Helping Workers “Beat the Heat” in the Blazing Northeast
With the recent, dramatic rise in temperatures throughout much of the northeastern United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has taken its “Water. Rest. Shade.” message straight to America’s workers through a number of outreach efforts. Area offices in New York and New Jersey are stressing heat stress prevention at OSHA education centers and distributing bilingual publications to construction workers. News media interviews with OSHA staff highlight OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool, a mobile application available on most smartphones. In Connecticut, OSHA’s alliance with Lamar Outdoor Advertising will ensure the placement of heat-related safety billboards across the southwest part of the state, and construction and home builders associations have agreed to include heat campaign information on their websites. The Guatemalan Consulate in Rhode Island, the Brazilian Immigrant Center in Massachusetts, temporary employment groups and Latino organizations are distributing pamphlets and bilingual educational information. And numerous presentations and letters have been sent to stakeholders and partners from area offices in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. OSHA takes the heat wave seriously and is working hard to ensure the safety of employers and their workers.
Protecting Health-care Workers Is Focus of New OSHA Campaign
A major source of injury to health-care workers is musculoskeletal disorders, often due to overexertion and manual patient handling activities. Consequently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new outreach campaign to raise awareness about the hazards associated with MSDs. According to OSHA, improper patient handling is a leading cause of sprains, strains, and soft tissue and back injuries. As part of the campaign, OSHA is providing employers, unions and associations in the health-care industry throughout Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District of Columbia with information on proper methods for lifting and transferring patients.
Senate Confirms Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor
The U.S. Senate on July 18 approved the nomination of Thomas E. Perez to be the nation’s 26th Secretary of Labor. Perez has spent his entire career in public service, and will join the department on July 23 after an impressive tenure as the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. He previously served as the secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which enforces workplace safety laws, wage and hour laws and a range of consumer rights laws. Perez was a principal architect of a sweeping package of state lending and foreclosure reforms to address the foreclosure crisis in Maryland. President Obama nominated Perez to be Secretary of Labor in March. In Maryland, the president said, Perez “helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law, because he understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.”
$64 Million in Grants to Expedite Re-employment
With recent research showing strong evidence that re-employment and eligibility assessments can help unemployed workers find a job more quickly, the department announced a new round of grants on July 15 to help implement these programs at the local level. The funds will be used to provide unemployment insurance recipients with personalized re-employment plans based on career interests and local labor market information as well as referrals to local training programs. Two new states, Connecticut and Delaware, along with the Virgin Islands, are receiving grants to implement an REA program while 36 additional states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are being awarded additional funds to continue existing programs. The funds also will be used to help review claimants’ eligibility for Unemployment Insurance benefits and to reduce improper payments.
Myth: The federal minimum wage goes up automatically as prices increase.
Not true: While some states have enacted rules in recent years triggering automatic increases in their minimum wages to help them keep up with inflation, the federal minimum wage does not operate in the same manner. An increase in the federal minimum wage requires approval by Congress and the president. However, in his proposal to increase the current federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour by 2015, President Obama has also called for the federal minimum wage to adjust automatically with inflation. Eliminating the requirement of formal congressional action would likely reduce the amount of time between increases, and better help low-income families keep up with rising prices.
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