Safety Plans are Smart Business

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By Scott Hullinger
Director of Loss Control & Risk Management
CopperPoint Insurance Companies

If a disaster strikes your company, affects your employees and impacts the bottom line, will you be prepared?

Although workplace disasters are usually few and far between, they can range from minor to catastrophic, oftentimes with significant consequences. Today, some of the most common workplace disasters include:

  • Smoke or fire
  • Flood
  • Electrical outage
  • Hazardous materials exposure
  • Earthquakes or other natural disasters
  • Workplace violence

Employers would be wise to be prepared for these types of disasters by having a written safety plan in place. Safety plans, also known as disaster recovery plans or emergency preparedness, are a company’s smartest disaster defense. If prepared thoughtfully and thoroughly, they outline the best procedures and protocol for protecting employees, protecting the company and keeping the lights of a business on.

All companies with 10 or more employees should have a written safety plan in place. These plans are typically updated on an annual basis, tested during practice drills and amended as necessary. In addition, key corporate departments such as information technology and building maintenance are part of the solution. A strong relationship with your local fire department also is advised. Be sure fire officials have current building schematics and floor plans for all of your office space and employees.

A work/job building analysis also should be a part of your safety plan. Employers need to know how many people are in the building and have clear procedures for each type of potential disaster scenario. Utilizing simple, step-by-step instructions will enable your safety plan to be easily adopted by employees. It’s imperative that employees also receive training on the safety plan so they understand their roles and responsibilities on how to stay safe.

Not sure where to start? CopperPoint offers a guide to creating your customized safety plan on our website. In addition, OSHA and the National Safety Council both offer helpful resources. Your insurance carrier or agent (in-house loss control) are additional sources for help.

A safety plan is a shared responsibility between an employer and its employees. Take the time to create a new plan or dust off an old one. After all, protecting what matters most — your employees’ safety — is the ultimate goal.

Scott Hullinger is Director of Loss Control and Risk Management for CopperPoint Insurance Companies, a leading provider of workers compensation insurance and property and casualty insurance products.

The Art of Ergonomics

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By Carl Hamilton
Loss Control and Risk Supervisor
CopperPoint

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one-third of all employee injury and illness cases are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that occur in the workplace. These injuries add up to the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

MSDs commonly affect the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons due to poor posture or chronic, repetitive motion. The most common examples of MSDs are:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Injuries affecting the shoulder, back and elbow

Historically, companies took employees and put them in a job. In ergonomics, the study of fitting a job to a person, employee safety and productivity comes first. When there is a focus on ergonomics, companies can help lessen muscle fatigue and reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

Start With a Plan

If an employer has workers who are exposed to repetitive motion, a written ergonomics plan may help prevent injuries. Not sure where to begin? Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned from conducting thousands of ergonomic assessments during my career.

  • Analyze risk. Every job has an inherent risk, and it’s critical for employers to be aware of them. Some of highest risk occupations for injury are nurses, firefighters, janitors, cleaners, stock clerks, and production workers. At CopperPoint, we conduct a work station ergonomic study anytime an employee is shorter than 5 feet 4 inches or taller than 6 feet. Consider business cycles, too. If you own an accounting firm, your employees may be at a higher risk during tax season. Awareness is critical to plan and prioritize your efforts.
  • Did I say prioritize? If 80 percent of your staff works on a computer, but only 15 percent are full-time, prioritize corrective action and focus on the full-time employees who are most at risk for injury.
  • Seek expertise. Outside council with certified ergonomists is well worth the effort.
    Partner. Your insurance carrier is a valuable resource.
  • Build a corrective action plan. Do your research and build a long-term plan that is measurable and will stand up even when budgets are tight.

For more information on ergonomics and workplace safety, visit www.osha.gov or http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/

Carl Hamilton is a Loss Control and Risk Management supervisor at CopperPoint Insurance Companies, a leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance and property and casualty insurance products. Hamilton has conducted thousands of ergonomic assessments during his career. He is an active member in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), National Safety Council (NSC) and the National Association of Safety Professionals. Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration and emergency management from Grand Canyon University.

New Gender Pay Laws: What Employers Need to Know

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Recently, the federal government announced its intent to gather detailed information about the pay practices from businesses with more than 100 workers to address gender discrimination, making employers subject to a heightened pay transparency standard by the end of this calendar year.

What has been proposed?
The proposed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) action will require businesses to provide report employees’ earnings by gender, as well as race and ethnicity, to make it easier to identify pay gaps.

Who will be impacted?
This action will apply to businesses with more than 100 workers, encompassing more than 63 million Americans.

How will employers report the information?
Currently, employers complete the EEO-1 form on an annual basis, providing demographic information about race, gender, and ethnicity. New reporting would also require salary and pay information to be included.

Why has the change been proposed?
Announced on the seventh anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a federal law that overturned a Supreme Court decision making it easier for employees to bring equal pay claims, the goal of additional data-gathering is to allow the EEOC to identify businesses that might have pay gaps, and then target those who are discriminating on account of gender.

