How to Ensure Your Construction Job Site Meets Safety Standards

Safety Standards Construction Lawyer Edison, NJWhen it comes down to it, the safety and health of your employees are paramount. No matter the job or the place, every one of your workers should feel safe in their work environment. They should not have to worry about the chance of injury or death while at work. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 21.1 percent of worker fatalities in private industry in 2016 were in construction. That means just over one in five worker deaths from that year belong to construction workers.

It has been found that the leading causes of worker deaths in construction were falls, struck by object, electrocution and caught in/between machinery. These types of incidents accounted for around 63.7 percent of construction worker deaths. And while it is bad enough that workers are losing lives, these numbers do not even touch on the number of injuries that occur on a construction job site.

If one of your employers ends up injured on the job or even worse, dead, you could face a world of legal trouble, especially if you had the power to make the situation safer. You may end up facing a wrongful death suit or a workplace injury suit, both of which can affect you and your company’s well-being and future job prospects.

So, what things can be done to ensure your job site is meeting all necessary safety standards?

To start, you should educate yourself on the most up-to-date safety and health standards. By law, as an employer, you must provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules, and regulations issued under the OSHA act.

The OSHA act has been in place since 1970 and was designed to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women. Now, this does not mean just knowing what those conditions are;o it means regularly monitoring and enforcing those rules.

On a construction site, the most common cause of injury or death is from falls. There are two main things that tend to contribute to these types of accidents: scaffolding and failure to use fall protection.

Scaffolding Accidents

According to an OSHA worker series on construction, about 2.3 million workers frequently work on scaffolds. In order for those workers to remain safe while working on scaffolds there are certain standards that should be met and checked regularly.

Scaffolds are required to be rigid and able to carry its weight plus for times the maximum extended load. It should be erected on solid footing and should not be supported by unstable objects like barrels, loose brick or boxes. In addition, the scaffold should also be equipped with toeboards, midrails, and guardrails.

Scaffolding should be inspected regularly and re-inspected throughout use. They should also never be built, moved, altered or taken down without the proper supervision. Taking care of these steps is just one piece of the puzzle to protects workers from falls.

Stay Safe from Falls

The other is making sure workers correctly use fall protection equipment. Types of equipment are safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems, otherwise known as harnesses. Making sure workers know how to equip and use these devices can go a long way in keeping them safe on the job site.

Of course, there are plenty of other pieces of safety equipment you should make sure your workers use while on the job site. Wearing a hard hat can help protect the head from suffering blows. There is always the potential for objects to fall from above or for workers to hit their head on fixed objects.

Safety vests help keep workers visible, especially in an area frequented by trucks or other mobile equipment. Wearing gloves to handle material can also be important in keeping employees safe from injury or being exposed to dangerous chemicals. And of course, make sure workers wear the proper shoe is definitely important on a job site.

Wearing work boots can protect the foot, toes, and ankle from heavy objects and other everyday hazards on a construction site. The proper work boots are also designed with grips on the soles, making it easier to have sure footing when working in precarious places, such as on a roof.

In addition, eye and face protection is important. Safety glasses or face shields should be worn during work involving welding, cutting, grinding or nailing. They should also be worn when exposed to electrical hazards.

As someone looking to keep your job site safe, you need to make sure your employees abide by these standards. You cannot be afraid to hold them accountable, especially since their safety is at stake.

Creating and utilizing safety checklists is a good way to keep yourself and your employees accountable. It also a great way to go through and make sure your job site is up to par. There are standards in place to govern things like the build and support of a trench, which is important to avoid trench collapses.

It is also important to make sure the proper people are certified to use certain equipment. Crane operators and/or forklift operators must be certified and taught how to properly and safely operate equipment. You should also make sure the equipment being used is in working order and is maintained regularly to ensure its safety.

Finally, a big part of ensuring safety on your job site is by communicating potential hazards. This does not just mean telling people by mouth to be aware of possible hazards. It means hanging the proper signs with warnings about the possible hazards that exist. These signs should be vibrant and stand out so everyone can see them.

The same should be kept in mind when dealing with hazardous chemicals. It is recommended to have and maintain a Material Safety Data Sheet for each hazardous chemical on site and make it accessible to all employees at any time and in any language necessary. Train your employees on the Sheet and about the risks associated with the hazardous chemicals.

