Considering the recent events in 2020, it should be more apparent that the seasonal flu is taken seriously. With the COVID-19 vaccine still in preproduction stages, numerous sources are citing it won’t be available until late in 2021. While we are taking more precautions than ever before due to COVID-19, we still need to keep the approaching flu season top of mind.
Protecting yourself against the flu is more important than ever. This fall there will be two respiratory viruses circulating making it possible to contract a double infection. The influenza vaccine can minimize at least one of the potential respiratory infections. If you were to get sick with influenza your body’s immune system is weakened making it more vulnerable to a possible coronavirus infection. Besides protecting yourself, you help prevent the spread of the virus to your family and those in the community who may not be able to get the vaccine.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the reports of people testing positive for COVID-19, without ever having any symptoms. The same thing is possible with the influenza virus, you can spread it without ever having symptoms of being sick. This is the reason healthcare professionals are required to get the flu vaccine every year, protecting themselves and the people around them.
The main mode of transmission is by particles in the air and on contaminated surfaces, making washing your hands and using hand sanitizer important to stopping the spread of the flu virus. An infected person can spread the flu virus to an average of 1.3 other people. This number may be higher in families living together and those who are working in close proximity to each other. The virus can be transmitted one day prior to the infected person experiencing any symptoms and can continue to be contagious 5-7 days after the onset of symptoms. Individuals with compromised immune systems may remain contagious for several days longer than that.
The most important step you can take to prevent getting and spreading the flu is getting vaccinated every year. Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often is are also important ways to reduce the transmission of the virus. Take care to help younger children wash and sanitize their hands often as well. The CDC estimates that over 20 million people each year will contract the flu, however, it is estimated that the flu shot will save around 40,000 lives each year. Even if you are young and healthy, the flu vaccine can prevent you from spending 2 long sick weeks in bed and can save the lives of those around you.
- The flu infects an estimated 20-40 million people a year in the US alone.
- Of those infected, over 61,000 deaths occurred in the 2017-2018 flu season.
- There were a reported 600,000+ flue related hospitalizations in the 2017-2018 flu season.
- Each year the CDC watches trends and tracks the different strains or mutations of the virus to formulate the most effective vaccine for the current flu season.
- The best time to get the flu shot is early on in the season and as it takes up to two weeks for your body to build up an immunity to the virus.
- Once you have the flu, antibiotics will be useless to help with symptoms. Instead, use of antivirals should be taken under doctor supervision as early as possible for best results.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to take care of ourselves and those around us. Be mindful of those who are more vulnerable, or those who can’t get vaccinated due to underlying health issues. Getting vaccinated helps everyone in the long run. For more information on the flu shot, don’t forget to check out our webinar on flu shots.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list each year of the most frequently cited violations. Knowledge of these violations can assist you in identifying and correcting similar risks in your company.
In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. OSHA citation fees increased seven-fold in 2016 and will continue to go up with annual inflationary adjustments. The increase from 2019 to 2020 was 1.8%.
If you assess your safety program with an emphasis on correcting these commonly cited hazards, and you will be safer and save money in penalty fees!
Here are a few tips for mitigating some of the most frequently cited hazards associated with 3 of OSHA’s Top 10 citations. For the complete list, please watch my webinar presentation.
Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in the construction industry accounting for over 33% of fatalities. Almost two-thirds of fall accidents are from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds.
The construction industry is a unique place to work, with job site conditions changing from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. Fall exposures are frequent and varied. This safety challenge can be met with success if we pay attention to OSHA’s requirements under the “Fall Protection Standard (1926 Subpart M)”, “Scaffolds (1926 Subpart L),” and “Stairways and Ladders (1926 Subpart X)”.
Additional information and resources for Fall Protection can be found here:
Eye and Face Protection
Conduct a hazard assessment and identify those work tasks that require eye and face protection to guard employees from hazards like flying particles, chemicals, or optical radiation. Your assessment must include evaluation of exposures to both the employee performing the task or job, as well as other employees that might be working in the same area. These assessments will help you choose the correct eye and/or face protection to help prevent eye and face injuries. Keep in mind, normal prescription eyewear does not provide protection from impact or penetration hazards. To provide appropriate protection, prescription eyewear must be manufactured per the requirements of the “American National Standards Institute, ANSI Z87.1”. Otherwise, you could provide “wear-over” type eye protection.
