How to handle the challenges of an aging workforce

Dave SinclairTake a look in the mirror…were those gray hairs there yesterday?

Take a look around your office…could you be asking the same question?

Nobody’s getting younger, not even me! But the American workforce is rapidly aging, creating a number of challenges for businesses of all types and sizes.

The secular trend is stark: From 1976 to 2006, the percentage of 20- to 34-year-olds in the workforce dropped from 40% to 31%. Meanwhile, the percentage of 45- to 64-year-olds rose from just under 30% to just over 36%.

Baby boomers on one end and declining birth rates on the other are just part of the reason. Older workers who may have planned on an early (or typical) retirement are finding that they just don’t have enough resources to stop working, even if they wanted to. For others, the culture of retirement has changed, and they want to stay active and involved, even if that means punching the same clock year after year.

Older workers bring a wealth of institutional knowledge, experience, and maturity to the workforce. But they also bring increased liability and costs. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and most alarmingly, obesity among staff are growing problems for employers , who bear the cost of increased worker’s compensation claims and higher health insurance premiums.

These chronic conditions are much more likely to afflict older workers.  Individuals between the ages of 40-59 are three times more likely than 20-39 year olds to have “metabolic syndrome,” which is a group of risk factors like high cholesterol and obesity that elevate the chance of developing heart disease and other preventable health problems. In addition, overweight workers have an increased risk of being hurt on the job and have much longer recovery times.

So how does a business retain the experience, knowledge, and positive qualities of senior staffers without collapsing under the weight of chronic illness and worker’s comp claims?

First, start with a quality wellness program, implemented strategically to produce a real return on investment. (The Society for Human Resource Management has some excellent insight for consideration.)

Then, be sure to tie that wellness program into safety training. While this is especially important for manufacturers, builders, restaurants, and other businesses where physical and mechanical elements come with the territory, it’s also relevant for mostly deskbound office workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers a very comprehensive report on the connection between workplace wellness and safety, noting:

• A worker’s risk of illness rises with exposure to occupational hazards;
• Those at highest risk for exposure are also most likely to engage in risky personal health behavior;
• Integrating wellness and safety programs may increase program participation.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of making mentorship a part of your company’s culture. Encourage your more experienced staffers to share their valuable knowledge with younger workers. Everyone will feel more invested. It will dovetail nicely with your wellness program.

At Sinclair Risk, our experts can help you creating a healthy, positive workplace, gray hair and all. 

Dave Sinclair

CEO – Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Are you prepared for an OSHA ‘pop-in’?

Dave Sinclair*ring ring ring*

You’re not expecting anyone, but someone’s at the door…it’s your Aunt Elaine, famously resistant to getting a cell phone, who was in the neighborhood and thought she’d take a chance you might be home and drop by.

Aunt Elaine may be great, but let’s face it, nobody loves a pop-in. While we tolerate the occasional boundary-crossing friend or relative with good humor, pop-ins from government officials on official business can be truly unpleasant.

Think IRS field audit, or unexpected OSHA inspection.

Many business owners, especially in the manufacturing or construction industries, dread a visit from OSHA. But if you follow the Boy Scout model and be prepared, an OSHA pop-in should produce less anxiety than one from Aunt Elaine.

A division of the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was born in 1970 via federal legislation that guarantees the right to have a safe workplace. This is not a bad thing. The law requires employers to provide a workplace free of known dangers.  

With millions of workplaces in the United States and just a comparative handful of OSHA compliance officials doing about 100,000 inspections annually, the chances of a random visit are pretty unlikely, but most come about because of whistleblower workers, who can confidentially file complaints.

How do you avoid that? Simple. Keep it Safe.

Easy, right?

Not exactly.

Operator error, failing parts, accidents — a number of factors can contribute to a situation that eventually prompts an OSHA visit. Having a plan in place will make the process significantly less difficult.

1. Identify the primary point of contact for OSHA: you as the business owner, shop foreman, COO, whatever makes sense for you situation. Have a backup person identified OSHAin case you or your primary point of contact is not on site the day of the visit.

2. Be sure the visitor is indeed from OSHA and not an impostor.

3. Have your safety documentation and records in order and easily accessible. If you appear disorganized or flustered, it will raise suspicions.

4. Smile and be polite. A good attitude is likely to be returned.

This excellent article goes into more detail about what to expect during an OSHA visit.

Keep in mind that your responsibility goes beyond keeping the workplace safe. OSHA also requires employers to:

• Inform employees about hazards.
• Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• Perform tests such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
• Provide medical tests required by OSHA standards.
• Prominently post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and an OSHA poster.
• Notify OSHA of all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, serious injuries within 24 hours.
• Not discriminate or retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law.

Find out more about that in my blog here.

Unsure about your OSHA preparation level? My team at Sinclair lives and breathes risk management and can help you handle a pop-in, maybe not from Aunt Elaine, but definitely from OSHA.

Dave Sinclair

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Employers: Safety is your responsibility (but we can help!)

Dave SinclairA billion dollars…right out the window.

