Unannounced MIOSHA inspections can add up to employer fines

It appears MIOSHA (the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has ramped up its “unannounced” inspections this past year with small business machine and repair shops and buildering contractors, both in General Industry or Construction categories.  Fines have been levied.  The wise adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” definitely has an application when it comes to safety in the workplace.

A multi-year review of the top 10 most frequently cited MIOSHA and OSHA violations show that violation types have remained fairly constant.  BCN Services will be dedicating this blog to safety issues throughout 2018 to raise awareness, educate and remediate the most serious of these violations.

No matter what the violation, the safety inspector always wants to see training plans.  When inspectors arrive, they check to see if the employer has properly trained employees regarding worksite hazards.  As a client of BCN Services, you have access, at no charge, to state-of-the-art, OSHA-compliant online safety courses for each of the following top 10 most serious violations, according to MIOSHA statistics:

  1. Lacking a hazard communication program – average fine: $512*
  2. Non-operational emergency eye flush stations – average fine: $933
  3. No effective information or training of chemicals – average fine: $497
  4. No written respiratory protection program – average fine: $865
  5. Exposure to air contaminants exceeding established exposure limits – average fine: $5,355
  6. Failure to provide appropriate eye and face protection – average fine: $565

Combined with no effective personal protective equipment training – average fine:  $690

  1. No program in place to determine if employees have a reasonable exposure to bloodborne infectious diseases – average fine: $820
  2. Failure to provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator – average fine: $596
  3. No written exposure control plan – average fine: $173
  4. No hearing conservation program when noise exposures equal or exceed the action level – average fine: $1,850

In addition to the above, there are several additional violations which include:

  • Lack of machine guarding
  • Improper wiring methods, components and equipment
  • Lack of forklift training
  • No fall protection program
  • Improper use of portable ladders
  • Using powered staplers and nailers with no proper eye protection
  • Employer not providing a safety harness when using an aerial lift

Once a fine is levied, MIOSHA will return to the employer’s site for follow-up.  Failure to correct a previously cited violation will result in additional fines averaging $2,554 per violation.

BCN Services’ safety program has dedicated resources providing safety walk-throughs, written programs, online safety training and recommendations at no charge for all of the above cited violations.  Our online safety programs average 15 minutes per course topic.  We also provide the OSHA 10-hour General Industry courses at least once per year by certified trainers.

Look for more specific information regarding the above in the coming year through our safety blogs.

Take advantage of all these resources and experience that “ounce of prevention” in 2018 for employee safety and peace of mind.  Call the Risk Management Department at BCN Services today at 734-994-4100, ext. 108 to access these programs.

PatrickBoeheim_6705

Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

When disaster strikes, employers must be prepared with a solid plan

A disaster can be defined as an accident, or natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life.  Certainly, there have been several, large natural disasters recently ranging from hurricanes to earthquakes.

On a smaller scale, a disaster could also encompass issues isolated to your office causing a disruption in business, such as an office fire or broken water pipe.

It is important for your business to develop and implement a detailed disaster recovery plan for a variety of situations. But with such a wide array of potential disasters, it can be difficult to know how to start the planning process.  Below are a few starting points as well as additional resources to aid you in the process:

  • Form an emergency planning team comprised of managers and staff who understand business operations and can brainstorm worse-case scenarios. The team should develop an emergency action plan based on its findings for each scenario.  Employees should then be trained on how to carry out the plan.
  • Protect business operations by involving your technology staff. They can develop an infrastructure with cloud-based backups or off-site servers to ensure continuity of your operation. You should also have a contingency plan outlining how you will access this data and continue operations if you lose access to your physical place of business.
  • Review insurance policies for adequate coverage that will pay for direct and indirect costs of the disaster. Speak with your insurance agent to determine if any additional policies are needed based upon your emergency action plan.  This may include cyber insurance or business-interruption insurance.
  • Develop a communication plan in the event of a disaster. Consider how you will notify employees when a disaster occurs and how you will continue to keep them updated.  Also, consider how and what you will communicate with your customers. As part of your plan, have language in place that can be readily used for emails or other types of communication both with your staff and your customers, if needed.
  • Finally, because business operations, employees and relationships change over time, it is important to have a periodic review of your emergency plans and make changes as necessary.

If you need additional resources or help developing your plans, OSHA is available to provide training and support including their publication, “How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations”.  Other free resources are offered by The American Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/workplaces-and-organizations) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (https://www.ready.gov/business). The experts at BCN Services are also available to consult with you and guide you through this process.

