outbreak of accidents, be sure you are doing a complete accident investigation and determine if there are any trends in the accidents that are occurring. The accidents may have the same root cause which you can nip quickly and effectively. In addition to the actual accident review, the best recommendation is to GET YOUR TEAM INVOLVED! You can’t maintain a safe environment alone. A great way to ‘revive’ the safety culture is to get others active in the process. Those involved will become engaged and energized in helping you and perhaps even drive safety activities and suggestions. Use your safety team to review current safety policies, create new safety programs and training, and come up with new safety incentives and recognition awards. This team could also conduct safety audits as well as review current training programs to identify what doesn’t “work” or identify things that may not even be covered. When creating this new safety-focused team be sure to involve established employees as well as new hires. Newly hired employees are an especially important part of the team because they may bring ideas from other organizations AND they see things in the workplace through fresh eyes. What we become used to seeing every day, someone from the outside can see through. They may be more apt at picking out potential danger or safety concerns. In some cases allowing a fresh set of eyes review the situation may be all that is needed to create effective solutions.

Accidents happen! But they’re called accidents because they weren’t anticipated. Once the accident does occur it’s up to employers to make sure accidents don’t repeat themselves. Strategic HR, inc. has the tools and knowledge needed to help you break the cycle of accidents in the workplace. We offer expertise in everything from safety audits to writing safety manuals and procedures. For more information on how we can keep your employees safe please visit our Health, Safety & Security page.

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Expired Prescriptions and Drug Testing

Question:

We recently had a situation where a veteran employee, with no prior incidences, took an expired prescription drug that was inhibiting her performance. She drug tested positive with it in her system and the script was older than one year. What do I do?

Answer:

This is certainly a tricky situation, and the answer is anything but cut and dried. Some things to consider:

  • Policy – What does your Drug Free Workplace Policy say? Typically an acceptable deviation of a positive drug test is supplying a valid prescription from an attending physician. In this situation, the employee does not appear to have that if the drug was expired. What does your policy say about the consequences of a positive test?
  • Training – This is why Drug Free Workplace training is so critical. Such training should inform employees of exactly these types of situations, and potential consequences, so this scenario can be avoided. What does your policy say about training, and have you adhered to that?
  • Precedent – What are the consequences of making an exception? If you make an exception for this individual are you willing to make an exception the next time it happens to another employee (perhaps a lower performing employee)? Does making an exception impact the effectiveness of your Drug Free Workplace program?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer, and you have to do what’s best for your company.  The key is to carefully consider the impact of your decision on future situations that may arise.

Do you struggle with doing what is right for your company and right for your employees when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace? Sometimes the “right” solution isn’t always easily identified. Strategic HR, inc. understands your dilemma of being between a rock and a hard place. We can provide you with best practices, policies and training when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace or any other needs concerning the Health, Safety and Security of your workforce. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page or Training & Development page for more information on any of these services.

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Good Samaritan Law

Question:

If an employee tries to medically help someone during a medical emergency are they or our company liable if something should go wrong?

Answer:

If you work in Ohio you are covered by something called the “Good Samaritan” law that protects bystanders who provide emergency aid from financial liability if there is an unintended injury or wrongful death. This law is meant to protect those providing emergency care at the scene of an emergency and does not apply to care provided to someone already in a medical facility. Nor does it protect someone if they expect payment for the treatment (such as from an insurance company). Stated best, the law is designed to let people do the right thing without fear of being sued.

To see the details of Ohio Good Samaritan laws  visit the ORC website.

An injury in the workplace is no laughing matter and strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from reviewing your safety procedures to helping you with employee wellness initiatives. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on how we can assist you with Health, Safety and Security.

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How do we deal with employee body odor?

Question:

We have an employee with strong body odor and other staff feel it is making them ill at work. How do we address such a sensitive topic?

Answer:

Addressing personal care issues that affect others at work can be difficult conversations to have. Keep in mind the offending employee may not be aware that they have an odor problem, they may have a medical condition, or it may be the result of customs or cultures. Regardless, to keep harmony among your staff the situation needs to be addressed in a sensitive manner.

Be sure to take the employee to a private area to speak. It is also important to be clear in the reason for the conversation, but also be sensitive to the embarrassment it might cause the employee to have such a personal a discussion with their manager or human resources. The most direct route is best. State the problem, “It has been brought to my attention that you have a strong body odor”, and ask a follow up question to allow them the opportunity to share any possible reasons for the situation, “Do you have a health condition or a custom that might be contributing to excessive body odor?” If a health condition is present you will need to determine if there is an issue under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) that will need to be accommodated in some way. If the cause is determined to be due to hygiene issues, the employee should be coached to work on their hygiene, focusing on the connection to the health and well being of themselves and others around them. If there is a company policy addressing appearance and cleanliness, this can be referenced as a guideline for the employee to follow and to emphasize the connection of the discussion to company policy versus a personal attack.

In any case, be considerate and handle the issue with discretion. This can be one of the toughest HR conversations you may have and in most instances it is just as hard for the receiver.

Having healthy employees is a key reason for developing a company wellness program, but also give consideration to the cost savings. Not only does a healthy workforce impact costs related to ever increasing health care expenses, but also impacts other expenses that are being trimmed as the economy necessitates a tightening of the belt in all areas of the company. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn how we can assist you with issues surrounding the health and safety of your workforce.

