Trucking Risk Insights: Top 10 Vehicle Violations – 2016

Top 10 Vehicle Violations—2016

A roadside inspection is an examination of individual commercial motor vehicles and drivers by a Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) inspector to determine compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and/or Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs). Serious violations result in the issuance of driver or vehicle out of service (OOS) orders. These violations must be corrected before the affected driver or vehicle can return to service.

Trucking ViolationsJonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Trucking P&C Pro-File Newsletter – February 2017

New Study Links Multiple Health Conditions to Preventable Crashes

It can be extremely difficult for commercial truck drivers to stay healthy on the job. Drivers often work long hours without rest, stay seated all day and don’t have access to exercise or nutritious meals. However, a new study conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine found that drivers with three or more health conditions are much more likely to get into preventable crashes.

The study, which examined the medical records of nearly 50,000 commercial drivers, tracked a number of medical conditions that could have a negative impact on a driver’s performance—such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Although the study found that drivers who have only one of the conditions

could often control it while on the road, the number of crashes increased significantly when drivers had three or more conditions. The average rate for crashes that result in an injury for all truck drivers is approximately 29 for every 100 million miles traveled, but the rate is 93 for every 100 million miles traveled for drivers who have at least three of the flagged conditions.

Transportation Industry Seeks to Limit New Rule-making

Representatives from the transportation industry have petitioned the Trump administration to slow the rule-making procedures of various federal agencies by adding more steps to the process and including business representatives in future rule-making discussions.

Although agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) currently go through public steps in their rule-making processes, some business owners believe that the Obama administration bypassed these processes through executive orders and safety advisories. They say this could force businesses to adopt costly new procedures with little evidence of their effectiveness.

New Interstate Passenger Resource

The FMCSA recently released an online

resource to help businesses that transport passengers across state lines. The resource includes a list of requirements that have changed over the years as a result of litigation, legislation, and rule-making. Additionally, passenger carriers can determine their registration requirements, minimum levels of financial responsibility and any applicable safety and commercial regulations.

For more information on keeping your business compliant with FMCSA regulations, contact us at 203-265-0996 today.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Construction P&C Pro-File Newsletter – February 2017

New OSHA Beryllium Standards

On Jan. 9, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to amend its beryllium standards for the construction, shipyard and general industries.

The final rule will reduce the eight-hour, permissible beryllium exposure limit from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. It also establishes a short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period.

The rule will require additional protections that include personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, and training.

The final rule becomes effective on March 21, 2017. Affected employers must provide newly required showers and changing rooms within two years after the effective date and implement new engineering controls within three years after the effective date.

OSHA estimates that the new rule will prevent 46 new cases of beryllium-related disease and save the lives of 94 workers annually.

Employers should become familiar with the new standards and evaluate their current workplace practices to ensure compliance with the final rule.

DOL Sues Contractor for Firing Safety Manager

According to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 28, 2016, a Tampa roofing contractor discriminated against its safety manager after he cooperated with an OSHA investigation. The Department of Labor (DOL) lawsuit was a result of an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

Under the program, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or government. The lawsuit seeks back wages, interest, and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Construction Workers at Highest Risk for WMSDs

According to a recent Occupational and Environmental Medicine report, U.S. construction workers are at a higher risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) than all other industries combined. The back is the primary body part affected, with overexertion named as the major cause of WMSDs.

Employers should adopt ergonomic solutions at construction sites, such as training employees on safe lifting practices, in order to reduce the number of WMSDs and prevent lost wages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

High blood pressure — A hidden danger for your truck drivers

Doctor with patientIf you’re running a logistics business or division, you know how important it is to have reliable and healthy truck drivers. Although most health conditions are easy to diagnose and treat, there’s one in particular that’s tricky to spot — High blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) often doesn’t show any symptoms, and that’s a real problem.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to significant problems for your truck drivers including:

  • An enlarged heart, a big risk for heart failure.
  • Aneurysms in blood vessels, which can be fatal.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Vision problems and blindness.

It’s estimated that over 65 million Americans (around a third of the adult population) have high blood pressure, and one in three of those people aren’t aware they’re affected.

