Protect Your Boat and Your Family While Enjoying the Water this Summer

How quickly a relaxing afternoon on the water can go bad when an accident happens and your boat is damaged or somebody is injured. In Minnesota and Wisconsin combined, boating accidents increased 25% from 2014 to 2015, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, due to more crowded waterways and other factors. Each year, hundreds of lives are lost, thousands are injured and millions of dollars of property damage occurs because of preventable boating accidents.

Safety first

One of the best boating safety resources available is the Coast Guard’s safety page. You can also access the Coast Guard’s mobile app from the app store for iPhone or Android to find boating regulations and information for your area, file a float plan, receive the latest weather reports in your area, contact the closest Coast Guard command center with an emergency assistance button, request a vessel safety check and do other safety-related tasks.

Errors account for 70% of boating accidents. At the very least, boaters should know the basics about the following before launching their vessels:

  • Filing a float plan. It often makes sense to file a float plan because there are too many facts that need to be accurately remembered and ultimately conveyed in an emergency situation. You can quickly file a float plan with your cell phone if you use the Coast Guard’s mobile app.
  • Boating under the influence (BUI). The risk is high and the consequences severe if you drive a boat after having too much to drink. The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms. If you want to make alcohol part of your day’s entertainment, consider choosing a location where you’ll have time between the fun and getting back into your car or boat.
  • Vessel safety check. A vessel safety check, which is available from the Coast Guard, can help you navigate through problem situations. There is no charge and no consequences if your boat doesn’t pass. The Coast Guard can typically perform the check wherever your boat is located. Fill out their brief form to schedule a safety check.
  • Life jacket safety. Accidents happen with terrifying speed on the water and there’s rarely time to reach stowed life jackets. Your boat must have a life jacket for each person aboard, and boats 16 feet and over must have at least one throwable device as well.
  • Carbon monoxide. You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, and it can make you sick in seconds inside or outside your boat. This exhaust gas can be trapped in enclosed places, by blocked exhaust outlets, from a boat docked next to yours and from back drafting at slow speeds while idling or stopped. Be sure to maintain fresh air circulation throughout the boat at all times.

Documenting and reporting an accident

Boating accidents, as with auto accidents, should be reported to the authorities right away so an investigation can be conducted. The exact circumstances that require a filed report vary from state to state. The Coast Guard’s boating safety app can help you familiarize yourself with the local regulations where you are boating so that you know when to contact authorities. Also, be sure to notify your insurance consultant in a timely manner.

You should document the damage by taking photos of it with a smartphone or camera. If your boat has struck another vessel, also document the damage to the other vessel, and remember to obtain the other party’s contact and insurance information and hull identification number.

Make sure you’re covered

If you’re new to boating, you may be under the impression that your homeowners insurance will cover your boat. Unfortunately, in most cases it won’t. Many homeowners policies will have a minimal amount of coverage for small boats with either no engine or a small engine. If you’re buying a boat that exceeds these very limited parameters, your homeowners policy is not going to cover you for what you need.

Like auto insurance, boat coverage typically includes coverage for bodily injury that your boat inflicts on others, property damage your boat inflicts on docks and other boats, and physical damage to your boat should you hit something or run aground. You can also purchase comprehensive coverage against theft, vandalism, fire and flood, personal property coverage for your fishing gear, uninsured boater insurance and even roadside assistance in the event you need a tow.

Unlike a standard auto policy, insurance claims for your boat can be complex, so it’s important to include your insurance consultant at the earliest stage of the claim.

6 Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Every day, about 90 drivers are killed in motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And, with inclement winter weather making driving conditions more hazardous, that number could worsen. For that reason, be sure to follow these six tips whenever you drive this winter:

  1. Have your vehicle serviced: The cold can have an adverse effect on your vehicle. Before the temperature drops, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop to have the battery, tire treads, coolant hoses and wiper blades inspected.
  2. Assemble a winter emergency kit: In case you get stranded on the side of the road, you will want to have an emergency kit on hand. Your kit should include the following:
    • An electric flashlight, spare batteries and flares
    • Hand warmers and a thick, heavy blanket (ideally wool)
    • A shovel and ice scraper
    • Jumper cables
  3. Plan ahead: Before you get behind the wheel, check the weather forecast. If possible, prepare an alternate route in case of inclement weather or poor road conditions.
  4. Know your vehicle: Each vehicle handles winter weather conditions differently. Consequently, you should be aware of your vehicle’s capabilities—such as its ability to stop as well as how it handles driving on snow, ice or wet roadways.
  5. Tidy up: Before you get behind the wheel, be sure to clean off any snow or ice that may have accumulated on your vehicle—especially on the headlights and taillights as well as the side mirrors.
  6. Drive smart: Driving in winter weather requires you to adjust certain rules of the road. Some tips to keep in mind:
    • Speed limits are for dry, clear driving conditions. So, it is okay to drive slower than the posted limit.
    • With suspect road conditions, it is advisable to at least double the standard following distance.
    • To help ensure that other motorists are able to see your vehicle, keep your headlights turned on—even during the day.

By following these tips, you should be prepared for driving in any winter weather conditions.

Roadway Safety

School is back in session, and the prevalence of school buses, crossing guards and school zone warnings serve as important reminders to practice safe driving at all times.

Obeying traffic regulations and procedures saves children from the danger of being injured. Whether a parent, student, teacher, motorist, school bus driver, or school administrator, it is important to prioritize roadway safety each day.

