Thursday, February 14, 2013

“an unstable and dangerous employee”

“an unstable and dangerous employee”

The articles referred to in this post are just further proof that OSHA is beginning to take the issue of workplace violence seriously. Since most government agencies have voluntarily "opted in" to OSHA regulations, there are significantly more sites that OSHA has to contend with.

With the renewed debate about gun control and the sensationalism of gun violence in the news, there is a spotlight on workplace violence. You can bet that Connecticut Occupational Safety and Health Division (CONN-OSHA) will (or should) be investigating the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Note: The Connecticut State Plan applies to all public sector employers other than the Federal government employees. Federal government employees are covered by Federal OSHA, which also exercises jurisdiction over most private sector employers in the State of Connecticut.

The Fallacy of Gun Control

 I know that this is not a political blog, it is about safety and the education there of. When I see information that is incorrect or based on junk science, I am going to call them out to better educate you.For the record, I am for responsible, legal ownership of guns without restrictive burdens, infringements of rights, or government interference (I am against gun control). My position on this, does not influence my stance on safety.
  So what is The Fallacy of Gun Control? The following was written by Edward Paltzik on "The American Thinker" at
Bad Guys Will Get Guns No Matter What
...Across the Atlantic, the failure of the United Kingdom's gun control program was recently displayed during the 2011 London riots when unarmed shopkeepers and homeowners were forced to watch marauding gangs of powerful young men loot and destroy while overwhelmed police failed to contain the raging throng. Ironically, in a most uncivilized turn of events, civilized citizens in the United Kingdom live in a creepy Orwellian surveillance state in which dystopian fiction has given way to the nightmarish reality of "might makes right."

Closer to home, our broken neighbor Mexico is a failed state in which drug cartels kill government officials with impunity, where beheaded and bullet-ridden corpses litter highways, and respectable citizens cower in fear. Mexico has among the strictest gun control laws in the world.

Back in the United States, Chicago, subject to some of the most stringent gun control in the nation, observed a timely milestone this week: its 500th murder of 2012. Conveniently, the fanatically anti-gun media ignores the daily body count in the combat zones of urban America, where violent young men slaughter each other daily and gangs terrorize with impunity. Mass shootings like Newtown are much more suited to the hysterical modus operandi of today's "journalists." As Chicago demonstrates, gun control is an abject failure precisely because it only affects the good guys who need guns to defend against attacks by criminals who have access to guns regardless of gun control laws.

A Workplace Violence Program Based on the Fallacy of Gun Control

 So how does this educate me as a safety professional? You need to understand, that taking the same approach to workplace violence as gun control advocates will not meet OSHA's requirements for a workplace violence program and will not protect workers. 

So what would a workplace violence program based on gun control advocates policy look like? Simply put it would prohibit anyone (employees, customers, contractors, venders, etc.) from carrying on their person, in their vehicles and belongings, whether legally or illegally, any weapon (gun). 

If that is your workplace violence program, it is NOT going to work. A deranged, mentally unstable employee, spouse of an employee, random person, whoever, can show up at your facility with a gun and start shooting. Most of the time that you hear about an employee shooting, it is after the triggering event. The headlines always read, "he came back with a gun."

I am not saying that you need an armed militia at work. You do not need a minuteman brigade to answer a threat of workplace violence. What I am saying is that you need to have evacuation routes, meeting places, roll call, etc. You need bulletproof glass (think 24 hour urban minimarts), locked doors, employee buddy system, monitored alarms, cc video, appropriate to the hazards that your facility faces. You also need the "what if" back up plan for the unforeseen.

They are criminals and mental patients, they are not responsible gun owners.

The majority of people who commit mass shootings are not responsible gun owners, they are criminals. They are using a gun that they illegally obtained. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, murdered a legal gun owner and stole her guns to commit the murders. The legal gun owner just happen to be his mother. This fact in no way diminishes her death or legitimizes his possession of the guns used.

He was (by all indications, although I am nor a psychiatrist and did not examine him), a severely deranged and mentally ill individual. (Finally, back to safety.) This being said, an Employee Assistance Program can be part of your workplace violence prevention program. This is also a good employee benefit that will help attract better employees.

The police are there to protect us.

The most recent mass shooter that caused all of California to be on high alert, Christopher Dorner, was an ex-Los Angeles police officer. It appears that (the following quote is taken from the Facebook page, "We Are All Chris Dorner") Dorner was "the victim of a manhunt and smear campaign...fired from the LAPD for seeking to expose corruption within it."

