Iowa employers need to be aware that the NDAA law went into effect immediately and the U. S. Department of Labor is scrambling to finalize regulations for this new policy, which will be submitted to the White House for approval.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2008 was signed into law on January 28, 2008 by President George W. Bush. Within the NDAA is a provision to expand the FMLA (Family Medical and Leave Act) to provide up to 26 weeks for spouses and relatives of National Guard and Reserve personnel who are called to active duty.
Until regulations are published by the Secretary of Labor, companies should utilize FMLA procedures, such as medical certification and substitution of paid time, to grant leave for family members to care for injured soldiers.
Understanding Iowa FMLA and NDAA
When an Iowa employee takes time off for the birth of a child, to adopt a child, or to place a newly fostered child (under age 18) in their home, that worker can charge the time to FMLA (Family Medical and Leave Act) leave. FMLA also provides time off to care for a sick child, parent or spouse.
Currently, FMLA leave is job-protected, but unpaid.
If democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton is elected, however, FMLA could be amended such that FMLA leave is paid. The plan would be mandatory and require companies to take out insurance on each worker to provide the paid FMLA leave.
If the FMLA is amended, employers will incur even greater costs than they currently bear. Though the leave is now unpaid, companies must maintain its share of benefit and healthcare costs. Plus, the business has to temporarily fill the worker’s position, which could mean the expense of hiring and training new personnel. Productivity levels can also be a cost to the employer, because returning employees often take weeks to get back to their prior performance levels.
In addition, employees are not required to take FMLA time all at one time, but can do so intermittently without giving advance notice.
Some states have already enacted laws at the state level to extend FMLA. Some states simply provide more than 12 weeks of leave. In Hawaii, the law includes caring for grandparents, in-laws and domestic partners. For many California employees the state laws already allow them to receive pay for FMLA leave.
FMLA does not apply to all companies and workers. To be eligible, employees must work at least 1,250 hours for the same company for 12 consecutive months. Eligible companies must have 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.
FMLA guarantees the employee a job when he or she returns to work. This job can either be the same position, or a job with a comparable salary and similar benefits and working conditions.
The expanded FMLA increases the current 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to 26 weeks for military families. Spouses, daughters, sons and parents can take this leave to care for a member of the National Guard, Reserve or active military who is undergoing physical or mental therapy, outpatient treatments or recuperating from illness. In addition, FMLA leave can be granted to care for soldiers on temporary disability due to illness or injury.
The FMLA expansion of the NDAA also includes the addition of “next of kin” as eligible persons to take leave. This means that aunts, uncles, cousins or in-laws to take unpaid FMLA leave.
In addition to caring for an injured soldier, FMLA allows a spouse, son, daughter or parent to take leave when a soldier is informed of imminent deployment. This leave would allow families of deployed military to stand in for that soldier while he or she is on active duty, to care for anyone in that soldier’s care. This provision of the FMLA will most likely be used to care for healthy children, but can also be used to care for an ill family member.
In its safety magazine, distributed state wide, the Iowa OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recently published an article that warns of the dangers that could develop when forklift loading and operations are conducted without regard to state and federal guidelines for such machinery.
One of the main Iowa worker safety concerns is the matter of the machine’s center of gravity. Forklifts with a 24” load center are stable, and safest, when loaded so the weight of the load falls no higher than 24” from the two forks and no further forward than 24” from the base of the forks. Machinery with 36” and 48” load centers are most stable when loaded according to these same factors with 36” and 48” being the key numbers to consider.
Forklifts loaded off center, with the bulk of the weight to either side or too far forward from the base of the forks, are the most dangerous to the operator and other workers in the vicinity. All manufacturers of these machines equip them with data plates that provide loading specifications for every machine purchased.
Load capacity is also a potential problem. When a load weighs more than specifications dictate, the machine becomes risky to workers but even a small load, considerably under the maximum allowed weight, can become life threatening when loaded off the center of gravity described above.
Sometimes modifications to the forklift are necessary on a job site. Drum carriers, rotators, and grippers may need to be adjusted or added to the machine to improve performance. Other modifications may include attaching boom extensions, cylinder caddies, hoppers, rug rams, and boom extensions.
Any time a forklift is modified, written advance authorization from the manufacturer is required. Once modifications are approved, the manufacturer will provide a data plate reflecting these changes. The new data plate must be attached to the machine, replacing the original factory-issued plate.
In cases where the manufacturer denies modifications, a business owner can employ the services of a Registered Professional Engineer (RPE) who is qualified to authorize safety and structural modifications but only after a thorough review of the issues that led to the manufacturer’s denial of the modification request.
