Fire Safety in The Workplace

Office fires are responsible for approximately hundreds of deaths each year and thousands of injuries. That’s according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), tracking workplace safety and hazards. OSHA identified inadequate prevention measures, inaccessible exits, and poor training likely contributed to these numbers. Many fires can be prevented and the right training can help employees escape in case of danger. Evaluating current fire prevention measures, equipping facility and staff with responsive equipment, and incorporating employee training can all help reduce risk and injury from office fires.

1. Evaluate

The first step in improving fire response and prevention is to inspect and evaluate the workspace for any potential hazards for causing fires or preventing escape. Be sure to check:

  • Electrical wiring. Overuse of extension cords and power strips can lead to potential fire risk. They also create trip hazards. Seek safe and permanent solution for electrical needs.
  • Storage. Flammable materials have special storage instructions for preventing fires. Establish safe storage and ventilation procedures around the office or job site.
  • Smoking areas. Designated smoking areas and cigarette-butt collection containers reduce the risk of accidental fire.
  • Tools and appliances. Some tools and appliances have greater electrical requirements which may contribute to electrical fires if used in an unsafe manner. Check for the UL safety mark before turning plugging tools and appliances into electrical sockets.
  • Exits. Check for the proper number of building and room exits and clear for ease of use.
  • Emergency lighting. Check emergency lighting for function.

After evaluating current measures and practices improvements and additions can be made.

2. Equip

Lighting, sprinkler systems and alarms, and fire extinguishers all contribute to workplace safety. Depending on the size and layout of a workplace a combination of safety measures may help reduce risk. Fire extinguishers are an affordable and simple way to improve employee safety and reduce the risk of fire.

Different types of fire extinguishers are available for fighting different types of potential fires in the workplace. Individual requirements will help determine the right type of fire extinguisher for the workspace:

  • Type A: Fights fires made from wood and paper materials.
  • Type B: Extinguishes fires caused by flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and industrial solvents.
  • Type C: Fights electrical fires.
  • Type D: Fights fires related to combustible metals like magnesium, potassium, and titanium.
  • Type K: Fights kitchen and grease fires.

Follow the regular maintenance schedule to keep fire extinguishers operable and ready in case of fire. Maintain access to fire extinguishers at all times.

3. Train

Equipment and training go together. Teach staff on fire responsive measures and hold regular safety training to keep employees safe. Employee fire safety training can be structured to include training on:

  • Finding and triggering fire alarms.
  • Locating and identifying safe exits.
  • Selecting and operating fire extinguishers.

Employers and staff should always place safety first. Train employees to evacuate any time they feel unsafe, the fire is too large, or exit may be threatened by remaining.

To learn more about workplace fire prevention and for other safety information, contact an agent. Fire prevention affects insurance premiums and coverage. Add safety measures and reduce risk. For more information about commercial fire insurance or for answers to insurance questions, call today.

Financial Care for Special Needs Adult Children

Caring for adult special-needs children requires constant research and attention. As parents age, continuing care for older children may be a challenge. As we age more focus on personal health takes precedence. Caring for adult special-needs children may become more challenging. Preparing for the future of care can help create a financial and family support system for your special-needs child. Create a plan with these 5 steps for ongoing special-needs care:

1: Make it a family decision.

For parents of adult special-needs children able to communicate, include them in the process. Each family will be different and finding strengths and areas where help is necessary can help. Their employment, personal financial responsibility, and a network of caregivers will all affect future planning. A clear understanding of capabilities and requirements can help in forming a plan.

2. Create a support system.

Establishing responsible legal guardianship creates support for medical and financial matters. This gives parents control over the designated party. Before appointing a guardian clearly define the role and responsibilities.

3. Plan your estate.

An estate plan will make sure special-needs children are properly cared for. A will legally ensure wishes are followed and children are cared for. Depending on the level of care required, provisions can be included to pay for caregivers and treatment. Other options including trusts can funnel inheritance while maintaining government or state benefits for your child.

4. Create a savings plan.

Save for the future with tax-advantageous savings plans for parents of special-needs children. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) of 2014 established savings plans to help special needs children. Amounts withdrawn to pay healthcare, education, legal and other expenses are exempt from taxes. Anyone can deposit allowing family and friends to contribute.

