In the case of United States v. Atlantic Research Corporation, the Supreme Court ruled that potentially responsible parties (PRPs) that voluntarily clean up contaminated sites may sue other PRPs to recover their cleanup costs under section 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The reinstatement of this right comes after many years of federal court battles over the issues of authority and methodology for recovering cleanup costs from other PRPs.When CERCLA was originally enacted, the courts interpreted section 107(a) as providing a method for PRPs to recover their costs from other PRPs. However, in 1986, Congress enacted the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). Section 113(f) of this law outlined explicit means for PRPs to pursue contribution from other PRPs. After the enactment of SARA, some federal courts held that section 113 was the only remedy for cleanup cost recovery. Other courts prevented PRPs from suing under section 107 of CERCLA and expanded section 113 to allow PRPs’ contributions without the need for a suit.Section 107 makes PRPs liable for “all costs of removal or remedial action incurred by the United States Government or a State or an Indian tribe” and “any other necessary costs of response incurred by any other person.” In Atlantic Research, the United States argued that the section 107 use of “any other person” was limited to suits brought by “non-PRPs.” That meant that Atlantic Research, a PRP, was barred from filing suit. The Supreme Court held that all the words of the statute must be “read as a whole.” They added that using the United States’ reading of the language would decrease the number of plaintiffs permitted to sue to almost zero, which would make Section 107 worthless.Section 113 prohibits claims against PRPs who have satisfied their liability to the United States or a state in an administrative or court approved settlement. In Atlantic Research, the United States argued that permitting PRPs to seek recovery under section 107 negates the protection offered to PRPs who have settled under section 113. The Supreme Court conceded this. However, the Court stated that this “supposed loophole” would not discourage settlements because district courts would take into account any earlier settlements when assigning the level of liability to the various PRPs involved.The Supreme Court also ruled that section 107 and 113 provide two “clearly distinct” remedies. Section 107 permits PRPs to recover cleanup costs they have incurred from other PRPs. A PRP that has satisfied a settlement agreement or court judgment under CERCLA may pursue contribution from other PRPs through section 113. The Court made clear that simultaneous recovery under section 107 and section 113 is not allowed. PRPs can’t choose their method of recovery. The appropriate remedy will depend on the circumstances in each case.
Having a reliable backup generator can be invaluable during a power outage. From powering a refrigerator, the lights, or heating or cooling during an emergency power outage, an emergency generator can be a real asset and provide many of the essentials that your family would otherwise be without during an outage. That said, generators shouldn’t be used haphazardly. If safety regulations aren’t followed, a generator can become more of a danger than an asset.
Determine what size generator you’ll need. The size of a generator will be based on the items you’d like to power during a power outage. For example, those in colder climates will want to power the furnace to keep the home warm and help prevent pipes from freezing and breaking. A well pump, refrigerator, freezer, and electrical in-home medical equipment should also be considerations. Keep in mind that the generator’s size and cost will increase with the more you need the generator to support.
Once you’ve figured out what size generator you need, you will have two main types of generators to choose from – portable or permanent standby. Understanding the workings and what’s required for each can help you determine which type best suits your need.
Depending on the specific size, a portable generator will allow you to have television, radio, lights, furnace, water well, and refrigerator and freezer powered. Generators can range from 1000-watt to 10,000 watt, with the average home needing at least a 5,000-watt generator. You may switch out the appliances, such as by momentarily disconnecting the refrigerator to operate the microwave, but make sure not to overload the equipment. You’ll plug your desired appliances directly into the portable generator using several heavy-duty grounded extension cords. This type of generator doesn’t need to be installed professionally, but it’s of vital importance that users follow strict safety practices. Never operate the generator inside the home, garage, or otherwise confined space; it must be used in a thoroughly ventilated area. Make sure to keep gas-powered portable generators away from open flames.
On the other hand, a licensed professional electrician should be used to install a permanent standby generator since it’s connected to the home’s wiring system, the installation should meet local building codes, and must be installed with several key safety features. Special equipment must be installed to prevent the generator from backfeeding into the electrical system within the home. Backfeed can result in a fire or equipment damage. It must have a transfer switch installed so that power crews won’t be in danger from live electrical currents if they need to make repairs to lines. You’ll also need to notify the power company when you install a permanent standby generator.
A generator will only be an asset to help you safely and comfortably make it through a crisis when it’s used appropriately. Otherwise, it can create more problems than it solves.
A scaffold is an elevated, temporary work platform that is engineered in a specific manner to support a defined weight load. Ensuring the safety of workers who utilize scaffolds, and avoiding injury to nearby people or property, requires choosing equipment that meets current safety standards, installing it as directed by the manufacturer, and using it for its intended purpose. Any tampering with the construction or weight load can result in injury or death.
The first consideration when practicing scaffolding safety is proper selection. Only use scaffolds that have been tested to the ANSI/SSFI SC 100 standard. When choosing a suspended scaffold, be sure that the hoist complies with ANSI/UL 1323 and that it has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or ETL Testing Laboratories. Parapet clamps, cornice hooks and outrigger beams should be tested to the ANSI/SSFI SPS 1.1 standard.
One of the problems associated with scaffold use is collapsing, which can result when the scaffold is overloaded or improperly assembled. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning loading. Evaluate the weight of the workers and materials that the scaffold will support, and determine if the buildings or structures that may be used to support the scaffold are adequate for that weight load.
Another common accident involving scaffolds is overturning or tipping, which can occur if a scaffold is not properly tied. The general rule is that ties must be installed if the scaffold height, as measured to the uppermost platform, is greater than four times the smallest base dimension. Cantilevered platforms, such as side brackets and hoist arms, can exacerbate the problem of overturning and may require that the scaffold be tied at lower points. Additional ties may be necessary if an enclosure is put on the scaffold, because any enclosure, even an open mesh one, increases wind loading, which can cause overturning.
Scaffolds should be equipped with toeboards to avoid injuries to the people and property below from falling tools, materials or debris. The ANSI/ASSE A10.8 standard says that toeboards are required with guardrail systems on all open sides and ends of a scaffold if the structure is in a location where individuals are required to work or pass under it.
The standard goes on to say that when materials are piled higher than the toeboard, the scaffold must be equipped with a safety screen that is strong enough to prevent objects from falling. The screen must be positioned between the toeboard and the toprail and extend along the entire opening.
When a scaffold is in use, don’t allow workers to remove a scaffold component without authorization, because it may cause the structure to become unstable or render safety equipment dysfunctional. You should also never permit workers to alter scaffold components or use them for purposes for which they were not designed.
If a rolling scaffold is being used, wheels or casters must be locked to prevent scaffold movement. In addition, the top platform height, as measured from the rolling surface, must not exceed four times the smallest base dimension. Secure or remove all materials from rolling scaffolds before moving them. Never permit workers to ride a rolling scaffold.
By following established safety standards, and using a common-sense approach, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common accidents and injuries that can result from scaffold use.
In recent years, our society has become what some people call “lawsuit happy.” In other words, an increasing number of people are filing lawsuits for everything from emotional injury to property damage-and they’re suing for larger amounts than ever before. If someone were to file a lawsuit against you, you could end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, even if you won.
While you may have some personal liability coverage through your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy, it’s probably not nearly enough to cover a major lawsuit. Fortunately, you can further protect yourself with what’s known as an umbrella policy. This type of policy offers a higher level of liability coverage and ensures that you and your family will be protected if someone sues you for damages.
Read on to learn more about these valuable policies:
Umbrella policies: A liability coverage “extension”
When it comes to lawsuits, the more assets you own, the more you stand to lose. A personal umbrella liability policy can protect you from these potentially devastating losses. These policies act as an extension to the current liability protection you probably have through your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy.
Umbrella policies are typically sold in million dollar increments, and you can obtain a policy once your home and auto insurance policies meet a minimum “attachment point”-typically a liability limit of $250,000 or $500,000.
What does it cover?
Most umbrella policies covers the following:
- Personal injury, including false arrest, mental anguish, malicious prosecution, libel, slander, defamation of character, wrongful entry or eviction, negligent infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy.
- Bodily injury, such as physical injury or death. In some jurisdictions, this also includes emotional injury.
- Property damage, including destruction of the property of others, cost of recreation and loss of use. However, it does not cover damages done to your own property.
- Defense coverage, including groundless, false and fraudulent suits, bail bond costs, loss of earning and other “reasonable” expenses.
Of course, it’s probably easier to understand exactly what an umbrella policy covers by putting it into real-life terms. Here are a few examples of what this type of policy could cover:
- A deliveryman is hauling your new washing machine into your home when he trips on your door mat, falls and breaks his neck. Your umbrella policy would likely cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damages.
