OSHA Cornerstones - Second Quarter 2019

OSHA Signals Updates to Powered Industrial Truck Standards as It Requests Information From Employers

OSHA recently requested information on powered industrial trucks in the workplace, a sign that the agency will likely update its standards on these vehicles. Although the American National Standards Institute and the National Fire Protection Association updated their own standards last year, OSHA’s regulations have only been changed once since they were adopted in 1971.

Powered industrial trucks are one of the most frequently cited OSHA standards, with 2,294 violations in 2018. The agency’s current regulations don’t include language on common risk exposures, such as carbon monoxide buildup from engines, noise hazards and stopping distances on descending grades. And, although updates may require employers to implement new safety procedures, OSHA stated that a major goal is to remove regulatory burden while improving safety.

As a part of the request for information, OSHA specified that it wants data on these specific topics:

  • The types, age and usage of powered industrial trucks
  • Maintenance and retrofitting procedures for each type of powered industrial truck
  • Suggestions for regulating older vehicle models
  • The types of accidents and injuries associated with the use of these vehicles
  • The advantages and drawbacks of retrofitting machines with new safety features
  • Any relevant components of powered industrial truck safety programs

OSHA will accept public comments on powered industrial trucks until June 10. For more information, see the full notice on the Federal Register’s website.

Increased OSHA Penalties for 2019

Federal law requires OSHA to increase its maximum penalties every year to account for inflation. Here’s a list of the maximum penalties for 2019:

  • Other-than-serious violation: $13,260 per violation
  • Serious violation: $13,260 per violation
  • Failure to comply with posting requirements: $13,260 per violation
  • Failure to correct a violation: $13,260 per day until corrected
  • Repeated violation: $132,598 per violation
  • Willful violation: $132,598 per violation, and a minimum penalty of $9,472 per violation

OSHA Issues Final Rule to Roll Back Electronic Reporting Requirements After Concerns About Employee Privacy

Earlier this year, OSHA updated its electronic reporting rule after concerns that reports on workplace injuries and illnesses contain employees’ personal information. The agency also explained that under the original rule, it was possible for this information to be disclosed publicly through a Freedom of Information Act request or OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application.

The new final rule only requires certain establishments to submit data from OSHA Form 300A, and became effective on Feb. 25. Previously, establishments with 250 or more employees were also required to submit forms 300 and 301. While this requirement was removed before the March 2 deadline to submit data, OSHA stated that it’s likely that many employers automatically submitted data from all three forms, and using software to remove personal details won’t be 100 percent effective.

Some organizations believe the final rule will negatively affect workplace safety, and six states filed a lawsuit against OSHA in an attempt to reinstate the original electronic reporting requirements. However, others believe that the final rule still allows the agency to collect a summary of workplace injuries and illnesses without revealing potentially harmful personal information.

New and Updated OSHA Resources to Help Prevent Falls

Falls are one of the most common and dangerous injuries in the workplace, and OSHA recently released a number of resources to help employers stay aware of common fall hazards and train their workforces.

Here’s a summary of the new and updated resources:

For more resources on preventing falls at your organization, call 920-921-5921 today or visit www.hierl.com.

According to the National Employment Law Project, the Trump administration's focus on deregulation has caused OSHA enforcement activity to fall and fatality investigations to rise.

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The Building Blocks of a Safe Workplace

The Building Blocks of a Safe Workplace

Building a comprehensive safety culture is the best way to reduce illnesses and injuries, and their associated costs. But creating such a culture is not an overnight process or “flavor of the month” program. Instead, it is a multi-year, top management commitment that results in an organization with low accident rates, low turnover, low absenteeism and high productivity. This is a big-picture, long-term project.

A robust safety culture has the following characteristics:

  • At the highest organizational level, there is a well-articulated commitment to safety. This translates into organization-wide values, beliefs, and behavioral norms.
  • Employees’ base compensation ties directly to their commitment to the safety culture. This commitment is assessed in regular performance reviews.
  • Safety takes precedence over everything else, even production and efficiency. Employees who err on the side of safety should be rewarded, even if a later review suggests that the additional safety measures or concerns were unnecessary.
  • Communication about safety occurs across all levels of the organization in a consistently open, unedited, and honest manner. If problems or errors are identified, they are eagerly communicated, recorded, and analyzed without anyone being “persecuted.”
  • Unsafe acts—the main cause of accidents—are rare.
  • Employees continuously learn and identify opportunities for process improvements that will decrease the likelihood of an accident.

The following sections explore in more detail some of the key components of a successful safety culture.

