Insurers help employers make workplaces safer, avoid potential fines

Employers can protect their workers and avoid costly fines by implementing workplace safety programs, and their insurers may be able to help. Insurance company loss control consultants can help implement safety programs, provide training and connect employers with resources to make their workplaces safer.

Now is a good time to request this support, as employers who violate workplace safety regulations will find that fines are about to get a lot more costly.

OSHA FINES INCREASING

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is increasing its civil penalties for all employer violations of workplace safety regulations effective August 1, 2016 – the first such increase since 1990.

The federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 sets criteria for OSHA to increase its civil penalties. The first adjustment in 2016 is considered a one-time catch-up adjustment, and fines could rise approximately 50 to 80 percent.

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Employers should note that once the catch-up adjustment is implemented in August 2016, OSHA’s civil penalties will not remain stagnant. By law, penalties must increase annually. Beginning in 2017, annual inflation increases will be calculated based on the Consumer Price Index.

STATE OSHA PLANS

About half the states have OSHA-Approved State Plans for workplace safety enforcement with maximum penalties set by state law. These are unaffected by the Bipartisan Budget Act. However state plans must be at least as effective as OSHA, so states are likely to increase their civil penalties.

AVOID COSTLY CITATIONS

While an OSHA citation can be costly, the health and safety of employees is on the line when safety standards are not enforced in the workplace.

For assistance with implementing a safety program, training and other measures, please contact your local Ayres Group Agent

Courtesy Cinfin.com

Keys to controlling business auto insurance costs

Insurance underwriters take into account a company’s past automobile loss experience when pricing automobile insurance. By reducing your company’s exposure to auto losses, you may be able to reduce your insurance costs. Three ways to control business auto costs are to review driver history; promote safety awareness and training; and maintain vehicles in good working order.

1: REVIEWING DRIVER HISTORY

Carefully evaluate driver candidates prior to putting them behind the wheel.

Consider requesting prior work history, conducting a criminal background check and obtaining a motor vehicle report to evaluate an applicant’s driving history and license status. Prior to conducting pre-employment checks, consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and to determine when employee releases or notices may be required. Once drivers are hired, check annually for accidents, violations and license status.

Once you’ve obtained the driver’s signed release, you can follow your state’s requirements to request an MVR through your state’s license bureau. Make sure to review MVRs from every state the employee has resided in for the prior five years. MVRs can reveal accidents, tickets and other infractions that may impact their ability to drive for your business.

Analyze reports, looking at:

  • frequent or repeat accidents or moving violations. Non-traffic events, such as glass breakage, fire or flood may not be an accurate indicator of how a driver’s record could impact your business
  • evidence that the candidate has limited experience with the type of vehicles your company uses may be a red flag
  • suspensions ̶ administrative suspensions and those resulting from serious violations, such as operating a vehicle under the influence or driving under the influence, reckless operation – should be viewed very seriously

Also consider the types of any violations. A study by the American Transportation Research Institute evaluated 540,000 drivers. Their MVR histories revealed that conviction for a single moving violation dramatically increases the likelihood of becoming involved in a crash to between 91 and 100 percent. The four convictions with the highest likelihood of a future crash are:

  • improper or erratic lane change
  • failure to yield right of way
  • improper turn
  • failure to maintain proper lane
2: PROMOTING SAFETY AWARENESS AND TRAINING

Road testing all driver candidates is a great practice but, if not possible, at a minimum require drivers operating vehicles other than standard passenger vehicles to successfully complete a road test in the type of vehicle the driver will operate. Document test results in the employee’s personnel or driver qualification file. Verify that candidates are properly licensed for the vehicle to be driven. Business can also benefit from these safety practices:

  • Establish “Rules of the Road” which clearly define what acceptable driver behavior is while in the course and scope of your employment.
  • Provide initial and ongoing safety training and awareness guidance for all drivers.
  • Require drivers to verify that vehicle safety components – brakes, lights, wipers, tires, mirrors – are in working order prior to starting their daily trip. A good practice is to require completion of a daily safety checklist.
  • Train all drivers in what to do in case of an accident, and define the required notification system to report on-road incidents.
3: MAINTAINING VEHICLES

Keep all vehicles maintained and in good repair, providing a system for drivers to report maintenance concerns. At a minimum, maintenance intervals and focus should meet vehicle manufacturers’ recommendations.

