emPowerbpo
Live Chat | Login | Blog | Careers

emPower eLearning: February 2013

emPower eLearning

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Strategies to Improve Safety for Contingent Workers

Construction workers, farm laborers, warehousing employees and hotel workers are more likely to be employed on a contingent basis in the United States, which may make them vulnerable to occupational hazards. In a new white paper, the Center for Progressive Reform highlights the occupational safety and health concerns faced by contingent workers and shares strategies to improve their working conditions.
The white paper “At the Company’s Mercy: Protecting Contingent Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions,” by CPR member scholars Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz, highlights the occupational challenges facing contingent workers in the United States and suggests strategies to improve their working conditions.

“Their shared experience is one of little job security, low wages, minimal opportunities for advancement, and, all too often, hazardous working conditions,” the white paper says of workers whose employment is contingent upon short-term fluctuations in demand for employees. “When hazards lead to work-related injuries, the contingent nature of the employment relationship can exacerbate the negative consequences for the injured worker and society.”

Employers of contingent workers often do not pay for workers’ compensation or health insurance and can simply hire replacements when workers are injured – factors that give these employers little financial incentive to eliminate safety hazards or help injured workers return to work. Additionally, employers sometimes misclassify contingent workers as “independent contractors” in order to claim the workers will pay their own taxes and insurance – a practice that reduces the employer’s expenses while also removing the incentive to create a safe workplace, the paper states.

The white paper includes case studies on contingent workers in four industries: farming, construction, warehousing and hospitality. The construction industry, for example, employs a disproportionate number of contingent workers in the United States. Most of these workers are young men, and many are Hispanic or Latino, performing dangerous jobs that have a high risk for falls, nail-gun injuries, musculoskeletal injuries and more.

7 Ways to Protect Contingent Workers

The CPR white paper offered seven strategies to ensure the contingent work force is protected:
1. Empower workers with a stronger right-to-know. “Well-educated and well-trained workers are the most empowered – they know their rights, they know when they have been wronged, and they know the best way to correct a hazardous work environment,” the report states. “Contingent workers do not get enough education and training.”

2. Empower workers with a right-to-act.“Under current law, workers lack the power to commence legal action on their own accord against an employer that is breaking the law; instead, they must make a formal complaint to OSHA compliance and await the agency’s response ...Workers need to be able to wield power that is proportionate to their huge stake in the game. That power should come in the form of an amendment the OSH Act that would create a legal vehicle for enforcing worker rights against employers,” the paper asserts.

3. Strengthen OSHA enforcement. The paper claim that “OSHA could make a significant impact on health and safety in contingent workers’ lives through modifications to existing enforcement policies ... In addition, OSHA has the ability to test the new policies for effectiveness by implementing them in discrete geographical areas or selected industries.”

4. Create ergonomics standards. “Since ergonomic hazards pose significant risks in industries and occupations that employ many contingent workers, OSHA should establish regulations to eliminate those hazards,” the paper states. “...OSHA could issue a series of industry-specific ergonomics rules, geared toward particular hazards. Starting with industries that employ a significant number of contingent workers would lead to better protections for millions of workers without coming close to the alleged $4 trillion price tag that prompted the congressional veto of the broader standard in 2001.”

5. Reform voluntary and consultation programs. “As the contingent workforce grows, OSHA has an obligation to revisit existing programs to ensure that they meet the needs of contingent workers,” the paper asserts. “First, OSHA should revise the minimum criteria that companies must meet to be part of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) ... Given the health and safety concerns raised by employer decisions to place contingent workers in new and high-hazard jobs, VPP entry criteria should be revised to require that VPP employers only use contingent workers in low-hazard occupations such as clerical work.”

6. Build a case to close statutory loopholes. “OSHA should also determine if there are data that support closing loopholes in the OSH Act that limit the statute’s applicability to domestic workers and farmworkers on small farms,” the white paper added.

7. Improve foreign-language capabilities. According to the white paper, “the high number of Hispanic workers in the contingent workforce suggests that language barriers can create challenges for education and training ... In addition to hiring more bilingual inspectors, OSHA must increase the foreign-language capabilities of staff who develop education and training materials. The agency should establish a goal of making all of these materials available in multiple languages and formats, reflecting not only the spectrum of workers’ native languages, but also differences in culture and literacy.”

“As the contingent worker population grows, the occupational safety and health community will have to adapt,” the paper concluded. “OSHA Compliance Training can lead the way with new rules and better enforcement, but the agency will also need the help of other advocacy organizations, from union-affiliated campaigns to worker centers to faith-based groups. Because the contingent workforce is particularly vulnerable to unfair treatment and poor working conditions, empowering these workers to act will take the support of many advocates.”

