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OSHA’s Top 10 List

NCS President and CEO Deborah A. P. Hersman said, “OSHA’s Top 10 List is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe.”  Since the top five on the list is identical to the top five in the fiscal year 2016, it’s easy to see that most of the violations remain the same.

The list for the fiscal year 2017:

  1. Fall protection – General Requirements, 6,072 violations
  2. Hazard Communication, 4,176
  3. Scaffolding, 3,288
  4. Respiratory Protection, 3,097
  5. Lockout/Tagout, 2,877
  6. Ladders, 2,241
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks, 2,162
  8. Machine Guarding, 1,933
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements, 1, 523
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods, 1,405

Number two on the list, Hazard Communication is one that applies to most businesses, regardless of their size, if their employees work with any type of chemicals.  Employers are required to define a chemical as any product having a warning label on it and used by your employees.  If you wouldn’t want your three-year-old to get their hands on the chemical and your employees use it at work, make sure you get an SDS (Safety Data Sheet).

A fairly recent (2012) change to the Standard caused the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) to be renamed Safety Data Sheets.  This change also required all Safety Data Sheets to consist of 16 sections, specifically defined in the standard.

If you bought your product at Walmart, you should be able to go on the website (normally on all labels) and find the SDS on the product which then can be printed and added to your binder.  These SDS binders must be available to your employees and are normally kept near most of the chemicals.  If you have been maintaining an MSDS/SDS binder all along, we recommend a review of your SDS to ensure they meet the new GHS requirements.  Rule of thumb is that if an SDS is more than five years old, it is worth verifying that it is the latest version.

Businesses must also have a written Hazard Communication Program and have documentation of annual refresher training for all active employees.

To comply with this requirement the program must:

  • Contain language regarding the policy to comply with the revised OSHA standard which has been aligned with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
  • Contain language about who maintains the Hazardous Chemicals list.
  • Identify who is responsible for the annual refresher training.
  • Identify who is responsible for an annual review of the program.

In New Hampshire, for businesses of over 15 employees, this is typically your JLMC (Joint Loss Management Committee).  For companies whose employees don’t normally come into contact with blood or other body fluids, it is best practice to include language in this program about the potential of bloodborne pathogen exposure.

Violations for powered industrial trucks are further down on the list, but the fines can be substantial for non-compliance.  We’ll be running Forklift Certification classes throughout the year please visit our Training & Events page for more details.

If you need assistance with this or any other item on OSHA’s Top Ten List, HR Synergy, LLC can help.  We can customize these or any other safety programs for you.  If you’re not sure of your status, call us to schedule a mock Department of Labor or OSHA audit before the real inspectors show up on your doorstep.

 

2018 The Year of Change for Employers

 

Who or what is the most valuable asset (MVA) of your company? Employees should be considered the MVA of every organization. Without MVA’s how will your company meet the needs and demands of your customers?

The importance of retaining your MVA’s and reducing turnover is recommended to be the highest priority for your company this upcoming year. You have most likely experienced throughout 2017, the challenges of finding and retaining top talent within your company. Determining why employees are leaving your company and what attracts employees to your company is important to determine. No different than gearing your marketing towards specific industries or segments.

Some recommendations for uncovering what makes your employees tick or be ticked off:

