For a state that wants to interject new jobs into the economy, a Minnesota unemployment grant may just be the key. This grant works to create jobs in areas where unemployment tends to be high. The grants focus on finding innovative ways to enhance the economic development in traditionally repressed areas. These grants look for ideas that go beyond the traditional so that workers can be prepared to not only compete, but also succeed.
“Investing in area workforces through this collaborative approach will boost entire regions’ economic vitality,” said Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor. She recently announced the new WIRED grants. The Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development, also known as WIRED, is part of the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.
The Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative aims to keep the nation’s job skills in the global market both competitive and current. So far, 26 regions in the country have received $260 million in WIRED grants. As a result of this program, 10 federal agencies have worked together to create not only job opportunities that pay high wages, but also that require high skill levels.
“This regional economic development strategy transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy,” said Secretary Chao.
This third generation of WIRED grants, announced by the US Department of Labor, should help new regions of the country benefit. Regions such as northern Indiana, the Minnesota/Arkansas Delta, northern Alabama, and the Delaware Valley have benefited from past WIRED grants.
The WIRED grants create a lot of competition. All WIRED grant proposals require the approval of the governor of that state. Each state may submit up to two proposals, as was explained in a letter Secretary Chao sent to the governors. These proposals may result in grants of up to $5 million each.
Representatives from five contractor associations and five labor unions were present with the US Secretary of labor, Elaine Chaos, during a signing ceremony held at the US Census Bureau.
The signing ceremony dealt with the existing Minnesota Drug Free Work Alliance and its expansion to include raising awareness about the impact of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
The Work Alliance was originally instituted in 2004 as the Dept. of Labor’s first cooperative agreement on improving worker safety through drug abuse prevention. The new alliance provides information on how to establish drug-free workplace programs that protect worker safety and health.
According to the US Dept of Labor, drug and alcohol abuse is very costly for businesses. Costs include increased absenteeism, low employee morale, higher illness rates, errors and accidents. The OSHA says that many fatal accidents in the workplace are a result of substance abuse.
Many companies that are part of the alliance choose to take certain measures to protect their businesses from substance abuse. These measures include pre-employment drug screening and random drug testing.
These companies recognize that employers have enormous power when it comes to protecting their companies from alcohol and drug abuse. Educating employees about the dangers and encouraging those with substance abuse problems to seek help is the main way to combat this alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace.
“Only by addressing drug and alcohol abuse among the entire workforce – those currently employed and those preparing to enter employment – can a drug-free American workforce be achieved,” says the US Dept. of Labor.
The alliance does this by offering information to help workforce development professionals assist individuals with drug or alcohol abuse problems.
A few of the unions present at the signing are reps from the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices, the Laborers’ International Union of North America and the International Union of Operating Engineers.
A couple of the contracting societies present at the signing include the National Asphalt Pavement Association and the Association of Union Constructors.
This new alliance highlight’s the secretary’s commitment to working with unions and contractor associations to protect worker safety and health.
Emergency plans are important for every workplace. Both workers and employees should be aware that, under a new alert put out by OSHA, those emergency plans should include contingencies for a global influenza pandemic.
A Minnesota OSHA alert says that such a pandemic is far different from the seasonal “flu” that, for most of us, is an irritant but not life threatening. Pandemics are different. Because a new strain of virus appears, our bodies are not immune, and the disease spreads rapidly around the world. According to OSHA, the impact on the world’s economy could be greater than a terrorist attack.
What are the personal steps we can take? Many of them are the same precautions used now for seasonal flu. They involve obvious suggestions like staying home from school or work during your illness; covering your face when you sneeze or cough, while taking care to use a disposable tissue; washing your hands frequently, using a hand sanitizer; and staying at least 6 feet away from people who are infected.
Businesses should consider steps like scheduling conference calls rather than meetings, or encouraging work from home where possible. Such a plan could also limit public access to employees by installing drive-through windows. Contact between workers could be limited.
Seasonal flu can be dangerous to the elderly, to those with weak immune systems, or to small children. But normally, it is an event we consider more annoying than harmful. An influenza pandemic is another story. According to the Minnesota OSHA alert, when a new strain of the virus appears on the scene, immunity does not exist.
The ailment passes rapidly from person to person, soon spreading around the world. A major pandemic occurred in 1918-20, killing 50 million people in an 18-month period after its first outbreak at a Kansas military base. Among the victims were numerous healthy young adults who died within dies of coming down with the influenza. It was named the “Spanish Flu,” not because it started in Spain but because Spanish newspapers wrote about it extensively.
Recent Kansas tornados prove that spring weather can be unpredictable.
Wondering about Minnesota worker safety during spring storms that cause power outages? Businesses can take several steps to keep workers safe and to protect property during power failures. Business owners should have a safety plan designed ahead of time that can be followed in case of a power failure during a spring storm.
What can happen during a spring storm when the power fails?
If proper safety precautions aren’t followed, businesses can experience property loss. Worse, not following safety procedures can result in injury, and even death, to workers.
Have a battery-operated radio or television at work and at home. This radio or television can keep you up-to-date on the latest weather and news, so you will know what is happening.
Also, if an employer wants to use a generator in case of a power outage, this generator should only be hooked up by a licensed electrician. If the generator is improperly connected, a threat of electrocution can occur. A dangerous back feed of electricity can occur on the normal distribution wiring, which can result in electrocution risks for utility line works.
Have proper ventilation for all heating or cooking sources. Any heating device, such as a fuel heater, needs proper ventilation to prevent dangerous situations from occurring. Only use wood-burning stoves and fireplaces if they have been correctly installed and have been properly inspected. If you have a heating device that requires forced-air circulation to be used safely, do not use this device during a power outage. Using heating devices without proper ventilation creates a risk of fire, and even possibly carbon monoxide poisoning.
Do not use unsafe heating devices. Never use items such as gas ranges, open ovens, charcoal grills, or propane heaters to try to cook or to warm a building. These devices are not intended to heat an indoor area and can create dangerous situations.
Perhaps you’ve noticed a new poster on display at your jobsite lately. It’s probably in an employees-only area, like the break room or near the time clock. If so, this poster may be important in improving safety on the job.
The latest Minnesota OSHA 300 form is required by state law to be posted from February 1 through April 30 of each year, including 2007. The OSHA 300 form lists all work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred on your jobsite during the previous year.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for setting safety standards on most jobsites throughout the country but 22 states, including Minnesota, have opted out of the federal program in order to establish their own safety programs. The Minnesota program is known by the acronym MNOSHA and it is approved for operation by the federal OSHA program.
Those states opting out of the federal OSHA program must have regulations in place that either meet or exceed those of the federal program in order to be approved for operation. In addition to safety procedures and regulations, they must also provide the services offered by the federal program such as appropriate legislation; regulations and procedures for standards setting, enforcement, appeal of citations and penalties; and an adequate number of qualified enforcement personnel.
Minnesota’s MNOSHA program was started with a developmental plan approved by the federal program. This developmental plan was then adopted for state use with the assurance that all elements of the state’s program would be operational within a three-year time period.
The 2006 Minnesota OSHA 300 form that you may have noticed lately is just one example of the many safeguards established by MNOSHA to make workers in Minnesota as safe on the job as possible. The poster should be reviewed and discussed by all employees so problem areas can be identified, corrected, or eliminated.