If your workplace violence program is to call 911, it is NOT going to work. First, you need to assess the potential for workplace violence. You need to take into account the random and unforeseen. Then you need a written plan, all employees need to be trained in it (where to go, what to do),and it needs regular review and updates.

This leads to another issue that you as a safety professional may have limited ability to impact; office politics, unjustified or retaliatory firings, hostile work environment, and adverse working conditions. This being said, you still need to bring these issues to the attention of management, HR, or someone who can correct these issues. Chances are, if a place is this bad to work at, you won't be there very long.

Now, on to the articles....

OSHA complaint filed by employee charging Brooks is a danger to LCB workers

Nevada workplace safety officials are investigating a complaint alleging that Assemblyman Steven Brooks, recently arrested for allegedly threatening Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, is “an unstable and dangerous employee” at the state Legislature.

Chris Davis of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has the authority to investigate workplace-safety complaints and take action against employers, notified Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs of the complaint in a Feb. 4 letter asking for a report on how LCB is handling the situation involving Brooks, D-North Las Vegas.

Combs responded to the letter on Monday, saying the LCB and Legislative Police have taken a variety of actions to ensure employees and others in the building are safe.

The request for an investigation of safety hazards at the Legislature states, “There is an unstable and dangerous employee that has been allowed to remain at his building despite many of our colleagues' concerns regarding his frightening behavior, history of violence, known threats against other employees, arrests, psychiatric commitments and multiple recent instances of brandishing deadly weapons.”

The unidentified employee who filed the complaint said that the issues haven't been resolved, “even though many of us have continued to express that we do not feel safe coming to work.”

The complaint was filed under NRS618, which says every Nevada employer “has a duty to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.”

The response by Combs came just hours before Assembly Majority Leader William Horne announced that Brooks had been banned from the building pending resolution of the situation — a move that helps resolve the complaint. Combs said officers met Brooks at the Reno-Tahoe Airport on Monday night when he arrived from Las Vegas and served him with notice he was no longer allowed in the Legislative Building.

In his response to OSHA, Combs said the case isn't like most other complaints about an employee being a danger to co-workers.

“It is important to recognize that Assemblyman Brooks is an elected official and not an employee of the LCB or of the Nevada Assembly,” he wrote. “Therefore, he cannot be fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined in the same manner as an employee.”

Brooks understands that some employees are concerned about reports of his behavior and voluntarily agreed to certain measures to ease those concerns, Combs said. Those, according to the letter, are that a Legislative Police officer accompany him when he is in the building. His key-card has been deactivated so he can't enter the Legislative Building after hours without contacting Legislative Police.

“Assemblyman Brooks further allowed the legislative police officers to take whatever precautionary measures they requested to ensure that he is not armed when he enters the building,” the response states.

For employees most worried about Brooks, panic alarm buttons have been installed at their desks, Combs said.

Because Brooks announced on the Assembly floor that he planned to take a three-week medical leave, Combs said he doesn't expect Brooks will be in the building during that time.

In addition, he said that following Brooks' most recent arrest on domestic violence and obstructing police charges, “we will need to evaluate whether any additional measures are necessary to protect employees and others in the Legislative Building.”

Brooks was first arrested before the session began Feb. 4 for allegedly threatening a public officer — Speaker Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. After that, he came to police attention again in an incident at his grandmother's home involving a sword, which police confiscated. He was ordered held for psychiatric evaluation after that incident, then released. The latest domestic violence charge came early Sunday after an incident involving his estranged wife.

The Select Committee charged with investigating Brooks' conduct has promised to move quickly. After adopting rules that gave its chairman, Horne, the power to bar Brooks from the building, Horne did just that. But Brooks again ignited concerns among employees and others in the building by flying to Reno and saying he intended to go to the Legislature on Tuesday.

As of late afternoon, he had not shown up there. Police indicated that if he did, he would be arrested on suspicion of trespassing.

Understanding the Bizarre...

...So, have we ever seen anything like this in Nevada’s history?

No. But there’s a caveat. Is odd behavior by politicians all that rare, and does it matter?
First, how do we define odd? During Nevada’s territorial period, legislator Herman Bien began packing a revolver in response to criticism from a local editor. That Bien also was a rabbi made it even more unusual. Eventually, the criticism stopped and so did Bien carrying a gun, thereby eliminating his chances of becoming the official rabbi of the NRA.

