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  


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.


Risk Insights - Attracting and Retaining Commercial Drivers

Commercial fleets need to maintain a workforce of loyal, qualified drivers in order to succeed. But recently, increased demand for freight volume has highlighted an ongoing driver shortage that’s left many motor carriers operating under capacity.

In order to ensure that your business is attracting and retaining talented drivers, you need to evaluate how the shortage may be affecting you and the steps you can take to make your workplace appealing.

What’s Contributing to the Shortage?

The first step when attracting or retaining drivers should be to understand the underlying causes of the driver shortage:

  • Wages—According to the National Transportation Institute, drivers’ wages have lagged behind both inflation and minimum wage increases. Since 2006, for-hire drivers have seen wage increases of 6 percent compared to a 17 percent increase for private fleet drivers. However, inflation and the minimum wage have increased by 18 and 40 percent over that same period, respectively.
  • Age—The average age for a commercial driver is 55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More drivers are retiring every day, and a federal law that prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from obtaining intrastate commercial driving licenses makes it difficult to attract younger replacements before they enter another industry.
  • Lifestyle—Commercial drivers often operate over long hours without breaks and are frequently away from home. Many motor carriers also assign new drivers to long or isolated routes, which can make open positions unappealing to prospects.
  • Growing economy—As the U.S. economy continues to grow, increased demand from retailers has led to record demand for trucking capacity, putting a strain on available drivers.

In-house Adjustments to Attract Drivers

Before you consider changing your pay models or workplace benefits, there may be some operational changes you can review to attract or retain drivers:

  • Offer flexible scheduling. Many prospective drivers are afraid of being away from home for long periods of time, and giving them the option to work closer to home can make your business more appealing.
  • Consider new fleet management procedures or technology to help reduce your drivers’ average length of haul. Although you want to keep your drivers on the road frequently to increase your capacity, reducing the average length of haul can help drivers improve their health and manage the balance between their work and home lives.
  • Adjust training programs to target other departments or industries. Prospective drivers may be intimidated by the amount of experience or legal requirements needed to obtain a commercial driver license. Simply adjusting your training programs can help your business integrate drivers from outside the industry.


Increased demand for freight volume has highlighted an ongoing driver shortage that’s left many motor carriers operating under capacity.


Wage Considerations

One of the most effective ways to appeal to drivers is to increase wages. Although this can be done by simply giving drivers a set raise or bonus, there are alternative payment models and other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Bonuses—Many carriers now offer staggered bonuses that incentivize retention, such as $10,000 bonus that’s split into payments after a driver has worked for 30 days, 90 days and six months. However, some experts believe that these bonuses may also cause drivers to leave once they’ve collected all of their payments.
  • Hourly pay—Drivers aren’t frequently paid by the hour because it’s hard to prove when they’re on duty. But now, tracking technology like GPS and electronic logging devices can make it easy for carriers to know when their drivers are on the job.
  • Flexible models–Many businesses have started to incorporate multiple pay models into their operations to accommodate drivers. For example, drivers who are paid by the mile earn very little when slowed by traffic or unloading. Now, tracking devices can detect legitimate delays and switch to a different pay model during that time in order to make long or congested routes more appealing.

When considering raises, bonuses or other pay models, keep in mind that your drivers’ wages could impact your liability or workers’ compensation rates. Contact us at 920-921-5921 for more help addressing your specific concerns.

Workplace Benefits

Another way to make your business appealing to talented drivers is to offer a competitive benefits package and create a positive work environment. Besides 401(k) investment matching and comprehensive medical coverage, you should consider the following:

  • Paid time off to allow drivers to visit home or take a break while still making an income
  • In-house programs that reward successful drivers with priority at service stations, pay bonuses or new equipment
  • New equipment and vehicles to make drivers’ day-to-day operations easier and attract tech-savvy applicants

Additionally, an emphasis on respect can help your business attract and retain drivers. Experts believe that drivers may be turned away from the transportation industry due to a perceived lack of respect for the long hours they put into their jobs. Make sure to show drivers they’re respected by paying attention to their feedback, recognizing their accomplishments and staying involved in their personal and professional lives.

Finding Consistent Success

The driver shortage isn’t going away anytime soon, and you need to constantly review your operations to ensure you’re attracting and retaining a talented workforce. Get in touch with Hierl Insurance Inc. today for more resources on driver training, legal requirements and transportation-specific news.


