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Monthly Archives

June 2017

An Alert Driver is a Safe Driver

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

Going for a drive or riding in a car can be a relaxing experience, but drivers need to remain alert when behind the wheel. Although anyone could fall asleep while driving, certain target populations are more prone to having accidents because of falling asleep.

For instance, men are twice as likely as women to have an accident due to drowsiness. Teenagers, who love burning the candle at both ends, are another group with the potential to doze off while driving. In fact, teenagers and their 20-something counterparts are less likely to admit to being too fatigued to drive and will often get in the driver’s seat, even if they shouldn’t.

Naturally, there are work-related reasons that contribute to falling asleep while driving. Shift workers who work nights or rotating shifts often have trouble sleeping because their inner clock may be off kilter. Commercial drivers have an increased exposure to accidents as a result of driving during the late night and early morning hours when their biological clock tells them that they should be sleeping.

What can you do to help prevent yourself or a loved one from becoming a statistic? The best solution is a nap that lasts for about 20 minutes before you drive. Although many Americans do not allocate time for an afternoon rest, napping is a normal part of the human sleep-wake cycle. There is a biological tendency to fall asleep in mid-afternoon.

In certain parts of the world, mid-afternoon activities are brought to a halt so that people can take advantage of their natural tendency to sleep. This kind of nap that is taken before the afternoon work period begins is looked upon as a restorative activity, not idling away time that could be better spent doing other tasks.

Napping is even more important if your sleep is disturbed the night before, or you actually slept for fewer hours than your body requires. Napping the next day can help relieve your sleepiness and enhance your ability to remain alert.

The other factors to remember are that most sleep related accidents happen in non-urban areas, generally on roads with 55 mph-65 mph speed limits. When combining the restful quiet of a suburban setting with the steady pace of that speed limit, you have the makings of a situation in which a driver could easily be lulled into sleep. Also, the early morning hours are a particularly vulnerable time for drivers on extended runs.

The best remedy for these conditions is periodic rest stops in designated rest areas. Interrupting your driving for a 20-30 minute nap can make all the difference in restoring your alertness and your responsiveness. Avoid becoming a grim highway statistic. Take the time you need, and protect yourself and others on the road.

Tips for Safety In Distribution Centers

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

Safety in distribution centers is your top priority at work. After all, going home in one piece at the end of the day is as important as fulfilling orders. You can do your part to ensure safety in distribution centers when you follow these tips.

Evaluate Each Area

Most distribution centers have potential hazards in dozens of areas. Check each area regularly to remove potential hazards in:

  • Housekeeping
  • Storage height
  • Aisle width
  • Fire protection
  • Hazardous product storage

Train Everyone

While your company may employ a safety manager, everyone is responsible for safety in distribution centers. Train all employees to spot and remove or report hazards and to follow safety protocols at all times, even before and after work or during breaks.

Obtain Proper Safety Certifications

Everyone who operates equipment or works around hazardous materials must obtain the proper certifications. That training includes safety lessons and protects everyone on the job.

Talk About Safety in Distribution Centers

Prioritize safety conversations as often as possible. Ask your co-workers if they’re having a safe day, encourage them to stay safe and discuss safety numbers as you maintain a safe job site.

Take Charge of Safety in Your Area

You may not be the distribution center’s safety manager, but you are responsible to exercise safety precautions. Be an example of safe practices for everyone else as you protect the entire center.

Cooperate With Safety Drills

Safety drills ensure everyone knows how to react in an emergency. Enthusiastically cooperate with these drills, and encourage your co-workers to participate as you promote safety in distribution centers.

Clean Your Work Station

Keep your work station clean. If you spill something, pick it up so no one slips, and encourage your co-workers to clean their work stations, too.

Maintain Proper Posture

As you perform your duties, maintain proper posture and prevent injuries.

  • Use proper lifting techniques.
  • Avoid twisting.
  • Use an order picker, pulleys, carts and mechanized equipment as necessary.

