On-the-job safety: How to reduce risks for new employees

Providing a safe working environment and ensuring a safe start when new employees begin working for you is not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a general provision requiring employers to ensure that workers are provided with proper information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety while performing their jobs. This provision applies to all workers, whether new to their jobs or not, but offering the best possible supervision and introduction to workplace safety is critical for anyone new on the job.

The following tips can help employers ensure new employees are ready for work.

Employer Considerations

  • Always conduct new hire orientation and safety training.
  • Ask new workers about their previous safety education and work experience. Don’t assume a new employee knows the basics of workplace safety.
  • Verify that every new worker knows his/her rights and responsibilities, including:
  • The right to participate in health and safety training, and safety programs in the workplace;
  • The right to know about hazards they may be exposed to on the job;
  • The right to refuse unsafe work; and
  • The responsibility to follow safety procedures and wear any personal protective equipment (PPE) that may be required.
  • If English is a worker’s second language, it can contribute to on-the-job accidents and injuries. To promote worker safety, you should post signage and safety communication materials in the language in which your employees are fluent.  Contact BCN Services at 734.994-4100, ext. 108 or ext. 132 to order signage in Spanish.
  • New employees are at a greater risk for a workplace injury than their more experienced coworkers. As with all employees, workers new to the job must take an active role in protecting themselves. This includes:
  • Understanding all necessary safety measures before starting work. If they are unclear, instruct them to ask for clarification before they begin a task.
  • Following all safety measures at all times.
  • Knowing how to operate, handle and respect all equipment that may be encountered on the job.
  • Wearing and maintaining required PPE.
  • If machine guards are required on equipment, ensuring that they are in place.
  • Avoiding shortcuts.
  • Following hazard warnings when using chemicals; obtaining further information from the safety data sheet (SDS) on hazardous chemicals if necessary.
  • Asking about emergency procedures and being prepared to follow them in the event of a chemical spill or fire.

Do you have questions about workplace safety at your business?  Do you need help training for your employees and providing supervisors with the tools necessary to keep your workplace safe?  Contact BCN Services for assistance at 734-994-4100.

 

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Love in the air? Take care to develop a solid policy for workplace romances

Even though the number of romances blooming in the workplace may not have increased much in the past eight years, it looks like polices addressing them have according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

According to the same survey, 43 percent of human resource professionals reported romance in the workplaces and more than half of HR professionals reported employees getting married or becoming long-term partners as a result of workplace romances. Another survey conducted by Careerbuilders.com indicated that 34 percent of employees have dated a more senior-ranking person within the company (among which 42 percent have dated their direct supervisor).

Although some office romances do lead to marriage, others can lead to claims for sexual harassment. Because workplace romances are so common, companies should take proactive measures to avoid love turning into litigation.

One suggestion would be to draft and enforce realistic office romance policies. Employers should first have a sexual harassment policy that includes a complaint reporting procedure, conduct training on the policy and should ensure that it is enforced. In addition, employers should consider executing a formal office romance policy.

An effective office romance policy should include the following guidelines:

  • Limitations or prohibitions regarding supervisor/subordinate romantic relationships, internal department romantic relationships or any kind of on-the-job romantic relationships;
  • Disclosure of the relationship to human resources;
  • Proper behavior expected from employees
  • Potential consequences for violating the policy

All employees should receive a copy and sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understood the policy. Supervisors and managers should be trained to avoid workplace romances with subordinates and should understand the need to immediately report any inappropriate behavior to human resources.

Another suggestion would be to consider a love contract. These are basically agreements signed by both parties engaged in the relationship to disclose it as consensual.  An effective love contract should include the following guidelines:

  • Mutual consent of the participants;
  • Acknowledgement of related company polices;
  • Appropriate conduct in the workplace;
  • No favoritism or preferred treatment; and
  • Retaliation will not result if the relationship is terminated

Although love contracts do not necessarily release the employer of liability, some employers are using them in an effort to reduce liability should a lawsuit arise later.

Employers would be prudent and take proactive steps to help prevent possible litigation in the event that an office romance doesn’t end in a “happily ever after.”

