Fostering a long-term culture of safety in construction

One of the main concerns in the construction world that remains rather consistent over time is SAFETY. As it should be, this is a very high priority for leaders in the construction industry. The daily implementation of a safety program is a great first step but the big picture goal really should be a whole CULTURE of safety.
This means that all employees are in agreement and held responsible for their own safety and health, as well as the safety and health of every other worker in the organization. This is a prime example of the “we are only as strong as our weakest link” mentality.
Every organization needs some sort of a program in place to prevent injuries and illnesses in the office and on job sites. Even complete compliance with OSHA’s guidelines will not eliminate all injuries and illnesses from the workplace because the workplace is filled with humans and humans make mistakes.

However, enforcing things such as physical safeguards, training, and proper maintenance followed up on by effective management will help ensure the safety and health of the team.

The following are also a result of a good safety and health program:

  • Workers’ compensation costs may be lowered
  • Employee morale and work efficiency may be improved
  • Operating costs will be lowered
  • Profit margins will be higher

Accidents are expensive. They add to workers’ compensation and medical costs, they make the organization have to repair or replace equipment, they slow production, and they may require the organization to hire and train new workers. These are just the material costs and inefficiencies. The pain and suffering that accidents cause employees and their families can be even more damaging and last much longer.

Interested in some tips on what leadership can do vs what employees can do to get ahead of and maintain this culture of safety? Reach out to us here for some safety program checklists, sample policy statements outlining the program in place, etc.

Regular review of the safety and health program is essential to achieving a safe and healthful workplace. As we’ve learned over the past year’s pandemic, things can change rather quickly. Therefore, effective and successful programs must continuously improve to keep up with the changing nature of the organization and industry. This also ensures that there’s a real commitment to the safety and health of the entire team – working beyond just a temporary program but towards that overall, long-term culture.

As a business owner, what does your Natural Disaster Response Plan look like?

What comes to mind when you think of the biggest threats to your company? Fire, theft, workers comp claims, auto accidents? You may feel pretty secure in your protection against those types of insurance claims and that’s a step in the right direction.

But what you might find interesting is that only 58% of natural disaster expenses were actually insured in 2021… That’s about $85 billion of the $145 billion in damages. In fact, overall natural disaster losses in last year alone were the fourth costliest ever recorded. There were hurricanes, earthquakes, freezes, floods and storms.

And even with $145 billion (yes, billion with a B) of damages in the U.S., a Beazley report found that only 12% of business owners ranked environmental risks as their most pressing concern. That report also found that only 38% of executives feel prepared to respond to environmental catastrophes.

So how can you reprioritize and feel confident in the event of damage that is beyond your control?

1. Create an Emergency Operations Plan

  • What happens if something happens? Who is in charge? How will the effects on your business be communicated to staff and clients? Who will delegate on and off-site responsibilities? What if your physical work space is compromised? How will your team be contacted and kept informed if email isn’t an option? If something takes place during business hours, does everyone know how to evacuate and where to go? Or where to locate emergency kits?

2. Back up important data

  • Hard copies of important data should be stored off-site and copies made as needed. Keep things like insurance, payroll and tax information stored somewhere that someone else knows how to access it if needed. Utilize the cloud for electronic storage as well.

3. Review and understand your existing insurance coverage

  • Be sure you’re confident in the amount of coverage you have and that your Insurance Advisor has reviewed endorsements and any applicable additional coverages you may need.

4. Maintain good, open communication

  • For your customers, use email and social media for updates if possible. Be sure they have contact information or know your protocol if your team is unreachable. And for your staff, stay in touch with them to ensure they are safe and healthy. It is also recommended to establish a disaster fund in case your company is unable to generate revenue, you can keep your team on payroll.

5. Regroup with your community

  • It is likely that when you’re able to (literally) weather the storm, it’s hugely due to help from others… whether that be financial, cleanup efforts, rebuilding, emotional support, etc. Lend a helping hand to others in need after experiencing a natural disaster and your community will be stronger together.

There are some things we humans just can’t control and we have to relinquish that power to Mother Nature. For the most part, she treats us very well but for those catastrophic times that are thankfully few and far between, the best you can do as a business owner is BE PREPARED.

What exactly is MFA and why is it important?

Although you’ve heard all the talk about cyber security and data breaches in the past, have you ever really thought about it happening to you? It’s no surprise but cyber crime has grown to the highest cost in the 17 year history of reporting, according to IBM. Currently, data breach costs are upwards of $4 million.

These attacks are happening more frequently and costing individuals and business owners more money. It could be that we have more work-from-home opportunities than ever before, better cyber technology making cyber criminals more efficient, or more vulnerability in the health and finance sector. It’s been predicted that right now, a cyber attack could occur ever 11 seconds, which is nearly four times the frequency recorded just five years ago.

There are several ways you can protect yourself but one of the most simple and important methods is unfortunately overlooked. As if we insurance folks didn’t have enough acronyms to talk about, here’s another one: MFA. Multi-Factor Authorization. MFA is a security method that requires the use of two or more authentication factors to verify a user’s identity. This is most commonly used for users accessing an organization’s network or using a personal or work email remotely. MFA just provides assurance that the user tapping in to private information is who they say they are and that they deserve access. This keeps data safe even if one set of a username and password is compromised. The use of MFA can stop cyber attacks in their tracks, blocking 99.9% of account-compromising attacks.

