Are you ready to comply with the new DOL Overtime Payment Rules?

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule regarding overtime wage payment qualifications for the “white collar exemptions” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

How does this rule affect your business? The final rule increases the salary an employee must be paid in order to qualify for a white collar exemption. The required salary level is increased to $47,476 per year and will be automatically updated every three years. The final rule does not modify the duties test employees must meet to qualify for a white collar exemption.

Employers will need to comply with this rule by Dec. 1, 2016.

Overtime Rule Change

How can you prepare yourself to comply with the new rule? Follow these steps:

  • Become familiar with the new rule and identify which employees will be affected. Employers should reclassify employees as exempt or non-exempt, as necessary, by Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Consider communicating any work schedule changes to affected employees before the date mentioned above.
  • Evaluate whether implementing new timekeeping practices and training for managers and supervisors on the new requirements is necessary.

The White Collar Exemption

The white collar exemptions are minimum wage and overtime pay exemptions available to certain administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employees.

To qualify for the white collar exemption, an employee must meet a salary basis test, a salary level test and a duties test – the employee must meet all three tests in order to be exempt from FLSA minimum wage or overtime pay requirements.

The three tests are outlined below:

  • The salary basis test is used to make sure the employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction due to variations in the quality or quantity of work.
  • The salary level test is used to ensure that the employee meets a minimum specified amount to qualify for the exemption. This salary threshold provides employers with an objective and efficient way to determine whether an employee qualifies for a white collar exemption.
  • The duties test requires that the employee’s job duties conform to executive, administrative or professional duties, as defined by law. This analysis requires a more thorough evaluation of whether an employee can be classified in one of these categories: administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employee.

Higher Salary Threshold Requirement

The final rule increases the minimum salary level of $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week or $47,476 per year. The new salary level represents the 40th percentile of wages earned by workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States (currently the South) for a full-year worker.

The final rule also increases the $100,000 salary level for highly compensated individuals to $134,004 per year—the 90th percentile of wages earned by full-time workers across the entire United States.

These higher salary levels will be updated every three years to maintain the salary level at their corresponding 40th or 90th percentiles. The first automatic rate update is expected by Jan. 1, 2020. The DOL will publish updated rates in the Federal Register and on the Wage and Hour Division’s website at least 150 days before their effective date.

Calculating Employee Wages

Administrative, Executive and Professional Employees

The final rule will allow, for the first time, non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of an employee’s standard salary level. This may include the payment of non-discretionary incentive bonuses tied to productivity and profitability. Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments may be used if they are paid on a quarterly basis, but more frequent payments are acceptable. However, the DOL will allow employers to make some “catch-up payments.”

The DOL will also allow employers to use significantly large bonuses toward 10 percent of the required salary amount.

Highly Compensated Employees

Under the final rule, highly compensated employees qualify for an overtime exception if they meet the new salary level of $134,004 per year. However these individuals must receive at least the full standard salary amount each pay period (i.e., $913 per week, $1,826 bi-weekly or $3,956.33 per month) on a salary or fee basis (not counting non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments).

The remainder of a highly compensated employee’s wages may be calculated by including the full amount of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions).

Impact on Employers

Given the significant increase in the salary level requirement, employers will need to increase employee salaries, or re-classify certain employees as either exempt or non-exempt, solely based on their salary level. The DOL estimates that this final rule extends overtime protections to approximately 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt under the white collar rules and clarifies overtime compensation eligibility for another 5.7 million white collar workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

In addition, because of the short implementation deadline, employers should not delay becoming familiar with the new requirements and implementing any necessary changes into their timekeeping and payroll systems. Employers should also determine whether additional training on modifications is necessary for their managers and supervisors.

Finally, employers should also consider communicating with employees to inform them of how their wages, hours of work and timekeeping practices will be affected.

Enforcement and Compliance

Employers that fail to comply with the final rule may be subject to a variety of overtime wage payment enforcement mechanisms, including the ones listed below.

  • Private employee lawsuits: These lawsuits can be initiated by employees either individually or through collective action to recover back pay, interest, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
  • Administrative injunctions: These injunctions may include a prohibition on the shipment of goods in interstate commerce if the goods were produced in violation of the FLSA (including overtime wage payment provisions).
  • Civil fines for willful and repeated violations (up to $1,100 per violation).
  • Criminal charges for willful violations (up to $10,000 in fines, imprisonment for up to six months or both).

