Discrimination Protection extended to those “affiliated” with an employee

27 May

As disability discrimination and accommodation claims continue to rise across the country, an appellate court in California may have just helped significantly expand such claims in the future by finding that an employee can maintain a suit for “associational” disability discrimination based on the disability of his son. Castro Ramirez vs. Dependable Highway Express Inc. California Court of Appeals, 2nd District issues April 4, 2016.

The key facts are as follows: The employer knew the employee’s son required a daily dialysis treatment that only the employee could administer. For several years, the employer scheduled the employee so that he could be home at night in time for the dialysis. However, that schedule accommodation changed when a new supervisor took over. The employee was ultimately terminated for refusing to work a shift that would have prevented him from performing his son’s dialysis on time. The appellate court held that the employee could pursue his claims for disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, and retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), as well as wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

In reaching this conclusion, the court confirmed that under both the California FEHA and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employee may bring a claim for associational disability discrimination if an adverse employment action was substantially motivated because of an employee’s association with someone who has a disability. The court further expanded the law by holding that the California FEHA also creates a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee who is associated with a disabled person (even though no such duty exists under the federal ADA).

Applying this law to the case at hand, the court found that it can be reasonably inferred that the employer (through its new supervisor) acted proactively to terminate the employee in order to avoid the inconvenience and distraction related to employee’s need to care for his disabled son. The court also stated that the employer stated reason for the termination – employee’s refusal to work the assigned shift – was a pretext because employer’s policies allowed for less severe discipline under such circumstances and because a customer had specifically asked the employee to work an earlier shift (such that there was no legitimate reason for assigning employee to a later shift).

This case presents yet another example of the many nuances that exist with disability discrimination cases. Furthermore, although this decision was technically based upon California law, the conclusions were reached by mostly interpreting federal law. Therefore, many of the concepts raised in this case could apply across the country. As always, it is a good idea to seek legal assistance whenever uncertainty exists related to any disability or accommodation issues

 

INTRODUCTION

When addressing the needs of applicants or employees with disabilities, California employers must be careful to comply with two laws: (1) the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and (2) the disability provisions of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Because decisions relating to accommodation of disabilities are fact-intensive and must be made on a case-by-case basis, employers need to take care to ask questions and determine all of the facts of a situation, and in any difficult instance, consult an experienced human resources advisor or employment attorney, because a violation of an employee’s rights can be both costly and complicated.

WHICH EMPLOYERS ARE COVERED?

The ADA applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. The FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees. Part-time employees are included in determining whether an employer has the requisite number of employees to trigger coverage under these laws.

WHO IS DISABLED?

The key to compliance with the ADA and related FEHA provisions is to understand who is considered disabled. Under the ADA, disabled persons are those who have physical or mental impairments that substantially limit their ability to perform one or more major life activities, such as breathing, walking, working, seeing, hearing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, etc. In California, the definition of disability is much broader. People are considered disabled if they are limited in any way in performing a major life activity – they do not have to be substantially limited. People also are considered disabled if they have a history of such an impairment, such as a history of mental illness, or if they are regarded as having such an impairment, someone who is assumed to be disabled even if the assumption turns out to be wrong. . The ADA and FEHA also prohibit discrimination against individuals who are related to or associated with disabled individuals because of that relationship or disability.

When evaluating whether a California employee – or a person who is relying on them for care such as a child, spouse or other close family member and thus “associated” with them for FEHA protection – is limited in performing a major life activity, the employer must base that evaluation on the employee’s (or other person’s) condition without taking into account that person’s use of corrective medication or other corrective medical devices, such as glasses, prosthetics, etc. Because of California’s broad definition of disability, it is important for employers to understand that a large majority of California employees and those associated with them would likely qualify as disabled under state law, even though they would not be considered disabled under the ADA.

In general, any time an employee presents reports a medical need to be off of work, even if only for a few days, there is a reasonable chance that the employee will be considered “disabled” or affiliated with someone disabled and thereby invoking the protections of FEHA.