5. Plan living arrangements.

For parents of adult special-needs children living at home, a plan for future living arrangements will be necessary. Planning ahead gives parents control over selecting appropriate and risk-free environments capable of supporting their special-needs child. Changes in employment, income, and relationships can affect future arrangements when left to chance. Establishing a legal plan will arrange for the right care in the right place.

Planning ahead gives peace of mind today and ensures ongoing care for the future for the whole family. For more on planning or for answers to questions call today.

Disability Insurance as a Safety Net

Disability Insurance Form Contract Concept

People are natural optimists. For most unthinkable situations the general response is: “it can’t happen to me”. In truth, disabilities can affect anyone ranging from mild to debilitating. Disability insurance is a type of protection paying a portion of income in case of disability. The majority of American workers lack disability insurance and many are unaware the coverage is available. LIMRA, a group of financial and insurance professionals conducted a recent survey on employee insurance protection. 65% of respondents recommended disability insurance for employees, yet only 48% felt a personal need. Of those, a mere 20% actually carried disability insurance leaving the vast majority at-risk in case of the unexpected.

The annual benefits open season is here. Disability insurance may be something to think about adding to benefits packages to add a safety net to coverage. As companies become more competitive with recruitment, this may be an automatic enrollment for many employees. Check with a human resources representative to see about automatic coverage; there may be new additions to benefits packages this season. Disability insurance may be less-glamorous than some other benefits out there yet the payoffs may far outweigh them. Disability insurance is a safety net for truly, often compensating up to 50-60% of annual revenue while disabled.

Individual policy protection will vary depending on the insurance carrier and company options. Many long-term disability insurance policies have a waiting period before taking effect, in some cases up to six months. For protection during this period, short-term disability policies fill the gap. A broken arm or illness can affect weeks or months of work and income yet cancers and musculoskeletal afflictions can last years. Most people lack the savings to support the lost income through this time.

According to the Social Security Administration, 25% of those entering the workforce will be disabled prior to reaching retirement. At one-in-four odds, chances are high enough to consider adding a layer of protection. A 2015 survey by the Federal Reserve Board found nearly half of Americans lack emergency savings. Asked about a hypothetical $400 emergency expense, 46% of those surveyed claimed inability to match that amount. Months or years of lost income due to serious illness or disability would likely cripple them.

A growing number of companies include disability insurance as part of employee packages. LIMRA states 41% of companies offer disability insurance with larger companies leading the way. Depending on the organization, this may be a voluntary option or paid incentive. For employees paying their own premium, the cost is generally affordable with annual costs as low as $250-$300. Employees paying a premium with post-tax income may have more coming in the future if a claim is filed. Employees paying policy premiums may qualify for tax-free benefit payouts in case of a claim.

The benefits of paying for a policy come with a catch, says Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness. She worries employees, when faced with a long list of insurance options, tend to skip disability coverage in favor of more-attractive or less-expensive options. The solution may lie in auto-enrollment into voluntary programs. Leaving it to the employee to opt-out increases participation up to 45% more than opt-in disability insurance programs. Enrolling early is recommended as more companies include health evaluations for coverage. Pre-existing health conditions may affect qualification for long-term disability insurance. Speak to an agent for more information on disability insurance and create a safety net for the future.

We’re always looking for new information on improving health and saving money. For more information on insurance options and protection contact an agent today.

Personal Auto Policy Voided Because of Business Driving

Entrepreneurs utilizing personal vehicles for business may want to consider extra insurance protection. Making deliveries and service calls with personal vehicles may limit insurance coverage. This can be true for accidents while working or while on personal business. A local small business owner learned this the hard way. On the way to visit a friend there was a collision resulting in significant damage to the vehicle. Although her personal policy would generally cover the damages the insurance company denied the claim. Personal auto insurance policies extend to protect many small business owners yet in some cases, vehicles employed for specific commercial purposes may be excluded from coverage.

Most small business owners are protected under personal auto insurance policies. In some cases though, the commercial purpose for the vehicle may limit or forfeit coverage. For cars and trucks performing deliveries, equipped with commercial license plates, carrying passengers and emergency vehicles extra insurance coverage is necessary. In this case, the driver owned a small business selling heaters and a small part of that included deliveries.

