In Mississippi and throughout the United States, homicide is a major cause of workplace fatalities. The Bureau of Statistics reports that over 200 murders occurred on the job in the early 1990s. In 2006, that number had decreased to 94 murders, but homicides are still a large component of workplace violence.
Workplace violence is defined by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) as ranging from threats to physical abuse and homicide. These attacks can occur on the premises of the workplace, or away from the job. Every year, over 2 million Americans are victims of workplace violence.
Certain occupations are particularly susceptible to violence on the job. Perhaps the most obvious are persons who work in high crime areas and who work alone or in small groups late at night. Less obvious are nurses and other healthcare personnel. Statistics, in fact, show that nurses are assaulted on the job as often as police officers. The majority of incidents occur in the hospital, but some occur when nurses do home visits.
Any employee who deals extensively with the public is at an increased risk of workplace violence. Delivery personnel, probation officers, social workers, postal carriers and utility workers are just a few of the occupations exposed to increased risk.
OSHA provides employers with several ideas on how to prevent violence on the job. One suggestion is to limit access to the workplace by issuing I.D. badges and electronic keys to all workers. Guards can also be placed at strategic positions to limit access.
In addition, alarm systems, video surveillance and plenty of lighting should be installed. Workers can be issued hand-held alarms and cell-phones as well. All businesses should implement antiviolence programs and provide training for workers on how to prevent and how to react to violent incidents.
To assist in training workers, employers can obtain downloads and videos on preventing workplace violence from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
OSHA Mississippi Worker Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends several steps to help employers and employees in Mississippi–and in all other states–protect themselves against violence in the workplace. These steps can also help prevent threats and acts of violence, which are a major concern for OSHA.
Employers should establish safety programs that include antiviolence procedures. These procedures should include training for employees to understand what constitutes threats of violence and how to report the incidents. Workers should practice these procedures and know how to recognize, avoid and even diffuse potentially violent situations.
Security and maintenance issues can pose a threat to the workplace. A broken lock on a secure door, a stolen I. D. badge, or a broken window can all be threats to security. These problems should be reported immediately–and remedied immediately.
Odd behavior of coworkers can sometimes warn employees of problems to come. Signals of a tendency toward violence can include verbal abuse, threats and minor assaults. Sometimes these situations don’t seem necessarily dangerous, but they should still be reported. Noting a particular worker’s suspicious behavior early can prevent problems later, so all incidents should be reported.
Some simple steps can be taken by employees to help prevent violence in the workplace. Workers who deal with the public, or work out in the community should be careful not to carry a lot of cash, or wear expensive items. Also, employees should never enter a new location or scenario alone, especially at night.
When violence occurs, the victim should receive medical attention. Also, the police need to be informed and the victim advised of his or her right to press charges against the perpetrator. Employers should discuss the incident with all of the staff to help ease concerns and to help prevent future attacks. Counseling and stress debriefing should also be offered to all workers.
OSHA’s General Duty Clause demands that employers provide a safe and healthy workplace, and requires them to keep a record of every violent incident by type. Failure to comply with OSHA regulations will open employers to severe penalties.
Every employer, in Mississippi and nationwide, should be aware of important changes to the federal FMLA regulations.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides workers with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to care for a family member with a “serious medical condition”, or to care for their own “serious medical condition.” Employers can require medical certification of the condition from the employee’s physician, and can even request second and third opinions. The additional opinions, however, are paid for by the employer.
Recently, changes were proposed to the FMLA to streamline the certification process.
Currently, employers can request recertification of a “serious medical condition” only if a worker takes more than 30 days of FMLA, and when a time limit is imposed by the physician on the condition. To illustrate, consider John who undergoes surgery. He takes more than a month off, and still doesn’t return to work. Or Cassandra breaks her leg and the physician certifies a limit of 8 weeks, but Cassandra doesn’t return to work at that time. Employers can request a recertification in both of these scenarios.
Under the new regulations, though, employers will be able to request recertification of an ongoing “serious medical condition” at least once every 6 months.
The U. S. Department of Labor uses the word “request”, but in reality if an employee refuses to comply, the employer can legally deny the FMLA leave.
When a physician provides medical certification, the employer can not inquire about anything other than what’s provided in the certification notice. The U. S. Department of Labor provides an optional form this purpose, WH-380, which allows the healthcare provider to detail the diagnoses of “serious medical condition” if he or she wishes. Whatever information is provided to the employer, both the employer and the physician must follow HIPAA’s regulations for medical privacy.
The new FMLA regulations also include a formal provision for companies to have ongoing conditions recertified once a year. For instance, Jane has asthma and periodically needs to take unscheduled FMLA leave. Her company can require her to provide annual recertification of her condition.
More Mississippi FMLA Changes
Current federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibit discrimination based on sex, color, gender, national origin or race. Pregnancy, disability and age (over 40) are protected under additional federal laws.