  1. Employee Onboarding – Evaluate the onboarding process you are currently using. Investing time with a new employee on their first day leaves a lasting impression.
  2. Compensation Analysis – Have a compensation analysis done for all positions within your organization. Due to the recession, many companies put a hold on performance evaluations and increases due to financial restraints. Coming out of the financial stresses, many businesses have reinstated the Performance Appraisal and Salary Increases. The challenge here is, the value of duties and responsibilities has changed since 2008 and offering a minimal increase following years of no increase and no communication about performance may be insulting to employees.
  3. Implement Stay Interviews – The exit interview is not the best time to find out what your company can do to keep employees from leaving, by then, it’s too late.  It’s best to interview employees every 3-6 months to give them the opportunity to discuss what they like and don’t like about their current position, it gives the company time to address change and can help reduce employee turnover.
  4. Employee Surveys – Survey current employees to determine why they stay with your company and what will motivate them to make a move.
  5. Work-Life Balance – Evaluate the programs offered to employees to assist them with balancing work demands and life demands. Considering flexible work schedules and telecommuting are some options to consider.
  6. Culture – Is your work culture adaptable and acceptable to various generations throughout your workforce? Workplace Culture is the character and personality of your organization and is important for the organization as it directly impacts the ability to attract and retain talent.
  7. Diversity in the Workplace – Diversity is important because it introduces new ideas and adds to the workplace culture, it also increases employee morale and causes employees to work more effectively and efficiently.
  8. Mentors for Generational Gaps – In order for baby boomers to retire our millennials need to learn what makes “the other generations” stay with a company for extended periods of time. Who better to learn about work ethic, dedication, and respect from but our existing generation. Developing a mentoring program is a great tool to educate employees about work ethic and responsibilities while providing value to the baby boomers who don’t want to retire because they believe no one will respect the job and/or company like they do.
  9. Management Training – Promoting employees to management positions without providing them with the necessary tools and training is a recipe for disaster. Invest in helping your employees to be successful instead of leading them to think they are just filling a void.

Are your Employment Posters Up-to-Date?

The New Hampshire Department of Labor requires all New Hampshire businesses with employees to display these posters in a prominent location in every place of employment.  This information is important in order to ensure employees are aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. These laws are periodically updated which is why it is important to make sure you have the most recent version of the poster available to your employees. Click the name of the poster below to download a PDF of the most recent updates.

Mandatory NH State Posters Additional NH State Posters
Workers’ Compensation Law (obtain from insurance carrier) Unemployment Notice (1/2012)
Protective Legislation Law (2/2018) NHES Vacation Shutdown (1/2012)
Criteria to Establish an Employee or Independent Contractor (2/2018) Employment Poster
New Hampshire Minimum Wage Law (2/2018) 2240 – Spanish Employment Poster
Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (2/2018) Housing Discrimination Poster
Workers Right to Know (2/2018)
Equal Pay Law (2/2018)

Federal Posters

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) (7/2016)

 Executive Order 11246 (11/2009)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (7/2016)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) / Section 14(c) (7/2009)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (4/2016)

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Act (4/2015)

The Uniformed Services Employments and Reemployment Rights Act (4/2017)

You can also view these posters at https://www.nh.gov/labor/forms/mandatory-posters.htm.

OSHA 300A Form Posting Deadline

Sign & Post Your OSHA 300A Form by February 1, 2018

Many but not all employers must complete the OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping forms on an ongoing basis.  Employers with 10 or fewer employees throughout the previous calendar year do not need to complete these forms. In addition to the small employer exemption, there is an exemption for establishments classified in certain industries. A complete list of exempt industries can be found on the OSHA web page at OSHA.gov

This is an old requirement for covered establishments.  There are many companies that are exempt from this requirement, but we strongly urge you to maintain these records of injuries and illnesses.  We also advise you to post the OSHA 300A form in a visible location as a method of educating your employees about the safety of their work environment.  It is reassuring to employees to see this form with all zeros so that they understand it’s a safe place to work.

HR Synergy, LLC and The Occupational Safety and Health Administration shares with you the goal of preventing injuries and illnesses in your workplace. Accurate injury and illness records will help achieve that goal.

Visit OSHA.gov for more information and to download your 300A forms.

Please contact us at (603) 641-2402 if you have any questions or concerns.

Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance

When you’re an entrepreneur your time is your most valued asset.  It is important to stay focused on BOTH your business and your personal life!

For small-business owners, and entrepreneurs with a growing business work-life balance has become one of their biggest challenges. Many owners love what they do but find themselves caught up in the day-to-day needs of their company with no free time to spend with loved ones, or on personally fulfilling activities like getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising, all the necessary elements of a well-rounded life. But there is hope, many successful entrepreneurs have found a way to juggle their ultra-busy professional lives with their personal and social lives to include a healthy work-life balance. Here are some helpful tips that help me get through the day:

Delegate your work:

Many entrepreneurs are working to fulfill their client projects on their own and doing everything themselves to keep their business running. A recent survey estimated that nearly 80 percent of entrepreneurs feel they work too much, and many would prefer to work fewer than 40 hours a week. The biggest reason they’re overworked? They feel there are some tasks that only they can handle, tasks they can’t easily delegate out to others.

