Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stay Safe Working In Hot Temperatures!

 It's that time again when hot conditions put your body under a lot of stress. Physical activity stresses the body even more. When heat is combined with physical activity, loss of fluids, fatigue, and other conditions can lead to a number of heat-related illnesses and injuries. Death is even possible. This week's blog discusses ways to prevent heat stress and how to recognize the symptoms of heat-stress conditions.
Warm weather increases the number of heat-stress injuries and illnesses, but Heat stress can occur any time the surrounding temperature is elevated. Even if the weather is cool, you may work in warm areas, indoors or out.
The main factors that are involved in causing heat stress include:
  • temperature  &  humidity
  • movement of air & radiant temperature of the surroundings
  • clothing & physical activity
Adjusting to these factors and/or controlling them may reduce the chance of heat stress. Your body can adjust to working in a warm environment through a process known as "acclimatization". Check with your company's safety people for the exact way to properly acclimatize yourself.  Keep in mind, though, even if you're already acclimatized, conditions can change which stress your body even more. Bright sunshine, high humidity, and sources of heat in the workplace can affect your body's ability to cool itself. If conditions change, make sure you re-acclimate yourself to the new conditions.
Engineering controls implemented to reduce the possibility of heat stress include:
  • control the heat source through use of insulation and reflective barriers
  • exhaust hot air or steam away from the work area
  • use of air-conditioning & use of air-conditioned rest areas
  • use of fans to circulate the air
Administrative controls to prevent heat stress injuries include:
  • increase  frequency and duration of rest breaks
  • schedule tasks to avoid physical activity during the hottest parts of the day
  • provide cool water and encourage consumption
  • use additional jobsite workers or slow the pace of the work
  • review  the signs and symptoms of heat stress with workforce
There are a number of types of heat stress injuries. Some are annoying but not very serious. Others can quickly lead to life-threatening situations. Knowing what to look out for is important. This is especially true because the more serious heat stress conditions cause the victim to become disoriented and unaware of his/her condition. People who are overweight, physically unfit, suffer from heart conditions, drink too much alcohol or are not acclimated to the temperature are at greater risk of heat stress and should seek and follow medical advice. The major heat stress injuries and illnesses are described here:

Heat Rash is caused by a hot, humid environment and plugged sweat glands. It is a bumpy red rash which itches severely. It is not life-threatening but is very annoying.
Heat Cramps are painful muscle cramps caused by a loss of body salt through excessive sweating. To help prevent heat cramps, drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free fluids while working in a hot environment.
Heat Syncope (pronounced "sin-co-pay") is sudden fainting caused by a reduced blood flow to the head. The victim's skin will be cool and moist and his/her pulse will be weak. Immediate medical attention is needed in the event of syncope.
Heat Exhaustion results from inadequate salt and water intake and is a sign the body's cooling system is not working properly. The victim will sweat heavily, their skin will be cool and moist and their pulse weak. They will seem tired, confused, clumsy, irritable or upset. They may breathe rapidly, even pant, and their vision may be blurred. The victim may strongly argue that they are okay even with these obvious symptoms. If you suspect heat exhaustion, don't let the victim talk you out of seeking immediate medical attention. The heat exhaustion will affect their ability to exercise good judgment. Until medical help arrives, try to cool the victim and offer sips of cool water as long as the victim is conscious. Immediate medical attention is required. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke.
Heat Stroke is the deadliest of all heat stress conditions. It occurs when the body's cooling mechanism has shut down after extreme loss of salt and fluids. Here, the body temperature will rise, the victim's skin will be hot, red, and dry. Their pulse is fast, and they may complain of headache or dizziness. They will probably be weak, confused, and upset. Later stages of heat stroke cause a loss of consciousness and may lead to convulsions. In the event of heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention. Until help arrives, try to cool the victim and offer sips of cool water if the victim is conscious.

Recognizing the symptoms of heat stress is very important, particularly since the victim may not realize what is happening. If you work alone in a hot environment, develop a "buddy system" so someone will check in on you periodically to look for signs of heat stress.
Preventing heat stress is a matter of controlling the factors that cause it. Use the precautions mentioned in this article, and don't hesitate to seek assistance if you suspect heat stress. Your good health depends on it!
If you have any questions concerning heat stress and how you can improve your employees safety, please contact the LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Department of Labor Pursuing H-2A Temporary Non-Immigrant Worker Program

The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking to obtain a judgment against strawberry grower Fernandez Farms Inc., based in Watsonville, Calif., and its president, Gonzalo Fernandez, requiring payment of nearly $1 million in back wages to approximately 400 farm workers for minimum wage and overtime violations. Additionally, the department seeks more than $1 million in penalties for those wage violations and for egregious violations of the H-2A temporary non-immigrant worker program, which include a failure to hire qualified U.S. workers and allegedly requiring workers to pay a substantial sum of their earnings to cover costs of the program.

"This employer blatantly disregarded the law — underpaying low-wage workers, demanding kickbacks and circumventing rules on proper hiring," said Laura Fortman, deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. "Because of the nature of these violations, the department has no choice but to seek a debarment order that prohibits Fernandez Farms Inc. and its president, Gonzalo Fernandez, from applying to the H2-A program for three years, the maximum allowed."

