Your Brain Is Your Best Tool When It Comes to On-The-Job Safety

Everyone has heard the old adage ”Experience is the best teacher.” While it is true that you remember what you learned from an experience, especially a bad one, you may not like the other consequences that are part of the learning process.

This is especially true when it comes to on-the-job safety. Learning from a bad experience usually involves injury, and sometimes death. This shouldn’t have to be the case. But unfortunately, not exercising proper caution, and not paying careful attention can lead to these outcomes.

You probably hear a supervisor tell you or your co-workers, “Be careful,” or “Pay attention” any number of times during the day. The next time you hear those words, stop a minute and think of all the reasons you should be careful. Then follow that supervisor’s advice, so you can avoid having an accident that may be the last thing you ever learn.

You may be thinking, ‘I’m experienced, I don’t have accidents.” If you are, you’re setting yourself up for a bad learning experience. Accidents happen when you least expect them, and no worker, no matter how experienced, has any special immunity from having an accident. That’s why it is so important to follow safe work procedures. They are designed to help you avoid the causes of possible injury while getting the job done correctly. That’s also the reason your employer provides you with personal protective equipment (PPE), because using it prevents or minimizes the probability you will be injured.

Always remember your brain is your best defense against injury. Let it remind you to:

  • Follow proper work procedures at all times. Never take short cuts, even if you think that they will save time. All of the time you save will be lost if your short cuts cause you to be injured.
  • Concentrate on the task at hand. That means giving it your full attention until it is completed. Avoid any kind of distraction like talking, or joking around with co-workers because they can result in your being seriously hurt.
  • Use PPE whenever appropriate. Be sure it fits correctly, and that you wear it in the manner it was intended.

Where’s the Insurance? Beware of Uninsured Drivers

About twenty years ago, a famous hamburger chain ran a series of commercials featuring a cute octogenarian named Clara Peller.  This feisty little old lady claimed her fifteen minutes of fame asking that now famous question, “Where’s the beef?”  While it may have been funny to watch her put fast food restaurant owners on the spot, it is not at all funny if you’re in a car accident and you ask the other driver for their insurance card only to find out they have none.

Unfortunately that’s a scenario that happens all too frequently.  As the cost of living rises and paychecks don’t meet needs, people start making decisions about where to cut expenses.  One of those decisions may be to eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of their car insurance.  They need the car and take the calculated risk that they won’t get into an accident, but invariably, they are wrong.  In fact, the possibility of an uninsured motorist hitting you is greater than you may realize.  There are some states in which almost 32 percent of all drivers do not carry automobile insurance.  The national average is 14 percent.

You can protect yourself from an uninsured driver, or even an underinsured driver, whose negligence causes you to be involved in an accident. The first way is with uninsured motorists (UM) coverage.  It provides insurance protection for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, caused by an uninsured driver.  This type of policy permits you to collect from your own insurance carrier just as if it provided liability coverage for the uninsured driver.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are injured in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance.  Uninsured motorist coverage also pays for injuries that result from a hit-and-run accident.  Policy owners choose the coverage limit when they buy their policy.

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage protects you if your vehicle is damaged in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance.  Other protection provided by this type of policy varies from state to state.  If available, the deductible for uninsured motorist property damage is usually $250.  This is often substantially less than the collision coverage deductible found in your auto insurance policy.

The other policy alternative is underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage.  This provides insurance protection for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, caused by a negligent motorist who is not sufficiently insured and whose negligence results in an accident.  The bodily injury portion of this kind of coverage pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are injured.  It usually pays the difference between the coverage limit you select and the other driver’s bodily injury coverage limit.

Underinsured motorist property damage coverage protects you if your car is damaged in an accident caused by a driver with insufficient auto insurance coverage.  Other specific protection provided by this type of coverage varies by state.  As with bodily injury, property damage coverage pays the difference between your policy’s coverage limit and the other driver’s property damage coverage limit.

When you are deciding whether or not to buy either of these coverages, keep two very important points in mind.  Both UM and UIM coverage are broad in scope because they provide benefits for you and your family members’ injuries that occur in your own covered car, in cars you don’t own, and as pedestrians.  Despite all of this protection, the cost for this coverage is reasonable compared to liability coverage and physical damage coverage for your own car.

Teenage Drivers Are a Threat to Everyone

Teenagers and fast cars are a Hollywood legacy that dates back to James Dean. The “Rebel Without A Cause” and his Porsche 550 Spyder were the ultimate symbols of teenage rebellion during the 50s. Despite all the Hollywood hype surrounding a teen’s need for speed, the problem with teenage reckless driving has serious consequences that reverberate beyond the drivers themselves.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s report Fatality Facts: Teenagers 2003, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teenage drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

As if those statistics weren’t bad enough, the Automobile Club of America (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety published a study that shows the majority of people killed in teenage driver crashes are people other than the teens themselves. The Foundation study analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995 through 2004.

The research data indicates that young drivers represent a little more than one-third of all fatalities caused by crashes in which they were involved. However, almost two-thirds of those killed in crashes are other vehicle occupants and pedestrians.  Between 1995-2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers took the lives of 567 people in Minnesota, of which 212 or 37.4 percent were the teen drivers themselves. The remaining 355 or 62.6 percent included 171 passengers in the cars driven by 15- to 17-year-old drivers, 155 occupants of other vehicles, and 29 non-motorists. The AAA of Minnesota is using this data in their lobbying efforts to beef up state driving laws.

As a result of their findings, the AAA is suggesting a two-pronged approach to solving the problem. The first is a graduated licensing law (GDL). Graduated licensing requires that a new driver be given driving privileges in three stages: a learner’s permit, a probationary license and finally full driving privileges.

The AAA made it their goal in 1997 to pass GDL laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This goal was finally achieved when Wyoming and Montana enacted laws in 2005. The legislation requires teens to obtain more supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience as well as phased-in driving privileges. However, not every state’s GDL laws are as comprehensive as they should be.

The second part of their approach involves educating parents. Parents are encouraged to prevent their teenagers from riding with other teen drivers, or transporting other teens during the first year of driving.  To help parents overcome any awkwardness about enforcing these rules, especially if other parents may not be following the same track, the AAA has designed a new parent discussion guide. It encourages parents to work as a team to ensure their teens gain driving experience in the safest driving environment possible during that first year. For more information, log on to

Laptop Lockdown: Safeguard Your Company’s Laptops

According to the FBI, there were 221,009 laptops reported stolen from 2008 through 2009. As an increasing number of business men and women are traveling with laptops in tow each year, this already high number is likely to keep rising.  Statistics show that the most popular targets for laptop thieves are office buildings, airports, hotel rooms and cars.

While some laptop snatchers are simply looking to make a quick buck by selling your computer, others are much more malicious. These higher-level laptop thieves are more interested in the valuable information stored within your computer-from business plans and customer contact information to Social Security numbers and passwords. Once they get a hold of your laptop, these cyber criminals may be able to gain access to your company’s server. One FBI study found that 57 percent of computer crimes were linked to stolen laptops. Plus, research suggests that the theft of just one laptop can cost a company up to $90,000 or more!

Unfortunately, many laptop owners forget just how much their computer and personal information is worth-and how much they stand to lose if their computer is stolen. That’s precisely why experts say you should guard your laptop as closely as you would your wallet.

Here are a few steps you can take to protect your laptop from these spiteful computer crooks:

Travel incognito

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, be sure to carry your laptop in a protective, inconspicuous case. With thousands of laptop case styles available, you may be able to find one that looks more like a backpack, handbag or briefcase-which decreases your risk of being targeted by a laptop thief.

Use protective software

Take advantage of password protection programs, anti-virus software, encryption software and other robust programs that will protect the information stored on your laptop.

Keep unused laptops out-of-sight

If your company has extra, unassigned laptops, keep them locked safely away in fully enclosed, secure closets. Never leave them in a cubicle or unlocked cabinet.

Lock it up

Never leave your laptop out in your office, even if you’re just leaving for a few minutes. Either lock it into your docking station or lock it away in a secure desk drawer. Don’t ever leave your laptop in plain view next to an office, house or car window.

Guard it in the airport

When traveling through an airport, be sure to keep your laptop within reach and in sight all the time. Never check a laptop with your baggage, and be extremely careful when you’re passing through security checkpoints. Hold onto your laptop as you wait in the security line, and do not set it on the belt until you’re getting ready to pass through the X-ray machine.

Protect it in the car

If you have to leave your laptop in the car, lock it up in the trunk where it’s out of view. If you drive a truck or SUV with a window looking into the trunk, lock it in your glove box or conceal it under a seat. You should also keep your laptop in a weatherproof case. Avoid storing your laptop in the car in extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Keep track of it

Make sure your name or company’s name and ID is engraved on your laptop. Also, be sure to write down your laptop’s identification number and store it in a safe place. Ask the laptop manufacturer or your local police department if they offer an asset identification or registry program.