One day in 1914, Senator Key Pittman of Nevada had too much to drink. The Nevada State Journal reported that he walked down Virginia Street and hit the U.S. Marshal, a state senator, a Nevada Supreme Court justice, a deputy sheriff and a Republican leader. Finally, he punched someone who had had enough and Pittman landed on Virginia Street. After this front-page news, Pittman went on to be elected to the Senate five more  times. Nevadans knew he drank too much and became erratic, but didn’t seem to care.

Politicians are human beings, although too many of us don’t think of them that way. What they do privately really shouldn’t be our business unless it violates the law, or affects or reflects upon their public lives. That former Senator John Ensign was unfaithful to his wife means something in the context of his professions of devout Christianity and judging others, but nobody really cared much about his private life until it became a public spectacle and led to a variety of legal issues, culminating in his resignation just ahead of the Senate Ethics Committee coming after him.

When he was in Carson City, which is famous for extracurricular activity during and sometimes after legislative sessions, then-Governor Jim Gibbons texted a woman other than Mrs. Gibbons 860 times in one month. Whether he liked to dally mattered less than whether he instead should have been tending to state business—which, in his case, would have been the worse option. Before he was governor, he faced accusations of trying to assault Chrissy Mazzeo—and, as was largely ignored at the time, defended himself by claiming he was merely helping an obviously drunken woman to her car.

Granting that Gibbons espoused a platform that claimed to respect family values and personal responsibility, his personal failings matter less than what they said about his judgment and his commitment to his job. Instead, though, the controversy over Mazzeo may have helped him: it diverted attention from his family reportedly hiring an illegal immigrant as a nanny and housekeeper, which was hurting him politically, to the silly question of whether he was set up.

However the Steven Brooks saga ultimately unfolds, it shows that some personal behavior matters, especially when it spills over into the public or political, or may break the law. He isn’t the first lawmaker to dislike one of his leaders and won’t be the last. That he allegedly threatened Kirkpatrick makes it the public’s business and right to know, the legislature’s duty to act and everybody’s duty to get him the help he needs.

A final thought...

Do not forget, workplace bullying is also a form of workplace violence. You do not have to injure someone, threats, harassment, destruction of property are all forms of workplace violence.

Keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has to be taken in to account when dealing with a violent or potentially violent employee. A safety issue can very quickly turn in to a discrimination lawsuit. Even if a violent or potentially violent employee is deemed a protected employee under ADA, you can not simply just fire him, but you still have an obligation to protect your other employees.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

OSHA Cites Retail Store

Just because you are a retail store, do not think that safety doesn't affect you and that you are imune from OSHA citations.

You do not need to be a famous, national (or in this case international), Bricks and Clicks, fashion clothing retailer chain, with stores in major cities in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, like Forever 21. You could be a Mom and Pop prom dress store with a single location and still face OSHA citations.

Two things caught my eye about this story: First, it is about a (single location of a) retail clothing store, and second my wife has bought clothing from them so I am familiar with the brand.

True, you do not have as many concerns as a manufacturing facility or a construction site, but you still need a written safety program. From my experience with clients, here are the top (OSHA) safety issues for retailers to address:
  1. Workplace violence (think the store getting robbed).
  2. Means of egress (emergency exits).
  3. HazCom (MSDS sheets for any chemicals, cleaners, etc.).
  4. Warehousing (back safety from lifting, moving/stacking stock, shelving).
  5. Ladders (too many times I have seen clerks hanging signs).
  6. Bloodborne pathogens (what if a customer vomits or a syringe is found in the store).

OSHA cites Forever 21 over workplace safety

February 12, 2013
From: The Boston Herald Online 

Trendy fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 faces $55,000 in proposed fines for two alleged repeat violations of workplace safety standards at its Burlington Mall location.

Following a December inspection of the store, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the Los Angeles-based company for exposing workers to potentially being struck by boxes falling from piles of stock in its back room that weren’t safely secured.
The store’s emergency exit route also was narrowed by boxes of stock that could have prevented workers from swiftly and safely leaving the store during a fire or other emergency, according to OSHA.

“Improper storage of stock and inadequate exit routes can and do put workers at risk of serious and severe injury,” Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties in Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Particularly disturbing is that these same hazards were previously found at another Forever 21 store. An employer with multiple locations, such as Forever 21, must ensure that safe and healthful working conditions are maintained at all its workplaces.”

