New Ladder Safety App Helps Construction Workers Avoid Falls

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health promoted a new ladder safety phone application recently. The app is available for all smartphone users, and it uses audio and visual signals to aid workers who must use extension ladders. The app checks the ladder’s angle when it is positioned and also provides several helpful tips for proper ladder use. It is free to download for Android and iPhone devices.

Every year, there are many injuries resulting from ladders falling on construction sites. Whether a person is on the ladder or standing under it when it is knocked over, injuries are usually severe enough they require emergency medical attention. Falls are one of the biggest concerns, and many people fall while they are on an extension ladder if safety precautions are not followed. One major risk is misjudging the angle of the ladder. It may look secure from one point, but it may actually be far from a safe angle for climbing. When it is set too steep, it often falls backward. However, ladders where the bottoms are set too shallow may fall out from below.

Experts say that the new phone app is a good way to keep workers safer in two useful ways. They also believe it will help prevent injuries if construction workers are encouraged to download it. They point out that the app is proof of how experts are constantly looking for easier ways for workers to protect themselves. This app provides feedback for setting up ladders at certain angles. In addition to this, there are references users will find helpful. There is also a guide for inspecting, using, accessorizing and selecting extension ladders.

In addition to downloading this app, it is helpful for construction workers to brush up on their extension ladder safety basics frequently.

The following are some useful points to remember:

– Never stand above the ladder’s highest safe standing level, which is outlined by the manufacturer and is usually above three rungs.

– Always keep three or more points of contact during a project.

– Avoid extending the center of the body beyond the sides of the ladder.

– Do not carry tools while using a ladder. Instead, wear a window cleaner’s belt or similar product designed to meet the purpose.

– Always face the ladder when descending or ascending.

– Do not leave an erected ladder unattended for any length of time.

– Always wear non-slip footwear when climbing a ladder.

What Employers Need to Know about Keeping Workers Safe from Asbestos

Flooring tiles may contain asbestos, which is a mineral fiber that was used in the past in several different building materials. It was used before people were aware of the dangerous effects it had on human health. Workers who are responsible for buffing or waxing floors with asbestos are in danger of negative health effects. If floor tiles were put in prior to 1980, workers should assume that they have asbestos. However, some workplaces may have had the flooring inspected to confirm that it is free of asbestos. If a floor cannot be confirmed as being free of asbestos, it is essential to take the proper precautions when cleaning or polishing it.

There are several regulations developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect people in workplaces from asbestos. The standard equipment used to clean asbestos flooring requires a pad that is abrasive. Since it runs at high speeds, it chips off tiny particles of asbestos into the air. When these fibers are airborne, they are easy for workers to inhale. The carcinogenic fibers become trapped in the lungs, and they can lead to lung cancer or other forms of lung disease.

Identifying a hazard in the workplace may not always be easy. Airborne fibers from asbestos flooring are small enough that workers will not be able to see them. As a rule, the simplest way to stay safe is to assume that any flooring put in prior to 1980 is dangerous. Even if it is not, the precautions are easy enough to follow that they are not burdensome. To be considered dangerous, a piece of flooring only needs to contain more than one percent asbestos.

Workers who are responsible for taking care of asbestos flooring should become familiar with the OSHA standards regarding this material. It is Part 1910.1001 of the 29 Code of Federal Regulations. For the shipyard and construction industries, there are separate asbestos standards due to varying working conditions. Employers are required to provide proper training that is understandable to all workers. They must cover the location of the asbestos, the health effects of it, how to recognize damaged asbestos-containing materials and how to respond to fiber releases. They should also provide workers with these valuable tips for flooring care:

– Never sand asbestos flooring.

– Use pads with low abrasion for buffing.

– Use wet cleaning methods.

– Keep buffer speeds below 300 rpm.

– If finish is sufficient, dry buffing or brushing is acceptable.

When properly implemented, these methods should be sufficient enough care precautions that personal protective equipment is not needed. Employers are required to keep records of workers’ training and notification. If any workers are exposed to asbestos or dangerous conditions, records should be kept and the workers should be monitored.

The DTSEM FS-3693 is one of the informational fact sheets used for highlighting OSHA programs, standards and policies. There are no new compliance regulations. To find the list of regulations and standards, look at Title 29 in the Code of Federal Regulations. Employers should also let workers know their rights in this matter. They have the right to do the following:

– Experience working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.

– Exercise their law-given rights without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

– Review their own records of illnesses or injuries at work.

