Construction Vehicle Classification Can Affect Your Wallet

Several factors influence how much a contractor pays for business auto insurance. The amount of insurance bought, the firm’s loss history, employees’ driving records, the condition of the vehicles, deductible levels – all of these have a major effect on the policy premium. However, the way the insurance company classifies the vehicles also impacts the premium in very significant ways.

Under the rating rules for business auto insurance, insurance companies use three factors to classify a vehicle: Its gross vehicle weight, how the business uses it, and the normal radius of its operation. The size classifications are:

  • Light – 0 to 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight;
  • Medium – between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds;
  • Heavy – between 20,000 and 45,000 pounds;
  • Extra-heavy – More than 45,000 pounds.

The heavier a vehicle, the higher its premium due to the increased potential for severe losses.

The use classifications relevant to contractors are:

  • Service – Vehicles used to transport the business’ personnel, tools, equipment and supplies to or from a job location. Only vehicles that the business parks at job locations for most of the working day or uses to transport supervisors between job locations get the service classification.
  • Commercial – Construction vehicles that are not eligible for the service classification.

Service vehicles, because they are parked for most of the day, qualify for a lower premium than do commercial vehicles.

The radius classifications are:

  • Local – Not regularly operated beyond a 50-mile radius from where the business garages them;
  • Intermediate – Operated within a radius of between 50 and 200 miles;
  • Long Distance – Operated within a radius of more than 200 miles.

The larger the radius, the more miles the vehicle is likely to be driven and the higher the premium.

The rules also contemplate the type of contractor that uses the vehicle, though the rating factors tend not to vary greatly from one type to another.

The rating rules have charts showing the mathematical factors that apply for different combinations of size, use and radius. The insurance company multiplies these factors by its basic premium for the vehicle. For example, the factor for liability insurance for a light service vehicle (a pickup truck) with a local radius might be 1.0. The company will take the basic premium for a truck (for example, $500) and multiply it by 1.0. Conversely, the factor for a heavy commercial vehicle (a dump truck) with a local radius might be 1.50. Multiplying this factor by the $500 basic premium produces a premium $250 higher. This vehicle is on the road more than the pickup and has the potential to cause more severe injuries and damage in an accident, so the premium is higher.

Different factors apply to the premiums for comprehensive and collision coverages, and the effect may be the opposite of that for liability coverage. For example, the factor for the pickup truck might be 1.0 but the factor for the dump truck might be only 0.80. This is because a heavier vehicle should be able to withstand a crash better and sustain less damage than the lighter one. The rules base comp and collision premiums on the original cost of the vehicle, so the dump truck’s higher initial value will offset the lower factor to some extent.

It is important that a business provide accurate information about its use of a vehicle to the insurance company. Vehicles that spend most of the day on the job site should get the lower-rated service classification. Insurance companies can verify a vehicle’s weight through independent sources and its radius by examining lists of work on hand, but they will rely on information from their agents for the use classification. The business that gives its insurance agent detailed information about all its operations is a business that will pay a premium that accurately reflects its loss potential.

Safeguarding Your Wedding Ring

Wearing a wedding ring is a tradition that dates back centuries. According to The Knot.com, the custom began with the Romans, who believed that “the vein of love” in the fourth finger of the left hand traveled directly to the heart.

Today, brides and grooms still exchange rings as a symbol of love. Because your wedding ring has such deep sentimental value, you want to do all you can to take care of it. Here are some tips from DiamondHelpers.com:

  • Protect the setting – Take your diamond off and put it in a safe place when washing dishes. Never put it near the sink because it can accidentally fall down the drain. Avoid wearing your diamond when gardening or during household repairs, since these activities might scratch the setting or damage the prongs that keep the stone secure.
  • Avoid exposing your diamond to household chemicals – Chlorine and hairspray can accumulate on the surface of a diamond and dull it. Periodic cleanings are crucial if you want to keep your diamond brilliant and prismatic.
  • Clean your diamond – Gently scrub it with a soft-bristle brush in a solution of plain alcohol diluted in warm water. Periodic ultrasonic cleanings by your local jeweler are also recommended to clean hard-to-reach areas under the settings.
  • Check the prongs – Be sure to occasionally take your diamond ring to a trusted local jeweler to check for loose prongs. They can weaken or break, even with normal wear.

Another important way to protect your wedding ring is to have adequate insurance should it be lost or stolen. Start by examining your homeowner’s or renters’ insurance. Although this policy may cover your ring if it is stolen, there may be no coverage if it is lost. Read your policy carefully, as it may have a coverage limit for certain kinds of personal property, such as your wedding ring. If the value of your ring exceeds the policy limit, or if you want to ensure that you have coverage if the ring is lost, consider purchasing a rider.

A rider is an endorsement to a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy that provides coverage for a particular piece of personal property. Items such as jewelry or furs whose full value is not covered under standard policies are typically covered by riders.

Typically, the additional premium required to insure a wedding ring would be approximately $1-2 per $100 of appraised value. For example, a ring appraised for $10,000 would cost about $100-200 per year to insure, but maybe slightly more in higher crime areas. To request coverage, you must have your wedding ring appraised and provide a certified copy of that appraisal to your insurer.

Using a Cell Phone While Driving Is Similar to Driving Under the Influence

A 2005 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers who use cell phones while driving were four times more likely to get involved in an accident. It also concluded that accident risk wasn’t affected by whether the driver was using a hand-held phone or a hands-free phone.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that just listening on a cell phone while driving is enough to distract a driver.  In this study, 29 volunteers used a driving simulator while inside an MRI brain scanner. They steered a car along a virtual winding road, driving at a high, fixed rate of speed. They were tested while driving undisturbed, and while driving and trying to decide whether a sentence they heard was true or false. The researchers measured activity in 20,000 brain locations, each about the size of a peppercorn.

After a thorough analysis of the data, the researchers were able to conclude that:

  • When the drivers were tested while listening to the sentence to see if it was true or false, they lost 37 percent of the normal activity of their brain’s parietal lobe. This is significant because this area of the brain is the one motorists rely on the most when driving. The parietal lobe assimilates all the information the body receives from the senses, and uses it to determine how near/far perceived objects are. There was also a decrease in the activity of the occipital lobe, which assimilates visual information.

When the drivers were tested while listening, they lost their ability to control the car. They not only were unable to stay in their lane, but they frequently hit objects such as guardrails. These are the kinds of driving errors most closely associated with motorists who drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Make MVR Checks Part of Your Driver Safety Program

It is more commonplace for workers to die in an automobile crash while on the job than it is for them to be killed while working on industrial machinery or at a construction site, so says the National Institute For Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). In fact, this alarming statistic has been the case since 1992. NIOSH reported that roadway car crashes killed 13,337 or 22 percent of all workers between 1992 and 2001.

Driving-related fatalities continued to increase while deaths from all other occupational-related causes dropped. Driving-related deaths averaged approximately one per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers between 1992 and 2001.

With the rising death toll came rising costs. The National Safety Council reported that in 2001 and 2002, injuries arising from roadway crashes averaged $27,500 per workers’ compensation claim. They were the single most costly workers’ compensation injury claim category. Crashes also caused workers to lose more days from work than any other type of work-related injury.

If you have employees who drive, cutting the costs associated with traffic accidents is an important part of your risk management program. The most effective way to cut costs is to institute a safe driver policy, which includes checking your employees’ Motor Vehicle Records (MVR).

Every state in the U.S. maintains MVRs on all of its drivers. This is a record that typically contains information about a person’s driving history, including such information as traffic violations and arrests and convictions for driving-related incidents. Individuals can obtain copies of their own driving records for employment purposes at their local DMV office. You can also obtain a copy of the record if you have the employee sign an MVR consent form.

The most effective way to use an MVR is to make a clean driving record a condition of employment for employees with driving responsibilities. Be sure you follow through and examine a potential employee’s MVR before you make a job offer. Also determine if the applicant has a driver’s license in another state and check the MVR in that state too.

However, that shouldn’t be the only time you check MVRs. Examine those records again on an annual basis for each employee with driving responsibilities. Included in your company’s safe driver policy should be the disciplinary action that will be enforced if you find a moving violation on a driver’s record during an annual check.

Using an MVR in this manner ensures that the employee will take an active role in your company’s driver safety program. As in any risk management strategy, employee buy-in is crucial if your driver safety program is to be effective.

Learn to Safely Navigate Winter’s Driving Conditions

The hazards of the road increase in winter, as the weather becomes less predictable. To avoid these conditions, you might be able to cut down on your driving, but you probably can’t eliminate it altogether…and maybe you wouldn’t want to. Therefore, it’s essential that you take steps to lessen your risk.

