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Newsletter
Volume 207
February 1, 2021

SARA Tier II's Made Easy

There are several words that could be used to describe filing a SARA Tier II report, but none of which come close to "simple" and "easy"; after all, when thinking of those two words, Federal reports that are filed only once a year are not typically what would come to mind.  However, steps have been taken within the last three years that have moved the pendulum closer to simple and easy.  By partnering with Encamp, it's never been easier than it is right now for filing our clients' Tier II reports.  This year marks our third year with Encamp, and it is also the year that we have integrated all states within our client group to utilizing the Encamp filing service.

Between Asmark and Encamp, we research what is required for each state, then we ask those specific questions through our Compliance Wizard each Fall.  Once a Compliance Wizard is submitted, Patricia takes the information and:
  1. Proofs it closely for any incomplete data, typos, product amount miskeys, etc.,
  2. Adds all required product information from the SDS for each (Hazard Categories, Temperature, Pressure, Active Ingredients and the Percentage, CAS Numbers, EHS Info, etc.),
  3. Converts the product amounts to pounds based on the SDS,
  4. Attaches the most current Site Plan and any required SDS files,
  5. Compiles all the original and newly added information into an XML format file,
  6. Proofs again for good measure.
Once the final proof is done, Patricia will send the newly converted file to Encamp.  From there, Encamp takes the data and files a submission with the State, LEPC and Fire Department.  Once completed, Encamp sends a verified file copy of the submission back to us, and we then post it to Snapshots, bringing the process to an end.  Essentially, it's a one-and-done for our clients, where they only have to enter information in once, and even then, it's only the information that we do not already have and is absolutely required.

Asmark has long had a motto of "keep it simple," and we try to apply that to everything we can for our clients, often by translating a confusing rule into straightforward terms.  Albeit, some things are easier than others to apply that to, especially when you're dealing with state and Federal regulations day in and day out - some might even say, "easier said than done."  But through our partnership with Encamp, we are proud to be able to help our clients and make one more regulation easier.  Now that all is said and done, we can safely say that it was in fact easier said than done - but wholly worth doing.

OSHA Form 300A Deadlines

It's time to complete your 2020 injury and illness recordkeeping obligations by posting the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A). OSHA requires that the notice be displayed from February 1st to April 30th each year in a conspicuous place where employee notices are customarily posted.  Businesses with no injuries or illnesses for the year must still post the form.  A company official must certify the information in Form 300A was examined and is believed to be correct and complete. To access the form and instructions, click here.

All establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit Form 300A no later than March 2nd, as well as, establishments between 20-249 employees in certain industries, including "warehousing and storage."  OSHA began accepting electronic submissions on January 2, 2021.

New EZ-Update Feature: DOT Driver License Update

As the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse has continued to provide transparency since its debut last January, the need for Asmark to know as quickly as possible when a DOT driver's license changes to CDL is more important than ever. To help make it easy to notify Asmark of a change, we've added a new feature to EZ-Update. Under the Employee section of EZ-Update you will now see "Change DOT Driver License (Oper/CDL)" to be able to easily select a DOT Driver from your facility's driver list and let us know there's been a change.

It's important to note, that a driver who changes from an Operator License to a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) or a CDL Permit (CDL-P) is required to have a:
  • *Pre-Employment Drug Test,
  • *Pre-Employment Clearinghouse Query,
  •  and be included in the Random Drug Testing Pool.
*The term "Pre-Employment" simply means before a driver is used in a safety-sensitive function, such as operating a commercial moter vehicle (CMV).

Our system will prompt and notify you appropriately, based on your driver's license type.  Letting Asmark know of a DOT driver license change, whether it's to/from a CDL, helps us keep your drivers qualified, and you in compliance.

Have questions?  We're here to help, so give us a call at 270-926-4600 or email customerservice@asmark.org.

Hazwoper Course Now Open For Business (Training That Is)!

After a brief hiatus due to the Coronavirus, the Emergency Response Training Course (Hazwoper) in LaVergne Tennessee, is opening back up and will be in full swing starting the first week of February.  As we open our facilities up for training during this pandemic, we want our clients to know their health and safety are our top priority.

