Monthly Archives: October, 2019

  1. OSHA Update: New Members Selected to the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to improve employee safety in the workplace by enforcing a bevy of rules and regulations. The central goal of OSHA is to ensure safe working conditions for American workers through enforcement, training, education, and assistance.

    As an agency of the United States Department of Labor (DOL), OSHA’s presence is constantly felt in the construction industry, which experiences the most work-related injuries and fatalities. Contractors must keep a close eye on OSHA’s shifting rules and regulations to ensure compliance at all times. This can be easier said than done, but an OSHA defense lawyer can provide the services you need to prevent costly citations. 

    Recently, the DOL designated 12 members to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH). Four of these members were selected by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The objective of these appointments is to better represent occupational health and safety, labor, management, and public interests. In this article, we’ll cover these new appointees and discuss the potential effect on contractors.

    Occupational Health Representatives

    Two of the newly appointed members represent occupational health. Patricia Bertsche, Ph.D., an Occupational Health & Wellness Consultant from PKB Consulting, LLC, was appointed to a two-year term. She was one of four HHS designess. John Lambeth, CIH, CSP, Director, Safety and Health, AFL-CIO, was another one of the four HHS designess. He was selected for a one-year term.

    Occupational Safety Representatives

    Another two newly appointed members include Michael Belcher, CSP,  the President of SafetyPro, LLC, and Kelli Smith, Occupational Health Director of Cummins, Inc. They were appointed to two-year and one-year terms, respectively. 

    Labor Representatives

    NACOSH also added two new labor representatives, Robyn Robbins and Steven Sallman. Robyn Robbins is the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union. Robbins signed on to a one-year term. Steven Sallman, who was appointed to a two-year term, is a Safety and Health Specialist for the Safety & Environment Department of the United Steelworkers (USW).

    Management Representatives

    New management representatives included Amy Harper, the Deputy Director of the National Safety Council, and William Walkowiak, Director, Occupational Safety Policy and Programs, Office of the Deputy Assistant to the Air Force. Harper was appointed to a one-year term and Walkowiak was appointed to a two-year term.

    Public Representatives

    Lastly, four new NACOSH public representatives were appointed, including:

    • Mark Friend, CSP, Professor & Interim Dean for the School of Graduate Studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was selected for a one-year term.
    • Cynthia Lewis, M.S.P.H., ASP, Director of the Gulf Coast Safety Institute. She was the third HHS designee and was selected for a two-year term.
    • Andrew Perkins, CIH, CSP, Senior Industrial Hygienist at the Alabama Power Company. Perkins was the final HHS Designee and was appointed to a one-year term.
    • Anne Soiza, Assistant Director of the Washington Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Soiza was selected for a two-year term and was designated as chair to NACOSH.

    What Do These Appointments Mean for Contractors?

    New appointees bring new ideas to the fold. They’re trying to make a name for themselves and build on the work OSHA has done in the past. Contractors can expect a renewed emphasis on worker safety as these new representatives unpack strategies for dealing with work-related injuries and fatalities. If you want to maintain compliance and avoid any OSHA-related issues, consult an OSHA defense lawyer.

    If you would like to speak with an OSHA defense attorney, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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  2. OSHA on Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Safety

    Among the most fatal of workplace hazards, caught-in/between hazards were responsible for 50 deaths in the construction industry in 2017. The sheer size and difficulty of operating heavy equipment makes them a major cause of caught-in/between fatalities. Below, we discuss how contractors can remain safe around and while operating heavy equipment. For any questions regarding how to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) heavy equipment regulations, consult a Texas OSHA defense lawyer

    Heavy Equipment 

    Heavy equipment consists of heavy-duty vehicles that are specifically designed to assist with construction tasks. Examples include cranes, forklifts, bulldozers, and backhoes, among many others. Heavy equipment presents a significant danger to on-foot workers in their vicinity. These dangers include: 

    • Electrical Shock (Another of the “Fatal Four”) 
    • Exceeding Speed Limits 
    • Obstructed Driver View
    • Ignored Max Capacity 

    How to Protect Your Workers

    Protecting those that work around and operate heavy equipment requires constant diligence and care. To begin, only workers who are trained and licensed to use heavy equipment should be permitted to operate them. Second, heavy equipment must be regularly inspected and repaired. No vehicle should see use until it is checked to ensure that it is fully operational. Third, vehicles must never be overloaded, and all loads should be balanced. Contact one of our Texas OSHA defense attorneys for assistance complying with OSHA regulations. 

    Traffic Control

    Remember, your heavy equipment operator will have an obstructed view of the construction site. They’ll likely need a second pair of eyes out there. Having a signal spotter wearing high-visibility clothing direct your operator is an excellent way to ensure that heavy equipment is operated safely, regardless of blind spots. 

    All of your on-foot workers should be trained on how to recognize hazards and work safely around heavy equipment. It is imperative that your heavy equipment operators are aware of all on-foot workers. In addition, all workers must wear the required personal protective equipment (PPE) when working around heavy equipment, including high visibility clothing. 

    Consult an Attorney

    Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, it is your responsibility as an employer to provide your workers with a work environment free of hazards that could cause death or serious injury. Failure to do so could result in your jobsite being visited by an OSHA compliance officer. Contact a Texas OSHA defense lawyer for a comprehensive rundown on your OSHA requirements with regards to vehicle and heavy equipment safety. 

