5 Strategies for Limiting Product Liability

Consider implementing these techniques to limit product liability:

  1. Develop a quality control program and distribute it to your employees. It should outline procedures for product safety, design, testing and inspection. It should also include information regarding traceability, guidance regarding customer complaints and a product recall program.
  2. Place serial or batch numbers on all products to ensure that they are traceable in case of a recall.
  3. Keep records of all information about your products, including testing, product performance, component percentages and complaints.
  4. Ask a legal professional to review warning labels, assembly and operating instructions, disclaimers and any other information distributed to consumers. If you need additional assistance, consult a product safety specialist.
  5. Ask a legal professional to periodically review contracts and hold-harmless agreements for use with your customers and subcontractors. Assure that these contracts limit the liability you will assume for a quality product. Also consider obtaining certificates for liability insurance from your subcontractors.

Ensure Smooth Sailing Ahead

You purchased a boat to provide years of personal enjoyment—ensure your pleasure by choosing the right insurance protection.

Coverage Basics

A typical boat owner’s insurance policy is designed to protect your boat, motor, equipment and passengers. It affords similar coverages to those you typically have for your car including:

  • Theft, loss or damage to the boat and attached equipment
  • Bodily injury coverage, if someone else is injured
  • Damage caused to someone else’s property by your boat or watercraft
  • Liability coverage for your passengers, which would include family and guests
  • Medical payment coverage for injuries to the occupants of the boat

Physical Damage: Physical damage coverage insures your boat, motor, boat trailer, boat equipment and other personal property against accidental loss or damages. Physical damage also helps safeguard your boat equipment, such as anchors, oars, fuel tanks, life jackets, dinghies, tools and canopies.

Liability: Two principal liability coverages are included:

  1.  Personal Liability – A boatowners insurance policy provides protection for legal liability and pays, up to the limit of your policy, the legal obligations imposed upon you due to an accident resulting from the ownership, maintenance, or use of your watercraft, including bodily injury, property damage and legal defense.
  2.  Medical Payments– This pays medical expenses, up to the limits in the policy, including the insured’s boating-related medical expenses from an accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the boat. Expenses include hospital, medical, ambulance, etc.

Additional Coverage Options

For added protection, consider the following additional coverage options:

Reasonable Repairs: Covers repairs incurred to protect covered property from further damage.

Emergency Service:  Pays for reasonable costs that you incur resulting from specified emergency service to your boat, motor or boat trailer.

Wreck Removal: Pays the reasonable expenses you incur for any attempted or actual raising, removal or destruction of the wreck of your watercraft when damage is caused by an insured loss and removal or destruction is required by law.

Umbrella Liability: Provides additional boat insurance coverage across the board for home, auto and watercraft.

Protecting Vacant Property

In a time when layoffs and foreclosures are widespread, your firm may be forced to manage vacant property. The insurance risks and liabilities associated with owning unoccupied property can be extensive. To ensure you are adequately protected, it is important to know the risks you confront. In addition to purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage, there are numerous preventive strategies for maintaining vacant property to reduce risk and liability.

Potential Risks

There are a host of risks and concerns associated with owning vacant property. Vacant buildings are an obvious target for theft, trespassing and vandalism. For example, the rising cost of copper has given rise to an increase in the theft of copper pipes from vacant properties. In addition to any loss or property damage that may occur, keep in mind that the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.

In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage, and mold. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration shows that around 30,000 fires occur every year in vacant buildings, costing $900 million annually in direct property damage. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues (where someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss).

In certain facilities, there may also be environmental hazards that the owner needs to consider. Facilities that are used to store chemicals or other pollutants should ensure that such materials are removed or securely stored—the owner may be held liable for any hazardous materials that contaminate groundwater or other nearby natural resources. Also, underground fuel tanks present serious challenges and thus should be frequently and carefully inspected by professionals.

Other Ways to Mitigate Risk

In addition to extending coverage, there are some simple steps that owners of vacant property can take to limit their risk and liability.

  • Prevent vandalism – Notify local authorities of vacated properties so they can watch for criminal behavior. Maintain an “occupied” appearance to the property—mow the lawn, have mail forwarded or picked up regularly, and install light timers and/or a security system.
  • Limit liability – Make sure property is free from significant hazards (broken railings or steps, broken windows, etc) that could cause injuries to anyone on the property – this could include police officers, maintenance workers, firefighters or even trespassers.
  • Avoid damage – Performing regular maintenance on the property can decrease the odds of damage. Make sure the heating system and chimney are cleaned and inspected regularly. Have the plumbing system winterized to prevent frozen pipes. Periodically inspect the roof, insulation, attic, basement, gutters and other areas of the house for any necessary repairs, mold, damage or other problems. Consider installing smoke detectors that are tied to a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will be notified in case of an alarm. Remove all access material and combustibles from in and around the building.

