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    Tucson Insurance Blog

    Tuesday
    Oct152013

    Sexual Harassment and Its Damaging Effects for Your Workplace

    When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace it is emotionally traumatizing to the victim.  In addition to this, news of the harassment creates a negative workplace environment, can lead to health problems for the victim and can compromise workplace safety.  Financial losses can also directly and indirectly impact companies resulting from absenteeism, decreased productivity, increased healthcare costs, low morale and high employee turnover.  Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the employer and their employee can both be held liable for the sexual harassment

    Understanding sexual harassment is the first step in preventing it.  Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem and reports reveal that it is on the rise.  In fact, one in four women will reportedly experience sexual harassment on the job.  One in eight men file a sexual harassment claim.

    The definition of sexual harassment is evolving and now broadly includes any form of sexual conduct that interferes with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. 

    Sexual harassment can occur by men towards women, women towards men or among members of the same gender.  The harasser does not need to be the victim’s superior.  It can occur between co-workers or even those who do not work for the same company.  The abuse can be physical, verbal or even more conspicuous such as exposing others to offensive photographs.  Even sexual banter, pranks or remarks can be construed as sexual harassment if someone finds them offensive. 

    Because sexual harassment has become so widespread the OSHA has taken notice and classified it as a form of workplace violence because of the health and safety effects involved.  These can include a variety of physiological ailments for the victim ranging from headaches and stomach problems to increased risk of heart attack.  Victims also often find it difficult to focus on performing their tasks safely and correctly due to increased stress.  Also, when involved in a pattern of intimidation, victims often receive inadequate training and may even be reluctant to raise valid safety issues for fear of further ridicule.

    The best way to eliminate workplace sexual harassment is to create a workplace environment that discourages it.  Employers should make it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.  To further discourage sexual harassment and to stop it quickly if it does occur, companies should establish a complaint process and always respond promptly and appropriately to such grievances.

    Friday
    Oct112013

    Are Men and Women Equal When It Comes to Bad Weather Driving?

    The Battle of the Sexes has raged from the time Eve showed Adam she was not about to play second fiddle when she tempted him to bite that notorious apple. Since then, women have proved that they are not just a product of male spare parts. One of the most cherished arenas in the male-female competition is the ability to handle a car. Men have always felt that automobiles are in the masculine domain, pretty much like arc welding and plumbing. Women, of course, have taken a somewhat different view. Now the Chrysler Group has come along to confirm that men and women do not see eye to eye when it comes to rating each other’s driving skills.

    According to its Bad Weather Driving Survey, men believe that they are better drivers than their mates. Out of 1,000 adults surveyed, sixty-eight percent of the men expressed this opinion.  Forty-nine percent of women polled think they are just as adept at driving as their male significant others. Twenty-six percent, more than one in four women, responded that they are better drivers than men.

    Men and women may have rated their driving abilities differently, but the genders agreed about driving in bad weather conditions. Eighty-four percent of the men and eighty-six percent of the women chose icy roads and pouring rain as the two most difficult weather conditions to drive in. Only seven percent of the drivers surveyed chose heavy snow as the most difficult weather condition for driving. Four percent of those polled chose sleet as the most difficult condition, while three percent chose strong winds.

    Oddly enough, the same situations that make male drivers uncomfortable also make female drivers nervous. Seventy percent of both men and women said the possibility of losing control of your car or having to swerve because of something unexpected in the road were the two most frightening driving situations.

