Confronting Workplace Conflicts

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Workplace conflicts are inevitable and more common than you might think. From differences in personalities and lifestyle choices to stressors at work and time spent with the same people, workplace conflicts are bound to happen. 85% of employees have encountered some sort of workplace conflict, and 49% of workplace conflicts are caused by incompatible personalities and egos.[1] Unresolved, continuous, and explosive workplace conflicts can adversely affect the workplace environment, which in turn can influence employee morale and company culture. The best way to deal with workplace conflicts is to develop a process, involve the appropriate support teams, and address the conflict(s) as soon as it arises.

Here are some frequently asked questions and tips for resolving workplace conflicts.

When should HR get involved? Typically, it is advised to allow employees an opportunity to resolve minor conflicts on their own. However, incidents or conflicts that require immediate HR intervention include a personal attack or general disrespect toward another employee, an employee threatening to quit as a result of a conflict, or the conflict affects employees across departments or the entire organization.

What does a peaceful workplace conflict resolution look like? Determine a time to meet with the conflicting parties and discuss the conflict. The conflict should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid tension build-up and in a neutral space. Set some ground rules for the discussion, such as not talking over one another, and to be respectful of each side. Encourage a healthy dialogue that focuses on “I” statements that avoid accusatory language. One an agreement is established, discuss next steps. The next steps should include how to prevent future conflicts, ensure the resolution is followed through, and any other follow-up necessary. Lastly, try to end the meeting with a positive anecdote to clear the air.

When should I seek additional and/or external help? Most workplace conflicts can be peacefully resolved with the appropriate plan and training in place. However, should the conflict result in aggressive behavior, such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, or workplace violence, or you do not possess the proper training or knowledge to deal with such conflict, seek additional assistance to protect the well being of employees.

If you’re contemplating if you have adequate training and policies in place for workplace conflicts, please consult with Harbor America. We value the safety and well being of employees and have a team of HR experts who can provide HR best practices, strategize effective workplace conflict resolution, and offer human resource services that can better equip your business for future conflicts. Whether you’d like to revamp your employee handbook or simply explore alternative options for improved business solutions, please contact Harbor America today.


[1] HR Insights: Resolving Workplace Conflicts

Performance Management Tips

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Because industries are advancing in all sectors, employees and potential candidates will need to seek higher qualifications to stay competitive in the marketplace. Bachelor’s degrees have been the common baseline for most jobs in the marketplace, but as the markets become more competitive, employees should look for master’s degrees becoming the new normal. However, it is not just the degree or type of qualification that matters; it is just as important to ensure that the quality and intensity of such qualifications progress.

Over 20 years, researchers predict that those without qualifications will significantly decrease, and those with higher education degrees will significantly increase. So how can those without bachelor’s degrees or qualifications remain competitive in the candidate pools?

Here are some ways that both employees can seek opportunities to expand their expertise, and employers can set their employees up for success.

Performance Management Tips

Performance management system. Performance management systems allow HR departments to properly track real-time feedback, employee communication, training employees, ongoing progress review, goal setting, and other performance-related tasks.1 Investing in a proper performance management system and HR team to run it can assist with ensuring your employees remain compliant with company policies and procedures, are up-to-par with their skillsets, and provide ample opportunity for your employees to grow in their careers.

Performance improvement plan. Performance improvement plans are typically utilized for poor performers and/or behavioral issues. These plans are to increase productivity, improve quality of work, create a stronger relationship between employers and employees, and employee retention. The general process includes recognizing the good, identifying a specific issue, discussing feedback, setting time frame and expectations, providing the appropriate support, developing a follow-up review process, and discussing consequences.2

Upskilling. Upskilling is becoming more popular in workplaces because the primary purpose is to add value to current employees and create higher employee retention as well as employee fulfillment. Developing soft skills, technical familiarity, and continuing education are all upskilling practices that employers can utilize.

Employer-sponsored tuition assistance. As part of upskilling, continuing education can allow employees to advance in their careers, as well as build their soft skills. Employer-sponsored tuition assistance can provide employees the incentive to continue their education. As you raise the bar, your employees may find it more opportunistic to chase down that master’s degree they’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford with an employer-sponsored tuition assistance. There are many local and online universities that offer certification programs to businesses looking to create an employer-sponsored tuition assistance program.

Internship/Mentorship. Internships allow students to receive guidance from experienced professionals in their field of interest, as well as learn vital skills and insights to the industry they wish to pursue a career. Mentorships allow two advantages to employers: (1) mentorships provide employees the opportunity to step up as a leader, and (2) showcases both senior- and junior-level employees’ enthusiasm and motivation to learn and improve. Employers can save the time and money of training new employees with internships, as well as increase internal promotion and employee retention with mentorships.

