Dealing with Employee Dishonesty & Sexual Harassment

Study Links Work Performance Goals to Employee Dishonesty

Although some employers believe that pushing their employees to the limit can help increase productivity, a new study has shown that this type of performance pressure can cause employees to be dishonest or cheat.

Researchers from the University of Georgia and Arizona State University recently published a study that examined the behaviors of employees who must meet performance benchmarks. According to the study, employees who believe that their jobs are at risk because of performance pressure are much more likely to lie in order to protect their jobs. In fact, 55 percent of employees surveyed as a part of the study have seen a co-worker manipulate numbers to appear more productive. This type of dishonesty can also have drastic consequences for businesses, especially those in industries that require strict recordkeeping.

The best way to keep your employees productive and honest is to strike a balance between job requirements and incentives. For example, managers can set baseline expectations for a certain position as well as incentivized milestones for exceptional work.

Creating a Sexual Harassment Policy That’s Right for Your Business

In order to keep your business productive, you need to establish a work environment that’s supportive and actively discourages sexual harassment. Any instance of sexual harassment can cause intense emotional and physical distress that affects your entire business. You also have a legal obligation to protect your employees, and ignoring the topic of sexual harassment could expose you to costly lawsuits and tarnish your reputation.

Even if you don’t believe that sexual harassment is a problem in your workplace, taking the time to draft a formal policy can help protect your employees and your business. Here are some important topics to include in a sexual harassment policy:

  • Emphasize that your business has a strict no-tolerance policy for any type of sexual harassment. Your policy should also outline that any employee found guilty of harassment will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.
  • Establish what physical and verbal behaviors are regarded as sexual harassment, and stress that employees should feel safe at all times.
  • Create a formal procedure for making a sexual harassment claim that protects your employees’ privacy.
  • Encourage employees to come forward with sexual harassment claims so management can take steps to remedy the situation and prevent future harassment. You should also emphasize that there will be no retaliation of any kind against employees who make a claim.
  • Make a procedure for forming a sexual harassment investigation team. The investigation team should never have personal ties to anyone involved with the sexual harassment claim, and should include both male and female employees.

For more help creating a safe, violence-free workplace, contact us at 920-921-5921 today.

 

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Congress Moves Forward With Flood Insurance Renewal and Reforms

The House of Representatives recently passed the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, a collection of seven bills that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until 2022 and establish a number of reforms. Many of the proposed changes focus on increasing the program’s financial viability, as the NFIP exceeded its borrowing limit of $30 billion during this year’s hurricane season.

Here are some of the key additions included in the recently passed bill:

  • Improved technology to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map flood zones and set insurance premiums
  • Limits on annual premium increases and surcharges
  • Financial tools to help FEMA and the NFIP plan for their long-term needs
  • An option for businesses to opt out of flood insurance requirements after one year
  • Incentives for private flood insurance providers

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposed reforms would lead to $187 million in savings between 2018 and 2027. However, critics of the bill believe that the changes could increase the price of flood insurance in low-income areas.

 

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Tips for Digging Your Car Out of the Snow

Not only can heavy snowfall make roads dangerous, but it can also bury your car and make it difficult to access. In some cases, vehicles can get stuck in a snowbank or on a patch of ice, making it very challenging to break free.

In order to effectively free your car from the snow, consider doing the following:

  • Use a shovel or other snow removal tool to clear a path for your vehicle. Be sure to clear off your windshield and shovel in front of and behind your tires.
  • Turn on the traction control function of your vehicle, if available. This tool helps limit how much your wheels spin, which, in turn, helps you sustain traction for longer.
  • Keep your wheels straight and drive forward and backward multiple times. This will rock your car gently, generate momentum and make it easier for you to get over piles of snow.

If none of the above tips help to free your car, you may want to consider calling a tow service to help you pull your car loose. Many insurance policies include coverage for tow services. Remember that clearing snow can put a strain on the body. Take frequent breaks from shoveling to avoid overexerting yourself.

