One of the topics our risk management team gets asked about the most is related to employee training. As we all know, the best defense against exposures to workplace injuries is to have a professional, knowledgeable, safety-conscious work staff. The best route to ensure your staff is prepared to perform their job functions daily is to confirm they are well-trained to handle the aspects of their jobs. This includes office staff, fire and police, and highway workers. All workplace training needs to be documented. With the changes in COVID-19 restrictions and the re-opening of municipal operations to full-deployment, PESH has been inspecting for current training programs much more frequently.
OSHA and PESH have standards on employee training which we have put together in a table on the Comp Alliance Academy for program members. Not all employees are required to attend all of your training offerings. Many employees, based upon their job functions, will not be required to attend many of programs. However, there are four trainings which are required to be completed annually by all municipal staff, including volunteer firefighters, board members and summer help. These four are sexual harassment/discrimination, workplace violence, right-to-know, and bloodborne pathogens.
Based upon your municipal operations, additional training may also be required for job-specific departments, such as highway, DPW, water, sewer, etc. Areas such as permit-required confined space, trenching and excavation, lock-out/tag-out, and other safety-specialized programs are likely required for your departments which have exposures in these areas. OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires that your municipality provide a workplace free from recognized hazards in the workplace. The best option to notify employees of these hazards is through proper, routine workplace training.
As for the frequency of these trainings, they vary depending upon the topic. Some, like the four mandatory topics mentioned above, are required to be taken at least once per year. Others are required only when an employee is hired, but may be re-administered should the work environment change, equipment changes, or the employees are not maintaining good knowledge of the safety protocols for that topic. For example, Lock-out/Tag-out is an OSHA standard requiring initial training upon hire, when new equipment is purchased, and when the employee fails to display an adequate knowledge of the controls for the exposure of hazardous energy.
For all the trainings listed on the chart, instructors need to display a base knowledge of the topic under discussion and provide the information to attendees so that the known hazards of the topic are reviewed in detail. The Comp Alliance Risk Management team is able to assist with the majority of these training requirements. Preparing workers for the hazards of a particular job function and the means to avoid or reduce the hazards should be a part of any routine training program. The Comp Alliance is here to aid in your training needs.
Refer to the training chart on the Comp Alliance Academy for your departmental operation functions and let the Comp Alliance Risk Management team know how we can assist you with your safety training needs.
In This Issue
Comp Alliance Issues Safe Workplace Award
The Comp Alliance is pleased to announce a second consecutive year distributing a Safe Workplace Award to eligible members. The Safe Workplace Award Program is a monetary award that benefits current Comp Alliance members who have had positive loss experience and contributed to the financial well-being of the program during a given policy year.
The Comp Alliance Board of Trustees appreciates its members that continue to perform well and have contributed to its continued success. As a result, the Comp Alliance, for a second time, distributed a portion of its surplus to eligible current members. The second disbursements of the award totaling nearly $700,000 were recently sent to the qualified January renewal members for their performance during the 2020 policy year.
As the Comp Alliance continues its history of predictable rates and financial stability, we are proud to be in a position to give back to the members. In the past three years, the Comp Alliance has distributed annual Loyalty Award checks, two Safe Workplace Awards, Workforce Reduction Credit checks and tens of thousands of face masks to its members throughout the state.
The Comp Alliance Board of Trustees will continue to evaluate the program's financial condition on an annual basis and determine eligibility for the program going forward.
Comp Alliance Issues Member Loyalty Award
In appreciation of those members that have stood by the Comp Alliance and contributed to its continued success, the Comp Alliance has recently distributed a portion of its surplus to members through the Member Loyalty Award. Those members who renewed their coverage in June and July recently received the third round of this special monetary award.
The Member Loyalty Award reflects recognition by the Board of Trustees of fiscal challenges faced by municipalities and provides a tangible benefit of municipal cooperation by returning funds to local governments and schools for the betterment of their communities. The Loyalty Award amounts were based on the individual member’s longevity of membership with the Comp Alliance and its annual funding contribution.