This four-day course, led by Billy Basham, satisfies the training requirements outlined in OSHA standard 29 CFR Part 1910.120.  Hazwoper training prepares the participants to safely respond to a spill or potential release of hazardous substances. This training covers policies, practices and procedures that reduce the risk of injury and illness related to harmful exposures at a spill site.  Employees are required to complete Hazwoper training before responding to spills of agrichemicals and fertilizers.

Classes are limited, and tend to fill up quickly, so don't miss your opportunity to participate and register today.  If you have questions or would like more information, please reach out to Patricia at  patricia@asmark.org or 270-926-4600 Ext 234.

DOT Increases Fine Amounts and Adds Clearinghouse Violations

While it has become a yearly event for DOT to increase civil fines for violations, this year's announcement also included the addition of FMCSA Clearinghouse violations.  Although DOT has been enforcing carriers’ compliance with the FMCSA Clearinghouse for nearly a year, the inclusion of civil penalties for these violations speaks to the increased seriousness that the agency will be enforcing FMCSA Clearinghouse compliance in 2021.  Other fine amounts have been increased just over 1% to reflect inflation.  The new civil penalties became effective January 11, 2021. The penalty adjustments apply only to violations that take place after the effective date.

Make sure you are requesting the appropriate Clearinghouse queries on your CDL drivers to avoid violations and the fines associated.  Need help?  Give us a call at 270-926-4600 and we'll be happy to explain Asmark's integrated process with Forward Edge & Associates, our integrated consortia and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

USPS and UPS Rates Increase

The Postal Service implemented a postage rate increase on Sunday, January 24, 2021.  One thing to note is that there was no increase in price for the First-Class Mail Forever stamp (1 oz).  There were however a number of other rate increases but the most commonly used services are listed below:
  • First-Class Mail Forever stamp remained the same at $0.55.
  • First-Class Mail Metered rate increased from $0.50 to $0.51 for a 1 oz. envelope.  The rate for each additional ounce is $0.20, up from $0.15.
  • First Class Mail Flat Envelope rate remained the same at $1.00 for a 1 oz. envelope.
  • First Class Mail Postcard rate increased from $0.35 to $0.36.
  • Priority Mail Regular Flat-Rate Envelope increased from $7.75 to $7.95.
As usual, the United Parcel Service increased its prices by 4.9% toward the end of 2020, which is their typical annual increase.  There is no better time than now to sign up for the Electronic Service Program (ESP).  On average, ESP clients save close to $300 annually.  Click here to review the ESP program and sign up today!

Are Your Independent Contractors Really Employees?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) adopted a final rule that simplifies the process for defining a worker as an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The rule establishes an “economic realities” test that considers whether a worker is in business for himself or herself (independent contractor) or is instead economically dependent on an employer for work (employee).

The new rule identifies and explains two “core factors” that are used to define whether a worker is economically dependent on someone else’s business: the nature and degree of the worker's control they exercise over the work, and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative, investment, or both.  It also sets out three other factors for this analysis, particularly when the two core factors do not point to the same kind of classification: the amount of skill required for the work, the degree of permanence of the working relationship between the worker and the potential employer, and whether the work can be considered to be part of an integrated unit of production.  The final rule is scheduled to become effective on March 8th unless overturned by Congress.

ResponsibleAg - Committed. Compliant. Safe.

Over 2,560 facilities have registered with the ResponsibleAg Certification Program with more than 1,275 currently certified, many of which are in their second cycle becoming re-certified. We encourage you to visit responsibleag.org to learn more and see the list of participating members.  Click here to read why Jim Belke, Coordinator for EPA's Risk Management Program, views the ResponsibleAg Program a great thing.  If you aren't registered, don't delay - register today!

Flash Gets Retired

In 2017, Adobe announced that it was ceasing development and would retire Flash by the end of 2020.  That day has come as of December 31, 2020, and now Flash is no longer available for download.  Adobe started blocking Flash content from running altogether effective January 12, 2021.

