Ensuring safety on the job reduces risks for new employees

Providing a safe work environment and ensuring a safe start for new employees is not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.
OSHA has a general provision requiring employers to provide workers with the proper information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety while on the job. While this provision applies to all employees (whether new to their jobs or not) offering the best possible supervision and introduction to safety in the workplace is critical for a new hire.

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 previous safety education and work experience. Don’t assume a new employee knows workplace safety basics.
• Verify that every new worker knows rights and responsibilities, including:

1. The right to participate in health and safety training, and safety programs in the workplace
2. The right to know about possible hazards they may be exposed to on the job
3. The right to refuse unsafe work
4. 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.

• New employees are at a greater risk for a workplace injury than their more experienced co-workers. Most work injuries are caused by new employees who have not been properly trained to perform their job. As with all employees, workers new to the job must take an active role in protecting themselves. This includes:

1. Understanding all necessary safety measures before starting work. If they are unclear, instruct them to ask for clarification
2. Following all safety measures at all times
3. Wearing and maintaining required PPE
4. If machine guards are required on equipment, ensuring that they are in place
5. Avoiding on-the-job shortcuts
6. Following hazard warnings when using chemicals; obtaining further information from the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) on hazardous chemicals if necessary
7. Asking about emergency procedures and being prepared to follow them in the event of a chemical spill or fire.

BCN Services can provide you with new employee safety orientation program that is specific to your business. Contact Patrick Boeheim, BCN Services Risk Manager, at 800.891-9911, extension 108 for assistance in developing your program.

 

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Expect stepped-up FMLA enforcement during 2016

The Department of Labor intends to step up Family and Medical Leave Act enforcement in 2016, including more on-site visits by federal investigators, according to a recent statement by U.S. Department of Labor – Family and Medical Leave Act Branch Chief Helen Applewhaite.

This means employers should pay close attention to their own employment policies as they relates to the FMLA. This includes carefully documenting individual employment situations.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance. Eligible employees are entitled to:

• Twelve work weeks of leave over a 12-month period for:

o The birth and care of a newborn child within one year of birth.
o The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and care for the child within one year of placement.
o A serious health condition which leaves the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
o To give care for a serious health condition affecting the employee’s spouse, child or parent.
o Any qualifying demand or emergency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered” active duty;

OR

• Twenty-six work weeks of leave during a single 12-month To care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
BCN Services can assist you in determining if you are a covered employer and if an employee is eligible for FMLA as well as administration of the leave. If you have questions, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

 

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Alicia Freeman, Product Manager

Does texting belong in your workplace?

Chances are, technology and communication trends have advanced more swiftly than your company policies. Do your managers give work instruction to employees via text message? Are your employees reporting a work absence using text messaging? Is this communication happening on personal devices or work devices? Does it matter?

Our Human Resources Department has seen an increase in complaints from employees who are reporting bullying, sexually explicit photos, and racial slurs sent by text messages from co-workers or supervisors. Even more alarming is the group text, which may start out with work-related content and digress into a conversation that wouldn’t be, and shouldn’t be, spoken aloud in the workplace.

First and foremost, employers should make their position on texting known. A company’s silence on the matter may be viewed as acceptance of this type of behavior. Even if your employee handbook states that employees are to call their supervisor if they will not be reporting to work, a practice of accepting text messages makes this your new, unwritten policy. (Anybody familiar with a “Code Red” from A Few Good Men where extrajudicial punishment was used causing a character in the movie to die)

At a minimum, your anti-harassment policy should be updated to include all forms of harassment and all forms of communication.

Your supervisors and managers need to be aware that any text messages they send to employees can (and will) serve as documentation. Promises of money, work performance critiques and requests for dates verbalized in the past and viewed as passing comments are now documented and available to be produced on demand.

However, this street runs both ways. In the matter of U.S. District Court case of Enriquez v. U.S. Cellular Corp., an employee sued because her supervisor sent her inappropriate and, what she claimed were, offensive texts. However, evidence was presented that the employee had in turn sent the texts on to other employees indicating that she did not find them offensive. Judgement was found in favor of the employer in this case.

What about texts sent between members of your management team? Is there an expectation of a response whether or not it was sent during business hours? What about when that manager is on vacation or out sick?

Regardless of whether or not you decide to use texting as a part of your regular business communications, make sure your expectations are clearly understood by your employees. Our Human Resources professionals at BCN Services are available to discuss policy options and assist in updating your employee handbook and communicating with your employees. Contact us at 800-891-9911 anytime for assistance.

 

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Sue Kester, HR Manager