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2014 Workplace Fatalities Up 2% Over 2013

There were 4,679 workplace fatalities in the U.S. in 2014, an increase of 2% over the 4,585 fatal work injuries in 2013, according to the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of fatal work injuries in private goods-producing industries in 2014 was 9% higher than 2013 count but slightly lower in private service-providing industries.

These are preliminary figures – final counts will be released in the spring of 2016.

Increases include:

  • Police officers and police supervisors 17%
  • Mining 17%
  • Agriculture 14%
  • Women 13%
  • Self-employed workers 10%
  • Farming, fishing and forestry 9%
  • Workers 55 and older 9%
  • Manufacturing 9%
  • Construction 6%
  • Contracted workers 6%
  • Deaths from slips, trips and falls increased 10%

A few other notable issues from the report:

  • Transportation and material moving occupations accounted for the largest share (28%) of fatal occupational injuries of any occupation group.
  • Transportation incidents accounted for 40% of fatal workplace injuries in 2014
  • Violence-related fatalities dropped. Workplace homicides were about the same as in 2013,
    but workplace suicides decreased slightly. Among the workplace homicides in which women.
    were the victims, the greatest share of assailants were relatives or domestic partners (32%) In workplace homicides involving men, robbers were the most common type of  assailant (33%).

Related Matter

Top 10 Causes of Workplace Injuries – The Insurance Journal reports on the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety’s 2014 Workplace Safety Index, which ranks the top 10 causes of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries. The report uses the insurer’s workers comp claims data, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and from the National Academy of Social Insurance. They include this chart in the article:


work injuries
Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards

1. Fall protection, construction
2. Hazard communication standard, general industry
3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
4. Respiratory protection, general industry
5. Powered industrial trucks, general industry
6. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry
7. Ladders, construction
8. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry
9. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements
10. Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry

Do’s and Don’ts of an OSHA Inspection – includes a short video and an infographic

9 Avoidable Workplace Health and Safety Hazards

Healthcare workplace violence efforts should be improved

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Tools for October Health, Wellness & Well-being Observances

October has been designated as a commemoration month for many national health, wellness and well-being campaigns. These campaigns offer themes and resources for employee communications. In this post, you can find some of the biggest campaigns this month with links to resources.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Learn more about lowering the risk for breast cancer and early detection of breast cancer.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence and sexual assault are pervasive and life-threatening crimes affecting millions of individuals across our nation regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, or education. 1 in 10 women and nearly 1 in 25 men who have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner missed work or school as a result of the abuse Nationwide, an average of 3 women are killed by a current or former intimate partner every day. Homicide accounts for almost a third (27%) of work-related deaths in women – it is the second leading cause of injury death for women in the workplace. This dedicated month is designed to raise awareness about domestic violence and to offer resources for help.

Mental Illness Awareness Week! Oct. 4–10
Each year Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs during the first full week of October. This year, the theme revolves around building a movement through the new StigmaFree initiative. Being Stigma Free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues and taking the StigmaFree pledge. The hashtag for the theme is #IAmStigmaFree.

National Depression Screening Day – October 8, 2015
Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) is comprised of awareness events that include an optional screening component. Learn the signs and symptoms of depression and take an anonymous online screening.

National Substance Abuse Prevention Month
A month-long observance that focuses on the role substance abuse prevention plays in promoting safe and healthy communities. Substance use, including underage drinking and the non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter medications, significantly affects the health and well-being of American youth and people of all ages.

National Bullying Prevention Month
This annual campaign was founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October, a time when communities can unite nationwide to raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities, outreach, and education. Resources from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center make it easy to take action. Hundreds of schools and organizations sign on as partners, including Disney, Facebook, CNN and Yahoo! Kids through media outreach and dissemination.

National Work & Family Month
Dedicating a month to work and family issues encourages all workplaces to pause once a year and consider the progress made towards work-life effectiveness and encourages employers to raise the bar to ensure their workplaces are meeting the needs and challenges facing their employees. Find out where your organization is on the work-life spectrum and promote its involvement in work-life programs and share and learn best practices.

National Physician Assistant (PA) Week October 6-12
Celebrate the profession and its contributions to the nation’s health. America’s more than 100,000 certified PAs are a powerful force for better health for millions of patients across the country. Consistently recognized as one of the fastest-growing professions, PAs were ranked the most promising job of 2015 by Because of PAs, the healthcare system is stronger. Because of PAs, more patients get access to high-quality, cost-effective care. Because of PAs, we celebrate National PA Week!

