The Well-Maintained Workplace: A Fall Mini-Guide

Nov 04

insuranceYour workplace is sacred. It’s where you do business, sure, but it’s also where you forge important relationships, where you find your purpose in the world, and where you communicate to others how much they mean to you. Use fall as an opportunity to keep that workplace functioning at a high level with this mini-guide.

1. Check the Roof

Protect your office by keeping your roof sound. Call in a professional to check for problem spots, and advise on maintenance or repairs before winter sets in.

2. Clean Out Communal Spaces

You’ve heard of spring cleaning? Fall cleaning is a good idea too. Before holiday decorations and treats start rolling in, do a thorough sweep of common areas. Remove trash, old decorations and food, and wipe down surfaces. Refresh candles and plants for a clean, healthy vibe.

3. Pick Up Hazards

Pick up equipment and branches from walkways and parking lots before they get disguised by snow and become real hazards.

4. Tune Up the Furnace

Don’t chance a winter burnout. Instead, maintain your furnace ahead of time so you’ll be toasty warm all the way until spring.

5. Check Your Insurance

Your insurance only helps you if it fully covers you in case of emergency. If you’ve recently upgraded your premises, done renovations, added vehicles or otherwise improved your business (i.e. made it worth more), you need your insurance to reflect that. Talk to an agent today.

6. Lay in Emergency Supplies

A radio, space blankets, food, candles and flashlights are all good supplies to have on hand in case of power outage or storm.

7. Stock Up On Shovels

Okay, so you don’t need a whole army of shovels … just enough to efficiently clear off walkways and create paths to the parking lot in the case of a freak snowstorm.

8. Put Plants to Bed

Your landscaping appreciates a turndown. Prune perennials, scatter mulch and give the lawn a final mow before locking up your yard tools for the season.

9. Turn Off Outdoor Faucets

Nobody wants to greet spring with a busted water main. Turn off outdoor faucets so pipes don’t freeze and crack or burst.

10. Say Hi to Clients and Customers

Fall is a great time to connect with clients and customers, especially if you sell products or services that relate to the holidays. Say hi and stay on their radars!


Five Keys To Choosing Permanent Life Insurance

Oct 28

Although both term life insurance and permanent life insurance policies have their advantages, if you prefer permanent life, here are key guidelines to help you choose the best option:

  1. All policies are not created alike. Whole Life insurance combines a fixed premium with a guaranteed cash benefit and a death benefit. Universal Life offers a flexible premium plan that works like a combined term life insurance policy and bank account; you pay as much money as you want and the leftover funds paid will earn a variable interest rate. Variable Universal Life is similar, except that you can choose between mutual funds in which to invest your cash value.
  2. Because permanent life is written for a lifetime, rather than a limited term, you will be required to take a medical exam – the better your health, the lower your premium.
  3. Permanent life provides a tax-free investment vehicle. In most cases, a loan against the cash value of your policy will not be not taxable – and cash withdrawals (for tuition, medical expenses or other emergencies), up to your basis in the policy, will be tax free. What’s more, the “forced savings” of permanent life can help you build a financial safety net.
  4. Check the reputation and financial stability of the insurance company, as well as the underlying performance of its investments.
  5. You’ll pay more for permanent life than for the same amount of term insurance. Premiums depend on your health, age, and gender, as well as how much coverage you buy. Permanent life policies have sales charges, administrative fees, a mortality risk charge and fund management fees. If you cash in your policy during a certain period, you might be charged a surrender fee.

Our Life insurance professionals stand ready to offer you their advice on making this important decision.


Key Man Insurance

Oct 21

Small and medium-sized businesses often have employees that are “stars.” Sometimes the star is the CEO or president, other times there is a salesperson who consistently outsells every other sales team member by a two to one margin. A software company has a star coder whose ideas led to your product being a number one editor’s choice. The point is that most companies have an employee or two that helps their business thrive. What happens to your business in the short-term if a star employee, referred to by the insurance industry as a “key” employee dies?

Death is an issue that most people do not like discussing; so, many small and medium-sized businesses do not have detailed succession plans, and key person life insurance remains an unresolved issue. It is a discussion that helps your company survive hard times that follow the death of a key person.

What is Key Person Life Insurance?

Key man life insurance protects a business from economic loss relating to the death of a key employee. The company buys the insurance, owns the policy, and is the beneficiary of the policy in the event of the sudden death of the insured. Payment from the insurance company to the business is a lump sum, and there are no restrictions on how the company uses the money. Most companies use the money to stabilize the business until they find the key person’s replacement.

Types of Key man Life Insurance

Businesses gravitate to two kinds of policies for key employee life insurance.

