What's in a Password?

What's in a Password?

Most websites and services encrypt passwords before storing them on their servers. As a result, even if hackers were to gain access to the password, they wouldn’t have access to the actual text that makes up your password.

Once criminals gain access to an encrypted password, they can use sophisticated programs to quickly guess every combination of letters, numbers and symbols until your password is cracked. As a result, longer passwords and those that contain a large variety of characters will be very difficult for programs to guess.

However, just because effective passwords should be complex, doesn’t mean that they should be difficult to remember.

The next time you need to think of a unique password, try using a favorite song lyric or quote. This will make a password that’s long and difficult for hackers to crack, and has the added benefit of being very memorable.

Turning a simple phrase like “your guess is as good as mine” into “yourguessisasgoodasmine” actually makes for a strong, and in this case ironic, password! However, be sure to add a capital letter or special character as well to make your password that much stronger.

A Balancing Act Between Memorable and Complex

Thinking of a new password can be frustrating—every service and website seems to have different requirements about length, complexity and special characters. In order to secure yourself against hackers, it’s important to think of a password that’s both memorable and complex.

Helpful Hints

Your password will only remain secure if you take steps to protect it. Be sure to never write your password down and leave it where someone can see it. Instead, consider using a password management tool. These online services will store all of your login IDs and passwords for you, but you should do some research and make sure that the service you use is reputable.

Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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What are the 25 most commonly stolen passwords?

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Oct. 15 Deadline Nears for Medicare Part D Coverage Notices

Are you ready for the Medicare Part D coverage notice deadline? Plan sponsors that offer prescription drug coverage must provide notices to Medicare-eligible individuals before October 15. Continue reading to learn more.


Plan sponsors that offer prescription drug coverage must provide notices of "creditable" or "non-creditable" coverage to Medicare-eligible individuals before each year's Medicare Part D annual enrollment period by Oct. 15.

Prescription drug coverage is creditable when it is at least actuarially equivalent to Medicare's standard Part D coverage and non-creditable when it does not provide, on average, as much coverage as Medicare's standard Part D plan.

The notice obligation is not limited to retirees and their dependents covered by the employers' plan, but also includes Medicare-eligible active employees and their dependents and Medicare-eligible COBRA participants and their dependents.

Background

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 requires group health plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage to disclose annually to individuals eligible for Medicare Part D whether the plan's coverage is creditable or non-creditable.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided a Creditable Coverage Simplified Determination method that plan sponsors can use to determine if a plan provides creditable coverage.

Disclosure of whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable allows individuals to make informed decisions about whether to remain in their current prescription drug plan or enroll in Medicare Part D during the Part D annual enrollment period.

Individuals who do not enroll in Medicare Part D during their initial enrollment period, and who subsequently go at least 63 consecutive days without creditable coverage (e.g., because they dropped their creditable coverage or have non-creditable coverage) generally will pay higher premiums if they enroll in a Medicare drug plan at a later date.

Who Must Receive the Notice?

The notice must be provided to all Medicare-eligible individuals who are covered under, or eligible for, the sponsor's prescription drug plan, regardless of whether the plan pays primary or secondary to Medicare. Thus, the notice obligation is not limited to retirees and their dependents but also includes Medicare-eligible active employees and their dependents and Medicare-eligible COBRA participants and their dependents.

Notice Requirements

The Medicare Part D annual enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Each year, before the enrollment period begins (i.e., by Oct. 14), plan sponsors must notify Medicare-eligible individuals whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable. The Oct. 15 deadline applies to insured and self-funded plans, regardless of plan size, employer size or grandfathered status.

Part D eligible individuals must be given notices of the creditable or non-creditable status of their prescription drug coverage:

  • Before an individual's initial enrollment period for Part D.
  • Before the effective date of coverage for any Medicare-eligible individual who joins an employer plan.
  • Whenever prescription drug coverage ends or creditable coverage status changes.
  • Upon the individual's request.

According to CMS, the requirement to provide the notice prior to an individual's initial enrollment period will also be satisfied as long as the notice is provided to all plan participants each year before the beginning of the Medicare Part D annual enrollment period.

An EGWP exception

Employers that provide prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Part D Employer Group Waiver Plan (EGWP) are not required to provide the creditable coverage notice to individuals eligible for the EGWP.

The required notices may be provided in annual enrollment materials, separate mailings or electronically. Whether plan sponsors use the CMS model notices or other notices that meet prescribed standards, they must provide the required disclosures no later than Oct. 14, 2017.