- You’re driving down the road when an important corporate CEO steps into the crosswalk in front of your car. He sues you for millions of dollars in medical costs, lost earning and damages. Your umbrella policy can cover you for these damages.
- Your daughter invites a friend over to play on her swing set. Her friend falls off the slide and suffers from serious injuries. When her parents sue you, your umbrella policy will cover the medical costs.
How much does is it cost?
The price of an umbrella policy depends on how much coverage you want, the number of properties you rent or own and the number of automobiles or watercraft you own. The cost associated with cars and watercraft are much higher than those associated with properties.
Let’s say you are single, you own one home and one car, and you want to purchase a $5 million umbrella policy. You’ll probably pay somewhere between $270 and $550 a year. On the other hand, if you are married with two children, you own two homes, a rental property and three cars, and you want a $10 million umbrella, you’ll probably pay a good deal more-anywhere between $970 or $1,750 a year.
Talk to your insurance agent to discuss whether or not an umbrella policy is right for you. In the long run, by paying a few hundred dollars per year, you could save millions.
A business that suffers a major accident such as a fire or hurricane may have to shut down for days, weeks or longer for repairs. Often, the income lost during the shut down will exceed the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property. Businesses can protect themselves against this severe financial loss by purchasing business income insurance. However, sometimes a business can suffer a significant income loss, not because of damage to its own property, but because of damage to someone else’s.
Consider the following business situations:
- A metal parts manufacturer derives 80 percent of its income from sales to four customers.
- A restaurant located within a five-minute drive from a factory that employs 1,200 people.
- An electronic components distributor that buys its products from three manufacturers.
- A supermarket chain that sells milk under its own brand name but that outsources production of the milk to a dairy products supplier.
In all of these examples, the businesses depend on third parties for supplies, purchases, or attraction of customers. If any of these third parties were to shut down, the resulting loss of income would devastate the business.
A business that depends on a few third parties for a large share of its income may want to consider buying Business Income From Dependent Properties insurance. This coverage pays for income lost as a result of damage to the property of another business on which the policyholder depends financially. The form classifies these properties, called “dependent properties,” into four groups:
- Contributing locations, which deliver materials or services to the business or to other businesses on the policyholder’s account. The three manufacturers that provide product to the electronic components manufacturer are examples of contributing locations. The form does not consider a supplier of utilities (water, power or communications) to be a contributing location. A separate coverage form exists to insurer these types of suppliers.
- Recipient locations, which accept the business’s products or services. The four customers who provide 80 percent of the metal parts manufacturer’s income are recipient locations.
- Manufacturing locations, which manufacture products for delivery to the business’s customers under a contract of sale. The dairy products supplier producing the milk for sale under the supermarket’s label is a manufacturing location.
- Leader locations, which attract customers to the policyholder’s business. The factory near the restaurant is a leader location.
Coverage applies if the dependent property suffers damage from a cause of loss that the policy would cover if it damaged the business’s own property. For example, a typical property insurance policy covers damage caused by fire or explosion, so this insurance will pay if the dependent property burns or explodes. However, since most policies do not cover flood damage, the insurance will not pay if a dependent property floods.
The insured business has a choice of how to arrange the insurance. One option is to make the amount of insurance covering the business’s own property also apply to the dependent properties. The other option is to buy separate amounts of insurance that apply to each dependent property. Under either option, coverage begins 72 hours after the time the damage occurs.
Virtually every business depends to some degree on other firms for parts of its operation. Dependent property income losses do happen; many businesses in lower Manhattan suffered these losses in the months following September 11. Discussion of the exposure to loss from dependent locations should be a regular part of a business’s review with its insurance agent. Standard coverage protects against loss to a business’s property, but the worst loss may come from damage to someone else’s.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released data showing that from 2001-2005, an average of 36 fatalities occurred per day on America’s roadways as a result of crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. It’s this kind of statistic that has spurred all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
Although you may not be a fatality if you drive while under the influence, don’t think that means you’re home free. If you’re ticketed for a DUI, you’ll face a financial toll that you probably never considered. The following list is an example of some of the expenses you can expect:
- Bail – It can cost anywhere from $250 to $2500 for a first time DUI offender to be released from jail after an arrest depending on the jurisdiction.
- Towing – When you’re arrested, your car is automatically towed. The cost starts at $100. In Chicago, for example, the typical charge is $1,200 for the first 24 hours and $50 for each additional day of storage. If you can’t afford to get your car after 30 days, the city auctions it. Other cities are beginning to follow Chicago’s lead.
- Insurance premiums – If you are convicted, your insurance rates will increase substantially for the next three to five years. This could mean anywhere from two to four times more than you are currently paying. You could even face losing coverage all together. In that case, you would be forced to find a company specializing in higher risks that will insure you, or see whether your state has an assigned-risk pool for insurance. Either way, you’ll pay considerably more for coverage.
- Legal fees – Expect anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 depending on how much time an attorney has to invest in your case to defend you. In addition to what you pay your lawyer, you may also find yourself paying for an investigator to examine the arrest scene, and expert witnesses who can testify about the inaccuracy of field sobriety tests.
- Fines – The fines and court fees for breaking the law vary from state to state, However, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1200.
- Alcohol Evaluation – This is required of anyone sentenced by the court for drunk driving. The cost for these evaluations starts at about $100 depending on the jurisdiction.
Treatment/Education Program – A conviction means you will be required to undergo treatment or education in order to get your driver’s license re-issued. The extent of these programs differs greatly, and the costs can range from $300 to $2000.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, candles caused 15,600 home fires, accounting for 4 percent of all reported home fires that year. These fires resulted in an estimated 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and direct property losses totaling $539 million.
Most common causes of candle fires:
-50 percent were caused when combustible material was placed too close to a lit candle.
-18 percent were caused when a lit candle was left unattended.
-12 percent were caused when someone fell asleep while a candle was still burning.
NFPA data shows that 38 percent of all reported candle fires started in the bedroom. However, the living room, family room, and den were most often the scene of deaths caused by candle-related fires.
Why is the number of candle-related fires so high? It has grown in direct proportion to the increase in candle usage in this country. The National Candle Association (NCA) estimates U.S. retail sales of candles at approximately $2 billion annually, excluding sales of candle accessories.
To help keep consumers safe while enjoying their candles, the NCA offers the following tips:
- Keep a burning candle within sight. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
- Move burning candles away from furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets, books, paper, flammable decorations, etc.
- Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets or anyone else.
- Trim candlewicks to ¼ inch each time before burning.
- Use a candleholder that is heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
- Place the candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
- Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
- Don’t burn a candle longer than the manufacturer recommends.
- Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents to prevent rapid, uneven burning, and avoid flame flare-ups.
- Burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
- Stop burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or ½ inch if in a container.
- Never touch a burning candle or move a votive or container candle when the wax is liquid.
- Never use a knife or sharp object to remove wax drippings from a glass holder because it might scratch, weaken, or cause the glass to break upon subsequent use.
- Use a candlesnuffer to extinguish a candle so hot wax doesn’t splatter.
- Never extinguish candles with water because it may cause the hot wax to splatter.
- Use flashlights and other battery-powered lights during a power failure.
- Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick ember is no longer glowing before leaving the room.
- Extinguish a candle if it smokes, flickers repeatedly, or the flame becomes too high.
- Never use a candle as a night-light.
As office technology grows, it is developing its own special brand of injuries. Many of your office workers perform work that can lead to automation-related illnesses. To protect your workers and decrease your liability, you need to identify such health hazards and take measures to prevent their occurrence in your workplace.
The most common automation-related injuries are repetitive motion injuries, also known as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). The name stems from the fact that the injury develops over time because an employee performs the same task in the same range of motion.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common CTD. This disorder typically develops from the repetitive motions of typing and computer work. The continuous bending of the wrist causes the tendons to swell in the tunnel formed by the carpal bones and ligaments. The swelling pinches the median nerve that gives feeling to the hand. Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are burning or painful tingling in a hand or shooting pains throughout the entire arm.
There are several steps you can undertake to combat the problem of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries:
· Be sure workstations are ergonomically correct. The computer components need to be adjustable and every workstation should have a footrest, wrist rest, and document holder.
· Train employees how to work in an ergonomically correct manner. Their keyboard should be positioned at elbow height so that their wrists remain straight and elbows remain at a 90-degree angle while they work. The top of the monitor screen should be at, or slightly below eye level. They should sit with their backs against the chair.
