Archive for June, 2017

Can’t Take the Heat? Here’s OSHA’s Advice on Staying Safe While Working in Hot Weather

If your job requires you work outdoors, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has advice on staying safe in extreme heat conditions such as much of the United States is experiencing now.

Follow this link for OSHA’s list of heat-related tips:

The advice includes how to recognize the onset of heat-related illness; keeping water handy at all times to ward off dehydration; and being a buddy and recognizing heat illness in others.


Trench Cave-Ins Bedevil Missouri Contractor

The federal government’s workplace safety watchdog is shining a light on the unprotected trenches in use by a Missouri plumbing contractor.

A month after a 33-year-old worker died while working in an unprotected trench, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found another employee of the same Missouri plumbing contractor working in a similarly unprotected trench at another job site, the agency announced on June 19.

OSHA determined that, in both cases, Arrow Plumbing LLC of Blue Springs failed to provide basic safeguards to prevent trench collapse and did not train its employees to recognize and avoid cave-in and other hazards. Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry. In 2016, OSHA received reports of 23 deaths and 12 injuries nationwide in trench and excavation operations. In the first five months of 2017, 15 deaths and 19 injuries have been reported nationwide.

“We call on all employers involved in excavation work to review their safety procedures, and to ensure that all workers are properly protected and trained on the job,” said Kimberly Stille, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Regional Administrator in Kansas City, Missouri. “We support the efforts by the National Utility Contractors Association  to raise awareness of trenching hazards in the U.S.”

OSHA opened its first investigation of Arrow Plumbing after a 33-year-old employee died on Dec. 15, 2016, when a 12-foot trench collapsed at a home construction site in Belton. A second investigation began on Jan. 20, 2017, at a Kansas City work site where inspectors found the contractor’s employees working in an unprotected trench at another residential work site. No employees were injured there.

OSHA found similar violations at both work sites, and they included the company’s failure to install a support system to protect employees in an approximate 12-foot-deep trench from caving-in; training workers on how to identify hazards in trenching and excavation work, and providing a ladder at all times so employees could leave a trench.

Overall, OSHA cited Arrow Plumbing for six willful and eight serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed $714,142 in penalties.

The citations for the Dec. 15, 2016, fatality inspection may be viewed here. Citations for the Jan. 20, 2017, inspection can be viewed here. Learn more about the OSHA inspection process here.

NUCA, with the support of OSHA, is sponsoring a Trench Safety Stand-Down Week from June 19 to 24, to educate and encourage employers and workers on  precautions. NUCA is requesting all contractors, municipalities, military and others involved with trenching operations to hold a stand-down. Resources and more information are available at A poster for the event is also available.

OSHA provides the construction industry and others with guidance on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of trench. An e-tool covering safety procedures is available here.

OSHA also provides “Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs” advice to the business community. In addition, the agency offers compliance assistance, tips, consultation for small- and medium-sized businesses, educational materials, training and other information to employers and workers on common workplace safety hazards and how to prevent illness and injury.

Each state has its own On-site Consultation Program. This confidential safety and health consultation program is targeted toward smaller businesses primarily; employers can find out about potential hazards at their workplace, improve programs already in place and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections. Information is available at

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or one of the federal offices including: Des Moines at (515) 284-4702, Kansas City at (816) 502-0312, Omaha at (402) 553-0174, St. Louis at (314) 425-4255, Wichita at (316) 269-6646.


Labor Department Initiative Aims to Reduce Fatalities Among Less Experienced Coal Miners

A new initiative announced by the U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration on Monday seeks to reduce the number of workplace deaths of less experienced coal miners.

On June 12, the agency began informing mine operators of the Training Assistance Initiative’s planned launch, and encouraged them to participate and provide information about miners hired within the previous 12 months, and those in their current job for 12 months or less. With this information, MSHA can better focus its resources on the greatest fatality and injury risks.

“Of the eight coal mining fatalities so far in 2017, seven involved miners with one year or less experience at the mine, and six involved miners with one year or less experience on the job,” said Patricia W. Silvey, deputy assistant secretary of labor. “We at MSHA will be working closely with mine operators and miners to eliminate these fatalities.”

Staff from the agency’s division of Coal Mine Safety and Health and training specialists from Educational Field and Small Mine Services will conduct these visits to coal mines. Among their objectives are the following:

  • Review the approved training plan posted at the mine to ensure that all information is up to date, and the most recently approved plan is posted.
  • Talk to and observe work practices of miners with one year or less experience at the mine to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator’s new miner and experienced miner training program.
  • Talk to and observe work practices of miners with one year or less experience performing their current job to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator’s task training program.
  • Identify deficiencies and offer suggestions in training.
  • Work with mine operators to improve their training programs.

MSHA personnel may ask operators to allow miners with more experience at the mine to accompany agency personnel during interactions with miners who have less experience.

The initiative runs through Sept. 30, 2017.

Employer’s “Primary Caregiver” Leave Policy Is Title VII Violation, Dad Argues in EEOC Complaint

JP Morgan Chase’s parental leave policy violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights because it disadvantages new fathers, according to a complaint filed last week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The policy in question offers more generous leave for the parent designated as the “primary caregiver.” This is presumed to be the mother, unless the father can show that the mother has returned to work or is medically unable to care for the baby.

