Life Jackets Float, You Don’t!

After the winter we had everyone is looking forward to warmer weather and outdoor activities. This week, May 17-23, also marks National Safe Boating Week. With that in mind I’d like to deviate from workplace safety to recreational safety, specifically enjoying Wisconsin’s fantastic lakes, rivers and streams.

Boating, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, are activities anyone can participate in, but please do so safely. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recorded 13 deaths resulting from boating accidents on Wisconsin waters in 2013. There was no specific pattern in the type of watercraft involved; they included rowboats, pontoon boats and open power boats. There was one common theme however; in 12 of the 13 fatalities, the victim was not wearing a life jacket and drowned.

Life Jackets

Life jackets have come a long way. They don’t have to be big, bulky and uncomfortable like those I wore as a kid. There are specialty life vests for most activities, such as fishing and kayaking that allow freedom of movement and relative comfort. For those over 16 years of age the newer automatic inflatable life jackets can be a very comfortable option.

Along with wearing life jackets, it is important to have enough personal flotation devices of the correct type. For boats less than 16’ in length, including canoes and kayaks, you must have one Coast Guard Approved life jacket for each person on the boat. If you have a mix of adults and children on board you need child-sized life jackets that will fit each child. If you are boating on a Federal waterway, such as Lake Michigan, then children under 13-years of age must wear a life jacket if the vessel is underway and they are not below deck or in a cabin.

You can purchase lifejackets most anywhere; I have seen the traditional horse collar type for less than $10.00. But when it comes to comfort, to a great degree you get what you pay for. If it isn’t comfortable neither you nor your family members will want to wear it. Make the purchase a family event – in this way the kids can help choose the life jacket they like and you can make sure it fits them properly.

Boater Education

As long as we are talking about boating safety, how about taking a boating safety course? Take the time to learn boating safety regulations first hand, which include the rules of the water roadway.  Believe it or not, you can’t always just head out onto a lake and go – there are regulations governing both speed and right-of-way, along with how your boat must be equipped.  Operating at night or in poor weather also adds another level of complexity and risk.

In Wisconsin if you were born after January 1st, 1989 you MUST complete a boating safety course to operate a power boat. Many boat owners have their children take a DNR Boating Safety class so that at age 12 they can operate a Personal Water Craft (PWC). Most DNR courses are relatively inexpensive – take the class with your children and make it a family affair! You don’t want to be embarrassed when the kids know more about safe boating than Mom and Dad! Boating safety courses are offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron and Wisconsin DNR instructors. Most classes can be found by searching the DNR boating safety class website or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary website.

Does your company have a wellness program? Consider kicking it up a notch and including information in company newsletters and websites on boating safety. You can include web links to make it easy for employees to sign up for a boating safety classes. Safe boating materials are available from the North American Safe Boating Campaign administered by The National Safety Boating Council, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Consider these resources for a safe and fun year on the water!


Hot! Hot! Hot! – Working in Warm Conditions

How you feelin’?  (Hot, hot, hot). Yes, Buster Poindexter may not have been thinking about employee safety when he asked this question but this is an excellent question to ask with the warm summer months finally upon us.

Working in warm conditions is a definite safety concern. Thousands of workers become sick every year from exposure to heat. Some even die. Heat illnesses and death are preventable if you learn to identify the warning signs and take the appropriate action.

First, what are the various types of heat illnesses? There are basically four types:

  • heat rash
  • heat cramps
  • heat exhaustion
  • heatstroke

Heat rash is a skin irritation usually caused by excessive sweating. Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that can happen during periods of overexertion. These two are rather minor, easily treatable, and recovery is generally quick.

The two that get the most attention, and rightfully so, are heat exhaustion and heatstroke. It is important to note that heat exhaustion is the lessor of the two and if it goes untreated, will lead to heatstroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse. Heatstroke symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and dizziness. Heatstroke is life-threatening. The body temperature has been known to rise above 106 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes as a result of this illness. People that get to this point must be treated immediately or they will die.

