New Study Demonstrates the Dangers of Talking While Driving
It’s commonly known that smartphones, entertainment systems and other electronics can be a dangerous distraction to drivers. However, a new study from the University of Iowa found that simple conversations can also cause unsafe driving conditions.
The study used eye tracking equipment to analyze where subjects were looking and how long it took them to focus on a new object. Some subjects were also asked true or false questions at the same time in order to simulate a simple conversation. Data collected from the study found that subjects who answered questions took twice as long to focus on a new object than those who were asked no questions.
Although engaging in conversation seems simple, it involves a number of complex tasks that the brain must handle simultaneously. Even if the topic of conversation is straightforward, the brain has to absorb information, overlay what a person already knows and prepare to a construct a reply. And, although this process is done extremely quickly, it can also slow down reaction times and lead to a dangerous accident on the road.
The best way to keep your employees safe while driving is to encourage them to eliminate or turn off all potential distractions, including their cellphones and any hands-free accessories they may use to make a call. You can also consider including language about safe driving practices in your workplace safety policies.
Preventing Workplace Violence
As reports of shootings and other violent incidents become more common, workplace violence is a topic than no business can ignore. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace homicides rose 2 percent in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. Additionally, the number of workplace shootings increased by 15 percent.
The best way to address potential acts of violence at your business is to be prepared to act before, during and after an act of violence occurs. Here are some programs you can use to ensure the safety of your employees and customers:
- Pre-employment screenings-Background checks can help identify candidates who have violent histories.
- Security-Security systems can ensure that only employees have access to certain areas.
- Alternative dispute resolutions-Techniques like facilitation and mediation can help solve a conflict before it escalates.
- Threat assessment teams-A designated team can work with management to assess the potential for violence and develop an action plan.
Congress Considers Flood Insurance Reforms
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is one of the few ways to get insurance coverage for flood risks, and the program is set to expire later this year. However, Congress is currently examining a number of possible changes to the NFIP before it’s reauthorized.
One of the most important topics regarding the NFIP is its financial stability. The program is currently $24 billion in debt as a result of rising claims costs and severe weather events, and some lawmakers believe that the program needs substantial reforms in order to remain viable.
The following are some of the changes that are being considered to the NFIP:
- Making private flood insurance more available to consumers
- Limiting payments to properties that flood repeatedly
- Reducing taxpayer subsidies for flood insurance
- Creating financial incentives for flood mitigation
DOL Withdraws Joint Employment and Worker Classification Guidance
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently withdrew administrative interpretations regarding joint employment and the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors. These withdrawals can have significant consequences on legal protections for employees and eligibility for benefits.
- Worker classification-Employers will need to satisfy tests established by the courts-such as the economic realities test-when classifying workers.
- Joint employment-Joint employment can only be established when an employer has direct control over another employer’s workplace.
To learn more about what these withdrawals could mean for you, contact Scurich Insurance and ask to see our comprehensive compliance bulletins, “DOL Withdraws Joint Employer Guidance” and “DOL Withdraws Worker Classification Guidance.”
Home Maintenance for the Summer
Keeping up with seasonal repairs and upkeep not only shows pride of ownership, but can reduce the risk of costly and preventable home expenses. Prepare your home for the summer with the following considerations:
- Check all window and door locks to make sure they are secure. Open and close them, and apply lubricant when they are hard to open.
- Inspect your roof and gutters, clean out gutter debris and check shingle integrity.
- Inspect your home’s foundation, sealing cracks and levelling yard depressions with compacted soil.
- Check wooden structures, such as decks and steps, for rotting, loose wood or exposed nails.
- Hire a qualified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to tune up your air conditioning unit.
- Examine electrical outlets and cords for potential fire hazards, such as frayed wires.
- Examine your garage door to ensure that it is in proper working order.
- Declutter by reviewing the contents of your garage. Donate or dispose of items you no longer use or need.
Driveways and walkways
- Inspect your pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This can go a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips and falls.
Painting Safety Precautions
Summer is the perfect time to brush up on painting projects in your home. While paint can beautify a room, it can also be harmful to your health.
Stay safe while painting this summer with the following tips:
- Test for lead with a lead-testing kit—especially if your home was built before 1978.
- Wear a respirator, and open windows and doors to ventilate the room.
- Wear protective gloves and clothing.
- Cover all exposed outlets with painter’s tape.
- Inspect your ladder’s integrity before use, if applicable. Make sure to always have at least three body parts in contact with the ladder at all times.
- Store paint by replacing the lid firmly and storing the can upside down to block air entry.
As warmer weather approaches, more people will be using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for recreation. While riding an ATV is a fun activity, these vehicles can be extremely dangerous. In fact, every year, there are over 300 ATV-related deaths across the United States.
Here’s how to keep yourself and your family safe while operating an ATV:
- Read the operator’s manual and attend ATV instruction classes before riding.
- Wear gloves to reduce vibration pressure and to improve grip.
- Wear boots to maintain balance and control, protect feet and legs from debris, and maintain sound footing.
- Wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants to avoid burns and scratches.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for wildlife, pedestrians, other ATVs and hazards like rocks, branches and unstable surfaces.
- Drive at safe speeds, taking weather conditions and the terrain into account.
- Never carry additional passengers, or operate an ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Always ride the right size ATV by following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Reducing Choking Hazards for Small Children
Choking occurs when the brain goes without oxygen for more than four minutes, causing brain damage and death, and is the leading cause of death in infants and toddlers.
If you are the parent or guardian of a small child, it is your responsibility to protect your child from danger. Foods such as hot dogs, whole grapes, nuts, raisins, hard candies and popcorn can be potential choking hazards. Other choking hazards include household items such as latex balloons, coins, small toy parts and marbles.
