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.

This blog is posted on HRZone. Be sure to follow them for more of my human resources-related articles published weekly.

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.

Is It Ever a Good Idea to Hire a Friend?

Small Business HireThe time has finally come. You have put in the legwork, the late nights, the money, the research and your small business is finally taking off. What started out as a laptop and desk in your spare room became something that requires office space and maybe even a warehouse for products to be sold and stored. Furthermore, you now need help. You are expanding, meeting consumer orders, packaging and shipping, and handling finances, but it has taken its toll. The next step in taking your business further and continuing to grow is hiring employees.

Instead of trying to handle everything yourself, you need to divvy up the tasks and have more hands on deck to make sure your consumers are getting what they need. You might actually be looking to act more as a supervisor and take a step back and let someone else manage your business day-to-day.

So where exactly do you start when it comes to putting your small business in another’s hands?

You most certainly want someone you can trust and someone you believe to be loyal to your business’s ideas and vision. Also, you definitely want someone you can relate to and have chemistry with to make the work you will have to do together feel a little less like work.

It is not easy to find those traits and characteristics in someone off the street, making the choice to hire a friend at the forefront of your mind. But as a small business owner, is it really a good idea to hire a friend?

It is a question that has been around for centuries and debated just as long. To this day there is no definitive or correct answer — it will most likely turn out good or bad based on your relationship. As a small business owner, it is necessary to look at the pros and cons of hiring a friend before jumping into it, as there are a handful of things to take into consideration.

An article from Business Know-How highlights a few major considerations, especially when a friend approaches you looking for work. While it may be a friend looking for a job and source of income, you still need to treat them like any other hire. You will want to consider their skill set in relation to the job, their work ethic, prior experience and any potential long-term effect it can have on your relationship.

That is the easy part. If you do not feel your friend can meet the demands of the position or even your own expectations then the simple answer is: do not hire them. If they do qualify, however, then you need to further analyze the pros and cons.

A few pros were already mentioned earlier and to reiterate: hiring a friend most likely means you already have a developed trust and agree for the most part on important work-related ideas and visions. You also already have a friendly relationship that can make working together easier and enjoyable. Furthermore, you know their reliability and if they will be able to do what needs to be done in the time required. This means you can always look to them when things get tough or you need something important to be done.

As it turns out, all of those pros can quickly turn into cons. For instance, while working with a friend can be enjoyable and relaxed, it can also lead to “goofing off.” It might end up taking longer to get a project done because of time wasted just enjoying each other’s company. Along the same lines, if you have hired a friend for your small business and they are not living up to your expectation, it will be difficult to reprimand them. On one hand, you do not want to hurt their feelings or damage your personal relationship, but on the other, you need to be the boss and get them to do their job as it needs to be done.

Other potential issues that will most likely arise can stem from money. You might feel a pressure to pay your friend more than another employee simply because they are your friend. Your friend might feel entitled to higher pay or find it easier to request pay raises for the same reason.

This can also lead to more disdain from other employees you might have. They might feel you are favoring your friend over them (even if you are not) just because of your relationship outside of work. It will also make it difficult to promote your friend over another employee or vice versa because the other employee might feel the promotion went to your friend out of favoritism. If your friend did not get the promotion they might believe it to be personal, damaging your relationship.

Another good point, brought up in an article from Business Knowledge Source, is that hiring a friend at work could mean outside, personal disputes carry into work. It can also work the other way where a work-related disagreement or issue spills over into your personal lives.

Lastly, the biggest con comes if you get pushed to the point where you have to fire your friend. Many people do not like to think about that situation when hiring a friend, but in reality, it is something that may end up a possibility. Before hiring a friend you have to know you are capable of firing them if necessary. You also need to be prepared for any repercussions from a friend you have fired. They might take it personally or feel they were wrongfully terminated for reasons beyond the workplace. Again, this just becomes another strain on your original relationship and is most likely something you do not want to have to deal with.

When it comes down to it, your main goal is to keep your business thriving and growing. Your business’s success is and should be the only priority. If that means hiring a friend will help you reach that desired success, then hire a friend. But if you feel hiring a friend will put your business’s livelihood at stake and you do not want to damage your already existent relationship, then it might not be the best move to make.

Always weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that is best for your business.

Check out this article on Medium, too!

Hiring a Friend: Too Risky?

Hiring a FriendIt was bound to happen at some time or another. You have been approached by your friend seeking to fill an open position at the company you work with. At first glance, it does not seem like too big of a deal. As a human resources professional, you have the power to hire new employees, making hiring your friend simple enough. But is it really that simple? It is a hot-button topic that has been discussed for as long as businesses have been around — and the question still remains: is hiring a friend too risky?

