Although homicide in the workplace is decreasing, it’s still important to prevent workplace violence in Vermont and nationwide.
In the early 1990s, over 200 people were murdered in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number dropped to 94 in 2006. Violence in the workplace in Vermont and across the nation is a concern for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), particularly homicides. Though the number of people killed has dropped over the years, it is still a major factor.
OSHA urges all employers to establish a policy of zero tolerance toward violence on the job. Safety programs and violence prevention programs should be set up and provided in writing to all employees. Workers should also understand how to prevent violence, and how to react in violent scenarios.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides videos and downloads on preventing workplace violence.
The statistics regarding workplace violence are staggering. Over 2 million Americans are victimized every year. All occupations and social levels are included. Blue collar workers and professionals are each as likely to be involved.
To help prevent workplace violence, OSHA recommends that all companies install video surveillance, alarm systems and extra lighting. All workers should be issued an I. D. badge to limit access, along with cell phones and hand-held alarms. For those workers handling a lot of cash, especially at night, companies should provide a drop safe.
Several occupations, simply due to the nature of the job, are at an increased risk for workplace violence. Included in this group are workers with extensive public contact, such as employees dealing with the public regarding money, or healthcare or social services. Workers who deliver packages, goods and services are at higher risk. Utility workers (i.e. phone, gas, water and cable), cab drivers, postal carriers, cab drivers psychiatric evaluators and visiting nurses are also at greater risk.
For their safety, all employees who work away from an office should provide their employer with their work plan, and check in during the day. Plus, companies should have a policy where a worker clearly facing a dangerous situation can refuse that situation.
OSHA Vermont Worker Safety
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) General Duty Clause, all Vermont employers (and employers across the country) are required to provide a workplace that is safe and healthy. While it isn’t possible to prevent all accidents, there are several steps employees and employers can take to abate the risk to workers.
First, the employer needs to establish a procedure for handling any incidents of violence related to the job. All workers should be informed of this procedure in writing (usually via the employee handbook) and should be required to practice it, just as they would practice any other safety drill.
One of the goals of this procedure is to train employees how to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations. Another goal is to explain the process for reporting these incidents. In many cases of violence, incidents have occurred previously that serve at warnings, such as verbal abuse, destroying property, threats to other workers and minor assaults.
Employees on travel or away from the office can take preventative steps as well.
A worker out in public should carry required identification and only minimal amounts of cash. Employees traveling alone to a new location or scenario should never do so in the middle of the night. All workers out in the community should refrain from wearing expensive items, particularly jewelry.
Safety from violence doesn’t just include behaviors, but also the security of the physical workplace. Simple things like a door with a broken lock, or a cracked window are just as important to report to a supervisor as a coworker behaving suspiciously.
Employers are required to keep track of all violent incidents by type and to immediately correct them. When a violent incident occurs, workers should report the offense immediately, get the victim first aid and medical treatment, advise the police of the incident, inform victims of the right to prosecute, offer counseling to all workers, and discuss how to prevent similar attacks.
Failure of an employer to address hazards in the workplace can result in severe penalties from OSHA.
Concern for Vermont worker safety is at the heart of a new warning issued recently. The Mine Safety and Health Administration, part of the US Department of Labor, wants everyone to know that mines can be dangerous. A new public safety campaign warns the public to “Stay Out — Stay Alive.” This campaign aims to educate workers and recreational enthusiasts that trespassing on mine property can be dangerous.
Sadly, since 1999, over 200 people have died in accidents related to mines. Those accidents often involved outdoor enthusiasts and children. Abandoned and active mines alike pose a threat. Children will sometimes sneak onto mine property to play. In other cases, workers from industries not related to mining have fallen into mine shafts or in some other way experienced an accident on mine property.
According to Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, “There are about 500,000 abandoned mines and another 14,000 active operations throughout the United States. 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.’”
Consider the numbers. In 2006 alone, mine-related accidents claimed the lives of at least 30 people. These individuals ranged in age from 17 to 51 and were all killed in underground or surface mine operations. The “Stay Out — Stay Alive” campaign involves state and federal agencies, along with businesses, private organizations, and individuals. This is the ninth year this campaign has been used to raise public awareness of the dangers.
To get the message out, the program warns against the hazards posed by trespassing on mine property. This message is conveyed via public service announcements. In addition, health workers and mine safety professionals from the federal government will talk to scouting groups, schools, and other organizations so that young people learn that mines can be dangerous.