The web plug-in, Flash, has been around since 1996 and is considered one of the internet's most iconic technologies by pioneering online animations and laying the groundwork for video streaming in today's world.  Being used throughout the internet as a browser plug-in, it was a tool for animation, videos, and sound on a webpage which allowed websites to become interactive and colorful with content.  At one point, even giants like YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo depended on Flash entirely.

Flash's downfall started in 2007 when Apple announced they were no longer supporting it on the new iPhone based on a few different reasons, one of them primarily being security dependence on a single company - making it a huge risk.  Ultimately, with the rise of mobile phones, apps, and web browser standards, the world outgrew Flash and it was no longer necessary.  The replacements for Flash are open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly, which are continually developed and stay up-to-date with the web trends.

Asmark website users will not see any changes or have any issues, as several years ago when this was initially announced, we removed any Flash dependency features and replaced with currently supported methods.

IRS Decreases Standard Mileage Rates for 2021

The IRS has issued the 2021 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.  Beginning January 1, 2021, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) changed to:
  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2020
  • 16 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 17 cents for 2020
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (No Change)
The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.  The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.  Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

EPA Fines Ag Retailer Over $80K

US EPA has announced a settlement agreement with an ag retailer in California following inspections at 4 facilities in 2018 and 2019.  The inspections found multiple violations, including failure to seal cracks in containment structures and loading pads, insufficient capacity of containment structures, failure to generate and maintain repackaging records, failure to attach and maintain complete product labels, and offering for sale misbranded products.  The company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $88,000 and has certified they are now in compliance.  Federal pesticide laws require proper pesticide handling, labeling and packaging, as well as registration of pesticide products and pesticide production facilities.

National Labor Law Poster Updates

Considering the magnitude of state and federal agencies in existence today, it’s no surprise that labor laws are constantly changing.  The Federal Wage and Labor Law Institute (FWLLI) tracks these updates for us and we provide results for you.  Wondering if you need a poster update?  Click here to check for the latest Federal and/or State updates to the labor law posters.

SARA Tier II's Made Easy

There are several words that could be used to describe filing a SARA Tier II report, but none of which come close to "simple" and "easy"; after all, when thinking of those two words, Federal reports that are filed only once a year are not typically what would come to mind.  However, steps have been taken within the last three years that have moved the pendulum closer to simple and easy.  By partnering with Encamp, it's never been easier than it is right now for filing our clients' Tier II reports.  This year marks our third year with Encamp, and it is also the year that we have integrated all states within our client group to utilizing the Encamp filing service.

Between Asmark and Encamp, we research what is required for each state, then we ask those specific questions through our Compliance Wizard each Fall.  Once a Compliance Wizard is submitted, Patricia takes the information and:
  1. Proofs it closely for any incomplete data, typos, product amount miskeys, etc.,
  2. Adds all required product information from the SDS for each (Hazard Categories, Temperature, Pressure, Active Ingredients and the Percentage, CAS Numbers, EHS Info, etc.),
  3. Converts the product amounts to pounds based on the SDS,
  4. Attaches the most current Site Plan and any required SDS files,
  5. Compiles all the original and newly added information into an XML format file,
  6. Proofs again for good measure.
Once the final proof is done, Patricia will send the newly converted file to Encamp.  From there, Encamp takes the data and files a submission with the State, LEPC and Fire Department.  Once completed, Encamp sends a verified file copy of the submission back to us, and we then post it to Snapshots, bringing the process to an end.  Essentially, it's a one-and-done for our clients, where they only have to enter information in once, and even then, it's only the information that we do not already have and is absolutely required.

Asmark has long had a motto of "keep it simple," and we try to apply that to everything we can for our clients, often by translating a confusing rule into straightforward terms.  Albeit, some things are easier than others to apply that to, especially when you're dealing with state and Federal regulations day in and day out - some might even say, "easier said than done."  But through our partnership with Encamp, we are proud to be able to help our clients and make one more regulation easier.  Now that all is said and done, we can safely say that it was in fact easier said than done - but wholly worth doing.