When I was working as a recruiter for a human services agency several years back, I was approached by every single friend – and surprisingly, former classmates – for a job. While I love my friends, and they are a hoot for Thursday game night, my biggest fear was hiring someone with my name behind them. If they succeeded? Great! It was a confirmation of and testament to my phenomenal people skills. If they failed, well…that was a huge hit for the kind of reputation I built up in my role as not only a recruiter but in my company as well.

There are many perspectives on the topic with answers backed by many advantages of hiring a friend and other answers backed by many disadvantages of hiring a friend. But before getting into the meat of the subject, it is important to look at your own position at the company and how it would relate to hiring a friend.

As a human resources professional your job most likely entails duties related to hiring and/or firing, performance reviews, benefits, general employee and management communications, compliance with labor and employment laws, employee development and any employee-related documentation and paperwork. Simply put, if you hire a friend your job requires you to be closely involved with them and what they do at your company, as well as all the other employees under your care.

First, let us look at the pros that come with hiring a friend. An article from Business Know-How highlights the fact that hiring a friend does make the hiring process easier. You most likely already know your friend’s qualifications and history, which can help in confirming a background check or qualifications written on a resume.

In addition, you are probably privy to their work ethic and reliability based on your relationship outside of a working one. If not, there is a good chance you know your friend’s references, making it easy to communicate with them in regards to the position and how your friend may or may not fit. And what usually ends up the most sought after reason to hire a friend, is the simple fact you will get to work together. Having someone you can talk to or get lunch with on a daily basis while at work can make for a more tolerable work situation. This also means you can have a friend to attend work-related activities with, which can aid in overall relationships around the company.

But as is the case with advantages, there are always disadvantages — especially when being a human resources professional and hiring a friend. While actual business advantages exist in hiring a friend, the biggest disadvantage still basically stems from the friendship that exists prior to you hiring a friend.

The Society for Human Resource Management explained it well by saying, “…friendships increase engagement and stakeholder buy-in, but you’re also aware that if employees think you’re too close to ‘select’ people, you — and the HR department — may no longer be viewed as impartial, fair and trustworthy.”

This is an important point to make because it highlights the fact that you do not need to actually be favoring someone for other employees to believe favoritism is at play. Right out of the gate, your friend you choose to hire might already fall under scrutiny with the idea that they only obtained the job because of your friendship. That sentiment will be lingering for as long as you and your friend work together, which can make for a difficult workplace dynamic.

Furthermore, the friendship you and your friend have will definitely play into your one-one-one work relationship. Take for example a performance review you might have to do on your friend. Not only will the pressure to only say good things about your friend exist, but if your friend is doing poorly you most likely do not want to be the one to have to tell them.

It is hard enough telling a regular coworker they need to do a better job. But taking a friend and telling them their job performance is less than satisfactory is an even more difficult predicament. You risk damaging the personal relationship you two share, even if you have done your best to keep it professional.

Even worse, if you have the added responsibility of firing employees at your company, you might have to fire your friend if they are deemed not able to keep up with the demands of the job. Firing a friend not only permanently severs the co-worker relationship but also your personal relationship. An even greater toll could be in the works if your friend feels they were wrongfully terminated and chooses to pursue legal action against the company. Now your whole company is at stake.

When it comes down it, hiring a friend can be focused on two critical variables: your friend and the company environment. If you have an emotionally close relationship with your friend then, be prepared for other employees to see your in-work relationship as favoritism. If your friend was more of an acquaintance then it might be a better fit because you have supplied a new hire that is familiar and trustworthy without the added risk of emotional ties.

When it comes to the company itself, it is important to look at its organizational structure. Is it a small, tight-knit and highly controlled environment? If so, any perception of favoritism on your part could be detrimental to the company and its goals.

One final aspect of hiring a friend that can actually end up an advantage or a disadvantage is how they reflect on you and your competence. If you hire a friend that ends up being a great asset to the company then you will receive praise for your decision to hire. If your friend turns out to be less than adequate as an employee, it will reflect poorly on you and your decision to hire them.

As mentioned earlier, there really is not a definitive answer as to whether or not it is too risky to hire a friend. As a human resources professional it is your job to treat each potential hire the same way while keeping your company’s ideals and aspirations a priority. If you weigh the advantages and disadvantages and feel hiring your friend is a worthwhile move, then take the risk.