· Provide adequate break times so that employees can leave their workstation for at least 15 minutes. There should be both a morning and afternoon break.
· Keep productivity requirements reasonable. Employees shouldn’t feel continually pressured to skip breaks to complete assignments.
· Rotate employees so they don’t have to perform the same motions all day.
The second most common automation-related injury is eyestrain. This results when employees stare at computer monitors all day. Some ways you can minimize the risk of vision problems include:
· Reduce florescent lighting in the work area and provide desk lamps instead.
· Use window shades to reduce glare on computer monitors.
· Provide equipment that will allow employees to place reference materials close to the computer monitor and at the same distance from their eyes.
· Train employees on the hazards of staring at computer monitors for long periods of time.
· Ask computer operators to have a yearly eye examination.
Excessive noise can also result in automation-related injuries, such as headaches and migraines. In addition, noise compromises efficiency and decreases productivity. You can reduce the effects of noisy equipment by installing heavy drapes and thick carpeting. Placing a rubber mat beneath a machine helps reduce vibrations.
Some of the smoke that flows up your chimney condenses and becomes creosote that sticks to the flue. Creosote is a hard tar-like substance that builds up over time. As the coat of creosote thickens, it increases the chance of a fire breaking out in the chimney.
When a chimney fire burns, extremely high temperatures are created that can cause cracks to form in the flue. These cracks can pose a serious health threat to your family because they allow carbon monoxide that would normally vent up the chimney to be drawn back into the home. Carbon monoxide is an odorless colorless gas that can be lethal.
To prevent chimney problems, you should have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned yearly. The National Fire Protection Association has adopted these levels of inspection to create code NFPA 211, Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances. This is the standard that certified chimney sweeps use when cleaning chimneys:
· Level I Inspection: Recommended when the chimney is easily accessible and the homeowner is planning to maintain it as is. In this inspection, a certified chimney sweep verifies that the chimney structure is sound and that the chimney is free of obstructions and combustible deposits such as creosote.
· Level II Inspection: If the homeowner has added a new home heating appliance or changed the type of fuel being burned, the chimney requires a Level II inspection. This inspection level may also be required after the sale of a property or an event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. This inspection includes the Level I inspection plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attics, crawl spaces and basements. It may also include a performance test, such as a smoke or a pressure test, and an interior chimney video inspection if recommended.
· Level III Inspection: When a Level I or Level II inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without access to concealed areas, a Level III inspection is recommended. This type of inspection confirms the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Level III inspections are also necessary when investigating an incident that caused damage to a chimney or building.
In addition to yearly inspections, you may also want to consider a metal chimney liner. They protect the chimney from corrosion as a result of the byproducts released during combustion. Liners are made from stainless steel or aluminum and can be used to repair existing chimneys. They are U.L. tested, and if properly installed and maintained, they are safe and durable. Stainless steel is used in chimneys for wood burning, gas, or oil applications. Aluminum is only used for certain medium efficiency gas applications. High temperature insulation is required to be used in conjunction with the liners to ensure safety.
A Duke University Medical Center study revealed that obese workers filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims as non-obese workers. In addition the over-weight workers had 7 times higher medical costs from those claims and lost 13 times more days of work from work injury or work illness than did non-obese workers.
The results of the study were published April 23, 2007, in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The researchers looked at the records of 11,728 employees of Duke University who received health risk appraisals between 1997 and 2004. Duke ordinarily gathers this information anonymously as a way of identifying potential areas of occupational risk in order to develop plans to reduce that risk. The analysis covered a variety of occupational titles, such as administrative assistants, groundskeepers, nurses and professors.
The study compared the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and the rate of workers’ compensation claims. BMI assesses a person’s weight in relationship to their height, which is why it is considered the most accurate measure of obesity. For Americans, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal; 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30 and above is considered obese.
The researchers discovered that workers with a BMI greater than 40 had 11.65 claims per 100 workers, compared with 5.8 claims per 100 workers for employees with a normal weight. They also found that obese workers averaged 183.63 lost days of work per 100 workers, compared with 14.19 per 100 workers for employees of normal weight. The average medical claims costs per 100 workers was $51,019 for the obese and $7,503 for the non-obese.
The study showed that the body parts most susceptible to injury among obese workers were the lower extremities, wrist or hand, and back. The most common causes of these injuries were falls or slips, and lifting.
The researchers concluded that their findings were applicable to the community as a whole, since the demographics of Duke closely reflect the local area. They plan to use the Duke population to help the community, so the solutions they devise can benefit the community as a whole.
However, the primary message they hoped to deliver is that the solution to reducing the burden on workers’ compensation involves eliminating both individual risk factors such as obesity and the risk factors within the workplace that cause injury. By targeting obesity and workplace risks simultaneously, businesses can reduce absenteeism, increase the overall health of workers, and decrease the cost of health care.
Radon is a radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. It occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium inside the earth, and outdoors it’s dispersed in the air without any harmful effects. However, when it’s trapped inside a building, it can lead to health problems. If high levels of radon are trapped in your home, your entire family could become sick.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon. In fact, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that are trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As these particles continue to break down, they release small bursts of energy, which damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. Radon-induced lung cancer costs the United States over $2 billion dollars per year in both direct and indirect health care costs.
According to the EPA, one in 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure. A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/l is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family were standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site.
Radon is more concentrated in the lower levels of a home like basements and ground floors. You don’t know if you have a problem unless you test. Radon test kits that meet EPA requirements are available at local hardware stores and home improvement stores, and typically cost less than $25. If the test indicates dangerous levels of radon in a home, you need to correct the problem immediately.
The National Safety Council, a non-profit organization, operates the Radon Fix-It Program to provide information to consumers with radon levels of 4 pCi/L or higher. The service is free of charge.
Consumers who call the agency’s toll free number (800) 644-6999, can speak to operators who will provide referrals to technical experts in their state, information on reducing elevated radon levels, guidelines for choosing a test kit or a testing company, and information about testing in connection with a real estate transaction. They also provide lists of contractors certified by the National Environmental Health Association and/or the National Radon Safety Board who are qualified to offer advice and perform radon mitigation.
In addition to the National Safety Council, consumers can obtain general information about radon by logging on to EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/radon.
Workers in many industries use compressed air as a power source for their tools and equipment. Unfortunately, workers sometimes don’t realize the potential dangers inherent in compressed air use, so they fail to take necessary safety precautions. Improper compressed air usage can result in disabling injuries and possible death.
In training employees about compressed air use, first discuss the three major hazards:
· Skin penetration that causes hemorrhaging and pain-Compressed air can enter the body through cuts in the skin. If this happens, an embolism (air bubble) may form in the bloodstream. If the embolism migrates through the circulatory system to the heart or lungs, it can cause a blockage in a blood vessel in the organ, which could result in death. If compressed air enters the body through the mouth or nose, it can injure internal tissues and organs. If an employee is hit in the eye with compressed air, it can push the eyeball out of the socket. Blowing compressed air into an ear can rupture the eardrum.
· Flying debris-Air pressure of 40 pounds can cause particles to hit the eyes and face with the same intensity as shrapnel. Flying particles can also cause cuts to other parts of the body.
· High noise level-Noise levels caused by compressed air usage can reach or exceed 120 decibels, a level at which hearing damage can occur.
Any training about the correct use of compressed air should include instruction on the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing PPE is essential if an employee is to be protected from the dangers outlined above. You should require all employees working with compressed air to wear safety glasses with side shields or goggles, a face shield, hearing protection, and a dust mask or respirator.
Compressed air safety training also should cover the following rules:
· Check to see that the line being worked with is an air hose, and not a gas or water line.
· Inspect the hose to see that it is free of holes, and properly connected.
· Keep air hoses off the floor so they won’t be damaged by foot traffic. Hoses laying on the floor also pose a tripping hazard.
· Don’t allow sharp objects to rub against an air hose while it is in use.
· Coil the hose when it’s not in use and hang over a wide support. Never hang it on a hook or nail. Check the coiled hose and smooth out any kinks, which can cause cracking in the hose.
· Use the lowest air pressure possible to complete the job.
· Never point an air hose at anyone.
· Never use an air hose to clean dust from clothes. Use a brush or vacuum instead.
Incorporating correct compressed air usage guidelines into your company’s safety protocols helps your employees to avoid unnecessary and dangerous working conditions, and can reduce the number of accidents that occur.
Despite mandatory liability insurance laws in 47 out of 50 states, the Insurance Research Council estimates the uninsured motorist rate at about 14 percent nationally and possibly as high as 30 percent in some states. The Property/Casualty Insurers Association of America reports that uninsured motorists are involved in more than 20 percent of fatal crashes in the United States.
