Benefits Consideration for Onboarding Furloughed and Laid Off Employees

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create obstacles for the workplace, many professionals are still having to continue with their day-to-day work lives which include having hard discussions with furloughed and laid-off employees. Read this blog post to learn helpful tips on re-enrolling employees into their benefits.


COVID-19 continues to throw us curveballs. While some states that were continuing on their path to recovery are having to backtrack, others have managed to temporarily halt the progression of COVID-19 and are proceeding as planned.

Amidst all this uncertainty, one thing is certain: human resource professionals continue to face overwhelming obstacles. Below, we outline issues that human resource professionals are likely to face as they onboard furloughed and laid-off employees.

Onboarding Furloughed Employees

HEALTH AND WELFARE PLANS

For employees enrolled in one or more employer sponsored health and welfare plans and receiving coverage during the furlough period:

  • Payroll deductions for required employee contributions for the plan generally resume upon return from furlough, subject to any changes in employment status that may affect eligibility.
  • To the extent repayment of employee contributions advanced during the furlough period is required, consider how to collect the employee contributions (e.g., through payroll deduction or otherwise), keeping in mind state law requirements related to payroll deductions.
  • Consider the extent to which election changes may be made upon return from furlough.

For employees not enrolled in an employer-sponsored health and welfare plan during the furlough period (or enrolled in COBRA continuation coverage):

  • Determine when eligibility for the plan resumes in accordance with plan terms (e.g., immediately or after a waiting period), subject to any impact on eligibility due to changes in employment status.
  • Consider the process for enrolling employees and the extent to which election changes may be made upon return from furlough, including any HIPAA special enrollment rights.

In addition:

  • Evaluate the impact of the furlough on employees' full-time status under the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) lookback measurement period and stability period requirements.
  • Evaluate the impact of return from furlough on participation in wellness program activities and eligibility for wellness program incentives.
  • To the extent employees will have staggered work schedules, consider entitlement to benefits based on reduced hours (full time/part time) or new job requirements and whether any plan amendments are needed.

401(K) PLANS

Generally, employee and company contributions resume upon return from furlough; however, changes in job titles or positions may affect eligibility:

  • Determine whether employee and company contributions will resume immediately upon return from furlough based on elections in place immediately before the furlough period or whether new elections will be required.
  • Determine the extent to which legally required notices relating to plan participation must be provided.
  • Address the treatment of loan repayments upon return from furlough.
  • Determine the extent to which the period of furlough must be counted for purposes of plan eligibility, vesting and the right to allocation of contributions.

PENSION PLANS

  • Consider whether changes in job titles or positions may affect eligibility for continued participation upon return from furlough.
  • Review plan terms to determine the extent to which the period of furlough must be counted for purposes of plan eligibility, vesting and benefit accrual.

OTHER BENEFITS

  • Consider the impact of return from furlough on any commuter benefits (parking and transit).
  • Consider the impact of return from furlough on vacation and holiday accrual.

Onboarding Laid-Off Employees

HEALTH AND WELFARE PLANS

  • Treat rehired employees who have been laid off as new hires who must complete new hire paperwork for health and welfare plan eligibility.
  • Consider the impact of the termination of employment and rehire on the employee's status as a full-time employee under the ACA's lookback measurement period and stability period requirements.

QUALIFIED RETIREMENT PLANS

  • Defer to plan terms and break-in-service rules for purposes of determining the impact of the layoff on plan eligibility, vesting and benefit accrual.
  • Review plan terms and procedures for enrolling rehired employees in a 401(k) plan, including application of the plan's auto-enrollment feature, if any.

SOURCE: Pepper, T. (29 July 2020) "Benefits Consideration for Onboarding Furloughed and Laid Off Employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/benefits-consideration-for-onboarding-furloughed-and-laid-off-employees.aspx


COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer

As many begin to return to the workplace, both employers and employees are fearful of bringing the COVID-19 virus into the workplace. A company has produced an at-home testing kit for those returning to work. Read this blog post to learn more.


