Four Steps for Managing Employees from Afar (from Construction Business Owner)

Follow these steps to avoid OSHA violations and ensure your workforce values safety and professionalism regardless of who is watching.
Written by:

Howard Mavity


June 1, 2014 


A CEO friend of mine was trying to exit a hotel. As he emerged from the designated exit stairway, he 
almost fell into a hole and tripped over construction debris. Spotting a contractor foreman, he reasonably pointed out that the workers were violating a host of OSHA and local codes and that the head of the state’s OSHA agency was actually meeting with his supervisors at that same hotel. This moment of politeness was greeted by an expletive and then dismissed. When the CEO returned to his office, he asked his construction managers if they had heard of the contractor. “Why, yes,” they responded, “we use them a lot.” The CEO’s response? “Not anymore.”

Many employees work alone at a customer’s site with no immediate supervision or safety professional to check for hazards and ensure professionalism. Many employees, such as journeymen electricians and certified crane 
operators, are trained to operate with minimal supervision. Other workers may be less equipped to individually analyze their settings. Unfortunately, both types of isolated workers may violate OSHA standards or act unprofessionally, as in the case of the soon-to-be ex-foreman mentioned above. Preventing that misconduct is more of a problem when employees—even those who are experienced—are working alone. In fact, the majority of the nearly 500 workplace fatalities I’ve managed involved experienced employees, not new hires. Experienced workers may become lax about hazards, or when fatigued, lose sight of good judgment.

An employer has some level of duty to protect its employees whether they are on the employer’s work site or working elsewhere. The employer cannot delegate this responsibility to others even when another employer controls the work site. The employer retains responsibility to protect its people—even highly skilled workers who are trained to operate alone. OSHA can cite multiple employers on the same job. For example, OSHA might cite the work site 
owner for creating the hazard and the actual employer for allowing its employee to be exposed to the hazard. However, a contractor can’t send a safety manager to conduct a site safety analysis at every power pole, ready-mix delivery or work site where skilled craftsmen are working alone.

Photo courtesy of ClickSafety of a Webcor Builders Jobsite by Ryan Hefferman Photography

If an accident occurs, OSHA will ask the employer many of the same questions that it would ask if the employer 
controlled the work site or had a supervisor present: Who did the site safety analysis? How did you monitor employees and ensure that they used fall protection? Did you 
conduct a pre-work meeting? When did these employees last attend a safety meeting?

You may assume that employees confer throughout the day with supervisors, dispatchers and technicians. You may have trained employees to exercise greater responsibility when working alone, but are these procedures documented? To ensure your employees maintain safe and 
professional conduct while on the job and to avoid violating OSHA regulations, follow the steps below.


Posted in construction, employee engagement, hazard assessment, OSHA, reducing injuries, safety programs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two New Webinars: Bullying, the NLRB and Its War On Employer Rules and “Live From the AGC National Safety Committee Meeting.”

Dealing With Workplace Bullying And Misconduct While The NLRB Challenges Your Rules
Join us for a Webinar on July 24
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
A quarter of American Workers claim to have been seriously bullied at work, and many discrimination and other claims were caused by such employee misconduct, rather than unlawful actions.  Many employers have implemented “anti-bullying” policies or made employee civility and code of conduct rules more robust.  Unfortunately, the NLRB is aggressively attacking policies which might discourage employee’s exercise of their Section 7 rights to organize.  While the D.C. Circuit Court has pointed out that union organizing is not synonymous with abusive and threatening behavior, the NLRB does not appear to agree.


Title: Dealing With Workplace Bullying And Misconduct While The NLRB Challenges Your Rules
Date: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT


After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.


System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

Live From The AGC Of America National Safety Committee Meeting

Join us for a Webinar on July 17
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Howard Mavity will host three nationally regarded safety professionals to discuss concerns and lessons gleaned from the July 16 through 18 AGC National Safety Committee Meeting in Portland.  Nationally regarded safety professionals, Bob Emmerich, P.E., and Jim Goss, will join Kevin Cannon, Director of Safety and Health Services  of the AGC of America.  We will discuss trends in OSHA enforcement, new technology for safety efforts, and challenges and solutions raised by construction attendees.


Title: Live From The AGC Of America National Safety Committee Meeting
Date: Thursday, July 17, 2014
Time: 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM PDT


After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.


