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Safety Focused Newsletter - January 2018

Common Reasons Workplace Hazards Go Unreported

In order to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, organizations rely on their employees to report safety concerns. While hazard reporting is critical for discovering and addressing risks, many employees avoid it. The following are some reasons why workplace hazards go unreported:

  • Employees lack the time. It can be easy to be distracted by daily work and not take the time to fulfil extra responsibilities. However, if you notice a hazard, it’s important to notify your supervisor to ensure the safety of you and your co-workers.
  • Employees don’t know how to report the hazard. Sometimes employees may notice a safety issue, but don’t report it because they don’t know how. In these instances, it’s important to ask your supervisor to teach you hazard reporting processes.
  • Employees are concerned about getting in trouble. If a hazard is the result of negligence, employees may worry about repercussions for identifying an issue. However, hazard reporting isn’t about discipline, but rather prevention and correction. Employees should feel empowered to speak with their supervisors about workplace issues without worrying about getting in trouble.

When it comes to hazard reporting, employees should be proactive instead of waiting for an inspection to take place.

Working Safely in the Cold

Employees that work outside in the winter months are at risk of serious health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and muscle injuries. What’s more, frigid temperatures can also cause additional pain for those who suffer from arthritis and rheumatism.

Common symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue, confusion, white or grayish skin, skin that feels waxy and numbness.

To reduce the risk of cold-induced injuries, consider doing the following:

  • Layer clothing to keep warm enough to be safe, but cool enough to avoid perspiring excessively. Layered clothing should contain the following:
    • An inner layer of synthetic weave to keep perspiration away from the body
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain body heat
    • An outer layer designed to protect from wind chill and allow for ventilation
  • Wear a hat.
  • Place heat packets in gloves, vests, boots and hats to add heat to the body.

It’s important to note that many people do not notice they are suffering from cold-related illnesses because their tissue is numb. Therefore, it is wise for employees to check on each other periodically when working outdoors in the cold.

If employees experience any symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries, they should get indoors, alert their supervisor and call for medical attention if symptoms do not subside.

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Compliance Bulletin: 2018 Minimum Wage Rates

The current federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. However, many states have adopted minimum wage rates higher than the federal rate. When the state rate and the federal rate are different, employers must pay their employees the higher rate.

Affected employers should review their employees’ pay rates and update their minimum wage poster notices as necessary to ensure compliance with local wage and hour regulations.

Download the following PDF for helpful charts and tables with wage rate information by state.

 


Cyber Risks & Liabilities - January/February 2018

Troubling Lack of Cyber Concern by CFOs

Gone are the days when chief financial officers (CFOs) solely had to focus on managing their organization’s financial risks. These days, CFOs need to think about the costs of cyber security as well as the costs associated with not having enough of it. When their security tools are inadequate or threats go unnoticed, there is an increased risk of incidents that can costs thousands or millions of dollars in repairs, lost business and reputation. CFOs need to apply new strategies when it comes to tackling cyber risks.

Work With the Chief Information Security Officer

According to recent data, 39 percent of IT workers don’t believe their senior management understands the impact that a security breach could have on their company’s reputation. CFOs should become active members of their security teams, instead of passive observers, in an effort to protect their revenue with a more focused and effective cyber security plan. The most effective partnerships involve weekly cyber exposure reviews with management and IT.

Invest in IT

A recent report found that firms that invest more in IT security experience an average of 6.8 fewer breaches and save more than $5 million. With the growing number of available devices that employees can use to stay connected and do their jobs, new approaches are needed to deal with increased cyber exposure that may have been more easily contained in the past.

Be Accountable

CFOs need to realize how cyber risk affects financial risk. According to a recent study by Ponemon Institute, data breaches result in an average stock price decline of 5 percent and an average revenue decline of $3.4 million. CFOs cannot manage risks of that magnitude by themselves. It is in the best interest of the entire company if its CFO partners with others in the organization who have a vested interest in managing cyber risk.