While access to wide-spread coronavirus testing is still a barrier for millions of Americans, computer software company Appian is partnering with Everlywell, a digital health company, to offer COVID-19 at-home testing kits for employees returning to the workplace.

“Everlywell was founded to give people access to high-quality lab tests that can be taken at home,” said Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell. “We are proud to support Appian’s customers in providing FDA-authorized COVID-19 testing to help keep them safe.”

Since March, more than 50 million coronavirus tests have been reported to the CDC, of which 5 million were positive. But as states reopen their economies and infection rates increase, there are growing concerns about supply chain problems, according to Politico. Reopening has increased demand for testing, causing samples to pile up faster than labs can analyze them, which is lengthening turnaround times for results — complicating efforts to contain the virus.

Everlywell’s at-home lab tests seek to streamline the process of testing for their employer clients. The COVID-19 test will be integrated within the Appian Workforce Safety solution. Through the partnership, people using Appian’s return-to-site solutions will be able to request home delivery of Everlywell’s COVID-19 testing kit by taking a screening questionnaire based on CDC guidelines. Each test request will be reviewed by an independent physician from Everlywell’s third-party telehealth partner. Test results can be delivered to the test-taker’s mobile device in 24-48 hours after the sample arrives at an authorized lab.

The lab tests have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The testing used by the company and its lab partners meet the FDA’s performance criteria for COVID-19 test accuracy, and telehealth consultations are included for those who test positive.

“How much you know as an organization is how much you can protect the members of your organization,” says Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian. “This is the fastest way to get information on infection. We've seen that high amounts of testing can help minimize COVID-19. Knowledge is power, so we're trying to get [employers] as much knowledge as possible, as quickly as possible, and provide them with another tool to keep their employees safe.”

As employers make their strategies for returning to work, workplace safety is of top concern. Antibody screening, thermal cameras and on-site nurses are all methods being considered to help employees stay safe. Digital health is playing a major role in helping employees self-report their risks, whether that be the employee taking the subway, or living with someone who’s immunosuppressed. It can also help employers scalably monitor and assess people's symptoms on a daily basis, ensuring that sick employees stay at home and quarantine. Workplace changes may also include desks and workstations being spread further apart, and stricter limitations on large meetings and gatherings in the office.

Appian’s platform helps employers centralize and automate all the key components needed for safe returns to work. Through the platform, employers can process health screenings, return-to-site authorizations, contact tracing, isolation processing, and now, COVID-19 testing.

“A lot of people would rather work with an employer who goes the extra mile, who’s willing to offer and pay for tests if necessary for their own employees, and to quickly deploy it, where there’s even a suspicion of transmission,” Calkins says. “It’s a responsible gesture and a serious signal that the employer cares about the health of their workforce, and employees are reassured that their colleagues are more likely to be healthy.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (30 July 2020) "COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/covid-19-at-home-testing-kits-can-make-returning-to-work-safer


Antibody Testing for COVID-19 in the Workplace

Many employers have heard of various workplaces testing for antibodies in regards to COVID-19. As businesses are wanting employees to feel confident in returning to the office, there are still various unanswered questions in regards to the testing. Read this blog post to learn more.


Many companies are considering offering their employees antibody (Ab) testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. While businesses want employees to be confident about returning to work, and the government wants better estimates of infection rates, there are still many questions about the value, reliability and usefulness of the testing.

The Basics of Antibody Testing

Ab testing uses a blood sample to look for antibodies the immune system develops to fight SARS-CoV-2. The test may show the presence of antibodies, an indicator of a likely past SARS-CoV-2 infection. Negative results indicate that a past infection is not likely. Neither result confirms whether the individual is currently infected (asymptomatic or otherwise), and Ab tests should not be used to diagnose whether someone is presently infected with COVID-19.

