Keeping Your Skilled Workers Safe on the Job

Did you know that falls are the number one danger on construction sites? Scaffolds, Ladders, un-finished site work all have a great deal of fall potential. Therefore construction workers must be acutely aware of these particular dangers. The safety of a temporary agency’s workers is of utmost importance to both the workers as well as the agency. Workers are an agency’s greatest investment. A loss of a worker is a loss of a resource. That is why reputable temporary staffing agencies providing construction staffing insure that their workers are well-trained in safety, for the betterment of both the agency and the skilled laborer.

OSHA (a “dreaded” to many employers) is an agency dedicated not only to protecting workers but to their employers as well. Workers and employers alike need to understand their rights and responsibilities under OSHA. Reputable staffing agencies train their members in hazard detection and safety. The dangers mentioned below and many others are real on construction job sites.

Safety training can include any or all of the following:

Dress/Uniforms – Workers in construction areas need to adhere to dress codes that are right for the conditions. Loose fitting clothes are hazardous on the job for construction workers. Clothing of this type can easily lead to falls or get caught in equipment. Shoes are another important consideration. To protect against nails and other sharp hazards on the ground, Thick-soled, Steel-toed shoes are a necessity.

Gear – Eye and Head protection are must on construction sites. Flying and falling debris are true hazards and need to be protected against. Depending upon the specific site demands, a colorful vest sis usually also a good idea.

Tools of the Trade – Construction also uses many specialized tools and pieces of machinery. This specialized equipment can have a great deal of hazard potential, from pinched fingers to fatalities. Workers must be aware of proper tool technique and safety precautions.

Companies need to make a strong investment in ongoing safety training. Because this training is provided by responsible staffing agencies, the risk of accidents is reduced and liability is reduced for the construction company. This in itself is a great reason for construction project leads and construction staffing agencies to develop strong partnerships.

Equally important to the success of this partnership is employees knowing their rights in the workplace. Workplaces need to keep a log of injuries, illnesses and a centrally located collection of MSDS (now, SDS) Documents. These documents, along with proper gear and safety training can dramatically cut the frequency lf dangerous accidents in the workplace. After training, a temporary construction worker should also be aware of rules and paperwork necessary to file a complaint, when necessary.

If you are looking for a construction staffing agency, go with one that offers the following traits… Government Compliance, Workers Comp, Health Care, Unemployment Insurance and one who makes the safety of the skilled workers #1.

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HR Managers – Did You Just Hire Your Next Workers’ Comp Claimant?

Let’s evaluate a typical hire for most companies:

There is an open position so you place an advertisement in the newspaper or online. Multiple resumes come in, you narrow your search to ten people, however only three people show up for the actual job interview. Of the three, you decide to hire Jack. After completing the background and reference checks, Jack is told to show up at 8:00 A.M. Monday morning and report to the HR Department to complete his paperwork.

Monday morning, here is the exchange that takes place:

“Hi, Jack. Welcome to the company. Fill out your paperwork, sit in the break room and watch the safety video and I will take you to work with Charlie, our senior employee. You will watch how Charlie does the job for two or three days, then you’re on your own. We are here if you have any questions. At XYZ Company, we have an open door policy.”

With this scenario, you are hoping that Charlie, your superstar employee, will pass down all of the requirements for the job. In reality, Charlie is frustrated because he has to train all of the new employees without any recognition, pay increase or bonus of any kind, and he passes down his bad habits, his frustrations and what I like to call his accumulated employee baggage to Jack. Before Jack has a chance to get his feet wet, he is already forming a negative opinion of your company. Before long, you are totally surprised because Jack is injured and out on workers’ compensation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 percent of all injuries occur within ninety days of hire, 23 percent occur within the first four hours on the job! These statistics highlight the one ingredient that is often missing for most employers – effective workplace training programs. Employers fail to understand that passing the torch is not training.

Employers often hire based on an unrealistic idea that all they need is a warm body in a position because “anyone” can be trained to do the job. This is the first mistake on the road to a workers’ compensation claim. It is essential that each job fit the worker and that each worker fit his or her job. What does this mean?