Every business has unique pain points and looks for effective, long-lasting solutions. If you’re experiencing the challenge of recruiting and/or retaining quality talent, reach out to our team of HR experts at Harbor America. We understand the value of retaining employees and the time-consuming, frustrating process of seeking candidates to fill vacant positions. Your business is important to us. Harbor America is your partner PEO provider who can streamline your business processes to alleviate your time spent on back-office administrative tasks and focus on growing your business. Contact Harbor America today to explore our suite of full-service HR solutions.


1 What is a performance management system?

2 HR Insights: Performance Improvement Plans

Source: You’ll Need More and Better Qualifications to Get a Job in 2027 Read More

Tips for Avoiding Employee Burnout

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When employers think of burnout, they typically associate it with unrealistic expectations, less competitive pay, or something business-related. However, employee burnout has long been connected to workplace culture and mental health. Company culture has made its way to the forefront of business priorities as it not only assists in marketability, but also decreases employee burnout. So how can business owners fight employee burnout? Let’s take a look at some underlying causes and effects of workplace culture and mental health on employee burnout.

Harassment. Different industries are tasked with various levels of harassment. For example, those who work in multimedia industries (i.e., any sort of news outlets) are subjected to extreme scrutiny and exposed to indirect harassment on a daily basis. This can have a lasting effect on their mental health. Also contributing to employee burnout is marginalized and underrepresented populations, which can lead to inappropriate behavior towards these individuals. For example, 37% of LGBTQ+ and 90% of transgender individuals reported harassment in the workplace.1 Setting forth narrow and strictly enforced harassment policies can help deter such behavior(s) in the workplace.

Leadership Support. Unfortunately, many employees that are either on the brink of burnout or trying to fight it do not find support from members of leadership. For example, responding with a reminder that it’s “part of the job” is not an effective way to combat burnout. Acknowledge the issue the employee is presenting. Discuss ways to assist the employee by directly asking what they need from management to feel supported and alleviate the burnout. Conduct regular check-ins to ensure employees are not burning out. Whether it is a simple, “How are you doing?” or an in-depth discussion of what is working and what is not, it is a critical discussion that should be regularly implemented.

Generation Divide. One thing to consider is the differences in demands and expectations across different generations. For example, a 2019 study revealed that 50% of Millennials and 75% of Gen-Z employees cited mental health as reasons for leaving a company. This is indicative of the significance company culture plays in an employee’s decision to stay with a company. One way to balance the generational divides is to ask employees what you can do to improve the culture. Send out a general feedback survey or an anonymous suggestion box that can open a dialogue about company culture revisions. It allows people to voice an opinion without feeling like they will be retaliated against for providing their feedback. From there, you can brainstorm ways to implement such feedback. If a suggestion is not feasible, creating transparency through clear, concise communication can assist in effectively acknowledging the suggestion, offering an explanation for why it cannot be implemented, and open the floor for further suggestions to revise or replace such suggestions. This creates a respectful, collaborative environment where employees feel they are being heard and that you’re being proactive in finding a solution.

Whatever the case may be, employee burnout begins with revamping the company culture. Emotional fatigue, lack of support, and lack of role responsibilities are the most influential causes of burnout, followed by position requirements, extensive workloads, lack of reward, and low job security.2 Take a proactive approach to employee wellness by review employee handbooks, labor laws, and/or consult Harbor America. We can provide safety and risk management and HR services to assist with healthier workplace practices to safeguard employee well being.

Source: What You’re Getting Wrong About Employee Burnout



Substance Abuse and Mental Health at Work

Addressing Substance Abuse in the Workplace

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What do technology and mental health have in common? They’re both on the rise and intersecting to improve the way we receive medical services. Telehealth is a new and trending approach to modern medicine, so it should come as no surprise that telerehabilitation is pushing its way to the virtual medical services platforms.

Substance abuse in the workplace can certainly endanger employees, especially if left untreated. According to the American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Health, roughly 1 in 10 U.S. employees struggle with substance abuse and/or dependence annually, resulting in healthcare costs and work-related expenses averaging a whopping $276 million annually.1 One in five adults will not seek professional help.2

Employers can significantly reduce costs by effectively identifying, addressing, and preventing such conduct, as well as developing a substance abuse program. The substance abuse programs can incorporate telerehabilitation to encourage anonymity, engagement in professional mental health services, and provide education and additional resources for managing such health issues.

Develop a substance abuse program. The first step is recognizing mental health issues in the workplace and identifying the extent to which it impacts your employees. Developing a substance abuse program can provide many advantages for the wellbeing of your employees. It offers professional mental health services, additional resources, and continued support and education on mental health issues.

Incorporate a telerehabilitation service. Substance abuse disorders can be incredibly sensitive subjects, therefore providing a telerehabilitation service can encourage those suffering from such issues to seek help because it can help retain a sense of anonymity for the employee to feel comfortable seeking help.

Build a culture of acceptance. One way to build such a culture is to incorporate diversity and team-building activities to encourage inclusivity. Hosting employer-provided lunches, after-hours activities, weekly meetings to discuss workflow processes and projects are all ways to open honest dialogues about work and personal struggles. Building a culture of acceptance can lead to increased productivity, decrease absenteeism, and increased employee retention.

Find health insurance plans that cover mental health services. Another great way to incorporate mental health awareness, prevention, and treatment is to thoroughly review health insurance plans to ensure they cover mental health services or at minimum, offer the option. From in-patient to out-patient care, it is important to explore all available services and determine which ones are best suited for your employees.

Distribute helpful resources. There are plenty of national helplines for mental health-related crises. Crisis Text Line, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Helpline, and other crisis services are available on national and local levels. Ensuring these types of resources are available to those suffering from substance abuse disorders can assist in preventing and treating such issues.

Mental health and substance abuse in the workplace can be delicate, complex issues that need to be handled with the utmost care to avoid lawsuits and/or other liabilities that may result if such situations are not handled properly. Human resources management can provide industry insights to ensure you remain within compliance, address any safety and risk management issues, and handle the HR intricacies that come with an employee undergoing treatment for substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Contact Harbor America to ensure that your employee handbook and policies remain in compliance. We understand the importance of employee wellbeing and can work to tailor our employee benefits and HR services to meet your unique business needs.


1 Substance Use Disorder

2 Mental Health in the Workplace

Source: Benefits Insights: Telerehabilitation

Artificial Intelligence and Avoiding Bias

Artificial Intelligence 101

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How It Works

The first step in utilizing and changing AI is understanding how AI works. The best way to summarize how AI works is that it is essentially a computer algorithm that is typically used to filter people by categories and requirements input by humans. The more information input into the AI systems, more refined results are generated.

How to Avoid Bias

You may have heard or read articles on recent issues AI has caused across industries. Most notoriously are law enforcement agencies, who have been battling the AI bias for quite some time. Recently, a report of an AI program used by a U.S. court to assess risk was biased toward the African American population – flagging black offenders twice as likely to reoffend than white offenders.1

Other lawsuits regarding bias using AI technology have occurred. In 2018, Amazon implemented past employee resumes as an outline for what they’re looking for in a candidate, but backfired as the AI discriminated against female candidates.2 In 2015, Google created an image recognition program that corresponded black people as gorillas.3 In 2016, LinkedIn created an advertising program that resulted in a bias against female names in searches.4 Also in 2016, Microsoft created a chatbot that was to learn Twitter formulas, but resulted in creating antisemitic messages.5 All of these lawsuits and issues are prime examples of when AI technically does exactly what it is told, but works against us.

The best way to avoid bias is to first understand how the AI will read the information. Understanding AI’s processing of information can help you determine what, how much, and words to avoid when inputting information into the system. Next, you might want to identify potential ways AI can misinterpret the information. This can aid you in forward-thinking solutions for problems the technology might cause. To learn more on AI, watch Janelle Shane’s Ted Talk on how AI breaks down the information humans input and ways to combat bias.

AI is still on the rise and implemented across industries. However, more state regulations have emerged to help regulate any potential discrimination or bias issues involved with its use. To ensure you are in compliance with local, state, and federal laws, please contact Harbor America. We understand how complex regulatory compliance can be, which is why Harbor America can provide you with a solution tailored to your compliance needs.

1 Machine Bias
2 Amazon Scraps Secret AI Recruiting Tool that Showed Bias Against Women
3 Google Says Sorry for Racist Auto-Tag in Photo App
4 How LinkedIn’s Search Engine May Reflect a Gender Bias

Source: Rise of the Racist Robots: How AI Is Learning All Our Work Impulses

Returnships: What You Need to Know

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While the younger generations have been overwhelming the general workforce, there are still individuals that are returning to work. Whether it is an individual returning from a medical condition, someone coming out of retirement, or a parent returning to the workforce, sometimes a period to reacclimate to the work environment can assist these individuals with a smoother, more successful transition.

