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4 ways to save on your homeowner insurance premiums

By Connie Groh

4 ways to save on your homeowner insurance premiums

Packaging your home and auto insurance is a common way to save on your insurance premiums.

Looking for ways to save on your homeowner insurance premiums? Here are a few easy strategies that may lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums without reducing the amount of coverage.

  1. Increase your deductible
    A deductible is the portion of any covered loss that you pay before your policy provides payment. You can usually lower the cost of your insurance when you increase your deductible. You start saving right away and pay the deductible amount only if you have a covered loss. For many insureds, the premium savings over time more than makes up for the occasional, out-of-pocket expense of a deductible.
  2. Insure both your home and auto with the same insurance company
    If you package your home and auto coverage, you often receive additional savings on your home, condominium or tenants policies and on your auto insurance premiums. For even more savings, you can package your insurance for your boat, motorhome, jewelry, rental properties and more with your homeowner coverages.
  3. Improve your home security
    You may be eligible to save if you have the following protective devices:

    • Smoke detector
    • Fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations
    • Sprinkler system alarm
    • Secured community
    • Temperature monitoring system
    • Backup generator
    • Automatic water shut-off system
  4. Age 50 or Retired?
    Retired people on average stay at home more and spot a loss situation like fire or water leak sooner than working people. They also have more time for maintaining their property. If you are at least 50 years old or retired, you may be eligible for a discount. For information more on the discounts offered in your state, a quote or policy service, please contact your local independent insurance agent.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

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Focus Four construction-related hazards: Electrocution

By Troy Dohmeyer

Focus Four construction-related hazards: Electrocution

Part 2 of 4

Construction is among the most dangerous industries in the country. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2014 showed 885 fatal on-the-job injuries, more than in any other single industry sector and nearly one out of every five work-related deaths in the U.S. that year. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) calls the leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites its Focus Four: falls, electrocution, struck by and caught in or between. These four leading hazards are responsible for 71 percent of deaths and injuries in construction.

The numbers of deaths by electrocution clearly show that exposure to electricity is a major hazard to construction workers. Electrocution results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy.

Electrical hazards could expose workers to burns, electrocution, shock, arc flash/arc blast, fire and explosions.

An average of 124 construction workers are killed each year by contact with electricity (based on government data for 1998 through 2010). Electrical workers had the most electrocutions per year with the most serious concern being working “live” or near live wires. Proper protocol requires de-energizing wires and using lockout/ tagout procedures. Among nonelectricians, such as construction laborers, carpenters, supervisors of nonelectrical workers and roofers, the failure to avoid live overhead power lines and a lack of basic electrical safety knowledge are major concerns.

Major electrocution incidents come from:

  • Contact with overhead power lines
  • Contact with energized sources, such as live parts, damaged or bare wires and defective equipment or tools
  • Improper use of extension and flexible cords

To better protect against electrocution hazards:

  • Locate and identify utilities before starting work.
  • Look for overhead power lines when operating any equipment.
  • Maintain a safe distance away from power lines; learn the safe distance requirements.
  • Do not operate portable electric tools unless they are grounded or double-insulated.
  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection.
  • Be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.

Without losing sight of other workplace hazards, employers must pay attention to the Focus Four to further reduce the trend in workplace fatalities.

To mitigate these fatality statistics, OSHA and other professional safety and health organizations, both in the private and public sectors, are targeting these contributing factors. OSHA has developed training presentations, handouts and toolbox topics available on OSHA’s website. Other occupational safety and health resources available to you include your safety department, your industry association, accredited safety and industrial hygiene professionals or your …read more

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Sewer line backup: Know your coverage

By Mike Terrell

Sewer line backup: Know your coverage

Check with your agent before a loss to understand your coverage for sewer line backup.

You walk into your office on a Monday morning to discover there has been a sewer line backup. After the initial shock, you wonder, “Do I have insurance coverage for this? If I do have coverage, what are my limits?”

These are important questions, and ones you should consider asking your local independent agent now.

If you are a dentist, veterinarian or optometrist, losses could be costly. Carpet, furniture, fixtures and business equipment will need to be replaced or professionally disinfected. You may also lose business income for several weeks if you must close while you repair the building and replace your business personal property.