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Does the cloud provide an easier route to HIPAA compliance?


Within the healthcare community, the cloud has been perceived as a double-edged sword. On one side, the cloud represents a cost-effective solution to the problem of affording the capacity to store and analyze massive amounts of data; on the other, it presents concerns about remaining compliant with HIPAA Training while making strategic use of cloud services, especially following the publishing of the HIPAA omnibus rule last month. But is this apprehension warranted? And could it potentially being doing more harm than good for covered entities on the fence about migrating to the cloud?

“We sort of lead with BAA conversation because people are not even interested in talking at all without one,” says David Rocamora, Vice President of Development Operations for Control Group, about the increased interest of covered entities to sign business associate agreements when working with cloud-services providers. “The BAA opens a lot of the doors, but when we really start getting down to work, most of the people who end up moving to the cloud decide that the BAA thing isn’t an issue for them anymore because they find ways to resolve it.”

Given that the HIPAA omnibus rule tightens responsibilities for those working with protected health information and increases penalties for covered entities and business associates who fail to remain compliant, misconceptions about the cloud may prevent healthcare organizations and providers from considering what could in reality be a sound decision in terms of both finances and compliance.

According to Rocamora, the cloud should prove a valuable resource for two reasons. “Those kinds of things have changed people’s perceptions of whether or not cloud computing is appropriate for healthcare data,” he argues.

The first is the reduction of potential health data breaches:
When you look at the number of patients affected by a breach, most of the time it was because of physical theft or loss of real infrastructure — someone loses a laptop in a cab or something like that. That’s a huge win for cloud computing because we can rely on someone who has physical security policies like Amazon where they’ll publish all of the things that they can do to their data centers. That’s above and beyond what a lot of clients running their own infrastructure can do.
The second is the ability to monitor their security and privacy infrastructure more easily through automation:
When we build infrastructure, we’re basically writing programs that automate the infrastructure. My team writes the automation of this infrastructure as code and we also write tests to prove that we’re doing actually what we’re doing. So we can go to someone and say, “Your infrastructure is working exactly the way it was designed or it’s not because someone changed it and let’s figure out why.” Suddenly these tools give businesses a lot more visibility into what’s going on with their infrastructure or why things are changing.
Considering the emphasis the HIPAA omnibus rule places on breach notifications and the factors used to assess the risk to PHI mitigated by covered entities, the documentation provided by cloud-services developers detailing their systems and processes should make the challenge of both remaining HIPAA Compliance and cost-efficient less burdensome moving forward.

“The tests that we’re writing are readable in plain English and definable by the business. They can see exactly what they’re doing — what’s out of compliance or in compliance — and make decisions like that,” explains Rocamora. “It has helped people who are not technical visibility into what really is happening on the technical side of things, which is helpful to increasing efficiencies in any kind of organization.”

With less than a month having passed since the publishing of the HIPAA omnibus rule, healthcare organizations and providers are still making sense of what the final ruling means their business practices and organizational workflows. And with little more than six months remaining until covered entities and their partners are required to be compliant, further understanding of the implications of the ruling will push organizations to revisit the idea of migrating to the cloud.

Labels: , , ,

7 Strategies to Improve Safety for Contingent Workers

Construction workers, farm laborers, warehousing employees and hotel workers are more likely to be employed on a contingent basis in the United States, which may make them vulnerable to occupational hazards. In a new white paper, the Center for Progressive Reform highlights the occupational safety and health concerns faced by contingent workers and shares strategies to improve their working conditions.

An increasing number of U.S. employees are employed as “contingent” workers, an arrangement that can expose them to occupational safety and health risks not experienced by a permanent work force. A new report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) offers seven strategies to protect continent employees from unsafe working conditions.

The white paper “At the Company’s Mercy: Protecting Contingent Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions,” by CPR member scholars Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz, highlights the occupational challenges facing contingent workers in the United States and suggests strategies to improve their working conditions.

“Their shared experience is one of little job security, low wages, minimal opportunities for advancement, and, all too often, hazardous working conditions,” the white paper says of workers whose employment is contingent upon short-term fluctuations in demand for employees. “When hazards lead to work-related injuries, the contingent nature of the employment relationship can exacerbate the negative consequences for the injured worker and society.”

Employers of contingent workers often do not pay for workers’ compensation or health insurance and can simply hire replacements when workers are injured – factors that give these employers little financial incentive to eliminate safety hazards or help injured workers return to work. Additionally, employers sometimes misclassify contingent workers as “independent contractors” in order to claim the workers will pay their own taxes and insurance – a practice that reduces the employer’s expenses while also removing the incentive to create a safe workplace, the paper states.

