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1 year ago · by · 0 comments

Loss Prevention Tips for Your Home

Using renewable energy sources is a wonderful way to preserve Mother Nature and do wonders for your pocket book. There are two types of alternate energy sources that are particularly popular ways to conserve: wind generators and solar power.

Solar Power

Solar power does not release any pollutants, so it’s a great way to be eco-friendly and save a bundle on your utility bills. Some additional benefits include:

  • The federal government passed the Energy Law in August of 2005, which provides homeowners up to a 30 percent tax credit for the cost of a solar energy system, up to $2,000.
  • Solar panels can convert energy straight into heat can heat water and/or swimming pools easily.
  • Solar panels provide electricity long after the sun goes down because of the storage batteries in the panels.

Wind Generators

Wind generators produce energy as the naturally occurring wind spins the turbine. Some things to keep in mind include:

  • The amount of energy produced each day will vary; however, wind power is free and tends to significantly reduce electricity bills.
  • Your local utility company may have rules against using wind energy.
  • Wind generators are costly to purchase (though electricity savings far outweigh initial costs in the long run).
  • Many municipalities provide tax breaks for using alternative energy.

Safety First

Conservation is key in preserving resources for future generations. By using alternative energy sources, you are not only helping the planet now, you are doing your part to conserve for your children’s future.

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1 year ago · by · 0 comments

What is OSHA and Why is it Important to Your Business?

Why is job safety and health important?

In 2013, 4,585 employees died from occupational incidents, and there were a staggering 3.0 million total recordable cases of workplace injury and illness.

On average, each of these 3.0 million cases required eight days away from work, which means U.S. employers as a whole paid for millions of days of lost work time. Experts estimate that workplace injuries and illnesses cost U.S. businesses more than $125 billion annually. Effective job safety and health programs not only help reduce worker injuries and illnesses, they save employers money in the long run.

How does OSHA contribute to job safety and health?

The primary goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to carry out the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which Congress originally passed in 1970. The OSH Act has undergone several amendments and revisions since its inception, but it is still in place “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.” OSHA contributes to job safety and health by enacting regulations that forward this ideal.

Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 1902-1990, houses all the OSHA standards, though OSHA also allows states to enact occupational safety and health laws of their own under federally-approved plans. State-run programs are at least as strict, and sometimes more so, than federal standards. This ensures a minimum standard of job safety and health that all employers must follow to protect employees.

Are all employees covered by the OSH Act?

The OSH Act covers all employees except public employees in state and local governments and those who are self-employed. Public employees in state and local governments are covered by their state’s OSHA-approved plan, if applicable.

Federal employees are covered under the OSH Act’s federal employee occupational safety and health programs, which are outlined in 29 CFR Part 1960. United States Postal Service employees, however, are subject to the same OSH Act coverage provisions as those in the private sector.

Other federal agencies that have issued requirements affecting job safety or health include the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and some agencies of the Department of Transportation (DOT), including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Employees in these industries are subject to their respective regulations.

Additionally, businesses in the retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors that are classified as low-hazard are exempt from most OSHA requirements, as are small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Exceptions are discussed in 29 CFR Part 1904, which also explains which OSHA regulations exempt employers are still required to follow.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

If you are an employer covered by the OSH Act, you must provide your employees with jobs and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. You must also comply with the OSHA statutory requirements, standards and regulations that require you to:

  • Provide well-maintained tools and equipment, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Provide medical assistance and guidance for employees sustaining workplace injuries/illnesses
  • Provide required OSHA training
  • Report accidents that result in fatalities to OSHA within eight hours
  • Report accidents that result in the hospitalization of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours
  • Keep records of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses and their causes
  • Post annual injury/illness summaries for the required period of time

What are your rights as an employer?

When working with OSHA, you may do the following:

  • Request identification from OSHA compliance officers
  • Request an inspection warrant
  • Receive a reason for inspection from compliance officers
  • Have an opening and closing conference with compliance officers
  • Accompany compliance officers on inspections
  • Request an informal conference after an inspection
  • File a notice of contest to citations or proposed penalties
  • Apply for a variance from a standard’s requirements under certain circumstances
  • Be assured of the confidentiality of trade secrets
  • Submit a written request to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for information on potentially toxic substances in your workplace

What are employees’ responsibilities?

All employees are obligated to help prevent exposure to workplace safety and health hazards by becoming familiar with and adhering to all applicable OSHA requirements.

What are employees’ rights?