These laws apply to any policy relating to employment. For instance, current FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations allow employers to require “fitness-for-duty” certification for employees returning from FMLA leave. If a company requires an employee with a “serious health condition” to provide certification, it must do so for all employees with a “serious health condition.” Conversely, if an employer doesn’t demand a “fitness-for-duty” certification from a worker returning from adopting a child, that employer can not require certification from any other worker who takes FMLA to adopt a child.
The U. S. Department of Labor recently proposed changes to the FMLA regulations, including two amendments to the “fitness-for-duty” certification process.
Under the new regulations, employers can request that a “fitness-for-duty” certification focus on the worker’s essential job functions. For example, Max works for a moving company and strains his back. Before returning from FMLA leave, his company can require a “fitness-for-duty” certification to ensure he’s physically able to lift and move heavy objects.
The second update pertains to intermittent FMLA leave, and may reduce abuse of FMLA leave by employees. Workers who periodically take FMLA leave can be required to present a “fitness-for-duty” certification every time they return to work. For instance, Judy drives a courtesy hotel shuttle and suffers from migraines which disrupt her vision. When she returns from leave, the business can request certification to ensure her vision is back to normal, because proper vision is a safety issue for drivers.
An employer can not, however, require fitness certification for a situation that doesn’t constitute a safety concern. Victoria is pregnant and struggles with severe morning sickness, a condition certified by her physician. When she takes FMLA leave, her employer can not require a “fitness-for-duty” certification when she returns, because her condition isn’t a safety issue.
OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires all businesses to post the Mississippi OSHA 300 form from February 1 to April 30, 2008.
The OSHA 300 is a track record of all work-related illnesses or injuries that occurred in that company for a particular year. The 2008 OSHA form will contain information for all workplace accidents that took place in 2007. Posting this form in areas readily accessible to employees gives those workers an overall picture of how their company’s performing regarding workplace health and safety.
The Mississippi OSHA 300 also allows companies to chart where the accidents occurred and how often they occurred in a particular workplace area. Since the cause or reason for the incident is included with the accident information, employers can use the form to pinpoint problem areas and determine the best way to handle those areas in the future.
OSHA is dedicated to preventing accidents in the workplaces. Sources from this federal agency state, ““Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.”
OSHA assists companies with keeping the workplace accident-free by providing employers with training classes in occupational health and safety. It also performs free on-site evaluations to help businesses detect and repair hazardous conditions. The agency also conducts inspections of the workplace and enforces all regulations relating to employee safety.
Not all employers in the county are covered by OSHA. Under federal law, a few industries have established their own employee safety organizations. For example, the mining industry is regulated by MSHA (Mining Safety and Health Agency). Safety standards for mining carry some unique regulations, much different from the average business. The Department of Transportation imposes many regulations on the transportation industry, including railroads. Many of these regulations related to employee safety.
Preventing illnesses and accidents in the workplace comes under the jurisdiction of occupational safety and health agencies. Twenty-two states in the union have established their own agencies. The rest of the nation is covered by the federal OSHA, (Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
States that establish their own agency must be approved by the federal government. The process begins with a developmental plan and ends with certification. To obtain certification, the state must guarantee the federal government that it will be able to efficiently operate its agency within three years.
Washington has its own state agency, WOSHA (Washington Occupational Safety and Health Administration) .Regulations require that a state agency be at least as effective as the federal OSHA, so most state programs follow the federal one. Washington’s agency is just such an agency. WOSHA, like the federal OSHA, conducts safety inspections of workplace environments. It also provides occupational safety and health training classes. Also like the federal program, WOSHA performs on-site evaluations, free of charge, to assist companies in identifying and correcting any hazards in the workplace.
California is another state with its own agency. This agency not only follows federal standards, but has enhanced them. In addition to the workplace hazards OSHA requires employers to post California has identified additional hazards and posts those as well.
Whether covered under state or federal regulations, all employers must post a version of the OSHA 300 form. The OSHA 300 tracks work-related injuries and illnesses, and must be posted every year from February 1 to April 30. This forma provides employees a means of gauging the safety of their company.
OSHA works to prevent illness and injury in the workplace, and urges all employers to remind workers of the importance of safety and health on the job. In addition, all companies should ensure that employees follow proper safety precautions in the workplace.
Much of the Southeast is in the deep freeze this week, and Mississippi is no exception. That’s why OSHA has renewed warnings about the dangers of working in cold temperatures.
While cold weather work can be hazardous to anyone, it’s especially dangerous to construction workers, utility workers, emergency responders and others who must be outdoors.
A messy mix of snow, sleet and rain pummeled the Southeast over the weekend, resulting in up to 5 inches of accumulated snow. While schools and many businesses closed, others remain open. That’s why it’s so important for employers and workers to keep safety in mind.
The hazards of cold temperatures are greatly magnified when working in windy or wet conditions.
Driving on the job also presents myriad hazards in cold weather. Visibility may be poor, roads are slick and icy, and other drivers may not be as cautious as they should be.