OSHA Form 300A Deadlines

It's time to complete your 2020 injury and illness recordkeeping obligations by posting the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A). OSHA requires that the notice be displayed from February 1st to April 30th each year in a conspicuous place where employee notices are customarily posted.  Businesses with no injuries or illnesses for the year must still post the form.  A company official must certify the information in Form 300A was examined and is believed to be correct and complete. To access the form and instructions, click here.

All establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit Form 300A no later than March 2nd, as well as, establishments between 20-249 employees in certain industries, including "warehousing and storage."  OSHA began accepting electronic submissions on January 2, 2021.

New EZ-Update Feature: DOT Driver License Update

As the FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse has continued to provide transparency since its debut last January, the need for Asmark to know as quickly as possible when a DOT driver's license changes to CDL is more important than ever. To help make it easy to notify Asmark of a change, we've added a new feature to EZ-Update. Under the Employee section of EZ-Update you will now see "Change DOT Driver License (Oper/CDL)" to be able to easily select a DOT Driver from your facility's driver list and let us know there's been a change.

It's important to note, that a driver who changes from an Operator License to a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) or a CDL Permit (CDL-P) is required to have a:
  • *Pre-Employment Drug Test,
  • *Pre-Employment Clearinghouse Query,
  •  and be included in the Random Drug Testing Pool.
*The term "Pre-Employment" simply means before a driver is used in a safety-sensitive function, such as operating a commercial moter vehicle (CMV).

Our system will prompt and notify you appropriately, based on your driver's license type.  Letting Asmark know of a DOT driver license change, whether it's to/from a CDL, helps us keep your drivers qualified, and you in compliance.

Have questions?  We're here to help, so give us a call at 270-926-4600 or email customerservice@asmark.org.

Hazwoper Course Now Open For Business (Training That Is)!

After a brief hiatus due to the Coronavirus, the Emergency Response Training Course (Hazwoper) in LaVergne Tennessee, is opening back up and will be in full swing starting the first week of February.  As we open our facilities up for training during this pandemic, we want our clients to know their health and safety are our top priority.

This four-day course, led by Billy Basham, satisfies the training requirements outlined in OSHA standard 29 CFR Part 1910.120.  Hazwoper training prepares the participants to safely respond to a spill or potential release of hazardous substances. This training covers policies, practices and procedures that reduce the risk of injury and illness related to harmful exposures at a spill site.  Employees are required to complete Hazwoper training before responding to spills of agrichemicals and fertilizers.

Classes are limited, and tend to fill up quickly, so don't miss your opportunity to participate and register today.  If you have questions or would like more information, please reach out to Patricia at  patricia@asmark.org or 270-926-4600 Ext 234.

DOT Increases Fine Amounts and Adds Clearinghouse Violations

While it has become a yearly event for DOT to increase civil fines for violations, this year's announcement also included the addition of FMCSA Clearinghouse violations.  Although DOT has been enforcing carriers’ compliance with the FMCSA Clearinghouse for nearly a year, the inclusion of civil penalties for these violations speaks to the increased seriousness that the agency will be enforcing FMCSA Clearinghouse compliance in 2021.  Other fine amounts have been increased just over 1% to reflect inflation.  The new civil penalties became effective January 11, 2021. The penalty adjustments apply only to violations that take place after the effective date.

Make sure you are requesting the appropriate Clearinghouse queries on your CDL drivers to avoid violations and the fines associated.  Need help?  Give us a call at 270-926-4600 and we'll be happy to explain Asmark's integrated process with Forward Edge & Associates, our integrated consortia and third-party administrator (C/TPA).

USPS and UPS Rates Increase

The Postal Service implemented a postage rate increase on Sunday, January 24, 2021.  One thing to note is that there was no increase in price for the First-Class Mail Forever stamp (1 oz).  There were however a number of other rate increases but the most commonly used services are listed below:
  • First-Class Mail Forever stamp remained the same at $0.55.
  • First-Class Mail Metered rate increased from $0.50 to $0.51 for a 1 oz. envelope.  The rate for each additional ounce is $0.20, up from $0.15.
  • First Class Mail Flat Envelope rate remained the same at $1.00 for a 1 oz. envelope.
  • First Class Mail Postcard rate increased from $0.35 to $0.36.
  • Priority Mail Regular Flat-Rate Envelope increased from $7.75 to $7.95.
As usual, the United Parcel Service increased its prices by 4.9% toward the end of 2020, which is their typical annual increase.  There is no better time than now to sign up for the Electronic Service Program (ESP).  On average, ESP clients save close to $300 annually.  Click here to review the ESP program and sign up today!