Benchmarking

It is difficult to just guess the quality of your safety culture. Therefore, it is important to benchmark where you are now, both in subjective terms and in objective, analytical measurements. By combining an analytical tracking system with a periodic, subjective culture survey, you can better understand the impact your efforts to improve the safety culture are having over time.

Hiring to Avoid Workplace Injuries

Due to preexisting medical conditions or limitations, some potential job candidates may be more prone to workplace injury.

It is a common misconception that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents you from asking any medical questions during the hiring process. However, according to the Department of Labor, there are actually three stages of employment: pre-employment, post-offer, but pre-placement (after the conditional offer of employment) and finally, employment. During the first and third stages, it is true that you cannot ask any medical questions. However, during the second phase (after a conditional offer of employment is extended) you can ask the applicant to fill out a medical questionnaire and/or take a medical exam. If, in medical opinion, the applicant is unfit for the job, you can withdraw the offer. It’s that simple. To avoid hiring your next workers’ compensation claim, there are two key processes you need to implement.

A true safety culture requires continual support and impacts all parts of your organization’s operations—from hiring processes to training to daily reinforcement.

The Conditional Offer of Employment

The ADA says that employers cannot require a job applicant to provide medical information or undergo a medical exam until a conditional offer of employment is made. When a conditional offer is made you are essentially hiring the candidate. The only way an offer may be withdrawn prior to the effective date of employment is if, in medical opinion, the candidate will be unable to perform the job duties safely with reasonable accommodations.

The Medical Questionnaire/Exam

After you extend a conditional offer of employment, it is time to perform a medical screening of the candidate. If information emerges from the screening that indicates that the candidate will not be able to perform the job duties safely even with reasonable accommodations, then and only then can you withdraw the offer of employment.

Stay Out of Trouble with OSHA

OSHA most often shows up at your workplace in response to an employee complaint or serious accident. The best way to be prepared is to be in compliance. Not only does OSHA compliance help you avoid costly fines, it also ensures that safe work practices are being encouraged. Fortunately, some of the most common OSHA violations are also the easiest to address.

Postings

OSHA requires that employers display certain posters and notices in the workplace. Not all employers need to post every notice—some apply only to very specific industries or situations—but you need to know which notices you are required to post and do so.

Recordkeeping

OSHA also requires certain employers to track workplace injuries and illnesses, and report them periodically.

HAZCOM

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard states that employees must be made aware of all chemicals used in

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard states that employees must be made aware of all chemicals used in their workplace, the hazards they present and instruction for safe handling. This is accomplished with labels, safety data sheets (SDS), and employee information and training.

In addition to the three key areas of frequent OSHA violations, there is an easy way for you to identify the top violations in your specific industry. OSHA provides a searchable database of the most frequent OSHA violations by company size and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

Promoting the Health of Your Workers

As an employer, you bear many of the direct costs (such as medical claims) and the indirect costs (such as absenteeism and lowered productivity) of diseases, disorders and conditions that afflict your employees.

Research shows that you can avoid or reduce many of these costs by providing early behavioral and/or clinical interventions for your employees. Clinical preventive services include screenings and immunizations, as well as follow-up care. Behavioral interventions can include counseling and health promotion programs such as smoking cessation, weight management and physical activity initiatives.

Beyond what it does for them in their personal lives, improving your employees’ health has two fundamental and practical benefits for the health of your business.

Increased productivity

It is a simple fact that employees in good health are much more likely to be performing at optimal levels than employees in poor health.

Reduced health care costs

Employees with poor health use more health care resources and generate more claim costs than their healthy peers. Overall, you can expect to save about $3.50 in health care costs for every dollar you invest in effective health promotion.

Implementing a wellness program does not have to be an overwhelming task. In fact, you are more likely to have a successful program if you focus on a few key areas that are of interest to most employees and where results can be significant.

A true safety culture requires continual support and impacts all parts of your organization’s operations—from hiring processes to training to daily reinforcement.

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4 FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks during tax season

Did you know: Tax season is the most popular time of the year for W-2 related cyber attacks. Phishing emails will often request employees to provide W-2s by return email. Continue reading this blog post for four FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks.


The most likely cyber attack a company will face will come in the form of an email. One of the most common forms of email attack is the business email compromise (BEC), and the most popular time of the year for the W-2 version of BEC is right now — tax season.

A BEC attack involves attackers sending emails disguised as coming from high-level executives within a company, such as the CEO, to lower level personnel. During tax season, the spoof email will often request that W-2s for employees be provided by return email.

While the email looks identical to the executive’s email, it is coming from — and then returned to — the criminal, not the executive, along with the W-2s and the personal information associated with the documents.