Model notices that can be used to satisfy creditable/non-creditable coverage disclosure requirements are available in both English and Spanish on the CMS website.

Plan sponsors that choose not to use the model disclosure notices must provide notices that meet prescribed content standards. Notices of creditable/non-creditable coverage may be included in annual enrollment materials, sent in separate mailings or delivered electronically.

What if no prescription drug coverage is offered?

Because the notice informs individuals whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable, no notice is required when prescription drug coverage is not offered.

Plan sponsors may provide electronic notice to plan participants who have regular work-related computer access to the sponsor's electronic information system. However, plan sponsors that use this disclosure method must inform participants that they are responsible for providing notices to any Medicare-eligible dependents covered under the group health plan.

Electronic notice may also be provided to employees who do not have regular work-related computer access to the plan sponsor's electronic information system and to retirees or COBRA qualified beneficiaries, but only with a valid email address and their prior consent. Before individuals can effectively consent, they must be informed of the right to receive a paper copy, how to withdraw consent, how to update address information, and any hardware/software requirements to access and save the disclosure. In addition to emailing the notice to the individual, the sponsor must also post the notice (if not personalized) on its website.

Don't forget the disclosure to CMS

Plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare-eligible individuals must also disclose to CMS annually whether the coverage is creditable or non-creditable. This disclosure must be made no more than 60 days after the beginning of each plan year—generally, by March 1. The CMS disclosure obligation applies to all plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage, even those that do not offer prescription drug coverage to retirees.

SOURCE: Chan, K.; Stover, R. (10 September 2018) "Oct. 15 Deadline Nears for Medicare Part D Coverage Notices" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/medicare-d-notice-deadline.aspx/


Safety Focused Newsletter - October 2018

Avoid Getting Sick at Work

It can be difficult to avoid getting sick at work, particularly if you work in close quarters. While you may not be able to avoid germs altogether, the following tips can help reduce your risk of getting sick:

  • Wash your hands. Germs can cling to many surfaces in the workplace, including elevator buttons, doorknobs and refrigerator doors. To protect yourself from illness, it’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially before you eat or after you cough, sneeze or use the restroom.
  • Keep your distance. Illnesses like the cold or flu can spread even if you aren’t in close contact with someone. In fact, experts say that the flu can spread to another person as far away as 6 feet. If you notice a co-worker is sick, it’s best to keep your distance.
  • Get a flu shot. Yearly flu shots are the single best way to prevent getting sick. Contrary to popular belief, flu vaccines cannot cause the flu, though side effects may occur. Often, these side effects are minor and may include congestion, coughs, headaches, abdominal pain and wheezing.

In addition to the above, it may be a good idea to avoid sharing phones, computers and food with your co-workers during flu season. Together, these strategies should help you stay healthy at work.

Parking Lot Safety Tips

Parking lots are common hazards for drivers and vehicles alike. Slips, falls, auto accidents, theft, harassment and assaults are just some of the risks individuals face while using parking lots.

Even the parking lots and garages at your place of employment can be dangerous. Thankfully, there are simple and effective precautions drivers can take to protect themselves and their vehicles:

  • Park in a well-lit area, preferably one with surveillance cameras and security patrol services.
  • Avoid parking near shrubbery or other areas that could conceal attackers.

  • Park as close to an exit as possible when using garages.
  • Lock your doors when leaving your vehicle.
  • Remain vigilant, and notify security or the authorities if you notice any suspicious behavior.
  • Lock all of your valuable items in your trunk and out of sight. Avoid leaving purses or wallets in your vehicle.
  • Walk confidently when leaving or returning to your vehicle. If you notice a potential threat, proceed to a safe place, like a public building or store.
  • Use the buddy system, and walk to your car with a co-worker.
  • Have your car keys ready when you near your vehicle.

Staying safe can be easy as long as you’re cautious and mindful of your surroundings.

Avoid Slips and Falls in Parking Lots:

Watch Out for Uneven Surfaces, Curbs and Potholes.

Beware of Ice During Colder Months.

Stay in Well-Lit Areas.

Walk, Don't Run.

Illnesses like colds or the flu can spread even if you aren’t in close contact with someone.

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Get Moving...To Live!

Are your employees sitting all day at work? Regardless of who you are and how often you exercise, if you're sitting for long periods of time, your chance of an early death increases. Read on to learn more.


The phrase: “If I’m lying, I’m dying” should be changed to: “If I’m sitting, I’m dying” even though it doesn’t rhyme. If you haven’t heard by now, sitting for long periods of time increases the chance that you’ll die early, regardless of your race, gender, age, body mass index (BMI), or even if you exercise. The longer you sit, the higher your risk of dying sooner rather than later.