Eye and face protection requirements are addressed in OSHA’s Construction Industry under the “Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment Standard, 1926 Subpart E“.
The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) helps employers classify and identify chemical hazards and controls for safe use. It’s basically chemical safety in the workplace. Employers need to ensure that their employees understand the hazards presented by the chemicals they’re using, AND most importantly, what measures must be taken to prevent injury while using these chemicals.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical must be readily available to all employees and updated as needed. SDS contain important information from the manufacturer regarding the chemical hazards and safeguards.
Watch for improperly labeled or unlabeled containers. Accurate and compliant labeling will contain the following information:
- The product identifier, i.e. the name of the chemical
- The manufacturers’ name and address
- A “Signal Word” to quickly ascertain the level of hazard, either “Danger” or “Warning.”
- A “Hazard Statement” that describes the nature of the hazard(s), e.g. “causes serious eye damage”
- A “Precautionary Statement(s)”, e.g. “wear appropriate eye protection”
- And a “Hazard Information” pictogram(s)
Here is a great resource for employers to ensure compliance with “OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.”
Hazard identification and control are key components of a successful safety program. Taking a closer look at OSHA’ s annual list of their Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Violations and appropriate measures to avoid them will help you in your ongoing safety efforts. For more information please click the links below to watch the webinar or download the slide presentation.
I am sure you don’t need to be told how dangerous fireworks are. As we approach the 4th of July weekend, many of us are planning to include fireworks at our BBQ’s and family get-togethers. Since there are inherent dangers using fireworks let’s review some safety tips to keep you and those around you safe this 4th of July!
Be Aware of the Laws in Your Area
Before you start planning your fireworks block party, you should check your local municipality’s laws on fireworks. St. Louis city, county and Illinois have outright bans on the use of fireworks. Violators can face a $500.00 minimum fine or jail time for breaking these laws. Missouri statutes also detail that no person under the age of 17 should be in possession, handle, or ignite any fireworks.
Check Your Shopping List
The first thing to consider is the size of the fireworks you are purchasing. If you live in a residential area, it’s best to stick to smaller fireworks and fountains. Talk with the experts at the place of purchase and be conservative in the size and weight of each firework. The number of grams you buy determines the power of the explosion. Also, consider doing a ground show rather than launching explosives into the air, With a denser population, the risk of the fireworks hitting power lines, houses, trees or even people is higher.
Be Prepared for Safety
You’ve checked your local legislation and have chosen appropriate fireworks for your location — What’s next? Be prepared in case things go awry! Fireworks are known for their unpredictable nature which increases the risk of misfires and explosions. Have a fire extinguisher and running water readily available in case a mishap occurs. Fireworks start an average of 18,000 fires each year. Most accidents and injuries occur when inexperienced individuals ignite them or the fireworks are too large for them to safely deploy.
Many fireworks, when discharged, produce sounds at 150-170 decibels. Hearing damage can occur at only 110 decibels. Some of these effects may only last 24-48 hours, however it’s common to have lasting hearing damage or permanent tinnitus caused by the excessive levels of sound that fireworks produce. Ear protection is always recommended whenever you will be near a firework display especially for young children. To be safe, adults need to be at least 50-65 feet away from the blast, and children need a distance of at least 150 feet away.
Remember even sparklers can be dangerous! These seemingly innocent fireworks burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and account for 25% of the emergency room visits due to firework mishaps! Remember that before you hand them to children this 4th of July!
Drink After the Show, Please!
Another factor that causes higher volume of patients in the ER each year, are individuals who have gotten injured using fireworks while impaired. Using fireworks responsibly also means abstaining from alcohol before taking part in setting off fireworks.
Quick Tips and Facts
- Never hold lit fireworks in your hands
- Always have water or a fire extinguisher nearby
- Do not use fireworks while impaired
- Never try to relight a dud or un-exploded firework
- Spent fireworks should be soaked in water for several hours before discarding
- Never try to light more than one firework at a time
For more information on firework safety, take a look at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission‘s site. Have a great 4th of July weekend and be safe!
