Friday, December 2, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: The DOL will appeal the Overtime Rule Injunction

The Department of Labor announced Thursday (12/1/16) that it will appeal a federal judge's preliminary injunction that halted the implementation of the new Fair Labor Standard Act's overtime rule changes.

The appeal was brought by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Wage & Hour Administrator David Weil, Assistant Administrator Mary Zeigler and the Department of Labor.

Federal Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas put the brakes on the new federal overtime rule on Nov. 22, which would have doubled the FLSA's salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay.

The judge's preliminary injunction effectively halted the implementation of the new rule, which was scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1, 2016.

Twenty-one states filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction in October to block the rule. They claimed that the DOL exceeded its authority by raising the salary threshold too high and by providing for automatic adjustments to the threshold every three years.

As a reminder, PEO clients receive continuous update and support related to playroll 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!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Federal Judge Halts Overtime Rule

Just 10 days before the implementation date, a federal judge in Texas put the brakes on the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new federal overtime rule, which would have doubled the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA’s) salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay.

Twenty-one states filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction in October to halt the rule. They claimed that the DOL exceeded its authority by raising the salary threshold too high and by providing for automatic adjustments to the threshold every three years.

The states’ case was consolidated last month with another lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, which raised similar objections to the rule.

The overtime rule was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 and would have raised the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476. The rule also provided for triennial adjustments based on the 40th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region.

“A preliminary injunction preserves the status quo while the court determines the department’s authority to make the final rule as well as the final rule’s validity,” said Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in a Nov. 22 ruling.

“This is a total surprise in many respects, but you have to tip your hat to the judge who made a tough call and hopefully a decision that will stay in place,” said Alfred Robinson Jr., an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Washington, D.C., and a former acting administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.

What’s Next?
For now, the overtime rule will not take effect as planned Dec. 1, but it could still be implemented later down the road. Employers may continue to follow the existing overtime regulations until a decision is reached.

A preliminary injunction isn’t permanent, as it simply preserves the existing overtime rule—which was last updated in 2004—until the court has a chance to review the merits of the case objecting to the revisions to the regulation.
However, the revised regulation may face an uphill battle: The judge wouldn’t have granted the nationwide preliminary injunction unless, among other things, he thought the states showed a substantial likelihood of succeeding on their claims.
The purpose of the FLSA’s provisions under review in this case “was to exempt from overtime those engaged in executive, administrative and professional capacity duties,” Mazzant said. The salary level was purposefully set low to screen out the obviously nonexempt employees, he added.

Mazzant noted that the DOL “has admitted that it cannot create an evaluation ‘based on salary alone.’ ” However, “this significant increase to the salary level creates essentially a de facto salary-only test,” he said. “If Congress intended the salary requirement to supplant the duties test, then Congress—and not the department—should make that change.”

Robinson mentioned that the DOL will likely challenge the decision.
“We strongly disagree with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans,” the DOL said in a statement. “The department’s overtime rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rulemaking process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. We are currently considering all of our legal options.”

HR’s Role
Many employers have already either raised exempt employees’ salaries to meet the new threshold or reclassified employees who are still earning less to nonexempt status.

Employers will likely want to leave decisions in place if they have already provided salary increases to employees in order to maintain their exempt status, Robinson said. It would be difficult to take that back.

If there are exempt employees who were going to be reclassified to nonexempt, but haven’t been reclassified yet, Robinson said employers may want to postpone those decisions and give the litigation a chance to play out.
“This should be a welcome sign for employers, even if they’ve already made changes,” he said. “They can at least hold off on further changes.”

Employers shouldn’t assume, however, that the overtime rule will be permanently barred. They should still have a plan to move forward if necessary in the future.

Thanks to Sharlie Reynolds of PEO COmpass & Libertate Insurance 

You don't have to be a PEO client to get deep discounts on our Time & Attendance service. If you are interested in Time Systems or just want to find out more, call us Toll Free at 877.878.6463 or email You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Opportunity of A Near Miss

We’ve all heard or used the phrase “close call” or “near miss” at some point in time.  I’ll even wager it’s happened  while driving your car and almost being in an accident. When that happens do you say to yourself, “Whew, that was close?” That is a near miss.  We can look back and think what almost caused the accident; going too fast, looking at our phone, or another driver cuts in front of us. At that point we can trace the steps of what almost caused the accident and try to change our behavior and actions. It’s the same thing at work.