Delegating work doesn’t stop with the business, it’s also important to consciously think about how you’re spending your time at home.  After a long day at the office, no one want’s to be spending what little free time they have on housework.  Consider delegating some of the daily chores to your spouse or partner and get the family involved with cooking, cleaning, and running errands.

 Manage your time: 

Managing your schedule is just as important as delegating your projects. Planning for your upcoming week is helpful with staying focused and on track. Take time to sit down one day a week and reflect on the previous week. Develop a work plan for the week ahead that includes work initiatives and goals, time for family and time for yourself.  Include not only work meetings and obligations but activities you enjoy like meeting with friends, sleeping in or exercising.

As an entrepreneur we try to fit as much as we can into every day, scheduling meetings earlier and earlier in the morning so we have more time during the day to focus on getting things done.  I noticed that by the end of the day I was feeling run down, tired and overworked with no energy to do things I enjoy doing in my spare time.  I found that if I start my workday at 9:00 AM it gives me a little extra time in the morning to wake up, do some yoga, and reflect on the day ahead.   Taking that extra hour or two in the morning really makes a difference in my piece of mind and overall well-being.

Being more organized and making time for both business and personal activities is important for my health and well-being.  I’ve decided that for my 2018 New Year’s resolution is to have healthy work-life balance.  What’s your resolution?

 

Does Your Company Have an Emergency Response Plan?

This feels like good timing, while Harvey & Irma are major news items. Irma caused some minor screen damage to an employee’s home in Florida, but the neighborhood was blessed for the most part. Others in the paths were not so lucky. A sharp reminder to look at your own Emergency Response Plan for your employees.

An Emergency Response plan is part of OSHA’s 1910 Standard and is required for all employers. If you have fewer than ten employees, you can communicate your Emergency Response plan orally. This means you must have a written plan in place that can be communicated. These plans have 8 elements and must be reviewed annually with all employees, as well as included in your new hire training. The elements include the purpose, preferred means for reporting, escape, accounting, and shutdown procedures, along with rescue & medical duties and contact information. We can help customize an Emergency Response Plan for you that will help bring you into compliance with that regulation.

The N.H. Department of Safety put out an Emergency Preparedness & Action Wheel® in 2002. The information on it is excellent. For those of you still in Irma or Jose’s path, here are their steps to prepare and act now.

Prepare Now:

  • Buy battery-powered weather radio and learn local emergency stations.
  • Learn the meaning of watch-warning.
  • If in a flood zone, purchase flood insurance.
  • Plan to secure/evacuate mobile home for adequate shelter.
  • Install storm shutters or use plywood to cover all windows.
  • Remove branches, tall trees that may fall on house or other buildings.
  • Prepare for storm season, stock extra food, batteries and jugs of drinking water.

Act Now:

  • Listen to designated radio/TV, Emergency Alert System for emergency information and instructions.
  • Move valuables to upper floors in case of flood.
  • Secure or bring outdoor furniture inside.
  • Close permanent shutters or cover all windows with plywood (taping windows does not prevent breakage).

If you choose to stay:

  • Keep away from windows, doors, outside walls, do not open windows.
  • Keep pets inside.

If you evacuate:

  • Turn off water and electricity at main stations and unplug appliances (do not touch if wet).
  • Do not leave pet(s) behind, take them with you to a pre-planned, safe location.
  • Avoid downed wires. Do not try to walk or drive over them.
  • Moor boat away from other boats in protected area.

They also define an auto disaster supply kit (maintained regularly) to include:

  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Flares and/or triangles
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Rock salt and sand (if applicable)
  • Tire repair and replacement supplies
  • Map(s)

If an emergency of any kind takes place at your business or after you conduct your required annual fire drill, do a de-briefing to see what was learned. You may also have to engage in recovery activities such as medical issues, psychological issues, infrastructure issues, insurance, etc.