Effective April 2016 – updated Equal Employment and Anti-Harassment policies

29 Apr

This is the first of several important human resources and safety issues CalWorkSafety.com and Don Dressler Consulting wish to provide information about for clients and prospects.   First – every employer in California needs to update their employee handbooks or personnel manuals to revise Equal Employment and Anti-Harassment Policies.  

Due to new regulations of the California Fair Employment & Housing Council, we have developed suggested new provisions for client handbooks incorporating these new requirements. It is strongly advised that any employer have an employment attorney or experienced human resources consultant review their entire handbook because very often there are other provisions that involve similar matters which must be coordinated, and also other provisions may be out of date or not be in compliance with Federal or California law.) Contact us at Don Dressler Consulting and CalWorkSafety for assistance. (www.DonDressler.com and www.CalWorkSafety.com )

On April 1, 2016, California employers will be subject to new anti-discrimination and anti-harassment regulations, as amended by the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (“FEHC”). Although the amendments are intended to conform the existing regulations to recent court decisions, the most notable addition is the requirement that covered California employers develop and distribute anti-harassment and discrimination policies with certain required elements and create formal internal complaint processes to address employee concerns. Employers should promptly review their anti-harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies for compliance with these new regulations.

New Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Policy Requirements

Covered California employers have had an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct. But, employers generally had discretion in deciding how to do so. No longer. Starting April 1, 2016, a covered California employer must have a harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policy that:

  • Is in writing;
  • Lists all current protected categories covered under the FEHA;
  • Indicates that managers, supervisors, coworkers and third parties with whom employees come into contact are prohibited from engaging in unlawful conduct under the FEHA;
  • Creates a complaint process to ensure that complaints receive: (a) a designation of confidentiality, to the extent possible; (b) timely responses; (c) impartial and timely investigations by qualified personnel; (d) documentation and tracking for reasonable progress; (e) appropriate options for remedial actions and resolutions; and (f) timely closure;
  • Provides a complaint mechanism that permits employees to complain to someone other than his or her immediate supervisor, such as a designated company representative (including a human resources manager, EEO officer, or other supervisor), a complaint hotline, an ombudsperson, or identification of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as additional avenues for employees to lodge complaints;
  • Assures employees that if the employer receives allegations of misconduct, it will conduct a fair, timely, and thorough investigation in a manner that provides all parties appropriate due process and reaches reasonable conclusions based on the evidence collected;
  • States that confidentiality will be kept by the employer to the extent possible, but not that an investigation will be completely confidential;
  • Instructs supervisors to report complaints of misconduct to a designated company representative, such as a human resources manager;
  • Indicates that if misconduct is found after investigation, appropriate remedial measures shall be taken; and
  • Confirms that employees shall not be exposed to retaliation as a result of lodging a complaint or participating in any workplace investigation.

Employers must disseminate this written policy to employees by one or more of the following methods: (1) providing a printed copy to all employees with an acknowledgement form for the employee to sign and return; (2) sending the policy via email to all employees with an acknowledgement return form; (3) posting the current versions of the policies on a company intranet with a tracking system to ensure that all employees have read and acknowledged receipt of the policies; (4) discussing the policy upon hire and/or during a new hire orientation session; and/or (5) any other way that ensures employees receive and understand the policy. Employers must translate the written policy into every language that is used as the “spoken language” by at least 10 percent of the workforce at any facility or establishment.

These dissemination requirements are in addition to employers’ continuing obligation to distribute to employees the DFEH’s brochure on sexual harassment (DFEH-185), or an alternative writing compliant with the FEHA.[7]

Training Requirements

Since 2004, California has required that employers with 50 or more employees provide biennial and continual sexual harassment prevention training. The regulations impose new training and record-keeping requirements for those employers.

