According to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Richard E. Stickler, there are approximately 500,000 abandoned mines and an additional 14,000 active mines across the United States. Mine related accidents have resulted in the deaths of more than 200 individuals since 1999. Unfortunately, among those who lost their lives were unsuspecting children, workers, rock collectors, and bikers who wandered onto mine property.
“Stay Out – Stay Alive” is a campaign to improve Wyoming worker safety. Sometimes workers in unrelated industries end up on mine property unawares. Anyone who isn’t specifically trained as a mineworker most often will not know what the dangers are or how to avoid them. Trespassing on mine property can result in serious injury and sometimes fatal accidents. The MSHA, or Mine Safety and Health Administration plays an active role in warning individuals about the hazards of mine properties and informing them how to them.
As part of the “Stay Out – Stay Alive” program, public service announcements are created to warn people of the possibility of accidentally intruding on mine lands. Federal mine health and safety authorities will also visit schools to educate children about the dangers of exploring mine property. Many young people have died from falling into deep shafts, toxic gases, and poisonous snakes and insects. Mine tunnels have also been known to flood in some areas. It is extremely important that the youth avoid these areas to protect their lives.
People of all ages have had tragic accidents on mine lands over the years. Last year, in 2006, at least 30 people between the age range of 17 to 51 were killed in surface and underground mine operations. Dozens of federal and state administrations, private organizations, companies and individuals are dynamic partners in “Stay Out–Stay Alive.” So far, the program has been ongoing for nine years, and, will continue, as long as there are mines out there.
A miscalculation of overtime payments has cost one of the nation’s largest retailers dearly.
The US Dept of Labor reported recently that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has agreed to pay more than $33 million in back wages after violating federal and Wyoming overtime laws.
Wal-Mart was found to have not applied the proper calculations when working out overtime payments to workers who normally benefit from incentives or premium payments. Under the law, an employee is entitled to overtime payments equal to that of 1.5 times their hourly rate if they work over 40 hours a week. But Wal-Mart did not take into account the employees incentive payments or premiums.
This means that, for example, an employee’s hourly rate was $6.00 per hour, but with incentives, they would normally earn $7.00 per hour. Their overtime payment would be 1.5 times $7.00 per hour. The overtime rate should be based on the hourly rate including incentives.
Wal-Mart was found guilty of only paying employees 1.5 times their basic hourly rate.
The $33 million covers back payments for 86,680 throughout the United States, for the period February 1, 2002 to January 19, 2007. As well as the back wages owed to employees, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay interest on the amount. It was thought that this would act as a deterrent against similar violations in the future.
Speaking about the judgment, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards, Victoria A Lipnic said, “This settlement provides $33 million in back wages, plus interest, to Wal-Mart workers, and the company has taken corrective action to prevent this from happening again.”
Wal-Mart was found to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, which states that employees who are covered by the act are legally entitled to receive overtime payments at the rate of 1.5 times their usual hourly rate, for each hour they work over their standard 40 hour week.
Because the influenza virus spreads from person to person, a recent Wyoming worker safety alert points out that employers should create a disaster plan in case a pandemic occurs. A pandemic is when a disease spreads worldwide. A pandemic could result in a high mortality rate and cause disruptions to the global economy.
Most employers have emergency disaster plans in place for hazards such as power outages, floods, fires, or hurricanes. But OSHA feels employers also should have a plan in place for an influenza pandemic. Although no new strain of the influenza virus exists at the moment, were one to emerge, no one would have immunity to it. This new strain of influenza quickly could spread worldwide.
In this happened, the economy would be disrupted on a worldwide level. More devastating than a single terrorist attack, a pandemic would impact industries such as travel, tourism and trade. The food supply could be disrupted, as could consumer buying. Finally, investment and financial markets could feel the impact of the pandemic.
Pandemics have happen before. The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people within an 18-month time span. If a similar influenza pandemic were to occur, employers could help prevent or minimize the impact by being prepared and having a disaster plan in place. As OSHA explains, “As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.”