But, uninsured drivers aren’t the only problem. Many drivers who have insurance carry only the minimum limits, which may be insufficient to cover all damages in an accident for which they’re at fault.
So what happens if you find yourself involved in a car accident caused by one of these uninsured or underinsured motorists? It could be a financially devastating experience unless you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.
While UM/UIM coverage is not required in most states, you need this coverage because if you are involved in an accident caused by someone else, and they don’t have the insurance to cover the damage, you can file a claim with your insurer. This is an important safeguard because a motorist who is uninsured or underinsured probably doesn’t have the financial means to pay for any damages resulting from an accident.
Before you purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, it is important to understand what is covered. Uninsured Motorist insurance (UM) pays for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering that result from an accident caused by an uninsured driver. UM insurance also protects you and your passengers if a hit-and-run driver strikes you. In addition, policyholders are covered for medical expenses and lost wages if they are hit as a pedestrian, cyclist or commuter.
Underinsured Motorist insurance (UIM) pays for these same expenses that result from an accident caused by a driver who lacks sufficient insurance to cover all of the costs. In some states, Underinsured Motorist coverage is included in your Uninsured Motorist insurance.
Insurers operating in most states also offer Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage insurance (UMPD). Whereas, UM/UIM coverage pays for bodily injuries, this coverage pays for damage an uninsured or underinsured driver causes to your vehicle. Covered property may also include personal property inside the vehicle, depending on the state.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that 3,490 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 years old died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 and an additional 272,000 were injured. Drivers in this age group accounted for 12.9 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16 percent of the drivers involved in police-reported crashes.
Drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 years old have the highest rate of fatal crashes among all age groups including the elderly. The risk of being involved in a fatal crash is three times greater for teens than for people between the ages of 65 to 69.
Lack of driving experience and taking unnecessary risks are the two main reasons for the high crash rate among teens. However, both of these issues can be addressed, and their impact on a teenage driver’s safety significantly reduced when parents assume a proactive role in their teenagers’ driver education.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is by drawing up a driving contract between you and your teen driver. Teendriving.com offers the following advice about what to include in your contract:
· Specify which car(s) the teen is allowed to drive – The car should have a driver’s side airbag, a good safety rating, and be easy to maneuver
· Make the teen responsible for gas, oil changes, tire pressure checks, regular maintenance requirements, and keeping the car clean inside and out.
· Have the teen agree to pay for insurance – Paying insurance costs with a part-time job provides some incentive for avoiding reckless behavior.
· Specify that the teen must follow these rules or be subject to some agreed upon, pre-determined penalty:
1. Always obeying the speed limit and traffic laws.
2. Always wearing seat belts and making sure that all passengers are buckled up before driving.
3. Never driving after drinking or using drugs – The contract should state that teens are not allowed to drink and drive, have alcohol in the car, or even be a passenger in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs. Assure your teen that they can always call you to come get them if they are stranded at a gathering.
4. Not driving with friends in the car – Teens should not be allowed to drive with friends or even younger siblings in the car for the first six to twelve months of having their license unless an adult is also in the car.
5. Not using cell phones or texting while driving.
6. Letting you know where they are going and when they plan to return.
7. Maintaining curfews – Set realistic curfews, but also tell teens that if they are running late, it’s always better to drive safely than speed to make up the minutes. They should call you if possible to let you know they are on the way home.
The materials that a contractor brings to a job site are subject to numerous perils in a variety of locations. The contractor might take delivery of them at his main location and store them for a period of time. At some point, he will transport them to a job site where they may again sit in storage. Finally, he will cut, drill, weld, or otherwise process the materials until they become a finished part of the building. During all of these stages, the materials may suffer damage by fire, theft, flooding, or even damage in a traffic accident during transport to the job site.
Commercial property insurance policies do not cover materials once they have been moved off of the business’s premises, and they provide little coverage for materials while in transit. To insure property that moves around, the contractor needs an inland marine policy, which is a policy that covers property that can easily move from one location to another. The inland marine policy that covers materials a contractor will install in a building is called an installation floater.
Contractors may be familiar with a similar policy known as a builders’ risk policy. A builders’ risk policy insures an entire structure during the process of its construction. The structure’s owner or the general contractor in charge of the job might purchase this policy. An installation floater, while similar in coverage, insures only a specific type of property during the construction, such as the plumbing or electrical systems. Subcontractors, who ordinarily have a limited scope of work on the job, purchase installation floaters.
An installation floater policy insures property used in a construction project. While the actual policy form will vary from one insurance company to another, it will typically cover materials, equipment, machinery and supplies owned by the contractor or for which he has responsibility. The property must be used in or incidental to the fabrication, erection or construction project described in the policy. One single amount of insurance applies to the property; the limit should be the highest value for that type of property during the job. When insurance companies establish the premium for these policies, they take into account that the value of the property will start out small and increase as the job progresses. For example, if a boiler installation contractor buys an installation floater with a $500,000 insurance limit, the company will adjust the premium to recognize that, for most of the project, $500,000 worth of boilers and related equipment and supplies will not be there.
Installation floaters cover all causes of loss other than those specifically listed in the policy. They cover losses caused by fire, lightning, theft, explosion, and several other perils. Typical policies do not cover losses caused by extreme events like earthquakes and floods, but some companies will consider adding these coverages for an additional premium. Most policies will also exclude damage that occurs during testing of a building component or system (for example, testing of compressors). Some companies may consider adding this coverage as well, depending on the type of property and the nature of the testing.
Beside the policy’s expiration, several other events may cause coverage to cease. Coverage ceases when the purchaser accepts the work, when the contractor’s ownership interest in the property ends, if he abandons the project, or within a stated number of days after he finishes work.
Because every installation floater policy is different, contractors should carefully review their policies. They should discuss any deficiencies or confusing provisions with their insurance agents. Construction contracts often require this coverage, so it is vital for a contractor to make sure he has the proper coverage.
According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, one vehicle is stolen about every 25.5 seconds in the U.S., which amounts to a total of 1,235,226 stolen U.S. vehicles and upwards of 7.6 billion dollars in vehicle losses.
Despite the tremendous expense involved when a car is stolen, many consumers still aren’t preparing in advance to handle the possibility of a vehicle theft. A number of common misconceptions have contributed to consumers adopting a defeatist attitude about vehicle theft. There are a number of vehicle owners that feel it’s all but impossible to prevent becoming a victim of vehicle theft, even when protective methods like anti-theft devices are used. This type of defeatist attitude can have serious and unnecessary consequences for vehicle owners.
The Wiser Drivers Wise Up project was started by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Insurance Information Institute, and The National Insurance Crime Bureau to dispel the defeatist attitude and teach drivers how to handle their vehicle being stolen. The program includes five auto theft myths that can actually leave a vehicle owner more vulnerable to having their vehicle stolen:
1. Older vehicles aren’t targeted by thieves. Statistics clearly show this myth isn’t true. For example, The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that the five top stolen model years for 2009 were: 1994 Honda Accord, 1995 Honda Civic, 1991 Toyota Camry, 1997 Ford F-150 Pickup, and 2004 Dodge Ram Pickup.
2. The majority of vehicle thefts occur in unprotected areas. Again, statistics clearly disprove this myth. According to one FBI report on the subject, more than a third of all vehicle thefts take place from a home. The same report showed that only two in ten vehicle thefts take place in a parking lot and that only a very small number of vehicles are stolen or carjacked along roadways, highways, and alleys. So, parking in a an area felt to be secure doesn’t decrease the likelihood of your vehicle being stolen.
3. Anti-theft devices aren’t hard to install. Unless, you’re trained on the complexities of a vehicle’s electronic workings, then it’s best to pay for a professional to install, wire, and test the anti-theft device for you. It might be tempting to go with the cheapest price, but keep in mind that a cheap price doesn’t always equate to a bargain. Check with the Better Business Bureau to help you determine if the installer is running a reputable business, especially if a business is offering a substantial price difference from their competitors. If the technician that will be installing your alarm system hasn’t been certified by the Mobile Electronics Certification Program (MECP), then you might want to consider a different installer. Make sure that the installer provides instruction on how the alarm system works and is operated. You will also want a written warranty from the installer.
4. The police usually find stolen vehicles. Only half of all stolen vehicles are ever recovered. The first few days following the theft will be critical, as the chance of recovery diminishes with each day the thief possesses it. The highest number of vehicle thefts occur on Saturdays and Fridays. The highest number of recoveries are from vehicle thefts occurring on a Monday or Tuesday.
