Keeping Employees Safe is Smart Business. And It’s the Law

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, also known as OSHA, requires that employers provide a safe working environment for employees. Many states also have their own workplace safety law.

As an employer, you must follow these regulations for every worker regardless of the job title, status, or classification. That includes not only rank and file workers but managers, supervisors, partners, executives and family members who work for you. It does not apply to independent contractors or family members of a farm operator.

Compliance with the rules and regulations isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law. Since there are specific rules for specific industries, it’s wise to research the regulations that apply to you. The federal guidelines can be found on the US Department of Labor website at www.osha/gov.

OSHA requires employers to maintain a workplace that is free of “recognized hazards,” hazards that have been identified as being likely to cause physical injury or death.

An example would be unsafe conditions such as the presence of toxic fumes or broken equipment, as well as unsafe practices such as failure to provide employees with gloves, goggles, footwear or other such safety items necessary to the work they are involved in.

Your duty to provide a safe working environment extends beyond the walls of your building as well. When your employees perform work at a remote location, such as a demolition or construction site, you, as an employer, bear responsibility to see that the site is safe.

OSHA requires that the tools and equipment you provide to your employees be in safe working condition, and that you provide certain types of safety equipment when necessary. It also requires that the employer provide adequate training and supervision.

Here are a few things to be aware of:

Eye protection: Employees need protective eyewear when working with glass, hazardous materials or chemicals as well as to guard against materials that may fall into or be blown into or splash into the eyes.

Gloves: Properly fitting protective gloves are needed when employees handle anything that might injure hands or fingers. If the materials to be handled could transfer disease or blood-borne pathogens, the gloves should be rubber or latex.

Back Belts: Due to the possibility back strain or injury in any job that requires a lot of physical activity, twisting, turning, digging or lifting, it’s good policy to require that your employees use back belts. In certain jobs, these should be required at all times. If objects to be moved are large — such as furniture or appliances — a wheeled dolly or handcart should be provided as well.

Footwear: Except for specific types of work where they might be a necessity, sandals and open-toed shoes should be avoided in most employment settings. In a typical office or retail environment, comfortable walking shoes are fine, but in certain types of job settings – loading docks, warehouses, construction sites and farms, for instance – heavier boots that cover the ankles, especially those with reinforced toe coverings are more appropriate and provide better protection.

Head Covering: In any environment where materials or debris may be likely to fall from a height, or where heavy objects are being moved, employees must use hard head coverings or “hardhats.” It also may be necessary for you to require the use of wide-brimmed hats by employees who spend any significant and/ or regular amount of time working in the sun.

Use of Tools & Equipment: Employers are responsible for the good working condition of tools and equipment used by their employees on the job. Any employee using a tool, machine or other piece of equipment should be trained in its use and their ability to use that equipment verified by trained personnel.

Use of Chemicals and Solvents: Chemicals and solvents necessary for the performance of work should always be clearly labeled as to what they are, how to use them and potential hazards of use. Each should be used, stored and transferred in adherence to it’s own specific guidelines. Employees should be aware of how to use any such substance before using it.

For most chemicals, solvents and solutions OSHA requires that the employer maintain a file of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on each, which outlines any potential hazards and what to do in case of an accident involving that substance. It also requires that employers train employees as to where these MSDS are kept, so that they can be quickly located in an emergency.

Keeping employees safe is smart business. Accidents cost money, time and even lives. Just as it is with other things relating to human health and wellbeing, prevention is the key. When guidelines are clearly established, employees are adequately trained and regular checks, maintenance and updates are established and carried out, accidents can be avoided and employees kept safe.

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Best Practices in Credentialing and Onboarding Can Reduce Costly Turnover

A new hire is an investment. Every time you bring a new person on board, you’re investing time and resources in order to reap larger rewards down the road. Just as with financial investments, it’s important to minimize risk. After all, turnover is expensive.

The sad truth is that half of all senior outside hires fail in their new position within 18 months. Half of all hourly workers leave a new job within 120 days. We can assume that most of these hires met the basic hiring criteria and interviewed well, or they wouldn’t have been selected. So what else should have been done?

Two areas are critical: credentialing and onboarding. Following accepted best practices in these two areas can save you time, headaches and money.

Credentialing is of course especially important in employment areas like health care, counseling and education. But there are a myriad of other positions for which the credentialing process has value.

Credentialing ensures that candidates are who they say they are and can do what they say they can do. It establishes that they are qualified, properly licensed and/or certified, and have not been involved in undesirable professional circumstances.

At AllStaff, the credentialing process starts at the point of hire. Here’s what we require:

  • A minimum of 3 professional references
  • All candidates are background screened and drug screened
  • Education and certifications are verified and documented — AllStaff uses a specific internal verification and documentation system called COMPAS.
  • A candidate’s relevant skills as well as behavioral norms are evaluated — Our specially-designed Prove-it evaluation system gives us an edge here.
  • All candidates are E-Verified before placement.

