Workplace violence is an ongoing problem, with several new episodes pointing out the importance of taking precautions. Employers should have an emergency plan in place, should take steps to prevent incidents, and train both employees and managers in how to respond when violence occurs.
A notorious incident of workplace violence was the shooting at the Northern Illinois University (NIU) campus in DeKalb, Illinois, on February 14. Gunman Steven Kazmierczak stormed a lecture hall and killed 6 people, injured 16, and then turned his weapon on himself.
The young man was a former NIU graduate student who had transferred to the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana to pursue a graduate degree in social work. At NIU, he was enrolled in the graduate Criminal Studies program, and was described by professors as an award-winning student, both calm and committed. There were reports that he had stopped taking medications 3 weeks earlier and had been acting erratically.
A robber killed 5 women on February 2 when trying to rob a women’s apparel shop in a mall in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park. The robber pretended to be a delivery man, then bound 6 victims with duct tape in the back of the Lane Bryant store. Two of them were customers who had come in while the robbery was underway.
While the man was robbing the store, the store manager dialed 911. When the gunman discovered the call he fired on all 6 women, killing 5, before fleeing.
Three city officials and 2 police officers died when a gunman fired his weapon at a city council meeting in Kirkwood, Missouri on February 7. The mayor was injured in the hail of bullets. The gunman was a political activist who, on 2 occasions in the past, had been thrown out of council meetings.
Incidents also occurred in 2007. In one, a retired city maintenance worker in Alexandria, Louisiana shot 5 people, killing 2 of them, at a downtown law office. Police were in a standoff with the killer, John Ashley, for 10 hours before killing him in an exchange of gunfire.
More Workplace Violence
Recently, tragic episodes of workplace violence occurred in Missouri and Illinois. They are not, however, the only such cases. In 2007, several episodes occurred, including the massacre at Virginia Tech.
The Virginia Tech episode remains the worst such tragedy in 2007. In that shooting, a heavily armed young man killed 32 students and staff and wounded another 17 before fatally turning his weapon on himself as police officers moved in on him. The young man, Seung-Hui Cho, had chained the doors of a campus building shut before opening fire.
OSHA, (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) said the shooter demonstrated many of the danger signs of impending workplace violence. Cho was not seeking treatment for his history of mental problems. He had an unhealthy interest in weapons, and had a tendency to developed what have been called irrational crushes on women who were hardly known to them. Once developing the crushes, he would engage in stalker-like behavior and become jealous. Cho would go into fits of rage.
At the University of Wisconsin Madison a man attempted “suicide by cop’” hoping to provoke a shootout with police that would leave him dead, law enforcement officers said. The man threatened to blow up a nearby hospital and fired shots near the building on September 25. The bomb threat was later discovered to be false.
The estranged husband of a 40-year-old waitress at an Orlando Denny’s stabbed her to death over the Labor Day weekend of 2007. The man’s vicious attack was witnessed by several families who had recently left Walt Disney World. Customers and coworkers at the restaurant on International Drive gave chase, but the man escaped over a fence, leaving a shoe behind. The woman died of her injuries despite the efforts of paramedics.
During a tragic event in September two students, aged 17, were shot to death outside a dining hall on the campus of Delaware State University. The 1,700 students of the campus were confined to their dormitories and the campus went on lockdown. Word of the shooting and lockdown went out on cell phones.
Every employer in the state is required to post a 2008 Ohio OSHA 300 form from February 1 until April 30.
The OSHA 300 recounts the work-related injuries and illnesses that took place in the workplace during the previous year. The 2008 form details all the incidents that occurred in 2007, plus the causes of the incidents. By keeping a record of the work-related incidents, companies can pinpoint problem areas in the workplace and then plan how it will correct those problems in the coming year.
One of OSHA’s (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) main goals is to help businesses prevent workplace accidents and illnesses. The agency states that “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.”
To assist companies even further, OSHA conducts free on-site evaluations of the workplace. The agency works with employers to find and to fix hazards.
OSHA is a federal agency and handles the workplace safety for the majority of employers in the United States, both for businesses and for non-profit agencies. A couple of industries, however, are allowed by federal law to be regulated by their own industry’s worker safety program. The mining industry is an example. The MSHA (Mining Safety and Health Agency) regulates the mining industry, because safety standards in this industry are unlike those required in most businesses. Transportation is another industry governed by other than OSHA. The Department of Transportation heavily regulates railroads and others in transportation, including rules for worker safety.
Posting the OSHA 300 in a prominent position is required. Companies that fail to display the form at all, and those that fail to keep the post in place for the allotted time will be subject to fines.
The federal government has established a set of regulations for workplace health and safety that all employers must follow. These regulations are set and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency. States are allowed to establish their own agencies, but they must first be approved by the federal government.
The process to establish a state agency requires federal approval of the development plan, and certification. To get certified, the state must guarantee the federal government that it will be able to have the agency up and running efficiently within 3 years.
Federal regulations also require state agencies to be at least as effective as the federal OSHA. As a result, most state programs are nearly identical to the federal program. Currently, 22 states have their own employee safety and health agencies.
Washington Occupational Safety and Health Administration (WOSHA) is an example of a state agency that mirrors the federal program. WOSHA performs its own safety inspections. It also offers training classes in occupation health and safety. Like OSHA, too, WOSHA provides employers with a free on-site evaluation of their workplace. This program assists companies in detecting and repairing any hazards.
California has its own state agency, too, but took the federal guidelines one step further. Federal standards require certain workplace hazards be publicly posted. California complies, identified additional hazards and posts those as well.
All employers, whether under the jurisdiction of their state agency or the federal OSHA, must post an OSHA 300 form. This form is a record of all illnesses and injuries related to the workplace. Regulations mandate the form be posted each year from February 1 to April 30. The form allows employees to see what has occurred in their company and gauge its safety accordingly.