The white paper includes case studies on contingent workers in four industries: farming, construction, warehousing and hospitality. The construction industry, for example, employs a disproportionate number of contingent workers in the United States. Most of these workers are young men, and many are Hispanic or Latino, performing dangerous jobs that have a high risk for falls, nail-gun injuries, musculoskeletal injuries and more.

7 Ways to Protect Contingent Workers


The CPR white paper offered seven strategies to ensure the contingent work force is protected:


1. Empower workers with a stronger right-to-know. “Well-educated and well-trained workers are the most empowered – they know their rights, they know when they have been wronged, and they know the best way to correct a hazardous work environment,” the report states. “Contingent workers do not get enough education and training.”

2. Empower workers with a right-to-act.“Under current law, workers lack the power to commence legal action on their own accord against an employer that is breaking the law; instead, they must make a formal complaint to OSHA compliance and await the agency’s response ...Workers need to be able to wield power that is proportionate to their huge stake in the game. That power should come in the form of an amendment the OSH Act that would create a legal vehicle for enforcing worker rights against employers,” the paper asserts.

3. Strengthen OSHA enforcement. The paper claim that “OSHA could make a significant impact on health and safety in contingent workers’ lives through modifications to existing enforcement policies ... In addition, OSHA has the ability to test the new policies for effectiveness by implementing them in discrete geographical areas or selected industries.”

4. Create ergonomics standards. “Since ergonomic hazards pose significant risks in industries and occupations that employ many contingent workers, OSHA should establish regulations to eliminate those hazards,” the paper states. “...OSHA could issue a series of industry-specific ergonomics rules, geared toward particular hazards. Starting with industries that employ a significant number of contingent workers would lead to better protections for millions of workers without coming close to the alleged $4 trillion price tag that prompted the congressional veto of the broader standard in 2001.”

5. Reform voluntary and consultation programs. “As the contingent workforce grows, OSHA has an obligation to revisit existing programs to ensure that they meet the needs of contingent workers,” the paper asserts. “First, OSHA should revise the minimum criteria that companies must meet to be part of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) ... Given the health and safety concerns raised by employer decisions to place contingent workers in new and high-hazard jobs, VPP entry criteria should be revised to require that VPP employers only use contingent workers in low-hazard occupations such as clerical work.”

6. Build a case to close statutory loopholes. “OSHA should also determine if there are data that support closing loopholes in the OSH Act that limit the statute’s applicability to domestic workers and farmworkers on small farms,” the white paper added.

7. Improve foreign-language capabilities. According to the white paper, “the high number of Hispanic workers in the contingent workforce suggests that language barriers can create challenges for education and training ... In addition to hiring more bilingual inspectors, OSHA must increase the foreign-language capabilities of staff who develop education and training materials. The agency should establish a goal of making all of these materials available in multiple languages and formats, reflecting not only the spectrum of workers’ native languages, but also differences in culture and literacy.”

“As the contingent worker population grows, the occupational safety and health community will have to adapt,” the paper concluded. “OSHA Compliance Training can lead the way with new rules and better enforcement, but the agency will also need the help of other advocacy organizations, from union-affiliated campaigns to worker centers to faith-based groups. Because the contingent workforce is particularly vulnerable to unfair treatment and poor working conditions, empowering these workers to act will take the support of many advocates.”

Labels: , , , ,

Union Pacific Sets New Safety Record

Employees achieved a 1.01 reportable injury rate, surpassing the previous lowest rate of 1.15 in 2011. From 2002 to 2012, the reportable injury rate fell by 58 percent.


Union Pacific Railroad announced Jan. 29 that its 2012 employee safety performance was the best in the company's 150-year history: Employees achieved a 1.01 reportable injury rate, surpassing the previous lowest rate of 1.15 in 2011. The announcement said from 2002 to 2012, the reportable injury rate fell by 58 percent.

The Omaha, Neb.-based railroad's announcement singled out the Twin Cities Service Unit for achieving a 70 percent improvement from 2001 to 2012, with an employee reportable injury rate of 0.56 in the latter year. This unit has about 900 employees and more than 650 miles of track in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

"Our injury-rate improvement is evidence of our employees' personal commitment to actively caring for their fellow employees, practicing behaviors such as peer-to-peer observation and feedback," said Bob Grimaila, Union Pacific vice president-Safety, Security and Environment. "Our safety leadership development and continuous process improvement team efforts, including those driving down operational variability to provide a more predictable work environment, also play key roles in safety results."

The reportable injury rate is the total number of injuries reportable to the Federal Railroad Administration per 200,000 worker hours. UP said many employees receive comprehensive on-the-job training through computer software that teaches them how to maneuver locomotives in rail yards, operate switches, and sort rail cars onto different tracks based on the cars' destination.

Labels: , , , ,