Construction P&C Pro-File Newsletter – February 2017

New OSHA Beryllium Standards

On Jan. 9, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to amend its beryllium standards for the construction, shipyard and general industries.

The final rule will reduce the eight-hour, permissible beryllium exposure limit from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. It also establishes a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period.

The rule will require additional protections that include personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, and training.

The final rule becomes effective on March 21, 2017. Affected employers must provide newly required showers and changing rooms within two years after the effective date and implement new engineering controls within three years after the effective date.

OSHA estimates that the new rule will prevent 46 new cases of beryllium-related disease and save the lives of 94 workers annually.

Employers should become familiar with the new standards and evaluate their current workplace practices to ensure compliance with the final rule.

DOL Sues Contractor for Firing Safety Manager

According to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 28, 2016, a Tampa roofing contractor discriminated against its safety manager after he cooperated with an OSHA investigation. The Department of Labor (DOL) lawsuit was a result of an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

Under the program, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or government. The lawsuit seeks back wages, interest, and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Construction Workers at Highest Risk for WMSDs

According to a recent Occupational and Environmental Medicine report, U.S. construction workers are at a higher risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) than all other industries combined. The back is the primary body part affected, with overexertion named as the major cause of WMSDs.

Employers should adopt ergonomic solutions at construction sites, such as training employees on safe lifting practices, in order to reduce the number of WMSDs and prevent lost wages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Understanding the changes in rules for Crane Operators

Construction worker talking to crane operatorBack in the year 2010 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented a rule outlining new regulations for the certification of crane operators. The new regulations stemmed from a high rate of accidents and fatalities related to crane operation in the construction industry. Since the new OSHA standards were released much has transpired regarding some specifics of the rule and the impact on both employers and employees in the construction business. This article will explain the rule, the changes, and the implications for employers.

2010 OSHA Crane Operator Certification Standard: The Basics

OSHA released a final rule in 2010 regarding operator qualification and certification for Cranes and Derricks in construction.

The OSHA rule is quite lengthy but essentially these were the three main points for debate:

  1. It requires employers to ensure that crane operators are certified  by an approved entity before operating a crane
  2. It states that once an operator passes a certification course, they are “deemed qualified” to operate a crane thus replacing the employers duty to ensure that crane operators are competent and well trained
  3. It states that operator certifications are to be based on crane load capacity (multiple certifications would be required for each type of crane; 50 ton, 100 ton, 200 ton, etc.)

Initially, the rule passed down by OSHA would require all operators to be certified by November 2014.

The rule stems from a litany of accidents and fatalities in the industry surrounding the operation of cranes. Cranes pose a significant danger to employees and OSHA has estimated that 89 workers per year are killed in crane-related accidents.

Specifically, crane-related injuries and fatalities have been caused by:

  • Electrocution
  • Being crushed by the equipment
  • Being struck by the equipment or a load
  • Falls

 Rule Appeal and Certification Extension

Industry professionals universally recognize the need for improved training and certification processes regarding crane operation, but after the final rule from OSHA was released it was received with much criticism.

A coalition of experts and industry stakeholders called out OSHA on two main points:

  1. Although necessary, third party certifications alone were insufficient in guaranteeing operator safety and should not replace the employers’ duty to ensure that operators are trained and competent.
  2. Requiring multiple certifications based on the load rating of the crane did not provide any significant safety benefit and would cause an undue financial burden on both employers and employees.

In response to these concerns, OSHA has made changes to the rule. Specifically, they have done two things:

Issued an extension of compliance: The new deadline for employers to ensure that all crane operators are certified has been extended to November 10, 2017.

Revised the crane operator certification standards: OSHA has removed the mandate requiring multiple certifications based on load capacity, and they have reworded the text surrounding “deemed qualified” to put qualification responsibilities back on the employer.

OSHA didn’t quite get it right the first time, but they listened to the feedback from experts in the industry and made changes to make the rule better. Safety in the construction industry is paramount. This new rule regarding crane operation will save lives, cut down on injuries, and keep employees safer. For employers it will keep qualified operators on the job longer, reduce the amount of workers’ comp. claims, and lower operating costs. It’s a win all around.

At Sinclair, we are committed to helping you keep your team safe, reduce risks, and save money. Our construction specialists work with clients of all shapes and sizes and fully understand the diversity of the industry. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for your operation.