Heat illness can strike any employee whether they work inside or outside. However, workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at a greater risk, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. This risk can be increased even more for some if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, including new workers, temporary workers, or those returning to work after a week or more off. All workers can be considered at risk during a heat wave.

As some workers are at greater risk of heat illness, certain industries have a higher rate of employees experiencing heat-related illness. Examples include construction; trade, transportation and utilities; agriculture; building and grounds maintenance; and landscaping services.

So now that you have an idea of the warning signs of a heat related illness, the next question to ask is what can I do?

The best form of protection is prevention. Employers should establish a complete heat illness prevention program which includes provisions for providing workers with water, rest and shade; modified work schedules as necessary; planning for emergencies along with training for workers about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention; and monitoring workers for signs of illness.

Other strategies to protect you from a heat-related illness are:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Rest in the shade to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.
  • Eat a regular, well-balanced diet. Try to stay away from hot or heavy foods.
  • Be aware that water, concrete, and sand reflect the sun and can make it stronger.

 

Society Insurance is committed to promoting workplace safety and helping our policyholders prevent workplace accidents. Contact our risk management department and let a risk control representative assist you with the development of a Heat Illness Prevention Program.

Heat illness is something we all need to think about as we enjoy the warm summer months. Whether at work or play OSHA asks that we remember these three simple words: Water, Rest, and Shade. Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death.


Housekeeping – It’s Not Just a Spring Thing

When we think of spring, we think of the end of a long winter, warmer weather and a fresh start. For many of us this is a time to clean out our closets, garages, and storage rooms of items that have collected over the last several months. But why should this annual tradition wait until spring? Why not create a culture where good housekeeping is a year round commitment?

Housekeeping is an essential, but sometimes left out, component of a company’s overall safety program. Some people may think this is a waste of time but when you look back through your business losses you will find that poor housekeeping, in many cases, was a contributing factor. 

Poor housekeeping practices create hazards that increase the probability of loss in many areas including, but not limited to, fires, slips or trips and falls, and cuts. It can also lead to delays in exiting a building in the event of an emergency.

The development of a housekeeping program can help ensure safe work practices are achieved year round.

The housekeeping program should, at a minimum, cover:

  • All work area surfaces (floors, desks, bench tops, shelves, etc.) and passageways.
  • All work areas such as, but not limited to, storage rooms, rest rooms, service rooms, locker rooms and offices.
  • Illumination requirements for each work area.
  • Proper storage and placement of supplies and equipment.
  • Trash collection and removal.
  • Chemical spill response procedures.
  • The need for maintaining clutter-free emergency exits and emergency egress routes.
  • The need to maintain a clutter-free space in front of electrical panels.
  • Employees’ responsibilities.
  • Supervisors/foremen responsibilities.

What else can you do?

  • If you see a mess that someone else left, take care of it. Don’t wait for the guy who left it to clean it up. Pick up anything you see lying around, especially if it could trip someone or fall on them.
  • If you find someone’s tools or equipment lying around, move them out of the way. Put them somewhere safe, but visible.
  • Immediately clear scrap and debris from walkways, passageways, stairs, scaffolds and around floor openings.
  • Make sure the ground is level and well-graded within six feet of buildings under construction.
  • Keep storage areas and walkways free of holes, ruts, and obstructions.
  • Clean up spills of grease, oil or other liquids at once. If it’s not possible, cover them with sand or some other absorbent material until they can be cleaned up.
  • Coil up extension cords, lines, welding leads, hoses, etc. when not in use.
  • Make sure there’s adequate lighting. If a light is out, report it. Replace it immediately if you can.

What about fire safety?

