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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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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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Materials And Waste Management: Prevention Pays

Dec 14

Infraestructura-para-el-manejo-de-deshechos-470x260 - SmallEach year around 1,000 trips or slips on construction sites result in fractured bones or dislocated joints, often leading to permanent disability, harming workplace morale, reducing productivity, and raising insurance premiums. Many of these accidents are due to negligence in dealing with building materials or waste.

Safe site operation requires co-ordination between the client, contractor(s), and suppliers. Before beginning a project, agree with the client on arrangements for handling materials and waste. Larger projects should include this agreement in the construction phase plan.

To reduce the risk of mishaps in storing materials, experts recommend that you:

  • designate storage areas for materials, waste, and flammable or hazardous substances
  • don’t allow storage to ‘spread’ on walkways or store materials where they might obstruct access or interfere with emergency escape routes
  • store flammable materials separately and protect them from accidental ignition
  • install guard rails if materials are stored in high places
  • keep all storage areas tidy
  • plan deliveries to keep the amount of materials on site to a minimum

In dealing with waste, decide how to manage waste streams produced during construction and assign responsibility for collecting and disposing of these materials on site.

Waste risk reduction guidelines include:

  • Have all flammable waste materials (such as packaging and lumber) cleared away regularly to reduce the risk of fire
  • Make clearing waste a priority for all workers, and be sure that everyone is on the same page
  • Include enough space for waste bins and containers in accessible locations, and set a schedule for collection
  • Provide carts or chutes for safe removal of waste from the building safely

Our construction insurance professionals stand ready to advise you on keeping your workplace safe.

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Green May Be The Way To Go, But How Will Your Insurance Apply?

Dec 07

const1112-01Environmentally-friendly construction, also known as “green” construction, is increasing rapidly in the United States. Concerns about global climate change, U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy, and rising energy costs are inspiring individuals and businesses to construct buildings with a reduced carbon footprint. This trend has important implications for settlement of insurance claims when green buildings suffer damage.

A green building is one that has met the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED in 1998 as a way to help building owners identify and use practical and measurable designs, construction, operations and maintenance practices that are environmentally-friendly. Green buildings are, compared to standard buildings, more energy and water efficient, produce less carbon dioxide, and have a healthier indoor environment.

Some states and municipalities have begun to adopt building codes that require elements of green construction. California has imposed tougher water efficiency standards on new residential construction; New York City is considering more stringent energy-use standards for large buildings. The impact of these requirements on construction costs will vary by location. Green construction might require specialized materials and methods; in the near term, contractors with expertise in these methods may be relatively scarce.

Therefore, in some places the cost of complying with green building codes could be higher than building with standard materials and methods, and that will impact insurance coverage.

The factors that will influence the claim include:

  • Whether the green building code applies to new construction only or also to major renovations.
  • What the code defines as a “major renovation.” Some codes might consider renovations affecting more than a specified percentage of the building’s area as a major renovation.
  • How will use of green building materials affect the building’s appearance? The property owner might lose enthusiasm for a repair if a change in appearance will lower the building’s market value.
  • How will the new materials interact with the existing building components? Will integrating the new materials increase rebuilding time and cost?
  • Are qualified contractors available in the area?
  • Will wait times for green contractors and materials result in costly project delays?
  • How does the building code apply in the event of a large natural catastrophe, such as an earthquake or hurricane? Must property owners meet the higher standards at a time when hundreds of properties have suffered damage.
  • After a catastrophe, will there be long wait times for contractors to haul away debris because of overwhelmed landfills and recycling centers? Will there be long wait times for building inspectors to visit and approve all of the effected properties?

Standard personal and commercial property insurance policies provide very limited amounts of coverage for ordinance or law” losses — extra costs incurred to meet local building requirements. Additional coverage is available; property owners in areas with green building codes should speak with our insurance agents about options and costs.

Research and publishing company McGraw-Hill Construction has predicted that the market for non-residential building retrofitting with green construction will grow to $15 billion by 2014. Property owners and insurance companies will have to address these questions much more often in the near future; the time to answer them is before the losses occur.

