Wednesday, 27 February 2019

OSHA is a Champion for Temporary Worker Safety

More than three million.

According to the 
American Staffing Association (ASA), that’s how many temporary and contract employees clock in during an average workweek.

Helping keep the economy rolling, the staffing and recruiting industry provides job and career opportunities for more than 15 million U.S. employees each year, per the ASA. No matter the industry or assignment, businesses employing temporary workers have an obligation to keep them safe.

The agency responsible for making sure the job’s done right is the 
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2018, OSHA sharpened its focus on the safety of temporary personnel with the release of its guidance on lockout/tagout training requirements for temporary workers. It’s one of three documents specific to this class of employees that OSHA released last year.
Working Hard to Keep Employees Safe
Since its creation in 1970, OSHA has had a clearly defined mission: to ensure that every working man and woman in the nation is employed under safe and healthful working conditions. In OSHA’s eyes, temporary employees are entitled to the same protections as all other covered workers.

“OSHA has for a while recognized the potential that these temporary workers are possibly falling through cracks from a safety training standpoint,” explains Jeff Corder, vice president of loss control at AmTrust North America, a multinational property and casualty insurer that writes coverage for staffing agencies.

To help keep temporary employees out of harm’s way, OSHA launched the Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) in 2013. The agency continues to be an active advocate for temporary worker safety, paying close attention to the risks these employees face when introduced to unfamiliar environments. A list of the TWI bulletins issued to date can be found 
Temporary Workers Have a Higher Risk of Injury
When it comes to temporary employees and their safety, OSHA has several concerns. The first being that host employers could be using temporary workers as a way to get around compliance obligations and other worker safety laws. Other key concerns include:
  • Temporary employees are more vulnerable to accidents because of their limited time on the job. 
  • Not all temporary workers receive the training needed to perform their jobs safely; additionally, these employees may not have a thorough understanding of their duties.
  • Temporary team members are more likely to be retaliated against by the host employer for reporting a health or safety violation – or engaging in another type of whistleblowing.
Compliance Takes Collaboration
While their business objectives may differ, staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a healthy and safe work environment for temporary employees. To ensure their well-being, OSHA recommends that agencies and employers do the following:

Perform your due diligence

Staffing agencies have a duty to investigate the conditions of each client’s workplace before initiating an employee’s placement. Additionally, the staffing agency should follow up with every host employer to verify that the company is fulfilling its responsibilities as a safe employer. On the employer side, companies working with staffing agencies need to verify that any contracts accurately reflect which party is responsible for compliance with various OSHA guidelines.

Understand and anticipate potential risks

While staffing agencies aren’t expected to become experts on specific workplace hazards, they need to determine what hazards exist and how best to protect temporary workers before they start an assignment. Keeping employee safety top of mind, the host employer must implement and enforce a workplace safety program, and continually assess its environment for potential hazards. A collection of recommended practices for safeguarding temporary workers is available in this
 free PDF.

Have ongoing communication

Consistent dialogue between the staffing agency and the host employer is the only way to ensure that temporary employees receive all the safety protections they deserve.

Treat temporary workers like any other employee

Every employee, regardless of employment status, is worthy of the same level of respect and training, especially when it comes to health and safety procedures.
Two agencies, one goal
OSHA isn’t the only agency that looks out for the wellbeing of temporary workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. The agency’s website hosts an array of resources linked to workplace safety and health, from accident prevention videos to health hazard evaluations.
AmTrust is all in on workplace safety
A safe and successful workplace starts with having the right resources and safeguards in place. Comprised of risk management specialists, AmTrust’s Loss Control Team is dedicated to helping businesses like yours create a loss prevention program that addresses the specific risks of your operation. As an AmTrust policyholder, you’ll have access to a series of industry-specific training videos along with a host of other risk management solutions. 

Even when workplace safety is a priority, accidents can happen. As one of the nation’s largest 
workers’ compensation insurance providers, AmTrust provides coverage designed to protect your business and your employees in the event of a workplace illness or injury.

Every employee has a right to work in a healthy and safe environment. Working closely with staffing agencies, businesses big and small must be diligent about protecting their employees, including temporary workers.

For answers to frequently asked questions about workplace safety and a list of links to related resources, visit 
OSHA’s Employer Section. 

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Importance of Motor Vehicle Records Checks

Sometimes, when asked about checking Motor Vehicle Reports (MVRs) on their drivers, small and medium business owners will ask, “Why? I’m not a trucking or a bus company – I don’t really even hire any drivers, I hire plumbers (or carpenters, or sales people, etc.), I don’t have a fleet of big vehicles and professional drivers.”

In contrast to full-time, professional truck and bus drivers, whose primary job is driving, driving duties for plumbers, carpenters, consultants, sales people and many other workers are considered incidental to their primary jobs. In other words, driving is a necessary part of the job, but not the fundamental job. Accordingly, these drivers are called incidental drivers. 