Term Life Insurance: startups favor this type of policy. As startups always try to conserve cash, term life insurance is cheaper than any other kind of personal life insurance.
Policies that build cash value: Whole life or universal life insurance builds cash value that increases the cash value of the policy and is an asset on the company’s book. The company can get access to the excess cash value of the policy at any time for any purpose as the money from the cash buildup belongs to them.
Life insurance premiums vary between companies and smart companies comparison shop for the best insurance program.

The discussion is uncomfortable, but, if you do not have key man insurance, act now.


5 Health Tips for Your Company’s Healthiest Fall Yet

Oct 14

woman-sickNothing keeps business humming along and employees happy like a healthy workplace. When people can count on coming to work and staying safe, being covered by great insurance, and having the best chance of fighting off the nasty bugs of the season, your work will blossom. Here are five ways to help make that happen.

1. Encourage People to Get a Flu Shot

When the flu starts going around, it tends to knock a lot of people down all at once. You can help minimize this by encouraging people to get their flu shot. Sometimes you can even have a medical professional in to deliver shots to anyone that wants them, in which case you should model getting one yourself. Some people have strong opinions about the efficacy of the flu shot, however, so don’t be overbearing.

2. Enroll Everyone on Time

Health insurance usually renews every year, and that renewal is preceded by an open enrollment period in the fall. This isn’t the case for all policies, but for most. Whether you’re responsible for enrolling everyone, or you allow employees to pick the plans that suit them best, make sure that everyone knows enrollment is happening and you meet all necessary deadlines.

3. Remove Hazards from Yards and Roads

Pick up fallen branches, put equipment away and rake up slimy leaves and grass trimmings before snow falls. Otherwise, walkways and lots become hazardous precursors to workers’ compensation claims. That’s not what you want, is it?

4. Have Emergency Supplies on Hand

Food, space blankets, candles and a radio are all crucial additions to your emergency kit. Take safety seriously!

5. Prepare for Inclement Weather

Maryland doesn’t have the worst winters around, but neither does it have the easiest. Chances are good we’re going to get considerable rain and at least some snow, as well as ice and sleet. It’s a good idea to have a snow shovel and de-icing agent on hand just in case you get hit with a big storm while at work, and need to clear a path for people to get home.

Your workplace is about more than simply making money and padding out your bottom line; it’s about protecting the people that matter to you. You can do a better job of that if you follow the above health tips. So good luck, and get going!


Things You Don’t Know About Your Construction Company’s Workers Compensation

Oct 07

Required by law, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, usually, called worker’s comp protects your employees from injury, illness, and even death that is work related.

Shop Around

Using statistics from The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) insurers determine high and low risk industries. Within the industry, individual employer safety records help when determining a specific insured’s premium. Like everything else, you buy, shopping around pays off as rates do vary from company to company.

Your construction company’s experience part of the premium calculation comes from the three-year rolling average of claims made during the prior four years. The four years comes about, as there is a lag period of one-year.

Employees on a Job Site May Have Other Recourse

Imagine you are a plumbing a subcontractor on a construction job. As the project is multi-stories the general contractor had scaffolding erected. One of your employees was on the second floor running some pipe, and the scaffolding gave way. Your employee fell two stories and severely injured his back. Because of his injury, he suffered three months of no work (lost wages) and required extensive physical and occupational therapy (medical costs). Extended physical labor is out of the question as it causes a great deal of pain (disability claim). It looks like you will take a hit on your workers comp experience rating, as this is a large claim.

But wait, you may want to join with your employee or your insurance company in a lawsuit against the scaffolding company as an investigation proved the scaffold was improperly put up. The scaffolding company had other similar lawsuits against it yet the general contractor hired them. Your employee and your workers comp insurance company can sue the general contractor for negligence in hiring a company with a bad safety record. If the insurance company receives an award because of the lawsuit, the hit on your experience rating is not as bad. The impact on your future premiums is less than if your insurance company paid all expenses related to your employee’s claim.


* Comparison shop for the best rates for your construction company’s worker’s comp insurance.
* Depending on the circumstances of the injury, others parties could be responsible under product liability or third-party liability claims. Work with your insurance company to keep their payout as small as possible to keep your premium low.
* Employers with good safety records pay less than employers who have poor safety records.



How to Prepare for a Hurricane

Oct 02

Hurricane shutters

Your level of preparation before a hurricane can determine how well you weather the storm and how quickly you recover from it. You should start preparing your home, inside and out, long before a storm is in the forecast. In the end, you can never be too prepared when it comes to protecting your loved ones and your property from extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

Know the Forecast

You may hear the terms “hurricane watch” and “hurricane warning” in your local forecast. Understanding the difference between them is essential to helping you prepare for a hurricane. As soon as a hurricane watch or warning is forecast for your area, it is important, depending on the type of alert, to immediately begin or complete your preparations.