The owner recently switched insurance carriers online to save money. Checking the box during the quotation process, they reported 30% of the vehicle mileage related to business purposes. Reviewing the insurance claim and the business services after the collision, the claim and repayment were denied. Shocked, the business owner learned the limits of personal auto insurance protection too late. This leaves the owner with a damaged personal and business vehicle, without compensation from the auto insurer.

Business owners mixing personal and business trips with the same vehicle may want to consider extra insurance protection. For more information on personal and commercial auto insurance policies contact an agent. We’re always keeping up with insurance-related topics that may impact health or wallet. For any questions about insurance, call anytime for answers.

Have an Import Export Business Get This Insurance

Caring for staff is an important part of running a company. Depending on the state, insurance regulations vary. Standard business insurance policies include worker’s compensation and other liability coverage. For small businesses starting out, this may be enough coverage. For those in the export-import field there is extra protection available:

Credit-Risk Insurance for Exporters

Several export credit-risk policies are available courtesy of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im). Designed to both protect the insured and encourage expansion, these policies protect in case of buyer non-payment. They can also include protection from losses due to political, commercial, and natural influences. Policy options include:

  • Policies for Small Businesses. These policies are all-inclusive and available directly through Ex-Im. Umbrella policies are available and allow more-direct contact between owner and client for insurance matters. Income and export volume conditions apply; speak to an insurance agent for more information about small business policies for exporters.
  • Single-Buyer Short-Term insurance policies. Policies to protect single sales are available. For insurance for single shipments, speak to an agent about short-term export insurance protection.

These policy options are designed for small-medium sized companies with any level experience in the industry.

Cargo Insurance

For around one percent of the cost of transported good, cargo shipments are insurable for the worth of more than the cargo. Shipments are insured to compensate for time and profit-loss.

  • All-risk policies are the most inclusive, yet some restrictions apply. To access the most from a cargo insurance policy speak to an insurance agent.
  • General-average policies protect from transportation losses to other cargo from other exporters, included in the same shipment. Maritime regulations state all exporters utilizing the same ship bear the responsibility for all on-board contents. Tricky, right? Call an agent for more information.
  • Contingent insurance is there to cover gaps in insurance from other parties in a shipping transaction. Contingent insurance is the safety net for two-party transactions.

New exporters may wish to start small, yet as the company size grows so will risk. Policies can grow with the company.

Keeping Shipments Safe

There are a number of ways to help protect shipments before they head to sea. This can help reduce insurance claims, reducing premiums and costs as well.

  • Crate shipments for simple loading and unloading. Ports utilize forklifts, cranes, and other heavy equipment to load and unload cargo shipments. Packing shipments to withstand the loading and unloading process can limit and damages to the shipment.
  • Crate shipments for the high-seas. Oftentimes cargo is kept above-decks for exposure to the weather and sea-spray. The elements can wreak havoc on unsecured shipments, prepare for nature beforehand.
  • Crate shipments securely. During the transportation process, shipments may be left unattended. Reduce temptation by securing shipments with locks and other anti-theft measures.

Waterproof shipments when possible, and be liberal with the application of packing materials. Consider transportation routes and climates before crating, and always think safety first. For more information on insurance protection for exporter-importers contact an insurance agent today. Our agents are always on the lookout for ways to save money and promote health. Call anytime with any insurance-related questions.

The Silica Standard Fully Enforced

Construction builders will want to hear this: OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs is getting serious about the silica standard. In a recent memo, acting director Patrick J. Kapust says that as of October 2017, OSHA is going to enforce all the provisions of the silica standard. This can be challenging for some companies, as compliance and insurance costs can change.

The new standard creates guidelines for construction companies. Under the OSHA standard, exposure limits of 50 µg/m3 and an action level of 25 µg/m3 are the maximum allowable in an eight-hour period. This standard has been in place since September, allowing companies to conform to the new standard prior to official OSHA enforcement.

This memo is the interim directive while the final regulation language passes through the formal review process. Once the regulation is finalized it will replace this and any other related OSHA memos. Agents in the field will operate off the most-recently issued directive.

Several options for protecting against silica inhalation are available. Particle catchers, exhaust systems, and personal respirators all help protect employee respiratory health. This helps employees lead happy and healthy lives, and also reduces company insurance risk.

For more information on OSHA compliance for silica and other safety regulations, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at 1-800-321-OSHA. Industry regulations affect insurance premiums and requirements. For more information on how OSHA rulings affect construction companies contact an agent today. For insurance quotes, questions about coverage, or any other insurance matters call an agent anytime.