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Exercise: The Natural Work Stress Reducer

by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR and Linda Gravett, PhD, SPHR

Do you ever feel stressed? Nahhhh…none of us do, right? We don’t get stress headaches or have problems sleeping or get overly tired. We don’t even get those tense muscle pains in the back of our neck, shoulders, or back. And, we never ever get depressed or edgy, right? But do you realize that these are all symptoms of stress and if you don’t try to manage your stress it could lead to even worse problems such as high blood pressure, ulcers, heart attack, or damaged relationships?

What’s the best solution for stress? Exercise!

We’ll be the first to agree that exercise isn’t easy, but exercise also doesn’t need to be long and painful. You’ll see results even if you can only take a few minutes to exercise.  Once you get started you won’t want to stop and you’ll even be more productive with your every-day life including your ability to concentrate, energy level, and creativity.

But before you begin your exercise, you need to learn how to breathe right.

We all were born with the appropriate breathing technique but quickly lose it due to the day to day stress. Watch a baby – they breathe long deep breaths in through the nose and out the nose. Studies show that slowing down your breathing calms the nervous system, which in turn lowers blood pressure and heart rate, reduces stress hormone levels and increases energy levels. Therefore, the deep breathing we did when we were born is a highly effective tool against asthma, poor digestion, weight gain, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, heart disease, AND STRESS.

We suggest you try this as a prelude to your exercise routine and a way to calm your mind:

  • Sit in a chair with both feet on the floor with your shoulders back and your chin up.
  • Place your hands on your diaphragm so that you can feel the movement of your breathing.
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose filling your abdomen and chest with air from bottom to top like you are filling a balloon.
  • Exhale all the air out of your nose from top to bottom.
  • Repeat 20 times, even just 5 – 10 will help.

This is just one breathing technique of many. If this one doesn’t work for you, research other techniques until you find one that is comfortable and refreshing for you. The key is controlling your breathing while you exercise will help you build endurance and continue to benefit from oxygenating your body.

Now that you know how to breathe, let’s talk about exercise. We’ve learned some excellent techniques and concepts about exercise and stress reduction from the martial arts. Robin studies Yoga and Pilates and has two children and a husband who are 1st Degree Black-Belts in the Maududo form of Karate. Linda studies Tai Chi and is a 5th Degree Black-Belt in TaeKwondo. We’ve learned that the first place to start for successful exercise is with deep breathing exercises, and then introduce some low-impact exercises that can actually be done while sitting at your desk and then work up to a full exercise routine to get your heart rate going.

Some of the exercises we like are:

Tai Chi – Repulse Monkey Form 
(Benefits: relaxes neck and shoulder muscles, improves circulation in hands and arms) Hold your left hand at face level with the palm facing upward.

  • Swing your right arm back, following the motion with your eyes by turning your head to look over your shoulder.
  • Sweep your arm forward and over your shoulder so that your right hand will pass over your left about 2 to 3 inches above it.
  • Bring your right hand past your left hand.
  • Turn your right hand palm up and wing your left arm behind you as your turn your head to follow the motion.
  • Bring the left hand over the right without touching your hands together.
  • Slide the left hand forward.
  • Repetitions: Nine on each side, for a total of 18.

 

Tai Chi – Brushing Tree Trunk Form
(Benefits: tightens abdomen, improves circulation in hands and arms, relaxes shoulders) Extend your arms and reach for the ceiling. Take a deep breath expanding your diaphragm.

  • Swing your right arm down across your chest to your left side. The left arm remains stretched towards the ceiling.
  • As your right arm wraps around your waist on the left side, turn your head so you are looking to your right. Your body is twisted to the left but your head is turned in the opposite direction. Breathe out as you bend forward and tighten your abdomen.
  • Swing your right arm up again and reverse the rotation so that your left arm is resting on your right hip. Turn your head to the left. Exhale as you bend over and twist.
  • Repetitions: Nine times on each side.

 

Yoga Tree Pose 
(Benefits: focus, concentration, balance, strength, and stretching)

  • Stand straight with your hands at your sides balancing your weight evenly on both feet.
  • Begin to shift the weight over to the right foot, lifting the left foot off the floor.
  • Bend the left knee bringing the sole of the left foot high onto the inner right thigh.
  • Keep both hips squared towards the front.
  • Place your hands on your hips for balance. To advance, raise your hands up in front of you over your head.
  • Focus on something that doesn’t move to help you keep balance.
  • Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.
  • Repeat standing on the left foot.
  • For more challenge, try closing your eyes.

 

Yoga Plank 
(Benefits: endurance, core strengthening)

  • Lie on your stomach supporting yourself on your forearms
  • Lift your body parallel to the floor keeping your head/neck in line with your spine looking straight down at the floor
  • Hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds
  • For more challenge, lift yourself up on your arms so your shoulders are directly over your wrists.

 

Pilates Hundred 
(Benefits: strengthens the core)

  • Lie flat on the floor on your back.
  • Keeping your back flat on the floor, raise both your legs to a 90 degree angle and then lower back toward the floor to a challenging level without lifting your back off the floor.
  • Keeping your back flat on the floor, raise your head and shoulders off the floor.
  • Keeping arms extended, lift and lower them about two inches from the floor, breathing in on the lift and out on the lower.
  • Do this for 5 up-and-down beats. Repeat 10 times until you have done a “hundred.”

