Compliance Archives - Harbor America


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!





Understanding HIPAA Privacy

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Regulatory compliance can be confusing and costly, leaving employers feeling intimidated and worried about the potential for fines and errors. When It comes to government compliance, including HIPAA and OSHA, Harbor America is on your side and will help you navigate any regulations you may be overlooking.
HIPAA regulates health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and electronic transactions conducted by healthcare providers.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect a person’s medical records and other health information.  This rule applies to both self-funded and fully insured health plans, and covered entities and business associates.  The Privacy Rule defines and limits the circumstances where a person’s protected health information may be used or disclosed.
Contact Harbor America to learn more about regulatory compliance.



Minimizing Risk: Updating Your Policies and Procedures

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Companies deal with their policies and procedures in one of two ways: Proactive or Reactive.

A business that operates under the proactive approach will make necessary or anticipated changes as they happen. As the direction of the company changes, or as the generational gap in the employee base closes, companies may adjust their policies and procedures to evolve with more modern wants and needs of the industry and to keep employees happy.

Conversely, businesses that are satisfied with the status quo and have the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mindset operate under the reactive approach. These businesses are under the impression that everything is running smoothly and there is no need to either document something that hasn’t happened yet or edit/update a policy simply because of a single, isolated issue.

There is associated risk, though, when it comes to not proactively updating your organization’s operating policies and procedures. For example, more than 19 lawsuits were filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for alleged violations concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) resulting in “more than $6 million in settlements.”[1]

Employers are encouraged to fully understand their responsibilities to their employees, their consumers or clients, and the industry in which they serve. In a situation where the business does not have the best practices in place, there is no time like the present to start working toward getting on track.

Begin by taking a look at all policies and procedures individually, apart from the employee or company handbook as a whole. The handbook may have a recent revision date, but that date will reflect the last revision, not the most recent update for each policy. Each individual policy and documented procedure should feed into the overarching handbook. However, each policy and procedure should also have its own revision or last update date. It is recommended that all policies and procedures are reviewed annually to ensure that nothing gets overlooked every twelve-months.

With each audit or subsequent update, instruct those responsible for managing the process to schedule a training on the updated documentation. Then, once annually, a larger training should be held, in more of a town hall set-up, to review the parent handbook with the entire group. Spending time to review the changes with the entire organization will help business leaders to understand if there are any knowledge gaps requiring additional training on any of the policies or procedures.

Finally, comprise a working list of controls to help mitigate any outstanding or potential risk. This step will help those with the responsibility of managing the regular policies and procedures audit the documentation properly, while actively planning for future improvements.

Going forward, it is important to note that policy and procedure documents should be easily accessible in a digital format, rather than delivered only as printed materials. This will also save the organization when it comes to the need to republish any of the documentation. It can simply be updated digitally rather than reprinted for all employees.

It may be difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing legislation that feeds HR policies and procedures directly. Here are some websites to help keep you current:

If you’re ready to provide your business leaders and employees better policy and procedure documentation, Harbor America can help. Contact us to learn more about improving operational effectiveness and efficiency.

[1] HR Daily Advisor: EEOC, Employee Continue to See Success in Disability Cases

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Creating a Portable Fire Extinguisher Checklist

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It is reported that nearly 80%[1] of fires could have been extinguished by a portable fire extinguisher. Unless employees are tasked with fire safety, they may never actually notice the thoughtfully placed fire extinguishers around the building.

Fire extinguishers are designed to fight small, early-stage fires that present a relatively small hazard to the operator. “Portable fire extinguishers can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives…”[2] Fire extinguishers are designed for small, slow to grow fires with minimal smoke and heat.

Portable fire extinguishers require monthly visual inspections to help ensure the extinguisher is in proper operating condition. The best practice is to create a checklist for managing regular visual inspections. The below items should be included on the monthly checklist:

  • The extinguisher is easily located in a conspicuous, designated, and unobstructed location
  • The locking pin is in place
  • Tamper seal is unbroken
  • Extinguisher feels full when lifted
  • The pressure gauge is within the operable range
  • Legible operating instructions are facing outward
  • Check the last professional service date is within 12 months

Annual inspections may require additional time and more maintenance or testing to be completed by a certified fire suppression professional.