As with many things in life, preparation is the key to managing winter driving hazards. The following tips can help to keep you safe on the road, regardless of the weather:

  • Check tire pressure monthly. Keep your vehicle’s tires inflated at the manufacturer’s recommended pressure for maximum performance on icy roads. It’s important that you perform a pressure check monthly because a change in temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit changes the tire pressure about one pound per square inch. Added benefits of keeping tires properly inflated include better gas mileage and increased tire life.
  • Have your battery checked. Cold slows down the chemical reaction in a car’s battery, which decreases its power output. In fact, starting power drops dramatically below 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure your car’s battery is fully charged to compensate for the drop in output.
  • Know what your car is capable of handling. Your vehicle may have all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and all-weather tires. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that these features are a panacea for all the problems associated with winter driving. Becoming too complacent about the car’s ability to handle tough road conditions is a sure fire way to find yourself in a bad situation.
  • Learn to stay focused. When you drive, focus all of your attention on the road so you can anticipate hazards. Keeping your mind on the road ahead allows you to plan for areas that usually remain icy even when roads are clear, like bridges, overpasses and heavily shaded spots. The more aware you are, the better your ability to respond.
  • Exercise extra caution when necessary. Intersections with stoplights or stop signs can become deceptively treacherous when the weather is bad. Because so much traffic slides to a halt in the same location, the snow tends to become packed, and develops a slick icy surface. Drivers who spin their tires when starting up from a stopped position compound the problem. To compensate for these conditions, begin braking sooner when approaching an intersection. This will allow you more time to make necessary adjustments.
  • Plan when and how you will travel. Travel during daylight hours and wear sunglasses that provide UV protection to shield your eyes from snow and ice glare. Take the most direct route possible to your destination, and allow extra travel time in case you encounter unexpected problems.

Keep your vehicle stocked for an emergency. Be sure to have blankets and snacks in your car or truck to tide you over if you are stranded or stopped by bad road conditions.

Longevity Is Key When It Comes to Lawyer’s Professional Liability Claims

Retirement usually means not only leaving your job, but everything associated with that job. However, when a lawyer retires, this isn’t necessarily the case. Whether they are no longer practicing law, or starting an entirely new career, lawyers may find themselves haunted by liability claims arising from their past work.

For this reason, it’s important for departing lawyers to confirm that liability coverage will remain intact for past work. To accomplish this goal, you should review the partnership agreement, the firm’s professional liability insurance, and any recent claims. Keep in mind that partnership agreements and insurance coverage vary from firm to firm. When you review the agreement, you may find an absence of provisions for the firm’s ongoing indemnity or insurance obligations towards former members.

When reviewing the firm’s professional liability policy you’ll probably find that is written on a “claims made” basis. This means that coverage is provided for any claims made during the policy term, even if the events that precipitated the claim happened before the policy’s effective date. Even if your firm has a claims made policy, it can still have coverage gaps that significantly affect you once you decide to leave. For example, the insurer may have included provisions that limit or exclude coverage of the firm’s activities in certain practice areas. Or with claims made policies, if an exclusion is added in the future, it is applicable to all past and future work in that practice area.

Your policy review should also include an examination of its coverage limits. Since these limits cover all claims made and reported within the policy term, there may not be funds available to cover a retiring lawyer if the firm has already submitted a substantial number of claims or even just one large one.

The next step in your evaluation is a determination of how the policy defines “insured.” In some attorney-client relationships, a lawyer may be considered an employee or independent contractor. Under some policies, coverage for employees and independent contractors is either limited or non-existent.

You should also review the conditions regarding the firm’s responsibilities for policy renewal and reporting claims. Don’t assume that the firm will continue to operate as a going concern after you are gone, or that it will continue to renew its liability policy. In fact, in the case of smaller firms, dissolution is often the outcome after a key partner retires.

If the practice is dissolved, it is important that the firm and its former partners maintain insurance coverage. And since time is a crucial factor in a dissolution scenario when it comes to coverage, it is important that you meet as soon as possible with your insurance representative to discuss your coverage status and appropriate options.

Families Should Have an Emergency Communication Plan

Severe weather is one of the most common sources of natural disasters, and no region of the U.S. is off limits. Does your family know what they should do in the event a weather-related natural disaster strikes?

According to the Home Safety Council, fewer than 30 percent of U.S. families have created and discussed an emergency communication plan. One of the reasons that so few families have developed one is that many people believe it requires considerable time and effort.

Creating an emergency communication plan is actually easier than you may think. The first component that you should have is a corded land line phone in your home. It is the most reliable source of communication in an emergency because it will continue to operate even if the power goes out in the house.

The second component is an emergency communication card that each family member should carry at all times. The Home Safety Council recommends creating wallet-sized emergency communication cards that include space to list important phone numbers and medical information. Families should discuss how they would communicate during an emergency situation, and then record important plan information on their emergency cards.

In addition to a communication plan, the Home Safety Council offers the following recommendations:

  • Have a “Ready-to-Go-Kit” – In a duffel bag or backpack, place one gallon of water per person, non-perishable canned food, a can opener, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-operated radio, a change of clothes for each family member, personal hygiene items, a small first-aid kit, and pet food and supplies. Keep the kit near any medications you would need to take with you in an emergency.
  • Have a “Ready-to-Stay Kit” – You may have to stay inside your home for an extended period of time, and this kit will help you survive. In a large plastic tub with a cover, or easily accessible cabinet designated for this purpose only, place three gallons of water per family member, enough non-perishable canned food and snacks for at least three days, a can opener, toilet paper, blankets, books and games to keep you busy, a flashlight and extra batteries, a battery-operated radio, a small first-aid kit, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, a change of clothes for each family member, personal hygiene items, and pet food and supplies.
  • Designate a safe meeting place outside your home.
  • Designate a safe place to seek shelter in your home in case of severe weather. Your survival supplies should be stored in this location.
  • Teach young children how to use the phone to call for help.
  • Update wireless phones with “in case of emergency” (ICE) contact information.

Everyone Bears Responsibility for Accident Prevention

When it comes to accident prevention in the workplace, you are your brother’s keeper. You have a responsibility to make sure that the co-workers around you, or those who use the same tools, equipment or materials that you do, are not injured because of your negligence. Furthermore, to make the workplace as safe as possible for everyone, all workers need to keep their eyes open for any dangerous situations in their midst.

Keep the following in mind to make your workplace as safe as possible:

·   Warn a worker who is in a dangerous position. Sometimes inexperience can cause a worker to perform a task in a manner that may result in injury. If you see this happening, don’t just explain to your co-worker what he or she is doing wrong; demonstrate the right way to do it.

·   Call attention to a task if a worker seems distracted. Conversation and noise can present serious distractions. If a co-worker seems not to be paying attention to the task at hand, go over and try to gently re-focus his or her attention.

·   Set a good example. Always use tools and equipment in the intended manner. Never joke around when handling tools or equipment. Remember, younger co-workers can be influenced by the behavior they see in their older peers.

·   Keep machine guards in place. Machines usually have moving parts that may accidentally come into contact with a worker’s body. When this happens, the worker can be killed or maimed. Machine guards prevent contact with moving parts during the normal operation of the machine.

·   Report tool/equipment defects to your supervisor. Continuing to use a defective tool or piece of equipment instead of reporting it could result in possible injury to you or a co-worker.

·   Encourage co-workers to report every injury. Sometimes an injury that seems insignificant can escalate down the road. If an accident is not reported at the time it occurs, it may not be covered by insurance if it is reported at a later date.

·   Encourage co-workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Your employer provides PPE so that you will be protected. Always wear it if it is necessary for the task being performed. Ask co-workers to wear it as well.

·   Ask questions if you are confused about what you have been asked to do. Never perform a task unless you are completely sure of the correct way to do it. Ask your supervisor to show you the proper method.

·   Take safety suggestions in the cooperative spirit in which they are made. Co-workers are responsible for each other’s safety. If a suggestion is made about the way in which you are performing a task, don’t respond with anger. Instead, thank the co-worker making the suggestion for caring enough about your personal safety to take the time to correct you.

When all workers look out for themselves and others, everyone’s safety is enhanced.

Debunking Some Popular Car Insurance Folklore

You have probably heard at least one piece of urban folklore regarding some aspect of your daily life. Folklore is a bit of “wisdom” that gets repeated over and over as true, even though it usually has little or no basis in reality. It typically develops when people try to make sense out of a process they perceive as being complex, without bothering to investigate the facts.

Even something as routine as buying car insurance comes with its own folklore. Here are some popular myths:

Myth 1: The color of your car affects your insurance rate. This bit of folklore developed out of another popular myth – that people who drive red cars get more speeding rickets than other drivers. Insurance companies, in anticipation of this phenomenon, supposedly base a driver’s insurance rates on the color of the car they are driving, which is coded into the VIN number of your vehicle.

Truth: Both myths are false. An insurer takes a number of factors into consideration when determining rates, but color isn’t one of them. Driving a red car isn’t necessarily a precursor to a speeding ticket and the VIN number doesn’t provide any information about a vehicle’s color.

Myth 2: It’s more expensive to insure a two-door car than a four-door one.