 

These are just a few of our favorites that can be done almost anywhere but are especially a great way to start your day. To build your own routine, check out some of these resources:

Remember, the main way to reduce physical stress is to release endorphins into the bloodstream which is done through exercise. Getting a 20-30 minute workout three to four days a week is critical to keeping the endorphins flowing and the heart pumping. According to the American Institute of Stress, Americans spend about $11.3 billion a year coping with stress-related illnesses and injuries. Stress has been linked to leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, and suicide. Up to 60% of employee absences are caused by psychological disorders. We encourage you to avoid being one of those statistics. Focus your breathing and figure out the best exercise plan for you…Get moving!

 

Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant is President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). Dr. Linda Gravett, Ph.D, SPHR, is with Gravett & Associates (www.Gravett.com). If you have questions or comments about this article or think your office would benefit from our highly interactive session titled “Martial Arts Strategies for Managing Stress at the Office,” please email Linda at Linda@Gravett.com or Robin at Robin@strategicHRinc.com.

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Start the New Year with a Wellness Focus

by Amy Reece Connelly with REA Career Services

As health care reform dominates the news in much of the western hemisphere, multi-national corporations may find wisdom from wellness philosophy as a means of preventing illness, particularly for employees and their families in transition.

The National Wellness Institute, founded in 1977, identifies six components of wellness: social, physical, intellectual, occupational, emotional and spiritual. Theoretically, if one or more of these components is out of balance, the imbalance manifests itself as stress, which can create or exacerbate physical illness. Awareness of and attention to the components of wellness may be key to preventing some health concerns, and for relocating families, can support a successful transition to a new location.

Social Wellness refers to an individual’s interaction with his or her environment and community. Providing information about the new community and facilitating opportunities for transferees and their families to meet peers contributes to the wellness goal of living in harmony with others and the environment.

Physical Wellness is concerned with becoming physically fit and providing nutritious food. Identifying healthy food sources, locating fitness facilities and dedicating family time for physical activity are all objectives to achieving wellness in this area.

Intellectual Wellness includes engaging in creative, stimulating mental activity. Relocated employees immerse themselves in new work activities, but their accompanying partners may feel isolated, useless, and in need of meaningful activity, particularly after the logistics of the move are settled.

Occupational Wellness refers to personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life through work. While the relocated employee is immediately engaged in his/her new job, many spouses have left their own careers behind, and may need support in exploring employment options or a meaningful pursuit.

Emotional Wellness is the degree to which an individual feels positive and enthusiastic about his or her life. Encouraging employees and their families to examine how they feel about the changes that have occurred due to their move helps them to accept these changes and make forward-looking plans.

Spiritual Wellness relates to an individual’s search for meaning and purpose. Living in a way that is consistent with closely-held values promotes growth in this area.

Recognizing the components of wellness can support relocating families not only in achieving optimal health, but it can also contribute to successful transitions and enhance corporate relocation.

Amy Reece Connelly, an Indiana-based career consultant, is a Global Services Team Leader for Ricklin-Echikson Associates (REA), an international HR consulting firm specializing in career and transition assistance for the accompanying spouse/partner of relocated employees. She is also a veteran of 15 moves accomplished as a child, a young adult, a newlywed and a (semi-single) parent and spouse of a deployed military officer. If you have any questions or comments about this article, you can contact Amy at reainternational@tds.net and or visit them online at REACareers.com/REACareers/.

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How To Conduct A Safety Audit

Question:

I have a safety committee comprised of all new members. We need to conduct a safety audit of our facility. How should we structure our audit?

Answer:

The most important part of a safety and health audit is to make some specific decisions early on. Questions must be answered such as:

  1. Who is going to do the audit? Are you going to do it internally or involve an external party? If internal, who is involved specifically – HR? A team of safety and healthy experts in a committee?
  2. What are you actually going to audit – a part of safety and health in the organization or all aspects? If you are interested in doing a full audit, it is best to pick a specific area to work on – one at a time. Pick a monthly task to audit specifically (e.g. hazardous communication standard, lock out/tag out, emergency evacuation, etc.) and focus on that as an audit topic each month. Focusing on one topic will allow you to dig deeply into the standard and ensure compliance at all levels.

Once you are ready to audit and you know who and what is going to be a part of the audit, you need a clear checklist or questionnaire to use to audit each of the various aspects. In general, the audit should include the following items:

  • Determine what requirements you are supposed to meet – look at all areas of legislations including state and federal.
  • Assess whether or not you are meeting those legal requirements.
  • Review your documents to ensure you have good documentation as well as best practices in place in recordkeeping.
  • Identify any areas of risk in the workplace and determine how the organization attempts to minimize those risks.
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in your safety procedures.
  • Recommend areas of improvements necessary for compliance and best practices.
  • Document the implementation of those recommendations to ensure they do not become a legal liability in the future.

Once you have these pieces in place you are ready to audit – good luck!

Do you worry about doing what is right for your company and right for your employees while being legally compliant? Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees and the legal compliance of your organization. Conducting an audit of your Health and Safety function is a key component to making sure you are compliant. Let us help you with your audit using our tried and true practices. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page or Legal Compliance page for more information on any of these services.

 

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Service Animal Safety Concerns

Question:

We have an employee who is requesting the use of a service animal to accompany her to work as part of a Reasonable Accommodation related to a health issue. We have concerns about liability should the service animal bite an employee or customer. Do we have to honor her request?