See also: 7 wellness program ideas you may want to steal

Every morning, people get ready for work and then sit in their cars (or public transportation), then sit when they get to work, then sit again in their cars, then sit in from of the TV when they get home. It’s time everyone breaks that cycle and starts moving around more during the day and not just when they’re at the gym, assuming they even go.

Fortunately, in an article on CNN’s website titled, “Yes, sitting too long can kill you, even if you exercise,” reveals that taking “movement breaks” every 30 minutes basically cancels out this health problem. But it’s not as simple as just standing, there are two factors impacting this—frequency and duration. How often you sit during the day, and how long you sit each time, have an effect. The article references the American Heart Association’s message of “Sit less, move more,” but admonishes them for not telling people how they should move around, or for how long.

See also: Beyond wellness: Workplace health initiatives that work

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specific guidelines and recommendations for exercising, but none for sitting. For example, if you sit for 30 minutes, you should probably walk around for at least five minutes before sitting down again. And don’t assume that a “standing desk” is healthier than a traditional desk where you sit down. There isn’t enough evidence to say that a standing desk is better. It’s all about actual movement, which is why simply standing up isn’t enough.

Age is another factor that would seem to make a difference but actually doesn’t. The article discusses age, yet the same principles apply. Older adults who sat more often and for long durations were far more likely to die earlier than those who sat less.

See also: Top 10 Corporate Wellness Habits to Adopt During 2018

The message is clear. Regardless of who you are, what you do for a living, or how “fit” you may be, if you’re not moving around during the day and sitting for fewer than 30 minutes, you’d better get used to the fact that you may not be around as long as you expect, so get moving!

SOURCE: Olson, B. (18 September 2018) "Get Moving...To Live!" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/get-moving...to-live


Ladd's Chocolate Pie with Jodi Van Nocker

Welcome to our monthly Dish segment. This month, we asked Jodi Van Nocker to provide us with her favorite Dine In and Dine Out choices. Check them out below and let us know if you give them a try!

A Little Bit About Jodi

Jodi is an Employee Benefits Service Agent at Hierl Insurance, Inc. Jodi is always eager to assist our clients with a great attitude and an open mind. She is responsible for client services with our technology-based products and wellness programs.

Jodi offers creative ideas and an enthusiastic personality…Read her full bio.


Dine In

Jodi’s favorite Dine In recipe to enjoy with her family is Ladd’s Chocolate Pie. “This is a great treat that everyone in my family enjoys.”

Ingredients

Directions

In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Then pour in the milk, then the beaten eggs. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, butter and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate is all melted. Pour into the baked pie shell and chill in the fridge for several hours until set.

Serve plain or serve with as many toppings as you wish!

This recipe was provided by Food Network. If you’d like to visit the original source, please click here.


When It’s a Great Time to Go Out

Jodi’s favorite restaurant is Salty’s Seafood and Spirits in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Her favorite dish is the cheesy seafood soup.

Learn more about Salty’s Seafood and Spirits on the restaurant’s website.

View their menu.

Red Cabin at Green Acres is rated 4 stars on Trip Advisor.

Thank-you for joining us for this month’s Dish! Don’t forget to come back next month for a new one.


2017 OSHA's Most Frequently Cited Standards

Manufacturing (NAICS 31)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) keeps records not only of the most frequently cited standards overall, but also within particular industries. The most recent statistics from OSHA reveal the top standards cited in the fiscal year 2017 for the manufacturing industry. This top 10 list comprises establishments engaged in the mechanical, physical or chemical transformation of materials, substances or components into new products.

Description of Violation Cited Standard Number ACV*
1.    Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) – Following minimum performance requirements for controlling energy from the unexpected start-up of machines or equipment. 29 CFR 1910.147 $6,195
2.    General Requirements for All MachinesProviding proper machine guarding to protect the operator and other employees from hazards. 29 CFR 1910.212 $8,396
3.    Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals – Preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals that may result in toxic, fire or explosion hazards. 29 CFR 1910.119

 

