Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Keeping Safe in Winter Weather

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 05, 2019

Even if the latest polar vortex has ended by the time you read this, employers in most parts of the continent should be worrying about protecting workers against winter weather. Occupational safety and health regulators include “environmental” hazards as those that may require employers to provide their employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), and employers also bear a “general duty” to protect workers against recognized hazards. These requirements cover potential harm from extreme temperatures including cold, as well as slippery surfaces and other hazards from frozen and melting snow or other precipitation.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, climate change

Directors' Liability for Workplace Sexual Harassment in Canada Can Depend on Which Laws are Applied

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 22, 2019

Sexual harassment in Canadian workplaces can trigger a variety of laws and regulations:

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Workplace violence, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

NLRB Proposes New Rule Defining “Joint Employer”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Jan 10, 2019

When someone receives occupational direction and/or compensation from more than one entity, who’s the boss? Sometimes it’s obviously one or the other, sometimes it’s not clear which one is, and sometimes the answer may be “both.” The answer has important implications, not just for who writes a paycheck but for who is subject to legal requirements and prohibitions under applicable laws.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, NLRB, directors & officers

Employment Contracts and Employee Termination Rights

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 27, 2018

The Canada Labour Code and provincial employment standards acts generally specify a minimum notice period before such terminations (the “statutory notice period”), and generally allow the employer to pay compensation to the employee instead of giving the employee notice. (e.g., CLC ss. 54-67) This compensation is usually called “severance pay”; it replaces advance notice of termination. In general, the severance pay must equal the salary and benefits that the employee would have earned if permitted to work until the end of the notice period. Courts interpret and defend these prohibitions against “contracting out” termination benefits.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

Are My Machines Guarded To Prevent Injuries?

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 06, 2018

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state worker protection agencies require employers to “guard” moving portions of machines and powered equipment, to prevent entanglements, pinches and amputations. OSHA sets general requirements for machine guarding under its Machine Guarding Standard, plus specific requirements for six different types of equipment in separate standards.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights

Tackling the Gender Pay Gap: Ontario’s Pay Transparency Act, 2018

Posted by Maria Gergin on Tue, Oct 30, 2018

On April 26, 2018, the Ontario government passed the Pay Transparency Act, 2018 (the Act), which created a number of requirements for employers with respect to compensation reporting and disclosure to employees and potential employees, as well as compliance compensation reporting to the government, which the government will then make public.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

Finding and Correcting Workplace Mold Infestations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 23, 2018

Summer brought its inevitable share of rain, and even flooding and hurricanes in some places. Residual moisture increases the possibility of mold infestations, which might endanger people in your workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state worker protection agencies have longstanding information and recommendations to employers for finding, evaluating and eradicating mold infestations in their workplaces. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just updated its mold cleanup as part of its broader initiatives to help employers plan for floods and hurricanes (I wrote about updated hurricane information here). EPA’s approach is narrower than OSHA’s, since it focuses on post-incident activities.

Organizations with facilities that may be subject to routine water infiltration or leaks, or sudden flooding from hurricanes or other events – should consider both sets of information.

Mold Basics

Molds and other fungi are both ubiquitous and plentiful--they have been estimated to make up a quarter of all the biomass on the planet. Molds are found almost everywhere, and can grow on just about any surface, as long as moisture and oxygen are available.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, Employee Rights, Environmental risks, Environmental, mold

Are My Workers Protected Against Carcinogens?

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 11, 2018

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state worker protection agencies require employers to identify regulated carcinogens in their workplaces, to protect workers against hazardous exposures, and to provide information and training to reinforce those protections. OSHA regulations apply to dozens of chemical agents and other substances known to be human carcinogens, including 13 covered by a single “Regulated Carcinogen Standard.” Employers should also be aware that hundreds of additional chemicals are suspected carcinogens that should be considered.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, Environmental risks, Environmental, Hazcom

EPA Schedules Compliance Deadline for Revised Agricultural Worker Training Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 24, 2018

In November 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted significant amendments to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) that EPA administers using its Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authority -- FIFRA provides national pesticide regulation, and the WPS is intended to ensure that workers know how to protect themselves when applying pesticides. EPA set compliance deadlines for most revised provisions on January 2, 2017 or January 2, 2018, but left the compliance deadline for expanded training open until the agency could develop and publish training materials. On June 22, 2018, EPA published notice that these materials are ready, giving employers until December 19 to upgrade their training programs accordingly.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Training, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Hazcom

Protecting Isolated Workers

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Jun 07, 2018

Many employers have employees whose ‘workplace’ activities isolate them from other employees, leaving them potentially more vulnerable to workplace violence or injury. These lone employees can include those who work:
  • In isolated areas of the employer’s workplace - such as a security guard making rounds at a site, or a miner in an isolated area.

