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Monthly Archives

February 2018

Umbrella Insurance Offers Libel and Slander Protection

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

During a party at your home, you get caught up in the moment and say something that’s untrue about a friend. Or you write a letter to the editor and use unfounded statements about someone. Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes. You might find yourself facing a libel or slander lawsuit, though, because of your judgment lapse or other mistakes. An umbrella insurance policy can protect you.

What is Libel and Slander?

Libel and slander fall under the category of defamation. Typically, libel covers written statements and slander covers speech. Because both forms of defamation damage a person’s reputation, the victim could file a lawsuit that threatens your home, financial savings and other assets.

You Need an Umbrella Insurance to Have Libel and Slander Coverage

Whether you committed libel in a written letter or email or spoke slander at a party or during a phone conversation, your homeowners or renters insurance policy probably doesn’t protect you. However, it might if you:

*Sign a personal injury endorsement that covers unintentional acts of libel or slander.
*Obtain personal injury coverage that offers additional liability coverage for at-home or off-site remarks that are considered libelous or slanderous.

For maximum and guaranteed protection, buy an umbrella policy that covers personal injury. It’s an additional endorsement that takes effect after your homeowners insurance is exhausted.

Your umbrella policy can also provide financial protection and pay for defense costs if you’re sued in certain cases. Those cases include invasion of privacy, defamation of character or wrongful imprisonment.

How Much Coverage Should you Buy?

With help from your insurance agent, decide how much umbrella insurance coverage you need. If you have a large number of assets or a high net worth, consider purchasing a large umbrella policy to protect yourself. No matter how much money or valuables you own, however, consider purchasing this  beneficial coverage.

No one usually plans to commit libel or slander, but accidents happen. Umbrella insurance can protect you. Discuss your options with an insurance agent today, and think twice before writing or saying something that might come out the wrong way.

Planning a Company Outing? Reduce liabilities with some sound planning.

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

First, decide whether an outside professional group will plan the event or an internal group within the company.  The external group has advantages regarding reducing liability, but budget is a factor.

Regardless of the above choice, areas of concern include:

•             Is attendance mandatory or voluntary?
•             Are family members or customers invited?
•             Alcohol policy
•             Transportation policy
•             Conduct code – professional or fun
•             Events construed as sexual harassment or hostile
•             Social media aftermath

Mandatory attendance will be construed as work.  The company will be subject to hourly wages, workers’ compensation claims, and a variety of regulatory issues.  Opt for voluntary whenever practical.

Will employee’s families attend?  This question is the double edged sword.  Families love inclusion and self-govern behavior.  The bad news is families self-govern behavior.  What process is in place for a wild or disruptive spouse?  How about inappropriate airing of the family laundry?  Is there bad blood between a spouse and a customer?

The obvious answer is prohibition.  No alcohol permitted.  Sometimes, alcohol can be very appropriate as long as measures are in place to curtail excess.  One rule of thumb is to only allow work-like demeanor or behavior.  Under this rule, alcohol would be banned.

Not so obvious, suppose a spouse, child or customer is an alcoholic?  In some states, marijuana is now legal.  Does the alcohol consumption open the door for the pot?  Strictly from a liability viewpoint, drugs and alcohol should be banned from any company function.

Transportation can be arranged for group activities away from the work campus, but use caution.  Just as with mandatory attendance, the risk of transporting employees brings in workers’ compensation issues.

All the rules of the workplace, including sexual harassment and bullying, apply to the fun outings.  Communicate this fact to all employees prior to the event.

Posting reports and pictures from the outing is good for morale, but screen the social media for embarrassing or inappropriate content.

Think through these issues and decide what sort of outing is appropriate for your company.  Create a set of behavioral standards based on the event.  For example, competitive sports or team building may get rowdier than a night at the opera.  Communicate those expected behaviors for employees and their families.

Properly managed employee expectations will relax the group and put some fun into the company function.

DON’T LET DRIVERS USE THEIR CELL PHONES!

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 69% of U.S. drivers talked on their cell phones – and 31% read or sent text messages or e-mails while driving. “The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive,” warns CDC Director Thomas Frieden.

Using cell phones to text behind the wheel can increase the danger of fatal crashes by six to 23 times, and drivers using hand-held devices are four times more likely to become involved in crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

You probably have rules about employees talking on their phones and texting while driving – but are they following them?

According to Jim Evans, president of human resources consulting firm JK Evans & Associates, some bosses turn a blind eye to cell phone use behind the wheel, while others don’t want to cut into their employees’ productivity. His advice to employers: “Dust off the old cell phone policy or unwritten practices and revisit whether employee safety and employer liability is at risk.”