Truth: It’s possible. Depending on the way companies classify cars when they analyze loss, injuries and claims, something as simple as the number of doors on your car could affect your insurance rates. Thus, one company may associate a relatively low history of claims with a particular model, while another company may have experienced nothing but trouble with the same vehicle.

Myth 3: Parking tickets affect your rates.

Truth: Parking tickets alone won’t affect your insurance rates. However, unpaid parking tickets could lead to license suspension which would affect your insurance rates. 

Myth 4: If I lend my car to a friend and they wreck it, their insurance will cover the damage.

Truth: Your car, your responsibility! And even though you weren’t in the car at the time of the accident, you will still receive a mark on your insurance record and your premium could possibly increase.

What’s the Difference Between Policy Cancellation and Non-Renewal?

In some policyowners’ minds, whether your insurance company cancels your auto coverage, or simply chooses not to renew it, it all means the same – you’re suddenly without insurance. However, it isn’t quite that simple. The difference between cancellation and non-renewal can be a significant factor in finding another auto insurance policy.

There are specific conditions, outlined in each state’s laws, under which an auto insurer is permitted to cancel your policy. Here are some common ones:

  • Failing to pay your premium in a timely manner.
  • Losing your ability to drive because your license was suspended or revoked, or because it expired during the term of the policy. This can also apply to any members of your family who are covered under the policy.
  • Falsifying information on your insurance application.

Your insurer has the right to cancel your policy at any time if you’re guilty of one of these actions. If it decides to do so, it must send you a written notice of the cancellation that explains why your coverage is being cancelled. Depending on the laws of your state, your insurer must provide 10 to 30 days notice before the cancellation becomes effective.

There is one other instance where an insurer has the right to cancel your coverage, and that is during the 60 day binding period immediately following your application. An insurer could cancel your policy during this time if it discovers some information that marks you as an unacceptable risk.

If your auto insurance is cancelled for any reason, you will likely have trouble finding another insurance company willing to issue you a policy. The only cancellation circumstance where the possibility of reinstatement exists, is being cancelled for not paying your premium.

In this case, you would be sent a letter informing you that your premium was not received and providing a specific amount of time to rectify the situation. If the payment is received before the cancellation date, you will receive a letter of reinstatement. However, reinstatement does carry consequences. You will probably have to pay a late fee and an extra premium to cover the period between the cancellation and the reinstatement.

You auto insurer can also elect not to renew your policy. State laws aren’t always as specific about what constitutes reasons for non-renewal as they are about reasons for cancellation.

If your insurer decides not to renew, it is usually because you filed too many claims for at fault accidents, were convicted of driving under the influence, or were cited for too many traffic violations during the previous three to five years.

As is the case with cancellation, your auto insurer has between 10 to 30 days to send written notice of non-renewal, which should explain the reason they chose not to renew. If this isn’t included in your non-renewal notice, request an explanation from your insurer. The one advantage non-renewal has over cancellation is that it is less of a deterrent in finding another company to provide you with auto coverage.

Questions You Need to Ask Before Buying Commercial Auto Insurance

Purchasing commercial auto insurance may be one of the most important insurance decisions that a business owner makes. Anyone who purchases or uses a vehicle for business use, be it a singular vehicle or multiple vehicles, will have to purchase commercial vehicle insurance. To get the best coverage at the best rate, you should ask yourself a number of key questions before you meet with your insurance broker.

Here are some of the most vital questions you need to ask yourself and the reasons why they are so relevant:

Do You Know What Defines Commercial Vehicle Usage?

Although you may use a vehicle infrequently for commercial purposes, your personal auto coverage invariably excludes using a vehicle for commercial purposes. Also, each policy clearly defines what is meant by commercial use, so you need to be very clear on the differences so you do not end up having a claim denied.

How Many Total Drivers and Vehicles Does the Company Require?

Insurers who provide commercial auto insurance may distinguish the available coverage options depending on both the number of drivers and the number of vehicles. Multiple vehicles and drivers may best be served by fleet insurance. Different insurers will vary in how they base their rates and will do so based not only upon the number of vehicles insured but also the class of the vehicles involved. The best insurance option may be to consider purchasing fleet insurance as opposed to having the vehicles insured individually. It all depends on your needs.

What Strategies Can You Use to Reduce Your Commercial Vehicle Premium?

There are a number of other questions and measures that can help lower your premiums for either individual vehicle usage or fleet use.

Do You Know Your Drivers’ Records?

Drivers with multiple claim records or violations are clearly going to cause your premium rates to increase. Ensure that you are aware of the driving records of any new or current employees who will be driving the vehicles. Have all employees who drive report any and all accidents or driving infractions immediately. Make it company policy.

What Kind of Car Are You Buying or Leasing?

Although it might seem like a good idea to have the luxury or sports car to make a statement, just remember that you are going to pay for such vehicles. You may want to get a great looking mid-sized sedan that has a superior safety rating because an insurer is most definitely going to factor in the types of vehicles driven.

What Anti-Theft and Safety Devices Will the Vehicle(s) Have?

Vehicle theft is still a major concern, especially in urban settings. When insuring your vehicle(s), an insurer is going to consider several things:

·  The location of your business, because not all parts of an urban setting are necessarily treated the same. High crime areas will most often lead to higher premiums.

·  Whether or not alarms or GPS devices are installed in the vehicle(s).

·  What the vehicle has for air bags and other safety devices such as beepers, sensors, or cameras.

What Kind of Deductible Can You Afford?

The amount of deductible you are willing to absorb can also have a dramatic impact on your premium because all insurers pretty much adhere to a simple formula: The higher the deductible – the lower the premium.

Will Federal or State Laws Impact Your Coverage?

Certain vehicles and what they transport can also be affected by federal laws and, in some instances, can be state-specific. Check out any legislative requirements which impact what you need to do beforehand.

Internet Usage Spells Trouble for Drivers

Driving distractions come in many shapes and sizes. Between phone calls, text messages, Internet, television screens, unruly children, and distractions on the road, it is a wonder we ever arrive safely from Point A to Point B.

In November of 2010, State Farm created an online survey to gain a better understanding of what distracts drivers from their most important task at hand – driving. The survey went to 912 drivers who reported that they drive at least an hour per week, own a smartphone, and have a valid driver’s license.

Of those surveyed, 19% admitted to Internet usage while driving. Here are the top five internet activities that driver’s engage in:

1) Searching for and reading driving directions

2) Reading E-mail

3) Looking for specific information of immediate interest, such as where to find a restaurant

4) Reading/Updating social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook

5) Writing/sending an e-mail

When asked about when their internet usage occurs, drivers responded:

*When stopped at traffic lights

*During heavy traffic

*When driving alone

*During daylight hours only

*On long highway drives

The survey further reports that about 40% of the U.S. population currently owns a smartphone, and this statistic equates to many distracted drivers on the road at any given time. Studies show that the increasing use of smartphones, especially among young adults, increases the risk of crashes. And there is an ever-growing need to remind yourself and the ones you love to put the phone away while driving.

Strategies to Keep the Workplace Safe

Employers understand that they have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees from violence in the workplace. The problem most face is how to effectively execute that obligation.

When it comes to designing a workplace anti-violence strategy, it’s best to create a two-pronged approach that consists of protection and prevention. Start by developing a written policy that clearly communicates a zero tolerance toward workplace violence of any form. The policy also needs to outline exactly what disciplinary measures will be taken against employees who threaten violence. Your Human Resources professional should write this in conjunction with your in-house counsel to be sure that the policy doesn’t infringe on any federal/state laws. If an employee violates this policy, it is imperative that you follow through with the stated consequences.

Other important steps in the fight against workplace violence include verifying application information, conducting thorough background checks and having more than one person in the room during an evaluation or termination meeting.

Employers should also train supervisors to spot potential violence in all its forms including destruction of property and implied threats of violence, and encourage them to report these incidents immediately. Studies have shown that violent workers usually don’t just snap. They exhibit an increasingly violent attitude over time. A supervisor trained to recognize an employee who is beginning to show signs of violence can prevent an assault by referring the employee for counseling. Some of the early warning signs include:

·              Comments about a personal or family history of violence

·              Fascination with guns or other weapons

·              Direct or veiled threats

·              Serious personal or family problems, such as divorce or a death in the family

·              Financial troubles

·              A drastic change in behavior, such as mood swings or outbursts

·              Poor job performance

·              Abuse of drugs or alcohol

·              Lack of social interaction with other employees

·              Signs of paranoia about another employee

·              Repressed anger

In addition to training supervisors, employers can stop workplace assaults by ensuring there is enough physical security on-site. Another important tool is an employee reporting system, such as an anonymous hotline. Supervisors aren’t always the first to recognize growing violence in an employee. A hotline will make it easy for employees to let management know about suspicious or threatening behaviors without fear of reprisals from the violent individual. 