System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet
Posted in attitude/culture, construction, discipline and discharge, discrimination, employer policies, harassment, internal investigations, management and leadership, NLRB, OSHA, safety programs, workplace violence | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Workplace Bullying and the NLRB

Workplace and school violence events have contributed to our increasing national conversation about “bullying.” Recently, NPR quoted a Zogby poll in which more than a quarter of American workers reported that they have experienced abusive conduct at work. 64% of respondents to a Monster Global Poll felt that they had been “bullied, either physically hurt, driven to tears, or had their work performance harmed.” Legislation is pending in a number of states and the topic regularly shows up in several media discussions. I’m convinced that the problem is real.  We would be interested in how many of you are actually implementing workplace anti-bullying policies, whether they are separate from your no-discrimination/no harassment efforts, and whether you are seeing a positive effect?

Both practical and legal problems impede developing effective policies. As an example, how do you define “bullying” and how do you distinguish this objectionable conduct from the sort of workplace banter and teasing that men often use to bond with one another? Michael Akin, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Society of Human Resource Management pointed out that, “It’s tough, if not impossible, to legislate against someone being a jerk.” However, employers may be able to develop an effective Code of Conduct and Effective Anti-Bullying Policy based upon requiring employees to use “good judgment” and to be a “professional.”

Unfortunately Recent NLRB Decisions Make It Harder To Draft Policies

New challenges to employer policies emerge every time the National Labor Relations Board opens its doors. The NLRB has incredible broadly attacked Rules of Conduct as “tending to chill employees in the exercise of their Section VII rights.” Although the D.C. Circuit Court and the Board itself have observed “that threatening and abusive language are not inherent aspects of union organizing or other Section VII activities,” the Board nonetheless strikes down many policies as too vague.

Any policy has to be read as a whole, and a single statement may be lawful or unlawful depending upon the purpose of and the context of the policy. Thus, some of the language set out below has been found lawful in certain context or in conjunction with other policies. Nevertheless, the Board has found the rules below as overbroad in recent cases:

• A rule prohibiting “making false, vicious, profane or malicious statements toward or concerning the hotel or any employee;”
• Verbal comments or physical gestures directed to others that exceed the bounds of fair criticism and behavior that is counter to promoting teamwork;
• Behavior that is disruptive to maintaining a safe and healing environment or that is counter to promoting teamwork;
• Prohibiting “loud, abusive, or foul language;”
• Discipline for “the inability or unwillingness to work harmoniously with other employees;”
• Prohibiting negativity, any type of negative energy or attitudes;
• Engage in any activity which could harm the image or reputation of the company; and
• A rule prohibiting “negative conversations about employees or managers.”

The NLRB decisions are not consistent and it is difficult to find clear patterns. One response may be to utilize the language in some of the proposed state anti-bullying statutes. One proposed statute defines “abusive conduct,” as:

Acts, omissions, or both, that a reasonable person would find abusive, based on the severity, nature and frequency of the conduct, including, but is not limited to: repeated verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets; verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating, or humiliating nature; or the sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance. It shall be considered an aggregating factor if the conduct exploited an employee’s known psychological or physical illness or disability. A single act normally shall not constitute abusive conduct, but an especially severe and egregious act may meet this standard;

“Abusive work environment” means, an employee condition when an employer or one or more of its employees, acting with intent to cause pain or distress to an employee, subjects the employee to abusive conduct that causes physical harm, psychological harm, or both;

I would be interested in comments on how my readers are addressing bullying in the workplace.

I also encourage you to obtain legal review of your Employee handbooks and policies, even if you did so in 2013. Yes … the NLRB has changed things that much. But more on that subject in a future post.


Posted in attitude/culture, cultural changes, hospitality, public attacks, restaurants, retail, social media, union organizing, unions, Washington, workplace violence | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Have you Prepared For Third Party Embarassment Tactics?

The areas of labor, employment, and safety exposure which present very real threats to the distribution industry. There are several reasons for this increased focus on these types of business:

■Distribution is a huge market for plaintiff lawyers who want business, unions who need members, and government agencies seeking to be relevant in the new workplace.
■The Administration and third party groups such as “Occupy Wall Street” spin offs, are critical of the often non-union supply chain process. The Wage Hour Director wrote a scathing book titled, The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became Back So Bad For So Many And What Can Be Done To Improve It. The book raises valid concerns, but you won’t like the proposed “fixes” of more regulation and encouragement of unionization.
■You may also suffer ancillary damage resulting from attacks on your customers. Third parties may attack suppliers and distributors as a way of bringing pressure on the customer. Or unions may try to embarrass a distributor’s customers in order to force the distributor to “voluntarily”recognize a union.

Embarrassment & Public Attacks Are the New Organizing Tool

Unions and other third parties have never before so heavily used public embarrassment as a means of organizing employees. The key to union organizing is to find a disgruntled employee who will serve as a leader and capitalize on existing workplace problems. These problems are typically compounded by communications breakdowns and ineffective supervisors. Surveys show that the most divisive workplace issues are a sense of unfairness, discrimination, an unsafe workplace, and a sense that the employer does not care about employees.


