Can You Legally Refuse to Hire Nicotine Users?

U-Haul International Inc. made a big splash recently when it announced that, starting Feb. 1, 2020, it would not hire nicotine users in the 21 states where barring someone for the habit is legal.

While its decision made headlines since it’s a national company, more and more employers have been opting to forgo hiring people who smoke, vape or use chewing tobacco.

The moves make sense as employers look to trim their health insurance costs, but also because studies have shown that nicotine users are less productive, take more breaks and miss more days off work than non-users – not to mention they face significant added health risks.

Already, some hospitals have instituted similar policies, and Alaska Airlines has had a policy of not hiring smokers since 1985. But with U-Haul making the move, other companies, both large and small, are weighing the choice of whether they should implement a similar policy.

Although U-Haul subsidiaries operate in all 50 US states, the policy will be implemented in the 21 states that do not have discrimination protections for smokers on their books.

Those states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Benefits of a no-nicotine policy

A 2013 Ohio State University study that reviewed smoker absenteeism, productivity and health insurance, found that they cost their employers an average of $6,000 more per year than those who have never smoked.

Smokers overall are less productive. A 2007 Tobacco Journal study by Petter Lundborg of University of Amsterdam found that smokers took 11 more sick days per year than nonsmokers did – eight days when you factor in variables like a smoker’s tendency to take more risks and have poorer health.

There also are other indirect effects on productivity, such as an increased rate of early retirement in smokers, the study found.

Other studies have found that tobacco users have an increased risk of short-term illness, and a higher risk of developing chronic illness, resulting in even more missed days and significantly higher health care costs.

Smokers can also have a negative impact on employee morale, as non-smoking colleagues may perceive that they abuse their breaks and do less work as a result.

Tough choice for employers

Employers who are considering similar policies need to tread carefully. Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have laws on the books that bar employers from discriminating against an employee’s lawful off-duty activities (such as nicotine usage) or prohibit discrimination based on tobacco use.

Also, if you have operations in multiple states you would have to roll out different policies in different jurisdictions, which ends up costing your organization more money.

On the other hand, there are no federal laws barring action against nicotine users. For example, nicotine addiction is not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attempts by government employees to gain protection for their right to use nicotine products have routinely been shot down by courts.

Given the state-specific nuances associated with this issue, you should consult an attorney if you are thinking about implementing a nicotine-free hiring policy, to make sure you can do so under the law.

Additionally, employers who have tough rules on nicotine use may have a harder time attracting talent, potentially causing them to miss out on strong candidates who use nicotine products.

All this said, employers can still regulate and limit an employee’s on-site nicotine use in the workplace. It’s wise to have policies in place that bar smoking and vaping on the premises to protect customers, the general public and your non-smoking employees from second-hand smoke and vape.

Studies have shown that the best way to get someone to quit smoking is not through punitive measures, but through incentives. Many wellness plans include smoker cessation programs that provide incentives to employees who quit smoking.

Some of these programs impose surcharges on nicotine users that are then used to cover claims and pay for administrative expenses under the employer’s group health plan.

11 Steps To Improving Truck Driver Safety

In 2017 there were 4,761 people killed in crashes involving large trucks, a 9% increase from 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The increase shows that this hazardous occupation is growing even more risky.

However, there are several steps drivers can take to reduce their risk of injuries, including:

Practice good vehicle maintenance – Check the truck’s condition every morning, especially the condition of the brakes. Report anything unusual to the dispatcher.

Stack cargo in low piles spread evenly through the trailer – This reduces drag on the truck and makes it easier to handle.

Always wear seat belts – Passengers not wearing seat belts make up the majority of those killed in car accidents. Government data shows that drivers who do not wear seat belts are 25 times more likely to be killed if they are ejected from their vehicles.

Slow down in adverse conditions – These include poor weather, at night, on curves and highway ramps, in work zones, and when hauling loaded trailers. One quarter of speeding-related large truck fatalities occur when the weather is poor.