Many policies have a sublimit for this type of loss; for example, $25,000. However, costs could easily be much higher. If your loss is $75,000 and your current policy has a $25,000 sublimit, you might need to borrow $50,000 or more from a bank just to get back in business.

Another exposure is from flood. You don’t have to be next to a river, lake or other body of water to have a flood loss. If water comes in through a door or window due to heavy rain, that is considered a flood. Most policies exclude flood, and you would have the same damages to your business personal property and a business income loss as you would from water backup.

Know what coverage you have before a loss, so you aren’t surprised later.

Your local independent insurance agent can assist you in evaluating your practice’s needs.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

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Focus Four construction-related hazards: Falls

By Troy Dohmeyer

Focus Four construction-related hazards: Falls
Part 1 of 4

Construction is among the most dangerous industries in the country. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2014 showed 885 fatal on-the-job injuries, more than in any other single industry sector and nearly one out of every five work-related deaths in the U.S. that year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls the leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites its Focus Four: falls, electrocution, struck by and caught in or between. These four leading hazards are responsible for 71 percent of deaths and injuries in construction.

On most construction sites, working at height presents the greatest chance of death or serious injury. Fall hazards are present at most worksites, and many workers are exposed to these hazards on a daily basis. A fall hazard is any worksite condition that could cause a worker to lose balance or bodily support and fall. Any walking or working surface can be a potential fall hazard.

Construction workers are at risk any time they are working at a height of 6 feet or more. OSHA requirements include fall protection for employees working at a height of 4 feet in general industry and 6 feet in construction. Regardless of the fall distance, fall protection is required when working over dangerous equipment and machinery.

Nearly half (48 percent) of all fatal falls in private industry involve construction workers.

Each year, on average, between 185 and 250 workers are killed and more than 100,000 are injured as a result of falls at construction sites. Because OSHA recognizes that falls frequently involve a variety of factors, the standard for fall protection addresses both human and equipment-related issues.

Three generally accepted methods of protecting construction workers exposed to vertical drops of 6 feet or more are guardrails, safety net systems and personal fall arrest systems. A personal fall arrest system consists of an anchorage, connectors and a full-body harness that work together to break the employee’s fall.

Employers also have certain responsibilities specific to fall protection that include:

  • providing fall protection
  • ensuring proper scaffold construction
  • ensuring safe ladder use and condition
  • conducting daily worksite equipment maintenance and personal protection equipment (PPE) inspections by an authorized competent person
  • providing training

Without losing sight of other workplace hazards, employers must pay attention to the Focus Four to further reduce the trend in workplace fatalities.

To mitigate these fatality statistics, OSHA and other professional safety and health organizations, both in the private and public sectors, are targeting these …read more

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Distracted driving: Raise your hand if you’ve done this

By Christopher Barger

Distracted driving: Raise your hand if you've done this

What phone call is more important than keeping your attention on the road?

You’re driving along; the car in front of you swerves erratically, the driver apparently under the influence. As you pass, you glance over and shake your head. A look of self-righteous indignation crosses your face, but the driver has no clue of your disgust. You look more closely and see that the driver is obviously under the influence … of a smart phone!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen this.

Keep your hand up if you’ve seen other drivers eating a sandwich, fumbling with a hot cup of coffee, reading a newspaper, reaching for something, yelling at kids, applying makeup, shaving or changing clothes.

I recently saw a guy playing drums on his steering wheel. No, he wasn’t just tapping along to the music. There he was, drumsticks in hand, a drum pad taped to his steering wheel, pounding away while rocketing down the highway.

Are your hands still up? Good. Now put them down only if YOU’VE never done any of these things. Ah. There’s the rub. For all of the dirty looks and disgusted head shakes that we’ve given other drivers, most of us have been on the receiving end of those looks. We engage in the same behavior we so adamantly condemn.

When presenting this scenario to groups of people, I see sheepish grins and embarrassed smiles. As for the 30 percent who put their hands down? Many of you aren’t being honest. That’s right – a Virginia study showed as many as eight out of 10 crashes are connected to distracted driving.

