Risk Management

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Employer Rights During an OSHA Inspection

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OSHA shows up at your door for a workplace inspection. What do you do?  Well first of all, if you are a client of A Plus Benefits, you should give us a call. Here are some other things to know from SHRM, in case you find yourself in this situation.

As an employer you do have the right to refuse the OSHA inspection, but the inspector can get a warrant from a judge to grant them access, so it is probably not in your best interest to do so. Employers can ask the OSHA inspector to wait for a member of management or designated safety professional to arrive before entering the worksite. Work that can be observed from plain view such as construction on the building, an OSHA inspector can document violations they see without entering the property.

Having a good relationship with OSHA inspectors can help the inspections go smoothly. Designating a certain employee to manage the inspection and has an understanding of what the inspection entails and things to be aware of can help your company stay out of hot water.

Make sure you are courteous the inspector and find out the specific reason for the inspection.  You will want to accompany the OSHA office though the worksite. Be sure to limit the inspection to the specific issue that prompted the visit. If an OSHA officer is there to inspect pipes, but attempts to do a wall to wall inspection, the employer can push back and try to limit the scope. It is best to carefully document everything the OSHA inspector is inspecting, in writing and by taking pictures. If you take the inspector to an area in your workplace where employees are required to wear hard hats, make sure to remember to have the inspector wear a hard hat too. This will show the inspector you are serious about safety.  One thing to remember- anything that is said to the OSHA inspector, such as “I meant to fix that…” can be held against the company.

Interviews are sometimes conducted by an inspector. When nonsupervisory employees are interviewed, they can be interviewed in private. When employees in supervisory positions are interviewed, they do have a right to have legal counsel or a manager present, since they are speaking on behalf of the company. If a manager admits to a violation, it is equivalent to the company admitting to the violation. Having legal counsel present will help ensure all questions are clear and answered appropriately.

Being familiar with what to expect during an OSHA inspection and establishing a good relationship with the inspector will make the process easier. Being proactive with your safety procedures to prevent potential issues instead of waiting for an inspection can prevent a lot of headaches. Conducting routine inspections will help you find issues before they become a real issue.

The A Plus Benefits Safety Director can help you establish a safety inspection routine and give you tips on what an OSHA inspector may be looking for. If you are interested in learning more about the services available through our risk management department, contact Nick Baird at nbaird@aplusbenefits.com or (801) 443-1090.

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A Plus BenefitsEmployer Rights During an OSHA Inspection

Eight Simple First-aid Tips That Could Save an Employee’s Life

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Thousands of employees are killed or suffer serious injuries at work every year. Yet, a staggering 58 percent of employees are unfamiliar with their organization’s health and safety practices, according to a study conducted by international safety barrier manufacturer, A-SAFE.

Review these eight simple first-aid tips with your employees to ensure that your whole team is capable of providing aid to co-workers if necessary:

  1. Unresponsive and not breathing
  • Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
  • Call 911 as soon as possible.
  • Place the victim on his or her back on a flat surface. Make sure the person’s airway is clear.
  • Place the heel of one hand over the center of the chest, and your other hand on top of the first. Using your upper body weight, forcefully push straight down on the chest at a fast pace. Continue compressions until paramedics arrive (unless instructed differently by medical personnel over the phone).
  • If you are well-trained in CPR and feel confident in your abilities, you may alternate two rescue breaths for each set of 30 chest compressions (unless instructed otherwise by medical personnel over the phone).
  1. Unresponsive and breathing
  • Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
  • Move them onto their side and tilt their head back.
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  1. Choking
  • Stand behind the choking person and wrap your arms around his or her waist. Bend the person slightly forward.
  • Make a fist with one hand and place it slightly above the person’s navel.
  • Grasp your fist with the other hand and press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust.
  • Repeat this procedure until the object is expelled from the airway.
  • If you must perform this maneuver on yourself, position your own fist slightly above your navel. Grasp your fist with your other hand and thrust upward into your abdomen until the object is expelled.
  • Call 911, if necessary.
  1. Heavy bleeding
  • Using a clean dry cloth, put pressure on the wound to stop or slow down the flow of blood.
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  • Keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.
  1. Burns
  • If the skin is not broken, run cool water over the burn for several minutes.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to relieve any swelling or pain.
  • Do not place any creams or ice on the burned area.
  • Seek emergency treatment for more serious burns immediately.
  1. Broken bone
  • Have the person support the injury with his or her hand, or use a cushion or items of clothing to prevent unnecessary movement.
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  • Continue supporting the injury until help arrives.
  1. Shock
  • Call 911, as soon as possible.
  • Have the victim lie down on his or her back and elevate the feet higher than the head. Keep the victim from moving unnecessarily.
  • Keep the victim warm and comfortable. Loosen tight clothing and cover him or her with a blanket.
  • Do not give the victim anything to drink.
  • If he or she is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, place the victim on his or her side to prevent choking.
  • Treat any other injuries appropriately.
  • Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if victim is not breathing.
  1. Nosebleed
  • Have the victim sit or stand upright to slow the flow of blood in the nose. Do NOT tip the head back.
  • Gently pinch the nose with your thumb and forefinger for 10 minutes, maintaining pressure. Have the victim breathe through the mouth during this time.
  • Seek medical care if bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes or if the nosebleed resulted from a broken nose or head trauma.