How to evaluate an applicant tracking system

With unemployment rates at a 17-year low, competition for talent is fierce. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are supposed to fix any inefficiencies in your recruiting process that would otherwise be overlooked. Continue reading for more information.


Unemployment is at 3.9%, a 17-year low. Competition for talent is fierce, especially when you’re trying to hire sellers, mid-level managers, professional staff and skilled labor. When hiring gets this tough, inefficiencies in your recruiting process that could otherwise be ignored will become code red emergencies.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are supposed to fix those problems. Some do; many don’t. To tell the difference, HR professionals must do their research. Here are the three most important questions to ask before you invest in an ATS.

1. Will the ATS help or hurt my employment brand? If you’re not an employee at Google or Apple, you’ve probably daydreamed about having your own nap pod in Silicon Valley or being toted around in an automated car. You know the amazing benefits and the free-spirited culture at these organizations. That’s employment brand. Granted, not every organization can hope for Google-level brand awareness, but every company — for better or worse — has a brand of their own, made up of every interaction and detail of the recruiting and hiring process.

See also: LinkedIn voice messaging aims to connect HR with job seekers

You should know that most ATS are made by software engineers, not recruiters. The downside there is that most systems don’t deliver a candidate experience designed to convey an impression of what it would be like to work for your company. If your ATS isn’t helping bolster your employment brand, it’s not working hard enough.

To ensure that candidates can get a feel for your company culture before they even submit an application, you’ll want to find an ATS that can offer fully-branded career pages that match your website. This means having the same colors, fonts, brand messaging and imaging will be crucial to your employment brand. And this is only the beginning. Your ideal ATS should allow you to integrate with major job boards and social media platforms (branding 101: Hang out with the cool kids), allow for one click application submission through mobile devices and keep the application process all in one browser No one wants their employment brand to be “clunky” and “unfriendly”.

2. Will the ATS help speed up the process or will it slow us down? Recruiters and hiring managers either love or hate their ATS. There’s not much middle ground. That’s because they often have to invent ingenious workarounds to use the system, which drives them crazy because it’s time wasted.

When searching for the right ATS system, make sure that it can provide customizable email templates for hiring teams during the recruiting process. It’s important to remember that the system should allow you to send those emails in bulk to potential candidates. You need to be able to set reminders and schedule alerts for users to follow up with candidates or completed tasks. This ensures that you’re saving time and no candidate gets lost in the ether.

Know that dashboards are a great way to get a bird’s eye view on the recruiting process but they’re not the end all. Plenty of HCM providers will have flashy demos and dashboards that seem to work flawlessly, but after implementation you’ll be left with a clunky and glitchy product.

See also: 7 Ways Employers Can Support Older Workers And Job Seekers

To avoid that outcome, ask these questions during your search: Can we see the step-by-step process for reviewing applications, approving candidates, and moving them through interviews? Look beyond the demo screens. You want to see how the system really works, step by step. Can we import and export candidate information? How are potential candidates scored?

3. Does the ATS offer compliance and reporting capabilities? This one’s a biggie. Recruiting and hiring compliance is complex, and so reporting and analytics is a must-have. You need to be able to drive recruiting and hiring decisions in real-time with powerful analytics rather than sloppy excel sheets and poorly filed assessment papers. An ATS will allow you to quickly view the metrics that matter to you, see where your best candidates are coming from, find bottlenecks and catch missed opportunities. With clear and easy to use reporting features that captures all pre-hire compliance data in one place, you’ll never have to worry about fines or tarnishing your reputation.

Of course, there’s plenty more you could ask. Implementation, data security, mobile capabilities and ongoing service and support are all tires worth kicking. But this initial list of questions is a great place to start. Finding and hiring top talent requires lightning-fast action and decisions. When you’re shopping for an ATS, however, it pays to slow down long enough to get the facts.

SOURCE: Neese, Bill (12 September 2018) "How to evaluate an applicant tracking system" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-to-evaluate-an-applicant-tracking-system


Covered Establishments in All States Must Now Submit OSHA Electronic Reports

HIGHLIGHTS

·      The electronic reporting rule now applies to all affected establishments, including establishments in states with OSHA-approved plans.