Chase’s policy gives up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave to the primary caregiver, but only 2 weeks to the secondary caregiver.

Derek Rotondo, an employee of Chase, wanted the longer leave following the birth of his second child. But he couldn’t convince Chase that the primary caregiver, his wife, either was back at work or incapable of caring for the newborn.

As a teacher, she has the summer off, so clearly wasn’t back at work. Nor was she incapable of caring for the baby.

Rotondo’s complaint argues that under U.S. Supreme Court and EEOC rulings, employers must make caregiving leave available on equal terms to men and women.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the employment law firm Outten & Golden filed the complaint on Rotondo’s behalf.

$43M in DOL Grants For Training Homeless Vets

Republicans in Washington, D.C. may pine rhetorically for smaller government, but they aren’t hesitant to doling out agency money for various programs. And certainly homeless veterans–the intended beneficiaries of newly-released Labor Department grant money–are worthy of help.

That was proven again today when U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today announced the award of $43.3 million in grants through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service to provide training to an estimated 21,000 homeless veterans to help them reintegrate into the American workforce. In all, the department’s 2017 award will fund 155 grants in its Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program.

“The grants we announced today will help thousands of homeless veterans to acquire the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs and reintegrate themselves into a society whom they defended and served,” said Secretary Acosta.

Funds are being awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce development boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, tribal governments and faith-based and community organizations. Homeless veterans may receive occupational skills, apprenticeship opportunities, on-the-job training as well as job search and placement assistance.

Of the 155 grant recipients, 74 are first-time recipients that will provide services to homeless veterans in 40 U.S. states. These grantees under the HVRP program will network and coordinate their efforts through various private and public social service providers.

More information on the department’s unemployment and re-employment programs for veterans can be found at For more information about VETS, visit Follow VETS on Twitter @VETS_DOL.

Trump Exec Order Aims to Reduce Regulatory Burdens on Apprenticeship, Vocational Programs

Amid tweeting on the Russia election meddling investigation, President Trump issued an executive order on Thursday aimed at giving a boost to apprenticeship and vocational training.

The Labor Department said in a statement that the executive order will expand apprenticeships and vocational training, close the skills gap and reduce regulatory burdens on workforce development programs.

“There are six million job openings in the United States,” said DOL Secretary Alex Acosta. “This is the highest number of job vacancies on record. American companies want to hire Americans, and Americans want to work. Apprenticeships teach the skills needed to find good jobs and to succeed in those jobs. Apprentices are a proven pathway to helping businesses find the workers they need, while helping workers launch prosperous careers without the crushing burden of student debt.”

In their remarks at the signing ceremony, the President and Secretary Acosta praised the White House Office of American Innovation and first daughter Ivanka Trump, a presidential adviser, for their leadership on this initiative.

The executive order calls on the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the secretaries of education and commerce, to propose regulations that promote the development of apprenticeship programs by industry and trade groups, nonprofit organizations, unions and joint labor-management organizations. It also directs the departments of Commerce and Labor to promote apprenticeships to business leaders in critical industry sectors, including manufacturing, infrastructure, cybersecurity and health care.

“The U.S. Department of Labor will work expeditiously to execute the president’s vision and begin to implement measures to expand the apprenticeship and vocational training programs that can help our economy thrive, while keeping good, high-paying jobs in America,” Secretary Acosta said.

EEOC: Older Foreman Shown Door Due to Bias

In the same week that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission heard testimony on the persistence of bias against older workers, the commission filed suit on behalf of a production foreman who allegedly was pushed out of his age by a new superintendent.

According to the EEOC, Fort-Worth-based Atlas Resource Partners fired Production Foreman William Hutto despite his record of strong performance for the company. Prior to his termination, Hutto had never been disciplined. The EEOC expects to present evidence that Mr. Hutto was a strong and capable worker who was highly regarded by his peers.

The EEOC claims that the production superintendent who terminated Hutto also made ageist comments regarding Hutto’s co-workers, including the repeated remarks about being “too old to do the job.”

“Mr. Hutto had the work experience and the ability to bring Atlas continued success, but top management unlawfully opted for youth over experience without respect to qualifications,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Joel Clark.

EEOC Dallas District Office Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino added, “This is a straightforward case of someone being put in charge who arbitrarily decides to pull the plug on someone else’s job. When that kind of action is based on a worker being in his 50s, rather than on qualifications, productivity or conduct, it not only fails to take advantage of some of a company’s best assets, but violates federal law.”

Atlas Resource Partners is a business that develops, acquires and manages oil and gas properties, with an interest in over 14,000 wells across 12 states, including Texas.

On June 14, the day before the suit was filed, experts told the EEOC that persistent age discrimination and stereotypes about older workers continue to channel older workers out of the workforce, limiting further economic growth. The views were expressed during a  public meeting today entitled “The ADEA @ 50 – More Relevant Than Ever,” held at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The meeting was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the ADEA in 1967.

For more on what was said at the meeting, click here.