5. Insurance companies always provide victims of vehicle theft with a rental car. Check your policy; while theft coverage is part of a comprehensive auto insurance policy, it may or may not include a rental replacement car following a theft.
In closing, vehicle owners shouldn’t make the costly mistake of assuming vehicle theft is an inevitable occurrence. It’s also advisable to do an annual review of your auto policy for mandatory coverages, needed coverages, and coverage features like rentals and roadside assistance.
Both the AFL-CIO and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Labor so that the agency will be forced to issue a final rule mandating employers to pay for personal protective equipment (PPEs).
The controversy over whether employers should pay for PPEs first began in 1999. That year, the Department of Labor proposed a rule that employers must pay for all PPEs required under OSHA standards. The only exceptions were safety shoes, prescription safety eyewear, and logging boots in certain circumstances. However, the agency never followed through with a final rule.
In 2004, the Department of Labor was still wavering; saying it needed more time to evaluate the proposal and calling for more public commentary on the subject. The biggest stumbling block for the agency was how the proposed rule should address the types of PPEs that are usually supplied by the employee, and taken from jobsite to jobsite or from employer to employer. They felt the problem was an especially thorny issue in industries with high turnover.
In actuality, the question of who pays for what PPEs has already been settled on most union job sites in either of two ways. Either it has become the custom that the employer/employee pays for the equipment or it is spelled out in the contract who pays. However, in the absence of direction from OSHA, nonunion employers can do as they please, often leaving it to their workers to provide their own protection. Because of the expense, many workers choose to work with the appropriate PPE, jeopardizing their own safety as well as everyone else’s.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asserts that the agency’s failure to act is putting workers in danger. According to OSHA’s own estimates, 400,000 workers have been injured and 50 have died because there is no PPE rule in place. The labor groups say that workers in some of America’s most dangerous industries, such as meatpacking, poultry and construction, and low-wage and immigrant workers are being forced by their employers to pay for their own safety gear because of OSHA’s failure to finish the PPE rule.
The labor unions call the eight-year delay “egregious,” and they are asking the court to force OSHA to act. The suit asks the court to issue an order directing the Secretary of Labor to complete the PPE rule within 60 days of the court’s order.
Standard auto, homeowner’s and boat insurance policies cover liability a person may have for injuries or property damage suffered by someone else. Insurance companies design them to cover accidents for which the insured person may owe tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, sometimes the person may be responsible for an accident so catastrophic that the damages are $1,000,000 or more. To cover financially devastating events like these, insurance companies offer personal umbrella policies. These policies provide additional protection when an accident uses up the amounts of insurance provided by the other policies. They may also cover some types of losses these other policies do not cover.
There is not a “standard” umbrella policy; each company’s offering will be different. Therefore, it helps to have a checklist of considerations when evaluating a policy.
First, identify those things that could expose you to a catastrophic loss. How many cars do you own? Do you have inexperienced drivers in your household? Household attractions like swimming pools, trampolines, and swing-sets present an exposure to severe losses. Boats, like cars, can cause serious injuries and damage if the operators are inattentive, intoxicated, or inexperienced.
Next, identify other exposures you may have that do not involve potential physical injury or illness or property damage or that might require different coverage. Do you or any members of your family participate in social media Web sites or online discussion forums? Does anyone coach a youth sports team, belong to the governing board of a non-profit organization, write computer code as a hobby, or give music lessons? These activities present different exposures to legal liability.
Review your insurance policies. How much will your auto insurance pay for injuries to one other person? How much will it pay collectively for injuries to more than one? How much will it pay for property damage? How much will your homeowners policy pay for your personal liability for an accident? Does it cover any business activities? Does it cover family members accused of slander, libel, or defamation of character in online postings? Does it cover you for allegedly causing mental anguish to a kid who didn’t get much playing time on a team you coached, or trouble caused by a computer program you wrote? How much will your boat-owners policy pay for your liability for boating accidents? The answers to these questions will tell you where an umbrella policy can help.
For example, if your auto policy will pay up to $250,000 for injuries to one person and $500,000 for injuries to multiple people, an umbrella with a $1,000,000 limit will give you insurance equaling $1,500,000 for injuries to two or more people. If your homeowners policy will pay up to $300,000 for your liability, the same umbrella will afford $1,300,000 if someone gets seriously hurt at your home. The umbrella limit of insurance also applies on top of the limit on the boat policy.
In addition, the umbrella may cover things like volunteer activities, statements made online, and certain business activities that a homeowner’s or auto policy might not cover. Normally, the insurance company will require you to pay a deductible amount (such as $250 or $500) before it will pay for a loss that one of these other policies does not cover.
A professional insurance agent can help you sort out what your current insurance does and does not cover and what additional coverages an umbrella will provide. It is important to compare all the coverages the policies provide and not just their prices. Fortunately, catastrophic accidents are extremely rare, but having an umbrella policy when they happen can make it easier to get through them.
Like most new home-based business owners, you believe your homeowner or renter’s insurance coverage offers sufficient protection. That is unfortunate, because in most instances these policies offer little to no coverage for business-related losses.
Homeowner’s policies are not designed to cover business losses. Most offer a small amount of business property coverage, meant to cover incidental items, such as a computer used for office work.
Depending on your business, you may be able to purchase a homeowner’s endorsement to cover your business property. Your insurer is naturally going to want to know more about your business. Questions such as what type of business, how long you have been in business and how many employees are common.
If your business is small with a low risk profile, and with limited client visits to your home, your homeowner’s insurer may offer limited liability protection. This protection would cover slips and falls when a client visits your office, which otherwise would not be covered.
If this option is not available, you may want to consider a small business policy. Your homeowner’s insurer might offer a home-based business package for a reasonable premium, or another insurer can offer a package policy to cover the liability and property of your business.
Take a look at the following list. If one or more of the items below apply, you may want to consider a business policy for your business:
o Business Property, Stock or Equipment over $10,000 in value
A business policy will allow you to insure your office contents, equipment, and stock. A homeowner’s policy will likely have little, if any, coverage for business-related items.
o Clients visit your office/use your product/depend on your service
Liability insurance can help cover your exposure to lawsuits resulting from slip and falls, product liability claims, personal injury claims, etc. Perhaps even more importantly, it will provide defense costs for such actions. Homeowner’s policies do not have coverage for business liability. In a few instances, you may be able to purchase an endorsement to allow coverage for slip and falls due to customer visits, depending on your type of business.
o Damage to your office/workspace would require you to relocate/find a temporary substitute
Extra Expense coverage in a business policy will provide funds for a temporary office/workspace or cost of a mobile trailer near your damaged office site.
o An Error or Omission could result in a lawsuit that would need to be defended/could seriously damage your business
Errors and Omissions coverage will protect you from judgments and defense costs resulting from past mistakes.
o Damage to your workplace could cause you to lose business, perhaps even lose some customers permanently
Business Interruption Coverage will help pay for expenses until your property is repaired or sales return to normal (depending on the policy form)
o Your employees use their vehicles to make deliveries or run errands for your business
Non-owned automobile liability will protect your business in the event that your employee has a serious accident during the course of running an errand for your business.
Are you guilty of sending text messages from behind the wheel? If you are, you’re not alone. Although hard statistics on the practice are scarce, it’s clearly a growing problem. More than 150 billion text messages are sent annually, and a substantial percentage of those are sent from the driver’s seat.
Anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road increases the likelihood of an accident, including talking on a cell phone, eating, applying make-up or shaving. But text messaging may be especially dangerous since composing and sending a message requires a driver to look at the phone or device rather than at the highway and surrounding traffic for an extended period of time.
Texting while driving has been identified as a factor in several accidents, with police linking the time phone text messages were sent with the occurrence of fatal automobile crashes. It seems an especially prevalent practice among the young: One insurance company survey found that 19% of drivers admit to sending text messages while driving, and an alarming 37% of drivers between the ages of 18 and 27 engage in the practice.
The problem has become widespread enough for some states, including Washington and Oregon, to take notice and consider legislation that makes driving while texting a crime. Activists are lobbying to include specific texting-while-driving provisions in existing laws that prohibit hand-held electronic devices to be use on the road.
In fact, a recent Harris Interactive poll revealed that 89% of Americans support legislation to ban texting while behind the wheel. And 91% of respondents believed that people who text and drive are just as dangerous as drunks on the road.
What can you do about this problem? Stay safe by resisting the temptation and encouraging others to do the same.