Employees must understand the specifics of each task you are asking them to do. Along with the specifics, they should be provided with appropriate safety training and the safety rules that apply to their job and their work areas. Employers, who have successful injury prevention programs, create a training matrix that outline the minimum safety training required for all positions. They use the matrix to implement training programs that are uniform, consistent and job specific. New employees immediately understand the importance of working safely and they understand the safety exposures within their work areas.

In addition, employers with effective injury prevention programs spend the time to write detailed job descriptions, after they evaluate the essential and marginal functions for each job within their organization. They also take this process one step further and present the job description to the employee during the interview process.

Remember you are evaluating the candidate to determine if they meet the requirements for the job. During the interview you should ask specific questions based on the job description to make sure the candidate understands the job requirements. This process also allows the candidate to evaluate your company just as you are evaluating the potential employee. In today’s labor market, candidates want to know what you are expecting from them so they can make an educated decision before they accept your job offer.

After presenting the job duties and selecting the candidate, it is your job to use the probationary, or introductory, period to train and evaluate the employee. This period is called the “introductory” period for a reason. Introduce the new employee to your work environment, job concepts and evaluate their performance, then determine if they are the right fit for the position.

During my years as an adjuster, I received countless phone calls from employers saying, “I should have fired him or her,” or, “He or she was a lousy employee,” or, “I’m not sure why I let him or her get away with that,” or, “If I had only let him or her go yesterday, I wouldn’t have this claim on my hands today.” This brings me full circle to why I feel, every workers’ compensation claim starts with an employment decision. As the employer, either you did not provide enough training and oversight to the employee or you hired the wrong employee to do the job or you kept the wrong employee too long. Most workers’ compensation claims can be traced to one of these HR decisions.

Employers must recognize that bad hiring decisions and improper training programs can increase the likelihood that an employee will be injured. Spend the money to train your employees correctly-from the beginning. If you evaluate the overall cost of one workers’ compensation claim-including: the loss of manpower, the administrative cost to manage an injured employee, the workers’ compensation premium cost and the overtime to cover jobs that would have been done by the injured worker-you will see the cost benefits of integrating an effective safety training program into your workplace.

Understanding the specifics of each task you are asking your employees to do is essential to preventing injuries. Training your employees, mandating that they follow appropriate safety procedures and providing ongoing educational opportunities is the key components of an effective injury prevention program.

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A Drug-Free Workplace Can Lower Your Workers Compensation Premiums

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in Ohio (BWC) offers discounts on premiums, if a qualifying company establishes a Drug-Free Workplace. The BWC determines if a company is qualified to receive the discounts. The rules changed in 2009 with much tighter restrictions on who can receive them, but discounts (as well as grants) are available to pay for drug awareness training for employees and supervisors. In 2010 there will be more changes with looser restrictions but lower discount percentages. A good company that is listed as a provider in the DFSP Vendor Directory on the “ohio.bwc” website can help a business apply for grants and discounts. A company can apply on their own on the website also.

But there’s more to it than just displaying a “This is a Drug-Free Workplace” sign in your office. A true Drug-Free workplace includes a properly written policy which includes guidelines created by the BWC. It also would have agreements signed by your employees, acknowledging these guidelines and the ramifications of a positive test. Drug awareness training, another requirement, teaches the employees and supervisors about the dangers of substance abuse and must be performed by a qualified individual. And then of course, employees must be tested for drugs before being hired and are subject to random drug testing.

There are two different levels of discounts. The higher discount requires more involvement. You can do much of it yourself, if you want to spend the time learning the rules and finding the right people that are required for each aspect of the policy. However, hiring an experienced, trustworthy company is the best and easiest way to go about it. You’ll be surprised at how little it can cost, depending on whom you hire. Typically, large companies charge larger fees; small companies charge smaller fees. Companies listed as Providers on the “ohio.bwc” website can help a company with all of the requirements.

