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

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

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

Your Business Resolution — Time For a Fresh Approach

business resolutionsFor many, January is the perfect time for a new start. Resolutions to go on a diet, exercise more, pay off debt, get a new job, and otherwise improve our lifestyles are as popular as ever. But, there’s another area where a fresh start can make a big difference — Your business.

The fact is, you’re probably so involved in the day-to-day running of your organization that you don’t take a step back and get a better perspective. When you’re able to step away for just a little while and look at things objectively, the chances are you can find some good stuff to improve in your business. Here’s how to go about it.

Step 1 — Set aside the time

Get some time in the diary in early January to remove yourself from everyday operations and allow yourself to review how you could improve how your business functions, policies, and procedures. Encourage your leadership team, key managers, and a selection of employees to be involved.  Not only is their input critical, it will also remove some of the burden off your shoulders.

Step 2 — Get out of the workplace

You can’t do this with distractions. Go offsite and have an away day where you can minimize the chance of interruptions and actually get some initiatives in place, bring key members of your team along with you.  Make it engaging, fun and ensure you have white boards to capture your ideas.  Take pictures so you can save the details of your discussion.

Step 3 — Identify the main areas you want to improve

Have an honest and open discussion with your team. Let everyone bring up the main pain points in the business. What’s unnecessarily complicated or difficult to do? What policies, procedures, or functions could be improved? You’ll want to keep the discussion constructive, but don’t leave anything off the table.

Step 4 — Categorize the problems

You’ll want to split the various issues into categories, for example:

  • People related — More training needed, new team setup, staff handbook updates etc.
  • Policy related — New and amended policies to make your workplace easier to do business in.
  • Procedure related — Changes to business processes, ways of doing things, and functionality.
  • Technology related — Issues with technology, hardware, software, etc.
  • Other — Any other issues that don’t fit neatly into the previous categories.

Step 5 — Brainstorm fixes

Once you’ve got your categories, see if any of the problems are related. After you’ve done that, go through and generate ideas on how to fix the various issues, especially your policies and procedures. Don’t consider any idea to be too outlandish.

Step 6 — Prioritize

Once you’ve got your ideas, prioritize the fixes. Deliver on ideas that are easy to implement and will have a good impact. Follow that up with the harder implementations that will still make a big difference. After that, carry out the changes that will still have an impact, even if it’s minor.

Step 7 — Give people accountability

Once you have a list of ideas, get people in your business to take ownership of them. Get project management in place to deliver on the ideas and fix the broken parts of your business. Then, get regular updates throughout the year on how things are going. Give your project managers the resources and people they need to make a positive change.

This can be a great way to incentivize and fire up your people to change their working environment. Whether it’s removing bottlenecks in a process, rewriting a policy, enhancing training for team members, improving hiring methods, or replacing old technology, small changes can have a big impact.

Carry this out every January, deliver on your changes, and you’ll have a beautifully functioning, sleek, and efficient operation in less time than you think.

Matt Bauer
President
mbauer@srfm.com

Business Resolution

The Modern Office & Managing the Risk

modern officeToday’s employers are placing a premium on employee wellness and engagement. And rightfully so, hard working employees deserve some love. But in addition to doing right by their people, businesses that provide comprehensive wellness plans and lifestyle perks for their employees are realizing huge benefits from it. But with more unconventional and physical activities going on in the office, there comes a whole new set of risks for employers.

Let’s talk about what employers are doing for their people, how it’s working, and how to manage the risks involved in the modern office.

A New Age of Employee Engagement

Now more than ever organizations in business are truly investing in their people. Employee perks and benefits are evolving to an all new level thanks to forward-thinking companies like Google with state of the art fitness facilities, fully stocked game rooms, free bicycles and more cool perks for employees. Who ever thought we’d see a rock climbing wall at the office?  Googles’ perks go so deep that past and current Google employees have gone online to list their favorite perks working for Google.