Four Rules of Thumb to Follow When Purchasing an Auto Insurance Policy

There probably aren’t very many, if any, drivers that look forward to buying auto insurance. If you’re like most people, you feel that you have an overwhelming task when it comes to sifting through dozens of companies and agents to find the ideal insurer for your vehicle and unique financial situation. The process can leave you feeling unrewarded and irritated as you think about writing a check for a policy that you hope you’ll never need to use.

On the other hand, you know that having auto insurance is a necessity that can be the difference between a financial catastrophe and enduring a minor inconvenience if you were to have an auto accident.  Furthermore, there are steps you can take that make the act of buying insurance less painful and complicated.

The following four rules of thumb can help you drastically simplify the process, while still getting the best auto insurance policy for your needs:

1. Don’t forget to consider the size and type of vehicle you drive when you choose your limits.

Insurers will not sell you a policy that is less than the minimum requirements for your state. However, that doesn’t mean that you should mistakenly opt for auto insurance limits based on the minimum amount required. Depending on the size and type of vehicle you drive, the bare minimum may not be enough to fully cover you if you should have an auto accident. For example, let’s say that you’ve selected the $10,000 minimum property damage amount set by your state, you drive an SUV or large truck, and you hit and cause $22,000 in damage to a brand new Mercedes. Since you’re only covered for $10,000, you will pay the remaining $12,000 out of your pocket.

2. Be forthcoming and honest with insurers.

Even if you think it won’t be favorable on your premiums, it’s extremely important for you to just tell it like it is when you’re asked about your driving history. You can choose to be less than truthful regarding your moving violations and auto accidents, but you won’t be given an accurate quote. This wastes both your time and the insurers, as all insurers will check your driving record themselves and make adjustments to the quote based on your actual driving record. Be honest from the start and you will save time by getting accurate quotes that you’ll be able to compare side-by-side.

3. Look at the whole picture.

It’s tempting to opt for the insurer offering the lowest rate, but cheapest isn’t always the best deal. Know exactly what you’re getting for your insurance dollars and pay careful attention to the fine print in the contract. Unusually low rates have a catch. Would you rather pay low rates with an insurer offering substandard service, or slightly higher rates with an insurer offering an attractive package and reliable 24/7 customer service? Are options on repairs and parts an important option to have? Is it price or convenience that’s at the top of your priorities? These are questions only you can answer in choosing your insurer.

4. Don’t waste insurance dollars on duplicate coverage.

Look at all your auto coverages and ensure options aren’t being paid for twice. For example, AAA members most likely have their towing costs already covered and wouldn’t need a policy with roadside assistance.

Finding the best auto insurance policy isn’t always fun or easy. However, by following a few rules of thumb during the selection process, you can certainly save yourself a lot of money, frustration, time, and regret.

Where is Your Coverage When the Lights Go Out?

In the aftermath of a blackout that left some 50 million American and Canadians powerless and, others stranded, many people are asking how and why the August 2003 Northeast Blackout occurred.    While most were merely inconvenienced by the effects of the blackout, some significant property losses undoubtedly were suffered.  What property loss might occur as a result of a blackout?  What factors might come in to play to limit coverage availability or applicability? What types of coverage are typically available?

First and foremost, it is advisable that you look into whether your insurer offers any kind of coverage for food spoilage or other loss caused by failure of power that originates outside of the insured premises.  In lieu of such an endorsement to the policy, most property policies exclude claims arising out of loss resulting directly or indirectly from power failure that does not emanate from the covered property.  In other words, if the power loss occurs somewhere within the vast and complex grid that powers your home or business, it is not covered.  The London Financial Times noted that companies most likely to hold such coverage “are those with perishable goods they need to protect, such as supermarkets, other grocery stores, florists and restaurants. Theatres, hotels and restaurants suffering perhaps from loss of business in cities last night were unlikely to have any chance to make a claim.”* 

It is important to note that there are many different potential causes of blackouts.  A power crisis in California in 2001 was caused by a confluence of factors which were foreseen long before the rolling blackouts occurred, making them very different from the August 2003 Northeast Blackout, which occurred despite largely adequate power supply and with no advanced warning.   These differences may impact upon the coverage afforded for any given claim as the California scenario may be argued by your carrier to be a “known” hazard, which was foreseeable and preventable, thus excluded.

In addition to the limited types of coverage available under homeowners and commercial property policies, “Power Plant Insurance” may be available under a Boiler & Machinery or SMP (Special Multi-Peril) policy.  If you have or need such a policy to cover your business, check with your agent as to whether or not this endorsement is available and if so, for what additional premium.  Note, however, that such coverage often comes with time constraints for the blackout duration.  For example, a blackout that lasts for less than 24 hours may not be a qualifying trigger for coverage, despite whatever losses have been incurred.

Last but not least, what about the disruptions at airports that left travelers stranded during the Northeast Blackout?  Coverage may be available on your travel insurance policy – if you purchased one.  If you are planning a trip in the near future look into this valuable coverage, but be prepared – some companies offer a dizzying array of products for just about every type of travel possibility.  It can be confusing even to the well informed.  Check the fine print before you purchase as there is a great deal of variability in coverage.  Certainly, if a blackout caused you to miss a flight connecting you to a cruise, it would be reasonable to expect that travel insurance would reimburse you for the lost money spent on the cruise, but again, check the fine print for any power failure exclusions. Some policies will reimburse you a set amount per day for having to make alternate travel arrangements due to an unforeseen delay.   On the other hand, if you are unable to find a hotel room and you find yourself lying in a cot in the airline terminal as many hapless travelers did during the Northeast Blackout, you may just have to grin and bear it. 

New Study Shows Texting Bans Are Ineffective at Crash Reduction

There are currently thirty states that have made it illegal for motor vehicle operators to text while driving a vehicle. The bans were made in an effort to reduce vehicle crashes. But, since texting is only one known element of distracted driving, some people have long questioned what the effectiveness of such laws would be on accidents related to distracted driving.

A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) now shows that there has not been any reductions in crash statistics following texting bans. Contrarily, following texting bans, the study found that there is actually a slim increase in how many collision coverage insurance claims are filed for crash-related damage. The findings were very similar to a previous HLDI study concerning driving and handheld cellphone usage, which ultimately found that banning handheld cellphone use during driving didn’t decrease the number of vehicle crashes.

The new HLDI study looked at insurance claims for vehicles less than ten-years-old during the months prior to and following the July 2008 texting ban in Louisiana, January 2008 texting ban in Washington, August 2008 texting ban in Minnesota, and January 2009 texting ban in California. To ensure that collision claim changes not related to texting bans, such as from seasonal driving pattern changes, were controlled, the claims made in the above four states were compared with those made in nearby states that hadn’t substantially altered their texting laws during the time frame of the study.

When the data was compared, HLDI found that banning texting while driving hasn’t reduced the number of vehicle crashes. In fact, crash numbers actually increased after texting bans in three of the four states involved in the study. The data could be an indication that texting bans create an added risk from drivers that recognize texting is illegal, but continue texting anyway. These drivers may attempt to hide their phone from the view of law enforcement, thereby lengthening the amount of time and distance that their eyes are taken from the road. The texting and handheld cellphone ban findings from the HLDI studies may also indicate that singling out and banning one source of distraction over another isn’t an effective approach to address the overall problem of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving.

Federal Rules Governing Civil Litigation Require Businesses to Keep Better Tabs on e-Documents

New rules, which took effect on December 1, 2006, require U.S. companies to keep better track of their employees’ e-mails, instant messages and other electronic documents in the event the companies are sued. These new rules are part of amendments to federal guidelines governing civil litigation and were approved by the Supreme Court in April 2006 after a five-year review.

Under the new rules, a company that is party to federal litigation must produce electronically stored information as part of discovery. This is the process by which both sides share evidence before a trial. Federal and state courts have already been requiring such evidence in individual cases. The new rules now make the production of such evidence mandatory for companies involved in federal lawsuits. Furthermore, any information technology employee who copies over a backup computer tape once a lawsuit has been filed could be accused of committing “virtual shredding.” Companies are still permitted to purge databases if the information they contain isn’t relevant to pending cases or cases the company anticipates being a party to in the future. However, sectors, such as financial services, remain subject to the data-retention rules they have always followed. In-house attorneys and IT staff will have to work together to ensure routine erasing of backup data doesn’t present legal issues. Lawyers must also know where company data is stored.

Many large companies are unaware of the data they have on hand, which makes them unprepared if sued. Because they lack a real knowledge of what data they house and where it is located, these companies are more likely to settle lawsuits to avoid the costs associated with electronic discovery. Better organization of the data will lower these costs and enable companies to avoid settling.

On the other hand, large companies are likely to face higher costs from organizing their data. The new rules make it necessary for companies to know about items more difficult to track, like work-related digital photos on employee cell phones and information on removable memory cards. As a result, firms that help businesses track and search their electronic data are experiencing a huge surge in new business.

Most legal experts agree that it isn’t a question of companies changing how they keep electronic files, but rather a question of having a more complete knowledge of where documents are stored. The new rules also provide more direction as to how electronic evidence is to be handled in federal litigation. This includes guidelines on how companies can be exempted from providing data that isn’t reasonably accessible, which could lessen the burden of electronic discovery.