While it’s true that many occupations’ driving requirements do not involve the all-day, every-day driving exposure faced by professional drivers, incidental drivers do face the same road hazards and dangers as the pros. And the fundamental safety controls are pretty much the same. 
Federal Law 49 CFR 391.25 and 391.27 state that regulated motor carriers (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations-operations of big trucks and busses) should check their drivers’ MVRs at the time of hire and review MVRs on an annual basis, among other requirements. Do they know something that can be useful to the small incidental fleet (“fleet,” for small business purposes, means one or more vehicles) operator?

The Benefits of MVR Screening
Fundamentally, MVRs are a tool to help ensure that a business puts only qualified, safe drivers into its vehicles. Or, equally important, the organization only permits safe drivers to use their own vehicles on company business. It is a well-established law that while an employee is conducting company business in their own personal vehicle, in the event of a mishap the company’s workers’ compensation and potentially other liabilities can come into play, adversely affecting the business.

An MVR provides information not always found in a standard employment screening test, like a criminal background check. The type of information you can expect to learn from an MVR includes:
  • Personal information – name, address, date of birth, appearance
  • Driver’s license details, including the number, type, class and restrictions, status (whether it’s valid, suspended, revoked or cancelled), endorsements
  • Details about prior convictions, including DUIs and DWIs
  • Driving records points
  • Accident reports, traffic violations and vehicular crimes
A few reasons small business owners should conduct annual MVR screening include:

MVRs are predictive – they are “crystal balls.”

MVRs provide information not only regarding an employee’s future driving habits, but also how he or she will drive while on company business. Some believe that how a driver acts in his/her personal vehicle has no bearing on how they’ll behave in a company vehicle, but a driver engaging in risky behavior in their own vehicle faces traffic violations, potentially becoming involved in preventable accidents, increased insurance costs and other personal consequences. With this motivation, does it seem likely that a driver would be any more careful with someone else’s (your business’s) vehicle? Or that someone would successfully be able to shift between multiple sets of driving habits and attitudes?

MVRs are the tip of the iceberg.

Most drivers will admit they have committed at least a small violation without being caught. Various studies have tried to establish ratios of how many violations are typically committed before being observed by a police officer and cited. For instance, one such study suggests that the average offender has driven drunk at least 80 times before being caught.1 So the violations, citations and accidents that appear on MVRs are just the tip of the iceberg, and to some extent, can reasonably be considered part of a wider pattern of adverse behaviors behind the wheel. Often when confronted, the driver may claim “but it was the first time I ever went through a stop sign!” and while this may be true, our own experiences and studies show it’s not likely the case.

“But we’re such a small company, I know all my people well. I’d know if they had an accident or got a ticket.”

Yes, you would know if an employee crashed or caused physical damage to a company vehicle, but what about violations? You may think you’d know about those, too, but try the family test—can you honestly say you know about the violations, tickets and even minor accidents your adult family members have at any given time? Most adult children cannot answer this question about their own parents, let alone about their siblings. And if you don’t know this information regarding your own family members, who have no real motivation to hide adverse driving information from you, could you expect that potentially adverse information—that could cost someone their job—to come to light through “the grapevine?”

MVRs can help verify drivers’ licenses and applicants’ claims about driving history.

Fake drivers’ licenses are not hard to come by and when a good-paying job is at stake, there could be motivation for an applicant to resort to dishonesty to obtain or retain a job. Discrepancies between what is claimed and what an MVR says, or an MVR that comes back with a “no license found” notation can be a starting point for an employer to clarify the situation and get to the facts.

MVRs should be checked before allowing any employee to drive on company business.

Some business owners may depend on their insurance company or insurance agent to check driver MVRs. The problem with this is twofold: One, some insurance companies only do spot checks on random drivers, and not necessarily every year. Secondly, if you allow a new employee to drive on company business, and then later—in some cases, much later—learn from the agent or the insurance company that this driver has an unacceptable driving record, it becomes a much bigger problem for you at this point. Or worse—it’s possible you won’t find out you’ve put a problem driver on the road until an accident occurs! Often, the need for a replacement driver comes up suddenly, so when possible it is recommended that alternate fill-in drivers be pre-qualified via MVR checks and other tools. This way you can ensure they’ll be ready to go when and if needed, thus eliminating the need for “panic” driver hiring/assignment.

Life circumstances change, so MVRs should be checked at least annually.

Any number of life events such as death of loved ones, divorce, illness and others can result in drinking or drug abuse, or other problems that cause undesirable driving behaviors that are reflected in MVRs. In some cases, a driver may be able to successfully hide these behaviors from the employer. Gaining this information through annual MVR reviews before a bad accident or other incident occurs is a major benefit of a strong MVR review program.

Negligent entrustment.