The Workers’ Compensation discount isn’t the only reason to make your workplace drug free. There are many other reasons, including payroll cost savings. According to the Department of Labor, if you have a substance abuser on your payroll, you could be losing thousands of dollars each year off the bottom line. In fact, the loss estimate is $7,000 to $15,000 per year! How can that number be so high? Substance abusers are said to have lower productivity, take more sick days, report more health insurance claims and have more accidents. In fact, 47% of serious workplace accidents and 40% of fatal workplace accidents have drug and/or alcohol involvement (Occupational Medicine).

So whether you’re looking to lower your Workers Compensation premiums or you just want to improve your workplace, a Drug-Free Policy is a good idea. When a workplace is drug free, there is higher productivity and fewer accidents, which leads to a better bottom line. You’ll be surprised at how little it can cost and how much you can potentially save!

Ken Burdzinski
TrueTest Screening

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Inexpensive Gift Ideas For Co-Workers

Whether it is a birthday, anniversary or a promotion there is always an occasion at your work place which makes you think about suitable but inexpensive gift ideas for co-workers. One of the best ways to make a present for your co-workers is by personalizing gifts which makes the items priceless without putting a dent in your pockets.

Some of the ideas for handing over inexpensive but distinct gifts to your loved ones are listed below:

1. Handcrafted cards – Nowadays you can find a beautiful range of handcrafted cards which are made out of handmade paper. These cards are decorated with flower petals and beads and make for very thoughtful but inexpensive gifts for co-workers.

2. Picture Frames – By picking up simple wooden frames and decorating them with colored glass pieces or acrylic paints you can make a beautiful as well as cost friendly gift for a friend at your workplace.

3. Personalized Mugs – If your co-worker has been recently promoted you can pick up a mug which says something to that effect and congratulates him or her. This personalized gift will touch your colleague and will remain a cherished token of love.

4. Miniature planters – You can also pick up miniature bamboo planters as well as other potted plants which can be used by your co-workers to brighten up their office space. This present will make for a great gift idea if you have a co-worker who has a green thumb.

5. Engraved key chains – On occasion such as Christmas and New Year’s when you have to gift all your co-workers, it is a great idea to get key chains with their names engraved on one side and a beautiful personalized quote on the other to make your gift a very special and memorable present.

6. Teddy bear delivery – You can also opt for a teddy bear delivery service for a co- worker on the event of his birthday or a promotion. One can make a booking for a teddy bear delivery by visiting a gifting site and choosing a suitable teddy bear at highly a reasonable cost. Most sites also offer accessories such as flowers and chocolates as well as a customized teddy bear which would make your present even more special. Your colleague will cherish the wonderful memory of receiving a personalized teddy bear in the work place for years to come.

7. Hand painted sun-catchers – Another gift idea that makes for a very exclusive but inexpensive present is a sun-catcher. There are a large range of DIY sun-catchers in the market which can be picked up at a handicraft store. You can paint these items in vibrant colors and your co-workers would love to hang them in their cabins or at home.

When it comes to gifting your co-workers it is always possible to give them thoughtful and special presents without overshooting your budget. So go ahead and pick any of the above items and make your colleagues feel special with your unique and personalized gift.

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How Entrepreneurs Generate Ideas

Like many other people I have always aspired for great things. I am an ambitious individual that gains satisfaction from being successful and achieving personal goals. This led me to research into entrepreneurialism and the many opportunities it provides. As you can imagine it is a vast topic with a number of specialisms.

I now feel I am in a position where I can share my acquired knowledge with other individuals who aspire at being an entrepreneur. Before you can begin as an entrepreneur you need an idea. This probably sounds obvious but for many of us who aspire to be an entrepreneur it can be easier said than done and is perhaps one of the main reasons many individuals give up before they have even started.

The first piece of advice I would give the aspiring entrepreneur is don’t think too big. There is nothing wrong with thinking big and having goals to aim towards but whilst you are starting out and learning you are likely to be more successful if you do not expect too much too soon. Often the best ideas are the simplest.