Paying attention to driver qualification, safety awareness and maintenance can go a long way toward helping your business avoid unnecessary risks and keep auto insurance costs to a minimum.

Contact your Ayres Group Representative for more information

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

Why health care entities purchase directors and officers liability coverage

Health care organizations are under constant pressure in today’s world of evolving practices, procedures and laws. Managers deal with everything from the investment and allocation of corporate resources to administrative duties. The decisions they make affect everyone who has a relationship with the health care entity.

It’s a huge responsibility. Every action has the potential to put the organization and its individual managers and directors at risk for financial or reputational loss. But directors and officers liability insurance for health care entities – D&O coverage – can help these institutions recover from claims made against the organization and its managers.

In addition to all the issues faced by any business, health care managers must oversee and direct issues unique to health care facilities, such as peer review committees, quality of care and staff privileges. Health care facilities want to hire and retain top talent in the industry to oversee and run their organizations, but need to protect them from having personal liability at stake. D&O coverage helps accomplish that goal.

Consider some potential risks:

  • written demands for monetary damages or nonmonetary relief
  • civil suits
  • formal administrative actions
  • regulatory proceedings
  • Allegations can be brought by shareholders, patients, regulatory agencies, competitors, creditors or suppliers stating
  • that the health care employees violated their professional duties of loyalty, obedience or due diligence. And those
  • allegations or lawsuits could involve those employees’ spouses, heirs and estates.

Directors and officers coverage can insure:

  • the health care institution and its subsidiaries
  • past and present directors, officers, trustees, administrators, employees, faculty members, staff members, volunteers, members of boards or committees (including peer review committee members)
  • spouses brought into a lawsuit because of shared property interest or transferred property
  • estates, heirs, legal representatives or assigns of deceased, incapacitated or bankrupt insured persons

In summary, D&O coverage protects both health care professionals and the organizations they serve. It gives professionals the peace of mind to fulfill their roles within industry operating guidelines while preserving the organization’s ability to attract and hire top talent.

Contact your Ayres Group Agent for more information about directors’ and officers’ liability coverage for your organization.

Courtesy Cinfin

Safety comes first when the pool is open

A refreshing pool on a hot day can be so inviting. Children of all ages enjoy splashing in the cool waters in private home-based pools, swim clubs, health clubs, country clubs and public pools.

With this fun comes great responsibility. To make sure everyone leaves the pool happy and healthy, pool owners and operators should take steps to prevent injury and drowning.

Television and movies often show drowning as a dramatic event with victims thrashing and calling for help or lifeguards springing into action for the save.

While these instances can occur, drownings often are silent and difficult to see. They can occur in shallow water or even after a person has left the pool.

Water clarity is an important component of proper life safety in the pool. A lifeguard, parent or counselor cannot see someone in need of help as easily if the water is cloudy and murky. Having lots of people in the pool also can affect water clarity, emphasizing the need for proper chemical balance and additional lifesaving staff. Lifeguards must stay alert, taking breaks in rotation while following protocols at all times.

Some signs to look for to identify a potential drowning victim in the water may include:

Head low in water with mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Glassy or empty eyes
Failure to kick or move legs while in a vertical position in the water
Trying to swim with no headway
Remember, too, that drowning doesn’t always happen in the deep end. Shallow water blackout results when an individual holds his or her breath for too long. Younger swimmers can drown in much shallower water. A person can drown in as little as 2-3 inches of water in less than 30 seconds.

Dry or delayed drowning is another scary and potentially fatal phenomenon that can occur long after an incident in the pool. Symptoms can include:

Coughing
Chest pain
Trouble breathing
Feeling extremely tired/change in energy level or increase in irritability
A more detailed description is available at healthychildren.org.