When will employers be subject to the new law?
It is anticipated that the revised EE0-1 form with pay collection data will be approved and put into effect this fall. Employers will have to submit pay data for the first time in September 2017.

What should employers do now?
It is critical for affected companies to make it a priority to review current pay systems, and identify and address any areas of pay disparity to minimize increased scrutiny next year.

Through internal gender-specific audits, employers can determine whether pay gaps exist and have time to determine whether disparities can be justified by legitimate and non-discriminatory explanations, or whether corrective action will be needed.

This alert provides an overview of a proposed new federal regulation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.

For more information about this proposal, or how it may affect your business, please contact Shayna Balch, partner at Fisher & Phillips or via phone, 602.281.3406.

 

Managing Employees in a Digital World

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ShaynaBalchFisher&PhillipsBy Shayna Balch
Partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLC

Like the standard cup of morning coffee, just about everyone in the workforce is now a frequent user of social media sites, including personal blogs, Facebook and Twitter. As we’ve seen a number of times, online activity by employees can be very problematic. However, with some proper planning and an in-depth understanding of current social media laws, employers can stay one step ahead when trying to navigate the treacherous digital landscape.

1. Look at the complete picture
There are many problems that can arise from employee activity online, including using the Internet to publicly criticize the company or disclose confidential information. The key to curbing this behavior is to look at how the content is affecting you, your business and your customers and then take the necessary and legal steps to prevent it from going any further.

2. Have a social media policy
Having a policy is a critical step to enable you to act upon improper online activity by employees. Without a written policy in place, it will be harder to justify actions taken against employees who are involved in inappropriate, but legal, behavior online, especially where the activity is done during off work-hours.

3. Details matter most
Define the company’s expectations regarding social media very clearly in company’s handbook and provide a non-exclusive list of the types of social media websites that should be considered. You should also include some specific rules that pertain to trademarks, the condoning/promotion of illegal activity and the rules surrounding the use of social media while on work time or company equipment.

4. Know the law
The National Labor Relations Board has taken the position that some uses of social media are protected concerted activity, and that employer policies may violate employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act — even when the employees are non-unionized. Employee use of social media to organize, discuss workplace terms and conditions, discuss pay/benefits, for “whistleblowing,” etc. may be protected. For example, an employee posting online that she is forced to work unpaid overtime or requesting that other employees work together to solve an HR problem, may all be activity that is protected. So, beware of overbroad policies.

5. Investigate and document everything
Ask yourself the following questions before taking action based on social media postings. What are the facts? Is the content protected? Is action legally required? If the employee has violated the law or disclosed information that could subject the company to liability, it might be time to call your attorney.

If the employee has not broken the law, but violated company policy, it is always important to handle the situation with the highest level of professionalism. It is also important to impose any discipline in a consistent and non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory manner.

Shayna Balch is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP in Phoenix. She represents employers in employment and labor litigation matters before federal and state courts, as well as before administrative agencies. She can be reached at sbalch@laborlawyers.com.

Teens shine at ‘Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars’

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It’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix (BGCMP), there are 13 extraordinary teens who certainly have set the pace for their bright futures, and the organization is celebrating their courage, determination and achievements.

These Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix teens are competing for 'Youth of the Year' award.

These Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix teens are competing for ‘Youth of the Year’ award.

On Saturday, March 19 at 5 p.m., BGCMP plays host to the “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” gala presented by Universal Technical Institute Inc., where these teens will share their inspirational stories with more than 1,000 guests at the Arizona Biltmore.

From community service to exemplary grades to thriving despite adversity, these teens were selected out of hundreds of Club teens throughout the metro greater Phoenix area to vie for the title of “Youth of the Year.” For the past several months, the group participated in a development program to learn about team building, communication, leadership and presentation skills.

In addition to crowning the 2016 “Youth of the Year,” attendees will dine on the Biltmore’s finest cuisine and have the opportunity to enjoy a large selection of silent auction items including high-end jewelry, restaurant experiences and sports memorabilia. The program also includes a live auction of world-class vacations, hand-selected jewelry and other packages that can be found only at the event.

The festivities will include a special tribute to Champions of Giving Bob and Renee Parsons of the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.

All proceeds raised go directly to support the programs of 13 Clubs scattered throughout metro Phoenix and the West Valley.

Don’t miss out! Sponsorships and tables are available for purchase at bgcmpstars.org.

2016 Economic Outlook: Better than 2015, but no Boom!

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The nation and Arizona can expect continued slow, steady growth through the remainder of the year and into 2016, and the Federal Reserve Bank may hold off its planned interest hike this month because of the market’s recent volatility, according to three speakers at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook Wednesday.

David Brancaccio, Jim Huntzinger and Elliot Pollack all agree the nation and Arizona are in good shape economically.

