Daddy’s Home 2—fisticuffs in the workplace

November 28, 2017 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

While the holiday season can be a time of great joy and celebration, it also can be loaded with stress. Indeed, the pressures of preparing for the holiday and spending an inordinate amount of time in close quarters with friends and familyBusinessman trying to resist huge male fist and move it can bring long-simmering feuds and frustrations to the surface. This concept is handled with humor and heart in Daddy’s Home 2. Unfortunately, as the film illustrates, such private squabbles can sometimes spill over into public places including the workplace, which is yet another reason for employers to be well-versed on conflict resolution tactics and workplace violence issues.

The second film picks up where the first left offwith our characters navigating the sometimes tricky terrain of forming a modern, blended family. Brad and Dusty (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) seem to have figured out how to work together in their respective roles of stepfather and father to raise the kids they both love dearly. However, when Brad’s hyper-affectionate, beloved father (played by John Lithgow) and Dusty’s estranged, hyper-masculine and emotionally distant father (played by Mel Gibson) come to town to celebrate Christmas, it’s a recipe for jealousies and conflicts.

When severe winter weather leaves our characters stranded in a movie theater with countless others, the tensions come to a head with theater employees looking on as certain family members attempt to duke out their differences. While the scene makes for an amusing holiday spectacle on the big screen, it also illustrates how quickly tensions can escalate and  employers (particularly those regularly dealing with the public in their day-to-day operations) may find themselves dealing with the unexpected. Indeed, nearly two million Americans each year report having been victims of workplace violence. Here are five employer tips for dealing with workplace conflicts:

1. Establish policies and complaint procedures for dealing with conflicts between employees and those involving any members of the public who may come into the workplace.

2. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strongly recommends that employers establish a zero-tolerance policy regarding workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel. Employees should know the policy and understand that any workplace violence complaints will be investigated and remedied promptly.

3. Early intervention is key. Train employees on the policies and advise them to report potential issues to management and/or human resources early and before any conflicts have an opportunity to escalate.

4. Assess the workplace to identify methods for reducing the likelihood of an incident occurring, and establish a plan in the event that an emergency situation arises. Consider OSHA-recognized risk factors such as whether employees exchange money with the public, work with potentially unstable individuals, work alone or in isolated areas, work where alcohol is served, or work late at night or in high-crime areas.

5.  Establish a workplace violence prevention program. OSHA provides guidance on establishing such a program as well as various online training and other resources.

The bottom line is that employers have a duty to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards. It’s important to have the necessary policies and procedures in place to deal with potential emergencies, including workplace violence issues. With that said, we wish all of you a safe and joyous holiday season.

Stuntman’s death on ‘The Walking Dead’ set a sad reminder of common workplace hazards

July 18, 2017 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Tragically, stuntman John Bernecker died last week in Atlanta after falling 30 feet to a concrete floor while working on a fight scene for AMC’s zombie-apocalypse series “The Walking Dead.” In response, the show temporarily halted production of its eighth season, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation.  Safety Always

According to OSHA, more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured.  While all accidents cannot be avoided, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, every employer is responsible for the safety and health of its employees while on the job.

Last October, OSHA released its annual list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations, based on data compiled from nearly 32,000 workplace inspections:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

This list rarely changes from year to year, and OSHA contends that the number of workplace deaths and injuries would dramatically decline if employers focused on correcting these hazards.

The stuntman’s death on the set of “The Walking Dead,” which resulted from injuries associated with a fall, is believed to be the first stunt-related death reported in the United States in the last 17 years. Injuries from falls, however, especially in the construction industry, remain among the most common workplace hazards and continue to dominate OSHA’s list, with fall protection, scaffolds, and ladder issues among the top 10.

Of course, OSHA regulations are the bare-minimum standards employers must meet to be in compliance with the law, but employers should strive to go above and beyond the minimal requirements to ensure a safe workplace for their employees. Not only is it the right thing to do, but studies have shown that providing a safe workplace reduces costs, raises productivity, and improves morale, and that’s just good business.

For more information and OSHA’s recommendations for creating a safety and health program, go to www.osha.gov/shpguidelines. Finally, if your business is facing an OSHA investigation or needs advice about OSHA compliance, you should consult your employment counsel.

May you rest in peace, Mr. Bernecker.