These laws can seem confusing and complex. If you have questions or need more information, please contact Sinclair Risk & Financial Management – we’re here to help!

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
Overtime Rule Changes

Making Healthcare Hit Home — How to Explain Group Benefits to Your Employees

group benefitsGroup Benefits are both the most important and the most valued benefit provided by employers. American workers regularly cite healthcare as one of the main factors affecting their employment decisions – good or bad. A good group plan provides your people with peace of mind and helps them be happier and more confident in life and work.  In the end, it’s a game changer on many levels when it comes to employee retention and satisfaction.

It’s a shame then that so many people find health plans confusing — whether it’s benefits, coverage, deductibles, premiums, or copays, the bewildering number of choices makes it difficult for employees to make the right decision. Let’s face it – insurance is complicated.

Why is choosing health insurance difficult for employees?

There are many reasons for this including:

  • The sheer number of plans available.
  • The difference in benefits and coverage between plans.
  • Not understanding how premiums and out-of-pocket costs will affect finances.
  • Differences between in-network and out-of-network providers.
  • And many more areas…

 How to make the decision easier

There are several things you can do to make things easier for your team, they include:

Get your employees involved in choosing and educating about group benefits:

Get your managers and team leaders involved so they have a good understanding of all group benefit options and are comfortable discussing it with their direct reports. A great idea would be to create a Benefits Team within your organization. Here’s how: take one employee from each department and create a team. Involve them in the process of decision making when it comes to all areas of group benefit insurance. This way, if a change in benefits is necessary, employees are armed with the reasons why. They can educate others on their team and throughout the company. This helps ward off any negative discussions around changes that are going to happen with your company’s group benefit structure, whether it’s dental, medical, short term disability (STD), long term disability (LTD), etc. Ensure that group benefit insurance is presented both team or company meetings and via one-on-ones if needed.

 Provide a more limited number of health insurance plans

Research shows the more choice consumers are given, the more difficult it is to make the right choice. Think about providing five or six plans as “core” choices, but give employees the option to choose other types of plan if they need them.

Centralize all health insurance information in one place

Link to or create a good comparison of healthcare plans, that show benefits, co-pays, premiums, coverage, and other key elements side-by-side, so people can contrast and compare. Provide supporting material, examples, and context that discusses what the plans cover and how they would work in real life. Your health insurance provider or broker can help with this.

 Get your insurance broker to talk to your team

Your health insurance broker is an expert. Invite them to talk to your employees about the importance of making the right decision. Have them clearly explain the various options open to them and let your employees ask questions and share concerns.

Keep health insurance simple

Explain health coverage in simple terms. Have a person available – ideally your broker, who can answer questions from your team on the options open to them. Provide follow up information people can download and use to understand their coverage.

If you’re changing carriers, explain the reasons why

Sometimes you might need to change your insurance carrier. If you need to do this, provide very clear, simple explanations of how benefits and coverage are changing. Let people know exactly what benefits are being removed, what’s being gained, and any changes to existing benefits. If necessary, provide the reasoning behind changing insurers.

Above all, remember that health insurance is confusing to most people. Be completely transparent, provide simple, useful information, answer questions and ensure employees understand their responsibilities. Rely on your broker to help with the hard tasks – that’s what they are there for!

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Why medium-sized groups should steer clear of the Obamacare marketplace

affordable care actWhile the Affordable Care Act has helped over 20 million people get health insurance, it’s not always the best choice. Although it’s been a tremendous asset to millions of self-employed, part-time employees, and others who weren’t covered before, it’s not always right for employers. If you’re a medium-sized (or larger) employer or administering a medium-sized or bigger group, Obamacare isn’t for you. Here’s why.

An inconsistent approach to health plans

There are dozens of plans available on the ACA marketplace. Although this choice is a great thing for individuals, when it comes to understanding and implementing this across your business, it’s going to be an administrative nightmare.

There’s a huge variance in the types of plans, benefits, premiums, copays and deductibles offered by all the different plans and insurers. Combine this with confusion over networks and coverage, and your HR department will spend much of their time just trying to understand the myriad differences.