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Wrap Up Policies; The CCIP Solution

Oct 26

 

Wrap-up or “Wrap” Construction insurance can be a highly effective tool on large or complex building projects to reduce premiums, minimize cross-litigation, and speed the claims process by providing General Liability, Workers Comp, and possibly other coverages for the general contractor and most – if not all –subcontractors under a single package policy. There are two basic types of Wrap coverage: owner-controlled insurance programs (OCIPs) and contractor-controlled insurance programs (CCIPs).

Although each type has its advocates, more and more project owners prefer have the general contractor sponsor the program because they:

  • often use the same subcontractors, who are familiar with the safety requirements of the program – an essential element in a successful OCIP; Shouldn’t this read CCIP?
  • usually have more control than owners over safety programs and are more experienced in the administration of OCIPs: payroll reporting, claims management, working with the insurance company, and so forth
  • have a financial incentive to minimize accidents and injuries on the project (because insurers usually require the general contractor to pay a six-figure deductible, andin many cases, to prefund these potential losses)
  • often have more financial resources than the project owner to provide letters of credit, collateral, or sureties the insurance company requires for projected and developed claims under the program.

However, in some cases, an OCIP can be a better solution than a CCIP. For instance, many owners might be ready to assume the risks of a Wrap-up – and to share the savings with the general contractor for a job completed safely. Picking the best approach for each project should be a win-win for all parties involved. Our Construction insurance specialists would be happy to offer you their input.

 

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How CPVC Works And Why It Fails

Jul 27

 

Contractors often install pipes, water-based heat transfer systems, sprinkler systems, and drain lines components made of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) because they’re less expensive, and easier, to work with than those made of metal. These pipes and fittings can cause serious – and costly – damage when they leak or burst.

CPVC components can fail for a variety of reasons. Because this material is a thermoplastic made by combining raw materials, one or more ingredients might be faulty. Errors in manufacturing can lead to defects in the extrusion or injection-mold processes. Other potential risks include inadequate warnings, and improper shipping and handling.

To minimize your exposure to losses when working with products made of CPVC, construction risk management professionals recommend that you:

  • Use proper handling and storage procedures – for example, avoid exposing CPVC components to sunlight.
  • Make sure that the booster pump pressure is not too high when designing the piping system.
  • Do not use CPVC components in pressurized-air applications.
  • Review assembly techniques carefully.
  • Check the type of adhesive used, and the amount (the Goldilocks principle).
  • Set the right amount of dry time.
  • Inspect the alignment of pipes and fittings.

Last, but not least, do not mix CPVC pipes and fittings with those made from its distant cousin, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has different chemical properties, physical characteristics, and capabilities.

Of course, most of these precautions apply just as well to installing pipes or fittings made of any material.

As always, our agency’s Construction insurance professionals would be happy to offer their advice on keeping your workplace as safe as possible.

 

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Potential Contract Bond Problems? Let Your Surety Know!

Jul 20

 

Most public construction projects, and many private projects, require the general contractor to carry a contract bond: a financial guarantee to the project owner from a “surety underwriter” (surety) that the contractor will meet the contract provisions.

Unfortunately, contractors sometimes run into setbacks that can keep them from fulfilling their contract obligations and trigger a bond default – an event that could put them out of business.

Smaller and midsize contractors (those with work backlogs of $5 million to $100 million) are often more vulnerable than their larger counterparts to this risk. The reason: Smaller building projects are usually easier to cancel because the owners are more likely to stick with larger, more complex projects, due to their greater importance and longer planning lead times.

If you’re experiencing, or can reasonably expect, problems in meeting your contract terms – such as excessive overhead, a liquidity squeeze, cost overruns and/or scheduling delays – it makes sense to develop contingency plans that address such concerns.

Just as important, make sure to let your surety know about your situation immediately. After all, the surety has a vested financial interest in avoiding a costly default by working with you and the project owner to work through these difficulties.

Never withhold bad news from your surety. When, not if, the surety learns about your deteriorating financial condition (even if you’re able to meet the terms of the contract), you automatically become a riskier candidate for future bonds. The surety – or any other bond underwriter – will probably limit you to bids on smaller projects with less financial risk, or keep you from bidding on any projects until you can demonstrate financial stability.

 

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