Tesla’s CEO makes personal pledge for employee safety

Kristin Starnes Gray

Tesla, an electric-automobile manufacturer, made headlines last month after Worksafe, a California-based worker advocacy group, released a report indicating that the injury rates at Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing facility were higher than the industry aNissan Mechanicverage in 2014 and 2015. For example, the report indicated that the rate of serious injuries at Tesla’s Fremont plant (i.e., those resulting in days away from work, restricted duty, or transfer) was approximately double the industry rate for 2015. The report further questioned Tesla’s claim that injury rates had fallen between 2016 and 2017, with Worksafe arguing that the injury data Tesla had recorded at that time was too preliminary to be considered accurate.

In an effort to improve safety, Tesla has recently made a number of changes, such as: adding a third shift to reduce overtime and improve safety; hiring an ergonomics team to focus exclusively on improving health and safety and reducing ergonomic risks; and adding a safety team to each department. Most recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took the additional step of sending this e-mail to employees to demonstrate just how serious he is about employee safety:

No words can express how much I care about your safety and well-being. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.

Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better.  I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.

This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from a safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.

It will be interesting to see what comes from this personal pledge by Musk. In the meantime, all employers should be continually evaluating and reevaluating their safety efforts in the workplace. To drive home its mission of workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently lists on its website the names of workers across the country who have lost their lives on the job in various industries, along with the dates, locations by state, and manners of their deaths. According to OSHA’s figures, “[m]ore than 4,500 workers lose their lives on the job every year” across the country and across industries. Planning, training, and supervision are keys for prevention.

Tragedies on and off the silver screen: How to avoid costly workplace injuries

April 10, 2017 - by: Angela Cummings 0 COMMENTS
Angela Cummings

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the title of a science fiction horror film that was recently released worldwide. The horror that occurred behind the scenes in the making of the movie rivaled the fictional onscreen terror. First, the leading actress’ stuntwoman, Olivia Jackson, sustained life-threatening injuries, including cerebral trauma, a crushed face, a severed neWork Injury Claim Formck artery, a paralyzed arm that had to be amputated, spinal cord damage, and multiple broken bones, all from a motorcycle collision with a camera crane. Then, later in filming, another crew member, Richard Cornelius, was killed when one of the movie’s props, an Army Hummer, crushed him.

In addition to such stunt and crew film personnel, actors themselves often suffer serious workplace injuries while filming movies. For example, while filming “Syriana,” A-list actor George Clooney broke his spine during a stunt scene gone awry. His injury was so serious that he was bedridden for a month with severe migraines, during which time he also suffered from depression.

Like the Hollywood employees just mentioned, everyday workers also suffer workplace injuries. These injuries can prove costly to their employers in the form of workers’ compensation claims, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties, and loss of productivity and morale. Private employers reported approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA in 2015. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that approximately 4,500 employees suffer workplace injuries each year that result in their deaths. Such recorded workplace injuries and illnesses range in severity and include wounds, amputations, back injuries, as well as fatal accidents from crushing and falling.

Almost one-half of the recorded workplace injuries were serious enough to result in direct or indirect financial loss to the employer, including the injured employee missing a day or more from work, requiring a transfer to a different position, or needing to limit some duties of his or her position due to a doctor-imposed work restriction. In addition, these are just the reported injuries. It’s safe to say that many thousands more injuries are either not reported by the employee and/or the employer.

Let’s take a quick look at the most common workplace injuries reported by employers and some tips for how to limit exposure to such accidents and injuries:

Overexertion

This tends to be the most common–and costly–type of injury for employers, resulting in a high number of workers’ compensation claims. How can employers limit injuries related to physical exertion?

  • Be sure employees take a sufficient number of breaks, especially in jobs that require strenuous physical movement. Many workplace injuries occur when a worker is tired.
  • Schedule the most difficult and labor-intensive tasks for employees at the beginning of their shifts, when they are fresh and able to concentrate more with respect to proper technique and safety.
  • Also, be sure that the workers have sufficient training to do their job tasks using proper methods and that supervisory personnel provide adequate oversight.