It typically takes 10-18 days following infection for the body to produce enough antibodies to be detected. A positive result does not indicate whether the detected antibodies can provide any protection or immunity against becoming infected again.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far barred test producers from selling the tests to the public. Ab tests for SARS-CoV-2 must be administered by a federally approved health care provider or research group. For more information, see this guidance on the World Health Organization website, as well as this information from the FDA.

What Are Antibodies?

The presence of antibodies to any virus confirms past exposure to that virus or the receipt of a vaccine for it. The body remembers that exposure and will recognize the virus if exposed again. Antibodies take time to develop into their role as the body's biological memory of past infections. Because many of us have not been exposed to this new coronavirus, our immune systems have no memory of it.

Those who may have antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 may not necessarily be able to fight off a second infection. To do that, the body needs sufficient numbers of antibodies, and they need to be effective. The degree to which people with coronavirus antibodies are protected from getting COVID-19 a second or third time is still unknown. Broad use of Ab tests and clinical follow-up will provide these answers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "we do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 can protect someone from getting infected again or, if they do, how long this protection might last. Scientists are conducting research to answer those questions."

If the antibodies are effective in causing immunity, we must also determine how long they might last in the body. Other coronavirus antibodies tend to last a few years. Those for the common cold can last only a few weeks or months. After the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003, one study found that only 9 percent of people had antibodies six years after getting sick.

Next Steps for Employers

Currently, there are many reasons why employers might hesitate to pursue Ab testing for employees. Ab tests only look backward, and most people will already know if they had COVID-19. Some physicians insist that test results offer little guidance on how or when to reopen workplaces, and organizations shouldn't modify policies or procedures based on test results. They argue that safety procedures should remain the same regardless of Ab test results. Unfortunately, testing may make things worse, as some people who test positive for having antibodies may relax social distancing and sanitizing in the belief that they are now immune.

Knowing what to do with the test results is the primary dilemma. Encouraging blood draws and testing among employees may not be a compelling pursuit for companies until we know what to do with the results. Major questions remain:

  • Quantity. We don't know the degree to which people infected by the coronavirus develop antibodies. Some may never develop antibodies. Figuring that out requires longer-term studies of who gets reinfected.
  • Effectiveness. We don't know the degree to which the antibodies provide immunity and protection.
  • Consistency. We don't know how consistently these antibodies provide protection from person to person.

If Ab testing in the workplace is used, it should be accompanied by a clear explanation of what the results might indicate about the employee's past health and what they do not indicate about the employee's present and future health status.

SOURCE: Musselman, K. (29 May 2020) "Antibody Testing for COVID-19 in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/risk-management/pages/antibody-testing-for-covid-19-in-the-workplace-.aspx


As Coronavirus Spreads, Managers Ask How to Handle Telecommuting

With the Coronavirus spreading throughout larger cities in the United States, employers are looking at various ways to keep the workplace and employees safe and healthy. Many employers are turning to remote work to support these efforts. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about supporting remote work.


As the coronavirus continues to spread through the U.S.—so far infecting at least 162 people and causing 11 deaths—many employers are considering telling or have already told their employees to work from home. In China, where the virus was first identified, millions of people are working remotely.

But there are technological, process, security, workers' compensation and even tax considerations employers must keep in mind to support remote work.

How to Create an Effective Teleworking Program

One of the first tasks for those who plan to manage teleworkers is deciding who on staff may be eligible for telework. Once that's decided, managers should keep in mind the following best practices.

SHRM's Remote Work Resource Center

These resources can help employers set up flexible work arrangements. They include a sample telecommuting application form and telecommuting policy and information about whether telecommuters are covered under workers' compensation.

Considering a Remote Work Policy? Consider This

Have you checked whether your workers' compensation policy covers remote employees? Do you have technology that lets you see your remote workers during meetings? Do you micromanage a remote worker more than the people who sit beside you, simply because you can't see what the remote worker is doing? Those are questions that HR departments should address to create a telecommuting program.