Another 40% occur on curves, and 20 to 30% of large truck crashes occur on entrance and exit ramps.

Plan out routes on unfamiliar roads in advance – Avoid making sudden corrections after missing a turn or exit, and always signal when changing lanes or turning. Statistics show that 22% of large truck crashes happen when drivers are not familiar with the roads.

Drive defensively and be aware at all times – Be alert to cars that may be in the driver’s blind spot. Watch for brake lights. Use caution when approaching intersections.

Change lanes infrequently – If you must move over, do so carefully, checking mirrors and staying aware of what may be in blind spots.

Avoid driving while tired – Get plenty of sleep before a trip, eat healthy meals, watch out for signs of fatigue, and take naps when necessary. Tricks such as turning up the radio or unrolling windows may help for a short time, but they do not solve the problem. Also, coffee takes time to provide an energy boost.

Resist distractions – Dialing a phone, texting, using a dispatching device, reading maps, eating and drinking, and watching objects outside the truck can all divert the driver’s attention and increase the risk of a crash.

Leave plenty of space between the truck and the car ahead – Experts advise one second of driving time for every 10 feet of vehicle length, plus one extra second at speeds above 40 mph. Double that in poor weather.

If possible, avoid driving during heavy traffic times – This would include rush hours as well as holidays.

 

The takeaway

Driving can be dangerous, especially when piloting a loaded rig. Any driver may be prone to acting in ways that increase the hazards of driving. Following these suggestions will reduce those hazards and better protect drivers if crashes happen.

The Limits and Gaps in a Business Owner’s Policy

One option available to small businesses seeking an all-encompassing policy that packages property and liability coverage into one is the business owner’s policy ― also known as the BOP.

These policies are designed to simplify risk management for small to mid-sized businesses and are generally a good bet for providing the greatest amount of coverage and the least amount of work. Over the years since they were first introduced in 1976, BOPs have evolved by including coverage extensions depending on the needs and nature of the policyholder’s business.

Despite this evolution, however, and the general assumption that BOPs provide truly comprehensive coverage, there are some gaps that could catch you by surprise. There are ways to mitigate some of these gaps by purchasing additional insurance, but if you are aware of a BOP’s limitations at least you won’t be caught off-guard.

Typical BOP coverage

This article focuses on the typical Insurance Services Office BOP form, and some carriers have created their own with different coverages and limits. First, let’s look at what the typical BOP covers:

  1. Property insurance (covering buildings, equipment and inventory).
  2. Business interruption insurance (covering losses that cause you to shut operations or reduce production for a time). Business interruption insurance can provide funds to offset lost profits or to pay continuing expenses (typically for up to a year for insured losses).
  3. Casualty or liability protection (covering harm done by employees or products to other people or their property).
  4. Crime insurance (covering loss of money or securities resulting from burglaries or robberies or destruction), as well as losses from employee theft or embezzlement.
  5. Liability insurance covering lawsuits arising from accidents (as when someone trips and falls on your business’s property), or when you sell a product that damages the customer’s property or you are accused of offenses such as slander, copyright or invasion of privacy.
  6. Vehicle coverage for rented or borrowed vehicles.

 

The main BOP gaps

Business income protection in a BOP is reasonably extensive for loss of income after an event such as a fire, as the policyholder is fully covered for the period it is closed during restoration, for up to 12 months. However, there are five main gaps in a BOP:

Payroll protection вЂ• A BOP policy will only cover payroll of “ordinary” employees for 60 days, unlike a standard business income policy. Ordinary employees are all of your staff excluding officers, executives, department managers and contract employees, among others.

If you want to extend payroll coverage for your ordinary employees beyond that, you have to purchase an endorsement for the additional period you want. Payroll for non-ordinary employees, as listed above, is covered for the entire period of your business’s restoration up to the 12-month maximum.

Restoration period вЂ• The period of restoration, during which the policy will cover your business income, is limited to 12 months, and that time can pass quickly when you consider everything that may need to be done to return your firm to “operational capability.” It’s at that point that business income loss coverage ceases.