If you can offer your employees a simple and defined set of health insurance plans, it’s much easier for them to get the right information and understand all of the various benefits and payments they need to make for health insurance coverage. This means less confused, happier employees.

Obamacare may not offer the most cost effective plans

Premiums for ACA marketplace plans have been increasing year on year, and subsidies vary depending on an employee’s income. This combination of variable premiums and subsidies means an employee may not necessarily be getting the best deal through the open marketplace.

A dedicated health insurance broker can negotiate prices on health insurance plans on your behalf, and pass the cost savings onto you and your employees. If you’re employing more than a few employees, you can get good discounts for “economies of scale.”

You’ll lose your free health insurance broker

Don’t underestimate the value a good health insurance broker can provide. As experts in health insurance they can:

  • Provide helpful information to you and your employees.
  • Answer any questions about health insurance, premiums, and coverage.
  • Work closely with your HR department to give employees the information they need.
  • Negotiate better prices with insurers on your behalf.

Increased worry and confusion among your employees

No one wants to spend too long worrying about their health plan. Most people just want to know they’re properly covered, that their premiums are reasonable, and that their health will be taken care of. When you offer a clear and defined set of health insurance plans, that makes things easier for everyone. The combination of a single point of contact in HR, proper information about health insurance, and support from a broker, gives your employees the confidence they need.

As you can see, the combination of a simple and consistent approach to health insurance is better for you and your people. When you combine that with better pricing, expert support, less administration, and more confident employees, it just makes sense to talk to your health insurance broker. They’ll help you decide which plans are best for your people, and give you the service and expertise you and they need to make an informed choice.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

 

Changes from the Affordable Care Act in 2017 — What you need to know

Doctor Tablet Computer Affordable Care ActThe Affordable Care Act is making some changes in 2017 and if you’re providing health insurance via a group plan you need to make sure you’re compliant. Here’s a quick guide to the main changes and what you need to do to ensure you meet all the new guidelines and regulations.

Remember, we’re here to help, so if you have any questions about any of this, please do get in touch. The main changes include:

  • Grandfathered plans — Check your plan is still grandfathered.
  • Deductibles amounts — Changing deductibles for EHB and HSA plans.
  • Employee contributions — Changes to FSB contribution limits from employees.
  • Group plan information — Changes to how information on group benefits and coverage is provided to employees.
  • Reinsurance — No reinsurance fees for self-funded plans in 2017.
  • Large employers — Must offer health plans if you have more than 50 full-time employees.

Grandfathered plans — Check grandfathered status for 2017

You likely have a “grandfathered plan” if the plan was already in existence when the ACA came into effect in March 2010 and it hasn’t had significant changes since then. Grandfathered plans can retain their old benefits, premiums, and other features and fees so long as they don’t have prohibited changes made.

  • If your plan has been grandfathered, check that there aren’t any changes being made that will make it lose the grandfathered status in 2017.
  • If it does lose grandfathered status, you’ll need to ensure it meets all of the regulations and guidelines that the ACA requires.

Essential Health Benefits (EHB) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA)  High Deductibles plans — Amounts changing in 2017

Under the ACA, the Out of Pocket maximum fee for EHBs can’t exceed $7,150 for self-only coverage and $14,300 for family coverage in 2017.

  • Check your plan’s out of pocket maximums to make sure it complies with these guidelines.
  • If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan with high deductibles, make sure those deductibles are below the ACAs allowed limits. In 2017 that’s $6,550 for self-only and $13,100 for families.

Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA) contributions changing in 2017

The amount an employee can contribute, pre-tax, to a health spending account was $2,550 in 2016 and may be increased in 2017. Note that this amount does not apply to employer contributions or to contributions to other benefits such as dependent care assistance.

  • Check to see what the new FSA limit is in 2017, it’s normally announced at the end of the year.
  • If you aren’t able to get that information, use the 2016 limit of $2,550.

Summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) information needs to be updated

The ACA has strict guidelines on how information on benefits and coverage is provided to plan members. In 2017, these guidelines are changing, and a new template will be introduced for SBC information.

  • Use the new SBC template for open-enrollment plans or plans starting on or after April 1 2017.