  • Make sure flammable material is always stored in separate closed containers.
  • Incompatible chemical products (which may cause a hazardous reaction if they come in contact) should not be stored together.
  • Smoking should be prohibited in flammable liquid storage areas.
  • Flammable liquids should not be stored near sources of ignition (sparks, electricity, flames or hot objects).
  • Flammable liquids stored outdoors should be at least 50 feet from the property line and 10 feet from any public way. (Requirements change for very large quantities.)
  • Outdoor flammable liquid storage areas should be graded to divert spills away from buildings.
  • Flammable and combustible scrap, debris and waste should be removed promptly from buildings or structures.
  • Covered metal waste cans should be available for oily and paint-soaked waste.
  • Appropriate cleanup materials should be available for leaks or spills of flammables or other hazardous materials.
  • Leftover hazardous products and waste should be properly stored, labeled and disposed of according to the instructions on the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

A well developed and effective housekeeping program will:

  • Reduce accidents and the causes of fires.
  • Reduce time usage by keeping areas clear and orderly for easier movement.
  • Maintain optimum use of floor and shelving space.
  • Reduce property damage by eliminating the chance for exposed material to be damaged.
  • Maintain a good shop appearance, which will present a good first impression to visitors and customers.
  • Encourage better work habits by being more careful and conscious of your actions in a clean and orderly work area.
  • Minimize janitorial work.

Housekeeping is everyone’s job – every trade, every worker, every supervisor. And it’s a job you should do every day, not just once a week or when a project is over. The first rule is to do your work neatly in the first place, and clean up after yourself.

Good housekeeping does more than prevent injuries – it can save you time, prevent a fire, and it can keep your tools from being lost, damaged, or destroyed. Spending just five minutes picking up junk and litter might keep someone from slipping or tripping. You could prevent an injury that keeps them off work for weeks or even months. Five minutes to save months off work is a good investment!  Keep in mind that next time it could be you.


Data Breach Series: Top 3 Data Breach Myths (Part 1 of 4)

 A data breach is impactful for all businesses, but it can be devastating for a small business without the resources of a larger corporation. In this four-part blog series, we share what business owners need to know to diminish the possibility of a data breach and its destructive impact if one is experienced.

MYTH #1: It won’t happen to me.
Facts: No matter the industry, data breach is a real concern to any business. From restaurants and bars running hundreds of credit cards every night to medical offices with piles (both electronic and physical) of sensitive patient information, it can happen to anyone.

Consider these simple actions that may lead to data breach, and the industries that could be affected:

  • Failure to shred customer documents (janitorial service)
  • Medical records falling off a truck on a freeway (disposal service and medical provider)
  • Skimming devices that steal customer data installed in credit card machines (retail, convenience store, gas station)
  • Stacks of printed credit card slips (restaurant, tavern)
  • Lost laptop computer containing sensitive customer data (medical office)

MYTH #2: The bank will handle it.
Facts: It’s important that business owners don’t automatically assume that anything dealing with stolen card numbers is the bank’s problem. In fact, payment processors often have contracts with businesses that give them the right to recoup certain costs from the business.

For example, one major credit card merchant typically assesses a charge of $2.50 per card that is exposed in a breach. While that doesn’t seem that significant, consider how many customers hand over a credit card at even the smallest restaurants: Example, 5,000 exposed cards would cost a business $12,500 in bank costs alone!

MYTH #3: It only affects big businesses.
Facts: Forty-percent of data breaches in 2012 occurred among companies with fewer than 100 employees. Thieves often “start small” to test and perfect their methods, although these breaches don’t make the top news headlines. While there may be less reward in skimming card information from a small corner bar than there is in the mega-retail market on the other side of town, small businesses are an easier target that carries less risk of being caught.

By not protecting your company, by doing nothing, you put yourself and your business at great financial risk and you risk damaging your reputation. Next week in part 2 of this Data Breach Series, we will share ways your business can protect sensitive information and prevent a data breach – subscribe for email alerts.