As is clearly evident, there is a lot involved when it comes to a job site. Maintaining its safety and the safety of its workers a full-time job and one that should be taken with great care. Never worry about overdoing it — in the end, each worker’s safety and livelihood is in your hands.

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When Employees Need to Miss Work After An Accident

Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Clark, NJMotor vehicle and motorcycle accidents can be devastating for victims. The financial strain of an accident may be made even worse by a victim’s inability to return to work right away. Ideally, a company would be able to give an injured victim all the time they need to recover from an accident before returning to work, but reality rarely works this way. An employer’s responsibilities are largely determined based on whether the accident occurred while performing job-related duties or whether it happened outside of work. Employees may be covered under workers compensation laws, the Family Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act depending on the circumstances of the injury.

When an employee gets injured at work, it’s important to report the incident regardless of how minor you think it is. A copy of the official Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Employee’s Report of Injury Form can be found here. The injured employee needs to fill out this form and return it to their supervisor as soon as possible. OSHA uses these forms to help them identify and correct work-related hazards before they create more injuries or more dangerous situations. Supervisors will also have portions to fill out on the form. They will be required to list out whether safety regulations were in place before the incident, whether safety regulations were utilized and whether the supervisor has any recommendations that could prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Accurate and quick reporting has several advantages. Preventative measures can begin to be put in place as soon as an accident is fully understood. Often, reporting an incident in a timely manner will reduce everyone’s frustration and save your company money in the process. Timely reporting potentially reduces costs that can arise from state penalties, low employee morale, delayed return-to-work, unnecessary medical costs and litigation. Worker’s compensation benefits are paid out to those injured in an accident that is work-related.

Non-Work-Related Injuries

Non-work-related injuries have occurred outside of the worker’s course of employment. Typically, motorcycle accidents that occurred while in transit to your place of employment won’t be covered under workers’ compensation benefits. Employers need to be aware of the exceptions to this rule. If your employee is required to bring their car or motorcycle to work for use during the day, then the commute to and from work will be covered with worker’s compensation benefits. Injuries that happen in company-provided transportation to or from work in company-operated vehicles are also covered under workers compensation benefits.

When the accident is non-work-related and the employee’s time off of work won’t be covered under workers compensation benefits, then the injured employee will need to look at other options. Employers can recommend that the employee use their sick leave for the first week, or they can utilize annual vacation leave to cover the initial time off work. Employers may consider setting up a vacation time “bank” so employees can share sick days or vacation days with an injured employee that desperately needs it. Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that anyone will step up to pay a victim’s lost wages or health care bills immediately following a non-work-related accident, so they may feel pressured to return to work as soon as they can.

The Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act was designed to help employees balance their work and family life, and it provides employees with the opportunity to take off reasonable unpaid leave for certain medical issues. When an employee is unable to work because of a health condition, employers must provide them with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Eligible employees must have already worked with their employer for at least a year, at least 1,250 hours for the employer and worked in a location where the employer has over 50 employees. The act’s definition of a serious health condition is very broad, and it usually encompasses injuries related to an automobile accident. According to the act, a serious health condition is an illness, impairment, injury or physical or mental condition that requires continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. The incapacity to work includes not being able to perform essential job duties. Conditions causing an incapacity period of more than three days and restorative surgery after an accident are specifically covered by this act.

Americans with Disabilities Act

If an employee’s accident resulted in a life-changing disability, then this federal law protects their rights. This act prevents businesses from discriminating against a disabled individual as long as they are qualified for the job. The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees that are qualified for the job including leave of absence from work. Each leave period is based on the individual’s circumstances, so there is no mandatory and set leave period required by this bill.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Most often, an employee who has been injured and isn’t covered by the above acts will need to recover their lost wages and other damages through a personal injury lawsuit. These types of lawsuits can cover losses from missed days of work, missed overtime opportunities, potential bonuses and non-monetary perks that the employee missed while they were unable to work. In the event your employee seeks compensation in civil court, supervisors or the human resources department will likely need to provide the employee with official documentation about their income and number of hours missed from work.

Motorcycle accidents come with a number of losses outside of lost wages. Victims may endure medical costs, pain and suffering, property damage, depression-related issues and an overall loss of quality of life. Compassionate employers may be able to provide some relief for accident victims through worker’s compensation laws, the Family Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employee is entitled under multiple laws, then employers must provide leave under the law with the greatest benefits for the employee. Otherwise, the injured employee may have to seek compensation in civil court.