The Wyoming OSHA alert wants employers to realize that an influenza pandemic could cause problems such as overcrowded healthcare facilities. Since the supply chain could be impacted due to high levels of employee absenteeism, deliveries could be disrupted. Some businesses, such as grocery stores, could run out of certain products, such as tissues and hand sanitizers.
Meanwhile, other businesses might experience a large drop in customers. For instance, to avoid exposure, people might stay away from restaurants, malls, and movie theaters.
What are one of the most hazardous pieces of equipment in industry? Here’s a hint: They flip over, they tip over, and they become more unstable than usual when they’re overloaded. They are ATVs, or All-Terrain Vehicles, and there are more and more workplace deaths and injuries because of them.
A Wyoming worker safety alert reveals that the ATV is being used with increasing frequency in construction, facilities management, police work, and farming.
Wyoming OSHA alerts says that increase in use, combined with the trickier aspects of operating the devices, and is leading to the hike in workplace-related ATV deaths and injuries. In fact, workplace ATV injuries and deaths may soon outstrip the number of accidents in recreational use.
The Wyoming OSHA alert suggests drivers in the workplace follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for weight loads and numbers of allowable passengers. It should be noted that ATVs are designed to be operated by a driver alone, with no passengers. OSHA also urges every driver to wear a helmet and obtain training specifically for the ATV. The OSHA guidelines refer to the operation of any off-road, motorized vehicle with handlebars, a seat straddled by the driver, and handlebars for steering.
OSHA numbers show that over a 9-year period, on-the-job ATV accidents claimed 113 lives. Accidents in general have shown a steady upward climb since 1992. Workers increasingly suffered injuries putting them out of work for a day or more at a time. Over the previous 9 years, in fact, 1,625 such accidents occurred.
Deaths in ATV accidents are up generally. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that they have gone up for recreational users as well – climbing from 29 in 1982 to 470 in 2004, or a more than 15-fold increase in 12 years.
The Wyoming OSHA alert applies to any motorized off-road vehicle steered by handlebars, with low-pressure tires and a seat straddled by the driver.
Many employers assume that all salaried employees are exempt from overtime – but they are mistaken. Depending upon the rate of pay and job duties, employees in Wyoming who are paid on a salaried basis may still be entitled to time-and-a-half for every hour they work beyond 40 hours per week.
In Wyoming, a recently settled lawsuit involving violations of federal and Wyoming minimum wage laws will cost Wal-Mart $33 million. This money is back pay and interest that Wal-Mart will pay to almost 87,000 workers. These workers reside in Wyoming and throughout the United States.
The suit was brought against Wal-Mart by the U.S. Department of Labor. It refers only to certain violations and doesn’t impact any private lawsuits against the corporate giant. Moreover, this recent settlement doesn’t impact the ability of workers to file their complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor.
To determine if federal and Wyoming minimum wage laws make a salaried employee eligible for overtime pay, consider their salary. If employees earn under $455 a week ($23,660 a year), then the guidelines created in recent years state that they are entitled to overtime compensation for hours worked above 40 per week.
In fact, an employee can earn more than $23,600 per year and still be eligible for overtime pay. The determining factor is whether the employee has the power to make significant decisions concerning a division, a department, or a store. Usually, managers who are paid a salary have the authority to hire and fire 3 or more employees.
Wal-Mart has encountered problems with their payroll system before. Private litigation isn’t impacted by this agreement, since it only addresses those violations that were outlined in the judgment.
Other companies have tried not paying overtime before. Over 20 years ago, Howard Johnson’s tired a similar approach but was unsuccessful. In a similar situation to Wal-Mart’s, Howard Johnson’s employed “assistant managers.” These employees worked in the company’s restaurants, sometimes putting in more than 80 hours a week without much pay. Like Wal-Mart, Howard Johnson’s was found guilty.