7 safety tips for winter construction

Construction doesn’t take a break in the winter. If you manage a construction site, think about the additional hazards of the season and take the appropriate safety precautions.

Cold temperatures, wet and snowy weather and wind chill can take a harsh toll on the human body. Increase your knowledge and awareness of cold weather issues such as frostbite and hypothermia.

Pay special attention during the winter months at your construction site to avoid safety hazards.

  1. Know the signs of winter-related injuries and illness. Educate your workers and supervisors about these cold-related injuries and illnesses and their warning signs and symptoms. For instance, shivering, lack of coordination and slurred speech are symptoms of hypothermia. If a worker exhibits any signs of illness or injury, call emergency help immediately. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a Cold Stress Card that describes how to prevent and treat these serious illnesses.
  2. Require workers to wear the proper clothing and gear. Clothing and gear should be based on the temperature, weather conditions and duration of activity. Workers should wear layers whenever necessary, including an insulating, moisture-wicking base layer and a waterproof outer layer. Workers also should wear insulated, waterproof boots with extreme traction as well as warm socks and hats and gloves with grips to handle equipment safely.
  3. Discourage workers from drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Many construction workers work overnight and turn to drinks with caffeine to help them get through their shift. However, drinking caffeinated beverages in winter can increase workers’ heart rates, making them feel falsely warm. Instead, encourage workers to drink water to stay hydrated.
  4. Remove ice and snow before starting work. Construction workers have enough conditions causing danger at the worksite; they don’t need to add ice and snow to the mix. Make sure all ice and snow has been removed and salt or sand has been put down on any large patches of ice before starting work. It may seem like a time-consuming task, but it will protect everybody on the job site.
  5. Provide a warm break area. Outside work is necessary for the construction industry, but workers need a place to take a break from the elements and warm themselves. It can be a heated trailer or a tent with portable heaters. Employers also should be sure supervisors and workers follow proper safety procedures with heating devices.

Construction workers have a dangerous job, especially during the winter. Make sure your crew is properly prepared for the extreme temperatures, snow and ice this winter. For more information and guidance on this topic, please review the resources from OSHAand CPWR, The Center for Construction Research and Training

Cyber risk insurance: New coverage for emerging risks

It seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing about a cyber-related crime or incident.

Criminals are increasingly using ransomware as a means of extortion. Ransomware is a form of malware, usually delivered by email phishing scams, that locks victims out of their critical data until they pay the criminals a fee. The FBI received more than 2,400 complaints about ransomware in 2015, with a reported loss of more than $24 million. Authorities believe the actual costs could be much higher because the crime is underreported. The Department of Justice estimates that these ransomware attacks now average 4,000 per day – that’s a 300 percent increase over 2015.

Headlines usually describe breaches of sensitive customer data suffered by large, well-known companies. In reality, most cyber-attacks are not high-profile cases but softer targets, such as small- to medium-size operations. No business or industry is immune to cyber risks. Lost or stolen mobile devices, improper disposal of paper records or deficiencies in system malware protection can lead to a breach or attack.

The good news is that insurance coverage is available that can be tailored to protect your business from cyber risks.

DATA BREACH PROTECTION

Small- to medium-sized businesses should consider coverage for:

response expenses, including forensic IT and legal reviews, notification to affected individuals, public relations expenses as well as fines and penalty coverage
third-party defense and liability
identity theft recovery
protection from computer attack on your network, including data restoration and re‑creation costs, system restoration expenses, loss of business income and public relations services
network security liability in case there is a breach of third-party business information, unintended spreading or forwarding of malware or a denial of service attack

CYBER DEFENSE PROTECTION

If your business stores large quantities of sensitive information, for example, financial institutions, health care organizations or schools, ask about cyber defense coverage which may include:

cyber extortion coverage
electronic media liability coverage
access to online risk management and educational resources

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

With or without insurance coverage, you can take steps help prevent loss:

  • encrypt data
  • patch system vulnerabilities
  • shred sensitive documents
  • educate your employees on topics such as email phishing scams
  • develop and test contingency plans

    Speak to your  Ayres Group agent about the coverages that are right for you.

