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4 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Working from home? Some cyber-security considerations.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, more people are opting to away from crowds and social situations – and may work from home.

While and employer’s cybersecurity insurance can reduce liability, it makes sense to also implement several security measures in the telecommuting (work-from-home) policy to protect the company.

Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks

Sure, your employees could connect to their neighbor’s wireless network or use public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop. These unsecured networks can open the door for cybersecurity breaches, though. Instruct employees to only connect to secure Wi-Fi networks or provide a safe and secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) for use as they work.

Maintain Security Settings

To protect work-issued devices and confidential data, you may set security settings on the devices you give telecommuters. Remind employees that they should not use a proxy or other method to get around those security settings. Doing so will compromise their device and the company’s data.

Encrypt Everything

From apps to data, everything employees access from their work-issued device should be protected by encryption. This security measure makes it harder for thieves and hackers to steal or access information.

Limit Access

Employees should only have access to essential data and files, not the company’s entire virtual filing cabinet. This limited access protects information and improves security

Strengthen Passwords

To get into the device and access various files, employees should use secure passwords. The ideal password contains letters, numbers and symbols, is not easy to guess and is unique to each site. Change passwords at least once a month, too. For additional safety, utilize a two-step authentication process, PIN or token system when logging it.

Prohibit Device Lending

It’s common for telecommuters to let a co-worker or family member use their laptop or phone for a few minutes to check email, play a game or make a call. Discourage this practice since the other person could download questionable content, drop or damage the device, access confidential files, or otherwise compromises the device or security.

Protect Devices from Theft

Leaving a laptop, tablet or phone unattended gives thieves an invitation to steal the device. Remind employees to keep their devices with them at all times and not leave their work devices unattended or in an unlocked vehicle. Likewise, they should take care to secure USB drives and other accessories from theft. You can add tracking capabilities to devices for additional security.

Log Out

After every work session, employees should log out of the websites they accessed, their Wi-Fi network and their device. This log out procedure protects company data.

Telecommuting is a privilege that benefits your employees and company. Use these security measures to protect everyone.

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

Start Your Insurance Renewal Process Early This Year (Insurance Secret Inside)

Businesses are shrinking or expanding constantly.  Start your renewal process today by comparing your policy estimated payrolls with the summary W-2 sheet produced by your accounting department (must be completed by February 1).

Review the 1099s and check these recipients against your files to assure certificate compliance and proper risk transfer techniques.

After reassessing your payroll exposures for the coming year, estimate your current premium.  Talk to your agent about optional markets at that premium level, insurance companies have different appetites for different size risks.  Find several appropriate insurers.

Many insurers now demand loss control inspections prior to commitment to offering any quote.  Get your reports in order.  Make sure loss control measures are in place and working.  Order loss runs from your current carrier to have on hand.

Most important: leave enough lead time for the inspections to occur.  At least ninety days, so new insurers can inspect your operations.

The insurance markets retool every few years and create new identities, new brands within the industry.  Currently, insurance companies are deciding what size accounts they will seek, single lines like workers’ compensation or general liability, or supporting lines requirements: like workers’ compensation, general liability or automobile liability.  Ask your agent what the current view is among their companies.

The key to having choices is starting early now.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the renewal carrier.

While your reassessing your policies, rethink your program as well.  Your program consists of the risk management decisions that have subtle but important impacts on your insurance costs.  For example: what is your best expiration date?  In the construction industry, January first or April first are popular choices in a well-managed risk management program.

One secret within the insurance industry: rates tend to change on calendar quarters.  If rates are increasing on April first, you can always renew on March thirty-first if you have enough lead time.  But you need to know in advance and have friendly underwriters, and proactive agents.

Calendar quarters allow for government filings to be used as a basis for the insurance auditors, and audits go smoother.  Corporate financial years can be good, especially if they fall on calendar quarters.  Decide your best expiration date (and you want all liability lines to share that date)and begin 120 days in advance gathering quote information and loss data.  Shop early.

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4 months ago · by · 0 comments

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips

Holiday decorations around the office are fun and festive, but they do pose safety hazards and can cause injuries. Whether your employees decorate the office for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Years, insist on numerous safety precautions.

Avoid Trips and Falls

Place trees, gifts or displays in areas that are out of the way. If these items sit in a hallway or other busy area, employees could trip or fall over them.

Climb a Ladder

When hanging garland, snowflakes or streamers from the wall, windows or ceiling, use a ladder or step stool instead of a chair or desk. The right support helps you reach high places without pulling a muscle or falling.