Data Breach Series: 8 Tips to Prevent Data Breach (Part 2 of 4)

Data breach is the exposure of customer information, and should not be confused with identity theft – which is when thieves target individuals to obtain credit card and financial information – or cyber liability, which refers to the individual targeting of businesses to steal their financial information via hacking.

Preventing data breach is equal parts common sense and technical knowledge. It’s important to take a balanced approach because neither avenue alone can address all issues. Consider these tips:

1. Remember that data breach isn’t only an electronic issue – simple theft, such as stealing a laptop or zip-drive with sensitive information on it, is a concern. Ensure that a data protection program is in place to protect against both electronic and non-electronic threats, so you can respond quickly and effectively in the event of a breach.

2. Ensure vendors only have the right amount of access. A vendor working on cooking equipment shouldn’t have access to a financial system, for instance. Monitor vendors when they’re on site as much as is reasonable.

3. Monitor internal systems and databases on a regular basis to ensure that there’s nothing suspicious going on. Data breach cases often go on for weeks or even months before someone notices, and the sooner you can put a stop to a data breach, the better.

4. Make sure any passwords on mobile devices are encrypted and strong.

5. Update all computer systems to eliminate known vulnerabilities.

6. Being PCI compliant goes a long way toward preventing data breach. This means that a business is adhering to the requirements developed by the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) council. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk, it protects against easily avoidable threats.

7. Stay aware of changing techniques for possible data theft. Bluetooth skimmers, RAM scrapers and malware programs are three common methods that thieves use to take advantage or businesses on a regular basis, but crooks are coming up with new methods constantly. Knowledge of the enemy is important in any battle, and fighting to protect customer data is no different.

8. Educate employees. Keep them aware of the risk and exposure by communicating about the topic on a regular basis. An owner or manager can only do so much; the people in the day-to-day operations of the business also need to be aware of what to do and why to do it.

It’s important to simply think about what you could be doing to protect your customers. What are you potentially leaving open that could lead to a data breach of your customers’ sensitive information?


Hierl Insurance Executive VP Completes Certification

Scott G. Smeaton, CRM, CIC, Executive Vice President of Hierl Insurance Inc., Appleton, WI has successfully completed the annual continuing education requirement of Certified Risk Managers International, and Certified Insurance Counselors.
To earn this prestigious designation, Mr. Smeaton attended five courses covering all phases of the risk management business and passed five comprehensive examinations.  Additionally, The National Alliance requires annual attendance in the program to maintain the designation.
Mr. Smeaton, a 28 year veteran of the industry, has been a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) since 2000 and a Certified Risk Manager (CRM) since 2006.  Mr. Smeaton believes the insurance and risk management professions are best served by those who acquire and maintain a high standard of professionalism by meeting the continuing education requirements of the CIC and CRM programs.
Since 1919, Hierl has earned the trust of more than 250 Wisconsin employers by using insight and innovative technology to create unique strategies that protect business owners, their employees and their budgets, ultimately having a positive effect on… The Real Bottom Line ™. 

 


Hierl Insurance Announces Purchase of New Location

Fond du Lac, WI April 24, 2014:  Hierl Insurance, Inc. recently announced plans to move its corporate office to Trowbridge Drive in July 2014.  The new office will be approximately two miles from its current location.

For Hierl Insurance, a multi-line insurance agency specializing in serving business clients, the new office space means improved client service, new amenities for employees and room for growth.

Hierl will occupy the entire building formally occupied by Winnebagoland UniServ.

“The new floor plan will allow us to provide greater efficiency in serving our clients.  We looked at different options and we were fortunate to find such a nice space available.  Our new location and enhanced operational efficiencies will help us to continue to grow and evolve to keep pace with our customer’s needs”, said Mike Hierl, Hierl Insurance President.

Remodeling of the new location is expected to be completed near the end of June with the move in scheduled for early July.  The new address at that time will be:

325 Trowbridge Drive
Fond du Lac, WI 54935

All of Hierl’s phone and fax numbers will remain the same.