Navigating the different types of leave available for employees can quickly get confusing. FMLA, ADA, Company Leave, FFCRA, PTO, STD, LTD – it’s a sea of acronyms, each with their own set of rules and guidelines that often overlap or weave together. Keeping track of the various types of leave available can be challenging, but employers would be best suited to strategize which leaves may be applicable to them and develop policies around them. Because employees will inevitably need to take time off, employers need to have a basic knowledge of laws and policies that protect both the employee and protect the company.
Types of Leave
Generally, when looking at the wide variety of time the employee can take off, employers should understand that there are two main functions of defining leave: How does the employee receive pay and How long must the employer hold the employee’s job and/or benefits? Both of these items are very clearly defined in the federal FMLA regulations applicable to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. Outside of the standard FMLA, employers are encouraged to have a company leave policy that defines these same benefits.
Where FMLA protects the employee for not only their own health condition but that of their immediate family member, the ADA may protect just the employee by providing a reasonable accommodation, which could include a short-term leave of absence. The ADA doesn’t require employers to hold the employee’s job or their benefits nor does it require continuation of pay. However, the employee may be eligible to use Short-Term or Long-Term Disability along with company Paid Time Off, Sick Time and or Vacation time during this absence.
Because these leaves can stack together, employers need to closely evaluate every situation to determine what different leave options may apply.
What to Do Now
Take a moment to review your current employee handbook to ensure that you have a clearly defined FMLA policy if applicable. Even if you are subject to FMLA, all companies should also have a leave policy defined for those employees who are either not yet eligible for FMLA or where FMLA doesn’t apply. In that company leave policy, the employer can define whether the leave is paid or unpaid and how long the employee is allowed to remain on the company benefit plan during leave. Additionally, the employer can define how long they will hold the employee’s job during leave. It is important to be consistent with these guidelines to prevent discriminatory practices.
As more and more states begin to loosen their stay at home restrictions, the question many business owners have right now is, “When can we get our employees back to work, and how do we do so, safely?” Many companies were able to transition to a remote working environment and subsequently have seen their employees really step up to the plate and become very productive working from home. As a result, numerous businesses are making the decision to allow their employees to continue to work from home even as regulations begin to allow a return to work. St. Louis County specifically stated that if a business has been able to efficiently operate remotely, they should consider allowing employees to continue to work from home for a little longer.
Getting Back on the Job
However, not all businesses can operate remotely and may be eager to get their employees back to work as soon as possible. First and foremost, those businesses must follow the protocol outlined in the applicable reopening guidelines as directed by their states or counties. This could include limited staff or patrons in the building, or enhanced cleaning and employee health screenings. In order to effectively follow these guidelines, employers may choose to allow employees back in waves, or stagger office hours, thus, limiting the exposure each employee has to other coworkers. This may be a great solution for the manufacturing industry where employees work closely to one another.
Safety and Sanitization
Not only may enhanced sanitization be required, it can also help ease employee’s minds when returning. Sanitizing shared or frequently used work surfaces multiple times per day will help reduce potential exposure to the virus. We recommend providing access to hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for employees. Many companies are requiring all employees who return to work, wear masks and/or gloves to help protect themselves. Though it is not a requirement, it’s recommended that if the organization is requiring employees to wear masks and gloves, those should be supplied by the company. Furthermore, management should also consider putting new policies in place for all employees returning to work, so staff is aware of these expectations and mandates prior to returning to work.
Health Screenings and Considerations
As businesses reopen, they may be required to perform daily health screenings under applicable legislation, or they may choose to do so in an effort to protect staff. These screenings can include daily health questions to confirm the employee is not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been around anyone with those symptoms. It could also include taking the temperatures of staff or visitors. This may cause an issue with privacy concerns, so employers should take great caution with those administering these tests and protecting the data. Employers do have the right to refuse work to anyone who is sick with COVID-19-like symptoms.
The environment employees are returning to may look very different from the environment they left a few months ago. The dynamic in the office will be a little foreign and helping employees get back into the swing of things and adjusting to the changes, is important. Reminding and enforcing guidelines on sanitization, masks, social distancing, and health screenings can help ease concerns of employees apprehensive of returning. However, there may be employees who are simply too scared to return, and these situations should be handled carefully. Overall, employers should strive to provide peace of mind to know staff and remind them the primary concern is employee safety.
