Visual warnings: New signs for the times

By Cincinnati Insurance


Words are prominent in signs using the old design standards.

We’ve all seen a red oval sign warning of “Danger.” Whether a bakery or a metal shop, virtually every business has something with a warning sign: an electrical panel or a machine, perhaps.

Many a business owner has wondered: do these signs work? Do they actually do a good job warning people: protecting me, my employees and the public?

Revised sign standards incorporate globally recognized images.

Unfortunately, there is little data to support the effectiveness of these signs. The roots of the design date to the 1940s, and since then a significant scientific body of information has developed on the layout, verbiage and effectiveness of warning signs.

But new voluntary sign rules are a step toward standardization.

Due to globalization of the marketplace, international business has moved toward “harmonization” of information and warning signs, a method that uses graphic images and pictorials in warning and informational signage.

For several years, a group of industry representatives worked with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to support updating standards for the signs that OSHA requires for general industry and construction sites. OSHA accomplished this by adding references in its regulations to the latest versions of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards on specifications for accident prevention signs and tags, ANSI Z535.1-2006(R2011), Z535.2-2011 and Z535.5-2011.

The stated purposes of the standard are to:

  • establish a uniform and consistent visual layout for safety signs to be located in facilities and in the environment
  • minimize the proliferation of designs for environmental and facility safety signs
  • establish a national uniform system for signs that communicate safety information

The new rule allows employers to modernize and update their warning signs and still be OSHA compliant, adding more effective warnings in terms of layout, readability and the use of pictorials and graphics to convey information. The rule became effective on September 11, 2013. However, there is no mandate to replace existing warning signs ̶ employers may continue using the old style materials at this time.

Additional information is available at:

US Department of Labor ̶ OSHA

Clarion Safety Systems

Submitted by Frank Bova

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How medical expenses affect insurance premiums

By Cincinnati Insurance


Life-saving technology can also add to medical costs.

Consumers often wonder what factors affect insurance premiums. One big factor is the rising cost of medical treatment.

General liability, homeowner, workers’ compensation and auto insurance claims all are affected by post-accident medical expenses. From initial emergency response and trauma care to surgery, physical therapy and beyond, medical services are essential to helping people recover from an accident. But these life-saving measures are also major expenditures that impact insurance rates.

While the overall economy has trended toward deflation in recent years, medical costs have done just the opposite. Medical costs in the United States have risen at an average annual rate of 3.3 percent for the past five years as contrasted with an average annual overall inflation rate of 1.9 percent in the economy, according to Table 29 in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Detailed Report for July 2013. Find a summary chart at MetricMash.

Theories about the cause of medical cost inflation include:

  • Technical advances that bring about desired, but costly new treatments
  • Waste through duplication of services, ineffective communication and fraud
  • Provider consolidations reducing market competition
  • An aging population and other factors that place additional demand upon the system
  • Legal costs
  • Shifting of cost from individuals who are unable to pay to a group, or from one group to another

While the debate about the causes of medical cost inflation will likely continue, it’s clear there is a correlation between increased healthcare costs and higher insurance premiums.

There are things individuals can do to gain some control:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle and reponsible attitude toward safety
  • Avoid costs or treatments that are known to be unnecessary
  • Remain vigilant for billing errors, fraud and other types of waste
  • Participate in the national dialogue on how our society can keep costs in line, maintain the availability of insurance options and preserve each individual’s personal healthcare choices

Submitted by Jim Ogle

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Home, sweet (second) home – protect it from water damage

By Cincinnati Insurance


Protect your vacation home from common causes of damage.

Whether it’s a cabin in the woods, a house or condo on the beach or a chalet in the mountains, your vacation home can be a wonderful place to relax and unwind. However, secondary residences require additional precautions compared with your primary home.

An often-overlooked hazard involves water damage to secondary residences that stand unoccupied for extended periods. Homeowners incur thousands of dollars in expenses each year due to damage caused by water escaping from broken pipes or malfunctioning appliances and plumbing fixtures. Because the home is unoccupied, the problem is often not discovered until major damage has occurred.

You can minimize this risk through the installation of an automatic water shut-off system. These systems use sensors located near water heaters, washing machines, refrigerators, toilets or other appliances to detect water escaping or leaking. The system shuts off water to the appliance, preventing costly flooding. Costs for these systems are generally about $100-$200 for a device to monitor an individual appliance or a few hundred dollars more for a whole-house system. More information is available from the NAHB Research Center.

Like any home, a secondary residence can also be vulnerable to sump pump failure caused by power outage or malfunction. Backup sump pumps are now available that do not rely on battery power; rather, they use the home’s water pressure to function. These systems are usually available for under $500.

Investing in these systems can protect your vacation home from extensive water damage, providing you with peace of mind when you’re not there.