Reminding employees about the importance of safety and looking out for one another should be a regular practice. Visit our Risk Management Toolbox website for more resources to make safety a priority at your organization. If you are interested in formal first aid training for your team, please contact our Safety Director Reed Balls at rballs@aplusbenefits.com. Keep each other safe.

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A Plus BenefitsEight Simple First-aid Tips That Could Save an Employee’s Life

Prevent Heat Sickness as Temperatures Rise

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Hot weather, especially when combined with strenuous physical labor, can cause body temperatures to rise to unsafe levels—leading to heat illnesses. Outdoor workers are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses because they spend the majority of the day outside in direct sunlight. Please share this information with your employees as the hot weather approaches.

There are a variety of heat illnesses, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat cramps. Each of these illnesses vary in symptoms and severity, but commonly cause dizziness, weakness, nausea, blurry vision, confusion or loss of consciousness.

To stay safe from the heat when working outdoors, consider doing the following:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing whenever possible.
  • Shield your head and face from direct sunlight with a hat.
  • Take short breaks to rest in the shade. If you are wearing heavy protective gear, consider removing it during your break to cool off even more.
  • Ease into your work, gradually building up to more strenuous activity as the day progresses. In addition, you should avoid overexerting yourself during peak temperature periods (midday).
  • Drink liquids frequently, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Experts recommend drinking at least 8 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes to stay hydrated. Stick to water, fruit juice and sport drinks. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate you.

Employees should monitor themselves and co-workers on hot days. If you notice any signs of heat illness, notify your on-duty supervisor immediately.

Most often, heat illness sufferers can be treated by being moved to a cooler area and given liquids. In extreme cases of heat stroke where an employee is unconscious, you will have to call an ambulance immediately.

If you have questions about how you can keep your employees safe, contact our Safety Director Reed Balls at rballs@aplusbeneifts.com

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A Plus BenefitsPrevent Heat Sickness as Temperatures Rise

Global Ransomware Attack Reminds Us of the Importance of Cyber Security

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The Wannacry ransomware attack has many companies once again looking at not only steps they can take to help protect their business from a cyber attack, but also ways to protect their business and its assets in the event of a cyber attack.  Most businesses should consider purchasing Cyber Insurance to help protect its business assets in the event of a cyber breach. Our sister company, A Plus Risk & Insurance works with several carriers that are experts in writing cyber insurance.  We can help your business identify what type of cyber insurance is right for your company.

Every day, more than 1 million people become victims of cyber crime, according to a study by Symantec, a computer security software company. With such heavy use of and reliance on computers and the Internet by both large and small organizations, protecting these resources has become increasingly important. Learning about cyber attacks and how to prevent them can help you protect your company from security breaches.

Cyber Attacks Compromise Your Company
Cyber attacks include many types of attempted or successful breaches of computer security. These threats come in different forms, including phishing, viruses, Trojans, key logging, spyware and spam. Once hackers have gained access to the computer system, they can accomplish any of several malicious goals, typically stealing information or financial assets, corrupting data or causing operational disruption or shut-down.

Both third parties and insiders can use a variety of techniques to carry out cyber attacks. These techniques range from highly sophisticated efforts to electronically circumvent network security or overwhelm websites to more traditional intelligence gathering and social engineering aimed at gaining network access.

Cyber attacks can result directly from deliberate actions of hackers, or attacks can be unintentionally facilitated by employees—for example, if they click on a malicious link.

A breach in cyber security can lead to unauthorized usage through tactics such as the following:

  • Installing spyware that allows the hacker to track Internet activity and steal information and passwords
  • Deceiving recipients of phishing emails into disclosing personal information
  • Tricking recipients of spam email into giving hackers access to the computer system
  • Installing viruses that allow hackers to steal, corrupt or delete information or even crash the entire system
  • Hijacking the company website and rerouting visitors to a fraudulent look-alike site and subsequently stealing personal information from clients or consumers

Cyber attacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as denial-of-service attacks on websites in which the site is overloaded by the attacker and legitimate users are then denied access.

