Modern technology has made it easier than ever for employees to work from home and still remain connected to their place of employment. Using remote employment has actually become a popular trend over the last ten years, especially since selling to the global market has become such an important factor in a business being competitive. Many businesses have found that they can minimize their expenses and attract international customers with more attractive prices if they decrease their overhead by allowing workers to remotely commute.
Despite the many benefits of using remote employees, there are downsides. Many employers considering this trend wonder how they can ensure workplace safety when the employee’s physical workplace is their own home. Another consideration is the degree of employer liability in remote employment.
Fortunately, OSHA has addressed some of the safety issues surrounding remote employment. According to OSHA guidelines, employers are required to maintain a safe workplace, even for employees working from their own home. OSHA will not require an employer to inspect a remote employee’s home worksite, nor inspect it themselves.
However, OSHA may inspect the worksite of an employee that’s performing an at-home job on behalf of their employer if it possibly involves health or safety hazards and there’s a complaint. A record of all occupational illnesses and injuries must be kept on all at-home workers if an employer is subject to OSHA record keeping requirements. Keeping in mind that OSHA compliance measures shouldn’t involve controlling the home worksite of employees, employers might need to take some additional practical measures to ensure OSHA compliance.
As far as safety compliance goes, the absence of immediate supervision for remote workers is one of the main problems employers face. Experienced, highly-trained, long-term employers are generally the worst offenders when it comes to taking safety risks. This group of employees often become complacent due to the fact they’re so accustomed and comfortable with their job, feel they’re familiar with the job’s hazards, and might have escaped disciplinary action when ignoring safety procedures or taking shortcuts in the past.
One of the best ways that employers can counteract the above dangerous attitude toward safety is by using a holistic approach to safety. Employers should focus and place great importance on each individual employee actively participating in the safety process and taking responsibility for their own safety. Whether at home, on the road, or at a remote jobsite, remote employees need to be ready, willing, and able to take the appropriate actions to protect themselves in any given situation.
Employers will need employee support to make any approach to safety successful, which means that employers must have total employee involvement in the safety process. Involve your remote employees in the process of determining what’s needed to prevent injury to themselves and others during remote location work. Most employers find that the experience and firsthand knowledge of their employees is actually very advantageous in creating safe remote worksites.
Remember, employees that understand the value of safety are more likely to be motivated and willing participants. They’re also more apt to embrace safety behaviors for the longevity of their employment. Employers can reinforce their employee’s positive attitude about safety by having electronic or person-to-person safety counseling in place and ensuring safety managers are encouraging safety participation.
Vacation season at the office means your motivation plummets. After all, you want to be at the ocean, on an exotic adventure or relaxing at home, too, instead of working. Rather than allow your vacationing coworkers to rob you of your productivity, try four tips that keep you motivated at work all summer.
1. Wake Up in a Good Mood
Maybe you aren’t waking up in an island paradise, but you can use your morning routine to put you in a good mood for the day.
*Brew an exotic coffee flavor and enjoy it on the patio.
*Spend a few extra minutes meditating and mentally preparing yourself for the day.
*Eat a balanced diet with protein, whole grain and fruit.
*Count your blessings. You aren’t on vacation, but you do have a job.
*Wear your favorite color each day so that you feel confident and upbeat.
2. Boost Your Resume
When coworkers go on vacation, your workload may increase. You could focus on the inconvenience of doing extra work or see the responsibility as a resume booster. All that extra work increases your career experience and marketability today and in the future.
3. Focus on Your Paycheck
While your coworkers are spending money on vacation, you can make extra money by working overtime. Then, use the cash you make to fund your own vacation later in the year, repay debt or buy tropical slushies on your lunch break.
4. Build Office Rapport
With less people in the office, you can really get to know your fellow coworkers. The rapport you build increases your motivation, productivity and reputation during summer vacation season and year round. So, buy donuts and fruit to share for breakfast or invite someone you don’t know very well to lunch.