Insuring Residential Properties

Most insurance companies include a clause that the homeowner’s insurance will expire if a home is left vacant for more than 30 or 60 days (depending on the policy). This leaves the property owner financially vulnerable for all the risks previously noted. However, many insurance companies do offer vacant property insurance (also known as vacant building insurance or vacant dwelling insurance).

Unoccupied Commercial Building Insurance

Vacant commercial buildings are more difficult to insure because they present greater risks, including increased chance of theft, malicious damage and burst pipes. It is important to disclose all relevant facts when seeking insurance, including the reason for the property’s vacancy and a schedule of any works to be done on the property.

Because of the increased risks and liability associated with a vacant property, these types of insurance tend to be costly – ranging from one and a half to five times the cost of a property insurance policy. It is important, though, to look beyond the price and consider the suitability and comprehensiveness of the coverage being purchased.

Is it Time to Replace Your Car Tires?

Your car’s tire performance is essential to both its safety and its efficiency. Tires eventually lose traction and braking ability, and should be replaced when necessary. When your tires are in shape, they ensure that you stay safe behind the wheel.

Do Your Tires Need Replacing?

Here’s how to determine if you need to replace your tires:

  1. Inspect tread wear bars. These are small bridges that form between your treads. If you look at your tread pattern and notice the beginnings of these bars starting to form between the treads or running across the tires, and then become flush with the tires’ tread, you should replace your tires.
  2. Conduct the penny test by placing the coin upside down with Lincoln facing you in the center of the tread.
    • If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head or the metal above it, replace your tires immediately.
    • If Lincoln’s hair is partially visible, start comparing tire prices, as you will need new ones soon.
    • If you cannot see the top of Lincoln’s hair (tire tread should be as deep as his forehead), your tires do not need replacing yet.

If you notice that your tire wear is extremely uneven or that your tires have worn out much faster than you expected, visit a competent auto shop. They will check your suspension and make any necessary corrections before replacing your tires.

Other Tire Tips

  1. Rotate your tires from the front to the rear in pairs.
  2. If you drive a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle, replace all four tires when it is recommended in your service manual. The differences in tire diameter can cause permanent damage in your differentials if you do not do so.
  3. If you notice uneven wear on your front tires, your front end may be out of alignment. Have them checked and rotate your tires to the rear of the vehicle. This should correct the problem.
  4. Since tires do not wear evenly, perform the penny test at several points from the outside to the inside of the tires. Generally, tires will wear more on the inside but over-inflated tires will wear more in the middle.
  5. Test and replace your tires at the same time. If you drive with mismatched tires, you will not have the level of safety, performance and efficiency that a matched pair provides.
  6. Always keep your tires properly inflated.

Top 10 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards for Fiscal Year 2014

OSHA has released results from inspections conducted during the 2014 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014). The following list shows the most frequently cited OSHA standards during that time period:

  1. 1926.501 – Fall Protection (construction standard)
  2. 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication
  3. 1926.451 – Scaffolding (construction standard)
  4. 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection
  5. 1910.178 – Powered Industrial Trucks
  6. 1910.147 – Lockout/Tagout
  7. 1926.1053 – Ladders (construction standard)
  8. 1910.305 – Electrical, Wiring Methods
  9. 1910.212 – Machine Guarding
  10. 1910.303 – Electrical, General Requirements

What are the practical applications of OSHA inspection data for employers?

In theory, every OSHA inspection is an independent event, with the results of one inspection having no bearing on an inspection at another location. In practice, however, this is not how inspections typically work. Similar to how you might have specific benchmarks or metrics that you focus your attention on at your workplace, OSHA inspectors often receive guidance on which standards they should give extra scrutiny to during inspections. Given a large enough sample size, these points of emphasis can be discerned based upon the frequency with which the standard is cited by inspectors.

Although the overall composite data for all employers is a useful starting point, to get an accurate picture of what inspectors are focusing on in your industry, we recommend that you conduct a search of frequently cited OSHA standards for your industry segment. The following link will allow you to view inspection results by NAICS code and number of employees: https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/citedstandard.html.

Controlling Flooding Due to Surface Water

The primary reason your basement and home can flood during a rainstorm is due to poor or blocked drainage. See below for precautionary measures you can take to protect your home and its belongings from flooding due to surface water.

Simple Prevention Steps

  • Since leaves are the biggest contributor to clogged gutters, clean the gutters and the drainage downspouts attached to your roof at least twice a year.
  • Make sure that the ground area within 10 feet of your home slopes away from your home’s foundation.
  • Extend downspouts at least 10 feet from your home.
  • Direct water flow from downspouts away from your home, being careful not to discharge the water too close to adjacent property.
  • Have your roof carefully inspected at least once a year by a capable person to check the roof thoroughly for missing shingles, degraded roof components, separation of the roof from chimneys and exhaust pipes, and other roof problems.
  • If your house or commercial lot is at risk of flooding from a higher neighboring property, consider building a solid wall masonry fence on the water-vulnerable boundaries of your property.
  • Preventative landscaping can also help reduce the chance of a mudslide or flooding.
  • Be vigilant for warning signs of an impending water flood problem. This includes water stains and mold growth on ceilings and walls, the underside of attic roof sheathing, and mold water pooling, water dripping, water leaks, or mold growth anywhere inside your home or business.