Reinsurance fees in 2017 — Applies if you are a self-funded plan

From 2014 through 2016, self-funded plans needed to pay fees to a transitional reinsurance program. Starting in 2017, reinsurance fees no longer apply, although your 2016 fees will be due in 2017.

  • Submit the 2016 reinsurance form and make the appropriate payments for the 2016 benefit year.

Applicable Large Employers (ALE) will be subject to penalties if they do not provide appropriate insurance coverage to full-time employees

ALEs must offer affordable health coverage to their full-time employees. They will be penalized if any full-time employee receives a subsidy for health coverage through an Exchange.

  • Calculate the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees — These are individuals working, on average, more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month. If you have more than 50, you are likely an ALE.
  • Ensure that you have proper health care coverage in place for your full time employees in 2017.
  • Report the coverage to your employees and the IRS.

If you’ve got any questions about how this affects you, we’re only a phone call away. We’ve got the experience and expertise to talk you through any changes you need to make.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Supply Chain Management – How to Keep Your Business Running if a Supplier is Impacted by a Natural Disaster

Ordering on-line from modern warehouseAs a forward-looking business, your supply chain is vital. You rely on your suppliers to provide high-quality materials, products, and services so you can serve your customers. Your suppliers give you the ability to run an efficient operation so you can sell to businesses and individuals.

So what happens when your supply chain breaks? There are all sorts of natural disasters that can impact your suppliers — Earthquakes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, evacuations. It might sound like a doomsday scenario, but it’s important to be ready for anything.

That’s why you need to have a contingency plan in place if your suppliers can’t deliver goods and services to you. This is known as “Business Continuity Planning (BCP)” and “Disaster Recovery (DR)” and taking some time now will give you confidence you can survive problems in the future.

Here’s a step by step guide to getting a business continuity plan in place.

Understand all of the products, materials, and services you rely on from your suppliers

Go through all the business processes you use to create the products and services your customers rely on. Carry out a complete audit of everything that feeds into, through, and out of your processes. Note down any materials, products, or services that you source from outside your own business. This could include:

  • Raw materials.
  • Support and maintenance services.
  • Plant and equipment.
  • Office and business services.
  • People and experts.
  • Hardware, software, and hosting.

Establish which supplier provides each of these to you and note them all down.

 Speak to your suppliers about their own disaster recovery and business continuity plans

Call each of your suppliers and talk to them about the DR and BCP they have in place. Ask them if they have recommendations for other suppliers in the event they suffer from a natural disaster. Reassure them that you aren’t planning to flee to the other supplier, but you just want to have a contingency plan in place.

 Locate suppliers in other geographic areas and speak with them

Explore suppliers located in other areas (in case the natural disaster is widespread) who can meet your needs. Make sure they can provide the goods and services you need to the quality and speed you expect. Call these suppliers and talk with them about them becoming a contingency supplier to you and see what would be involved.

 Get an agreement in place with your contingency suppliers

Once you’ve identified suppliers you want to use, get a formal agreement in place about them becoming backup suppliers. Let them know your expectations, turnaround times, amount of materials or services needed, quality, and any other key factors. In some cases you may need to provide a standby or retainer fee, so you will need to plan that in.

 Test out their products and services

Ask your contingency suppliers to provide you with samples of their goods and services so you can check them for quality. You may have to pay for these, but it’s worth it to find out if they can meet your needs.

 Share this information with other key people in your business

Ensure you document all of your contingency suppliers, agreements, and contact points. If a supplier suffers from a natural disaster you’ll want to have information easily available so you can react to the emergency quickly. Let your other key staff know exactly where to find and how to use the information.

This might seem like being over-prepared, but in business there’s really no such thing. The last scenario you want to be in is frantically searching for a new supplier because your current one can’t operate. Take care of the issues now, and you’ll be able to smoothly switch over to a new supplier in the event of any problems.

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto Head Shot

Reducing Your Risk and Exposure to Worker Compensation for the Sand and Gravel Industry

gravel pitWhen it comes to heavy industrial work and extraction services, the safety of your workers is paramount. It’s vital that you take every step possible to reduce the risk of injury or issues in the workplace, and limit your exposure to possible worker compensation claims for employees extracting sand, gravel, and similar materials.

We’ll start by looking at the data before sharing some common sense best practices for making all of your work sites and people safe.