Roadway Safety Laws and Tips

  • Passing a school bus that is stopped to drop off or pick up children is illegal and can have tragic consequences.
  • Obey crossing guards at all times.
  • Be on the look-out for yellow flashing lights that indicate a school bus is preparing to stop.
  • Red flashing lights around a school bus stop sign demand that motorists driving in both directions must come to a halt.
  • When driving through a school zone, pay attention to warning flashers that direct you to slow down and watch for pedestrians.
  • Take extreme caution when driving in the dark, as warning lights and flashers may not be active yet.
  • Avoid distracted driving by eliminating use of electronics.
  • Allow ample space (10 feet or more) when driving behind a school bus. Be prepared to make frequent stops.

Whether driving an automobile, truck, motorcycle, or bicycle, sharing the road is especially important during the school year. Avoid distractions and be mindful of school buses, pedestrians and warning zones. Patience behind the wheel is key to creating a safe environment for all.

Halloween Safety

During all the fun of Halloween, it is important to remember that this holiday requires some extra safety precautions. Most Halloween-related injuries can be prevented if parents supervise their children’s activities.

Trick-or-Treating Safety

  • Remind children to walk only on sidewalks, and to look both left and right before crossing at corners or crosswalks.
  • Never let a child enter a home to receive candy or a treat unless accompanied by a parent.
  • Instruct your child to visit only well-lit houses.
  • Never allow children under the age of 12 to trick-or-treat alone. Older children should plan their route ahead of time so parents know where they are.
  • Instruct children to never approach a car, or accept treats from a person in a car.
  • Remind children to stay alert for house pets and strangers.
  • Inspect your children’s candy before they eat it. Wrapped treats are safest. Dispose of fresh fruit, unwrapped or homemade treats or anything that looks remotely suspicious.
  • Check for choking hazards, such as hard candy, gum, peanuts, or small toys before letting a small child eat his or her treats.

Costume Safety

  • Think safety when selecting your child’s costume; avoid long, baggy or loose-fitting costumes and shoes that may be difficult to walk in.
  • Choose costumes, wigs and accessories made from fire-retardant materials.
  • Select costume colors and materials that are highly visible to motorists.
  • Opt for facial makeup instead of a mask that may limit a child’s vision or breathing.
  • Buy makeup labeled “FDA- Approved” or “Non-toxic”, and remove makeup promptly to avoid allergies or adverse reactions.
  • Make sure costume accessories such as swords or magic wands are made of flexible materials.
  • Add strips of reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags to make children more visible.

Pumpkin Carving Safety

  • Carve pumpkins on a flat surface with good lighting.
  • Consider using a pumpkin-carving kit that includes special, easy-to-use cutting tools.
  • Have children ages 5 and younger draw on the pumpkin’s face – then you do the carving.
  • Light pumpkins using votive-style candles.
  • Place lighted pumpkins away from flammable objects, such as curtains.
  • Never leave lit pumpkins unattended.

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.

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:

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.

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.

The ROI of Safety Programs

Safety programs not only have a positive impact on ySafety programs not only have a positive our bottom line, they improve productivity and increase employee morale. But how can you measure this?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplaces that establish safety and health management systems can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent. Safe environments also improve employee morale, which positively impacts productivity and service. When it comes to the costs associated with safety, consider the following statistics from OSHA:

  • U.S. employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone, which comes straight out of company profits.
  • Injuries and illnesses increase workers’ compensation and retraining costs.
  • Lost productivity from injuries and illnesses costs companies roughly $63 billion each year.

In today’s business environment, these safety-related costs can be the difference between reporting a profit or a loss. Use these tips to understand how safety programs will directly affect your company’s bottom line.

The Cost of Safety – How Can You Measure This?

Demonstrating the value of safety to management is often a challenge because the return on investment (ROI) can be cumbersome to measure. Your goal in measuring safety is to balance your investment vs. the return expected. Where do you begin?

There are many different approaches to measuring the cost of safety, and the way you do so depends on your goal. Defining your goal helps you to determine what costs to track and how complex your tracking will be.

For example, you may want to capture certain data simply to determine what costs to build into the price of a product, or you may want to track your company’s total cost of safety to show increased profitability, which would include more specific data collection like safety wages and benefits, operational costs and insurance costs.

Since measuring can be time consuming, general cost formulas are available. A Stanford study conducted by Levitt and Samuelson places safety costs at 2.5 percent of overall costs, and a study published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimates general safety costs at about 8 percent of payroll.

If it is important for your organization to measure safety as it relates to profitability, more accurate tracking should be done. For measuring data, safety costs can be divided into two categories:

  1. Direct (hard) costs, which include:
    • Safety wages
    • Operational costs
    • Insurance premiums and/or attorney’s fees
    • Accidents and incidents
    • Fines and/or penalties
  2. Indirect (soft) costs, which go beyond those recorded on paper, such as:
    • Accident investigation
    • Repairing damaged property
    • Administrative expenses
    • Worker stress in the aftermath of an accident resulting in lost productivity, low employee morale and increased absenteeism
    • Training and compensating replacement workers
    • Poor reputation, which translates to difficulty attracting skilled workers and lost business share

When calculating soft costs, minor accidents costs are about four times greater than direct costs, and serious accidents are about 10 to 15 times greater, especially if the accident generates OSHA fines or litigation costs. According to IRMI, just the act of measuring costs will drive improvement. In theory, those providing the data become more aware of the costs and begin managing them. This supports the common business belief that what gets measured gets managed. And, as costs go down, what gets rewarded gets repeated.

The Value of Safety

OSHA studies indicate that for every $1 invested in effective safety programs, you can save $4 to $6 as illnesses, injuries and fatalities decline. With a good safety program in place, your costs will naturally decrease. It is important to determine what costs to measure to establish benchmarks, which can then be used to demonstrate the value of safety over time.

Also, keep in mind that your total cost of safety is just one part of managing your total cost of risk. When safety is managed and monitored, it can also help drive down your total cost of risk. For example, a fall protection program implementation reduced one agribusiness’ accident costs by 96 percent – from $4.25 to $0.18 per person/hour.