Black Boxes Are No Longer Just for Planes

A black box, also known as the Cockpit Recorder or Flight Data Recorder, documents all of the data transmissions on an airplane, such as altitude, air speed, and voice and sound transmissions.  Typically, black boxes aren’t black at all.  They are brightly colored, which makes them easier to find in the wreckage following an accident.

Everyone knows that airplanes have black boxes.  What you may not know, however, is that your car may have one too.  This box, which is approximately the size of a carpenter’s tape measure, is installed in about 70 percent of all new car models.  It is usually fitted under your dashboard or seat, and it kicks into high gear when your car’s airbags are deployed.

These event data recorders (EDR) as they are known, can record information only in the 5 to 10 seconds before and after it senses an airbag is about to be deployed.  EDRs record the following data:

·   Vehicle speed

·   Engine speed 

·   Brake status

·   Throttle position

·   If the driver’s seat belt is on or off

·   If the passenger’s airbag is on or off

·   If the IR Warning Lamp is on or off

·   Time from vehicle impact to airbag deployment

·   Ignition cycle count at time of the crash

·   Ignition cycle count at investigation 

·   Maximum velocity before deployment

·   Velocity vs. time for frontal airbag deployment

·   Time from vehicle impact to time of maximum velocity

·   Time between the air bags about to deploy and deployment if it is within five seconds

Insurance carriers and police officers use the information gathered by the box to reconstruct the events leading up to a crash.  General Motors has been installing black boxes in their cars since 1999, and several other car manufacturers have been installing them since 1996.  Crash investigators, insurers, police and government researchers say such information is the cornerstone to learning how to build safer cars.  Privacy advocates say EDRs are a way to obtain data that can be used to incriminate drivers.

The controversial practice of installing black boxes in cars will become even more hotly contested when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a new rule in 2006, requiring carmakers to standardize black box technology.  The standardization will necessitate that all data is recorded and stored in the same way, which will make it is easier for researchers to recover the information.  However, only a few states have addressed the privacy concerns associated with black boxes and have enacted laws that ensure the car owner’s ownership rights to the data.

Are Men and Women Equal When It Comes to Bad Weather Driving?

The Battle of the Sexes has raged from the time Eve showed Adam she was not about to play second fiddle when she tempted him to bite that notorious apple. Since then, women have proved that they are not just a product of male spare parts. One of the most cherished arenas in the male-female competition is the ability to handle a car. Men have always felt that automobiles are in the masculine domain, pretty much like arc welding and plumbing. Women, of course, have taken a somewhat different view. Now the Chrysler Group has come along to confirm that men and women do not see eye to eye when it comes to rating each other’s driving skills.

According to its Bad Weather Driving Survey, men believe that they are better drivers than their mates. Out of 1,000 adults surveyed, sixty-eight percent of the men expressed this opinion.  Forty-nine percent of women polled think they are just as adept at driving as their male significant others. Twenty-six percent, more than one in four women, responded that they are better drivers than men.

Men and women may have rated their driving abilities differently, but the genders agreed about driving in bad weather conditions. Eighty-four percent of the men and eighty-six percent of the women chose icy roads and pouring rain as the two most difficult weather conditions to drive in. Only seven percent of the drivers surveyed chose heavy snow as the most difficult weather condition for driving. Four percent of those polled chose sleet as the most difficult condition, while three percent chose strong winds.

Oddly enough, the same situations that make male drivers uncomfortable also make female drivers nervous. Seventy percent of both men and women said the possibility of losing control of your car or having to swerve because of something unexpected in the road were the two most frightening driving situations.

Whether you are male or female, knowing how to adapt to changing road conditions can save your life. Consider the following tips:

·        Slow down and leave wider space cushions between you and other drivers when you encounter bad weather, glare, narrow/twisting roads, and low light conditions.

·        Remember that, even with headlights, it is extremely difficult to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Use your headlights between the hours of sunset and sunrise. For the best visibility, use your high beams when you are over 500 feet from oncoming vehicles or 300 feet behind the vehicles ahead.

·        When driving under foggy/smoky conditions, turn on your low-beam headlights and fog lights (if your vehicle is equipped with them). Be prepared to stop suddenly. If the fog or smoke becomes so thick that you cannot see well enough to keep driving, pull completely off the pavement and stop. Turn on your emergency flashers.

·        Remember that roads are extra slippery at the start of a rain shower because oil, which has risen to the road surface, has not had a chance to wash away. Heavy rains will cause more problems because your tires can begin to hydroplane, like water skis. In this case, the key to keeping your tires in contact with the road is to simply slow down. Also, keep your headlights on when it is raining at any time of day.

·        An important skill to learn in snow and ice is the controlled slide. If your vehicle begins to slide, take your foot off the gas pedal. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply them firmly. Otherwise, avoid using brakes, pumping them gently only if you are about to hit something. Steer the car into the direction of the skid to straighten out the vehicle. Then steer in the direction you wish to go.

Understanding the Proper Usage and Limitations of Cartridge-Type Respirators

A half-mask cartridge-type respirator is the most common type used for protection against solvent vapors.  Many workers believe their respirator is working properly, when in reality it may not be.  You could have the wrong kind of respirator for the task at hand, wrong kind of filter cartridges, leakage and fit problems, or worn-out filter cartridges. Also, keep in mind that filter cartridge respirators just don’t protect you from the vapors produced by all chemicals.

Try to Use Ventilation Where Possible Instead of Relying on Respirators

Ideally your workplace should make full use of fans and local exhaust ventilation to make the air safe, if possible. Make full use of the ventilation you have. Also, never enter a confined space that has not been tested for oxygen content with a cartridge respirator.  Oxygen content must be at least 19.5% to use these types of respirators.

Use the Right Kind of Respirator

Dust masks, surgical masks, and handkerchiefs do NOT protect at all against solvent vapors. Don’t automatically choose an organic vapor (“OV”) filter cartridge respirator. A respirator must be right for the kinds of solvents you use, the amount of vapor in the air, and your work situation.

Make Sure Your Respirator Fits Properly

Any respirator will leak between the mask and face, unless it is fitted right. You must be individually “fit tested” by a trained person when you receive your respirator. There are various mask sizes and shapes. Masks can be “full face” (over the eyes, nose and mouth) or “half face” (nose and mouth only). Facial hair under the sealing edge allows vapor to leak into the mask.

Before Using Your Respirator:

· Look it over. Before you put it on, check it for cracks, damage, or loose parts.

· Check the fit. After you put it on, check the fit yourself. For respirators with masks that seal to the face, do “positive pressure” and “negative pressure” fit tests. These tests are done with the respirator on; block the valves, then exhale and inhale, checking for leaks.

· Clean it up. After use, clean the respirator, if necessary, using soap and water.

· Protect it. Store it in a sealed plastic bag to protect it from dirt and vapors. Protect it from crushing which could deform the shape of the facemask.

Do Not Use Filter Cartridge Respirators with All Solvents

Solvents with poor odor warning ability, such as Freon, carbon tetrachloride and methylene chloride, are not safe to use with filter respirators.You need an odor to warn you at the end of cartridge life or if the respirator leaks.  You should know both the type and concentrations of contaminants in the air of your workplace.

Replace Cartridge Filters Often

Filters may last for a few minutes or a few days of use, depending on the situation. Old filters let vapors leak through. Exit your work area and replace the filters immediately whenever you smell leakage into the mask; you should never be able to smell the chemicals at all when you’re wearing the respirator.

Cartridge-type respirators are safe to use provided you understand their limitations and know how to use them properly.

A Winning Game Plan for Tailgating Season

As Fall quickly approaches, the air grows cooler and the leaves begin to turn, many sports fans look forward to their favorite time of year—tailgating season. For some fans, tailgating simply means sitting on the bumper of their car with friends, enjoying a few snacks and drinks before the game. But for the more devoted tailgaters, football season calls for elaborate, well-organized tailgating events that often include a dedicated tailgating vehicle.

If you’re thinking about joining the ranks of these enthusiastic tailgaters and purchasing a tailgating vehicle of your own, here are a few tips you may want to keep in mind:

Buy wisely

Even if you plan to buy a relatively inexpensive tailgating vehicle to be used only on game days, you should still make smart choices about your purchase. Some vehicles may seem like an incredible deal, but oftentimes there’s a catch—such as no car title. You should never buy a vehicle if the seller does not possess the title. This could be a sign that the car was stolen, badly damaged or even declared a total loss.

To make sure you don’t get stuck with a lemon, you should consider requesting a CARFAX Vehicle History Report on the vehicle. These handy reports include an abundance of valuable information, such as title information, flood damage history, lemon history, odometer readings, lien activity, vehicle use and total loss history. After reviewing the report, you may discover that the vehicle you’re considering isn’t worth the expense—even if it does seem like a bargain.