Water damage can also occur when clogged gutters cause winter snowmelt from the roof to back up into the house and through the ceiling. Take care to clean the gutters after all leaves have fallen and before you leave the home unoccupied for the season.

Additional basic techniques can be used to minimize other types of loss or damage:

  • Lock all doors and windows upon departure, and consider installing a fire and burglar alarm
  • Set up timers to turn lights off and on
  • Install motion-sensor outside lighting
  • Arrange for someone to check on the property periodically

Techniques such as these can minimize the chance of significant and costly damage to your vacation home, providing peace of mind as you relax and unwind.

Submitted by Ken Mack

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Insurance products to protect your nonprofit organization

By Cincinnati Insurance


Consider ways to protect assets for your nonprofit organization..

When you commit your time and talents to a school or community cause, you don’t like to think that another volunteer or a trusted board member or employee could ever steal from your organization.

Sadly, it does happen, and many who steal from these organizations don’t have the financial means to repay what was stolen. And don’t overlook the fact that embezzlements can go undetected for a long time and can involve more than one person.

When an organization purchases a commercial insurance package with a crime policy that includes fidelity coverage, an employee would automatically be covered. Coverage can also extend to board members and volunteers by endorsement.

Fidelity coverage:

  • protects the policyholder from losses that occur from theft by specified persons
  • limits depend on the amount of money handled by the organization over a period of time; regular audits of the nonprofit’s funds should be conducted by those who have no authority to withdraw from the fund accounts
  • limits start at $1,000 for very small organizations but higher limits should be considered
  • can be written on a blanket crime policy covering all employees and volunteers or on an Individual crime policy covering the dishonest actions of specifically named individuals or named positions; both products are generally available by endorsement to a commercial insurance package policy
  • may be issued with very low deductibles, depending on the crime coverage limit, making fidelity coverage even more attractive to the nonprofit organization

When you put your hand in the air to volunteer for that booster group, make sure you and your organization have the protection you need so that you can pursue your nobler goals.

Submitted by Tom Kelly

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Driver alert! Children often misjudge traffic

By Cincinnati Insurance


Children do not perceive danger the way adults do; drivers must take care.

With school resuming around the country, drivers prepare for the unexpected in school zones, near bus stops and past crossing guards. But drivers should also be on the alert wherever they drive that children could be present.

Since 2000, 130 school-age pedestrians have died in school transportation-related crashes. Some of the most common types of pedestrian fatal events involve a child being hit or struck:

  • By a vehicle turning or preparing to turn at an intersection
  • In a mid-block collision where a pedestrian enters the driver’s field of view leaving little or no time to react

  • In parking lots or other non-roadway areas
  • While walking/jogging along the side of the road going with the traffic
  • When running through an intersection (as opposed to mid-block)
  • By a backing vehicle

(Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts.)

With nearly half of these (56 fatalities or 43 percent) involving children between the ages of 5 and 7, it is important for drivers to understand some of the unique concerns associated with this age group:

  • A 6-year-old’s eye level is about 36 inches above the ground.
  • Their smaller size makes them difficult for drivers to see, especially if they are standing between parked cars on the side of the road.
  • Young children have two-thirds of the peripheral vision that adults have, and they have difficulty determining the source of a sound.
  • Children are still learning to judge distances and speeds. They cannot judge accurately how fast a car is traveling or how long it will take to cover the distance. They can easily misjudge whether it is safe to cross a street.
  • Children are spontaneous and have trouble stopping an action once started.
  • Children younger than third grade are unlikely to be aware of traffic when playing with friends or riding bikes.
  • Parents can overestimate their children’s ability to cross the street safely. Many elementary school-aged children don’t understand traffic signals and don’t know how to anticipate drivers’ actions. Children under 6 years old rarely understand the true nature of a dangerous situation.
  • Children also tend to overestimate their abilities, thinking that they can run across a street before the flashing light changes or a car approaches.
  • Drivers and child pedestrians each assume (incorrectly) that the other will yield the right-of-way.

(Source, Washington State Department of Transportation’s 53-page School Walk and Bike Routes: A Guide …read more

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Insurance TLC for your historic home

By Cincinnati Insurance


Think about coverages you may need for an older or historic home.

You may find an older home appealing because of its size, grandeur and location. But before you leap into the refurbishing trend, look at how older homes can present challenges that could increase your insurance costs.

After World War II, tract homes became the norm as the construction industry standardized materials and techniques. As a result, features found in homes constructed before 1945 became “custom.”

Additionally, any home listed on a historic registry or located in a historic district may be subject to strict code requirements, special codes or ordinances in these areas. As a result, even partial losses can be costly.

Make sure you know and discuss these requirements with your agent as you review your insurance options.