A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage but had the potential to do so. The simple fact that nothing bad happened to us now becomes a learning opportunity to improve our safety, health, and environment to reduce the chance of that happening again.

Now think about how many times you came close to a near miss and just shrugged it off. Did you change anything after having a close call? The difference between a near miss and an accident most of the time is a fraction of a second or an inch.  When it happens again, the outcome might not be the same,  therefore it is important to recognize these situations.

H.W. Heinrich created a study that estimates for every 330 incidents of the same type, 300 produce no injuries, 29 produce minor injuries and 1 produces a major injury (these stats vary with the job being done). The problem is we never know which time the major injury will occur.
These numbers are shown in the chart to the left.

In 1969,  Frank E. Bird, Jr. who used the “Heinrich Safety Pyramid” as the basis of his study, found results that were even more astounding.   After analyzing 1,753,498 accidents reported by 297 cooperating companies, Bird determined that the number of near misses is even greater than we once thought. For every 600 incidents (near misses), there are 30 accidents, 10 serious accidents, and 1 fatality.

The conclusion for this is simple. Near misses are excellent warnings that we need to correct the process, the behavior, or the work environment. If we don't address these warning signs by being proactive, then we are just waiting for the accident to happen and we fall into the reactive category.

What are the causes for Near Misses?
  • Unsafe acts - such as improper lifting; walking under an overhead load; cutting, grinding, or chipping without safety glasses; not using proper Personal Protective Equipment, etc.
  • Unsafe conditions - such as poorly maintained equipment, oil or grease on floors, welding leads that have been laid in walkways, trash and boxes that have been left in hallways, etc.
  • Hurrying and taking risks to complete a task or to wrap up a job at quitting time.

Report Near Misses Before They Become Accidents:
  • Once a near miss occurs, report it immediately to your supervisor. The potential for such incidents exists in every workplace, so ALL employees (not just supervisors) must help identify them.
  • If the near miss is a result of an unsafe condition, don't continue to work under that condition until the problem has been corrected and your supervisor gives the okay to proceed.
  • If the incident is a result of unsafe acts, be certain that everyone involved has been alerted to their  actions before they continue with the job.

Examples of Near Misses
  • A floor is just mopped and employees forget to place a wet floor caution sign. You walk through it and slip, but regain your balance and no injury occurs. What about the next person that walks on the wet floor? Will they be able to avoid slipping and escape an injury? Report this near miss immediately.
  • A nail or debris hits your safety glasses but does not injure your eye. This suggests that work procedures might need to be re-evaluated and the equipment should be checked for the proper guards.
  • What about the person that uses the same machine or tool after you? They might not be so lucky.
  • Other near misses include: Electrical cords causing trip hazards. A falling object that hits the ground in front of you. A fork lift that almost ran into you or materials. A crack in the cement that causes  someone to trip, but they regain their balance. If any of these happened to you, did you report it?

Usually in our daily routine we are busy going from task to task or place to place and reporting a near miss will take time out of our day. But think about the person (could be a co-worker, friend or family member) that takes the same path after you. How bad would you feel if they got hurt because you didn’t say or do something. The few minutes spent reporting and investigating near-miss incidents can help prevent similar incidents, and even severe injuries. Remember, near misses are warnings.  If we heed these warnings, look for causes and focus on changing behavior, we may be able to prevent injury or damage.

If you have any questions any information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Avoiding Workplace Distractions

Some workplace distractions and interruptions are unavoidable,  but others if not properly controlled or regulated could lead to injuries, lost productivity, and a decrease in worker morale. 

Work interruptions are a distraction that can result in work errors or accidents. Before addressing or responding to another person, workers should shut down or disengage any work tool, equipment, or processes. Job training should include instructions not to interrupt others during a critical job phase or process. Instruction manuals and procedural guidebooks should be kept on site to answer frequently asked questions and thereby eliminate the need to interrupt or distract other workers. 

External noise from tools, mobile equipment, and processes can be distracting in industrial and construction work environments. In work situations where loud or constant noise is unavoidable, hearing protection devices can eliminate or decrease unwanted and distracting noise. In other work   environments even not-so-loud sounds can be a distracting annoyance. Constantly ringing phones, conversations, and loud faxes, copiers, and printers can distract workers from their job tasks or, depending on the level or duration of the noise, can contribute to workplace stress.

