Safety Tips for Business Travelers

If you travel for work, you know that the experience can be exciting, hectic and sometimes dangerous. With schedules jam-packed with meetings and barely enough time to eat, business travelers tend to prioritize fulfilling their work obligations over ensuring their safety. But neglecting your basic safety—especially while traveling for work in an unfamiliar city—can be perilous. Next time you are traveling for work, follow these simple tips to ensure your trip is both successful and safe:

  • Only use licensed taxis. Using an unlicensed taxi can force you to pay an exorbitant rate and can threaten your safety. Only hail taxis from legitimate taxi companies.
  • Guard your cellphone and keep it charged. In an unfamiliar city, your smartphone is your most important tool. Keep it charged and operational to ensure you can access the Internet and place calls in case of emergency.
  • Follow basic safety precautions at your hotel. This includes requesting an upper-floor room with an interior entryway to deter anyone from breaking into your room. Also try to keep your room number and last name a secret to prevent someone from making fraudulent charges or gaining unauthorized access to your room.
  • Be cautious when speaking with strangers. Refrain from being especially friendly and chatty with strangers—you may unknowingly disclose personal or sensitive information or become so comfortable that you do not realize your new “friend” just stole your wallet.
  • Be cautious when drinking alcohol. After a long day of traveling for work, your impulse may be to have a few drinks to relax—but do not let a few drinks turn into many. Limiting your alcohol intake can help you avoid any legal or personal mishaps and can ensure you are rested and ready for the next day’s meetings.
  • Only access legitimate Internet connections. Hackers can disguise phony connections as legitimate ones in public places and steal your sensitive data. Ask the facility’s employees to identify the official Wi-Fi connection for you.
  • Create a business travel plan. Plan ahead to avoid any potential emergencies or unexpected setbacks. Include information such as your hotel reservation number, your flight data and your co-workers’ contact details in your travel plan.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.