With proper supervision and awareness, pool owners and operators can prevent a tragedy from occurring and help everyone to enjoy their time at the pool!

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

For graduates and their families: Celebrate safely

Most teens see graduation as the end of adolescence and the beginning of their next phase of life: a rite of passage into adulthood. It is a time for celebration, but both parents and graduates should consider ways to keep the celebration safe.

STUDENTS

  • Share your graduation and post-graduation party plans with your parents.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.
  • Wear a seat belt – even in the back seat.
  • Stay with a group of friends and watch out for one another.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Don’t get in a vehicle with a driver that is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Report any illegal drug or alcohol use as well as unsafe behaviors such as threats, assaults and weapons.

PARENTS

  • Discuss your child’s plans for graduation and post-graduation celebrations.
  • Know who your child will be with and talk to their parents to coordinate plans.
  • Make sure your phone and your child’s cell phones are fully charged.
  • Provide your child with alternate adults to call in case they feel unsafe – no questions asked.
  • Wait up for your child to make sure they return safely.
  • Talk about drugs and alcohol with your child and set expectations.
  • Report any illegal drug or alcohol use as well as unsafe behaviors such as threats, assaults and weapons.

PARTY HOSTS

Graduation parties require special planning because of the unusual mix of ages and relationships. Some families find a brunch works well, as alcohol would not be expected at this time of day. Many parents have decided to serve no alcohol at parties given for teenagers even if adults attend them. Consider these tips when hosting a graduation party:

  • An adult should be present throughout the party.
  • Alcohol or other drugs should NOT be served or available.
  • Anyone who leaves the party should not be allowed to return – this will discourage people from leaving with the intent to drink or use drugs and then return to the party.
  • Encourage small parties, limiting attendance to 10-15 teens per adult present. Go over party plans and house rules with your teen prior to the party so all expectations are understood.
  • Plan to have plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks available.

Congratulations to graduates – and their parents – on reaching this milestone.

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

A Guide for Hiring Safer Drivers

As the United States truck driver shortage intensifies, it’s important for fleet managers to be reminded of good hiring practices. The challenge for fleet managers will not only be to fill increasing numbers of vacant positions, but also to ensure safe drivers are behind the wheels of company vehicles. From the interview to requirements for employment, every fleet should have a clear driver hiring process.

Step 1: Establish Firm Hiring Guidelines
Formal hiring guidelines are crucial to ensuring every driver has been properly and consistently vetted. EMC recommends the following minimum requirements for hiring truck drivers:

  • Applicants must have a valid license for the vehicle type and load hauled
  • No chargeable accidents in the past year
  • No DUI or DWI convictions in the last five years
  • No more than two non-serious moving violations in the past three years
  • Minimum of three years of verifiable driving experience with similar vehicles

Step 2: Take a Close Look at an Applicant’s Motor Vehicle Record
Meeting the minimum requirements for a driving position is only the beginning of the vetting process for new hires. A thorough review of an applicant’s motor vehicle record (MVR) will reveal even more. Past violations noted on the MVR are often an indication of the potential for future accidents and violations. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, the occurrence of one of the following moving violations increased the likelihood of becoming involved in a crash by the following amounts:

  • Failure to use turn signal: 96 percent
  • Improper passing: 88 percent
  • Improper turn: 84 percent
  • Improper or erratic lane change: 80 percent
  • Speeding more than 15 mph over the speed limit: 67 percent

Beyond identifying violations, the MVR will provide information on the applicant’s license endorsements and any restrictions they may have. You need to make sure your applicants have the necessary endorsements for the cargo that they will be hauling. For example, if your company transports hazardous materials, drivers will need a HAZMAT endorsement.

Step 3: Go Beyond the MVR
In addition to a thorough MVR review, a well-organized interview will help you better assess the values, personality and work ethic of potential drivers. These soft skills are a solid indication of what often characterizes a long-term and valued employee. Ask open-ended questions during the interview about the candidate’s driving history and what they have done to improve their driving skills.