To minimize this danger, your company should require employees who drive on the job to:

  • Turn off personal phones or switch them to silent mode before entering a company vehicle.
  • Pull over to a safe area if they need to make a cell phone call or send or answer a text message.
  • Ask a helper or another passenger to make a return call.
  • Contact supervisors or dispatchers when the vehicle is parked.
  • Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, reading, and any other activities that distract them behind the wheel.
  • Tell people who call them while driving that they’ll call back after reaching their destination.

 

“Helpful” Worms and White Hat Nuisances

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

By definition, there’s nothing really wrong with viruses. They’re just self-replicating, that’s all. If the cash in your wallet was self-replicating, you probably wouldn’t complain. Virus researcher Fred Cohen has even put out a $1,000 bounty for the first developer who can come up with a truly helpful virus. So far, he hasn’t paid out, but theoretically, a good computer virus is possible.

“Helpful” worms, however, may prove that even a “good” virus is a bad idea.

Helpful worms like Welchia, Den_Zuko, Cheeze, Mellenium and CodeGreen were designed in the name of helping the user. Welchia’s design was actually kind of clever, finding and eliminating the Blaster worm by seeking out the same vulnerabilities as the Blaster worm, and then, usually, applying a security patch to keep any other worms from working their way in. The Welchia worm was programmed to automatically remove itself at a set date.

Here’s the problem though: The main thing that worms do is slow down your network by feeding a constant stream of data through it. Whatever else they might do, that’s the main thing people hate about worms. A helpful worm slows down the network just as much as a harmful worm will. Additionally, helpful worms are known to reboot the computer without the user’s consent, which can be a major problem if you’re right in the middle of a project that you haven’t saved recently.

Helpful viruses are an interesting idea in theory, but they still self-replicate without the user’s consent, they still eat up RAM and other resources, they still slow the network down. As technology advances we may see a day when helpful viruses are able to actually improve a computer’s performance without any adverse effects. For the time being, however, there is that old saying about where the road paved with good intentions leads to…

False Fears and Legitimate Threats

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

The main thing to keep in mind when comparing real threats to false flags: The most boring interpretation of the truth is usually the one that’s closest to being correct.

Remember Y2K? Everyone was worried that turning our computer clocks over from 1999 to 2000 was going to crash the whole system and leave the world in chaos. Some companies even made a pretty penny by selling software that would make your system “Y2K compliant.” Then what happened when the clock actually turned over? Absolutely nothing at all.

All that wasted time and energy spent fretting over something as simple as a change of date, and the world just kept on turning.

We need to be able to distinguish between a real threat and an imaginary threat for the simple reason that managing those threats demands that we draw upon finite resources. The team that you have chasing after false alerts are going to be too busy to handle actual threats to your data. Skilled cyber-security professionals are in short supply, which means that even if you have it in the budget to double your current cyber-security staff, the candidates might just not be out there. You might need to make it work with the people you already have on board, and that means spending less time chasing after false alarms.

Here are some steps we can take towards wasting fewer resources in cyber-security:

  • Let the software do its job

Preventive antivirus software is a good start, but it’s also a good idea to cross-check with regular scans. This is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this. A prevention-only based approach is going to lead to longer infection dwell time.

  • Follow your security team’s lead

You hire people so that you have less to do, and you’ve likely discovered that you tend to get the best results when you give your staff some breathing room and let them use their own judgment. Unless you’re a cyber-security professional yourself, there’s no reason to micromanage how your security team handles their responsibilities.

  • Don’t stress about far-fetched threats

You probably don’t have members of Anonymous working all day to crack your system. Don’t stress about it.

The truth is that cyber-security is something that a good security team and some professional-grade software can manage. It seems like every few years the business world goes into a panic about Y2K or hackers or some supervirus ravaging systems across the globe. The truth is that leaked passwords and garden-variety malware are your main concerns.

DON’T FORGET INSURANCE FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION’S CYBER RISKS

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

The federal Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 330,000 complaints in 2009, and more than a third of them ended up in the hands of law enforcement. The damages from those referred to the authorities totaled more than a half billion dollars. The Government Accountability Office estimated that cyber crime cost U.S. organizations $67.2 billion in 2005; that number has likely increased since then. With so much of business today done electronically, organizations of all types are highly vulnerable to theft and corruption of their data. It is important for them to identify their loss exposures, possible loss scenarios, and prepare for them. Some of the questions they should ask include:

What types of property are vulnerable? The organization should consider property it owns, leases, or property of others it has in its custody. Some examples:

  • Money, both the organization’s own funds and those it holds as a fiduciary for someone else
  • Customer or member lists containing personally identifiable information, account numbers, cell phone numbers, and other non-public information
  • Personnel records
  • Medical insurance records
  • Bank account information
  • Confidential memos and spreadsheets
  • E-mail
  • Software stored on web servers

Different types of property will be susceptible to various threats, such as embezzlement, extortion, viruses, and theft. What loss scenarios could occur? The organization needs to prepare for events such as:

  • A fire destroys large portions of the computer network, including the servers. Operations cease until the servers can be replaced and reloaded with data.
  • A computer virus infects a workstation. The user of that computer unknowingly spreads it to everyone in his workgroup, crippling the department during one of the year’s peak periods.
  • The accounting department discovers a pattern of irregular small funds transfers to an account no one has ever heard of. The transfers, which have been occurring for almost three months, were small enough to avoid attracting attention. They total more than $10,000.
  • A vendor’s employee strikes up a casual conversation at a worker’s cubicle and stays long enough to memorize the worker’s computer password, written on a post-it note stuck to her monitor. Two weeks later, technology staff discovers that an offsite computer has accessed the human resources database and viewed Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and other personal information.

