The numbers of fatalities are down from the early 1990s, but homicide is still a leading factor in workplace deaths in New Hampshire and around the U.S. That’s why every employer should have a plan to prevent workplace violence, and to address it if it does occur.
Employers can take steps to prevent workplace violence, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Employers should consider installing video surveillance, alarm systems, and more lighting. Insure that the staff has cell phones and hand-held alarms. Have a drop safe so there is less cash around, particularly during the early morning and late night hours. Finally, control access to the workplace. Use guards, I.D. badges, and electronic keys.
It is important to be sure that outside sales people and other staff members who must be out of the office at certain times keep employers informed of their itinerary and file a daily work plan as a safety measure. Employees should be given an escort if they are not comfortable leaving the building at night.
Streaming videos and downloads about preventing workplace violence are available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Certain workers are at greater risk than others. Those who exchange money with the public are among them. So are employees who deliver passengers, goods, and services, who work alone in small groups on late night or early morning shifts, and those working in high crime areas.
Healthcare workers, visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators, probation officers, gas and water utility workers, phone and cable TV installers, mail carriers, taxi drivers, and retail workers all have a great degree of public contact in communities and homes. They are at high risk. Nurses, in fact, suffer more assaults on the job than police officers, usually in hospitals but sometimes when visiting homes. Procedures allowing healthcare providers to refuse treatment in an obviously dangerous situation should be set up.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were more than 200 workplace murders in the early 1990s, compared to 94 in 2006. OSHA considers the problem a major concern. More than 2 million people in all professions are the focus of workplace violence in the U.S. annually.
OSHA New Hampshire Worker Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all employers provide a “safe and healthful” workplace. That means, among other things, taking the necessary precautions to prevent or limit hazards of workplace violence. Not to take those measures can result in stringent penalties.
If violence occurs, however, employers should take certain measures quickly. Report any violent incident to police immediately. Offer first aid and other medical attention promptly. Insure that victims understand their legal right to prosecute the perpetrators. Talk about the incident with employees and support them in sharing ideas about how to avoid similar problems in the future. And offer stress debriefing or counseling to all workers.
Employers are encouraged to have a system for dealing with workplace violence that is practiced they way fire drills are practiced. Employers should take all threats seriously and employees should report any threat of violence no matter how seemingly trivial. Every incident deserves an investigation. Detailed, accurate records of threats and incidents should be kept, and corrective action taken.
OSHA has outlined a number of preventive steps that are not guarantees, but will reduce the danger to workers.
Employees should receive a training program showing them how to recognize, defuse, or avoid a possibly violent incident. All employees should tell supervisors or managers of any concern about safety and security dangers, from suspicious behavior by a coworker to a malfunctioning door.
It is important that employees report all incidents promptly and in writing. Signs of possible violent behavior include property destruction, threats, verbal abuse, minor assaults, and rage.
Other measures are important as well. Employers are urged to warn employees against traveling alone into situations and locations that are unfamiliar. It would be inappropriate for an employee to arrive in a strange city at 2 a.m., for example.
Employees should also realize that it is unsafe to wear expensive jewelry or flash expensive items in community settings. It is also best to carry only the identification required and the absolute minimum in cash.
The New Hampshire state minimum wage is set to increase from $5.85 to $6.50, effective September 1, 2007. The 65 cent increase is the second in the Granite State in just 6 weeks, since the rate increased to $5.85 on July 24, 2007.
Minimum wage hikes are on the horizon in a number of states including Utah, Maine, California, Massachusetts, Delaware, Illinois, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Michigan, West Virginia, New Mexico and Kentucky.
On September 8, the Utah minimum wage will increase from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour. The higher rate is, of course, the same as the new federal minimum wage, so most workers in the Beehive State will be unaffected. Still, any employer who is covered under the state minimum wage, but not the federal minimum wage, will be required to increase the amount paid to minimum-wage workers.
Utah is in a unique position in the relationship between the state and federal minimum wages. In Texas, X and several other states, the state minimum wage by statute increases at the same time as the federal minimum wage rises. In Utah, the state minimum wage is increased by an administrative action taken by the Utah Department of Labor. The administrative action normally takes several months before it goes into effect. In this case, the July 24, 2007 increase in the federal minimum wage is not mirrored in Utah until September 8, 2007. Thus, on September 8, the Utah minimum wage will increase by 70 cents from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour.
