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

The 4 Biggest Obstacles To Workplace Safety

30 Oct
Safety should always be a top priority in any workplace, regardless if you work in an office setting or in a warehouse. However, as evident by countless statistics over the years, workplace accidents are simply waiting to happen. Despite rigorous safety standards, accidents will happen in any workplace. Yet, there is a multitude of ways to cut down on the number of accidents. To improve your workplace’s safety culture, here are the four biggest obstacles to look out for:
1. Lack of proper training
A lack of safety training increases the likelihood of accidents. Safety training is not an option, it is a priority. Often new safety ideologies and methodologies emerge and outdated safety practices are often proven to be obsolete or ineffective. It is essential to keep all employees abreast and aware of safety, so much that is engrained in the culture of the workplace. A lack of safety training is the greatest obstacle to workplace safety.
2. Workplace distractions
It is critical that any forklift operator or any employee maintain superior situational awareness. In an era of high-paced environments with distracting technologies, it is easy for any worker to lose awareness. It is essential for any operator or labourer to pay attention to their surroundings at all times. A common cause of workplace accidents is negligence to various hazards. Distractions can easily impede any operation. For this reason, it is essential that both as a forklift operator and as a general labourer that employees be free of any electronic devices and assure their attention is on the task at hand at all times. This is especially true when handling hazardous materials, dangerous substances or heavy goods that can potentially injure or kill any worker.
3. Fatigued and dehydrated personnel
This obstacle is unique and far varying from the other three, yet it is a direct physical threat to all employees. The greatest obstacle most workers have are themselves and this is even more true with a tired and dehydrated worker. Simply put, workers will not perform at their best unless their body is treated at its best. A tired or dehydrated forklift operator or general labourer is far more likely to improperly handle material and less likely to be aware of their surroundings.
Furthermore, dehydrated workers are at a higher risk for heat stroke or to develop cardiac conditions. The severity of these conditions can be deadly. In addition, fatigued personnel place all other workers at risk. It is essential that management drive frequency of breaks and assure all subordinates are hydrated and ready to perform. It is imperative to take frequent breaks and drink 12 gallons of water on those long, hot summer days. In addition, it is essential for employees to attempt to sleep eight hours per night to assure adequate energy for the next work day. In gruelling conditions that often accompany many material handling applications, this is absolutely imperative.
4. Lack of emergency preparedness
In the event of an emergency, a comprehensive plan can assure all employees and workers are protected from potentially deadly consequences. Sadly, many employees are unsure if such a plan exists. In many occasions, management ignores this precept and thus preparedness standards are terribly low.
In the event of an accident, the implementation of recovery policies and procedures can serve as a framework to handle the most complex of scenarios. From these action plans, a course of action and a chain of command are implemented. It is essential that all employees know what to do in a variety of emergency situations. Failing to establish this foundation is a great obstacle for any workplace and can cause significant collateral damage in the result of an actual emergency.
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

OSHA Inspections Are Serious Business

23 Sep

Starting this summer, Cal/OSHA has added over 40 new inspectors to its staff and their impact is already being felt.

The primary reasons employers are receiving inspections are being in a high hazard industry, having an experience modification of over 125 making them a high hazard employer, having had a serious injury which resulted in an employee being hospitalized or death, or a complaint being filed.