Every employer in Hawaii should take a few minutes to update his or her 2008 Hawaii labor law posters.
The past year has brought myriad changes in labor law throughout the nation. And, more changes are on the way. California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and ten other states will be raising their state minimum wage as of January 1, 2008.
Many of these changes affect labor law posters, which is why it’s important to update the posters at least once per year.
The official list of required 2008 Hawaii labor law posters is:
Payment of Wages
Hawaii Minimum Wage
Hawaii Whistleblower Protection Poster
In addition to the state posters, federal law requires that every employer in the nation display a number of posters. These include:
USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law
Federal Minimum Wage
Employee Polygraph Protection Act
Family and Medical Leave Act
OSHA-Job Safety & Health Protection
A number of these posters have been updated for 2008.
Many labor law poster changes throughout the nation related to minimum wage increases this year, or next year. West Virginia and Illinois will increase their minimum wages on July 1, 2008. Illinois’s current minimum will jump from $7.50 to $7.75, and West Virginia’s will go up from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour.
On July 24, 2008, the new federal minimum wage of $6.55 will be introduced. States like Texas, Nebraska and others that tie their state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage will bump up their state minimum wage.
Several states including Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and others established laws that provide an annual cost-of-living increase for the state minimum wage. States often tie this increase to the Consumer Price Index for urban and clerical workers. Florida just recently passed such a law and will apply their first “cost of living” raise on January 1, 2008, bumping their current wage from $6.65 to $6.79 per hour.
The rank of highest state minimum wage goes to Washington at $8.07 as of January 1, 2008. California and Massachusetts aren’t far behind each with $8.00 per hour. Oregon’s wage ranks in the top five with $7.95 per hour.
There’s not much difference among the state minimum wages in the top five, but the difference across the country is amazing. The state minimum wage in Kansas hasn’t budged since the 1980s, and ranks as the lowest at $2.65.
But Kansas isn’t the real bottom of the range. That honor belongs to Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina, which don’t have a state minimum wage at all. That means an employer not covered by the federal minimum wage can pay–by law–its workers whatever it wants, even as low as 25 cents an hour. Of course, it’s doubtful anyone would take a job at that wage, but the legal capability exists.
One of the major changes during 2007 related to minimum wage. The federal minimum wage, as a result of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, went from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour. Nearly a dozen states increased their minimum wage on the same day.
Also, during the 2007, several other states, including Utah, Washington, Oregon, and West Virginia increased their state minimum wage.
The most common reason for employers to update posters includes statute changes, especially to minimum wage laws. In just the past few months, employers in New Hampshire, Nevada and Maine have updated their labor law posters as the state minimum wages changed. The most recent increase was on October 1, 2007 when the New Hampshire minimum wage increased to $6.50 per hour.
Oil refinery companies in the U.S. face tough inspections after a tragic refinery accident failed to get one oil company to change its safety policies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to inspect every oil refinery under its jurisdiction to insure that conditions are safe for workers.
Hawaii worker safety should benefit from changes in OSHA’s policies following the end of its investigation into a BP refinery accident that killed 15 workers and injured more than 100.
These new policies should dramatically increase worker safety at Hawaii’s two oil refineries.
The agency is in the process of hiring new refinery inspectors to keep up with the project. So far, according to Edwin G. Foulke Jr., OSHA’s Assistant Secretary for Labor, 160 people have been trained in the inspection process, called Process Safety Management, or PSM. By August of this year, he said, 280 PSM-trained inspectors should be on board. The goal is to inspect every refinery.
The deadly accident at the BP refinery was in the spring of 2005 outside Houston. The plant lost its processing capacity, taking 3% of the total U.S. refinery production out of business. Partly as a result, gas prices soared in the summer of 2006. The plant had hired 1,800 employees to process 433,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
Six months after that disaster, in which flames shot thousands of feet into the air and ash fell on the surrounding region, OSHA inspected another BP plant – this one in Ohio. It found conditions there exactly like those that caused the catastrophe near Houston. BP had not learned its lessons and had not fixed the problem, the U.S. Department of Labor determined. As a result, OSHA decided oil companies had no intention of protecting their workers. The agency began the tough inspections.
OSHA and its state affiliates conducted more than 100 inspections at U.S. refineries, and in 2007 have inspected 50 more plants so far.