Protect Visitors

It’s your job to keep your customers, colleagues and visitors safe when they’re on your property. Provide hard hats, ear protection and non-slip shoes if appropriate, and brief delivery drivers and vendors on safety procedures. Chaperone visitors, too, so they stay safe as they navigate your facility.

Confront Unsafe Behavior

When you see a co-worker acting in an unsafe manner, talk to them about it. Make sure they know what they should be doing as you partner together to promote a safe work environment.

Keep Improving

While your distribution center may have earned safety records, there’s always room for improvement. Push your team to continue learning about safety protocols and focusing on safety in distribution centers.

Safety in distribution centers is everyone’s responsibility. Do your part by following these 11 tips.

Explore Auto Shop Workers Compensation Options

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

Workers’ Compensation is insurance coverage most employers must purchase. It provides numerous benefits for employees and helps them return to work after a work-related injury or illness. Explore auto shop Workers’ Compensation options for your business.

What is Auto Shop Workers’ Compensation?

An employee who sustains an injury or suffers from an illness while on the job can claim Workers’ Compensation. It pays for medical treatment and other expenses until the employee can safely return to work.

Types of Auto Businesses that Qualify for Auto Shop Workers Compensation Options

Numerous auto industries may purchase Workers’ Compensation. They include:

  • Sellers and Dealers of new and used vehicles
  • Service and Repair Centers that perform repair or service work on mufflers, brakes, engines and other auto parts, including auto dealers, glass replacement or tinting companies and car washes
  • Body Repair businesses that work on fiberglass, metal or plastic or perform dent removal, upholstery services and painting
  • Parts Stores, including retail and wholesale parts and accessories stores and drivers
  • Machine Shops that fabricate, manufacture or rebuild parts that aren’t attached to a vehicle
  • Recycling and Drivers in salvage yards or dismantling operations

What Are Your Auto Shop Workers Compensation Options?

State guidelines include details on the specific auto shop Workers’ Compensation options available to your auto business. Possible expenses covered by Workers’ Compensation include:

    1. Medical Treatment

      Injured or ill employers receive medical treatment, including:

      • Medical services
      • Emergency room and other hospital treatment
      • Surgery
      • Medicine and medical supplies
      • Lab testing and procedures
      • Orthopedic appliances and prostheses
      • Physical or occupational therapy

 

    1. Payments for Lost Wages

      Employees who are disabled or unable to return to work may receive a portion of their lost wages.

 

    1. Specific Loss Benefits

      An employee who suffers from a serious and permanent face, neck or head disfigurement or loses the permanent use of sight, hearing or a finger, thumb, hand, arm, toe, foot or leg may receive a specific loss amount.

 

    1. Death Benefits

      An employee’s survivors may receive a death benefit if the employee is killed on the job.

 

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation

    Training and education that helps an injured or ill employee return to work may be covered by Workers’ Compensation. Benefits may also pay for an evaluation, retraining and other expenses associated with helping an employee qualify to work in a different job or industry.

Auto shop Workers’ Compensation options is important coverage that ensures employees receive necessary medical treatment that allows them to return to work as quickly as possible. It also protects auto businesses. Explore your auto shop Workers’ Compensation options and update your coverage as you meet your needs.

Maintain OSHA Compliance

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

OSHA compliance is essential for your small business. By law, you’re required to provide a safe workplace for your employees, and you want to ensure everyone on your team stays safe. Maintaining OSHA compliance can be complicated, though. Follow eight tips and take the guesswork out of OSHA compliance in your small business’s daily operations.

Understand OSHA Regulations

While OSHA is operated by the federal government, states also establish OSHA regulations. You’re responsible to follow both the federal and state guidelines. In cases, where the federal and state guidelines differ, follow the stricter guidelines to ensure your business is compliant.

