How to Get Your Truck Drivers to Actually Use Your Wellness Program

wellnessTruck drivers have unique health concerns. An NIOSH survey found that 50% are smokers and 70% are obese. They’re prone to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, back problems, and motor vehicle accidents related to fatigue and stress. These problems can lead to a loss of their Medical Examiner’s Certificate and their CDLs.

You want your staff to be healthy, comfortable, satisfied with their jobs, and working regularly, so you’ve implemented a company wellness program. The problem is… Your drivers aren’t using it.

That’s not unusual. 60% of employees don’t use wellness programs because they aren’t aware of it or the company culture doesn’t truly support the program. (Most drivers who use wellness programs are women.)

So how do you get your fleet of drivers to take advantage of your wellness program?

Step 1: Gather input from your drivers

Wellness programs with the best performance and highest adoption rates are ones that meet your employee’s needs. If none of your drivers smoke, a quit-smoking incentive won’t be very effective.

Talk to your drivers and ask what type of program would make their lives better. It could be challenging to query your entire crew if you don’t see them often, but it’s worth the effort.

Step 2: Reward drivers for healthy behavior

A proper wellness program addresses a few key areas of people’s health:

  • Diet – Your program should not only instruct your drivers how to choose healthy foods, but help them acquire those foods when they are on the road. It’s not easy to eat well when your options are limited.
  • Stress – Deadlines and traffic cause stress, which can affect the body. Educate your drivers on methods to relax, such as meditation and exercise.
  • Exercise – Build your drivers’ schedules so that they have time to get some simple exercise.
  • Avoiding bad behaviors – Risky behaviors like drug use and smoking have terrible effects on our health and ability to work. 54% of truckers are smokers, so this is an important area to address.
  • Hygiene – On the road, there aren’t many places to stop for proper body care. Coordinate your drivers’ routes so they have chances to stop at facilities with the right amenities.
  • Sleep – Chronic sleep deprivation affects your drivers’ ability to work, as well as their safety. Your wellness program should reward drivers for taking adequate sleep stops.

Many programs educate their staff about these health concerns, but they fail to go far enough. You need to actively incentive your employees to take part. Award bonuses for achieving health goals like losing weight or visiting the doctor.

If your drivers have any unique needs that learned from step one, make sure to include them in your program as well.

Step 3: Get executives and managers to participate in the program

Instead of paying lip-service to the program, managers and leaders within the organization should participate as well. If your wellness program encouraged weight loss, follow the plans advice to take off a few pounds yourself so your employees can see the benefits of the program and that you’ve implemented practical solutions.

Step 4: Create a communication strategy

Your drivers can’t make use of your program if they don’t know about it, but traditional methods of communication can be tough for on-the-road people you rarely see.

Make use of text messaging and radio messaging (via CB radios, not FM/AM channels). Create a company Facebook page or group. Stuff messaging into their check envelopes. If you have access to their vehicles, leave information on the seat so they can’t miss it.

Furthermore, enlist “cheerleaders” who actively encourages other employees to sign up for your wellness plan. Choose cheerleaders who work in various departments and levels in your company. They should approach other employees like them in terms of position and pay scale, so that everyone is recruited by a peer (people feel more comfortable with the program when they enroll with others like them). You might need to incentive these persons with commissions.

Finally, never give up

Don’t expect to achieve your program adoption number in the first week. Your employees need time to become aware of the program and commit to using it. Be positive, sell the benefits, and always be available for wellness counseling and enrollment.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Jill Goulet

8 Steps to Vet Construction Subcontractors

subcontractorAs a general contractor, it’s likely that you’ll use subcontractors at some point. Subcontractors can be an efficient way to outsource work. As specialists, they’ll often do a better job than a generalist and their smaller size means they can work quicker and leaner.

However, the construction job is your responsibility. The performance of the subcontractor will reflect on you. To complete the job properly and satisfy your customer, you need to make sure your subcontractors will produce quality work in a timely manner.

Before you officially hire any subcontractors, protect your business and your customer by taking these steps to vet the subcontractor.

1. Examine their past and current performance

Request information from the potential customer about their licenses, accreditations, history, and references. Look for any public data on lawsuits, disputes, complaints, or bankruptcies. Ask for the contact information of previous contractors they worked for. Then, search for references independently (without the subcontractor’s involvement) to get some unbiased and unfiltered information.