Here are Some Common Contemporary Employee Benefits, Perks and Activities

  • Fitness gyms
  • Yoga, Karate, Pilates studios
  • Basketball courts
  • Table games: Ping Pong, Foosball, Billiards, etc.
  • Video games
  • Reading rooms
  • Massage chairs
  • On Site Pet Care
  • And yes, even rock climbing

A New Age of Risk

Not to be a wet blanket, but you can get hurt playing Ping Pong, and the bottom line is: If you’re putting perks and activities in place that present the potential for an accident or injury, you have a responsibility to manage the risk and provide the safest environment possible for your employees. So, before you put up the basketball hoop, put some basic risk management measures in place.

Here are some simple things that you can do to manage the risks involved with lifestyle perks:

Liability Waivers: If you’re offering activities with any level of physicality or potential for injury, it’s a common best practice to get signed waivers from participants…even if it’s only Ping Pong.

Medical Clearance: Depending on the physical level of the activities you make available, you may consider requiring clearance from a doctor before employees may participate in any activities.

Restrict Access: To reduce employer risks, allow only employees of the company (and not friends and family) to take advantage of the amenities (Gym, Sports Court, etc).

Safety Programs: Institute a safety education program covering the equipment and activities, and post safety guidelines in game rooms, gyms, and on ball courts or playing fields.

Get Covered: If you’re thinking of providing any new perks or benefits for your employees, make sure that you have adequate liability and workers’ comp  insurance coverage in place (yes, even if it’s ping pong).

The modern office landscape is changing, and with this new era of employee engagement and all of the perks that go with it, a new set of risks arise. So, if you’re considering taking your benefits package to the next level, talk to us at Sinclair. We specialize in measuring your risk and covering your exposure. We’re also Liability and Workers’ Comp experts, so this is right up our alley.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
shudspeth@srfm.com

Why your business needs a wellness program

Building Healthy Habits — Beat Holiday Indulgences and Feel Fantastic

healthy habitsEating and drinking is one of the great pleasures in life, and the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge. Celebrating with family and friends makes it easy to just have one more serving, an extra slice of cake, or another glass of wine. Of course, that can mean putting on a few more pounds than you’d like, so what’s the best way to shift that holiday weight?

Rather than starting up a new diet or exercise regime, it’s all about making small, positive lifestyle changes and building good habits — Here’s how to do exactly that.

Understand what you want to change most to get healthier

You can only change your lifestyle if you’ve got a good reason. Think about what your goals are when it comes to getting healthier — Is it losing weight, lifting a certain amount, walking up a steep hill without being out of breath, or something else?

Your goals should be short-term and easy to reach — If you want to lose weight it’s much better to aim at losing a couple of pounds a month than 25 pounds this year. So, choose one goal, write it down, and commit to it.

Focus on making one small change to your health at a time

If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll lose focus, get distracted, and it won’t last. That’s why getting healthier is all about making small, incremental changes that together add up to you feeling fantastic. Look at your goal and think about the one small thing you could do today to get towards it. For example:

  • Reduce your mid-afternoon snacks.
  • Drink one less beer during an evening out with friends.
  • Walk for 15 minutes each day.
  • Have one “meat free” day a week.

Then, make the change and stick to it.

Take pleasure in what you’re doing to create a healthier lifestyle

It’s important to feel positively about the changes you’re making, rather than seeing them as denying yourself. Be “in the moment” and conscious of how and why you’re making your choices. If you’re taking a walk each day, spend the time really enjoying and noticing your surroundings. If you’re reducing how much you drink, replace the beer or wine with a delicious fruit smoothie. Think about ways to positively reinforce what you’re doing.

When it comes to getting healthier, don’t do too much, too quickly

As you make changes, wait for them to become a habit and “stick” before you move onto something else. Ideally, you want your positive lifestyle changes to become effortless and part of who you are. That way, it will never feel like a chore.

Really feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle

Positive reinforcement is vitally important. That’s why you want to notice the changes you’re making and the benefits they’re having. Appreciate the fact you don’t run out of breath when you’re hiking up a hill, or that you look great in the new clothes you’ve been able to buy. Reward yourself for creating healthy changes in your life.

It’s amazing how much you can do for your health if you set realistic goals, turn small changes into habits, feel the benefits, and take pleasure in what you’re doing. Of course, you can still have “cheat days” and overindulge from time to time. Now you’ll have the confidence you’re completely in charge of your lifestyle and the healthy choices you’ve made.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Healthly Habits

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

 

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