Such training must now also:

  • Instruct supervisors of their obligation to report sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of which they become aware;
  • Cover appropriate remedial measures to correct harassing behavior; and
  • Review the definition of “abusive conduct,” explain the negative impact of abusive conduct, specifically discuss the elements of abusive conduct, provide examples of abusive conduct, and emphasize that, unless the act is especially severe or egregious, a single act shall not constitute abusive conduct. Although the new regulations still do not identify the amount of time that must be dedicated specifically to the subject of “abusive conduct,” they make clear that the subject should be covered “in a meaningful manner.”

Employers must maintain for two years all written or recorded materials that comprise the training, including copies of all webinars, all written questions and responses from webinars and e-learning, all sign-in sheets, and all certificates of attendance or completion issued, in addition to the already-required names of supervisory employees trained, the date of the training, the type of training and the name of the training provider.

Enforcement

The regulations track existing case law and confirm that there is no stand-alone private cause of action for failure to prevent harassment or discrimination under the FEHA. A private claimant must also plead and prevail on an underlying claim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

The DFEH, however, may independently seek non-monetary preventative remedies for a violation—regardless of whether the DFEH prevails on an underlying claim for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

DRAFT UPDATED HANDBOOK POLICIES:

Equal Employment Policy Provision 2016:

[Company Name] is an equal opportunity employer and makes employment decisions on the basis of merit. We want to have the best available persons in every job. Company policy prohibits unlawful discrimination based and over):  ancestry, color, religious creed (including religious dress and grooming practices), denial of family and medical care leave, disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS, marital status, medical condition (cancer and genetic characteristics), genetic information, military and veteran status,  national origin (including language use restrictions), race, sex (which includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding), gender, gender identity, and gender expression, sexual orientation and retaliation for making a complaint about discrimination or participating in an investigation of a complaint about discrimination or any other consideration made unlawful by federal, state, or local laws. It also prohibits unlawful discrimination based on the perception that anyone has any of those characteristics, or is associated with a person who has or is perceived as having any of those characteristics. Discrimination can also include failing to reasonably accommodate religious practices or qualified individuals with disabilities where the accommodation does not pose an undue hardship. All such discrimination is unlawful.

The Company is committed to compliance with all applicable laws providing equal employment opportunities. This commitment applies to all persons involved in Company operations and prohibits unlawful discrimination by any employee of the Company, including supervisors and coworkers, clients or customers or suppliers or other outside persons.

If you believe you have been subjected to any form of unlawful discrimination, submit a written complaint to your supervisor or the individual with day-to-day personnel responsibilities. Any supervisor receiving any written or other complain is to report any complaints of misconduct to a human resources manager, so the company can try to resolve the claim internally and promptly. Your complaint should be specific and should include the names of the individuals involved and the names of any witnesses. If you need assistance with your complaint, or if you prefer to make a complaint in person, contact __________________. [insert name of contact person] Confidentiality about  your complaint will be kept by the Company to the extent possible, but the investigation cannot be completely confidential. The Company will immediately undertake an effective, thorough, and objective investigation and attempt to resolve the situation.

If the Company determines that unlawful discrimination has occurred, effective remedial action will be taken commensurate with the severity of the offense. Appropriate action also will be taken to deter any future discrimination. The Company will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint and will not knowingly permit retaliation by management employees or your coworkers for participating in any investigation.

To comply with applicable laws ensuring equal employment opportunities to qualified individuals with a disability, the Company will make reasonable accommodations for the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or an employee unless undue hardship would result.

Any applicant or employee who requires an accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of the job should contact a Company representative with day-to-day personnel responsibilities and discuss the need for an accommodation. The Company will engage in an interactive process with the employee to identify possible accommodations, if any, that will help the applicant or employee perform the job. An applicant or employee who requires an accommodation of a religious belief or practice (including religious dress and grooming practices, such as religious clothing or hairstyles) should also contact a Company representative with day-to-day personnel responsibilities and discuss the need for an accommodation. If the accommodation is reasonable and will not impose an undue hardship, the Company will make the accommodation.