Consider that if your business burns to the ground, you will need to draw up new building plans, obtain building permits and make sure your new building is up to code. You also have to factor in the time it will take to rebuild the structure. If all of this takes longer than 12 months, business income loss coverage ceases. The policy will not extend protection beyond this period.

By the way, “operational capability” for the purposes of business income means that the company is operating at or near pre-loss production or sales capacity. It does not mean bringing the business income back to pre-loss levels.

Extended business income вЂ• The BOP will pay for lost income for an additional 30 days after the firm has reopened for business. In many cases, this amount of time will not be enough to bring your business income back to the same level as before the incident. You can purchase a policy extension for this coverage.

Seasonal increase limitations вЂ• One of the benefits of a BOP is that it will cover loss of business income in periods of seasonal increases. The standard increase limit is 25% for business personal property. The typical limit most small business purchase is $100,000, but that does not automatically mean that the policy will cover up to $125,000 during the business’s peak months.

That’s because BOPs state that the business personal property limit must equal 100% of the average monthly values on hand for the 12 months preceding the loss. In other words, it takes into account the seasonal increases from the year before.

Here’s an example of how the seasonal increase limit may yield the claims payment short of expectations: Randy’s Raft Rental, which carries $100,000 in coverage, experiences an uptick in business in June, July and August. While it enjoys revenues of $100,000 a month in the nine other months, during the peak period revenue jumps to $125,000 per month.

To qualify for receiving the seasonal increase to ensure it is covered for the full $125,000 during the peak season, policy limits would have to be increased to $106,250 (the sum of 9 months x $100,000 + 3 months x $125,000, divided by 12). If you are confused, we can explain.

Electrical damage/system breakdown

Typical BOP policies specifically exclude losses caused by systems breakdowns, or damage from electrical or steam boiler problems. If you want this coverage, you can pick up the “Equipment Breakdown Protection Coverage” endorsement.

Why You Need ‘Key Man’ Insurance

If you are operating a small business, you are likely relying on a small crew to get the job done.

Many employees in small firms have to wear several hats and, if one of them or an owner should die, the business could suffer greatly from that sudden loss of talent or one of the owners who is integral to the operations.

If you don’t have “key man” insurance, that setback could be devastating to the viability of your operations, whereas coverage would provide you with extra funding that you would need while recovering from the loss.

Key man insurance is simply life insurance on the key person in a business. In a small business, this is usually the owner, the founders or perhaps a key employee or two. These are the people who are crucial to a business ― the ones whose absence would sink the company. You need key man insurance on those people.

Key man insurance basics

Before purchasing coverage, give some thought to the effects on your company of possibly losing certain partners or employees.

In opting for this type of coverage, your company would take out life insurance on the key individuals, pay the premiums and designate itself as the beneficiary of the policy. If that person unexpectedly dies, the company receives the claim payout.

This payout would essentially allow your business to stay afloat as you recover from the sudden loss of that employee or partner, without whom it would be difficult to keep the business operating in the short term.

Your company can use the insurance proceeds for expenses until it can find a replacement person, or, if necessary, pay off debts, distribute money to investors, pay severance to employees and close the business down in an orderly manner.

In other words, in the aftermath of this tragedy, the insurance would give you more options than immediate bankruptcy.

 

Determining whom to cover

Ask yourself: Who is irreplaceable in the short term?

In many small businesses, it is the founder who holds the company together ― he or she may keep the books, manage the employees, handle the key customers, and so on. If that person is gone, the business pretty much stops.

 

Determining the amount of coverage

  • The amount of coverage depends on your business and revenue.
  • Think of how much money your business would need to survive until it could replace the key person, come up to speed and get the business back on its feet.
  • Buy a policy that fits into your budget and will address your short-term cash needs in case of tragedy.
  • Ask us to get some quotes from different insurers.
  • Check rates for different levels of coverage ($100,000, $500,000, etc.)

