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Behind the story of electricians and their rabbits


August 27, 2014
By Matthew Erlich

Did you hear Tacoma resident Haley Masbruch on National Public Radio talking about how rabbits disappear?

She’s not a magician — she’s in the Southwest Washington Electrical apprenticeship program. She was explaining that “rabbits” refer to leftover copper wire and how quickly that copper can disappear if not secured.The interview was part of the “trade lingo” segment where NPR features different professions with their insider terminology.

You can read or listen to the story here, but what’s behind the story is even better.

Haley has some high school education and is in her second year as an Inside Wireman apprenticeship, making about $30 an hour (70% of a Journey-level wage). That’s the same pay scale as someone with a 4-year engineering degree in a starter job!

There is a lot of opportunity in apprenticeships. You can learn more about becoming an apprentice at our website.

As for Haley, she told NPR she enjoys being an electrician because she likes to do physical work that engages her mind. Being an electrician does both, she said.


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Logger Safety Initiative hits 100!


August 18, 2014
By Christopher Bowe

Less than a year after its launch, the Logger Safety Initiative (LSI) has enrolled 103 logging employers and 9 forestry landowners! By joining LSI, logging employers and landowners are committing to taking the lead in ensuring worker health and safety is the #1 priority, and assuring accountability for safety on the worksite.

As you’re probably aware, logging is a hazardous industry. The injury rate and the severity of those injuries in non-mechanized (manual) logging are high. As a result, the base rate premiums in the manual logging risk class exceed $20 per worker hour. In 2013, the logging industry, along with concerned landowners and the Department of Natural Resources, partnered with L&I in the search of some reasonable ways to assist employers with safety and health issues out in the woods. Out of this collaborative effort came the LSI program.

LSI is a collaborative effort that provides voluntary improvements to worker protection and safety.

Logging companies that enroll in LSI commit to creating a safe and healthy workplace through rigorous training, education, and implementation of an accident prevention program that contains the LSI certification requirements for safe work practices.

Firms that sign up enter into a tiered discount on workers’ compensation premium rates, which allows them to invest into their safety and health program. Logging firms must pass an independent third-party safety audit verification of the LSI Logger Safety Program in order to become LSI certified.

While the focus is on the manual or hand-cutting side of operations, the overarching goal is to create a culture of “safety first” for all logging industry employers and workers.

For more information about the program, please visit: www.loggersafety.org


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I meant to do that!


August 14, 2014
By Elaine Fischer

It can happen in an instant in any workplace or occupation. You’re walking along just thinking about things you need to do or places to be (or worse, looking at your phone) and suddenly you slip, trip or fall.

If you’re lucky, you get up, brush off and go on your way.

Or you might pull a Pee Wee Herman — get up, look around and say, “I meant to do that!”

If you’re not so lucky, you might suffer a sprain or strain, broken bones, a head injury or other serious injury.

We know you wouldn’t mean to do that, but it happens all the time. Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of serious injuries and worker hospitalizations in Washington State. And sadly, a number of workers die each year from a fall or complications of their injuries. Others are left permanently disabled.

That’s why L&I started the Eye on Safety video campaign – to raise awareness of slips, trips and falls.

At EyeOnSafety.info, you’ll find 1-minute video shorts that raise awareness about everyday safety hazards. These and many other online videos are great for safety meetings, tool-box talks or safety training in any workplace.

They’re free and available 24/7. Check out this great resource soon. New videos are added regularly, so visit often.

And now that we brought it up, you’re probably thinking about that famous Pee Wee Herman scene, so here it is: I meant to do that!


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5 things you need to know about hiring teen workers


August 7, 2014
By Aaron Hoffman and Kyra Ingraham

Thinking about hiring a teen to work for your business during summer break or after school starts? Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we get from new employers:

What kind of permits and records do I need?
Any employer hiring a minor must:

  • Get a Minor Work Permit endorsement on their Master Business License. This can be done at the Business Licensing Service or any UBI service location, including the Department of Labor & Industries.
  • Keep the following information on file:
    • Proof of age
    • Personal data (name, address, date of birth and a copy of the minor’s social security card)
    • Employment description

During summer break, employers must also have a signed Parent Authorization Summer Work form for each teen worker. This form needs to be renewed every year.

Things change when the school year starts. Then employers must complete a Parent/School Authorization form, which includes additional school information and signatures.

What is the minimum wage for teen workers?
The minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-old workers is the same as for adults — $9.32 in 2014. Minors under 16 may be paid 85% of the state minimum wage ($7.92).

Are family members employees?
Yes! If the family member is a teen, there are some special items to remember. First, the minimum age requirement for working at a family business is 14 years old. Second, it’s important to remember though that even family, no matter how annoying, still needs to be treated legally and given appropriate breaks (a paid 10-minute break for every 4 hours worked, and an unpaid 30-minute lunch for every 5 hours worked).