If hires are properly screened at the outset, it may be a company’s onboarding process—or lack of one—that is to blame. It’s important to support new employees with comprehensive onboarding to ensure their success.

Onboarding is a critical part of an effective talent management strategy. It’s as important as the initial interviewing and credentialing processes. Maybe more so, since onboarding happens after you’ve already made a commitment to the new hire. Now this new person is not just interfacing with trained HR staff, they are entering into the very life of your business, interacting with other employees, with access to facilities and supplies, and drawing a salary.

The more quickly new hires feel welcome and oriented to their new tasks, the sooner they will begin to contribute to your organization’s mission.

There are four basic steps to cover in successful onboarding:

  • New employees must be quickly introduced to the basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations of your organization.
  • Make sure new employees understand the scope and expectations of their new job.
  • Provide new employees with a clear picture of your company culture. Understanding the formal and informal organizational norms can be critically important to their success.
  • Recognize the importance of the interpersonal relationships and information networks that a new employee must establish. The onboarding period is the perfect time for facilitating the formation of these critical links.

Onboarding introduces new hires to the attitudes, behaviors and specialized knowledge they will need to be able to work effectively within your organization. It gets them oriented to social and performance aspects of their jobs quickly.

A candidate that has been well and thoroughly screened should also onboard more quickly and smoothly. But every organization is unique and has different ways of doing things. Even the most qualified candidate will have a learning curve to manage in order to work effectively within your particular organization.

A well-conceived onboarding strategy helps new employees find job satisfaction, as well as clarifying expectations and objectives to improve performance.

Research shows that organizations with proactive, formal, step-by-step onboarding strategies are more likely to retain and benefit from and retain new hires than those who do not. That can make all the difference when it comes to reducing unwanted and expensive turnover.

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Hiring Policy Regulation and Risk Regarding Arrest and Conviction

Staying current with EEOC regulations is important for avoiding Title VII liability, while ensuring that your company is as secure as possible with the person you finally hire. This can be especially true when it comes to the issue of persons with arrests or convictions.

What can you ask, and what things must you avoid? What are the legal aspects of background checks and reports from third-party providers?

There is no federal law that prevents an employer from asking a candidate about instances of arrest or conviction. Care must be taken, however. An applicant’s admission that he or she has been arrested should not lead you, as an employer, to assume that the applicant actually committed a crime. Also, it should not be the sole determining factor in rejecting an applicant.

As mentioned above, there are two areas of risk for employers:

  • When hiring employees with criminal records, employers can be at risk of negligent hiring if they do not adequately investigate aspects of a candidate’s background that relate to the job for which the applicant is applying.
  • Excluding applicants who have criminal records may constitute employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

There are laws in certain states that limit the use of arrest and conviction records as employment criteria. You should be aware of your local regulations. Some states also have protections for the applicant, which limit what they must report.

Key to creating a policy in this regard is the 1977 finding by the 8th Circuit Court in the case of Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad. In its ruling, the court identified three factors, referred to as the “Green” factors, that must be kept in mind when considering an applicant’s arrest and conviction history. Those factors are:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct;
  • The time that has passed since the offense, conduct and/or completion of the sentence; and
  • The nature of the job held or sought.

These three factors are the starting point for analyzing how specific criminal conduct can be linked to specific positions. Based on the Green factors, here are a few suggestions to help you develop a hiring policy or to assess and improve the policy you have:

  • Avoid “blanket exclusion” policies that will exclude people from employment based only on certain criteria.
  • Regularly assess and update hiring policies to avoid any hiring practice that would exclude or have negative impact on a protected group.
  • Be cautious about excluding candidates based on their criminal record unless it is directly and specifically related to the type of job being offered.
  • Give all applicants a chance to explain the circumstances of their criminal record.
  • State clearly on the application that you will seek a background check if the job being applied for so necessitates.

That final point can make a big difference to both you and the candidate. As previously stated, the candidate may have been found completely innocent—some even after having served prison terms. Some things to consider are:

  • The facts or circumstances of the arrest or the conduct,
  • The number of offenses the applicant has been charged with or convicted of,
  • The time elapsed since the convictions
  • What effort the applicant put into rehabilitation
  • Length, quality and consistency of the applicant’s employment history prior to and since the conviction
  • References should be reviewed and properly vetted.

When it comes to background screenings, the options and legalities are constantly evolving. The Fair Credit and Reporting Act grants specific right to consumers about how and when their information can be accessed, how it can be used and how they are protected.

If a background report causes you to take an adverse action against a candidate, you must inform the candidate in writing. This can be in the form of an adverse action letter, as an indication that you have already decided not to hire based on what the report uncovered. It can also be a “Pre-adverse Action” letter. That is, the letter can inform the candidate prior to your actually requesting the background check.

Either way, your letter should remind the candidate of the permission you were given by them to seek the information in the first place. It should also be emphasized that information specific to that report, if accurate, has caused you not to offer them employment. Along with the letter you need to provide a Summary of Rights for the candidate. You need also to include a copy of the report showing the adverse findings, along with the name, address and phone number of the agency that provided the information.

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