Protect your employees and business by ensuring you have the right fire prevention and protection in place. From fire extinguishers to automatic sprinklers secured overhead, these are your business’s best bet for extinguishing small, controllable fires.

Contact Harbor America to discuss preparing a unique safety plan specific to your business to reduce risks and keep your employees safe.

[1] Fireline: The Importance of Fire Extinguishers
[2] National Fire Protection Association: Fire Extinguisher

Ladder Safety Tips

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Not only are falls one of the top three most disabling workplace injuries, but ladders are also sixth on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Volitions list.[1] Most of the ladder-related workplace incidents occur due to basic ladder safety rule violations. Proper use of ladders including ladder storage and adequate training can significantly reduce related injuries and accidents. Contact Harbor America to inquire about OSHA compliance resources, online training manuals, or compliance posters as an extension of your total package of safety and risk management resources.

What Employers Need to Know

  • More than 700 ladder injuries occur every day.
  • The most common ladder accidents include missing the last step/rung when climbing down or overreaching.
  • Choose the right ladder by thinking about the task, the size or style of the ladder, and the ladder can handle your weight.
  • Avoid climbing the ladder if you feel dizzy, if it is too windy, or the ladder is not in proper operating condition.
  • Always remember to take your time and never rush to finish a job.

Contact Harbor America to bolster your total safety and risk management resources.

The SPCC Rule: What you Need to Know

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The Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule helps organizations create, maintain, and implement an SPCC plan to prevent or control spills should one occur. Information on how to create your own SPCC plan can be found on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site, along with plan templates and examples. While risks are a natural part of any business, Harbor America aims to control risks, including environmental oil spills, in order to establish the long-term success of your business. Contact us for additional information.

What You Need to Know:

  • SPCC stands for Spills Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure
  • The SPCC Task Force was formed in 1988 after the Floreffe, Pennsylvania oil spill.
  • The rule clarifies provisions in the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation, regulates facilities, and requires facility-specific response plans.
  • The goal of SPCC is to prevent oil spills from reaching waters or shorelines.
  • In the event of an oil spill, contact the National Response Center, the EPA regional office, or the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.

Learn more about where your organization stands in terms of the SPCC rule by visiting the EPA website. Contact Harbor America to learn more.

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Hazard Communication Program Plans

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Each employer who has employees working with or around hazardous chemicals is required to implement a formal hazard communication program to help manage and maintain employee safety. These five steps are crucial to keeping employees safe from hazardous chemicals.

  1. Develop a written program plan to document the business policy for hazardous chemicals. Details of the plan should include how to communicate a chemical hazard, employee training, and an inspection schedule. The plan can and should contain additional details specific to your business that may be pertinent to a successful hazard communication program plan.
  2. Create a complete inventory of all hazardous chemicals. Inventory should be taken regularly with any deviations reported immediately.
  3. Employees should be able to access chemical safety data sheets (SDS), which include a full library of the chemicals housed on-site. Find the full 16 sections required for a complete SDS here.
  4. Hazardous chemicals should be clearly labeled with highly visible permanent labels.
  5. Employees should receive regular training and communication regarding hazardous chemicals. Reinforcing the hazard communication program plan and details about how to handle and report issues when dealing with hazardous chemicals is the key to the success of your program.

OSHA’s sample hazard communication plan can be found here.

Employee safety is one of the most important investments you will routinely make as an employer. It helps to reestablish a strong sense of culture and workplace safety for employees and managers. Contact us today to learn about the different compliance resources offered by Harbor America.


Is Your Payroll System a Total Disaster?

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Do you run a small or mid-sized business? If you do, then how is your payroll system? Is it in order or is your payroll a total disaster? If it isn’t as streamlined, accurate or organized as it should be, you could face huge problems. Here are some of the most common payroll mistakes and the potential consequences of not keeping a tidy payroll system:

Errors in Employee Classification on W-2 Forms

Not classifying employees properly is one of the most common payroll mistakes. When this occurs, it can result in major employment tax penalties. In other words, sometimes business contractors classify workers as independent contractors to avoid having to pay the extra costs for Workers’ Compensation, Social Security and State Unemployment.

Poor Record Keeping

Failing to keep accurate records is another sign of a messy payroll system as well as failing to gather the right data. Although it takes time, it’s critical you keep a chronological history of everything pertaining to your business and employees since not doing so can result in having to pay hefty fines and penalties (including interest).