    Whether you are male or female, knowing how to adapt to changing road conditions can save your life. Consider the following tips:

     

    • Slow down and leave wider space cushions between you and other drivers when you encounter bad weather, glare, narrow/twisting roads, and low light conditions.
    • Remember that, even with headlights, it is extremely difficult to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Use your headlights between the hours of sunset and sunrise. For the best visibility, use your high beams when you are over 500 feet from oncoming vehicles or 300 feet behind the vehicles ahead.
    • When driving under foggy/smoky conditions, turn on your low-beam headlights and fog lights (if your vehicle is equipped with them). Be prepared to stop suddenly. If the fog or smoke becomes so thick that you cannot see well enough to keep driving, pull completely off the pavement and stop. Turn on your emergency flashers.
    • Remember that roads are extra slippery at the start of a rain shower because oil, which has risen to the road surface, has not had a chance to wash away. Heavy rains will cause more problems because your tires can begin to hydroplane, like water skis. In this case, the key to keeping your tires in contact with the road is to simply slow down. Also, keep your headlights on when it is raining at any time of day.
    • An important skill to learn in snow and ice is the controlled slide. If your vehicle begins to slide, take your foot off the gas pedal. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply them firmly. Otherwise, avoid using brakes, pumping them gently only if you are about to hit something. Steer the car into the direction of the skid to straighten out the vehicle. Then steer in the direction you wish to go.

     

    Monday
    Oct072013

    Subcontractor Default Insurance: Don't Take the Fault for Their Default

    If you are a general contractor for a big-budget construction project, you know you’re going to have to hire a number of subcontractors to help bring the project to completion.

    So how can you be sure these subcontractors you hire can perform the work? You can’t. When hiring in the past, general contractors shifted the performance risk they assumed themselves to some guarantee form like a surety bond. Now, there is another alternative for risk transference called Subcontractor Default Insurance (SDI).

    There are three main differences between a surety bond and SDI:

    1.   If the contractor uses surety bonds, each subcontractor provides their individual bond resulting in the general contractor having as many bonds as subcontractors, each with its own coverage terms. With SDI, one policy contracted between the purchaser and an insurance carrier covers all subcontractors. This ensures uniformity of coverage.

    2.   Under SDI if a subcontractor defaults, the general contractor and the carrier can immediately take steps to cure the default. With a surety bond, since the contract is between the subcontractor and the surety company, the surety company must investigate the situation and then determine the appropriate remedy. In essence, the surety company acts as a mediator between the general contractor and the subcontractor. This can result in delaying completion and cause possible cost overruns.

    3.   A surety bond is a fixed cost. SDI is an insurance product, which utilizes deductibles and co-payments. That means the purchaser assumes a portion of the risk. If there are no defaults, there is a retrospective rating component that allows for the return of a portion of the premium amount.

    When you are weighing the pros and cons of a surety bond vs. SDI, it’s important to note that one of the most significant drawbacks of SDI is that there is no prequalification service provided by the insurance carrier as there is with a surety bond company. The responsibility of determining suitability to perform the work and of managing the completion of that work rests entirely with the named insured.

    The policy itself has some coverage limitations and there may also be a 15 percent administrative cost for losses charged against the initial premium under certain conditions.

    Finally, you may not be able to use SDI at all for certain projects. The Miller Act states that before a contract that exceeds $100,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair of any building or public work of the United States is awarded to any person, that person shall furnish the federal government with a performance bond in an amount that the contracting officer regards as adequate for the protection of the federal government and a separate payment bond for the protection of suppliers of labor and materials.

    When you are considering using SDI, it’s best to consult with your insurance carrier to determine if it is right for your particular project.

    Thursday
    Oct032013

    Head Restraints Found Inadequate in SUVs

    With rear end collisions, there is always the possibility of the victims suffering from whiplash. That’s why head restraints are so important to your safety provided they function properly.

    Although the primary purpose of a head restraint is to prevent injury to your neck during a rear end crash, there are significant differences in the way head restraints are made. Some are adjustable, while others remain in a fixed position. Some adjustable restraints can be locked into position, but others are not manufactured to lock. There are also variations in height as well as the distance from the back of a person’s head.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a study of the seat/head restraint combinations in 44 current model SUVs. Only six of the models tested received a passing rating for protection against whiplash injuries in rear end crashes.