Tailgating vehicle alternatives

While RV’s are always a popular choice for many tailgaters, some fans opt for another type of large tailgating vehicle, like a school or church bus. While these giant vehicles are a great way to transport all your friends, family and supplies to the game, there are a few things you should know before purchasing one.

First and foremost, you’ll have to apply for a Commercial Driver’s License with your local DMV office if you want to buy and drive a bus. (Nothing more than a normal driver’s license is required to drive an RV.) You should also contact the manufacturer of your bus or other large vehicle and find out how many people can safely fit in the vehicle.

Additionally, take your bus or other tailgating vehicle to professional who can ensure that all the seat belts, the air brake system, airbags and tires are in proper working condition. This will ensure that your friends, family members and any other passengers make it to the game safely.

Play it safe

Although tailgating is all about having fun, you’ll want to take a few precautions to make sure you and your guests are completely safe throughout the event. In particular, you should be extremely cautious when it comes to transporting your tailgating equipment to and from the game.

If you plan to tow items behind your vehicle, make sure that the weight is distributed evenly throughout your trailer. Secure or tie down all of the cargo to ensure that nothing falls out of the trailer during the trip. Make sure that all of your trailer’s tires are the same size and type, and check the pressure on each tire before your trip. Also ensure that your trailer brake lights are functioning properly.

Each state has different towing laws, so be sure to check with your DMV about the requirements in your area. You may need to obtain a special permit or license depending on the size and weight of your trailer. Additionally, you should call your insurance company to make sure you have enough coverage for your trailer and any expensive tailgating equipment you are towing.

Of course, you should also take measures to make sure everyone is safe during the actual tailgating event. Be sure to pack a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and plenty of water in your tailgating vehicle. If you plan to serve alcohol to friends during the tailgating event, make sure that no one tries to drive home if they’ve had too much to drink. Call a cab or ask another friend to drive them home.

Get it insured

With countless vehicles coming and going from a big sporting event, accidents are bound to happen. That’s why it’s so important to insure your tailgating vehicle. Even though you may drive your tailgating vehicle just a few times a year, comprehensive auto insurance is well worth the cost. If your vehicle is severely damaged or totaled, insurance coverage could prove to be priceless.

What Coverage Do You Get under a Contractor’s Equipment Policy?

Contractor’s equipment insurance is an essential part of any construction firm’s insurance program. Commercial property insurance covers a business’s personal property while it is at a location listed on the policy, but it does not cover property that moves among different locations. Business automobile insurance does insure property that moves around, but it does not cover “mobile equipment” — property such as bulldozers, loaders, digging equipment, and power tools that the business uses off its own premises. Power tools may cost only a few hundred dollars, but large pieces like backhoes and excavators may be worth tens of thousands of dollars. To properly insure such property, the firm needs contractor’s equipment insurance.

A typical contractor’s equipment policy will cover the insured’s owned pieces of equipment listed on its declarations page or a separate schedule. It will also cover equipment that someone else owns and that is in the insured’s care, custody or control. For example, the policy will cover a loader that the insured borrows from another contractor on a job site or that it rents from an equipment dealer. It may also provide one amount of insurance to cover a group of less expensive items, such as power hand tools. For example, it might provide $10,000 coverage on tools but no more than $500 for any one item. It will not cover automobiles, trucks, aircraft, watercraft, contraband, and it may not cover equipment the insured uses in underground mining operations or equipment rented or loaned to others.

The policy will cover equipment for a variety of losses, including fire, explosion, vandalism, theft, collision with other equipment or objects, and overturning. Unlike standard property insurance policies, contractor’s equipment insurance often covers losses caused by floods and earthquakes.

Insurance companies usually offer several coverage options, such as:

  • Rental reimbursement coverage, which covers the cost of renting a temporary substitute when a covered cause of loss damages an insured item.
  • Reimbursement of income the insured loses when it cannot complete a project because a covered cause of loss has damaged an insured item.
  • Blanket coverage, which insures all covered equipment under one large amount of insurance instead of insuring each item under its own individual amount.

To purchase the proper amount of insurance, the firm must determine the values of each piece of equipment. A typical policy covers equipment for its “actual cash value,” which is the difference between the cost of replacing the equipment and the amount by which it has depreciated. Published equipment pricing guides, advertisements in trade magazines, and local equipment dealers are good sources of information on equipment values.

In addition to the other options available, an insured must consider factors such as:

  • Whether to pay extra to insure the equipment for its replacement cost without depreciation. This may depend on both the firm’s budget and the ease with which the firm can obtain used equipment should it need to.
  • Whether the policy has a coinsurance clause, which penalizes the insured if coverage on the damaged item is less than its value at the time of the loss. Some companies may offer “agreed value” coverage, which eliminates the coinsurance clause and requires coverage up to some agreed amount.
  • Whether to buy a higher deductible to decrease the premium.

Contractor’s equipment insurance is not just for contractors; municipal governments and any other organization that uses this type of equipment need it as well. A consultation with a professional insurance agent will reveal the organization’s coverage needs and the appropriate insurance companies to meet them. Because the equipment is so expensive, the buying decision should be based on coverage and a company’s reputation, not just the premium.

Don’t Become a Victim of Identity Theft

The fastest growing financial crime in America today without question is identity theft. In their most recently yearly study, Javelin Strategy and Research Center estimated that almost 10 million people were victims of identity theft in 2008, a 22% increase over 2007.

So how can you protect yourself? The first step in avoiding this unsettling crime is to gain an understanding of identity theft.  But it is also very important to put protective measures in place, just in case you become a victim.

When an individual wrongfully acquires another person’s private information, and fraudulently uses the information for economic gain at the victim’s expense, a case of identity theft occurs.  An identity thief searches for personal data such as bank account information, social security numbers, or credit card data. The thief uses the information to deplete bank accounts, obtain bank loans, or make thousands of dollars of charges on a victim’s credit card.  The result can be that victims are left with significant debt, blemished reputations, and scarred credit histories for many years to come.

To avoid this pain, first and foremost use good common sense. Guard all of your personal information, including bank and credit card account numbers and your social security number. Never leave bank deposit tickets lying around for someone else to find.  Shred credit card receipts and applications before throwing them away.  Protect your driver’s license, and don’t make obvious choices when setting up account PINs and ID numbers.

As an added safeguard, you may want to consider the possibility of setting up identity theft insurance coverage. If you do become a victim of this insidious crime, this coverage reimburses you for costs incurred to restore your identity and repair your personal credit report.  Evaluate your homeowner’s insurance policy, as some insurance companies include identity theft protection in your policy. Other insurance companies sell identity theft coverage as an endorsement to homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies, or may even market the protection as a stand-alone policy.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, call the bank, credit card company, or agency that is affected by the questionable transaction as soon as possible.  Make certain they are aware of exactly what is going on, and that they have taken steps to prevent any further unwanted transactions. Finally, report the crime to the appropriate authorities, and file a report with the local police department and the Federal Trade Commission.  A copy of the police report will be necessary to file the claim under your insurance policy for both reimbursement of funds and credit repair.

What is the Difference Between Occurrence vs. Claims Made Forms?

All the property and casualty insurance policies you buy fall into one of two categories – “occurrence” or “claims-made.”   This distinction may impact drastically on:

1.      Whether or not your policy will respond to a claim;

2.      What your responsibilities will be in the event of a claim;

3.      How much your policy will cost up front and in subsequent years, and;

4.      How much it will cost to keep the coverage in effect, in the event of cancellation.

With all this riding on the type of coverage form you purchase; it helps to understand the pros and cons of each so that you can make an informed decision if options are available.

“Occurrence” form coverage is the simpler of the two.  Most property and casualty insurance policies fall into this category.  Quite simply, “occurrence” form coverage means that the policy responds to events that occur during the policy period regardless of when the claim is made.  Once the policy period is over, the policy will respond to covered claims, even if the claim is made many years after the triggering event (accident, wrongful act, injury, etc.). 

The far more complex “claims-made” coverage form responds only to claims that are made during the policy period, though the triggering event may occur prior to the policy period if there is a “retroactive date” on the policy.   The key to “claims-made” policies is maintaining continuous coverage.  Without “continuity,” insurers will not give you that all important retroactive coverage.

“Claims-made” coverage came into vogue in the sixties and seventies as professional liability policies gained a foothold and underwriters sought to contain the volatile nature of the “tail.”  In property and casualty insurance lingo the “tail” refers both to the optional coverage that may be purchased to extend the policy for reporting purposes, and to the typical length of time between the triggering event and the claim.   Asbestosis, which often takes years to develop, is considered a “long tail” exposure.  Libel and slander lawsuits, on the other hand, usually occur right after the triggering event, i.e., libelous newspaper article or news broadcast.

“Claims-made” policies are becoming more popular in commercial lines because soon after the policy year is over, actuaries will have a pretty good idea of how many more claims might be reported.  Subsequent claims, even if the triggering event occurred during that earlier policy period, will be charged to the later policy period when the claim is made.  The ability to “close out” policy years quickly, is a palpable benefit to insurers of the “claims-made” form.

