A few gins have called us recently regarding a letter or email from OSHA regarding their DART Rate. So what is a DART Rate and do you know what yours is? A DART Rate is a measure of injuries and illnesses and is designed to be able to compare industry to industry and individual companies to an industry average. It is SUPPOSED to eliminate the size factor so that you can compare apples to apples. DART stands for Days Away Restricted or Transferred.
Ideally, the DART rate is the number of injuries that would be lost time or restricted an employer with 100 employees would have in a year’s time. It is based on the 200,000 hour base for 100 employees at 2000 hours each. Employers record injuries with days away, restricted or transferred on their OSHA 300 form. For the past few years, nearly all employers have been required to send their OSHA 300A summary information (this includes the DART information) to OSHA. This has evolved in to some gins getting letters.
I have been reading some this morning on what we might expect for labor under a new Biden administration. Lots of speculation surrounding Department of Labor secretary and that will become a bit more clear as time goes on. The concerns I have are more of a day-to-day issue.
The first of my concerns is minimum wage. One of candidate Biden’s key promises was to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. This is an easy ask for a Dem controlled House even if the Republicans are able to keep the Senate. Also possible for the Republicans to give away in response for push back on another issue. It won’t be an easy task but look for it to be a visible issue early on.
Also on Wages. Under the Obama administration the Secretary had pushed to make it much harder for an individual to be an independent contractor. The intent is to get rid of the ‘gig economy’ such us Uber. California has a law that we may see a push to be mirrored in the rest of the US. As Politico has California’s Labor secretary as a potential for US Labor Sec. it is likely that classification as an independent contractor will be much harder. This could mean haulers and select other truckers that have been contractors will be considered employees… and subject to overtime.
Even though this year has barely gotten under way for most gins, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has started making its presence felt in much of our region. We have recently received reports of virtual investigations in NC, SC and AL. We understand an in-person investigation is scheduled but has yet to be conducted in SC.
This is the second year of a regional cotton gin emphasis program. Association staff has met with Wage and Hour staff in both NC and SC recently. It was a very constructive meeting. They provided the documents linked at the bottom of this article for ginners resources. We can only assume that this emphasis program will continue until a low number of violations (even very minor ones) are found. This is the first time that NC has been involved. It is unknown how many gins will be inspected in any given state but last year 10-15 gins across the region were visited.
Each year, the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association holds a labor relations forum. This forum brings speakers from many aspects of agricultural labor from regulators to farm labor contractors (FLC’s) to attorneys for employers to discuss anything and everything affecting the ag community.
The forum is geared toward the produce and fruit industries but as we have become more reliant on migrant workers and more gins have had to resort to desperate measures to find labor, our interests are running together. This year’s forum has gone virtual.
Normally held in October/November each year and held in Tifton, this forum is not typically friendly to gin participation. The organizers have elected to make this a virtual meeting in light of Covid and it is spread out over a longer period. This may give you (our membership) more opportunity to listen in and participate.
This is the second year we have been a sponsor of this forum. It is a good opportunity to learn more about how other industries are dealing with the legal and regulatory aspects of migrant labor and H2A.
You can find more information at http://www.georgiaaglaborforum.com/.
The National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA) is hosting a webinar specifically on Covid-19 and compliance issues surrounding the ever changing world of what we should be doing. Travis Vance with the firm Fisher and Phillips will lead the webinar. All cotton Ginners are invited to take part. The link for the free webinar is https://cotton.zoom.us/j/99549992735. To log-in manually, the meeting ID is: 995 4999 2735
All ginners are encouraged to attend this webinar. This topic was very popular at the recent NCGA issues webinar and many requests came in for more information and a webinar on this single subject. The meeting will be August 11 at 3 PM Eastern time (2 PM Central) and should last about 2 hours. Give us a call if you need the full invitation information.
OSHA’s approach to Covid illness in the workplace has …. evolved…. over time. As of now there are no hard rules set to address covid and covid like illness but over time, OSHA and some state’s workers comp (such as California) say that Covid can be a work related illness if a reasonable person can expect the exposure that caused the illness came from the work place.
Although no citations that we’re aware of at the moment have been issued, it seems logical that at some point osha will look at widespread outbreaks of Covid as something to investigate. The General Duty Clause is a catch-all piece of OSHA law that can be cited in the absence of other standards. If an outbreak happens, and a complaint occurs, it is possible for OSHA to look at whether or not an employer has done anything to help stop the virus.
To that end, we’re urging you to take a look at our HELPFUL Covid Links page. This is NOT a comprehensive list of resources… far from it. It is just a good starting place to start work on this issue. No one can prescribe the things each employer needs to do to address this but some attention needs to be made and remember… if it didn’t happen on paper, it didn’t happen. Develop a plan, write it down and follow it.