Many employers may have been surprised by the recent Maryland Worker Safety alert issued by OSHA. This alert advises employers about the potential dangers All-Terrain Vehicles can pose when used in the workplace. Maryland OSHA wants employers to ensure that the vehicles are operated safely.
Although many people may think All-Terrain Vehicles, also known as ATVs, are just for recreational use, more businesses are utilizing the vehicles in the workplace. Some industries that use ATVs include construction, agriculture, facilities management, and law enforcement. As the use of ATVs in the workplace increases, so does the number of injuries.
Although most fatalities and injuries that occur while operating an ATV happen to recreational users, more than 100 workers have died while operating ATVs in the workplace during the past decade. Because ATVs can be prone to roll-overs and other accidents, employers need to ensure that employees operate the vehicles correctly.
To that end, the Maryland Department of Labor and Maryland OSHA, which are referred to as MD-OSHA, want employers to have employees who operate ATVs receive training. The recently issued alert supplied employers with guidelines for the operation of ATVs.
The OSHA guidelines cover any vehicle designed for off-road use. These vehicles have low-pressure tires, are steered by using handlebars, and have a seat that the driver straddles. Employers should remember that these vehicles are intended to be occupied only by the driver. No passengers should be allowed on the ATV. If storage racks are on the front or the back of the ATV, they should be used to carry equipment in limited amounts.
The statistics for ATV accidents experienced by recreational users highlight a trend that’s disturbing. A Consumer Product Safety Commission report issued recently stated that in 1982, there were 29 deaths related to ATV accidents. In 2004, the number of ATV-related deaths was 470. In the last decade, 800,000 injuries that were the result of ATV usage were reported.
Many employers believe that under the USERRA, employees have the right to return to the same job, after active military service. They mistakenly believe that the employee is entitled to the same pay and benefits that they had when they left. That’s entirely wrong.
In fact, under the final USERRA regulations recently released by the Dept. of Labor, employees are entitled to the job they would have held if they’d never left. That’s an important distinction. Let’s take Mike, a firefighter, as an example. Mike is a Lieutenant on a large city’s firefighting force. He is scheduled to receive his promotion to Captain in 6 months. Instead, Mike’s Army Reserve unit is sent overseas for a year.
When he returns, Mike is entitled to receive the promotion to Captain. His time in the military counts as time on the job, for purposes of seniority. Mike is also entitled to any increases in salary or benefits that he would have received if he had not been away.
Another common mistake in USERRA is the belief that employers must “hold the employee’s job open” in their absence for military service. This is also not true. While Mike is gone, the city has every right to hire or promote another fire Captain. In fact, the USERRA doesn’t address what happens in Mike’s absence. It only addresses the fact that Mike’s job is protected. Upon his return, he will be reinstated to the job that he would have held, had he not been absent.
In this case, the city will likely have 13 Captains instead of the normal 12 upon Mike’s return. Or, the city may appoint an “Acting Captain” who knows that he or she will be demoted upon Mike’s return. In other industries, employers sometimes hire temporary workers or put permanent employees on short-term assignments. Most employers make the same arrangements to provide staff coverage as they would if an employee were on short term disability or maternity leave.
All of these regulations appear in the final USERRA rules, recently issued by the US Dept. of Labor. The USERRA dates from 1994. It is designed to protect veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve.
With these new regulations in effect, this is a great time for employers to update their Maryland USERRA posters. By federal law, every employer must display a USERRA poster where it can be seen by employees, even if the law doesn’t apply to any of the employees.
A recent Maryland OSHA alert lets employers know that accidents in the workplace involving All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are increasing. In some cases, these accidents resulted in fatalities. Although most ATV accidents happen when the vehicles are used for recreational use, more accidents are happening in the workplace. ATVs are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, especially in industries such as law enforcement, construction, agriculture, and facilities management.
As more ATVs appear in the workplace, more accidents happen, including an increasing number of fatalities. During a 9-year time span, 113 people were killed in workplace accidents involving ATVs. When the total number of non-fatal accidents was added to this figure, the number of accidents for this 9-year period was 1625.
ATVs may appear fun, but they can be difficult to handle. When a driver takes a corner too sharply or tries to drive up an incline, the ATV may flip over. ATV accidents can also occur because the vehicle is overloaded. ATVs cannot carry a great deal of equipment or luggage, but some drivers put too much weight on them. When an ATV is overloaded, it can become more unstable on inclines.
The Maryland OSHA alert points out that workers who drive ATVs shouldn’t violate the weight guidelines specified by the manufacturer. Exceeding this amount can lead to an accident. In addition, workers should adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines concerning the maximum number of riders the ATV will accommodate. ATVs are not designed to carry passengers.
To further prevent accidents, workers should wear helmets and be trained on how to safely operate the ATV. Just because workers are licensed to drive cars or motorcycles doesn’t mean they can safely operate an ATV. ATVs handle differently than cars, so workers should be trained specifically to drive them. Employers should strive to reduce the number of ATV accidents that happen in the workplace. Proper training of employees, along with safety equipment such as helmets, should help.