Sunday, July 7, 2013 0 comments

OSHA stepping up focus on exit routes

Picture of locked exit in Hamlet
(Raleigh News & Observer)
In the wake of a devastating poultry plant fire in China which killed 121 workers, OSHA is raising awareness of the issue of building exits and asking inspectors to pay closer attention to this issue during inspection visits.

Writing for SHRM Online, Roy Maurer reports OSHA responded to the June fire in China by issuing a memorandum directly inspectors to pay close attention to building exits. Inspectors are asked to ensure exits are not obstructed, not locked and provided in adequate number.
There's a tragic history of food plant fire tragedy here in the Carolinas as well. In 1991, a food processing plant fire in Hamlet, NC in 1991 killed 25 workers and injured 55 others. As with the China fire, exit doors were found to be locked by management, a clear violation of the rules.
In both the Hamlet and China fires, it wasn't just management which was believed to have a role. In both cases, inspectors were accused of dropping the ball on inspections. In response to the Hamlet fire, the federal DOL gave North Carolina 90 days to make changes in its OSH laws and enforcement - which they did. In the wake of the China fire, 11 public officials, including building and fire officials, face criminal charges, along with company management.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 0 comments

Safety training for temp workers

Temp workers offer employers flexibility and cost savings but when it comes to safety, it can’t be presumed that just temps, who are off company payroll, are also off a company’s radar screen. Workplace cost and safety concerns, as well as a decision last month by OSHA, means employers need to make sure their temps are fully involved in their safety programs.

Last month, OSHA made its position clear when it issued a memorandum to its regional administrators, which directed its field inspectors to make “concerted effort using enforcement, outreach and training to assure that temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards.” In the memo, Thomas Galassi, director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, directed inspectors to identify if temps are working at a jobsite and make sure they are receiving safety training "in a language and vocabulary" they understand, warning that:

Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections, among others.

The memo referenced an incident where the agency cited Bacardi Bottling Company for a workplace fatality which took place at their Jacksonville, Florida facility last year, as well as a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which found that:

Fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 542 – or 12 percent – of the 4,693 fatal work injuries reported. Hispanic/Latino contractors accounted for 28 percent of fatal work injuries among contractors, well above their 16 percent share of the overall fatal work injury total for the year.

In addition to the OSHA mandate, there are some other reasons to consider that companies should include temps in their safety program - and from my experience, it's not that hard to do.
Sunday, May 12, 2013 0 comments

South Carolina's Higher Ed "con game" shortchanges students & workforce

Writing in The State newspaper, former Abbeville County State Representative Harry Stille, himself a former college professor, sounded a call for reforming higher ed in South Carolina, warning that:

For years the Legislature and universities have conned us about the value of a baccalaureate degree, when these students would have been better off in the two-year system. Our technical colleges are where the major job growth potential is.
We need to limit university admissions to students who are in the top 50 percent of each high school class, who don’t need remedial classes and who score at least 910 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT. And we should send the rest of the students to the two-year system, where they, and we, will get their money’s worth.

I couldn't agree more. I've dealt with the issues of education and workforce, both as a career human resources professional and as a six-year member of the Charleston-area Workforce Investment Board, and have found that some of the most critical workforce shortages that we're faced with in South Carolina - as well as much of the rest of the South - is among those trades which require one to two years of technical education to enter.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 0 comments

Think before you send: E-mail etiquette in the workplace

Recently, I was asked to put together a short presentation on e-mail etiquette in the workplace for one of my company's workgroups. There's a lot of talk about what to say and not to say in e-mails circulating around so it wasn't hard to put it together, but with a little reading a handful of points become apparent.

The blog Civility and the Workplace shares some useful insights from David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, who wrote the book "Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home", summarizing three key points from their book:
  • Think before you send.
  • Send email you would like to receive.
  • Write email that is so effective that it cuts down on email.
These are certainly three excellent basic rules to follow. From there, everything else is as the legendary Rabbi Hibbel once said of the Jewish Torah, "is just commentary. Go and study it."

Barbara Richman, a human resources consultant writing for Lorman Educational Services Employment and Labor Update, shared ten basic rules for using e-mail in the workplace:

Thursday, March 21, 2013 0 comments

Inventing racism: Obama Labor nominee's love of "disparate impact" theory

As American society attempts to move beyond racial politics and racism in society, Thomas Perez the Obama administration's nominee to head the Department of Labor is hell-bent on turning back the clock by advocating a controversial legal doctrine which imagines racism and assumes guilt on the part of businesses with no evidence of wrongful actions or malicious intent necessary.

The doctrine of "disparate impact" is a legal doctrine which assumes that discrimination can be proven simply by looking at outcomes. If no discriminatory practices or malicious intent can be identified, the finding that a policy or practice resulted in outcomes in which "protected groups", such as women and minorities, were disqualified more or qualified less is all that is needed to assume some form of "unintentional discrimination" took place - no actual evidence of discriminatory intent is necessary.

A recent Wall Street Journal story discussed Perez' ambitious efforts to aggressively pursue actions by applying disparate impact theory while an Assistant U.S. Attorney General, even to the point where he may have undermined civil cases to seek a deal which protected his efforts from going to the Supreme Court:
Monday, March 11, 2013 0 comments

Obama nominates career gov't lawyer to lead Labor Department

If you've ever heard of Thomas Perez, you might've been involved in the court battle over South Carolina's Voter ID law. But if you haven't heard of him and work in the private sector, you might get to learn more about him soon.

And we're betting you won't like what you see.

Perez, who will be nominated by the Obama administration to lead the Department of Labor, is currently an Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he led failed efforts to try to block South Carolina's Voter ID law. He also worked to expand the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most anti-employer laws on the books.

Imagine what Perez, who has never worked a day in the private sector, would do as Labor Secretary if confirmed.

While you're thinking about it, call your Senators and ask them what they're going to do about the Perez confirmation. We will.
Friday, January 25, 2013 0 comments

Noel Canning ruling a setback for Obama and NLRB

Efforts by the Obama administration to pursue an aggressive pro-union agenda via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) suffered a major setback earlier today. A three-judge federal appeals court in the Noel Canning case unanimously found that recent recess appointments of NLRB board members violated the Constitution, ruling that "Because none of the three appointments were valid, the Board lacked a quorum and its decision must be vacated."

If today's ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, to which the Obama administration is expected to appeal the case, it would be a long-awaited victory for Republicans and business organizations who have long objected to the Board's growing reach into non-union workplaces and increasingly pro-union rulings. It would also be vindication for Senate Republicans who have sought to check the administration's political agenda via the confirmation process which the recess appointments bypassed.

In the case, attorneys for Noel Canning, a Washington State canning and bottling company, argued that NLRB seats were filled in violation of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, which allows Presidents to fill posts by recess appointments only when the Senate is in recess. Their position was that because the Senate was still meeting in pro forma session when the Obama administration filled vacant NLRB seats via recess appointments, three of five seats were improperly appointed. This would mean the Board would not have a legitimate quorum of at least three members and would therefore have no power to make rulings such as the one which Noel Canning appealed. The three Board members whose appointments were challenged by the suit were: