Trucking Risk Advisor - April 2018 Edition

New Study Shows Importance of Quality Sleep

Commercial drivers often have to work long hours in adverse conditions to meet deadlines, putting themselves and surrounding traffic at risk. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving is involved in almost 10 percent of all motor crashes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently conducted a study to determine how sleep quality affects drivers. Although the agency found that some solutions—such as team drivers working on shifts—helps drivers get more sleep, this isn’t as restful and can still lead to drowsy driving.

Although NIOSH believes that the best way to get restful sleep is to stop driving and find a stationary bed in a quiet setting, the agency also announced that it’s examining alternative methods to get quiet sleep, such as enhanced truck cabs with therapeutic mattress systems and behavioral sleep health programs.

Agriculture Truckers Granted Additional ELD Waiver

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently granted agriculture truckers a second 90-day waiver from the electronic logging device (ELD) rule. The agency originally granted these truckers an ELD waiver that expired on March 18, 2018, in order to address the unique needs of the agricultural industry. However, the FMCSA believes that it needs more time in order to publish final guidance on personal conveyance and a 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption.

The ELD rule went into effect on Dec. 18, 2017, but violations will only affect a motor carrier’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program scores after April 1, 2018. For more information on the recent waivers and the ELD rule, visit the FMCSA’s website.

DOT Announces Nearly $500 Million in Infrastructure Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it will issue nearly $500 million in grants to 41 projects through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. According to the DOT, the TIGER program helps ensure that transparent funding is available for transportation infrastructure projects. When announcing the grants, the agency also stated that the program helps increase safety, create jobs and modernize infrastructure.

Visit the DOT’s website to learn more about the TIGER program and the recently announced grants.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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OSHA Safety Cornerstones - April 2018 Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE

OSHA Delays Beryllium Rule Enforcement

The agency also clarified requirements for the construction and shipyard industries.

Majority of Establishments Failed to Submit 2016 Electronic Reporting Data

A delayed compliance date and confusion about exemptions caused many establishments to fail to report 2017 data electronically.

OSHA Releases Two New Fact Sheets on Electricity Safety

These new resources can help protect employees who frequently work around electricity and downed power lines.

OSHA Delays Beryllium Rule and Clarifies Requirements for Construction and Shipyards

Although OSHA’s final rule on beryllium exposure in the general, construction and shipyard industries became effective on May 20, 2017, the agency recently announced that it will delay enforcement until May 11, 2018. OSHA also announced that some of the rule’s requirements will vary between the three affected industries.

Beryllium is a toxic metal that’s commonly found in machine parts, electronics and aircraft. The metal is a known carcinogen and can also cause respiratory problems, skin disease and many other adverse health effects. For these reasons, OSHA has lowered the exposure limits for employers in the general, construction and shipyard industries:

  • The permissible exposure limit (PEL) of an eight-hour average has been lowered to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3). The previous PEL was 2.0 μg/m3, a limit that OSHA found to pose a significant health hazard to employees.
  • The short-term exposure limit (STEL) over a 15-minute period has been lowered to 2.0 μg/m3.

Although the new beryllium rule contains additional requirements, OSHA will only require the construction and shipyard industries to follow the new PEL and STEL. The agency stated that employees in these industries don’t frequently work near dangerous amounts of beryllium and are protected by the safety requirements found in other OSHA standards.

General industry employers must follow these additional beryllium control methods:

  • Provide exposure assessment to employees who are reasonably expected to be exposed to beryllium.
  • Establish, maintain and distinguish work areas that may contain dangerous amounts of beryllium.
  • Create and regularly update a written beryllium exposure plan.
  • Provide adequate respiratory protection and other personal protective equipment to employees who work near beryllium.
  • Train employees on beryllium hazards and control methods.
  • Maintain work areas that contain beryllium and—under certain conditions—establish facilities for employees to wash and change out of contaminated clothing or equipment.

According to a new report from Bloomberg Environment, a majority of the establishments that were required to submit 2016 injury and illness data under OSHA’s electronic reporting rule failed to do so. OSHA expected to receive about 350,000 reports, but the agency only received just over 150,000.

The final date to submit 2016 injury and illness reports was Dec. 31, 2017, but this date was delayed a number of times as OSHA worked to build its Injury Tracking Application and improve its cyber security. Bloomberg also attributes the large number of missing reports to confusion about exemptions, as OSHA received over 60,000 reports from exempt establishments.

Under the rule, the following establishments must submit data electronically:

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep injury and illness records must submit OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301.
  • Establishments with 20 to 249 employees that work in industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses must submit OSHA Form 300A.

The final date to submit 2017 injury and illness data electronically is July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019, data from the previous calendar year must be submitted by March 2 annually.

NEWS & NOTES:

OSHA Releases Two New Fact Sheets on Electricity Safety

OSHA has released two electricity fact sheets in order to protect employees who frequently work with electricity and power lines. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electricity causes over 150 fatalities and 1,500 injuries in U.S. workplaces every year.

Here are some of the topics included in the first new fact sheet, which can provide tips for engineers, electricians and other employees who work with electricity:

  • Generators
  • Power lines
  • Extension cords
  • Equipment
  • Electrical incidents

The second fact sheet focuses on downed electrical wires and can help employees involved in recovery efforts following disasters and severe weather events.

Protecting employees from electrical hazards not only keeps your business productive, it can also save you from costly OSHA citations. The agency’s electrical wiring method standard is one of the top 10 most frequently cited standards nearly every year.