Are Your Independent Contractors Really Employees?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) adopted a final rule that simplifies the process for defining a worker as an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The rule establishes an “economic realities” test that considers whether a worker is in business for himself or herself (independent contractor) or is instead economically dependent on an employer for work (employee).

The new rule identifies and explains two “core factors” that are used to define whether a worker is economically dependent on someone else’s business: the nature and degree of the worker's control they exercise over the work, and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative, investment, or both.  It also sets out three other factors for this analysis, particularly when the two core factors do not point to the same kind of classification: the amount of skill required for the work, the degree of permanence of the working relationship between the worker and the potential employer, and whether the work can be considered to be part of an integrated unit of production.  The final rule is scheduled to become effective on March 8th unless overturned by Congress.

ResponsibleAg - Committed. Compliant. Safe.

Over 2,560 facilities have registered with the ResponsibleAg Certification Program with more than 1,275 currently certified, many of which are in their second cycle becoming re-certified. We encourage you to visit responsibleag.org to learn more and see the list of participating members.  Click here to read why Jim Belke, Coordinator for EPA's Risk Management Program, views the ResponsibleAg Program a great thing.  If you aren't registered, don't delay - register today!

Flash Gets Retired

In 2017, Adobe announced that it was ceasing development and would retire Flash by the end of 2020.  That day has come as of December 31, 2020, and now Flash is no longer available for download.  Adobe started blocking Flash content from running altogether effective January 12, 2021.

The web plug-in, Flash, has been around since 1996 and is considered one of the internet's most iconic technologies by pioneering online animations and laying the groundwork for video streaming in today's world.  Being used throughout the internet as a browser plug-in, it was a tool for animation, videos, and sound on a webpage which allowed websites to become interactive and colorful with content.  At one point, even giants like YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo depended on Flash entirely.

Flash's downfall started in 2007 when Apple announced they were no longer supporting it on the new iPhone based on a few different reasons, one of them primarily being security dependence on a single company - making it a huge risk.  Ultimately, with the rise of mobile phones, apps, and web browser standards, the world outgrew Flash and it was no longer necessary.  The replacements for Flash are open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly, which are continually developed and stay up-to-date with the web trends.

Asmark website users will not see any changes or have any issues, as several years ago when this was initially announced, we removed any Flash dependency features and replaced with currently supported methods.

IRS Decreases Standard Mileage Rates for 2021

The IRS has issued the 2021 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.  Beginning January 1, 2021, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) changed to:
  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2020
  • 16 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 17 cents for 2020
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (No Change)
The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.  The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.  Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

EPA Fines Ag Retailer Over $80K

US EPA has announced a settlement agreement with an ag retailer in California following inspections at 4 facilities in 2018 and 2019.  The inspections found multiple violations, including failure to seal cracks in containment structures and loading pads, insufficient capacity of containment structures, failure to generate and maintain repackaging records, failure to attach and maintain complete product labels, and offering for sale misbranded products.  The company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $88,000 and has certified they are now in compliance.  Federal pesticide laws require proper pesticide handling, labeling and packaging, as well as registration of pesticide products and pesticide production facilities.

National Labor Law Poster Updates

Considering the magnitude of state and federal agencies in existence today, it’s no surprise that labor laws are constantly changing.  The Federal Wage and Labor Law Institute (FWLLI) tracks these updates for us and we provide results for you.  Wondering if you need a poster update?  Click here to check for the latest Federal and/or State updates to the labor law posters.
Asmark Institute, Inc. This information is believed to be reliable by the Asmark Institute, however, because of constantly changing government regulations, interpretations and applicability or the possibility of human, mechanical or computer error, the Asmark Institute does not guarantee the information as suitable for any particular purpose.