2. Look at their queue of work

It’s smart to make sure potential subcontractors can actually complete the work you need, so you’ll want to examine their log of previous, current, and future work. If the subcontractor seems too busy for their size, your job might overextend them.

3. Ask about their safety practices

Unsafe operations can leave you exposed to liability and force an inspector to close the job site, so make sure any subcontractors have clean or reasonable safety histories. They should also have ample safety protocols in place and a crew who is coached to prioritize safety.

4. Investigate the subcontractor’s employees

Ask the subcontractor about their team. Are they temporary workers, or do they work full time? Have they worked in construction before, or are they new? Does the subcontractor have the proper number of licensed professionals for the site? Do the workers have the right tools and reasonable workloads? Do any have serious felonies or drug problems that might make them unreliable? Answers to these questions will determine whether the subcontractor is right for your job.

5. Validate bonding and insurance

In most states, contractors are required to have bonding. In all states, they must be insured, including worker’s compensation insurance. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these protections in place, you could be held liable if there’s a problem. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these, reject them as candidates.

6. Investigate the subcontractor’s financial health

If your job is large, you’ll want to make sure the subcontractor’s financials are healthy enough to commit. You don’t want their employees to walk off the site one day due to lack of payment, or an inability to purchase materials. Request their annual contractor volume, two years of financial statements, and their total sales and net worth (you might have to sign a confidentiality agreement). Look for signs of poor health, like poor cash flow, a mountain of debt, or declining income.

7. Ask about their quality control process

In order to avoid rework and warranty work, you want your subcontractors to certify the quality of their materials and finished work. Every professional business should have a procedure in place to guarantee quality assurance. This procedure is rarely complex, but a successful business will have an answer to your questions.

8. Demand a written contract

It is shocking how many people work without a written agreement. As a contractor who is purchasing labor, you need to protect your investment. Every deal should be bound by a contract that clearly describes your expectations, including the scope of work, timeframe, and payment arrangements. Describe what you will provide and what the subcontractor will provide in terms of materials, warranties, and cleanup.

Hiring a subcontractor is like hiring an employee: You want someone who will represent your business well without adding drama, stress, or financial burden. If you follow the steps listed above, you’ll find the right candidate and build a lasting relationship.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Should You Buy or Lease That Car?

buy or lease carCars are a big part of our culture. Many of us work in places where cars are required to get around. At some point, you’ll need to purchase a car that costs more money than you have on hand. You’ll ask yourself “Should I buy or lease that car?”

People have been purchasing vehicles forever, but leasing (the practice of only financing the depreciation of a vehicle, not its entire cost) was once only accessible to wealthy people or companies with generous budgets. That isn’t the case anymore. As vehicle costs continue to rise, leasing becomes an attractive solution for every segment of the car industry.

Some people will tell you “It’s smart to buy the car,” or “Save yourself the hassle and lease.” Truthfully, there’s no simple answer. Which option is better depends on your situation, your finances, and your needs? We’ve laid out the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Advantages to leasing a car

  • Your lease payment is usually less than a finance payment would be.
  • You can have a new car every year if you wanted (with all of the new gadgets).
  • You can drive a better car than you can afford.
  • A lease can be written off business taxes, making it a good company vehicle.
  • Perfect choice if you’ll only be in the area for a year or two.
  • The leasing dealership issues a warranty that covers much of the repairs.
  • You aren’t making a purchase, so sales tax is less.
  • There is no trade-in vehicle to deal with.
  • If the car is worth less than the lease predicted at the end, it’s not your problem.

Disadvantages to leasing a car

  • At the end of the lease, you don’t own the car. You have to return it (although there is an option to buy, but it’s often not in your favor financially.)
  • Terminating a lease early can lead to expensive fees.
  • Putting too much wear or mileage on the car can lead to expensive fees.
  • If you plan to keep the car for years, leasing is more expensive than buying.
  • Lease contracts are made to be confusing so you pay more in fees.
  • Your mileage is often limited to 12,000/year, which is easy to overcome.
  • You can buy extra mileage, but it’s expensive.
  • Typically the lease requires you to have excellent credit.
  • Failing to perform basic maintenance can result in extra fees.

Advantages of purchasing a car

  • You can modify or augment the car in any way you wish at any time.
  • It’s cheaper over the long run if you plan to drive the car for a long time.
  • There’s no limit to how many miles or much wear you can put on the car (which is important for commuters who travel long distances).
  • You can tailor the loan term (length) and payment amount to your budget.
  • You can sell the car whenever you want for as much as you like.
  • Once the car is paid off, a big piece of your budget opens up.