·      It does not matter whether the state has ratified the electronic reporting requirements.

·      The OSHA ITA is currently available and accepting reports on OSHA 300A forms with 2017 data.

IMPORTANT DATES

December 31, 2017

Due date for first OSHA electronic reports through ITA (submit 2016 data)

July 1, 2018

Due date for second OSHA electronic reports through ITA (submit 2017 data)

OVERVIEW

On April 30, 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it will require all establishments affected by the electronic reporting rule to submit their 2017 data to OSHA by July 1, 2018.

This announcement clarifies the requirement for establishments in states with an OSHA-approved plan. These establishments must submit electronic reports, regardless of whether the state has ratified or incorporated the electronic reporting rule into its OSHA state plan.

ACTION STEPS

Establishments in all states, including those with an OSHA-approved state plan, should prepare to submit electronic reports by July 1, 2018. Affected establishments can accomplish this by:

  • Becoming familiar with the requirements in the electronic reporting rule; and
  • Transitioning their OSHA records to an electronic format approved by the Injury Tracking Application (ITA)

OSHA Electronic Reporting

OSHA’s electronic reporting rule was issued in 2016. The rule requires establishments to report data from their injury and illness records to OSHA electronically if they:

  • Are already required to create and maintain OSHA injury and illness records and have 250 or more employees;
  • Have between 20 and 249 employees and belong to a high-risk industry; or
  • Receive a specific request from OSHA to create, maintain and submit electronic records, even if they would otherwise be exempt from OSHA recordkeeping requirements.

The electronic reporting rule applies to establishments, not employers. An employer may have several worksites or establishments. In these situations, some establishments may be affected while others are not.

To determine whether an establishment is affected, employers must determine each establishment’s peak employment during the calendar year. During this determination, employers must count every individual that worked at that establishment, regardless of whether he or she worked full-time, part-time, or was a temporary or seasonal worker.

OSHA-approved State Plans

The final rule required OSHA-approved state plans to adopt the electronic rule or “substantially identical” requirements within six months of the final rule’s publication date.

This means that OSHA-approved state plans have the authority to adopt reporting requirements that go above and beyond what is required by the federal rule. For this reason, establishments located in OSHA-approved state plan jurisdictions should consult with their local OSHA offices to make sure they are satisfying all electronic reporting requirements.

The OSHA-approved state plans shown on this map have not yet adopted the requirement to submit injury and illness reports electronically.

As a result, establishments in these states were not required to submit their 2016 data through the reporting website in 2017. However, OSHA has now clarified that they must submit their 2017 data in 2018.

All Employers
California

Maryland

Minnesota

South Carolina

Utah

Washington

Wyoming

Public Employers
Illinois

Maine

New Jersey

New York


Compliance Recap - August 2018

August was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule that amends the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance. HHS also released a fact sheet on the final rule. To provide guidance on association health plans, the DOL posted a fact sheet and the IRS posted a new Q&A for employers. The IRS also released a memo regarding tax payment of a prior year’s fringe benefits

IRS, HHS, and DOL Issue Final Rule on Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance

On August 3, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (collectively, the Departments) published a final rule that amends the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance. HHS also released a fact sheet on the final rule.

According to the Departments, the final rule will provide consumers with more affordable options for health coverage because they may buy short-term, limited-duration insurance policies that are less than 12 months in length and may be renewed for up to 36 months.

The final rule will apply to insurance policies sold on or after October 2, 2018. Read more about the final rule.

DOL and IRS Release Additional Information on Association Health Plans

On August 20, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) posted the Association Health Plans ERISA Compliance Assistance fact sheet.

On August 20, 2018, the IRS added a new Q&A 18 to its Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act. Q&A 18 confirms that:

  • An employer that is not an applicable large employer (ALE) under the employer shared responsibility provisions does not become an ALE due to participation in an AHP.
  • An employer that is an ALE under the employer shared responsibility provisions continues to be an ALE subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions regardless of its participation in an AHP.
  • The only circumstance when multiple employers are treated as a single employer for determining whether the employer is an ALE is if the employers have a certain level of common or related ownership.

Read more about the association health plan final rule.