We are a nation of conspicuous consumers, filling our homes with all kinds of electronics from computers to Wii consoles. While all of these gadgets are designed to make staying at home more fun, owning them can make your home an attractive target for burglars. According to 2006 FBI crime statistics, 66.2 percent of all reported burglaries were home break-ins. The average dollar loss per burglary offense in 2006 was $1,834. If you have a lot of expensive personal belongings, installing a home security system may be a good idea.
In addition to protecting your valuables, you may also want to consider the need to protect your family’s safety. FBI statistics show that 63.1 percent of all home burglaries in 2006 happened during the day. What would happen to you and your family if a burglar attempted to break in while you were home? Installing a home security system provides you with peace if mind, knowing that your loved ones are protected.
When you are tying to decide if you should install a security system, here are some other things you should consider:
- Are you living in a high-crime area? – Long time residents in a neighborhood know the likelihood of their home being burglarized. If you live in a high-crime area, you probably need a security system. If you’ve just moved into a neighborhood, do some research to find out how high a risk there is for being burglarized so you can determine if you need additional security.
- Is your home inviting to burglars? – There are certain circumstances that mark your home as a target, such as living in a ground floor apartment, being surrounded by thick bushes and trees, having old doors and windows that are easy to break into, or living on a poorly-lit street where people are seldom around. If any of these descriptions apply to your home, you may want to consider a home security system.
- How expensive is it to own a system? – There are a number of security systems to choose from, with a wide range of prices. Keep in mind that the more sophisticated the technology, the higher the price. However, you should be able to find something within your budget that will give you the protection you need.
- Does your homeowner’s insurance offer a discount if you install a system? – Most insurance companies will give you a premium discount if you install any kind of home security system. The amount of the discount will depend on the type of system you choose. If you install a home security system that has monitoring services, the discount can range up to 20 percent. Check with your insurance agent to see what your insurer offers.
Are there steps you can take to minimize the need for a security system? – There are some low tech ways to burglar proof your home, such as, installing dead-bolt locks, replacing hollow doors with doors made of metal or solid hard wood, installing a wide-angle peephole in the door, replacing old or cracked windows, installing removable rods to prevent windows from being opened, and pruning bushes and trees that surround your house.
The way we see involves a complex interplay between light, brain and eye. When light strikes an object in your field of vision, the rays enter each eye and hit the eye’s lens. The rays stimulate the nerves in the lens, which carry messages to the brain. The brain takes the message it receives from each eye’s lens and fuses it into a sharp single picture. Because this mechanism is so complex, it is also extremely vulnerable to injury. Therefore, protecting your eyes from damage at work should be one of your major concerns.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes is by using safety glasses. Safety glasses are so effective in preventing injury that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) incorporated specific guidelines into its standard, 29 CFR 1910.1333, as to when you should use them. If your work exposes you to hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation, OSHA mandates that you wear safety glasses.
OSHA also requires that you use safety glasses with side protection when you face a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors, such as clip-on or slide-on side shields, are permitted as long as they meet the agency’s requirements of providing full protection from flying objects.
If you wear prescription lenses, you are still required to wear safety glasses if the possibility of eye injury exists. You have two options. You can wear eye protection that has your prescription incorporated into its design. Or, you can use eye protection that can be worn over your prescription lenses, as long as doing so doesn’t disturb the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.
In addition to wearing safety glasses, you should protect your eyes by having a thorough eye examination every two years. Many diseases can affect the eyes. However, changes in vision are usually gradual, which is why it is so important to monitor eye health with regular examinations.
Here are a few other tips to help you keep your eyes healthy:
· Don’t use over-the-counter eye remedies or treatments unless advised by your doctor.
· Don’t wear sunglasses for night driving or in fog.
· Don’t look directly at the sun, even while wearing sunglasses.
· Don’t work in dimly lit areas.
· Don’t rub your eyes with dirty hands.
Sometimes you must accept a little discomfort, inconvenience or expense in order to protect your eyes, but the sacrifice is well worth it. If the unexpected happens, your protective eyewear could make the difference between keeping your sight and losing it.
The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is reminding homeowners that warmer temperatures not only signal the coming of spring, but they also contribute to snowmelts, which increases the risk of flooding in some parts of the country. Hence, there is no better time than now to review your flood insurance to ensure you are adequately covered against flood-related damage.
No region of the U.S. is immune from floods, including inland flooding, flash floods and seasonal storms. In fact, over 20 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to-moderate flood-risk areas. However, specific parts of nine U.S. states are especially vulnerable to flooding in the spring of 2007, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather service. In these geographic areas there is either a high soil moisture level or an above normal snowfall over the winter months that is now melting. These regions include:
· Southeastern Colorado
· Northern Illinois
· Eastern Iowa
· Southeastern Minnesota
· Southwestern New York
· Northeastern Ohio
· Northwestern Pennsylvania
· Eastern South Dakota
· Southern Wisconsin
The I.I.I. is advising residents in these areas to be especially vigilant about their flood insurance coverage. It is also recommending that even if you don’t live in one of these locations, you should still consider purchasing flood insurance because 90 percent of all natural disasters in the U.S. involve some type of flooding. There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance policies to take effect, so it is imperative to apply before the season gets under way.
The agency has established the following points for homeowners to consider if they are thinking about buying flood insurance:
§ Standard homeowner’s and renter’s insurance does not cover flood damage: Only a flood insurance policy, available to homeowners and renters through the federal government, will cover flood-related losses.
§ Flood insurance is easy to purchase: Federal flood insurance policies can be purchased directly from an insurance agent, and are available to communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Nearly 100 insurance companies write and service NFIP policies.
§ Flood insurance is affordable: The annual premium for a residential NFIP policy starts at $112 per year, according to FEMA, and increases according to the level of flood risk and amount of coverage needed. The maximum coverage amount is $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for its contents.
§ It is easy to assess your flood risk: More than 20,000 communities in all 50 U.S. states and territories voluntarily participate in the NFIP, encompassing nearly all properties in the nation’s high-risk flood zones. Enter your address at https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/riskassesment/findpropertyform.jsp to determine your level of flood risk.
§ Excess flood insurance policies add an extra layer of coverage: A growing number of private insurers have begun offering excess flood policies, intended to provide water damage protection to homeowners over and above the limits provided by the NFIP policies.
§ Without insurance, relief from floods primarily comes in the form of loans: If your community is declared a disaster area, no-interest or low-interest loans are usually made available by the federal government as part of the recovery effort. These loans are just that—loans—and must be paid back. Obtaining a flood insurance policy is the only way to protect yourself fully from the cost of flooding.
Some businesses have very stable property insurance needs as the value of their non-building property doesn’t vary much during the year. For example, an accountant’s office will have furniture, telephones, computers, reference books, and so on. The replacement costs of these items won’t be much different in July than they were in April. Other types of businesses, however, experience wide variations in the values of their property. Florists tend to carry more stock around Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day than they do on most days of the year. Many retailers earn most of their profits during the holiday shopping season, so they must keep larger amounts of stock on hand. Warehouses and manufacturers may have highly variable amounts of goods for sale. Depending on the flow of orders, the value of their stock may change greatly from month to month or even more frequently.
A traditional property insurance policy, with one set limit of insurance for personal property, will not meet the needs of businesses like these. To secure enough insurance, they would have to buy an amount large enough to cover those times when values are at their peak. However, for much of the year they would be paying for more insurance than they need. Businesses in this situation may want to consider two coverage options: Peak season coverage and value reporting coverage.
Peak season coverage is appropriate for firms that can predict those time periods when their values will increase. Examples are florists, toy, electronics and clothing retailers during the holiday season, school supply stores in late summer, and costume shops in October. The coverage form states the location and type of the property, the amount of additional insurance, and the period of time during which the higher amount applies. For example, it might show that insurance on goods for sale will increase by $100,000 from October 1 to January 1. This gives the business plenty of coverage for the busy time but saves it from having to pay for all that coverage the rest of the year.
Value reporting coverage is for those firms with values that fluctuate all year long. This coverage requires the firm to buy an amount of insurance large enough to take care of the peak periods. However, the insurance company will charge a lower initial premium than that amount would ordinarily require. The firm then must make periodic reports of its values to the insurance company. Depending on the option chosen, the firm will send reports monthly, quarterly, or once per year. Again depending on the chosen option, the reports can show values as of the end of each business day, week, month, quarter or year. After the firm has submitted all of its reports for the policy period, the insurance company determines the firm’s average values and calculates the final premium.