About Hierl Insurance Since 1919, Hierl has earned the trust of more than 250 Wisconsin employers by using insight and innovative technology to create unique strategies that protect business owners, their employees and their budgets, ultimately having a positive effect on their bottom line.


Hierl Insurance Introduces Private Exchange Marketplace for Small and Large Group Employers

United Benefit Advisors® (UBA), the nation’s leading independent employee benefits advisory organization, has announced the launch of two new platforms for private insurance exchange marketplace available exclusively through Hierl Insurance Inc.  With rising costs, employers everywhere are seeking a more efficient way to provide benefits to their employees.  Until now, employers had two options – provide a traditional group medical plan or no coverage at all.  Now there is a better option for many employers.

Based on a defined contribution model, Benefits Passport, powered by Hanna Global Solutions (HGS), will serve large group employers (more than 50 employees). and provide a full suite of services such as online enrollment, an employee contact center, accounting, payroll deduction reporting and billing. Benefits Passport is an open source program that can support all major insurance carriers as well as any carrier with a standard data feed. Benefits Passport is an affordable insurance option to help employers reduce costs, increase efficiency, simplify administration and provide exceptional value to employees in the face of health care reform.

Benefitbay is an online platform created to give an alternative to group insurance for small businesses and associations (less than 50 employees) by providing higher value medical and ancillary benefits previously unavailable to small employers.  Benefitbay pulls together the best carriers in each market and allows maximum choice, easy administration and cost savings.  By choosing benefitbay, an employer can continue to offer the same benefit contributions; employees are offered a choice of health care plans from different carriers and benefitbay helps them sort their choices.

“The UBA private insurance exchanges offer a streamlined health insurance solution that mitigates the burden of administration and compliance risk for our clients while making it easier for their employees to shop, understand and choose their benefits package,” says Scott Smeaton, Vice President Benefits.

The online exchanges set to be available through Hierl Insurance Inc this spring, will allow employees to buy health care insurance from a choice of carriers, with monthly premiums and employers making defined contributions to pick up part of the tab. For large employers, the monthly premiums may be made with pre-tax dollars.  Benefit offerings include major medical and pharmacy, as well as ancillary (or voluntary) benefits such as dental, vision, life, disability and critical illness. Wellness programs will also be available and customer care support is provided for all participants.

Thom Mangan, UBA CEO states, “Like all things UBA, we decided to create unique and proprietary products exclusive for our UBA Partner Firms to better serve their clients. The self-service platform provides employees an opportunity to compare plans and make more informed decisions based on their health care and financial situation, making them better consumers.”

If you have questions or simply want to learn more about Benefitbay or Benefits Passport, Contact Hierl Insurance Inc.

 

About United Benefit Advisors
United Benefit Advisors is the nation’s leading independent employee benefits advisory organization with more than 200 offices throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Visit www.UBAbenefits.com.


Vice President of Hierl Attends James K. Ruble Graduate Seminar

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, July 23, 2013 – Cathleen Christensen, Vice President of Hierl Insurance, Inc. of Fond du Lac, has successfully completed the annual continuing education requirement of the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors and Certified Risk Managers International.

To earn these prestigious designations, Christensen attended ten courses covering all phases of the insurance and risk management business and passed all necessary examinations.  Additionally, the National Alliance requires annual attendance in the program to maintain the designations. 

Christensen, a 25 year veteran of the industry, has been a CIC since 2009 and a CRM since 2012.  Christensen believes the insurance and risk management professions are best served by those who acquire and maintain a high standard of professionalism by meeting the continuing education requirements of the Certified Insurance Counselors and Certified Risk Managers Programs.

