One-third of Workers Are Sleepy, Leading to Safety Issues and More

sleepy worker

More than 35% of workers in the U.S. are not getting enough sleep, a new study has found. That can lead to serious workplace safety issues, especially for occupations that use heavy machinery, people who work in factories or warehouses, construction or as drivers.

Among workers in other occupations it can lead to costly mistakes, friction among staff and poor communications, all of which can have a detrimental effect on your operations.

The study by researchers at Ball State University looked at self-reports of sleep duration among 150,000 adults working in different occupations between 2010 and 2018. Researchers found the prevalence of inadequate sleep, defined as seven hours or less, had increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018.

Lead researcher Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of health science at Ball State University, identified these factors as being behind the increase:

  • Rising stress loads for a variety of reasons, due to pressure at work and at home, and
  • Thanks to the rise of smartphones, people are not unplugging from work and continue checking their phones for work-related messages. Because of this, many people are dealing with work issues up until they go to bed, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Sleep deprivation can have a number of detrimental effects in the workplace, including:

Decreased communication — A worker who is sleepy may not communicate as well as they normally do. This can include mumbling, poor enunciation, slurring, running words together and not speaking in complete thoughts.

Decline in productivity — Workers who don’t get enough sleep are slower at performing their jobs and often make mistakes, which requires them to go back and do things over again.

Increased distraction — Sleep-deprived individuals often have trouble maintaining focus on their tasks, keeping track of events, maintaining interest in outcomes and doing work they consider non-essential.

Impaired driving — Getting behind the wheel after not having enough sleep can be akin to driving under the influence of alcohol. But it’s not only company drivers you have to be concerned about. If you have forklifts, lawnmowers or operators of any type of machinery, there is a greater chance they’ll make a mistake when operating those vehicles or machines if they are sleep-deprived.

More mistakes — A lack of sleep results in a decline in cognitive abilities, which can result in workers making mistakes. These include errors performing tasks or failing to perform tasks. Mistakes especially are likely in subject-paced tasks in which cognitive slowing occurs, and with tasks that are time-sensitive, which cause increases in cognitive errors.

Memory can suffer — Short-term and working memory can decline due to sleep deprivation.

Poor mood — Not enough sleep can make people moody and can result in inappropriate outbursts, impatience, lack of regard for social conventions, inappropriate behavior and irritability — all of which can affect a positive work culture.

Increased risk-taking — Judgment can be affected by not sleeping enough, which can result in risky decision-making, which in turn can result in workplace accidents and injuries.

What you can do

If you suspect you have staff who are not getting enough sleep and that it may be affecting their work performance, you can:

  • Ensure they have a reasonable work schedule. That includes not working them too much and asking them not to take work home with them.
  • Offer more flexibility. You can offer staff the ability to work from home a few times a week or per month.
  • Cut down on e-mails and meetings. Set a company policy for communication and encourage brief, face-to-face meetings and phone calls instead of drawn-out e-mail discussions.
  • Provide employees time to recharge. Offering time to recharge, along with flexibility and a healthier workload, can improve employee restfulness and ease workplace pressures.
  • Don’t require staff to answer work e-mails at home.

New Law Prohibits Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements

sign-document-agreement

After years of trying and rejections by former governors, a bill banning mandatory employment arbitration agreements in California has become law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 10 signed into law Assembly Bill 51, which prohibits almost all employment arbitration agreements, starting Jan. 1 next year. But because the new law conflicts with federal law, it will most certainly be challenged in court.

That said, because it is now the law of California, employers would be wise to understand just what it does and how they should change their employment policies and agreements to keep from running afoul of AB 51.

AB 51 broken down

The new law bars employers from requiring applicants, employees and independent contractors to sign mandatory arbitration agreements and waive rights to filing lawsuits if they file a complaint for:

  • Racial discrimination
  • Religious discrimination
  • National origin or ancestral discrimination
  • Disability discrimination
  • Sex or sexual orientation discrimination
  • Age discrimination
  • Discrimination based on pregnancy or related conditions
  • Sexual and other forms of harassment
  • Wage and hour issues
  • Other protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California Labor Code.

In addition, the bill creates a new private right of action under the state’s FEHA, meaning that a company that requires staff to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement could be subject to a lawsuit by that employee. This provision exposes California employers to another layer of costly litigation related to arbitration agreements.

And any employee who successfully challenges a violation of the law would also be entitled to attorneys’ fees.

Legal issues

One problem for this new legislation is that it may violate federal law, as former Gov Jerry Brown noted when he vetoed a similar bill in 2018. He said at the time: “Since this bill plainly violates federal law, I cannot sign this measure.”