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto Head Shot

Home Healthcare Safety Hazards That May Leave You Liable

Home Healthcare Safety Hazards That May Leave You LiableHome healthcare workers are an essential component of the healthcare industry. They provide essential long-term service to patients who are unable to care for themselves.

However, the healthcare worker and his/her employer have little control over the working environment, which means the following safety hazards are quite common.

1. Patient handling and lifting – This is one of the leading causes of home healthcare worker injuries. Care providers routinely lift and transfer patients and perform repetitive tasks. Managers should carefully train staff in proper lifting techniques and encourage them to never lift beyond their means. Assistive devices (draw sheet, rollers, mechanical hoists, slide boards, etc.) are the most effective ways to ensure care providers aren’t injuring themselves. Insist these devices are used whenever necessary.    

2. Infection, blood borne pathogen and disease – While home healthcare workers are trained to carefully use and dispose of all medical equipment, patients and their families may not be so responsible. The care provider may come in contact with improperly stored or maintained medical equipment (including needles) that pose a risk of infection or disease transference. Furthermore, proper disposal may not even be possible in the home.

3. The patients’ environments – Falls and slips are one of the most common causes of injury to home healthcare workers. Each environment is new and many are unmaintained due to the patient’s challenged health. Managers should train home healthcare workers to be mindful of dangers and avoid potential hazards. If an environment is truly unsafe, it must be remedied before care can be provided.

4. Documentation – Thorough and accurate documentation is an extremely important part of healthcare. Paperwork errors are common among home healthcare workers who spend time in environment that don’t lend themselves to administrative tasks. Care providers should ensure they take the time to diligently complete their records and follow documented processes so they can defend their care if necessary.

5. Animals and pets – Interacting with animals is a common part of home healthcare work. There is always the risk of bites, scratches, and allergic reactions. Even the most placid pet may feel threatened with a stranger in his territory. Healthcare providers should avoid contact with pets entirely until they have developed a relationship with the pets.

6. Unsanitary conditions – It’s not uncommon for patients with serious health challenges to live in unsanitary environments. Healthcare workers may come in contact with termites, scabies, rodents, bedbugs, and other unsanitary elements that containment medical equipment and supplies. Employers should train healthcare workers on how to avoid unsanitary conditions and, if necessary, recognize if an environment is acceptable for working. Agencies should consider having a process in place to connect patients with resources that could help them change their conditions to ensure health care workers can continue helping the patient(s).

7. Transportation – Naturally, home healthcare workers spend considerable time on the road exposed to all of the hazards one would expect. Employers need clear policies that outline safety guidelines (wear seat belts, no electronic devices, etc.) and administer driving safety training.

To begin building your organization’s safety policy for home healthcare workers, I encourage you to browse through OSHA’s resources, or give me a call to discuss some of Sinclair’s Risk Management resources.  With proper training and documentation, you can protect your organization from serious liability.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Home Healthcare Safety Hazards That May Leave You Liable

Planning for Construction Risk

Planning for Construction RiskThe construction industry is flourishing, with outlooks like the Wells Fargo 2016 Construction Industry Forecast’s Optimism Quotient predicting that local construction, profits, equipment purchases and rentals and overall future growth will be strong this year.  Add to this that warmer weather means the busy construction season is here and it’s a great time to be in the industry, whether you’re an independent contractor or you own a large building construction firm.

However, as you take on more work, you also need to make sure that your risk exposure and insurance coverage is keeping up.  For example, you may hire more workers or rent more equipment to keep pace with your workload, which opens you up to more potential issues, like safety and liability. What if a new worker is injured using construction equipment, the materials you purchased for a huge job are stolen or a homeowner sues you because they feel there was design error in a job you performed for them?

Make sure you are protected against potential pitfalls with these three tips:

1)     Appropriately Assign Risk - Quite simply, think through anything that could go wrong in a project, plan for it and assign the risk to the person who would be most capable of handling and controlling it.  For example, a contractor can best control the safety of the workers on a job site while the homeowner would probably be the best choice for any project design risks since they’re most likely working with the architect and designers.  By spelling out risk responsibility in the contract before the project even begins, everyone is clear in advance about who is responsible for what risk.