Certified Risk Managers International is a nonprofit organization founded by The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, nationally recognized as the premier source of insurance and risk management education.  To attain the CRM designation, Ms. Christensen completed all five courses in the program and passed extensive examinations in each of the following subject areas: Principles of Risk Management, Analysis of Risk, Control of Risk, Financing of Risk, andPractice of Risk Management.  The CRM Program features practical, “hands-on” course content, designed to be applied immediately to the risk manager’s daily work.

Due to the advanced level of the curricula, the CRM designation has gained national esteem and recognition since its origination in 1995.  “The CRM designation recognizes and confirms the higher level of knowledge and professional distinction that Ms. Christensen has achieved in the field of risk management,” stated William T. Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU, President of CRM International.

Christensen, is the Vice President/Property & Casualty Division for Hierl Insurance, Inc. She has been with Hierl since 1990 and currently holds the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation.  She specializes in working with businesses to build and retain value and protect their businesses and profits.  

For more information visit:  www.hierl.com or contact Ona Pollom at 920-921-5921


Compliance News

Original article from United Benefit Advisors

May was a busy month for compliance news, and UBA -- specifically, UBA Chief Compliance Officer Linda Rowings -- was up to the task of keeping Partners informed.

PPACA Employee Guide

UBA has created an overview of the employee's responsibility to purchase coverage under PPACA (the individual mandate) and on the basics of the exchanges.  The information in this piece is basic, but should provide a starting place for employers who want to educate their employees on this law.Because PPACA is complicated, and employee eligibility for tax credits through the exchanges is dependent on the employer's decisions about plan design, a "one size fits all" approach to employee education does not seem workable.  To try to address immediate questions that may arise from the basic guide, we have prepared two supplements to address whether the coverage provided by the employer will satisfy the "minimum essential" requirement and to begin to educate on how the plan and the exchange will interact.  Essentially, if the employer expects to offer affordable, minimum value coverage, employees may enroll in the exchange instead, but will not be eligible for tax credits/premium subsidies.  These employers should use Supplement A.  If the employer expects to offer coverage that does not meet affordability or minimum value, eligibility for tax credits/premium subsidies (and reduced cost sharing) becomes an area of interest.  These employers should use Supplement B.  Employers with employees who may be eligible for subsidies or Medicaid likely should plan to send these individuals to the exchanges for assistance rather than trying to provide extensive assistance themselves, as the rules are quite complicated, and would require the employer to access information about household income that it probably does not want.

We recognize that there are many situations that Supplements A and B do not cover - you should be able to mix and match the information in them to address most situations. HHS refers to the exchanges as the "Health Insurance Marketplace" in the model exchange notices, so we have used that term in the employee piece.

Decision GuidesThe Decision Guides have been updated to include recent changes and clarifications with respect to the maximum eligibility waiting period, minimum value requirements, individual mandate rules and SHOP exchange options.  They have also been updated to include the 2014 maximum out-of-pocket figures, to correct typos in the PCORI dates, and to delete the reference to a maximum deductible in the individual exchange.  These changes affect the versions for small, midsize and large employers.  The executive summary had no changes and therefore has not been updated.

2014 HSA LimitsThe 2014 HSA Limits piece has been updated to clarify that the out-of-pocket maximum required under PPACA does not apply to grandfathered plans.  (It will be possible to retain grandfathered status after January 2014 if the plan continues to meet grandfathering requirements.)

Rules on Wellness Programs Under PPACAUBA also released a PPACA Advisor Alert that addresses how wellness programs must operate under PPACA beginning in 2014. In many respects, the final rules carry forward rules that have been in effect for wellness programs since 2006, and most of the updates that were proposed last November have been adopted.

PPACA Summary

Since the last monthly update, the agencies have issued model notices regarding the exchange/ marketplace. On April 26, the IRS re-released the notice that says that employers that issued fewer than 250 W-2s in the prior calendar year or that participate in multiemployer plans do not need to report health care costs until further notice, so it is highly unlikely this information will be required on 2013 W-2s.More information on all these topics can be found on HCR Central.