$7,395
4.    Hazard CommunicationProperly transmitting information on chemical hazards through a comprehensive program, container labeling, SDS and training. 29 CFR 1910.1200 $1,472
5.    Mechanical Power-transmission Apparatus – Following the general requirements on the use of power-transmission belts and the maintenance of the equipment. 29 CFR 1910.219 $2,926
6.    Powered Industrial TrucksEnsuring safety of employees on powered industrial trucks through fire protection, design, maintenance and proper use. 29 CFR 1910.178 $2,645
7.    Wiring Methods, Components and Equipment for General UseUsing proper wiring techniques and equipment to ensure safe electrical continuity. 29 CFR 1910.305 $1,812
8.    Respiratory Protection – Properly administering a respiratory protection program, selecting correct respirators, completing medical evaluations to determine which employees are required to use respirators and providing tight-fitting equipment. 29 CFR 1910.134

 

$717
9.    General Electrical Requirements – Ensuring electric equipment is free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. 29 CFR 1910.303 $2,761
10. Grain Handling Facilities – Taking proper measures to prevent grain dust fires and explosions by having safety programs in place for quick response and control. 29 CFR 1910.272 $32,603

*ACV (Average Cost per Violation) – The dollar amount represents the average cost per violation that employers in this industry paid in 2017. To understand the full capacity and scope of each standard, click on the standard number to visit www.osha.gov and view the language in its entirety. Source: OSHA.gov  


Dear Brain, Please Let Me Sleep

Does your brain kick into overdrive the minute your head hits your pillow? Read this blog post for a few tips on how to try and lull your brain to sleep when this happens to you.


There are alarms to help people wake up, but there isn’t anything similar to help people fall asleep. It seems that no matter how much you zone out just before going to bed, the minute your head hits the pillow your brain kicks into overdrive. Thoughts of every decision made that day, things that need to be done tomorrow, or that stupid song just heard continue to flood the brain with activity.

Often, when this happens to me, I’m reminded of the time Homer Simpson said, “Shut up, brain, or I’ll stab you with a Q-Tip!” because I feel like the only way I’ll stop thinking about something is to kill my brain. Fortunately, there are other ways of dealing with this problem. An article on CNN’s website titled, “Busy brain not letting you sleep? 8 experts offer tips,” reveals a few clear tips to try and lull your brain to sleep.

A few that have worked for me are to think about a story I’ve read or heard or to make one up. It may seem counterintuitive to think about something so that you’ll stop thinking, but the story tends to unravel as I slowly drift off to sleep. Another favorite is to get out of bed and force myself to stay awake. While the chore of getting out of bed, especially on a cold night, may seem daunting, there’s nothing quite like tricking your brain with a little reverse psychology. If that doesn’t work, write down what’s bothering you, take a few deep breaths, or even do some mild exercise. If all else fails, there’s always warm milk or an over-the-counter sleep aid, but really this should be used as a last resort and not your first “go to” item.

Ideally, your bedroom will be conducive to sleep anyway. Light and noise should be kept to an absolute minimum and calming, muted colors promote a more restful ambiance. Also, make sure that the bedroom is your ideal temperature because it’s more difficult to sleep if you’re too hot or cold.

Don’t let your brain win the battle of sleep! Fight it on your own terms and equip yourself with as many tools as possible to win. Your brain will thank you in the morning by feeling refreshed.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (25 September 2018) "Dear Brain, Please Let Me Sleep" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dear-brain-please-let-me-sleep


Compliance Overview - OSHA Inspections

OSHA Inspections

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to provide a safe work environment for their workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for creating workplace safety standards and enforcing compliance with the OSH Act.

OSHA enforces compliance with the OSH Act by conducting inspections, gathering evidence and imposing penalties on noncompliant employers. OSHA penalties are civil penalties that may result in fines. However, OSHA may refer certain violations to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Actual penalties imposed on an employer take into consideration the gravity of the violation, the size of the employer’s business, good faith efforts the employer makes to comply with the law and the employer’s compliance history.

This Compliance Overview provides a summary of the OSHA inspection process as well as some tips and reminders that employers should be aware of during an actual inspection.

LINKS AND RESOURCES

  • OSHA enforcement programs website
  • OSHA on-site consultations webpage
  • OSHA recommended practices for safety and health programs webpage

COMPLIANCE OFFICERS

  • Conduct inspections
  • Assign specialists to accompany and assist during an inspection
  • Issue citations for noncompliance
  • Can obtain inspection warrants

TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS

  • Check inspector credentials.
  • Notify management when inspector arrives.
  • Determine the purpose and scope of the inspection.
  • Be prepared to prove compliance.
  • Get a copy of the complaint, if possible.
  • Set ground rules for inspection.
  • Cooperate and be responsive.
  • Take note of what the inspector documents.

