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Handy OSHA Resources

Bookmark and Share Safety in your everyday small business operations is essential for your employees, customers and success. Understanding and maintaining safety guidelines can be challenging, though. OSHA offers numerous resources that benefit your company. Take advantage of these resources as you ensure your small business maintains safety guidelines and stays compliant with current laws at all times.

OSHA's Cooperative Programs

Your small business must cooperate with OSHA to maintain safety and remain compliant with laws, but you may not know where to start. OSHA offers five cooperative programs that help your small business prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Available programs include:

  • Alliance Program
  • OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP)
  • Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)
  • OSHA Challenge Program
  • On-site Consultation Program's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)
All states with OSHA-approved programs offer this cooperative program option, and you can search the website to learn more about each program.  

On-Site Consultation Program

Get personalized advice with a free and confidential on-site consultation. The consultant will not give penalties or citations because the purpose of the consultant's visit is solely to:

  • Identify workplace hazards
  • Share advice on how to become compliant with OSHA guidelines
  • Implement injury and illness prevention programs
While the program prioritizes high-hazard worksites, it's available to all small and medium-sized businesses and is completely free.

Diverse Workforce/Limited English Proficiency Coordinators

When your workforce employs Spanish speakers or a diverse workforce, you may need education, outreach and training assistance. Schedule a seminar or workshop with an OSHA Diverse Workforce/Limited English Proficiency coordinator. Every 10 OSHA regions has one coordinator who can help you train and prepare your employees effectively.

Compliance Assistance Specialists (CAS)

When you're ready to host a seminar or workshop on safety challenges or compliance issues, contact a CAS. In states under federal jurisdiction, the OSHA area offices have a CAS on staff who will provide training resources and promote OSHA cooperative programs.

Training Institute (OTI) and Training Education Centers

Access a variety of OSHA trainings, including technical advice, seminar and workshop speakers, or audiovisual aids, through the Training Institute and Training Education Centers. This resource provides basic and advanced safety and health courses as well as small business seminars.

Penalty Reductions

Non-compliance with OSHA guidelines can result in large penalties. However, your small business's size and number of employees may reduce the penalties. Learn more as you assess your eligibility for penalty reductions.

OSHA safety guidelines protect your employees and small business since they reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities. OSHA guidelines can be confusing, though. Maintain compliance when you take advantage of these OSHA resources. They help your small business remain safe and successful.
 

"Safe Place" for Your Money?

Bookmark and Share There is an unbendable and unbreakable law of economics that states that wealth is created in one of only two ways: People working, or money working. Many have attempted to break this law, and usually the results have violated both civil and criminal laws. These days, everyone is anxious to put their money in a safe place. This "safe place" would also preferably have low risk, high returns and tax advantages as well as be ready and waiting for them when they retire.

Does such a "safe place" exist? A respected commentator in the sports world says, "Let's take a look." It was not too long ago that investors were looking for returns in the 5% - 12% range. Today, those return expectations are greatly diminished, even if the willingness to take on risk has begun to come back.

As of this article, the current interest rate on a 10-year United States Treasury bond is 3.24%. High-quality 10-year municipal bonds are only paying 2.99%. Ten-year corporate bonds at the highest rating level are paying 3.6%. Keep in mind that these variables can change daily as investors vote their bond holdings up or down in response to political and economic developments, both foreign and domestic.

Meanwhile, certificates of deposit, which were once considered to be the safest of all investments among the older generations, have now sunk considerably in terms of interest payouts. One-year CDs these days are paying roughly 1.5% and five-year CDs maybe 3%. Previously CD investors could expect to see interest rates as high as 4%-6% or even higher. What's more, even to get the highest rates, investors need to park their money for a long time, as one can see in the case of the five-year CD.

So, the basic concerns have really not changed. They are, in no particular order:
  1. Principal safety
  2. Return rate
  3. Liquidity, or access to funds on short notice
  4. Flexible term, which depends on when the investor wants the money
  5. Tax-free
  6. Reliability and trustworthiness
Taking all of these factors into account, is there an investment that can satisfy all of them? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. It is an instrument known as a fixed annuity. An annuity can guarantee the safety of both the payments and the principal by contract to the policyholder, in addition to guaranteeing that the owner will not outlive his money if he chooses to annuitize the contract. Annuities, in this respect, are unique as financial instruments. Currently, credited interest paid on an annuity is not taxable until distributed. Unlike CDs, this allows the capital to grow through compound interest without any interference.

There are many annuity programs, such as equity-index annuities, that provide even more benefits like interest rates that are double-tiered, which means that the owner has a guaranteed minimum rate while also being allowed to participate in the stock market's returns, if any. In the final analysis, annuities can offer investors a better return than most instruments today.