A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. You should begin to stock up on emergency supplies in the event a warning is issued. If you live in a coastal area, you also should be prepared to evacuate.

A warning is more serious. Hurricane-force winds (74 mph or higher) are expected to hit your area within 36 hours. You should seek shelter or evacuate, if notified to do so.

General Hurricane Preparation Tips

  • Prepare a survival kit that includes items such as water and non-perishable food for everyone, including your pets; medications; a portable radio; flashlights; batteries; and battery chargers for your cell phones and other portable electronic devices, which can be powered by your car.
  • Plan your evacuation route and leave as soon as an evacuation order is issued. Also, fuel up your car before you leave.
  • Build a content inventory of the items in your home or at your business.
  • Secure all outdoor objects or move them inside. Close your home’s storm shutters and board up windows and glass doors as appropriate.
  • If possible, bring in gas or charcoal grills, but do not use them indoors. Also, do not store propane tanks inside the house or garage. Chain propane tanks in an upright position to a secure object away from your home.
  • Secure your boat or move it to a safer place.
  • Fill your emergency generator fuel tank, if you have one, and have spare fuel on hand. Store generator fuel in an approved container in a garage or shed, away from open flames, heat sources and appliances such as natural gas appliances.

Keep Track with Our Emergency Checklist >

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

1. Help Avoid Water Damage

Heavy rains have the potential to cause significant water damage. These tips can help you prepare your home.

  • Closing and locking all windows and doors and removing any window air conditioners.
  • Removing valuable items from your basement or elevating them off of the floor.
  • Clearing debris from exterior drains and gutters.
  • Repairing damaged gutters and downspouts to make sure water can drain away from your foundation.
  • Checking your sump pump and the battery backup to confirm they are working properly.

2. Monitor Your Trees

In a powerful windstorm, trees can be a hazard. Broken limbs or fallen trees – even uprooted shrubbery – could damage your home and fences, or your neighbor’s property.

Routinely maintain the trees around your home:

  • Prune tree limbs within 10 feet of your home.
  • Check for cracking or splitting in trees.
  • Remove dead limbs and weakened trees.

3. Roofs, Doors, Windows and Skylights

It is important to keep wall openings, such as doors, windows and skylights protected. The roof, doors and windows of your house are especially vulnerable to wind damage. When houses are exposed to hurricane force winds, roofs are most susceptible to damage, followed by walls and openings such as skylights.

Strengthen doors and windows by:

4. Secure Outdoor Items

If you live in an area that experiences high winds, outdoor items around your property that are not properly anchored can become airborne and cause damage.

  • If high winds are expected in your area, move as many outdoor items indoors well before the high winds arrive. As mentioned earlier, do not store propane tanks in your home or garage.
  • Adequately secure any remaining outdoor items that cannot be safely moved to protected areas.

5. Strengthen Your Exterior Structure

During a windstorm, wind forces are carried from the roof down to the exterior walls and then to the foundation. Homes can be damaged when wind and wind-driven water gets under the building’s exterior walls if proper controls are not in place.

Strengthen exteriors by employing a contractor to:


Simple Tips to Get Your Car Winter Ready This Fall

Sep 30

Raley, Watts, & O'Neill, MD, Commercial Vehicle InsuranceWe all count on our cars. But in order to do their jobs safely and well, our cars have to be able to count on us too.

Fall is a great time to get cars ready for the long winter months and tough road conditions that will prevail until spring. With tires that are prepared for rain and ice, new wipers, a trusty engine and perfect insurance – among other things – you should be good to go for another year.

Check Filters and Oil Levels

Your car can’t run well if you don’t give it the tools it needs to do so. Clean oil is a must, as are clean filters. If you know how to make these relatively minor replacements yourself, you may be able to save some money. However, most people don’t, and these services are still cheap from a mechanic. So either way, get it done.

Get the Engine Checked

While many people check oil and filters, too few check their engine. Have your mechanic give your car a thorough once-over to make sure your car is winter-ready.

Update Your Insurance

Insurance is only as good as what it covers. If you’ve recently added a new driver or significantly changed your commuting patterns, your insurance agent needs to know. Of course, that goes without saying if you’ve just purchased a new vehicle.

Rotate and Replace Tires

Tires get worn down, and can even melt a little on hot summer roads. Instead of calling it good, get your tires rotated and checked out. It’s possible some of them have gotten too bald over the summer to be safe on slick winter roads, so buy new ones. If you can do this yourself, great. Otherwise, combine this chore with other services when you head to the mechanic.

Make an Emergency Kit

Staying safe means being ready for breakdowns in winter weather. Your emergency kit should include food, enough for everyone who is likely to travel in the car. You also need sturdy shoes, warm coats, emergency blankets, hats and gloves, and a two-way radio in case the storm causes major interference with cell towers.