The Biggest Cyber Security Disasters of 2017

Like 2016 before it, 2017 was not without its share of cyber security incidents—incidents that impacted companies of all sizes and affected multiple industries. The following are some of the biggest cyber security disasters of 2017:

  • WannaCry—Using a tool that was allegedly stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency, cyber criminals exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s Windows system in order to spread malware dubbed WannaCry. The attack, which took place May 12, 2017, has impacted over 200,000 users in at least 150 countries.
  • Equifax—In September of 2017, Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, was the victim of a massive cyber attack. This attack compromised the personal information of over 143 million people.
  • Yahoo—In late 2016, Yahoo reported more than 1 billion user accounts were impacted by a 2013 breach. Later in 2017, it was revealed that over 3 billion Yahoo accounts were compromised.
  • Verizon—In July of 2017, it was reported that 14 million Verizon subscribers may have been affected by a data breach. The majority of those impacted by the breach were individuals who had previously contacted Verizon customer service.
  • Gmail—In May of 2017, it was revealed that Gmail users were targeted in a sophisticated phishing scam. The scam sought to gain access to accounts through a third-party app. Over 1 million users have been impacted.

Trump Administration Releases Rules on Disclosing Cyber Flaws

The Trump administration publicly released its rules on whitehouse.gov for deciding whether to disclose cyber security flaws or keep them secret. In doing so, the administration hopes to bring more transparency to its cyber processes.

The U.S. government initially created the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) under former President Barack Obama, to determine what to do with discovered flaws. The process was designed to balance law enforcement’s and U.S. intelligence officers’ desires to hack into devices with the intention to warn manufacturers of the need to patch holes in their security. However, the government has attracted criticism for jeopardizing internet security by stockpiling detected cyber vulnerabilities in order to preserve its ability to launch its own attacks on computer systems.

The new Trump administration charter explains how the VEP functions and names the agencies involved in the vulnerability reviews, including intelligence agencies as well as several civilian departments that include the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Energy and State.

The National Security Agency is the executive secretariat of the interagency group. Its job is to coordinate debates over flaws that the various agencies submit in case there is a disagreement about whether to disclose them. If the disagreements cannot be reconciled, the group will vote on whether to disclose or retain the flaws.

The new rules also require the creation of an annual report to provide metrics on the amount of flaws discovered, retained and disclosed. Portions of the report are to be made public. Decisions to retain vulnerabilities are to be reconsidered every year.

According to White House security coordinator Rob Joyce, the revised rules are intended to shed light on the process for how various federal agencies weigh the costs of keeping a flaw secret. Joyce said the rules are the most sophisticated in the world and that they set the United States apart from most other nations.

More than 90 percent of flaws are ultimately disclosed, according to Joyce, although critics argue that they’re not shared quickly enough.

 


Safety First - January 2018

According to NORC at the University of Chicago, 75 percent of the Americans affected by substance abuse are active in the workforce, and they’re more likely to seek treatment if it is initiated by their employer. Jan. 22-28 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Take this opportunity to educate your employees about the dangers of substance abuse with these and many more employee communication safety resources available from Hierl Insurance Inc.:

Playing It Safe

Struggling with Drugs or Alcohol? If you recognize that you have a problem with using drugs or alcohol, you have already completed the most important step on your road to recovery. Attempting to do your job well while dealing with your problem is very difficult—but you’re not alone. Of those over age 18 abusing drugs or alcohol, it is estimated that more than 70 percent hold down full- or part-time jobs.

Payroll Stuffer

How Does Substance Abuse Affect the Workplace? Drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace impairs your senses and judgment, putting both your job and your coworkers at risk. It has a negative affect on relationships, health care costs, productivity, and workplace safety.

If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, confidential help is available. Take the first step on the road to recovery by contacting your HR representative today.

Playing It Safe

Dealing With Depression. Everyone feels sad or down at one time or another. For most, this feeling passes within a few days or weeks. But when a loss of interest in normal activities and feelings of sadness persist for a longer period, it may indicate more serious conditions, including depression.

Lifestyle Lessons

Treating Lower Back Pain. Lower back pain is one of the most agonizing and common health conditions in the world, as well as a leading cause of disability. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 1 in 4 adults will experience lower back pain for at least one day during a three-month timespan.


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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