Although annuities have always been attractive vehicles since their introduction, in an economic climate such as this, they are even more so.

(* Interest data from the WSJ 06/18/2010). Liquidated earnings are subject to ordinary income tax, may be subject to surrender charges and, if taken prior to age 59 1⁄2, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Guarantees and payment of lifetime income are contingent on the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
 

Municipalities Employment Practices Liability

Bookmark and Share Municipalities, the governing body of a district or community, employ a variety of workers. Employment practices liability insurance protects those employees and the municipality, making it an essential product. If you operate or work for a municipality, learn more about municipalities employment practices liability insurance.

What is Employment Practices Liability Insurance?

Also known as EPLI, employment practices liability insurance covers numerous employees, including municipality directors, officers, management personnel and employees. It's designed to cover legal rights violation claims employees may make against their employer, the municipality. An EPLI policy can cover claims related to:

  • Breach of employment contract
  • Defamation
  • Deprivation of career opportunity
  • Discrimination
  • Failure to employ or promote
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Mismanagement of employee benefits
  • Negligent evaluation
  • Retaliation
  • Sexual harassment in all forms
  • Wrongful discipline
  • Wrongful infliction of emotional or other distress
  • Wrongful termination
When you file an EPLI claim, the policy reimburses your municipality for the legal costs of defending the lawsuit in court. It also covers judgments and settlements whether you win or lose the case.

In most cases, an EPLI does not cover civil or criminal fines, punitive damages or liabilities covered by other insurance policies such as workers compensation. Other exclusions typically include bodily injury, property damage or intentional and dishonest acts.

Review your municipality's EPLI policy for coverage and exclusion details. You may be able to customize your policy based on your municipality and employees' unique needs.

How to Purchase EPLI

When purchasing municipalities EPLI, choose a reputable insurance company with an excellent customer service reputation and reviews. The company should understand your unique needs and be available when you have questions, want a consultation or need to file a claim. The right insurance and company gives you peace of mind and valuable protection.

In most cases, your municipality can purchase EPLI in several ways.
  1. Purchase it as part of your management liability package policy.

  2. Purchase it as stand-alone coverage.
Discuss your options with your insurance company to ensure all your municipality employees' needs are met and reduce your municipality's liability.

How Much Does EPLI Cost?

Several factors affect the cost of an EPLI policy. They include:

  • Your type of business
  • Number of employees
  • Various risk factors, including previous employment practices lawsuits
For specifics on the cost of your municipality EPLI, talk to your insurance company or agent. They can create a customize quote for your municipality, employees and needs.

Municipalities employment practices liability insurance offers valuable protection. Understand the coverage and ensure you purchase adequate coverage.
 

Dangers of Confined Spaces

Bookmark and Share If you revisit some of the lessons learned in basic high school science classes, you will probably remember that 78% of the air we breathe is nitrogen gas. If you think a little more, you may also recall that nitrogen is only safe to breathe when mixed with the right amount of oxygen. That simple lesson, learned so many years ago, may save your life if you frequently work in confined spaces.

Before entering any confined work space, there are several critical points you must consider. First, is the work area defined as a confined space according to OSHA? OSHA’s definition states that a confined space is any area where an employee must squeeze in or out through narrow openings and perform their tasks while cramped or contorted. Entry and exit are difficult, and employees are not to remain in the space for lengthy periods of time.

If your work space fits this description, you must also determine if it has a dangerous atmosphere or shows the potential for you to become trapped or even asphyxiated. If so, this space will be designated as a “permit space,” and will require a permit for entry. The employer who allows an employee entry must develop a written safety program for their permit-required spaces.

Your gas monitor plays a crucial part in securing your safety when you are working in a confined space. You need to be certain that you know how to properly operate the instrument and that you fully understand the procedures for confined space monitoring. Taking these steps will lessen the risks associated with this type of work significantly. Do not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security because you are working in a familiar setting. If you take unnecessary risks, you may, unfortunately, only be working in the space for a short time.

Another element of safely working in a confined area is to have an attendant who will maintain contact with you while you are working. Be certain that this person is not involved with any other tasks or distractions and that they remain outside of the confined space at all times. If you will be confined in the space for an extended period of time, this person should record additional atmospheric readings to monitor the safety of the confined space. The attendant should also know exactly what the potential hazards are, and have a plan in place in case of an emergency.

If an emergency situation does arise, the attendant needs to immediately implement the rescue plan that was developed by the employer. No matter what type of rescue situation occurs, the attendant must try to maintain contact with you during the entire rescue process. They should also attempt to gather information about the incident that may be helpful to the rescuers. Their position as “point man” between you and the rescue team can make all the difference in the success of the rescue effort.