How to Protect Your Business Teleconference Meetings

Since face-to-face meetings are out of the question when most non-essential workers are under stay-at-home orders, many companies have opted for the teleconferencing app Zoom.

With the recent revelation that Zoom’s teleconferencing system is not always the most secure, it is still one of the least expensive and user-friendly options for holding meetings during the coronavirus outbreak.

Zoom has seen its user numbers exploded during the pandemic, but that has left it exposed to a number of different types of attacks and other problems like videos being exposed on the web.

There are many alternatives to Zoom, but if you want to continue using the service, you should understand the security implications and what you can do to protect yourself, other participants and your company.

 

The risks

Because of complaints, Zoom in mid-April said it was working to fix a number of bugs and security holes in its system.

While some issues have plagued the system for a few years, others were recently discovered as usage surged in the first three months of 2020. Here’s a list:

Stolen passwords – One of the more recent vulnerabilities that was discovered was one that allowed hackers to steal Windows passwords.

Eavesdropping – Two other newly discovered holes could let hackers remotely install malware on affected Macs and eavesdrop on meetings.

Phishing attacks – Hackers are creating fake Zoom links and websites to lure people to log in. In so doing they can steal financial details, spread malware and steal Zoom ID numbers and passwords, which allows them to infiltrate meetings.

‘Zoombombing’ – This occurs when uninvited guests gain entry to private meetings. This typically happens for large events after log-in details were announced on social media, but it is happening in smaller meetings as well. Typically, these infiltrators will disrupt the meeting with profanities and insults or by streaming porn for the other participants to see.

Hackers are using the same techniques to eavesdrop on or disrupt business meetings.

Meeting recordings exposed – This can only happen if the meeting organizer records the meeting. A Washington Post investigation found thousands of private Zoom videos that had been posted on the web. The exposed video calls included private business discussions, casual conversations with friends, therapy sessions, and nudity. Many of these videos seem to have been made public by mistake.

Meetings are typically not recorded. The default setting on Zoom does not record meetings. But meeting hosts can save the videos on Zoom’s servers or their own computers without participants’ consent.

 

Tips to keep your Zoom meetings private

  • Don’t post your Zoom meeting IDs publicly. Send them privately by e-mails or using a messaging app.
  • Create a new ID for every meeting. Don’t recycle old ones from prior meetings.
  • Adjust the Zoom settings to require participants to enter a password to access the meeting.
  • Enable Zoom’s “Waiting Room” feature. This lets you keep participants in a digital queue until you approve them to join the session. Beginning April 4, Zoom enabled the feature by default, requiring additional password settings for free users. Zoom has a guide to the feature on its website.
  • If you are worried about abuse, you can turn off a number of features, such as private chats, annotation and file transfers.
  • Keep the Zoom desktop app up to date, so that any patches Zoom makes to security vulnerabilities are added to your device.
  • If you are concerned about hackers accessing your data and you don’t need to screen share, you may want to use Zoom only on mobile devices such as a smartphone or tablet. These seem to be less susceptible to hacking.
  • Build awareness of Zoom phishing scams into user training programs. Users should only download the Zoom client from a trusted site and check for anything suspicious in the meeting URL when joining a meeting.
  • Ensure all home workers have anti-malware protection, including phishing detection installed from a reputable vendor.

Don’t Fall Victim to the Business E-mail Compromise Scam

West African organized-crime rings have been targeting U.S. business with “business e-mail compromise” scams that are costing firms millions of dollars every year.

Losses to businesses that are targeted by these scams hit an all-time high in the first quarter of 2018, with $685 million in losses reported by 4,081 victims. That’s more than the amount lost for all of 2017 in such scams: $675 million.

The gangs send fake messages to businesses’ finance departments purporting to be a vendor for the company with an invoice requiring payment.

These criminals do research before targeting companies, meaning they go to company websites and look for the right people to send e-mails to. They may even pull annual reports and find what companies they do business with, and then spoof those accounts (meaning they impersonate other firms in the e-mails).