Don’t forget to check out this article on HR Zone, along with countless others!

When an Employee Applies for Workers’ Compensation

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The vast majority of employers around the United States are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This critical form of support is available to employees who are injured on the job or in the course of carrying out their job. Workers’ compensation insurance also gives employers peace of mind if an employee does indeed get injured because the employee will pursue workers’ compensation benefits rather than suing the employer outright.

At some point or another, most employers will have to deal with an employee filing a workers’ compensation claim. While employers in certain industries may have higher rates of claim filings, all employers may be exposed to the challenges of following a workers’ comp claim through the process from the time an employee is injured all the way through an approval or denial.

However, human resources professionals, managers and, company owners should all be aware of how the workers’ compensation process works so that they know what to expect and can avoid many of the common pitfalls facing employers. For example, an individual who files a workers’ compensation claim has protection from retaliation and other discriminatory practices in the workplace just by filing the claim.

That makes it all the more important for employers to be aware of some of the activities or behaviors that could be misinterpreted as retaliation, forming the basis for an additional lawsuit against the employer in question.

Understanding the Benefits of Workers’ Compensation Law

An injured employee is eligible to collect benefits through a program for an employer who carries workers’ compensation insurance. It’s important to realize that workers’ compensation insurance is not just there for employees; there are also many valuable protections for employers as well. There are limits as to how much financial compensation an employee is entitled to, and a worker is also prohibited from filing litigation which can save the employer from the time and expense of fighting a lawsuit. If there are other parties involved, however, the employee may still be eligible to file a civil suit against a third party. This could ultimately end up restoring the amounts that the employer has paid out to the employee for dealing with the situation. Work-related injuries can affect anyone, but only employees of a company can obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Independent contractors, for example, do not qualify. Agricultural workers, seasonal employees or domestic workers may not be eligible, but the exclusions vary, so it’s important for an employer to sit down with their human resources professional to identify exactly which of their workers are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Work-Related Injury Classifications Can Be Difficult

Unfortunately, state laws are often vague or inconsistent about what constitutes a work-related injury. However, in general, a work-related injury or illness must be associated with the worker’s job. Certain accidents at work-sponsored events, in break rooms or in a vehicle while traveling for company purposes can also be covered. The laws may apply even if the employee is injured due to carelessness. However, accidents related to purposeful assault behavior or intoxication may not be covered. When an employee is injured on company premises during work hours, a workers’ compensation claim is likely to be successful. Workers’ compensation benefits can also be available if an employee was injured as a result of work-related strain or stress.

Employers should be mindful of the fact that injuries could be classified as physical or mental. A hostile work environment, for example, could contribute to psychological stress and justify a workers’ compensation claim. In these types of allegations in which the employee may be claiming that the employer knew about the situation and failed to correct it, it is especially important for documentation and reference to the employee handbook to be consistent. This means that if the employee pursues a stress-related condition through workers’ compensation benefits and also files a lawsuit due to a hostile work environment, that the employer is thoroughly protected and has documentation and evidence on their side.

What Employers Cannot Do

It is always important to take any claim regarding workers’ compensation or an injury in or around the workplace very seriously. It is not the employer’s or human resources manager’s job to determine whether an injury occurred or should be covered by workers’ compensation; that is determined by the insurance company. The employer should do everything possible to document how the accident occurred and how he or she responded in the event that this is questioned down the road. Employers cannot deny employees appropriate medical care if an injury was suffered at work. When an injured employee is eligible to come back to work, the employer must take him or her back. One of the most important things to keep in mind for human resource managers and employers is that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee in any fashion for filing a workers’ compensation claim or thinking about filing a workers’ compensation claim.

An employer who attempts to demote, reduce the pay, or terminate an employee because of a workers’ compensation claim opens themselves up to litigation brought forth by the employee. It is very important to be careful in the words that are used in written and verbal communication following a workers’ compensation claim. Being reasonable and accommodating with the employee and documenting all of the steps taken and why they were taken can help to support an employer in the event that the employee comes back with allegations of retaliatory or negative behavior.

These situations can be especially problematic if the company has already dealt with the temporary or permanent loss of the employee in question because of a severe injury. It is important for employers to articulate what employees must do when filing a workers’ compensation claim so that there is not an opportunity for confusion when an accident happens. Being respectful and helping the employee with the workers’ compensation claim can go a long way.