– Receive training and information in a language they understand.

– Be trained about workplace hazards and prevention methods.

– File confidential complaints to OSHA for workplace inspections if necessary.

– Receive copies of test results measuring and identifying hazards.

Employers who are starting new businesses or buying older buildings with asbestos flooring should be aware of these regulations and training requirements for workers. For more information about insurance to cover possible workplace incidents, contact ACBI. 

What Property Owners Should Know about Flood Insurance

Flash floods and slow floods are both contributing causes of weather-related fatalities each year. In addition to this, flooding is the most common weather-related cause of property damage. During the famous Hurricane Sandy storm, many property owners were unprepared and saw their homes wash away, suffered injuries or lost their businesses. Experts say that Hurricane Sandy caused more than $6.5 billion in flood insurance payouts, which come from the National Flood Insurance Program. This number was less than half of the $16 billion or more that Hurricane Katrina brought in insurance payouts. There are several ways people can prepare themselves for these disasters.

Know Flood Risk Experts say that people should learn the flooding risk of the area where they live or where their businesses are located. They should also take the necessary steps to reduce those risks. One way to start is to find out the local flood zone risk by using maps. To learn more about these maps, discuss them with an agent or visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site. They provide maps that allow site visitors to look up their properties by address. People who are concerned about privacy issues with this site can also contact their local or state government offices for information. Even if an area is not listed as a high-risk flood zone, keep in mind that floods are still possible.

Current Flood Maps FEMA is responsible for redrawing flood maps to show new data and other recommendations. Many communities receive new maps frequently as part of a continual initiative by FEMA to keep accurate and current data. An agent can advise whether or not local flood maps are current or need to be updated. For areas where updates are ongoing or have been recently completed, it is important for people in that area to adjust their insurance coverage as needed.

Base Flood Elevation After discovering a property is in a flood zone, it is important to find out what the base flood elevation is. This is the location at which a structure has a one percent chance of being flooded each year. The BFE number for a property is listed on flood maps, but it is also possible to contact an agent to look up the number. After a BFE has been determined, it is important to find the structure’s lowest floor below or above the BFE level. Buildings that are below the BFE for the area may need to be elevated to lower their chances of being flooded. Buildings should be at least three feet above the BFE level to ensure they are protected against waves or higher-than-usual flooding levels.

Flood Coverage After finding out what the risks of flooding are, it is important to buy or review insurance. People who have flood coverage should review it to ensure it is sufficient, and people who do not have insurance should obtain it immediately. This coverage is offered by the NFIP, but it can be purchased through private agents. People who have federally-backed loans for their properties should also know that their lenders often require them to buy flood insurance if they are close to or in a high-risk flood area. For those who live in high-risk flood zones, it is helpful to become familiar with changes approved for the NFIP by the government. These can differ from one year to the next, so it is best to discuss recent changes with an agent. Flood insurance rates are required by law to show the true risk of a particular area. The most recent changes mean that a significant amount of property owners will see increases in their flood coverage premiums. For answers to questions, contact ACBI.

How to Stay Safe Around Electricity and Electrical Equipment

Electrical power can be very dangerous when used improperly. It can hurt or kill people, ignite fires and damage property. Thorough safety practices are useful for minimizing electrical hazards, and they reduce the risk of accidents. Electrical hazards cannot be removed completely, but they can be controlled with the right engineering and educational techniques. People who understand electricity can stay safer at work and at home.

Electrical Shock If a person touches hazardous electrical equipment and a grounded surface at the same time, electrical shock occurs. This is the flow of electrical current from the equipment, through the body and to the ground. The severity of the injury is dependent upon which body parts are affected by the electrical current and how long the flow lasts. Even a tiny amount of electrical current can kill or severely injure a person.

Workplace Protection Only employees who are properly trained and qualified can work on electrical equipment. All types of equipment should be thoroughly inspected regularly by an electrician. Tools, lights and machines should also be inspected to ensure they are operating according to code requirements. Cords should be in good condition and not frayed. If they are frayed or damaged in any way, they should be replaced by a professional.

In damp or wet areas such as the outdoors, kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, ground fault circuit interrupters should be used. Protect electrical equipment with circuit breakers, and make sure control panels or panels that cover receptacle boxes stay closed when they are not in use. Never touch a damp or wet surface and bare wires at the same time. As a rule, it is best to avoid working in damp conditions whenever possible. Always use tools and equipment for their designated uses only. Immediately report defective equipment, damage, and tools that are not functioning correctly in the workplace. Read any posted warning signs, and always follow the lockout/tagout procedures in the company handbook.