Brancaccio, the host of National Public Radio’s Marketplace Morning Report, discussed the economy from a global perspective; Huntzinger, chief investment officer for BOK Financial, examined the economy from a national view; and Pollack, CEO of Elliot D. Pollack & Company took a look at Arizona and the Phoenix area’s economic outlook. Continue reading

Impact of DOL’s Proposed Revisions to White Collar Exemptions

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LorieBirkBy Lorie Birk
Arizona Vice President
Membership Services
Mountain States Employers Council

On July 6, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor issued the long anticipated proposed regulations making revisions to the white collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If the proposed regulations go into effect it is estimated that over 5 million workers will now be eligible for overtime because they will not meet the salary requirements of the proposed regulations. Continue reading

Launching The Black Chamber of Arizona Statewide

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Kerwin BrownBy Kerwin Brown
President & CEO
Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 data, African-Americans in Arizona owned 6,330 firms in 2002 with more than 530,000 average gross receipts and 6,530 paid employees. The information came from the most recent statistics available from the Minority Business Development Agency, Western Regional Office for the U.S. Black Chambers. Continue reading

Crowdfunding: A Reality for Arizona Business

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Rick Murray

Rick Murray

By Rick Murray
CEO, Arizona Small Business Association

Raising money to launch a business or to take one to the next level is challenging.

Many great ideas and businesses have failed because they are unable to stay in the game long enough to generate enough revenue to support them. Undercapitalization is the No. 1 reason businesses fail.
Banks know this. Unless there is collateral or a solid financial history, it’s not likely they will lend money. So where does that leave the small business owner “wanna-be?” Continue reading

OSHA unveils updated hot weather app

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A phone app from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns workers and others who will be outside as summer heats up of risks of heat-related illness, and provides preventive steps.

A phone app from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns workers and others who will be outside as summer heats up of risks of heat-related illness, and provides preventive steps.

By NIHAL KRISHAN
Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials had a message Wednesday for workers and others who expect to be outside working and playing as summer heats up: Shade, water and rest for safety.

And if that’s too much to remember, OSHA has an app for that. And it’s free.

The federal agency actually has had the OSHA Heat app since 2011, but recently it unveiled an updated version of the phone app that provides users with a heat index reading for a particular location and gives precautions to help prevent heat-related illnesses. Continue reading

If You’re Driving, Don’t Touch That High-tech Console, Mobile Device

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High technology is woven inextricably into our daily lives, but at times it may pose a more dangerous risk than we can imagine. Take today’s newer model automobiles; they are packed with electronic screens for parking, using GPS, watching video, listening to satellite radio stations or talking with others – all at the touch of a driver’s fingertips. Continue reading

Remind workers of basic precautions against heat illness

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Employers supervising workers in regions that have extreme temperatures may want to adopt employee training programs that educate workers on the symptoms of heat illnesses, including heat stroke. By teaching workers about the early signs of these potentially life-threatening conditions, employers could see decreases in heat illness reports and increases in worker productivity. Continue reading

Workers Compensation and the Non-traditional Work Force

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Mark Kendall photo

By Mark Kendall
Legal Services Manager
CopperPoint Mutual
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of employees working outside of the traditional work place – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at an established work premises. Today, millions of U.S. workers perform at least a portion of their work duties outside of the office. Continue reading

Strong West Valley Outlook for 2017

WESTMARC, the Western Maricopa Coalition of West Valley communities, businesses, and the educational sector, outlined its 2017 priorities during the organization’s annual meeting on Feb 23. Sintra Hoffman, President and CEO of WESTMARC, shared these insights and more with members, government officials, and invited guests. The group’s top priority is promoting economic development, workforce talent and job growth that is vital to the 15 unique communities that call the West Valley home.

Recent data collection efforts indicate that Maricopa County’s West Valley is home to 1.5 million people. By the year 2020, that number is projected to grow to 1.8 million people. More than fifty-eight percent of the population is eligible workers between the ages of 18 to 64, and the average annual income is approximately $65,000.

“We are a community rich in talent. But our talent is also the West Valley’s greatest export,” said Hoffman. “Our goal is to retain the engineers, health care professionals and manufacturing personnel who live here, but drive and work in other parts of the Valley.”

From left, WESTMARC President & CEO Sintra Hoffman, Maricopa County District 3 Supervisor Bill Gates, Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar and State Rep. Jesus Rubalcava discuss economic development issues.

In her annual address, Hoffman presented WESTMARC’s 2017 strategy which includes creating a long-term workforce plan to keep these workers employed in the region. Healthcare, advanced manufacturing, insurance, aerospace, and defense are the top economic drivers. Banner Health, Luke Air Force Base, American Express, Grand Canyon University and Amazon are the area’s top employers.

She highlighted additional measures on the horizon for WESTMARC to fuel the economic development and job growth that is vital to the West Valley. These activities include:

  • Completion of a data collection effort
  • Strengthen the workforce development strategy
  • Conduct industry focus groups
  • Strengthen connections between industry and education
  • Update WESTMARC website
  • Promote quality of life
  • Celebrate Best of the West 25th anniversary

For more information, visit WESTMARC.

CopperPoint is a proud member of WESTMARC’s Chairman’s Circle.