Monthly Archives

December 2019


2019 Year-End OSHA Updates

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is preparing proposals in the new year. Many of OSHA regulations on the agenda pertain to and affect blue-collar industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and manual labor. Two proposals on the agenda for the beginning of 2020 will discuss forklift and walking-working surface regulations.

The forklift proposal will incorporate updates to the 1969 powered industrial trucks standard from the current industry consensus standard. OSHA is gathering data to determine adequate requirements for the maintenance and use of powered industrial trucks, as well as the training of operators.

The walking-working surface proposal will likely be introduced after the forklift proposal and will serve to refine the 2016 standards. OSHA has received feedback about the vagueness and has proposed updates to explicate that language.

The agenda addressing Puerto Rico has been delayed due to the inability to meet requirements for approval. OSHA has progressed in completing the final phases of the Standards Improvement Project and updating its quantitative fit-testing requirements for respirators.

While it may not be on the upcoming agenda for 2020, OSHA is shifting to limit online training to promote in-person, interactive training for workers to provide opportunities to ask questions, receive feedback from trainers, and ensure compliance with OSHA requirements in real-time. OSHA is not opting to eliminate online training altogether. It is in fact interested in providing a qualified trainer hotline that workers can have access to during online training. However, OSHA is adamant that online training is not optimal for these types of industries.

Other regulation proposals have made their way to the final ruling stages.

  • Construction industry cranes and derricks standard
  • Additional exemptions to be added to roadway work
  • Beryllium exposure clarification of the ancillary provisions of the general industry standard
  • Construction and shipyard standards

While there are more pending proposals to be discussed, they are not on OSHA’s agenda as of yet. Here are some other items that are pending OSHA’s discussion and final rule.

  •  Update hazard communication standard to conform with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
  • Update “confined space” in construction welding and cutting standard to a clear, concise definition
  •  Update communication tower standard protections in small, highly hazardous industry
  • Create standards and regulations for issues like tree care and workplace violence

It is important for business owners to stay updated on OSHA regulations and changes to regulations as it affects both the way business is conducted, as well as the safety and compliance of a business’s workers. If you’re uncertain of how OSHA affects your business or would like to evaluate your current policies, contact Harbor America. As your partner in HR services, we can help with workers’ compensation, technology, compliance support, commercial insurance, and safety and risk management. You don’t need to be an expert because Harbor America is staffed with experts who would love to help you find innovative, effective business solutions tailored to you!


Mental Health x

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

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Mental health has long been a taboo subject, especially that of workplace discussions. Thirty-eight percent of employees believed their bosses would perceive their mental health concerns as an excuse to not work and 34% believed it would negatively influence their chances of promotions.1 Because of this negative stigma, many people do not seek help. Particularly in the blue-collar industry, mental and emotional well-being demands just as much attention as physical health. The common perspective of both men and those who work in manual labor jobs is that they have to be tough, which oftentimes hinders the ability to admit there’s a problem and seeking help.

Did you know that mental health, specifically depression, is the leading cause of disability worldwide? Some of the industries with the highest rates of depression or other mental health issues include construction, manufacturing, public transportation, real estate, social services, and legal services.

Mental Health Facts

  • Mental health’s impact is universal, common, and can have long-lasting effects. It does not discriminate – any gender, race, socioeconomic status, geographic location – mental health issues can formulate anywhere, at any time, in anyone. It is also more common despite popular belief that you may be alone or that nobody will understand you. If ignored and left untreated, mental illness can have serious consequences, such as hospitalization, workplace violence, or suicide. These long-lasting effects can take a toll.
  •  Prolonged or serious mental health issues affect productivity. Depression can reduce productivity by 20% and cognitive performance by 35%.2 Mental health problems typically cause ineffective communications, which in turn can result in poor productivity and professional relationships.
  •  Not only does poor mental health compromise work productivity, but it also increases safety liabilities. People whose mental health is compromised can affect workplace decision-making that may put themselves and coworkers in danger.
  • Workplace environments can increase the impact on mental health. For example, working in a particular role that places a person under extreme conditions can impact mental health. A person who works outside in extreme heat and executes work that requires dangerous machinery or tasks might suffer mental health issues. Physical health issues can also lead to mental health issues. Stress eating and/or drinking could lead to toxic habits that can influence self-confidence and create mental health problems.

How Management Can Help

Though the fight for mental health awareness has proved effective as the rates for those seeking treatment reflect in recent years, but the number remains high. The best way to combat the issue is to take a proactive role in doing so. Management is the first line of response to relieving the situation.

Here are some tips on how management can take action:

  • Education and training. One of the greatest hurdles to providing proper mental health awareness is the lack of education and training. There are countless resources to seek adequate education and training to assist in recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health issues. While education and training does not necessarily mean you’re a qualified professional to give advice, it allows you to refer certified mental health professionals when someone is in need beyond venting or a shoulder to cry on.3
  • Foster a healthy company culture. There are countless ways to develop a healthy company culture. Creating and distributing a monthly (or bi-weekly) newsletter that focuses on announcements, resources, conversation starters, team activities or events, and other relevant topics can encourage camaraderie and open communications between all employees. Conducting a weekly meditative or relaxation workshop could be beneficial. Something as simple as doing a puzzle or a yoga workshop could provide meditation and relaxation. If you want something more social and inclusive, perhaps hosting weekly company lunches or potlucks could offer the opportunity for people to connect and enjoy a free meal.
  • Provide resources. There are many ways to provide resources to your employees. For example, proving self-assessment tools, free or subsidized clinical screenings for mental health concerns (which can later be discussed with mental health professionals), health insurance discounts for mental health treatment, programs for lifestyle coaching or counseling, seminars or workshops for mental health like breathing exercises, stress management, and other ways to reduce anxiety and stress. Distributing informational materials about the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns and available treatment resources can help ensure employees know what and where to find such resources should they need or want help.
  • Take a hands-on role. As a leader in your organization, people rely on you for sound decision-making that leads to peaceful and efficient resolution. Some ways to take a more hands-on approach to mental health wellness is to pay closer attention to the number of hours your employees work and ensuring proper rest and meal breaks are being taken. Other things that can contribute to poor mental health are unrealistic demands, such as working extended hours or weekends. Perhaps offering equal distribution of extended hours among your workforce could alleviate some of the pressures and stress associated with such demand. Rewarding your workers for meeting goals or volunteering and continuing their dedication to the job through monetary or even a company- or management-provided lunch could show your appreciation. Healthier supervision is a key component to a hands-on role, which includes all of the above, as well as not being afraid to jump in and help out. Showcasing your skills and conducting work at the same level may show your respect and appreciation for their work, as well as leadership in that you’re willing to do what it takes to help out.