If an employee falls for the scam, the company now has experienced a serious data breach and must comply with certain legal requirements. Worse yet, the company’s employees’ sensitive personal information has been given to the attackers and they have this problem to worry about instead of performing their job. The disruption is substantial in their personal lives and for the company’s operations.

How do attackers use W-2 information?

In most cases, once the attackers have that W-2 information, they use it to attempt to file fraudulent tax returns for those employees and have their tax refunds sent to them instead of the employee. They also use it for traditional identity theft.

The attackers act very quickly once the information is obtained. In some cases, they have begun to fraudulently use the information on the same day they obtained the W-2 information from the company. Time is truly of the essence in responding to these attacks and legal assistance is necessary for properly responding to these data breach events.

Why do so many attacks happen during tax season?

Law enforcement officers and cybersecurity professionals report a drastic increase in these types of attacks during the beginning of each year because of tax season. This is consistent with what is seen in helping companies with these cases in past years, as well. The reason this type of attack is so common during tax season is because of the tax-related fraud aspect of this type of attack. That is, the attackers monetize their attacks by using the fraudulently obtained information to file fraudulent tax returns and obtain refunds from innocent victims.

And the sooner they can do this, the better their chances are of getting the refund before the taxpayer files and receives their tax refund.

If a company has not yet been targeted, it is likely that it will be very soon so it is important to be prepared.

What can you do to protect your company?

Educating employees is critical because they will be the ones who receive the emails from the attackers.

  • Make them aware of this issue by sharing the information in this article with them so that they understand the threat, how it works and how it could affect them personally.
  • Train them by having appropriate personnel discuss this threat with them and help them understand that they should be very suspicious of any requests to email out anything of this nature (or make payments, such as with the very similar wire transfer version of the BEC).

Have appropriate internal controls in place to protect against these types of attacks. These controls can include:

  • Limit who has access to your company’s W-2s and other sensitive information as well as who has the authority to submit or approve wire payments.
  • Have established procedures in place for sending W-2 information or other sensitive information as well as for submitting or approving wire payments so that dual approvals are required for these activities.
  • Require employees to use an alternative means of confirming the identity of the person making the request. If the request is by email, the employee should talk to the requestor in-person or call and speak to the requestor using a known telephone number to get verbal confirmation. If the request is by telephone or fax (many times they are), then use email to confirm by using an email address known to be correct to confirm with the purported requestor. Never reply to one of these emails or call using a telephone number that is provided in one of these emails, faxes, or telephone calls.

What to do if your company is hit by an attack

  • Immediately contact experienced legal counsel who understands how to guide a company through these incidents and, ideally, has appropriate contacts with law enforcement and the IRS to assist in reporting this incident quickly.
  • Report the incident to the FBI or Secret Service and appropriate IRS investigators so that the IRS can implement appropriate procedures to protect the employees whose information was exposed in the W-2s.
  • Prepare appropriate notifications to the people whose information was exposed and comply with all legal and regulatory reporting requirements. This should be a part of an existing incident response plan. Companies should have such a procedure in place to be better prepared if and when a security breach occurs.
  • Inform employees that the IRS will never contact them directly, for the first time, via email, telephone, text message, social media or any way other than through a written “snail mail” letter.

SOURCE: Tuma, S. (19 February 2019) "4 FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks during tax season" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/02/19/4-faqs-about-w-2-business-email-compromise-attacks-during-tax-season/


Hot tips for winter driving

Wintry conditions can make it hard for drivers to see and even harder to control the vehicle, making driving nerve-wracking even for the best drivers. Continue reading this blog post from UBA for tips on winter driving.


Driving in wintry conditions can be nerve-wracking even for the best drivers. Snow, fog,  and black ice can make it hard to see and even harder to control your vehicle. But if you follow some basic tips, you’ll be more likely to keep your cool and get to your destination without mishap.

Before you hit the road

First things first: Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition. And don’t wait till the last minute to do this, in case mechanics find issues that need repairs or need to order in parts. Check the battery, lights, cooling system, tires, windshield wipers and defrosters to make sure everything’s working correctly.Be ready for possible emergencies. Carry a shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, jumper cables, emergency flares or markers, blankets, cell phone charger, snacks and water.

Plan your route carefully, keeping weather and construction in mind. If you’re using GPS, make sure you input your destination before you leave. And let someone know your route and what time you expect to arrive.

