Archive for April, 2011

3 Ways to Observe World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Today (April 28, 2011) is set aside as World Day for Safety and Health at Work by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to focus on systems and tools for continual improvement in the prevention of workplace incidents and accidents. This year, the annual report released in commemoration of the day discusses the effective management of hazards and risks in the workplace (It’s a good report- the graphics alone are worth the read). Here are three tie-ins your business can do to do to commemorate the day.

1. Review your Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan

If your facility has an aggregate storage capacity of over 1,320 gallons (including 55 gallon drums) of petroleum products, then you need a SPCC plan (most automotive service companies need a SPCC plan). It requires specific facilities to prepare, amend, certify, and implement an action plan, thereby ensuring containment and countermeasures that will prevent oil discharges. Some elements of an SPCC plan include ensuring staff has undergone SPCC specific training, preparation of monthly self-inspection procedures and documentation, and a Five-year Plan review.

2. Plan a Fire Drill- or evacuation response to an emergency.

Be it fire, tornado, earthquake, or other emergency situation, it is a good idea to check that staff understand the emergency action plan, to ensure that staff are familiar with operation of the emergency action plan, to evaluate effectiveness of the plan and to identify any weakness in the evacuation strategy.

3. Review and update your safety audit

Your safety audit  is tailored to the size and activity of your business, and takes into account the available resources and skills. According to the annual report, the audit procedure looks like this:


Why Is There a World Day for Safety and Health at Work?

During the last decade, the approach of OSHMS (Occupational Safety and Health Management System) has become popular and has been introduced in both industrialized and developing countries. The ways for promoting its application vary from legal requirements to voluntary use. Experience shows that OSHMS is a logical and useful tool for the promotion of continual improvement of OSH performance at the organization’s level. Key elements for its successful application include ensuring management commitment and active participation of workers in the joint implementation. It is expected that more and more countries integrate OSHMS in national OSH programmes as a means to strategically promote the development of sustainable mechanisms for OSH improvements in the organizations.

The 100 Best Companies To Work For-Could Your Company Make The List?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Fortune Magazine just published their annual listing of the 100 best companies to work for.  The companies run the gamut from services (law, accounting, consulting) to construction to non-profits to retail to hi-tech.  Healthcare and Professional Services are the most represented industries on the list but there are also three companies in the automotive market -#15 Mercedes-Benz USA#16 JM Family Enterprise and #81 CarMax.  So are you thinking, it’s easy for these big,  publicly traded companies to be a “best place to work” but not so easy for the average company? Think again, your company may not make Fortune’s list next year but you can learn from and implement the best practices that make a company a “best place to work. Why bother?  Being know as a “best place to work” locally, regionally or within an industry makes it easier to attract and retain the best employees, which has a direct positive impact on your company’s bottom line.  Companies on the “Best Companies to Work For” list have consistently outperform major stock indices since 1998. 

 So what makes a company a best place to work?  According to the Great Places to Work Institute to be a great place to work employees “”trust the people you work for, have pride in what you do, and enjoy the people you work with.”   The trust factor of an employee  is ” related to management’s credibility, job satisfaction, and camaraderie.”    Providing  fair and competitive pay and benefits, have good hiring practices,  open internal communications, abundant training opportunities, meaningful recognition programs and a committment to diversity all create a best place to work.   To learn more about how any company,  big or small,  in any industry can be a best place to work check out the Great Places to Work website at

Join the conversation: What makes a company a best place to work?

Empowered Employees Increase Productivity, and Morale

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Workers who feel empowered by their employers are more productive and have higher morale, regardless of their industry.

These are the findings of a new study by lead researcher from the University of Iowa, Scott Seibert. He explains, “Empowerment is an effective approach for improving employee attitudes and work behaviors in a broad range of industries, occupations and geographic regions.”
The article, reported in EHS Today, lists four characteristics of an effective empowerment initiative:

  • High performance practices: Managers share information, decentralize authority, involve workers in decision-making, provide training opportunities and pay well.
  • Socio-political support: Managers make their employees feel like a valued part of the organization and encourage employees to recognize each other’s importance.
  • Leadership: A manager who inspires, provides strong feedback and is a good role model enhances workers’ feelings of competence and helps employees find meaning in their work.
  • Work design characteristics: Managers encourage training and provide individual workers with challenging work assignments.