Need help developing your organization’s safety policies and procedures? Contact the professionals at HR Synergy at (603) 261-2402. We provide outsourced HR Solutions—from policy development, to risk assessment, to labor law compliance and more—for NH businesses and nonprofits.

©1995 – 2002, EHMI, All Rights Reserved. With support from the Emergency Action Coalition, the Emergency Action Wheel®

Top 5 HR Headaches to Avoid

Minimize HR Headaches and Avoid Costly Litigation

Human Resources is an important part of the functionality of any company. If it is not managed properly it can create a lot of headaches and cost employers thousands in legal fees and fines. Business owners need to have the proper policies and procedures in place, and they must manage and enforce those policies accordingly.

In order to minimize HR headaches and avoid litigation, it’s important to avoid these common HR mistakes. The legal problems most business owners encounter tend to fit into the following areas:

Employee Misclassification: Employers who improperly classify workers can run into serious penalties with regards to taxes, withholdings and overtime wages. The federal government has set national standards, and some of the key factors to consider are whether the employer has control over the individual’s work and provides him or her with the materials or tools needed to complete that work. If so, the worker will likely be deemed an employee, rather than a contractor. Full-time employees are eligible for overtime pay. Overtime pay varies from state-to-state, in some states employees must receive overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours a day when most states set their limits solely on how many hours they work in a week.

Lunch and Break Time: Employers can run into trouble if employees choose to stick around the workplace during their breaks. The same rule applies to workers who prefer to eat lunch at their desks. Conservative solutions to the problem include creating break rooms where no work is allowed, requiring employees to leave the premises for their entire break and recording the time accurately on their time card.

Employee Handbook: All employers, regardless of size, should have an employee handbook to help ensure that employees receive important information about company guidelines, procedures, and benefits. A well-written employee handbook can set expectations with regards to performance and conduct, address routine employee questions and satisfy various legal and regulatory requirements by communicating certain information to employees.

Discrimination and Harassment: Discrimination and harassment complaints are on the rise and they can spring up in just about any workplace. Employers need to familiarize themselves with which classes of individuals have certain discrimination protections under the law. It’s vital that business owners prepare for such situations before they happen. With the proper training, employers can ensure that decision-makers prohibit workplace harassment and discrimination and shield against a hostile work environment.

Exiting Procedures: Many companies have firing procedures in place but not all companies follow them. Employers can make firing decisions based on gut reactions or emotions but employment lawyers can look back to see whether policies that business owners themselves put in place were carried out appropriately before a firing was executed. The employer is expected to follow the evaluation and review process rather than just fire someone despite the fact the employee has exceptional performance reviews. Employers should document all employment decisions to show that the employer had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reason for a possible adverse action and to prove that the individual was given the opportunity to correct his/her performance violations.

Don’t wait until a serious accusation has been made. Seek outside help from HR professionals before it’s too late. HR Synergy, LLC provides outsourced HR Solutions for businesses and nonprofits across the US, from policy development, to risk assessment, to labor law compliance and more. Contact us today for more information.

Recent Updates to the I9 Form

Are You Using the Most Recent Version of the I9 Form?

vUSCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17. Employers can use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 through Sept. 17.

On Sept. 18, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N. Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions:

  • The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices changed its new name, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
  • Removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • We Added the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • Combined all the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) into selection C#2 in List C.
  • Renumbered all List C documents except the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C will change from List C #8 to List C #7.

If you need assistance in understanding the procedures for completing the I-9 forms and your responsibilities to ensure compliance, give us a call at (603) 261-2402.

OSHA – Electronic Reporting Compliance

OSHA Delays Date for Electronic Reporting Compliance

On 6/27/17, OSHA announced a delay in the electronic reporting compliance date of the rule. They have postponed the date until 12/1/17.  This requirement for employers is to file their OSHA 300A form online, rather than just posting this form in their businesses for their employees to review.

This gives the new administration a chance to review these new requirements and gives employers a chance to get used to the electronic reporting system, which won’t be available until August 1st.