Investigators from the Wage and Hour Division's San Francisco district office found that from May 2010 to December 2011, Fernandez Farms failed to pay workers the proper hourly wage and keep complete and accurate personnel and payroll records. The employer also required each temporary worker to kickback more than $1,600 from their earnings per season, allegedly to cover administrative costs of the program, in direct violation of H-2A program rules. The grower was also found in violation of federal housing safety and health requirements under the H-2A program. Additionally, the employer is alleged to have impeded the department's investigation by intimidating workers and coercing them to hide from or lie to investigators, resulting in an extended investigation.

The H-2A temporary agricultural worker program establishes a means for employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the United States to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work. The employer must file an application stating that a sufficient number of domestic workers are not available and the employment of these workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed workers in the United States. Employers using the H-2A program must meet a number of specific conditions relating to recruitment, wages, housing, meals and transportation. More information about H-2A requirements is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs26a.htm.


The case is being litigated by the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in San Francisco. For more information about the H-2A program, the Fair Labor Standards Act and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
As a reminder, PEO clients receive continuous update and support related to employment tax regulations and obligations, as well as other regulatory changes.   Contact the LL Roberts Group today and find out how a PEO can assist you with your employee administration needs and to ensure your company’s compliance with constantly changing laws and regulations.  Call us (toll free) at 877.878.6463 and ask to speak with an LL Roberts Group PEO Consultant.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Survey Says.........Small Business Owners Concerned about Workplace Safety

Recently, EMPLOYERS, (a specialty provider of workers’ compensation insurance and services) conducted a survey of small business owners to find out what risk they were most concerned about with regards to operating their businesses.
For many owners, keeping employees safe on the job is a major concern, according to the survey.  The survey revealed that workplace safety risks were ranked as the greatest worry for business owners, with 35% of survey respondents citing it as their primary concern.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Slips, trips and falls account for nearly a quarter of all nonfatal workplace injuries and 15% of all fatal workplace injuries that occur in the private sector. 21% of small business employers feel as though they are prepared to handle slip, trip and fall accidents.
Other common injuries that small business owners are prepared to handle include motor vehicle accidents (12%) and employees coming into contact with harmful objects and equipment (12%). Small businesses are least prepared to address acts of violence (29%), and fires or explosions (17%). 
Survey results were based on interviews of a representative sample of 502 small businesses with 100 employees or fewer. Find more details on EMPLOYERS’ website.
If you have any questions concerning any potential risk at your workplace and how you can improve your employees safety, please contact the LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Working In Cold Weather: More Than Just Staying Warm.

Workers exposed to extremely cold conditions are at risk of serious health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and muscle injuries. Working in cold weather puts enormous strain on your body. To fight back, try these cold-weather safety tips while working on the job:
  • Securely tie down or weigh down supplies so they are safe from gusts of wind.
  • Be careful in high wind, and be aware of potentially slippery surfaces.
  • Take frequent breaks in warm, dry shelters to allow your body to warm up.
  • Sweep water out of passageways inside of buildings under construction to avoid slipping.
  • Use the buddy system – always work in pairs.

Frostbite occurs after prolonged exposure to low temperatures or wet working conditions. Frostbite can be dangerous and even life-threatening. That’s why it is important to look for the following symptoms when working in cold temperatures:
  • Discoloration of the skin.
  • Burning or tingling sensations.
  • Partial or complete numbness.
  • Intense pain.

 To prevent frostbite, wear loose-fitting layers of clothing and always cover your hands, feet, nose and ears. At the first sign of pain or if your skin gets wet, look for a place to warm up. When working outside, be aware as winds increase. Heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, making you feel colder than if there were no wind. When your body temperature drops, your nerve cells and muscles work more slowly, impairing your body function. This is easy to notice when tying a shoelace or fastening a button in cold weather.

Safety Considerations
Layer clothing to keep warm enough to be safe, but cool enough to avoid perspiring excessively. It should also contain the following: 
  • Inner layer – a synthetic weave to keep perspiration away from the body.
  • Middle layer – wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain body heat.
  • Outer layer – material designed to break the wind and allow for ventilation, such as GORE-TEX®
  • Wear a hat. Almost 40 percent of your body heat escapes from your head. If you wear a hard hat, add a winter liner that covers your neck.


Watch out for the effects of cold temperatures on common body functions, such as:
  • Reduced dexterity and hand usage. (Cold tool handles reducing your grip force)
  • The skin’s reduced ability to feel pain in cold temperatures.

If you have any questions concerning working in winter conditions and how you can improve your employees safety, please contact the LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Get Ready.......OSHA 300A's Are Around The Corner!

As we start to wind up the first month of the new year, we must look again at the process of to prepare the previous year's 300A Summary using the previous year's OSHA 300 Log. The 300A contains all the information of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses in your 300 log in a condensed version. Employers with 10 or more employees must post a summary of the previous calendar year’s injuries and illnesses. If your company location has fewer than 10 employees, OSHA may still require your organization to complete the OSHA 300 log and summary if your total organization has more than 10 employees. Not all businesses must complete the OSHA log. Click HERE for a list of the exempt businesses.

