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Cold Weather Work Habits and Personal Protection Equipment

Dec 07

Most of us have heard of cold-related illnesses such as frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains, and trench foot. All are illnesses related to cold stress. But the cold is insidious and works its way deep into the body where it indirectly causes cold-related problems.

Workers with chronic diseases such as asthma or arthritis are more likely to suffer flare-ups in cold weather.

Cold stress also decreases the worker’s dexterity, coordination, mental skills, and causes an overall decline in performance that negatively affects worker safety. Workers are more prone to accidents.

Also, working in the cold increases the likelihood of employee sprains and strains. This turns up as a health issue such as a low back strain. However, all muscles and tendons have less resistance to harm when exposed to cold weather.

What is Cold Stress?

Cold stress is the way your body responds cold temperatures stemming from heat escaping from part of your body, such as hands, limbs, feet, and/or head. When the body has prolonged contact with cold, lengthy exposure is a physical and mental challenge to your body.

Humans lose heat four ways:

  • Radiation
  • Convection
  • Conduction
  • Evaporation

The best way to avoid cold weather stress leading to cold weather illness or injury involves changing work habits and wearing the right clothing.

Changing Work Habits

How long an employee works in cold weather depends on wind and air temperature. The colder the temperature and the stronger the wind, the shorter work periods are. The following table, adopted by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) as Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for cold stress is an excellent guide for management in establishing the length of a work period.

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Forklift Safety

Nov 30

Forklifts have revolutionized the construction industry. However, using them creates the risk of serious injury and death for drivers, other employees, and pedestrians.

Although following the rules for forklift operation – safety checks, maintenance inspections, and so on –are time consuming, they’re essential for workplace safety.

To help ensure that your construction projects stay productive and accident-free, we’d recommend these guidelines:

Designate walking and driving paths.

Many accidents happen because a worker was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Help prevent such incidents by clearly marking paths for foot traffic and forklift lanes. Yellow tape is easier to notice than signs, and won’t become covered with dirt or debris like floor marks.

Have the right tires.

A blowout could cause an accident or halt productivity. The type of tire is perhaps the most important difference between forklifts that only operate indoors and those used indoors. While indoor forklift-tire sizes relate to truck weight, aisle and lift height, tires for outdoor lifts aim to prevent punctures.

Identify gradient inconsistencies.

The floor gradient is an important consideration because slight changes can cause a tip-over. This is the number one cause of death and serious injury to forklift operators.

Because forklift designs vary significantly, choose the appropriate model. The first factor to consider is the maximum load. Trying to lift a load that exceeds this capacity can damage the arms or cause a tip-over. When possible, assign drivers who have experience with the model you’re using. If this isn’t an option, make sure the driver understands the limitations of this forklift and can do pre- and post-operation maintenance checks.

Our agency’s specialists would be happy to help keep your staff and equipment safe on the job.

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Do you know if you’re providing a service or product?

Nov 28

Sounds like a simple question, right? It’s not. Yet, it’s fundamental to insuring your business.

Consider a software developer. If they develop an application or program that widely applies and it’s sold to the general public, it’s a product. If it’s developed for a unique user, it’s a service.

The difference from an insurance perspective is whether you need products liability or professional liability.

Professional liability implies a consultation, advice, or design like medicine or law or architecture. But how about hair styling, data management or decorating. Interior decorators earn commissions on furnishings, but isn’t it the design people are buying?

When you review your company operations, think about the amount of design that goes into your finished product, and how specific it is to one client. Every product or completed operation requires some design. The insurance professional can help determine when a professional liability exposure occurs.

Let’s look at a construction management company. They value engineer a project, review plans, manage time-lines, draw and review plan specifications and coordinate sub-contractors. All of these duties are service in nature and are covered by professional liability.

Site supervision is a service. Now the site supervisor picks up a hammer and helps finish framing a concrete form. The super just crossed into completed operations, a general liability coverage.