    According to the study, if a seat/head restraint is well designed, it should keep the head and torso moving together during a rear end collision. When a car is struck in the rear, the seats push the occupants’ torsos forward. If the occupants’ heads are not supported properly, they will remain behind as the torso moves forward. This difference in motion between the two body parts results in the neck being snapped back. The faster the torso moves, the more sudden the movement, and the greater the forces exerted on the neck, which makes the possibility of whiplash more likely.

    A head restraint needs to extend at least as high as the center of gravity of the tallest occupant’s head. A restraint should be located close to the back of an occupant’s head so it can provide support at the point of impact.

    The Institute evaluated the seat/head restraints with a two-part test. First, the restraint geometry was measured to determine its height and distance from the head of an average-size man. Seats/head restraint combinations that flunked the geometry test were immediately given a poor rating because they cannot provide protection for enough different body types in rear-end crashes.  If the seat/head restraint combination was rated either good or acceptable for its geometry, it was then tested to see how it performed while in motion. The testers used a movable platform and a dummy to measure forces on the neck. This test, known as a sled test, simulates a collision in which a non-moving vehicle is struck in the rear end by a vehicle of the same weight traveling at 20 mph.

    In general, the researchers found that four out of five SUV seat/head restraint combinations tested were marginal or poor in terms of whiplash protection. This was the first time the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had tested SUV seats using a dummy to measure forces exerted on the neck during a rear-end crash.

    The SUVs whose seat/head restraint combinations received an overall good rating were the Ford Freestyle, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover LR3, Subaru Forester, and Volvo XC90.  SUVs with poor ratings included such popular models as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer, and Toyota 4Runner.

    Tuesday
    Oct012013

    Wrap-Up Insurance: Keeping Your Construction Project's Exposures Under Wraps

    Covering all of the risks associated with a large-scale construction project can be described as nothing short of daunting. In addition to all of the exposures you personally face as an owner/general contractor, you also have to deal with different forms of insurance coverage for all of your subcontractors. That means having to audit their insurance for terms, conditions and exclusions or face the prospect of unforeseen liabilities emerging down the road.

    Given this overwhelming scenario, it’s no wonder that wrap-up insurance programs have steadily increased in popularity. This type of coverage is so named because it is project specific, and it’s designed to insure the owner and all contractors who work on the project under a single insurance package. Wrap-up programs are generally used when the project cost is expected to exceed $100 million. Either the owner or the general contractor can purchase wrap-up insurance. When the owner purchases the wrap-up protection, the program is often referred to as an Owner-Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP). If the general contractor purchases the wrap-up insurance, it is known as a Contractor-Controlled Insurance Program (CCIP). However, keep in mind that regardless of what name it is referred to, the coverage is still underwritten by an insurance carrier.

    There are some significant benefits to using this type of insurance. Because the purchaser is granted “named insured” status under the policy, they have the authority to select the insurer and the types and limits of coverage. It also allows the purchaser to set safety standards for the project.Of course, there are cost savings that result from buying all your insurance in a package. Some proponents of this type of insurance also believe that it reduces costs on a net basis because subcontractors do not need to factor insurance costs into their bid.  This is especially true in today’s insurance marketplace, where smaller contractors are having a harder time finding coverage.

    Although each wrap-up program is uniquely designed to fit the needs of the project being insured, most wrap-up programs cover workers’ compensation, employer’s liability, general liability and umbrella liability. In addition, you may want to consider adding builder’s risk, contractor’s pollution liability, errors and omissions insurance and subcontractor default insurance coverage when you are working with your carrier to develop a wrap-up program. The cost for this type of coverage is usually about 2% of the cost of the work performed.

    There is another factor you may want to consider when contemplating this type of insurance. Wrap-ups increase the purchaser’s administrative tasks. In addition to taking the responsibility for purchasing the insurance, as named insured you must review and approve all program documents, attend quarterly stewardship meetings, meet with underwriters and review claims.

    Despite these additional responsibilities, wrap-up programs can be a cost-effective way to insure against the risks and exposures that are inherent to your particular project. It also provides a tool for quality control by giving you the ability to coordinate the performance standards for all the subcontractors who will work for you.

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