Hire a Safety Officer

Safety is the job of every employee, but your designated safety officer is the go-to person for safety plans, training and compliance. Hire a safety officer or designate an employee to take on this responsibility for your business.

A safety officer’s duties will include:

  • Stay updated on OSHA regulations.
  • Create an employee safety plan.
  • Train employees on OSHA standards.
  • Identify and correct hazards.
  • Assess compliance.
  • Oversee the safety committee.

Train Employees

All of your employees, from officer personnel to warehouse workers, must know and follow OSHA guidelines. Take three steps as you ensure your employees maintain OSHA compliance every day.

  • Train new employees on required safety protocols.
  • Provide regular safety trainings for all employees.
  • Implement an open door policy where employees can ask questions or report hazards without repercussions.

Encourage a Safety Culture

Every employee should know that they’re an important part of your small business’s safety culture. They should see that you prioritize safety, and they should know that their contribution to safety is valued. Make safety part of your everyday conversations and reward safe behavior with incentives as you encourage a safety culture.

Update Equipment

Fire extinguishers expire, non-slip flooring wears out and safety signs can fade. Update all your safety equipment regularly to ensure it operates properly.

Also, update equipment and your building as needed. Worn floors, broken door handles and loose stair railings are all safety hazards that must be fixed.

Perform Safety Drills

Every employee should know how to exit the building if a fire starts and what to do during a chemical spill. Perform regular safety drills as you help everyone stay safe.

Investigate Safety Violations

When you see or hear about potential safety violations, investigate immediately. Then make necessary changes as you ensure OSHA compliance.

Take OSHA Compliance Seriously

In the midst of daily operations, it’s easy to overlook safety. However, you must take OSHA compliance seriously. Investigate every complaint, know the law and encourage safe operations as you take compliance seriously.

With these eight tips, your small business maintains OSHA compliance. Your employees stay safe and you follow the law, too.

Proving a Safer Work Environment

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

One of the best ways to protect workers in a particular job is to conduct a job hazard analysis. This simple but powerful technique identifies hazards before they occur, focusing on the relationships among the worker, task, tools and equipment, and the work environment. Once you’ve identified job hazards, you can eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.

This is a relatively easy task, although it takes time to analyze hazards for each job category and each step in the job. You also have to do some digging into past performance.

Priority should go to jobs with the highest injury or illness rates; the potential to cause severe or disabling injuries or illness through simple human error, complex enough to require written instructions; or that have undergone changes in processes and procedures.

Job hazard analysis involves these steps:

Involve employees. Their unique understanding of the job can be invaluable for finding hazards. Involving employees will help minimize oversights, ensure quality analysis, and get workers to buy in to the solutions because they’ll share ownership in their safety and health program.

Review accident history. This includes the workplace record of accidents and occupational illnesses, accident damage that required repair or replacement, and any near misses. These are indicators that existing hazard controls might be inadequate and need more scrutiny.

Conduct a preliminary job review. Discuss with employees the hazards they know exist in their work and surroundings. Brainstorm with them for ideas to eliminate or control these perils. Of course, if any hazards pose an immediate danger to an employee’s life or health, take immediate action to protect the worker.

List, rank, and set priorities. List jobs with hazards that present unacceptable risks, based on those most likely to occur and with the most severe consequences. Make these jobs your first priority for analysis.

Outline steps or tasks. Nearly every job can be broken down into job tasks or steps. When beginning a job hazard analysis, watch the employee perform the job and list each step (it might help to photograph or video the worker performing the job – these visual records can provide handy references when doing a more detailed analysis of the work). Record enough information to describe each job action without getting bogged down in details.

Avoid making the breakdown so detailed that it becomes unnecessarily long or so broad that it fails to include basic steps. Review the job steps with the employee to make sure you haven’t omitted anything. Stress that you’re evaluating the job itself, not the employee’s job performance.

Identify hazards. List the hazards you identified in Step 3 (as well as any additional hazards you discovered when observing the employee) with each step or task involved in the job.

