Breaking down the facts on equipment breakdown

We’re breaking down misunderstood insurance terms to help you understand coverages that could benefit your business or farm.

Like this one: What exactly is equipment breakdown coverage?

Just think about the variety of equipment your business or farm needs to run. From computers to generators to refrigerators, you rely on equipment to keep things working. And if that equipment fails, you need to get it fixed quickly.

That’s where equipment breakdown coverage comes in. Consider these examples of equipment breakdown claims:

  • A switch on an automatic animal feeding system broke, causing the entire system to crash onto the barn floor.
  • An air-conditioning system leaked water into telephone switching equipment, shorting it out.
  • A power surge in an office building damaged 200 computers.

Equipment breakdown coverage helps with the costs related to repairing or replacing damaged equipment. In these examples, you’d have protection to help you repair the systems, and to make up for the interruption to your business, productivity, or possibly income in the meantime.

The coverage is helpful when you need to restore your data or cover spoiled stock. It can protect against damage caused by short circuits, power surges, or motor burnout, among others.

Talk to your Ayres Group agent to learn more and to make sure your equipment is protected.

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

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

Protect your service business from errors and omissions

Services errors and omissions coverage is an important part of your insurance portfolio if you’re in the hospitality business.

From small conferences and banquets to elaborate weddings, event hosting is big business. Most hotels, golf and country clubs, banquet centers and restaurants with meeting spaces and ballrooms host events on a weekly, and often daily, basis. Events can be significant revenue drivers for your business.

While the success of these events is important to your venue, it is even more important to your customer. Failure to provide the necessary facilities, goods or services could be detrimental to the outcome of the event, putting your business at financial risk and leaving you subject to lawsuits.

You typically think of insuring against fire, water damage, theft or injury to other parties due to your negligence. But what about an employee error that results in the failure to properly execute an event hosted at your facility? Even the best event planners and coordinators make mistakes from time to time. Consider these possible scenarios:

  • Your events manager inadvertently double-books the hotel ballroom for weddings occurring on the same date
  • Your catering manager fails to order the appropriate amount or type of food provisions for a corporate banquet
  • A third-party vendor responsible for delivering tents, tables and chairs for an outdoor event at your premises fails to deliver on the correct date

Services errors and omissions insurance coverage provides peace of mind should these situations arise.

Consider this important coverage to round out your insurance protection. By insuring your business against covered human errors associated with providing facilities, goods or services, you can greatly reduce the financial impact to your business when they occur.

See your Ayres Group agent for advice on how to protect your business with services errors and omissions coverage.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group Agent.

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

4 things to know about fiduciary and employee benefits coverage

If you are the officer, owner or director who makes the decisions about your company’s employee benefit plans, your personal assets may be at stake without the protection of fiduciary and employee benefits coverage.

WHAT IS IT?

You may already be familiar with fidelity bonds required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) that protects the employee benefit plans from theft by fiduciaries. However, fiduciary and employee benefits coverage helps protect the decision makers in areas that the ERISA bond does not cover: liability claims, mismanagement or errors and omissions made while administering employee benefit plans such as 401(k), Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and health insurance.

WHO ARE FIDUCIARIES?

Fiduciaries could be the plan’s trustees, investment committee members or even responsible parties who appoint those people. Even if you hire other professionals to invest assets or administer the benefits plan for your business, you retain the ultimate responsibility for selecting, maintaining and monitoring the performance of those professional managers.

Fiduciaries also could be those you have hired or placed in authority for administering your benefit plans. And, especially now that the Affordable Care Act has redefined our nation’s healthcare system, these plans are ever evolving and changing.

WHY DO YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION NEED IT?

Your fiduciaries could make an honest mistake in a change of forms, coverage explanations or the employee’s transfer in and out of a plan, leaving your organization subject to lawsuits, fines and penalties. As the decision maker, you may be named personally in a lawsuit. Claims can be brought by plan participants, the Department of Labor or a participant’s legal estate and may include allegations of:

  • Improper advice or disclosure
  • Breach of fiduciary duty
  • Neglect in administrating a plan
  • Lack of investment diversity
  • Inappropriate selection of advisors or even service providers

Consult your legal counsel and your company’s insurance professional to see if fiduciary and employee benefits coverage could help your organization cover the expense of litigation and the costs associated with these allegations.

RISK MANAGEMENT TIPS

Your organization can enhance your ERISA risk management program and limit your exposure by:

  • Doing regular performance reviews of your staff who oversee and make plan decisions.
  • Using established investment firms when handling plan assets.
  • Having an actuarial firm review your plans annually.
  • Using a law firm with experience in ERISA regulations to make sure plans are ERISA compliant.
  • Consulting your local Ayres Group AgentSource: Cinfin.com

Special events: Know why, what, where and who

From luncheons to extreme sporting events – and everything in between – special events can be excellent ways for nonprofit organizations to raise money and increase visibility.

While the extra revenue may be welcome, consider any additional risks. Are the risks being assumed worth the benefits gained?