IRS Releases Memo Regarding Tax Payment of Prior Year’s Fringe Benefits

The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Office of Chief Counsel released Project Manager Technical Advice Memorandum 2018-015. The fact situation involves an employer that failed to include $10,000 in fringe benefits in an employee’s taxable wages for 2016. The employer will be satisfying its obligations by paying the federal income tax withholding and FICA taxes in 2018.

The IRS states that an employer’s payment of taxes that should have been withheld in a prior year does not create additional wages to the employee for the prior year.

Further, if the employer deducts the employee FICA tax from other remuneration paid to the employee (or otherwise collects the amount from the employee), the payment of employee FICA tax by the employer is not additional compensation to the employee in 2018.

However, if the employer does not seek repayment of the employee FICA tax from the employee, the employer’s payment of employee FICA tax in 2018 (without collecting the amount from the employee) is additional wages to the employee when paid in 2018 and is subject to employment taxes.

Question of the Month

Q. Under the ACA, if an employer’s size grows, when does the employer need to offer coverage and report on coverage offered?

A. If the employer employs an average of at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees during calendar year 2018, then it would make offers of coverage in 2019, and report in 2020 on its offers of coverage made in 2019.

The applicable large employer determination is a three-year cycle. For example, an employer’s size, calculated at the conclusion of 2018 determines its obligations for 2019, which it reports on in 2020.

If 2018 is the first time that a company is an applicable large employer, then the company will have until April 1, 2019, to offer coverage. If the company has individuals who are currently full-time employees and the company offers a group health plan, then the company must offer coverage to those full-time employees on January 1, 2019.


Eliminate Electronic Distractions from the Workplace

It is a generally accepted fact that the use of cellphones and other electronic devices while driving present a distraction that greatly increases the chance for an accident. Unfortunately, what too many people fail to take into consideration is how distracting these devices can be in other situations.

In an industry of moving machinery and equipment, manufacturing workers are especially susceptible to workplace injury. They need to be alert at all times, as even the smallest slip-up can cause an accident. Not only can an inattentive worker injure themselves but their carelessness can also endanger others. In this type of work environment it is easy to see the importance of minimizing the potential distractions faced by your employees.

Cellphones

Whether it’s talking or texting, cellphone use takes the employees focus off their task. While handheld use compounds the problem, even using a hands-free device does not allow for full concentration. Studies indicate that the act of talking on the phone is distracting regardless of whether the user is physically holding the device or not. It is the conversation itself that takes an employee’s focus off their work and surroundings.

While some employees may need to use a work cellphone as part of their job, it is best to place restrictions on when and where those phones can be used. Personal cellphones should not be allowed on the manufacturing floor at all, as even the momentary distraction of a call or message alert can potentially lead to an accident. Employees should not have phones on their person during work hours unless they are on a break from their duties and are in a designated break area.

Attentive, focused employees are essential to creating a safe work environment. To reduce the chance for employee injury, it is important to keep the workplace free of distractions, such as cellphones and mp3 players.

Mp3 and Other Music Players

There are a variety of audio cues that alert workers to what is happening around them. Unfortunately, when an employee’s hearing is impaired by music, a shout from a coworker, an odd sound from a malfunctioning machine or the backup alarm on a truck or forklift can be easily missed. Besides limiting the worker’s ability to hear what is going on around them, there is also the potential distraction of operating the device. When adjusting volume or switching songs, not only is the employee’s hearing impaired, but they are also visually engaged with the device. This greatly decreases the worker’s awareness of his or her surroundings.

Potential Hearing Loss

In a manufacturing setting it is not uncommon for there to be high noise levels that require proper ear protection to prevent hearing loss. The use of cellphones, hands-free devices and headphones can interfere with an employee’s proper use of protective equipment. Even though such devices may cover the ear, most are not meant to provide hearing protection.

In fact, in noisy situations, devices that administer sound directly into the ear increase dangerous levels of noise exposure as employees turn up volume levels to drown out background noise. The combination of these noise exposures greatly increases the rate of hearing loss, which in turn increases the chance for occupational hearing loss claims.

Electronics Usage Policy

Attentive, focused employees are essential to creating a safe work environment, which is why it is important to eliminate possible distractions. Prohibiting employee use of personal electronic devices can aid in reducing workplace accidents. To clearly state your company’s rules on when and where usage is restricted, institute an electronics usage policy. Once instituted, train your employees in the policy requirements and make sure restrictions are diligently enforced.