Answer:

The key to any accommodation determination is an open, honest dialogue between the employee and the employer. If the service animal constitutes a reasonable accommodation it must be allowed. If you are concerned about the safety of others with an animal in the workplace have this conversation with the employee and check with the organization providing the service dog – the training organization should have guidelines for training animals to be used in the workplace. You can ask for documentation on the dog’s training to show it has been trained to specifically address your particular type of situation. Service animals are extremely well trained and we have not encountered any situations where a service animal has bitten anyone in the workplace.

As with all matters dealing with corporate liability, contacting your attorney for guidance is recommended. For more information about Reasonable Accommodation contact the Job Accommodation Network at www.askjan.org.

An injury in the workplace is no laughing matter and strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from reviewing your safety procedures to helping you with employee wellness initatives. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on how we can assist you with Health, Safety and Security.

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Whistleblower Provisions

Question:

What is covered under the Whistleblower Protection Program?

Answer:

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Additionally, employers are prohibited from discriminating against their employees for exercising their rights under the Act, which include: filing an OSHA complaint, participating in an inspection or talking to an inspector, seeking access to employer exposure and injury records, and raising a safety or health complaint with the employer. Employees have the ability, if they feel they have been retaliated or discriminated against for exercising their rights, to  file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged adverse action.

Employee complaints must be reported to OSHA within set timeframes following the discriminatory action, as prescribed by each law. Links to these laws, and the number of days employees have to file a complaint, are below:

The Whistleblower Protection Program seeks to protect employees who report the safety or security violations of their employers from discrimination under twenty-one federal statutes. That means an employer cannot retaliate by taking “adverse action” against workers in the following manner:

  • Firing or laying off
  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Denial of benefits
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation
  • Making threats
  • Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
  • Reducing pay or hours

For more information about the Whistleblower Protection Program, visit www.whistleblowers.gov.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Preparing for OSHA

Question:

When OSHA comes knocking to do an inspection, what should I expect?

Answer:

One of the most nerve-wracking experiences in a construction executive’s career is when an Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspector shows up at the door and says something like: “We received a complaint and we’d like to take a look around.”

Part of the reason for the anxiety is that OSHA investigators don’t give any notice and can be very secretive. Here are some steps you can take to protect your company:

  • Put someone in charge of a possible inspection. This is no time for winging it. You need a designated hitter who can respond intelligently and courteously. And you should have a back-up contact person ready in the event of vacations or days off.
  • Check credentials. If someone shows up at your workplace and claims to be from OSHA, don’t automatically believe it. You obviously don’t want strangers walking around — whether you have trade secrets or just modern-day security concerns. If you aren’t satisfied with the inspector’s credentials, call the local office before letting him or her have access to your workplace.
  • Inquire what it’s all about. Ask the inspector to tell you the area of concern and what OSHA is looking for before answering questions or giving a tour. Inspections are usually caused by complaints. While the inspector won’t say who called, he or she will outline the issue.
  • Don’t demand a court order in most cases. The inspector won’t have any trouble getting one quickly and you’re likely to antagonize the government. If you’re uneasy, you might want to call and see if your attorney can come right away.
  • Keep the visit focused. Once you identify the problem, answer only the questions the inspector asks – don’t volunteer additional information. And only show the inspector areas that are affected. Avoid walking through the rest of the workplace if possible. This isn’t to impair the agency. You’re simply trying not to raise new issues that could enlarge the enforcement effort.
  • Do what OSHA does. If the inspector measures something and takes pictures, you should measure and take pictures of the same items. If the inspector does an air-quality study, bring in an expert as soon as possible – that day, preferably – to repeat the study. If you aren’t armed with your own test data or photographs, it’s hard to argue that the agency’s determination is wrong. And it may be even more difficult to convince a jury that the testing is wrong.
  • Consider the alternatives. After an inspection, OSHA holds a closing conference. The inspector will outline the problems and tell you to expect correspondence from the agency. Citation notices and proposed penalties arrive shortly afterwards. There are rules you must follow in posting the citations in your workplace.
  • Don’t let time slip away. OSHA gives 15 business days to contest a citation. Failure to meet deadlines can result in serious consequences. Get legal help.

By understanding how OSHA conducts inspections, you can be better prepared to handle the situation in a way that minimizes your legal and financial exposure. The penalties may seem small, but by paying them, you may trigger action from other government agencies. And if you don’t change the way you do business, subsequent penalties are likely to increase dramatically. So what initially may seem like an expensive fight to prove your company’s innocence can turn out to be the less-costly route in the long run. Consult with your human resources and legal advisers.

Special thanks to Gregory E Ossege for submitting this answer. He is the managing partner of Ossege Combs & Mann, Ltd a Cincinnati area CPA and Business Consulting firm. Greg can be reached at gossege@ocmcpas.com or 513-241-4507. Visit www.ocmcpas.com for further information.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you.

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What Is A Safety Audit

Question:

My manager is concerned about our company’s ability to pass a safety inspection and wants us to do an audit. What is a safety audit?

Answer:

Safety audits (known more formally as health and safety audits) provide an in-depth review of workplace safety programs and are conducted for the purpose of health , safety, and fire hazard identification. Audits assess a company’s compliance to applicable regulations or codes as well as the identification of unsafe conditions in the workplace. Audits also provide an evaluation of workplace adherence to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards relating to workplace and worker safety. There are also DOT regulations that need to be met if they apply to your company’s line of work. Keep in mind that safety audits are meant to check the effectiveness of various programs, but they do not take the place of regular facility inspections, which should be done on a much more frequent basis as facility rules dictate.