Before your organization hosts a special event, consider the why, what, where, who and how.

Why does your organization want to hold the this event? Is it to grow name recognition, recruit donors and volunteers or raise funds to support your organization’s mission? Special events can meet multiple goals.

What type of event will be most beneficial to the organization? Thewhy of the event will guide you to the what of the event. Any event involving athletic activities or alcohol will add considerable risk. Make sure you will be able to achieve your objective without risking the reputation of your organization. It can be difficult to recover from bad publicity after an accident or negative incident at a sponsored event.

Where will the event be held? The venue is critical. Determining the size, scope and cost of the venue will correlate directly to the event’s success or failure. If you’re leasing a venue, place priority on reviewing the contractual requirements of the lease. Consult an attorney before you sign any contract. Some contracts require the renter to extend insurance coverage to the venue. While this is appropriate in some instances, determine if it is reasonable for your event and consult your Ayres Group Agent for coverage advice. Location also plays into the number of volunteers and employees you will need at the event. If your event is on property you own, check local zoning regulations to make sure your event complies with any zoning restrictions, and require proof of insurance from any vendors coming onto your premises.

Who will coordinate, manage, staff and participate in the event?Consider who has the experience and expertise to manage the event and to staff it sufficiently for best logistics and safety. Consider who these individuals will have contact with and whether any additional background screening or training is necessary.

How will you conduct the event? This important question is often not considered in detail. Determine the details, including the timeline and specifics of each volunteer’s or employee’s role in the event.

By considering all these questions, clearly outlining roles and planning all details, you can better avoid hazardous surprises and assure a successful event.

Courtesy of Cincinnati Insurance

Home health care employers should weigh auto risks

Driving a vehicle is so ingrained in our daily routine we don’t think twice about the risk that this simple activity carries. But operators of home health care services should consider the risk that auto travel poses to your business and to your employees. By putting appropriate controls in place, employers can help their licensed medical staff arrive safely to care for clients.

COMPANY-OWNED VEHICLE

Employers who provide a company vehicle can reduce the chance of an accident by training employees in safe driving practices, creating a written driver safety program and implementing a vehicle maintenance schedule.

One way an employer can gauge a responsible driver is by doing pre-employment checks when appropriate. Employers may consider requesting prior work history, doing a criminal background check and obtaining a motor vehicle report (MVR) to review an applicant’s driving history and license status. If your business obtains 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 are needed.

EMPLOYEE-OWNED VEHICLE

Request proof of insurance from employees who use their own cars for work-related transportation. While an employee’s personal insurance policy is not within your control, you can require employees to carry minimum liability protection of $100,000 coverage per person and $300,000 per accident, with a preference for higher limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.

Periodically check employees’ compliance. One effective strategy is to select one-third of your staff at random each year and run MVR reports and request certificates of insurance. As noted above, consult with legal counsel when obtaining MVR reports to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

CLIENT-OWNED VEHICLE

While patients often request that the caregiver use the client’s vehicle, it’s best to discourage this practice. For safety reasons, employees should drive well-maintained, familiar vehicles. Many patient vehicles sit idle for long periods due to the patient’s condition. Brakes, tires and other operating functions can be long overdue for service. Employees also likely would need to take time to adjust mirrors and seats and learn the locations for controls for each respective vehicle. This could be uncomfortable and unsafe.

Non-ambulatory patients present a special transportation exposure that may require you to contract a service provider. Loading and unloading patients requires special equipment. Employees should be highly trained, and lifts should be regularly inspected and maintained. Once inside the vehicle, properly securing non-ambulatory patients is paramount, as failure to do so could lead to injury even if the vehicle is not involved in an accident.

Contact your Ayres Group agent to help you implement controls to protect your employees and the patients you serve.

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: Cincinnati Insurance

Finding an insurance program you can bank on

Whether you operate a bank, savings and loan, credit union, household finance or mortgage company, you need to protect your organization’s own assets to ensure that you remain open for business. Your clients depend on you for services such as mortgages and other loans, night depositories, checking and savings accounts and ATMs.

A financial company’s assets go beyond traditional assets such as buildings and contents. Your insurance coverage should be tailored to include unique exposures you may have, such as:

  • Broad coverage for damage to special property such as bulletproof glass, night depositories, vaults and ATMs
  • Protection for your interest in a mortgaged property in the event it is damaged or destroyed and the borrower’s coverage is inadequate or has lapsed
  • Coverage for dwellings and other properties acquired in foreclosure, assuring that coverage is adequate despite the possibility of the property being vacant
  • Your interest in other collateral property such as autos, RVs and boats that are damaged or destroyed where there is an error or omission in procuring or maintaining physical damage coverage on those items
  • Both liability and physical damage protection for autos that are repossessed

Ask your Ayres Group insurance agent to place your policy with a carrier that provides broad coverage for common exposures of financial companies. Your assets should be as safe and secure as your clients’.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group agent.