A new alliance of two powerful groups – one public and one private – should make the talents of Oregon workers with disabilities more readily available to the workforce.
The first-time-ever linkup between a human resources organization with 200,000 members worldwide and a streamlined federal agency for disability employment should create a symbiotic relationship that combines the resources, services, and networking of both.
The result will be more recruiting of Oregon workers with disabilities. It should mean more jobs, communication, and outreach. It could mean more education, training, and technical assistance. And it could promote a nationwide discussion on better using the talents of workers with disabilities.
The federal agency bringing its talents to the table is ODEP, or the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy. The private organization is SHRM, or the Society of Human Resource Managers. Oregon’s disabled workforce will still have access to all of he services they have traditionally gotten through the Oregon Department of Labor. This new alliance will add more to the mix.
As Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, describes it, “This alliance formalizes the relationship we have had with SHRM, benefiting SHRM as it serves its membership with the resources ODEP brings to the table and offering ODEP the opportunity for broader contact with human resource professionals.” In short, ODEP will enjoy the networking available through SHRM, while SHRM benefits from access to ODEP’s resources.
Together, the outcome should be research, communication, and shared information and guidance.
SHRM dates back to 1948. Since then it has grown to 200,000 members. There are 550 chapters in more than 100 countries. The organization’s goal is to “serve the needs of human resource professionals by providing the most essential and comprehensive services available.”
Before 2001, all policy relating to employment for workers with disabilities was handled by the U.S. Labor Department. But Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao hoped to make services to disabled workers more effective. So the new agency was formed under Assistant Secretary Grizzard.
How can both workers and employers help reduce the increasing problem of deaths and injuries caused by ATV accidents on the job?
The answer is training, according to an Oregon worker safety alert. Because more and more ATVs are being used on the job, risks of death or injury are increasing. A new safety bulletin outlines just what guidelines should be followed, both for operation on an ATV on the job, and for the training programs an employer should use to reduce the risks involved in workplace ATV operation.
To insure there is no question about the vehicles it is referring to, the Oregon worker safety alert offers guidelines for any machine that meets its definition. The definition applies to any motorized off-road vehicle with a seat that the driver straddles. It also applies to any machine where the driver straddles the seat.
The bulletin stresses not only the need for safety, but also the need for a series of ways that work practices can be adjusted. For example, it recommends that helmets should always be worn.
The Oregon worker safety alert notes that the danger is very real. In the past 10 years alone, 100 ATV drivers have died in accidents on the job.
The problem is caused at least partially by a common misperception. Many people, looking at the fact that the sporty little ATVs are used recreationally and are often driven by children, make a mistaken assumption. They assume the machines are easy to operate. They’re not. They do not handle like a car or a motorcycle. Rollovers are commonplace. In fact, recreational use is resulting in eve r more deaths and injuries, a disturbing trend. In a period of just 22 years (from 1982 to 2004), the death toll from ATV accidents yearly rose from just 29 to a startling 470. There have been an incredible 800,000 injuries in the last decade.
Many job-related accidents are related to drug use. The construction industry is particularly dangerous in and of itself, and having the impairment of drugs or alcohol increases that danger. There are several programs that were created to reduce the accidents that happen because of drug abuse.
The Oregon drug free workplace program focuses on temporary construction worksites. This is a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), but it is of great benefit for employers to participate in it.
The Oregon drug free workplace program has a new addition called the Mobile Workforce Demonstration for Construction. Mobile construction teams can improve worker safety by participating in the program. The construction industry is one line of business where it is vital to have a drug-free environment. Protecting worker safety and health improves with any work environment that becomes drug-free.
The OSHA makes a big deal about good VPPs. Employers and employees that make excellent efforts at improving safety and health are officially recognized. Assistant Secretary of Labor, Edwin Foulke says that the program “recognizes those construction companies that should be held up as models of safety and health for the rest of the industry.” Assistant Secretary Foulke also said that it “offers construction employers with mobile construction workforces and short term projects the same opportunity for recognition that fixed-site employers receive.”
Throughout the years the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has offered several VPPs. In 1982, the very first Voluntary Protection Program was developed. These programs inspire cooperation between workers, management, government agencies and unions to promote safety and health in the work environment. As a result of participation in VPPs the number injuries, illnesses, and deaths that occur have been reduced.
The latest VPP addresses fall hazards and using safe trenching techniques in the construction industry. It also outlines that contractors need to train employees on safety measures. Subcontractors must also be informed about health and safety precautions and strategies.
Alcohol and drug abuse pose a problem for employers, but the expanding Oregon Drug Free Workplace Alliance is working to reduce this problem, according to the Oregon Dept. of Labor. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, feels alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace is a preventable hazard. OSHA is a supporter of programs that promote drug-free workplaces. Eliminating drug and alcohol abuse from the workplace is very important, especially in industries where machinery is operated.
The alliance partners a federal agency with many unions and contractor associations. Creating a drug-free workplace helps employers protect the health and safety of their employees. One way employers can reduce the hazards of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace is by educating employees on the dangers. Employers also can use approaches such as pre-employment drug screenings and random drug tests to help lower the impact of alcohol and drug abuse.
Another way employers can reduce the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on their businesses is by encouraging employees with problems to find help. Since most drug users have either full-time or part-time jobs, getting these employees to seek help can make a difference. The number of drug users is 16.7 million, and 74.3% of these individuals have jobs. That number means that 12.4 million workers have abuse problems.
OSHA has statistics that show that 20% of the deaths that happen due to accidents at work involve individuals who test positive for either alcohol or drugs. Employers can see how large the problem is when they add to that the number of uncounted accidents that happen in the workplace that are caused by alcohol and drug abuse problems.
Alcohol and drug abuse problems cause increases in the absenteeism rate and the number of accidents and errors in the workplace. Abuse problems also can result in lower employee morale and increases in illnesses. Creating a drug-free workplace is one way employers can protect both their businesses and their employees.
Authorities are concerned about mine accidents and their effect on Oregon worker safety. Since 1999, mine-related accidents have killed more than 200 people. Workers from unrelated industries can fall in mineshafts or could be victims of other type of accidents. Mines are a real peril. During 2006, at least 30 people were fatally hurt in mine accidents. Their ages ranged from 17 to 51 years old. The deaths occurred in exterior and interior mine operations.
That’s why citizens, business, state agencies and private organizations are active partners of the “Stay Out–Stay Alive,” campaign promoted by the US Dept. of Labors Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. The public safety crusade has the objective of counseling outdoor enthusiasts and workers that intruding on mine property could be dangerous.
Many mines contain hidden dangers, said Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. “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.’”
Warm weather encourages people to be involved in outdoor activities. To prevent accidents, the program includes service messages to warn people about accidentally trespassing on mine property. Professionals in the areas of mine safety and health will visit scouting groups, schools, and other organizations to alert young people about the dangers of playing near mines.
“There are about 500,000 abandoned mines and another 14,000 active operations throughout the United States,” Stickler said. Children who trespassed onto mine property to play, and recreational users, have been involved in tragic mishaps in the past few years.
There are several hazards in inactive underground mines. Hidden excavations are one danger. Many of them are hundreds of feet deep, and covered only with fragile, rotten boards. Other dangers in mineshafts are poisonous insects or snakes, deadly gases or flooded sections.