With depressing regularity, we receive calls asking for guidance in evaluating and responding to potential workplace violence threats. The threats are rarely serious but in this era, one can never ignore concerns. There are no easy formulas to determine if a threat is genuine. If you review the factors that may indicate that someone is ripe for workplace violence, you may decide that you fit the bill about mid-morning on a bad Monday. I’ve written about the signs and factors associated with workplace violence before and that is not today’s topic.
On August 19, 2015, OSHA issued new policies and procedures (Compliance Directive: CPL 02-03-006) for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. This directive is OSHA’s attempt to institute an early resolution process. This process will be used in conjunction with a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program, as part of OSHA’s overall enforcement of whistleblower statutes. The ADR programs offer whistleblower parties opportunities to negotiate settlements with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA representative who has subject-matter expertise in whistleblower investigations. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 requires each federal agency to “adopt a policy that addresses the use of alternative means of dispute resolution and case management.”
OSHA recently reminded the Poultry Industry that it has not lost interest in a multiple front attack on processors, as shown by the almost $1,000,000 in citations issued against a Midwestern processor. You should view these startling OSHA citations as part of an overall DOL strategy involving bringing actions and encouraging employees to bring ergonomic, wage-hour and other claims.
I recently blogged about the debate on CEO and employee pay ratios. I urged employers to seize the high ground and decide what their attitude is as to their “responsibility” is to their employees. I’m a pragmatist. I believe that in the long run, employers will prosper (and avoid the need for my services) by consciously focusing on improving their employees’ lives. I’ve made it clear that I do not believe that employers are social workers. Your role is to make money. Competition and drive is good for society. However, just as we develop business plans and marketing strategies, we must develop plans to treat our employees “fairly.” “Fairness” is a spongey concept, and one often high jacked by unions and the government. But it is also the best determinant of employee satisfaction. The term defies the quantification that my analytical nature desires, but somehow employees recognize “fairness.” They don’t expect the highest wages, the best benefits, the most engaging atmosphere, but they do expect to be treated fairly. We ignore this expectation at our own peril!
On August 13, 2015, OSHA announced its updated National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Amputations will now include all industries that contain machinery or equipment which may cause amputations. Under the new National Emphasis Program, OSHA is using current enforcement data and statistics from the Bureau of Labor’s injury data report to assist with all site selection targeting.
While a “State-OSHA Plan” must at least meet Fed-OSHA standards, these plans often develop their own additional requirements and have widely varying enforcement and appeal processes. When Federal OSHA adopts a new regulation, such as the recently instituted requirement to report all amputations and single hospitalizations for treatment within 24 hours, the regulation became effective immediately in states where the Federal Government enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act1. On the other hand, most State OSHA Plans do not automatically adopt Fed-OSHA changes.
NFPA 652 was developed to place the fundamental requirements for combustible dust fire and explosion safety in one standard. Historically, somewhat different requirements have been contained in several different commodity-specific combustible dust standards. One debated issue during the development of NFPA 652 was how it would interact with existing commodity-specific combustible dust standards. In the short term, both NFPA 652 and one or more commodity-specific standards may apply to a facility handling combustible dust, and the standards may contain differing requirements. NFPA 652 contains a conflict section that provides guidance on which standards take precedence when requirements in the standards differ. The NFPA correlating committee has also recently provided guidance as to when the commodity-specific codes should take precedence. Exponent’s engineers are active on technical committees currently revising existing commodity-specific standards, including improving the correlation to the new NFPA 652 standard.
The SEC recently voted to require employers to disclose the pay gap between the CEO and his or her employees. Unions, investors, and other groups have increasingly been using this disparity to attack companies. As Fortune calmly pointed out:
The rule is well intentioned. CEO pay in 2014 was an eye-popping 373 times that of an average worker, according to data compiled by the AFL-CIO, and a sharp rise from 331 times in 2013. This imbalance contributes to America’s growing wealth gap and accompanying social and political inequities. Requiring companies, especially large public corporations, to disclose how richly their CEOs are paid would provide valuable information for shareholders and possibly help the larger national debate about economic fairness. WSJ the Big Flaw in the SEC’s Pay Ratio Rule.