How do you identify “claims-made” or “occurrence” policies?  “Claims-made” policies are easier to identify because they will typically advise you in the declarations or the first page of the policy:  “THIS IS A CLAIMS-MADE POLICY.”  Additionally, you can search for Extended Reporting Period, aka “tail” option, provisions in the form.  A space for “retroactive date” on the declarations page is another telltale sign of “claims-made.”

“Occurrence” policies are more difficult to spot.  While some policies might herald the occurrence nature of the form, in other cases it will be the lack of “claims-made” language and provisions that will provide the clues.

While “claims-made” might seem more onerous than “occurrence,” for the buyer there are some benefits that warrant mentioning.  First and foremost, there is the pricing issue.  The first year of “claims-made” coverage should typically cost somewhere between 40 and 85% of an “occurrence” policy.  The price automatically increases in subsequent years as the “claims-made” exposure increases.  Usually, after three to five years, a “claims-made” policy is thought to be roughly equivalent to an “occurrence” policy and should cost about the same.  In addition to the cost savings enjoyed early in the early years of coverage, in a competitive marketplace insureds can benefit as underwriters discount the step factors that bring up the price.  Also, although Extended Reporting Period options can be quite costly, it is rare that an insured will need to exercise such an option unless they retire or are unable to find retroactive coverage from another carrier.  Still, it’s a good idea to compare Extended Reporting Period options if you are presented with quotes from different carriers.  How long are the “tail” options and how expensive? 

While “claims-made” coverage can be confusing, it’s clear this coverage form is here to stay as the preferred choice for insurers across an increasingly broad array of product lines.  So get used to the concept now and be prepared to explore all the options carefully.

Head Restraints Found Inadequate in SUVs

With rear end collisions, there is always the possibility of the victims suffering from whiplash. That’s why head restraints are so important to your safety provided they function properly.

Although the primary purpose of a head restraint is to prevent injury to your neck during a rear end crash, there are significant differences in the way head restraints are made. Some are adjustable, while others remain in a fixed position. Some adjustable restraints can be locked into position, but others are not manufactured to lock. There are also variations in height as well as the distance from the back of a person’s head.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a study of the seat/head restraint combinations in 44 current model SUVs. Only six of the models tested received a passing rating for protection against whiplash injuries in rear end crashes.

According to the study, if a seat/head restraint is well designed, it should keep the head and torso moving together during a rear end collision. When a car is struck in the rear, the seats push the occupants’ torsos forward. If the occupants’ heads are not supported properly, they will remain behind as the torso moves forward. This difference in motion between the two body parts results in the neck being snapped back. The faster the torso moves, the more sudden the movement, and the greater the forces exerted on the neck, which makes the possibility of whiplash more likely.

A head restraint needs to extend at least as high as the center of gravity of the tallest occupant’s head. A restraint should be located close to the back of an occupant’s head so it can provide support at the point of impact.

The Institute evaluated the seat/head restraints with a two-part test. First, the restraint geometry was measured to determine its height and distance from the head of an average-size man. Seats/head restraint combinations that flunked the geometry test were immediately given a poor rating because they cannot provide protection for enough different body types in rear-end crashes.  If the seat/head restraint combination was rated either good or acceptable for its geometry, it was then tested to see how it performed while in motion. The testers used a movable platform and a dummy to measure forces on the neck. This test, known as a sled test, simulates a collision in which a non-moving vehicle is struck in the rear end by a vehicle of the same weight traveling at 20 mph.

In general, the researchers found that four out of five SUV seat/head restraint combinations tested were marginal or poor in terms of whiplash protection. This was the first time the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had tested SUV seats using a dummy to measure forces exerted on the neck during a rear-end crash.

The SUVs whose seat/head restraint combinations received an overall good rating were the Ford Freestyle, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR3, Subaru Forester, and Volvo XC90.  SUVs with poor ratings included such popular models as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer, and Toyota 4Runner.

Drivers Aren’t Using Turn Signals According to Survey

We all remember the experience of first learning to drive. You couldn’t wait to get on the road, so you quickly learned the driving rules to show your parents you were prepared to take your driving test. When the day of your road test finally arrived, you dutifully went through the prescribed paces, making sure to use turn signals so the test administrator would evaluate you as a safe, reliable driver. But when a driver’s license was placed in your eager hands that seemed to be the end of any need for turn signals. Or so says a survey conducted in August 2005 by Response Insurance, a national car insurer.

According to the National Driving Habits Survey, fifty-seven percent of American drivers admit they don’t use turn signals when changing lanes. The numbers revealed men as the main culprits: sixty-two percent of men don’t use signals when changing lanes, while only fifty-three percent of the women who responded admitted the same. Drivers in the 18 to 24 demographic lead the pack with seventy-one percent failing to signal. Only forty-nine percent of drivers in the 55 to 64 age group admitted to this behavior.

Despite their shared behavior, respondents admitting to non-use of turn signals often shared different reasons for this pattern. The researchers categorized drivers into groups based on their rationale for ignoring the use of signals:

·   Impulsive: At forty-two percent, this category represented the largest group of guilty drivers. Their reason for ignoring the use of signals is a whimsical approach to lane changing, doing so whenever the mood strikes them. They feel they don’t have enough time to both predict and then signal their impending lane change.

·   Lazy: Accounting for twenty-three percent of non-signaling drivers, this group couldn’t offer any reason other than honest laziness for failing to signal a lane change.

·   Forgetful: Seventeen percent of respondents fit this description; these drivers said they don’t use a turn signal because they forget to turn it off after the lane change.

·   Swervers: The zigzagging twelve percent in this category admitted they spend their time on the road constantly changing lanes. Their lane changes are so frequent, they felt they would be continually turning signals on and off.

·   Ostriches: The eleven percent in this group believe signaling is simply not an important act when changing lanes.

·   Followers: This category had eight percent of the guilty respondents; they believe when other drivers don’t signal, they shouldn’t have to either.

·   Dare Devils: The smallest number of drivers fell into this category. Seven percent of those who don’t signal said this style of driving adds excitement to driving.

Third Party Coverage Is a Key Coverage of Employment Practices Liability Insurance

The purpose of third-party coverage in an Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) policy is to protect an organization and its employees from accusations of wrongful acts committed against customers, clients, vendors, and suppliers. Some EPLI policies also cover wrongful acts committed by third parties against the insured’s employees.

Harassment and all forms of discrimination are covered under wrongful acts. Discrimination claims include discriminatory practices against a person based on their race, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, pregnancy or sexual orientation. Harassment involves unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. Both verbal and physical conduct, as well as other forms of harassment that create a hostile or offensive work environment, are covered. Some policies also cover accusations of mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and assault.

If your organization has a lot of interaction with the public, it is especially vulnerable to third-party claims like those described above. In some cases, EPLI carriers may not provide third-party coverage to firms with a high potential for claims. What they might offer instead is limited coverage, such as covering accusations of discrimination, but not harassment claims.

To protect your organization from third-party claims, you need to go beyond just purchasing coverage. You must implement policies and procedures that address discrimination and harassment issues, both from the standpoint of an employee’s actions and the actions of third parties. EPLI insurers are increasingly requiring employers to implement these practices before they will issue a policy.

Having policies in place will offer little help to stop third-party claims if employees aren’t adequately trained. New employee orientation programs should include a presentation outlining the organization’s harassment/discrimination policies. The training must also include how to report and handle a third-party claim. However, hearing the information once is not enough to insure compliance. Employees must be periodically retrained through departmental meetings. To maintain the effectiveness of departmental training sessions, be sure that supervisors are provided with copies of all policy updates and procedural changes.

One important caveat to keep in mind is that most EPLI policies don’t provide third-party coverage for accusations involving the violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nevertheless, you should review your EPLI policy’s definition of a claim to determine the policy’s interpretation. Many policies define a claim as a “demand for monetary damages.” This definition can present a problem in an ADA claim, because many of these claims are asking for reasonable accommodations, not monetary awards. That’s why it is important to ensure that your policy’s definition of a claim includes claims for non-monetary damages. A policy with this expanded definition will cover defense costs and indemnity connected with an ADA claim, but will not provide the funds to bring your organization into compliance with the provisions of the law.

Fire Insurance Coverage: Know What You Have and Understand How it Works

The extensive and costly damage caused by California wildfires over the last couple of years should serve as a reminder on why it’s vital to both know how you should proceed after finding yourself victim to a large-scale fire, and fully understand your fire insurance coverage before you need to call upon it.

Once the immediate danger of a fire is over, you will need to assess the situation and the resulting ramifications. If you find that the disaster has created large-scale destruction, then just the number of people impacted and the vastness of the destruction itself will most likely impact the cost and tempo of your rebuild. For example, available building materials will be depleted quickly and additional materials will be in high demand. Likewise, contractors will be available in limited numbers and be in high demand. The result – premium prices for supplies and contractors.

Given the above circumstances, it’s necessary for you to insist your insurance adjuster and contractor work together and reach an agreed price for your reconstruction. You might ask both parties to meet with you simultaneously at your home during the cost estimate of the reconstruction.

In addition to knowing how to proceed after a disaster, you also need to fully understand your insurance coverage. Do you know how much of the damage your insurance would cover?

If you opted to insure your home for 100% of its estimated replacement cost when you purchased your policy, then it should pay the cost to rebuild up to that estimated replacement cost. You can add at least an additional 25% if you opted for an extended replacement cost endorsement in your policy. Furthermore, a supplemental building ordinance endorsement in your policy will cover between 10% and 100% of the cost to bring your home up to code if there have been any new or changed construction codes since it was first constructed.

You will need to make an inventory of your home’s contents that were destroyed in the fire to receive compensation from your insurer. To make the settlement process go quickly and smoothly, make sure to provide the description; total cost of replacement, including sales tax; life expectancy; and age of each item. Don’t forget to verify the replacement cost by including the retailer’s name and phone number and salesperson’s name -or- the web addresses for any prices you obtained online. The average percentage of depreciation can be figured by dividing the age of the item by its average life expectancy. You will be paid the withheld depreciation difference on your destroyed items when you replace them with comparables if your policy only covers replacement value.

Additional living expenses, such as rent or a comparable furnished living area, may also be paid under your policy. Of course, this will be minus those expenses, such as mortgage payments and utilities, not directly resulting from your home having been destroyed. Coverage is usually a maximum of 20% of your home’s insurance limit and will generally continue for 12 months or less. Even if your home isn’t damaged, your living expenses may still be covered if your home is uninhabitable by government order. This coverage will end when the government allows you to return to your home.

The right coverage can ease some of the trauma a fire disaster causes to your life. However, you must know what you have and how it works to determine if you have the right insurance coverage in place to met your needs.

Indoor Air Quality: It’s Hard to Believe What We Breathe

Since the early 1970’s and the development of buildings that were sealed tight to save energy costs, indoor air quality has become an important concern.  The absence of fresh air and the regurgitation of stale air throughout massive office complexes have generated millions of headaches and more serious concerns.

Poor air quality doesn’t just come from the lack of fresh air.  There are many volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde in constant use in these buildings.  The major sources of formaldehyde are likely to be particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood in furniture and paneling in addition to carpeting and glues.

Other dangerous chemical compounds are released from everyday office items like furniture, paint, adhesives, solvents, upholstery, draperies, carpeting, spray cans, clothing, construction materials, cleaning compounds, deodorizers, copy machine toners, felt-tip markers and pens, and correction fluids.

Microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, molds and fungi are present in the air almost everywhere and may also cause office air pollution.  Fungi and bacteria find nourishment in inadequately maintained humidification and air-circulation systems, and in dirty washrooms.  In 16 major studies, at least 281 cases of illness were traced to humidifier systems, circulation vacuum pumps, blowers, ventilation and duct work, and air filters.

Another known cause of office pollution is asbestos and asbestos products that number in the thousands.  Office buildings are likely to have them in ceiling and floor tiles, and acoustic and thermo insulation.  A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study of ten cities found that almost twenty percent of office buildings contained asbestos in an easily crumbled, more dangerous state.

Unless you work in a sterile office environment with no carpets, drapes or furniture, there is no avoiding a risk to your breathing system.  But there are at least some steps that you can undertake to make your building and workplace safer.

  1. Eliminate Tobacco:  A firm no-smoking policy is the best way to protect the health of all employees.  If that is not currently feasible, smoking should be allowed only in a well-ventilated area reserved exclusively for that purpose, where no non-smoker is required to enter or pass through.

2.      Provide Adequate Ventilation:  Guidelines for office buildings set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers require circulation of a minimum of 140 liters of outside air per minute per person.  Relative humidity should be kept between thirty and sixty percent.

3.      Practice Regular Maintenance:  Clean and disinfect ventilating, heating, or cooling devices and systems, including humidifiers and dehumidifiers, air filters and air circulation pumps and blowers.

For the health of all of employees, remember to pay heed to indoor air quality.   We are what we breathe.

UFOV Training and Testing: Helping Older Drivers Stay Independent, Mobile, and Safe

The potential for isolation, lower self-esteem, and loss of independence makes not being able to operate a vehicle one of the most dreaded and devastating factors of growing old. Over the last few decades, the safety of older drivers has been a highly researched public health concern. The focus of this research has evolved, bringing with it better understanding and more comprehensive ways to address the issue.

The National Institute on Aging’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research has funded a significant amount of aging and driving research over the years. Research into one concept called useful field of view or UFOV has been particularly instrumental in assisting elderly drivers to regain their safe driving skills. But, current UFOV training and testing has been a long process:

Do Older Drivers Pose A Risk?

In the 1960’s, early driving safety research mainly focused on the effect aging had on driving skills and whether or not elderly drivers posed any public safety risk. Most studies discovered that younger drivers actually had more accidents than their older counterparts. However, the risk of fatal or injury-producing accidents and the risk of accident in proportion to miles driven were both higher among older drivers.

What Factors Impact Driver Performance?

In the 1970s, most research shifted to focus on the specific factors behind driving skill losses. Decreased visual acuity, cognitive function losses, and visual field losses were among the top factors that impacted driver performance. Other factors found to have an impact on driver safety included muscular, joint, ligament, tendon, and nerve disorders; cardiovascular disease; and usage of certain medications. However, researchers still couldn’t show a firm correlation between cognitive or vision function declines in older drivers and their involvement in vehicle accidents. Some researchers now attribute this problem to the separate measures that the researchers were using to singularly test vision and cognitive function impacts on driver safety, which didn’t account for the cognitive and visual performance interactions needed to manage the various driving distractions.

Can Older Drivers Retain Driving Skills?

In the 1980s, researchers not only focused on identifying the possible factors reducing older driver safety, but also started to explore possible interventions to solve the driving skill decline associated with growing older.

Drivers must be able to simultaneously focus on their front field of view; use their peripheral vision to monitor movements and objects beside them; distinguish informational stimuli, such as pedestrian crossings, school and work zones, stop signs, merges, and car signals around them; determine their own speed and estimate the speed of others; and make driving judgment calls, such as distancing, passing, and the timing of traffic lights.

The NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research tackled the above complexities of driving by focusing on UFOV. This is the attention window in which a driver can quickly be alerted to visual stimuli. It measures how well a driver can notice, localize, and identify suprathreshold targets within their environment. Since a suprathreshold target is something that’s in a driver’s peripheral vision field and wouldn’t attract attention unless it’s a hazard, UFOV involves both vision and cognitive processes.

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1987, which called for the investigation of the problems affecting the safety and mobility of older drivers and possible solutions, gave UFOV research a huge boost.

The National Academies of Science Transportation Research Board recommended ways to advance UFOV research in a 1989 report and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the Human Factors in Aging initiative. University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers were among some of the first to receive UFOV funding. This research showed that while older adults were more apt to have a lesser UFOV than their younger counterparts, UFOV maintenance and loss is very individual. It’s very possible for many older adults to maintain an adequate UFOV into the eighties.

Early UFOV Testing And Training

In the 1990s, the above research had thoroughly documented that impaired mental status and/or visual function can result in UFOV declines. And, by the late 1990s, research showed that older drivers with a UFOV impairment of greater than 40% were almost twice as likely as those without impairments to be involved in an accident within the next few following years. Research also concluded that older drivers with UFOV limitations could improve their UFOV by thirty to sixty percent from participating in speed-of-processing training thirty minutes a day for five days. While the training typically showed improved driving skills for up to eighteen months, some drivers didn’t retain the skill as long and needed booster courses.

UFOV Testing And Training Today

Thanks to the NIA and the many public and private research teams throughout the years, UFOV testing and training is now available to help many older drivers retain their driving skills, retain their mobility, and operate safely:

* Florida, Maryland, and California use UFOV testing.

* Drivers that pass the UFOV test are offered an insurance discount at State Farm Auto Insurance Company.

* As of 2009, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a non-profit AAA affiliate, recommends the DriveSharp program.

* UFOV training programs are offered by TransAnalytics Health and Safety Services.

* Researchers are currently investigating using an in-car method in determining UFOV performance and alerting older drivers of their performance.

* One recent study supported by NIA found that the benefits of UFOV also included a decrease in depression and improvement of health-related quality of life.

In closing, UFOV testing and training programs have been a long time in the making and show great potential to make big differences in age-related restrictions on driving.

Do You Really Need Full Replacement Insurance on Your Current Building?

The owners of a new company found a building on the market for an affordable price, so they bought it. Built in the 1940’s to manufacture aircraft for the war effort, the metal structure had a large open space. The company occupying this space was in the software development business and the building was much larger than it needed, but the price made it seem like a sensible move. However, the owners got a surprise from their insurance agent about property coverage. Insurance companies base limits of insurance on the cost of replacing a building exactly as it was before the loss. The cost of reconstructing this old building was much higher than both its purchase price and that of other suitable properties. The company did not need that much insurance, and paying the higher premium for it would have been wasteful, so the owners asked the agent for alternatives. What if, they asked, we don’t rebuild our building as it was?