2)     Make Sure You’re Covered - Once you know what your role and area of responsibility is, work with a trusted risk and financial management firm that has expertise in the construction industry and will take the time to sit down, understand your unique challenges and customize a program for you.  From Errors and Omissions coverage to Workers’ Compensation to OSHA concerns, ensure you’re aware of and protected from any of the risks associated with your projects.

3)     C.Y.A. – Cover your assets by making sure you closely examine all contracts for consistency and that you also have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney review all contracts.  Also – don’t rely on a cursory review of a certificate of insurance to prove that the parties you’re working with on a project are compliant with insurance requirements.  Beyond requiring a certificate of insurance proving proper insurance coverage in the contract, consider requiring that the full policies be included to provide evidence of adequate coverage.

With the right planning, risk management and insurance coverage, you can enjoy the benefits of the construction boom without the headaches.  At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we take the time to understand your company and individual situation and work with you to help you minimize your risks.  Give us a call today!

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

In 2016 OSHA fines may be going up, way up

Buried in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 is a provision that would bring a startling increase to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) fines. Unchanged since 1990 and not indexed to inflation, OSHA fines are set to jump nearly 80% next year, with increases indexed to inflation after 2016.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 tied the increase of many fines to the rate of inflation but specifically exempted OSHA fines.

Now those fines will rise with inflation going forward, but the real kicker is the “catch up adjustment” provided for in the Bipartisan Budget Act. That “catch up” requires OSHA to adjust its fines by the rate of inflation since the last increase in 1990. What cost $1 in 1990 would cost roughly $1.78 today, a 78% increase. OSHA fines for willful violations, for example, which currently max out at $70,000, would rise to $124,600, below a 150% cap the Act provides for, but still a huge leap.

The Act requires the adjustment to occur before Aug. 1. There’s one potential saving grace caveat: The head of OSHA may propose a lower fee if he determines it will have a “negative economic impact” and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget concurs.

Don’t hold your breath.  In 2016 OSHA fines may be going up, way up

At the end of next year, and subsequent years, the Federal Office of Management and Budget will give guidance on further fee adjustments tied to inflation.

With the authority to enforce safe workplace standards in all industries, OSHA, an arm of the federal Department of Labor, can cause particularly acute headaches for manufacturing and construction businesses.

When it comes to avoiding OSHA fines — indexed to inflation or not — the best offense is a good defense. Are you following best safety practices in your workplace? Are you prepared for an OSHA “pop-in”? Check out our blog on that topic and call us for further assistance.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

 

Are you prepared for an OSHA ‘pop-in’?

Dave Sinclair*ring ring ring*

You’re not expecting anyone, but someone’s at the door…it’s your Aunt Elaine, famously resistant to getting a cell phone, who was in the neighborhood and thought she’d take a chance you might be home and drop by.

Aunt Elaine may be great, but let’s face it, nobody loves a pop-in. While we tolerate the occasional boundary-crossing friend or relative with good humor, pop-ins from government officials on official business can be truly unpleasant.

Think IRS field audit, or unexpected OSHA inspection.

Many business owners, especially in the manufacturing or construction industries, dread a visit from OSHA. But if you follow the Boy Scout model and be prepared, an OSHA pop-in should produce less anxiety than one from Aunt Elaine.

A division of the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was born in 1970 via federal legislation that guarantees the right to have a safe workplace. This is not a bad thing. The law requires employers to provide a workplace free of known dangers.  

With millions of workplaces in the United States and just a comparative handful of OSHA compliance officials doing about 100,000 inspections annually, the chances of a random visit are pretty unlikely, but most come about because of whistleblower workers, who can confidentially file complaints.

How do you avoid that? Simple. Keep it Safe.

Easy, right?

Not exactly.

Operator error, failing parts, accidents — a number of factors can contribute to a situation that eventually prompts an OSHA visit. Having a plan in place will make the process significantly less difficult.

1. Identify the primary point of contact for OSHA: you as the business owner, shop foreman, COO, whatever makes sense for you situation. Have a backup person identified OSHAin case you or your primary point of contact is not on site the day of the visit.

2. Be sure the visitor is indeed from OSHA and not an impostor.

3. Have your safety documentation and records in order and easily accessible. If you appear disorganized or flustered, it will raise suspicions.

4. Smile and be polite. A good attitude is likely to be returned.

This excellent article goes into more detail about what to expect during an OSHA visit.

