Getting the job. It’s a tough task where too much optimism can cost dearly, too little can cost receiving the bid. If too many low bids occur, who’s responsible to the stockholders?
Because the construction industry works by a bidding system rather than a negotiated contract, errors can be difficult to remedy. Leaving out the painting number on a half-million foot office building costs dearly.
Computerization of the bid process has helped and hurt. The program will not allow forgotten inputs, but people tend to believe a computer generated number.
Quality control for bids is essential for survival, both for the estimator and the executives. The estimator calculates the bid, but the executive signs the contract.
The decision to sign the contract drives the scrutiny if money is lost. Directors and officers insurance protects the executive financially when stockholders seek redress in response to a catastrophic contract.
Getting fired is the lesser issue to being sued for incompetence or fraud. The directors and officers exposure boils down to one unfortunate fact. The covered position must make decisions in real time ahead of perfect knowledge; the claimant has the benefit of hindsight.
You can protect yourself by knowing your duties as a director or officer:
1. You must act in good faith and give prudent care in your decisions.
2. You are required to be loyal to the business.
3. Disclosure: you must disclose material facts to regulators, other board members, officers, creditors,
bondholders, stockholders, and other potential investors.
Implement a policy of redundant checks on all contracts, bids, offerings, scopes of work, payments, or any other routine agreements which can lull people into complacency. Routine hides defective work well.
Spot check bid numbers against industry averages, or have this capacity in the computer program. If you’ve been in the industry awhile, check your gut instinct against the line items in the bid. If they don’t make sense, recheck. Consider every contract your responsibility, otherwise they may come back to haunt you.
Have you ever compared premium quotes only to discover the policies had different deductibles, limits, or even a different audit basis? Confusing, isn’t it?
Premiums do not compare easily, nor do they necessarily reflect costs of your risk profile. Lower premium is not always your best bet. If it were, going without any insurance would be every company’s default position. But, uncovered risk puts companies out of business every day. So, how do you know the right amount to budget for insurance? You don’t, so budget for risk, and from that, buy insurance.
As a business owner and entrepreneur, identify and assess your risks. Uncovered liability risks, like driving vehicles or manufacturing a product, can destroy your company. Running out of postage will probably not slow things down. You prioritize and decide what liabilities you want to assume and what liabilities you want to transfer.
For example: automobile physical damage. How large is your fleet, how predictable is this loss? If you have one executive new vehicle with financing, you’re going to buy insurance to cover it; just think deductible versus premium. If you have twenty similar vehicles, say panel trucks, and the fleet is paid for, you may consider not insuring the physical damage for collision or other perils. Why? Because you’re just paying a fee to bank the money while you do the claims legwork anyway. Your drivers can reduce your risk through defensive driving techniques and not drinking, texting or using cell phones. Keep the premium, accept the risk.
How about your products in transit? Is the value in one load big enough to ruin your company financially? Or do you ship relatively small amounts by common carriers. The former requires insurance, the latter, self-retain the loss.
Okay, you’ve thought through your process. Now, in plain English, tell the agents what you want covered. Employee safety and health, if my products cause harm, if my car hits someone, this type of list. Then, how much per incident are you willing to pay? First $1000 of any loss, that type of decision. Now, choose a number or some percentage of your annual gross and limit all claims to that amount; the most you’re willing to pay for all claims, including insurance premiums. Let the agents design around these parameters and compare these programs.
The best predictor of future behavior is the past. Maybe, but it’s at least helpful to review the past with an eye towards improvement.
Reviewing losses can be tricky. Insurance company analysis utilizes an “exposure unit”. Sometimes an exposure unit is one thousand dollars in sales, one hundred dollars in payroll, square feet of a building, one hundred dollars of value, or per person. The important idea is to compare relative risk and loss rather than absolute quantities.
Chart your losses, particularly insurable losses or claims made or paid. Now chart payroll, number of employees, sales, goods manufactured, units manufactured, or any other reasonable business data points.
Compare the trajectory of the charts. Does the pattern of losses mirror one of the other statistics? For example, does your workers compensation losses trend with payroll, sales, number of employees, or even square footage of your business?
Some claims history is explained by firing one employee, maybe a bad driver. Don’t ignore the fact that a bad driver got through your screening system. Make sure that leak has been plugged before thinking the problem is resolved.
Other claims may be reduced by a larger work area. Perhaps employees were just too crowded to work safely. That would indicate resolution, but think in terms of square foot per worker as a crowding issue in the future.
When you find your unexplained losses and the closest statistical trend, let’s assume claim dollars and gross sales, than forecast the business statistical trend and the claims amount.
This chart will also predict your insurance costs.
Use the same format to hindcast claims. Start now and project into the past. How much error is in this prediction? If it’s close year-to-year, it should be a good indicator of the future.
Start thinking about why these two data sets mirror. Do claims rise as you push to meet demand? Do you over-staff to meet demand and some employees lose focus? Are your claims about products not being quality checked at a certain volume? Once diagnosed, any loss control issue can be resolved, and pay you dividends. Ask your loss control service for help on these issues.
Safety is more than a set of activities focused on accident prevention. It is a way of thinking about how you work, and it should be at the heart of any successful company. Weaving safety into your company’s mission, policies and procedures is a great way to demonstrate its importance and ensure its effectiveness across your company.
It should be about a shared vision that is expressed by core values and behaviors, where everyone walks the talk. By addressing unsafe acts and conditions before they become accidents, you build your safety culture.
Four Steps to a Safety Culture
The following four steps can serve as a starting point in driving safety across your business.
1. Evaluate risks. To understand how to create a safer workplace, you must first understand the risks you face every day. Each task and associated risk should be properly evaluated, and safety-based changes should be considered.