Why high blood pressure is a real issue for truck drivers
Truck drivers have a greater risk of high blood pressure than others, mainly due to the nature of their work. Some of the causes of high blood pressure include:

  • A poor diet with too much salt — Eating healthily on the road is a real challenge, and many truck drivers will opt for fast food. Unfortunately, the high proportion of salt and lack of other nutrients is a risk factor.
  • Too much alcohol – We hope you already have drug and alcohol testing policy and procedures in place to ensure no drinking on the job, but you can’t control what happens after hours.
  • Lack of exercise — Spending almost all of their working life behind the wheel of a truck leaves little time for exercise. Being overweight or obese significantly increases the chances of high blood pressure.
  • Stress and anxiety — Dealing with other road users can create significant stress for long-haul truck drivers.

Dealing with high blood pressure issues for your drivers
As with most health issues, prevention is much better than cure. That’s why taking a few simple steps could reduce the risk of high blood pressure in your drivers, help them stay healthy, and reduce downtime due to sickness. Some of the steps you can take include:

  • Education and training — Let your truck drivers know about the risks of high blood pressure including why and how they could be impacted. Encourage them to get tested and provide clear, simple ways for them to get training on how to avoid the issue.
  • Policy changes — Introduce policies that encourage healthier behavior. Give truck drivers a 30 or 45 minute break each day that they can use to exercise. Incentivize them to eat more healthily by providing discounts for particular types of restaurants or meals.
  • Support and resources — Get some help in place. Arrange for a nurse to come on site to provide blood pressure testing and personalized advice on what your truck drivers can do. Provide maps of where to find restaurants with healthy eating options on the popular trucking routes. Introduce a formal wellness program into your workplace.
  • Health insurance and medication — Even with all these preventative measures, you will still have some drivers who develop high blood pressure problems. In those cases, you’ll want to ensure they have the right health insurance and get access to the doctors and medications they need to control their medical conditions.

If you want to keep your truck drivers healthy and happy, you can start right now. Just using one or two of these suggestions could significantly reduce the frequency and impact of high blood pressure problems. That means healthier employees, less time off sick, and a more efficient trucking operation.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

blood pressure trucking

Can Manufacturing Overcome the Widening Skills Gap?

Can Manufacturing Overcome the Widening Skills Gap?Manufacturing has always correlated with rapid economic growth. Time and time again we’ve seen manufacturing businesses create jobs and elevate a community’s standard of living. The development of a factory is the saving grace of poor communities all over the world.

The International Monetary Fund and U.S. government projections expect our manufacturing sector to grow by 3 or 4 percent over the next two years. It’s good business for investors, too: we add $1.37 to our national economy for every dollar invested in manufacturing. Despite this optimistic future, the industry is poised to face some familiar challenges.

Like other wealthy nations, the general population of the United States is aging. By 2025, nearly 25% of all persons will be older than 60.

The manufacturing sector is experiencing this trend the hardest. In 2000, the median age of the manufacturing workforce was 40.5 years old. In 2012, the median age climbed to 44.7 years, significantly higher than other sectors.

This aging of the industry has created a skills gap that is getting wider every year. Over the next decade, two million of the available 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfulfilled. Employers won’t be able to find skilled workers.

Experts believe the talent gap is caused by a number of reasons:

  1. Baby boomers are beginning to retire in tremendous numbers, leaving more positions vacant than the up-and-coming workforce can fill.
  2. Trending economic expansion continues to create more jobs (about 700,000 over the next decade) that can’t be filled.
  3. There is a negative image of the manufacturing industry among younger generations. Even though executives are willing to pay higher than market rate, positions remain unfilled.
  4. There has been a slow decline of technical education in public schools, leading to fewer graduates pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math degrees.

The Manufacturing Institute found that a majority of manufacturing executives consider talent loss their toughest struggle. They fear the skills gap will cause an inability to create and implement new technologies to meet customer demand and increase productivity. Naturally, these challenges will deter profitability and growth.

The industry has come become quite diverse. Automation, data, robotics and engineering play a big role in nearly every manufacturing facility in the United States. Manufacturing is expected to continue changing, which means the industry desperately needs tech-savvy young people who can adapt to new processes and technologies.e a long way. Instead of easy-to-replace repetitive jobs, industrial operations hav

Admittedly, attracting a new workforce is challenging. In order to maintain some manufacturing status in the global economy, we have to infuse the industry with younger talent. Companies need to feed young people’s interest and show that manufacturing can be a rewarding career.

