Virginia workers with disabilities will have access to a new set of resources thanks to an alliance between a federal agency and a 200,000-member-strong organization of human resources professionals.
The partnership should mean that even more of the talents of disabled workers in Virginia will be available to the workforce. Those talents remain underused to some extent.
The Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM) has 550 chapters in more than 100 countries. It helps human resource professionals by providing, according to its mission statement, “the most essential and comprehensive services available.” It was formed in 1948.
The U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) was spun off from the U.S. Labor Department in 2001. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao created the agency in hopes of making services to disabled workers even more flexible and responsive. The relatively new agency is headed up by Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy.
Out of this partnership a new nationwide discussion of the employment of workers with disabilities should be launched. Together, the federal agency and the private organization will work to offer more education, training, technical help, and communication for workers with disabilities. More recruiting and hiring are likely as well.
ODEP and SHRM should benefit from each others’ resources and expertise. As Secretary Grizzard put 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.”
The result should be more interagency communication, greater resources for state agencies, and a tradeoff of information and guidance between the agencies, as well as research and greater access to resources.
Virginia workers with disabilities will still be able to make use of all of the services of the Virginia Department of Labor. There will be an added component of resources and services as a result of the partnership.
Virginia employers play a very important role in protecting the health and safety of their workers. If you’re an employer, then you know this. But you may not have a plan in place in the event of a worldwide influenza outbreak.
You’ve likely created disaster plans for hurricanes and natural disasters, and even have plans in place in case of a power outage or fire. Now, according to OSHA, you need to develop a plan in case of a worldwide influenza epidemic.
A worldwide influenza outbreak, or pandemic, occurs when a new strain of the virus emerges. Since immunity to the strain hasn’t had a chance to build, the virus quickly spreads from person to person worldwide.
As a Virginia employer, you need to be prepared and know what to expect if a pandemic were ever to hit your Virginia. Knowing what to do in a pandemic is equally as important as the plans you’ve already likely made for natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
A pandemic would also affect healthcare facilities. With more people getting sick hospitals and doctor’s offices could become overcrowded. A flu outbreak would affect the patterns of commerce as well. Places where people typically congregate in groups would likely lose business. This is because influenza is spread from person to person and there’s a greater risk of getting it when in groups. Such businesses include malls, restaurants and movie theaters.
In short, a global disease outbreak would have more of an impact than any single terrorist attack that will ultimately affect your business as well.
The 1918 Spanish Flu, the most recent influenza pandemic our nation has experienced, occurred near the end of WWI and killed 50 to 100 million people in only 18 months. To help you understand the full impact of the number of these deaths, compare the influenza fatalities to those of World War I. In the First World War 9 million soldiers and several million civilians died.
The OSHA says there’s currently no new strain of influenza and no pandemic.
If you are an employee, you should be aware of a new study regarding hazards in the workplace. And if you are an employer, now is an excellent time to post an updated Slips Trips Falls poster in your workplace.
That’s because Virginia OSHA standards on the subject of slips, trips, and falls have been revised recently. Slips, trips, and falls are a common workplace problem. They are second only to vehicle accidents when it comes to fatalities, and they cause 15% of all accidental deaths. They are the leading type of general industry mishaps.
OSHA is urging all employers to put up an updated Slips Trips Falls Poster in a prominent place, reminding everyone in the workplace to clean up spills and spots. Housekeeping, according to OSHA, is one of the most overlooked ways to prevent those slips, trips, and falls. OSHA standards require that every workroom floor must be clean and dry. But if a “wet” process is used in the industry, there are some required ways of mitigating the danger. They include raised platforms, gratings, mats, and drainage.
Protruding nails, splinters, loose boards, or holes are targeted in the Virginia OSHA standards. They are prohibited in every passageway and workplace and on every floor. Permanent aisles and passageways must be marked. They must be kept repaired, clear, and free of hazardous obstructions.
According to OSHA, narrow aisles and poor housekeeping, along with vehicle traffic, are a source of worker injuries and equipment and material damage. Those problems can also block exits in emergencies. When employees are rushing to leave a building, serious slip, trip, and fall accidents can happen.
Aisles and passageways in particular come in for consideration in the standards. For example, they must be kept clear and in repair, with no obstructions. You must provide room for two people to pass.
The revised standards apply to virtually all permanent work places. The only exceptions are places where mining, domestic, or agricultural work alone is being done.
Employee education is one of the five main components of a strong drug-free program in the workplace. Other components, according to a recent OSHA report, include analysis, supervisor training, employee assistance and guidelines. Together, these components ensure an extensive and strong program against the use of alcohol and drugs in the workplace.
Many companies are part of the Virginia Drug Free Workplace Alliance. This alliance is one of the tools in the battle against drug use in the workplace. Partner companies use pre-employment drug testing and random drug screening, among other tactics, in their programs.
The Virginia Drug Free Workplace Alliance is a good example of the national commitment to protect worker health and safety. It illustrates how everyone receives benefits when labor unions and contractor associations work together. Minimizing expensive errors, accidents and even deaths in the workplace benefits both employers and employees.
Educating employees about the hazards of drug abuse and alcohol use, and encouraging employees with problems to seek specialized help, are some of the measures that any Virginia employer can apply.
According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many workers with substance abuse problems can come back to their jobs after treatment. But they need support and continuing care after medical treatment.
America’s businesses pay excessive costs related to alcohol use and drug abuse According to the Department of Labor, these costs include more accidents, higher absenteeism and costly errors. Other high costs that are more difficult to perceive are low employee morale and higher illness rates. According to OSHA, drug abuse and alcohol use are present in most fatal automobile accidents in the workplace.
OSHA supports extensive company programs against drugs, especially when safety is particularly critical. Alcohol and drugs must be avoided at workplaces. Drug-free programs improve the health and security of workers but also add value to American businesses.
Workers in Virginia have a program called VAOSHA to thank for setting high standards for safety and health in the workplace. VAOSHA, or the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was established to protect all employees in the private business sector with the same standards, regulations, and procedures established by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Virginia OSHA 300 form is one such tool developed to address worker safety. It is a poster listing all documented illnesses, injuries, and accidents that occurred on the job during the previous year. It is required by law to be posted prominently between February 1 and April 30.
The Virginia OSHA 300 form is meant to help each workplace identify problem areas and procedures specific to that location so danger zones can be improved or eliminated altogether. Discussion between workers and supervisors generated by the form has proven instrumental in improving worker safety on the job.
Most states and US territories rely on the federal OSHA program to set standards but Virginia is one of 22 states that have chosen to establish their own worker safety agency (VAOSHA). VAOSHA started with a developmental plan that met federal OSHA approval and allowed a three-year time frame to have all procedures in place.
VAOSHA provides occupational safety and health training, educational programs, and free on-site safety consultation. Other services required of VAOSHA are appropriate legislation and an adequate number of qualified enforcement personnel to maintain operations.
VAOSHA must also regulate and oversee procedures required for setting and enforcing the standards established. In case of safety violations, VAOSHA issues citations, assesses penalties, and has an appeals process clearly defined in case of dispute.
While most states have enacted worker safety programs that meet the standards of the federal program, some states have chosen to expand coverage to include government and non-profit employees or to include safety issues not addressed by the federal program. At this time, Kansas is the only state that established its own worker safety program and later abandoned it for the federal program instead.