How safe is an ATV?
That’s one question that has prompted a Texas OSHA Alert. With more and more ATVs being used for industry purposes rather than recreation, it is a question that needs addressing. Employers need to accept that if they do not provide adequate training on the use of ATVs, and do not have safety precautions in place, then serious injuries, or deaths can occur.
Even when used recreationally, the accident statistics do not make for good reading. According to a recent consumer Product Safety Commission report, fatalities relating to ATV accidents are rising. In 1982 the number was 29. By 2004, this number has risen to 470. The all time high for ATV related injuries are 136,100. The last ten years accounts for 800,000 of them.
However, use of ATVs in industry is becoming increasingly more widespread, in for example industries relating to agriculture.
It was a tragic accident in such an industry that resulted in the death of a female worker. She was using an ATV with a sprayer attached to the back, not realizing that this had the ability to destabilize the vehicle. When she began to drive the ATV and sprayer uphill, the vehicle’s front wheels came off the ground. She tried to compensate by shifting her weight, but the ATV rolled over. When she tried to jump clear, she was crushed under the vehicle, and died from her injuries.
It can be hard to understand how something that even children sometime use as a recreations vehicle can have cause such tragedy.
But workers and employers need to realize that they are not like ordinary cars or motor bikes. They handle much differently. If you add extra cargo or machinery, then the ATV can become unstable, sometimes with tragic results.
It may have been designed for recreational use, but an ATV needs the same respect as you would show any industrial machinery.
If you are on a salaried payment system, yet work more than 40 hours per week, you may be entitled to overtime payments for the extra hours you work. Many employers and employees alike assume that any salaried employee is exempt from overtime. It is an easy mistake to make, but one that the US Dept of Labor is quick to correct.
It has recently prosecuted and won a judgment against Wal-Mart, regarding their violation of federal and Texas minimum wage laws.
This mainly affects workers such as salaried trainee managers, interns and programmer trainees. Many worked long hours yet received no overtime payments in compensation.
Under the agreement enforced by the US Dept of Labor, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay up to $33 million to employees as back wages, plus the interest incurred. Nearly 87,000 employees throughout Texas and the country are affected by this.
So what conditions must be satisfied to ensure that you get the overtime pay you are entitled to, if you are a salaried employee?
Guidelines suggest that you should earn less than $455 per week, or $23,660 a year.
You must work over 40 hours per week. You are entitled to overtime payment in compensation for any extra hours you work, regardless of being salaried.
If you earn more that the stated amount in the guidelines, you may still be entitled to overtime payments. Overall, to be exempt from receiving overtime payments, a salaried manager must have significant decision-making powers. As a general guide, this should include the hiring or firing of three or more members of staff. If you think you may be entitled to overtime, it is worth finding out more.
The argument against Wal-Mart was that the trainee managers who were required to work over 40 hours per week did not have any decision-making powers, or supervision of employees. Some of the trainees were paid much less than $23,660 per year.
HR compliance is more important than ever, with recent news that the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against a Houston employer for not keeping adequate records of employee time worked, including weekly time sheets. U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao wants to send a clear message to employers that violations of labor rights will not be tolerated.
“To protect workers, last year the department deployed additional investigators to the Gulf Coast region to better ensure that employers fully comply with wage and hour laws,” said US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. “This legal action is among our many efforts on behalf of these workers who are doing vital work for the Gulf Coast region’s recovery and who deserve and are entitled to receive all the wages they have earned.”
While busy employers may think of HR compliance as a minor matter, to the Department of Labor, violations are a serious offense. The recent suit filed by the U.S. Labor Department confirms Secretary Chao’s caution against employers who violate labor rights. The suit, to recover over $500,000 in back wages for employees working on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, alleges that the employer committed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) filed the suit against a Houston drywall firm for violating the labor rights of employees. Specifically, the employer misclassified employees as independent contractors, in order to avoid overtime payments mandated under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA).
The drywall company performed on contracts for reconstruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The WHD investigation of the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino contract in Biloxi, Miss. and other worksites, found that the company owner regularly misclassified employees as independent contractors and failed to pay them the additional half time overtime premium for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The company also failed to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages and hours of work.
Like the other states, Texas employers are required to keep Texas posters (that have information about state and federal labor laws) posted in the states’ workplace. These requirements include that the posters are in a visible location within an area where all employees have access such as a mail room, break room or any other place that the employees tend to visit or gather in on a regular basis. Additionally, Texas employers are also required to make sure that they have the most current labor law information on their posters. This is important because labor laws can change as frequently as once a year.
The posting requirements also state that the Texas posters must have information about both state and federal laws. The state laws that should be posted are those that give information on child labor, workers’ compensation (parts 1 and 2 and TWCC #5), payday notices, unemployment insurance and fair employment. The federal laws are the same that need to be posted in every state: 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 and OSHA – Job Safety and Health Protection.
Texas posters need to be posted because often times this is the main resource employees have to get the information they need to know and understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the laws that affect their jobs. The laws outlined on the posters often also contain the information employees need if they want to file a complaint or grievance against their employers – including the information about which state or federal agencies they should contact if there is a problem in their workplace. Employers also benefit from having the Texas posters posted in the workplace. They can use the information to make sure that their company policies conform to the laws that affect them.