Anti-Harassment Policy Provision – 2016

[Company Name] is committed to providing a work environment free of harassment, disrespectful or other unprofessional conduct. Company policy prohibits conduct that is disrespectful, unprofessional as well as harassment based on and over):  ancestry, color, religious creed (including religious dress and grooming practices), denial of family and medical care leave, disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS, marital status, medical condition (cancer and genetic characteristics), genetic information, military and veteran status,  national origin (including language use restrictions), race, sex (which includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding), gender, gender identity, and gender expression, sexual orientation and retaliation for making a complaint about discrimination or participating in an investigation of a complaint about discrimination or any other basis protected by federal, state or local law or ordinance or regulation. All such conduct violates company policy.

The Company’s anti-harassment policy applies to all persons involved in the operation of the Company and prohibits harassment, disrespectful or unprofessional conduct by any employee of the Company, including supervisors and managers, as well as vendors, customers, independent contractors and any other persons. It also prohibits harassment, disrespectful or unprofessional conduct based on the perception that anyone has any of those characteristics, or is associated with a person who has or is perceived as having any of those characteristics.

Prohibited harassment, disrespectful or unprofessional conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following behavior:

  • Verbal conduct such as epithets, derogatory jokes or comments, slurs
  • Unwanted sexual advances, invitations or comments;
  • Visual displays such as derogatory and/or sexually-oriented posters, photography, cartoons, drawings or gestures;
  • Physical conduct including assault, unwanted touching, intentionally blocking normal movement or interfering with work because of sex, race or any other protected basis;
  • Threats and demands to submit to sexual requests as a condition of continued employment, or to avoid some other loss and offers of employment benefits in return for sexual favors;
  • Retaliation for reporting or threatening to report harassment; and
  • Communication via electronic media of any type that includes any conduct that is prohibited by state and/or federal law, or by company policy.

If you believe that you have been the subject of harassment or other prohibited conduct or witnessed such actions, bring your complaint to your own or any other Company supervisor, the president or the personnel administrator of the Company as soon as possible after the incident. You will be asked to provide details of the incident or incidents, names of individuals involved and names of any witnesses. It would be best to communicate your complaint in writing, but this is not mandatory. Supervisors will refer all complaints involving harassment or other prohibited conduct to the personnel administrator, investigative officer or the president of the Company. The Company will immediately undertake an effective, thorough and objective investigation of the allegations. Any information provided will be kept confidential by the employer to the extent possible, but because the Company has an obligation to deal with improper behavior it cannot assure that the investigation will be completely confidential.

If the Company determines that harassment or other prohibited conduct has occurred, effective remedial action will be taken in accordance with the circumstances involved. Any employee determined by the Company to be responsible for harassment or other prohibited conduct will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to, and including termination. A Company representative will advise all parties concerned of the results of the investigation. The Company will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint and will not tolerate or permit retaliation by management, employees or co-workers.

The Company encourages all employees to report any incidents of harassment or other prohibited conduct forbidden by this policy immediately so that complaints can be quickly and fairly resolved. You also should be aware that the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing investigate and prosecute complaints of prohibited harassment in employment. If you think you have been harassed or that you have been retaliated against for resisting or complaining, you may file a complaint with the appropriate agency. The nearest office is listed in the telephone book.

CA Lawmakers move to raise state minimum wage to $15

31 Mar

California lawmakers have reached a tentative deal with labor groups to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next six years.

The initiative would boost California’s minimum-wage from the current $10 an hour to $15 an hour by January 2021 by increasing about a dollar most years. Backers of another initiative are still collecting signatures for their alternative, which would push the hourly minimum to $15 on July 15, 2020.

The tentative agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown’s office, labor and legislative leaders would raise the minimum to $15 an hour in 2022 and would give small businesses another year beyond that to reach the $15 level, according to Rendon’s email to Assembly Democrats. The added time could be enough to persuade state business leaders to sign on, especially if the more aggressive minimum-wage increase looks like a winner in November.