National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015
A month designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

National Physical Therapy Month

Walk & Bike to School Day – Oct. 7

Bone and Joint Health National Awareness Week, October 12 – 20

Healthcare Quality Week 2015, 18-24

National Health Education Week, 19-23

Red Ribbon Week, 23-31

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Religious Discrimination and Accommodation

There’s been a national debate about religious beliefs and work responsibilities lately, revolving around the case of Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. It raises the thorny issue of when worlds collide: job responsibilities in conflict with a person’s religious convictions.

Making fewer headlines but watched with interest by employers is the case of the Muslim flight attendant who filed with the EEOC for religious discrimination when her employer denied accommodation in the serving of alcohol on flights, which she saw as a violation of her faith. Her complaint follows her suspension by ExpressJet.

In an article in the Washington Post, law professor Eugene Volokh talks about these cases and cites a variety of other cases when work duties came in conflict with an employee’s religious beliefs. When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job?  It’s a good article from an informed source: Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law.

Volkoh says:

“Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, both public and private employers have a duty to exempt religious employees from generally applicable work rules, so long as this won’t create an “undue hardship,” meaning more than a modest cost, on the employer. If the employees can be accommodated in a way that would let the job still get done without much burden on the employer, coworkers, and customers — for instance by switching the employee’s assignments with another employee or by otherwise slightly changing the job duties — then the employer must accommodate them. (The Muslim flight attendant I mentioned above, for instance, claims that she has always been able to work out arrangements under which the other flight attendant serves the alcohol instead of her.)”

Volkoh makes observations about accommodations and then discusses them in the light of the Kim Davis’ case. His observations are interesting; Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer’s Law Blog offers a summary of Volkoh’s analysis and adds his own comments in his post, When religious liberty clashes with job requirements

Hyman also has several posts analyzing another huge EEOC religious discrimination case decided earlier this year, a case that he calls a game changer. See his post SCOTUS requires employers to stereotype in ruling for EEOC in hijab-accommodation case In that post, he offers a discussion of the Supreme Court decision involving a hijab-wearing applicant, who was denied a religious accommodation based on the company’s “look policy.”

Hyman suggests that employers use a three-pronged approach to religious accommodations in the workplace – ACE: ask, communicate, educate – and he outlines each of those steps:

Ask: Even if an employee comes to a job interview wearing a hijab, it’s still not advisable to flat-out ask about his or her religion. Nevertheless, if you believe an applicant’s or employee’s religion might interfere with an essential function of the job, explain the essential functions and ask if the employee needs an accommodation.

Communicate: If the individual needs an accommodation, engage in the interactive process. Have a conversation with the applicant or employee. Explain your neutral policy for which an exception will have to be made. Talk through possible accommodations, and decide which accommodation, if any, is appropriate for your business and for the individual.

EEducate: Do you have written policy on religious accommodation? Of course, merely having a policy is never enough. You must communicate it to your employees, explain its meaning and operation, and enforce it when necessary.

Employment Law attorney Robin Shea discusses another recent religious discrimination case with a half million dollar judgement in the employee’s favor. The case involves a fairly esoteric religious belief – read the post at Employment & Labor Insider to get a full description: Yes, employers may have to accommodate even “crazy” religious beliefs.

Shea says the lesson in this and other religious cases is that “it doesn’t matter what you think” about the validity of the belief. Shea says:

“In our pluralistic society, it makes sense not to base religious accommodation decisions on whether the employer agrees with the employee, or considers the belief to be “correct.” Should a Jewish employer be able to refuse to accommodate her Seventh Day Adventist employees because she doesn’t share their beliefs? Should a lackadaisical Baptist employer be able to refuse to accommodate more-devout Baptist employees because they’re taking this stuff way too seriously? Should a Catholic supervisor be entitled to demand an “authoritative” letter from the “bishop” of an evangelical Christian employee, who has no bishop? Should an atheist employer be able to refuse to accommodate any religious need because, in the atheist’s opinion, all of that “religious” stuff is a bunch of baloney?
Of course, this would never work. So the law errs on the side of accommodation if (1) the religious belief is sincerely held (no matter how outlandish it may sound to an outsider), and (2) accommodation is not an undue hardship for the employer.”