Some criminals will fake a CEO’s e-mail account and e-mail that company’s finance office ordering payment to a certain account. In one case cited by Dow Jones Newswires, a real estate attorney received an e-mail from the purported sellers of a local property and asking the lawyer to wire the proceeds of the sale to the criminals’ bank account. The lawyer wired $246,218.83 to the scammers.

 

The main scams

Money request via compromised account of company exec

  1. A criminal compromises or spoofs the e-mail account of an executive, such as the CEO.
  2. The criminal sends a request for a wire transfer from the compromised account to an employee who is responsible for processing these requests and is subordinate to the executive, such as the controller.
  3. The controller submits a wire payment request, as per instructions from his or her “boss.”

 

Invoice from supplier via spoofed e-mail address

A fraudster compromises the e-mail of a business user employed by their target company; for example, someone in accounts payable. This is how it’s done:

  1. The criminal monitors e-mail of the business user, looking for vendor invoices.
  2. The criminal finds a legitimate invoice and modifies the beneficiary information, such as changing the routing number and account number to which payment is to be sent.
  3. The scammer then spoofs the vendor’s e-mail to submit the modified invoice.
  4. Accounts payable, recognizing the vendor name and services provided, processes the invoice and submits a wire request for payment.

 

How to avoid getting burned

  • Confirm an e-mailed monetary request purportedly from a company executive by creating a new e-mail and entering their known e-mail address; don’t reply to the suspicious e-mail as it will likely go to the criminal.
  • The e-mails typically have a similar tone, urging secrecy and expedience. Set up your e-mail gateway to flag key words such as “payment,” “urgent,” “sensitive” or “secret.”
  • Look for odd uses of the English language. Many of the scammers are foreigners abroad.
  • Although the late-stage e-mails used in these scams may not contain malware, malicious code is often used as part of an overall scheme to initially compromise an employee’s e-mail account. So, make sure you have an effective malware detection solution in place.
  • Register all domains that are slightly different from the actual company domain.
  • Scrutinize all e-mail requests for transfer of funds to determine if the requests are out of the ordinary.
  • Ask your accounts payable staff to get to know the habits of your customers, including the details of, reasons behind, and amount of payments.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional advisor, please contact ACBI Insurance at 203-259-7580.

Vacant Buildings Pose Risks, Insurance Challenges

According to the website Statista.com, the average vacancy rate for offices nationwide in the second quarter of 2018 was 12.2%, while 12.1% of retail spaces and 7.8% of industrial spaces were vacant.

Unfortunately, when buildings stand vacant they become susceptible to a variety of problems.

There are roughly 31,000 fires in vacant buildings annually, resulting in dozens of deaths, hundreds of firefighter injuries, and an average $642 million in property damage.

Vacant buildings receive little or no maintenance, attention or security. This can lead to problems such as:

  • With no security on the premises, the building becomes a target for vandals. Vacant buildings frequently wind up with broken windows and graffiti-covered walls.
  • Fixtures and materials inside the building, such as copper piping, may attract thieves.
  • Vacant buildings can become convenient hang-outs for young people or shelters for the homeless; they also can become centers of criminal activity, such as drug-dealing.
  • Trespassers smoking on the premises, decayed wiring, arson, and production of illegal drugs like methamphetamines may cause fires in vacant buildings. In addition, automatic sprinkler systems may be shut off, allowing fires to spread, and lack of security prevents early detection.
  • Toxic substances remaining on the premises may leak and contaminate soil and groundwater.

 

Owners of vacant properties can take many steps to prevent these problems or make them less likely.

  • Visit the property at least weekly, or hire a property management company to do so.
  • Clear the exterior of the building of scrap wood, paper, cardboard and brush.
  • Remove any toxic substances that could contaminate the area or harm police or firefighters.
  • Maintain sidewalks and parking areas in good condition, and clear them of snow and ice.
  • Erect obstacles to keep vehicles and pedestrians out of parking areas.
  • Hire security guards to watch the building at night, and have exterior lighting turned on.
  • Maintain heat or drain the plumbing system to keep pipes from bursting, but keep at least a minimum temperature in areas protected by automatic sprinkler systems.
  • Maintain electricity supply to emergency lighting and exit signs.
  • Shut off utilities, except where necessary to power desired lighting and alarm systems.
  • Maintain fire detection systems and link them to a central station monitoring service.