We’ve seen the statistics. Auto-related accidents, injuries and deaths are all increasing due to distracted driving. So why the disconnect between what we know, what we disapprove of in others and what we actually do ourselves? What makes us – and I say us, because my grin is just as sheepish as the rest of you – think we are able to control a vehicle any better than others?

  • Whose time is so valuable that 10 minutes can’t be spent in a parking lot eating that cheeseburger?
  • What phone call is so important that it’s worth endangering the lives of those around us?
  • What text absolutely must be read and responded to the second we receive it?

These are, of course, all rhetorical questions that we can’t answer for other drivers. However, we can eliminate the rhetorical …read more

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Insurers help employers make workplaces safer, avoid potential fines

By Troy Dohmeyer

Insurers help employers make workplaces safer, avoid potential fines

Businesses can get help implementing safety programs.

Employers can protect their workers and avoid costly fines by implementing workplace safety programs, and their insurers may be able to help. Insurance company loss control consultants can help implement safety programs, provide training and connect employers with resources to make their workplaces safer.

Now is a good time to request this support, as employers who violate workplace safety regulations will find that fines are about to get a lot more costly.

OSHA FINES INCREASING

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is increasing its civil penalties for all employer violations of workplace safety regulations effective August 1, 2016 – the first such increase since 1990.

The federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 sets criteria for OSHA to increase its civil penalties. The first adjustment in 2016 is considered a one-time catch-up adjustment, and fines could rise approximately 50 to 80 percent.

Employers should note that once the catch-up adjustment is implemented in August 2016, OSHA’s civil penalties will not remain stagnant. By law, penalties must increase annually. Beginning in 2017, annual inflation increases will be calculated based on the Consumer Price Index.

STATE OSHA PLANS

About half the states have OSHA-Approved State Plans for workplace safety enforcement with maximum penalties set by state law. These are unaffected by the Bipartisan Budget Act. However state plans must be at least as effective as OSHA, so states are likely to increase their civil penalties.

AVOID COSTLY CITATIONS

While an OSHA citation can be costly, the health and safety of employees is on the line when safety standards are not enforced in the workplace.

For assistance with implementing a safety program, training and other measures, please contact your local independent insurance agent.

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Plan for regular maintenance on your property

By Doug Eisele

Plan for regular maintenance on your property
Part 2 of 2 –

Careful maintenance can extend the life of custom home features.

A long-term property maintenance strategy should include planning and budgeting for regular work such as exterior painting or roof replacement, and for capital improvements. The cost of maintenance will always be less than that of a major preservation effort after a period of long neglect.

HOUSEKEEPING

Careful housekeeping can greatly extend the life of building materials. Removing dirt from floors and other contact surfaces limits deterioration by abrasion. Keeping the building free of food waste reduces the likelihood of pest infestation. Use housekeeping and maintenance tools and equipment carefully to protect building materials. Avoid operations that might cause incidental damage. For example, a sharp metal tool used to remove ice can leave gouges in a stone step and metal parts on mops can easily scrape finishes.

RECORD KEEPING

Written and photographic records provide valuable information for scheduling maintenance and improvements and for long-range planning. Keep accurate, complete written records of inspections, maintenance work and repairs on site. Photographs are always desirable. Include names and manufacturers of any cleaning or maintenance products used. This information may provide clues for unraveling future material deterioration problems.

ALTERATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS

Consider the building materials before altering a building’s environment.

When your main goal is building preservation, consult with an architectural conservator when planning alterations or improvements, especially if the changes are being considered to solve specific problems such as a damp basement. The potential effect of a change on other elements and systems of the building must be fully understood. For example, installing central air conditioning will not only change the environment of different spaces within a building, but also may have a significant impact on the building materials. Any changes made should be easily reversible to return the building to its original condition.

DISASTERS

Disasters can have a devastating impact on a structure, sometimes even necessitating its demolition. Fire, flooding (from natural causes or plumbing failures), hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other disasters can all cause significant damage. Planning for disasters can help lessen their impact.

