HR and Workplace Safety: Minnesota
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Theresa Rogers
- Minnesota established the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Program. See State Plan.
- Minnesota does not follow a discovery rule in personal injury cases. See Statute of Limitations for Illnesses Caused by Toxic Chemicals.
- Minnesota bans texting while driving. See Cell Phone Use While Driving.
- Minnesota has limits on employee drug testing. See Drug and Alcohol Testing as a Safety Measure.
Minnesota established its own Occupational Safety and Health program (MNOSH), which is the state equivalent of federal OSHA. MNOSH applies to all public and private workers in the state, with the exception of the following:
- Federal employers;
- USPS employers;
- Private sector maritime employers; and
- Certain agricultural related operations that are still subject to federal OSHA.
MNOSH is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health division of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. MNOSH is managed by a team of five supervisors, two area directors and an administrative director.
Minnesota has the Minnesota OSHA Workplace Safety Consultation that allows employers the chance to make sure they are in compliance with MNOSHA standards.
Minnesota also operates MNSTAR, which is similar to the federal OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program. MNSTAR recognizes employers who have strong safety and health programs and who have managers and employees working together to create a safe and healthy environment.
In addition to these programs, MNOSH also has MNSHARP and MNSHARP construction, which are similar to MNSTAR, but are for smaller employers (employers with less than 250 employees).
For the most part, MNOSH follows federal guidelines; however, there are some notable exceptions. Some of these include:
- MNOSHA enforces its own version of the Employee Right to Know law that is usually enforced by OSHA under the Hazard Communication Standard. Employees must be provided information on harmful physical and infectious agents and other hazardous substances present in a workplace. Initial training is required for all employees an annual refresher training must also be provided.
- Employers with more than 25 employees and some other employees who meet certain elements must establish and administer a joint labor-management safety committee. +Minn. Stat. § 182.676.
Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting
Minnesota has adopted most of the federal reporting and recordkeeping standards, except it has not adopted the federal recordkeeping requirements for low-hazard industries.
Federal OSHA requires certain employers to electronically submit to OSHA the injury and illness data recorded on Form 300A. Employers in State Plan states, such as Minnesota, must adopt requirements that are substantially identical to federal law. A state may allow employers to use the federal OSHA data collection website or may provide its own website.
Minnesota has A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR) Program, which requires certain employers to develop formal programs that will help reduce accidents and injuries.
An employer listed on the North American Industry Classification System list is required to comply with AWAIR.
The program should be in writing and should include the following elements:
- How managers, supervisors and employees are responsible for implementing the program and how continued management participation will be established, measured and maintained;
- How new or existing hazards, conditions and operations will be identified, analyzed and controlled;
- How the plan will be communicated to employees;
- How workplace accidents will be investigated and how corrective measures will be implemented; and
- How safe work practices and rules will be enforced.
The program requires annual review, as well as documentation of how the program is fairing.
Minnesota employers must post the Minnesota Safety and Health Protection on the Job poster.
Statute of Limitation for Illnesses Caused by Toxic Chemicals
In Minnesota, individuals have six years to sue for personal injury, four years for products liability, three years for wrongful death and two years for intentional torts. Although the law states that the statute begins when the injury is or should have been discovered, Minnesota courts have ruled against extending the statute of limitations for most cases. +Minn. Stat. §541.05, subd. 1(5); see DeCosse v. Armstrong Cork Co., +319 N.W. 2d 45, (Minn. 1982).
Cell Phone Use While Driving
Minnesota law prohibits using a wireless communications device, while driving, to:
- Initiate, compose, send, retrieve or read an electronic message;
- Engage in a cellular phone call, including:
- Initiating a call;
- Talking or listening; or
- Participating in video calling; and
- Access the following types of content stored on the device:
- Video content;
- Audio content;
- Games; or
- Software applications.
Wireless communications device means:
- A cellular phone; or
- A portable electronic device that is capable of receiving and transmitting data, including text messages and email, without an access line for service.
A wireless communications device does not include a device that is permanently affixed to the vehicle, or a global positioning system or navigation system when the system is used exclusively for navigation purposes.
Electronic message means a self-contained piece of digital communication that is designed or intended to be transmitted between physical devices. An electronic message includes:
- An email;
- A text message;
- An instant message;
- A command or request to access a web page;
- Other data that uses a commonly recognized electronic communications protocol;
- A voicemail message;
- A transmitted message;
- Transmitted video content, including through video calling; and
- Transmitted gaming data.
The following are excluded from the definition of electronic message:
- Data transmitted between a motor vehicle and a wireless communications device located in the vehicle; and
- Data transmitted by a two-way radio, citizens band radio or amateur radio used in accordance with Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations.
The prohibitions do not apply if the device is used:
- Solely in a voice-activated or hands-free mode to initiate or participate in a cellular phone call or to initiate, compose, send or listen to an electronic message. (This exception does not apply to accessing non-navigation video content, engaging in video calling, engaging in live-streaming, accessing gaming data or reading electronic messages);
- To view or operate a global positioning system (GPS) or navigation system in a manner that does not require the driver to type while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, provided that the person does not hold the device with one or both hands;
- To listen to audio-based content in a manner that does not require the driver to scroll or type while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, provided that the person does not hold the device with one or both hands
- To obtain emergency assistance to:
- Report a traffic accident, medical emergency or serious traffic hazard; or
- Prevent a crime about to be committed;
- In the reasonable belief that a person's life or safety is in immediate danger; or
- In an authorized emergency vehicle while in the performance of official duties.
The law defines voice-activated or hands-free mode as an attachment, accessory, wirelessly paired or tethered capability, application, wireless connection or built-in feature of a wireless communications device or a motor vehicle that allows the person to use verbal or single-touch commands to:
- Activate or deactivate the device; and
- Activate or deactivate a function or software application of the device.
Voice-activated or hands-free mode does not include typing or scrolling on a device.
The use of cellphones is banned for school bus drivers. In addition, the use of cell phones is banned for teen drivers during their permit and provisional license stages.
Violations may be subject to a fine of $225, plus the amount specified in the uniform fine schedule.
Drug and Alcohol Testing as a Safety Measure
Only employers with a written drug and alcohol testing policy may require employees to undergo testing in Minnesota. The policy must include:
- Employees or applicants subject to testing;
- Circumstances under which testing may be required;
- Right of an employee to refuse the test;
- Disciplinary action to be taken for a positive test;
- Right of an employee to explain a positive result and pay for a confirmatory retest; and
- An appeals process.
The policy must be presented to all employees and applicants before testing is requested.
Random drug testing is only permitted for those employed in safety-sensitive positions or professional athletes subject to collective bargaining. An employer may request a test if they have reasonable suspicion an employee is using drugs or alcohol.
Post-accident drug testing is permitted in Minnesota if it meets the preceding requirements. +Minn. Stat. §181.951.
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