Why Use a Risk Management Consultant?

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

You face risks every day in real life and must decide if you’ll lock your house doors or buckle your seat belt. Your small business faces risks, too. Answer the question why use a risk management consultant as you successfully navigate your business risks.

Get Customized, Objective Advice

While all small businesses face risks, each business is different. A risk management consultant considers every aspect of your specific business from operations to technology without bias. They then create a customized, objective plan for your unique needs.

Identify Risks and Solutions

As a small business owner, you focus on producing widgets or baking cakes. You may not know all the risks you face. A risk management consultant will identify your risk and the solutions that address those risks.

Develop an Accurate Safety Plan

Safety must be one of your top priorities and is achieved when you follow an accurate safety plan. Your risk management consultant helps you develop a plan that fits your needs, and they will evaluate your plan regularly to ensure ongoing safety.

Evaluate Compliance

Your business must comply with a variety of federal, state and local policies or you could jeopardize your employees’ safety and face steep fines. Utilize your risk management consultant to ensure your company’s compliance.

Prepare for Inspections

Depending on your industry, you may undergo regular facility or quality control inspections. Be prepared to ace those inspections with assistance from your risk management consultant.

Improve Performance

Your small business may have a successful history, but you must plan for a successful future, too. Hire a risk management consultant to ensure your business continues on a course toward future success.

Navigate Change

The business world frequently changes, and you must change with it. Rely on your risk management consultant to stay updated about changes in consumer trends and technology. With their help, you stay current, trendy and successful.

Maximize Your Time

As a small business owner, you are responsible for every aspect of your company. You only have 24 hours in a day, though. A risk management consultant takes on this responsibility and frees you for other tasks.

Receive Ongoing Support

A risk management consultant helps you identify, handle and address risks now. However, this relationship also provides ongoing support as you continue to maintain compliance.

Why use a risk management consultant? Your small business gains nine key benefits that help you achieve success now and into the future.

Extreme Weather: Consider Flood Insurance

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

Don’t wait until the weather forecast calls for prolonged heavy rains before buying flood insurance. While this practical insurance can be purchased anytime, the policy does not take effect for 30 days. As the most common natural disaster in the country, flooding ruins millions of dollars of homes and property every year. Even so, flooding is not commonly covered in your typical homeowner’s insurance policy, making it necessary to purchase additional coverage for this costly, devastating disaster.

If you are in a high-risk flood zone, a federally regulated lender will require a would-be borrower to buy flood insurance in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. To satisfy the lender, flood insurance must be purchased in an amount that sufficiently covers the loan.

A homeowner should also buy flood insurance if he or she resides in a flood plain with no failsafe controls, such as a dam. Flood policies even pay off if the President does not declare the area a federal disaster area, which can prove to be invaluable. Because the nation’s Chief Executive Officer rarely issues such a declaration, protecting yourself is extremely important. Besides, you have to repay the federal aid you receive for home repairs related to a natural disaster so providing your own protection is the only way to ensure financial recovery suffered from flooding.

Not all homes qualify for flood coverage. For instance, flood insurance for beachfront or ocean-side property may not be available for the obvious reasons.

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) reports that more than 20,000 communities have agreed to tighter zoning and building measures to control floods. Residents of these communities can buy flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which FEMA oversees. As of 2009, NFIP had 5.7 million flood policies inforce nationwide.

Premiums for flood insurance vary widely, depending primarily on individual risk. In determining price, flood insurance underwriters consider several factors including the property’s elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and whether the dwelling has a basement. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters.

Call out office today! We’d be happy to assist you through the murky waters.

How Does Defensive Driving Lower Insurance Rates?

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

A variety of factors, including accidents and citations, affect your auto insurance rates. Learn what is defensive driving and how it can lower insurance rates as you stay safe and save money.

What is Defensive Driving?