    If you would like to speak with one of our Texas OSHA defense attorneys, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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  3. How the New Taxpayer First Act Deals With Retaliation Complaints

    As an employer, you simply can’t make the mistake of retaliating against a worker that submits a complaint against you with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Federal law protects your employees against acts of retaliation, whether made internally or to a relevant government agency. Your workers have the right to report unsafe workplaces, and no business owner is protected from their own negligence.

    In this brief article, an OSHA lawyer will discuss how the new Taxpayer First Act (TFA) affects the way retaliation complaints are handled by OSHA. This statute was signed into law on July 1, 2019, allowing OSHA to manage worker retaliation complaints against employers under the TFA. Remember, to protect your business from safety violations, consult our OSHA lawyers.

    What You Need to Know

    Under the TFA, OSHA has the ability to investigate retaliatory actions made against employees that have submitted a complaint. OSHA can investigate a number of different complaints, including those related to:

    • Underpayment of tax
    • Violations of internal revenue laws
    • Violations of federal laws dealing with tax fraud to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or any other federal entity listed in the TFA, such as a supervisor or other employee that has the ability to investigate, discover, or eliminate misconduct.
    • Employees testifying, assisting, or otherwise taking part in any form of administrative or judicial action with the IRS. For example, an investigation looking into the alleged underpayment of tax, violation of internal revenue law, or violation of any federal law dealing with tax fraud.

    How Complaints Are Processed

    For now, OSHA will process all TFA whistleblower complaints in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), 49 U.S.C. § 42121. This process is likely to change once an interim final rule is issued, as this complaint procedure is intended to deal specifically with cases involving the aviation industry. That said, this procedure currently serves as a satisfactory method for handling complaints.

    OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program

    According to OSHA, the Whistleblower Protection Program is designed to enforce the more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees in the United States. This program supports employees in a wide variety of industries by protecting their right to file complaints related to workplace safety and health and a myriad of other considerations. As a business owner, you must allow your workers to submit complaints if they feel doing so is justified. You can prevent complaints by focusing on workplace safety, implementing training programs, educating workers, making safety a central component of your workplace culture, and consulting an OSHA lawyer.

    If you would like to speak with one of our OSHA lawyers, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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  4. Does Your Construction Company Have Zero-Tolerance Policies?

    Construction firms must always be mindful of their safety practices. Whether it’s identifying hazards, performing a risk assessment, training and educating your workforce, or ensuring everyone on the site is wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), employers must be proactive with their safety initiatives to ensure everyone remains safe on their jobsite and to reduce the number of visits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

    All of the above items are great ways to start the process of promoting safety in the workplace; however, there are some safety prevention items that also need to be addressed in your employee manual. As we will discuss in this brief article, two policies that can bolster safety efforts are those pertaining to workplace violence and substance abuse. Implementing zero-tolerance policies for these diversions can help you send a clear message to your workforce that certain conduct will not be tolerated at your workplace. For employee manual drafting, speak with a Florida OSHA lawyer.

    Zero Tolerance in the Workplace

    The term “zero tolerance” is sure to generate feelings one way or another. Some employers prefer to not utilize this wording as it’s difficult to develop company policies that will consistently add up. In other cases, the term “zero tolerance” can generate a feeling of empowerment. The truth is that every workplace needs a few policies in place that take a strong stance against serious workplace issues like violence, sexual harassment, drug use, discrimination, theft, and other unprofessional acts. For safety measures, an employee manual should feature anti-drug and workplace violence policies.    

    Drug-Free Workplace Policy

    A drug-free workplace policy establishes for existing and future employees that the use of illegal drugs or alcohol will not be tolerated in the workplace. Generally, this includes:

    • The use, possession, sale, or solicitation of illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication (without a prescription) at the workplace
    • If an employee is impaired or under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol at the workplace
    • If the presence of any prohibited substances is detected in an employee’s system while at work

    Some employers will conduct drug or alcohol testing to ensure the workplace is drug-free. This includes random testing (employees are randomly selected), for-cause testing (if the company suspects that an employee may be under the influence) and post-accident testing (employees are tested after an accident). With an opiod crisis that is impacting the construction industry, it’s critical that employers have a drug-free workplace to ensure all of their workers remain safe on the jobsite.  

    Workplace Violence Policy

    Workplace violence is a term that can refer to a variety of forms of abuse and mistreatment. This includes:

    • Verbal abuse, including an employee that makes threats, says offensive comments, or uses degrading language
    • Psychological abuse, including any conduct that is intended to provoke fear in a coworker
    • Sexual misconduct, including any inappropriate remarks or physical contact
    • Acts of violence, including pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, choking, biting, or harming a coworker in any way
    • Any form of threatening, intimidating, or bullying others
    • Concealing a weapon or use of any weapon 

    Any of the above actions cannot be tolerated in the workplace as they put employees’ safety at risk. Any such behavior should warrant disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. 

    If your employee handbook needs to be revised to include either of these policies, consult a Florida OSHA defense lawyer.  

    If you would like to speak with a Florida OSHA lawyer, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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