If you are guilty of negligent entrustment, this means that you entrusted (gave, or allowed someone to use) something potentially dangerous to a user who caused injury to a third party due to incompetence. In other words, if you permit someone to drive on company business without determining that the driver is competent and capable behind the wheel, you can be charged with negligent entrustment. MVRs are recognized as an effective tool for use in determining driver competence and safety, so failure to use MVRs to ensure your company drivers are competent and capable can be considered negligence on your part. If a court finds negligent entrustment this can potentially increase the losses incurred from a traffic mishap. Conversely, in the event a serious accident occurs despite your best efforts, being able to demonstrate that MVRs are a central part of your driver qualification and annual review process can create a strong defense against accusations of negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.

Loss Control from AmTrust Financial
AmTrust’s Loss Control Department provides a variety of resources to help you identify the specific hazards small and medium sized businesses face. We are dedicated to providing the right recommendations and resources necessary to create the most effective loss prevention program for your specific needs. Please contact us today to learn more.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Retail Safety Tips for the Holidays

It might seem hard to believe, but the holiday shopping season is officially upon us. Across the country, retail stores are gearing up for this extremely busy time of year. For the 2018 holiday season, some forecasters say there will be a 5 to 5.6 percent increase in sales over the 2017 shopping season, including a projected 17 to 22 percent increase in e-commerce sales. Price Waterhouse Cooper predicts that consumers will spend over $1,250 during the holiday season, while the National Retail Federation is a bit more conservative, saying consumers will spend right around $1,000 this holiday season, an increase of 4.1 percent over 2017.

No matter the exact number, it is looking to be a very busy holiday season for retailers. With the predicted increase in sales, retail teams at brick-and-mortar locations must start preparing their stores now for additional traffic. Part of that preparation is to make sure the store is safe for both employees and customers.

Holiday Safety Tips for Retail Locations

Increased in-store traffic means more possibilities for individuals getting injured as they browse items or stock shelves during the busy holiday season. Stores should minimize any potential hazards to help reduce the risks for costly injuries, illnesses and potential losses.

Employees should be trained on keeping the store floor as clear as possible as boxes, merchandise and ladders can become hazards. New and inexperienced employees are at highest risk of injury. Make sure training programs are rigorous and fully indoctrinate all new workers. Assign a qualified, experienced mentor to each new hire so they can be shown the right way to do things and they have a person they can readily go to if they have questions or face a task or hazard they are unsure about.

Other tips to help keep a store safe this holiday season include:
  • Don’t block fire extinguishers: Make sure there is a clear path to fire extinguishers. Also, boxes or decorations should not block ceiling sprinklers.
  • Keep emergency exits clear: Emergency exits must always be clear of boxes, furniture or other stored items.
  • Indicate when floors are wet: Use wet floor signs to help prevent slips and falls on a slick floor. Make sure the hazard is properly cleaned up per spill clean-up policies. This is especially important during snowy months when customers are tracking snow into the store.
  • Use ladders properly: Falls from portable ladders are a major source of injury in the workplace. In fact, according to the American Ladder Institute, over 300 people die each year in ladder-related accidents, while thousands of others suffer disabling injuries. Train your staff on how to use ladders in the right way, from carrying them throughout the store, placing them in clear spaces, correct climbing tips and the correct storage procedure.
  • Follow lifting safety procedures: Back injuries can occur when you do not lift boxes and heavy items in the correct way. Employees should learn how to properly lift heavy objects to help avoid injuries and back strain, which could result in a workers’ compensation claim. Establish weight and size limits for merchandise that trigger a mandatory two-person lift. Make sure carts and dollies are used to their potential.
  • Set merchandise racks correctly: Merchandise racks should be spaced according to federal and state rules. Also, do not leave empty merchandise stands on the sales floor where customers can easily trip or walk into them causing injury.
  • Prevent employee theft: Employee theft increases during the holiday season. Retails stores can help deter employee theft by having the proper on boarding procedures, performing background checks on employees, conducting loss prevention training, have working security cameras and enforcing company loss prevention protocols.

Outdoors Safety Tips for Retail

Just as the inside of a store needs to be safe for employees and customers, the outside of the store needs to be prepared and ready for high traffic and the possibility of inclement winter weather. Parking lots, entryways, sidewalks and walkways must be clear of snow and ice at all times, especially during business hours. Additionally, remember that snow piles, while also dangerous, can prevent customers from coming into your store. Businesses should have de-icing products like salt on hand to remove ice or snow. Clearing snow and ice outside will help prevent some of the slips and falls that lead to injuries for both your customers and your valued employees.

Loss Control and Commercial Property Protection at AmTrust

Safety, especially during the hectic holiday shopping season, starts with knowledge. Having the right safety resources and commercial property protection are keys to a successful holiday season. AmTrust’s Loss Control Department can give you the individual attention you deserve, identifying specific hazards and offering solutions that fit your operation. We are dedicated to providing the right recommendations and resources necessary to create an effective loss prevention program for your store. Please contact us to learn more.

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