EMPLOYERS SUBJECT TO OSHA

Most private sector employers in the United States, the District of Columbia and other U.S. jurisdictions are subject to the OSH Act, either directly or through an OSHA-approved state program. State plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states instead of federal OSHA. The OSH Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.

In general, state and local government employees (public employees) are not subject to the OSH Act. However, public employees may be covered through an approved state program.

OSHA INSPECTIONS

OSHA inspections are conducted by OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers. Compliance officers have authority to:

  • Conduct inspections;
  • Assign specialists to accompany and assist them during an inspection (as appropriate or required);
  • Issue citations for noncompliance;
  • Obtain court-issued inspection warrants; and
  • Issue administrative subpoenas to acquire evidence related to an OSHA inspection or investigation.

Whenever possible, OSHA will assign compliance officers with appropriate security clearances to inspect facilities where materials or processes are classified by the federal government.

Compliance officers are required to obey all employer safety and health rules and practices for the establishment that is being inspected. This includes wearing all required protective equipment and necessary respirators. Compliance officers must also follow restricted access rules until all required precautions have been taken.

Employers can request compliance officers to obtain visitor passes and sign visitor registers. However, compliance officers cannot sign any form or release, nor can they agree to any waiver. This prohibition extends to forms intended to protect trade secret information.

OSHA inspections can last for a few hours or take several days, weeks or even months. All inspections can be divided into three stages, an opening conference, a walk-around and a closing conference.

Inspection Scheduling

OSHA inspections can be either programmed or unprogrammed. Unprogrammed inspections generally take precedence over programmed ones.

Unprogrammed inspections are usually triggered by particular reports. OSHA gives priority to unprogrammed inspections in the following order: imminent dangers, fatalities or catastrophes, and employee complaints and referrals. OSHA may also conduct an unprogrammed follow-up investigation to determine whether previously cited violations have been corrected.

Programmed inspections are scheduled based on neutral and objective criteria. Programmed inspections typically target high-hazard industries, occupations or health substances. OSHA considers various factors when scheduling programmed inspections, including employer incident rates, citation history and employee exposure to toxic substances.

Inspection Notice

The OSH Act prohibits providing employers advance notice of an inspection. Individuals that provide advance notice of an OSHA inspection face criminal charges that may result in a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 6 months or both.

However, the OSHA Act also allows OSHA to authorize exceptions to the no-notice requirement in situations where advance notice would:

  • Allow an employer to correct an apparent imminent danger as quickly as possible;
  • Facilitate an inspection outside of a site’s regular hours of operation;
  • Ensure the presence of employer and employee representatives or other appropriate personnel during the inspection; or
  • Enhance the probability of an effective and thorough inspection (such as in investigations for complex fatalities).

When an exception is approved, OSHA will not provide more than a 24-hour notice to affected employers.

Inspection Scope

The scope of an OSHA inspection can be comprehensive or partial. A comprehensive inspection is a complete and thorough inspection of the worksite. During a comprehensive inspection, the compliance officer will evaluate all potentially hazardous areas in the establishment. However, an inspection may be considered comprehensive even though, at the compliance officer’s discretion, not all potentially hazardous conditions or practices are actually inspected.

A partial inspection is usually limited to certain potential hazardous areas, operations, conditions or practices at the employer’s establishment. However, at his or her discretion, a compliance officer may expand the scope of a limited inspection. The compliance officer will generally make this decision based on the information he or she gathers during the inspection.

COMPLIANCE OFFICER ARRIVAL

OSHA inspections begin with the compliance officer’s arrival. In general, a compliance officer will arrive for a worksite inspection during the site’s hours of operation. However, OSHA may authorize additional times for an inspection as necessary.

Upon arrival, a compliance officer should present his or her credentials. If necessary, employers can contact their local OSHA office to confirm a compliance officer’s authority to conduct the inspection.

A compliance officer has the right to enter an employer’s premises if he or she has obtained consent from the employer or a warrant ordering the employer to admit the inspector. In either case, employers cannot unreasonably delay an inspection to await for the arrival of the employer representative (inspectors may wait up to one hour to allow an employer representative to arrive from an off-site location).

Tips and Reminders

  • Check inspector credentials.
  • Instruct staff on how to receive inspector.
  • Inform senior management or legal counsel as appropriate.
  • Determine whether you will demand a warrant.

Consent

Employers can consent to admit a compliance officer and perform a worksite inspection. Employers may also provide partial consent, and allow a compliance officer access only to certain areas of their facilities. Compliance officers will make note of any refusals or partial consent and will report it to OSHA. OSHA may take further action against any refusals, including any legal process it may see fit to obtain access to restricted areas.