When conducting a safety (or OSHA) audit there are two things to evaluate: compliance and safety. When reviewing compliance it is important to evaluate how the company handles conformance to the prescribed codes or standards, recordkeeping and training of employees. When assessing safety, the objective is to identify unsafe work conditions, rather than unsafe acts or behaviors.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to health and safety audits. Audits must be customized to the type of industry, size of the company or location being audited, applicable local, state and federal laws and any other company specific factors that might affect the safety and health of your workforce.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, customers and visitors safe. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn more about how we can assist you stay on the right side of safe.

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Obesity and the ADA

Question:

We have an employee who has put on a lot of weight in the past couple of years. He has always been a good performer, but recently he has trouble moving around the production floor and has to sit down frequently, which interferes with productivity. Is obesity protected by the ADA, or can I discipline him for this?

Answer:

Things have definitely changed in recent years in how obesity is viewed. Previously, under the ADA, obesity was not considered a disability, but medical issues that resulted from the condition may have been covered. However, since the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was instituted that status has changed. The ADAAA puts much broader parameters on “major life activities” meaning that morbid obesity now falls into the protected category. Several court cases since the ADAAA went into effect in 2009 have also upheld this change. Bottom line, think twice before taking action on performance issues that result from obesity. It is now necessary to start looking at appropriate accommodations before you go straight to discipline. For more information visit www.ADA.gov.

Do you worry about doing what is right for your company, right for your employees while being legally compliant? Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees and the legal compliance of your organization. Navigating changes to the ADAAA can be daunting as well as challenging. Let us help you navigate the changes to ADA law. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page or Legal Compliance page for more information on any of these services.

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Work Related Injuries from a Home Office

Question:

I have “virtual” employees who don’t spend all their work time in the office. How do I know if an employee’s injury is work related if they work out of their home?

Answer:

This is one of the big challenges that employers face when they allow their employees the opportunity to work from home. Overall, injuries and illness that occur while an employee is working at home is considered work related (and thus compensable) if the illness or injury occurs while the employee is performing work for pay in the home and the injury or illness is directly related to the performance of work. These type of injuries cannot be related to the general home environment (i.e faulty wiring, tripping on the carpet) but rather must be related to the performance of work.

What is a compensable injury? One might be an injury to a finger that was slammed in a filing cabinet drawer while filing papers for work. Another could be an injury to the foot due to a dropped heavy box (assuming the box was for work purposes and contained work materials). Proving how some of these injuries occurred in the home is a challenge because there is a lack of witnesses, and there is the inability to control the work environment to ensure adequate safety and housekeeping to prevent injuries. Creating policies for your employees to ensure they keep a professional, well-kept and safe work environment at home, as well as requiring them to report any work related injuries or illness immediately, is essential.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from creating a communicable disease policy to developing a business resumption plan for handling unexpected emergencies. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information.

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Changes To My OSHA Log

Question:

I posted my OSHA 300A log even though we had no incidents to report. But on April 29, just as I was ready to take the log down, I received notice of a previous worker’s comp injury that was certified and had occurred in the previous year. What do I do? Do I go back and add the incident to the posted 300A log? Do I add it to next year’s log? Should I indicate that the information was received after the fact? Do I have to keep the log up longer? Help!

Answer:

According to OSHA, all injuries and illness, whether discovered before or after the log posting or even after they leave employment must be properly recorded. You may record it on either the log for the year in which the injury or illness occurred or the log for their last day of employment (if they left employment). You do not have to repost the log or keep it up any longer, only document it and keep the log in your permanent files in the event of an audit.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you.

 

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Ensuring Safety in the Workplace

Question:

We seem to be experiencing a flare up in minor workplace accidents. What are some steps we can take to raise safety awareness and reduce the number of incidents?

Answer:

The most important thing to do is to look around and see what you are doing and determine what has changed in the recent past to cause this flare up. Sometimes the cause is easy to identify, but many times not. Overall, there are a number of things employers can get involved in to ensure their organization moves toward a ‘safety culture’, one where safety is valued and resulting in an improved safety record.

  • Create a safety culture from the top down. Safety should be discussed  at the very beginning of employment from recruitment to job descriptions to background checks and reference checks. Start talking safety early and always in your workplace.
  • Be sure your employees know they are partners with the organization in the safety effort. Safety is NOT just for the employer to do. It must be a team effort with cooperation of the employees and employer to be successful.
  • Create involved safety programs to involve employees in that effort.
    • Create safety committees that are employee based.
    • Make safety training a priority in your organization and talk about it (even if briefly) in all meetings.
  • Investigate all accidents and near misses in your organization to determine their cause and to avoid future accidents.
  • Conduct self audits. Have employee teams do audits on different areas of the workplace to review for hazardous conditions.
  • Recognize and reward the safety successes.

These types of activities will ensure a safety culture and ultimately improve the safety record of your organization.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you.

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How to Handle Bedbugs in the Office

Question:

An employee has indicated that she has bedbugs in her apartment building. What responsibility do we have as an employer towards our other employees?