Lastly, plan ahead! If flooding occurs, be familiar with how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves. Knowing how to do this ahead of time will help you to react quickly and minimize potential damages.

Tailoring a Cyber Policy to Your Business

Cyber insurance coverage is a relative newcomer to the insurance market, which can present some challenges for both businesses and insurers. To date, there are no official industry standards for cyber insurance, but there have been major strides in recent years to establish some. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers a comprehensive overview of the current state of cyber risk management. Adherence to these standards is currently voluntary, but many experts believe that the NIST recommendations have become the unofficial industry standard for cyber risk management.

Still, with the breakneck pace of technological evolution and increasing pressures to digitize data, most businesses are already vulnerable. The best way to protect yourself and your business is to conduct a risk assessment and identify any gaps in your coverage. Here are a few things worth looking for:

Understand the coverage that you have, and the coverage that you don’t. Many people might make the mistake of assuming that a commercial general liability (CGL) policy covers losses in the event of a cyber attack. However, assumptions like that can be dangerous and costly, as many CGL policies specifically exclude electronic data. Take the time to review your current coverage and identify any exclusions that might leave you vulnerable.

Understand your company’s specific needs. Companies vary in their use of and dependence on data. For instance, customer data held by financial or health care businesses is comparatively more valuable to criminals. Other companies, like online merchants, may potentially suffer greater losses as the result of an attack that crashes a website or interrupts service. Different policies have different limits, sublimits and exclusions for different kinds of losses, so it’s important to work with an expert who can find exactly where your liabilities lie and what kinds of coverage you need.

Consider retroactive coverage. Unfortunately, cyber breaches often go undetected for a long time. As a result, a policy that only offers coverage to the date of inception might leave you vulnerable to a cyber attack that hasn’t yet been discovered. To mitigate your liability as much as possible, get coverage with the earliest possible retroactive date.

Obtain coverage for third-party vendors. Many businesses outsource their data processing or storage to a third-party vendor. This is a smart move, especially if you aren’t equipped to handle the IT side of your business. Unfortunately, it may leave you liable for damages if the actions of that third party are responsible for a breach. Make sure you have coverage for the actions or omissions of third parties with whom you do business.

ATVs and Personal Safety

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can be a great source of fun for adventure seekers. These four-wheeled machines are designed for riding on uneven surfaces on off-road paths, and are useful for carrying loads and supplies. Though they are fun to ride and make carrying loads easier, ATVs are also dangerous. In fact, accidents tend to occur when young riders (generally males under age 16) fail to wear the right protective equipment while riding. To remain safe while operating an ATV, don’t forget these safety tips.

Safety Guidelines

  • Attend ATV instruction courses to learn more about operating your vehicle.
  • Read the owner’s manual carefully before attempting to ride, and ensure that all riders understand how to remain safe.
  • Never allow others to ride on an ATV with you.
  • Do not carry attachments or loads unless you are trained on how to properly drive the vehicle while carrying cargo.
  • Never operate an ATV while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Do not ride on a public road or at night when motorists cannot see you well.

Because injuries sustained on ATVs can be severe, it is critical that you and your family abide by the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding who is eligible to ride. Generally, no one under age 16 should ride an ATV with an engine larger than 90CC. Children under age 12 should ride ATVs with engine sizes between 70 and 90CC, and children under age 6 should ride ATVs with engines 70CCs or smaller.

  • Wear a helmet that is designed specifically for riding an ATV. Helmets designed for cycling, skateboarding or rollerblading will not provide the necessary protection from falls because they cannot absorb enough of the impact when you hit the ground. A proper helmet should also resist blows from sharp objects, stay in place as you ride and allow you to use your peripheral vision.
  • Wear appropriate eye protection if your helmet does not have a face shield.
  • Wear gloves to improve your grip on the controls and reduce the pressure from holding onto the handlebars.
  • Wear boots to protect your feet and legs from debris and to maintain your footing. This will also help maintain your balance and control.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect your skin from cuts and scrapes.
  • Scan ahead to identify hazards such as rocks, fallen branches, fences, wires and unstable surfaces.
  • Be on guard for unexpected hazards, such as wildlife and other riders.
  • Drive at a moderate speed, and take weather conditions and the terrain into account.
  • Shift your weight when making turns and riding up and down hills.