Confidentiality Breaches

Breaches in confidentiality in your payroll can lead to problems. Your payroll system should be set up so that your employees cannot find out the salaries of their coworkers or even your salary.

Being Unaware of Tax Laws

Probably, the most dangerous payroll error is ignorance. If you’re not up to date on all the tax laws, you’ll suffer. You need to familiarize yourself with all the mandatory regulations and keep up-to-date as these change. This can be a very daunting task, which is one reason why it makes sense to outsource payroll to a PEO.

Rushing Through Payroll

Not taking the time needed for doing your payroll can lead to either underpaying or overpaying employees, resulting in employees questioning your abilities. What’s more, when your payroll is inaccurate, your business could experience severe financial consequences during audit checks when the numbers fail totally.

Potential Consequences of an Untidy Payroll System 

  • Payroll mistakes can lead to considerable financial loss for your company.
  • Legal problems—Often, businesses are faced with audits and other types of legal actions because of payroll errors and messy record keeping.
  • Productivity can suffer when you’re forced to spend hours or even days searching for lost records, instead of working. As time is money, this can also cost you financially.
  • When you spend valuable office time trying to correct payroll mistakes, it’s easy for your employees to not be paid on time. Falling behind on a payroll schedule can affect company morale and lead to employees quitting.
  • Data loss is another significant consequence. That’s why you should have a backup plan in case records are lost. In the worst cases, companies can go bankrupt or even go out of business because of lost records, lack of compliance, or financial errors.

Other Warnings and Considerations

  • Taxes are one of the most complex features of payroll. Consider how it’s easy to make errors in the withholding process because deductions can be either mandatory, or they can be voluntary.
  • One way to determine if an employee is an independent contractor or an employee is by asking how much control your company has over a worker. The more control there is over a worker, the more likely he or she is an employee and not an independent contractor.
  • If you have misclassified any of your employees as independent contractors, it’s imperative that you immediately contact the IRS.
  • Consider that part of a payroll system may entail paying money that an employee owes to someone else or a third party, such as garnished wages for child support. When this is overlooked or mishandled, your business can be affected.
  • Stress to your employees the importance of informing the HR (Human Resources) department when there are changes in their employment histories.
  • It’s a good idea to have mandatory employee data checks on a quarterly basis to make sure that your payroll system is updated and accurate, regarding the information you have on them.

Get Help With Your Payroll System From Harbor America

You don’t have to be a slave to your payroll. More and more business owners are discovering the benefits of outsourcing their payroll system to a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). This is just one of the many services we offer at Harbor America. Please contact us for a free quote and learn more about how you can find more hours in your workday.


Cyber Liability Insurance – Is It Really Necessary for Small Businesses?

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Cybersecurity has been a hot topic of discussion for businesses in the last few years, thanks to infamous data breaches like the incident with Target in 2014 or Experian in 2017. One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is how to defend against cybercrime in general, and especially data breaches.

Many companies – large and small – are looking to cybersecurity software to keep them safe and minimize risk. This is a good idea, but statistics show that both the amount of data stored in the cloud and the number of cybercrimes committed are rising. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are wise to the measures businesses and individuals are taking. Businesses, especially smaller ones, should consider the benefits of cyber liability insurance as part of a backup plan in the event that their security measures fail.

What is cyber liability insurance?

Cyber liability insurance is a specific type of insurance policy that is meant to protect businesses and individuals from internet-based risks, such as data breaches or cybercrimes.

Generally speaking, there are two levels of coverage under these policies. The first is first-party coverage, which covers the direct losses a person or an organization suffers. The second is a third-party, which takes care of legal actions or claims brought against the company by its partners or customers.

This sub-category of insurance may also be referred to as cyber insurance or cyber risk insurance.

How it benefits small businesses to have cyber liability insurance

With all of the incidents in the news in the last few years related to large businesses, small business owners may feel like they are less of a target for data breaches or cybercrimes, but this is not necessarily true. Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report actually shows 58% of the victims in incidents reported to them in 2017 were small business owners.

That is more than half of the cases reported to Verizon. Clearly, there is a need. But how does cyber insurance benefit small businesses?

1) It acts as a second line of defense.

In the age of the internet, no business should be without a cybersecurity system in place. Clients and customers entrust their private information, including credit card and bank account information, to the businesses they work with. Once they give it out, they expect their business partners to protect that information as if it were their own.