 

Insurance implications

Buildings that are more than 70% vacant for more than 60 days also lose some important insurance coverage.

If the building is largely vacant, the standard commercial property insurance policy reduces loss payments by 15% for most causes of loss and does not cover others at all, including vandalism, water damage, glass breakage, and theft.

For an additional premium, the building owner may be able to purchase vacancy permit coverage, which reinstates some or all of this coverage for a specific period of time. An alternative – vacancy changes coverage – can reduce the minimum occupancy that the building must have before the insurance company will consider it vacant from the standard 31%. We can work with you to get the coverage you need.

A vacant building is never a good situation, but with the proper precautions, the owner can maintain its value and keep it secure until new tenants move in.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional advisor, please contact ACBI Insurance at 203-259-7580.

Technology Comes to the Rescue in Construction Industry

While safety improvements slowly take hold in the construction industry, some firms are turning to technology to reduce workplace injuries.

Owners and management have been scrambling to find new and better ways to monitor employee safety and prevent accidents as the industry grapples with growing workforces that often include new workers with little experience.

There are also language barriers as the number of foreign workers entering the trade continues growing as employers struggle to fill positions.

Construction, for example, is one of the least-digitized sectors in the world, according to research from The McKinsey Global Institute. But that’s changing as technologies like helmet cams and smart glasses, smart safety vests, drones, and even smart boots are being employed.

The technologies are aimed at both training new workers in the safety aspects of the job and warning them if it appears that danger is imminent. This type of real-time communication has been proven to reduce risk and improve quality.

And there is an added benefit in that most of the new technologies also collect data that can be used if a contractor is sued for construction defects.

Here are some of the new technologies that contractors are using on their worksites, according to The Hartford, which recently published a paper on trends in construction safety.

Smart glasses and helmets

Smart glasses essentially capture video from the view of the worker. Smart helmets do the same through a camera mounted on the unit.

This wearable technology can help train less-experienced workers by allowing management to monitor their work from a different location.

By monitoring the action in smart glasses, management can:

  • Flag mistakes that workers make so that they can be fixed to avoid a construction defect. That’s because new instructions can immediately be sent to a worker who has made a mistake.
  • Improve safety in real time, including alerting workers of dangers.
  • Be used to train workers and enhance communication among employees and supervisors.
  • Improve decision time and work quality by allowing management to review video.

Some helmets are also equipped with display visors that can dynamically project relevant information onto the surfaces of objects in the wearer’s field of vision.

Smart safety vests

Some new safety vests will alert workers when they’re entering a dangerous area at a job site. There are also new vests that can monitor a workers’ heart rate and stress levels and alert them and supervisors if they are at unsafe levels.

Some vests even will send a signal to slow or stop heavy equipment when the vest is detected nearby.

There are also GPS-enabled safety vests that track worker locations across crowded jobsites. As a result, workers within a geofenced jobsite can be located with the utmost precision – within 8 inches, in fact.

Smart boots

Some boots on the market now have sensors that can detect temperature changes, and track location and motion through GPS and Wi-Fi.

From a safety perspective, the ability to track a worker’s location could be extremely helpful during a time of crisis.

Drones

Some contractors are using drones to monitor unsafe practices on job sites. Since a supervisor can only be at one place at time, a drone with a bird’s eye view can provide real time monitoring of many workers at the same time.

Contractors are also using drones to monitor and document the quality of a project. They can also be used to keep clients up to date on the progress of a project, while documenting the project for possible future questions about building to specifications or code.

OSHA Cracks Down on Errant Electronic Filers

Despite the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration pushing back the deadline until Dec. 31, 2017, about a third of workplaces that were required to electronically file their 2016 Form 300A in a timely fashion, failed to do so.