Keep in mind that your responsibility goes beyond keeping the workplace safe. OSHA also requires employers to:

• Inform employees about hazards.
• Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• Perform tests such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
• Provide medical tests required by OSHA standards.
• Prominently post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and an OSHA poster.
• Notify OSHA of all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, serious injuries within 24 hours.
• Not discriminate or retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law.

Find out more about that in my blog here.

Unsure about your OSHA preparation level? My team at Sinclair lives and breathes risk management and can help you handle a pop-in, maybe not from Aunt Elaine, but definitely from OSHA.

Dave Sinclair

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

dave@srfm.com

Employers: Safety is your responsibility (but we can help!)

Dave SinclairA billion dollars…right out the window.

That’s what American businesses spend each week on worker’s compensation claims.

If that isn’t enough to give you pause, that figure represents only the direct costs of medical and legal payments. Indirect costs of training replacement employees, conducting accident investigations, hiring crisis management PR experts, repairing equipment, lost productivity, and low staff morale easily double the pain.

Want a real-world estimate of a threat facing your workplace? This cost estimator provided by OSHA will put the fear of the safety gods into you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Avoiding crippling worker’s compensation claims begins with developing a workplace safety program, reinforced by ongoing training and hands-on management.

Getting started — Developing a comprehensive safety program can seem daunting, but work accidentSinclair Risk & Financial Management can help. We want to reduce your worker’s compensation costs not by just getting you the most affordable premiums, but by making sure accidents are rare or nonexistent in your shop.

Training — Too often we see operator error leading to significant injuries. The machines are working just fine, but employees were not properly educated on how to use them safely. We provide a comprehensive analysis of your operations and identify areas where training needs to occur or be reinforced. 

Make it worthwhile — Safety is your responsibility, but you need buy-in from all staffers. Consider a program that rewards everyone in the workplace for keeping it safe. Six months accident free? Everyone gets an extra day off, or a gift card, or a lunch…there are numerous low-cost incentives that will keep your staff focused on the goal.

Identify trouble areas (and trouble employees) — It’s bad enough if an employee sustains an injury once…but twice? Same goes for a piece of equipment. Anytime there’s a repeat claim associated with an employee or particular piece of equipment, you need to laser in, figure out the reason, and correct the problem. As part of our ongoing commitment to safety in your workplace, we can help with these sensitive audits.

Safety is your responsibility, and operating a safe shop is the only smart way to do business. The Sinclair Risk team includes experts at helping business owners implement a safe workplace and keeping it safe through training and follow-up. Take the scare out of safety and talk to us today.

Dave Sinclair

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management
dave@srfm.com

Contractors – Hiring summer help? Follow these safety tips

Jonathan-BelekChances are you remember your first summer job. Maybe you delivered newspapers or hauled bales of hay on the farm. Looking back, the experience and skills you gained on the job was invaluable. And the money you earned helped pay for college or to buy a new stereo.

Each year, about 6 million young people swell America’s workforce by taking summer jobs. It seems like a win-win situation for everyone involved. But hiring young workers can be risky for your company if they aren’t properly trained.

It’s a proven fact that new employees are more likely to be injured on the job than seasoned workers.  The statistics rise dramatically for younger workers. According the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 335 young workers died in job-related injuries in 2013.Construction Worker

If you are hiring young workers this summer follow these safety tips from OSHA to reduce work-related injuries.

  • Communicate with your young employees. Giving them clear instructions for every task they are responsible for will cut potential injuries. Encourage them to ask questions. When new employees, especially teenagers, understand why they’re being asked to do something, they’re more apt to comply.
  • Make sure equipment operated by young workers is safe and legal to run. Let them know what equipment they are not allowed to use. Young workers should never work alone.
  • Train young workers to recognize job hazards and to know what to do if they get hurt on the job. They also should know how to report an injury, or spot a hazard.
  • Provide young workers with personal protective equipment required for your industry such as steel-toed shoes and hard hats.

For more information on hiring young workers visit OSHA’s teen worker website by clicking here or give me a call – that’s what I’m here for!  203-265-0996

Make it a safe and happy summer for your company and for your young workers.

At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, managing risk is in our DNA.

Jonathan Belek

jbelek@srfm.com

Construction Risk Management Consultant