 

AliciaFreeman_6679

Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

The 5 Ws of the EEOC (or why it does what it does)

Many businesses understand the importance of advertising themselves as an equal opportunity employer. But companies may not be familiar with the government agency that enforces this law and exactly what they do

Who: The EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and it is “responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

What: The EEOC is responsible for interpreting and enforcing these civil rights laws:

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the private sector and in state and local governments. In general, the law also requires reasonable accommodations for a qualified applicant or employee with a disability.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination because of age.
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information, which includes an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of a family member and information about a disease, disorder or condition of a family member.

All of these laws make it illegal to retaliate against a person for complaining about discrimination, filing a related charge or participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Where: When we talk about federal government agencies, it is easy to picture them as far away, perhaps only in Washington D.C. The EEOC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. but has 53 field offices throughout the country.

When: The EEOC began operating on July 2, 1965,  one year after President Johnson signed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Why: The role of the EEOC is to fairly and accurately assess allegations of discrimination. If the EEOC finds that discrimination has occurred, they try to settle the charge. The EEOC has the authority to sue to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public.

The EEOC also works to prevent discrimination before it occurs through outreach, education and technical assistance programs.

Recommendations: When terminating or disciplining employees, it is always good to ask if your company is using a consistent practice. Trying to be generous to one employee, can appear discriminatory to another. Remaining consistent in your approach is important to avoid an EEOC investigation. A best practice would be to have an employee handbook that outlines specific policies and procedures for termination and discipline. BCN Services recommends discussing difficult or questionable terminations with your HR representative before taking action to avoid any problems.

The above is information about the agency taken from the eeoc.gov website.’

KariStanley_6698

Kari Stanley, HRCCC Supervisor

No desk? No problem! It’s possible to create and maintain a deskless workforce

For many Baby N=Boomers or Gen X’ers, the concept of a deskless work environment seems implausible.  But many can, and have, embraced the concept.  But overall, it’s Millennials that have made the remote and deskless workforce a success.  And it’s the Millennial and Gen Z generations that will continue to elicit changes in how they work.

Technology is something anyone can keep up with and use to its full potential.  As technological advances continually reshape the workforce, younger generations will reap the most rewards.  They are more motivated to keep up with trends in technology and how it interacts with their current position within their company and how it will affect their futures.

What is a deskless workplace?  It’s giving your employees the tools they need to complete their jobs from anywhere, at any time.  With cell phone and tablet advancements, employees can complete work from home, from a favorite coffee shop, or in the breakroom or lounge area within your office space.  It means not being tethered to a desk and a desktop computer to complete day–o-day functions.  As the need for fluidity and flexibility grows, employers should consider evolving and embracing the deskless workplace potential.

Providing employees with access to company e-mail, shared drives and training materials in an electronic format can increase production and flexibility.  Employees who are used to sitting on their couch watching TV and working from their tablet at home will welcome a work environment that provides the same level of comfort.  If possible, create a seating environment with couches, chairs, coffee tables or stoops within the office to foster employee comfort and production.  A well-lit counter with accessible electrical and USB outlets is another example of creating a tech friendly and fluid workplace.  You may also see collaboration and brainstorming increase as employees interact with each other in an open environment as opposed to being limited to a cubicle or office.

Attracting and retaining talent may also create the need for deskless work access.  Many employees see the ability to work remotely, either within the office or out, as a benefit.  Retention can also increase in instances where an employee must move out of the area for any given reason.  Instead of hiring and training a new person which takes resources and time, allow the employee to work remotely as an option.

If exploring this, keep in mind some drawbacks to the concept.  One of the growing issues with is too much work.  Employees may sometimes feel the need to be constantly “plugged in” and may spend too much of their down time with their minds on work.  That is not a healthy mindset and can create additional stress and anxiety.  Be conscious of how much work your employees are putting in outside of the office.

Another consideration is your hourly staff.  Hourly employees that check their emails and do work from home need to be compensated for their time.  Set strict guidelines about how and when hourly employees can complete work functions while not punched in at the office.  Be sure to provide the employee a way to track their time, whether they are punching in remotely to a timekeeping system, or logging time spent working away from the office.

Be sure, when possible, to have your employees interact with other employees whether at mandatory meeting and trainings, or regular phone or video conferencing to foster relationships and partnerships within the company.  It’s important for your employees to feel tied to the company’s goals and work with other team members helps create that sense of inclusion.

Lastly, if sensitive information is accessible to your employees such Social Security numbers, credit card information or company proprietary information, be sure to train your employees on concealing their screens from watchful eyes, or locking their computer when not using it.  Business needs are forever evolving as technology and accessibility continues to skyrocket.  It’s a good idea to change with the times and take advantage of proven trends to maximize potential for your company and your employees.

As always, please contact BCN Services Human Resources Department with any questions or guidance needed.

FrankLewandowski_6684

Frank Lewandowski, Benefits Program Manager

Be aware of your IT Security Policies and Procedures

Starting today, and from time to time in the upcoming months,  BCN will be adding business blog posts about current topics from friends of BCN.   Today, we hear from Mr. Joe Dylewski, owner of ATMP Solutions, an IT Security firm.  Joe has been successfully assisting businesses and health care companies since 1989.

Quarterly Information Security Briefing and Reminder

October 2017

Topic: Data Breaches and Potential Exposure

Content:  News of large data breaches is becoming more frequent. Recently, Equifax was breached and an estimated 150 million Americans may have been affected. The complete impact of this breach will not be known for some time.  However, initial response suggests that personal financial information on individuals that includes names, Social Security Numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit history, integrated public records and other financial information may have been exposed.

What happens to the information that is breached?

Once breached, the information is typically placed on the “Dark Web” and made available globally to anyone that has the tools and knowhow to access it.  The Dark Web is a portion of the Internet that is used extensively by criminal elements to obtain drugs, arms, pornography, human trafficking, and stolen information.

How can it be used?

Once this information is made public, the possibility of identity and direct financial theft increases significantly. Consider how much information the average person discloses on social media. The combination of Facebook and LinkedIn, which is used by most working professionals, along with a person’s financial history, gives a criminal the ability to impersonate just about anyone. Additionally, with enough information, a criminal could access accounts containing personal financial information on the internet.

What can I do to protect myself?

  1. Treat the information that is on the internet the same way you would treat it as if it was paper stored in your It is important that you are a good steward of your personal information and assume that the internet site that is storing it is not perfect.
  2. Use different passwords on each site that contains sensitive Once a hacker has access to one password, eliminate the possibility that they have access to every account. The CEO of Facebook was hacked because his Facebook and LinkedIn passwords were identical. If your passwords have not been changed in the last 6 months, set this as a high-priority task.
  3. Monitor the online identity for everyone in your Services such as IdentityGuard track changes to your public and credit records, looking for any activity. Using this may alert you to suspicious activity.
  4. Use credit cards instead of debit cards for purchases, maintain low balances in your checking accounts, and disable overdraft The less access a criminal has to your liquid funds, the better.
  5. Consider the amount of information that you make publicly available on social media. How many internet sites or credit cards ask your mother’s maiden name as a security validation question? Can this information be obtained by simply looking at your Facebook profile?

Be aware of your IT Security Policies and Procedures.

Always consult your Privacy and Security Official with questions!

ATMP© ATMP Solutions – 2017

This guest article is published with permission of the writer. The opinions, representations and statements made are those of the author and not of BCN Services or any affiliate companies and does not constitute any representations, warranties or guarantees. All content provided is for information purposes. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

BCN offers web-based health and safety Training for employees

Influencing the behaviors of employees and training them to work safely is fundamental to a successful risk management program. It also reduces your workers’ compensation costs.  BCN Services offers its clients an online training resource at no cost that can help successfully train your employees.

This value-added service is the premier resource for environmental, health and safety training solutions.  All safety training courses are expertly researched and use the latest adult learning theory and instructional design techniques. Each is technically accurate and reviewed by content experts and OSHA trainers to ensure accuracy.

These online courses fuse today’s adult learning theories with accurate content, engaging Flash animation and 3-D graphics, interactions, positive reinforcement and immediate remediation. In many cases, a format similar to YouTube uses actual workers rather than actors in a studio offering a more relatable experience for employees. Providing accurate instruction with clear communication on best safety practices when employees are engaged ensures retention of materials.

Value to our customers

Safety training is a solid business investment. The online courses represent tens of thousands of dollars in value that come free as part of your workers’ compensation coverage, offering the following advantages:

  • Unlimited access to more than 200 courses, available 24/7
  • Customization by industry
  • Documented training and record-keeping
  • Quizzes to test for comprehension
  • Logistical and administrative advantages for companies with multiple locations
  • Efficiency and significant cost savings
  • English- and Spanish-language courses available
  • True and responsive “live” technical support available during and after normal business hours

Streaming video format

There are many benefits to the streaming format:

  • Courses can be viewed from anywhere vis web browser
  • Courses may be taken individually or in small groups, depending on your company’s needs**
  • It eliminates product handling and shipping delays and costs
  • Basic reports are available for viewing
  • The videos have a quick, easy-to-use title search function
  • Classes are available where and when you need them with the click of your mouse
  • The products are perfect for training multiple shifts or locations
  • Friendly “tip sheets” for each course are also available, designed for any level of computer experience

Training videos include OSHA, DOT and EPA topics:

  • Accident investigation
  • Behavior-based safety
  • Chemical safety
  • Confined spaces
  • Construction safety
  • Disaster readiness
  • DOT & Transportation
  • Electrical safety
  • Environmental safety
  • Ergonomics
  • Fall protection
  • Fire safety & prevention
  • First aid
  • Food safety
  • Forklift training with operator permits
  • Hand & power tool safety
  • Hazardous materials
  • Heat & cold stress
  • Hearing conservation
  • Heavy machinery
  • HR topics: drug testing awareness, sexual harassment, workers’ compensation
  • Lab safety
  • Laser safety
  • Lockout-Tagout
  • Machine safeguarding
  • NFPA 70E
  • Off-The-Job safety
  • Office safety
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Pipeline & valve safety
  • Power press safety
  • Respiratory safety
  • Retail safety
  • Safety Teams
  • Slips, trips & falls
  • Welding safety
  • AND MORE MORE

BCN’s new customized employee safety orientation programs are becoming very popular.

Don’t miss out using these awesome tools.  The payoff is well worth employee time.  Call BCN‘s Risk Management Department at 734-994-4100, ext. 108 to discuss a program that fits your business needs.  Your employees will have a safe and strong safe work place and we are here to help make that happen!

PatrickBoeheim_6705

Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Developing the best formula for happiness in the workplace

I was reading some marketing articles over the weekend and came across an article about “Happiness in the Workplace”.   Skimming it briefly, I didn’t see much in value for my marketing endeavors but then I came across another article on the same topic.

So it gave me pause. What is happiness in the workplace anyway?  It sounds a little ambiguous to me since “happy” is a relative term and can change from day-to-day.  After reading the article more in-depth, the point became clear: Happiness is really more of a choice than a feeling.  It’s an action.  I also think that the more engaged you are at your job the “happier” you are.

A happy person is also contagious.  If you work around people who always complain, the natural effect is to start looking at your work world a little more negatively.  But if you are surrounded by happy, positive people, you tend to see your environment in that way as well.

In the article “15 Proven Tips to Be Happy at Work,” John Rampton offers these tips that are worth repeating.  I picked my top 10 and expounded on them.

  1. Have a sense of meaning. Think about what your role is in your company. How are you impacting those around you?  Your clients, your co-workers, the UPS person.  You may dislike parts of your job, but they have meaning.  Your role can influence others and you may not even know it.
  2. Create an office nest. The environment that we create around us is so important in how we view ourselves. Pictures of people and phrases that are important to you or motivate you can be a reminder of why you do what you do.
  3. Smile– So simple, so easy — makes a difference J
  4. Be future-oriented.– Do you have goals? Does your company have goals?  If you keep those goals in front of you, your perspective will change as you go about your day.  Take time during each week to consider these goals and how you and your company are working towards them.
  5. Say “thank you.”– This is something so simple to do and it will impact those around you.
  6. Take a breather.– Taking time away from the office and daily stresses can help. We can recharge ourselves both mentally and physically by just taking a little time for ourselves.
  7. Eat healthy & stay hydrated.- Taking care of yourself can impact your life in subtle ways. Our concentration improves.  When we feel good physically, it makes an impact on our mental state and thus the result is “happy.”
  8. Accept people for who they are.– We are all different.  No one thinks exactly like you.  This is a great thing.  When we can embrace this concept and accept this you will naturally become happier.  Realize that you cannot change people.
  9. Reward yourself.- You work hard. Sometimes just a little reward for that work can change your perspective.  If you had a hard week or a big goal was met at the office, reward yourself with a nice dinner out or purchase that new gadget you have been wanting.
  10. Reflect- Why do you do what you do? Take time to evaluate what you do, why you do it and what brought you to this career path.  Reflection is a reminder that what you do is for a purpose. it may refocus you and the result is happiness.

While these tips seem basic, it is important to remember that we are all responsible for ourselves and how we interact day-to-day with our coworkers. If you are a leader in your organization, putting some of these tips into practice will transfer to your staff.  When employees see their managers and coworkers happier, they will naturally strive towards the same.

WendyAllen_6690

Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

When can you dock a salaried employee’s pay?

Docking an exempt or salaried employee’s pay is only allowed in certain circumstances.

Generally, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not permit deductions from exempt employees. According to the regulations, the amount of money a salaried employee earns isn’t dependent on the number of days or hours he or she works. You also can’t deduct money based on the quantity or quality of work the employee produces.

However, there are some exceptions to the rule:

  • Exempt employees do not need to be paid for any workweek in which they perform no work.
  • Deductions may be made for exempt employees who are absent for a day or more for personal reasons other than sickness or accident. (Deductions must be made in full-day increments, not for partial-day absences.)
  • Deductions may be made for exempt employee absences of one day or more caused by sickness or disability, if the company maintains a plan that compensates for loss of salary caused by sickness and disability and the employee has exhausted his or her “bank” of leave.
  • Deductions may be made for penalties imposed for safety rules violation of major significance
  • Amounts received by an employee for jury or witness fees or military pay may be offset. Beyond those offsets, deductions may not be made for absences caused by employee jury duty, attendance as a witness or temporary military leave.
  • Deductions may be made for unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days for breaking workplace conduct rules.
  • Payment may be adjusted for partial weeks worked during the initial or final weeks of employment. For example, if Joe resigns in the middle of a workweek, pay him only for the days actually worked in that week.
  • In some cases, when a salaried/exempt employee has worked a reduced or intermittent work schedule under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),pay may be adjusted. (You can convert a salaried employee to an hourly rate during the time he or she is on intermittent or a reduced workweek FMLA leave without destroying the person’s exempt status.

If your company inadvertently makes an improper deduction, it must be corrected immediately to avoid penalties.  If an employer is found to be “intentionally” engaging in improper pay docking, they will lose the overtime exemption for the pay period the docking occurred for other employees working in the same job classification for the same manager responsible for the deduction.

This means that the employer must pay normally exempt workers overtime wages if their hours exceed 40 hours for one work week.

If you are not sure when to dock a salaried employee’s pay or have questions regarding pay practices, please contact your BCN Services specialist for guidance.

List of permitted deduction courtesy of TrackSmart

LisandraGarrow_4x4

Lisandra Garrow, Partnership Manager

Tips for employers: When to pay an employee’s travel expenses

We often get the question: “Do I need to pay my employee for travel time?”  Unfortunately, there is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer.  A number of factors are involved, including when the employee is traveling, how the employee is traveling, and what is the employee doing at the destination.

Our HR team is happy to talk through any individual case you may have, but here are some guidelines on common situations:

Home-to-work travel:  Normal home-to-work travel is not compensable time.  However, if an employee is asked to travel to an alternate destination for work or to attend training, he or she should be compensated for any time that would be over and above normal home-to-work time.

(As a side note, any time spent in training sessions — whether it be during the employee’s regular work day or outside of the employee’s normal working hours — should be paid as hours worked if the employer has requested or required the training.)

Workday travel:  Time spent by an employee in travel as part of his or her principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, must be counted as hours worked. Where an employee is required to report at a designated meeting place to receive instructions, perform other work or to pick up tools, travel from the designated place to the workplace is part of the day’s work and must be counted as hours worked regardless of contract, custom or practice.

Travel on a non-work day:  Even if the employee travels on a day he or she would not normally be scheduled (Sunday for example), if he is traveling for the benefit of the company during his normally scheduled work shift (between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., for example) that time would be considered time worked and should be paid accordingly.

Overtime:  Paid travel time is paid as worked time.  If an hourly (or non-exempt) employee has more than 40 hours in combined work and travel time, those hours must be paid at time and one half of the regular rate.

SueKester_6669

Sue Kester, HR Manager

New I-9 Completion and Compliance rules takes effect September 18

In mid-September, employers will be required to use a new version of form I-9 to verify employment eligibility for new hires. The form changes are minor but employers must be using form I-9 version 1615-0047 (dated July 27, 2017) as of September 18, 2017. All previous versions of form I-9 will be considered out of compliance for employees hired after that date.

Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.gov):

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions:

  • The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices was changed to a new name: Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
  • Removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • All certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) were combined into selection C#2 in List C.
  • All List C documents were renumbered except for the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C will change from List C #8 to List C #7.
  • All changes were put into in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274), which is also easier for users to navigate. Find it here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/handbook-employers-m-274
  • Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

Employers who have questions about the I-9 process, need additional information or need general help with any human resources matter should contact their HR specialist at BCN Services.

KariStanley_6698

Kari Stanley, HRCCC Supervisor