“Managers in these studies reported that empowered workers were more innovative and more willing to take the initiative to solve problems on their own,” Seibert said. “Employees said they were more engaged in their work when empowered, that they felt like they had an influence and an impact on the business around them.”

What do you think? Do these initiatives improve team and individual performance, or do results vary in practice?

If you have experienced some of these workplace characteristics, leave a comment and share your insights with the community at the KPA blog.
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The Lawsuits are Coming, Get Ready to Pay

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that over 6,800 private-sector lawsuits were filed nationwide in 2010. The DOL (Department of Labor), handled about 32,000 wage and hour complaints in 2010, a jump of 33 percent in just two years.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that pay and promotion cases are now the biggest category of employment discrimination filings but discrimination cases are also on the rise.  Broadly defined but complex new regulations on ADA (Americans with Disabilities) and GINA (Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act)  make it likely that even the best intentioned employer may inadvertently discriminate against an employee or applicant.

  Looking forward into the rest of 2011 and then on to  2012 employers should expect more new rules, with the DOL, ICE and IRS allocating more resources towards enforcement of those rules.  The DOL is planning to issue new rules on the Family Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The National Labor Relations Board has proposed a new rule that, if adopted, would require almost all private-sector employer in the US to notify employees about their rights to unionize.

 The DOL has hired 250 new investigators and has launched the “We Can Help“ program that includes a website and bilingual public service ads designed find and correct the incorrect classification of exempt employees and other violations of wage and hour laws.  To “help” employees even more, on November 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a joint initiative with the American Bar Association to help employees find lawyers to enforce their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since December 13, 2010, employees who bring FMLA or FLSA complaints that cannot be resolved by the Department of Labor have been given a toll-free telephone number to contact a newly created ABA-approved attorney referral system that will provide information about participating attorneys in their geographic area.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  will continue to increase its investigations and raids on employers who hire illegal workers, over 1000 notices were issues in the first 4 months of 2011. Don’t forget the IRS, in 2011 the IRS will conduct over 6,000 payroll tax audits focusing on companies misclassifying workers as independent contractors, fringe benefits and executive/deferred compensation, as part of a new federal and state focus on the miscallification of workers as independent contractors. 

Complex regulations, increased enforcement and easy access to plaintiff’s attorney are creating the “perfect storm” for employment lawsuits.  Are your payroll and employment practices ready? If you don’t have EPL (Employment Practices Liability) coverage call your broker now.  Consider an independent audit of your HR practices. Use automation (software) to ensure consistent process and good documentation. Plus keep your attorney on speed dial, you probably will be calling  them more than ever.

Join the conversation:  Are you worried about employment lawsuits or audits in 2011?

What Goes In Your Dealership’s First Aid Kit

Friday, April 15th, 2011

At a moment’s notice, your first aid kit needs to be ready for safe, effective responses to emergency situations. OSHA requires that first aid supplies are available for all employees. The short list of OSHA’s required contents is here:

A few things to keep in mind:

  • It can be a liability to have too many items in your first aid kit, since you’re dispensing medicine that someone could be allergic to. It is better to have several basic first aid kits located around the facility than one large kit.
  • The kit needs to be clearly marked.
  • Make sure all employees understand that the kit is for emergencies only- not for daily use.
  • Make sure enough staff members are trained in first aid to cover an emergency situation on any shift (keep copies of certificates on file) or professional emergency responders can reach your facility within 3-4 minutes.
  • If you decide to train emergency responders at your facility and make them responsible for care, you’ll need a Bloodborne pathogen program.
  • Make sure the first aid kit is restocked after each use.


Watch this video and take a quick tour of your First Aid Kit.

Parts Grinder OSHA violation fixed at KPA dealer safety inspection

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

There’s a reason that Parts Grinders are one of the top OSHA violations. Just last week I visited a dealer who has been a KPA client for more than 14 years and an excellent record when it comes to environmental and safety. Yet, during our quarterly inspection we found that their parts grinder was not mounted properly: see picture. This violates Federal Regulation 29 CFR 1910.212(b) “Anchoring fixed machinery. Machines designed for a fixed location shall be securely anchored to prevent walking or moving.”