Personal Automobiles for Business Use

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 240 million registered motor vehicles in the United States, and an estimated one-fourth of those are used for business in some way. If you have employees who use personal vehicles for business use, you could be exposing your business to a significant liability risk.

Even if your employees have Personal Auto Policies (PAPs) for their personal vehicles, in the event of a serious accident that occurs during business use, your business could be sued to collect additional damages.

What is “Business Use”?

Activities that constitute general business use include visiting customers, picking up supplies, attending conferences, and commuting to and from work. For activities like this, the general business use of a personal vehicle is usually covered by a PAP. This is because a policy purchased for a specific vehicle is considered the primary insurance, which covers damages before any other policy takes effect.

An exception to general business use is livery, or carrying goods or people for a fee. Livery includes the delivery of items such as food, flowers, or wholesale or retail items to customers, as well as chauffeur services. Carpooling or ridesharing is not considered livery and is covered under a PAP.

Employees that work from home can still pose a risk if they use personal vehicles for business use. It may be more difficult to ascertain the driving habits of employees that work from home or the operational status of their vehicles. Communicate regularly with these employees concerning your company’s policy for the use of personal vehicles.

Employee PAP Coverage

For employees using their personal vehicles, the primary insurance on the vehicles will likely be their PAPs. You should know how your employees are covered for the business use of their vehicles. Encourage your employees to speak with their PAP carriers to be sure of their coverage and to make it clear to the insurance agents what business activities the vehicles may be used for.

Some PAPs appear to exclude coverage for business use, but they may include broad exceptions for a private passenger automobile, or pickup trucks and vans. However, some policies may be stricter depending on the circumstances. Clarification may prevent complications if a claim must be filed.

Four Ways to Reduce Risk

Though employees’ use of personal automobiles may pose a risk to your business, there are steps you can take to help protect both your employees and your business from liability.

  1. Review driving records and create an approved-driver list: All employees that use a vehicle for business use should be cleared to drive by a manager. This process should include reviewing motor vehicle records and PAP coverages regularly and maintaining records to help reduce risk exposure.
  2. Establish standards for personal vehicles: Even employees without any incidents on their motor vehicle records can be a risk to your business if they are driving personal vehicles that are not properly maintained. Establish company guidelines for maintaining personal vehicles. If employees are compensated for time spent driving or if they routinely use their personal vehicles for business, consider regularly collecting maintenance reports to gauge the reliability of personal vehicles.
  3. Make the company policy clear: After you create guidelines for the use of personal vehicles at your business, be sure to communicate them to your employees in a clear and timely manner. Although it is common to have policies against the use of intoxicating substances or mobile devices while driving, reminding employees of all of your company policies is an effective way to mitigate risk.
  4. Establish rental vehicle policies: The use of rental vehicles for business also presents exposure to risk. It may be beneficial to establish a relationship with a particular rental vehicle agency to determine which vehicles best suit the needs of your business and employees while traveling. You should also give your employees guidelines on which rental vehicle insurance coverages to accept during the rental process.

Obtaining Appropriate Liability Insurance

Additional coverage may be needed if any potential risks from personal auto use threaten your business. A standard Business Auto Policy (BAP) will protect your business from any additional liability after an employee’s PAP has paid for damages related to personal auto use.

Summer Swimming Pool Safety

If you own a pool, relaxing in the backyard during the summer months is a fun and enjoyable way to beat the summer heat. Though splashing and diving is carefree fun, owning a backyard pool comes with serious responsibilities, too. From poolside party safety tips to supervision, there are many general safety precautions you can take to make sure your friends and family enjoy your pool safely.

Swimming Safety Precautions

General Recommendations:

  • Install a fence with self-locking and closing gates to completely isolate your pool from your house and the areas around it. The fence should be at least 5 feet high so that people who are not supposed to be swimming do not have access without your permission and supervision.
  • Do not leave your children or guests alone in the event that they would need assistance. As the homeowner, you are ultimately liable for the safety of others in the pool on your property.
  • Remove toys from the pool when they are not in use.
  • Do not swim alone in case you suffer a health problem such as a muscle cramp or heart attack and consequently cannot swim to the side safely without assistance.
  • Teach pool rules to your children and guests and post them in a highly visible location.
  • Lock and cover spas when they are not in use.
  • Do not stick your fingers in grates and filters.
  • Do not swim for at least 30 minutes if you hear thunder or see lightening. When you see or hear thunder and lightning again, wait an additional 30 minutes before going into the pool.

Safety Training:

  • For homeowners with a pool, it is wise to take lifeguard, first aid and CPR courses in case anyone needs assistance while on your property. Once old enough, your children should receive this same training.
  • Enroll your children in swimming classes led by a qualified swim instructor.

Rescue Contacts:

  • Keep rescue equipment and a telephone to call 911 close to the pool area.
  • Place emergency numbers and CPR instructions close to the pool.