This can be best achieved by creating partnerships with schools (at the secondary and collegiate levels) to invest in technical education and offering extra-curricular programs that inspire manufacturing-related skills.

To combat the skills gap, employers need to view training and workforce development as an investment in their company, not an inconvenient expense. They must build never-ending learning into their employees’ roles so skills can stay sharp and agile. Furthermore, they need to find effective ways to transfer the knowledge of their aging population to the young recruits or risk losing competitive advantages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com
Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

The Key to Controlling your Workers’ Compensation Costs

The key to controlling your workers’ compensation costsThe key to controlling your workers’ compensation costs is understanding your experience modification factor and its effect on your insurance premium. Workers’ compensation costs can make or break your bottom line. But control over these costs is more attainable than you may think if you understand your experience modification factor and its effect on your insurance premium.

Use Your Mod Factor

The key to controlling your workers’ compensation costs is understanding your experience modification factor, or mod factor. Your mod factor is an adjustment to your workers’ compensation premium. It’s based on your company’s actual losses compared to its expected losses based on the industry you’re in.

The mod factor represents either a credit or a debit that is applied to your workers’ compensation premium. A mod factor greater than 1.0 is a debit mod, which means that your losses are worse than expected and a surcharge will be added to your premium. A mod factor less than 1.0 is a credit mod, which means losses are better than expected, resulting in a discounted premium.

If your mod factor is over 1.0, show management how controlling costs can save you money on your insurance premium when it falls below the 1.0 threshold.

Control Your Mod Factor

You may not know it, but you do have control over your mod factor—and control over your workers’ compensation premium.

Your mod is calculated based on data reported to the rating bureau by past insurers. Incorrect or incomplete data can cause inaccurate mod factors. Review your loss and payroll data to ensure that your calculation is complete and accurate.

You can also control your mod factor by encouraging everyone to focus on safety—especially management and anyone else who is involved in controlling costs. Everyone working safely means fewer accidents to report to your insurance carrier and a lower mod factor.

Control Costs with a Return to Work Program

Another way to control your costs is to establish a return to work program and give modified or light duties to injured workers who can return to work.

Finding modified or light-duty tasks may seem inconvenient, but this is an important way to reduce your workers’ compensation costs—you pay for fewer days away from work and you keep regular contact with employees, so you can see how their recovery is progressing. The most successful return to work programs can accommodate almost any restrictions. 

Workplace Policies Help Control Costs, Too

Your workplace policies should encourage safe working habits and prompt reporting of injuries and accidents. Many companies have accident reporting policies in place but do not bother to implement them, which is dangerous because employees’ injuries could go untreated and hazardous situations will not be improved.

When you receive a claim for an on-the-job accident or injury, report it to your workers’ compensation provider as soon as possible.

After an accident or injury, investigate the event right away. Prompt investigation helps you preserve evidence and can deter employees from making fraudulent claims in the future.

If workers’ compensation costs are hurting you financially or if you want to learn more about how your mod impacts your premiums, Sinclair Risk & Financial Management is your resource for policies and guides to keep your costs in check. We’re here to help you protect your company and your bottom line.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

The key to controlling your workers’ compensation costs

Planning for Construction Risk

Planning for Construction RiskThe construction industry is flourishing, with outlooks like the Wells Fargo 2016 Construction Industry Forecast’s Optimism Quotient predicting that local construction, profits, equipment purchases and rentals and overall future growth will be strong this year.  Add to this that warmer weather means the busy construction season is here and it’s a great time to be in the industry, whether you’re an independent contractor or you own a large building construction firm.

However, as you take on more work, you also need to make sure that your risk exposure and insurance coverage is keeping up.  For example, you may hire more workers or rent more equipment to keep pace with your workload, which opens you up to more potential issues, like safety and liability. What if a new worker is injured using construction equipment, the materials you purchased for a huge job are stolen or a homeowner sues you because they feel there was design error in a job you performed for them?

Make sure you are protected against potential pitfalls with these three tips:

1)     Appropriately Assign Risk - Quite simply, think through anything that could go wrong in a project, plan for it and assign the risk to the person who would be most capable of handling and controlling it.  For example, a contractor can best control the safety of the workers on a job site while the homeowner would probably be the best choice for any project design risks since they’re most likely working with the architect and designers.  By spelling out risk responsibility in the contract before the project even begins, everyone is clear in advance about who is responsible for what risk.

2)     Make Sure You’re Covered - Once you know what your role and area of responsibility is, work with a trusted risk and financial management firm that has expertise in the construction industry and will take the time to sit down, understand your unique challenges and customize a program for you.  From Errors and Omissions coverage to Workers’ Compensation to OSHA concerns, ensure you’re aware of and protected from any of the risks associated with your projects.

3)     C.Y.A. – Cover your assets by making sure you closely examine all contracts for consistency and that you also have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney review all contracts.  Also – don’t rely on a cursory review of a certificate of insurance to prove that the parties you’re working with on a project are compliant with insurance requirements.  Beyond requiring a certificate of insurance proving proper insurance coverage in the contract, consider requiring that the full policies be included to provide evidence of adequate coverage.

With the right planning, risk management and insurance coverage, you can enjoy the benefits of the construction boom without the headaches.  At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we take the time to understand your company and individual situation and work with you to help you minimize your risks.  Give us a call today!

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather Spring signifies the end of winter and a season of new beginnings.  It ushers in budding trees, blooming flowers and warmer temperatures.  It can also bring with it quickly changing conditions and hazards that employers and workers need to be aware of and prepare for to ensure safety.

 While, overall, workplaces are safer today, many people are still seriously injured on the job, especially in industries like manufacturing, construction, transportation, warehousing and oil and gas extraction.  While accidents happen, many are preventable. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that more than 10,000 severe injuries were caused by workplace conditions in 2015.

 What top three hazards do employers need to be aware of during spring? 

  1. Severe Weather and Flooding- Floods and tornadoes are the most common hazards in the United States during spring.  From melting snow to sudden spring showers, flooding can happen quickly and with little warning.  Not only should workers and employers be aware of weather forecasts, but workers should be trained on severe weather plans and have emergency supplies with them to be prepared if severe weather strikes.  OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have partnered to provide a comprehensive resource aimed at helping businesses and workers prepare for severe weather, like flooding
  2. Outdoor Work – From construction workers on scaffolding to flagmen helping to direct traffic at highway work zones, outdoor working conditions in the warm spring weather can naturally cause hazards for workers. In fact, more than 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry each year, with over half of the fatalities resulting from vehicles and equipment operating around the work zone. It’s imperative that employers put controls in place and train employees to protect workers from injury in outdoor settings.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health provides guides for many industries.
  3. Driving and Pedestrian Safety – As the warm weather approaches, more people get out to enjoy the warm weather – from people walking dogs to motorcyclists enjoying a ride to children riding bicycles.  Naturally, this means that there are more incidents of accidents involving driving and pedestriansIt’s important that drivers properly maintain their vehicles, exercise caution, travel at a reasonable speed, pay attention and avoid distractions like texting.    

Employers are required by law to provide their workers with a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and to comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act.  In addition to ensuring safety protocols, plans and training take place to prevent workplace accidents and injuries, each industry has its own nuances and risks.  At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we take the time to understand your company and individual situation and work with you to help you minimize your company’s risks. 

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

Are you Protecting Your Construction Business Properly?

Are you Protecting Your Construction Business Properly?2016 is expected to be a strong, steady year of growth in the construction industry, with the 2016 Dodge Construction Outlook predicting that the U.S. construction starts for 2016 will rise 6% to $712 billion.  This environment is expected to be supported by the U.S. economy, with relaxed lending standards and support from state and local construction bond measures.  And while the Federal Reserve increased short-term interest rates by 0.25% at the end of 2015 for the first time since the financial crisis, long-term rates are expected to rise more gradually.

With spring’s busy season right around the corner, there are several trends that industry experts are also watching, including the overwhelming issue of a lack of access to skilled labor.  The combination of layoffs during the economic downturn along with a slowdown in immigration  is contributing to the industry’s skilled worker shortage.  This talent deficit is only worsened by the industry’s struggle to appeal to the younger, more tech savvy workforce during a time that a large number of baby boomers are retiring and companies need skilled workers at all levels.