The days of employers ignoring the opioid crisis are over

How can employers help reduce the risk of the opioid crisis? The CDC estimates prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. cost $78.5 billion per year. Read on to learn more.


Productivity, medical claims, work injuries, and the company’s bottom line — what do these things all have in common? They are all being drastically affected by the effects of substance abuse. The opioid crisis that is running rampant across the United States is having an impact on employees at every level.

As an employer, what do you need to know to support your employees and reduce the risk of this national crisis?

First, you need to educate yourself on the facts. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day, more than 115 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids. It is not just the deadly heroin/fentanyl combination that we have been hearing about in the news, sources of opioid addiction include prescription pain relievers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, and other prescribed substances.

See also: A look at how the opioid crisis has affected people with employer coverage

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. cost $78.5 billion per year; affecting medical spend, productivity, and law enforcement supervision.

Substance abuse does not discriminate on any demographic, however if your business is construction, entertainment, recreation, or food service, the National Safety Council found your employees are twice as likelyas the national average to have substance abuse disorders.

Secondly, you need to take action. The most important thing an employer can do is to have a proactive plan in place to help your employees live a healthy lifestyle. It is easy to get in the habit of saying “that does not happen here,” but the reality is substance abuse can — and does — happen anywhere.

Solving the opioid crisis won’t happen overnight, but here are some steps to take to build a better relationship with your employees and quite possibly help someone overcome a substance abuse problem.

Train your staff. Explain what resources are available to help them help your employees. If you have an employee assistance program in place, leverage it, and have the information easily available so any employee can access the information at any time. This will help lower the fear barrier for employees who are not ready to ask someone they know for help. If you do not have the right resources in place today there are many programs available, and it is important that you adopt one that will fit your culture and help employees be high performers.

See also: Employers take steps to address opioid crisis

Show employees you care. Look for signs and symptoms that an employee might have a problem with substance abuse. Make sure supervisors, managers, and team leaders are aware of these signs and what actions they should take. Have an open door policy, and make sure your employees feel they can ask for assistance when they need it. It is important to know how to handle sensitive, often painful, discussions in a professional and action-oriented manner. It is essential that you have the right steps in place to ensure leadership is aligned with the organization’s strategy on how best to help your at-risk population.

Be transparent. Have clear policies in place that promote a drug-free workplace. Consider expanding your drug testing panel to include opioids.

Share the savings. Consider sharing the dollars a successful well-being program will save your organization’s bottom line through lower prescription drug costs and less lost productivity due to illness and time away from work.

See also: Taking A Page From Pharma’s Playbook To Fight The Opioid Crisis

If your organization is struggling with how to successfully address the challenges of substance abuse and opioid addiction, seek out employee benefit consultants to help you develop a strategy for success. Like anyone with an addiction, there is no shame in asking for help.

SOURCE: Panning, C (7 September 2018) "The days of employers ignoring the opioid crisis are over" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/employers-cannot-ignoring-the-opioid-crisis?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Construction Risk Advisor: September 2018

Industry Overspending $177 Billion Per Year

The average time construction professionals in the U.S. spend on avoidable issues like conflict resolution, rework and looking for project data costs the industry over $177 billion annually, according to a new report.

The participants surveyed for the report said they spend 65 percent of their time on “optimal” activities like communicating with stakeholders and optimizing resources that keep projects on track. They spend the remaining 35 percent of their time on “nonoptimal” tasks like hunting down project information, resolving conflicts and dealing with mistakes that require rework. That amounts to almost two full working days lost per person each week.

Some of the reasons for the nonoptimal costs include poor communication, constrained access to data, incorrect data and the lack of an easy way to share data with stakeholders. Another possible reason is that more than 80 percent of the survey’s respondents said they don’t use mobile devices to collaborate and access project data, despite the fact that mobile devices could help them work more efficiently.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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States Say Contractors Must Guarantee Wages

Maryland’s General Contractor Liability for Unpaid Wages Act becomes effective on Oct. 1, making private contractors for prime construction projects in the state financially responsible for unpaid wages of subcontractor employees. And unless the reason for nonpayment is related to a legitimate dispute, general contractors could be held responsible for up to three times the amount owed, plus attorney fees.