What To Wear And What Not To Wear Avoid wearing any metal jewelry, and always wear eye protection. Rubber-soled boots or shoes are essential when contact with wet or damp surfaces is likely. When working with electricity, use leather or rubber gloves that are safety approved.

Observing Hazards Survey the area for water, spills or dampness. Look closely at ground wires and connections to ensure they are free from breaks and secured tightly. Always check to make sure wiring and circuits are in good repair, and they should never be overloaded. Look for worn spots or breaks in insulation. These pose shock hazards. Analyze equipment frequently for damage, and make sure it is properly maintained to ensure it works correctly. Report any hazards immediately. Any foot or hand protection should be kept in good repair and replaced whenever necessary. Look at gears and belts to ensure the tension is correct and the risk of power overload is minimized.

Emergencies In case of a medical emergency outdoors, call 911. Notify the supervisor, follow emergency protocols and follow all necessary safety procedures. Avoid touching a person who has been shocked, and never try to free the individual using tools. For indoor or low-voltage emergencies, call 911 immediately. Do not touch a grounded person. Turn the power off at the circuit breaker box or fuse. If the shock came from a device with a plug, pull the plug while wearing the proper safety equipment. People who are unable to shut off the power or are unsure how to turn it off should call the power company immediately. Always know the location of power sources, and have a plan ahead of time for how to handle these emergencies. To learn more about this topic, contact ACBI.

Automated Property Protection: A Good Investment

According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2013 there were 487,500 structure fires (55 every hour) in the U.S., costing $9.5 billion in losses. In 2012, there were 670 burglaries for every 100,000 inhabitants. In addition to the expense, these losses were disruptive, dangerous, emotionally upsetting, and bad for business. Small wonder that many households and businesses invest in automated systems to prevent or reduce losses.

The effectiveness of systems such as central station fire and burglar alarms, sprinkler systems, surveillance cameras, and point-of-sale systems can be dramatic. While automatic fire sprinkler systems do not prevent fires, they do limit the damage. The National Fire Protection Association reported that, over a five-year period, the cost per fire in eating and drinking establishments with sprinkler systems was one-fourth of the cost for those without them. A University of North Carolina at Charlotte study revealed that 83 percent of convicted burglars considered the presence of alarm systems when deciding which homes to target.

Surveillance camera systems, in addition to discouraging potential criminals who are aware of them, create a record of events. Their recordings can be a significant help to security personnel and law enforcement officers investigating theft or property damage incidents. Point of sale systems in stores, because they do not exchange cash, can prevent traditional cash register thefts, though they could be vulnerable to data theft.

Installing these systems can do more than just prevent or reduce losses. They can also make it easier for property owners to get insurance and reduce their premiums. The Insurance Services Office is an organization that calculates the portion of insurance rates necessary to pay for losses. Many of its calculations apply one “loss cost” to an entire group of similar buildings, not recognizing individual differences. However, ISO individually inspects and calculates loss costs for every commercial property that has a sprinkler system. Owners of these properties will pay premiums that reflect the specific characteristics of their buildings, not premiums developed with the average in mind.

The effect of other protective devices on premiums will vary from one insurance company to another, depending on the type of property. Many insurers will not offer burglary and theft coverage to jewelry stores that do not have central station burglar alarms. Other types of businesses may not face that requirement but will still get reduced premiums because of the security protections. Protective devices not typically found in a certain type of building make a building that has them a better than average risk for the insurer. Underwriters will typically reduce the premium, both to reflect the lower risk and to make their prices more competitive.

The cost of installing these systems varies with the system’s sophistication. A business with theft target items on premises, such as jewelry, electronics and copper pipe, will need multiple cameras and constant monitoring. Premises that are less attractive to thieves may need a less expensive burglar alarm. Sprinkler systems are normally installed when a building is first constructed; regular maintenance, testing and monitoring add to the cost.

While these devices come with price tags, some of that cost will be offset by reduced insurance premiums and deductibles not paid. There are also intangible benefits, such as avoiding the disruption caused by property damage and police investigations of a crime.

Homeowners and business owners interested in installing an automated loss control system should discuss the insurance implications with an insurance agent. They may find that more insurance companies will want to insure them and compete for their business. Installing these systems can save money and provide peace of mind.  If you have any questions, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website

Automated Property Protection: A Good Investment

According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2013 there were 487,500 structure fires (55 every hour) in the U.S., costing $9.5 billion in losses. In 2012, there were 670 burglaries for every 100,000 inhabitants. In addition to the expense, these losses were disruptive, dangerous, emotionally upsetting, and bad for business. Small wonder that many households and businesses invest in automated systems to prevent or reduce losses.