That’s what American businesses spend each week on worker’s compensation claims.

If that isn’t enough to give you pause, that figure represents only the direct costs of medical and legal payments. Indirect costs of training replacement employees, conducting accident investigations, hiring crisis management PR experts, repairing equipment, lost productivity, and low staff morale easily double the pain.

Want a real-world estimate of a threat facing your workplace? This cost estimator provided by OSHA will put the fear of the safety gods into you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Avoiding crippling worker’s compensation claims begins with developing a workplace safety program, reinforced by ongoing training and hands-on management.

Getting started — Developing a comprehensive safety program can seem daunting, but work accidentSinclair Risk & Financial Management can help. We want to reduce your worker’s compensation costs not by just getting you the most affordable premiums, but by making sure accidents are rare or nonexistent in your shop.

Training — Too often we see operator error leading to significant injuries. The machines are working just fine, but employees were not properly educated on how to use them safely. We provide a comprehensive analysis of your operations and identify areas where training needs to occur or be reinforced. 

Make it worthwhile — Safety is your responsibility, but you need buy-in from all staffers. Consider a program that rewards everyone in the workplace for keeping it safe. Six months accident free? Everyone gets an extra day off, or a gift card, or a lunch…there are numerous low-cost incentives that will keep your staff focused on the goal.

Identify trouble areas (and trouble employees) — It’s bad enough if an employee sustains an injury once…but twice? Same goes for a piece of equipment. Anytime there’s a repeat claim associated with an employee or particular piece of equipment, you need to laser in, figure out the reason, and correct the problem. As part of our ongoing commitment to safety in your workplace, we can help with these sensitive audits.

Safety is your responsibility, and operating a safe shop is the only smart way to do business. The Sinclair Risk team includes experts at helping business owners implement a safe workplace and keeping it safe through training and follow-up. Take the scare out of safety and talk to us today.

Dave Sinclair

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Protect Your Company from “CEO Fraud”

Protect Your Company from “CEO Fraud”Remember the e-mails claiming you’d won the Nigerian lottery, full of misspellings and bad grammar and requesting your bank account information so funds could be wired?  These amateur e-mail scams are a thing of the past and a new, rapidly growing and sophisticated threat is targeting businesses worldwide and has already resulted in more than 7,000 companies in the U.S. losing over $740 million since 2013.

Business e-mail compromise (BEC), also known as “CEO fraud,” is a financial scam that targets companies of all sizes that utilize wire transfers to pay foreign suppliers.  “CEO fraud” usually takes place when legit business e-mail accounts are compromised utilizing social engineering or computer intrusion techniques.  According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center (IC3), there has been a 270% increase in BEC victims since the beginning of 2015.  A majority of the reported fraudulent transfers have gone to Asian banks in China and Hong Kong.  

A recent example outlined by the FBI occurred when the accountant of a U.S. company received an e-mail from her CEO, who was travelling abroad on vacation, asking her toProtect Your Company from “CEO Fraud” transfer funds for an important acquisition by the end of the day.  This wasn’t an unusual request and the e-mail said the accountant would hear from a lawyer with further details.  The lawyer got in touch via e-mail and sent what appeared to be a legitimate letter of authorization with the CEO’s signature and the company logo, with instructions to wire more than $737,000 to a bank in China.  The accountant wired the money but was shocked when she talked to her CEO on another matter the next day and mentioned everything had gone through, as the CEO knew nothing about the request.

So how can you ensure your company doesn’t become a victim of “CEO fraud?”

  • Use multiple means of communications to verify a requested transfer is legitimate.  For example, if the request came by e-mail, phone the person who sent it to verbally validate it.  And be sure to use known phone numbers associated with that person versus whatever is included in the e-mail.
  • Consider implementing an approval process for large payments that requires two executives sign off on large wire transfers.
  • Be suspicious of requests that urge immediate action or secrecy.  Consider holding customer requests for international wires transfers for an additional time period to validate their legitimacy.
  • Carefully review and scrutinize all requests for transfers of funds that are received by e-mail.  Look for red flags, like a slightly different configuration of an e-mail extension; i.e., an e-mail ending in .co instead of .com or an e-mail address that utilizes a hyphen instead of an underscore, like versus 
  • Be careful about posting financial and personnel information to your company’s website and social media.  For instance, listing international conferences your senior leaders will be attending could present an opportune time to conduct the scam.

With the right knowledge, checks and balances and scrutiny, you are less likely to fall victim to a BEC scam.  However, if your company is impacted, act quickly!  Immediately work with your financial institution to contact the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent and then contact the FBI and file a complaint with the IC3.

Matt Bauer


How to keep safe during the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

_JBK5366It’s officially the holiday season! You’re ready to pick out the perfect tree, drag the ornaments out of storage, and make the house look like a winter wonderland. After all it IS the most wonderful time of the year – and we’d like to help you keep it that way.

According to the American Red Cross, there are over 45,000 house fires during the holiday season – costing over $550 million in property damage, and causing over 2,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

Luckily, we have some easy and helpful tips to help you keep the yuletide cheer going strong – although none to help deal with crazy Uncle Joe or your nosey in-laws!