Securing Your Company’s Mobile Devices
Gone are the days when contact names and phone numbers were the most sensitive pieces of information on an employee’s phone. Now a smartphone or tablet can be used to gain access to anything from emails to stored passwords to proprietary company data. Depending on how your organization uses such devices, unauthorized access to the information on a smartphone or tablet could be just as damaging as a data breach involving a more traditional computer system.

The need for proper mobile device security is no different from the need for a well-protected computer network. According to computer security software company McAfee, cyber attacks on mobile devices increased by almost 600 percent from 2011 to 2012 with no signs of slowing down. Untrusted app stores will continue to be a major source of mobile malware which drives traffic to these stores. This type of “malvertising” continues to grow quickly on mobile platforms.

The Vulnerable Become the Victims
The majority of cyber criminals are indiscriminate when choosing their victims. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserts that cyber criminals will target vulnerable computer systems regardless of whether the systems belong to a Fortune 500 company, a small business or a home user.

Cyber criminals look for weak spots and attack there, no matter how large or small the organization. Small businesses, for instance, are becoming a more attractive target as many larger companies tighten their cyber security. According to the industry experts, the cost of the average cyber attack on a small business is increasing exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down. Most small businesses don’t have that kind of money lying around, and as a result, nearly 60 percent of the small businesses victimized by a cyber attack close permanently within six months of the attack. Many of these businesses put off making necessary improvements to their cyber security protocols until it is too late because they fear the costs would be prohibitive.

Simple Steps to Stay Secure
Following are suggestions from a Federal Communications Commission roundtable and the DHS’s Stop.Think.Connect. program for easily implemented security procedures to help ward off cyber criminals. These suggestions include guidelines for the company as well as possible rules and procedures that can be shared with employees.

Security Tips for the Company

  • Install, use and regularly update anti-virus and anti-spyware software on all computers.
  • Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available; if possible, choose the automatic update option.
  • Change the manufacturer’s default passwords on all software.
  • Use a firewall for your Internet connection.
  • Regularly make backup copies of important business data.
  • Control who can physically access your computers and other network components.
  • Secure any Wi-Fi networks.
  • Require individual user accounts for each employee.
  • Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority for software installation.
  • Monitor, log and analyze all attempted and successful attacks on systems and networks.
  • Establish a mobile device policy and keep them updated with the most current software and antivirus programs.

Security Tips for Employees

  • Use strong passwords (a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters), change them regularly and never share them with anyone.
  • Protect private information by not disclosing it unless necessary, and always verify the source if asked to input sensitive data for a website or email.
  • Don’t open suspicious links and emails; an indication that the site is safe is if the URL begins with https://.
  • Scan all external devices, such as USB flash drives, for viruses and malicious software (malware) before using the device.

Most importantly, stay informed about cyber security and continue to discuss Internet safety with employees.

Don’t Let it Happen to Your Company
According to the DHS, 96 percent of cyber security breaches could have been avoided with simple or intermediate controls. Strengthening passwords, installing anti-virus software and not opening suspicious emails and links are the first steps toward cyber security. In addition to the listed tips, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a tool for small businesses that can create and save a custom cyber security plan for your company, choosing from a menu of expert advice to address your specific business needs and concerns. It can be found at www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner.

Contact A Plus Risk & Insurance today for a free, no-obligation quote for Cyber Insurance at (801) 443-1194.

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A Plus BenefitsGlobal Ransomware Attack Reminds Us of the Importance of Cyber Security

Ladder Safety is Important for All Work Environments

Did you know that 43% of fatal falls in the last decade have involved a ladder? And among construction workers, an estimated 81% of fall injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments involve a ladder? But, ladders aren’t only used in construction environments. Many office, manufacturing and retail workplaces have ladders that employees may use occasionally. Any employee that may use a ladder should be trained on appropriate use. Here are some great reminders from the Ladder Safety Hub blog:folding-ladder-1122072_640