Information on the sand and gravel industry

  • There are currently between 6,000 and 6,500 sand and gravel operations throughout the US, according to 2013 figures.
  • Most operations have fewer than 25 employees and only 7 or 8 counties through the US have operations with more than 200 employees.
  • There are very few fatalities across the sand and gravel extraction industry as a whole, with a total of 43 reported between 2003 and 2013 (just over 4 a year on average).
  • There are a fair number of nonfatal injuries — Between 2009 and 2013, there were an average of 370 injuries a year, affecting an average of around 1.6% of employees.
  • The most common types of injury for sand and gravel workers, in order, are:

o Handling materials — 35%
o Slip or fall — 29%
o Use of hand tools — 12%
o Powered haulage — 9%
o Machinery — 7%
o Other — 8%

If you want to reduce the risk of injury, and by extension your exposure to worker compensation, you need to make sure you have best-in-class training, safety equipment, working environments, and policies to reduce and prevent injuries.

Creating a safe work environment for sand and gravel employees
We recommend the following when you’re creating and reviewing your safety procedures.

Get a complete, independent audit of your existing safety practices
Have an independent organization come in to examine and report on how you currently operate, with a strong focus on safety. They will produce a detailed report highlighting any gaps in any aspects of your safety processes and policies.

Get very clear safety policies and processes in place and rigorously enforce them
Good health and safety starts with strong policies. Review all of your existing health and safety practices and ensure they’re reflected in the policies you share with employees. Provide plenty of practical examples and context for your policies so your employees can understand how they work in practice. In particular, you need to ensure every employee is responsible for their own health and safety.

Provide the right training on best practices and ways of working
Make sure you have an in depth onboarding and ongoing training program on health and safety for all employees. Ensure the training covers every aspect of your health and safety policies, using equipment safely, operational expectations and an awareness of the health of yourself and others.

Invest in equipment and tools that minimize the risk of injuries

  • Provide protective clothing to your workers
  • Ensure they use equipment and tools designed to minimize the risk of injury. This could include highly visible haulage machinery, hand tools designed with protectors, footwear that allows sure footing, gloves to make material handling safer, and a variety of other areas.
  • Inspect equipment and tools regularly for deterioration and replace anything that isn’t up to standards.

Make it everyone’s responsibility to report potential issues
You want your workers to be aware of their environment and any potential hazards that could affect them and their colleagues. Make it easy to report potential threats and ensure everyone knows it’s their responsibility to do so.

React to potential hazards quickly and ensure they’re fixed
Give a member of your staff accountability and responsibility for monitoring and fixing reported hazards. Measure how long it takes them to do so and use this to design better systems for identifying and fixing problems.

Make sure the environment remains as safe as possible

  • Clearly mark potentially unsafe areas (e.g. loose ground.)
  • Put proper fencing and barriers in place to keep people away from danger.
  • Make sure you control for dust pollution and storing of materials.
  • In times of severe weather, make sure you have proper processes in place to minimize risk (e.g. when people are working in slippery and wet environments.)
  • Keep landslides of sand and gravel to a minimum by regulating the size and location of materials storage.
  • Have rigorous safety controls around all blasting and explosives handling and use.

Taken together, all of these suggestions can make your site a much safer place to work, maintains the health and safety of your people, and makes sure you don’t fall afoul of worker compensation.

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto Head Shot

 

Understanding the changes in rules for Crane Operators

Construction worker talking to crane operatorBack in the year 2010 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented a rule outlining new regulations for the certification of crane operators. The new regulations stemmed from a high rate of accidents and fatalities related to crane operation in the construction industry. Since the new OSHA standards were released much has transpired regarding some specifics of the rule and the impact on both employers and employees in the construction business. This article will explain the rule, the changes, and the implications for employers.

2010 OSHA Crane Operator Certification Standard: The Basics

OSHA released a final rule in 2010 regarding operator qualification and certification for Cranes and Derricks in construction.

The OSHA rule is quite lengthy but essentially these were the three main points for debate:

  1. It requires employers to ensure that crane operators are certified  by an approved entity before operating a crane
  2. It states that once an operator passes a certification course, they are “deemed qualified” to operate a crane thus replacing the employers duty to ensure that crane operators are competent and well trained
  3. It states that operator certifications are to be based on crane load capacity (multiple certifications would be required for each type of crane; 50 ton, 100 ton, 200 ton, etc.)