This week’s storm is just the most recent in a series of hazards for Mississippi workers. In early January, severe thunderstorms knocked out power in many areas of Mississippi and Alabama. Several tornado watches or warnings were issued. Buildings and buses were damaged at a school in Caledonia, Mississippi. In Choctaw County, a woman was injured when barns at a large dairy farm were severely damaged by high winds.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) warns employers that outdoor workers face hazards from cold weather now that winter has arrived.
Workers in certain industries are particularly at risk, such as utility workers, construction and road workers, snow removal employees and agricultural workers. Emergency response workers are also at risk for cold weather injuries and illnesses.
Specific conditions that can result from cold weather include frostbite, cold stress, trench foot and hypothermia.
Whenever the weather is windy or wet, in addition to being cold, Mississippi employers must take extra precautions to protect workers from cold stress, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. One important precaution is to always have employees work in pairs. That’s because an employee suffering from cold stress or hypothermia may become disoriented, confused or even irrational. In extreme cases, workers who are dying from the cold will feel too hot and begin tearing off their clothes.
Cold stress is defined as the body being unable to warm itself. Hypothermia, which can result when cold stress isn’t treated, occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. These conditions can occur in windy, wet conditions, even if the temperature is above freezing.
In fact, hypothermia can occur anytime water drops below body temperature, or 98.6 degrees.
To avoid illness and injury, outdoor employees should work in pairs. They can watch each other for signs of cold stress, which can build up gradually. Symptoms include drowsiness, fatigue, slurred speech, and uncontrolled shivering. The skin can appeal cool, too, and be slightly blue. Irrational behavior, irritability and confusion can also be signs of cold stress.
A worker showing signs of cold stress must get help immediately. After calling emergency services, coworkers or supervisors need to get the employee to somewhere dry and warm. The injured person can be given warm beverages such as warmed sports drinks or sugar water, but no alcohol. Caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate should be avoided, too, as they can actually inhibit the warming process.
The employee’s wet clothing should be taken off and replaced with dry clothing, if available. Otherwise, remove the wet items and wrap the worker in blankets. If the injured person is able, get him or her to move his arms and legs. This will create body heat. If the person can’t move, place hot packs around the head and neck, under the arms and in the groin area.
Do not put the employee into a hot bath. Warming the body too quickly can cause heart failure.
Now is the time for busy employers to update their 2008 Mississippi labor law posters. The past year was a hectic one in the field of Human Resources, with a number of important changes to labor law. These include a new I-9 form to be used by all employers effective December 26, 2008. Employers who fail to use the new I-9 form, or display the updated posters, face hefty fines and penalties.
The updated list of 2008 Mississippi labor law posters is:
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation
Every employer in the state is required by law to display these posters where applicants and employees can see them.
In addition, each employer in Mississipi must display the following federal labor law posters:
- 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
Under both federal and state law, these posters must be updated each time there is a change in legislation.
A change in the federal minimum wage on July 24, 2007 required that the Federal Minimum Wage posters be updated. On that date, the federal minimum wage increased for the first time in more than a decade. The rate went from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour, an increase of 70 cents.
Labor law poster serve as a handy reminder for supervisors and employees alike.They provide important information on the minimum wage, worker safety, medical leave and child labor laws.
It seems as if no two states in the U.S. are alike when it comes to overtime laws or the minimum wage for tipped employees. That’s why the states require different state labor law posters, in addition to the federal posters.
In both cases, some have no laws, and follow federal law. Some are more generous. On rare occasions, they are less so.
Under federal overtime law, workers get 1.5 times their normal pay for any hour over 40. Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Arizona, and Georgia are among states with no laws of their own. They’re covered by federal law, which does not guarantee minimum wage for every kind of worker, regardless of number of hours worked.
Some states just reflect federal law requiring overtime pay after 40 hours, like Michigan and Massachusetts. Nebraska mirrors the federal law, then extends it to any business with 4 or more workers. Kansas overtime doesn’t activate until after 46 hours in a week, while Minnesota’s overtime is triggered at 48 hours.
California offers the best overtime laws. Workers are entitled to overtime after 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Working 7 consecutive days guarantees an employee overtime on the 7th day. Double-time (twice the normal hourly rate) kicks in after an employee works 12 hours in a single day, or 8 hours on the 7th consecutive workday.
Colorado workers get overtime after either a 40-hour week or a 12-hour day. In Kentucky, overtime pay activates after 40 hours and on the 7th consecutive workday regardless of how many hours the employee works in that day.
The federal minimum wage rate for tipped workers is now $2.13 an hour. Some states follow the federal rate. Among them are Kentucky, Indiana, and Nebraska, which also set the rate at $2.13.
Other states offer just a little more than the federal rate. For example, Wisconsin is $2.33 an hour, North Carolina is $2.43, Michigan is $2.65 and Massachusetts is $2.63.
Kansas, on the other hand, is lower than the federal rate. Its minimum wage for tipped workers is only $1.59 an hour.
Essentially, employers are getting “tip credits,” or the right to offer a lower than normal minimum wage because the workers in these fields receive tips which are supposed to compensate.