If you buy a real Christmas tree, make sure the needles are green and fresh, and water it daily. When purchasing a fake Christmas tree, ensure it’s made of flame retardant material.

SRFM trees

Keep your tree, stockings, and any other holiday decorations at least 3 feet away from a heat source – this includes candles, fireplaces, radiators, and heat vents.

Don’t use any lights or decorations that have frayed electrical cords. Don’t use indoor Christmas lights outside. Limit the number of connected light strands to 3 sets.

Trim candle wicks back to ¼ of an inch and keep them 12 inches away from any other object. Extinguish candles before heading to bed or leaving the house.

Don’t throw boxes or wrapping paper into fireplaces.

Remember to set timers while cooking. Don’t leave food unattended for long periods of time. Turn off all appliances when you leave the house. Have a fire extinguisher on hand, just in case.

The holidays are a time for joy and celebration, so make sure you are taking the proper safety precautions to keep what matters most – your family and friends – safe from fire hazards this season.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Sinclair Risk and Financial Management!

Steve Davis


Obesity: The numbers (and costs) are staggering

Dave SinclairI’ll start with a piece of good news: the smoking rate among United States adults declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013. There’s still a ways to go, but at least the numbers are moving in the right direction.

Now, the (very) bad news: Americans are snuffing out the cigarettes but apparently picking up the cheesecake, because more than a third — 35%(!) — are obese. The percentage is rising and expected to hit 50%(!) by 2030.

The negative effects of obesity on one’s health are profound. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity significantly raises the risk for developing a whole host of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Obese employees can make a business unhealthy as well. Absenteeism, frequent worker’s compensation claims, increased use of health care services, and having key employees with institutional knowledge and unique skillsets out of commission for extended periods of time can wreak havoc on a bottom line.

Several studies show that obese workers experience more on (and off) the job injuries and more expensive claims than their thinner colleagues.

As smoking gradually became less tolerated culturally, business owners began to feel more emboldened to “intrude” on the “personal” choices of employees, restricting smoking areas and making it more difficult for the pack-a-day-puffer to harm himself and his colleagues.

But the carrot is always better than the stick, particularly when it comes to complex issues like diet, exercise, and motivation.

The obesity statistics are depressing, but employee wellness programs can help. They can be resource intensive and require significant buy-in, but successfully implemented, they will bring down the rate of obesity and smoking among employees.

You don’t need an army of Schwarzeneggers and Serenas in your cubicles. But increasing exercise levels and healthy eating habits helps promote an overall sense of wellbeing in the workplace.

Not only is this good for your employees, it’s good for your bottom line. Wellness programs that produce healthier employees can also dramatically lower worker’s compensation claims and reduce health care premiums.

Sinclair Risk has significant in-house expertise on wellness programs and other ways to help reduce your staff’s waist lines while boosting your bottom line. Starting is always the most difficult step, but we can help motivate you.

Dave Sinclair,

CEO Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Wellness programs in the workplace: How to get started

Matthew-BauerI’m passionate about helping businesses keep their employees healthy, happy, and on the job, contributing to their organization’s success.

As I’ve written about previously, wellness programs provide measurable ROI that keeps business owners happy. Nearly all owners who started a wellness program in the workplace agree that these programs are effective in mitigating the risk of rising health care costs and worker’s compensation claims.

Wellness programs include a range of services that certainly help the individuals who participate. Examples include biometric screenings, tobacco cessation support, and education about healthy eating habits. The individual benefit is without question, but these programs also create a healthier, less illness- and injury-prone workforce. With a healthy team in place, healthy (read, low) rates of worker’s compensation claims are sure to follow.

Now that you’ve seen the wellness light, how do you get a wellness program started in your workplace?

Successful implementation requires buy-in through leadership and education. This is a top-down initiative. You and your senior management team must embrace the program and make it practical and rewarding for employees to participate. Consider these tools and best practices:

Kick it off with gusto — Once you’ve got your program plans in place, announce it with a big, in-person splash, not a carefully worded e-mailed memo. Call an all-hands meeting and show excitement and enthusiasm about the new initiative. Explain how participation will benefit each individual in the room. Point toward the fun and rewarding ideas you’ve cooked up as part of the program.  Managers should follow up with regular team meetings devoted to the wellness program.

Aim high — There’s a competitive streak in all of us…even if we’re just trying to beat our own record! Set overall organizational wellness goals and tiers of goals for individuals and teams. Keep it fun and lively. 

Make it count — When employees and teams reach their goals, it’s time to award and reward! Companywide recognition and tangible signs of achievement are huge motivators.

Make it fun — Sure, healthy habits are mostly individual pursuits, but organized team events with wellness themes let staff provide each other with support and encouragement. Remember the overall big picture and take time out of your workplace’s busy calendar for these events. Again, keep it fun and lively.

A wellness program requires a significant commitment of time and resources, but it’s oh so worth it.

Matt Bauer