Initially, the rule passed down by OSHA would require all operators to be certified by November 2014.

The rule stems from a litany of accidents and fatalities in the industry surrounding the operation of cranes. Cranes pose a significant danger to employees and OSHA has estimated that 89 workers per year are killed in crane-related accidents.

Specifically, crane-related injuries and fatalities have been caused by:

  • Electrocution
  • Being crushed by the equipment
  • Being struck by the equipment or a load
  • Falls

 Rule Appeal and Certification Extension

Industry professionals universally recognize the need for improved training and certification processes regarding crane operation, but after the final rule from OSHA was released it was received with much criticism.

A coalition of experts and industry stakeholders called out OSHA on two main points:

  1. Although necessary, third party certifications alone were insufficient in guaranteeing operator safety and should not replace the employers’ duty to ensure that operators are trained and competent.
  2. Requiring multiple certifications based on the load rating of the crane did not provide any significant safety benefit and would cause an undue financial burden on both employers and employees.

In response to these concerns, OSHA has made changes to the rule. Specifically, they have done two things:

Issued an extension of compliance: The new deadline for employers to ensure that all crane operators are certified has been extended to November 10, 2017.

Revised the crane operator certification standards: OSHA has removed the mandate requiring multiple certifications based on load capacity, and they have reworded the text surrounding “deemed qualified” to put qualification responsibilities back on the employer.

OSHA didn’t quite get it right the first time, but they listened to the feedback from experts in the industry and made changes to make the rule better. Safety in the construction industry is paramount. This new rule regarding crane operation will save lives, cut down on injuries, and keep employees safer. For employers it will keep qualified operators on the job longer, reduce the amount of workers’ comp. claims, and lower operating costs. It’s a win all around.

At Sinclair, we are committed to helping you keep your team safe, reduce risks, and save money. Our construction specialists work with clients of all shapes and sizes and fully understand the diversity of the industry. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for your operation.

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto Head Shot

Fall Cleaning and Pre-Winterization

Fall Cleaning and Pre-WinterizationThe leaves begin to turn and a chill appears in the air; that’s our cue to pack up the summer gear, bust out the jackets and umbrellas, and get moving on the fall cleaning. Autumn is also the time to do some critical maintenance around the house and put some efficient (and money saving) pre-winterization measures in place. With a dedicated weekend and a solid plan, you can make the transition into the colder season a very smooth and painless one.

Here’s the plan:

I approach fall cleaning with a long-term strategy in mind. The plan is to close down summer, get ready for fall, and lay the ground work for winter. We’re not preparing for sub zero temperatures and 4 feet of snow just yet, but the coming months will bring rain, chilly days and even colder nights.  So let’s get ready for it.

First things first;

Basic Fall Cleaning

The first step in preparing for fall is cleaning up after summer. Here are some of the basic cleaning tasks that should be part of your fall cleaning routine:

  • Wash the windows (inside and out)
  • Remove and deep clean the window treatments
  • Clean walls and fixtures
  • Clean ceiling and light fixtures
  • Clean carpets as needed (muddy season is coming so it’s best to start fresh)
  • Clean baseboard heaters if you have them (soon you’ll be turning on the heat)
  • Clean the patio furniture and if you have a deck, clean it really well (we’ll talk more about the deck later)

How deep you go with your cleaning depends on what the summer handed you and how well you cleaned back in spring. If you feel the need to go deeper, you can find some great fall cleaning checklists online to get inspired. 

Once you have the cleaning done, the next step is getting your home prepped for wind, rain, and chill.

Essentials for Pre-Winterizing Your Home

It’s not the deep freeze, but it’s the big chill (along with some rain, mud, and possibly a little sleet). So in order to get ready, do some routine maintenance and periodic checks on things around the house. When the freeze hits, you’ll be happy you did so.

Here’s a list of essentials:

Clean the gutters: Leaves will be falling soon so make sure you don’t start behind the 8-ball.

Inspect the roof: While you’re up there cleaning the gutters take a look for loose or missing shingles. Also pop up in the attic during the day so you can see if any sunlight is creeping in through potential gaps or cracks in the roof.