Though the movement to push mental health wellness to the forefront of political debates and legislative change, it is just as important for employers to take initiative in proactively providing education, training, and resources for their employees. Physical health is just as important as mental health. For ways to implement more comprehensive employee benefit solutions, contact Harbor America. As your partner in HR services, we value your business and are committed to providing the expertise you seek.

The Benefits of Internships

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There are many reasons people seek internship opportunities and unlike popular belief, are available to people of all ages and experiences. They offer great benefits to both the employer and the intern. Creating and implementing an internship program can open numerous doors to your business including increased employee retention, quality candidate pools, increase productivity and presence, and foster leadership skills, just to name a few.

Benefits for Interns

Gain work experience.

While internships aren’t necessarily age-restricted, they typically target recent college graduates. In doing so, college graduates are able to establish skills that help set them apart from other potential candidates. Internships are resume builders for those either just entering the workforce or perhaps looking to start a new career path.

Internships provide invaluable hands-on experience that cannot be taught in a classroom setting or textbook. Internships expose the day-to-day operations and expectations of roles within their respective field. While learning job-specific skills, other mobile skills like communication, teamwork, and computer proficiency can be beneficial upon entrance into the workforce post-graduation.

In the process of being groomed for the field, internees typically receive feedback from supervisors and other established industry professionals that can assist in developing and refining skills. They are also great resources for invaluable lessons and wisdom for making the most of the internship experience. Between the feedback received and hands-on training, internships allow internees to experiment and gain confidence in their abilities.

Chance to explore.

Internships provide a platform for college students who wish to explore a different career path, gain an understanding of their field of interest, and determine if they wish to pursue that career path. This can lend confidence in a student wavering between two fields in their decision. It can also provide exposure to potential problems or shortcomings of the field that they may not have expected or discovered until they entered the field.

A great reason to implement internships is the chance to network and connect with established professionals in the field. Networking with people in the field can open doors to future employment and advancement in the field. For example, if a college graduate’s greatest aspiration is to be a project manager, attending network events, such as seminars and business expos for related fields would be beneficial for the college graduate. It could present an internship opening or other advancements, such as a connection and developing a relationship with an established and/or leading industry professional could be a foot in the door for a full-time position. Nurturing the connections made through networking during an internship is critical for future prospects in the field.

Fiscal perks.

Not all internships are paid, but for the ones that are, it can serve a dual purpose. College graduates are typically eager and willing to work for lower wages to grow their professional repertoire. For example, the 2019 national average wage for interns was about $19, whereas the average wage for full-time employees was about $27. Paid internships offer greater incentives for internees to take advantage of the opportunity and earn money (or extra spending money) while building skillsets and knowledge. Internship programs could offer a higher quality candidate pool to choose from.

Internships can also lead to a potential job offer. Most employers utilize internships as a means of both grooming future employees, as well as trial runs for future employment openings. It can save them money and time they would spend in training. However, even though a job offer isn’t guaranteed, impressionable interns could receive an offer at a later time or their experience obtained at the internship company could lead to employment prospects at other companies.

Benefits of an Internship Program

Increase presence and productivity.

Creating an internship program is a mutually beneficial relationship between an inexperienced individual looking for ways to build their skills and knowledge, as well as connect with professionals in their desired industries, and the employer looking to groom a future employee and offer resources to aid the growing talent pool. An internship program can also create a stronger presence within the communities you serve. For example, local colleges and universities may look to you as a competitive internship and as a result, may garner more interest from prospective employees or clients. It showcases your dedication to both serving your community with invaluable products and services, as well as your commitment to aiding college graduates.

Forward-thinking solutions.

With current students and recent college graduates filling internship roles, you can test technology solutions as many will be tech-savvy and eager to provide any insight that might improve them. Another forward-thinking solution internship programs can offer is fostering leadership. Many people who lead the internship programs need leadership skills to provide all the facets of resources needed in internships. For example, an employee can mentor the intern and thus gain leadership skills through feedback from both the intern and company leaders to improve future processes.

Reputation builder.

Through implementing an internship program, you’re offering students and young professionals the opportunity to gain experience in their field(s) of interest. This can help close the skills gap for particular fields that may lack quality candidate pools. In bringing in younger generations, interns can provide ways to build social media presence and lend perspective on outdated or ineffective business models and strategies for landing prospective clients. Internships can create new avenues of conducting business, as well as ensuring you stay competitive in your respective industry.

With all the advantages internships can provide, you definitely do not want to miss out on what it can bring to your company. Eager to incorporate an internship program, but not sure where to start? Harbor America specializes in PEO solutions such as human resources management, which can include onboarding, compliance, employee handbook development and more. We value our community and understand the impact an internship program can offer. Call Harbor America today to discuss ways we can help you give back to yours.