Summer vacation season can either bust your motivation or boost your career. Instead of moaning about work, look for ways to stay motivated and take advantage of your coworkers’ vacations.
When it comes to workplace safety, especially in big cities, have you thought about the company parking lot or garage? Your co-workers use it at least twice a day to stow and shelter their vehicles, but beyond that it’s fairly invisible. A closer look reveals that predators might easily be lurking there.
To minimize this threat, experts recommend ensuring that workers (as well as visitors) take these precautions:
- Stay alert for cruising vehicles, whose drivers can stop suddenly and jump out to rob or assault you.
- If you’re using a parking lot, park near the building in a visible, lighted area.
- In a parking garage, park near the parking attendant (if there is one) or near a well-lit exit. Women should avoid using stairs and elevators, if possible.
- Use the main exit/entrance rather than a side or secluded one.
- Lock any valuables (including GPS, shopping, other bags, etc.) out of sight. If you’re walking to your vehicle after hours, ask a co-worker or security officer to accompany you.
- If you have to walk alone, ask someone to watch from inside, if possible. Turn around frequently to make sure you’re not being followed and pretend that you’re waving to someone ahead to give the impression you’re not alone.
- Don’t talk on your cellphone or listen to music with ear pods — predators are looking for victims who seem distracted or unaware.
- Have your car keys and personal alarm or whistle ready as you approach your vehicle.
- If someone nearby looks suspicious, keep walking and get to a safe place where you can call for help.
- Before you unlock the door, take a good look around, inside, and behind the vehicle.
- Once you enter the vehicle, lock all doors promptly and keep your windows up until you’ve exited the lot or garage.
10 months ago ·
by Erin Carlson ·
Earlier this year, OSHA updated its electronic reporting rule after concerns that reports on workplace injuries and illnesses contain employees’ personal information. The agency also explained that under the original rule, it was possible for this information to be disclosed publicly through a Freedom of Information Act request or OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application.
The new final rule only requires certain establishments to submit data from OSHA Form 300A, and became effective on Feb. 25. Previously, establishments with 250 or more employees were also required to submit forms 300 and 301. While this requirement was removed before the March 2 deadline to submit data, OSHA stated that it’s likely that many employers automatically submitted data from all three forms, and using software to remove personal details won’t be 100 percent effective.
Some organizations believe the final rule will negatively affect workplace safety, and six states filed a lawsuit against OSHA in an attempt to reinstate the original electronic reporting requirements. However, others believe that the final rule still allows the agency to collect a summary of workplace injuries and illnesses without revealing potentially harmful personal information.
10 months ago ·
by Erin Carlson ·
Each year, thousands of businesses, schools and other establishments are mailed suspicious items (e.g., unmarked packages) or are the target of bomb threats. These threats can be made via phone calls, letters, social media channels, emails or other similar means.
Bomb threats and suspicious items are often used to cause alarm, panic, disruption or, in extreme cases, direct harm. However these threats are made, organizations of all kinds need to take them seriously and know how to respond appropriately.
What to Do If You Receive a Bomb Threat
Businesses often wrongly assume they aren’t at risk of a bomb threat. However, the truth is that no organization is 100 percent safe from malicious attacks or threats, making proper preparation all the more important. In the event that your organization receives a bomb threat – whether it be over the phone, via email or another means – follow these procedures.
Threats Made Over the Phone
- Remain calm. Keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, and don’t hang up even if the caller does.
- Signal or pass a note to another staff member, instructing them to notify the authorities. If this isn’t possible, call 911 from another phone after the caller hangs up.
- Document as much information about the call as possible. Details related to a caller ID number, the wording of the threat, the time of the call, background noises on the caller’s end, and the tone and inflection of the caller can all aid investigators. If possible, ask questions to infer specific details about the threat itself, including:
- Who is making the threat and where they are calling from
- The type of device and when it might go off
- What the device looks like
- Where the device is located
- Who the target is
- Record the call if possible.
- Be available for interviews.