Here is an example: Jane owns a construction company. Her 17-year-old son, John, wants a summer job. If John performed work for the company and Jane gave him anything of value for his labor, then she would need to:

  • Pay minimum wage and overtime
  • Provide a safe working environment
  • Pay workers’’ comp on John’s hours
  • Pay unemployment insurance on John’s wages
  • File federal payroll taxes
  • Get a Minor Work Permit
  • Follow all of the teen worker restrictions (There are a lot of them in construction!)

What about agricultural jobs?
As with family workers, the minimum age for teens working in agricultural jobs is 14 years old. The one exception is 12- and 13-year-olds may work during non-school months (June 1 to Labor Day) hand-harvesting berries, bulbs, cucumbers and spinach.

There are also a few exceptions regarding what wages minor agricultural workers make.

If a minor worker is a hand harvest laborer who is paid per piece picked and commutes each day from their permanent residence and works less than 13 weeks in the calendar year, he or she can be paid less than the minimum wage. For example, this could include teen workers living in the local community who harvest berries during the season but don’t normally work in agriculture at any other time.

Where can I get information about teen workers?
To learn more, including rules on hiring teens for house-to-house sales, theater work or sports work, or hiring minors under the age of 14:


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How do you survive an elevator accident?


August 6, 2014
By Matthew Erlich

The math indicates you’re unlikely to survive a fall in an elevator. This serious video from Slate magazine talks about how a person might survive, however “Mythbusters” busted the idea in its “Elevator of Death” episode from 2004.

At L&I, we inspect more than 16,000 elevators and escalators across the state. A handy search tool can show you the inspection history for the conveyance in your building – except for Seattle and Spokane who have their own jurisdictions.

Best advice: Lie flat on the floor if you can, but in a hydraulic elevator fall, even in a 20-story building, you may only have barely 3 seconds to react.


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Knock, knock. Surprise! L&I’s here to sweep up unregistered contractors


July 31, 2014
By Debby Abe

Construction contractors working off the books to avoid tax, safety and insurance requirements don’t stop at 5 p.m. weekdays. Neither does L&I.

For the third straight year, the department is conducting so-called surprise sweeps that build upon our year-round, weekday efforts to check whether contractors are complying with state contracting laws.

During the sweeps, our construction compliance inspectors team up to pay unannounced visits to worksites in selected areas on Friday and weekend days and evenings.

They look for contractors who aren’t registered at all with the state. And, they search for those who aren’t registered for the work they are caught doing − say a registered painting contractor who’s installing drywall.

Infractions for unregistered contractors

Violators receive an infraction that carries a $1,000 fine on the first offense, and heftier penalties on subsequent offenses.

As of mid-July, inspectors had conducted 11 sweeps around the state, and checked 565 contractors. Most of those contractors were properly registered, but not all. For example, inspectors wrote infractions to eight of the 45 contractors they checked during a Kitsap County sweep in mid-May.

Inspectors discover other problems, too, which they refer to the appropriate L&I programs. Sometimes they spot safety hazards endangering workers. They often find contractors who are late paying L&I fines or premiums for workers’ compensation, the insurance that protects injured workers.

Finding dozens of delinquent accounts

A late June sweep in Wenatchee, for instance, netted two contractors who owed L&I a total of more than $190,000. A sweep in Kitsap and Clark counties in mid-May scooped up 17 contractors who collectively owed more than $326,000.

“Surprise sweeps are an effective tool to battle the underground economy in construction,” said Dean Simpson, chief of construction compliance. “They let people know that we’re out there after hours and weekends, looking for unregistered contractors.”

Putting consumers at risk

The problem with unregistered contractors is that they put consumers at risk, and gain an unfair advantage over competitors who follow the rules. Washington state requires construction contractors to register with L&I, carry a bond and have liability insurance, giving consumers some financial recourse if something goes wrong.

And as we’ve told you in previous posts, unregistered contractors have ripped off homeowners, right here in the Evergreen State.

So don’t be surprised if we sweep through your community next.

Surprise sweeps and job sites visited April through mid-July

  • Long Beach (14)
  • Yakima (18)
  • Walla Walla (24)
  • Kitsap County (29)
  • Clark County (79)
  • Kirkland/North Bend (11)
  • Kennewick (87)
  • Bothell/Everett (13)>
  • Pullman (15)
  • Wenatchee (26)
  • King County [Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Bellevue, Issaquah] (16)


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What do a Spokane motel, nightclub, and apartment have in common?


July 25, 2014
By Debby Abe

Spokane-area readers might be familiar with the Lascelle Motel, the now-defunct Sunset Junction nightclub, or the brick apartment building at 1010 W. Boone Ave.

A few years back, there were news stories about efforts to revive the Sunset Junction and the brick apartment building.

Now the businesses are the setting for an L&I-investigated criminal case that’s just been filed in Spokane County Superior Court. Read about it here.