 

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator

Business owners face taxes for employer-sponsored group health plans

With the passage of Health Care Reform through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,  many Americans wondered how the  federal government would fund the high cost of providing government subsidized health insurance.  That question was quickly answered, ant the answer is taxes.  Business owners have begun to feel the heavy burden of multiple taxes being levied on their employer-sponsored group health plans and several new taxes took effect on January 1 of this year.  Following is a list of the taxes, what groups they apply to, and what they will be used for:

Health Insurance Industry Fee:  This is the largest tax which will be used to fund the cost of the Health Marketplace insurance costs.  For 2014 the expected cost could range between 2-2.5 percent of total premium of the group health plan.  In 2015 and beyond, this tax could increase to between 3-4 percent.  This tax applies to all fully insured plans, both small group and large group.  The fee does not apply to self-funded group health plans.

Transitional Reinsurance Program: Used for the re-insurance policy applied to each Marketplace plan, this tax will cost  $5.25 per member (not per subscriber, but for each person on the employer’s health contract).  This fee began on January 1, 2014 and applies to all fully insured-group health plans, both small group and large, and all self-funded plans.  This tax may be reduced in following years; final guidance has not been given.

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Fee:  Started in 2012, this fee is used to fund a research program for which findings on clinical effectiveness are used to assist patients and providers make educated medical decisions.  The fee is $1 per covered member for the first plan year ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012, and $2 per member per year after the first year.  Medical inflation may be applied in consecutive plan years.  The fee is scheduled to continue through 2019. It applies to all fully insured and self-funded plans.

Risk Adjustment Admin Fee: Will be used to fund the administration of subsidizing plans that have less-than-average health status by assessing plans with above-average health status.  It is applied to small group employer plans only.

Many insurance carriers have adjusted their underwriting process to include these taxes, and have added them to the total monthly premium of employer-sponsored group health plans.  Other carriers, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, are adding the taxes as a separate line item on the monthly invoice.

BCN Services will monitor any changes or further guidance to the tax assessments on employer-sponsored plans and will communicate any relevant information.  As always, if you have any questions, please contact your Partnership Manager.

 

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Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager

Business branding: Follow the gridiron ad approach on a smaller scale

This year a record-setting 162.9 million tuned in to watch the big game on Sunday night, making the NFL Super Bowl the most watched television event ever, according to Twitter.  Most people say they watch the Super Bowl for the ads instead of the actual game.

What, as a business can we learn from these Super Bowl ads?  Most companies do not have the resources to pay for a Super Bowl ad, which costs upwards of $4 million but as  business owners, we can learn some interesting strategies from these ads. PR consultant, Darcy Grabenstein noted the following strategies:

  1. Branding.  Super Bowl ads are about branding.  Over time these companies see the value in their exposure but not necessarily in their bottom line.  Branding is a crucial part of a company’s marketing plan.
  2. Humor.  People remember something funny.  A little humor can go a long way.  Humor can help with your branding.  Too much humor can turn off consumer, as well.
  3. Exposure.  This year with a record viewing of the Super Bowl, exposure is definitely what companies are going for when purchasing an ad.
  4. Emotion.  These ads tend to tug at our emotions.  They bring in puppies, babies, and, love to connect with us the viewer in hopes to capture us.

Although these ads cost millions of dollars, we can learn from them and tailor our advertising to fit whatever level we advertise.  Incorporating these strategies into  your own marketing plan can help bring awareness to your business.

But,  that said, who was the big winner of the Super Bowl and what can we learn from this big winner?  Hashtags!  According to Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan, more than half of the 53 ads in the Superbowl used hashtags, up 50 percent from last year’s Super bowl.  Commercials are using hashtags as a way to incorporate social media and it’s working.  Simply incorporating a hashtag in their message gets the word out on Facebook and Twitter without choosing one social media tool over the other.

Even though the game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks is over for this year, with quite the win for the Seahawks, the competition for social media and your attention will go on and on.

Can we help you review your social media policies and your approach?  Contact the team at BCN Services for this and all your HR needs.

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Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager