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Workplace Safety

Six Myths About Workers’ Compensation Insurance

By Workplace Safety

Workers’ Compensation Insurance is an important product for employees. There are six common myths that surround this insurance, though. Debunk the myths so you can understand and maximize your benefits.

1. Small businesses don’t need to offer Workers’ Compensation Insurance.

You may work in a small business with only a few employees. Federal and state laws dictate that most businesses with one or more employees must carry Workers’ Compensation insurance. Be sure your employer carries this valuable insurance even if you are a solo employee.

2. I don’t need Worker’s Compensation insurance because my job is low-risk.

Some jobs, like construction, farming and commercial fishing, are dangerous. However, even low-risk jobs include injury and illness risks. You could develop carpal tunnel while typing or slip and fall in the break room during lunch. Your employer will pay lower Workers’ Compensation insurance premiums if you work in a low-risk job, and you absolutely must ensure you’re covered no matter what type of work you perform.

3. I’m careful and won’t get hurt.

While you might have an accident-free employment history, it only takes a second for an accident to happen. Plus, some workplace accidents or injuries occur because of someone else’s actions. Ensure you are covered by Workers’ Compensation regardless of your careful track record.

4. My boss is like family, and I could never sue.

It’s great that you have such a good relationship with your boss and feel like family. However, you are still employer-employee. By law, your employer must provide Workers’ Compensation for you. You also owe it to yourself and your dependents to have this valuable coverage in place in case you are injured or disabled and can’t work.

5. My boss will pay my work-related injury or illness expenses out-of-pocket.

Perhaps your boss has vowed to pay out-of-pocket for your medical, living and others expenses if you’re injured or become ill on the job. Unfortunately, your boss may decide not to pay, particularly when the Workers’ Compensation claims reach thousands of dollars or affect multiple employees. Always protect yourself with Workers’ Compensation insurance so that you can ensure your expenses are paid.

6. Any pain I feel at work is eligible for Workers’ Compensation.

While assembling furniture at work, you notice that your arm hurts. Instead of rushing to file a Workers’ Compensation claim, think about when and where the pain started. If it originated from an activity or injury that occurred outside of work, don’t file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation insurance is important. Understand these six myths as you make sure you’re covered. For more details, contact your Human Resources manager or insurance agent.

How To Handle Allergens In The Workplace

By Workplace Safety

Numerous environmental conditions at your workplace can cause you to suffer an allergic reaction that ranges from mild to life-threatening. If you’re affected by an allergy, you may be eligible to file a Workers’ Compensation claim. Consider these tips as you reduce allergens at work and protect yourself.

Common Workplace Allergens

Depending on your job and workplace, you may be exposed to numerous allergens as you work. Consider this partial list.

  • Latex gloves or equipment
  • Ink toner
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Floor wax
  • Perfume
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dust
  • Food, including nuts and dairy
  • Mold
  • Asbestos
  • Aerosols
  • Paint fumes
  • Dye
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander

Possible Allergic Reactions

The allergic reaction you experience can be mildly annoying or severe and life threatening. Be aware of these possible reactions.

  • Contact dermatitis
  • Sneezing
  • Pain
  • Swelling around your mouth or elsewhere
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Trouble breathing
  • Anaphylactic shock

What to do if you Have an Allergic Reaction

Seek medical treatment as soon as you suspect you’re having an allergic reaction. To provide the best possible treatment, your doctor or emergency medical personnel may ask for a list of possible allergens to which you may have been exposed.

How to Prevent Allergic Reactions

While you can’t always prevent allergen exposure, you can advocate for an allergen-free work environment. Ask about switching to natural cleaning supplies or banning peanut butter as you remove allergens that affect you and your co-workers.

You may also take protective measures. Wear gloves, use a respirator or open a window as you reduce exposure to your known allergens.

Request special accommodations, too, especially if you have a known allergy. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), you’re considered disabled if your allergy limits your activity level. In this case, you can request that your employer improve ventilation throughout the building or allow you to work a different shift when allergen use is limited.

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

By law, your employer must provide a safe work environment. If you suffer an allergic reaction to chemicals, cleaning supplies or something else and can’t perform your job, you may be eligible to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation benefits could cover your medical treatment, a portion of your lost wages and other expenses. However, you must prove that the allergic reaction stemmed from something at work and not food, medication or another environmental condition you encounter at home or elsewhere.

If working conditions or environmental factors cause you to suffer an allergic reaction, you can file a Workers’ Compensation claim. Discuss your specific case with your Human Resources manager and doctor as you protect yourself at work.

What To Do When Co-Workers Act In An Unsafe Manner

By Workplace Safety

Safety at work depends on all employees doing their part. Sometimes, though, co-workers decide to cut corners, get in a hurry, feel distracted, or otherwise neglect safety protocols. A 2010 study by the RAD group found that only 40 percent of employees intervened when they noticed safety concerns because they feared that their co-worker would be defensive or angry or that intervening would not make a difference. While you may not want to be a whistleblower, you owe it to yourself, your co-workers, customers and clients, and the company to maintain safety. Here are the steps you can take when you notice co-workers acting in an unsafe manner.

Identify and Solve the Inducing Factors

In general, safety violations occur for four reasons. Understanding why your co-workers violate safety standards can guide you in addressing the underlying issues.

1. Personal Perception – Co-workers may think they don’t need to follow safety precautions because their job is low-risk, the precautions are uncomfortable or they don’t have time. In this case, encourage your co-workers to maintain safety so they avoid injuries and model good behavior.

2. Mental Lapses – Forgetfulness, preoccupation or uncertainty may cause your co-workers to commit safety violations. A gentle reminder can correct the mistake.

3. Abilities – Your co-workers may act unsafely because they have improper tools, unrealistic expectations or other challenges. Offer insights into ways to overcome these safety risks.

4. Social Environment – Pressure to conform or fit in may prompt co-workers to neglect safety precautions. Encourage your co-workers to remain independent and do the right thing regardless of anyone else’s mindset.

Speak to the Offender in Private

When you see a co-worker breaking a safety procedure or otherwise acting unsafely, talk to that person in private. Approach your co-worker with kindness and understanding rather than accusations as you request that he or she maintains a safe work environment for the sake of everyone.

Notify Your Supervisor

If your co-worker refuses to listen to you and the unsafe behavior continues, talk with your supervisor. Share details such as the offender, dates, times, and incidents. The supervisor can then follow-up and schedule more frequent walkabouts, increase safety discussions or take other appropriate actions.

Practice Safety Procedures

Always model safety on the job site and do your part to maintain safe conditions. That means you must wear safety gear, pay attention to your surroundings and operate equipment properly.

You should also participate enthusiastically in safety meetings and encourage your co-workers to do the same. Take the presentation seriously as you promote a workplace culture that emphasizes safety.

Workplace safety protects everyone and reduces injuries and illnesses. Do your part and intervene if you notice safety violations.

Can You File A Workers’ Compensation Claim For A Commute Injury?

By Workplace Safety

Workers’ Compensation covers medical and other expenses if you suffer an injury or illness from work-related activities. You may wonder, though, if you can file a claim if you’re injured during your commute, especially if you carpool with co-workers or run errands for your boss on the way to work. Here are some guidelines to help you answer this question.

Understand the Coming and Going Rule

The Workers’ Compensation laws vary by state, but in general, the “coming and going rule” applies to your commute. This rule states that employees who work in a permanent location, such as an office building or factory, cannot file a Workers’ Compensation claim for injuries they suffer during their commute to their work location because they do not perform work-related tasks during the commute. However, you may experience several exceptions to the coming and going rule.

You Don’t Have Permanent Workplace

Certain employees travel to different job sites for work rather than reporting to one specific location. In this case, your travel falls under your employment duties. If you would suffer an injury while commuting to a job site, you could file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

You Drive a Company Vehicle

Your employer may provide you with a vehicle to drive to and from work. Even if you work in a permanent job location, your commute could be considered part of your job because you drive a company car. In this case, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation if you suffer an injury during your commute.

Your Employer Covers Travel Expenses

Sometimes, an employer will reimburse you for travel expenses, including costs associated with your commute. You may be eligible to file a Workers’ Compensation claim in this case because you receive travel expense reimbursement.

Your Employer Mandates Carpooling

Your employer may mandate carpooling for your commute because it builds team rapport, conserves parking spaces or is environmentally friendly. Because of this incentive, your commute may be considered part of your employment relationship, allowing you to file a Workers’ Compensation claim for injuries that occur as you carpool.

You do Errands for Your Employer

If your employer asks you to stop for coffee on the way to work or mail packages after work, you are performing work-related tasks even though you’re not on your employer’s premises. In this case, your commute may be covered by Workers’ Compensation.

An injury that occurs during your commute to or from work probably won’t be covered by Workers’ Compensation. You may talk to your human resources manager, though, for details on your specific accident because certain exceptions could allow you to file a claim and receive compensation.

What You Need To Know About Safety Footwear

By Workplace Safety

Whether you stand all day, operate heavy machinery or handle chemicals, you need to protect your feet as you work. Several foot safety tips reduce injuries and help you maintain a safe work environment.

When to Wear Safety Footwear

Safety footwear protects your feet against numerous injuries, including punctures, impacts, electrical shock and compression. If you work in any hazardous work environment, you probably need to wear safety footwear as part of your daily uniform. Protective shoes also protect your feet if you suffer from weak ankles or other medical conditions.

Available Types of Safety Footwear

Depending on your job and preferences, you may select safety boots or sneakers. Available in a variety of styles and colors, the best safety shoes include a CSA certification and may include:

Safety-toe – features a special toe covering that protects the foot from dropped objects

Steel insole – stabilizes feet and protects them from joint and bone injuries or problems

Metal instep – provides a barrier against glass, nail and other sharp object punctures

Metatarsal protection – reduces injuries to your upper feet and internal bones

Electric protection – absorbs shock through specially made soles

Heat resistant – resists heat-related injuries

Water resistant – repels water and keeps feet dry

Nonslip – improves traction on various surfaces

Where to Purchase Safety Footwear

Your employer may provide strict guidelines and limitations about exactly which safety shoe you may wear, including where you may purchase this gear. If you can select the safety shoes you wear, check specialty footwear stores or online retailers. Because you want to protect your feet, select only the right shoes for your job and feet. Price should be secondary as you promote safety.

How to Fit Your Safety Footwear

When trying on safety footwear, ensure a proper fit.

  • Try on shoes in the afternoon to accommodate swelling that occurs naturally during the day.
  • Wear your regular work socks and any special supports.
  • Ensure ample toe room since the shoes typically do not stretch with wear.
  • Check for snugness around the heel and ankle.
  • Walk around a bit to check for comfort.

Care Instructions

Most safety footwear requires ongoing care and maintenance. Before you wear them for the first time, apply a water-resistant coating. Every day, inspect your shoes for damage, including sole cracks, leather breaks or toe cap exposure. Always replace your safety footwear if you notice signs of wear or damage that you cannot repair and after a puncture, impact or other event that may compromise the shoe.

Protect your feet at work when you wear the right safety footwear. Talk to your employer and check OSHA resources as you purchase, maintain and wear shoes that protect your feet every day.

How To Protect Employees Who Work Outdoors In Winter

By Workplace Safety

Across the country, temperatures plummet during cold winter months. Many employees must work outdoors and face injury or even death because of the weather conditions. Protect your outdoor workers with several safety precautions.

Which Employees are at Risk?

Employees who work outdoors for extended periods could suffer weather-related injuries. These employees include:

  • Police officers, firefighters, EMTs
  • Snow cleanup crews
  • Utility workers
  • Construction crews
  • Postal workers
  • Miners
  • Farmers
  • Traffic controllers

Employees who only spend a short time outside could also be in harm’s way, though, if they don’t prepare properly for the conditions.

Understand Winter Weather Dangers

Cold air temperatures, high winds, damp air, slippery surfaces and contact with water threaten your outdoor employees. Winter weather dangers also include frostbite, hypothermia, increased strain and injury risks, dehydration, decreased performance and other health and safety challenges.

Tips to Protect Your Outdoor Employees

Assess the dangers your outdoor employees face, and then implement safety protocols that protect your team.

Know the forecast.

If the forecast calls for cold temperatures, high winds, snow or ice, alert employees. Ensure they take appropriate safety measures.

Wear protective clothing.

Clothing provides employees with a defense against winter weather. To stay warm, ask your employees to follow these clothing tips.

  • Wear three layers. An inner insulating layer traps perspiration, a middle layer protects the body from precipitation and an outer layer allows ventilation and prevents overheating.
  • Fabric matters. Wool, silk or certain synthetic fabric, rather than cotton, keeps skin dry even in wet weather or when perspiring.
  • Loose is better. Tight clothing can trap moisture and lower body temperature.
  • Remember the extremities. A hat, gloves, two pairs of socks and insulated shoes protect head, hands and feet.
  • Pack extra clothing. If an accident happens, your employees can change clothes and get dry and warm.

Stay alert to body changes.

Ask your employees to look for symptoms of frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration or other problems. They should report tingling, itching, burning, pain, sluggishness, aggressive shivering, disorientation and slurred speech to their supervisor.

Eat a healthy diet.

The right diet fuels employees and helps them stay safe and alert. Adequate fluids prevent dehydration, and a balanced diet improves focus and energy. Employees should avoid alcohol and tobacco as these substances can impair thinking, constrict blood vessels and restrict blood flow, which increases heat loss and affects the body’s ability to warm extremities.

Apply sunscreen.

Harmful UVA and UVB rays can cause sunburn in any weather. Provide sunscreen for all employees to wear on exposed skin.

Promote safety this winter for your outdoor employees when you follow these tips. For more information on outdoor work safety, access OSHA’s winter weather resources.

Eight Steps To Prevent Slips And Falls In Your Workplace

By Workplace Safety
The majority of accidents in your workplace may stem from slips, trips and falls. In fact, slips, trips and falls cause one in four reported workplace injuries, 15 percent of workplace accidental deaths and 65 percent of lost work days.

Winter weather can cause particularly dangerous conditions, so utilize eight steps and protect your employees.

Understand Slip, Trip and Fall Hazards

In general, slips, trips and falls occur because of traction loss between shoes and the floor’s surface or when an employee accidentally comes in contact with an object. A variety of conditions could cause slips, trips and falls this winter, including:

  • Surfaces covered with ice, frost, snow, hail or wet leaves
  • Wet, greasy or freshly polished floors
  • Transitions between floor types
  • Sloped walking surfaces
  • Loose or missing flooring
  • Damaged or irregular steps
  • Missing or loose handrails
  • Wet, greasy or oily shoe soles
  • Clutter
  • Employee clumsiness or distractions
  • Collisions with furniture or other sharp edges

Eight Steps to a Safer Work Environment

Address challenges and create a safer work environment when you take eight steps.

1. Repair flooring and other surfaces.

Wrinkled carpeting, missing floor tiles or uneven sidewalks can prompt slips, trips and falls. Inspect your facility, list problem areas and make needed repairs.

2. Remove spills.

Wet surfaces cause slips and falls, so remove spills as soon as possible. Utilize wet floor signs as needed, too.

3. Utilize slip-proof flooring options.

Depending on your company’s operations, consider installing slip-proof flooring, mats or nonslip adhesive strips. These options prevent slips, absorb moisture or warn employees in areas where slips, trips and falls are likely to occur.

4. Attend to outdoor areas.

Parking lots, sidewalks and other outdoor areas may become slippery because of inclement weather conditions. Remove snow and ice promptly, and treat these areas to ensure they remain safe all day.

5. Clear clutter.

A clean workplace can decrease falls and trips. Remove unnecessary clutter, including boxes and cords, from walkways, hallways and other areas. Then assign one person or a team in each department to keep the workspaces neat and tidy.

6. Improve lighting.

Proper lighting throughout your workplace improves safety. Install adequate lighting in hallways, dock areas, stairways, ramps and entrances, and replace burnt-out bulbs or broken fixtures.

7. Wear proper shoes.

Non-slip shoes improve traction. Advise employees to wear proper shoes and keep the laces tied as they work.

8. Pay attention.

Ask your employees to stay alert and take their time as they walk. They should also report any potential hazards as they promote safety throughout your company.

Create a safe workplace environment when you take these eight steps. These steps prevent slips, trips and falls.

Planning a Company Outing? Reduce liabilities with some sound planning.

By Workplace Safety

First, decide whether an outside professional group will plan the event or an internal group within the company.  The external group has advantages regarding reducing liability, but budget is a factor.

Regardless of the above choice, areas of concern include:

•             Is attendance mandatory or voluntary?
•             Are family members or customers invited?
•             Alcohol policy
•             Transportation policy
•             Conduct code – professional or fun
•             Events construed as sexual harassment or hostile
•             Social media aftermath

Mandatory attendance will be construed as work.  The company will be subject to hourly wages, workers’ compensation claims, and a variety of regulatory issues.  Opt for voluntary whenever practical.

Will employee’s families attend?  This question is the double edged sword.  Families love inclusion and self-govern behavior.  The bad news is families self-govern behavior.  What process is in place for a wild or disruptive spouse?  How about inappropriate airing of the family laundry?  Is there bad blood between a spouse and a customer?

The obvious answer is prohibition.  No alcohol permitted.  Sometimes, alcohol can be very appropriate as long as measures are in place to curtail excess.  One rule of thumb is to only allow work-like demeanor or behavior.  Under this rule, alcohol would be banned.

Not so obvious, suppose a spouse, child or customer is an alcoholic?  In some states, marijuana is now legal.  Does the alcohol consumption open the door for the pot?  Strictly from a liability viewpoint, drugs and alcohol should be banned from any company function.

Transportation can be arranged for group activities away from the work campus, but use caution.  Just as with mandatory attendance, the risk of transporting employees brings in workers’ compensation issues.

All the rules of the workplace, including sexual harassment and bullying, apply to the fun outings.  Communicate this fact to all employees prior to the event.

Posting reports and pictures from the outing is good for morale, but screen the social media for embarrassing or inappropriate content.

Think through these issues and decide what sort of outing is appropriate for your company.  Create a set of behavioral standards based on the event.  For example, competitive sports or team building may get rowdier than a night at the opera.  Communicate those expected behaviors for employees and their families.

Properly managed employee expectations will relax the group and put some fun into the company function.

Safety Committees: Why the CEO should be a member

By Workplace Safety

Safety reflects the culture of the business.  Top leadership needs to take charge of the culture, to define it.

The best safety committees are chaired by a specified point person who reports outside of the committee to the CEO.

Why this arrangement?  The CEO does not dictate safety measures.

Some safety rules and regulations are government mandated. Consider simple compliance to be a minimum.

Manufacturers offer safe operating techniques for machinery and other products.

The personnel who operate the machines, maintain the machines, work in the field at construction sites, deliver supplies and raw materials, or otherwise labor know their jobs and often have good ideas for efficiency and safety.

Supervisors observe which safety equipment or protocols are ignored or too cumbersome.

The committee hears all these sides and determines the best course of action to proceed safely.

The CEO is present for leadership in the safety culture, not process management.  Once the safety protocols have been discussed and fixes determined, the CEO can approve costs and procedural changes.

The CEO listens first, then leads the implementation.

How Safety Committees Fail

The leading causes include:

•             Never forming them
•             Not taken seriously, lack of top down leadership
•             Lack of swift implementation
•             Lack of participation at all levels of employee
•             Lack of management follow through

Obviously, the first four of the five main reasons attribute to poor leadership.  The CEO is vital in this role.  The CEO must communicate that his number one job is getting everyone home safely.

Management must follow through on protocols.  Random drug testing, reviewing motor vehicle operators’ driving records, premises inspections of safety equipment, every safety protocol must be visible and public to reinforce the importance of compliance.

Safety meetings and safety committees are two different animals.  Safety meetings, the lunch box variety, reinforces safety procedures already in place.  They can, however, be used for line employees to offer suggestions for specific problems.  The employee representatives to the committee can relay those messages.

Safety committees evaluate and reevaluate the culture of safety.

If the CEO hears new safety procedures, implements them, as a member of the committee, the CEO will know if these new protocols are working at the line level of the organization.  Excellent leadership monitors the managers to assure this end result.

Driving Records: review them often

By Workplace Safety

Automobile accidents are the number one cause of liability claims in business.  Automobile related claims, especially drivers under the influence of alcohol and youthful operators, are the most devastating to families as well.

Every risk manager and fleet manager needs to check drivers’ records frequently.

Quarterly is not too frequent.

Sounds overly intrusive or expensive?  Consider that good driving records not only reflect good driving habits; they reflect vigilance in these habits.

Fleet managers must view on-time deliveries and vehicle upkeep as major issues.  Risk managers view safety and long-term costs as major metrics.

Quality driver management and the reinforcement of vigilant, excellent driving habits support both sets of goals.

Set driving record standards for moving violations and accidents.  Limit drivers to a maximum number of points or moving violations and at fault accidents.  Be sold on the idea of intolerance for lesser histories.

Assign some intervention tactic for any moving violation or accident, even not-at-fault.  The fleet manager or risk manager can debrief the driver on the circumstances and measures of avoidance which were missed.  From this conversation, training can be assigned.

Emphasize the importance of excellent habits and vigilant execution of these habits.

The more touchy subject is checking driving records for spouses or children of employees who may access the vehicle, with or without permission.

In closely held corporations or partnerships, do not hesitate to perform this task.  Driving while intoxicated and youthful drivers are the major devastating liability issues for families.  Healthcare bankruptcies are not liability claims for these purposes.

Do you want your choice of partner dependent on your current partners’ sixteen year-old child’s driving?  For closely held companies, this scenario is real.

The child speeds through a red light and badly injures several people.  The claim exceeds the family coverage.  Next in line – the business.  The debts may be paid by liquidating that partners share, the victims may become the new partners, or a forced sale of stocks may occur.

For a public company, shares of stock or a garnishment of wages may occur for a personal automobile claim; but the company car exposes all the company assets.

Banning family members or unauthorized usage is one answer, but teens will be teens.  Check the records, suggest interventions for family members too before bad habits lead to disaster.  And it’s always possible to restrict car use to business only with the car left on the business campus; or take away privileges completely to at-risk employees.