OSHA previously cited Forever 21 for similar violations at its Bridgewater, N.J., store in 2011.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Injured Workers Drunk on Job Get Work Comp

So now you are responsible for your workers who are intoxicated too. After all, it is not their fault they showed up to work drunk.
Let him sleep it off somewhere.....

Drunken Workers Injured on the Job Still Get Workers Compensation after NM Democrats Block Bill


SANTA FE — The case of a drunken Las Cruces city worker who fell off his garbage truck, then sued and was awarded more than $100,000 in workers' compensation benefits did not move Democrats on a legislative panel.
They blocked a bill late Thursday that would have given judges the flexibility to deny all or most benefits to intoxicated workers who are hurt on the job.
Led by House Speaker Ken Martinez of Grants, Democrats on the House Labor and Human Resources Committee effectively killed the bill.
It was sponsored by Republican Rep. Dennis Roch, but actually was suggested by the New Mexico Court of Appeals because of conflicting state laws on what injury benefits — if any — a drunken worker is entitled to.
Roch, of Texico, said in an interview that he introduced House Bill 139 to clean up the contradictory laws and enable judges to make sound decisions based on the facts of each individual case.
Roch said he took up the cause because of the 3-year-old Court of Appeals decision in which the Las Cruces worker, Edward Villa, essentially was rewarded for driving his garbage truck while intoxicated and then injuring himself.
Villa's case began when he fell off the garbage truck on April 7, 2006. Hospital workers smelled alcohol on his breath. Three hours after Villa was injured, his blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.12, well above the level for a drunken-driving conviction.
He fell off the truck after he and his supervisor tried to free a bin from the truck's hopper.
A workers' compensation judge took note of Villa's drunkenness, but said nobody could prove that it was the sole cause of his injury.
"Worker was working on a very small ledge, and anyone might have slipped off it," the judge stated.
Because of the conflicting state laws, Villa then was awarded 90 percent of the benefits he sought.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals said it reluctantly upheld the award.
It wrote this in its decision: "The case highlights the lack of clarity some observers find in the language of several state statutes concerning benefits available for on-the-job accidents when a worker is found to be under the influence of various drugs or alcohol. One 1989 statute bars compensation when an injury is ‘occasioned by the intoxication' of the worker. A related statute, enacted in 2001, says compensation can be reduced by 10 percent if intoxication or the influence of drugs is 'a contributing cause to the injury.'"
The appeals court said that, for Villa to lose all his benefits under existing laws, it needed proof that his drunkenness was the only reason for his injuries. That was not established, so Villa was docked 10 percent of his benefits, consistent with the other state law.
Roch said his bill would have ended the contradictions. Judges would weigh the facts on a case-by-case basis, then decide what percentage of benefits a drunken or drugged worker should lose.
The labor committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque, said Roch's bill was flawed.
“There were some due process issues with it that were punitive to the worker,” Garcia said in an interview. 
Roch said his bill would have made New Mexico a better place for workers.
"What's often forgotten is that this is not just about the drunk driving a forklift. It's about the other 15 people working with him," he said.
Roch said his reform bill was dead for this session.
After being blocked by the committee, the bill cannot be revived short of extraordinary means. A majority of the full 70-member House of Representatives would have to agree to hear it — an unlikely possibility given opposition from the speaker of the House.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, his blog is at

See the video: Chicago_City_Worker_Busted_Drunk:

Mean while, in Amsterdam (04/2010)...

Workers from Carlsberg brewery in Amsterdam walked out on Thursday because of newly enforced rules on workplace drinking leading to the removal of beer coolers from work sites.
The company's new alcohol policy allow them to drink beer only during lunch at the canteen. They used to be able to drink throughout the day from coolers provided by the bosses.
The warehouse and production workers in Denmark are rebelling against the company's new alcohol policy, which allows them to drink beer only during lunch hours in the canteen. Previously, they could help themselves to beer throughout the day, from coolers placed around the work sites.

The only restriction was "that you could not be drunk at work. It was up to each and everyone to be responsible," said company spokesman Jens Bekke.
Although the company had thought about changing their policy for years, they finally imposed the new rules on April 1st. It caused 800 workers to strike and 250 to walk off their jobs.

And the truck drivers even joined in for support even though they are immune to the rules! They are allowed to bring three beers from the canteen because they often don't have time to have lunch there.

But don't fear, the trucks have alcohol ignition locks that prevent the drivers from driving drunk.

 Thank you for reading.