Technology to Support Remote Workers Evolves

In addition to videoconferencing programs, file-sharing platforms, and project management and time-tracking tools, new adaptive analytics and secure data-access technologies are helping employees who work from home or other locations outside the office.

Building and Leading High-Performing Remote Teams

Overseeing a team of remote employees doesn't come naturally to many managers. Some even question how they can know if people working away from the office are really working. But the guiding principles of leadership are the same regardless of whether the team is located under one roof or geographically dispersed.

Helping Remote Workers Avoid Loneliness and Burnout

Remote work forces structural and systemic change to accommodate different ways of working and different ways of being "available" and productive. Remote and flex work also present new challenges for managers.  In particular, burnout and loneliness.

SOURCE: Wilkie, D. (06 March 2020) "As Coronavirus Spreads, Managers Ask How to Handle Telecommuting" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/people-managers/Pages/coronavirus-remote-work-.aspx


In Case of: Effective Responses to Workplace Emergencies

Original post business.com

Within sixty seconds of its launch on November 14, 1969, the Apollo 12 spacecraft was struck twice by lightning, which caused critical navigation systems and fuel cells to shut down.

A N.A.S.A. engineer who remembered his training for a similar scenario immediately recommended a fix, which saved the entire mission and quite possibly the lives of the Apollo 12 astronauts.

Four months later, those same engineers faced and successfully responded to challenges that they never anticipated with the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission.

Emergencies can and do happen in every workplace, but it does not take a rocket scientist to plan for them or to fashion an intelligent response when they do happen.

Emergencies and Violence: The Stats

Workplace emergencies are not limited to high-tech or high-risk operations light rocket launches. Statistics compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal more than 23,000 employee were injured in 2013 solely from workplace assaults.

The latest data available from the BLS show that the annual rate of workplace violence has held steady for more than twenty years, and violence continues to be the second leading cause of employee fatalities after transportation accidents.

This does not even account for injuries or fatalities that result from other workplace emergencies, including fires, natural disasters, chemical spills and contamination, or civil disturbances or terrorism. In 2010, more than three million workers suffered injuries following workplace emergencies. How a business responds to emergencies is typically a function of the nature of the emergency itself.

What Is Categorized as an Emergency? 

OSHA defines a workplace emergency as an “unforeseen situation that threatens your employees, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down your operations; or causes physical or environmental damage”.

Most individuals might limit their concept of a workplace emergency to newsworthy, large-scale evacuations caused by natural or man-made causes, but lesser-scale emergencies are far more common. One employee might suffer an injury or a sudden medical event.

A small fire might be easily contained by sprinkler systems, but that fire will be no less disruptive of business operations than a larger conflagration. A single disgruntled individual can start an emergency situation that shuts a business down for days. If that individual is armed, the emergency becomes a national tragedy.

OSHA has issued Emergency Action Plan standards for workplace emergencies that are codified in the Federal Regulations. Those standards define, for example, when and where businesses need to have fire extinguishers, building evacuation plans, and medical emergency response protocols.

The New Focus: Armed Shooter Scenarios

Because of high-profile publicity and responses, businesses are also becoming more attuned to armed shooter scenarios. Although not without objection or controversy, some workplaces are training employees in a run/hide/fight protocol that was popularized by a video produced by the City of Houston.

The gist of that protocol is to train employees first to run from an armed assailant. If running is not possible, the employees should hide, and if hiding is impossible, only then should employees attempt to fight the assailant.

Technology can be a boon during a workplace emergency if it is used as a tool and not a solution. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) places a high priority in communication technology in emergencies. Excessive reliance on technology can be a downfall, however, if an emergency removes the option to use technology. Businesses should consider deeper contingency plans in the event that the emergency takes down their communication networks.

A Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) is a notification that is sent to mobile devices in cases of tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and other serious emergencies. These emergency alerts are complimentary public safety service provided by participating wireless service providers. But, if employees have trouble with cellphone reception inside their workplace, they may or may not receive these alerts.

If workplaces were able to plan for all possible workplace emergencies, then to the extent that they were anticipated those events would not be emergencies. The responses by the NASA engineers in the Apollo program are more instructive in developing an effective workplace emergency response plan.

The Apollo 12 lightning strike shows the efficacy of contingency planning for potential emergencies and trusting an employee to implement his or her training when the emergency happens.

The engineer who recommended the solution after the lightning strike was in his early twenties, but his co-workers and the ship’s crew had developed enough of a cohesive relationship and a sense of trust among themselves that they did not hesitate to implement his solution.

During the Apollo 13 mission, the entire workforce again worked cohesively toward a common purpose to develop an effective response that, almost fifty years later, remains one of NASA’s finest efforts.

A workplace will not always have the luxury of implementing thorough contingency training to prepare for an emergency. A business’s ability to survive a workplace emergency is on a par with the conduct of its regular business operations. As with other aspects of those operations, the most effective emergency response requires mutual employee trust and cohesiveness.


Don’t Miss the February 1st Deadline for Posting Your OSHA Injury/Illness Summary Form

Originally posted on January 28, 2015 by Laura Kerekes on www.thinkhr.com

It’s that time of year to look back on your workplace illnesses and injuries for 2014, ensure that you have recorded the correct information in your OSHA logs, and post the information in your workplace starting February 1, 2015. Do you need to comply with this posting requirement, even if you’ve had no injuries or illnesses this past year? You probably will need to comply — most employers do.

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. The role of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to assure the safety and health of workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. Employers are required to have a Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention Program in place, with active monitoring of results. The intent of the OSHA log reporting is to summarize the year end results and focus both employers’ and employees’ attention on workplace safety so that everyone can make safety a top company priority.

Do you need to comply with the February 1st deadline?

If you had 10 or more employees at all times during 2014, you will need to comply, unless your company’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code is included in the industry list of exclusions available at https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/naics-manual.html.

What You Should Do

Assuming that your business does not fall under the exclusions of OSHA reporting, you’ll need to ensure that two OSHA forms are completed fully, the Form 300 (log) and the Form 300A. Both forms and the instructions can be accessed here.

Form 300: This form is used to record all injuries and illnesses, except those that required first aid only. This form is not posted due to privacy considerations. There are certain injuries and illnesses where you do not include the employee’s name for privacy (sexual assaults, HIV infection, etc.), and an employee may request that his or her name not be entered on this log.

Form 301 (do NOT post): This form allows you to record more data about how the injury or illness occurred. As with Form 300, this form is not posted due to privacy considerations. Employee representatives, however, may have access to this form but only the portion that contains no personal information.

Form 300A: This is the form that must be completed and posted beginning February 1st through April 30th. It contains a summary of the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during the previous year that were logged onto the Form 300. Information about the annual average number of employees and total hours worked during the calendar year is required for calculating incidence rates. Companies with no recordable injuries or illnesses in the previous year must post the summary with zeros on the “total” line. A company executive must certify all establishment summaries. Employers are required only to post the summary Form 300A, not the Form 300 log.

Form 300A must be displayed in a common area where notices to employees usually are posted. Employers must make a copy of the summary available to employees who move from worksite to worksite, such as construction workers, and employees who do not report to any one office on a regular basis.

More information regarding OSHA’s recordkeeping rule can be found in the OSHA Fact Sheet.

work_injury_claim_form.jpg

 


Worker Fatalities Show Importance of Safety Training

Originally posted May 28, 2014 by Paul Lawton on http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com.

Today’s Advisor reports on several workplace fatalities that may have been prevented with more effective safety training.

Case studies provide real-life examples of why it is important for learners to complete safety training and apply that knowledge back on the job.