Many legal analysts predict that AB 51 will be overturned once challenged in court on the grounds that is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which would eventually invalidate the law.  Such a challenge could mean that the law’s validity may remain unsettled for some time.

The FAA was enacted in 1925 by Congress to ensure the validity and enforcement of arbitration agreements. State laws attempting to interfere with arbitration have been repeatedly and consistently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, as preempted by the FAA.

What you should do

AB 51 applies to contracts entered into, modified or extended on or after Jan. 1, 2020. If you require new employees to sign arbitration agreements, you could be at risk of violating the new law.

Do not consider including an opt-out clause in your agreements, as the bill prohibits employers from using voluntary opt-out clauses.

The best course of action is to contact your legal counsel to see if you should continue including mandatory arbitration agreements in new employment contracts, and also whether you need to modify any existing agreements you may have.

As Cyber Threat Mounts, More Companies Take Measures

cyber attack protection

As attacks on businesses’ networks continue increasing at unprecedent levels, cyber risks have become the top concern among organizations of all sizes for the first time, according to a new survey.

The “Travelers Risk Index” found that 55% of executives surveyed said they worry “some” or “a great deal” about cyber risks. That’s more than they worry about medical cost inflation (54%), employee benefit costs (53%), the ability to attract and retain talent (46%) and legal liability (44%).

And the most common types of attacks, and which pose the biggest security threat to businesses, are phishing and fake e-mails. They are the hardest to combat because of the human factor involved, according to another survey, the “2019 Cyber Security Breaches Survey” published by the U.K. government.

In phishing e-mails, the cyber criminals will pose as colleagues or vendors to dupe an unsuspecting employee to hand over a password or click on a malicious link that will give them access to the company’s network.

In addition, ransomware has brought many businesses and government agencies to a standstill as the same technique is used to freeze an entire network and render it unusable until the company pays a ransom for a key to unlock the network.

As concerns about cyber threats have grown, more businesses say they are taking proactive measures to safeguard against cyber risks – even though a large percentage have not implemented preventive best practices.

The steps that companies are taking, according to the Travelers survey, are:

  • Purchasing a cyber insurance policy (51% of survey participants, up from 39% in the 2018 survey the insurer conducted).
  • Creating a business continuity plan in the event of a cyber attack (47%, up from 38%).
  • Taking a cyber-risk assessment for themselves (49%, up from 45%).
  • Taking a cyber-risk assessment for their vendors (41%, up from 37%).
  • Updating computer passwords (74%, up from 71%).

The fact is that a single cyber attack can put a company out of business. Taking the threat seriously and implementing a risk management program that addresses possible exposures can help a business not only avoid an attack, but also recover from one as quickly as possible.

How to lower the chances of an attack

The insurance company Chubb recommends the following steps to reduce the chances of a cyber attack on your organization:

Identify your sensitive data – Credit card and personally identifiable information is often the target of cyber attacks.

Educate your staff – Instruct your employees about cyber attacks and how to protect the network. The most important thing for them to remember is to not to open attachments from people they don’t know or in e-mails they don’t expect.
You should also post procedures for encrypting personal or sensitive information, and require them to change their passwords regularly.

Have security in place – You should have a web application firewall in place to protect your website, in addition to a firewall for your company’s network. If you accept credit card payments, you should have an e-commerce platform that is compliant with payment card industry data security standards Level 1.

Secure your hardware – Data breaches can be caused by physical property being stolen, too. If your servers, laptops, cell phones or other electronics are not secure and easy to steal, you are taking a big risk. Physically locking down computers and servers is a good idea.

Cyber insurance

As the cyber threat becomes more sophisticated and changes, cyber-insurance policies have evolved to meet businesses’ needs. There are many types of policies in the marketplace that are tailored for specific types of businesses. The key is getting a policy that best fits your organization and covers any eventualities that you may encounter.

Some coverages you may want to consider for inclusion in your cyber insurance are:

  • Business interruption – Covers the loss of business income due a cyber attack.
  • Computer fraud – Covers theft of money, securities and other forms of tangible property through computer fraud and social engineering schemes.
  • Data breach – Covers claims of failure to protect personally identifiable information and protected health information of clients.
  • Property damage – Covers replacement cost of computers damaged by a cyber attack.
  • Identity theft expenses – These are related to the business owner or their employees after identity theft.
  • Advertising and personal injury – Covers damage caused by defamation on website or social media.
  • Transmission of virus or malicious content – Covers failure to stop the transmission of a computer virus or malicious content.
  • Errors and omissions – Covers loss caused by failure to provide proper network security.

Some policies are stand-alone products, while others are endorsements to existing polices like a business owner’s policy.

Harassment Training Deadline Pushed Back for Some Employers

harassment training

As you should already be aware, any employer with five or more workers is required to conduct sexual harassment prevention training for their staff by the end of 2019 under a California law passed in 2018.