  • At times when no co-workers are around - such as a late-working professional; a night janitor, nurse or security guard making rounds; or a hotel room service worker.

  • As the sole employee at a facility - such as late-night retail gas station or convenience stores.

  • Away from the home office, separated from co-workers and exposed to customers or others - law enforcement or security personnel on patrol, home-care health and social workers, taxi drivers, and traveling sales personnel.

Although isolation makes it inherently harder to protect these workers from harm and to respond to any incidents, employers still must provide them with reasonable levels of protection from workplace hazards. The following discussion synthesizes guidance from national agencies, and specific requirements adopted by a few jurisdictions to protect employees working alone or in isolation.

  • Who is “working alone?”

Definitions of “working alone” vary, but each incorporates some or all of the following circumstances:

• Worker is the only worker for that employer at that workplace, during any time period.

• Worker is not directly supervised, during at least part of work shift.

• Assistance is not readily available if there is an emergency.

• Conditions render this isolation potentially hazardous.

  • What employer actions can help?

Specific requirements that employers provide for isolated employees’ safety vary. For example, Manitoba requires the employer to:

  • Identify risks arising from the conditions and circumstances.

  • “So far as is reasonably practicable,” take steps to eliminate or reduce the identified risks.

  • Develop and implement safe work procedures to eliminate or reduce the identified risks.

  • Train workers in these safe work procedures.

  • Ensure that workers comply with these safe work procedures.

  • What are specific examples of workplace safety measures?

Workplace responses depend on circumstances. For example, if the isolated employee works in a single location, the location and workshift can be designed to reduce hazards. For example, New Mexico requires at least one of the following security measures be implemented in all convenience stores operating between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.:

  • Two-employee shift - two employees, or one employee plus onsite security personnel.

  • Controlled access area - this area must be behind bullet-proof glass or other similar material.

  • Pass-through window - transactions must be protected by bullet-proof glass or other similar material.

  • Alternative operations - the store may be closed for business, but employees allowed access for restocking or other duties, if signs are posted on all entryways saying the store is closed.

In other situations where the employee travels, for example to conduct a service or security sweep, there’s no single space to isolate but enhanced communication can reduce hazards. For example, Chicago’s new ordinance (dubbed the “pants on, hands off” requirement) requires hotels to do the following:

  • Develop, maintain and comply with a written anti-sexual harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests, including instructions to leave threatening situations if possible, reporting procedures, onsite incident follow-up (immediate, and subsequently with law enforcement if applicable), and training regarding these procedures and employee rights (effective January 7, 2018).

  • Provide all employees with a current copy (in English, Spanish and Polish) of the hotel's anti-sexual harassment policy, and post copies in conspicuous places in areas of the hotel, such as supply rooms or employee lunch rooms (effective January 7, 2018).

  • Equip employees who are assigned to work in isolation in a guest room or restroom with a panic button or notification device (effective July 1, 2018)

Self-Assessment Checklist

Has the organization assessed work assignments and its facilities, to identify workers who may work alone or in isolation?

  • Are these assignments routine and ongoing, or infrequent?

  • Does the location contain inherent hazards (stairs, operating equipment, etc.) where mishaps or malfunctions can cause hazards?

  • Are the employees isolated from outside interventions (e.g., in a secured facility) or subject to interaction with outsiders (customers, clients, etc.)?

Has the organization identified specified hazards and their causes, and evaluated risk reduction measures?

  • Monitoring systems?

  • Staffing?

  • First aid and emergency procedures?

  • Workplace violence?

Has the organization developed risk reduction policies, plans and procedures?

Does the organization provide training and equipment to affected employees?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include:

About the Author

Jon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 13 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National Guide and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at: tei@ix.netcom.com



photo credit: spanaut winning via photopin (license)
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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Workplace violence