 

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Are You Prepared for a Home Break-in?

While it may be difficult to imagine it happening to you, home break-ins are a common occurrence. If an intruder enters your home, your property and the well-being of your loved ones are at risk.

In order to protect your home and family from an intruder, consider doing the following:

  • Put an emergency plan in place and discuss it with everyone in your household.
  • Take any measure possible to let the intruder know someone is home and aware of his or her presence.
  • Do not assume the intruder is unarmed. He or she may be concealing a knife or gun and could produce it at a moment’s notice.
  • If you have something immediately available you can use for defense, grab it, even if it is just a scare tactic.
  • Remain vigilant. Take note of the intruder’s physical characteristics and provide the most accurate description possible to the police if he or she gets away.

In addition to the above, consider arming your home with a security system. A security system may seem expensive, but knowing your family and possessions are safe at all times may make it worth the cost.

 

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Tips for Exercising Without Injury

While exercising can improve your mood, fight chronic diseases and help you manage your weight, it can put a strain on your body if you don’t take the proper precautions. To get the most from your workouts and decrease your risk of injury, you should take the time to warm up, cool down and stretch.

Warming Up Tips

  • Move similar to how you will in your workout by walking briskly, jogging or biking at a slow pace.
  • Increase the intensity gradually to reduce stress on your bones, muscles and heart.
  • Warm up for approximately 5-15 minutes so that you break a light sweat.

Cool-down Tips

  • Include movements similar to those in your workout, but they should decrease in intensity gradually.
  • Cool down for at least 10 minutes so that blood returns from your muscles to your heart.

Stretching Tips

  • Stretch before and after a workout to build flexibility and range of motion and reduce your risk of injury. Use gentle, fluid movements while stretching and breathe normally.
  • Focus on individual muscle groups and hold a stretch for 20 to 60 seconds. Do not force your joints beyond their normal range of motion.

Keeping in mind the above tips will ensure that the next time you exercise, you can do so without injury.

 

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Safety Focused Newsletter - December 2017

Preventing Sprains and Strains

Sprains, strains and tears to muscles and connective tissues are some of the most common injuries workers experience. Sprains and strains can result from lifting injuries, being hit by falling objects or even a simple misstep. Overusing your muscles can also cause these injuries.

To reduce your risk of experiencing sprains and strains on the job, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Use extreme caution if you are lifting something particularly heavy. When in doubt, ask for help.
  • Reduce repetitive movements if possible. Chronic strains are usually the result of overusing the same muscles.
  • Use proper form when completing tasks, as extensive gripping can increase the risk of hand and forearm strains.
  • Consider your posture when sitting for long periods of time and maintain an overall relaxed position.
  • Maintain a healthy fitness level outside of work to keep your body strong and flexible.
  • Stretch before you begin working, and take short breaks throughout the day to stretch and rebalance your body.

If you have any questions or concerns about sprains or strains, do not hesitate to contact your supervisor.

 

The Hazards of Headphones

In many workplaces, it’s common for employees to listen to music while they work. While this provides workers with entertainment while they perform their job duties, the overuse of headphones may lead to hearing loss over time, particularly if they listen to media at a high volume.

The following are some common symptoms to look out for if you are concerned that frequent headphone use is contributing to hearing loss:

  • Straining to understand conversations
  • Having to watch people’s faces closely to understand what they’re saying
  • Continuously increasing the volume on the TV or radio, especially to the point where others complain
  • Sounds seem muffled after listening to music
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

If you find that you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and ask for a hearing test. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are at risk for further hearing loss.

To continue to use headphones at work safely, there are a number of strategies to keep in mind.

If you use a smartphone or MP3 player, check to see if you can set a volume limit on it. Many devices have this feature built-in and include instructions on how to set it in the manual.

Another way to reduce your risk of hearing loss is to purchase headphones that go over your ears, rather than ear buds. Ear buds fit inside your ear and don’t provide any noise isolation, which causes people using them to turn the volume up louder.