 Replace the filter in the furnace: You want the heat to actually come on and be warm the first time you need it, so check for proper operation of the furnace and thermostat. Here are some gas furnace maintenance tips and some oil furnace maintenance tips to help you out.

Check the fireplace: Check for proper flue operation and for any obstructions in the chimney. If you used your fireplace frequently last season, call in a professional chimney sweep to get your chimney cleaned out and ready for the season.

Check your smoke and Co2 detectors: Make sure alarms are working and replace batteries as needed.

Check for drafts: Check doors and windows throughout the house for gaps that can let heat out and let in cool air in. That’s money in heating bills going literally out the window. It’s best to catch those drafts now so you have plenty of time to seal them up before it gets really cold. Here are some tips for checking the house for drafts

Clean out the clothes dryer vent: This one is often overlooked but lint regularly accumulates in the vent hose leading from the dryer to the outdoors. If the hose gets clogged it can be a fire hazard, and a clogged dryer vent can also significantly inhibit the performance of your dryer causing it to work overtime, which in turn will drive up your energy bill.

 Autumn in New England; It’s a great time to throw a log on the fire, warm up a hot cider and enjoy a good book as the leaves fall outside your living room window. Sounds beautiful, but fall is also a time that can bring clogged gutters, drafty houses, and leaky roofs. It’s kind of a buzz kill I know, but I want you to be prepared. That’s what we do at Sinclair, we think forward and we create strategies to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

Check out our Homeowners Insurance for total piece of mind coverage and in the meantime, put your fall cleaning and pre-winterization strategy in action now and you’ll be totally freed up later to sit back and enjoy the finer points of the season.

Mary McGrath
Personal Lines Manager
mmcgrath@srfm.com

Fall Cleaning and Pre-Winterization

Protect Your Healthcare Organization with a Strong Pre-Screening Process

Protect Your Healthcare Organization with a Strong Pre-Screening Process

Hiring is a complicated component of business that always opens a company to liability. Hiring an ineligible candidate doesn’t just risk fines and litigation,  it can also affect the organization’s brand, which can cause long-lasting financial damage.

In the HireRight 2013 Spotlight, 56% of healthcare organizations said background screening improves the hiring process and protects the company from liability. Not only does a qualified, eligible hire deliver good service, they also represent the brand positively. 40% of healthcare organizations believe background checking improves safety. 44% believe background checking improves regulatory compliance.

It’s the job of good managers to ensure that new hires are eligible to provide healthcare to patients. No matter how experienced a hiring manager may be, a “good feeling” is not an indication of anything. You have to do your homework, which means building and enacting a screening process.

When you consider an applicant, the first place you should look is the Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals/Entities, which lists people and organizations that are excluded from federally funded healthcare programs.

Entities are excluded because of past Medicare fraud, patient neglect or abuse, or felony or misdemeanor convictions of healthcare-related fraud, theft, or misconduct of any kind. Any healthcare organization who hires an excluded entity won’t be reimbursed for costs and may end up paying significant monetary penalties (up to $500,000 per ineligible employee).

Next, check state and federal data sources to ensure your applicants are properly licensed and aren’t carrying medical sanctions. Unfortunately, there’s no comprehensive source for sanction data in the United States. Hiring managers would be smart to check multiple sources to reduce their risk, such as the National Practitioner Databank and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Third, test candidates and new hires for drugs and alcohol use. This isn’t required by law, but the risk of exposure to lawsuits if a patient is injured by an impaired worker is significant. Continue testing employees routinely and randomly to deter unsafe behavior.

Finally, review your screening process at least once a year. As laws and regulations change, you’ll want to ensure your screening program adapts accordingly to identify gaps. Ensuring you have an effective process will improve the reliability of your overall hiring.

The National Business Research Institute says the number one reason organizations cut corners on pre-screening is because they’re desperate to fill positions. Slow down and investigate carefully. Have you considered potential aliases? Have you verified the applicant’s credentials, licenses and education?

Rushing the screening (and the interview process as a whole) is a terrible mistake that can leave your company open to massive liability. Always make the time to thoroughly complete your screening process (or use an agency specifically for this purpose) and check future applicants’ personal and professional references.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Protect Your Healthcare Organization with a Strong Pre-Screening Process