In addition to taking steps to prevent these things from happening, the organization should consider buying a Cyber insurance policy. Several insurance companies now offer this coverage; although no standard policy exists yet, the policies share some common features. They usually cover property or data damage or destruction, data protection and recovery, loss of income when a business must suspend operations due to data loss, extra expenses necessary to maintain operations following a data event, data theft, and extortion. However, each company might define these coverages differently, so reviewing the terms and conditions of a particular policy is crucial. Choosing an appropriate amount of insurance is difficult because there is no easy way to measure the exposure in advance. Consultation with the organization’s technology department, insurance agent and insurance company might be helpful. Finally, all policies will carry a deductible; the organization should select a deductible level that it can afford to pay and that will provide it with a meaningful discount on the premium. Once management has a thorough understanding of the coverages various policies provide in relation to the organization’s exposures, it can fairly compare the costs of the policies and make an informed choice.

Computer networks are a necessary part of any organization’s environment today. Loss prevention and reduction techniques, coupled with sound insurance protection at a reasonable cost, will enable an organization to get through a cyber loss event.

Cybersecurity Risk Management: Should You Delegate It?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

The recent security breach at Sony underscored not only the need for better security in protecting sensitive internal documents and information, but also the appalling lack of care being taken on an individual level to protect passwords and take other steps to protect (or remove) sensitive conversations and data. Despite a litany of other widespread and serious data breaches in recent years, many businesses still don’t seem to be taking cybersecurity as a serious issue that not only could affect them, but very well may.

As a business owner or manager, you’ve heard time and again how important it is to delegate in order to streamline processes and be more productive – and more profitable. But delegating does not mean turning a blind eye; and when it comes to cybersecurity issues, unless you have a dedicated chief information security officer, you need to take an active role in ensuring your data is adequately protected.

The key to effective management begins with understanding the types of threats that exist and how they’re evolving, as well as identifying new threats as soon as they begin to emerge. At the same time, management needs to develop actionable steps to counteract potential breaches, looking for weaknesses at every level, from individual employee passwords and use of personal devices like smartphones, to the way data is encrypted and stored, both in the cloud and on any on-site or remote servers.

Strong, company-wide policies backed up by employee education programs and Q&A sessions are the cornerstones of an effective cybersecurity policy; managers must clearly communicate to employees – at every level – the vital roles they play in protecting the company from cyber threats so they see BYOD and other policies as being protective rather than punitive.

Involving employees in cybersecurity discussions also helps ensure their cooperation and compliance.
One more lesson from the Sony breach: Unlike other cybersecurity attacks that have targeted customer identification and banking information, the Sony attackers also focused on employee emails, revealing information that proved both embarrassing and potentially costly. Many businesses fail to consider emails and personal files when considering cybersecurity measures, leaving themselves wide open to similar breaches.

In a nutshell, companies that assess and manage cybersecurity issues as vigilantly as they do financial, operational and reputation-related risks have the greatest chance of thwarting attacks and breaches. Start today to plan how to avoid breaches as well as how to respond if a breach does occur.

 

Safety Committees: Why the CEO should be a member

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

Safety reflects the culture of the business.  Top leadership needs to take charge of the culture, to define it.

The best safety committees are chaired by a specified point person who reports outside of the committee to the CEO.

Why this arrangement?  The CEO does not dictate safety measures.

Some safety rules and regulations are government mandated. Consider simple compliance to be a minimum.

Manufacturers offer safe operating techniques for machinery and other products.

The personnel who operate the machines, maintain the machines, work in the field at construction sites, deliver supplies and raw materials, or otherwise labor know their jobs and often have good ideas for efficiency and safety.

Supervisors observe which safety equipment or protocols are ignored or too cumbersome.

The committee hears all these sides and determines the best course of action to proceed safely.

The CEO is present for leadership in the safety culture, not process management.  Once the safety protocols have been discussed and fixes determined, the CEO can approve costs and procedural changes.

The CEO listens first, then leads the implementation.