As a general rule, set your music volume no higher than 60 to 70 percent of the maximum, and limit listening to one hour per day. Doing so will ensure that you can enjoy your favorite media without harming your hearing.

 

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Health Care Property & Casualty Profile - November / December 2017

In this November / December Health Care Profile, we will dive into digital innovation within hospitals, the financial benefit of easing doctor burnout, and how the federal government threaten three Massachusetts psychiatric hospitals. Read more below.


HOSPITALS WANT DIGITAL INNOVATION

A survey conducted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and health innovation company AVIA found that 85 percent of health care leaders realize that digital innovation is a key factor in the long-term success of their health care organizations.

Survey respondents included executives and innovation officers from 317 health systems in 48 states. When asked to define innovation, almost 75 percent of survey respondents said that it involves collaborating with innovative organizations, and 42 percent said that they believe innovation includes testing and scaling externally developed digital solutions.

Christina Jack, the AHA’s senior director of entrepreneur strategy and innovation, stated that digital innovation could be hampered by the fact that it is dependent upon the competencies of a chief information officer. And, as a result, it isn’t woven into an organization’s operations.

Nonetheless, the health care leaders who participated in the survey were hopeful about the future and stated that, if done correctly, digital innovations could improve the patient and workplace experience for both physicians and staff, as well as improve safety and decrease costs.

According to the survey, areas where hospitals have already invested in digital innovation include operational efficiencies, primary care delivery and utilization, patient access and care transitions.

FEDS THREATEN 3 PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITALS

The federal government threatened ceasing Medicare payments to three Massachusetts psychiatric hospitals after safety lapses caused two mentally ill patients to forgo critical medication. One patient had a seizure and suffered a traumatic head injury as a result.

 

According to a letter dated Sept. 8 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to the CEO of all three hospitals, conditions discovered on Aug. 28, 29 and 30 posed an immediate jeopardy to the health and safety of patients, limiting the hospitals’ capacity to render adequate care.

FINANCIAL BENEFIT OF EASING DOCTOR BURNOUT

According to a recent study published in JAMA’s Internal Medicine, addressing doctor burnout could save hospitals over $1 million per year.

The study looked at the cost of physician turnover as a whole and then used evidence to determine how many physicians leave their jobs because of burnout. It found that for an organization that employs 450 doctors, doctors who leave due to burnout cost the organization $2.5 million per year. If the same organization spent $1 million per year to lower the risk of burnout by 20 percent, it could save about $1.25 million each year.

Researchers said that the ways to decrease burnout involve understanding what causes it, such as a lack of work-life balance, heavy workloads, and a lack of flexibility and control.


5 Common Types of Construction Fraud to Avoid

Common Types of Construction Fraud

Fraud of all kinds is prevalent across every type of construction project. While cases of construction companies defrauding their clients are the most reported, it is the companies themselves that often lose money to fraud perpetrated by employees, contractors and partners.

To protect themselves, businesses should be aware of the following most common fraud schemes:

  1. Nonpayment of subcontractors and material suppliers done by delaying or falsifying lien waivers, or using project cash receipts to pay bills for other projects.
  2. Billing for unperformed work—often by exaggerating the units of production accomplished or the labour and equipment actually used.
  3. Subcontractor collusion, such as bid rigging and price fixing. It is important to prequalify and pre-approve contractors, provide the full scope of work to bid on, and then select the best-priced, most qualified and responsive subcontractor.
  4. Substituting or removing material, which can include doing things like installing low-grade materials that would require future repairs.
  5. Stealing tools or equipment from a worksite, often done by billing for equipment or tools for the job site that are then used for other subcontractor projects or personal use, or billing for unnecessary tools.

For further protection, it’s a good idea to implement a compliance and ethics program, set up an anonymous reporting system, properly define project scopes and ensure segregation of duties.

Prepare for OSHA’s First Injury Tracking Deadline

OSHA’s new Injury Tracking Application (ITA) was launched on Aug. 1, 2017, allowing establishments to start submitting their 2016 Form 300A. OSHA’s proposed compliance deadline is Dec. 1, 2017, leaving employers limited time to prepare.

