New Workplace Injury Rules Now in Effect

Following delays due to a legal challenge, provisions of a new Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) record-keeping rule took effect on December 1. Employers must now inform employees about their right to report workplace injuries and illness without facing retaliation. Online reporting provisions took effect January 1st.

The new rule also prohibits automatic post-accident drug testing. Employers must now have a reasonable suspicion that drug use was a contributing factor to a reported injury. Policies clarifying such conditions are encouraged.

Additional details are available on OSHA’s website.

Save on Commercial and Residential Energy Costs

Are you looking to capitalize on one of the many benefits of being a Chamber member? With the cold winter weather now upon us, the ChamberChoice Energy Program offers options to save money for commercial and residential electric and natural gas customers.   The Chamber has partnered with OnDemand Energy Solutions to take the confusion and hassle out of shopping for an energy supplier for your business. Simply provide 2-3 months of electric or natural gas bills to an experienced energy consultant and they will shop over two dozen suppliers to find the solution that best fits your businesses’ needs and comfort level. Managed and fixed rate products are available.

Members of the Columbia Montour Chamber have saved millions of dollars on their electricity costs through this program. To begin the process, call OnDemand Energy at 1-866-699-9968 and tell them you’re a member of the Chamber.   As OnDemand works with multiple suppliers, they also offer a fixed-priced solution for residential customers. Find OnDemand Energy’s current offers on their website and by clicking the Residential Energy Button in the bottom right corner. These competitive rates offered by OnDemand Energy suppliers are offered to all employees, family, and friends of Chamber members.  To compare pricing, terms, and other program details for all suppliers in your market, visit

Economic Survey Reveals Employers’ Concerns

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry Employer confidence is on the rise, but many business leaders are still hesitant to invest and hire. These indicators are among the responses from the PA Chamber’s 26th Annual Economic Survey, which was conducted by G. Terry Madonna Opinion Research from August through October 2016 and completed in partnership with the High Center at Elizabethtown College.

According to the survey, employers’ top concerns are taxes – with the state’s 9.99 percent Corporate Net Income Tax rate being listed as the greatest tax barrier to growth. Also high on the list are rising health insurance costs (61 percent of survey participants say health insurance premiums increased over the last year); lawsuit abuse and excessive environmental regulation. Another key area of concern was workforce, with only two in five survey respondents saying they thought the quality of the state’s workforce was “excellent” or “good” (an issue the PA Chamber is working to tackle through its new Start the Conversation Here workforce development initiative.)

“Certainly, the extreme premium hikes we’ve seen in the post-Obamacare marketplace are going to lead more businesses to reduce employee benefits or even drop insurance coverage for their workers,” PA Chamber President Gene Barr said in a press release announcing the survey results. “We will continue to advocate for increasing employer flexibility and eliminating costly mandates as we educate employers on how to achieve compliance and maximize their options.”

New Bloomsburg Water Plant Dedicated

Last Thursday, SUEZ dedicated its new advanced water treatment plant in Bloomsburg. The $32 million Irondale Water Treatment Plant utilizes modern technology to deliver high quality water. The location is out of the 100-year flood plain, in order to remain in service during high water events.

The membrane ultrafiltration is pictured beside high service pumps inside the new plant.  A SUEZ sister company based in the US designed the “SmartRack” technology on which the membranes are housed.  The new plant represents the first use of the new technology in North America.

The membranes filter the water after a process called superpulsation, which enhances sediment removal from the raw water.   Eric Gernath, Chief Executive Officer for SUEZ North America, noted that the new plant has been built at an elevation that will help avoid potential floodwaters that had previously interfered with operations at the now decommissioned, original treatment plant. Following the flooding in 2011, the Chamber encouraged SUEZ (then United Water) to take steps to avoid lengthy service interruptions and supported the investment in a new facility.

Employers Face New January 31st W-2 Filing Deadline

A new federal law, aimed at making it easier for the IRS to detect and prevent refund fraud, accelerates the W-2 filing deadline for employers to January 31.   The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, enacted last December, includes the new requirement for employers. The January 31 filing deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099-MISC reporting non-employee compensation such as payments to independent contractors.

In the past, employers typically had until the end of February, if filing on paper, or the end of March, if filing electronically, to submit copies of these forms.  In addition, there are changes in requesting an extension to file.  Only one 30-day extension to file Form W-2 is available and the extension is not automatic.  A Form 8809 Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns must be completed as soon as possible and by January 31.