Returnships are programs that can range from a few weeks to a few months that help individuals returning to the workforce develop relevant skills, build professional experience, and expand their networks. Returnships can offer a unique, alternative approach to recruiting strategies. Some industries require a depth of knowledge and experience in a field, which can create rifts in hiring new or entry-level employees to fill the voids.

While some companies may view this as a delay to their onboarding, returnships offer minimal risk because while employees may learn at a slowed pace, they are able to develop a deeper understanding of the company mission and ethos.

Returnships also do not guarantee employment. For example, if an individual finds that returning to work isn’t feasible, or the company does not think the candidate is the right fit, the individual does not have to accept or be presented an offer.

Although returnships are revolutionizing the way new or returning workers can reenter the workforce with ease, there are some loopholes in the implementation that need to be addressed. One hurdle to address is the difficulty of implementation of returnship programs due to the new concept. Many industries do not know how to design or implement returnship programs into their business structure. This also influences determining compensation for such programs.

Lastly, returnship programs are vastly different from company to company. It is important for individuals looking for such a program to do their due diligence to find a returnship that best suits their needs. Perhaps those that have already implemented or planning to implement a returnship program should look into varying levels to address various needs among their top candidate pools.

Returnship programs can assist in recruiting efforts at organizations of all sizes. However, not all organizations are equipped for returnship programs. As such, it is important to weigh the benefits these programs may offer to your company before advocating and implementing them. Not sure if you’re ready or equipped for this? Contact Harbor America, your partner PEO, who can provide insight into a business solution that best suits your needs.

Source: HR Insights: Returnship Programs

OSHA Agr x

OSHA: Agricultural Risks and Prevention

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With all the risks involved in agriculture, employees must remain diligent in their efforts to prevent injury. Noise exposure is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the agriculture industry. As such, the agriculture industry should implement ways to educate the risks associated with the work, as well as provide adequate training to prevent such injuries.

Exposure to high sound levels increases a worker’s likelihood of hearing injury. Because agriculture uses noisy equipment like tractors, chain saws, grain dryers, and other heavy equipment for extended periods of time, OSHA [recommends] hearing protection for sound levels above 90 decibels or exposure to high sound levels of eight hours or longer.

Employers undertake the responsibility to protect their employees. Here are a few tips to help reduce noise exposures:


Both providing appropriate and sufficient equipment is imperative to adequate protection. Perform regular maintenance checks on all equipment to ensure there are no machine parts increasing decibels while in use. Replacing outdated, worn, or defective parts can reduce noise levels. Remaining up to date on equipment models and featured tools for such equipment can also reduce noise levels.


Delegating work on rotation can help reduce exposure to noisy equipment. For example, having a worker or group of workers operating a loud machine rotates to a less noisy task after a set period of time could reduce exposure to such high noise levels and risks. Individuals with already developed hearing problems should not be tasked with high noise tasks or work in high noise work areas.


Be proactive in identifying any potential risks and preventative methods to reduce hearing injuries. For example, if an individual displays symptoms or complains of symptoms of potential hearing loss, referring him or her to an audiologist to determine a potential injury can prevent further injury. Being proactive can also include awareness of your surroundings, such as ensuring all employees are following safety protocols and adequate safety equipment is provided to all workers. For more information on safety and health in agriculture, please visit OSHA’s website which provides helpful tools to assist with such concerns. If you’re not sure if you are in compliance with OSHA standards or would like to learn more about risk management, please contact Harbor America. We value the safety and wellbeing of all employees and have a team of safety and risk management experts that are more than happy to help find a solution that best suits your business needs.


Source: Agriculture Risk Advisor

Upskilling to Lead Company Revamping

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With the HR industry revitalizing and revamping its strategies to best position businesses in the competitive markets, the hunt for top talent is scarce. Marketing efforts have evolved to unique and quality benefits that attract younger, mobile candidates, as well as innovative, robust workplace settings and culture to retain top employees. With the struggle of attracting and maintaining a strong workforce, companies may see a shift to utilizing upskilling methods rather than engaging in the daunting HR processes for terminating, hiring, and recovering from employee turnover.

Upskilling is employer-provided training and education to learn new skills and enhance already established skillsets. This investment in employees showcases the value you have for their expertise, their trust, and enthusiasm to further their career within your corporation, and provides a win-win situation.

66% of global executives prioritize upskilling their employees.1 Upskilling provides benefits for both employees and employers.