Safety strategies

  • Be well-rested before you go.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half-full.
  • Don’t use cruise control when it’s slippery due to snow, ice or rain.
  • Drive slowly according to road conditions and traffic. Keep a longer following distance between you and the car ahead of you (a normal distance is three to four seconds; increase this to eight to ten).
  • If you’re stuck in the snow, stay with your vehicle. Don’t try to walk in search of help. Tie a bright piece of loth to the antenna or hang a piece of cloth from the closed window to try to attract attention. It’s OK to keep the dome light on. It won’t wear down your battery and will make your car more visible. Run the heater for short periods till the car is warm, and then turn it off to save gas. Always make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of sow or ice!
  • Accelerate slowly. Steer in the direction of a skid. Brake gradually with steady pressure. (If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, you might need to pump the brake pedal.)
  • Stay out of the way of snow plows. Their field of vision is limited.

And always…

Always use your seat belt and make sure children are in car seats that are installed correctly. Don’t text and drive and avoid other distractions whenever possible. And never, ever drink and drive.

If playing it safe means arriving at Grandma’s a little late, so be it. Arriving safe, sound and healthy is what’s important.

 

Sources:

AAA Minneapolis. Drive to Survive this Winter Season. https://minneapolis.aaa.com/news/drive-survive-winter-season.   Accessed 9/11/18

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Winter driving tips.

https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/winter-driving-tips.pdf   Accessed 9/11/18

American Automobile Association. Winter driving tips.

https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.W5gPtjbfPtQ   Accessed 9/11/18

SOURCE: Olson, B. (7 March 2019) "Hot tips for winter driving" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/hot-tips-for-winter-driving


Safety Focused Video - March 2019

This month’s Safety Focused video goes over eye safety in the workplace and tips for safe spring-cleaning.

Every day, more than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work. More than 90 percent of these injuries could be avoided.

Monthly safety tips from


Insurance Commission Urges Wisconsinites to Evaluate Flood Insurance Needs Before the Snow Melts

Insurance Commission Urges Wisconsinites to Evaluate Flood Insurance Needs Before the Snow Melts

Madison, Wis. — The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) is urging residents to evaluate their flood insurance coverage now as the National Weather Service predicts temperatures across Wisconsin will rise later this week. With rising temperatures comes the possibility of snowmelt-related flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)1 noted late last month that Wisconsin’s flood risk is above normal to well-above normal throughout March and April.

“I think it’s fair to say that most Wisconsinites are ready for winter to be over,” said Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable. “But while we’re waiting for temperatures to rise, home and business owners should review their insurance policies to make sure they have appropriate coverage.

“If you purchase flood insurance, the policy does not go into effect for 30 days,”2 explains Afable. “Consider flood insurance now as an important protection against this type of peril.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is closely monitoring the Fox River between Wrightstown and DePere, the Wolf River, and the Menominee River for ice jams and flooding3 , while the National Weather Service in La Crosse is warning residents along the Mississippi River and its tributaries of an above-normal flood risk through May due to runoff from snowpack and deeply frozen ground.4 River ice jams occur when ice breaks up quickly in thawing temperatures and large, flowing ice chunks collect and create a dam, triggering area floods.

Not only will mountains of snow across the state melt into inches of water, saturated soil in many areas from late summer/early fall flooding leaves nowhere for that water to go.5

Public works departments are asking residents to help by clearing snow and ice from storm drains and grates. Homeowners should remove snow from the roof using a roof rake or push broom, make sure vents around the home are not covered by snow, and check that their sump pump is working properly. Clearing snow piles away from the home or building can also help prevent water seepage through the foundation.

Most homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding or seepage through the foundation. A separate flood insurance policy sold through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and managed by FEMA is necessary for this coverage. Visit https://www.floodsmart.gov/ to learn more about flood insurance.

Damage from sewer backup or sump pump overflow is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance or flood insurance. The purchase of a special homeowner’s policy endorsement is required for this type of coverage. Contact your insurance agent to find out more about special endorsements and riders for expanded coverage.

  • Floods are the nation’s most common natural disaster.6
  • Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home.
  • More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from outside high-risk areas.7
  • Generally, water coming from the top down, such as burst fire sprinklers and ice dam seepage behind drywall, is covered by standard homeowner’s policies. Water coming from the bottom up, such as foundation seepage from snowmelts, is not.8

Created by the Legislature in 1870, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) was vested with broad powers to ensure that the insurance industry responsibly and adequately met the insurance needs of Wisconsin citizens. Today, OCI’s mission is to lead the way in informing and protecting the public and responding to its insurance needs.

For more information contact Olivia Hwang, Director of Public Affairs, (608) 267-9460 or olivia.hwang@wisconsin.gov

###

SOURCE: Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (5 March 2019) “Insurance Commission Urges Wisconsinites to Evaluate Flood Insurance Needs Before the Snow Melts” (Press Release). Retrieved from https://oci.wi.gov/Pages/PressReleases/20190305PRSnowmelt.aspx