In sites where multiple employers are present, the compliance officer does not need to obtain consent from all employers present. Consent from just one employer is sufficient to allow the inspector to access the entire worksite.

Warrant

Compliance officers are not required to ask for an employer’s consent when they have a court-issued warrant. The warrant allows the compliance officer access to the employer’s facilities to conduct an inspection.

Employers that do not provide consent have the right to require compliance officers to obtain a warrant before allowing them access to the premises. As a general practice, few employers actually require warrants, though some employers have done so to delay the start of an inspection.

There are, however, some exceptions to the employer’s right to require a warrant. A compliance officer does not need to obtain employer consent or a warrant to access the premises if he or she can establish:

  • The existence of a plain view hazard;
  • That the worksite is an open field or construction site; or
  • The existence of exigent circumstances.

OPENING CONFERENCE

In general, compliance officers will try to make the opening conference brief in order to proceed to the walkaround portion of the inspection as soon as possible. In general, the opening conference is a joint conference,

where both employer and employee representatives participate. However, the compliance officer may hold

separate opening conferences if either employer or employee representatives object to a joint conference.

During the opening conference, compliance officers will discuss with employers:

  • The purpose of the inspection;
  • Any complaints filed against the employer, if applicable;
  • The officers’ right to document evidence (handwritten notes, photos, video and audio recordings);
  • The advantages of immediate abatement and quick fixes;
  • The intended scope of the inspection;
  • A plan for the physical inspection of the worksite;
  • The audit of employee injury and illness records;
  • Referring violations not enforced by OSHA to appropriate agencies;
  • Employer and employee rights during the inspection; and
  • Any plans for conducting a closing conference.

Tips and Reminders

  • Determine the purpose and scope of the inspection.
  • Be prepared to prove compliance.
  • Get a copy of the complaint, if possible.
  • Set ground rules for inspection.
  • Cooperate and be responsive, but DO NOT volunteer information.

As applicable, during the opening conference, employers will also need to present their written certification of hazard assessment and produce a list of on-site chemicals (with their respective maximum intended inventory).

Compliance officers will use these documents to determine the hazards that may be present at the worksite and set initial benchmarks and expectations for the physical inspection of the establishment.

Finally, at their discretion, compliance officers can conduct abbreviated conferences in order to begin the walkaround portion of the inspection as soon as possible. During an abbreviated conference, a compliance officer will present his or her credentials, state the purpose for the visit, explain employee and employer rights, and request the participation of employee and employer representatives. All other elements of the opening conference will then be discussed during the closing conference.

WALK-AROUND

The walk-around is the most important stage of the inspection. Employer and employee representatives have the right to accompany compliance officers during the walk-around stage of the inspection. However, workers at an establishment without a union cannot appoint a union representative to act on their behalf during an OSHA inspection walkaround (see OSHA memo from 2017).

During the walk-around, compliance officers will take notes and document all facts pertinent to violations of the OSH Act. In general, compliance officers will also offer limited assistance (as appropriate) on how to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards.

The OSH Act requires compliance officers to maintain the confidentiality of employer trade secrets. Compliance officers should only document evidence involving trade secrets if necessary. Compliance officers must mark trade secret evidence as, “Confidential – Trade Secret,” and keep it separate from other evidence. Compliance officers that violate these requirements are subject to criminal sanctions and removal from office.

Tips and Reminders

  • Inspections may last several days. Plan accordingly.
  • Require inspectors to comply with establishment safety rules.
  • Take note of what the inspector documents.
  • DO NOT stage events or accidents.
  • DO NOT destroy or tamper with evidence.

CLOSING CONFERENCE

As with the opening conference, unless an objection exists, the closing conference is generally a joint conference. However, the closing conference may be conducted in person or over the phone. The inspection and citation process will move forward regardless of whether employers decide to participate in the closing conference.

The compliance officer will document all materials he or she provides to the employer during the closing conference as well as any discussions that took place. Discussion topics for the closing conference may include:

  • Employer rights and responsibilities
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the employer’s safety and health system
  • The existence of any apparent violations and other issues found during the inspection
  • Any plans for subsequent conferences, meetings and discussions

The closing conference is not the time for employers to debate or argue possible citations with the compliance officer. Employers should take sufficient time during the closing conference to understand the inspector’s findings and any possible consequences. Employers should also discuss any abatements completed during the inspection or any plans to correct issues in the near future.

During this conference, employers should also request copies of recorded materials and sample analysis summaries. Finally, employers should take time to discuss their right (and the process they must follow) to appeal any possible citations.