Initially, develop a plan to respond to fire. Early detection is critical. Heat and smoke detectors are available at hardware stores and more sophisticated systems can be purchased from specialized dealers. These systems must be tested regularly to be sure they work. Place appropriate fire extinguishers throughout the building, and inspect them regularly. More expensive suppression systems like sprinklers are also available and …read more

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Keys to controlling business auto insurance costs

By Michael Harrold

Keys to controlling business auto insurance costs

Know your drivers before letting them turn the key.

Insurance underwriters take into account a company’s past automobile loss experience when pricing automobile insurance. By reducing your company’s exposure to auto losses, you may be able to reduce your insurance costs. Three ways to control business auto costs are to review driver history; promote safety awareness and training; and maintain vehicles in good working order.

1: REVIEWING DRIVER HISTORY

Carefully evaluate driver candidates prior to putting them behind the wheel.

Consider requesting prior work history, conducting a criminal background check and obtaining a motor vehicle report to evaluate an applicant’s driving history and license status. Prior to conducting pre-employment checks, consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and to determine when employee releases or notices may be required. Once drivers are hired, check annually for accidents, violations and license status.

Once you’ve obtained the driver’s signed release, you can follow your state’s requirements to request an MVR through your state’s license bureau. Make sure to review MVRs from every state the employee has resided in for the prior five years. MVRs can reveal accidents, tickets and other infractions that may impact their ability to drive for your business.

Analyze reports, looking at:

  • frequent or repeat accidents or moving violations. Non-traffic events, such as glass breakage, fire or flood may not be an accurate indicator of how a driver’s record could impact your business
  • evidence that the candidate has limited experience with the type of vehicles your company uses may be a red flag
  • suspensions ̶ administrative suspensions and those resulting from serious violations, such as operating a vehicle under the influence or driving under the influence, reckless operation – should be viewed very seriously

Also consider the types of any violations. A study by the American Transportation Research Institute evaluated 540,000 drivers. Their MVR histories revealed that conviction for a single moving violation dramatically increases the likelihood of becoming involved in a crash to between 91 and 100 percent. The four convictions with the highest likelihood of a future crash are:

  • improper or erratic lane change
  • failure to yield right of way
  • improper turn
  • failure to maintain proper lane
2: PROMOTING SAFETY AWARENESS AND TRAINING

Road testing all driver candidates is a great practice but, if not possible, at a minimum require drivers operating vehicles other than standard passenger vehicles to successfully complete a road test in the type of vehicle the driver …read more

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When you have help at home, look to EPLI protection

By Eric Kuennemeier

When you have help at home, look to EPLI protection

When you employ a nanny in your home, you may need EPLI protection.

When it’s time to hire a personal assistant, nanny, housekeeper, gardener or other private staff, you picture finding a perfect match for your family and hope to consider that person a friend.

No matter how wonderful you feel about the relationship, you have become a domestic employer. There is always the possibility that one of your staff may accuse you or a family member of a wrongful act such as discrimination, sexual harassment or wrongful termination.

Because of this risk, anyone who has domestic help should obtain employment practices liability insurance (EPLI). EPLI protects you and your family members against harmful – or even false – employment allegations. It protects you financially and allows for the hiring of reputation management firms. Such firms can provide consulting for public relations, media management and security.

Don’t wait to purchase EPLI coverage until you have staff employed. You need it before you even start interviewing for the position. An interviewee may be offended by something you say or may accuse you of discrimination if not hired.

Depending on the size of your domestic staff, you may have to purchase a separate EPLI policy. If you have a smaller staff, usually five or fewer, you may be able to add the coverage to your homeowner, personal umbrella or family office policy. The coverage provides:

  • Damages awarded
  • Costs to defend the suit
  • Costs to protect your reputation

Often this coverage also includes access to a specialist who can assist you in developing job descriptions and provide advice on interviewing potential employees and conducting background checks. Many also will help you develop a planned approach for hiring and recommend steps to keep your relationship on a professional employee-employer level.

Having domestic staff is supposed to reduce the stress in your life to allow you to enjoy the finer pleasures. But should a staff member allege they were wronged, your stress level likely will increase. Make sure you have someone in your corner during this stressful time. See your local independent insurance agent, who can advise you about EPLI coverage.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

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