An Apple a Day…

There is something about fall and apples. Apple cider, apple pie, and the most fun of all: apple picking. Apples are full of delicious potential, yet the old saying about ‘an apple a day’ may be truer than most realize. Reduce visits to the doctor with these three great benefits from eating more apples:

1. Apples may help with weight loss.

A medium-sized apple has somewhere around 95 fiber-rich calories (around 18% the recommended daily value). Apples are more-filling, boasting a high water content. Fruit and vegetable flavonoids have been linked to a host of health benefits. The flavonoids in apples are strongly-correlated to helping with weight loss.

2. Apples may reduce cancer risk.

Research at Cornell found several substances within apple peels which inhibit cancer growth or in some cases, eliminate cancer cells completely. The study found strong relationships between apple peels and anti-cancer activity in the liver, colon, and breast. A number of other medical studies connect apple consumption to reduced risk for cancer.

3. Apples may reduce diabetes risk.

Multiple studies indicate a connection between apple intake and a reduced risk of type-two diabetes. This may be due to high levels of antioxidants found in apples. In China 2017, a study of 500,000 people found those eating daily fruit (mostly apples) were 12% less likely to develop type-two diabetes compared with those that never or rarely consumed fruit. Apples also contain quercetin, a plant-pigment aiding the body regulating insulin and blood sugar.

Apples, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle can help improve health and energy levels. Drink plenty of water and always consult a health professional before beginning a diet or exercise regimen. Agents are available to answer any insurance questions. Check back often for more on healthy and happy living.

Workplace Safety & Corporate Culture Go Hand in Hand

Small-business owners rely on strong employees. The challenge for nearly all is finding strong employees, to begin with. Today firms of all sizes are using creative strategies for attracting and retaining great talent. For many, this means unique vacation incentives and other tantalizing packages, yet often-overlooked is simply creating a safe work environment. A safe environment promotes well-being and productivity.

Insurance veteran David Quezada says it is important for management to prioritize safety. This protecting the workplace, staff, and any visitors. Mr. Chris Edmonds, the founder of The Purposeful Culture Group, concurs with thinking. Edmonds says managers ensuring a risk-free workplace will reap significant rewards. It is important organizations of any size to invest in safety and accountability measures. Safety should be the required standard.

They may be on to something. Research shows companies operating in positive, risk-free work-spaces outperform those working elsewhere. Customers respond well to safe employees, and the opposite holds true as well. Firms neglecting safety soon find the phone lines quiet.

Recent small-business research shows only 17% of employees receive adequate workplace safety training. That number is eclipsed by those without any training, a whopping 25% of respondents. Employees without training will have difficulty adhering to safety standards. Initial and ongoing safety training is recommended for companies of all sizes.

Edmonds underscored the importance of safety-related correlating safety with competence and security. Safe employees are shown to perform better. A culture of safety begins at the top and spreads throughout an organization. Safety classes, manuals, and other materials may be helpful for training and reference purposes. Safety is an ongoing conversation in which employees and management should be actively part. Respond to safety concerns swiftly.

Safety assessments are recommended to evaluate employee performance and knowledge of safety policies and procedures. Safety is an active consideration. An organization with a well-defined safety culture stands to gain. Safety always takes precedence over profits. Be ready to invest in tangible and intangible safety measures to improve workplace safety and morale. Safety is easily achieved with the right attitude and strategy.

Insurance-related topics have a surprisingly large bearing on health and finances. Call anytime for answers to insurance questions.

Want to Save More? Get Out of Your Own Way

Watching a friend run a marathon recently I was struck by the lack of outward competition. The runners seemed more determined to accomplish personal goals than on overtaking one another. There are of course those at the head of the pack competing for the win, yet the majority aimed only to cross the finish line. I couldn’t help but make the comparison between achieving financial goals and completing a marathon.

Setting long-term financial goals is a long race. Those trying to sprint wind up exhausted. There is one significant difference that stands out: people choose to run a marathon yet we are all in the financial race together. The race is long and will push many to the limit. The prize for completing the race is, instead of a medal, personal financial success.