Related news and resources

Can Kim Davis Be Fired? What CA Employers Should Know About Religious Accommodations

Lessons Employers Can Learn from Kentucky Clerk’s Same-Sex Marriage License Dispute

EEOC Issues Helpful (!) Guidance on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace

Retailers Should Heed Supreme Court Guidance On Religion

EEOC Sues UPS for Religious Discrimination – Package Delivery Giant Discriminated Against Class of Applicants and Employees Whose Religion Conflicted With the Company’s Uniform and Appearance Policy, Agency Charged

Employment Law 101: Religious Discrimination

EEOC: Religious Discrimination

EEOC: Facts About Religious Discrimination

EEOC: Policy Guidance Documents Related to Religious Discrimination

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via Glassdoor

News Roundup: Silver Tsunami, Reinventing the Handbook, Cost of a Bad Hire & More

The Employer’s Role in Mental Health Care
Howard Mavity, Risk Management

“The Germanwings crash demonstrated that employers need to act, but they must approach the problem on several levels. If employers only ramp up their scrutiny of employees, they will make employees even more reluctant to get assistance, so it is critical to begin by educating employees and encouraging them to seek help. A company wellness program, for example, can be used to develop effective messages about depression and other illnesses in the workplace. Then, companies must provide specific management training to accompany increased employer involvement.”

Preparing for the “silver tsunami”
Dave Imbrogno, SmartBlog on Leadership

“…the “silver tsunami” — that wave of maturing associates either preparing to exit the workforce or making the decision to extend their careers.”

“When it comes to an aging workforce, the majority of organizations are unprepared for their workers to retire or for workers who plan to stay past typical retirement age. Very few organizations have implemented specific policies and management practices to deal with the fluctuations that the silver tsunami will cause, leaving the majority of companies at risk of losing decades of knowledge and expertise, failing to continue to develop the workers who remain or unable to recruit more mature employees.”

Why Managers Are More Likely to Be Depressed
Dave Burkas, Harvard Business Review

“According to a new study, middle managers are the most likely people in an organization to suffer from depression. The study, led by Seth Prins, a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, was recently published online in Sociology of Health & Illness. The researchers examined more than 20,000 full-time workers across a variety of roles. For their sample, they utilized 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESRAC), and narrowed that down to a set of 21,859 full-time employees. The researchers then segmented those individuals into four categories: owners, managers, supervisors, and workers.”

Mental Health Matters: 8 Stigmatizing Phrases to Stop Using

“The stigma surrounding mental health issues can be a significant barrier to care. Unfortunately, many people unknowingly contribute to the stigma simply with their everyday language choices. A poor choice of words not only stigmatizes, stereotypes, and creates unrealistic assumptions about certain people, but also can trivialize serious mental health conditions and their accompanying experiences.”

The Challenges Of Identifying Potential Workplace Violence
Yuki Noguchi, NPR

“In recent years, more employers are posting workplace violence policies, says Elizabeth Bille, associate general counsel for the Society for Human Resource Management. She says they should enforce them uniformly without giving first-time offenders a pass.
At the same time, Bille says, if an employee has a mental health problem, employers are limited by federal law in their ability to discuss or share that information.
“I think one of the greatest challenges about identifying potential workplace violence is trying to balance fairness to the employee to not overreact and keeping their particular situations confidential, with the very real concerns of co-workers who may start fearing for their safety,” she says. “That is really the crux of the challenge here.”

Healthcare workplace violence efforts should be improved
Nina Flanagan, HealthcareDive

“The ANA [American Nurses Association] recently mentioned their ongoing health risk appraisal in the paper. Preliminary findings showed of 3,765 RNs and student nurses questioned about workplace safety, 43% reported they had been threatened by a patient or family member, and 24% said they had been physically assaulted. However, Dawson said many events go unreported as violence is often accepted as part of the job. “We’re working very hard to get the message out that it isn’t part of the job and violence can no longer be tolerated.”

How to Reinvent the Employee Handbook
Suzanne Lucas, Cornerstone Blog

Every business needs an employee handbook, right? This contains all those fun legal things like the fact that you’re an at-will employee, that you need to comply with a code of conduct, and what the dress code is (among other things). So, it’s a really, really important document. Except that maybe that’s not true. Linda Itskovitz, VP of marketing for employee communications company GuideSpark, says the handbook is a very unimportant document.
Why? Because no one actually reads it. “The employee handbook, as a medium, is not important because the majority of employees never open their handbook in the first place, especially millennials,” Itskovitz says.