In the month of June 2013 alone, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued statements regarding citations to five companies where training might have helped save a worker’s life.

1. OSHA proposed fines of $157,000 against a plumbing company as a result of a January 16 incident in which a worker died from injuries sustained when a trench collapsed at a job site in Hastings, Nebraska. The company was cited for failing to train workers on trenching hazards and four other safety violations.

“This tragedy might have been prevented with the use of protective shoring that the company planned to bring to the job site that afternoon. All too often, compromising safety procedures has tragic consequences, and hazards like these cause numerous deaths and injuries every year,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “No job should cost a worker’s life because an employer failed to properly protect and train them.”

2. OSHA also cited waste treatment facility for 22 safety and health violations and proposed $325,710 in fines as a result of a December 28 fire and explosion at the Cincinnati waste treatment facility in which a worker was fatally burned. The violations include failure to provide new training to employees assigned to handle waste materials, to train workers on the selection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for protection from various materials that are part of their routine assignments, and to provide training and PPE to employees assigned to work on energized circuits.

3. Penalties totaling $116,200 were proposed against a lumber company in Timpson, Texas, stemming from a December incident in which a worker was killed after being struck by a broken band saw blade. The 17 alleged safety violations include failure to provide easily understood lockout/tagout training for energy control and to certify that energy control training was completed and current.

4. Among other things, OSHA cited a trucking company in Ross, North Dakota, for failing to train workers on chemical hazards and precautions after a worker was fatally injured on March 27 while cleaning the inside of a crude oil tanker that exploded.

5. OSHA also cited tool manufacturer for 17 safety violations, including lack of training, after a maintenance worker was electrocuted on March 6 in Fenton, Missouri.

Each company had 15 days to comply with the citations, request a conference, or contest the citations and penalties.

Learn from the failures of these companies to protect their employees, and make any needed changes in your own safety training programs to ensure such tragedies don’t happen in your workplace.

Why It Matters

  • Safety on the job is a top priority for employees and employers alike.
  • Safety training is a key component of every safety program.
  • Keep your employees safe—and avoid expensive citations—by continually evaluating your safety program and its training component.

Can Companies Screen Employees to Prevent Workplace Injuries?

Originally posted February 06, 2014 by Sandy Smith on http://ehstoday.com

Many companies are considering implementing functional capacity evaluations to ensure employees are fit enough to start new jobs or are ready to return to work after an injury.

What happens when increasing staff costs meet tighter skilled labor markets? Productivity becomes an issue, with increasingly more companies – particularly those with physically demanding work – looking to minimize staff downtime and ensure that workflow proceeds as smoothly as possible.

One way companies in Singapore are doing so is by accessing and ensuring that their employees are fit enough for the actual physical work to be done. The physical fitness level assessment of an employee to do his or her job is known as a functional capacity evaluation (FCE). As the name suggests, it measures the capacity of an employee to perform the tasks that their jobs require.

"In the past, it was generally large, foreign [companies] that were asking for FCEs but these days we have done evaluations for local companies,” said Sylvia Ho, the principal physiotherapist at Core Concepts, one of the largest private musculoskeletal healthcare groups in Singapore, specializing in spors medicine, workers’ compensation cases, massotherapy and physical and occupational therapy. “We see increasing demand [for FCEs] in the future. Rising operating cost and labor tightness will make the cost of conducting FCEs more and more viable.”

Functional capacity evaluations measure the ability of employees to carry out certain functional movements. Measurements include strength levels and stamina of certain basic movements involved in most job functions.

Ho said she takes it a little further to combine a musculoskeletal screening that also assesses the body's muscle, joint and skeletal structure to provide information about things like joint flexibility. “With our physiotherapy background, we aim to take a more comprehensive approach in detecting potential problems that may occur in the future,” she said. “Our clients come from a range of industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, the oil and gas industry and heavy manufacturing.”

FCE is only one piece of the productivity puzzle, but one of growing importance, said Ho.

“Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has adopted a national, strategic and long-term approach to achieving sustainable, continuous improvement in workplace safety and health performance. We hope to play our role by helping industries prevent avoidable workplace health incidences,” she said.

 


5 Ways Technology Can Improve Your Job Safety Anaylsis Program

By Tim Lozier

Source: ehstoday.com

Most of the time, I sit at a desk and stare at my computer. For many other organizations, however, being a desk jockey will not get products made, nor will it be productive for everyone. Most manufacturing jobs have inherent risks, whether directly related to product manufacturing or simply workplace hazards that exist throughout the facility.

Historically, companies often took a fairly broad approach to workplace safety. Safety managers would focus on the broad level of hazards and then apply them to the general work area of their employees and put controls or PPE in place as a result. Now, technology and processes have evolved to enable a much more poignant way to drive safety in the job with Job Safety Analysis (JSA) tools.

Essentially, the JSA takes a specific job, breaks it into the individual job steps and assesses the potential hazards with those steps. If the hazard is too high, then managers put controls in place to effectively reduce that hazard to acceptable levels. The idea is that once you’ve reduced the risks associated with each job step, the overall risk that the job poses is mitigated to appropriate levels.

In a small scale, this is a logical and effective measure. However, when you have thousands of employees and thousands of job types in your company, maintaining JSAs become cumbersome as a manual task. That is why technology has jumped in to ease the burden of updating JSAs, JSA reporting and creating a comprehensive JSA program. Here are five ways technology is growing the JSA trend.

1. Risk Management Quantifies Job Hazards: In many cases, no job is completely safe. Heck, I could fall out of my computer chair right here and injure myself. While JSA attempts to identify potential job hazards, it needs a method for determining the severity of the hazard and rating the safety level. Risk assessment and risk management are designed to solve this. Risk provided a systematic set of criteria that provide risk levels, usually based on severity and frequency of the hazard. Based on these levels, organizations can quantitatively determine the overall risk of a job step. Based on the risk levels, they can make better decisions on how to control these risks.

2. Job Safety Linked to Document Control: Each job step and type is associated with documentation. Most often, people are not memorizing their job steps; they need to be documented and controlled so that all processes, job descriptions, work instructions and others are the most relevant and up to date. Linking a JSA record to Document Control not only provides direct relation to the job and the procedures that associated with it, it also provides a centralized place to maintain and modify your job safety program.

3. JSA Controls Linked to Employee Training: Just because you’ve create a safe job analysis doesn’t mean it will actually work. It may work on paper (or computer screen, in this case), but unless you’ve effectively trained your employees on operating in a safe manner, it is just an analysis. To be truly effective, new job procedures, new PPE requirements and similar effects from a JSA need to be linked to training activities. This way, when a JSA is completed, your employees automatically are trained and knowledgeable on the new requirements.

4. Regular Reviews/Audits of the JSA Program: Even though you’ve set up a winning JSA program, this does not mean you are completely safe forever. Like everything in this world, change is always happening, and as your organization evolves, so too must your JSA. Technology facilitates automatic reviews of your JSA program, enabling you to regularly review the processes and ensure that the JSA you created before are still valid today.

5. Reporting on Your JSA Program: Frequently overlooked, but extremely important, is the reporting aspect of the JSA program. The key is to be able to identify how effective the JSA controls are against EHS data coming in. If you are seeing a trend that suggest there are still high levels of risk in your job safety program, then you need to be able to identify, mitigate and prevent it immediately. Reporting tools help to identify these events and provide real-time visibility into the EHS system.

Sitting here at my desk, I probably have a low-risk job (although that stapler looks pretty dangerous). But for those jobs that have real, quantifiable hazards, it is important to take measure to ensure they are safe. Technology  can provide a comprehensive, integrated framework for managing job safety, taking action to document and train against JSA controls and effectively reviewing and changing your JSA programs as your organization evolves.