With regards to OSHA regulations, employees have the right, among other actions, to:

  • Review employer-provided OSHA standards, regulations and requirements
  • Request information from the employer on emergency procedures
  • Receive adequate, OSHA-required safety and health training on toxic substances and emergency action plan(s)
  • Ask the OSHA area director to investigate hazardous conditions or violations of standards in the workplace
  • Have his or her name withheld from the employer when filing a complaint with OSHA
  • Know what actions OSHA took as a result of the employee’s complaint and have an informal review of any decision not to inspect or issue a citation
  • Have an employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer on inspections
  • Observe monitoring and measuring of toxic substances or harmful physical agents and review related records (including medical records)
  • Review the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 300 Form), if applicable, at a reasonable time
  • Request a closing discussion following an inspection
  • Object a citation’s set abatement period
  • Seek safe and healthful working conditions without your employer retaliation

Why is OSHA important to your business?

OSHA plays a key role in making your facility a safe, healthy place to work. Beyond providing the tools and guidance to work toward an injury- and illness-free workplace, OSHA is important in identifying businesses that are not committed to safety. Employers that do not carefully follow OSHA regulations often face hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in fines.

How can you get more information on safety and health?

OSHA provides free publications, standards, technical assistance and compliance tools to help you understand the nuances of the regulations. OSHA’s website also offers extensive assistance by way of workplace consultation, voluntary protection programs, grants, strategic partnerships, state plans, training and education to guide you in your quest for workplace safety. To learn more about OSHA and the critical elements of a successful safety and health management system in your workplace, visit www.osha.gov.

This document is an introductory guideline. It does not address all potential compliance issues with OSHA standards. It is not meant to be exhaustive or construed as legal advice. Contact your licensed commercial property and casualty representative at Scurich Insurance or legal counsel to address applicable compliance requirements. © 2009-2012, 2015 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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1 year ago · by · 0 comments

Will the Federal Hiring Freeze Affect Government Contractors?

If you rely on government contracts for your work, then you probably have some questions about the federal hiring freeze. Namely: Is it good or bad for contractors?

The answer: it remains to be seen, but probably not. It may well turn out to be a boon for contractors. Bridges still need to be built, and by freezing the hiring of salaried government employees, the government will be forced to find somebody to put the work in, and more often than not, that’s going to be contractors.

Furthermore, a lot of the work that we do in government contracting is not federal work, rather, we’re being hired by cities, by the state department and so on. We’re being paid on state funds to do state work, rather than being hired for federal work by the federal government. The federal government does pay for construction work as needed, of course, but most contractors are not waiting for these jobs. Most contractors are working locally, and being paid by local government.

Additionally, the executive order putting a freeze on federal hiring comes with a lot of exceptions. Just to name a few examples, the freeze does not apply to the post office, industry exchange programs, intelligence agencies, or seasonal employment. The list of exceptions is only getting longer every day, as these exceptions have been clarified over time.

Finally, while President Trump has issued a statement saying that government organizations shall not be permitted to use contractors to work around federal hiring freezes, this statement was issued in a memo, not in binding law.

At some point in the future, the federal hiring freeze may extend to contractors, but for the time being, it may actually be giving contractors greater bargaining power. A year ago, a government contractor was usually being pursued for one of two reasons: Either they possess specialized knowledge, training or abilities that the government is in need of, such as underwater welding, or they’re cheaper than paying a salaried, year-round government employee. Now, government contractors will be the first choice, over federal employees, for many jobs, creating more opportunities for contractors, and, in many instances, allowing contractors to command a higher rate of pay.

Whether or not you agree with President Trump’s attempt to curb government spending via the federal hiring freeze, the bottom line is that, at least for the time being, it’s nothing for government-contracted workers to worry about.

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1 year ago · by · 0 comments

Covering Your Non-Profit and Volunteer Workers

The challenge in running a non-profit is that it still takes money and resources. Just because you’re not interested in getting rich off of this idea doesn’t mean that money is not an issue. If a worker suffers an injury on the job, their compensation has to come from somewhere.

Something that may come as a surprise to many: Volunteers are not typically covered by worker’s compensation policies. In more states than not, worker’s compensation only covers, well, workers. If you are paying actual employees at food banks workers’ compensation insurance will cover their injuries. Likewise Meals on Wheels insurance policy will cover the organization’s workers. If you’re working with unpaid volunteers this is not the case.

Your volunteers may wind up covered by a general liability claim, but this is not always the case. If you want to make sure that your people are covered no matter what, then you’re probably going to have to bring them in as paid employees, or at the very least, under an internship program that includes medical and worker’s compensation benefits and so on.

A problem with relying exclusively on volunteers for your workforce is that you don’t really get to pick your staff from the best and brightest. Many who volunteer will bring their A-game, they will take the task just as seriously as they would take their day job. This isn’t always the case, unfortunately, and without any payment or compensation or even the safety net of worker’s compensation to draw talent, you wind up taking what you can get.