For employees, upskilling provides broad growth opportunities and marketability. Learning new skills and honing established skillsets equip employees with more opportunities to advance their careers. With AI and automation revolutionizing the workforce, upskilling presents employees with a competitive edge to demonstrate adaptability and collaborative skills.

For employers, upskilling boosts employee retention and competitive strategy among rivaling companies and industries. Upskilling can reduce job vacancies and onboarding expenses, while also providing professional development opportunities for current employees. Progressing employee skills to adapt to changes in the market allows your business to prosper and sustain an ambitious position in the marketplace.

How to Implement an Upskilling Strategy

Evaluate business demands. The first and best place to begin strategizing for upskilling begins with evaluating the skill gaps and brainstorming solutions. From there, you can determine an appropriate approach to implementing such solutions.

Strategize long-term needs and resources. Next, you should look to the market that you service and predict shifts in skillsets and systems that will influence the employee demand and marketability. This will allow you to strategize for future needs and resources that will [sustain] in the long term.

Analyze employee needs. Employees carry individual skillsets that benefit your business. Take a moment to analyze what each employee brings to the table, and then identify potential areas of expanding such skillsets to further assist your business challenges.

Develop adequate upskilling programs. Cultivating programs tailored to both employee interests and business needs will provide more successful upskilling. Ensure programs are up to date with market and business changes, as well as using sufficient technology to advance such programs. Take advantage of technology. Investing in technology, such as performance management tools, can assist in the proper identification of areas for improvement, as well as methods for developing skills to improve.

Looking for ways to revamp your company’s approach to recruiting and employee retention? Harbor America provides an inclusive suite of HR management solutions, including onboarding, compliance, unemployment, and much more. Contact us today to learn more about ways to promote the use of upskilling and other resources available to advance your business needs.


1HR Insights: Benefits of Upskilling

2020 HR Trends to Watch

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The human resources industry has been long-standing and evolving. It is an industry that thrives on its foundation of communication, connection, and managing employee relations. As we enter 2020, there are some new trends that are revitalizing the HR industry’s foundation and ones you, as a business owner, will want to stay on top of.

Human-Centric Interactions

People are looking for more meaningful connections, both as business representatives and individuals. With genuine connection and building lasting relationships with clients, business owners might want to re-evaluate their in-house workforce and ensure their foundation can weather any storm. There are two organizational points that should be well-developed to nourish the human-centric interactions: leadership and company culture. Budding friendships with coworkers, placing an emphasis on gratitude, and collaborating on effective solutions to alleviate pain points are great ways to address company culture issues. Creating a positive, robust company culture starts with leadership. Finding leaders who can motivate, delegate, and integrate diverse personalities, cultures, and individual needs are imperative to successful changes in company culture.

Community Outreach

There is a humanitarian movement that is breaching the workplace. 2020 should see a shift of corporate social responsibility moving toward the forefront of business initiatives. Whether the social pressure has prompted companies to place more emphasis on giving back to the local communities they serve, or genuinely wanting to connect and develop a stronger relationship with the local communities, businesses are pushing social initiatives to new boundaries.

Balancing Accountability

With employee engagement and productivity becoming more vital to the integrity of a business’s vision, balancing employer and employee accountability will be pushed in the coming years. Employers will need to implement creative, innovative means for workplace engagement, whereas employees will need to develop well-rounded work ethics that encompass enthusiasm, ambition, and stamina for the work ahead of them. The focus will be less on employees only and shift to the entirety of a corporation, including leaders.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Remote and other flexible work arrangements are becoming the norm. Nine-to-five and five-day workweeks are being pushed out of normal business practices. As most businesses are revamping their corporate cultures and balancing responsibilities among all levels of their organizations, it should come as no surprise that the structure of such businesses will change as well. Research has shown that flexible schedules and work arrangements improve productivity and overall wellbeing of employees.

Data-Driven Strategy

Data analyses can drive strategy for predictive behaviors and better position companies for recruiting and retaining top talent. Using data can offer real-time and real-world analyses of what is working and what is not within the ebbs and flows of a corporate structure. Utilizing such data to formulate refined strategies can provide companies the boost they seek in both employee engagement and employee retention.

As the HR industry continues to evolve and trends constantly change, it can be cumbersome for business owners to stay on top of it all. For help managing your HR systems and processes, call Harbor America. We offer extensive HR resources and services that can push your business to the top. From workers’ compensation, payroll administration, safety and risk management, and technology, we value your business demands and provide adequate solutions for your HR issues.


Source: 8 HR Predictions for 2020


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!