In addition, while the outlook is good for the construction industry, businesses are facing a competitive landscape and increasing customer expectations for a quality job to be done on time and on budget with limited resources.  More and more businesses are facing a variety of risks associated with this environment, such as claims of faulty workmanship, design errors or omissions and the use of defective materials and products.

These types of claims are challenging because they can result from a number of factors and can occur years after a project is completed.  They can also be devastating to a business that may have a commercial general liability policy, which would cover property damages resulting from accidents or occurrences, but may not be protected against claims of faulty workmanship.  If you provide construction services, install products during your construction services, provide in-house design or engineering services (or subcontract design services out) and perform the construction, you are at risk.

Many businesses choose to protect themselves with Errors and Omissions coverage. Essentially, Errors & Omissions coverage provides protection for you in the event that an error or omission on your part has caused a financial loss for your client.

Regardless of how well a business is run, mistakes, errors and omissions occur and even unfounded allegations can costs thousands of dollars in defense. Additionally, even false claims can damage a company’s reputation and impact profitability.  So how do you protect your company and reputation?  Work with a trusted risk management partner that will take the time to understand your business and particular challenges and help put together the right coverage for you.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

 

Disruption Ahead: The Brave New World of Self-Driving Cars

the self-driving car is comingLike it or not, self-driving cars are coming.  A rapid increase in the use of “autonomous automobiles,” as industry savants prefer to call them, is seen by many as a foregone conclusion.  Following the early lead of Google, which has been developing the concept for over six years, virtually every carmaker in the U.S. market is working on some version of this new technology.  Some, like Tesla and Cadillac, are already introducing aspects of these systems into their cars.  The ultimate mass-market endorsement, though, was surely the recent Time Magazine cover story that devoted a whopping nine pages to the subject, mostly extolling the upsides of this “next big thing” and the vastly transformative affect it will have on our lives.

Within the US insurance industry, however, everything about the coming of the self-driving car is not so rosy.  While much about the future of these cars is open to vigorous debate — for the simple reason that their full impact on the daily lives of American drivers is unknowable at this point — many in the insurance industry see these new cars as a potential source of disruption.  And not in the happy, trendy way tech entrepreneurs like to throw that term around.  The capacity for autonomous driving to reduce traffic accidents and especially fatalities, and all of the personal, legal and emotional costs that come with them, will likely undermine much of what is currently considered accepted fact in the automobile insurance business, and not just a little.

The most dire outlook so far was laid out last year in a report by the influential accounting firm KPMG, which predicted that a steep decline in automobile accidents over the next decade would be followed by a corresponding drop in accident claims and insurance premiums.  Within 25 years, the report predicts, these declines could reduce the volume of the entire insurance industry to “40 percent of its current size.”  According to the Insurance Information Institute, research shows that even in its earliest stages, the bits of driverless technology and related safety features already introduced into American cars have begun to reduce the number of fatalities between 2008 and 2011 by as much as a third.  This trend will pick up more speed as more pieces of these systems are added will have an ever greater influence on the economics of the industry.

 Other predictions about the timing and extent of these changes vary greatly.  The most optimistic estimates for the complete adaptation of the autonomous automobile pinpoint the year 2030 as the date by which all American cars will have this technology.  Other sources see too many potential roadblocks still lying ahead for there to be complete market penetration by anything close to that date.  Most estimates see a gradual introduction of features over the next two to three decades with a proportional decline in the role of the driver as the technology is refined and the public, as well as federal and local governments become more comfortable with it.  By some accounts, the complete integration of this technology could take another 30 to 40 years, if not longer.

In addition to the fundamental economic impact of driverless cars on the insurance industry, there is also a thicket of legal and political issues about liability and culpability that has to be cleared over the next several years, a task made all the more difficult because many of those issues need to be worked out on a state-by-state basis.  If the past is any indication, the big question about who is responsible in a collision involving an autonomous car: the owner, the car manufacturer or the developer of the technology — and their respective underwriters will be pounded out one small increment at a time.  So hang on for a very bumpy ride, which is the one aspect of this automotive innovation that is not likely to be fixed by technology.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jonathan-Belek