Teens Drinking at Parties = Insurance Issues

Every spring brings with it the prom and graduation party seasons. Unfortunately, these events often become occasions for teens to drink alcohol. Teens at unsupervised parties risk harming themselves and others when they drink. Parents who host these parties may bear responsibility for what happens there and for injuries or damages occurring after the guests leave. While their liability insurance may cover any financial damages, the circumstances of the accident determine which policy will respond, and this will affect how much coverage the parents have.

Assume that a guest consumes several beers at the party, drives off in his car, and gets into an accident, injuring himself and a passenger. The parents of both injured teens sue the parents who hosted the party, who in turn notify their homeowner’s insurance company. However, the policy’s personal liability coverage does not apply to an insured person’s legal liability for:

  • The occupancy, operation, or use of a motor vehicle by any person
  • The entrustment of a motor vehicle by the insured person to anyone else
  • The insured person’s failure to supervise or negligent supervision of any person using a motor vehicle
  • The actions of a minor involving a motor vehicle.

Because of this, the homeowner’s policy will not cover the parents’ liability or defense costs. Their personal auto insurance policy may cover them, however. The policy’s liability insurance covers the individuals named on the policy and household residents who are their relatives for their liability for bodily injury from an accident arising out of the use of any auto. Therefore, even though the parents were not actually operating the vehicle involved in the accident, their policy will cover their liability. In addition, the auto policy that applies to the car involved in the accident (the guest’s insurance, or, more likely, his parents’) will also cover the hosts’ liability for the passenger’s injuries. The hosts’ policy will step in if the owners’ policy either does not apply or pays out its maximum limit of insurance.

Now assume that the guest consumes the beer, but a sober guest gives him a ride home. Rather than go straight to bed, the young man goes for a swim in his parents’ pool and drowns. His parents sue the hosts, alleging that his judgement was impaired because the hosts allowed him to drink. In this situation, the homeowner’s policy should pay for the the hosts’ liability and legal defense. Because this accident did not involve a motor vehicle, and no other policy provisions that would remove coverage apply, the policy will cover this claim.

While one policy or the other may apply to a liquor liability claim, there could be significant differences between the amounts of coverage the two policies provide. Most homeowner’s policies provide personal liability coverage of at least $100,000 for each occurrence; many provide limits of $300,000 or $500,000. Auto policies may provide much less coverage. Most states have laws setting the minimum amounts of liability coverage that an auto policy may provide, but those limits are relatively small. For example, New York law requires minimum limits of $25,000 for injuries to one person and $50,000 for injuries to two or more people (higher amounts apply for death claims.) Should a young person become seriously injured or killed, the damages claimed could well exceed these amounts. Parents should consider buying as much liability insurance as they can afford; they should also think about buying an umbrella policy, which pays for damages that surpass the amounts payable under homeowner’s and auto policies.

Of course, the best course of action is to properly supervise parties, so that everyone has a good time and lives to have another one someday.

Know Your Commercial General Liability Insurance Limits

A commercial general liability policy (CGL) lists six different limits on the policy’s declarations page. While the limits may be listed separately, it’s important to understand that they are all interrelated. That means that payment of damages for one limit will affect another limit.

To illustrate how these limits interact, it is necessary to examine each one in detail:

The General Aggregate Limit  – The maximum amount the insurer will pay during the policy period for all damages including bodily injury, property damage, personal and advertising injury except for any amount paid as damages because of bodily injury or property damage included within the products-completed operations hazard. The definition of the products-completed operations hazard is outlined in the policy and a separate aggregate limit applies to this type of claim. Also included within the general aggregate are damages paid for medical payments.

Products-Completed Operations Aggregate Limit – The maximum amount the insurer will pay for damages because of bodily injury or property damage included within the products-completed operations hazard. The specified hazards are those described within the definition of the products-completed operations hazard and are limited to bodily injury or property damage that:

1.             Occurs away from the insured’s premises.

2.             Caused by the insured’s products that are no longer in the insured’s possession or an insured’s work that has been completed.

Personal and Advertising Injury Limit – The maximum amount the insurer will pay if legally obligated to pay damages due to personal and advertising injury offenses. The personal and advertising injury limit applies separately to each person or organization that sustains damages because of a covered offense. However, regardless of the number of persons or organizations claiming damages, or the number of offenses claimed during the policy period, the insurer is only obligated to pay up to the general aggregate limit.

Each Occurrence Limit – The maximum the insurer will pay for the sum of all damages due to bodily injury, property damage and medical payments. Keep in mind that there is an aggregate limit for bodily injury and property damage claims that arise from the products-completed operations hazard and a separate limit for all other bodily injury and property damages. However, the each occurrence limit does apply to all sums paid for medical payments.

Damage to Premises Rented to You Limit – This coverage is actually an exception to certain exclusions found in the bodily injury and property damage coverage. The first exception provides coverage for property damage to a premises and its contents, rented to the insured for 7 or fewer consecutive days if an insured is legally obligated to pay for such damage due to any cause except fire.

The second exception provides coverage for damage to the premises only if an insured is legally obligated to pay for property damage due to fire. However, if an insured is held liable solely due to an agreement to be responsible for the property or for damage to the property, there is no coverage. Liability has to be imposed on the insured as the result of a lawsuit in order for coverage to apply.

The Damage to Premises Rented to You limit applies to any one premises. Any property damage paid under this limit will reduce the each occurrence limit for that same occurrence and will also reduce the general aggregate limit.

Medical Expense Limit – The medical expenses coverage is a separate insuring agreement that obligates the insurer to pay reasonable medical expenses for bodily injury, caused by an accident, without regard to fault. Medical payments are subject to the medical expense limit. The medical expense limit applies separately to each person. However, medical payments will reduce the each occurrence limit for that same occurrence and will also reduce the general aggregate limit.

Don’t Be Victimized Twice By a Hit and Run Driver

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nationally, from 2003 to 2006, one out of every eight accidents was a hit-and-run; however, some regions of the country exceeded the national average.

The South had more than one million reported hit-and-run crashes, making it number one nationwide. The Midwest ranked second with over 835,000 reported incidents. California received state honors for having one of the highest rates of hit-and-run accidents in the nation.

If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, it doesn’t matter where your region ranked on NHTSA’s survey. What is important is that you aren’t victimized twice because you aren’t prepared for the financial consequences. In a hit-and-run accident, you become responsible for all the expenses associated with medical care, car repairs and replacement car rental that normally would have been covered by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier.

That’s why the Insurance Information Institute recommends that you purchase Uninsured Motorist coverage, if not already required in your state. Since being involved in a hit-and-run accident is essentially the same as being in one with an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist coverage will pay the costs resulting from the accident.

Also consider that some auto insurance companies don’t necessarily cover the cost of a replacement rental car, even if a hit-and-run driver damaged yours. So it makes sense to add replacement rental car coverage to your auto policy because it typically costs less per year than the average daily rate for most rental cars.

While having proper insurance protection is important if you are involved in a hit-and-run, the best strategy is to avoid being a victim in the first place. Here are some simple tips to remember:

  • If you have to stop on the highway, be safe — Stop on the right shoulder. Stopping on the left side will increase your chances of being involved in an accident by 80 percent.
  • Carry flares or triangles in your trunk — Use these to mark your location once you come to a stop on the side of the road. You should also put on your hazard lights. Emergency flashers, used in conjunction with flares/triangles, are an effective way of giving other drivers advance warning of your location. Flares/triangles can also act as a backup if flashers become inoperable in the event of a failure in your car’s electrical system.
  • Become a member of an emergency roadside service — Although you may have to wait as long as an hour for assistance, it is preferable to trying to fix the problem yourself. Working on your vehicle in high traffic or where oncoming motorists may not see you is asking for trouble.
  • Maintain your car — Tire blowouts are a common reason vehicles become inoperable. Always keep your tires inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Check your tires periodically for wear and tear, cuts, or abrasions that could cause the tire to deflate while you are driving.

Cutting the Cost of Your Teenager’s Car Insurance

Auto insurance for teenagers has always been expensive, and that will probably never change. It’s common for most parents to add their teen as a named driver to the family auto policy because it is usually the most affordable alternative.

However, less expensive doesn’t mean cheap. That’s because insurers calculate their rates based on the likelihood of a driver getting into an accident. The National Safety Council says that drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 are three times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than drivers between the ages of 25 and 64. Statistics like these make drivers under the age of 25 bigger risks in the eyes of auto insurance companies, so expect your premium to increase anywhere from 50 to 75 percent.

There are some other important factors that affect how much you will pay when adding your teen to your insurance:

  • Gender – Teenage boys are considered to be more reckless and bigger risk takers than teenage girls. All of that bravado comes with a price, higher rates than for teenage girls.
  • Experience – Lack of driving experience translates into higher premiums because insurers assume that inexperience makes the driver more prone to accidents.
  • Geography – Driving in a high-traffic geographic area is another rate booster because it increases the probability of getting into an accident.

