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2 days ago · by · 0 comments

Cutting costs without cutting corners, now that the new tax year has begun!

The craftsman’s motto, “measure twice, cut once” is a sort of microcosm of everything you need to know in order to bring projects in on time and under budget. Cutting corners, taking shortcuts, neglecting necessary expenses, that might help you save time and money in the short run, but best case scenario, it’s going to wind up costing you more in labor and budget to redo it later on. Worst case scenario, you build a faulty home that collapses in the first year, if it manages to pass inspection in the first place, and then nobody ever hires you again.

The first thing to go when people take shortcuts tends to be safety. A rush job makes for an unsafe work environment, and results in an unsafe living environment. No matter how much time and money you save on the job, it’s no good if you wind up paying it back in legal fees and time spent in the court room.

So how do you save time and money without taking dangerous shortcuts?

Be Pragmatic When Buying Tools And Materials

Simply put: there’s not much that a $200 hammer can do that a $10 hammer cannot. Don’t cut costs on quality, but shop around, and don’t overspend on fancy tools and materials that you don’t need.

Overestimate All Costs

If you promise your client that you’ll have the addition done in a week, and then a nasty thunderstorm hits on day seven, you’re going to wind up trying to finish up the roof in the middle of a heavy downpour. Promise a two week turnaround on the same project, and the client will be delighted to see the project finished six days early. Don’t make “best case scenario” promises. As they say, plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Pay A Little More For Experience When You Need To

A $12-a-hour lackey might be able to install a kitchen sink if you give him the whole weekend to do it. A $30-an-hour professional plumber might be able to get the same sink installed in an afternoon. Saving money often means spending a little more now so you can spend considerably less in the long run.

Don’t Over-commit Yourself

You’re going to burn through a lot of gas and a lot of daylight if you’re running three jobs at a time and driving all over town to get to them. If client #2 can’t wait a few days for you to finish up a job for client #1, they’re probably a pain in the neck to do business with anyways.
It all comes down to common sense, really: Pace yourself, set realistic goals, spend wisely, and always put safety first.

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2 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

15 Risk Mitigation Tips for Airbnb Hosts

Property owners have a unique opportunity to efficiently rent out their entire home, a spare bedroom or other accommodation through the online service known as Airbnb. For travellers, Airbnb is convenient, web-based platform that provides affordable and flexible alternatives to hotels. For property owners, the tool easily connects various rental units with prospective occupants and makes collecting payments simple and secure.

Despite it’s convenience and the potential for profit, Airbnb is not without its risks for those who decide to list. Before renting out your home or spare room through Airbnb, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Acquire the proper insurance.
    Proper insurance is key to mitigating the risks associated with Airbnb. Take the time to review your renters or homeowners policy to make sure you have adequate coverage in place.
  • Complete a home safety inspection.
    Safety inspections can help Airbnb hosts address risks before they balloon into bigger issues. Before listing your property on Airbnb, complete a through home inspection and address all of the safety hazards you identify.
  • Screen all guests.
    Prior to allowing guests to stay in your home, it’s a good idea to check their background. To begin, ensure that prospective guests are verified through Airbnb. You can also review any connected social media accounts and read guest references through the site. Above all, trust your instincts.
  • Set clear rules.
    Through Airbnb, you can create guidelines for guests by completing the House Rules, Home Safety Card and House Manual sections of your profile. This allows you to set clear rules for guests around etiquette and safety.
  • Establish occupancy limits.
    Limiting the number of occupants that can use your property will help ensure that guests are comfortable and safe during their stay. Occupancy limits should take into account the size of the property and local regulations.
  • Add a security deposit.
    Adding a security deposit to your Airbnb listing can lessen the financial blow in the event of damaged property or another incident.
  • Secure your valuables.
    When you open your home to guests, there’s the potential that valuables could be damaged or stolen. To protect expensive items, consider moving them into a safety deposit box or to a secure off-site location.
  • Protect sensitive information.
    Your property isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when inviting guests into your home. To help prevent identity theft, make sure that guests cannot gain access to any files (physical or electronic) that contain sensitive personal information.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
    Safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed around the premises to protect guests and your property. Emergency exists should be property labeled as well.
  • Child-proof your premises.
    It’s likely that some of your guests will have children. To protect younger guests, take the time to properly child-proof your home.
  • Keep your accommodations maintained.
    Good housekeeping can help guests avoid common injuries such as slips and falls. Prior to each stay, examine your home for any new housekeeping issues that must be addressed.
  • Provide contact information.
    Always supply your guests with information sheets that indicate local emergency numbers and the nearest hospital. Provide a clear emergency contact number for yourself, as well as back up, for easy guest reference. Also make clear how you should be contacted if the guest has questions or issues arise.
  • Supply a first-aid kit.
    In addition to providing emergency contact information, having a first-aid kit readily available and fully stocked at all times is important to guest safety.
  • Verify compliance with regulations.
    Regulations around Airbnb hosting can differ depending on your location and the type of accommodation you are renting out. Double-check that you are compliant with local and state laws before using Airbnb.
  • Notify those who could be impacted by your guests.
    When you host guests through Airbnb, there is the potential that neighbors or roommates could be impacted. To avoid unnecessary conflict, let your neighbors or roommates know ahead of time that guests will be using your property.