Fixed Ops managers should be on high OHSA alert for these situations.

About a month ago we wrote a blog about how your parts grinder can pass an OSHA inspection. The event that triggered this blog was that OSHA issued five citations totaling $75,000 to Pep Boys for a “repeat violation” and at the center of the fines was a parts grinder. Parts grinders, or abrasive wheel machinery, were the third most cited auto dealership violations in 2010. Parts grinders are citable violations because by nature, they involve contact between employees and equipment.

Are your parts grinders safe?


EEOC Issues Final Regulations for ADA Compliance

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Can you define what is a disability and who is covered under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and ADAAA (ADA Amendments Act of 2008) ?  The answer to this question of what is a disability  under the EEOC final regulations may surprise you.  Watch this short video to learn about the impact on employers when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) final revised Americans with Disabilities Act regulations become effective on May 24, 2011.






Department of Labor Clarifies Position on Service Advisors Classification

Friday, April 8th, 2011

On April 5th, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor clarified that service advisors are not exempt from overtime. While the current regulations states “a service manager, service writer, service advisor or service salesman who is not primarily engaged in the work of a salesman, partsman or mechanic is not exempt” (29 C.F.R. § 779.372(c)(4))”, beginning in 1987, the Department had adopted an enforcement position that did not deny exemption from overtime payment.  The Department has reversed this enforcement position and dealerships are advised to take into account all earnings for service advisors during the relevant time period including salary plus any commissions to determine the appropriate amount of overtime pay which may be due.

A more complete review of the new enforcement position is available from our partner,  Ford & Harrison at

How Many Lawsuits Does It Take….

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
While “How many lawsuits does it take” does sounds like the beginning of an HR joke, AutoZone isn’t laughing.  The company has faced multiple employment lawsuits over the past several years and lost all of them, resulting in some very costly verdicts.  Most recently, on March 28th 2011,  the Ninth Circuit upheld a verdict for the EEOC  against AutoZone with the damages at $65,000.  The suit alleged that an AutoZone store in Arizona had created a sexually hostile workplace.   In September 2010 the EEOC filed a lawsuit in Massachuset U.S. District Court Massachusetts, alleging that AutoZone created a hostile work based on religious discrimination.  The Seventh Circuit upheld a verdict against AutoZone for wrongful termination in violation of the ADA in Wisconsin in December 2010.   The company is also facing a class action lawsuit for wage and hour violations in Oregon, California and Arizona. 
One thing the numerous lawsuit highlight is how hard it is to ensure compliance across a wide spread organization even with the best of intentions.   According to the AutoZone website, AutoZone is the ” nation’s leading retailer and a leading distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories with more than 4,600 stores in the US, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.”  No doubt AutoZone has strict written policies against harrassment, hostile work enviroments and discrimination.  Certainly they provide training to managers and employees on what is appropriate behavior.  The founder of AutoZone has a long standing personal committment to equal rights and is patron of the of the National Civil Rights Museum, where the current CEO is serves on the board as Treasurer.  Yet a bad or misinformed manager at just one of those 4,600 locations can result in a $65,00 verdict.   
Join the conversation:  Is it easier to ensure compliance at a large corporate with a high level of HR staff and resources or at a smaller company?

Don’t Shuffle on Slippery Surfaces

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Moving quickly in a forward, firm-footed stance across a slippery surface is less likely to lead to a fall than if you move slowly. Approaching a slippery surface slowly hinders the necessary task of shifting the center of mass forward once foot contact is made. These conclusions are based on a series of locomotion tests performed on helmeted guinea fowl by biomechanics researchers Timothy Higham of Clemson University and Andrew Clark of the College of Charleston.

“The findings can be useful in helping humans, especially older ones, make their way across surfaces that are wet, icy or oily,” said Higham. “The key to avoiding slips seems to be speed and keeping the body mass forward, slightly ahead of the ankles after the foot contacts the ground.”

Slips are a major cause of falls that can cause injuries and even deaths. Slips accounted for about 44 percent of fatal and nonfatal work-related falls, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics report in 1992.

Read the full article published in ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2011) here:


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