As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory as a society, we will start to learn more about what works best and create new best practices for our businesses. Below are some helpful links from the CDC and OSHA that will help you make informed decisions on how to proceed with safely opening your businesses and getting back to work. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
To say these are uncertain times is an understatement. COVID-19 has our nation on edge and your employee’s well-being and safety is your top priority. Many employees are teleworking for the first time, isolated from co-workers, friends and family. Disruption of their daily routine can cause anxiety and stress – physically, mentally, and financially. It is imperative that business owners and managers step back, remain calm, and show support for their employees.
A great internship is a first step towards a successful career, and we are committed to giving college students real, valuable experience in a variety of fields through our hands-on summer internship program.
Our 2019 summer interns bring a variety of business and finance interests and skill sets with them, and we are so excited to help them grow over the next several weeks.
Courtney Long will be graduating in December with a major in Finance from the University of Central Missouri. She is from the suburbs south of Chicago.
Her long-term career goal is to someday own an investment property or to renovate a property – but before that time comes, she hopes to get a job in either the banking or insurance industry after graduation. She loves going on hikes, preferably in the mountains, but the Missouri Ozark mountains work just fine. She is excited to start working with such a large wonderful group of people!
In my last post, I talked about the benefits of beginning your employee benefits renewal process today. It seems soon, but restarting your renewal cycle now will give you time to perform a deep analysis of your current programs and effectively increase employee engagement with your offerings.
We are celebrating our third consecutive year as a finalist in the St. Louis Business Journal’s Best Places to Work Awards.
It’s common for employee benefits renewals and analysis to sit at the bottom of business leaders’ to-do lists until the deadline approaches. And most brokers agree that this is the best time to start drilling into the data and gathering information from the carriers.
In 2017, occupational injuries involving ice, snow, or sleet that required at least one day away from work to recover occurred at a rate of 1.8 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.
It’s no secret that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on costs correlated to work-related injuries and illnesses.
Did I get your attention?
On Thursday, April 26, the IRS announced that the maximum family contribution limit for Health Savings Accounts is raised to back to $6,900.
We do everything we can to prevent a claim, but eventually the inevitable occurs. Be prepared.
We’re all familiar with the down-sides of cigarette and tobacco use – it increases health risks, raises medical costs, and it often lowers productivity in the workplace. It’s costly for the employer and the individual smoking, so many companies are implementing no-smoking policies and even minimizing the number of smokers they hire. As a risk management and human resources company, Cornerstone Insurance Group decided to weigh in on this important topic.
On Monday, March 5, 2018, the IRS announced that the maximum family contribution limit to a Health Savings Account (HSA) has been reduced from $6,900 to $6,850 for 2018.
We recommend that a company’s human resources department implements a zero-tolerance harassment policy for the workplace. As we discussed in our last blog post on sexual harassment, employees should have clear guidelines on how to identify and report sexual harassment to the human resources department, and be encouraged to do so.
All employees have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment or any form of discrimination. It is up to leadership and the human resources department to meet the requirements of Title VII of the of the Civil Rights Act to maintain a harassment and discrimination-free workplace.
Our previous blog discussed identifying some of the warning signs for workplace violence. Once you know the signs of a violent act, the best defense is to be aware of actions you can take now to mitigate exposures in your workplace so that you and your coworkers don’t become victims. The best defense against workplace violence is prevention.
Workplace violence is an unfortunate fact of everyday life in the United States.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased the annual dollar limits for various welfare and retirement plan limits for 2018, including HDHPs, HSAs, FSAs and 401(k) plans.
The New York Times just reported that the Equifax breach was caused by the negligence of one employee. Despite the risk management and security measures the consumer credit reporting agency had taken to protect the sensitive data of its more than 800 million customers, it took only one person to make a single devastating mistake that would jeopardize the company’s entire operation.
Terminations are unpleasant, but avoiding them can lead to bigger issues in your workplace, including lower morale and efficiency.
As a human resources company with over 50 years of experience, Cornerstone Insurance Group has gained valuable insight into how best to handle terminations within any organization.
Developing policies for discipline and termination is a great way to prevent employee claims, especially when the policies are clearly communicated to new hires and maintained throughout the company.
The experts at Cornerstone Insurance Group have over 50 years of experience in Human Resources and compliance solutions, and have seen how the lack of a solid disciplinary policy can negatively impact an organization.
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