Every time you get behind the wheel, you face threats from other drivers, inclement weather and other challenges. Defensive driving defines the safe driving practices you use to avoid accidents or other incidents on the road.

How Does Defensive Driving Lower Insurance Rates?

Insurance companies assign a rating to each driver based on risk. Age, gender, marital status, address, driving history and other factors affect your rates, and expect to pay more if you’re in a high-risk category. That includes young and old drivers and anyone you has received citations for reckless driving or a DUI.

While a speeding ticket can raise your insurance rates by as much as 20 percent, your insurance company might give you a discount if you take a defensive driving course. It proves that you’re up-to-date on safe driving practices and better prepared to avoid accidents or citations.

How Defensive Driving Courses Lower Your Insurance Rates

During a defensive driver class, you’ll receive a refresher course in safe driving practices.

  • Review your state’s driving laws.
  • Practice passing other cars safely.
  • Understand when and how to yield properly.
  • Learn how to handle skids.
  • Familiarize yourself with new technology like anti-lock brakes or rear cameras.
  • Discover how to avoid common distractions and keep your eyes on the road.

Defensive driver courses can last from four hours to several months and be conducted online or in a physical classroom setting. They cost between $20 and $100. Check with the National Safety Council, AAA, AARP or a local retirement community for a class near you.

After you successfully pass the defensive driver class that’s approved by your state and accepted by your insurance company, provide the certificate of completion. You may also be required to remain accident-free and avoid citations for a certain amount of time to qualify for the discount.

Young drivers between 16 and 25 years of age may save up to 15 percent annually after successfully taking and passing a defensive driving class. Drivers over 55 may receive a five percent savings. The discount varies by insurance company, so check with your company for details. Also, ask your insurance company if you can renew your training and your discount every three years.

When you discover what is defensive driving and how it can lower insurance rates, you improve safety on the road and save money. Talk to your insurance agent about a defensive driver course and how it can benefit you.

Avoid Common Mistakes in Employee Benefit Administration

By Life and Health | No Comments

Once annual enrollment has come and gone, it’s a good time to brush up on some basic benefit plan requirements, to avoid some of the common mistakes made in employee benefit plan administration. The following list of potential errors is by no means exhaustive, but represents a sampling of issues to steer clear of:

Keep your plan documents up to date and reference them in related plan communications.

ERISA requires that all employee benefit plans be maintained pursuant to a written plan document. As the governing document for the plan, it should be reviewed regularly, and amended if necessary, to keep up with new laws and regulations (such as health care reform). Since this will be the most detailed document regarding any given plan, it should be referenced in disclaimer materials included in less formal plan communications (such as annual enrollment materials) as the document that will control in the event of discrepancies, or errors or omissions in these other ancillary communications.

Keep summary plan descriptions (SPDs) up to date and distribute them to employees.

ERISA requires that employees receive an SPD covering each benefit plan, and specifies the information that must be included in the SPD. Plan vendors might supply booklets or other communications materials to distribute to employees that describe the plan, but these are unlikely to meet the requirements for an SPD. When plan changes result in an SPD needing modification, an employer might distribute a summary of material modifications in the interim before preparing an updated SPD.

Include only eligible employees (and dependents) in your plans, as to do otherwise will run contrary to plan documents and represent unnecessary coverage costs for your company.

Improperly covering ineligible individuals — contractors, leased employees, former employees, etc. — can be a costly proposition. Similarly, maintaining formerly eligible dependents who, for example, have aged out of the plan, unnecessarily adds to plan costs. Eligibility audits can help to mitigate this problem.

Follow plan terms in administrative practices.

The plan document governs, and both internal staff and outside administrators must follow the terms of the plan when making eligibility and claims decisions, issuing plan notices, handling appeals, etc.

Make sure plan contributions are calculated properly.

This includes taking into account the definition of compensation that is in the plan (which might include bonuses, commissions, etc.) and calculating matching and profit sharing contributions correctly.