Answer:

The first step is to communicate with your employees measures that they can take to prevent exposure, or if exposure has occurred, minimize the risk that the bedbugs will be transported to work. Under the OSHA general duty standard, an employer has an obligation to provide a safe work environment free of hazards that may cause physical harm. If it is determined that there are bedbugs in your workplace, you should take immediate action to eradicate the infestation (typically by calling an exterminator). There may also be obligations of notification and recordkeeping if hazardous chemicals are used to rectify the situation. If an employee has indicated that he or she has been exposed, you can request that the employee stay home until the problem has been taken care of on their end. Keep in mind, an exempt employee may be required to be paid for time away from work that is less than a full day.

Every situation should be taken on its own merit. In addition to OSHA, there are a number of different issues that should be considered: Family and Medical Leave (if the employee has been exposed and needs to deal with the exposure), Workers’ Compensation (if the employee is exposed at work), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (determining if you have to pay for time missed from work). We do recommend consulting with an attorney before any adverse action is taken resulting from bedbug exposure.

You may find additional information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Providing Low Cost Wellness Programs

Question:

Are wellness programs only provided by big companies with lots of money? How can I provide some no cost / low cost wellness options for my small company?

Answer:

Just because your business doesn’t have the space or budget to offer an on-site fitness center or personal trainer doesn’t mean you can’t provide wellness initiatives and encourage employees’ healthy lifestyles. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the payoff of providing such programs can be tremendous: many employers report that employees who are healthier show up to work more often, are more productive, and visit the doctor less. Here are some tips on offering budget-friendly options for companies who want to encourage wellness in the workplace:

  1. Claims Review. Take matters into your own hands by actively reviewing your claims data. Based on the trends you see you can further educate employees by bringing in speakers or offering screenings from a local health provider. Pay attention to your company demographics – based on age and gender there are many screenings that are recommended as preventative measures, such as mammograms and prostate.
  2. Offer health-risk assessments. For a small fee, your insurance company (or another health vendor) may be able to provide easy online health assessments which you can offer for free to your employees. Remember to make the assessments voluntary, but encourage employees to take charge of their health by learning about their risk factors and then provide assistance with learning the steps to take to stave off health threats.
  3. Educate. Share fast-food facts with your employees. They may be shocked at the number of calories and grams of fat they are consuming in that “healthy” hamburger. Post your food-facts throughout the company (and on the vending machine). You can obtain information for most fast-food chains online; try CalorieKing.com.
  4. Put your vending machine on a “diet”. Get rid of fat laden treats, such as cookies, chips and candy bars, and replace them with healthier, reduced-fat or low-calorie snacks.
  5. Encourage walking. Consider investing in pedometers for your employees. They can cost as little as a few dollars each or you might get your insurance provider to supply them for free. Have employees keep track of the number of daily steps they take and encourage them to try walking a few extra steps each day. A walking competition might ramp up the fun. Or sponsor a local 5k walk / run and have employees enter teams.
  6. Do as I do. Make the wellness initiative something that the company fully backs and believes in. Make sure there is senior level support and consider creating a wellness promotion team to make sure wellness is part of every company endeavor. Having a supportive atmosphere where employees are encouraged to participate, receive praise or rewards for their efforts will help your program thrive.

For more ideas and resources for developing a wellness program, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services website information on their program “Small Business Wellness Initiative”. Another good resource is the Wellness Council of America (www.welcoa.org) for resources designed specifically for small business.

Having healthy employees is a key reason for developing a company wellness program; but also consider the cost savings. Not only does a healthy workforce impact costs related to ever increasing healthcare expenses, but also impacts other expenses that are being trimmed as the economy necessitates a tightening of the belt in all areas of the company. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn how we can assist you with creating a wellness program in your company.

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Drug Testing Policy

Question:

Can you keep a person on a “high profile drug testing list” for a number of years and keep testing them repeatedly because they failed in a prior test? Would this be considered harassment or discrimination?

Answer:

First look at your policy – it should guide each action. What is your policy on drug testing? When the employee failed the first time why was he retained? What is the policy for retaining an employee that fails a drug test? Is putting the employee on a “high profile drug testing list” part of the policy or do you state that they will be tested quarterly after failure of a test and successful completion of a rehabilitation program?

Typically a company will have a policy that drug testing occurs at hire and if the candidate fails they are not hired. Then, once hired, drug testing occurs randomly and if an employee fails the testing they are terminated immediately. Companies that have random testing do sometimes provide an offer of rehabilitation but make sure your policy specifically states how you handle subsequent drug testing. The random criteria in the policy refers to selection for testing being very random to avoid the appearance that someone is being targeted or “picked” on and many companies outsource this random selection to avoid any perceived discrimination.

As far as the testing looking like harassment since the employee is always selected, refer to the typical categories for discrimination. Does this employee fall into any of those categories? If so, then be careful. If not, are there any reasons that it might look like retaliation? If so, be careful again. In this particular instance I would still question why the employee wasn’t terminated when he first failed testing.

Harassment is often a “taboo” subject. Nobody “wants” to talk about it, but everyone knows it needs to be talked about; it’s a catch-22. Take the stress out of your harassment, or other training and development opportunities, by enlisting the help of strategic HR, inc. We have years of experience creating training programs and materials, as well as conducting training at your venue or ours. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with you training or development needs.

