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.
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?
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.
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.
One of the biggest factors that goes into your workers’ compensation premiums are the classification codes for each type of work done at your business. Each of these codes has an associated loss cost that represents the expected amount insurers will need to pay for a claim. And even though each of these costs are standardized by the National Council on Compensation Insurance or state governments, your actual premiums may be higher because of a concept called loss cost multipliers.
What are Loss Cost Multipliers?
Standard loss costs are the amount insurers pay for a policy’s coverage, such as medical care, prescriptions and lost wages. However, many insurers face significant overhead costs when handling a claim and transfer these charges to policyholders with loss cost multipliers. Essentially, these multipliers reflect an insurance carrier’s expenses, such as:
- Taxes, licenses and fees
- Sales and marketing charges
- Rent and utilities
Because each insurer operates differently, they all need to file separate loss cost multipliers with state insurance agencies. But, since multipliers alter standard loss costs and can vary greatly between different insurers, businesses may discover unexpectedly high premiums.
How Multipliers Impact Your Premiums
To determine a standard premium, insurers first take the loss cost for a specific employee classification code and factor in their unique loss cost multiplier. This figure is called the rate, which is then applied to your payroll to calculate a standard premium.
Insurers also weigh other factors to determine your final premium, such as your experience modification rate. However, because some insurers have loss cost multipliers of 2.0 or more, standard premiums have a significant impact on the final price of your policy.
How to Save on Workers’ Compensation
Although it may seem strange to pay for another company’s expenses through loss cost multipliers, there are still ways to save on workers’ compensation:
- Look up each insurer’s multiplier on your state insurance agency’s website when you buy or renew a policy.
- See if insurers use separate loss cost multipliers for different employee classification codes.
- Check with insurers to determine if they use various underwriting companies with unique loss cost multipliers.
- Call us at 831-661-5697 to discuss all of your workers’ compensation needs.
On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, after it passed both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
This tax reform bill makes significant changes to the federal tax code. The bill does not impact the majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax provisions. However, it does reduce the ACA’s individual shared responsibility (or individual mandate) penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019.
As a result, beginning in 2019, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage.
?The ACA’s individual mandate penalty no longer applies, beginning in 2019. However, individuals will still need to certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018.
In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019).
The Individual Mandate
The ACA’s individual mandate, which took effect in 2014, requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty. The mandate is enforced each year on individual federal tax returns. Starting in 2015, individuals filing a tax return for the previous tax year indicate, by checking a box on their returns, which members of their family (including themselves) had health insurance coverage for the year (or qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate). Based on this information, the IRS then assesses a penalty for each nonexempt family member without coverage.
Effect of the Tax Reform Bill
The tax reform bill reduces the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning with the 2019 tax year. This effectively eliminates the individual mandate penalty for the 2019 tax year and beyond. As a result, beginning with the 2019 tax year, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members.
Impact on Years Prior to 2019
Although the tax reform bill eliminates the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, this repeal did not take effect until 2019. As a result, individuals were still required to comply with the mandate (or pay a penalty) for 2018. This means that individuals must still certify on their 2018 tax return (filed in early 2019) whether they complied with the individual mandate for 2018. Therefore, taxpayers should indicate on their 2018 tax returns whether they (and everyone in their family):
- Had health coverage for the year;
- Qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate; or
- Will pay an individual mandate penalty.
In addition, a failure to obtain acceptable health coverage for 2018 may still result in a penalty for the individual for that year. Individuals who are liable for a penalty for failing to obtain acceptable health coverage in 2018 will be required to pay that penalty when they file their federal income taxes in 2019. As a result, some individuals may be required to pay the individual mandate penalty in early 2019, based on their noncompliance for the 2018 tax year.
Effect on Other ACA Provisions
Despite the repeal of the individual mandate penalty, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other ACA provisions. The tax reform bill does not impact any other ACA provisions, including the Cadillac tax on high-cost group health coverage, the PCORI fees and the health insurance providers fee. In addition, the employer shared responsibility (pay or play) rules and related Section 6055 and Section 6056 reporting requirements are still in place.