Professional liability suggests a more personal element – professional reputation. Products and completed operations (general liability) resolves claims by assessing damages to people or property as a result of defective products or finished processes. The insurance company acts on the company behalf to settle the claims.

Professional liability settles disputes similarly except the professional can deny the claim theirself. If they choose this path, whatever the insurance company could have closed the case for becomes the maximum limit. Obviously, this course of action is risky.

Legal and claims costs are separate and in addition to the general liability limit but cost toward the professional liability limit. If you provide a service, keep those legal costs in mind when selecting a limit of liability. Professional liability requires higher limits.

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10 Steps to Electrical Safety

Nov 17

A preventable electrical injury occurs in the workplace every 23 minutes.

Jim White, training director for Shermco Industries, Inc., a Dallas-based electrical power systems test and maintenance company, has developed this list of 10 tips for keeping workers safe from shocks, burns, and electrocution on the job:

Develop a zero-tolerance policy toward energized work. 

Get serious about “no hot work.” This includes conducting an electrical hazard analysis for energized work. Fine and discipline violators.

Get out in the field or plant and see what your workers are doing. 

(aka “management by walking around”).

Develop checklists or other ways to track who is qualified to perform which tasks. 

Some businesses use job-task analyses to provide a blueprint of employees’ activities.

Train your employees.

To be qualified to perform any task, workers must know the construction, operation, and hazards associated with the equipment they’re using. Make supervisors responsible for knowing what employees can – and can’t – do safely.

Develop safe work practices and procedures.

Practices such as energized electrical work permits, clearance procedures, and switching orders can help prevent accidents and can help document that the right steps were taken. These precautions become especially important in case of an accident.

Perform periodic safety audits. 

When workers know that they’ll be subject to random audits, they’ll try to maintain safe work procedures and practices. Remember: what gets measured, gets done.

Conduct job briefings 

any time the scope of the work changes significantly and when new or different hazards are present.

Be cautious about implementing safety awards programs

, especially if they might discourage accident reporting.

Become familiar with industry standards. 

Examples include with NFPA 70E and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations.

Document everything.

If you don’t have it in writing, you never did it. Show a good-faith effort; OSHA will notice – and compliance could save you big dollars and legal penalties.

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What’s Included in a Nonprofit Commercial Package

Oct 11

Your nonprofit organization specializes in serving and helping others. A lawsuit or other liability could inhibit your organization’s ability to continue operations, though. You need a nonprofit commercial package with invaluable protection that meets your needs as you help others.

What a Nonprofit Commercial Package Includes

The right insurance provides invaluable protection for your organization. Look for several types of coverage when shopping for a nonprofit commercial package.

    • General Liability InsuranceWhen visitors or clients are injured from a fall, slip or accident on your property, your organization is liable for medical payments and other damages. General liability insurance offers classic slip-and-fall coverage for any unfortunate accidents.
    • Property InsuranceNatural disasters, fires, vandalism and other risks can happen at any time. Property insurance pays for necessary repairs and minimizes operation disruptions to the property your organization owns or rents. This insurance can cover:
      • Computers and accessories
      • Equipment and machinery
      • Fixtures, including carpeting and lighting
      • Inventory and supplies
      • Office furniture
    • Auto InsuranceAny time your staff or volunteers drive a company or personal vehicle for organization activities, your nonprofit is liable for accidents or damages. Purchase adequate auto insurance that includes liability and any coverage your state requires, such as personal injury protection or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
    • Product Liability InsuranceYour nonprofit may sell products to raise funds for your cause. Examples include items your clients create or baked goods. Property liability insurance protects your organization financially if someone suffers an injury or other damages because of a product you sell.
    • Directors and Officers InsuranceNonprofit organizations rely on the leadership expertise of directors and officers. These men and women could be sued for fraud, financial mismanagement or other things, though. Directors and Officers insurance covers defense and damage costs.
  • Professional Liability InsuranceWhen someone files a discrimination, mismanagement or sexual harassment lawsuit against your organization, the nonprofit is liable for related costs and damages. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions or malpractice insurance, is similar to Directors and Officers insurance but covers your entire organization, including staff and volunteers.