Now OSHA has started a crackdown on employers that failed to file their forms after the agency stopped accepting the 2016 forms as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In February, compliance officers were instructed to initiate inquiries into whether workplaces had electronically filed their 300A forms for 2016. Failure to file can lead to an other-than-serious citation, with a maximum penalty of $12,934.

 

Who is required to file electronically?

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records.
  • Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

OSHA has until June 15 this year to issue citations to those employers who failed to electronically file the required information.

 

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to having to comply with the new electronic filing rules for employers who operate in states with OSHA-approved workplace safety agency plans that have yet to adopt regulations requiring electronic submission of injury and illness reports. The states in question are:

  • California
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

 

New rules coming

For 2017, OSHA is not yet requiring that applicable employers file electronic OSHA 300 logs or 301 forms as it is in the process of devising new rules. The deadline is currently July 1, 2018.

The two types of establishments currently required to submit their forms electronically are expected to continue to do so under the new rules.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional advisor, please contact ACBI Insurance at 203-259-7580.

Have Workers Handling Material and Goods? Play It Safe

Material handling is associated with a number of risks to workers that can cause industrial injuries. Moving product about, twisting, handling unwieldy loads and working around heavy machinery can all result in incidents that injure your workers.

Material handling injuries often result in costly medical treatment, time away from work recovering, lost productivity, decreased employee morale and higher workers’ comp premiums. As an organization, you must take preventive measures to minimize injuries and the costs associated with them.

Here are some tips:

 

Focus on ergonomics – Put a premium on ergonomics and proper lifting, and try to put in safeguards to protect against the wear and tear of repetitive motions. The main ergonomic issues you should focus on are:

  • Stressful postures while handling materials, like bending or twisting.
  • Repetitive motions such as frequent reaching and lifting.
  • Forceful exertions like carrying or lifting heavy loads.

 

Tour the overall work area with a supervisor and talk to workers in each area to identify all such ergonomic risk factors, and minimize them by putting control measures in place to limit the exposure of employees to all possible risks.

 

Provide personal protective equipment – The required personal protective equipment that workers need will vary from setting to setting, but it can be of great help in preventing injuries when moving materials manually. Some PPE that is common in material handling settings includes:

  • Eye protection
  • Helmets
  • Gloves
  • Steel-toed safety boots
  • Guards to protect the instep area from impact or compression
  • Back braces

 

Buy assisting equipment – Reduce the amount of manual material handling your workers have to do by providing them with the equipment that can reduce the chances of them injuring themselves. Some common equipment includes:

  • Forklifts
  • Dollies
  • Conveyor belt scales
  • Storage equipment (shelves, racks and pallets)
  • Bulk material equipment (trucks, silos, drums and grain elevators)

 

Besides reducing risks to employees, material handling equipment can also greatly improve productivity. Beware though: some assisting equipment can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

Designate and train the appropriate individuals on the correct procedures and verify that they follow safety rules. Ensure that only authorized and trained individuals operate the equipment.

 

Address noise, vibrations – Noise and vibration are widespread in material handling environments and it is important therefore to protect your employees’ hearing.

Additionally, while vibrations cause noise, they can also lead to work-related musculoskeletal disorders and general employee fatigue. If you use the right equipment, you can reduce both noise and vibrations.

Consider matching wheel materials to the floor surface to minimize vibration and noise, as well. Use shock-dampening casters and softer wheels to reduce noise and g-forces on a wheeled cart.

 

Encourage tired workers to speak up – Physical labor can take its toll on your workers, and when fatigue sets in they are at greater risk of having accident.

And if they have been doing the same job and the same movements and lifting day in and day out, musculoskeletal disorders can set in.

These injuries build up over time, so the earlier you can detect an issue, the better. That’s why you should encourage employees to report discomfort and fatigue. That way, you can act and put in place control measures to prevent tiredness from developing into a serious injury.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a professional advisor, please contact ACBI Insurance at 203-259-7580.