New OSHA Confined Space Standard for the Construction Industry
By: Gary W. Auman

Construction Confined Space Standard – This standard has been in the works for several years. The standard was finally published as a final rule on May 4, 2015 with an effective date of August 3, 2015. Recently OSHA issued a stay of enforcement until October 2, 2015. During this period OSHA will not issue citations to employers making a good faith effort to comply with the new standard as long as the employer is in compliance with the training requirements for a competent person under Section 1926.21(b)(6)(i) or those found in Section 1926.1207. During this 60-day period employers not in compliance with either of these standards may be cited for a violation os Section 1926.1207(a). While this rule is being touted as very similar to the General Industry Confined Space Standard, it does contain some nuances that are unique to it and to the construction industry.
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Wondering if your well water is safe?  A good first step is to have your water tested at a certified lab, but lab test results are not always easy to interpret.  To help with the interpretation, OSU Extension has created a website to help drinking water well owners test, understand and protect their well water.
Well water interpretation tool: http://ohiowatersheds.osu.edu/well-educated-ohio


OSHA Takes a Stand on Texting While Driving  
By: Gary Auman of Dunlevey, Mahan & Furry

I have spent quite a bit of time over the past several months talking about heat stress and the General Duty Clause. What does that have to do with texting while driving – four words – The General Duty Clause. Most employers get so caught up in worrying about compliance with specific safety standards that they sometimes lose sight of the fact that they are responsible for providing their employees a place of employment free of all hazards. Yes, I know the General Duty Clause say “recognized” hazards; but let’s be realistic. If there is an obvious hazard in the workplace to which your employees are exposed, you are going to have a hard time convincing OSHA that you did not consider it a hazard. This is especially true in the case of something that has been in the forefront of the news as much as texting while driving.

OSHA has stated that it will consider an employer to be exposing its employees to a recognized hazard concerning texting while driving if the employer:

  1. Requires workers to text while driving.

  2. Creates incentives that encourage or condone texting while driving and/or

  3. Structures the work so that texting while driving is a practical necessity.

Right now you are saying to yourself, I am fine because I don’t do any one of those three things. You might be right, but are you? How much do you know about how your managers incentivize those who work for them to work above their potential with positive or negative incentives? Perhaps not every day, but are there any days when the only way to get all the work done is to communicate while traveling? Unless you are absolutely sure that you can answer these questions correctively you are at risk. Even if you feel that you can, what would your employees say to an OSHA compliance officer during a confidential interview?

OSHA expects you to have distracted driving policy as part of your safety program and to train you employees with regards to distracted driving. Your distracted driving program should have five components:

  1. You should prohibit texting while driving.

  2. You should establish work procedures and rules that do not make it necessary for workers to text while driving in order to carry out their duties.

  3. You should set up CLEAR procedures, times and places for drivers’ safe use of texting and other technologies for communicating with managers, customers, and others.

  4. You should incorporate sage communications practices into worker orientation and training.

  5. You should eliminate financial and other incentive systems that encourage workers to text while driving.

OSHA has announced that it is prepared to act quickly when it receives a credible complaint that employees are required to text while driving, either directly or indirectly. If the OSHA investigation bears out the complaint a citation will be issued, and I would expect that such a citation would be serious. In addition I fully expect compliance officers to review contractor safety programs to determine if the program contains material and training on distracted driving. The absence of such material may well result in serious citations.

This should not be too difficult a program to institute. But, be sure you do more that add a page or two to your safety program. Be sure to do the training and also be sure that you enforce the rules you establish. Finally, this program should not stop a texting while driving. Your program on “Distracted Driving” should cover anything else an employee might feel inclined to do while they are behind the wheel on company business

Workers’ Compensation Claims
Strategies for Optimal Outcomes
By: Ron Lucki, CareWorks Director of Business Development 

By utilizing workers’ compensation best practices employers can achieve a higher level of control over their workplace injuries, which can result in reduced severity and claim costs and better outcomes.Early Reporting & Transitional WorkEarly claim reporting is a crucial first step in controlling costs.  Numerous national studies have shown the longer it takes for a claim to reported, the costlier the claim.  That’s why it’s important to work with an Ohio Managed Care Organization (MCO) that has efficient options for reporting new workers’ compensation claims. 

These can include fax, telephone, online or email reporting. A second key step is developing a plan to bring injured workers back to work by offering transitional duties.  A Transitional Work Program enables injured employees to perform valuable work during their recovery as opposed to staying home from work.There are four benefits to an effective Transitional Work Program.

  1. Employees remain active and productive during their recovery, helping prevent loss of physical fitness and muscle tone due to inactivity.
  2. Employees can earn full or partial wages during the transitional period, bringing income closer to pre-injury wages and helping alleviate concerns about continued employment.
  3. Getting employees back to their day-to-day routine helps them experience less disruption to their life and provides contact and support from co-workers and friends.
  4. Having an experienced staff member back in the workforce can help employers avoid expenses associated with hiring and training new employees.  

These advantages are in defense of the widely accepted philosophy that the longer an injured worker is off work, the harder it is for them to return. Injured Worker Recovery Should I let injured employees stay home to recover?  Today, the strategy of having employees only work when fully recovered can be considered a non-progressive approach. 

National studies report that work is generally good for health and well-being.  While employers often focus primarily on physical recovery, the time an injured employee spends away from their career and peers can be just as traumatic as the injury itself.  

Often times an injured employee may be limited in what tasks they can perform when they first return to their job based on work restrictions prescribed by their healthcare provider.  Yet, today’s occupational health providers are more receptive to working with employers and focusing on an injured employee’s abilities as opposed to their disabilities.  They share the same goal of returning an injured employee to productivity as soon as medically possible because of the positive impact work can have on achieving a healthy long-term recovery. 

Don’t Have Time/Budget for Early Return to Work? The truth is many employers don’t have the time or the budget to afford even just one lost time claim.  Transitional and alternative duty programs are designed to give employers the tools they need to eliminate the occurrence of costly lost time claims. 

Implementing early reporting procedures and a transitional duty process will more times than not result in injured employees returning to healthy, productive lifestyles quickly and safely. The optimum outcomes are improved employee morale, a healthier workforce and a financially stronger organization.



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Congratulations to the 2014 Scholarship Winners!

Jeffrey Burgess - Dover, OH
Whitney Hardman -
Ashland, OH Andrew Layman - Paulding, OH
Macy Mount - Thornville, OH

 

 

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