In addition to these six coverage options, your nonprofit commercial package may include:

  • Abuse Liability
  • Cyber Liability
  • Loss of Business Income
  • Misconduct
  • Negligence
  • Special Event Insurance
  • Umbrella Coverage
  • Volunteer Medical Expense Coverage
  • Workers’ Compensation

Your organization needs customized insurance that meets your needs, fits your budget and protects your assets. Contact your insurance agent today for a customized quote and more information on the Nonprofit Commercial Package that’s right for you. It provides invaluable protection that allows you to address risks while continuing to serve others.

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Comp Scams: Beware Of These ‘Red Flags’

Jan 18

workers-compensation - smallWorkers Compensation fraud is a widespread and serious problem that’s not only illegal, but leads to higher insurance premiums for all businesses – including yours.

According to industry experts, Comp-related scams often involve one or more of these “red flags.” Although no one sign should necessarily be cause for alarm by itself, two or more should raise suspicions and could trigger an investigation of the claim:

  1. Monday morning report of injury. The alleged injury occurs first thing on Monday, or late Friday afternoon, but is not reported until Monday.
  2. Change in employment status. The reported accident occurs immediately before or after a strike, job termination, layoff, end of a major project, or the conclusion of seasonal work.
  3. Suspicious providers. The claimant’s medical provider or legal consultant has a history of handling dubious claims.
  4. Lack of witnesses. No one else saw the accident and the employee’s description does not support the cause of the injury.
  5. Conflicting descriptions. The employee’s account of the accident doesn’t match with the medical history or injury report.
  6. History of claims. The employee has filed a number of questionable or litigated claims.
  7. Refusal of treatment. The claimant declines a diagnostic procedure to confirm the nature or extent of the injury.
  8. Late reporting. The employee delays reporting the incident without a reasonable explanation.
  9. Elusiveness. The allegedly disabled employee is hard to reach.
  10. Instability. The claimant changes physicians, addresses, or jobs frequently

If one of your workers files a claim that has some of these warning signs, be sure to let us know. We’ll work with you and your Workers Comp carrier to check it out.

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The ABC’S Of Key-Person Insurance

Jan 11

abc-blocks - smallThe chances are that your company relies heavily on one or two people – such as a partner, operations manager, or foreperson – whose knowledge, expertise, or overall contributions are essential. If death put this person out of the picture, where would you find the financial resources to keep you up and running?

The answer: a Key Person Life Insurance policy under which your company receives all or most of the proceeds. This term can also apply to other coverages used for business continuation purposes, including: 1) Buy-Sell or Shareholder Insurance, to reimburse partners or investors; 2) Debt Protection; and 3) Revenue Protection. You can use the funds to replace lost income due to the unavailability of the key person and to recruit, develop, and train a replacement.

The policy’s cash value might be available to your business through a withdrawal or loan, if needed. You can also split the premium and death benefit between the firm and the spouse or partner of the key person to ensure that she or he receives replacement for the person’s economic value to the family (However, these premiums are not tax deductible).

What’s more, Key Person coverage provides a financial asset that enhances the creditworthiness of your company for commercial lending, by ensuring that the business will stay up and running if the key person is out of the picture.

The amount of coverage you need will vary – say, from $100,000 to $500,000 – taking into account what your budget allows versus how much the business would need to survive while you’re bringing a replacement up to speed.

As always, our agency stands ready to advise you at any time.

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Road-Test Employees, As Well As Vehicles

Jan 04

t1larg-smallChances are that you’d never buy a new truck or front-end loader without trying it out to make sure it could do the job. Do you do the same for the vehicle’s operators?

Safety experts recommend that any employee who will be driving a truck should receive a road test of his or her driving skills before being hired. The examiner should be fully qualified to operate the vehicle, and familiar with the prospective operator’s past experience. The test should include all the necessary skills:

  • use of all controls; traffic operations (including backing, parking, slowing, stopping, passing, and turning)
  • general driving habits, such as alertness, stamina, and patience
  • driving rules and regulations pertaining to the vehicle
  • handling the necessary actions/equipment for loading and unloading the vehicle

For each skill or knowledge area, the applicant should receive a pass/fail grade. Each area of weakness should lead to further training or a corresponding limitation in the scope of the operator’s approved activities. Keep records and scores of these tests as documentation in the event of an accident or claim resulting from a driver’s actions.

For more suggestions on the format or content of driver exams, contact your trade association, state department of motor vehicles. Don’t forget the benefits of a solid driver training and testing program in keeping your Commercial Auto insurance rates under control.

Your drivers are taking your vehicles and your insurance coverage on the road every time they get behind the wheel. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make sure that they’re capable of protecting both?

For more information, feel free to get in touch with or one of our agency’s risk management professionals.

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Your Disaster Plan: Continual

Nov 17

MP900414115 - SmallYou want your disaster plan, also known as a “business continuity” plan, to be complete, accurate, functional, up to date, and able to meet your recovery objectives. To ensure that you meet these goals, there’s no better way than a “live test.”

You can create buy-in among managers and staff by providing a test scenario that’s specific, realistic, detailed, and comprehensive.

Consider this real-world example: A television communication company in Miami was completing its disaster plan when it learned that a powerful hurricane was headed straight toward Southeastern Florida. Fortunately, because the business had several days’ warning, it was able to implement the plan rapidly and communicate it to employees. Although the company was prepared for the worst, the storm struck to the south and west, near Key West.

Although there was no significant damage in the Miami area, the exercise tested important components of the plan, such as the ability of the business to:

  • protect equipment and strengthen the building in a timely and orderly manner
  • activate and maintain an alternate transmission site
  • test backup electrical generation and other equipment under adverse weather conditions
  • communicate emergency technical instructions to affiliate stations throughout the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world
  • sponsor a shelter for emergency storm personnel
  • release and recall staff in an orderly basis

A post-disaster meeting led to a number of refinements in the plan. Most important, the exercise confirmed the ability of the company to maintain important business activities at a pre-established acceptable level, with minimal impact to its customers and revenue stream.

If you’d like advice on testing your company’s business continuity plan before disaster strikes, just give us a call.

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Employment Practices Liability Insurance: Four Key Questions

Jun 08

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You need Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI) to protect you from lawsuits filed (justly or unjustly) by anyone who you employ, have employed, or even considered employing.

Before you buy this essential coverage, be sure to ask these questions:

  1. Who is insured? This should include the company as an entity, along with officers, directors, and every type of employee (full-time, part-time, temp, leased, loaned and seasonal). The importance of this becomes clear if you’re ever sued for a sexist slur made by temporary receptionist to a job applicant.
  2. What claims does the policy cover? You want coverage for every eventuality: monetary damages, all types of legal proceeding from criminal to regulatory, settlements, judgments, lost pay, defense fees and punitive damages.
  3. How does the policy define “wrongful employment practices” beyond the obvious (sexual harassment and racial discrimination)? Make sure that you have coverage for violations of federal, state, local and common law on employment discrimination;, deprivation of career opportunities; defamation; retaliation, negligent job evaluation, and failure to have an acceptable written employment policy.
  4. What does the policy exclude? EPLI should include wrongful practices that might have taken place before you bought coverage – so you don’t have to worry about a suit by that disgruntled vice president you fired three years ago for pilfering paperclips.

A word to the wise: use EPLI as a last line of defense. Risk management for your business should include diversity and sensitivity training. The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers a wealth of free training resources, guides, compliance information, and links to free training throughout the nation.

As always, we stand ready to offer you our professional advice, free of charge.

 

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