Play it safe during your hotel stay

Whether you travel for business or leisure, consider increasing your safety awareness when you stay in a hotel.

BEFORE YOUR TRIP
  • While most top properties are in safe areas, you may want to research before booking a room in an unfamiliar city or neighborhood to confirm. Call the community resource officer in the police jurisdiction responsible for the area where the hotel is located, or use free online research sites such as the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting tools or CrimeReports.com
  • Be careful about sharing your travel plans on social media. Make sure your settings are private; avoid making public posts to protect yourself while you are traveling and your home is unoccupied.
  • Choose a hotel that is adequately protected from fire. Check the U.S. Fire Administration’s Hotel-Motel National Master List to find hotels that have:
    • At least one single-station and hard-wired smoke alarm in each guest room
    • An automatic fire sprinkler system in each guest room if the building has four or more stories. More information about hotel fire safety is available in our blog, Planning a hotel or motel stay? Think about fire safety.
    • Pack a flashlight that you can keep on the hotel nightstand in case you need to escape in the dark.
  • Take only those valuables that you will absolutely need for the trip.
UPON CHECK-IN
  • Limit the number of times you say your name and room number during the check-in process. At any given time, a number of people could be within earshot of the front desk.
  • Do not keep your room key in the envelope provided at check-in. Securely discard the envelope, which may contain identifying information, such as room number and last name.
  • Keep a close eye on your luggage while in the lobby.
  • Upon entering your guest room, verify that all sliding glass doors, windows and connecting room doors are locked and secure.
  • Inspect mattresses for bedbugs. Check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s article on How to Find Bed Bugs to learn how to inspect a mattress and accurately identify a bedbug infestation.
DURING YOUR STAY
  • When you are in your room, be sure to engage all locking mechanisms on your guest room door, including deadbolts, chain and safety bar.
  • Do not open the door to your hotel room to unknown persons. If you are not expecting a hotel staff person, call the front desk to verify his or her identity before opening the door.
  • If returning to the hotel late in the evening, use the main entrance.
  • Keep valuables locked in the room safe or inside your luggage.
  • Exercise discretion when providing your name and room number while in the hotel restaurant or bar.
CYBER SAFETY
  • Pay attention to cyber security if you use a computer or mobile device on hotel Wi-Fi systems. Don’t assume that the Wi-Fi connection is secure.
  • When available, use a hard-wired connection or a personal Wi-Fi hotspot rather than a public Wi‑Fi connection.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has posted a video with tips on how to keep your connections secure.

Reducing liquor liability before the first drop is poured

Failing to act responsibly when serving alcohol could be catastrophic for your business. You could be held accountable for any death, injury or damages caused by an intoxicated patron, resulting in expensive civil or criminal litigation, fines, increased insurance rates, loss of your liquor license – even the loss of your business. Safeguards can reduce the risk.

Consider that every two minutes a person is injured in a drunken driving accident, and driving while intoxicated cost the United States $132 billion in 2011, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2014, alcohol-impaired crashes accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Golf courses, hotels, restaurants, craft breweries and other hospitality-related service businesses are especially vulnerable.

Educate your employees by taking these steps to jumpstart this very important conversation:

  • Train your employees in safe alcohol service. Responsible drinking begins with responsible service. Enroll your bartenders, servers and staff in an alcohol service certification program.
  • Always card everyone. No matter how old your patrons appear to be, everyone should present their IDs if they look 40 years old or younger. You never want to risk inadvertently serving a minor.
  • Create official protocol for handling inebriated guests. This gives, your employees the knowledge and confidence to respond to difficult situations in a consistent manner.
  • Develop a call-a-cab program. Establish clear policies about when to give a restaurant, bar, or hotel customer an alternative to get home safely. There are many ways to establish such a program, and it is a business decision; some restaurants, bars and hotels may already have an arrangement with a local cab company.
  • Don’t give away free drinks. This encourages overdrinking. Instead, try giving away free appetizers that will help slow the rate of alcohol absorption.