  1. Before you use your ladder, make sure the ground you are putting it on is level. If you need to, dig out one side to make the ladder even with the other side. You also can use levelers. Don’t use your ladder on stairs unless you are using an articulating ladder.
  2. When calculating the weight being put on a ladder, make sure to include the tools and supplies the worker will be using. If the ladder is rated for 250 pounds, and the worker weighs 240 pounds, he or she should have no more than 10 pounds of equipment.
  3. Why is the bottom rung the most dangerous? Because that’s the rung that gets missed the most. Almost 20 percent of all ladder accidents are caused by the worker thinking he is on the last rung when, in fact, he has another one or two rungs (so one or two feet) to go. These accidents can lead to sprains, strains and, in the more serious cases, broken bones.
  4. When climbing the ladder, keep your center of gravity between the rails. Often, people will lean to save time so they don’t have to move the ladder. Doing this is not only dangerous, but can cost more time in the long run if there is any sort of accident.
  5. When working on a ladder, don’t stand on the top rung or top cap. The top rung serves no purpose but to hold a warning label. When a worker climbs on the top rung or top cap, he or she risks a ladder accident.
  6. Different jobs require different ladders. Don’t use an A-frame when an extension ladder should be used or an extension ladder when an A-frame would be better.

If you would like help putting together ladder safety training for your employees, contact our Safety Director Reed Balls at 801-443-1090 or rballs@aplusbenefits.com for more information.

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A Plus BenefitsLadder Safety is Important for All Work Environments

Safe Practices at Home Lead to Safer Workplaces

Utah Safety Week starts today and this week we will be focusing on things all employers can do to create safer working environments for their employees, regardless of industry. Encouraging safe behaviors at home and on the job will allow employee to return to work each day healthy and ready to perform their job duties.

All employers can encourage employees to utilize Personal Protective Equipment at home and on the job.  Here is some information you can share:

Personal Protective Equipment For On and Off the Job

Stressing safety at work is a familiar focus for business owners and employees alike, especially when it comes to wearing PPE.  But we sometimes overlook taking the same precautions at home.  Personal protective equipment commonly used at work has an equally important place when doing yard work, home repairs or even participating in many recreational activities.  Consider these “Off-the-Job” suggestions to protect you and your family:

Use Safety Glasses – When:                      lawnmower-384589_1280

  • Mowing and trimming the lawn
  • Using any powered tools/equipment – i.e. drills, sanders, pneumatic tools, etc.
  • Playing sports
  • Shooting firearms
  • Working on vehicles or equipment with batteries

Use Gloves – When:

  • Using any powered tools/equipment
  • Doing yard work and trimming trees
  • When working with paints and chemicals

Wear Protective Footwear – When:

  • Mowing and trimming the lawn
  • Moving heavy things
  • Hiking, riding ATVs, etc.
  • Doing construction type work

Use Hearing Protection – When:

  • Mowing and trimming the lawn
  • Shooting firearms
  • Using any powered tools/equipment – i.e. drills, sanders, pneumatic tools, etc.

Use Respiratory Protection – When:

  • When using paints and chemicals

More than half (52%) of U.S. injuries requiring medical treatment occur at home, followed by the community (26%), work (12%) and on the road (10%) (Source: National Safety Council Injury Facts 2016). Help keep your employees healthy by encouraging them to be mindful of safety on the job and at home.

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A Plus BenefitsSafe Practices at Home Lead to Safer Workplaces

Preventing Falls at Work

This week (May 2- May 6) OSHA observes the National Fall Prevention Stand-Down to raise awareness about preventing fall hazards in construction. During the first week in May, OSHA encourages employers to bring awareness to fall prevention and conduct toolbox training on the topic with employees.Fall

This issue is a top priority for OSHA because violations of fall protection safety standards were among the top ten most frequent citations by OSHA in 2014. Additionally, fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for almost 40% of construction fatalities recorded in 2014.

Even if you aren’t in the construction industry, now is a good time to review fall prevention training with your employees. OSHA has free resources that employers can use to educate their employees about preventing falls:

If you have any questions about fall protection or any other safety issues, please feel free to contact our Risk Management Department.

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A Plus BenefitsPreventing Falls at Work

What Are the Differences Between a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and a Payroll Company?

We have met with countless small business owners over the years and learned they have some specific things in common, no matter the industry or size of the company. First, small business owners are busy. They do not have extra time to spend processing payroll, fielding employee benefits questions or researching human resources best practices. If they do happen to have extra time, they would much rather spend it with their family and friends than dealing with administrative headaches.startup-593326_1920

This leads many business owners to consider available options to help with some of the time-consuming tasks related to running a business. Payroll processing is one of the tasks that is often first on the chopping block. Luckily there are many options for outsourcing payroll including payroll software companies, payroll processing companies, and PEOs. Sure, we’re biased being a PEO ourselves, but our clients have suggested several distinct characteristics that set a PEO apart from other payroll solutions.