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Handling Contagiously Sick Employees

Question:

One of our employees has had a persistent cough for a few months. It has gotten to the point where other employees have expressed concerns about their health and work environment due to this employee’s perceived illness. What actions can I take? Can I ask the coughing employee if she has seen a doctor – If she is contagious? Do we ask for a doctor’s note telling us she’s not contagious? Can we take other measures such as moving her desk, suggesting the use of a mask or even working from home?

Answer:

With the cold and flu season approaching you may find you have many sick employees over the next few months, though this is a particularly tough situation. There are many issues to consider as you tackle this problem, including employee relations issues that could arise by upsetting the employee by addressing the issue or frustrating the employees raising the concern if you choose not to say something, which might impact morale. On the other hand, you also need to consider some employment legislative issues. For example, you can approach the employee with symptoms to ensure the individual is not contagious under OSHA’s general duty clause. This clause requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees and is inclusive of eliminating potential health risks that are associated with contagious / infectious diseases. Approaching the employee from that angle and requesting a physician’s statement to ensure that they are not contagious is probably the best way to approach it.

However, be sensitive to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and HIPAA when you approach the employee to avoid further entanglements. If you have not already, you will need to create and implement an infection / contagious disease policy and determine how the company will handle any type of similar disease or condition in the future. This would cover things such as the flu, last year’s H1N1 concerns, etc., – anything that might prevent the spread of such diseases in the workplace.

As with all of our advice, keep in mind that we are not attorneys nor can we provide legal advice of any kind, but rather interpret laws and do our best to advise you on how we might handle a situation from an HR management perspective. If you feel this situation could lead to the disclosure of a disability, you may want to seek legal counsel.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from creating a communicable disease policy to developing a business resumption plan for handling unexpected emergencies. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Drug Screening – Is It Necessary?

Question:

Should I be drug screening my employees?

Answer:

In today’s culture, the majority of employers do drug screen their employees. The extent to which you do so can depend on a number of different factors. In general, implementing a drug free workplace program helps to ensure a safer work environment, as well as aiding in managing employee performance. Having a drug screening program in your company may entitle you to discounts on your Workers’ Compensation Insurance – depending upon your state. The level of the discount may be based on the how your program is structured. Examples of this would include drug screening performed pre-employment, post accident, or randomly. For some positions, such as motor vehicle drivers, testing is mandatory to maintain an appropriate driver’s license.
Another consideration is overall workplace safety. As an employer, you have a responsibility to protect the safety of your workers, in addition to your vendors and customers. Drug screening is one of the tools commonly used to ensure a safe work environment.

To find out more, check out the Department of Labor website at, http://www.dol.gov/workingpartners, or check your state’s website for individual state requirements.

Have you had a safety audit recently? Do you know which OSHA forms you are required to complete? A safe environment plays a key role in keeping a company Healthy, Safe and Secure. Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise you need to ensure your policies and practices are keeping your workers, and customers, safe. Visit our Health, Safety and Security page to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Preventing Disruptive Behavior and Workplace Violence

Question:

Seems like there have been a lot of recent tragedies in the news involving workplace violence. What can we do as a company to reduce the risk of workplace violence and protect our workers?

Answer:

While workplace violence is significantly less common than popularly believed, due to extensive media attention brought to recent high-profile incidents, prevention is critical.  Incidents involving disruptions and threats are increasing, and early intervention helps prevent more serious acts. Workplaces prone to disruptive incidents are often characterized by high levels of unresolved conflict and poor communication. Conflict at work is normal, but must be addressed promptly and effectively; not avoided or suppressed.

Disruptive behavior can be reduced or prevented by facilitating a workplace environment that promotes a healthy, positive means of airing and resolving problems (methods that do not disrupt the workplace or harm or frighten others). It is also essential to improve the conflict management skills of managers and staff, to set and enforce clear standards of conduct, and to provide help (e.g. mediation and counseling) to address conflicts early.

Even with appropriate conflict management strategies in place, it is important to remember that even the most respectful environment can experience incidents of workplace violence. The environment may not always be the stressor that leads to the occurrence of an incident. An employee may be experiencing psychological problems, be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or suffering from familial stress. He or she may have developed a “romantic” obsession for  another employee and feel abandoned and humiliated by his or her rejection; he or she may be feeling overlooked in not receiving a desired promotion; or an employee may be experiencing rage due to the  knowledge of a potential layoff.

In order to intervene in a timely and appropriate manner before a violent episode occurs, it is important to be able to identify the stages of workplace violence. Employees, in addition to management, should have knowledge of these stages so that they can inform management of potential incidents. Management should have a plan in place for appropriate, early intervention.

Strategic HR, inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.

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Wearing Artificial Fingernails in Healthcare

Question:

We are a healthcare organization that has CNA’s and RN’s that deal with direct patient care. Can we address the wearing of artificial fingernails in our employee handbook? This has recently become an issue.

Answer:

That’s an interesting dilemma. We once had to work with a client that was a non-profit supporting a vegan lifestyle to protect animals. The client wanted to make it a requirement that employees had to be vegan to work there. After a great deal of research, we were able to find enough examples that supported the requirement as being job related. Then the client took it to their attorneys for their blessing.

We found research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommends healthcare workers not wear artificial fingernails or extenders when having direct contact with high risk patients. The CDC further advises healthcare workers to check their facility’s policy regarding hand hygiene which may be stricter. Similarly the American Dental Association (ADA) states that artificial nails should not be worn by employees working on patients. We suggest that you consult the germ control and sterilization procedures of the governing body that regulates your industry for further recommendations.