While avoiding liquor liability entirely may not be possible, having a plan in place to control your exposure can help protect your business, employees, patrons and the public.

Fire danger in the construction zone

Fires are a significant hazard on construction sites.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were an annual average of 830 fires in residential buildings under construction from 2007 through 2011, excluding one- and two-family homes. These fires caused an average of $56 million in direct property damage per year. Over those same years, there were an estimated 400 fires annually in large residential buildings undergoing major renovation, causing an average of $17 million in direct property loss per year.

But proper planning and monitoring can improve your chances of completing a project without incident.

PROJECT PLANNING

Before beginning a construction project:

  • Review the construction site, contemplating adjacent exposures that may affect the project
  • Look at how accessible the site would be for firefighters and their equipment
  • Develop a site-specific fire prevention plan, educating employees about what to do in case of fire
  • Establish a Hot Work Permit program that requires operations involving any sparks, open flames or heat-producing activities to follow safety protocols before, during and after work has been completed.
DURING CONSTRUCTION

Throughout construction, conduct thorough on-site inspections. Trained representatives of your project management team should inspect the site daily and retain all documentation. Inspections should include:

  • Active construction areas
  • Material storage areas, including special consideration for flammable items
  • Construction trailers and temporary structures
  • Site perimeter and adjacent property exposures
  • Mobile construction equipment storage areas
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
  • Per the NFPA, the leading equipment causes of construction fires are:
    • cooking equipment (40 percent)
    • heating equipment (29 percent)
    • torch, burner, or soldering iron (6 percent)
    • electrical and lighting equipment (6 percent)
    • shop tools and industrial equipment (5 percent)
  • All construction trailers, storage trailers and offices should be made of noncombustible material and be at least 50 feet away from the construction site and at least 30 feet from each other.
  • Fire department site access areas must be clearly identified, maintained and unobstructed at all times. Access to fire hydrants or qualified water supplies for firefighting must be readily available whether adjacent to or within the boundaries of the project site.
  • Store all combustible materials safely and consider ordering them as needed to minimize the amount on hand. Spontaneous combustion of paint solvents, oily rags and similar materials discarded with trash can lead to a major loss.
  • Establish and strictly enforce a no smoking policy throughout the duration of the project.
  • Provide fire extinguishers, rated not less than 2A, for each 3,000 square feet of the protected building area. The travel distance from any point of the protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher must not exceed 100 feet per Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. When there are multiple levels, OSHA requires an extinguisher be placed near the staircase on every level.
  • Enforce good housekeeping in areas around permanent electrical installations, preventing accumulation of debris or combustible materials near live electricity. Temporary electrical equipment should have ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Install and activate an automatic sprinkler system as soon as possible after the building shell has been completed.
  • Collect all demolition and construction material as soon as possible. Removal of discarded materials should be done by a qualified disposal service on a regular basis – daily, if necessary –to eliminate accumulation of refuse. Position dumpsters away from buildings. Use metal containers with close-fitting lids for rags. Avoid burning any refuse, but if unavoidable, burn at least 150 feet from buildings. Some jurisdictions prohibit open burning; remember to follow any local burning bans and observe any red-flag warnings in wildfire and forest fire areas.
  • Provide safe temporary heaters. Secure them on a solid base away from any woodwork and keep the floor free of all combustible material. Before leaving, be sure the heater is turned off.

Fire exposures are high and constantly changing throughout the course of construction. Key personnel on site must always know it’s their responsibility to follow fire control procedures. Contractors have a responsibility to make sure that a fire control plan is specific, adequate and – most importantly – executed.

 

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

Make sure your insurance keeps up with your business

A business owner doesn’t have to understand every detail of a machine or a process to benefit from it. How many drivers understand what is going on under the hood? How many machine operators are able to repair the machine? Insurance coverage can be the same way.