In all of the documentation that we have seen, it doesn’t indicate if OSHA changed the criteria for reporting requirements.
The current criteria are as follows:

“OSHA’s regulation at 29 CFR part 1904 requires employers with more than 10 employees in most industries to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses at their establishments. Employers covered by these rules must record each recordable employee injury and illness on an OSHA Form 300, which is the “Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”, or equivalent. Employers must also prepare a supplementary OSHA Form 301 “Injury and Illness Incident Report” or equivalent that provides additional details about each case recorded on the 300 Log. Finally, at the end of each year, employers are required to prepare a summary report of all injuries and illnesses on the OSHA Form 300A, which is the “Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”, and post the form in a visible location in the workplace.”*

They very carefully say “in most industries”.  There is a list of those industries that are partially-exempt from this requirement and HR Synergy, LLC will be glad to provide this information upon request.

However, we advise our clients, even if they are exempt, to maintain these records of injuries and illnesses.  We also advise them to post the OSHA 300A form “in a visible location” as a method of educating their employees about the safety of their work environment.  Why shouldn’t your employees know how many accidents or illnesses other employees have experienced? We can also conduct safety audits of your company to help you reduce the cost of your Workers’ Compensation insurance and help you provide a safe & healthy work environment for all your employees.

*Excerpt from www.osha.gov website.

Inclusion–Workplace Diversity

Inclusion—Diversity in the Workplace

Workplace Diversity card with background

If you’ve ever heard of the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” then you should also heed the same advice when it comes to the diversity of your workplace.  Put the future of your company in the hands of employees of all different types as companies need a wide array of skills, life experiences, and personality traits in order to succeed.

Work place diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization.  Differences can include: race, gender, ethnicity, age, personality, cognitive style, education, background, etc.

 

Benefits

Diversity has increased significantly over the years so embracing diversity and realizing its benefits can help the success and competitiveness of your business.  Your business can hope to gain increased adaptability, a broader range of services, a variety of viewpoints, and more effective execution of duties.

Individuals perceive things differently from one another, and even more so when they come from different backgrounds and cultures.  When there are comfortable relations, the communication of various points of view provides a larger pool of ideas which your business can draw from to meet business strategy needs, as well as customer needs more efficiently.  Speaking of experiences, when you have a diversified workplace, that gives your company an arsenal of new languages, cultural understanding, and more that will allow your company to expand your services to customers and clients on a global scale.

Business that employ a diverse workforce are also able to supply a greater variety of solutions to problems as they bring individual talents as well as experiences when suggesting flexible solutions that can adapt to fluctuating markets and customer demands.  All of these things considered, employees will be inspired to perform at a higher degree of ability, thus strategies can be executed resulting in increased productivity, profit, and return on investment.

Challenges

Although workplace diversity comes with many benefits, it is not without its fair share of challenges that complicate the road towards reaping those rewards.  When many different individuals are present, there will almost always be differing and opposing opinions as perceptual, cultural, and language barriers need to be overcome.  The communication hurdle may result in confusion, teamwork, and low morale when key objectives are ineffectively communicated.

Also, a possible resistance to change may occur that can hinder your business progress towards diversifying your workplace.  There might be employees who will refuse to accept a change in the social and cultural makeup of their workplace.  They may be too used to the dynamics and processes that have existed, however, it is that type of mentality that silences new ideas and inhibits progress.

 

Laws

To accompany the trend of increasing diversity in our country, there are a slew of federal laws that are in place to help to ensure possible diversity in workplaces.  Most important are the laws dealing with discrimination such as: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits most workplace harassment and discrimination; Age Discrimination in Employment Act that governs against age discrimination; Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits against discriminating against disabled workers or job applicants; ADA Amendments Act etc.

There are also state and local government laws in place that have enacted a variety of equal employment measures, so make sure to check those as well as the plethora of federal laws.

What You Can do to Diversify

By far, the benefits of workplace diversity is greater than the challenges that obstruct the path to it, and it will be worth your while to pursue a very diversified team.  In order to overcome these challenges, it is important to build and implement a customized strategy to maximize the effects of diversity.  Contacts us at HR Synergy, so we can help you develop and implement strategies and policies that will get you on your way to a diversified workplace culture.