To complete the 300 log, which contains all the information you need for the 300A Summary log, employers must classify work-related injuries or illnesses. The basic parts to the 300 Log that are recordable are death, loss of consciousness,  days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer, and medical treatment beyond first aid. You must update the OSHA 300 log within seven days after each injury or illness. To complete the 300A Summary log, total up all the events from the 300 Log and complete the 300A. An employer subject to this requirement must post the OSHA 300A Summary log even if the employer had no reportable injuries/illnesses in the prior year. In addition to the posting requirement, employees with no fixed work site or no access to posted sites must be provided with a copy of the report.
While every injury on the job should be taken seriously, not every incident is “recordable” for OSHA record keeping purposes. For example, an employee may receive only first-aid treatment or the incident may be an exacerbation of an earlier injury already reported. If you need more details, the OSHA/ Department of Labor  Web site is very informative and can be very helpful.  Click HERE for "step by step" 300 & 300A record keeping information.
The 300A Summary Log must be posted from February 1st to April 30th. The log must be posted in a visible place that your employees can easily view. The break room or by the time clock are two good places that have a lot of employee traffic. The highest ranking company executive or manager at each location must sign the 300A certifying that he or she agrees with the 300A Summary. The OSHA 300 log and the posting of the OSHA 300A Summary is a complex process. After they are completed, do not send the forms to OSHA unless they specifically request them. However, any inspection will no doubt include a review of the forms. 

Should you have any questions concerning, your OSHA 300 and 300A Summary log please contact your LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management Department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. or you can talk to us on Facebook!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day! Thank You For Serving Our Country.

We honor all our men & women in uniform, past, present, and future. Thank You for your service and courage. We thought we would share some history about our Veterans on their day. 

Veterans Day originated as "Armistice Day" on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day--a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans--living or dead--but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

Veterans Day Facts
  • In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
  • In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
  • Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.
Veterans Facts
  • 9.2 million veterans are over the age of 65.
  • 1.9 million veterans are under the age of 35.
  • 1.8 million veterans are women.
  • 7.8 million veterans served during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975), which represents 33% of all living veterans.
  • 5.2 million veterans served during the Gulf War (representing service from Aug. 2, 1990, to present).
  • 2.6 million veterans served during World War II (1941-1945).
  • 2.8 million veterans served during the Korean War (1950-1953).
  • 6 million veterans served in peacetime.
  • As of 2008, 2.9 million veterans received compensation for service-connected disabilities.
  • 5 states have more than 1 million veterans in among their population: California (2.1 million), Florida (1.7 million), Texas (1.7 million), New York (1 million) and Pennsylvania (1 million).
  • The VA health care system had 54 hospitals in 1930, since then it has expanded to include 171 medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 live-in care facilities for injured or disabled vets.

The brave men and women who serve and protect the U.S. come from all walks of life; they are parents, children and grandparents. They are friends, neighbors and coworkers, and an important part of their communities. Here are some facts about the current veteran population of the United States.
U.S. Census Bureau and United States Department of Veterans Affairs 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Social Security Wage Base Increases to $117,000 in 2014

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, that the 2014 social security wage base will be $117,000, an increase of $3,300 from the 2013 wage base of $113,700 (the SSA Fact Sheet is available at www.americanpayroll.org/members/Forms-Pubs/#annual). As in prior years, there is no limit to the wages subject to the Medicare tax; therefore, all covered wages are still subject to the 1.45% tax. As in 2013, wages paid in excess of $200,000 in 2014 will be subject to an extra 0.9% Medicare tax that will only be withheld from employees' wages. Employers will not pay the extra tax.

The FICA tax rate, which is the combined social security tax rate of 6.2% and the Medicare tax rate of 1.45%, will be 7.65% for 2014 up to the social security wage base. The maximum social security tax employees and employers will each pay in 2014 is $7,254. This will be an increase of $204.60 for employees and employers.

The social security wage base for self-employed individuals in 2014 also will be $117,000. There is no limit on covered self-employment income that will be subject to the Medicare tax. The self-employment tax rate will be 15.3% (combined social security tax rate of 12.4% and Medicare tax rate of 2.9%) up to the social security wage base. In 2014, the maximum social security tax for a self-employed individual will be $14,508.

FICA coverage threshold for domestic, election workers
The threshold for coverage under social security and Medicare for domestic employees will be $1,900 in 2014, up from $1,800 in 2013; the coverage threshold for election workers will be $1,600 in 2014, unchanged from 2013.

As a reminder, PEO clients receive continuous update and support related to employment tax regulations and obligations, as well as other regulatory changes.   Contact the LL Roberts Group today and find out how a PEO can assist you with your employee administration needs and to ensure your company’s compliance with constantly changing laws and regulations.  Call us (toll free) at 877.878.6463 and ask to speak with an LL Roberts Group PEO Consultant. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!