Those orange traffic cones and construction zone signs you see along the highway aren’t nuisances. They’re a way of alerting you to the fact that there are workers on the roadside. As cars shoot by them, they’re vulnerable. They can be hit by a car, and be injured or killed.
More than 100 workers die and another 20,000 are injured every year in highway and street construction. While some of those deaths are caused within the site, others are as a result of being struck by passing cars and trucks.
The figures are from combined national and Hawaii highway worker safety statistics. An official with OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – calls highway construction zone work “one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States.” The Roadway Zone Safety and Health Partners Alliance have joined with OSHA in stressing awareness of the dangers around highway work zones.
Edwin G. Foulke Jr., the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, said the campaign needs “the support of everyone who gets behind the wheel on a daily basis.” He noted that last year, 1,100 deaths occurred as a result of work zone accidents. He called it “a tragedy.”
The first week of every April is National Work Zone Awareness Week. This year’s campaign focuses on highway work zone employees. The week was inaugurated in a ceremony April 3 on Interstate 495 near Alexandria, Virginia, at a highway construction site.
“I am hopeful campaigns like this will help reduce those numbers,” said Assistant Secretary Foulke.
OSHA and other safety agencies are urging highway construction crew members to wear visible reflective vests. They’re also urging drivers to be alert to construction zone signs, and to slow down.
Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Centers for Disease Control, said that “highway and street construction is hard and potentially hazardous work.”
“Acute trauma” is the leading cause of death for highway workers in the United States. It occurs when a worker is hit by a car.
Our Hawaii Worker Safety office reports that about 1.5 million employees in the United States use forklifts at work. The proper name for a forklift is actually a Powered Industrial Truck (PIT). PITs are used in all businesses and are one of the most common causes of job-related injuries and deaths. According to a current article in a state safety periodical, there is a real danger in noncompliance to state and federal PIT regulations.
It is important to consider the load center of gravity when using a forklift. If this is not done correctly, the machine could tilt and cause an accident or break. Certain precautions should be taken to ensure the stability of the load. When operating a forklift, be sure that:
The load is within the forklift’s maximum capacity
The weight of the load is equal between the left and right forks
The load is not too far forward
Any attachments are factored into the weight of the load
The operation plate or tag indicates modifications (attachments) to the truck
The typical forklift’s center of gravity is 24” higher than the forks and 24” from the base of the forks at maximum. Some forklifts may have a higher capacity allowing for a 36” or 48” load center distance. Every one of these machines should have a data plate, tag or decal detailing capacity information.
One common mistake people make in trying to balance a PIT load is adding weight to the rear. This is not the best thing to do as doing so will not create stability for the truck. What this action really does is focus the PIT’s center of gravity at the rear axel or the pivot point. The best thing to do rather than add to the back of the forklift is to properly center the load.
As always when operating heavy machinery, make sure that you are fully alert and following all procedures when using a PIT.
Untrained workplace ATV drivers who are not using safety measures can put themselves at risk of injury and death, according to a Hawaii Worker Safety Alert.
The alert follows a fatal accident in which a worker was killed while operating an All-Terrain Vehicle with an herbicide sprayer that was 55 pounds over the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit. The local OSHA office investigated the accident.
The driver was operating the device, fitted by the employer with the sprayer, uphill on rough ground, spraying weeds, according to the investigating office. The front wheels left the ground and the driver stood up in an attempt to stabilize the vehicle. When that failed, she tried to jump from the ATV, but failed and was crushed.
The manufacturer’s modification – adding the herbicide sprayer – caused the accident, according to OSHA, because it destabilized the ATV. Driving uphill on rough ground contributed to the accident.
More and more ATVs are used now in law enforcement, agriculture, forestry, and construction. With that come more deaths. In the past 10 years, job related ATV accidents have taken the lives of more than 100 workers.
OSHA has some recommendations for ATV use in the workplace. It has released these in a bulletin describing the measures that should be taken to reduce the disturbing trend toward more on-the-job ATV accidents and their resultant deaths and injuries.
First and foremost, train workers in driving them. Because it is perceived as a recreational vehicle often used by children, there is an assumption that no training is needed. The opposite is true. They handle in a way that is completely different from a motorcycle or a car. Second, wear helmets. And third, stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines, particularly for weight limits.
Deaths on ATVs have increased for recreational use. Fatalities went from 29 in 1982 to 470 in 2004. In the past 10 years, there were 800,000 accidents.