Slipping/falling

Another common cause of workplace injuries is slipping/falling. Such accidents are often preventable. Injuries sustained by employees who slip or fall in the workplace can be minor, such as bruises, or major, such as death due to a head injury. Here’s how employers can limit injuries related to slipping/falling:

  • Clean up spills as soon as they occur. Also, employers should ensure that the washing and cleaning of floors and stairs is limited to low-occupancy times of the day and that the areas being cleaned are marked sufficiently to put the employees on alert.
  • Be sure that all guardrails are properly maintained and that no debris or slippery trash (think: banana peels) causes hazardous conditions.
  • Finally, you can limit accidents with respect to falling from heights (such as ladders, rooftops, and stairs) by ensuring that employees always use safety harnesses and are trained about specific processes related to working from heights.

Vehicle accidents

Some employees must drive motorized vehicles for a living (cars, buses, trucks, tractors, etc.). Driving a vehicle as part of one’s job creates inherent safety risks and exposes both employers and employees to costly accidents and injuries. OSHA reports that workplace-driving accidents cost employers an average of $60 billion per year. How can employers limit injuries related to vehicle accidents?

  • Ensure that all drivers have proper training and licensing.
  • Conduct inspections of company-owned vehicles at regular intervals and make necessary repairs immediately afterwards.
  • Also, mandate that the employees who operate such vehicles be drug- and alcohol-free. Obviously, when an employee operates a vehicle under the influence, it results in compromised coordination, judgment, and concentration.

Companies must take active steps to keep their workplaces safe for employees, customers, vendors, and, in some cases, the general public. You, as human resources professionals, should work with both managers and employees to implement safety programs and provide thorough and regular training. With such practices, your workplace is less likely to resemble a horror film.

Hurricane season brings unique employer issues

October 10, 2016 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, evacuation orders are lifting and recovery efforts are in their early stages. Employers are facing a number of storm-related issues as they prepare to resume normal operations. Here are just a few of the questions employers are asking.  Hurricane Season Sign With Stormy Background

1.  Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) require me to pay employees who miss work because of the weather?  It depends on whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt. If the business closes because of the weather, the FLSA requires employers to pay an exempt employee his or her regular salary for any shutdown that lasts less than a week. If the business remains open but an employee cannot get to work because of the weather, an employer can deduct an exempt employee’s salary for a full day’s absence. Employers generally aren’t required to pay nonexempt employees for any days that they don’t perform any actual work. However, this doesn’t apply to nonexempt employees who are paid on a fluctuating workweek basis.

2.  Am I required to pay an employee for on-call time? Under the FLSA, if the employer requires an employee to be on-call while the office is closed due to weather emergency and the employee cannot effectively use the time for his or her own purposes, the employer must pay the employee for the on-call time.  Employers are not required to pay employees who are at home and available to the employer but able to use the time for their own purposes. Check your state laws for any additional requirements.

3.  Are employees who are discharged as a result of the storm entitled to unemployment compensation? Employees who are out of work for reasons other than their own misconduct generally are entitled to unemployment compensation as long as they have met the state law requirements. In some states, an employer’s unemployment compensation account isn’t charged when an employee is discharged because of a natural disaster.

4.  Are workers’ compensation claims the exclusive remedy for employees who are injured at work due to conditions that resulted from a tropical storm or hurricane? Generally, employees who are injured during the course and scope of employment are limited to workers’ compensation claims and cannot sue the employer in court over the injuries. If, however, the injuries are the result of an employer’s deliberate or intentional conduct rather than an accident, the employee may have the ability to sue the employer in court. Employers should check their state laws.

Employers may be faced with a variety of employment-related issues during the hurricane season. As Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts continue, it’s important to keep in mind that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees.  Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with the response and recovery operations that workers are likely to conduct. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has some excellent resources available on its website to help employers make decisions to protect workers.

Workingjay

November 24, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Inspired by The Hunger Games trilogy, some employers may feel the urge to pile the employees onto a bus, head off site, and pit coworker against coworker in some form of physical competition under the guise of “team building.” Savvy employers are always looking for new and better ways to motivate the troops, solidify relationships, and build some esprit de corps. What better way than to take the workforce on a high-action field trip?

But they better be mindful of employment laws, particularly OSHA regulations, state tort law, and state workers’ compensation laws. shutterstock_196000976 In February 2009 OSHA published a letter of interpretation stating that employee injuries suffered at off-site teambuilding events are recordable in OSHA logs. The letter was requested after an employee was injured in a go-kart accident during an office retreat.

In 2012 the Supreme Court of Idaho held that an employee who was severely injured when he fell off a climbing wall at his employer’s off-site teambuilding event could not maintain a negligence action against the employer. The court relied heavily on a hold harmless agreement the employee signed before the activity.