Access to exclusive resources
Based on 26 years of experience working with business owners we know that they are almost universally passionate about what they do. That passion drives them to push toward their goals, even during the most difficult times. They are also understandably protective of their business and employees. They want to be able to offer the very best pay and benefits, but cost is a real concern. Working with a PEO allows a small business the ability to offer a wide range of Fortune 500 level benefits at unbeatable prices. This includes employee benefits such as medical, dental, vision, life insurance, disability, 401(k), flexible spending, dependent care plans and many more.

Benefits are just the beginning. A PEO is also able to provide human resources solutions such as leadership development training, tools for recruiting and retaining the best employee talent, and turn-key onboarding resources. While there are standalone resources out there for each of these areas, the cost of even one of these solutions is generally too high for a small business to justify.

Cutting-edge technology solutions backed by world-class service
It is undeniable that technology makes our lives easier.  The challenge with new technology is that it is only as effective as the person using it. Having the newest and best payroll software will not make someone instantly an expert in payroll.  Working with a PEO gives a company access to not only the very best payroll and human resources software available, but also to the expert-level customer service professionals that you need to make the most of the technology.

Coordination of all employee-related business functions
A small business owner often has to wear many hats. One of those hats is to coordinate the various vendors that are working with the company and employees. There may be a benefits broker for health and dental, and yet another for vision. There is likely a financial advisor helping with the 401(k) and maybe a supplemental insurance broker helping with life insurance and disability. That is four to five individual relationships to manage and invoices to pay and that is only relating to benefits. There are additional vendors for workers’ compensation insurance, drug testing, payroll and many more. Working with a PEO allows business owners to consolidate payroll and all of these items with a single vendor. This not only saves the time and frustration associated with dealing with multiple vendors, but also allows for a unique coordination of services not available anywhere else.

A PEO offers a suite services for small business owners that simply are not available anywhere else. As small business owners research and consider their options, we hope they will look at the opportunities working with a PEO will provide their business. We believe whole-heartedly that the industry offers solutions small business owners need to compete and win in an increasingly competitive market.

If you are interested in learning more about how a PEO can help your small business grow through high-level technology backed solutions, more affordable benefits and other exclusive resources that meet the needs of business owners and employees alike, contact one of Business Consultants for a free quote.

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A Plus BenefitsWhat Are the Differences Between a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and a Payroll Company?

Reminding Employees About the Dangers of Distracted Driving

April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, making it a great time to remind your employees about the dangers of distracted driving.

What is distracted driving?
“Distracted driving” is defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.

Some examples include:mobile-1209058_1280

  • Talking on a cell phone (even using a hands-free device)
  • Texting
  • Eating
  • Applying makeup
  • Adjusting the radio or temperature controls

Why is it important for businesses to take a stand against distracted driving?
Driving safety should be a priority for every company. You may be thinking “I don’t employ any drivers,” but I guarantee that most, if not all of your employees drive into work each day. Making sure employees return home safely to their families each night means that they are able to return happy and healthy to work the next day.

Additionally, the cost of on-the-job crashes for employers is enormous and can cripple small businesses:

  • $60 billion – Annual cost to businesses
  • $16,500 – Average cost of one crash
  • $74,000 – Average cost when on-the-job crash causes an injury
  • More than $500,000 – Average cost when a fatality is involved

What can employers do about it?
 Here are some steps you can take to make sure your team is safe when they are driving:

  • Have a written cell phone use policy for employees who drive company vehicles or are driving their own vehicles on company time. If you would like an example policy, contact A Plus Benefits.
  • Owners, executives and managers must set a good example for the rest of the team by following the company driving polices.
  • Offer periodic training to employees on defensive driving, distracted driving and other driver safety. Contact A Plus Benefits for training materials or assistance.
  • Encourage employees to drive safely (put down cell phones, avoid eating, etc.) even when they are not on the clock.

Where can I find more information about distracted driving?
Here are some additional resources to share with your team this month to keep the focus on safe driving:

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A Plus BenefitsReminding Employees About the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Top Ten OSHA Violations for 2015

Last week, OSHA announced the top safety violations for 2015 at the National Safety Congress. The top 10 violations were:

  1. Fall Protectionforklift-835342_1280
  2. Hazard Communication
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Respiratory Protection
  5. Lockout/Tagout
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Electrical – Wiring Methods
  9. Machine Guarding
  10. Electrical – General Requirements

For the past few years, these top 10 violations have been very similar. If you haven’t conducted training or updated your safety manual for these topics, now would be a great time to do that.  As we discussed in a previous blog post, the ROI of a safety program is almost always positive (only 5% of businesses report a negative ROI). Check out our infographic for a great place to start.

Do you know if you would pass an OSHA inspection? Contact a member of our Account Management team to request a safety audit from our expert Safety Director.

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A Plus BenefitsTop Ten OSHA Violations for 2015