Protect your child from choking with the following tips:
- Mash foods so they can be chewed more easily.
- Instruct children to chew food before swallowing it.
- Make sure children sit upright while eating.
- Always supervise your child during mealtime.
- Do not give hard foods to children under the age of 4.
- Avoid giving children toys with small parts, and keep small household items out of reach.
Make sure to also learn the Heimlich maneuver for infants, as the procedures for a choking infant are different from those of an adult. Learn the steps here.
Just a few years ago, taking a trip involved contacting travel agencies, booking hotel rooms and making plans far in advance. Today, however, smartphones and the internet have helped create new sharing services that allow homeowners to connect with travelers and rent out their homes, spare bedrooms or other accommodations for a fee.
Airbnb, the most popular of these sharing services, offers a convenient platform that can provide homeowners with an extra source of income. However, renting through Airbnb can also expose you to substantial risks and leave you with costly property damage and liability claims.
Potential Insurance Gaps
Relying strictly on your regular homeowners or renters insurance policy while hosting guests through Airbnb can lead to significant gaps in coverage. These policies are designed to protect you and your family from everyday risks, and not from commercial renting.
If a renter uses your home for even a small amount of time, you and your family will be exposed to significantly different risks that weren’t considered when your policy was drafted. As a result, most homeowners and renters policies won’t cover property damage that’s caused by Airbnb guests.
If you’re considering renting through Airbnb, your first step should be to contact your insurance broker to review your current homeowners or renters insurance policy. While your homeowners or renters policy may allow you to rent your property to a guest, it’s important to keep in mind that each insurer has its own restrictions and requirements. Some insurers may require advanced notice of any short-term rental, whereas others might insist that you purchase an endorsement to expand your coverage.
If you plan to rent out your residence on a regular basis, many insurance companies will consider this commercial use. In many cases, regular Airbnb hosts will need to obtain a commercial insurance policy in order to be properly insured. However, a growing number of insurance companies now offer home-sharing liability insurance policies that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis.
Issues with Airbnb’s Provided Protection
Airbnb does offer its hosts two forms of protection through its host guarantee program and host protection insurance. While hosts may be inclined to rely exclusively on these programs to manage their risks, there are significant gaps related to these offerings.
Airbnb backs every one of its bookings with its host guarantee program at no cost, which will reimburse eligible hosts for damages up to $1 million. However, Airbnb readily admits that its host guarantee is not insurance and should not be considered a replacement or stand-in for homeowners or renters policies.
Moreover, payments through the host guarantee are subject to a lengthy list of terms, conditions and exclusions. Therefore, hosts should be aware of the following issues related to Airbnb’s host guarantee:
- Hosts must attempt to resolve any issues with the guests involved prior to receiving any compensation. This also means that a host would have to make a claim on his or her own insurance policy before the host guarantee would apply.
- Any sum collected from a standard policy or a security deposit would be deducted from the host guarantee.
- The guarantee will only repair or replace covered property that is damaged during the time frame of an online booking.
- This guarantee does not cover certain items including, but not limited to, cash, collectibles, jewelry, pets, watercrafts or any damage to property that is not considered a covered accommodation.
For more information on specific elements of Airbnb’s host guarantee program, hosts can review its terms and conditions in full on the company’s website.
Host Protection Insurance
In addition to its host guarantee program, Airbnb offers coverage to its patrons through its host protection insurance. Airbnb indicates that the program provides primary liability coverage for up to $1 million per occurrence in the event of third-party claims of bodily injury or property damage. Despite these claims, hosts should be wary of relying solely on this insurance program for a number of reasons:
- Intentional acts that aren’t the result of an accident are not covered under this policy. In addition, Airbnb’s home protection insurance does not cover what it refers to as property issues, which can include things like mold, asbestos and bedbugs.
- Neither Airbnb’s home protection insurance nor its fine print is readily available for review. The policy is also subject to limitations, conditions and exclusions. Together, this means that the specifics of these coverages are vague, and Airbnb hosts may not know exactly what’s protected.
- The personal property of any guest is generally not covered. Additionally, any theft or damage caused by a guest may not be covered either.
With Airbnb’s host protection insurance, it’s best to assume that you aren’t equipped with the proper coverage. For full protection, it is likely that you will need to speak with an insurance professional to better understand the policy adjustments you will need in order to be fully covered.
Considerations for Condo Owners and Renters
While Airbnb opens its services to condo owners and renters, multi-unit buildings often have restrictive bylaws, homeowner association rules or lease terms that could impact the ability to host guests through Airbnb.
In many instances, commercial activities like renting out accommodations—even for short periods of time—are forbidden by lease or condo board policies. In some cases, hosts will need to contact their landlord or condo board before subletting or renting out any accommodations. Failure to do this can result in eviction or other forms of legal action.
Even if you’re allowed to rent out your condo or apartment through Airbnb, doing so can cause tension with neighbors. There’s always the potential that your guests may not be respectful to property in common areas, act inappropriately or noisily, or make other tenants feel uncomfortable.
Local Laws and Considerations
In response to the rising popularity of Airbnb, many states, cities and towns are moving to regulate short-term property rentals through their municipal codes or zoning regulations. In some cases, home rental services like Airbnb could be prohibited altogether.
If you break these local regulations, purposely or otherwise, you could face thousands of dollars in fines. What’s more, Airbnb says alignment with laws and regulations is the responsibility of those renting out accommodations. As a result, you need to review your local laws and regulations before using Airbnb to rent out your accommodations.
The Bottom Line
While Airbnb offers a unique and potentially profitable service to users, it’s not without its faults. Before you decide to try it for yourself, be sure to consider all of the risks. For more information on sharing services, or to review your homeowners or renters policy, contact us at 831-661-5697 today.