Reports received by OSHA show that workers have lost their control over the chainsaw whenever the plastic handle broke during heavy use. It has injured some workers with severe bruises and some with wrist sprains and burns in the fingers.
According to the Vermont worker safety alert, two types of chainsaws that are popularly used in many industries are affected. They are the brands of Troy-Bilt and Craftsman chainsaws being powered by a two-cycle gasoline engine ranging in size from 46cc to 55cc. Their cutting blades have length of either 18 or 20 inches.
It was the Vermont OSHA office that issued a warning recently on these two brands of chainsaw that are widely used in industry.
OSHA works along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take necessary steps required in this aspect. The CPSC’s main aim is to protect the consumers from unknown and unreasonable risks caused by more than 15,000 varieties of consumer product incidents which come under its jurisdiction. $700 billion per annum is the estimated cost towards the damage caused to property by these products. The CPSC works towards the protection of the safety of workers and consumers from the mechanical, the chemical or the electrical hazards posed by the products.
The OSHA agency insists that every employer must be aware of the dangerous hazards created by the chainsaws. It emphasizes that the workers must stop using these products immediately.
The two brands of the chainsaws have already been voluntarily recalled by the manufacturers in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and OSHA. The employers must take action to remove the chainsaws from the workplace in order to ensure their workers’ safety. Proper measures must be taken to equip the chainsaws with additional safety kits. The information on the same can be obtained either from the manufacturers or the OSHA.
Auto mechanics can suffer all of the hazards of working with asbestos that other workers do, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and the rare cancer mesothelioma.
The problem is that the brakes and clutches in many older cars and trucks contain asbestos There’s no way to know in advance, however, which ones contain the material, so every car or truck’s clutch or brake shoe must be dealt with as if asbestos were present. A mechanic who handles an asbestos-laden brake or clutch improperly is exposing everyone in the auto repair shop to dangerous asbestos levels.
A new Vermont Worker Safety advisory addresses the daily dangers of asbestos to mechanics and others, and focuses on the hazards of the material in the brakes and clutches of older cars and trucks.
Some 10,000 people die every year in the U.S. because of illnesses related to asbestos inhalation. When it’s handled wrongly, asbestos crumbles into miniscule, invisible particles. The particles, airborne, are then readily inhaled. The results of asbestos inhalation can be long lasting and serious.
What are the risks of asbestos?
Asbestosis, for one. It is an inflammatory disease, causing severe shortness of breath and greater risk of developing various lung cancers. A chronic disease, it tends to occur in the mining industry, where workers are exposed to heavy amounts of asbestos over a long period of time.
Mesothelioma is another. This rare form of cancer is showing up in aging workers who were once exposed to asbestos. Cancer may start in the mesothelium, or protective lining of internal organs. It may also show up in the linings covering the heart and abdomen – called the pericardium or peritoneum. Most cases of mesothelioma are found in people who were exposed to asbestos in the form of dust or fiber.
The families of workers exposed to asbestos are also at risk because washing the asbestos-laden clothing is also a danger.
Other illnesses as a result of asbestos are lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancer.
Asbestos is a fire-retardant, which has been used industrially for hundreds of years.
The U.S. Department of Labor lately released the final Vermont USERRA regulations. USERRA is the acronym of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a law of 1994 that cover the right of members and veterans of the National Guard and Reserve to be reemploy to their civilian jobs. USERRA protect the soldiers when they come back from the military service and want to return to their positions.
The soldiers not only have the rights to take their jobs back but also they have to return to the same position, salary and benefits as if they were not absent. In many test cases, they also received the promotions that they would have received if they remained at the job. The annual salary increases or the raise in the cost of living, must also be consider when the soldiers return to the jobs.
Now is a good occasion for the employers to update the USERRA posters in their workplaces. According to the Department of Labor, in every company is required to display updated and correct information.
Recently, the employees of the federal government were included in the list of those entitled to receive assistance of the Department of Labor to present claims related to USERRA. There is a division within the Department of Labor, known as the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, who assist every people with claims in their rights related to the regulations of USERRA.
The Army, Navy or Air Force Reserve members has a period of 5-year of protection of their civilian jobs. This period is cumulative, but has exceptions. In general, the regulation state that a soldier, for example, that served their country for 3 years, they have another 2 years to solicit their reemployment. However, if the member remains in service for more than 5-years with no breaks, she or he retains their rights to come back to the job.