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.
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.
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.
Winter holidays give your company an opportunity to host celebratory parties and have fun. You could be liable, though, if you celebrate the holidays in a way that discriminates against employees. Be sure your holiday festivities celebrate diversity and avoid religious discrimination.
Granting Holidays Off
According to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Right Act, you cannot discriminate against your employees based on religion. Also, you must accommodate “sincerely held religious practices” unless doing so would cause undue hardship for you. These guidelines prevent you from firing employees whose religious practices require a Sabbath day of rest. However, you are not required to give an employee the entire week of Diwali, Christmas or Hanukkah off if doing so would:
- Be costly.
- Decrease efficiency.
- Burden other employees.
- Threaten safety.
- Violate employee rights.
As a company, you can accommodate all your employees during the holidays in several ways. These actions ensure your company remains compliant with the law and respectful of your employees.
- Include floating holidays in the benefits package.
- Allow employees to take a vacation, sick, personal, or unpaid day off for holiday celebrations.
- Let employees work a different schedule or swap shifts to accommodate their holiday observance.
Decorating the Office
Office decor can improve your employee’s morale. Religious or symbolic decorations like lanterns or crosses may offend employees of different religions, though.
Support diversity and inclusion as you decorate. Choose generic items like snowflakes rather than religious objects. You can also give your employees permission to decorate their personal space. In this case, stipulate that the decor items must be minimal and cannot interfere with navigation around the office. For example, a six-inch Christmas tree on a desk is acceptable, and but a six-foot tree in a cubicle or walkway would be inappropriate.
Hosting Holiday Parties
A holiday party gives your company the chance to unwind and relax while building rapport. You must remain sensitive to your employees’ religious beliefs as you plan and enjoy the party, though.
Comply with the law, avoid discrimination and show sensitivity to employees when you:
- Include members of different religions on the party planning committee.
- Make parties non denominational.
- Schedule the party for a date and time that will not interfere with religious observances.
- Include elements of all religious seasonal holidays.
- Give employees the choice to attend the party.
- Avoid serving alcohol, which is forbidden in certain religions.
- Adopt a charity as a company or match charitable donations rather than host a holiday party.
As a company, you can celebrate the holiday season and embrace and celebrate diversity in a way that avoids religious discrimination. Start with these tips.
One of the messiest and most costly homeowner repairs is fixing a burst, frozen pipe. Water from a burst pipe can cause damage to carpeting, short out electrical appliances and ruin furniture. Luckily, there are several ways to protect your home:
- Keep the heat in your house at a minimum of 50° F.
- Allow faucets to drip slightly, which can alleviate pressure in the piping system.
- Keep interior doors open. This allows heat from the rest of your house to spread, keeping your pipes warm.
- Seal any cracks and holes found near your pipes. This can help keep cold air out of your home.
- Add extra insulation to your pipes. Experts recommend fitting your pipes with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves.
Water expands as it freezes and puts significant pressure on the metal or plastic pipes that hold it. If you fail to take the proper precautions, your pipes can easily fail during a cold winter, which can be incredibly costly to repair.
Cold and flu season is upon us, and many people will begin experiencing symptoms like sore throats, runny noses, coughs, fevers or muscle aches. While a trip to the doctor is important and can help you recover quickly, there are a number of supplemental home care strategies that can help you further recuperate.
The following are some remedies to try:
- Take aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms, such as a headache, muscle ache and fever.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Use a humidifier or take a hot shower to relieve a headache, cough or congestion.
- Place a warm washcloth over your eyes to ease sinus pressure and congestion.
While home remedies can help relieve cold and flu symptoms, they aren’t useful for everyone. Children and the elderly should see a doctor if they begin to feel sick to avoid more serious health complications.
Specifically, individuals should seek immediate care if they experience any of the following:
- Chest pain when breathing
- A sore throat lasting more than 48 hours
- Yellow or green nasal discharge that is accompanied by severe facial pain or a relentless headache
- Persistent pain in your abdomen or rectum