California has one of the highest minimum wages in the country at $10 an hour. Massachusetts’ minimum wage is also $10 an hour, while Washington, D.C., has the highest at $10.50. Under the deal, the rate would increase by 50 cents the first two years, to $10.50 in 2017 and $11 in 2018, then by $1 per year until it reaches $15 in 2022, according to a source.

The deal was met with a mixture of joy and anxiety across the state Sunday.

Some workers and labor officials hailed it as a breakthrough in providing higher-wage jobs in fields where it’s a struggle to make ends meet. But some business owners feared the shift would hurt their bottom lines — and perhaps even put them out of business. The debate is likely a preview for the weeks ahead as the minimum wage proposal works its way through Sacramento.

Business groups opposed to raising the minimum wage recently created the Consumers Against Higher Prices Committee to fight the ballot initiative. The group includes the California Restaurant Association, the California Retailers Association and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It is imperative that lawmakers listen to the voices of their constituents rather than bowing to the will of special interest groups,” the group said Sunday. “If this overreaching deal is passed through the Legislature, it will not solve any of the fundamental problems it seeks to address, and will result in devastating impacts to family-run businesses, education, seniors, services for the disabled, working families and more.”

Cumulative Trauma

29 Feb
What’s the Difference Between a Specific Injury vs. Cumulative Trauma?

 
In general, there are two types of injuries a worker can suffer while at work.  First, there is the “specific injury.”  For example, if you lift something heavy and hurt your back, if you fall off a ladder, or if you are involved in an automobile accident while making a delivery.

The second type of work injury are the “cumulative trauma” injuries.  Cumulative trauma injuries are also known as “repetitive” injuries. These are injuries that happen gradually at work, over a period of time or during a course of repetitive action.  For example, if your job entails continuous heavy lifting and you gradually develop back pain, or if you use your hands repetitively at work and you develop hand/wrist pain, or if you are exposed to toxins and/or chemicals over a period of time and develop respiratory problems.

In addition to the above physical cumulative trauma injuries, an employee can also develop a cumulative trauma psychological injury.  For example, if you are exposed to ongoing stress at work that causes anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, or stomach problems you may have a workers’ compensation claim for a cumulative trauma psychological injury. However, to be eligible in California for coverage under workers’ compensation – such stress must be predominately caused by employment,   which means at least 50% or more caused by work instead of health conditions, family or financial problems, addiction or drug use, etc.  Also if the stress is caused by good faith employment actions, it is not covered under workers’ compensation.

A cumulative trauma injury can also bring on or aggravate a prior injury or condition. For example, someone who had a back injury many years ago and is required to do a lot of repetitive lifting at their current job may have an aggravation in their back symptoms.

In sum, a cumulative trauma injury is an injury which occurs over time.  A cumulative trauma injury is recognized in the California workers’ compensation system.  There have been a significant increase in cumulative trauma claims in the past several years, and now the cumulative trauma claims make up almost 15% of all claims.  Many are not really eligible for coverage but often employers fail to fully investigate and inform their insurance claims department.

Statute of Limitations for Reporting Cumulative Trauma

The rules that define the time limit for bringing a workers’ compensation claim at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board are seemingly straightforward but are wrought with numerous sweeping exceptions. The basic SOL is one year from the date the injury occurred. For specific injuries, the rule is easily applied. However, for cumulative trauma injuries, the rule is not so easily applied. As a general rule (with many intricacies not discussed here), the SOL for a cumulative trauma begins to run on the last date of injuries exposure (the last day the worker was exposed to the occupational hazard causing the health condition). As previously stated, the 1 or one year statute of repose is not without a number of exceptions some of which can be highly factual in nature. Therefore, always consult a lawyer before assuming that an exception exists in your claim.

All states permit some form of such claims, but California is widely seen as the most permissive and lucrative in such awards. When the worker comp claims awards increased in 2010, cumulative injury claims were cited as a cause in a report released in January by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California.