Electronic devices such as cell phones, and music players such as Ipods can be the source of serious distractions in some work environments. Check with your supervisor to find out if these electronics are allowed where you work. If these devices are approved in your workplace, as a courtesy to your co-workers, make sure you keep your cell phone on a low volume or silent when you work. To maximize work safety and performance, turn email notifications off and disable instant messaging. Don’t answer the phone or emails when you’re in the middle of a task – let it ring to voicemail then check messages later, preferably on your break time.

In some work environments wearing a headset with low volume music can be relaxing to workers and help them to safely focus on their work. However, wearing headphones on a construction or industrial site can be dangerous if it prevents workers from hearing warning signals, mobile equipment backup alarms, and safety instructions. Walking around while talking on the phone or wearing a headset distracts your attention from safety and could result in a slip or fall or cause you to run into or be struck by something or someone.

Workplace distractions and interruptions are common, but training can help you remember to keep your mind on the task at hand. Speak up about repeated and/or unsafe distractions and think and take responsibility for not interrupting or distracting others.

If you want to create safety policies to handle workplace distractions, It's best to have a committee to get several ideas and be able to address pros and cons. The committee should consist of several employees that are a part of the specific workplace and at least one supervisor.  A good rule of thumb is getting   input from your  employees that are on the “front line” and have first hand experience in the workplace. By giving the     employees input on how rules are created, it will make them more accountable for their own safety by having ownership, buy-in, and opportunities to follow the rules that are set out.

When creating a set of policies, rules, or procedures, Keep it as simple as you can. One of the things that employers need to consider is how it will affect your company’s leadership. Will your supervisors or managers be able to follow and enforce these rules?

To have effective safety policies they will need to address the 4 “W’s” - What, Where, Who, and When:
  • What - what is being prohibited, whether actions or devices.
  • Where - What location is the action being prohibited.
  • Who - What person(s) are prohibited certain actions or devices. 
  • When - When is the action or device prohibited and what, if any are the exceptions.

If you have any questions any information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sharpen Your Safety Awareness

In almost every industry sharp tools are essential to many kinds of work, but sharp or pointed objects can be hazardous and often cause painful and life changing injuries. Types of injuries include cuts, punctures, nicks, and gashes that can lead to serious infections or diseases. These injuries can be prevented through employee training, protective gloves, machine guards, and proper  equipment maintenance. But the important thing to remember, gloves are just a last line of defense. The best way to avoid injuries is to change the way a process or task is completed which removes the hazard or reduces the chance for an injury to occur. 

Prevent injuries from sharp objects by taking safety precautions:

  • Always stay alert and focused on keeping your hands safe – not just at the start of work or a task.
  • Select the right tool for the job. Use sharp items only as they were designed. Sharpen cutting tools and knives on a regular basis. Dull blades require more force and may be more likely to slip, cutting the handler.
  • Wear gloves resistant to punctures, cuts, or moisture. Choose gloves based on the hazards normally expected for the task.
  • Never cut toward the palm of your hand.  Always in the opposite direction, away from you.
  • Let falling objects fall. Don’t grab for falling cutting tools, sharp instruments or glassware. Its better to clean up a mess or replace the item rather than risk injury or infection
  • Store sharps safety. Take the time to ensure that instruments can be reached easily but pose no threat of injury. Don’t carry loose sharp items in your pocket. Store cutting instruments in       drawers or racks when not in use.
  • Check tools and equipment each day. Ensure they are in proper working order before     beginning a task.
  • Follow clean up precautions at all times. Dispose of defective sharps and chipped or cracked glassware properly. Wear gloves, or use a damp towel to pick up broken glass.
  • Don’t reach into wastebaskets or disposal containers with bare hands, they could contain broken glass or sharps. Sharp material poking through bags can easily cut unprotected hands or legs. Check disposal bags before lifting to see if they are overloaded or likely to break. Lift plastic bags from their tie-off point and paper bags by their edges whenever possible and hold bags away from the body. Never “bear hug” a bag or throw it over your back.
  • Make sure guards are in place on machinery with cutting blades. They are there to protect you and removing them only increases the chance that an injury will occur. While some people think guards slow them down or create extra work, you need to ask yourself “Can I do this job with any missing fingers?”.

Improper handling of sharp objects is one of the leading causes of injuries from them. Don’t rush or take shortcuts when handling sharp equipment or tools. Protect yourself and others by handling sharp objects safely by knowing the risks involved. Follow safe handling and disposal procedures and always Report all injuries and get proper medical treatment

Protecting yourself and your co-workers is an important part of your job. The right combination of attitude and action can prevent most injuries from sharp instruments and tools.