Use Nonflammable Materials

All the holiday decor you use should be labeled as nonflammable or noncombustible. Check the label, too, to verify that your decorative drapes, lights and artificial greener are made of fire retardant material and safe for your employees.

Don’t Block Signs or Exits

Seasonal banners and other decor items may fit perfectly over signs or doors, but never cover signs or exit doors. Remember to keep fire equipment and sprinklers free from decorations, too.

Stay Away from Heat Sources

Always check the surroundings before you place decorations around the office. Items should sit away from vents, space heaters and other heat sources.

Attach Tall Items Securely

Tall trees and other display items are top heavy and may topple over if they’re bumped or even randomly. Secure tall decor items to the wall or ceiling with guy-wire.

Select Cool Burning Bulbs

Safety tested and cool burning bulbs in light strings or lamps are less likely to cause burns or fires. Check the label to ensure the bulbs are tested by an independent lab and verified to be safe.

Inspect Lights

Holiday lights add a festive look to your office, but always inspect lights before you plug them in. Toss strands with frayed or bare wires, broken or cracked sockets, or loose connections.

Take Care with Extension Cords

Extension cords are convenient but potentially hazardous accessories. Only plug in the recommended number of light string sets. Also, avoid tacking or stapling cords to the wall or floor, and tape or cover cords that cross the floor on walkways.

Ban Candles

An open flame is a big burn and fire hazard. Only allow electric lights and ban candles for safety.

Turn off Lights

At the end of the day or whenever the office is closed, switch off all the lights. You’ll save money and reduce a fire hazard.

The holidays can be more festive when you decorate the office. Use these safety tips to reduce injuries and keep your employees safe.

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6 months ago · by · 0 comments

Business Owners – protect your business with a Buy-Sell Agreement

You and your business partner or partners have a clear and common vision of how to run your business, where it’s going, and how it’s going to get there. As a team, you’ve worked together each and every day to share the daily demands and shape the success of your business. That said, have you thought about what would become of the business and all your hard work if you or one of your partners became ill, was injured, or died?

A business doesn’t have to become disabled or die just because one of the owners retires, dies, or becomes too sick or disabled to work. Whether the transition of business management or ownership needs to take place after death or during life, it can be orderly accomplished through appropriate business succession planning.

A buy-sell agreement is a tool commonly used in business succession planning. This planning feature, when correctly funded and designed, can orderly establish the value at which the business will be taken over and who will be doing the taking over. The owner can have a peace of mind from knowing that the business has a predetermined basis for which it can be sold in a ready market, thereby giving the owner a source of funds when they need it, such as when they are ready to retire. If the owner was to die prior to the above predetermined basis occurring, then the buy-sell can be used to meet the survivor’s needs or pay hefty estate taxes.

Although there are several ways that a buy-sell agreement can be established, an entity purchase agreement and cross purchase are the two most often used:

Cross Purchase

Due to favorable tax results, this is a highly used approach by many small businesses. It’s generally used by businesses that only have a small number of owners. The cross purchase is typically funded with a life and/or disability insurance policy that each of the owners must maintain on their co-owners. The death benefits from the life insurance policy aren’t subject to taxation since the owners, not the business, actually own the individual life insurance policies. Each of the business owners are legally obligated to purchase the ownership interest of the other co-owner(s) upon death.

The deceased owner’s estate sells the owner’s interest to the surviving owners in exchange for the proceeds from the life insurance policy. The surviving owners will get a step-up in the business’s tax basis. Alternatively, the insurance cash value can also be used if one of the co-owners was to need to fund a buyout during their lifetime. One point to remember regarding a cross purchase is that administration is smoothest when there are only a limited number of owners and will become increasingly difficult to administer as the number of owners increase.

Entity Purchase Agreement

This type of buy-sell agreement works somewhat like the cross purchase, but it’s the business, not the owners, that will maintain an insurance policy on each owner and agree to purchase any deceased owner’s interest in the business. As such, the taxation is different.

The death benefits under both an entity purchase and cross purchase agreement, whether being paid to the business or an individual, are exempt from federal income taxation. However, unlike with the cross purchase, there are certain situations that a C corporation can be subject to the corporate alternative minimum tax under an entity purchase. There’s also not a step-up in basis under the entity purchase plan.