5 critical conversations to have before retiring

According to the Society of Actuaries' Retirement Section and Committee on Post Retirement Needs and Risks, about 70 percent of Americans are on course to maintain their standard of living in retirement. Read on to learn more.


Reports of Americans’ lack of retirement preparedness roll on. Not all the news is grim, however. A recent study from the Society of Actuaries’ Retirement Section and Committee on Post Retirement Needs and Risks reports that roughly 70% of Americans are on course to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living.

What we know from those who report being comfortable in retirement is that they took the steps necessary to properly prepare.

It’s not just what employees and clients have earned and saved that contributes to their quality of life in retirement, it’s also how they approach their assets, expenses, and income. To this end, individuals must speak frankly with those in their lives — partner or spouse, employer, children — who are pivotal to key aspects of retirement living.

Here are the five critical conversations individuals should have well in advance of retirement:

With your spouse or partner

1. Are we on the same page about the lifestyle we expect to have in retirement?

Before you retire, you and your partner need to get on the same page about what this means in day-to-day terms. For example, did you know that your living expenses in retirement will likely be about 80% of your pre-retirement living expenses? This means that your monthly budget will change and it’s important to make the changes thoughtfully. Examine your priorities and assumptions together to avoid misunderstandings that lead to financial missteps.

Do yourselves a favor and take a gradual approach to downsizing your spending well before retirement. This will let you significantly cut your monthly expenses without feeling the shock of adjustment. Take a close look at your monthly expenses together and identify items you can do without. Then, start eliminating a few at a time.

2. Are there parts of our life we should “downsize” before we retire?

Downsizing your home can be a real savings opportunity in retirement. Relocating to a city with a lower cost of living can also cut your monthly expenses considerably. You can even downsize your car, or go car-free altogether. These are big changes, however, that you and your partner need to consider very carefully together. You’ll want to weigh the possible savings against other important but not necessarily financial factors, such as proximity to friends and family and access to good recreational and medical facilities. Take your time weighing the pros and cons. If you can agree on which tradeoffs you are both willing to make, the impact on your security and comfort in retirement can be huge.

3. Are we really ready to retire? If not, what do we need to do to get there?

Compare your “retirement number” to your anticipated monthly expenses. Identify discrepancies so you can make adjustments and plans as needed.

Do we need to delay retirement by a few years? Even one or two extra years of work, during your peak earning years, may have a significant effect on your quality of life in retirement. Consider this question carefully as you plan when to leave work.

What other sources of income will be available to us in retirement? There are many paths to a comfortable retirement and many different ways to patch together the right assets and investments to provide for your retirement. Even if your investment portfolio is not large enough to support your retirement needs, for example, you may find that you have other assets (a business, or real estate) that can contribute. Or one or both of you may choose to work part time — the “sharing economy” is a good place to start. Or, you may decide to sell off assets you no longer need.

With your employer

4. Should I transition to a freelance/consulting relationship?
Even if you’re looking forward to stepping away from your professional career, the smart move may be to maintain a freelance or consulting relationship with your current employer. Chances are, you have experience and skills that will continue to be valuable to your employer, even when you are no longer on staff full-time. A dependable source of extra income will help you cover unexpected expenses in retirement. Or, you can use the extra income to pay for more of the things you always dreamed of doing in retirement, like hobbies and travel.

Before you have the conversation with your boss, research what a fair fee rate is for someone at your experience level, in your industry. This will allow you to negotiate your future contract from a position of strength. Your track record as a reliable employee and the cost savings to your employer of no longer having you as full time staff should also boost the argument in your favor.

With your adult children

5. How will our lifestyle changes in retirement affect the rest of the family?

Changes in your lifestyle in retirement may affect your extended family in various ways. Setting realistic expectations up front may help ease any necessary adjustments.

For example, are your adult children accustomed to receiving financial assistance from you? Let them know that this may no longer be possible after you retire and have less disposable income.

Downsizing your house? If you have been the default host for family holiday celebrations, downsizing to a smaller home may require the family to rethink future holiday arrangements. Don’t wait until the holidays are upon you to spring the change on them: discussing it ahead of time will ensure that everyone’s best ideas are considered and good alternate plans made.

Planning to relocate, or travel frequently after you retire? You will likely no longer be available for babysitting or many other family activities. Giving your kids and grandkids plenty of notice will help them plan ahead.

These conversations may be awkward and possibly painful, but they need to take place. After saving for years, a clear eye will help with your post-work years.

