If a global outbreak of a new disease were to occur, what would happen? Absences among employees would most likely increase, for one thing. It is possible that supply chains may be interrupted, and there will likely be alterations in patterns of business. Grocery stores will be crowded as people stock up on needed supplies. Many necessities, such as hand sanitizer and tissues, may be quickly run out of stock. Healthcare facilities may become extremely busy as sick people come in. Any contagious spread of illness should caution everyone to think twice before spending time at a shopping center, movie theater or restaurant.
There has been an Alaska OSHA alert recently regarding a possible influenza global outbreak, or pandemic. If a new form of the virus materializes, a flu pandemic could occur. It is unlikely that anyone would be immune to a brand new form of the disease, so if one were to develop, it could potentially spread from person to person around the world.
An influenza pandemic would affect travel, trade, tourism, the food supply and consumerism. According to OSHA, an influenza pandemic could upset the international financial system. Ultimately, that would create waves in the investment markets. The effect would be more extensive than any single terrorist assault.
A relatively recent flu outbreak happened in 1918. Between 50 and 100 million people were killed by the Spanish Flu within 18 months. This happened towards the end of World War I, which had a less severe death toll than the influenza pandemic of the time. Shocking, isn’t it? If employers prepare for a possible outbreak, it can minimize or even prevent dramatic economic disturbance.
Currently there is no need to worry. There are no reports showing a new type of influenza passing from person to person. So, there isn’t a pandemic right now, per se, but, OSHA stresses the importance of being prepared to every employer. The OSHA says, “As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.”
According to a recent Alaska OSHA alert, accidents with All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are increasing every day. The most alarming fact is that they are responsible for more and more misfortunes at work. These vehicles, traditionally linked to recreational and sport users, today are a common tool in several economical sectors, including agricultural, construction and others.
If we total all the accidents with ATVs, including recreational, work purposes, and others, the number of deaths rose to 470 in 2004, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission report. In 1982, there were 29 deaths related to ATVs. In the last 10 years, 800,000 injuries were reported.
In the case of workplace accidents, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that since 1992 ATV accidents have increased dramatically. In the past 9 years, 1625 people were injured, some severely, with the result of several days of work lost. In the same period, 113 people died in ATV accidents at work.
ATVs are less stable than other vehicles, like motorcycles or cars, and they are more difficult to steer. They have low pressure and fat tires and tend to flip over when the driver takes a curve sharply.
These vehicles become more unstable when they carry excessive weight. In general, as according to manufacturers’ guidelines, the ATVs are designed to allow only one rider, and have special spaces to carry equipment. If they are used with two or more people at the same time, or with an excess of luggage, they become more difficult to drive, and become more hazardous.
The use of a helmet is recommended and also special training to drive ATVs. Most employees assume that if they have a driver’s license for a car or motorcycle, they don’t need additional training. But they are wrong. ATVs are different to drive, and the users must receive specific instructions to operate them.
There are very specific Alaska (AK) posting requirements for employers. The labor law requirements are divided in four ways: between state and federal requirements and again between labor law postings that are mandatory for all employers and labor law postings that are required for only some postings.
Here’s a brief overview of Alaska (AK) posting requirements for employers: All employers must post information about the minimum wage and overtime payments. All employers are required to post information about safety and health protection on the job. All employers are required to post information about unemployment insurance. A workers’ compensation notice must be placed in three conspicuous places by all employers as well.
If an employer has 15 or more employees, he or she must post information about sexual harassment.
The second set of Alaska (AK) posting requirements for employers involves posts that are required only if an employer has a specific type of employee. Among these special posts are: information about the Child Labor Law, which must be posted if an employer employs a minor under the age of 18 years old. Additionally, if the employer employs a minor and if the business deals with net fishing, he or she must post information about the Child Labor Law – Net Fishing Requirements.
Please note that the Alaska (AK) posting requirements for employers differs from the Federal requirements. Federal requirements involve having all employers post information about the minimum wage (in both English as well as Spanish), the OSHA notice, Equal Employment Opportunity, Earned Income Credit, Check Your Withholding and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Also under the terms of the Federal posting requirements, employers of migrant workers must post the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection if they employ migrant workers. They must post information about the Family Medical Leave Act if they have 50 or more employees and they must post information about the Employee Polygraph Protection law if they subject employees to polygraphs.
The state of Alaska aims to protect employees, employers and the general public through a variety of important labor laws. While you may already be familiar with a number of these laws, I thought it might be helpful to give a brief overview of the major labor laws in Alaska.
Wage Issues: A state minimum wage of $7.15 per hour is enforced in Alaska. Overtime laws are also on the books for employees working more than 40 hours per week. The Wage and Hour administration handles employee claims of unpaid wages in overtime, minimum wage or termination disputes.
Prevailing Wages: Alaska is a state with a special minimum wage called the Prevailing Wage which applies and is enforced for workers on public works or government construction projects. This is to prevent unfair competitive advantage among contractors bidding for state projects.
Construction Contractor Licensing: The state of Alaska aims to protect the public from unsafe and poor quality construction by licensing bonded contractors. This provision also protects honest contractors from unscrupulous competitors.
Resident Hire Regulations: State laws require that on public works construction projects, attempts must be made to hire at least 90% skilled workers who are residents of the state. Special exemptions must be granted if enough skilled resident workers cannot be found to fill the 90% quota.
Child Labor Laws: Alaska has a variety of protections for minors under 18, including limiting the professions in which they are allowed to work at various ages.
Return Transportation: Due to its distant location from the lower 48 states, Alaska has a law mandating employers provide return transportation to any employees who also was provided transportation into the state of Alaska from another state when his or her employment began.
A more thorough presentation of information on Alaska’s labor laws may be found on the Alaska Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster also includes all required Federal labor law postings.