Helping Out Pregnant Employees

Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer Howell NJHuman resources managers and all upper-level staff should be committed to doing everything within reason to help pregnant employees feel comfortable at work. This makes for a more comfortable workplace overall and decreases the chances of future conflicts and litigation filed on behalf of upset employees. Employers have concerns about making everyone feel welcome and appreciated in addition to doing everything they can to cut down on risk, including the types of risks presented by a lawsuit.

What Makes Employers Hesitant About Addressing Pregnancy Openly

After an employee announces that she is pregnant, the employer may be mindful of doing everything possible to avoid problems. This can, however, make the employee feel more uncomfortable. The employer might be trying to avoid bringing up the pregnancy at all so as not to make the women feel singled out, but this can also make it seem like no one is acknowledging the pregnancy. 

The very act of having no plan in place and never talking about it can make the employee feel as though her job is in jeopardy or that she is being discriminated against because of the pregnancy.  All employers should be aware of this fallout and should do whatever possible to avoid it.

You Need a Plan for Transition with a Pregnant Employee

When a co-worker or employee in the office becomes pregnant, having guidelines in place and ideas about how to make this person more comfortable are recommended for companies of all sizes. From making the big announcement to co-workers to figuring out how maternity leave is going to work, being pregnant at work can be very difficult and stressful for a working mom to be.

A study recently completed by the care.com found that approximately half of working women today were scared about telling their boss of the news of their pregnancy. Women may be nervous about bringing up their news to their employer and human resources and managers alike can all take steps to help minimize these concerns and make a pregnant woman safe in her working environment.

Supporting working mothers throughout the transition to parenthood, all the way from the news of the pregnancy through maternity leave and coming back from maternity leave can help to establish an appropriate company culture that makes working moms of all types feel comfortable. There are several different ideas that human resources departments and employers can keep in mind as they build a company that has a powerful work culture.

Advertise Benefits Appropriately

Any work-family benefits developed and used by the company should be clearly promoted throughout the physical premises. This can be posted in the bathroom and in the employee break room to help remind employees, including working mothers, about the supports and benefits available for them that are specifically tailored for their unique needs. This makes it easier for them to identify their individual work-family concerns and to take advantage of what you already offer. This can also show that you are taking the interest of all employees seriously by being proactive about implementing programs.

Provide Flexibility

Many employers use what is known as an informal flexibility program, meaning that the direct manager of the employee in question is responsible for providing further information up to a pregnant woman. This can relate to all sorts of issues over the course of the pregnancy, however, such as how a woman needs to request time off from work for necessary prenatal appointments and work from home days permitted after maternity leave.

Employees may be nervous about accepting these benefits, however, because of the stigma about working mothers and their overall commitment to the job. However, formalizing any flexible work arrangements by putting them in the writing can help to minimize problems and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

These subtle measures should not be overlooked. An employer might feel that if something is not as established as a support group that it’s better to avoid doing anything. However, no plans or information available in the workplace is just as bad and leads to confusion about workplace culture.

Any company today must have an idea of how to incorporate family concerns and other issues outside of the office, as at some point these concerns will inevitably have an impact on one employee or another.

Establish A Transition Plan

The transition to maternity leave might look slightly different from one employee to another, but documenting these guidelines in written format and referencing them with new and current employees alike can help to show that you have done your due diligence in putting together a plan that makes everyone feel comfortable and gives employees an opportunity to answer questions. This maternity leave checklist/timeline should include instructions for handing over projects and verify that coverage will be in place during the leave. This helps to reduce stress for the teams taking over the additional responsibilities as well as the working mom-to-be.

Create A Reintegration Plan

Much of the legwork associated with helping a pregnant woman feel comfortable in the workplace has to do with documenting your guidelines for how things may look over the course of the pregnancy and when she returns from work. A reintegration plan should be considered just as important as a transition plan before the departure.

Employers who are leading the way with parent-to-be policies may have the option to work from home one or more days a week or provide connections to new support groups within the workplace. This can help parents re-adjust to being in the office after their leave. This could alleviate an employee’s stress related to the workplace during the course of pregnancy and also make them feel more confident when they are making their way back into the office after time away for maternity leave.

Human resource managers and employers have a responsibility to ensure that they have thought of various options and established clear guidelines and protocols that make it clear to all employees, how things will be handled when a woman becomes pregnant.

What is Whistleblowing?

whistleblower lawyer cherry hill, njEvery individual, as well as human resource professional, should be aware of the relevant state and federal laws that protect those people who come forward to report unethical behavior, fraud or illegal actions on the part of an employer. These people who share critical information that aids in a government investigation, may be referred to as whistleblowers and whistleblowers are afforded particular protections under both state and federal laws.

Human resources managers should be aware of what to do with information that is reported by a whistleblower as they could be named in an ongoing case if the whistleblower attempted to make a supervisor in the human resources department aware of an issue and no further action was taken. In addition, a human resources manager would be well advised to understand all the various implications of a whistleblower’s protected rights.

Many employees may investigate their own rights and determine that they have been discriminated against or subjected to other illegal behaviors that could form the basis of their own lawsuit directly against the company. An experienced human resources manager will have documented procedures and guidelines for how to handle these particular situations.

A whistleblower is an employee of an organization who reports another employee or group of employees for something that is believed to be dishonest, illegal or wrong. Even if this information is ultimately harmful to the company’s bottom line or the executives, there can be no retaliation against a whistleblower because of the laws that are in place, assigning steep penalties to a company that engages in whistleblower retaliation.

If the employee chooses to come forward with a lawsuit about whistleblower retaliation and has ample evidence showing that the employer took steps to discriminate against that employee because of his or her decision to report fraud or illegal behavior, the consequences for the company can be significant. It is essential for every company to be mindful of the whistleblower laws and to develop human resources procedures surrounding whistleblowing.

Whistleblower suits can be very complex because depending on the allegations put forth by the person with internal knowledge, government authorities can make the decision to get involved in the case. The government always has the option to step into a case, but in some situations, they may decline the opportunity to pursue one. If the government is involved in a case under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower may be entitled to some portion of the reward. If the government opts not to participate in the case, the whistleblower may still continue on their own if they believe that fraud has occurred. These complex elements highlight the importance of whistleblower protections.

What HR Managers Need to Know About the Sarbanes-Oxley Act Of 2002?

The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in order to address the corruption that had taken place in the government and across the country during that time. The primary purpose of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was to address critical wrongdoings, such as fraud, although there are provisions within that address whistleblowing.

Anyone who brings forward genuine information in an attempt to curb crimes or other dishonest acts is afforded necessary protections so long as they have a reasonable suspicion that the acts indeed occur. If an employee complains about illegal acts carried out by an employer, like fraud, then that employee is protected from retaliation. Even if the allegations are wrong, the employee is still eligible to receive those protections as long as they had good faith to believe that fraud was indeed happening.

There is no need to worry about penalties or countersuits due to coming forward with erroneous information as the law tends to be lenient towards whistleblowers who did have a reasonable suspicion that fraud was occurring. These whistleblower complaints can be made to an employee’s supervisor, a law enforcement agency, or a government representative. All of the same protections still stand.

Various Other Whistleblower Laws

Other whistleblower laws may be in place, depending on the individual industry. For example, there are whistleblower protections afforded to those working in the financial industry. Retaliatory measures, however, such as being harassed or being fired are all prohibited by these laws. There are laws specifically for employees of an industry who make complaints about that industry.

In addition, state whistleblower laws may apply and afford additional protections. There are a number of different states that have their own laws on the books about whistleblowers, whether it relates to a violation of wage laws, family and medical leave protections, jury duty or discrimination.

These laws are generally mentioned in conjunction with federal laws that are designed to give clear protection to whistleblowers who are coming forward with relevant information. Many states have specific provisions that allow employees to sue or fight back when they were wrongfully penalized or fired in violation of public policy.

Every state will have a different interpretation about these alleged violations of coming forward under public policy and it is important for a whistleblower as well as the human resources manager to know what to do. Finally, a human resources manager should be informed of how to handle a situation in which an employee comes forward directly to someone in the human resources department about the alleged indications of fraud.

A proper investigation procedure can help to shield the company from further allegations of wrongdoing. In the event that the whistleblower case ultimately develops into a government investigation or other circumstance, the human resources department should have thoroughly documented information about how the complaint was handled when initially brought forward by the whistleblower and the company’s overall procedures designed to minimize instances of retaliation.

These can present unique legal and technical concerns for any company as a whistleblower can come forward to report fraud in practically every industry if they can illustrate that the employer or another person at the company was involved in a legal or fraudulent behavior. This is a complex network of state and federal regulations and it is important for human resources manager to understand the possible exposure to issues associated with these concerns.