– Analyze past incidents and near misses.Understand that past incidents can help you identify root causes and identify risks and exposures that threaten the safety of your employees and the success of your business.
– Identify the risks before they result in loss. Review your work policies and procedures, buildings and equipment, employee work practices and behaviors and geographic location to determine if there are opportunities to prevent or mitigate loss. And hold people accountable to the practices.
2. Design a plan to keep safe. A good plan is the best place to start, but it is only the beginning. Once you have a plan, you must act to eliminate or minimize risk.
– Get commitment. Your management team should be committed to a safety culture from the beginning.
– Stay focused. Keep focused on the risks and exposures identified during your evaluation.
–Prioritize your efforts. Focus on the risks that pose the greatest threat. You should consider frequency and severity of the loss potential, and/or the opportunity to prevent or mitigate risks.
– Identify solutions and resources.Your solutions can vary from implementing engineering controls to creating administrative policies and procedures. These can help create positive changes in safety attitude, commitment and culture.
3. Implement your plan. Implementation entails communication of the plan and its details, training, regularly scheduled practice and drills, and ongoing review. A thorough plan will cover a number of potential risk areas, including buildings and equipment, the environment, employees, customers and vendors.
– Communicate and train – the real test of a safety program and culture is not what is written down on paper, but rather how well it actually works. How well your plan works is often dependent on what your employees know and what they do at the time of an incident.
4. Monitor, evaluate and improve your plan. As your business environment changes, so should your safety program. Regularly test your plan to determine if it fits the changing business environment and reflects changing accountabilities.
– Monitor the plan and collect feedbackto determine the effectiveness of the plan.
– Regularly compare your safety performance against the plan’s expectations.
– Make adjustments when necessary.
– Recognize success. Be sure to communicate and celebrate your safety successes.
At Travelers, our team of risk specialists visit more than one hundred properties every day, and are able to share lessons learned and insights for helping create a safety culture. Start building your safety culture today. Learn more about developing yoursafety management program.
If you think about water damaging your home, you might conjure up an image of a hurricane, torrential rain or other natural catastrophe. The unfortunate reality is that damage that is caused when ordinary household appliances fail can be just as destructive as an extreme weather event.¹
According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage accounts for billions of dollars in losses to homeowners and renters each year. It is also responsible for about 25 percent of all property insurance claims. In fact, Travelers Claim data suggests that water is ten times more likely to damage your home than fire.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to help prevent water damage from appliances, and protect your home. It is helpful to understand some of the common causes of water damage, which include leaky baseboard heating, air conditioning condensation drains, and failed water heaters, washing machine hoses and plumbing.
These household appliances do not always offer warning signs until the damage has already occurred. That is why it is important to check them regularly. The simple steps below can help you protect your home from the most common causes of water damage:
First, know where the main water supply is located in case of emergency.
If you will be away from home for an extended period, shut off the water supply and drain the pipes. During the heating season, if your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system, and maintain sufficient heat to prevent a freeze-up.
Consider having your air conditioning system inspected regularly by a professional. Check the drain lines annually and clean them if they are clogged.
Inspect water heaters, showers, tubs, toilets, sinks and dishwashers annually, and have them repaired if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, install water heaters in areas with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases, and make repairs as needed.
If your refrigerator has an ice machine or water dispenser, the hose between the wall and the refrigerator should be made of braided copper, which has greater cracking and corrosion resistance.
Check pipes for cracks and leaks. Have pipe damage fixed immediately to prevent more costly repairs in the future.
Check appliance hoses and plumbing fittings for breakage, crimping or bending.
Every year, without fail, flu season hits. While the influenza virus poses high health risks for individuals, an outbreak at the office can also affect business operations. All it takes is one employee and one sneeze to put others at risk and spread the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu viruses can spread to people from up to 6 feet away through droplets made by sneezing, coughing or talking.* Even before showing symptoms, an infected employee who sneezes during a meeting or coughs at someone’s desk without covering his or her mouth can expose others to the flu.
Small businesses can be even more vulnerable if multiple employees call in sick due to flu-related illnesses. Fewer hands on deck could potentially impact productivity and operations.
Following are Five Tips for Business Owners to Help Reduce the Potential Spread of the Flu:
Make the Flu Vaccine Available for Employees
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year. However, finding time to get the vaccine may be difficult for some. If possible, employers should consider hosting a vaccine clinic onsite. By having it available at work, employees should be able to take care of this simple task quickly and easily.
Keep Work Spaces Clean
Generally, human flu viruses can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours, so encourage employees to clean their desks regularly. When buying cleaning supplies, read the label to make sure it states that the product is effective against flu viruses, such as Influenza A.
Offer the Option to Go Virtual
Most people do not realize they can spread the flu virus to others one day before they show any symptoms and up to seven days after becoming ill. Small business owners should make employees aware of this fact and provide opportunities to reduce in-person interactions, as this can help minimize the spread of the flu in the office. There are still ways to get work done so consider giving employees an option to work from home. They can stay connected through emails or phone calls, and conduct meetings online.
Be Open to Deferring Travel
Small business owners should also be open to rescheduling business trips. If workers are not feeling well before a trip, encourage them to reschedule to a later date so that they are not sick while away from home. If travel plans involve airplanes, fellow passengers will be grateful for that decision as well.
Hand Out the Tip Sheet….Now!
Even before flu season hits, hand out a short, informative document to employees on ways to help reduce the spread of the flu, such as washing hands properly and regularly and avoiding touching your eye, nose or mouth (entry points into the body for germs). For more information, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional suggestions on preventing the flu and maintaining good health habits.