No system is perfect, however. Cyber liability insurance can act as a second line of defense if cybersecurity is breached by allowing business owners to offer remedies once it has occurred.

2) Your business will not get wiped out.

As many businesses who have fallen victim can tell you, it gets expensive to deal with the fallout from these incidents. Potential costs include:

  • Fines imposed on your business or claims filed against it
  • Lost business on days you are closed down to investigate what happened and the extend of the damages
  • Lost sales due to the damage to your business’s reputation
  • Installing new security systems or updating the systems already in place
  • Goodwill gestures like free credit monitoring for a certain period of time for customers and extra discounts and service promotions

For small businesses, it can be a fatal blow. In 2016, Small Business Trends reported that 60% of all small businesses that are on the receiving end of a cybercrime or data breach go out of business within six months of the incident occurring. No one wants it to be them, but it happens.

While having an insurance policy will not prevent events like these, you can focus on figuring out what happened and how to make things right with your customers and business partners.

Protect your small business with Harbor America

Looking for more ways to protect your small business? Click here for a free guide. For more help with everything from compliance to payroll, be sure to check out Harbor America’s services.


Does Your Company Need a Stronger Harassment Policy?

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Harassment is a serious problem in many offices. If your employees are struggling with harassment, whether they are being harassed on the basis of race, gender, or religion, they aren’t in a productive working environment, and chances are, they aren’t engaged with their daily job tasks, either.

The right harassment policy makes employees feel more secure and comfortable at work, allowing them to be more productive and boosting morale. Does your company need a stronger harassment policy? Check out these signs that your harassment policy isn’t meeting your employees’ needs:

Sign #1: There Are No Consequences for Harassment

Bill in marketing made yet another racist joke, and it’s been reported–for the third time this month. He’s pulled into another meeting with HR, but everyone knows that nothing is going to come of it, and frankly, most of his coworkers have stopped bothering to report it at all. Sound familiar? If your harassment policy doesn’t include consequences for harassment, it’s not going to be effective. Make sure, instead, that your employees know what will happen if they engage in harassment–and that you follow through on the consequences.

Sign #2: The Average Employee Doesn’t Know How to Report Harassment

What steps should your employees take if they are victims of harassment in the workplace? Do they know how to report harassment–not only where it should start, but who they need to inform if things don’t change? Your harassment policy should include clear steps for reporting that harassment to ensure that your employees know exactly what their rights are and what they should do if they’re being harassed at work. The policy should be shared with employees beginning with their new hire onboarding.

Sign #3: No One Can Explain What Harassment Is

No, this doesn’t mean that you have to have endless training sessions titled, “How to Avoid Harassment in the Workplace.” It does mean, however, that you should have a clear definition of harassment and what type of conduct is considered unacceptable in the workplace. In some cases, this may be as simple as offering a refresher course once a year or leaving a clear definition in the employee handbook. In others, you may need to have more extensive training for your employees.

Sign #4: Your Employees Fear Retaliation for Reporting Harassment

Not only should harassment be reported by individuals who are experiencing it, but employees who witness harassment should also feel free to report it, as well–and they should know that they have the ability to do so without needing to fear potential repercussions. Does your harassment policy include an assurance that employees won’t experience retaliation, including worsening job circumstances or potential job loss if they report harassment? Make sure that employees feel safe at work by offering them those reassurances.

Sign #5: Your Employees are Harassed By Non-Employees Regularly

Have you observed harassment taking place, not between your employees, but between employees and individuals outside the company structure? Make sure that your employees know they can count on you to take care of them. If they’re experiencing regular harassment from anyone, the company’s actions should be swift and decisive, whether that means kicking out a customer who is treating the staff unfairly or dissolving relationships with vendors and other companies that are mistreating your employees. After all, your employees should come first–and they should be able to count on your company to protect them.

Eradicating harassment from the workplace is an ongoing process. By taking the right steps, you can create a significant impact on the way your employees feel about coming to work, their overall engagement, and their ability to take care of their daily work tasks. Is your harassment policy up to par, or are you leaving the door open for your employees to become victims of harassment? If it’s not strict enough, it’s time to revamp your harassment policy and create a more effective policy that will protect your employees.

Need more help managing HR matters at your company? Check out our website to learn more about the great services offered by Harbor America.