The True Cost of a Bad Hire
Glassdoor Survey

“Most companies underestimate the cost of a bad hire, when in actuality, a bad hire can impact an organization in a variety of ways. For example, Zappos found it was spending $100 million on bad hires and now offers employees a $3,000 separation bonus to exit the organization if they are unhappy within the first few months.”

via Glassdoor

via Glassdoor

Quick Takes

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FMLA Update – Tools, Tips and Resources

It’s been nearly a year since our last FMLA Update so we thought we’d weigh in with tools tips and expert opinions.

Big news was that the Department of Labor issued new FMLA notices and medical certification forms in the Spring. They are good through May 31, 2018. Other big issues this year were the extension of same-sex benefits and guidance on pregnancy discrimination from the EEOC.

Our primary go-to resource on FMLA is employment law attorney Jeff Nowak’s FMLA Insights blog. Here are some of his key posts this year, which he says is :

First, he points us to “a valuable FMLA reference for HR professionals and employment attorneys” – the American Bar Association’s Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee annual report that compiles significant FMLA federal decisions from the prior year. He links to the report, which is available in PDF

Same-sex issues related to FMLA

EEOC Guidance

FMLA Administration

Other articles that caught our eye:

State Laws and regulations

Federal Resources

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News Roundup: The Sad Office; Teaching disobedience; Disengagement; 9-11 & more news of note

The Powerful Effect of Noticing Good Things at Work
Joyce E. Bono and Theresa M. Glomb, Harvard Business Review:

“This simple practice — writing about three good things that happened — creates a real shift in what people think about, and can change how they perceive their work lives. It can also create a feedback loop that enhances its impact: we believe that people who reflect on good things that happened during the day are more likely to share those things with family and friends. Sharing positive events with others creates connections between people and bonds them with one another, further reducing evening stress. Ultimately, this also improves sleep, which our ongoing research suggests leads to greater alertness and better mood — which in turn leads to more positive things happening the next day.”

The Work-Life Equation: Solving the Sad Office
Bill Maw says that “A sad office often resembles some degree of your worst childhood nightmare: a playground full of people behaving badly to one another—bullying, lying, backstabbing, blaming, and demonstrating all types of rudeness and unkindness.” In his post at AMA Playbook, he offers tips that will contribute to solving the sad office dilemma.

Just Say No: Teaching employees to disobey orders is an essential management safeguard
At strategy+business, Theodore Kinni discusses Ira Chaleff’s new book, Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do Is Wrong:

“If you are familiar with the experiments of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo, who wrote the foreword to Intelligent Disobedience, you already know that most people have been conditioned to obey orders given by authority figures, including orders that violate moral, ethical, and legal norms. “It is part of the socialization process in any human culture to teach our young to obey,” writes Chaleff. But he goes on to argue that teaching employees to disobey orders is an essential organizational safeguard — that nurses are protecting patients and their employers by questioning doctors’ orders that fly in the face of their training, and that accountants can prevent massive frauds by refusing to execute orders that violate their professional standards.”

5 tips for managing the impact of employee absences
Gerry Leonard, SmartBlog on Leadership:

The impact of employee absences can be astonishing. According to a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index the total annual costs related to lost productivity due to absenteeism in the U.S. totaled $84 billion. Although the annual costs associated with absenteeism vary by industry, the greatest loss occurred in professional occupations at $24.2 billion.

There are direct and indirect costs of absence that can cascade through payroll, benefits, and operations — in addition to productivity loss. And the reasons for an employee taking leave are many and varied, ranging from employee’s injury and illness, pregnancy-related issues, newborn care, adoption, foster care, or elder care, to name a few.

Understanding Why Your Employees Are Saturated and Disengaged
Prithvi Shergill, Training:

“Intrinsically, individuals exhibit different levels of passion. The anchors and drivers that account for their passion are deeply ingrained in their unique individual personalities. For example, a person who is self-driven is motivated by autonomy, creativity, and clarity on sense of purpose. A person who is secular in his or her passion orientation—i.e., someone who is motivated when they receive the required support from their organization—is motivated by recognition, meaningful work, and mastery. And a person who is socially driven—i.e., someone who looks at his friends, colleagues, or superiors for encouragement—may have collaboration, connectedness to colleagues, and diversity as his or her key passion drivers.”

9-11 retrospective


More News of Note

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