While the deck seems to be stacked against you, there are ways you can lower premiums:

  • Buy them an older model car – Older cars cost less to insure than newer models.
  • Avoid the extrasAll of those add ons that teenagers love, like chrome rims and big stereo systems, will increase the rate you’ll pay.
  • Lower/drop collision coverage on older cars – If the value of the car is less than the product of your annual premium times 10, think about dropping the collision and/or comprehensive coverage portion of your policy.
  • Raise your deductible – A higher deductible can lower your auto insurance rate by 15 to 30 percent.
  • Enroll the teen in a defensive-driving class – This could result in a premium decrease.
  • Obtain car insurance from the same company that provides your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance – Many insurers will offer a 10 to 20 percent discount for multiple lines of coverage.
  • Maintain your credit score – Insurers base your premium in part on your credit score; the higher it is, the lower your rate will be.

Ask about low mileage discounts – As gas prices increase, many people aren’t driving their car as much. If you drive less than the annual average miles allotted by your insurer, see if you can qualify for a low mileage discount.

Good Housekeeping Is One of Your Job Responsibilities

Good housekeeping at work means keeping both the facility itself and your own workspace clean, neat, and orderly. The reason housekeeping should be a priority is because it is the first line of defense in any company’s accident prevention strategy.

If housekeeping is to be effective, it has to be ongoing, not an activity that’s performed before management inspects the premises. Failure to keep up with necessary housekeeping tasks can result in employees:

·   Tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms

·   Being struck by falling objects

·   Slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces

·   Hitting against projecting, or poorly stacked items

·   Cutting, puncturing, or tearing the skin of hands or other parts of the body

To properly maintain the facility, materials, supplies and parts must be stored in their designated storage areas when not in use, tools and equipment must be arranged in an orderly manner and placed away from traffic areas, scraps or debris in the department must be removed on a daily basis, and stairways and platforms must be kept clear. Attention should also be paid to keeping the aisles and passageways clear. Never store or stack materials in aisles.

When you keep the facility clean, you lessen the chances of both employee and visitor accidents because you will have removed the things that cause slipping, tripping, and falling. You have also lessened the likelihood that people will be involved in “struck by,” “striking against,” and “caught-between” accidents.

If your work area is in disarray because of a project you are working on, or if you cannot immediately clean your workstation, make people aware of the danger by posting signs that alert them to the potential risk.

In addition to accident prevention, there are other benefits to maintaining good housekeeping: 

·   There is an easier flow of materials, which reduces handling and saves time.

·   Clutter-free and spill-free work areas expedite movement, again saving time.

·   There is a decrease in the number of fire hazards.

·   Exposures to hazardous substances are reduced.

·   There is a better control over tools and materials because you know where to find them.

·   Without obstacles in the way, it is easier to clean and maintain equipment.

·   The environment is more hygienic, which improves health.

·   There is a more effective use of space.

·   The likelihood of materials and equipment being damaged is reduced.

Excessive Holiday Drinking and Driving Don’t Mix

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day include the most important entertaining season on many people’s social calendars. While these festivities are a wonderful part of the holiday season, they do bring with them a very serious problem-partygoers who drink too much and then get behind the wheel of a car.

Many people downplay the issue, but statistics prove how serious it is. According to the Community Alcohol Information Program (CAIP), a non-profit agency that provides alcohol education, assessment and evaluation services to persons convicted of alcohol-related offenses in New Hampshire, two million alcohol-impaired driving collisions occur each year in this country. Accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers are the most frequently committed violent crimes in America today.

CAIP offers these other sobering statistics about drinking and driving:

  • The average alcohol-impaired driver arrested on the highway has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .20%, more than double the level for presumed intoxication in most states. This level represents 14 drinks of 86-proof liquor (or 14 beers) in a four-hour period for a man weighing 180 lbs.
  • Between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. on weekends, in some parts of the country, 10% of all drivers are legally impaired. Most Americans drink alcohol, and more than 80% admit to driving after drinking.
  • When drinkers are at the presumed level of intoxication, the risk of their causing an accident is six times greater than for non-drinking drivers.

Some people persist in drinking and driving based on myths about how the body reacts to alcohol and its ability to overcome alcohol’s effects. Scientific studies supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provide important information that belies two commonly held beliefs about drinking and driving:

  • Myth: You can drive as long as you aren’t slurring words or acting erratically. Fact: The skills and coordination needed for driving are compromised long before the obvious signs of intoxication are visible. In addition, the sedative effects of alcohol, combined with late night hours, place you at much greater risk of nodding off or losing attention behind the wheel.
  • Myth: Drink coffee because caffeine will sober you up. Fact: Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but it doesn’t counteract the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and even more time to return to normal. There are no quick cures.

Alcohol affects the brain and body long after you stop drinking. Any alcohol that remains in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body. That means judgment and coordination can be affected for hours after you’ve taken that last drink. Also keep in mind that alcohol heightens feelings of stress or anxiety, which can lead to violent behavior.

Does this mean you can’t have a few drinks at a holiday party? No, but what it does mean is that you need to be responsible if you do drink. Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Know your limits and never drink more than you can safely handle.
  • Don’t get behind the wheel if you drink. Ask a sober driver to escort you home.
  • Don’t drink if there is someone at the gathering with whom you have a grievance.
  • Offer to be a designated driver for a friend.
  • Call law enforcement if you see someone driving erratically.

Keeping these tips in mind can help avoid tragedy during the holiday season.

New Building Codes Can Leave You Under-Insured

The owner of a commercial building may believe that replacement cost insurance coverage on the building is sufficient to protect her from financial loss. After all, she took the insurance agent’s advice and bought enough insurance to pay for repairing or replacing the building if it were completely destroyed. However, this may be a false sense of security, particularly if the building is an older one. While the building may not have changed greatly over the years, local building codes undoubtedly have. Even codes in effect at the time the building was constructed may affect your insurance coverage.

Many local governments have ordinances that require the demolition of a building when more than 50 percent of the building has been damaged. These ordinances require the reconstruction of the building in accordance with current building codes. Zoning and land use codes may have changed over the years prohibiting the reconstruction of that type of building at the same site. This could require the owner to rebuild somewhere else or with a much different building design. Laws and codes requiring buildings to be easily accessible to handicapped people may affect rebuilding if the building previously lacked ramps, doors that can be opened remotely, wheelchair-accessible toilets, and other accommodations.

All of these requirements may significantly increase the cost of rebuilding. Unfortunately, standard commercial property insurance policies provide very little coverage for these higher costs. Most will pay either 5 percent of the amount of insurance on the building or $10,000, whichever is less, for the increased cost of construction resulting from a local ordinance or law. Therefore, the amount of insurance available for a building insured for $150,000 is $7,500; the amount available for a building insured for $500,000 is $10,000. The costs of demolition and rebuilding up to new codes or at a new location can quickly use up this relatively small amount.

Building owners should consider buying additional insurance to cover this possibility. Many insurance companies offer ordinance or law coverage for an additional premium. This coverage will pay for the additional costs of demolition and construction unless the costs result from failure to comply with previous ordinances or from the release of pollutants. Included are three distinct coverages for the specified building:

  • Coverage A – Loss to the undamaged portion of the building
  • Coverage B – Cost of demolishing the undamaged portion of the building
  • Coverage C – Increased cost of construction or repairs to comply with ordinances or laws

The amount of insurance available under Coverage A equals the amount of insurance covering the entire building. Separate amounts apply to Coverages B and C. There is no coverage if the damage results from a cause that the policy excludes. For example, most policies do not cover flood damage, so the policy will not pay if the law requires the owner to demolish the building after a flood. Also, the insurance will pay only the amount necessary to meet the minimum requirements. The insurance will not pay for the cost of exceeding requirements during rebuilding.

This insurance covers the owner only for the cost of repairing or replacing the building, not for income lost during additional reconstruction time. Separate coverage is available for this exposure.

An insurance agent can advise building owners on the types, amounts, and costs of coverage they may need to meet updated codes. Whether or not they ultimately decide they need the coverage, they should give it careful consideration. The last thing any owner wants is a surprise uninsured expense after a disaster.

Insuring Your Student Away at College

Sending a child off to college is always an exciting and anxious time for parents. They worry about their child’s safety, whether she has everything she needs, how she’ll get along with her roommates, and whether she’s ready for independent living. Between making sure that textbooks and supplies have been purchased, tuition bills paid and course registrations completed, it’s natural that parents won’t think about insurance considerations. However, accidents can happen at college just as easily as they can at home, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to think about insurance coverage.

A homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover a part-time student or one over a certain age. For example, policies often state that a person has coverage if she is a full-time student and was a resident of the policyholder’s household before moving out to attend school. They also limit coverage to students who are either under the age of 24 and related to the policyholder or in the policyholder’s care and under the age of 21. This could become an issue when the child is attending college at a later age, or at graduate school, law or medical school, where students are often in their mid-twenties. The parents should discuss this with an insurance agent and consider asking for a change to the policy that would eliminate these restrictions.