Firms that choose the value reporting coverage must take care to submit the required reports on time and accurately. The form gives the insurance company the right to reduce claim payments for losses to the property when reports are late. The company can also reduce a loss payment if it finds that the firm underreported its values. The limit of insurance does not automatically increase if the reports show values higher than the limit; the firm must request an increase in coverage.
Any firm with variable property values would be wise to consider purchasing one of these types of coverage. With some careful planning, a business can limit its insurance costs while still getting the coverage it needs.
Filing an insurance claim can seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has put together the following tips to help policyholders facilitate the process:
- Know your policy – Your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. Know the terms of that contract, including what’s covered, what’s excluded and the amount of any deductibles.
- File claims as soon as possible – Call your agent or your insurer’s claims hotline as soon as possible. Your policy might require notification within a certain time frame.
- Provide complete, correct information – Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.
- Keep copies of all correspondence – Write down information about your telephone and in-person contacts, including the date, name and title of the person you spoke with and what was said. Also, keep a record of your time and expenses.
- Ask questions – If there is a disagreement about the claim settlement, ask the insurer for the specific language in the policy that explains the reason why the claim was settled in that manner. If this disagreement results in a claim denial, make sure you obtain a written letter explaining the reason for the denial and the specific policy language under which the claim is being denied. If you have a dispute with your insurer about the amount or terms of the claim settlement, you should contact your state insurance department for assistance.
- Make temporary repairs to protect property from further damage – Your auto/homeowners policy might require you to make temporary repairs. If possible, take photographs or video of the damage before making such repairs. Your policy should cover the cost of temporary repairs, so keep all receipts. Also, maintain any damaged personal property for the adjuster to inspect.
- Don’t make permanent repairs – An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before the damage has been inspected.
- Try to determine what it will cost to repair your property before you meet with the claims adjuster – Provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made to your property. Ask the claims adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
Don’t rush into a settlement – If the first offer made by an insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate. If you have any questions regarding the fairness of your settlement, seek professional advice.
A new study on workplace violence, sponsored by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), finds that while workplace murder rates have declined, the number of assaults has been rising. The NCCI noted that from 1992 to 1999, the assault rate had been declining until it reached a level of about 16,000 incidents. However, for the last five years this level has ranged from 16,000 and 18,000 while normal workplace injuries continue to decline.Even though workplace assault rates have increased, NCCI said these rates are still significantly lower than the assault rate experienced by the general population.
The report found that 60 percent of all workplace assaults are concentrated in health services, social assistance, and personal care occupations.The NCCI said research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health uncovered a number of factors that increase the likelihood of workplace violence:
· Working in health care or social services fields with persons who may tend to be mentally unstable or violent
· Having contact with the public, especially involving the exchange of money
· Having a mobile workplace, such as a taxicab or delivery truck
· Guarding property or possessions
· Working alone, especially in high-crime areas
The design of the workplace shouldn’t make it easy for a worker to be assaulted. Workers should be physically separated from the general public by installing counters that are high enough and with enough depth to make physical contact impossible. Bullet-resistant barriers can provide additional protection.
Large amounts of cash on premises can create an incentive for assault. To minimize this risk, keep only enough cash on hand to operate efficiently. Use drop safes to store excess cash, and post signs stating that only a limited amount of cash is on site. Wherever possible, install machines that accommodate automatic teller cards, credit or debit cards.
Entrances and exits should be assessed to see how easy it is for the general public to gain access to work areas when doors are left unlocked or propped open. Survey hallways and other recessed areas where attackers can hide. Include refuse areas, outdoor refrigeration areas and other storage facilities that workers must use during a shift in this evaluation. Install security cameras in these places so they can be continually monitored.
Check landscaping to see if bushes provide enough coverage for an attacker to lay in wait and surprise a worker. Evaluate parking lots to determine if they have good lighting and that all parking spaces are visible; not hidden by refuse containers or foliage.
Security technology also reduces the risk for assaults against workers. Such technology includes exterior lighting that illuminates doorways, closed-circuit cameras, silent alarms, two-way mirrors, key-card access systems, and panic-bar equipped doors that lock from the outside only.
According to www.kidsandcars.org, as of December 2007, 942 children in the U.S. were involved in accidents because they were left unattended in or around a car. Of that total, 231 resulted in fatalities.Tragedies like these can be prevented if parents exercise some extra caution. Here are a few tips to help keep your child safe:• Teach your children that they should never play in the car without adult supervision.• Lock your car and put the keys in a place where your children can’t find them.• Place something you need like your cell phone, handbag, or briefcase on the floor in front of the back seat when you get into the car. This forces you to retrieve the item when you arrive at your destination and you will be reminded of your child, quietly sleeping in the back seat.• Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the car and open the trunk whenever you reach your destination. A child can easily slip inside an open trunk and hide. Install a trunk release mechanism and teach your older children how to use it.• Keep a large teddy bear in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the teddy bear in the front passenger seat. The teddy bear on the front seat will serve as a reminder that the child is in the car seat.• Don’t ever leave a child in a car since it can quickly heat up, especially on a hot, sunny day. Children can easily become dehydrated and suffer from heat exposure, even if the windows are partially open. No matter how short a time you plan to be out of the car, take your child with you.• Teach older children how to disable the driver’s door locks if they become trapped inside the car.• Take your children out of the car before getting the groceries, dry cleaning, etc., when you get home.• Be sure that child care providers check to make sure that children aren’t left in their car or van.• Call 911 immediately if you see a child alone in a vehicle.
Lately Americans have been besieged by a number of economic worries: rising gas prices, a looming recession, the mortgage industry meltdown, and joblessness. However, according to AAA, there’s another concern that needs to be added to this list, the rising cost of traffic crashes.
Cambridge Systematics Inc., which conducted research on behalf of the Association, reported that crashes cost U.S. motorists $164.2 billion annually, or approximately $1,051 per person. In fact, some of the largest cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, suffer billions of dollars in accident costs each year. The total cost for the New York metropolitan is $18 billion a year, or about $962 per person. In Los Angeles, the cost is over $10 billion a year, or $817 per person.
This isn’t to imply that traffic crashes don’t take an economic toll on smaller communities. Residents of smaller cities actually shouldered a larger per-person burden than their big city counterparts. Crashes in the Little Rock-North Little Rock region in Arkansas cost $2,258 per person. In Pensacola, Florida, the cost was $1,772 a person, and in Columbia, South Carolina, the price tag averaged $1,568 a person.
Based on the data the study revealed, the AAA had some specific recommendations for lawmakers across the country that would help ease the financial burden:
- Make safety more of a priority in transportation planning
- Enact tougher laws for drunken and impaired driving
- Pass primary enforcement seat belt laws, which permit law enforcement officers to stop motorists if their only offense is failing to use their seat belt.
Legislators in 26 states and the District of Columbia have primary enforcement laws. The remaining states have secondary enforcement laws. This type of legislation only allows law enforcement officers to issue tickets for seat belt violations if motorists are stopped for other offenses. New Hampshire has no seat belt law for adults.
The Association noted that in addition to the high monetary cost for traffic crashes; there is also a significant cost in terms of human life. Almost 43,000 people die each year on the nation’s roads, and the AAA believes that this statistic warrants treating traffic crashes as the public health threat they are.
If an accident occurs while an employee or volunteer is operating their personal vehicle for company business, your company could be held liable. Even when an employee is just running an errand, such as making a bank deposit, dropping off a proposal or picking up a part, if an accident occurs your company could suffer as a result.
While you cannot insure a non-owned vehicle, there are other steps you can take to protect your company before a loss occurs. If your employees or volunteers use personal vehicles for company business, even if just occasionally, the following guidelines can help reduce your risk:
1. Determine a minimum level of auto liability insurance your employees and/or volunteers must carry. Also consider what documentation should be provided to your company to demonstrate that proper insurance coverage is in effect. For example, you might require that employees or volunteers submit a certificate of insurance each year that verifies coverage limits.
2. Driving records should be checked prior to an employee’s hiring. Validate driving credentials and check for accidents and moving violations over the past 5 years. All recruiters, managers and human resource people should be aware of this policy.
3. Avoid having youthful drivers, those with little driving experience, or drivers with more than one moving violation or accident use their vehicle for business-related purposes.
4. Periodically check driving records for new offenses and moving violations. Introduce a procedure for how discovery of new offenses will be handled.
5. Develop a written policy on business use of personal vehicles and communicate to all employees. Managers, human resource personnel and recruiters should share this information with any potential new hires.
6. Be sure you remain in compliance with local, state and federal statutes while obtaining private information about your employees.
