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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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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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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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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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Should You Have A Full-Time Risk Manager?

Nov 30

MP900400507 - SmallAs your business grows, the risks you face become more complex, potential losses grow, along with your insurance premiums. At some point, you’ll need to decide whether it makes sense to turn over the responsibility for risk management to a full-time professional.

Before making this decision, experts recommend that you weigh two key factors: 1) the cost of paying a full-time risk manager, and 2) the potential savings that this manager can generate.

The first element is relatively easy to determine, it’s the salary and overhead of the manager, plus whatever clerical support that he or she needs.

The second item requires you to analyze the extent which a full-time risk manager can:

  • Centralize and compartmentalize responsibility for risk management in a single department. This improvement in efficiency should more than offset the increase in administrative costs.
  • reduce losses by providing analysis of loss control needs, careful scrutiny of reports, and knowledge of whom to contact for specialized help. Careful attention to loss reserves and adjusting practices can help cut costs dramatically. For example, adjusting liability and workers compensation claims requires special expertise. Insurance companies generally provide adjusters, it’s always helpful to have someone on your team who can evaluate their conclusions.
  • help lower your premiums by paying closer attention to coverage criteria, negotiating with agents, brokers, and insurance companies, and using familiarity with industry terminology.

If you’d like our input on making this key decision, feel free to get in touch with the risk management professionals at our agency at any time. We’re here to serve you.

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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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Top High-Tech Car Safety Features

Nov 10

 

MP900438798 - smallEverybody has felt that unpleasant surprise when a car comes zooming into view after being hidden in a blind spot. Older motorists are no different, and they see warning systems against this hazard as the top safety feature in newer cars, according to a new report by the MIT AgeLab and The Hartford Insurance Company. After surveying hundreds of drivers over age 50 who get behind the wheel at least three times a week, the study found that these “mature motorists” felt more confident with cars which have at least one of 10 advanced safety technologies.

Here are the top 10 safety features for older motorists (in order):

  1. Blind-spot warnings alert drivers when another vehicle is approaching unseen and also help with parking.
  2. Crash mitigation systems detect imminent collisions and can help reduce passenger injuries.
  3. Emergency response systems alert paramedics or other emergency personnel if there’s an accident.
  4. Drowsy driver alerts warn motorists when they nod off or otherwise become inattentive.
  5. Reverse monitoring systems help drivers (especially those with reduced flexibility) judge distances and back up safely by warning of objects behind the vehicle.
  6. Vehicle stability control reduces crashes by helping steer a car if it veers offline or has trouble navigating a curve.
  7. Lane departure warning alerts motorists when they drift from a lane.
  8. “Smart” headlights illuminate the road more effectively by responding to the direction the driver is steering and the vehicle’s speed.
  9. Voice-activated command systems allow motorists to use a car’s features without losing focus on the highway.
  10. Automated parking assist calculates the angles and steers the car into the space, reducing driver stress and increasing the number of potential parking spots.

How many of these safety features does your newer car have?

 

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Home Security Systems: Myths And Reality

Nov 02
thief-1562699_1920Don’t let negative rumors about home security systems keep you from adding this valuable protection for you and your family. Before you buy a system, consider these myths and realities:
Myth: No one will break into my home.
Reality: Burglars can target any home anywhere, and they’re seeking unprotected targets like yours. In 2011, the FBI reported more than 1.5 million residential burglaries, an average of more than one a minute.

Myth. Security systems cost too much.

Reality: According to the FBI, burglaries cost victims an average of $2,185 in 2011. A security system that costs $50 a month (a mid-range figure for most systems) can provide more than three and a half years of protection for the money and valuables you might lose in a home burglary, not to mention helping ensure your peace of mind.

Myth: My pet will set off false alarms

Reality: Many home security systems are pet friendly, designed to distinguish between pets and intruder.

Myth: Having a security system won’t lower my insurance rate

Reality: Because insurance companies can save a ton of money when policyholders use quality alarm systems (which reduce the chances of burglary claims significantly) they offer these customers a sizeable discount on homeowners coverage. You can use these savings to offset the cost of your system.

Myth: Because I have insurance, I don’t need a security system

Reality: Insurance can’t bring back irreplaceable items, such as family heirlooms or other valuables, which a home security system can help protect. What’s more, many people don’t want to deal with filing a claim and receiving an insurance settlement.

For more information on the benefits that alarm systems can provide, feel free to get in touch with us at any time.

 

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Disaster Planning: Ride Out The Storm

Oct 19

 

The American Management Association recently reported that only half of the corporations it surveyed had a disaster plan. What’s more, many respondents felt that the time spent preparing a plan was too costly or that they had just never thought about it.

As insurance professionals, we find such news disappointing. After all, a disaster management plan should be a top priority for every company.

The safety of your employees and the future of your business depend on drafting a disaster management plan now. From the loss of key personnel to physical property damage, everything that can go wrong in a serious situation might very well do so. Are you prepared?

Your plan should also include comprehensive insurance coverage. For example,

Once a disaster happens, if you don’t carry a business income policy with, “Extra Expense,” coverage, you will lose money. Maybe even enough to put your business under for good. This coverage kicks in to help you replace lost revenue and expenses to get up and running fast.

For more information on adding Business Income insurance with Extra Expense coverage to your protection package, call our service team today.

 

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