A typical policy covers the student’s belongings while at college, but limits coverage to 10 percent of the amount of insurance covering the parents’ personal property. For example, if the policy shows a limit of $100,000 for coverage of personal property, it will cover the student’s property up to a maximum of $10,000. If this amount of insurance is too low, parents should consider higher limits.

Many colleges require students to own a laptop computer. A standard homeowner’s policy will cover a laptop, but only for a small number of causes of loss. These include perils like fire, theft, lightning, explosion, and vehicle damage. The policy does not cover damage from someone dropping the computer, spilling a beverage on it, or damage to its circuitry from a power surge. However, many insurance companies offer special computer coverage that will pay for damage from these types of accidents. An agent can explain to the parents what the coverage includes and how much it will cost.

The homeowner’s policy will also cover the student’s liability for any injuries or damages she may cause to others while at school. For example, the policy would pay for repair or replacement of dormitory furniture that she may accidentally damage.

If the student brings a car to college and the parents’ auto insurance policy lists it, the student will have coverage for its use. Of course, the student could also buy her own policy. If she does, she should buy liability coverage in an amount at least equal to what the parents have. Purchasing only the minimum limits required by state law could leave her owing a large amount out of pocket if she causes serious injuries to others in an accident. If she doesn’t bring a car with her, the parents’ policy will cover her while using someone else’s car unless it’s regularly available to her. The car owner’s policy should also provide her with coverage.

Parents’ insurance policies will automatically cover many student situations. However, parents should read their policies to verify the coverage they have. A discussion with an insurance agent is in order if anything is unclear or appears inadequate. A little bit of advance checking can save a lot of worry and expense later.

Utilizing a Wrap-Up Program for a Large Scale Construction Project

Large construction projects are often difficult to finance because of high costs and increased risk. One way to decrease the cost of the project and lessen the risk is through “wrap-up” insurance programs.

Under this type of program, one group of insurance policies covers all parties involved in the project for the length of time it takes to complete the project. This insurance is underwritten for the specific exposures of the project and it protects the project owner, contractors, and all subcontractors. Most wrap-ups include workers’ compensation, general and excess liability, and builder’s risk coverage. Wrap-ups can also include professional liability, environment liability and other essential coverages.

These wrap-up programs can be initiated either by the project owner or the general contractor. When the owner controls them, they are referred to as “owner controlled” insurance programs (OCIP). When the general contractor intiates the program, it is called a “contractor controlled” insurance program (CCIP). The minimum size for a wrap-up to make sense is generally $100 to $150 million in hard construction costs.

The most common reason that wrap-ups are used is for potential cost savings. Subcontractors always include in their bids the cost of insurance for a project. Depending on the type of work the subcontractor performs and location of the work being performed, the subcontractor’s insurance cost could add several percentage points to their bid amount. By insuring all of the subcontractors under one insurance program, the owner/general contractor can realize a substantial savings.

Wrap-ups not only save money on premiums, but additional cost savings can be gained through the design of the insurance program itself.  Many wrap-ups are written using risk sharing techniques, such as larger deductibles or retrospective rating. Retrospective rating is a premium calculation formula in which the final premium is not determined until the end of the coverage period. The insurerreviews the owner/general contractor’s losses after the policy ends, and adjusts the premium based on those losses.However, the premium is subject to a maximum and minimum. If a project is well run, this can result in a significant premium reduction. Wrap-ups have also been written at fixed rates for the duration of the project.

Another reason for a wrap-up is that it enables an owner/general contractor to fulfill Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) requirements on public projects. If the controlling government authority of a project requires that minority contractors must be hired, a wrap-up may be the only way to meet this standard. That’s because many minority contractors may not be able to afford the level of coverage required by the government authority and would be unable to bid on the project. If the owner/general contractor is providing all necessary coverage, this removes the obstacle of being unable to pay for insurance that would prevent an MBE or WBE from bidding.

Aside from potential cost savings, wrap-up programs can also provide a measure of asset protection for owners.  With most construction projects, contractors are individually required to secure and maintain the minimum insurance required under their contract.  While owners may have a certificate of insurance to verify coverage, there is no guarantee at the time of a loss that the insurance will be in force, the coverage will be sufficient, or the necessary limits will be available due to the contractor’s claims activity at other projects. This is a critical aspect that is often overlooked during the decision making process.

Using Airbags Without Seat Belts Increases Risk of Spinal Cord Injury

The National Safety Council reports that significant cervical spine injuries can result from car crashes occurring at speeds as low as 5 miles an hour and that result in little or no damage to the car itself. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, the risk of injury increases when airbags are deployed during a crash and the driver and passengers aren’t wearing seat belts.

The cervical spine is the seven vertebrae of the spinal cord that comprise the neck. It can be damaged when it is compressed against the shoulders during a collision or when the head is violently jerked either backwards or forwards, causing injuries to the muscles and ligaments of the neck. The resulting neck sprain is commonly referred to as whiplash.

The research team, lead by Dr. William F. Donaldson III, used data gathered from a Pennsylvania trauma database to identify crashes resulting in spinal cord injuries from 1990 to 2002. They examined approximately 12,700 spinal injury patient records and of these, 5,500 were identified as either drivers or passengers who experienced fractures of the cervical spine.

After studying the cervical spine injury records, researchers found that drivers who were not wearing a seatbelt had a 54 percent rate of cervical spine fractures. However, drivers who used both an airbag and seatbelt had only a 42 percent rate of injury. After adjusting for other factors, the relative risk of cervical spine fracture was 70 percent higher for drivers using an airbag alone compared to drivers who used an airbag and seat belt.

The risk of cervical fracture was approximately seven times higher for passengers who used only an airbag. For both drivers and passengers, men were more likely than women to be injured when using an airbag alone.

Another important discovery the researchers made was that drivers and passengers who used an airbag alone were more severely injured than those who used both. They also spent more time in the intensive care unit and more total time in the hospital.

The results of the study indicate that drivers and passengers who use airbags without seatbelts have a higher rate of cervical spine fractures and have more severe injuries, including injuries to the chest, abdomen, and head. Dr. Donaldson and his team concluded that using a seatbelt with an airbag and maintaining at least 10 inches between the steering column and the sternum may decrease the severity of injuries in general, in addition to reducing the instances of airbag induced cervical spine injuries.

Don’t Be Tripped Up By an Overload: Use Electricity Wisely

Hidden among the many benefits of electricity are an equal amount of hazards.   The valuable resource that makes our lives run so smoothly can be dangerous if not treated with the utmost respect when it comes to safety.  It’s estimated that 40,000 residential fires each year are caused by faulty electrical systems or just general misuse of the system.1 Electrical systems become dangerous when circuits are constantly being overloaded.  Regularly taxing a circuit can eventually wear it out, causing it to overheat and possibly start an electrical fire. 

In most homes, electrical circuits are designed with the anticipated electrical load in mind.  Each circuit can only handle a specific amount of wattage so it is helpful to know the wattage each appliance or device in your home uses.  For example a hairdryer can draw about 1400 watts and a vacuum cleaner about 600 watts.

Problems can occur when too many appliances are plugged into the same circuit.   If the circuit overloads it will trip and shut off the flow of electricity.  When a fuse or circuit breaker trips, it is important to find the exact cause of the short and have it repaired.  It can be potentially hazardous to merely replace the fuse or flip the breaker switch without determining the cause.

Another potential danger is in the misuse of extension cords.  People often will use an extension cord with an adaptor to plug many devices into a single outlet, which could overload the circuit.  An extension cord should be used as a temporary measure not a permanent solution.  If more outlets are required in a certain area, have a professional electrician install them.

Additional safety measures you can implement include:

  • During home remodeling always use a licensed electrician for any additions of electrical circuits.
  • Use ground fault interrupters on circuits in bathrooms and around wet or damp areas.
  • Extension cords should be three-pronged. They should be kept away from high traffic areas and never be placed under carpets.
  • Using power strips with their own circuit breaker protection offers better protection when using multiple appliances or electronics.

Finally, it is important to ensure that each breaker or fuse clearly identifies the appliance serviced by that circuit and that the breaker box is accessible at all times. You should also know where to locate the main trip switch that shuts down power to your house.  In an emergency situation, you may not have time to find the right switch.


[1] “1997 Residential Fire Loss Estimates”, Consumer Product Safety Commission.


A Well-Designed Affirmative Action Plan Can Help You Avoid Discrimination Lawsuits

In an article titled Litigation Explosion, which appeared in the December 10, 2006 edition of the Arizona Daily Star, author Becky Pallack discusses a University of Arizona study that says employee lawsuits are on the rise:

“The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and found 95,115 claims of employment discrimination nationwide in 2005.Federal employment discrimination lawsuits are up 268 percent since 1991, rising at a rate nine times as fast as other types of federal civil litigation.”