For example, if an 1894 home with aluminum siding suffers exterior damage, the code may require damaged siding to be replaced with wood. The claim cost may be much higher than payment for a similar loss on a newer construction home, where replacing with aluminum may have been appropriate.

Many features of a pre-1945 and a historic home are considered custom, for example:

  • Non-standard-sized doors and windows
  • Built-in plaster niches and solid hardwood cabinets
  • Smaller rooms with more interior partitions
  • Plaster and lath interior walls and ceilings
  • Solid brass plumbing, lighting and door fixtures
  • High-quality mosaic ceramic tile floors or mission clay tile flooring
  • Higher interior ceilings (average 9 to 10 feet)
  • Solid masonry or stone construction
  • Slate roof

All of these factors add up to a higher reconstruction cost because you may need a specialized architect or contractor after a loss. Consider strict construction guidelines of the local and county historic oversight committees, when required.

Consider that:

  • Standard door size is 6 feet, 7 inches; an 8-foot door adds approximately 20 percent to the cost of a standard door, and a 9-foot door adds another 20 percent
  • Solid wood wall trim can be three times the cost of standard pressboard
  • The increase from standard 3-inch molding to 5-inch molding doubles the cost; custom carved moldings in old homes could cost as much as $30 per linear foot
  • Asphalt shingles can cost about $5 per square foot, compared to slate at $28 per square foot

As you shop for homeowner insurance, take an inventory of all of your home’s interior and exterior features, and be prepared to discuss them with your agent. It’s the best way to make sure you are on the right path to insuring your home.

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7 coverages to look for in your auto policy

By Cincinnati Insurance


The right auto coverages can help you deal with the curves in the road.

When you purchase an insurance policy for your car, there are some basic coverages that help protect you from financial curves in the road.

Bodily Injury Liability protects you against damages for which you are legally responsible because of a covered auto accident that causes bodily harm, including death, to others.

Property Damage Liability protects you against damages for which you are legally responsible because of a covered auto accident that causes damage to another person’s property.

Medical Payments Coverage pays expenses for necessary medical and funeral services for you, your family or others while riding in a covered vehicle when it is involved in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Some states offer Personal Injury Protection (no fault) coverages instead of or in addition to Medical Payments Coverage. Personal Injury Protection pays for medical and related expenses for you, your family and other people in your car because of an auto accident that occurs in states that have no-fault insurance laws. This means that you are covered regardless of who is at fault.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage pays for damages arising from bodily injury to you and your resident family members when another driver is legally responsible for the auto accident and does not have bodily injury liability coverage, or their liability limits fall below state minimum requirements.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage pays for damages arising from bodily injury to you and your resident family members when another driver is legally responsible for the auto accident and the at-fault driver has liability limits lower than the Underinsured Motorist Coverage limit on your policy.

Collision Coverage pays for damage to your insured auto when you have a collision with another vehicle or object.

Other Than Collision Coverage pays for accidental direct damage to your insured auto such as fire, theft, vandalism, breakage of glass and more.

Contact your local independent agent for details about these coverages and other options that will help assure that you have a smooth ride.

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4 common myths about insurance

By Cincinnati Insurance


Do your homework when buying insurance.

You study safety and performance ratings before buying a car.

You have your prospective home professionally inspected from basement to roof.

You read labels and select the best foods for your family’s table.

Why should insurance purchases be any different?

Yet even the most conscientious consumer may balk at the complexity of this purchase and just take a shot in the dark, by going with a company whose name sounds familiar.

Shine some light on the subject as you search for the best insurance for your needs by examining these myths about insurance.

Myth #1: All insurance companies are basically alike.

Truth #1: Insurance companies vary in the financial strength that backs your policy, assuring they can meet their obligations to pay claims. Look for an insurer that is financially strong and consistently qualifies for a high financial strength rating from A.M. Best Co., an independent provider of insurer ratings.

Find a local independent agent who lives in your community. An independent agent has a long-term stake in protecting you by following through to your satisfaction.

Myth #2: All insurance policies provide the same coverage.

Truth #2: While many insurance policies contain similar coverages, each company provides unique policy conditions and limitations. Policies that look alike can be changed by a single exclusion or endorsement. Read your policy carefully.

Myth #3: All insurance companies provide the same level of service or claims service.

Truth #3: Your state department of insurance and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners can tell you which companies have the fewest complaints and resolve them effectively. Look for a company that provides personal treatment, prompt contact and fair settlement.

Myth #4: You have no control over the cost of your insurance.

Truth #4: An independent agent can pinpoint exactly how changes in your deductible or your lifestyle can lower your insurance costs. He or she can propose safety measures that earn discounts or tell you how to package one policy with another to save money and improve coverage.

Independent insurance agents make a living by knowing which companies act responsibly and which policies are best for a specific client’s needs. Your local agent can help you make an informed insurance purchase that provides stability, quality and convenience.

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