- Follow any instructions from facility supervisors and local authorities. These individuals will also provide specific guidance related to facility lockdowns, searches or evacuations.
Threats Made Via Email, Online Platforms, the Mail or Other Source
- Call 911.
- Preserve the threat. If the threat is made online, take a screenshot. If the threat is made through the mail, store it in a safe place and handle it as minimally as possible.
- Note where the threat was found, who found it and when they found it.
- Wait for further instructions from the proper authorities.
In the event of a threat, staff members should avoid using two-way radios, cellular phones or any other electronics, as signals from these devices could potentially detonate a bomb. In addition, you should avoid activating alarms or evacuating the building until the proper authorities evaluate the threat. Law enforcement officials will direct the evacuation if one is necessary.
What to Do If You Find or Receive a Suspicious Item
In general, a suspicious item is any item – like a bag or package – that is believed to contain explosives, improvised explosive devices or hazardous materials. When it comes to identifying these items, you should watch out for unexplainable or unusual wires, electronics, sounds, vapors, mists or odors.
It is not uncommon for establishments to find or receive suspicious items and, while they may end up being harmless, it’s good practice to be overly cautious. As a good rule of thumb, any item that is Hidden, Obviously suspicious and not Typical (HOT) should be deemed suspicious.
In the event that your organization finds or receives a suspicious item, you should:
- Remain calm.
- Avoid touching, tampering or moving the item.
- Notify the proper authorities and your facility supervisor. Follow any and all of their instructions carefully.
Plan Ahead and Stay Safe
When it comes to bomb threats and suspicious items, every situation is unique. Typically, facility supervisors and law enforcement officials will be in the best position assess the situation, determine if a real risk is present and provide instruction on how to respond.
For even more protection, businesses should review guidance provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Doing so can help you better prepare for potential threats. For more workplace safety advice and risk mitigation tips, contact Scurich Insurance today.
11 months ago ·
by Erin Carlson ·
On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, after it passed both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
This tax reform bill makes significant changes to the federal tax code. The bill does not impact the majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax provisions. However, it does reduce the ACA’s individual shared responsibility (or individual mandate) penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019.
As a result, beginning in 2019, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage.
?The ACA’s individual mandate penalty no longer applies, beginning in 2019. However, individuals will still need to certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018.
In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019).
The Individual Mandate
The ACA’s individual mandate, which took effect in 2014, requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty. The mandate is enforced each year on individual federal tax returns. Starting in 2015, individuals filing a tax return for the previous tax year indicate, by checking a box on their returns, which members of their family (including themselves) had health insurance coverage for the year (or qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate). Based on this information, the IRS then assesses a penalty for each nonexempt family member without coverage.
Effect of the Tax Reform Bill
The tax reform bill reduces the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning with the 2019 tax year. This effectively eliminates the individual mandate penalty for the 2019 tax year and beyond. As a result, beginning with the 2019 tax year, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members.
Impact on Years Prior to 2019
Although the tax reform bill eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, this repeal did not take effect until 2019. As a result, individuals were still required to comply with the mandate (or pay a penalty) for 2018. This means that individuals must still certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018. Therefore, taxpayers should indicate on their 2018 tax returns whether they (and everyone in their family):
- Had health coverage for the year;
- Qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate; or
- Will pay an individual mandate penalty.
In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year. Individuals who are liable for a penalty for failing to obtain acceptable health coverage in 2018 will be required to pay that penalty when they file their federal income taxes in 2019. As a result, some individuals may be required to pay the individual mandate penalty in early 2019, based on their noncompliance for the 2018 tax year.
Effect on Other ACA Provisions
Despite the repeal of the individual mandate penalty, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other ACA provisions. The tax reform bill does not impact any other ACA provisions, including the Cadillac tax on high-cost group health coverage, the PCORI fees and the health insurance providers fee. In addition, the employer shared responsibility (pay or play) rules and related Section 6055 and Section 6056 reporting requirements are still in place.