So how do you generate ideas? Well to begin with you may need to start becoming more observant. There are problems all around so one way to generate an idea is by getting better at identifying problems. Sometimes this can be as basic as listening to people better. Quite often when we are talking to our friends or co-workers they will have complaints about a product or service that they have been in contact with. By actively listening to these complaints and asking the person what would have made their experience better you may be able to generate an idea through a solution to a problem. Being more observant does not just apply to talking to our friends, family or co-workers. When you are doing your shopping, or are on the bus or train, or out and about in town remain vigilant to any problems. How could you make peoples lives more convenient, fun or enjoyable? Or how could you offer a better service or more value for money? At this point I would also advice that you have a pen and notepad handy at all times so you can write down any ideas. I would say at this stage there is no such thing as a bad idea. Write it down anyway you can dismiss it at a later time when you can think about it in more depth. There is a very real risk that if you don’t write an idea down you may forget it. Ideas can be hard to come by and easy to forget. Obviously ensure that when you are writing ideas down you are in a situation where it is safe to do so.

Another tool which can be helpful in generating ideas is through the internet. If there is an area that you have a particular interest in such as smartphone apps. Do some research into this area. See what is available and what people want. Again it is a good idea to have a notepad and pen when researching ideas. If you find an idea that you think you could develop write it down. When you have two or three ideas it may be possible to blend or merge them. This may not always produce a good idea that you can pursue but it can get your creative juices flowing.

The key issues to remember when generating ideas is to be creative and as imaginative as possible. There are still an endless about of ideas to be generated. If you can learn to start identifying problems and solve them then you are creating a good basis for creating more ideas. It is never to late to learn this skill even if it doesn’t come naturally. You can also find that it is much easier to be creative in subjects, areas and topics that you are very familiar with or have a good knowledge of. It is difficult to be creative in areas that you do not know very well.

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Fundraiser Auction Entertainment Ideas – Portrait Photos and Boothomatic

Three of my auction fundraisers this past year have had professional portraits offered on-site. The photo offers guests a remembrance of your benefit auction. Portrait photography works especially well for charity auctions which tend to have co-workers attending, such as corporate and hospital foundations. Guests look spiffy, so the photos show employees in their best light (all the better, considering those photos may show up on the company intranet).

This auction idea works for four reasons:

- The activity allows company departments and smaller teams of co-workers to have their photo taken together, which is a nice touch.

- A photo with a traditional background seems more professional with your co-workers than, for instance, a backdrop of Las Vegas.

- The photos allow for more flexibility later, such as if the company’s foundation wanted to include a photo of the work team in an issue of the company newsletter, or even in a proposal for a prospective client.

- When individuals have a portrait taken, the finished headshot can be used for business cards or on the external company website.

Near the entrance to the silent auction is usually the best location for the photography station. The photographer will show guests where to stand and offer basic instructions to capture the best angle and shot. For group photos, the photographer often takes a hands-on approach to ensuring everyone is in the photograph. Guests are given a photo, often housed in a cardstock black frame.

The developed photos are displayed on a table near the check-out area so guests can take their photo as they leave. Photos with groups of people are developed multiple times so each person in the photo can take a copy home.

In short, this is a good activity for fundraising auctions. The big perk is that you can use those photos in a multi-purpose way long after the event is finished.

A second photo option for charity auctions

I read an article from BizBash’s newsletter entitled “The Photo Booth That Can Capture the Whole Party.” http://www.bizbash.com/newyork/content/editorial/16574_a_photo_booth_that_can_capture_the_whole_party.php It talks about a new portable photo-booth AKA, the Boothomatic which rolls around the party, enabling guests to take photos wherever they might be.

After reading the short article and checking out the photo, here are my immediate thoughts as to whether the Boothomatic would work in a benefit auction environment.

My immediate thought is that this is something for a younger crowd. I can see as where Generation Y or Generation Z would totally get into this! But I don’t envision most of the guests at my benefit auction (age 40+) comfortably jumping in front of the booth without encouragement from an outgoing photographer.

I’m still unclear after reading the article as to whether a photographer supervises the booth. If he does and if that photographer is a gregarious type who can comfortably corral guests for photos this would work. But if the booth is not supervised, my crowds would ignore it.

In many hotels, the Boothmatic would work fine. But if the auction is to be held in an unusual facility such as a historic home or even an outdoor garden, I’d consider alternative forms of entertainment. You’ll want a venue (and a floor!) that allows the booth to roll unencumbered.