Hopefully this brief overview of the entity purchase and cross purchase types of buy-sell agreements has spurred you to think about how vitally important business succession planning is to your business. Of course, this short article couldn’t possibly cover all the factors to consider when developing a business succession plan. As you begin the preparations for you business succession plan with your attorney, accountant, and insurance agent, they should be able to answer any additional questions or concerns you might have.

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6 months ago · by · 0 comments

Risks for employees that work remotely

Modern technology has made it easier than ever for employees to work from home and still remain connected to their place of employment. Using remote employment has actually become a popular trend over the last ten years, especially since selling to the global market has become such an important factor in a business being competitive. Many businesses have found that they can minimize their expenses and attract international customers with more attractive prices if they decrease their overhead by allowing workers to remotely commute.

Despite the many benefits of using remote employees, there are downsides. Many employers considering this trend wonder how they can ensure workplace safety when the employee’s physical workplace is their own home. Another consideration is the degree of employer liability in remote employment.

Fortunately, OSHA has addressed some of the safety issues surrounding remote employment. According to OSHA guidelines, employers are required to maintain a safe workplace, even for employees working from their own home. OSHA will not require an employer to inspect a remote employee’s home worksite, nor inspect it themselves.

However, OSHA may inspect the worksite of an employee that’s performing an at-home job on behalf of their employer if it possibly involves health or safety hazards and there’s a complaint. A record of all occupational illnesses and injuries must be kept on all at-home workers if an employer is subject to OSHA record keeping requirements. Keeping in mind that OSHA compliance measures shouldn’t involve controlling the home worksite of employees, employers might need to take some additional practical measures to ensure OSHA compliance.

As far as safety compliance goes, the absence of immediate supervision for remote workers is one of the main problems employers face. Experienced, highly-trained, long-term employers are generally the worst offenders when it comes to taking safety risks. This group of employees often become complacent due to the fact they’re so accustomed and comfortable with their job, feel they’re familiar with the job’s hazards, and might have escaped disciplinary action when ignoring safety procedures or taking shortcuts in the past.

One of the best ways that employers can counteract the above dangerous attitude toward safety is by using a holistic approach to safety. Employers should focus and place great importance on each individual employee actively participating in the safety process and taking responsibility for their own safety. Whether at home, on the road, or at a remote jobsite, remote employees need to be ready, willing, and able to take the appropriate actions to protect themselves in any given situation.

Employers will need employee support to make any approach to safety successful, which means that employers must have total employee involvement in the safety process. Involve your remote employees in the process of determining what’s needed to prevent injury to themselves and others during remote location work. Most employers find that the experience and firsthand knowledge of their employees is actually very advantageous in creating safe remote worksites.

Remember, employees that understand the value of safety are more likely to be motivated and willing participants. They’re also more apt to embrace safety behaviors for the longevity of their employment. Employers can reinforce their employee’s positive attitude about safety by having electronic or person-to-person safety counseling in place and ensuring safety managers are encouraging safety participation.

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7 months ago · by · 0 comments

Caution: Don’t pay those small claims yourself.

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When you face what appears to be a minor claim, have you ever been tempted just to handle it yourself? After all, the loss is minimal, and you’re “saving” your insurance coverage for when you really need it. Some contractors also feel that filing too many small claims could increase the risk of losing the policy, or driving up their premium.

However, there’s more to consider. Bear in mind that every policy contains language to the effect that “No insured will, except at that insured’s own cost, voluntarily make a payment, assume any obligation, or incur any expense, other than for first aid, without our consent.” This means that that if you pay a small claim yourself, and anything goes wrong, the insurance company can say, “You’re on your own.”

For example, suppose someone walks through your job site and steps on a nail. It appears to be a minor puncture wound, and you agree to pick up the cost of an emergency room visit. You might feel that you’ve closed this incident quickly. However, a few weeks later, the injured person calls to say they have a raging infection in their foot and the doctor is checking them into the hospital for what proves to be a long and expensive stay.

If you then report this claim to your insurance company for the first time, will they step in and take over, or tell you that since you never informed them of the incident they’re not responsible? Even if the insurance company pays the claim, you’ve run an unnecessary risk.

What you should have done – as the policy wording suggests – is to inform your insurance company immediately and ask its consent for you to pay the claim. This approach would have made a substantial difference because notifying the company of the claim fulfills your obligations under the policy.

Why go it alone when you have a partner waiting to help?

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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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Info@ScurichInsurance.com

(831) 661-5697

Available 8:30am - 5:00pm