Like running a long race, obstacles will arise and there will times when digging deep will be the only way to overcome. For runners, these moments are called breaking points. My friend says in marathons, it is mile 22 where the tank feels empty. The key to getting beyond that is to visualize the goal. Seeing the shorter distance to the goal rather than the longer distance completed makes finishing the final miles a little easier.

What is mile 22 in our financial lives? Anecdotally it seems that hits around the age of 50 for both men and women. At that age, most are settled into life. Children may be part of the picture with mounting education expenses. They’ve been a part of the workforce for some time and retirement can feel closer than ever. The reality is there are still a couple of miles left to go in the race.

A 2015 Transamerica retirement survey recommends that a 50-year-old maintain a steady account balance of $117,000. For many, that may be the eye-popping moment. In a marathon, there is always the option to throw in the towel and catch a ride to the finish line. In life, the financial race is lifelong and mandatory. Symbolically, age 50 represents the point where the remaining distance is shorter yet also the hardest. The good news is you’re still in the race.

The first thing to get a hold of are any pre-existing notions about organic financial health. Financial success is something earned; the chances finances will correct and improve on their own is, well, impossible. Often the opposite it the case requiring an effective defense as well. For all those important decisions put off until later, it’s time to finally take control of personal finances. Next, make active decisions to improve stability and security for the future. Several examples include increasing retirement account payments, paying mortgage balances on-time or early, and seeking alternative funding for children’s education. A positive financial mindset will make the rest of the race possible. See the finish line and visualize to materialize.

For any questions about insurance topics that may impact personal and financial health, call today.

The Future of Employee Health Insurance

The last two years have been a virtual health insurance battleground. The political fiasco surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) has many employees irked and asking where to look for health insurance protection. Entrepreneur Walt Rowen knows this all too well. Rowen owns a company engraving glass with over 70 employees and once switched from offering benefits, to referring employees to the health insurance exchange. Increasing premiums and an uncertain future lead Rowen to reclaim control, once again offering benefits through an umbrella program.

Employer-sponsored insurance protection is becoming once again popular. Health benefits are in high demand by the American worker even with the political turmoil surrounding them. Good employees are worth attracting. In a workforce where good talent is in high demand, companies aren’t willing to leave it up to the government. More companies are offering health benefits on their terms. In 2016 the Kaiser Family Members Foundation stated almost 96% of businesses with 50 or more employees offered coverage in 2014. By choice, almost 35% of businesses with less than 50 did as well.

In Rowen’s opinion, companies are unlikely to abandon health coverage completely. This would, in his opinion, likely lead to mass exits as employees find better alternatives; this is especially so in states with a weak Affordable Care Act market. Since the future of the ACA remains uncertain, the government is likely to continue enforcing companies with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance coverage.

The Trump administration pledged to continue working with Congress to write effective health care legislation. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the ACA mandated many people pay for services they were unable to afford. At present, the White House is considering continuing cost-sharing aid, a premium-reducing benefit. Take it away and it’s estimated premiums will increase and insurance firms will leave markets completely.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found 61% of those surveyed opposed revoking the ruling, including 58% who identify as Republicans. Since World War Two, when Congress granted tax exemption to benefits, health coverage has been the national standard. Today nearly 90% of employees work for companies with health and wellness benefits, according to the Kaiser Family study in 2016. When dependents are included in that figure, nearly half of Americans are covered under employer programs.

William Kramer, executive director for national health policy for the Pacific Business Group on Health, agrees with Rowen that large companies must keep workers happy and would be unwise to cut benefits. This finding has many thinking it’s likely businesses will continue to. On top of that, reduced unemployment and a competitive workforce drive companies to offer benefits far beyond the ACA requirements. Even if the mandate to offer coverage is removed, experts suspect many companies will carry on offering benefits.

Glass company owner Walt Rowen said his decision to reinstate on medical insurance had less to do requirements. For Rowen, the decision to bring benefits back has more to do with staff retention and overhead expenses. There was a time when it made more sense to pay the fine, rather than pay for benefits. Packages are more affordable today, and the competition for good talent is strong. The turmoil and fallout from the ACA make it more affordable to offer benefits today than in previous years. For Rowen, the expenses involved are a worthy investment. He is sure if employees found a less-expensive plan, or a company offering health insurance where he wasn’t, staff would understandably take the offer.

We’re always looking for interesting information that may affect health and happiness. Call an agent today for any insurance-related questions.

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