I love that photographs of the event are available for download from a website! They also offer customized packages. My only concern is that once again some of my less savvy older guests won’t understand how to download photos from a site. Those same guests *would* take home a photo of themselves if it’s printed onsite, but they would be less likely to check a website in the days following the gala.

The price in New York is apparently $2500 for a 4-hour rental. I don’t know NYC rates well enough to gauge if this is in-line with other forms of photo entertainment or not. But given that there are no printed photographs available to guests onsite, I would hope that the Boothomatic would be less in price than something, say, like portrait photography.

Copyright (c) 2010 Red Apple Auctions LLC

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Workers’ Compensation Concerns in the Entertainment Industry

Status Quo

Venues, film or recording studios all deal with a similar exposure on a regular basis, yet the exposure is misplaced. We’ll use venues for our discussion.

When events are negotiated, Workers’ Compensation (Work Comp) requirements in contracts are often “lined out” or removed. Prohibitive costs and exemptions due to independent contractor status are the most common reasons.

Highly creative entrepreneurs are prevalent in the entertainment industry, and several work together for most events. The idea that a business wouldn’t sue itself so Work Comp isn’t needed is often raised. Work Comp is still very valuable to small businesses and individuals, though many forgo coverage. If coverage is in place, owners, partners, executives and others may be legally excluded by their choice, or the policy may not contemplate all classes (types) of workers. Volunteers (ushers, etc.) are an example-with no payroll or cost to base the premium, and no lost wages, Work Comp is not designed for this class. It should be noted the certificate of insurance may not reflect all exclusions.

Many Work Comp policies bear minimum premiums. Their premium calculations for a small business may be below the insurer’s minimum premium. The business or individual is charged more to reach the insurance company’s minimum premium to be acceptable to the company. It’s similar to a contractor’s minimum rate, or venue’s minimum fee. All businesses’ rates consider operating costs and other factors.

Concerns for Studios and Venues

It can be a make or break issue for an event proposal. Yet some states require a General Contractor to provide Work Comp if their subcontractors don’t have it. Laws and interpretations change. Boundaries defining general and independent contractors are easy to overstep. Contractors and related parties such as an apprentice, spouse or child may disagree with definitions of “general” and “independent contractor” when an injury or death occurs. At such times, people will look for coverage somewhere.

When the status of an injured worker is ambiguous, the venue’s ability to cover the worker will likely be examined. If coverage isn’t available under its Work Comp policy, its General Liability (GL) and Excess or Umbrella insurance may be at risk of a claim.

Vicarious liabilities, whereby one is responsible for the actions of others through a legal duty, may include ensuring that all workers, including self employed, are covered. A venue’s standard contract typically has Work Comp requirements, so arguably it’s aware of the risks in advance. GL, Excess and Umbrella may be triggered. Claims against the venue’s coverage by contractors could result in higher premiums for the venue, even insurability problems. In many cases there will be no coverage, and the venue could be left holding the bag. The best bet for any venue is to insist on coverage for all workers. Expect push back, yet risks to the venue are too great to ignore. However, it’s always best to find solutions everyone can live with.

A Solution

An interesting alternative available in most states is Occupational Accident (Occ Acc), especially when paired with Contingent Liability. Policies vary, yet generally Occ Acc covers certain claims arising from a work related injury or death for a covered contractor, for a specified period after the accident. Contingent Liability steps in as Work Comp if an independent contractor is deemed to be an employee of the policyholder.

Largely because of the limited term for claims payment, Occ Acc is usually much more affordable than Work Comp. As Contingent Liability only steps in if a worker is deemed to be an employee of the policyholder, its cost is usually more affordable too. Since there can be significant cost savings and they’re designed for independent contractors, the two main objections to coverage are met at once and the venue enjoys a level of protection.

Risk managers are strongly encouraged to contact their agents or brokers about alternatives. Available options can provide levels of protection for the venue’s coverage limits, pricing and insurability. And the cost could be reflected in event negotiations-without endangering the success of the event.

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