Preventing accidents in the workplace is a major goal of OSHA. To achieve this goal, the agency urges all employers to ensure their employees follow safety procedures and precautions. It also encourages companies to remind their workers how important it is to work in a safe and healthy environment.
Ohio employers need to be aware that many changes in labor laws occurred during 2007, and will occur in 2008. As a result, these employers will need to update their labor law posters. The coming New Year is a good time to ensure posters are current.
One of the major changes during 2007 related to minimum wage. The federal minimum wage, as a result of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, went from $5.15 to $5.58 per hour. Nearly a dozen states increased their minimum wage on the same day.
Also, during the 2007, several other states, including Utah, Washington, Oregon, and West Virginia increased their state minimum wage.
The complete list of 2008 Ohio labor law posters that every employer should have includes:
- Unemployment Insurance
- Rebuttable Insurance Notice
- Workers’ Compensation
- Public Employee Risk Reduction
- Minimum Wage
- Minor Labor Laws
- Discrimination Notice
In addition, federal law requires all employers in Ohio to display up-to-date copies of the following posters:
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law
- Federal Minimum Wage
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
- OSHA-Job Safety & Health Protection
Both state and federal law require that every employer prominently display the posters in an area where they can be seen by every employee. Popular locations are a bulletin board, near the time clock or in the break room.
The most common reason for employers to update posters includes statute changes, especially to minimum wage laws.
Two states enacted strict bans on smoking in the workplace during 2007. In Illinois, almost every employment venue, including restaurants, bars and casinos went non-smoking. Ohio, too, banned smoking and posted no-smoking signs at all entrances at all workplaces.
The other changes during 2007 had to do with increases in the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage went up from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour in 2007 as a result of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. Several states across the country also raised their minimum wage at the same time.
At other times in 2007, many other states enacted raises for their minimum wage, too. West Virginia, Maine, Washington, Oregon and Oklahoma did so, along with a number of other states.
Also, during the 2007, several other states, including Utah, Washington, Oregon, and West Virginia increased their state minimum wage.
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.
Nine will increase their minimum wage again in 2008 when the federal minimum gets another 70 cent boost. On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum will go from $5.85 to $6.55. The states that bumped their minimum wage with the previous federal increase will bump their minimum wage again.
More than a dozen states will increase their minimum wages on January 1, 2008. These include Delaware, Oregon, Washington, California, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, Arizona, 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 Hampshire, the state rate will go to $6.50.
After the increase, the nation’s highest minimum wage will be in Washington State, where the minimum wage will be $8.07 per hour. Both California and Massachusetts plan increases to $8.00 per hour, while the state rate in Oregon goes to $7.95.
The year 2007 saw more changes to labor laws than most years do. Some of the changes during 2007 had to do with smoking and the sale of cigarettes.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that millions of work-related injuries are investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year. Records of injuries and deaths that happen in the workplace are maintained by the OSHA on an annual basis. Workplace safety in each state has to be regulated, and OSHA is in charge of worker safety and health in the state of Ohio. Injuries and deaths that happen on job sites are more common than you might think.
According to Ohio worker safety statistics, 503,530 people endured tears, strains or sprains as a result of workplace accidents. In addition to those injuries, 270,890 people hurt their back in a job-related accident. People slip, trip and fall all the time. Most people don’t consider falling or tripping a life threatening experience, but the figures for 2005 (the most current statistics we have) show that 732 people died because of a fall that happened on the job. The complete figure for job-related falls is 255,750. Work related driving accidents claimed the most lives, with a tragic 1,258 casualties.
On source for reader friendly health and safety information is the OSHA Workplace Safety Pack. It has three posters (Workstation Safety Tips, Lifting Safety, and Slips, Trips, and Falls) and information on ergonomics. It is a great idea for all employers to have the safety pack at their business. Every employee should be trained and informed about safety techniques, proper procedures, and the importance of safety and not cutting corners.
I am sure that most employers and employees don’t plan to fall and hurt themselves, but these things happen all too often. It is very easy to get comfortable at a job that you have done for several years, but no one should get comfortable with taking shortcuts and compromising safety and health in the workplace.
With around 1.5 million workers in the United States involved in operating forklifts as part of their job, an Ohio worker safety article will be of great interest.
The article, which was written by a safety consultant, highlights the hazards involved in working with forklifts, and points out that they are a common cause of fatalities and serious injuries.
Forklifts, or Powered Industrial Trucks (PITS) as they are also known as, are used widely in most industries. They often have specialized modifications that are attached to them, and these can prove to be one of the hazards concerned. Workers need to realize that attachments can alter the load bearing capacity of the forklift. To this end, the tags or decals on the equipment should be changed to signify the change in capacity.
Attachments commonly used on forklifts are hoppers, drum carriers, rug rams, drum rotators, cylinder caddies, drum grippers and boom extensions. These are all common place in the manufacturing industry.
Under current worker safety standards, if a forklift operator is involved in an accident or “near miss” they are required to undergo retraining. This also applies if an operator is seen to be operating a forklift in an unsafe manner. The OSHA standards also state that all forklift operators should undergo retraining and evaluation on a regular basis.
When carrying a load using a forklift, the operator should ensure that it is carried as low as possible while moving. Any change in the steering, for example, if it seems “light” can mean that the operator has little control over the equipment.
Adding extra weight to the back of the forklift does not compensate for an instable vehicle. It has the effect of shifting the forklifts center of gravity to the rear axel, which is an unstable power pivot point.
Forklift operators need to be aware of load carrying hazards involved in their job. The weight of any attachments must be calculated and counted as part of their overall load.