After a fire or some other catastrophe destroys a building, its owners may decide not to rebuild or replace with a similar structure for a number of reasons.

  • As was the case with the software company, the current building’s design may be impractical. The company bought the building because of a good price, not because of its large open space. A software developer ordinarily does not need that much space; if it were to rebuild, it would almost certainly choose a smaller building with a different layout. Also, very old buildings often include materials that builders do not commonly use today, such as plaster and lathe. Reconstruction with these materials is expensive and often unnecessary for the continued operation of the business.
  • The company may decide to consolidate the operations of two locations into one. The second location may have the capacity to absorb the first one’s operations, and management may feel that it will gain efficiencies by consolidating.
  • Depending on the building’s age, it may not meet current building codes. The local government may require any new buildings to meet expensive new codes.

The standard business property insurance policy states that the insurance company will pay “actual cash value” — the cost of replacing the property minus an amount for depreciation. However, it offers the option of valuing a loss at replacement cost without deduction for depreciation. A business that chooses this option will need to purchase the amount of insurance equal to the cost of replacing the building “as is.” The company will pay the difference between the actual cash value and the replacement cost only if the property owner actually rebuilds or replaces the property, and then only if he does so as soon as reasonably possible after the loss. The policy also provides a small amount of additional insurance (typically the lesser of five percent of the insurance on the building or $10,000) to cover the increased cost of construction resulting from changes in building codes.

Businesses like the software company, who do not need an exact replacement of their current buildings, should ask their agent about adding a “functional building valuation” endorsement to their policies. It establishes a limit of insurance somewhere between actual cash value and full replacement cost and allows the property owner to replace the building with one that fulfills the same function as the old one at a lesser cost. The discussion with the agent should also include increased “ordinance or law” coverage to provide additional insurance for increased costs from new building codes. With the right attention to detail, a business can get the property insurance it needs without having to waste money on unnecessary coverage.

Research Proves Using Seat Belts Cuts Hospital Bills

Evidence of the importance of wearing a seat belt while in a moving vehicle is not a recent discovery; many studies have been conducted to compare the hospital costs for victims of crashes that wore seat belts against those who did not wear them.   In 2001, the National Safety Council revealed that the average inpatient costs for crash victims not wearing seat belts were 50% higher than victims who were wearing seat belts during the accident.

In 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the deaths and injuries that result from not wearing a seat belt cost an estimated $26 billion annually in medical care, lost productivity and other related costs.

Recently, the Minnesota Seat Belt Coalition has been conducting its own research to determine how the use of seat belts impacts the cost of health care. Using Minnesota vehicle crash records from 2002, the group has discovered that hospital costs for unrestrained crash victims were 94% higher than hospital costs for those using seat belts. They estimated that increasing seat belt usage in Minnesota to 94% from the current rate of 84% could reduce the cost of crash-related hospital care an average of $19 million annually over the next 10 years.

Many people might wonder how a simple piece of equipment could be so effective in reducing crash-related hospital costs, and potentially save their life.  To understand how a seatbelt works, one must first examine a basic principle of physics called inertia.

Sir Isaac Newton is credited with refining the concept of inertia in his work entitled Laws of Motion. Newton’s first law stated that, “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight ahead, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”  Put simply, an object will continue to move in an straight line until something interferes with its path.

Take that basic premise and apply it to a moving vehicle, which contains a driver and passengers. If a vehicle is traveling at 40 miles per hour, inertia should keep it moving forward at this pace, undisturbed. However, other factors like air resistance and friction caused by the interaction of the tires and the road surface are continually slowing it down. The car’s engine is designed to compensate for this energy loss and keep the car in continuous motion.

Separately, everything inside the car has its own inertia. Even though the passengers’ inertia is separate from the car’s inertia, while the car is traveling at 40 miles per hour, the passengers are traveling at 40 miles per hour as well. At this point, both the car and the passengers have the same inertia.

If the car were to suddenly stop because it impacted with another object, the passengers’ inertia and the car’s inertia would be completely independent. The force of the impact would bring the car to an abrupt stop, but the passengers would still be traveling at 40 miles per hour. Without a seat belt, the inhabitants would continue to move forward at 40 miles per hour until their path was obstructed, usually by a steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield. Depending on where and how the passengers landed, they could be killed instantly, injured severely, or walk away from the crash unharmed.

The deciding factor in this equation is the seat belt. A seat belt applies the stopping force to the sturdier parts of the body over a longer period of time. If it is worn correctly, it will apply the major portion of the stopping force to the rib cage and the pelvis, which are better able to handle it than other body parts. The belts extend across a wide section of the body, so the force is not concentrated on a small section of the body and cannot do as much harm as the impact of an object in the car. In addition, the flexible seat belt material stretches to keep the stop from being too sudden.

This simple piece of equipment relies on the properties of physics to save both lives and millions of dollars in health care annually.  It could save you money in taxes and health insurance costs.  The three extra seconds it takes to reach over and fasten the belt seem insignificant when you consider the many benefits of wearing it.  The next time you ride in a car, check to see if all the passengers are belted in; it could be the difference between life and death.

Tips for Older Drivers As Your Reaction Time Slows

The feeling of freedom you get while driving is one you never grow tired of. That feeling keeps people behind the wheel, even when the effects of aging make it more difficult for them to drive safely.

As you age, your ability to react lessens. Taking medications for conditions, such as high blood pressure or cardiac problems, can add to your inability to react quickly. You may experience a feeling of being lost or confused when you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes you may also be overwhelmed by all of the traffic signals, road signs, pedestrians and vehicles that you have to keep track of at intersections. Distances become harder to judge, and you have difficulty in determining whether you have enough room to turn or change lanes. Likewise, knowing when to merge with traffic from the on-ramp of a highway may become difficult to judge. These are all the result of the natural aging process, but you need to take extra precautions to be sure they don’t interfere with your ability to handle your vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed the following guidelines to help older Americans drive more safely:

  • Plan your route. Drive where you are familiar with the road conditions and traffic patterns.
  • Drive during the day and avoid rush hours. Find alternative routes with less traffic.
  • Keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead. Find a marker ahead of you, such as a tree, sign or lamppost. When the car ahead of you passes this marker, count “1001, 1002, 1003, 1004.” Try to leave enough space so that you reach 1004 before your car gets to the marker.
  • When approaching intersections, remind yourself to look to roadsides, as well as directly ahead.
  • Try to make left turns at intersections where green arrow signals provide protected turns. Sometimes you can completely avoid left turns by making a right turn at the next intersection. Two more right turns should put you on the street you need.
  • Scan far down the road continuously so that you can anticipate future problems and plan your actions. A passenger can serve as a “second pair of eyes.” Be careful not to get distracted in conversation.

Many seniors are still very capable of driving, which is why a decision about a person’s ability to drive should never be based solely on age. However, changes in reflexes can put at an older driver at increased risk. If you recognize and accept these changes, you can adjust your driving habits to allow many more years of safe driving.

Buying Insurance with Minimal Stress

Some might call it an understatement, but most people do not thoroughly enjoy the insurance buying experience.  As your agent, we try our best to instill the peace of mind that should come from the sometimes cumbersome process of insuring your home, auto or business.   These tips should help make your insurance buying experience less stressful:

·Work toward common anniversary dates for your coverages.

Although most people buy insurance when they need the coverage, it is a good idea to shoot for common anniversary dates for all your policies.  Here are three reasons:

  1. You kill several birds with one stone (apologies to ornithologists and the ASPCA).  That leaves the rest of the year to enjoy your freedom from the mundane aspects of applications and check writing (unless you finance your premium). 
  2. You have a designated time of the year to think about insurance, decreasing the likelihood that something will fall between the cracks.  If February 13th is the common anniversary for all your coverages, it becomes less likely that you will forget to renew your policies on time.
  3. Just as it becomes more compartmentalized for you, the same goes for us.  While we are always thinking about your needs, it is easier for us to evaluate your entire portfolio and make suggestions if you are renewing your coverages all at once. 

·Avoid common industry crunch times, like mid-year or year-end anniversary dates that strain the resources of workers in the industry. 

Think about it, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s more people take vacations than just about any other time of the year, no matter what the industry.  The insurance industry is no exception.  You can usually work on changing your expiration date, either by elongation, i.e., exceeding an annual policy term (not all insurers allow this) or by what is called a “cancel/rewrite” whereby your old policy is cancelled midterm and a new policy is issued.

·Reduce the number of payments as much as possible. 

While financing business coverages may have tax benefits that offset some of the interest you will pay, in most cases, both personal and business, it’s beneficial to reduce the number of payments you have to make.  This reduces the likelihood of forgetting to make a payment, or if your payments are made via credit card or check, it reduces the likelihood that there will be a disruption in coverage due to a change on the withdrawal account, i.e., inadvertent cancellation or suspension of the account.

·Renew early.