The next state minimum wage in the nation will occur in Main on October 1, 2007 when the rate will go up by 25 cents, from $6.75 to $7.00 per hour.
A number of states have already voted minimum wage increases that will take effect on January 1, 2008. These include California where the state rate will increase by 50 cents, from $7.50 per hour to $8.00 per hour. In Massachusetts, the state wage rate will also increase by 50 cents from $7.50 per hour to $8.00 per hour. Another state rate increase already on the books for January 1, 2007 will occur in Delaware, where the rate will 50 cents from $6.65 to $7.15.
Three states have annual rate increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. All of these increases go into effect on January 1, 2007. The states are Oregon (currently at $7.80), Vermont (currently at $7.53) and Washington state (currently at $7.93.) Increases last year for these states varied from 26 cents to 36 cents per hour.
Another round of state rate increases will take place on July 24, 2008. These include the rate in the District of Columbia, which will increase from $7.00 per hour to $7.55 per hour, a 55 cent jump. In New Mexico, on the same date, the rate will climb from $5.15 to $6.50 per hour, an increase of a whopping $1.35.
Illinois has been a leader in state minimum wage hikes, with a number of increases over the past few years. The state has already approved 3 more increases before 2010. The next increase in the Land of Lincoln is 25 cents, which will bring the state rate from $7.50 per hour to $7.75 per hour on July 1, 2008. On that same date, the Kentucky minimum wage increase by 70 cents from $5.85 to $6.55. In Michigan, the July 1, 2007 increase will push the state rate from $7.15 to $7.40, an increase of 25 cents. And, in West Virginia the state minimum wage will increase from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour on the same day.
The federal minimum wage increased by 70 cents on July 24, 2007 under the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. The rate went from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour. his was the first increase in more than a decade. Two more increases are on the horizon. On July 24, 2008 the federal rate will increase by 70 cents to $6.55 per hour. Finally, on July 24, 2009, the federal rate will increase to $$.25 per hour.
Critics of the federal minimum wage increase worried that it will decrease the number of jobs available, especially for unskilled workers. Proponents pointed out that the increase is long overdue. At just $5.15 per hour, the old federal minimum wage had lower purchasing power in 2007 than in 1968, when the rate was $1.60 per hour. They point out that the $1.60 minimum wage was equivalent in purchasing power to a salary of $9.12 per hour in 2005. Proponents also note that in the 10 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, the average U.S. Congressman (or Congresswoman) has voted themselves raises totaling $31,600 per year. The current increase amounts to $1,456 per year for a full-time minimum wage worker.
An increase in the federal minimum wage was a major issue during the 2006 mid-term elections. Democrats won a majority in the House and a very slim majority in the Senate, partly because of a promise to pass an increase during their first 100 days in office. While the Democrats technically kept their promise, the original bill was vetoed by President George W. Bush because it was linked to the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Care, Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007. The act will raise the federal minimum a bill that demanded a reduction in American forces in Iraq. While the Iraq debate continued, the minimum wage increase languished.
The bill was finally passed and signed by the president on May 25, 2007. The bill provided for a total of three 70 cent increases, bringing the minimum wage to $7.25. The first increase, from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour, is effective today. The next increase will occur on July 24, 2008, when the federal minimum wage will increase from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour. The final increase under the current bill will occur on July 24, 2009 when the rate will go to $7.25 per hour.
It is very important that employers in the state have a current issue of the New Hampshire USERRA poster on prominent display on every job site. USERRA is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 that provides job protection for all reservists called away from civilian jobs for active military duty. New regulations sanctioned by the US Department of Labor have just been approved that provide new protections to these workers.
Under the latest New Hampshire USERRA regulations, job protections are strengthened and pension plans are explicitly protected. Returning reservists must be allowed to return to the same jobs they held before deployment. Position, rate of pay, and job status must remain as they were before the reservist took military leave.