The effectiveness of systems such as central station fire and burglar alarms, sprinkler systems, surveillance cameras, and point-of-sale systems can be dramatic. While automatic fire sprinkler systems do not prevent fires, they do limit the damage. The National Fire Protection Association reported that, over a five-year period, the cost per fire in eating and drinking establishments with sprinkler systems was one-fourth of the cost for those without them. A University of North Carolina at Charlotte study revealed that 83 percent of convicted burglars considered the presence of alarm systems when deciding which homes to target.

Surveillance camera systems, in addition to discouraging potential criminals who are aware of them, create a record of events. Their recordings can be a significant help to security personnel and law enforcement officers investigating theft or property damage incidents. Point of sale systems in stores, because they do not exchange cash, can prevent traditional cash register thefts, though they could be vulnerable to data theft.

Installing these systems can do more than just prevent or reduce losses. They can also make it easier for property owners to get insurance and reduce their premiums. The Insurance Services Office is an organization that calculates the portion of insurance rates necessary to pay for losses. Many of its calculations apply one “loss cost” to an entire group of similar buildings, not recognizing individual differences. However, ISO individually inspects and calculates loss costs for every commercial property that has a sprinkler system. Owners of these properties will pay premiums that reflect the specific characteristics of their buildings, not premiums developed with the average in mind.

The effect of other protective devices on premiums will vary from one insurance company to another, depending on the type of property. Many insurers will not offer burglary and theft coverage to jewelry stores that do not have central station burglar alarms. Other types of businesses may not face that requirement but will still get reduced premiums because of the security protections. Protective devices not typically found in a certain type of building make a building that has them a better than average risk for the insurer. Underwriters will typically reduce the premium, both to reflect the lower risk and to make their prices more competitive.

The cost of installing these systems varies with the system’s sophistication. A business with theft target items on premises, such as jewelry, electronics and copper pipe, will need multiple cameras and constant monitoring. Premises that are less attractive to thieves may need a less expensive burglar alarm. Sprinkler systems are normally installed when a building is first constructed; regular maintenance, testing and monitoring add to the cost.

While these devices come with price tags, some of that cost will be offset by reduced insurance premiums and deductibles not paid. There are also intangible benefits, such as avoiding the disruption caused by property damage and police investigations of a crime.

Homeowners and business owners interested in installing an automated loss control system may find that more insurance companies will want to insure them and compete for their business. Installing these systems can save money and provide peace of mind.  If you have any questions, please contact ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website

 

How Much Commercial Property Insurance Do I Need?

The whole idea behind insurance is protection. When you buy property insurance for a building, the goal is to have enough coverage so that your insurance claim will put you in roughly the same economic position you were – or as close to it as possible – before disaster struck.

The Three Property Valuation Methods

From an insurance perspective, there are three basic methods for valuing and assigning coverage limits to a commercial property: fair market value (FMV), actual cash value (ACV) and replacement cost. It’s important to understand that these numbers can be very different from each other – and sometimes radically so. The three approaches are not interchangeable at all. It’s very important to understand the type of insurance coverage you own and how claim settlement figures are arrived at.

Fair Market Value

The concept of fair market value is familiar to most of us. A property’s FMV is the price a property would sell for if placed on the market today, and purchased by an informed, knowledgeable counterparty in an arms-length transaction. That is, there are no outside influences or competing loyalties affecting the property’s market price.

To calculate fair market value, appraisers will rely a good deal on “comps,” or recent sales of nearby comparative properties. But valuation for commercial properties can be tricky, since there may be relatively few truly comparable sales of similar properties nearby.

Also, FMV can be subject to wide swings in investor sentiment – as property owners across the country learned in the last decade.

Actual Cash Value

This approach to underwriting attempts to calculate what it would take to replace a property and its fixtures – and then subtract an amount from that value for depreciation. For example, if a property includes a seven-year-old refrigerator that is depreciable over ten years, the insurance company may only value the refrigerator at about 30 percent of its replacement value. If you are insuring a 13 year-old rental house that is depreciable over 27.5 years, the insurance company may only be willing to pay half of the home’s replacement value.