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4 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Grain Handling Safety

Agricultural workers are at a serious risk of injury or death when installing, climbing into, fumigating, entering, filling or emptying a silo. Because of the nature of the conditions present, workers may be exposed to hazards such as a lack of oxygen, toxic gases and grain entrapment.

To reduce worker risk of injury, properly train workers and remind them frequently of the following safety recommendations:

  • Avoid entering a silo unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Complete tasks outside of the silo whenever possible.
  • Have a coworker close by in case of an emergency.
  • Never smoke or cause sparks near a silo, especially if the air humidity is low.
  • Wear respiratory protection when appropriate.
  • Stand at a safe distance when filling or emptying a silo.
  • Use an approved fall restraint system and harness when climbing a silo.
  • Ventilate a fumigating silo before entering.
  • Conduct regular safety inspections of silos.

For more farm and ranch safety tips, contact Scurich Insurance today.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Business Interruption Insurance

Continuity is critical in business, and there are few things more important than continuous revenue and cash flow, particularly for small to medium-sized organizations. In fact, just one brief business interruption can be incredibly costly for an organization, often leading to serious reputational damages or long-term closures.

That’s where business interruption insurance can help. This form of coverage provides protection against a variety of common interruptions, including natural disasters, equipment damage and vandalism.

Claims Scenario: You’re Fired

The company: A small, family-owned bagel shop.

The challenge: Following a recent fire, a bagel shop experienced major property damage. Not only were substantial repairs needed, the company lost crucial baking equipment.

Repairs for the damaged property and equipment were expected to take three months – a significant amount of lost time and revenue.

Business interruption insurance in action: Following a covered disruption, business interruption insurance can help businesses of all sizes stay afloat and recover quickly. This is because business interruption insurance can reimburse income organizations would have received had they been able to operate.

This was particularly important for the bagel shop, as paying for costly repairs and not having a steady flow of income could have bankrupted the business. With the right policy, organizations can take the necessary steps to get back up and running, all without sacrificing day-to-day income.

Claims Scenario: Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

The company: A mid-sized auto dealership.

The challenge: After a night of severe flooding, a number of area businesses experienced substantial water damage. Of these businesses, an auto dealership was hit the hardest, losing the majority of its inventory.

In addition, because the lot was flooded, the dealership had to move its operations to a new location. This, in turn, meant the dealership had to sign a new lease and cover steep moving expenses.

Business interruption insurance in action: In the face of a disaster or other disruptions, organizations may be forced to move locations in order to remain open. Without the proper policy, organizations would have to pay for these costs out of pocket.

Thankfully, business interruption insurance can reimburse organizations for all of the costs associated with a move.

Benefits of Business Interruption Insurance

  • Revenue – In the event of a disruption, business interruption insurance provides coverage for income your business would have earned during a closure period if it had been operating normally.
  • Rent or lease payments – Even if your premises are unusable following a disaster or other event, many leases still require that you make payments. Business interruption insurance allows you to continue making rent or lease payments, even while your business is not operating.
  • Relocation – In the event that your primary location is unusable following a disaster or other event, you will likely have to relocate in order to remain open and continue generating revenue. Business interruption insurance can cover the expenses of moving your business to a temporary location and may include both moving and rent costs.
  • Employee wages – If you are unable to operate, it is likely you will not be able to continue paying employees. Business interruption insurance can help you avoid losing staff while you’re closed by ensuring that you make payroll.
  • Loan payments – If you have an outstanding loan, you will need to continue to make payments even if your business isn’t fully operational. Business interruption insurance will ensure you never miss a payment until you are fully operational again.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

OSHA Increases Civil Penalty Amounts for 2019

On Jan. 23, 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule that increases the maximum penalty amounts the agency may assess against employers that violate workplace health and safety requirements. For most violations, the new maximum penalty amount is $13,260. For willful or repeated violations, the new maximum penalty amount is $132,598.

Federal law requires OSHA to increase its penalty amounts by Jan. 15 every year. Because the federal government shutdown delayed the increases for 2019, however, OSHA announced the new amounts  in a “pre-publication” version of the final rule issued on Jan. 15, 2019. Now that the final rule has been officially published, the new amounts apply for any civil penalties assessed after Jan. 23, 2019.    

Employers should become familiar with OSHA’s new penalty amounts and review their workplace policies and practices to ensure compliance with OSHA requirements.

Federal law requires OSHA to adjust its civil monetary penalty levels for inflation no later than Jan. 15 of each year. Under the law, adjustments are made by issuing a final rule that becomes effective on the day it is officially published in the Federal Register. On Jan. 15, 2019, OSHA issued an unofficial final rule to increase the maximum penalty amounts for 2019. However, the federal government shutdown delayed the rule’s official publication. The final rule was officially published on Jan. 23, 2019.   