When the Alliance was formed in the early 1990’s, municipalities in New York struggled to annually budget for unpredictable workers’ compensation costs. The Comp Alliance offers its members budgetary stability and the opportunity to achieve significant savings by sharing the costs of workers’ compensation insurance. Today, the Comp Alliance has more than 320 members, $41 million in contributions and more than $60 million surplus to help maintain long-term financial stability.
With sponsorship and oversight by the Association of Towns of the State of New York and the New York State Conference of Mayors, the Comp Alliance’s mission remains the same as it was 27 years ago —ensuring members are able to meet their long-term workers’ compensation liabilities while maintaining stable funding contributions.
Claim Reporting Portal
The Comp Alliance recently introduced a claim reporting portal which provides members with access to the ATS System allowing users to:
Meet Your Comp Alliance Underwriting Team
The Comp Alliance and Wright Risk Management congratulate Maureen Gale on her recent retirement and thank her for her service and dedication to the program. Maureen was most recently the Comp Alliance’s Vice President of Underwriting, handling the Comp Alliance underwriting duties for the better part of the last two decades and was an instrumental part of the program's success and growth over the years, from a few dozen members to well over 300. Congratulations Maureen on your retirement!
Let us take a moment now to introduce the Underwriting Team:
Jennifer Weible was promoted to the role of Director of Underwriting for the Comp Alliance. She joined the Underwriting Department in early 2019 and has been an integral part with assessing and evaluating both renewal members & new business. Jenn has also provided vital reporting used for program initiatives and has assisted upper management in making crucial decisions.
Jennifer looks forward to her new role & continuing to grow with the program while upholding the integrity of underwriting activities, processes & guidelines.
Tricia Murphy was recently promoted to Assistant Underwriter for the Comp Alliance. Tricia has been with Wright Risk Management for more than 5 years and looks forward to working with all members and brokers in this new role. Congratulations Tricia on your promotion.
Renee Gates has joined the department as an Assistant Underwriter for the Comp Alliance. Although a new member of the WRM team, Renee’s background includes over 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. Her professional passion is accompanied by her commitment, positive attitude & dedication to provide business solutions.
We are happy to welcome her to the department and are excited to see all that she will accomplish in her new role with us!
Comp Alliance Sponsors and Exhibits at the NYCOM Fall Training School
The Comp Alliance was excited to sponsor and exhibit at the NYCOM Fall Training School in late September. It was nice to see so many Village and City officials in person.
We would like to thank all who were able to attend the training school and look forward to seeing you at an upcoming conference.
Police and Fire Workplace Safety Webinars
The work of police officers and firefighters is inherently dangerous and filled with uncertainties from day to day. Preparation through the development and maintenance of a positive safety culture will help to assure that personnel act in a safe, professional manner regardless of the situation and conditions.
The Comp Alliance Risk Management team recently presented a webinar focusing on major safety hazards facing our member police and fire departments and controls to utilize in a maximum effort to keep employees safe. The webinars look at statistics on claims and fatalities along with their root contributing factors.
The Police and Fire Safety Webinars were recorded and members can view them along with the Power Point presentations by logging into the Comp Alliance Academy, Safety Webinars section.
Safety Considerations - Employees Who Work From Home
With the expiration of the statewide state of emergency at the end of June, many municipalities in New York State have resumed operations at pre-COVID-19 conditions. Departments operate at full capacity, summer recreation programs are open to residents, the general public attends meetings of municipal boards in-person, and field-work is performed without restrictions. With the resumption of these operations, it is beneficial to reflect on the continued use of precautionary practices and procedures, work-from-home policies, and the lessons learned during the pandemic.
A number of precautionary practices and procedures became standard operating procedure during the state of emergency. These practices include: increased cleaning and sanitizing of work spaces; social distancing for staff and the public; utilizing personal protective equipment (gloves and masks); and regular health screenings for employees. Incorporating one, several or all of these practices in post-pandemic operations will help keep your employees healthy and your work environment safe. As a general practice, improved hygiene can help prevent seasonal colds and other illnesses from spreading in the workplace. Any time there is less illness in the workplace, the end result will be more productivity due to fewer sick days and down time.