If you have any questions any information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Staying Safe While Working in Hot Temperatures

Now that we are right in the middle of the hot summer months, it’s time to look at how 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 we discusses ways to prevent heat stress & 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.

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 or electrolyte-replacement drink & 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 several types of heat stress injuries. They rank from not very serious to life-threatening    situations. Knowing the different types is important. The serious heat stress conditions can 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.

Let's look at the major heat stress injuries and illnesses and what they are:
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.

If you have any questions any information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Eye Safety - Eye Protection Is Cheap But Eye Are Priceless!

What do tiny flying particles, contact with chemicals, and swinging objects have in common? They are the most common causes of eye injuries in the workplace, and all put you at risk. Not many people realize that the workplace is a leading source of eye trauma, loss of vision, disability, and blindness. Of the 2,000 employees each day who sustain job-related eye injuries, 10 to 20 percent will be disabled due to  temporary or permanent loss of vision. Many safety experts agree that proper eye protection could  reduce the severity or prevent the injury in about 90 percent of these cases.

Types of Eye Injuries.
Workers experience eye injuries on the job for two major reasons.  They were not wearing eye protection or they were wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job. Eye injuries range from minor burns, cuts, and bruises to total blindness. Welding equipment, power tools and machinery play a big part in causing injuries. Chemicals such as acids and adhesives can splash into the eyes and cause serious damage. Even particles from hammering, grinding and sanding can easily fly into the eyes. The cost of such injuries is enormous, both for the worker and the American public, which covers nearly $4 billion a year in workers compensation claims and lost productivity.

Put ‘Em On!
It’s a proven fact that the best thing you can do to protect your vision on the job is to wear safety glasses or goggles. Even if you do have your safety glasses on, keep in mind that there are a variety of ways you can get debris in your eyes.  Some accidents happen by simply taking off your safety glasses or goggles and wiping your face; particles can easily fall out of eyebrows or hair and into your eyes. Safety glasses should rest firmly on top of the nose and close to – but not against – the face. Don’t let uncomfortable, foggy or sight-restrictive safety glasses keep you from wearing your safety glasses or goggles.

Find a Good Fit
You can find many ways to make safety glasses or goggles work for you, such as:
· If you find safety glasses uncomfortable, experiment with different sizes or styles.
· Wear glasses or goggles that are properly ventilated for the work you are performing. Unless you are working near splash hazards, use goggles that have plenty of side ventilation.
· If you wear prescription glasses, wear goggles designed to fit over your glasses or safety glasses made with your prescription.

If your goggles fog up, try a model with more ventilation or coat them with an anti-fog liquid. Wear a sweatband or handkerchief around your head to keep sweat off your goggles. Always keep your safety glasses clean. Scratched and dirty glasses or goggles reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.

Safety First
It takes only one accident to cause partial or complete blindness. Take a moment to think about possible eye hazards in your workplace and then take the necessary precautions to help reduce your risk of potential eye injuries

What should be done in an eye emergency?
Seek medical attention as soon as possible following an injury,   particularly if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision or loss of any vision. Several simple first aid steps can and should be taken until medical assistance is obtained.
First aid for chemicals in the eye:
· Immediately flush the eye with water for at least 15 minutes. Place the eye under a faucet or shower, use a garden hose, or pour water into the eye from a clean container.
· If you are wearing contact lenses, immediately remove them before flushing the eye.
· Do not try to neutralize the chemical with other substances.
· Do not bandage the eye.
· Seek immediate medical attention after flushing.
First aid for particles in the eye:
· Do not rub the eye.
· Try to let your tears wash the speck out, or irrigate the eye with an artificial tear solution.
· Try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower eyelid to remove the particle.
· If the particle does not wash out, keep the eye closed, bandage it lightly and seek medical care. Some particles, particularly metallic ones, can cause rusting spots on the eye if left untreated for several days. If you are unsure if the object is gone, do not delay medical care.
First aid for blows to the eye:
· Gently apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye. Crushed ice in a plastic bag can be placed gently on the injured eye to reduce pain and swelling.
· In cases of severe pain or reduced vision, seek immediate medical care. 

If you have any questions any information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group or our new Safety Division, Roberts Risk Management (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!