Posted in auto industry, boycotts, class actions/systemic investigation, hospitality, manufacturing, public attacks, restaurants, retail, unions | Leave a comment

The “Root Cause” Of Most Workplace Problems Is A Lack Of “Good Judgment”

I no longer use the term “common sense” other than to criticize the term as having lost its meaning.  The majority of the 500 or so workplace death cases I have investigated have involved poor judgment by an otherwise decent and skilled worker.  Many incidents of alleged harassment and discrimination may not meet the legal standard of unlawful behavior but demonstrated remarkably bad decision making.  There is an absence out in the work world of this so-called “common sense.”

Commonsense demands that the term be renamed “uncommon” sense.  The “common” aspect of common sense is supposed to be “knowledge, judgment, and taste, which is more or less universal and which is held more or less without reflection or argument.”  The “common” behaviors described above do not match Miriam Webster’s definition of “common sense”as “the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.”  Nor do these worker behaviors satisfy Karl Albrecht’s definition of “Practical Intelligence” which is the “mental ability to cope with the challenges and opportunities of life.” 

I do not know if there was a time when more people practiced common sense, but certainly I do not live in that period.  I prefer to use the term “good judgment,” which is hardly “common.”  Rather than define “good” judgment, let’s look at the McMillan Dictionary discussion of “bad” judgment:


Foolish –                      lacking good sense and judgment;

Impulsive –                  tends to do things without thinking about what will happen as a result;

Unthinking –                done without thinking that it might be wrong or stupid;

Impetuous -                 does things quickly without thinking about what will happen as a result;

Ill-considered –            made or done without careful thought;

Undiscriminating -       deciding what one likes without carefully thinking about the value of qualities of different choices;

Hasty -                        doing things in a hurry, without careful planning or thought;

Automatically -            without conscious thought or intention, especially because of habits; and

Shallow -                     not interested in serious ideas, strong feelings for other important things.


Teach people how to avoid bad “judgment” and you’ll eliminate most workplace problems.

Fortunately, you can train most workers to practice good judgment.  As an example, the essence of using good judgment in working safely is to constantly pause before the next task, think about the hazards and how to perform the job, and take the necessary steps to finish the job without incident.  Similarly, many claims of harassment and discrimination would be avoided if a supervisor simply paused to think about how their remarks would appear, or to ponder whether they really should say that in an email.  I will continue to write about the role of good judgment in the workplace, but as a starting point, I encourage you to dig more deeply in your root cause analysis as to why employees do the wrong things.  The “J” word may pop up.  Then perhaps you can regularly conduct “tool box”-type talks to remind employees to use that uncommon good judgment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Familiar But Great Reminders Of Bad Facebook Judgment

11 Brutal Reminders That You Can and Will Get Fired for What You Post on Facebook// // // <![CDATA[
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11 Brutal Reminders That You Can and Will Get Fired for What You Post on Facebook

11 Brutal Reminders That You Can and Will Get Fired for What You Post on Facebook

In this new society that we’ve all agreed to be a part of, your Facebook page is an extension of yourself. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to post anything there that you wouldn’t normally say, for example, to your boss.

The unfortunate folks below didn’t get that memo. Here are 11 examples of Facebookers who weren’t so careful with what they shared and, as a result, put their employment statuses in jeopardy because of it.

1. Broadcasting to your online friends how much you hate your boss is probably not going to help you stay employed, especially if your boss is one of those online friends. This embarrassing post (below) probably did a number on our poster’s relationship with said boss.


Anonymous employee in hot water. (

2. A Swiss woman in 2009 was playing what would normally have been a simple case of hooky, claiming that she had a migraine and could not work in front of a computer screen. Unfortunately, her employer noticed that she had signed in to Facebook that same day. Saying that this had “destroyed its trust in her,” company management decided to let her go. In defense, the woman did claim to have been accessing Facebook from her iPhone, but she was fired (or sacked, as they say abroad), regardless.


We’re betting this old story still gives her a headache. (



NOTE: Check with your counsel before disciplining or taking other adverse action against employees who post critical material about the company.  The NLRB has taken a very broad view of what posts constitute protected concerted activity.


Posted in attitude/culture, cultural changes, generational differences, social media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Mother’s Day Tribute

Mother’s Day Guest Post

familyAs a compulsive writer and blogger, it was inevitable that I would write a post acknowledging moms today. I am deeply thankful for my mother and for my wife, and for all that they have had to put up with from me and from life. I doubt that this long missive is one of my better posts, but that’s not the point. I wrote this piece for mom and Karla.  (CONTINUE READING AT KARLA’S CORNER)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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