As 2008 approaches, New Jersey businesses need to check their labor law posters to make sure the information is up to date.
The 2008 New Jersey labor law posters have gone through several changes and companies need to take appropriate action. As a result of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, the federal minimum wage rose for the first time in about 10 years from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour. Several states raised their minimum wages at the same time.
During 2007, many other states, including Texas, Maine, Utah, and North Carolina established higher state minimum wages, too.
Other changes occurred to labor laws in 2007 that required companies to modernize their posters. For example, a new tough ban on smoking at work was established in Ohio. Businesses there had to post no-smoking signs at every entrance.
The 2008 New Jersey labor law posters that every employer must display are:
- Payment of Wages
- Workers’ Compensation
- Child Labor
- Discrimination Notice
- Wage Payment
- Conscientious Employee
- Unemployment Insurance
- Family Leave Act/Leave of Absence
In addition, under federal law, every Nebraska employer must display the following posters that cover U.S. labor law:
- 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
A number of states across the country enacted an increase to their state minimum wage during 2007. Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Hampshire are among them.
Minimum wage wasn’t the only law that changed during 2007. Two states established new no-smoking bans. Illinois’s new law banned smoking in almost every work environment, including casinos, restaurants and bars. In Ohio, a tough new ban on smoking at work was also enacted. Businesses were then required to post new no-smoking signs at all entrances.
Alaska amended its Child Labor Laws regarding the buying and selling of cigarettes. The law already prohibited anyone under the age of 19 from buying cigarettes, but concern arose regarding teens working in gas stations and convenience stores that sell cigarettes. Part of the concern was that these teens when unsupervised might sell cigarettes to friends who were underage. The law was changed, therefore, to also prohibit anyone under the age of 19 from selling cigarettes.
All of the changes that occurred during 2007, and those slated to occur in 2008 will require employers to update their labor law posters. If the posters are not updated, the employer could be fined.
On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage will go up again time from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour. Again, the states that bump their minimum wage when the federal rate rises, will increase their minimum wage rates on that day.
More than a dozen states will increase their minimum wages on January 1, 2008. These include Delaware, Oregon, Washington, California, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Montanan and Ohio. The lowest rate to be increased is in Montana, where the state minimum wage will increase from $6.15 per hour to $6.26. In Missouri and New Mexico, the state rate will go to $6.50.
The most common reason for employers to update posters includes statute changes, especially to minimum wage laws. In just the past few months, employers in New Hampshire, Nevada and Maine have updated their labor law posters as the state minimum wages changed. The most recent increase was on October 1, 2007 when the New Hampshire minimum wage increased to $6.50 per hour.
An oil refinery accident took the lives of 15 workers and injured more than 100. Six months later, an OSHA inspected another plant owned by the same company and found it had not corrected any of the problems that had led to the fatal disaster.
Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a major campaign of refinery inspections and plans to inspect every plant in its jurisdiction.
The policy changes should affect New Jersey worker safety and benefit the residents of New Jersey as well.
In 2007 OSHA has inspected 50 refineries so far. In 2006, it conducted 100 refinery inspections. It has embarked on a campaign of hiring and training new inspectors to meet its goals of inspecting every plant under the new National Emphasis Program.
So far, said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, more than 160 OSHA staff have been trained in conducting inspections according to the principles of the Process safety Management (PSM) inspection guidelines. By August of this year, he added, “we will have 280 PSM-trained inspectors.”
In the spring of 2005, an oil refinery owned and operated by BP outside Houston, TX, exploded. More than 100 workers were inured and another 15 were killed. Flames shot up thousands of feet above the site, and debris and ash rained down on the neighboring area. The plant had been refining 433,000 gallons of crude oil daily. The explosion took 3% of the country’s total capacity off line. That in turn contributed to high prices at the gas pump in the summer of 2006.
Six months later, OSHA inspected another BP refinery, this one in Ohio. It found that BP had made no corrections to the problems that had resulted in the Texas refinery tragedy. The agency decided that oil companies would not make any changes to their safety procedures voluntarily, so the tough new inspection plan was inaugurated.
Since 1999, 200 people have died in accidents around abandoned or active mines. In 2006 alone, at least 30 people aged 17 to 51 died on mining sites. Among them were children, outdoors enthusiasts, and workers.