Disadvantages of purchasing a car

  • Many dealers require you to pay a down payment before you can finance a vehicle. This is smart anyway, otherwise, you’ll be upside down on the loan.
  • Long loans can mean paying a lot of interest by the end of the loan.
  • The monthly payment is higher than a lease payment.
  • You are responsible for repair costs (unless there’s a warranty, but that doesn’t last forever).
  • At some point, you’ll have to sell it, trade it in, or junk it.
  • A car is a depreciating asset, so you’ll never sell it for what you paid.
  • Fluctuations in the car’s market value can affect your selling price (which you can’t predict).
  • If you need to sell your car but owe more than it’s worth, you would have to pay just to get rid of the loan.

Summary

When you’re trying to decide whether to buy or lease a car, look at it like this: A leased car is convenient, easy, and you get to drive something new all the time. A purchased car is far cheaper, and you have the freedom to use it however you please.

Before you make any decision, it’s important to understand the real financial implications. Use this calculator to understand your potential car buying options.

Jennifer Dwyer
Personal Lines Representative
jdwyer@srfm.com

Jenn Dwyer

Is Your Healthcare Plan Covering People It Shouldn’t?

healthcare eligibilityIf you provide an employer healthcare plan, it’s vital to ensure only the correct people are covered. Comprehensive healthcare insurance is one of the most important benefits you provide to employees, so keeping premiums down matters to everyone.

One of the main causes of rising premiums and healthcare costs is when ineligible people continue to be covered on a healthcare plan. For employer-provided health insurance, ineligible people are typically:

  • Former employees who have now left your business.
  • Employees whose status has changed, meaning they are no longer eligible under the plan, or should be on a different plan.
  • Dependents of an employee, where the status of the dependent has changed.

Examples of ineligible people for a healthcare plan

The following situations could all cause people to become ineligible.

  • A dependent child who ages beyond the dependent eligibility requirements in the plan.
  • A former spouse who separated from your employee.
  • An employee who leaves your business.
  • An employee whose status has changed, for example through changing the number of hours worked or moving to a different position, and whose new status requires a different healthcare plan.

Creating a healthcare eligibility audit

You need a process to understand and remove people from your employer-provided healthcare plan. Here’s how to put an “Employee and dependent healthcare eligibility audit” together.

Understand the eligibility requirements of your current employer-provided healthcare plans

Go through any existing employer-provided plans and note down:

  • All employees currently covered by the plan.
  • All dependents currently covered by the plan.
  • Eligibility requirements for employees.
  • Eligibility requirements for employee dependents.
  • Benefits and coverage provided.

You may hold this information internally, or you can get the data from your broker or healthcare insurance provider.

Analyze your existing employee data

Match your existing employee data against the healthcare plan eligibility requirements. Check:

  • Any employee listed as being on the plan is still employed by you.
  • Any dependent listed on the plan is still a dependent on the employee.
  • The type of healthcare plan is appropriate for the status of the employee.
  • All eligibility requirements are being met by any active plan participants.

Find gaps in the data

It’s likely that you will find gaps in the information. You may not have the latest details of dependents or employees. Complete a gap analysis to understand the data you need to ensure only appropriate people are covered by the plan.

Carry out a healthcare eligibility audit to close any gaps

Once you know what data you need, you will need to audit the information with your employees. Approach each employee with the details of their health insurance for them and their dependents and ask if all the information is factual and correct. If it is, get them to sign off on the information.

If the data is incorrect, get it updated and see how it affects healthcare eligibility. Communicate this back to the employee.

Careful communication is key

You will need to communicate carefully throughout this process. Employees may see the eligibility audit as a tool for taking away healthcare coverage. It’s important to manage the message carefully — The audit ensures only appropriate, eligible people are covered. That means less cost-leakage and medical expenses on plans, which keeps premiums down and ensures the right people have the right coverage.

You may want to complete the healthcare eligibility audit every year. This will ensure your records are up to date and reduce the premiums you and your employees need to spend.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

healthcare eligibility

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

How to choose the perfect appraiser for your property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other valuables

appraiserIf you have highly valuable, treasured property or possessions, you may need to get them appraised for insurance purposes. Many insurance carriers will insist on accurate valuation of property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other items so they can ensure the correct level of coverage and premium payment.