In addition to maintaining the pandemic-related precautions, some municipalities may find a benefit in allowing employees to continue to work from home or otherwise outside the traditional workplace, instead of reporting to a municipal office. Working from home can be a satisfying and rewarding experience for the employee and productive alternative for the municipality. And while there are many benefits to working from home, there are some pitfalls as well. Below are a few of the lessons learned and best practices that developed during the past year and one-half.
Adopt a Comprehensive Work-From-Home Policy
A municipality looking to accommodate work-from-home or remote workplaces should adopt a policy that covers the terms and conditions of work performed outside of the office. The policy should clearly state what employees are eligible and identify what duties and responsibilities are capable of being performed remotely. A well-drafted policy provides employees with a clear understanding of the municipality’s expectations – performance, quality and productivity should not suffer when accommodating a remote workplace. The policy should also prescribe the manner of supervision of, and communications with, remote employees. Express in the policy that all other municipal employment policies (harassment prevention, workplace violence, leave policies, etc.) still apply to the employee, and employees are expected to maintain the same level of professional while working from home.
In some instances, office equipment such as printers, mobile phones, scanners and laptops may be provided to employees to facilitate a remote workspace. In those instances, the municipality should have an “Acceptable Use” provision (or a stand-alone policy if one does not already exist) that provides guidance on appropriate and incidental use of issued resources. Employers should also consider how IT support will be provided to employees and how to maintain security, such as establishing a reliable and secured internet access through a virtual private network (VPN) or requiring dual-step authentication.
Establish a Designated Workspace at Home
Where possible, employees should designate a separate space for the completion of work as a means to “turn-on” and “turn-off” work duties. This is similar to a daily commute to and from an office each day when an employee can mentally prepare for the start of work and disengage at the end of a workday. Arrange the workspace so it is ergonomically friendly, with adequate lighting, seating and computer locations. Even the proper air temperature and air circulation is important for maintaining a productive work environment. Often, the designated workspace will be shared with others, which require additional safety precautions that are discussed in more detail below.
Minimize Common Distractions
While the average employee designated to work-from-home can maintain high levels of productivity and many people thrive in this environment, others may struggle to keep up with work demands and become distracted by the many offerings of daily home life. Issues with child care, pets, spouses, home chores, etc., may be huge distractions that take employees away from the task-at-hand and cause work to be delayed or completed unsatisfactorily. Managers should maintain communications with staff to avoid such behaviors.
Maintain Affirmative Communications
An overlooked part of work-from-home is its impact on emotional and mental well-being of employees due to the absence of co-workers. Human beings are a social species that rely heavily on cooperation to survive and thrive. This includes the work environment, where co-workers can be motivated by good cooperation, communication, interaction and verbalization, and the failure of such can lead to diminished morale and productivity. When restricted in human contact, many individuals fail to view work in a constructive manner and diminish the productivity and positivity of their work. Managers, supervisors and co-workers should maintain contact with employees who do not report to an office environment on a routine basis. Endeavor to communicate with them to affirm they are still part of the team, and their success benefits the municipal operations. The benefits of routine contact include a feeling of belonging and increased mental state, as it reduces the sense of isolation. Those that feel alone are more likely to suffer from depression-type symptoms and are more vulnerable to suffering illnesses, injuries and displaying inappropriate aggressive behaviors towards others.
Encourage Workplace Safety – At Home
Employers considering continuation of work-from-home should contemplate the potential for workplace injuries. When staff is working from home, they still may have coverage like your in-house staff will. If they trip and fall on their stairs at home, the potential of a workers’ compensation claim exists like it would if a highway worker fell on the stairs at the garage. If employees are moving files or reconfiguring furniture or equipment around their home and they sustain an injury in this process, this could also result in a workers’ compensation claim, even though this process would usually be completed in the office by a contractor or highway employee with special tools such as a hand cart or lift. Confirm with staff that home offices are being maintained in a safe manner, encourage self-inspections to recognize, reduce and remove hazards, and comply with safety regulations you have developed for these work-from-home positions.