Non-profit doesn’t mean nobody gets paid. Non-profits are usually devoted to a humanitarian cause and their primary concern is not making anybody rich, but making a difference, but that doesn’t mean that everyone involved is simply donating time and resources without compensation. Typically you’re going to have benefactors and other income streams that will allow you to hire qualified people for your food bank, and provide them with the appropriate coverage they need in order to provide them, and you, with peace of mind.

To put it bluntly: a volunteer force is a great idea in concept. In reality, you’re asking some of the kindest, most generous people in the world to foot the bill themselves if they get hurt on the job. That’s a recipe for, if not a lawsuit, at least a guilty conscience. The most effective way to make a difference in the long term is to get some money behind your cause and treat your workers like you would paid employees at any other business.

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2 years ago · by · 0 comments

Protect Against Risks With an Umbrella Policy

In the event that someone is injured on your property and you are found legally responsible, you could be faced with a costly financial burden. In fact, without a personal umbrella liability insurance policy, any expenses beyond the limits of your standard policy are your responsibility. This applies to your homeowners, renters, automobile and watercraft insurance policies.

Personal umbrella liability insurance provides an extra layer of protection over your personal assets for when your standard liability coverage is exhausted.

Personal umbrella liability insurance provides an extra layer of protection over your personal assets for when your standard liability coverage is exhausted.

Engaging in everyday activities can put you at risk for a lawsuit. Simple things like having a swimming pool or entertaining guests in your home can increase the chance that someone will get injured and sue you. To minimize your risk, consider a personal umbrella liability policy.

Why is a personal umbrella liability policy important?

It works to fill the gaps in your coverage and provides the following benefits:

  • When litigation ensues, it’s typically for a large amount. If you get into a car accident and injure several people, you could be sued for millions of dollars; well beyond the limits of your automobile policy. You can also be held responsible if your dog bites someone, if your child injures another kid in a fight at school or if a handyman hurts himself at your home.
  • Umbrella policies cover legal fees because the insurance company assumes the risk, not you.
  • Coverage is inexpensive and easy to obtain. Just give us a call to add it on to your current policy.
  • You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are covered in case of a fluke occurrence.

How much coverage do you need?

Take into consideration your total personal assets and your potential for personal risks when determining how much coverage you need.

A wide range of factors, such as whether you have hired help, if you have teen drivers at home or if you operate your business out of your home, will determine how much coverage is appropriate for your circumstances.

What are the policy limits?

A $1 million limit is typical and higher limits are available.

Contact us today to determine how much coverage is right for you.

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2 years ago · by · 0 comments

What is Buffer Liability Insurance?

Buffer Liability Insurance is a useful risk transfer tool as the P&C insurance cycle transitions from a soft to hard market. A “soft” market is ideal for consumers, as it is the best time to find insurance coverage and the lowest premiums.

On the other hand, a “hard market” occurs as insurance companies, who have had to pay out a lot in claims for catastrophic events, subsequently increase premiums and decrease the amount of coverage they’re willing to underwrite. For the last two decades, the insurance industry has largely experienced a soft market period, and Buffer Liability Insurance was usually not needed. However, with today’s changing market, this insurance is becoming more popular.

Buffer Liability Insurance Basics

Buffer Liability Insurance is any layer of insurance (or risk retention) that resides between the primary layer and the excess layers. For example, if the primary layer coverage is $100,000 and the excess layer attachment point is $500,000, a buffer layer of $400,000 is required. In the past, if you had both Primary Layer Insurance and Excess Insurance, there was essentially no gap between those coverages; if your primary layer capped at $1 million, the excess layer insurance would kick in at that point.

However, now insurance carriers are less willing to write high primary insurance limits. That, coupled with a hardening market, will make excess insurance more expensive to purchase; this means the excess layer will kick in at a significantly higher point than the primary cap. This creates a gap between the primary layer and the excess layer, indicating the need for Buffer Liability Insurance. The wider the gap, the more Buffer Liability coverage that’s needed.

Who Should Consider Buffer Liability Insurance?

Buffer Liability Insurance is important for large risks that can be difficult to insure, such as the following:

  • Truckers, emergency vehicles and auto fleets with more than 500 vehicles
  • Employers who self-insure their workers’ compensation
  • Companies with a poor loss history that want liability coverage over the usual primary layer
  • Condo owners and apartment building owners who have Habitational Insurance

As the insurance market begins to harden, protect your business from all of the risks that can occur. To learn more about adding Buffer Liability Insurance to your current insurance coverage, contact us today.

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Scurich Insurance Services
Phone: (831) 661-5697
Fax: (831) 661-5741

Physical:
783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Suite7,
Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

Mailing:
PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

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(831) 661-5697

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