Do you have questions about Cumulative Trauma Worker’s Compensation? Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Don Dressler Consulting and CalWorkSafety.com. We’re here to help!

 

What is Cal/OSHA’s Injury & Illness Prevention Program?

25 Jan
Taking risks is a part of running a business, particularly for small business owners. You take risks in product development, marketing, and advertising in order to stay competitive. Some risks are just not worth the gamble. One of these is risking the safety and health of those who work for you.

 

In California, every employer has a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthful workplace for employees, according to the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. As of 1991, a written, effective Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP) Program is required for every California employer.

 

In developing an effective safety program, you need to identify what has to be done to promote the safety and health of your employees and worksite and outline policies and procedures to achieve your safety and health goals. This requirement is designed to help employers provide better workplace protection for their employees and reduce losses resulting from accidents and injuries.

 

What is an Injury & Illness Prevention Program?

 

Your Injury and Illness Prevention Program must be a written plan that includes procedures and is put into practice. These elements are required:

 

  • Management commitment/assignment of responsibilities
  • Safety communications system with employees
  • System for assuring employee compliance with safe work practices
  • Scheduled inspections/evaluation system
  • Accident investigation
  • Procedures for correcting unsafe/ unhealthy conditions
  • Safety and health training and instruction

 

For an in-depth guide on developing your Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Program, visit http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/iipp.html. This manual describes the employers’ responsibilities in establishing, implementing, and maintaining an IIP Program. It also outlines steps that can be taken to develop an effective Program to help ensure the safety and health of employees while on the job.

 

For any employer needing assistance with compliance with Cal/OSHA or help with a citation from Cal/OSHA, contact Don Dressler Consulting at dondressler1@hotmail.com.

Keeping Your Workplace Safe During the Holidays

18 Dec

It’s that time of the year when holiday office decorating contests are in full swing and many friendly competitions are underway! Office decorating can be a great way to help coworkers enjoy the spirit of the holiday season together, as long as proper safety precautions are followed – and to ensure accidents don’t put a damper on your team’s holiday spirit.

When deciding how to decorate your office to win that coveted prize, here are a few tips to ensure a safe and even more fun holiday season. And, the same safety considerations apply to home decoration as well!

Fire Safety Tips for Holiday Decor

Be mindful of potential fire hazards when selecting holiday decorations and determining where to place them. Make wise choices about the types of holiday lights you use. Do not use any type of decoration in your office that has an open flame. If your Christmas tree is metallic, do not place any types of lights on it at all.

It’s also important to make sure that you use holiday lights properly. Never place staples or nails through strings of lights, power cords, or extension cords. Do not connect too many strands of lights together. If you decorate the outside of your office, verify that any lights you use are rated for exterior use.

Make sure all illuminated items are turned off when the office is closed so there’s no risk of a fire breaking out when the building is unattended. It’s a good idea to put one person in charge of this task, so there’s no confusion regarding whether or not the lights need to be checked at the end of each workday.

Before starting the process of decorating your office for the holidays, it’s a good idea to verify that all of your fire safety equipment is in proper working order. Make sure that your smoke detectors are working, and verify that the fire extinguishers are fully charged and easily accessible. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of doing this several times each year, and it makes sense to use the occasion of decorating for the holidays as a reminder to check out your fire safety equipment.

OSHA Compliance and Holiday Decorations

Keep all relevant OSHA regulations in mind when deciding how to decorate your workplace for the holiday. Without proper planning, holiday decorations can result in dangerous tripping hazards. Think carefully before using extension cords to connect lights or to illuminate other types of decorations. Avoid placing Christmas trees, gifts, or freestanding decorations in heavily trafficked areas where people might run into them or trip over them.

It’s also essential to make sure that your holiday décor in no way compromises the ability of workers and visitors to exit the workplace in the event of an emergency. Do not place any type of decorative items in exit corridors or on the sprinklers. It’s essential to verify that none of your decorations block exit signage or fire safety equipment.