The following establishments are subject to the rule and its subsequent reporting requirements:

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees
  • Establishments with 20-249 employees that operate in identified high-risk industries

In order to meet the Dec. 1 deadline, employers should familiarize themselves with the ITA. Employers in states that operate OSHA-approved state plans should consult with their OSHA state-plan administrator for any additional electronic reporting instructions.


Cyber Risks & Liabilities - November 2017

We live in a world centralized around cyber activity – so shouldn’t employers protect themselves from cyber risks? The answer: yes. This article will help employers be aware of the damage a breach in cyber security can cause and help them seek the best cyber insurance.


5 Cyber Risk Questions Every Board Should Ask

When a data breach or other cyber event occurs, the damages can be significant, often resulting in lawsuits, fines and serious financial losses. In order for organizations to truly protect themselves from cyber risks, corporate boards must play an active role. Not only does involvement from leadership improve cyber security, it can also reduce liability for board members.

To help oversee their organization’s cyber risk management, boards should ask the following questions:

  1. Does the organization utilize technology to prevent data breaches? Boards should ensure that the management team reviews company technology at least annually, ensuring that cyber security tools are current and effective.
  2. Does the organization have a comprehensive cyber security program that includes specific policies and procedures? Boards should ensure that cyber security programs align with industry standards and are audited on a regular basis to ensure effectiveness and internal compliance.
  3. Has the management team provided adequate employee training to ensure sensitive data is handled correctly? Boards can help oversee the process of making training programs that foster cyber awareness.
  4. Has management taken appropriate steps to reduce cyber risks when working with third parties? Boards should work with the company’s management team to create a third-party agreement that identifies how the vendor will protect sensitive data, whether the vendor will subcontract services and how it will inform the organization of compromised data.
  5. Has the organization conducted a thorough risk assessment and considered purchasing cyber liability insurance? Boards, alongside the company’s management team, should conduct a cyber risk assessment and identify potential gaps. From there, organizations can work with their insurance broker to customize a policy that meets their specific needs.

Key Considerations When Buying Cyber Insurance

Buying cyber insurance is not a one-size-fits-all process. To ensure your business has sufficient cyber coverage, it is critical to assess your needs and consider your specific risks. The following are some common elements of cyber insurance policies to consider when building optimal coverage for your business:

  • Limits and sublimits—Hierl Insurance Inc. can assist you in determining appropriate limits by utilizing industry benchmarking data and projected breach costs. From there, we can examine your sublimits, which don’t provide extra coverage, but set a maximum to cover a specific loss.
  • Retroactive coverage—Breaches can go undiscovered for years. For protection from unidentified cyber incidents, ask for a retroactive date that is earlier than the policy’s inception date.
  • Exclusions—Common cyber policy exclusions, such as outdated software, unencrypted mobile devices and penalties from credit issuers, can adversely impact coverage. Understand your policy exclusions before committing.
  • Panel provisions—Many insurance companies require policyholders to use preapproved investigators, consultants and legal professionals in the event of a cyber breach. If you have a preferred team of experts, make sure your preferred policy allows you to work with them before signing.
  • Consent provisions—Some cyber policies contain consent provisions that require obtaining the insurer’s consent before incurring certain expenses related to cyber claims. If prior consent provisions are included in the policy and cannot be removed, policyholders can change them to ensure that the carrier’s consent cannot be unreasonably withheld.
  • Vendor acts and omissions—Most organizations use third-party vendors to process or store a portion of their data. While they make it easier to do business, they also represent a potential exposure. It is critical that your business’s cyber liability policy covers claims that result from breaches caused by your vendors.

Cyber insurance is continually evolving alongside emerging cyber threats. Contact Hierl Insurance Inc. to help proactively assess your risks and ensure that your insurance coverage is in line with your specific business practices and exposures.