How Safety Committees Fail

The leading causes include:

•             Never forming them
•             Not taken seriously, lack of top down leadership
•             Lack of swift implementation
•             Lack of participation at all levels of employee
•             Lack of management follow through

Obviously, the first four of the five main reasons attribute to poor leadership.  The CEO is vital in this role.  The CEO must communicate that his number one job is getting everyone home safely.

Management must follow through on protocols.  Random drug testing, reviewing motor vehicle operators’ driving records, premises inspections of safety equipment, every safety protocol must be visible and public to reinforce the importance of compliance.

Safety meetings and safety committees are two different animals.  Safety meetings, the lunch box variety, reinforces safety procedures already in place.  They can, however, be used for line employees to offer suggestions for specific problems.  The employee representatives to the committee can relay those messages.

Safety committees evaluate and reevaluate the culture of safety.

If the CEO hears new safety procedures, implements them, as a member of the committee, the CEO will know if these new protocols are working at the line level of the organization.  Excellent leadership monitors the managers to assure this end result.

Driving Records: review them often

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

Automobile accidents are the number one cause of liability claims in business.  Automobile related claims, especially drivers under the influence of alcohol and youthful operators, are the most devastating to families as well.

Every risk manager and fleet manager needs to check drivers’ records frequently.

Quarterly is not too frequent.

Sounds overly intrusive or expensive?  Consider that good driving records not only reflect good driving habits; they reflect vigilance in these habits.

Fleet managers must view on-time deliveries and vehicle upkeep as major issues.  Risk managers view safety and long-term costs as major metrics.

Quality driver management and the reinforcement of vigilant, excellent driving habits support both sets of goals.

Set driving record standards for moving violations and accidents.  Limit drivers to a maximum number of points or moving violations and at fault accidents.  Be sold on the idea of intolerance for lesser histories.

Assign some intervention tactic for any moving violation or accident, even not-at-fault.  The fleet manager or risk manager can debrief the driver on the circumstances and measures of avoidance which were missed.  From this conversation, training can be assigned.

Emphasize the importance of excellent habits and vigilant execution of these habits.

The more touchy subject is checking driving records for spouses or children of employees who may access the vehicle, with or without permission.

In closely held corporations or partnerships, do not hesitate to perform this task.  Driving while intoxicated and youthful drivers are the major devastating liability issues for families.  Healthcare bankruptcies are not liability claims for these purposes.

Do you want your choice of partner dependent on your current partners’ sixteen year-old child’s driving?  For closely held companies, this scenario is real.

The child speeds through a red light and badly injures several people.  The claim exceeds the family coverage.  Next in line – the business.  The debts may be paid by liquidating that partners share, the victims may become the new partners, or a forced sale of stocks may occur.

For a public company, shares of stock or a garnishment of wages may occur for a personal automobile claim; but the company car exposes all the company assets.

Banning family members or unauthorized usage is one answer, but teens will be teens.  Check the records, suggest interventions for family members too before bad habits lead to disaster.  And it’s always possible to restrict car use to business only with the car left on the business campus; or take away privileges completely to at-risk employees.

Spring Cleaning: time to review your first aid kits and fire extinguishers

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

How many times do you walk by fire extinguishers without checking those tags or past first aid kits without peeking inside to assure the contents are complete?

Most executives do not spot check these life saving tools.  That task is delegated to maintenance.  But these decisions are life and death, not simply profit or loss.  Show your employees you care; that you lead their safety program rather than follow pro forma insurance checklists.

Start your spring cleaning here: walk through your operation and stop occasionally to check if you can easily spot the nearest fire extinguisher.  Read the label.  Is it appropriate for the work area?

Stand at each fire extinguisher station and visualize successful deployment.  Is it easy and natural?  Can you travel unharmed to the nearest fire exit using the fire extinguisher to clear a path?

Observe any long pathways between fire extinguishers and exits.  Would another canister or different fire suppression device or system help?

Take some notes as you walk through the operation.  Review these observations with the person tasked to keep the equipment updated.

Repeat the above exercise with regard to first aid kits.  Are they easy to spot?  Easy to access one-handed?  Do they have instructions for calling emergency help?

These exercises do not require a great deal of time or scheduling.  Simply make a point of checking these items every quarter, something of an internal surprise inspection.

Add ten minutes every three months to your walk-through routine.  It doesn’t need scheduling or ceremony.  Simply observe, become conscious of the emergency response routine.  Are fire exits clogged with storage or debris?  Are aisles kept unobstructed?

Is a specific person charged with de-icing fire escapes?  As you walk through your operations, take notes of these questions.  Think through an emergency evacuation, then review the written plan for your company.  Does it make common sense?  Does it raise questions for your risk manager or safety specialist?

Does your at-hire training include safety orientation and procedures?  How about on-going communications on safety issues?  Both directions?

Corporate officers lead the safety culture.  Make these inspections in view of employees.  They will engage you if they have proper concerns.  They are a great resource.