OSHA Launches Safety Emphasis Program for Warehousing, Distribution Centers and High-Risk Retail

OSHA Launches Safety Emphasis Program for Warehousing, Distribution Centers and High-Risk Retail

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a national emphasis program targeting workplace hazards in warehouses, processing facilities, distribution centers and high-risk retail establishments.

Over the course of the three-year program, OSHA will conduct comprehensive safety inspections focused on hazards related to powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection. The emphasis program will also include inspections of retail establishments with high injury rates, with a focus on storage and loading areas; however, OSHA may expand an inspection’s scope when evidence shows that violations may exist in other areas of the establishment.

OSHA says it will also assess heat and ergonomic hazards under the emphasis program, and health inspections may be conducted if OSHA determines these hazards are present.

Inspected establishments will be chosen from two lists. One includes establishments with industry codes covered under this emphasis program. The second consists of a limited number of retail establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses resulting in days away, restricted duty or job transfer.

More than 1.9 million workers are employed in warehousing and distribution centers in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows injury and illness rates for these establishments are higher than in private industry overall and, in some sectors, more than twice the rate of private industry.

The directive creating the emphasis program is available here.

TDI Reports on Return-to-Work Rates in State System

Return-to-work (RTW) rates for injured Texas workers in the state’s workers’ compensation system steadily improved between 2007 and 2020, with 83% of workers injured in 2020 returning to work within six months, compared to 78% in 2007, according to a new report from the Texas Department of Insurance.

The report focuses on the RTW outcomes of employees injured between 2007 and 2020 who received temporary income benefits, and calculates RTW rates using quarterly employee wage information from the Texas Workforce Commission. The report also measures initial return-to-work rates and sustained return-to-work rates, which measure employees who return to work and remain employed for at least nine consecutive months. It found the sustained return-to-work rate for injured employees in 2020 was 69%, compared to 60% in 2007.

According to the report, initial RTW rates vary by employer size and industry sector, with rates lower for smaller employers and employers in industries that rely heavily on manual labor. The report suggests these employers may not have the resources to provide light-duty or alternate-duty options to injured employees.

The report found the average number of days away from work for injury decreased to 43 days in 2020 from 44 days in 2007, although the median days away from work increased to 35 in 2020 from 27 in 2007.

Lastly, the findings show enduring trends that older employees tend to have more lost time for injuries than other employees. According to the report, injured employees who are 60 and over experience nearly two more weeks on average away from work than employees who are 16 to 29 years old, with the 60 and older cohort averaging 50 days away from work, compared to 37 days away from work for 16- to 29-year-olds.

The report is available here.

New Workplace Posters Required to Explain Workers’ Rights

Recent protections granted to workers under various workplace acts have resulted in three new posters that employers must display in the workplace.

The U.S. Department of Labor released two posters to reflect new rights included in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. The posters explain how the new acts affect workers’ rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Additionally, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also updated its “Know Your Rights: Workplace Discrimination Is Illegal” poster with new information about the PWFA. All three posters must be displayed in a conspicuous place in all covered workplaces.

The new Fair Labor Standards Act poster reflects changes brought about by the so-called PUMP Act, which builds upon the Affordable Care Act to include required pumping breaks for exempt employees. The ACA mandated pumping breaks were for nonexempt workers only.

The new Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) poster clarifies that although FMLA leave is unpaid, employees may also be required to use paid leave at the same time.

The EEOC poster includes new language informing workers that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires that covered employers provide reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation will cause the employer an undue hardship.

Covered employers include private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees.

The Department of Labor posters are available for download here:

https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/minwagep.pdf and here: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/fmlaen.pdf

The EEOC poster is available for download here: https://www.eeoc.gov/sites/default/files/2023-06/22-088_EEOC_KnowYourRights6.12ScreenRdr.pdf

Frontline Workers’ Safety Concerns Fuel Desire to Leave

Nearly half of American frontline workers would quit their jobs if they could afford to, citing threats to their personal safety at work, according to a recently released workplace safety survey.

The 2023 Workplace Safety Survey found 76% of employees have experienced a security incident in the past year, and 58% of workers feel the threat of physical harm is increasing. According to the survey, more than half of frontline workers who feel that their jobs do not prioritize employees’ physical safety said they plan to leave in the next year if their employer does not act to improve safety. Two in five frontline workers would quit their job due to safety concerns if they could afford to.

The survey was commissioned by Verkada, a provider of workplace safety equipment, and includes responses from 1,000 Americans who work on-location across critical sectors, including health care, retail, consumer banking, hospitality and services. Additionally, all respondents were screened to ensure job responsibilities included regular contact with patients, customers, clients and/or guests, in addition to colleagues.