Holiday Celebration Safety Considerations

If you’ll be holding an office holiday party where alcohol will be served it’s essential to make transportation arrangements for guests who should not drive. This is true whether the party is held at your place of business, in someone’s home, at a restaurant, or at any other location. This is essential to keep coworkers and other guests protected from drinking and driving, and to mitigate potential legal liability to the employer.

Keep Your Workplace Safe During the Holidays

By following a few simple safety tips, it’s easy to enjoy festive holiday decorations and events at work without having to deal with injuries or damage to property. When preparing to enjoy the holiday season at work, simply incorporate proper workplace holiday safety precautions into the planning process. You’ll be on your way to a holiday season that will be remembered as one that is both enjoyable and safe.

Stress: How It Affects Your Workplace Safety

19 Nov
No matter what industry you’re in, workplace stress impacts more than just employee morale. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Exposure to stressful working conditions (called job stressors) can have a direct influence on worker safety and health.” In this article, we’re going to discuss five commonly cited stressors and share how they may be impacting safety at your workplace today.

MISSING INFORMATION

Considering the short attention spans and “gotta-have-it-now” attitudes born from recent advancements in technology, it’s no surprise that missing information now tops the list of workplace stressors.
In the realm of workplace safety, missing information can not only cause stress but accidents and injuries as well. Consider the recent case against a Texas stamping plant, where two workers suffered serious hand injuries, one of which was a finger amputation. Of the serious violations cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, two of them involved missing information: employees did not know how to properly shut down machinery during servicing and maintenance and they weren’t properly trained on how to use personal protective equipment, such as cut-resistant gloves. When an employee isn’t given all the details he or she needs to perform a task safely, filling in the blanks can have disastrous results.

PROBLEMS PRIORITIZING TASKS

Just behind missing information, many people cite problems prioritizing tasks as a workplace stressor. The key to overcoming this stressor is to focus on and complete the most important task first, and then move on to the second most important.
This strategy works to prevent workplace injuries and accidents as well. By focusing on what’s most important first, workers are less likely to rush through menial tasks in order to make time for more significant ones. Furthermore, not switching back and forth between two or more tasks also helps reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries.

UNREALISTIC GOALS

Setting unrealistic goals can have devastating effects on workplace safety. When workers are overwhelmed with how much they have to get done, they’re more likely to rush, lose focus, and slip up. Consider a truck driver forced to drive too many consecutive hours and running off the road or crashing into another vehicle as a result of fatigue or exhaustion.
Communication is the key to overcoming this stressor. So rather than having management set goals that are unattainable and stress inducing, encourage leadership to work with employees to better understand what they are capable of in a given timeframe.

MOVING DEADLINES

No one likes aiming at a moving target. If deadlines change, goals can quickly become unrealistic, putting unnecessary stress on workers and increasing the likelihood of injury. When deadlines tighten at your company, additional actions should be taken in order to compensate for the lost time—like bringing in part-time or temporary workers to help meet the new timeline or adding in more breaks to make longer shifts manageable.

UNCLEAR LEADERSHIP

More and more we’re hearing about achieving safety excellence by creating a company-wide safety culture—which starts with leadership.
As a safety leader, you cannot say you’re invested in your workers’ safety, but refuse to buy top-performing personal protective equipment to prevent injuries. You can’t tell employees that safety is your primary priority, and then push them to take on more tasks than they can safely perform. Leadership must be clear on where it stands—and that should always be on the side of workplace safety.
As stated earlier, stress of any kind is detrimental to workplace safety, and there’s no single solution that will address all stressors. The key is to keep lines of communication with your workers open so you’re always aware of their levels and causes of stress. The good news is when you find ways to reduce employee stress levels, you’ll find your workplace accidents and injuries decreasing as well.

Do you have workplace safety questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Don Dressler Consulting and CalWorkSafety.com. We’re here to help!
-Don Dressler