SOURCE: Dearing, C (12 September 2018) "5 critical conversations to have before retiring" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/critical-conversations-to-have-before-retiring


How to Build a Motivated Workforce

Getting an engaged workforce requires employers to focus on nurturing motivation.m Employers need to nurture motivation in order to build an engaged workforce. Continue reading to learn more.


There’s a lot of buzz and conversation happening around the importance of employee engagement to a successful organization. But I believe that engagement is an overused or at least misused term. Engagement, to me, isn’t a process but rather an end-state where your employees are “all in.”

Engaged employees work hard on today’s priorities, and when they believe what they do matters and know that you’re invested in them, they will stay with your business for the long term and help you solve the challenges of tomorrow. But getting to this state of engagement requires focusing on nurturing motivation.

Simply put, motivated workers are more productive and efficient, and stretch themselves to do more. When employees are motivated, they get their work done faster and with greater levels of collaboration, creativity and commitment. A motivated workforce goes above and beyond to do what is in the best interest of the organization and, ultimately, the bottom line. So, what are ways you can truly motivate employees?

Set Clear Expectations and Goals, and Communicate Frequently

It’s a strange truth, but many employees simply don’t know what is expected of them at work. Workers are more motivated and engaged when they are given clear objectives, understand how they will be evaluated, and see how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture. Isn’t that what we all want anyway; to contribute to and be a part of something bigger than ourselves? When HR teams help create this clarity for our employees, they experience a greater “purposefulness” or “meaningfulness”  which in turn contributes to motivation. So how do you ensure organizational alignment and foster this sense of meaningfulness?

One critical step that HR leaders can take is working with managers to increase the frequency of communication around performance and goals. When employees work with their managers to set goals and then check in on progress on an ongoing basis rather than treating them as ‘set and forget,’ it can help improve employee motivation, elevate performance and benefit organizations overall. By increasing the frequency of conversations between managers and employees around progress towards goals, HR teams can take a huge step towards creating an effective performance management program for today’s workforce.

This ongoing endeavor isn’t easy.  There are time and commitment involved, and it only works when managers and employees are both invested in open and ongoing dialog about goals and expectations. But the more often managers talk to their employees, the more motivation and performance increases within the workforce. Even quick, informal check-ins, or “managing in the moment” to address priorities or give feedback boosts an employee’s sense that someone is invested in them, and drives motivation.

Spend Time Talking About Career Development

Motivation is tied to a future outlook. One critical way to boost motivation is to move away from ineffective, backward-looking annual performance reviews, and start coaching your managers around having more frequent conversations with their employees that focus on career development. By focusing on development, these conversations become more constructive, forward-looking, and connected to both personal and business objectives. Now you’ve motivated an employee because you’re actually talking about their future and showing you are invested in them!

Implementing performance management processes that are rooted in continuous conversations that center on coaching and career development is vastly more effective for motivating the modern workforce. Focusing on ”performance development” rather than “performance review” shifts the conversation around the process to a more forward-looking, positive and employee-focused stance. This can have a huge impact from an employee motivation perspective, rather than feeling like their managers are micromanaging them or questioning their work, workers feel invested in and motivated to get to the next level in their career, which translates to increases in employee performance.

Provide Timely and Relevant Feedback

Almost half of employees receive feedback from their managers only a few times a year or less. Not only do employees want clear expectations to be established, they also want to know how these are mapping to their larger career goals. Managers need to provide feedback in a timely manner to promote career development. Feedback can be tricky to deliver, and many don’t like delivering or receiving it. So managers need to normalize the feedback by making sure it is timely and is relevant to the employee and their work.

There are many approaches to delivering feedback, but delivering all feedback all the time isn’t the right answer. Managers need to be thoughtful about evaluating all the feedback they receive about their employees and select those items that are most relevant to the employee and those items that they are ready to hear, all in a timely manner to assist the employee in their career.

So, for many reasons, a quarterly review cadence, vs. an annual review, enables managers to align employees’ individual career goals with the organization’s top priorities, ensuring the employee has a sense of purpose and business goals are met.

This is what motivating your workforce is all about. There is no silver bullet to motivate your workforce, however, HR leaders and managers can make a big impact by having frequent and continuous conversations with employees that focus on career development, communicating clear expectations and providing timely feedback. It’s an ongoing process and won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on motivation, both employees and organization at large are better positioned for success.

SOURCE: Strohfus, D (27 August 2018) "How to Build a Motivated Workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://hrexecutive.com/how-to-build-a-motivated-workforce/