Your Business & OSHA Standards

Accidents are bound to happen in busy workplaces. These accidents range from minor injuries to serious ones that sometimes end up in fatalities. Prior to 1970, there were no safety standards in place to regulate or control such incidences. The high rates of workplace accidents led to the creation of the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) agency. In this article, Cathleen Christensen, the current Vice President of Property and Casualty of Hierl Insurance, provides insight about the relationship between OSHA and employers with regard to workplace safety.

What Is OSHA?

OSHA is a federal government agency formed in 1970. Its main role is to set and enforce workplace safety and health standards to protect employees from workplace injuries and deaths that were rampant prior to 1970.

Today, there are about 3 million workplace-related injuries annually. This number represents a 60% reduction from the numbers recorded before OSHA was formed. This is an indication that the agency has played a significant role in improving employees’ safety and health.

Responsibilities of the Employer in Regard to OSHA

The regulations guiding OSHA require employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Cathleen points out the General Duty Clause as the main underlying standard:

“This clause is the foundation of all current and future safety standards. The clause requires employers to provide workers with a workplace that is free from recognized hazards, that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”

All subsequent standards are based on this clause. If there is no safety standard, then this clause applies. Any time OSHA agents come to inspect your workplace, and you are not aware you are violating a particular safety standard, they will cite the General Duty Clause.

The clause also requires employers to comply with all OSHA safety and health standards. According to those standards, employers should inspect and evaluate the workplace for potential hazards and train employees to work safely to prevent accidents.

How Employers Identify Safety Hazards

Cathleen notes most employers would not consider OSHA inspection a good thing. OSHA inspections are either programmed or unprogrammed. Unprogrammed inspections are carried out when something bad, such as a serious injury, happens, some danger is recorded, or there is some kind of negative report.

OSHA, in general, is a federal agency, but there are some 22 states that have their own safety standards. Employers can identify safety standards from their respective states. The states with no such safety standards, like Wisconsin, can use OSHA standards as a guideline. Employees can also report any dangers they identify in their workplaces.

Assisting Organizations in Meeting Safety Standards

It is important organizations meet the set safety and health standards to avoid incurring unnecessary expenses in OSHA fees and penalties, which can run into the thousands. At Hierl, we provide:

  • Materials to help develop safety plans to protect workers from injury
  • Employee reports of near-miss incidences to indicate what needs to be corrected
  • A hazard analysis checklist to check for any potential hazards and eliminate them

For more information regarding this issue, you can contact Cathleen Christensen at 920-921-5921 or by email at cchristensen@hierl.com.


Commercial Risk Advisor - August 2019

Dress Code Policy Considerations

Clothing and fashion choices can be a fun way for your employees to express themselves while also helping them feel comfortable. But, not all types of expression and comfort are appropriate for the workplace.

The reasons for establishing a dress code can vary, whether maintaining professionalism or guaranteeing safety. Regardless of why your company might need one, it’s important to put thought into crafting your dress code.

Think about these five considerations when putting together a fair and appropriate dress code:

  • Safety—Keep the work environment free of any unnecessary hazards. For example, do not allow employees working with machinery to wear loose jewelry. Also, require appropriate footwear when necessary, such as steel-toed boots or non-slip shoes.
  • Equality—Your employees may come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Make sure that your dress code does not discriminate when it comes to race, religious beliefs and employees with disabilities. Apply the same standards for men and women.
  • Culture—When drafting your dress code, be consistent with the culture and image that your company projects. An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.
  • Balance—You want your workplace to be professional, but you also want your employees to be comfortable. It makes sense to ask employees to wear a suit if meeting with a big client, but otherwise, consider letting them dress down.
  • Current social norms—Understanding current social norms are important. For example, in today’s society, many candidates may have tattoos or piercings. Talk about what is acceptable for your company. A dress code that is too strict can have a negative effect on your organization recruiting top talent.

Four of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past decade.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

Hurricane season runs from June through November and brings plenty of risks. Threats relating to hurricanes don’t only apply to homeowners and aren’t limited simply to physical damage either.

There are plenty of ways that a storm can blow away your business. According to FEMA, over 40% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster, and 90% close within a year if they aren’t able to reopen within five days.

An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.

Protect your company and your employees by taking these steps to be as prepared as possible:

  • Reinforce your workplace from weather hazards with things like window shutters to block flying debris, and sandbags to absorb floodwater.