Designated workspaces may be used by more than one person, or for more than one purpose, which also creates a risk of injury. A worker may be sharing that space with their 12-year-old’s science project, or their partner’s other hobbies or work. This commingling can lead to some awkward workspaces that contribute to injuries over time. The workspace would not be customized to one individual which can lead to incorrect posture, poor screen position and different seating settings which could all accentuate repetitive stress injuries. Additionally, as shared space becomes cramped, there is more opportunity for slips and falls or other related injuries. As with any office or workspace, cleanliness is important for safety.
Clearly Identify Job Duties
Work-from-home highlights the importance of developing clear guidance to identify work duties vs. non-work duties. Employees working from home may have increased workplace injury exposure depending on duties of the job – do they have to maintain office supplies including printer ink and paper? If so, their drive to and from the local stationary store might be considered work-related and therefore a workers’ comp exposure. Be sure to work with your staff so they understand the dangers and responsibilities of maintaining a clean, safe workspace.
At home injuries present a blurred line between work and normal activities, and workers’ compensation decisions tend to favor the claimants in these situations. Peripheral details of claim investigations are therefore even more crucial – attention must be paid to hospital emergency room reports, dates and times, ambulance records and all accounts provided by the injured workers.
As we slowly turn-the-corner from this recent pandemic, the operations of townships are likely to be dramatically changed. These new normal operations may consist of an increase in work-from-home personnel and so your municipal policies and procedures should reflect this potential change, encourage it where it can be beneficial, and promote the facet of a safe, healthy and productive at-home work environment.
The Comp Alliance strives to keep members informed of the latest industry and program news. Please visit us at www.compalliance.org for the latest news, updated events calendar, safety articles, safety bulletins and more.
LIVE – Virtual Video Conference TRAINING Conducted on three PESH-mandated topics:
Workplace Violence, Right-To-Know – Chemical Safety, and Blood-Borne Pathogens
The Risk Management Department of the Comp Alliance has scheduled virtual video conference training programs for our school and municipal members, covering three mandatory PESH-required training topics listed above. Attendance is limited.
A seminar including the NY State Mandated Safety Training topics that are required for ALL municipal employees, administrators, board members, volunteers, and seasonal hires on an annual basis.
Remaining September Dates9/14 – 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
October Dates10/4 – 10:00 – Noon10/7 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.10/11 - 10:00 - Noon10/13 - 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.10/18 - 10:00 - Noon10/21 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.10/25 10:00 - Noon10/27 10:00 - Noon
November Dates11/1 - 10:00 - Noon11/4 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.11/8 - 10:00 - Noon11/10 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.11/15 - 10:00 - Noon11/17 - 10:00 - Noon11/18 - 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.11/22 - 10:00 - Noon11/23 - 10:00 - Noon11/29 - 10:00 - Noon
Click Here to access the Comp Alliance Claim Reporting Portal which provides program members with access to the ATS System allowing users to:
Program Members can also pdf click here (1.03 MB) to view and print the user guide.
The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time for the entire school staff. Given the continued pandemic conditions and uncertainty about student and staff expectations, there is likely some apprehension as well. The ability to improvise, adapt and overcome will lead your educational program to a safe and productive school year.
Personal safety and the ability to complete all job requirements in an effective and positive manner is important.
The Comp Alliance will be sending out daily safety tips to our school district members the week of Monday, August 30th through Friday, September 3rd. These tips will serve as reminders to staff on the importance of safety, completing injury-free work and maintaining a positive attitude throughout the final preparations for opening day!
Daily School District Safety Tips (Now Available to Members by logging into the Comp Alliance School Academy and Visiting Safety Culture Talks)
August 30 – Importance of Effective Safety Committee Meetings
August 31 – Coaches - A Game Plan for Safety
September 1 – Custodians - Exposed to Hazardous Chemicals and Lifting Injuries
September 2 – Safety Orientation for School Bus Drivers
September 3 – Teacher Safety - Classroom Hazards to Avoid
Additional school safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website. http://www.compalliance.org/.
|27 Oct 2021|
10:00AM - 12:00PM
Live Zoom Safety Training for Comp Alliance Members
|29 Oct 2021|
08:00AM - 08:30AM
HAZWOPER Awareness Training Live Via Zoom
|01 Nov 2021|
10:00AM - 12:00PM
Live Zoom Safety Training for Comp Alliance Members