When you’re seeking out a good appraiser, here are some areas to consider:

Talk to your friends and colleagues

If you know other people who need to insure high-value items, talk to them about their experiences. Get recommendations on good appraisers and create a shortlist.

Look at professional qualifications

There are a variety of professional accreditations and qualifications depending on the fields an appraiser trains in. These include:

  • International Society of Appraiser’s credentials for fine art, antiques, and personal property.
  • A diploma in gemology for jewelry appraisal.
  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice exam for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Principles of Valuation courses for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Property appraisers should have one of the following designations from the Appraisal Institute — MAI Designation, SRPA Designation, SRA Designation, AI-GRS Designation, AI-RRS Designation.

There are various other exams and certifications available. Always check an appraiser’s qualifications to ensure they’re qualified to provide expert advice.

Check if they’re members of professional appraiser organizations

There are several industry bodies for appraisers. They include:

Many of these websites have membership directories for their appraisers.

Professional appraisers are required to uphold a strong code of ethics, including:

  • Providing truly independent valuation services, with no external influences.
  • Have no outside interest in the valued item, other than as providing a professional service.
  • Only carry out appraisal work in their area of expertise.
  • Consider all relevant factors when arriving at a valuation.
  • Treat and document property with the right level of care and respect.
  • Ensure personal remuneration and pay is independent of the value of property being appraised.

Interview your shortlist

When you have a shortlist of appraisers, call each one and ask questions about their area of expertise, qualifications, professional standards, and membership of industry bodies. Get a feel for what each appraiser is like and use that to decide which one would be right for your needs.

Remember that valuations change with time, many carriers will require updated valuations on a regular basis.

As always, if you have any questions about your scheduled property or how to get your property appraised, we are a phone call away!

Mary McGrath
Personal Lines Manager
mmcgrath@srfm.com

Appraiser

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

Ice dams, panty hose and ice melt – a winter trifecta

Ice DamsIf you’ve been listening to the predictions for this Winter here in the Northeast – we’re expecting a rough one! And along with a lot of snow comes those horrid ice dams – a serious problem that will not only do damage to your home, but also is a cause for many winter insurance claims.

If you happen to be new to the North – let me fill you in on what an ice dam is: When snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and refreezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow would melt off the roof, enter the gutters, and flow harmlessly to the ground (before it gets too cold – make sure you clean those gutters and follow these other Fall cleaning tips). Or the snow would evaporate from the action of the sun, and never really melt off unless the outside temperature rose above the freezing point. However, two key factors interact to cause problems… the outside temperature and the temperature of the inside of your attic.

The warmer your attic is, the more melt off that occurs at the roof surface. This melted snow would normally flow off the edge of the roof. Under certain conditions, though, when air temperature is very low, the water refreezes at the edge of the roof, where the interior roof surface is not being warmed by the attic. This refreezing gradually forms what is fondly known as an “ice dam”, a growing heap of ice that blocks path of the melted snow.

Once this dam forms to a certain height, the melted snow that pools up behind it can suddenly leak back under the roof shingles and into your home! On a roof with a low slope, it only takes a small ice dam to cause water backup and leakage.I can tell you from personal experience – it’s not a fun situation, especially when water is leaking from the ceiling into your living room!

Now what do you do?

Fix the issue before it’s an issue: Increase the insulation, sealing and ventilation in your attic as soon as possible.

What if you already have an ice dam? Get rid of the ice damn as quickly as possible. A great quick fix is actually an “old farmer’s cures” from This Old House’s website.

  • Using a roof rake, remove snow 3-4 feet from the edge of your roof, being careful not to damage the roof covering or to allow snow to build up around walking paths or to block emergency exits.
  • Use a calcium chloride ice melt product, which you can generally purchase from your local hardware store. Be sure not to use rock salt or sodium chloride, which can damage your roof.
  • Fill a nylon stocking with the calcium chloride ice melt.
  • Safely place and position the calcium chloride-filled nylon stocking vertically across the ice dam so that it can melt a channel through the ice.

It’s a great way to reuse and recycle some old hose that may have runs or holes and it’s a heck of a lot easier than getting up on your roof trying to break apart the ice! Have a secret quick fix to dealing with ice damns – we’d love to hear it.

Stephen Davis
sdavis@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

Ice Dams Steve Davis