Due to concerns that many employers in the state may not be ready to comply, Gov. Gavin Newsom has now signed a bill into law that extends the compliance deadline for some employers.

Under the new law, SB 778, all employees, both supervisory and non-supervisory, must be trained by Jan. 1, 2021, which extends the deadline by a year.

The original law, SB 1343, required all employers with five or more staff to conduct sexual harassment prevention training to their employees before Jan. 1, 2020 – and every two years after that.

Prior to the law that took effect in 2018, employers with 50 or more employees were required to provide only supervisors with anti-sexual harassment training every two years.

Here are the new rules:

  • If you trained your staff in 2019, you aren’t required to provide refresher training until two years from the time the employee was trained.
  • If you trained your employees in 2018, you can maintain the two-year cycle and still comply with the new January 1, 2021 deadline. For example, if you trained your staff in November 2018, you would not have to train them again until November 2020.
  • If you trained supervisors in 2017 under prior law, known as AB 1825, you should train those employees this year in order to maintain your two-year cycle.

The deadline was not extended for employers of seasonal and temporary employees, who are hired to work for less than six months. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, these employees must be trained within 30 calendar days after their hire date or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.

The rest of the law remains intact:

  • Supervisors must receive two hours of training and non-supervisory employees must receive one hour.
  • Training must take place within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter.

The reason the new law has been enacted is that employers who trained their employees in 2018 would need to train them again in 2019, resulting in those individuals being trained twice within a two-year period, which went against the spirit of the law.

SB 778 was essentially clean-up legislation to correct that problem by extending the training deadline under SB 1343 from Jan. 1, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021 for those employers.

New Law Significantly Changes When Injuries Must Be Reported to Cal/OSHA

Injury claim report

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a measure into law that will greatly expand when employers are required to report workplace injuries to Cal/OSHA.

The new law, AB 1805, broadens the scope of what will be classified as a serious illness or injury which regulations require employers to report to Cal/OSHA “immediately. As of yet, there is no effective date for this new law, but observers say regulations will first have to be written, a process that would start next year.

The definition of “serious injury or illness” has for decades been an injury or illness that requires inpatient hospitalization for more than 24 hours for treatment, or if an employee suffers a “loss of member” or serious disfigurement.

The definition has excluded hospitalizations for medical observation. Serious injuries caused by a commission of a penal code violation (a criminal assault and battery), or a vehicle accident on a public road or highway have also been excluded.

The new rules

The new rules being implemented by AB 1805 are designed to bring California’s rules more in line with Federal OSHA’s regulations for reporting. Here are the new rules:

  • Any inpatient hospitalization (even less than 24 hours) for treatment of a workplace injury or illness will need to be reported to Cal/OSHA.
  • For reporting purposes, an inpatient hospitalization must be required for something “other than medical observation or diagnostic testing.”
  • Employers will need to report any “amputation” to Cal/OSHA. This replaces the terminology “loss of member.” Even if the tip of a finger is cut off, it’s considered an amputation.
  • Employers must still report any serious disfiguration to Cal/OSHA.
  • Loss of an eye must be reported.
  • Serious injuries or deaths caused by a commission of a penal code violation must now be reported.
  • While the exclusion for injuries resulting from auto accidents on a public street or highway remain in effect, accidents that occur in a construction zone must now be reported.

Compliance

Rules for reporting serious injuries and illness or fatalities are as follows:

  • The report must be made within eight hours of the employer knowing, or with “diligent inquiry” should have known, about the serious injury or illness (or fatality).
  • The report must be made by phone to the nearest Cal/OSHA district office (note that a companion bill, AB 1804, eliminated e-mail as a means of reporting because e-mail can allow for incomplete incident reporting).

Because of the “diligent inquiry” component, employers should monitor an injured worker’s condition once they learn of an injury, particularly if they need to seek out medical treatment. A member of the staff should be on hand to monitor the employee and report to supervisors immediately if that person will need to be hospitalized.

Employers should make sure that supervisors are made aware of the new rules so that any time a worker is injured to the point that they need to be hospitalized, they know to notify Cal/OSHA within eight hours.

Also, if you have an employee that suffers a medical episode at work – such as a seizure, heart attack or stroke – you are required to report the hospitalization to Cal/OSHA.

It’s better to err on the side of caution if an employee is hospitalized for any reason. Not doing so can result in penalties for failure to report or failing to report in a timely manner.

Accordingly, it is important to educate management representatives, particularly those charged with the responsibility to make reports to Cal/OSHA, about the nuances of Cal/OSHA’s reporting rules.

One final note: The results of a serious injury or illness or workplace fatality will usually trigger a site inspection by Cal/OSHA.