This amount is grossly inadequate, in practice, for most of small business owners, who don’t maintain the kind of sinking funds this kind of coverage requires. After all, if your business relies on a working refrigerator and you lost it in a disaster, you lost a whole refrigerator – not just 30 percent of one.

Replacement cost

Replacement cost underwriting attempts to estimate what it would cost to reconstruct the property on site, using comparable or equivalent construction methods and materials, where possible. This can be a very different figure from market value because buyers will also deduct for age and depreciation. Some industry experts also believe that replacement cost provides a useful cap on figuring reimbursements and insulates the risk pool from the distorting effects of appraisal fraud: Commercial property buyers won’t pay more for a property than it would cost to build the same thing next door!

Location is particularly important for commercial properties. Most experts recommend using replacement cost as a basis for calculating needed insurance coverage on commercial properties.

Most insurance agents have access to programs that help streamline estimating the cost of rebuilding common, basic structures.

Flood Insurance is Separate

Remember, standard commercial insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. To protect yourself against the financially devastating effects of flooding, you will need to secure separate flood insurance, both on the building itself and any contents in it you may own.

Special Situations

Some situations call for a more specific approach. If you own an historic or antique building, for example, you probably have some unique concerns that a typical warehouse owner around the corner may not have. For example:

  • Rebuilding with prefab or other low-cost building techniques may not be warranted – especially if your business derives significant value from the unique character of an older building.
  • Rebuilding may require materials and artisan workmanship no longer readily available.
  • Your old structure may have been built before construction and wiring standards were modernized. This is particularly true if you are in earthquake-prone areas. Rebuilding may require additional expenses to bring the structure up to code.
  • You may have greater business interruption costs than other comparable businesses because it takes that much longer to rebuild.

These cases call for a much more detailed and specific approach than simply calculating costs per-square-foot and adding some coverage for contents. A good insurance agent can help walk you through the issues involved in appraising these kinds of structures and estimating rebuilding costs. You may need to hire an outside appraiser with experience in certain specific construction techniques. At the end of the day, insuring antique, historic or specially-built or designed buildings is a team effort between yourself, your insurance agent and the insurance carrier.

Replacement Cost is available in most cases and unless you don’t intend to rebuild, this is the best option, since it will pay for the entire cost replacement your building without consideration for depreciation. When insuring for replacement cost, most policies require that you insure to 100% of what it would cost to replace your building. Insuring for 90% of actual building replacement cost would result in a co-insurance penalty of 10%. This means that if you had a partial loss, you would only get 90% coverage due to the co-insurance penalty found in policies with this clause. This is why it is so important to work with your agent and the insurance company appraiser, if an appraiser has been assigned to value your building. You building is your investment, and protecting your investment is a wise financial decision.  Contact ACBI with any questions.

The Little-Known Secret About Annuity Safety

There are two layers of protection included in an annuity policy’s cash value. The first layer is based on the life insurance company’s financial strength, and the second layer is provided by a guaranty association located in the state where the policy was issued. The main national organization for guaranties says that policyholders may rest assured that the guaranty associations found in various states exist to help protect and maintain coverage of policyholders. Guaranty associations provide safety nets to make sure the promises of the insurance industry are kept even if companies fail financially. In 1983, NOLHGA was started for the purpose of providing financial backing for policies in the event that insurers suffered a financial collapse.

Although guaranty associations exist today, many people have never heard of them and will not learn about them without searching for information. This is because state insurance commissioners do not want people to be aware of them. There is actually an act in existence that prohibits agents and insurance companies from blatantly advertising guaranty associations. Section 19 of this rule says that no person who is an insurance agent or is affiliated with an insurance company can publish, circulate or disseminate information to the public. This applies to magazines, newspapers and other forms of publication. Notices, circulars and other common forms of advertisements are also prohibited. They may not broadcast the information on the radio or on the television. Statements made about the guaranty associations cannot be verbal or written, so telling people about them is also prohibited for agents.

While there have been obvious attempts to suppress this information, state guaranty associations have continued offering policyholders financial protection for any annuities ranging between $100,000 and $500,000 for the past 25 years. The amount of coverage depends on the type of annuity chosen and the policyholder’s state of residence. The NOLHGA has a site that makes plenty of information available. People who are concerned about this issue can visit the site for more information. Some people have annuities, but they may not fully understand how these financial products work. It is important to learn this, and a good way to start is to discuss the details with an agent. An agent can explain how these function and what policyholders can expect. While they are not supposed to share information about guaranty associations, ACBI can provide helpful tips and offer answers to other various questions.