The financial effect on business from this increase in litigation has been devastating:

“For employers, the fallout from the lawsuit boom is expensive. Employers facing discrimination lawsuits were ordered by courts to pay $101.3 million in 2005, up nearly 600 percent from $14.7 million in 1992; and employers paid another $271.6 million in settlements, up 130 percent since 1992.”

As if this wasn’t enough, the EEOC has begun a new initiative, E-RACE (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment), which is designed to improve the agency’s efforts to ensure workplaces are free of race and color discrimination. As part of this new strategy, the EEOC has said that it plans to “identify issues, criteria and barriers that contribute to race and color discrimination, explore strategies to improve the administrative processing and the litigation of race and color discrimination claims, and enhance public awareness of race and color discrimination in employment.”

With this increased emphasis on workplace discrimination, it is more important than ever to develop an effective affirmative action plan. Here are some tips to help you design a road map for ending discriminatory practices in your company:

·   Show commitment – Determine your diversity goals, make a plan to reach those goals, and then work the plan to its conclusion.

·   Identify the specific inequities you want to address – Before you create your diversity plan, perform the analysis required by law to identify what imbalances exist between the makeup of your workforce and the diversity of the workforce in the surrounding area. These are the areas your plan needs to address.

·   Perform an analysis of barriers to success – You will need to list what barriers to diversity exist in your business before you can create an effective affirmative action program. Start by asking yourself if individuals from a particular class are underrepresented in a job category. If the answer is “yes,” you need to figure out why. Is it because you recruit through word of mouth, which may be perpetuating your company’s homogeneous workforce? Where do you conduct interviews for new employees? Is it accessible to all types of applicants? If you advertise in newspapers, are they readily available to different ethnic populations?

·   Target the specific practice(s) that need altering – The corrective measures you select must be designed to remedy the imbalances identified in your assessment. If your company’s interview process puts minority candidates at a disadvantage, then focus on recruiting practices. If you have a lack of inclusion in a job category because you cannot find employees with the necessary skill set, then consider a more proactive job-training program.

·   Specify a timetable to accomplish goals – Have a clear picture of what the program needs to accomplish, and when that progress needs to take place. The ultimate success of your program is dependent upon having a quantifiable time line that clearly establishes the date by which each of your goals will be accomplished.

House Fires do Happen: Take Steps to Prevent a Fire in Your Home

According to the American Red Cross, 80% of Americans don’t realize that home fires are the single most common disaster in our country.  In fact, each year fire kills more U.S. citizens than all other natural disasters combined. However, most people aren’t aware of this because house fires are “silent disasters,” seldom receiving the same publicity as floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.

Another little known fact is that very few fires are caused by natural events such as lightning or static electricity. The American Red Cross says that faulty appliances and faulty wiring cause the greatest number of house fires. The second most common source is heating devices such as kerosene heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces. These devices cause fires when furniture, boxes or clothing are placed too near to them, and the material overheats and bursts into flames. Although human error is often the catalyst for house fires, human preparedness can prevent them.

Here are some tips to keep your family and property safe:

* Purchase only quality household equipment that has been tested by Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) or other appropriate testing facilities.

*Be certain that  household equipment is installed by a technician who has been trained how to properly install, and also knows the appropriate building code requirements for the installation.

*Have your electrical wiring and heating periodically checked to be sure they are in proper working condition.

*If an appliance is behaving erratically, don’t operate it.  Instead, call a qualified repairman to find the problem and correct it.

*Control the amount of combustible material in your home by removing cardboard boxes, newspapers, old mattresses, rags, leftover paint and other items that are no longer in use. In fact, you should periodically inspect the attic and the cellar to be sure that you aren’t storing any combustible materials that should be discarded.

*Check the type of wall finishes in your home to ensure they aren’t conducive to spreading a fire. Plaster and gypsum board retard fire growth. Plywood paneling made of compressed wood pulp, known as beaverboard, accelerates the spread of fire in dwellings.

*Place fire extinguishers so they are readily available in the event a fire starts. It is important to understand what type of fire extinguisher to use:

-Class A extinguishers can be used to put out fires in wood, rubber, cloth, and paper.

-Class B CO2 or foam-filled extinguishers can be used for fires in flammable liquids, greases and gases.

-Class C CO2 or foam-filled extinguishers can be used for fires in energized electrical equipment.

-Halon can be used on any type of fire.

*It is of utmost importance to put a smoke detector in every room.

*Schedule regular practice fire drills. Be sure children are completely familiar with the correct way to evacuate in the event of a fire.

*Don’t let your family be the victim of this “silent disaster.” Become familiar with these fire prevention tips and put them into practice.

Preventing MRSA Infections on the Job

Americans have become increasingly aware of the “superbug” MRSA (methicillin-resistantstaphylococcus aureus) because of the number of outbreaks that have been reported among school children. However, most people don’t realize that adults are just as susceptible to getting a MRSA infection at work.

To avoid becoming infected, you need to understand what the disease is, and how to prevent it. MRSA is a type of “staph” infection. Staph is a bacterium commonly found on the skin or in the nose of healthy people; however, it can sometimes cause an infection. In fact, staph bacteria are among the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. When these infections are minor, they appear as pustules and boils, and can be easily treated without antibiotics. When the bacteria cause serious infections, such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections or pneumonia, they need to be treated with antibiotics.

MRSA isresistant to a type of antibiotic called methicillin and is often resistant to other antibiotics, too. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), between 25% and 30% of the population have staph bacteria present on their bodies, but it isn’t causing disease, and about 1% of the population carry MRSA that is not causing an infection.

The most common way a MRSA infection is transmitted is by direct skin-to-skin contact. It also can be contracted by coming into contact with items or surfaces that have been touched by someone carrying the infection. Although a MRSA infection can happen anywhere, these five conditions can facilitate its transmission:

1.   Overcrowding-working in close surroundings in which there are frequent incidents of rubbing against or touching co-workers.

2.   Direct contact-coming into frequent skin-to-skin contact with co-workers.

3.   Compromised skin-having an open cut or abrasion in which the bacteria can settle.

4.   Contaminated surfaces-commonly used surfaces such as a cafeteria table that may have been infected by someone with the disease.

5.   Lack of cleanliness-failure to frequently disinfect commonly used areas in a facility.

You may not be able to control how much contact you have with co-workers, but you can take steps to protect yourself. Here is what NIOSH recommends:

·      Cover your wound.  Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping the infection covered also will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with the regular trash.

·      Clean your hands. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing a bandage or touching an infected wound.

·      Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as uniforms, personal protective equipment, clothing, towels, washcloths or razors that may have had contact with an infected wound or bandage.

·      Clean work clothing properly. Wash soiled uniforms and work clothing with water and laundry detergent. Dry clothes in a hot dryer, rather than by air-drying, to help kill bacteria in the clothes.

·      Clean contaminated equipment and surfaces with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants.  This is an effective way to remove MRSA from the environment. Because cleaners and disinfectants can be irritating and exposure has been associated with health problems such as asthma, it is important to read the instruction labels on all cleaners to make sure they are used safely and appropriately. The EPA provides a list of EPA-registered products effective against MRSA, which can be found by logging on to https://epa.gov/oppad001/chemregindex.htm.

Help bring MRSA under control in your workplace by following these precautions.

Separate Households: Whose Insurance Covers the Kids’ Accidents?

Michael and Maureen divorced after 18 years of marriage and agreed to joint custody of their three children. Their 11 year-old son Mikey is riding his bike one afternoon with some friends and not paying full attention to the road in front of him. A five year-old child chasing a ball runs into the road and Mikey strikes her with his bike, causing her to fall and break her arm. The child’s furious parents sue both Michael and Maureen for compensation for her injuries and trauma.

Not long after, their 16 year-old son Mark gets his drivers license. One evening while driving home, he swerves to avoid a deer in the road, loses control, and plows into two parked cars. Both cars are relatively new; the repair bills come to thousands of dollars.

Because Michael and Maureen now have separate households, they each have their own auto and homeowner’s insurance policies. Are both parents responsible for the children’s actions? Is only the parent who had custody at the time of the accident responsible? And whose insurance pays for the damages? Will either policy pay? With the increasing prevalence of two-household families and blended families, the question of which parent (and, therefore, which insurance policy) is responsible for a child’s actions has become more common. The answer is not always clear.

A standard homeowner’s policy covers the people named on it (the named insureds); household residents who are either relatives of the named insureds or under age 21 and in the care of a named insured or relative; and full-time college students who are either relatives of the named insureds and under age 24 or others in the care of a household resident and under age 21. A standard auto policy covers the named insureds and “family members” (residents of the household related to the named insureds by blood, marriage, or adoption, including ward or foster children.) Michael and Maureen have joint custody of their children. In which parent’s household are the children residents?