In order to enjoy job protection under the New Hampshire USERRA regulations, a worker must notify his or her employer as soon as possible once called to active duty. Both written and verbal notifications are allowed. There may be instances where notification is precluded by military necessity but job protection rights are sustained in this situation, too.
New regulations to the New Hampshire USERRA laws outline the length of time a returning reservist is allowed before reporting back to work at a pre-deployment civilian job. Job protection under these regulations can be for as long as five years.
Reservists returning to civilian jobs after less than 31 days away must report to work the first full business day after release from service. Reservists who serve 31 to 180 days are allowed as much as 14 days to apply for employment. Ninety days are allowed if more than 180 days of active duty were served before release from duty.
In most cases, reapplication for pre-deployment positions is merely a formality. In some cases, a reservist can use annual leave or vacation time in lieu of military leave although this provision is at the discretion of the employer.
The revised version of the New Hampshire USERRA poster must be displayed on all job sites across the state, whether or not there are any military reservists on the payroll.
Nationwide and in New Hampshire, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking into millions of injuries every year.
New Hampshire worker safety numbers are also staggering. In 2005 alone, 503,530 workers suffered what are called sprains, strains, or tears, while some 270,890 suffered painful back injuries. And 255,750 employees fell in the workplace.
Education is the key to developing a solid workplace safety plan. And a workplace safety plan can be a matter of life and death.
Here are some of the startling numbers for 2005, the last year for which statistics are available:
- 4,214,200 on-the-job accidents occurred.
- 5,702 workers died in workplace accidents.
- 1,234,700 workdays were lost as a result of accidents at work.
The numbers show that the results are often lost work time, lost pay, high-cost medical care, and lawsuits.
But the figures are just part of the picture. They represent only work in the private sector. Not included are non-profit jobs. Neither do they reflect public service positions, such as paramedical service, police work, and firefighting.
The figures also offer a surprising statistic about a category of accident that is usually seen as annoying at worst. Slips, trips, and falls are the second most frequent causes of death on the job after driving. Work related driving, statistics show, killed 1,258 employees in 2005. By comparison, slips, trips and falls resulted in 732 deaths – more than half the rate of driving-related fatalities.
According to OSHA, education is the key to slowing the rate of injuries and deaths at work. A solid safety program in the workplace offers reminders to employees about the importance of safety. It shows them how to use appropriate safety methods.
Employers interested in promoting on-the-job safety might consider an education program in the workplace. The OSHA Workplace Safety Pack is an easy-to-absorb set of guidelines to help workers avoid injuries. The package contains a Workstation Safety Tips poster, a Lifting Safely poster, a Slips, Trips and Falls poster, and Workplace Ergonomics.
Improving New Hampshire worker safety should be one side effect of a new public service campaign. Workers from industries unrelated to mining are sometimes injured in mining accidents, and this program should raise awareness of the problem affecting both workers and recreational enthusiasts.
Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, explains, “There are about 500,000 abandoned mines and another 14,000 active operations throughout the United States.” According to Stickler, “Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly. That’s why we urge workers, hikers, bikers, rock hounds and swimmers to ‘Stay Out — Stay Alive.’”
Mine accidents are more common than most people think. These accidents include more than just the highly publicized collapses. Since 1999, mine accidents have resulted in 200 fatalities. Some of the people who died in these accidents were children and outdoor enthusiasts who trespassed onto mine property. Sadly, children sometimes trespass onto the property to play, with tragic results. Workers in industries other than mining also sometimes fall into mine shafts or are injured in some other way on mine property.
In addition to mine shafts, other dangers lurk on mine property. Quarries that are filled with water can pose threats. Although they may look safe, these quarries can contain machinery or other sharp object that are hidden under the water’s surface. Other dangers around these quarries include surrounding slopes that are slippery and rock ledges that are unstable. Another danger many swimmers don’t consider is that the water in these quarries is very cold and very deep.
Recreational enthusiasts sometimes encounter problems on mine properties. If these enthusiasts are driving ATVs, they may encounter piles of loose material that can collapse and cause the vehicle to roll over.
The “Stay Out — Stay Alive” program intends to educate the public on the dangers that mines pose. The best way to prevent mine accidents involving children, outdoor enthusiasts, and workers from other industries is for those people to stay off mine property.