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Unregistered contractor who dashed remodeling dreams now headed for jail


July 23, 2014
By Debby Abe

The case of an unregistered contractor that we let you know about 2 weeks ago came to a fast resolution.

The defendant, Gary Shannon Edwards, has admitted to pocketing deposits for home improvement jobs, like upgrading bathrooms and kitchens, without finishing the work. Sometimes he didn’t even bother to start the projects. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and must repay his victims more than $51,000. (Read more about the case here.)

Stopping contractor fraud
We take action when we learn about contractors working without registration. If you know of someone working as an unregistered contractor, please let us know by calling 1-888-811-5974 or going to www.Lni.wa.gov/Fraud.

We want to prevent you from becoming the next victim of contractor fraud.


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Too hot to handle


July 21, 2014
By Kyra Ingraham

As summer skips along, and the mercury creeps up, heat stroke and other heat related illnesses can become a major concern — but is it a claim?

The quick answer is yes. If a worker encounters heat that causes an injury, for example an extreme sunburn, heat stroke or heat prostration that requires medical intervention, it is considered an on the job injury and is an allowable claim.

The exposure is generally a one-time, specific incident or occurs over the course of one day. An example would be a roofer who is spreading hot tar on a 90-degree day and is diagnosed with sunstroke.

Again though, that’s the short answer. The longer answer is that, like many L&I claims, it’s taken on a case-by-case basis. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s a situation where the heat exceeds something the general public has to deal with, and the worker suffers an actual heat-related illness, then it’s a claim. For example, if an inside office worker feels overheated but no one else in the office is suffering, that isn’t likely an L&I claim. However, if we go back to our friendly roofer working outside in the sun who overheats and is on the verge of collapsing — that is likely a claim.

Stopping heat stress before it happens
So now that we know is a claim and what isn’t, let’s look at the symptoms and how to stop heat stroke in its tracks! Here’s what to look for:

Training
Washington State has an outdoor heat exposure rule that applies to all employers with employees working outdoors. According to state law, all employers are required to provide training regarding outdoor heat exposure from May through September for employees that will be working in a hot environment.

If your employer isn’t providing this training, bring the issue up, with your supervisor, other employees or Human Resources. Be proactive! If that doesn’t work you can report the issue online or call your local L& I office or 1-800-423-7233.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Exhaustion/weakness
  • Fainting/light-headedness
  • Paleness
  • Headache
  • Clumsiness/dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Irritability

Symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Sweating may or may not be present
  • Red or flushed, hot, dry skin
  • Confusion/bizarre behavior
  • Convulsions before or during cooling
  • Collapse
  • Any symptom of heat exhaustion, but more severe
  • Panting/rapid breathing
  • Rapid, weak pulse

Note: Heat stroke may resemble a heart attack.

First aid tips for heat exhaustion:

  • Move the victim to a cool shaded area to rest; do not leave him or her alone.
  • Loosen and remove heavy clothing that restricts evaporative cooling.
  • Give cool water to drink, about a cup every 15 minutes.
  • Fan the person, spray with cool water, or apply a wet cloth to his or her skin to increase evaporative cooling.
  • Recovery should be rapid. Call 911 if he or she does not feel better in a few minutes.
  • Do not further expose the person to heat that day. Have them rest and continue to drink cool water or electrolyte drinks

First aid tips for heat stroke (this is a medical emergency):

  • Get medical help immediately, call 911 and transport as soon as possible.
  • Move the victim to a cool shaded area and remove clothing that restricts evaporative cooling.
  • Seconds count! Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can and continue cooling until medical help arrives. Examples of cooling methods:
    • Immerse the victim in a tub of cool water.
    • Place the person in a cool shower.
    • Spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose.
    • Sponge the person with cool water.
    • If the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instruction.
  • Do not give the victim water to drink until instructed by medical personnel.

Solutions for other heat-related illnesses
The heat can cause more problems than heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which are the 2 most dangerous heat-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, other heat-related illnesses include cramping and fainting from the heat or developing a heat rash. In these cases, the CDC recommends:

  • Getting out of the sun.
  • Sitting in a cool place.
  • Drinking water, clear juice or a sports beverage.

For more of the CDC’s tips on preventing heat related illnesses go here http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress


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New video raises awareness of ladder hazards


July 16, 2014
By Elaine Fischer

Every year, many workers in Washington State are seriously injured from falling off ladders at work. These injuries include dislocated limbs, broken bones, and head injuries. Sadly, in some cases, workers die from their injuries or are permanently disabled.

That’s why L&I produced this 30-second video and other video shorts focused on falls as part of its “Eye on Safety” campaign. You might see this ladder safety video in a YouTube or Hulu ad this summer.

You can also find more video shorts at EyeOnSafety.info. These short entertaining videos were developed to raise awareness about fall hazards in a variety of workplaces.


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