State laws and courts have answered this question in a variety of ways. For example, states such as New York have established “dual residency”; that is, a person can be a legal resident of multiple households at the same time. However, other states such as Montana have laws prohibiting dual residency. Some courts start with the custody awarded in the divorce decree but also consider how the parents are actually handling custody. A New Jersey court found that a child had dual residency, despite the mother having legal custody, because both parents had actual custody at different times. The judge ruled that both parents’ homeowner’s policies applied to the child.

Other states have ruled that no one factor determines residency; a court must look at multiple factors. A Georgia court devised an approach that measures custody time and focuses on whether there is in fact more than one household. New Jersey courts look at both measurable factors and qualitative factors, such as whether people in the household function together as family members.

If Michael and Maureen live in a dual residency state, both their homeowner’s and auto policies may cover the accidents their children have. Policy terms explain how they share loss payments for these incidents. In other states, the solution may be more complicated. A court may weigh several factors and assign residency to only one of the households, requiring one parent’s insurance to pay for the loss. Since the outcome in these situations is uncertain, the best thing for divorced parents to do is to make sure they have plenty of insurance provided by financially strong companies.

Crime Prevention Tips for Your Business

There are a number of simple preventative measures any business owner can employ to reduce crime. Consider the following tips and suggestions.


Robbery Safeguards

·  Ensure that your establishment is well lit from both within and without.

·   Avoid cluttering your front windows with bulky displays or signs.

·   Keep the cash register near the front of the store in a visible location that can be seen by both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

·   Conduct bank deposits on an irregular basis. Deposits should also be performed during business hours and as often as necessary.

·   Maintain a minimal float to be kept in the register at any particular time. Place excess funds in a safe which cannot be accessed by other employees. Clearly display your cash register minimal funds policy.

·   Train your employees in robbery procedure and especially emphasize cooperation with the robber by handing over the till cash without objection or hesitation to prevent injury. 

Burglary Safeguards

·   Use deadbolt lock systems for all exterior and interior security doors.

·   Remove obstacles to make the interior of your business visible to the outside.

·   Install mesh covered exterior lights for all access points and have adequate interior lighting when the store is closed.

·   Leave your cash register open and empty.

·   Install glass which is burglary resistant or have metallic mesh or metal shutters covering the exterior of all windows.

·   Avoid leaving expensive items in display windows if visible to street traffic.

·   Use a safe that is not only well anchored but also fire proof. If the safe is empty then leave it open at closing time.

·   Alter the safe combination and/or alarm code with the departure of any employee who had knowledge of either.

·   Perform a thorough check of all windows, doors, alarm systems and interior of the business at closing time.

·   Eliminate exterior blind spots that might offer concealment to a potential burglar.

·   Research and seek knowledgeable professional assistance to install an alarm or video surveillance system suitable to the needs of your business. 

Reducing Vandalism

·   Install good exterior lighting to illuminate potential areas which may be vandalized or spray painted.

·   Clean up exterior graffiti as soon as possible. Try to employ paint resistant material or prohibit access to the exterior of the building with prickly hedges or shrubbery, or even metal fencing.

·   Prevent access to stairwells or other exterior blind spots which might conceal vandalism activities. 

Reduce Shoplifting

·   Identify and eliminate blind spots within your business.

·   Train employees how to identify potential shoplifters and the methods they employ.

·   Have only one point of entry and exit where possible and place the sales counter near the exit. Have your register manned or locked at all times.

·   Use concave mirrors or video surveillance at strategic points within your business.

·   Lock up all small, expensive items in display cases which can only be accessed by designated employees.

·   Do not place merchandise too closely to exits to prevent ‘grab and dash’.

·   Clearly display store policies about the number of dressing room items and indicate that you have a video monitoring system in place. Clearly indicate that shoplifters will be prosecuted.

·   Do not allow employees to congregate.

·   Use bar codes and inventory control equipment and/or theft prevention devices at the exits.

Protecting Your Home from Strong Winds

Severe weather can produce strong winds that can seriously damage your home and threaten your family’s safety.  Unpredictable wind gusts can change direction and speed quickly and threaten the integrity of a building’s structure.  During high winds storms, flying debris can prove lethal. 

By maintaining a “tight seal,” keeping the outside wind from getting into your home, you may be able to keep your home safe from this type of damage and reduce the possibility of someone getting injured.


The following items can reduce the chance of your home being lifted off its foundation by providing uplift resistance:

  • Anchor bolts with heavy-gauge, square bolt washers can be installed during new home construction or added in existing homes to connect the floor construction to the foundation.
  • Plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) can connect the wall and floor components if properly nailed and installed.
  • Metal bracing connecting roof trusses or rafters to the wall framing.


Sheathing should be properly sized and nailed to comply with applicable building codes. Install underlayment material, such as asphalt-saturated felt. Provide separate, secondary water infiltration protection by sealing roof deck joints with a self-adhering modified roofing underlayment (thin rubber/asphalt sheets with peel and stick undersides located beneath the roof covering).

Roofing products with high wind resistance are available. Discuss with a contractor what measures can be taken to ensure the installation of your roof will be completed with high winds in mind. Insist they use hot-dipped, galvanized nails instead of staples to attach asphalt shingles.


To protect against flying debris, windows and glass doors can be fitted with impact-resistant laminated glass or covered with impact-resistant shutters.

Entry Doors

Solid wood or hollow metal doors are more wind resistant and are better equipped to handle wind pressure and flying debris.

Reinforce protection of entry doors by:

  • Making sure your doors have at least three hinges and a deadbolt security lock with a minimum bolt throw of at least one inch.
  • Consider not using double-entry doors, but if you do, install head and foot bolts on the inactive door of double-entry doors.
  • Since double-entry doors fail when surface bolts break at the header trim or threshold, check connections at both places. The surface bolt should extend through the door footer and through the threshold into the sub floor.

Garage Doors

Garage doors are especially vulnerable to damage during high winds, unless your doors are properly braced.

  • If building a new home, consider installing horizontally braced, singlewide garage doors instead of double overhead doors.
  • For existing homes, check with your garage door manufacturer for availability of retrofit bracing kits.
  • Garage door panels, especially for doublewide doors, may require both horizontal and vertical bracing to ensure stability.

Safe Rooms

It is a good idea to have a room in your home to go to in the event of a high wind storm.  If your home has a basement consider constructing a safe room, but if this is not possible then stay on the ground floor.  A safe room is constructed with reinforced floors, walls and ceilings and can be designed for both new and existing homes.  It will provide you with a safe haven during a major storm.

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are especially vulnerable during high winds since they are not built on a permanent foundation.  While tie-downs can help they secure the frame, not the entire house and they can also weaken over time leaving the home susceptible to damage. The home’s foundation-to-wall or wall-to-roof connections may be compromised in the wind. Failure in either of these areas could result in a complete loss of the home.  A safe alternative might be a community storm shelter or other permanent structure to ensure your safety.

Pay Attention – Driving Distracted Could Be Your Demise

At one point in time a vehicle was a means to take us from point ‘a’ to point ‘b.’ Nowadays we not only travel in our vehicles, we eat meals in them, conduct business in them, read in them, watch TV in them, listen to cds and, of course, talk on the phone.     Cars are being equipped with more and more gadgets to seemingly make our life easier.  In the midst of this progress, we neglect to realize that easier isn’t always better, or, as in the case of driving while distracted, safer.  While perfecting the ‘skill’ of multi-tasking we sometimes forget that our vehicle is potentially a lethal weapon.

As with many common tasks for most of us driving a car is second nature.  Because of this most people feel that it is safe to perform various tasks while driving.  Accident statistics tell us otherwise.   We know from research that just thinking about things other than the road ahead has the same effect as removing your eyes from the road.  When you actually take your eyes off the road to perform a task, the distance you travel is longer than you would think, especially when traveling at a high speed.  It is usually far enough to hit someone or something that is suddenly placed in front of you.  When you look away from the road you are merely speculating that nothing in your path will change until you resume the task of driving.  When you do this you are gambling with your life and the lives of others.

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety estimates that, nationwide, somewhere between 4,000 to 8,000 crashes daily happen as the result of distracted drivers.  A National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) survey revealed that 60% of cell phone usage takes place behind the wheel. 

While we may understand the risks we also know that our lives do not suddenly slow down because we want them to.  So what do we do?  Take steps to make our traveling safer and also take a minute to realize that the time to accomplish 10 different tasks isn’t when we are behind the wheel.

Some steps toward a safer commute include:

·  Use a hands free device when making calls and dial the number when the vehicle is stationary.

·  Do not answer phone calls during hazardous driving situations.

·  Be familiar with the controls on your car’s stereo system so that you can make adjustments with considerable ease.

·  Pull over to conduct business or finish challenging discussions.

·  Never attempt to look for lost items or retrieve an item off the floor while driving.

·  Be familiar with and adjust vehicle controls before starting out on a trip. 

·  Avoid eating, drinking and smoking while driving.

The life you save may not only be your own.  Saving time is not nearly as important as staying alive.