  • Have an emergency response plan in place and make sure that your employees are trained to follow it. Emergency response plans can include steps such as establishing warning and evacuation procedures, ensuring reliable means of communication, and having supplies such as food, water, flashlights and batteries on hand.
  • Beyond protecting your employees and your physical workplace, it is also important to ensure that your business can function following a hurricane. Back up your data off-site regularly, and test the recovery process to make sure that everything is working properly.
  • Make sure that you are prepared to contact the correct people to get back on your feet. Try to connect with a contractor or restoration company before a hurricane strikes.
  • Even if your business is prepared for a hurricane, others might not be. Companies that you partner with or rely upon could be damaged and hinder your own ability to function. Talk to other businesses that you work with and make sure that they have contingency plans.

An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.

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Trucking Risk Advisor - August 2019

CVSA Brake Safety Week: Sept 15-20

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Brake Safety Week is scheduled for Sept. 15-21. Roadside safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles will be conducted throughout North America by law enforcement officials. Brake Safety Week is an initiative by the CVSA in an effort to lessen the severity and number of crashes caused by faulty brake systems.

Although all components of a motor vehicle’s brake system are crucial to overall safety and function, the inspectors will be paying close attention to a vehicle’s brake hoses and tubing this year. The result of last year’s three-day International Roadcheck enforcement campaign showed that brake system violations made up 45% of all out-of-service violations.

If your commercial vehicle fails to meet the CVSA braking standards or any other inspection item, your vehicle may receive a violation that will result in traveling restrictions until the violation has been corrected.

Inspectors will be looking at four main factors when checking the hoses and tubing of a commercial motor vehicle’s brake system, checking to make sure they are:

  • Undamaged
  • Properly attached
  • Leak-free
  • Appropriately flexible

In order to pass the inspection, all commercial trucks and combination vehicles over a gross weight of 10,000 pounds must have a braking efficiency of at least 43.5%. In 14 jurisdictions, this calculation will be determined by using performance-based brake testers (PBBT), which calculate overall brake efficiency and force over the total gross weight.

Avoid violations during this year’s inspection by conducting regular maintenance on all vehicle operational systems.

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Agriculture Risk Advisor - Third Quarter 2019

Pesticide Safety

Administering and working around pesticides is an important part of working in agriculture. However, while these products are very effective in protecting crops from pests, they can also cause health problems for those who are constantly exposed to them.

For example, results from a recent Michigan State University study found that workers exposed to high levels of pesticides are more likely to lose their sense of smell later in life. The study surveyed over 11,000 farm workers over a 20-year period as part of the Agricultural Health Study.

According to the study, 10% of workers reported that their sense of smell was impaired, either partially or completely, after being exposed to high levels of pesticides. However, those who washed with soap and water immediately after a high pesticide exposure event had a lower risk of impairment, with longer times between exposure and washing correlating to higher chances of impairment. This underscores the need for a quick response after an exposure event.

Other safety tips that should always be observed to protect from adverse health effects include the following:

  • Follow directions on the label for the attended use and application.
  • Note first-aid instructions in case of accidental poisoning.
  • Follow directions on the label for proper storage or disposal after use.
  • Do not smoke, eat, drink, apply cosmetics or use the washroom directly following the use of pesticides.
  • Do not use pesticides in winds stronger than 10 mph.

Additionally, wearing protective gear is one of the best lines of defense against exposure to chemicals. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, nonabsorbent gloves, rubber boots, hats, eye protection, masks, aprons, face respirators and dust mist filters are all beneficial while applying pesticides. Clothing should also be checked beforehand for defects or holes that may allow pesticides to reach the wearer.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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11 critical grilling safety tips for your summer barbecues

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, outdoor barbecues are sure to be popular. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), July is the peak month for grill fires, followed by June, May and August. Read this post for 11 grilling safety tips to use this summer.


With July 4th right around the corner, outdoor barbecues are sure to be a popular item on the agenda.

Before lighting up the grill this summer, take note of a few critical grilling safety tips to keep people and property safe from the dangerous fire hazards that come with outdoor grilling.

From 2013-2017, grills, hibachis and barbecues were involved in 10,200 home fires per year. These fires were responsible for at least 10 deaths, 160 reported injuries, and $123 million in property damage. July (17%) is the peak month for grill fires, followed by June (14%), May (13%) and August (12%), according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

To stay safe this summer, check out 11 grilling safety tips, provided by the NFPA.

  1. The first thing to know about grilling is that propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  2. The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  3. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  4. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  5. Never leave your grill unattended.
  6. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
  7. There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  8. If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  9. Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  10. There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  11. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

SOURCE: Ling, D. (28 June 2019) "11 critical grilling safety tips for your summer barbecues" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/06/28/11-critical-grilling-safety-tips-for-your-summer-barbeques/