You may want to ask applicants to complete a written test and a driving test as part of the interview process. If you decide to hire the applicant, consider hiring them on a temporary basis to make sure their driving skills and habits are a good fit. Remember, you are hiring someone that represents your company, protects the public from accidents and will ensure the safety of your loads. The more comprehensive the hiring process, the greater the likelihood of putting the right person behind the wheel.

Step 4: Make Ongoing Training a Priority
Driver error is the No. 1 reason for truck accidents. As an employer, it is your responsibility to make certain drivers receive ongoing training to ensure their safety and the safety of the public. To help your training efforts, you’ll find a full array of driver training materials on the Loss Control section of EMC’s website. These include online training programs, posters, tech sheets, safety program templates and more.

Step 5: Use EMC’s SuperVision Driver Monitoring Service to Effortlessly Monitor Driver Safety
Driver monitoring is an effective way to know if you are exposing your business to loss revenue, legal costs and higher insurance premiums that could result from accidents. EMC can help with SuperVision, a new service available at a discounted rate to policyholders. SuperVision is specifically designed for smaller fleet operators who can’t justify the expense of a full-time employee to monitor drivers. Using SuperVision, you’ll know when a driver receives a violation and have an easier time picking out unsafe drivers. Ask your EMC loss control representative for more information about this valuable service.

Courtesy of EMC

Craft safety into your brewery operation

There are more breweries operating in the United States now than at any other time in history. Data from the Brewers Association (BA), the trade association representing small and independent American brewers, shows that in 2015, 4,269 breweries provided nearly 122,000 jobs nationwide.

Covering these employees for workers’ compensation can be expensive for brewery owners, and providing for worker safety is a topic that shouldn’t be ignored. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that there are nearly four times more safety violations in craft breweries than at larger breweries. This isn’t surprising, given the fact that most craft breweries are newer operations and many were started by homebrewers who may be operating a business for the first time.

Startup brewers must pay attention to operational tasks such as filing for permits, refining and scaling up recipes. It’s easy to see how developing safe work procedures and implementing a training program could be overlooked. Many craft breweries simply can’t afford to employ a full-time safety or loss control manager as do large regional and national breweries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 database cites falls and contact with another object as the two most common brewery accidents resulting in days away from work. Most of these accidents occur in the production areas. Developing a good employee safety program begins with identifying where the exposures are.

Breweries can take advantage of many low- or no-cost options to help assess risks and get started down the road to safety. Often the brewer’s insurance carrier or agent can assist with hazard assessment and make recommendations to prevent injury. Many state brewers guilds also provide safety information. The Brewers Association offers its members free online safety training as well as information on safe operations in confined spaces, protective clothing and best management practices.

Brewers that work toward a goal of identifying, correcting or mitigating hazards and fostering a proactive approach to safety can create a safer environment for employees and guests. These measures may also help lower costs for workers’ compensation and overall insurance costs

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. For additional insurance advice and loss control information, contact The Ayres Group

Courtesy of Cincinnati Insurance

No business is too small for cyber criminals

Data breaches make the news when big retail chains get hit with a cyber attack. You may even be notified of the breach by the retailer if they have reason to believe your data was compromised. Or, you may read about data breaches when you receive a new credit card or are offered identity theft protection.

What you might not hear about are the cases where a business owner goes bankrupt after a data breach. A 2012 study by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small to midsize businesses that suffered a breach went out of business within six months.

FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE

Your first line of defense as a business owner is to educate yourself on how to prevent or mitigate a breach. Follow news reports, and take advantage of online materials available to help you prepare for and respond to cyber attacks.

SECOND LINE OF DEFENSE

Your Ayres Group insurance agent could be your second line of defense, providing information about Internet exposures and insurance products. Any business that handles private information is at risk of breach and subject to cyber exposures. Private information includes personal identifiers (Social Security numbers, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, etc.), financial information (bank or investment accounts, credit cards, etc.), medical or medical claim history, employee personal data or student records.

Companies that use third parties to process their transactions or record keeping, such as payroll, employee benefits or billing, also have the potential for a cyber loss. Consider the possibility of that third party experiencing a data breach where you might be ultimately responsible for the breached records.

WHY BUY CYBER INSURANCE?

Cyber insurance can reimburse for expenses incurred such as:

  • Breach notification law compliance – 47 states have data breach notification laws that include an obligation to notify those whose information has been breached and certain federal laws, such as HIPAA, may also require similar notifications.
  • Breach response costs – for example, notifying and providing services to affected individuals
  • Opportunity costs and out-of-pocket expenses involved in resolving identity theft problems for business owners and customers
  • Damage to the business computer systems and data due to unauthorized access, hacking, malware or denial of service attacks

Remember, data comes in all forms, paper and electronic, and business owners need to protect data to manage risk.

Contact The Ayres Group for more information.

Courtesy Cincinnati Insurance

Farm Safety Guide

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, farming is the fourth most dangerous job in the United States.

Farmers know risks can come from all parts of their operation; machinery, livestock, and the day-to-day labor on a farm all pose an inherent risk. What’s always true: Working on a farm demands constant care and caution.

Below are some easy guidelines to follow that could reduce the likelihood of damage or injury and help make your farm a safer place for your family and employees.

Tractors And Farm Machinery

The majority of all farm accidents involve tractors or machinery. Here are some ways you can minimize the chances of an accident:

  • Install a Rollover Protection Structure (ROPS) on all tractors. New tractors manufactured in the US are required to utilize a ROPS, but many older tractors are operated without one. Nearly half of all tractor fatalities are caused by rollovers, and a ROPS, combined with a seat belt or harness, is nearly 100% effective in preventing fatalities to the operator.
  • Never modify or alter an ROPS. If you do have a rollover, immediately replace your ROPS.
  • Have all operators complete a tractor safety course.
  • Inspect and maintain all machinery, equipment, and tools to keep them in proper working condition.
  • Make sure all equipment has properly working lights. Slow moving vehicle (SMV) signs are required on all equipment that travels at speeds less than 25 mph on public roads.
  • Do not allow children to ride on tractors.
  • Make sure all power take-offs, belts, and augers have proper guards and shields.
  • Turn off power before adjusting, servicing, or unclogging power-driven machinery.
  • Make sure loads being towed are properly hitched to the drawbar and that pins and chains are in place.
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated.

Chemicals And Other Hazards

Exposure to hazardous chemicals can lead to serious health consequences. Always note the manufacturer’s warnings on the chemical’s packaging and follow the guidelines below:

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for storage, handling, and application of chemicals. Contact your county extension agent for additional information or training on chemical handling. Most states require applicator training in order to apply chemicals.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, eye/face shields, earplugs, respiratory protection and hats.
  • When entering pits in hog barns, always wear a respirator to avoid being overcome by the fumes. Never enter alone. Have at least two other people with you, and always wear a harness.
  • Have first-aid kits available, and develop an emergency plan in case of chemical exposure.

In addition to danger from chemicals, farmers have to worry about damage to their hearing from noisy equipment. Studies show that more than 50 percent of older farmers have hearing loss. Make sure to wear proper hearing protection.

Security

Farm theft is a rising problem in the United States. Due to the rising cost of metals, for example, copper wiring has become a desirable commodity for thieves in rural areas. Ammonia tanks – because of that chemical’s utility in the manufacture of methamphetamines – have become targets. Take these steps to secure your property:

  • Maintain adequate lighting around the farmyard and in the home.
  • Have single cylinder deadbolt locks on all entrance doors to your home. Keep farm buildings locked.
  • Record serial numbers of all equipment. Mark equipment and livestock to aid in recovery should a theft occur.
  • Ask neighbors to check the farm regularly when you are away.
  • Inspect and maintain fences used for livestock.

Buildings

Farms have a large amount of property and many structures, each with their own particular dangers.

  • Have an electrician verify that all electrical systems and equipment are properly grounded. This can help reduce the chance of shocks and/or production losses to livestock.
  • Install moisture-proof wiring, fixtures and boxes in hog and dairy barns. This will help prevent your wires from deteriorating and becoming a hazard.
  • Be sure grain bins have permanent ladders inside and out. Use a lifeline when entering a bin or silo, always have at least two other people present, and wear a protective mask.
  • Do not use extension cords as permanent hookups.

Fire Prevention

Not only can a farm fire undercut your livelihood, but it can also put you and your family’s lives at risk.

  • Maintain smoke detectors throughout your home, and check that batteries are working. (Change the batteries at least every 6 months.)
  • Place approved fire extinguishers in your home, on large tractors and combines, and in barns, shops, and machine sheds. Check and tag the extinguishers annually.
  • Develop an evacuation plan for family members, including a meeting place.
  • Have a licensed electrician periodically inspect your electrical systems. Be sure updates to your current electrical systems are performed by a qualified electrician.
  • Consider installing a lightning protection system. Consult a UL or LPI (Lightning Protection Institute) approved contractor.
  • Practice good maintenance of your farm or ranch. Cut weeds and grass around buildings, maintain a clean shop, and store all chemicals and flammable liquids properly.
  • Don’t burn trash outdoors on windy days. Don’t ever leave fires unattended.

For more information on custom Agribusiness Insurance solutions for your farm operation, contact Jeff Brazo at the Ayresgroup.com

Controlling Risks for Property Owners

Losses that occur on property you own can affect your livelihood and that of your tenants. They also can affect your insurance rates and eligibility. Without the proper controls in place, you could be saddled with the responsibility of owing for injury or damages that you did not cause.

RECOGNIZE THE RISKS

When you understand the risks you face as a property owner and lessor, you can better manage them. Consider these scenarios:

Natural perils – A tornado sweeps through town, damaging your building and your tenants’ contents.

Fire – A grease fire starts in a restaurant at one end of your building. Before it is extinguished, fire damages multiple units and tenant contents.

Third-party injury or illness – A patron slips and falls in the parking lot, spraining her ankle.

Change in occupancy – A restaurant replaces a retail store in one of your units. As a property owner, you want to determine if the current sprinkler system is able to handle the demands of a restaurant.

Change in tenant operations – A retail craft store expands its operations to include pottery making. With this expansion, your tenant adds kilns to heat-treat ceramic projects.

Vacancy – Your unoccupied building is vandalized, resulting in damaged property.

REVIEW THE RESPONSIBILITIES

A well-designed lease agreement can assist owners in transferring responsibility for payment due to bodily injury or property damage to the legally responsible party.  Consult with legal counsel when evaluating your current lease or other formal contract.  When consulting with your attorney, consider whether your agreement:

  • is signed by all tenants
  • contains appropriate anti-subrogation wording and indemnification–hold harmless provisions favorable to you and acceptable under your state’s laws
  • authorizes you to develop, change and enforce rules and regulations for the premises
  • defines which areas you control and which the tenant controls
  • defines the maintenance obligations of all parties while specifying the scope of the operations and the steps you will take if the tenant defaults on these obligations
  • grants you the right to inspect the leased premises for conformance with the lease provisions concerning maintenance and to point out to the tenant any obvious hazards
  • requires the tenant to obtain permission before performing any building alterations
  • contains provisions regarding use of hazardous substances, dispensing of liquor and other activities that increase the risk of loss
  • requires service contractors who come on your premises to provide certificates of insurance verifying adequate limits of insurance and appropriate state licenses, where applicable
  • requires tenants to obtain specified liability insurance on behalf of the owner, with you listed as an additional insured on a primary basis. Make sure you obtain proof that the tenant has acquired and maintains all required insurance.

Consult with legal counsel to familiarize yourself with state laws before you lease space to bars, restaurants or stores that sell liquor.

While it is your duty to live up to your obligations as a property owner, it is also wise to make your tenants take responsibility for their actions and premises upkeep.

Contact your Ayres Group agent whenever a new tenant moves into the building, a current tenant changes its operations or part of the building becomes vacant for 30 days.

Source Cincinnati Insurance