The survey indicates violent, aggressive and erratic behavior from customers and visitors is the main cause of distress for workers, with health care workers the most concerned. Some 69% of health care workers report worries about aggressive or erratic behavior among patients or visitors, and 59% regularly worry about being assaulted at work.

Gen Z is consistently two times more concerned about safety than their Boomer counterparts. More than 30% of Gen Z workers say they have turned down job opportunities or switched jobs because they’ve felt vulnerable or at an increased level of risk.

Information about how to download the survey is available here.

Employees Push Back on “Therapy Speak”

American employees are increasingly skeptical of their employers’ intentions and frequently tune out communications seen as disingenuous, according to a recent Harris Poll.

The poll found 71% of employees state: “I can easily see through my company’s ingenuine friendly or empathetic tone in their communications,” and “It’s hypocritical of my leadership to cut corners in my workplace (e.g., decreasing budgets or hiring), while pocketing a lot of money in bonuses” (69%).

Two-thirds of American workers say they have experienced “therapy speak” at work. Therapy speak is described as empathetic sounding, often vague, language and/or tone used to indicate understanding, but often missing the mark or the appropriate follow-through. Most popular phrases include: “Your feedback is important to us,” “We’re all in this together,” and “We understand that this may be challenging.”

Therapy speak makes American employees more resentful toward the leadership team (57%) and less excited about their jobs (59%), with half going as far as thinking about looking for a new job (50%).

Eight in 10 American employees say communication at work heavily affects how they feel about their jobs (79%), and that they “prefer a genuine and honest communication over ‘therapy speak’ at work” (81%). Employees report that employers don’t know how to communicate or discuss sensitive topics. Four in 10 view their employer’s communication announcing reduced or eliminated raises for employees as insensitive, while 36% say so about discussing autonomy related to remote or hybrid work.

The survey is available here.

SHRM Reports on Post-Pandemic Collaboration and Loneliness

New research from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests the post-pandemic workplace is less collaborative and engaged than before, and one in three (35%) HR professionals believe loneliness among workers is more common now than it was pre-pandemic.

SHRM notes that many CEOs believe spontaneous social interactions among co-workers are important for building collaboration and creativity, and describes these types of interactions as casual collisions.

Remote workers were more likely to report their isolation from co-workers has increased, with 35% of remote workers feeling that way, compared to 24% of employees who work on-site.

Remote workers are also twice as likely as on-site workers to say they rarely participate in casual collisions (20% to 43%) and a third more likely to say they do not consider their co-workers to be friends (21% to 13%).

Remote workforces (25%) are about twice as likely as on-site (12%) or hybrid (14%) workforces to report that their environment is less collaborative now than it was pre-pandemic. Although 65% of HR professionals state that collaboration is critical for success in their workplace, only 42% say managers promote teamwork and only 23% say workstations are designed for collaborative work.

Other key findings include:

  • When asked whether their work/life balance has improved over the past three years, 70% of workers agree this is at least somewhat true.
  • More than one-third of employees report feeling greater burnout today compared to three years ago.
  • Among the 24% of workers who report that their mental well-being has improved, almost half also report experiencing casual collisions more often now. Conversely, among the 20% of workers who report that their mental well-being has declined, nearly half state they participate in fewer casual collisions now.

The full report is available here.

PEW Survey Reflects Workplace Feelings on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

While 56% of U.S. workers say focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at work is a good thing, fewer than a third of workers place great importance on diversity in their own workplace, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

According to the survey, 61% say their company or organization has policies that ensure fairness in hiring, pay or promotions, and 52% say they have training or meetings on DEI at work. Smaller percentages say their workplace has a staff member who promotes DEI (33%).

About three in 10 workers say it is extremely or very important to them to work somewhere with a mix of employees of different races and ethnicities (32%) or ages (28%). About 26% say it is extremely or very important to them to have a workplace with about an equal mix of men and women. Some 18% feel the same way about a mix of employees of different sexual orientations.

More than half of workers (54%) say their company or organization pays about the right amount of attention to increasing DEI. Smaller shares say their company or organization pays too much (14%) or too little attention (15%). Black workers are the most likely to say focusing on DEI at work is a good thing (78% of black workers say this), while white workers are the least likely to express this view (47%).

About six in 10 women (61%) say focusing on increasing DEI at work is a good thing, compared with half of men. Most Democratic and Democratic-leaning workers (78%) say focusing on DEI at work is a good thing, compared with 30% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

The survey of 5,902 U.S. workers, including 4,744 who are not self-employed, was conducted in February and is available here.

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