Just as you rely on a qualified technician to properly evaluate, maintain or repair a complex piece of equipment, you rely on your independent agent to evaluate your insurance needs and guide you in obtaining the necessary coverages, including business interruption and extra expense coverage.

For example, consider essential equipment you use every day to operate your business. The equipment does not have to be involved in actual manufacturing or assembly of a product to be vital to your operation; it could be equipment used to provide services, facilitate communication or manipulate critical data.

To be successful, you must invest considerable time, effort and expense to evaluate costs of operating and maintaining the equipment. Unless you make that investment before you buy, you could be in for unpleasant surprises. And you’re not home free once the equipment is installed and contributing to your business’s success. You need to know how the machinery – or its failure – could affect your bottom line.

Similarly, you don’t want to guess about the production value of equipment when you establish insurance limits and deductibles needed to recover from a covered equipment failure.

Business interruption and extra expense insurance coverage is calculated based on the language in your insurance contract and in accordance with accounting principles. It also takes into consideration many aspects of your operating profits and expenses that may not be obvious from a cursory review of production numbers.

Business interruption coverage is just as important to your business as the machine itself – maybe more important. It’s not uncommon for the business interruption portion of a covered machinery and equipment loss to dwarf the loss associated with physical repair of the equipment.

Contact your Ayres Group agent, who is familiar with your business and the provisions of your insurance contracts, can be a source for essential information and guidance. Consider inviting him or her into any conversation you may have about protecting your business from loss. You will be glad you did.

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

The benefits of working with an independent agent

After a lot of saving and planning, my sister and her family bought their dream home. Sadly, a storm damaged their roof, and she’s had difficulty resolving her claim. Her family did not purchase their insurance through an independent agent. I encouraged her to give her carrier the opportunity to see things through, but I also suggested that once her claim is resolved, she might consider an independent agent to help her better determine the right carrier and insurance products for her family’s needs.

My sister and her husband are busy with their jobs and kids, and it never occurred to them to research insurance options. After their recent experience, they are coming to understand that how your insurance company treats you when you have a claim matters.

My sister hadn’t considered why it’s advantageous to partner with an independent insurance agent and actually didn’t know the difference between independent and captive agents (agents who represent one company). Like many people, she hadn’t thought about the various ways of buying insurance and the differences among them. It’s easy to compare the concept to buying shoes for her kids.

Quality: My sister wants the highest quality shoes that she can afford for her children. After all, those shoes are what will protect their feet and carry them on all their daily adventures. Likewise, you want the best insurance products your money can buy to protect your belongings, and an independent agent can offer them to you. Independent agents are business owners who select the most desirable carriers, apply to represent them and sell their insurance products. So when agents represent a carrier, it’s because they believe in the carrier enough to associate their own business’ name and reputation with it.

Selection: Instead of going to a store that carried only one brand of shoes, my sister would go to a store that offered a variety of quality brands with different features and styles. Similarly, an independent agent offers a selection of products to meet clients’ needs, whether the clients’ focus is on claims service, specialized coverages or even cost. Independent agents ask questions, listen and make recommendations – maybe your child will soon be old enough to drive, you have a special collection to protect or you plan to buy a rental property. Whatever your situation, your agent has options to match you with the appropriate carrier and insurance products.

Knowledge: My sister would never guess at a size; she’d ask an informed employee for help measuring her children’s feet to make sure they got the appropriate fit. She would ask about wear and durability and get the facts from the sales person who knows the products better than anyone. In the same manner, independent agents know the benefits of each carrier and nuances of each product and can provide you with the details to help you make informed decisions. You can be confident that your independent agent has the expertise you are looking for.

Obviously, insurance is far more important and complex than shoes! But if my sister would put the effort into making sure she bought the best shoes for her children, doesn’t it make sense to apply a similar process to ensure the right protection for her home and autos?

It’s easy to “check the box” and buy online. Voila – you have insurance! But partnering with an independent agent can help you make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance coverage from a carrier that he or she trusts to protect what matters most to you.

For more information contact The Ayres Group

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