Check Windshield Wipers

Rain, rain, go away! That’s not what you want to be saying because you have crummy wipers, right? Fix ‘em!

These tips and others will help you coast gracefully through winter into spring.


Injured Employees: what are your duties under workers compensation?

Sep 23

An employee is injured on the job while carelessly texting their buddy. What are your duties under the workers’ compensation law?

First, you must provide for immediate medical care, including first aid, and/or emergency services. Stop the bleeding, get them breathing. If necessary, call 911 or transport the employee to your pre-arranged medical facility, or directly to the hospital emergency room, whichever is appropriate.

Second, begin an initial investigation by gathering the injured party contact information along with witness contact information, and a brief description of the accident. Forward this information to your insurance carrier.

Upon any receipt of legal papers, lawsuits, or information regarding the loss, forward originals immediately to the insurance company. Keep copies for your records.

Cooperate with your insurance company investigation, settlement, court proceedings, or payments. This coverage is no-fault, don’t create procedural issues which can remove that status.

Do not interfere with the insurance company right to recover from third parties. The insurance company will seek subrogation from at-fault drivers, products manufacturers, or others. Allow them to do their jobs. They deal with these situations everyday.

Do not make payments or assume liability unless doing so at your own cost. Remember: this coverage is no fault. Demonstrating obligation creates confusion over statutory benefits.

Okay, so essentially your obligation is:

  1. Get medical help quickly and to triage the level of medical services needed for the injury.
  2. Report to the company information necessary to initiate a claim and forward legal correspondence.
  3. Get out of the way.

Getting back to the texting issue. Not relevant to the claims procedure for this injury, but think about your rules involving employee cell phone use and texting. Employees need to focus on their tasks to stay safe.



Are You in Compliance with Commercial Vehicle Regulations?

Sep 16

Many businesses use vans, trucks and buses to move their customers, products or equipment. Depending on the size and use of those vehicles, a business and its drivers may be subject to state and federal commercial vehicle regulations. Complying with these regulations is an important part of a fleet safety program.

State and Federal Requirements

Commercial motor carriers are regulated by the states in which they operate. If these vehicles operate in interstate commerce, federal regulations also apply. In general, most states follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) or similar rules.¹

the definition of commercial vehicles

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Motor carriers that operate large commercial motor vehicles, or vehicles used to transport hazardous materials, must comply with additional regulations if they operate the following types of commercial vehicles:

  • Class A – Vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more including a towed trailer over 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B – Single unit vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more (if pulling a trailer, the trailer must not exceed10,000 pounds)
  • Class C – Vehicles under 26,001 pounds used or designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and vehicles less than 26,001 pounds required to display hazardous material placards.

Drivers of these vehicles must have a commercial driver’s license and the appropriate endorsements for the vehicles they are driving. Companies that operate these vehicles must also have a drug and alcohol testing program that meets the Department of Transportation (DOT) alcohol and controlled substances testing program requirements.

Registration Requirements

Companies that provide interstate for-hire transportation must obtain federal operating authority by filing the appropriate application with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). For-hire and private motor carriers must also register with the FMCSA and obtain a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number. This number must be displayed on all commercial vehicles the motor carrier operates.

Organizations operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce may also be required to register and pay fees under the Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005.²

More than 30 states currently require intrastate motor carriers to obtain a U.S. DOT number as part of their commercial motor vehicle registration process. Other state registration requirements may include complying with International Fuel Tax Agreement and International Registration Plan, if a motor carrier is operating in interstate commerce.

Additional registration requirement may exist. For information about these requirements visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations website and contact the agency in your state that regulates commercial motor vehicles.


Skilled Labor Shortages: A Growing Problem?

Sep 09

The good news: the construction economy continues to show signs of recovery. After losing nearly 2.3 million jobs during the recession, an Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) survey reports that 86 percent of companies plan to hire in 2014.* The problem: trade workers with the right skills and capabilities for the job may be getting harder to find. As the industry recovers, less-experienced workers are being used to support increased demand.

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Qualified Workers Can Help Increase the Quality of Workmanship.

Hiring qualified workers — including carpenters, equipment operators and laborers — is one of the most important steps in managing construction defect risk. A lack of skilled labor can affect workmanship, increasing the likelihood of construction defect. Travelers has already seen the number of claims in states such as California and Texas grow as the post-recession pace of construction gains momentum.
Measure twice. Hire right.

One of the best ways to defend against construction defect claims is to pre-qualify potential hires. Double check to make sure they have the proper credentials,
experience and skills to deliver quality work. Effective hiring strategies can help prevent potentially complex and costly construction defect claims down the road.