Penalty Changes for 2019

The table below compares current penalty limits to the increased amounts for 2019 outlined in OSHA’s final rule. The new amounts apply to any penalties OSHA assesses after Jan. 23, 2019.      

MAXIMUM PENATIES
VIOLATION

CURRENT

EFFECTIVE JAN. 23, 2019

Other-than-serious violation

$12,934 per violation

$13,260 per violation

Serious violation

$12,934 per violation

$13,260 per violation

Failure to comply with posting requirements

$12,934 per violation

$13,260 per violation

Failure to correct a violation

$12,934 per day until corrected

$13,260 per day until corrected

Repeated violation

$129,336 per violation

$132,598 per violation

Willful violation  

$129,336 per violation (also subject to a minimum of $9,239 per violation)

$132,598 per violation (also subject to a minimum of $9,472 per violation)

Please contact Scurich Insurance or visit OSHA’s website for more information about OSHA penalties.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

10 Cyber Security Resolutions to Reduce Your Data Exposures

Cyber security threats and trends can change year over year as technology continues to advance at alarming speeds. As such, it’s critical for organizations to reassess their data protection practices at the start of each new year and make achievable cyber security resolutions to help protect themselves from costly breaches.

The following are resolutions your company can implement to ensure you don’t become the victim of a cyber crime:

  1. Provide security training—Employees are your first line of defense when it comes to cyber threats. Even the most robust and expensive data protection solutions can be compromised should an employee click a malicious link or download fraudulent software. As such, it’s critical for organizations to thoroughly train personnel on common cyber threats and how to respond. Employees should understand the dangers of visiting harmful websites, leaving their devices unattended and oversharing personal information on social media. Your employees should also know your cyber security policies and know how to report suspicious activity.
  2. Install strong anti-virus software and keep it updated—Outside of training your employees on the dangers of poor cyber security practices, strong anti-virus software is one of the best ways to protect your data. Organizations should conduct thorough research to choose software that’s best for their needs. Once installed, anti-virus programs should be kept up to date.
  3. Instill safe web browsing practices—Deceptive and malicious websites can easily infect your network, often leading to more serious cyber attacks. To protect your organization, employees should be trained on proper web usage and instructed to only interact with secured websites. For further protection, companies should consider blocking known threats and potentially malicious webpages outright.
  4. Create strong password policies—Ongoing password management can help prevent unauthorized attackers from compromising your organization’s password-protected information. Effective password management protects the integrity, availability and confidentiality of an organization’s passwords. Above all, you’ll want to create a password policy that specifies all of the organization’s requirements related to password management. This policy should require employees to change their password on a regular basis, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and use special characters in their password.
  5. Use multi-factor authentication—While complex passwords can help deter cyber criminals, they can still be cracked. To further prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to employee accounts, multi-factor authentication is key. Multi-factor authentication adds a layer of security that allows companies to protect against compromised credentials. Through this method, users must confirm their identity by providing extra information (e.g., a phone number, unique security code) when attempting to access corporate applications, networks and servers.
  6. Get vulnerability assessments—The best way to evaluate your company’s data exposures is through a vulnerability assessment. Using a system of simulated attacks and stress tests, vulnerability assessments can help you uncover entry points into your system. Following these tests, security experts compile their findings and provide recommendations for improving network and data safety.
  7. Patch systems regularly and keep them updated—A common way cyber criminals gain entry into your system is by exploiting software vulnerabilities. To prevent this, it’s critical that you update applications, operating systems, security software and firmware on a regular basis.
  8. Back up your data—In the event that your system is compromised, it’s important to keep backup files. Failing to do so can result in the loss of critical business or proprietary data.
  9. Understand phishing threats and how to respond—In broad terms, phishing is a method cyber criminals use to gather personal information. In these scams, phishers send an email or direct users to fraudulent websites, asking victims to provide sensitive information. These emails and websites are designed to look legitimate and trick individuals into providing credit card numbers, account numbers, passwords, usernames or other sensitive information. Phishing is becoming more sophisticated by the day, and it’s more important than ever to understand the different types of attacks, how to identify them and preventive measures you can implement to keep your organization safe. As such, it’s critical to train employees on common phishing scams and other cyber security concerns. Provide real-world examples during training to help them better understand what to look for.
  10. Create an incident response plan—Most organizations have some form of data protection in place. While these protections are critical for minimizing the damages caused by a breach, they don’t provide clear action steps following an attack. That’s where cyber incident response plans can help. While cyber security programs help secure an organization’s digital assets, cyber incident response plans provide clear steps for companies to follow when a cyber event occurs. Response plans allow organizations to notify impacted customers and partners quickly and efficiently, limiting financial and reputational damages.

 

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Scurich Insurance Services
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Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

Mailing:
PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

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