In 2010 an Ohio appellate court ruled that an employee injured during a three-mile canoe trip was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The employee wasn’t actually injured while canoeing. Instead he was injured during a bout of horseplay when a few coworkers tried to pull him off an embankment and into the river. The court rejected the employer’s contention that the injury wasn’t work-related due to the unauthorized horseplay.

So before your enterprising HR department reaps the accounting department to go catch fire in Panem, keep these cases in mind. The more control the employer wields over the activity and the more the activity is required, the more exposed the employer could be to workers’ compensation and other liability.

The Abominable Boss Man

October 31, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In honor of Halloween, this post will address some of the many potential workplace issues in the Pixar film, Monsters, Inc.  If you’ve been living under a rock and have managed to not see this film (or its recent sequel), here’s a quick recap. A city called Monstropolis is inhabited by monsters and is powered by the screams of children in the human world. shutterstock_98138216At Monsters, Inc., employees (or “Scarers”) have the job of scaring human children and collecting their screams to power the city. The company, however, is facing a serious dilemma and potential energy crisis, as human children are become harder to frighten. Through a series of amusing misadventures, the top Scarer, Sulley, and his best friend, Mike, end up caring for a little girl they dub “Boo.”

In trying to return Boo safely to the human world, Mike and Sulley discover that one of the Scarers, Randall, plans to kidnap children (particularly Boo) and use a torture machine on company property to extract their screams. Randall tries to use the torture machine on Mike, but Sulley saves the day. Sulley reports Randall and his torture device to the company chairman, who responds by promptly exiling Mike and Sulley to the Himalayas. I won’t spoil the ending for the two or three of you who have not yet seen the movie.

Thankfully, in the human world, your boss can’t respond to a workplace complaint by  shipping you off to the Abominable Snowman (though this banished yeti happens to be much friendlier than expected). Indeed, a number of state and federal laws prohibit discrimination and retaliation against employees for reporting certain workplace issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is intended to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions . . . .” OSHA contains a nondiscrimination provision, which prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee filed a safety or health complaint or otherwise engaged in protected activity under the Act.

The monster equivalent of OSHA might have saved Mike and Sulley a trip to the Himalayas, but then it would have been a rather short movie. Plus, the Abominable Snowman would still be sorting mail at Monsters, Inc., rather than  serving up some delicious snow cones. Don’t worry–the yellow ones are lemon-flavored. Happy Halloween!

Beating the Heat

June 09, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

Last week, basketball royalty and media-superstar LeBron James was forced to make an early exit from Game 1 of the NBA Finals due to severe leg cramps. The King’s cramps were due in large part to the malfunctioning air-conditioning system at the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs. Combined with the Texas summer outside, the system failure caused indoor temperatures during the game to soar to as high as 90 degrees. The high temps wreaked havoc on LeBron, resulting in muscle spasms that forced him to the bench late in the fourth quarter. Without James, the Miami Heat (ironically) fared poorly in the sweltering conditions, losing the game 105-90.  TooHot

As we enter the summer, the King’s struggles with the rising temperatures indoors highlights a concern for many employers whose employees work outside or in extreme temperatures on a daily basis. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” Courts have interpreted OSHA’s general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. This includes heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.

OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard requires every employer in general industry to conduct a hazard assessment to determine the appropriate PPE to be used to protect employees from the hazards identified in the assessment. In addition to the general standard, OSHA has developed specific standards that apply to particular industries such as construction sites and shipyards. In addition, OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulations require that employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses. For example, if a worker requires medical treatment beyond first aid, the worker’s illness or injury must be recorded. However, if a worker merely requires first aid for the worker’s condition, the employer is not required to record the condition. In the context of a heat-related incident, OSHA requires generally that if a worker requires intravenous fluids, the worker’s condition must be recorded. (This would apply to the Miami Heat, as LeBron James was given several IV cramping treatments both during and after Game 1.) But if a worker is only instructed to drink fluids for relief of heat stress, the worker’s condition is not recordable. The regulations provide more specific guidance on the difference between medical treatment and first aid.

Luckily for Miami Heat fans, King James and company were able to bounce back and win Game 2 on Sunday night. The series now moves to Miami for games 3 and 4, where, given the relative age of the Spurs players, Coach Gregg Popovich may have a tough time keeping his team focused on the series instead of touring the local retirement communities.