As summer approaches, people will be outdoors, and again there’s a danger of trespassing or accidentally wandering onto the property of an active or abandoned mine, with all its hidden hazards.
That’s why a public safety effort is underway to warn people to “Stay Out — Stay Alive.”
New Jersey worker safety is at issue along with the safety of children and casual explorers. Workers who are not in the mining industry may suffer an accident on mine property, or even fall into a mine shaft.
The “Stay Out — Stay Alive” program of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has been active for 9 years, and has involved state and federal agencies, businesses, individuals, and private groups.
One of its efforts involves visits by federal mine safety and health experts to schools or to children’s groups such as scouting organizations, to warn the youngsters about the dangers lurking on mining property. Children often trespass or wander onto mining property, and find themselves in dangerous or life-threatening situations.
Richard E. Stickler, Assistant secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, estimates there are about 500,000 abandoned and 14,000 active mine sites in the U.S. “Many of them,” he said, “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.’”
There are a number of potential hazards to the inattentive worker or the unsuspecting, casual outdoor enthusiasts. They include mine shafts that may drop hundreds of feet. The shafts may be hidden under rotting or decayed boards that could give way under the slightest pressure. Tunnels may cave in. They may contain poisonous gases, or snakes and insects. The tunnels may also be flooded. All are recipes for serious accidents or worse.
Under the recent USERRA regulations, members of the Navy, Air Force or Army Reserve and veterans, have the right to have their civilian jobs protected for a period of up to five years if they are called to serve. The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, also known as VETS, is the division of the US Department of Labor that can assist people covered by the regulations if they make a claim under the USERRA regulations.
As an employer, this is an appropriate time to update your New Jersey USERRA poster with the final USERRA regulation being released by the Dept of Labor recently. It is important that you are displaying the most up to date information for employees to read.
It is also important that you ensure that you, as an employer, fully understand the new regulations as they provide important clarification of the rights of employees serving in the military.
One area that may have caused confusion in the past is the regulation that refers to the period of time that an employer should hold open a veterans civilian job. Briefly the new regulations are as follows:
An employer must rehire the veteran after up to 5 years, depending upon the length of service.
On returning to their civilian jobs, most employees are entitled to the same benefits that they would have received if they had not gone away from their job. These include cost of living and annual pay rises, as well as promotions relating to length of service.
The five year period that the employee is away is cumulative. If an employee is away for two years, and then three years, they are still entitled to have their job protected for both cases.
Periodic absences due to National Guard or Reserve training are not included in the five year period of absence.
There may be exemptions to these regulations, and it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure they are aware of these.
If you are required to operate an ATV or All-Terrain Vehicle as part of your job, then there is some important safety information that should be aware of. With industries such as law enforcement, facilities management, construction and agriculture increasing their use of ATVs, as well as other industries, it is an issue that affects many workers, both now, and in the future.
A New Jersey OSHA alert has highlighted some of the hazards workers can encounter while operating ATVs. A bulletin that was recently released also provides training and operating guidelines that employers can put in place to ensure that their employees stay safe from accidents involving ATVs.
Although most reported ATV accidents have been related to recreational use of the vehicles, the New Jersey OSHA alert reports that with increasing use of the ATVs in the workplace employees need to be aware of the hazards. Many of these accidents had deadly consequences, so employees should also be aware of these safety guidelines.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and New Jersey OSHA, report that workers are not always trained to use ATVs. They warn that, because ATVs are more often used in recreational pursuits, sometimes even by children, safety issues relating to ATVs are often not taken seriously in the workplace.
If you operate an ATV in the workplace there are some procedures you can adopt that will help to keep you safe. Always wear a safety helmet when operating the vehicle.
Never use the vehicle to transport people from one location to another. ATVs are designed to carry only one person.
Do not carry heavy loads on the front or back storage racks. This can cause the vehicle to become unstable. Do not modify the vehicle, such as by attaching machinery to the front or back. Again, this can cause the vehicle to become unstable.
Make sure that you are aware of the manufacture’s operating guidelines, and do not deviate from them. If your employer does not already have an ATV training program in place, suggest one.