So we clarified that MFA is just a method of double checking one’s identity. In real-life terms, that just means that before one can access your accounts or email, they have to take an extra step so that at least two of the following three categories is confirmed:

  • Knowledge – something only that user knows like a password, answer to a personalized security question, or PIN
  • Possession – typically the device the user is on like a smartphone, laptop, or software token
  • Biometric – something unique to the user such as a fingerprint or face scan

Why is MFA also important for a business?

  • Strengthen your existing security system – Firewalls & antivirus protection is only as strong as the authentication steps that protect them
  • Protect high-value targets such as Administrative or Executive accounts – these typically have sensitive information, broader access and confidential personal/business information
  • Limit digital credential theft – even if a hacker obtained username and password information, they are unlikely to have the device or access to the backup MFA such as a personal email with verification code sent
  • Stop cyber exploitation – cyber crimes are more than just stealing private information. Hackers can also destroy such data, deploy ransomware, change programs or transmit spam/malicious code

MFA is just one added layer of protection that you can implement in your email or other account specific systems that you use to stay cyber safe.

Flood Insurance Risk Rating 2.0: New & Improved

The National Flood Insurance Program had some major changes that became effective October 1st. They are calling this initiative “Risk Rating 2.0”, in which FEMA considers a substantial leap forward when it comes to flood insurance. While some of the changes are minor details, there are a few pretty big adjustments to this coverage that you’ll want to know about in order to best serve your clients.
Since the 1970s, this type of insurance coverage has been rated based solely off of a zone determined by the property location and elevation. FEMA now has years of analyzed data combined with a conscious effort to make flood insurance more fairly rated.
With the evolution of the new Risk Rating 2.0 program, FEMA will now use the following factors to more accurately rate a property for flood insurance:
  • Flood frequency
  • Multiple flood types such as river overflow, storm surge, coastal erosion and heavy rainfall
  • Distance to a water source
  • Property characteristics such as construction type, cost to rebuild, and elevation
  • Prior insurance/claims
Some things that remain the same are:
  • Existing statutory limits on rate increases require that most rates can not increase more than 18% per year
  • FEMA will continue to offer premium discounts for pre-FIRM subsidized and newly mapped properties
  • Policyholders will still be able to transfer their discount to a new owner by assigning their flood insurance policy when their property changes ownership
  • Discounts to policyholders in communities who participate in the Community Rating System will continue
FEMA estimated that 20% of Florida homeowners will see an immediate premium decrease, 68% will see an increase up to $120, and 12% will see an increase over $120.
Overall, this is good news and a positive, fair change moving forward. Flood insurance can be complex but it doesn’t have to be. Any time we can be of assistance with flood insurance questions, please reach out. We’re happy to help navigate these waters…. literally.

New HSA information released for 2022

New guidelines for Health Savings Accounts in 2022 have been released and there are several ways this type of account may work to your advantage. Just like all health plans, an HSA isn’t the right fit for everyone. But for some, it can result in big savings financially and be just the plan you need.
Let’s start with what exactly an HSA is. A Health Savings Account consists of two things: a high deductible health plan purchased from a private carrier, such as Florida Blue, in which you pay a monthly premium for… as well as a qualifying savings account at a bank where pre-tax contributions can be made. That account would then be where funds come from to pay for things like copays at the doctor, certain medicines, etc.
Some examples of qualified expenses that can be purchased with an HSA account are:
·        Prescription or over the counter medications
·        Eye glasses, contacts, solution, etc
·        Acupuncture and chiropractic care
·        Vaccinations or immunizations
·        Dentures or dental treatment
·        Hearing aids
·        Insulin and diabetic supplies
·        Allergy testing
·        Wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc
·        Sunscreen and first aid
There are limitations and guidelines to abide by with an HSA account. These can vary each year so it’s important to pay attention to them at every renewal if that’s the plan you choose. For 2021, an individual can contribute up to $3,600 of pre-tax money per year and for a family, the maximum contribution is $7,200. The out of pocket maximum is $7,000 for an individual and $14,000 per family.
Meaning, one can put $3,600 into that bank account and then use however much of it they need for health expenses. Then after $7,000 out of pocket is spent, their plan’s coverage kicks in and they pay nothing more for that calendar year.
For 2022, those limits have increased to a $3,650 contribution limit for an individual and of maximum of $7,300 for a family. The out of pocket maximum was also increased to $7,050 per individual and $14,100 for a family.
The tax-deductible contributions, tax-free interest and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are all huge perks to an HSA plan for health care. But another big advantage is that it is 100% yours. If you get it through an employer and leave that job, you keep it. If you don’t use it, it remains there as a savings account and the contribution allowance starts back over the next year.
Again, Health Savings Accounts are not the right fit for everyone but are definitely worth exploring. And if you’re ever uncertain about a qualified expense, you can contact your carrier for clarification. It is also recommended that you always keep all receipts in the event of an audit.