If the wearing of artificial nails is truly a job related issue, then it could be addressed in the handbook. However, we recommend that you check with your attorney since they will be the one to defend you if you are sued over this issue.

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Preparing for the Pandemic Flu

Question:

I thought the “swine flu” scare would blow over after a lackluster showing in the spring, but now it’s been classified as a Pandemic and cases are cropping up all over. What should my company do to prepare if it’s not too late?

Answer:

It most definitely is NOT too late. Things are just beginning to heat up as schools are back in session and thousands of kids are in close contact. While the seasonal flu tends to affect the very young and the very old, this Pandemic Flu seems to be killing young, healthy adults ages 18-35 much more often than the very young or elderly. The Pan Flu also is taking hold now, before the “regular” flu season which means we will get hit with a 1-2 punch; first the Pan Flu and then the nasty seasonal flu. Regardless of the type, officials are asking folks to handle the situation the same way as in any flu season – be aware of your hygiene with an added emphasis on being more diligent.

There are some additional recommendations that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending to employers to help counter-act the affects of the Pan Flu:

  • Create a policy that addresses increased absences for the flu.
  • Provide additional resources, such as hand sanitizer, disposable towels and tissues, to promote personal hygiene.
  • Distribute educational materials to inform employees of the risks and safe-guards.
  • Encourage workers to get the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.
  • Encourage workers to obtain an influenza vaccine against the seasonal flu.
  • Keep an open line of communication to allay fears about the Pan Flu.
  • Minimize face-to-face contact between co-workers and clients, if possible.
  • Confine employees who become sick at work until they can go home.

The CDC has prepared a lot of information to help employers educate their employees and keep them up-to-date on the Pan Flu. For more information visit www.cdc.gov/flu/

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Accruing Bonus Pay under FMLA Leave

Question:

According to our employee handbook, employees receive bonus pay that accrues for every day worked. If an employee misses a set number of days, the employee starts over again at zero and has to earn days to get the bonus again. Can an employee accrue this bonus while out on FMLA leave or do they start at zero again when they return from the leave because they miss that set number of days; it’s not stated specifically in the handbook.

Answer:

If the bonus is based on goals, such as hours worked or perfect attendance, and the employee has not met the goal due to FMLA leave, then the payment of the bonus may be denied. The key is that this policy or the implementation of this policy must follow what the company does for other equivalent leave statuses that do not qualify as FMLA leave. We’d recommend that this be addressed in the employee handbook immediately for all types of leave so it isn’t misunderstood in the future.

Note: The recommendations and opinions provided by strategic HR, inc. are based on general human resource management fundamentals, practices and principles, and are not legal opinions or guaranteed outcomes. We strongly recommend, before instituting any recommendations provided, a consult with legal counsel to address any legal concerns related to human resource issues.

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Creating a Wellness Plan to Reward Employees

Question:

Are there requirements that my wellness plan must meet when I create a plan rewarding employees for “healthy” behavior? For example, if I want to reward my employees who are within the normal blood pressure range by lowering the amount they have to pay for insurance – can I do that?

Answer:

Yes, as long as certain criteria are met for the plan. The Department of Labor has provided guidance to employers creating “rewards” or “credits” for employees that meet certain health related criteria (i.e. blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, etc.). These plans are allowable as long as they meet the following five requirements for wellness programs:

  1. The total reward for all the plan’s wellness programs that require satisfaction of a standard related to a health factor is limited – generally, it must not exceed 20 percent of the cost of employee-only coverage under the plan. If dependents (such as spouses and/or dependent children) may participate in the wellness program, the reward must not exceed 20 percent of the cost of the coverage in which an employee and any dependents are enrolled.
  2. The program must be reasonably designed to promote health and prevent disease.
  3. The program must give individuals eligible to participate the opportunity to qualify for the reward at least once per year.
  4. The reward must be available to all similarly situated individuals. The program must allow a reasonable alternative standard (or waiver of initial standard) for obtaining the reward to any individual for whom it is unreasonably difficult due to a medical condition, or medically inadvisable, to satisfy the initial standard.
  5. The plan must disclose in all materials describing the terms of the program the availability of a reasonable alternative standard (or the possibility of a waiver of the initial standard).

Finally, keep in mind that these programs must offer a reward to those who comply, not penalize those who do not. If the employee’s contribution to health insurance is $100, compliance with the program must provide a “credit” of $25, not a $25 penalty to those who do not comply. Consult the Department of Labor website for additional details.

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OSHA Poster

Question:

Do I need to put up an OSHA poster in my workplace? Where can I get a copy?

Answer:

It is a legal requirement that all employers with 11 or more employees must post the federal (or a state) OSHA poster at their workplace to provide employees with information on their safety and health rights. However, in most cases you don’t have to purchase a pricey poster from one of the many email solicitations you may receive. You can easily download and print the latest version from the government website at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165.pdf. You can also order printed copies directly from the OSHA Publications Office by calling (800) 321-OSHA.
For your convenience, strategic HR inc. offers an online list of Federal Labor Laws which can easily tell you which laws may apply to your company depending on the number of employees you have. A link conveniently takes you directly to the government site and the specifics of the law. If you would like a desktop reference of these laws, please visit our HR Store where you can purchase a handy, laminated version to keep at your fingertips.