Many employers may be unaware of a workplace hazard described in a recent Iowa worker safety alert. This warning explains that the number of workplace accidents and fatalities caused by All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) is rising. A total of 113 people died using ATVs at work during a span of 9 years. A total of 1625 people were injured in some way using an ATV at work during that same time span.
Although many people think of all-terrain vehicles as recreational vehicles, they are being used more frequently in the workplace. Law enforcement agencies, along with construction and agriculture companies, are some of the industries using ATVS in the workplace.
Although ATVs look sporty with their fat tires, they really aren’t easy to drive. They do not handle like cars and bicycles, and when used on an incline or turned sharply, they can flip over. Another problem with ATVs arises when the driver overloads it. ATVs have limited capacities when it comes to how much equipment or luggage they can carry safely. If the driver overloads the ATV, the chance of the vehicles becoming unstable on an incline increases.
To prevent injuries, workers should not overload the vehicle with either equipment or passengers. ATVs are designed for single riders, so passengers should not be allowed on the vehicles. Moreover, workers need to wear helmets to protect themselves.
Another way to reduce the number of employee injuries and fatalities is to train drivers on the correct way to operate an ATV. Although many employees have driver’s licenses and know how to correctly operate a car, an ATV is a different type of vehicle. ATVs do not handle like cars, so the drivers need special training so they can properly operate the ATV.
The Iowa worker safety alert wants employers and employees alike to understand the dangers posed by ATVs. To prevent injuries, drivers need to understand how to operate the vehicle and then follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the maximum amount of weight and riders.
A recent recall of two major brands of chainsaws prompted an Iowa worker safety alert. These chainsaws pose a hazard to workers since the front plastic handle can break off when it is being used heavily. When this handle breaks off, the worker may have difficulty controlling the saw, which could result in an injury. Employers and workers need to be aware of the hazards posed by these chainsaws.
This recall impacts two popular chainsaws made by TroyBilt and Craftsman. All of these chainsaws have two-cycle engines that run on gasoline. The four TroyBilt models affected by this recall all have cutting blades of either 18 inches or 20 inches. The TroyBilt models have engine sizes ranging from 46cc to 55cc. The Craftsman chainsaw affected by the recall is the “Incredi-Pull” model. This model has a 55cc engine and a cutting blade of 18 inches.
These chainsaws are often used by workers in industries such as lumbering, landscaping, and construction. Injuries have been reported to OSHA. The injuries reported to OSHA from these chainsaws include burns, sprains, bruises, and cuts. For this reason, all workers should stop using these chainsaws immediately.
Replacement handles for the chainsaws affected by this recall are available. Contact either OSHA or the manufacturer of the chainsaw for a replacement kit. This kit includes a replacement handle and instructions on the proper way to install this new handle.
The manufacturers of these chainsaw voluntarily recalled them. They worked in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and OSHA. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, also known as CPSC, works to protect the public from risks posed by consumer products. They oversee more than 15,000 product types and try to protect workers, families, and consumers from unreasonable dangers and risks. These risks can include mechanical, fire, and chemical hazards. The CPSC also tries to protect children from injuries due to consumer products.
Employers should be aware of the Iowa OSHA standards on slips, trips, and falls. These accidents account for 15% of industry accidents that result in death. Employers may not realize that only motor vehicle accidents account for more deaths than slips, trips, and falls.
Preventing slips, trips, and falls should be the goal of all employers. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has revised standards for surfaces that employees walk on and work on. These revised standards apply to businesses that are permanent places of employment. The only exceptions are businesses where only mining, domestic, or agricultural work is performed.
Keeping places of employment, such as service rooms, storerooms, and of course, passageways, clear of obstructions, clean, and sanitary, will go a long way to preventing slips, trips, and falls. This sort of housekeeping makes the workplace safer. Employers also should post a Slips Trips Falls Poster in a prominent location. When workers see this poster, they will be reminded to use caution. They also will remember to clean up spills and messes immediately, which will reduce the chance of injury.
OSHA’s standards require that floors in work areas be kept clean and as dry as possible. In a business where a wet process is used, the building needs to be equipped with drains, gratings, mats, or a raised platform to prevent accidents and injuries.
In addition to keeping work areas clean and free of clutter, employers should repair any areas that have holes, loose boards, protruding nails, or splinters. Aisles should be wide and kept clear of obstructions and in proper repair. Moreover, all aisles and passageways that are permanent inside the building should be marked appropriately.
To help prevent employee accidents, employers should have a safety awareness program. This program can be critical when it comes to preventing slips, trips, falls, and other accidents. Employers should make certain aisles are wide enough that employees and equipment can pass easily. Many serious accidents happen when employees are using aisles and passageways to exit the building in a hurry.