California and Oregon also enacted similar laws earlier this year. In California, general contractors are now liable for the unpaid wages of any employee who furnishes labor to or through them, plus unpaid benefits and interest.

Oregon’s wage protection law creates liability for the general contractor only if the worker’s subcontractor employer has not yet been paid in full.

Mitigating The Risk

In order to reduce the risk of general contractors having to pay their subcontractors’ employee wages, some industry experts are recommending that subcontractors provide their own payment bonds.

Opponents of the recent laws argue that it could be difficult for subcontractors on rocky financial ground to meet bond underwriting requirements. And since large projects could require several new bonds per job, overall project costs could increase significantly. Plus, if subcontractors don’t pay up, prime contractors will have to pay twice for the same labor.


Seeing beyond size in vision care networks

There are many other factors to consider when it comes to deciding which vision care network best fits the needs of your employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


Most people believe that “size matters” in regards to provider networks, but in the world of vision care there are other important factors to consider when deciding which network matches the needs of employees. Network members usually see their vision provider for routine services just once per year. When an employer changes vision administrators, employee in-network utilization is more than 90% regardless of the new network size. Why? Employees are not concerned about changing providers to access in-network benefits. Plus, the new vision provider network will always provide access to multiple providers wherever the employee lives and works.

But what about the quality of the vision care network? To properly assess this measurement of competing networks, employers and benefit advisers need to ask several different questions.

Determine the network’s quality
The quality of the network is vital. Start asking these questions: How are vision care providers credentialed? Do they follow the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) guidelines developed to improve healthcare quality? Are there provider audit programs provided on an ongoing basis? Is the vision care provider re-credentialed and how often? How frequently are reviews conducted of the Office of Inspector General and Medicare and Medicaid disbarment lists?

Establish the network’s effectiveness
Once you know you have a quality network, now you must ask how effective the network is. How diverse is the network? Are there ample ophthalmologists, optometrists and optical retailers we can access? Are some private practitioners? You want to make sure that a solid provider mix is available to give employees options when choosing a vision care provider.

It’s critical to know what languages are spoken within the employee population as well as the providers who care for them. If you have a large population who speak a certain language you want to make sure your network gives them access to people who can truly understand them and with whom they feel comfortable.

Finally, look at the hours of operations. With schedules being busier now than ever before, people need flexibility when it comes to visiting hours. Do they offer evening hours? Weekend hours? This is particularly important for single parents who work during the week and need the flexibility to visit an eye care professional with his or her child after work.

Having a diverse, quality vision care provider network with convenient access helps keep employees happy, healthy and in-network.

Other factors to consider
One of the other factors to be cognizant of is network ownership. Today, many managed vision care companies are involved in not only providing coverage for vision care but also in delivering it. This means the vision benefits company you’re considering may own optical laboratories, frame companies or retail locations, which can pose conflicts of interest between you, your employees and the managed vision care company. Their need to produce profits can lead to undo pressure on your employees to purchase expensive and potentially unnecessary lens types, materials and options. Coupled with direct to consumer advertising and the expansion of brands, eyeglasses have become even more expensive.

This leads to another factor for consideration. Does the potential vision benefit administrator provide meaningful information to help your employees make informed decisions about what they really need, when it comes to the myriad of options available for frames, lenses and lens options?

Network matching
Start by remembering two things when matching networks. First, if you’ve changed vision carriers in the past, you selected a network that was not identical to your previous one. Vision networks never match each other. Some have higher proportions of independent providers and lower percentages of large retailer chains. Second, the infrequency with which the vision benefit is available to be used mitigates the impact of changing providers. People don’t have the same attachment to their eye care professional as they do with their physician.

Beyond quality and effectiveness is the important factor of access. The vision industry has grown to a point where there are often many more providers than would ever be necessary to provide convenient access for your membership. The reality is that two networks may be equally sized in an area and yet there may be little overlap, making the selection of the best network with the lowest overall cost a better strategic direction than simply selecting the one with the highest provider match.

The vision industry has long demonstrated that employees are willing to select new providers, especially when costs are more competitive, and services are more convenient.

SOURCE: Moroff, C (22 August 2018) "Seeing beyond size in vision care networks" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/seeing-beyond-size-in-vision-care-networks?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000