If you allow employees to pay for any benefits on a pretax basis, a cafeteria plan is required.

Although the term “cafeteria plan” might conjure images of employees selecting from a menu of benefit choices, a cafeteria plan is, at its most basic level, a premium only plan, and is required to be adopted before employees can pay their health (or dental, vision, etc.) plan premiums with before-tax dollars, or to make before-tax contributions to a health care or dependent care flexible spending account.

If employees make salary deferrals to a 401(k) plan, these deferrals must be deposited into the plan trust on a timely basis, as by DOL regulation they become plan assets as soon as they can be reasonably segregated from the employer’s general assets.

Review your COBRA administrative practices to make sure all individuals qualified to elect COBRA coverage receive the proper notices, for all plans subject to COBRA (the health plan, but also the dental and vision plan, and the health care flexible spending account).

Administrative errors can result in fines and penalties, lawsuits, and employee discontent. An annual plan self-review can avoid these potential costly consequences of common mistakes.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

By Life and Health | No Comments
Planning for retirement can sometimes feel like studying rocket science, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Throughout the last decade, economists and financial pundits have come up with “target numbers” to be used as way-points and objectives for upcoming retirees. At times, individuals have placed too much weight on these experts’ advice.

The financial landscape of America is changing constantly and retirement planning must evolve with it. Outdated advice and rigid financial guidelines will not prepare the millions of Baby Boomers who are nearing retirement age. Take a closer look at some of these antiquated suggestions retirement experts have been known to give and see why it no longer makes sense to aim for these “target numbers.”

Target Number – 70%

What does it mean? Individuals should plan on spending about 70% of what they currently make during their retirement years. For instance, a person who made a $100,000 salary during their working years should plan on spending $70,000 per year after retiring.

Why this is wrong: Life expectancy is on the rise, with the average person living past their 78th birthday. Retirees with pension plans don’t have much to worry about, but people with personally financed retirement funds, like 401(k)s and IRA accounts, run the risk of out-living their nest egg. Certainly retirement is a time of relaxation and enjoyment, so properly budgeting your finances is a must if you want to keep the party going well into your golden years. Do you have a medical condition that may require long-term care in the future? Or have your relatives lived exceptionally long lives? Take into account these and other relevant factors when determining your investment and post-retirement spending strategies.

Target Number – 4%

What does it mean? When considering the total amount a retiree has saved, individuals should spend 4% of that total each year during retirement, while keeping the remaining balance properly invested in stocks and bonds.

Why this is wrong: As the market rises and falls, one’s spending habits must do the same. Continuing to spend 4% while your portfolio is having a down year will quickly dry up your assets, while you might find yourself under-spending during times of high returns.

Target Number – 62

What does it mean? At the age of 62, individuals can begin to receive reduced Social Security benefits. The Census Bureau also reports that 62 is that average age of retirement in the U.S.

Why this is wrong: Reduced Social Security benefits may not supply the income necessary to retire on, with maximum available benefits coming at 70 years of age. Working a few extra years past 62 can also give you the income necessary to beef up your 401(k) plan or IRA.

Target Number – $1 Million

What does it mean? This is the target amount you should have saved before retiring.

Why this is wrong: Some economists are actually now saying that $1 million might not be enough to comfortably retire on. When Scottrade analysts where asked if $1 million were enough money for the average American family, more than 70% of them responded “no,” further explaining that $2 million – $3 million is now the target amount. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t agree with most Americans’ pocketbooks.

A recent study of individuals with self-managed retirement plans by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that workers ages 55 to 64 were saving less than $70,000, much less than what Scottrade analysts feel is ideal.

Although these two numbers may not mesh, Americans always find a way to make do with what they have saved. Eliminating debt and avoiding unnecessary spending splurges is the best way to stretch your dollars while heading into retirement. Of course, keeping a close eye on your savings and maintaining a balanced portfolio always helps, too.