Do not wait until the last minute to renew your policy.  Depending on your degree of involvement in the process, it is usually best to tackle renewals early.  Often, underwriters request that all information is in their office at least 30 or 60 days in advance of the renewal of the policy.  This ensures that there will be no surprises for you (or for the underwriter).

Generally speaking, it is best if you think ahead, both in the initial purchase and in the renewal of your policy.   While your primary concerns should be purchasing the broadest possible coverage at the most affordable price, consider these tips the next time you are in the market for an insurance policy. 

Don’t Let Your Hard Work Get Washed Away

Just because you don’t live anywhere near a body of water doesn’t mean you don’t need flood insurance. No one’s home is flood-proof. In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that 25 percent of all flood insurance claims are paid to homeowners in low or moderate risk areas. That’s because it doesn’t take a body of water, or even a major storm, to cause a flood. Anything from a broken sewer line to a slow moving rainstorm can be a culprit.

Flood damage isn’t covered under your homeowner’s policy, so you must purchase a separate flood insurance policy. FEMA is the only provider of this type of coverage; however, they make it available to the public through insurance companies. That means you can purchase a policy from the same insurance agent that wrote your homeowner’s insurance.

There are two types of coverage:

  • Standard Flood Insurance Policies – If your home is in a high-risk zone, you need this policy. The cost starts at about $500 a year but can run to almost $1,500, depending on a number of factors.
  • Preferred Risk Policies – If your home is in a low or moderate risk zone, your may qualify for a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy. Premiums start at just under $119 a year.

To get specific information about premiums, you can log on to the FEMA web site at

Flood insurance policies provide two types of coverage: one for the structure and another for its contents. They can be purchased separately or together, and the FEMA website will show the premiums if you buy them individually or in combination. There is a 30-day waiting period before both of the coverages take effect.

The structural coverage is “replacement cost” coverage, which means the insurer will pay what it costs to replace or repair the structure with materials similar in type and quality to what was originally used when the structure was built, without deducting for depreciation. The maximum amount of structural coverage available for one-to-four family homes is $250,000.

Contents coverage is “actual cash value,” which means the insurer will pay what the item is worth after it has deducted depreciation. The maximum amount of contents coverage is $100,000. Renters can also purchase contents coverage.

In addition to purchasing flood insurance to protect the contents of your home, you can also protect your valuables by taking individual photos of each item, or by taking a video of your home and zooming in on everything of value. This is extremely important if you need to provide your insurer with a detailed list of your possessions.

Keep the photos or video, along with any receipts you may have for the merchandise, in a safe location outside of your home, like a bank safe deposit box. This will ensure that your documentation isn’t lost if a flood or other natural disaster destroys your home.

Proper Maintenance Can Help Businesses Prevent Weather-Related Slips and Falls

It’s that time of the year when snow, sleet and ice are a fairly common occurrence in many parts of the country. Such weather conditions pose serious problems for business owners because walkways become slippery and increase the chances for employees and customers to fall.

While you can’t control the elements, you can reduce your liability by staying alert and eliminating hazards that cause falls. One such hazard is the accumulation of ice and snow that results because deicing measures were inadequate or not properly applied.

The first step in effectively deicing a walkway is to choose the correct treatment. When selecting chemicals to melt ice, keep the following points in mind:

·   Rock salt is the most common method and the least expensive of the ice-melting chemicals. It is easy to find and can melt snow and ice until the temperature drops below 20є F. Rock salt, however, also releases a large amount of chloride when it dissolves. This chloride can pollute streams, rivers and lakes and kill vegetation. It also causes metal to corrode.

·   Calcium chloride is a deicing agent that is manufactured in small, round, white pellets. It melts snow and ice even when the temperature falls below 0є F. It is much less toxic to plants than rock salt, but it can still damage them if applied too heavily.Calcium chloride can corrode concrete.

·   Potassium chloride is a deicing chemical that doesn’t irritate skin or harm vegetation. However, it only melts ice when temperatures remain above 15є F. It must be combined with other chemicals to melt ice at lower temperatures.

·   Magnesium chloride melts snow and ice until the temperature drops below -13є F. It releases nearly 40 percent less chloride into the environment than either rock salt or calcium chloride. It is also less damaging to concrete surfaces and is less toxic to plants, trees and shrubs.

Once you have selected your deicing agent, follow these tips from the Iowa Transportation Center at Iowa State University to be sure you maintain an ice and snow-free walkway:

·   Apply deicing chemicals before a storm and remove snow/ice during and after the storm. Use plenty of deicing materials. Using too little will leave patches of ice.

·   Aim for evaporation. If the water can drain and there is full sun or even reasonable wind, the ice will evaporate. Dry pavement is a clear indication there is no ice.

·   Use a friction additive. Sand is the most popular because it’s inexpensive. Use enough to ensure that anyone walking on the surface has enough traction.

·   Check and treat surfaces every morning, especially around snow piles where melting may have created new problem areas. Reevaluate during the day and re-treat as needed.

·   Remember that a clean-looking surface is only “safe” if it is dry. A wet surface can quickly become icy in the shade or overnight.

·   Train those responsible for safety procedures how to safely maintain walkway surfaces during icy/snowy weather.

Stop and Think Before Purchasing Insurance Online

Online shopping has become an American pastime, and can be an exciting adventure. For nearly everyone, it is enjoyable to receive surprising new packages and offers in the mail. But would you want your insurance coverage to be a surprise? You may want to ask yourself some essential questions before making the decision to buy insurance online:

  • What questions should I be asking before making the purchase?
  • Am I certain about exactly what coverages I need?
  • Have I researched the insurance company, and are they legitimate?
  • Will the personal information I provide online be secure?
  • Will there be real savings in both time and money by making an on-line purchase?

When buying insurance, it is important to be confident about exactly what coverages you need. Since insurance varies widely from state to state, it is necessary to have a knowledgeable resource that understands your individual needs. If you need to file a claim, you want to be certain that the insurance you purchase will protect you. If you make the decision to use an online company that does not personally involve themselves with your insurance needs, you run the risk of being left without coverage. Take the time to ask questions. Additionally, an online insurance company should be asking questions of you, to ensure they are recommending the proper coverage.

Buying insurance online could endanger your personal security. You will be required to fill out long forms providing personal information about you and your family, including social security numbers and personal property information. The forms are sent over the Internet where there is a risk that they may fall into the wrong hands, especially if the online company does not take proper security precautions. Furthermore, how will you verify that the insurance company you select is legitimate? Despite the fact that one must have a license to sell insurance, there is no license required to establish a website that is designed to sell insurance online.

After studying insurance information such as your state insurance regulations, coverages you will require, and the security and legitimacy of an online company, you obviously will not be saving much time in making an online purchase. And, there is no guarantee that you will save money either. It may be convenient for the insurance company since they will not have to meet with you, but they will still need to provide you the proper coverage for the dollar amount of protection you need.

An insurance purchase should take place only after careful consideration, and should not include surprises. The decision to shop online may result in uncertainty about what you really get. Selecting a professional agent to prepare a personal insurance policy is a more reasonable choice. When you work with an independent insurance agent, you receive the benefit of their expertise and their industry knowledge. An independent insurance agent will help you get the protection you need based on your individual requirements, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

Driving in Construction Zones – Follow the Signs to Safety

Each year hundreds of American construction workers are killed in traffic accidents while they are on the job.  So many have been killed that a special work zone safety awareness week has been created.  A mobile memorial containing the names of people killed in construction work zones was unveiled in Washington, D.C. in April 2002 and every year since has been on display in various states during the awareness week.

However, it is not just construction workers who have been maimed or killed.  In 2002, 1,181 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones and more than 52,000 people were injured.  According to transportation safety officials, four out of five work zone fatalities are drivers and passengers.

The good news is that after years of steadily increasing numbers of accidents and fatalities in construction zones, public awareness is increasing and the numbers are beginning to drop.  In 2003, for the first time in more than five years, the number of fatalities decreased from the previous year to 1,082 deaths.

If you want to avoid becoming a construction zone statistic here are a few tips.  First of all obey all signs, especially the ones advising you to slow down.  Always stay within the posted speed limits.  Always follow the flag person’s direction.  They are your guides to help you navigate safely through the construction zone. 

Secondly, stay alert and watch for moving workers and equipment. Do not tailgate the car in front of you or try to pass a slower moving vehicle.  Ensure that there is a safe distance between your vehicle, and everything else.  Be prepared to stop at any moment and with little notice.

Thirdly, take your time.   If you are traveling through a construction work zone, plan ahead, you may be a little delayed.  But if it’s unexpected, then just relax and go with the flow.

Finally, pay attention.  Now may not be the best time to make phone calls or eat lunch.  You will need all your faculties to watch the road conditions for mud, gravel, rough surfaces, potholes or craters.  Watch out for merging traffic, especially when traffic is reducing to fewer lanes.  When taking detours through residential areas, be very cautious and watch out for children.

If you follow these easy tips and all signs and directions, you should be able to drive safely through any construction zone. Take your time and arrive alive.