 

 

 

 

Yahoo Says All Accounts Were Hacked in 2013

Yahoo recently announced that, in contrast to an earlier estimate, all 3 billion of its accounts were hacked in 2013. The news could not only increase the legal exposure for Yahoo’s new owner Verizon Wireless, but also increase the number of class-action lawsuits expected in U.S. federal and state courts.

Recently obtained information shows that the stolen information did not include passwords in clear text, bank account information or card data. However, this information was protected with outdated encryption that experts said is easy to crack. It also included backup email addresses and security questions that could make it easier to break into other user accounts.

In late 2016, Yahoo made users change their passwords if they hadn’t since the hack, and invalidated old security questions and answers.

Equifax Cyber Security Incident

Equifax Inc. announced in September that about 143 million U.S. consumers may have been affected by one of the largest breaches in history.

Names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers were accessed by the intruders, according to a statement from Equifax. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers were also accessed.

GDPR Compliance Deadline Approaching

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of European Union (EU) citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. Noncompliance could be costly for businesses—amounting to up to €20 million or 4 percent of global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

Companies that do business with customers in the EU must be able to show compliance by May 25, 2018. For more information on whether the GDPR affects your business, and how to comply, visit the website of the European Commission here.


Safety Focused Newsletter - November 2017

At Hierl, we take the safety of our workforce very seriously. Every month, we do our best to inform our employees, as well as other employers, on ways to reduce the risk of violence in the workplace. This month, we've decided to focus on the importance of a clean, walkable workplace, and - in light of the unfortunate violence across the US - we want to put a spotlight on safety when it comes to terrorism in the workplace.

Declutter for a Safe Workplace

A cluttered, unorganized workspace isn’t just unsightly—it is also dangerous. Poor workplace housekeeping, such as failing to clean up after yourself, can contribute to the following:

  • Injuries caused by slips and falls when clutter is on the floor
  • Potential fire hazards
  • Exposure to hazardous dust and vapors
  • Ergonomics issues that arise when clutter takes over your workspace, leaving you little room to work

No matter what type of environment you work in, it is important to keep your workspace clean and organized, not only for safety reasons, but also for productivity and morale. According to researchers, a cluttered environment can cause stress, and restrict your ability to focus and process information. The following tips can help you keep your workspace safe and organized:

  • Regularly wipe down your workstation with a damp cloth or disinfecting wipe to remove dust, dirt and germs. Don’t forget the keyboard and mouse if you use a computer.
  • Clean up spills and dispose of all trash immediately.
  • Avoid eating at your workstation, especially if you work with hazardous materials.
  • Keep walkways and floors free of clutter and tripping hazards.
  • Store equipment in designated areas when tasks are complete.

What to Do in the Event of an Active Shooter

Workplace violence may be a rare occurrence, but you should never underestimate the importance of being prepared in the event that your workplace is targeted by an active shooter. An active shooter is an individual who is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.

Shootings can happen anytime, anywhere. The general perception is that these events happen in bad areas or in buildings that contain key members of society. However, this is not always the case, and the majority of shootings that occur in the workplace are carried out by employees, or former employees, for reasons associated with their job.

While you may not be able to prevent an attack from happening, it is critical to keep the following tips in mind in the event that your workplace experiences an active shooter incident:

  • Evacuate the premises if possible.
  • Call 911 if you can do so safely.
  • Warn everyone you encounter to leave the area.
  • Remain silent and still if you can’t flee safely. Be sure to silence any devices you may be carrying.
  • Block any doors with heavy furniture if you are hiding in a room. Don’t stand near any windows.

Only fight back as a last resort. Be sure to cooperate with emergency personnel—it can mean the difference between life and death. When law enforcement arrives, be sure to react in the following ways:

  • Calmly follow instructions.
  • Put down any items you are carrying, and keep hands visible at all times.
  • Provide as much information as you can.

Attacks can happen without warning. Since they are often finished before law enforcement arrives on the scene, it is important to consider the threat of an active shooter in advance and be aware of your company’s emergency procedures.