Insurance can play a role in helping to protect your business from this exposure. Non-owned auto liability insurance may be obtained on a stand-alone basis or in conjunction with your general liability coverage. Coverage for hired vehicles may also be available, if needed.
Insurance premiums for non-owned automobile liability depend on the frequency of personal vehicle use and how employees use their vehicles for your business. Premiums for this line of coverage are generally fairly reasonable.
Another way to reduce risk is to eliminate the exposure. If employees or volunteers are prohibited from using their personal vehicles for business-related purposes, it eliminates the possibility of an accident that will affect your company.
In the meantime, while you are mapping out your risk reduction strategy, maybe you should consider making that bank deposit yourself…
To make sure you have the right type, and right amount of homeowner’s insurance, you need to understand what it does, and doesn’t, cover. Regular homeowner’s insurance will cover damage from tornadoes, fires, and burglary; but it will not cover the calamity of hurricanes, floods, terrorism, or nuclear meltdowns.
*Make sure to get enough coverage to re-build your home from bottom to top.
*Choose “replacement cost” instead of “actual cash value.”
*Regularly inventory your possessions and their replacement costs. Consider a special rider for valuables such as jewelry, furs, and family heirlooms.
*Understand “loss of use” provisions. These provisions will dictate how long your insurer will pay rent while your home is rebuilt or repaired.
*Look at on-line quotes and shop around, in general. Do some research to make sure the company is financially sound.
*Consider the possibility of raising your deductible to keep rates low.
*Get discounts by purchasing homeowner’s and auto insurance from the same company.
*Consider an umbrella policy to protect against lawsuits.
*Ask if special discounts are available. Some companies offer discounts to longtime customers, seniors, and non-smokers.
*Monitor and maintain a good credit score
*Unless you plan to file a claim, don’t report damages.
What Isn’t Covered
*Home office equipment
* Damage from neglect and poor maintenance practices
*Losses caused by pests such as insects, rodents, and pets
*Sewer backups and mold
In Case of Disaster
*Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible.
*Begin checking for damage and take photos to document calamity. Make quick fixes and temporary repairs to mitigate further damage.
*Be cautious of repairmen charging exorbitant rates and con artists impersonating insurance adjusters.
*Read the fine print before signing anything! Be careful not to sign away future compensation upon receipt of the first check.
*If a settlement offer is clearly unfair, don’t accept it.
Learning a few simple principles in advance can save you a bundle, should disaster strike. Speak with your insurance agent to gain a better understanding of your homeowner’s insurance needs.
Of all the pieces of personal protective equipment you wear, your hard hat is probably one of the most important. In order for it to protect you, it has to be properly worn and maintained.
The following tips will help you use your hard hat appropriately and keep it in optimal condition:
· Inspect your hard hat before each use. Your hard hat is made up of the shell and the suspension. Begin your shell inspection by looking for cracks, nicks, dents, gouges and any damage caused by impact, penetration or abrasions. If your hard hat is made of thermoplastic materials, you should check the shell for stiffness, brittleness, fading, dullness of color or a chalky appearance. If any of these conditions are present, or if the shell is damaged, replace it immediately.
Ultraviolet light can cause deterioration to the hat’s shell over time. If your work is predominantly in sunlight, replace your hard hat every two years. The same is true if you work in an environment that has a high exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals. Most hard hats have date codes on the underside brim of the cap so you can readily determine a hat’s age.
Inspecting the suspension system is just as important as inspecting the shell, because the suspension absorbs the shock of a blow to the top of the hard hat. Look for cracks or tears, frayed or cut straps, or lack of pliability. All keys should fit tightly and securely into their respective slots. Any suspension that shows signs of damage should be removed from service and replaced immediately.
· Limit the use of stickers. Stickers won’t necessarily interfere with the hat’s performance, but you should limit their use so you are able to thoroughly inspect the shell for signs of damage.
· Replace a hat that has been struck by a forcible blow. Any impact can reduce a hard hat’s effectiveness, so a hat that has suffered a blow should be replaced, even if it is relatively new or shows no visible damage. A hard hat that has been dropped more than eight feet requires replacement.
· Never modify the shell or suspension. Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell. Avoid having your hard hat come into contact with electrical wires. Never use a suspension that is not intended to be worn with a particular shell or use a shell made by one manufacturer with a suspension made by another. Never carry or wear anything inside of your hard hat between the suspension and the shell.
· Don’t wear your hard hat backwards unless the manufacturer says you can. Before wearing the hat backwards, you should have written verification from the manufacturer that your hard hat has been tested and found to comply with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute when worn with the bill turned to the rear. The manufacturer may specify that the suspension must be reversed in the helmet, so that the brow pad is against the forehead and the extended nape strap is at the base of the skull, leaving only the shell of the helmet positioned backward on the head.
Following these tips can help to ensure that your hard hat can protect you as it was intended to do.
As the housekeeper is vacuuming your living room, she trips over one of your daughter’s toys and seriously injures her back. While your neighbor’s teenage son is mowing your front lawn, he steps in a large hole and sprains his ankle. Will your homeowner’s insurance cover you if one of these workers decides to file a lawsuit?
Many homeowners do not realize that they could be held financially liable if a maid, landscaper, nanny or another house worker were to suffer from an injury on their property. Here are some things you should keep in mind before you hire a home worker:
Is that worker an employee or a contractor?
When you hire someone to help out around the house, you should figure out whether he or she is an employee or a contractor. This is one of the factors determines whether or not you are liable for a worker’s injury. So, how do you know if the worker is considered your employee or a contractor? It all comes down to how much control you have over the worker.
Let’s say you hire a nanny named Lisa to take care of your children and do some light cleaning in your home. Lisa follows your instructions about how to care of your kids and how to complete certain household tasks. You supply Lisa with the supplies and tools she needs to do her job. Because you have control over how Lisa works, she is most likely considered your employee.
On the other hand, let’s say you hire a professional landscaper named Bob to fertilize and mow your grass, trim the hedges and plant flowers in your yard. Bob uses his own lawn mower and yard tools and he does yard work for other homeowners, as well. Bob also has a team of workers who help him with his business, and he pays these workers. In this case, Bob would be considered an independent contractor.
Of course, these are two fairly simple examples. If you are uncertain about whether a worker in your home is considered a contractor or an employee, consult a lawyer or tax professional.
Understanding worker’s comp insurance
Some states require that homeowners who have house worker “employees” to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage for them. However, even if your state does not require this, you should still consider purchasing this insurance for your employees. Why? Because if one of your employees is injured on your property, you may have to pay for their medical bills and other expenses out of your own pocket. However, with workers’ compensation coverage, the insurance company will cover the costs.
Alternatively, if you hire a house contractor, such as a landscaper, carpenter or plumber, they should be covered by their own workers’ compensation insurance. If a contractor is injured while doing work on your property, he or she will be covered under that policy. If the contractor doesn’t have enough coverage, you may be held financially liable. However, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the contractor as they are required by law to have sufficient workers’ compensation coverage.
If you are looking to hire a house contractor, it’s important to ensure they are covered for worker injuries, property damage and uninstalled materials. Don’t just take their word for it. Ask for written proof that they have a contractor’s license, workers’ compensation insurance for themselves and any subcontractors and general liability coverage.
Know what your homeowner’s insurance covers
When it comes to coverage for home workers, every homeowner’s insurance policy is different. Depending on your home state, your policy may include a provision that provides limited coverage for minor workers performing lawn mowing or other tasks that require the use of power tools on your property.
On the other hand, your policy may specifically exclude domestic workers such as nannies or maids. Your policy may cover the injuries of household employees, but only after a lawsuit is filed against you. Because homeowner’s policies vary widely, it’s important to read through your contract and talk to your insurance agent before you hire a home worker.
Consider an umbrella policy
If you discover that your homeowner’s policy offers limited or no liability coverage for workers, you may consider purchasing additional liability insurance. While you may have some personal liability coverage through your homeowner’s policy, it’s probably not nearly enough to cover a major lawsuit from a home worker. If someone were to file a lawsuit against you, you could end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more-even if you win.
You can further protect yourself with what’s known as an umbrella policy. This type of policy offers a higher level of liability coverage and ensures that you and your family will be protected if someone sues you for damages. Umbrella policies are typically sold in million dollar increments, and you can obtain a policy once your home and auto insurance policies meet a minimum “attachment point”-typically a liability limit of $250,000 or $500,000.
Check with the Better Business Bureau
Before you hire a home worker, you should contact the Better Business Bureau for more information. They can tell you if any consumers have filed complaints against the worker. Visit the bureau’s website at www.bbb.org.