For resources that can help safeguard your business against electrical hazards, contact us today.

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Provided by Hierl Insurance Inc.


Safety Focused Newsletter - April 2018

How Indoor Air Quality Affects Health

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has a direct impact on your health, comfort, well-being and productivity. Poor IAQ can cause chronic headaches, allergies, fatigue and irritation of the lungs, among other symptoms.

What’s more, when IAQ is poor, it can have a direct effect on your productivity. If you are worried about the IAQ at your workplace, watch out for these symptoms:

  • Dryness or irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs
  • Shortness of breath and fatigue
  • Nausea, headaches and dizziness
  • Chronic coughing and sneezing

If you suspect you are suffering from the effects of poor IAQ at your workplace, keep track of your symptoms and speak with your manager. As with many occupational illnesses, individuals may be affected differently.

If you are experiencing symptoms that your co-workers aren’t, that doesn’t mean an IAQ problem doesn’t exist and it’s still important to notify your employer. If your symptoms persist, consider speaking to a qualified medical professional.

3 Defensive Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life

Many jobs require employees to drive a company vehicle. While most drivers are cautious and attentive, accidents can occur without warning—even if the operator has years of experience.

When accidents happen, it can be incredibly costly for employers. What’s more, just one accident can cost employees their job or lead to serious, debilitating injuries.

One way to stay safe while you’re on the road for a job is through defensive driving. Being a defensive driver means driving to prevent accidents in spite of the actions of others or the presence of adverse driving conditions.

To avoid accidents through the use of defensive driving, do the following:

  • Remain on the lookout for hazards. Think about what may happen as far ahead of you as possible, and never assume that road hazards will resolve themselves before you reach them.
  • Understand the defense. Review potentially hazardous situations in your mind after you see them. This will allow you to formulate a reaction that will prevent an accident.
  • Act quickly. Once you see a hazard and decide upon a defense, you must act immediately. The sooner you act, the more time you will have to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Defensive driving requires the knowledge and strict observance of all traffic rules and regulations applicable to the area you are driving in. It also means that you should be alert for illegal actions and driving errors made by others and be willing to make timely adjustments to your own driving to avoid an accident.

Keeping in mind the above tips will not only keep you safe on the job, but in your personal life as well.

4 Tips for Safe Driving:

Avoid Distractions.

Be Alert.

Keep a Safe Distance.

Don't Speed.

Poor indoor air quality can cause chronic headaches, allergies, fatigue and irritation of the lungs, among other symptoms.

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CenterStage: Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distraction is Deadly: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

In 2015 alone, 3,477 people have died and another 391,000 have been injured due to distracted driving.

Not only is distracted driving hazardous to your life, but it can negatively impact the drivers’ lives that surround you. Distracted Driving Awareness Month is an effort by the National Safety Council to help recognize and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving. In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, this month’s CenterStage features Cathleen Christensen, Vice President of Property & Casualty at Hierl Insurance, who will provide safe driving practices and how companies can ensure their employees are using them.

What is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a public health issue that affects us all. According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, adjusting stereo, entertainment or navigation systems. You cannot drive safely unless your attention is fully focused on the road ahead of you, any activity that you partake in simultaneously provides a distraction and increases the risk of a crash.

Awareness for Awareness

Bringing awareness to distracted driving is essentially bringing awareness to awareness. There are three main types of distraction:

  1. Visual – taking your eyes off the road
  2. Cognitive – taking your mind off driving
  3. Manual – taking your hands off the wheel

These days, it’s so easy to be a distracted driver – from texting, to talking on the phone, or even using a navigation system. The biggest one, texting, is especially dangerous because it involves committing all three types of distraction. Some studies even say texting and driving is worse than driving under the influence. So, how can you keep your employees aware while driving?

“Several studies believe, as well as myself, that employers should prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages
workers to text and drive.”

– Cathleen Christensen, VP of Property & Casualty at Hierl

But how can you really get your employees to commit to your ‘No Distracted Driving’ policy? It’s as easy as providing education and solutions. Sometimes, it’s especially effective to have your employees sign a contract stating if they need to use any form of a hand-held device, they must pull over to the side of the road. Remind your employees to drive with their devices off or on silent to keep the urge under control. Plus, several cellular devices have come out with ways to set phones to driving mode, leaving a custom voicemail to anyone who calls while an employee/employer is driving, letting the caller know they will call the caller back later.

Companies suffer from great financial loss yearly due to distracted driving. By putting these safe driving practices in place, you will save lives AND money. If you’d like to get more help on implementing a safe driving policy within your workplace, please contact Cathleen at 920.921.5921.


Safety Focused Newsletter - March 2018

Health Tips for Shift Workers

For shift workers, unconventional schedules can take a toll on health and safety. In fact, research shows that people who sleep during the day often struggle with getting an adequate amount of rest.

What’s more, workers on a shift schedule tend to have poor eating habits and lack regular exercise, which can contribute to fatigue and stress. To combat these adverse health factors, shift workers should consider doing the following:

  • Get enough rest before your shift begins. Eating well and getting plenty of exercise can help you sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep issues, speak with your doctor.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you begin to feel drowsy during the workday, consider going for a short walk or eating a healthy snack to re-energize.
  • Hold your employer accountable when it comes to rotating schedules. Working one shift over and over can take a toll, and it’s important to have occasional variety.

It’s important to be mindful about your scheduling, and avoid permanent or consecutive night shifts whenever possible. In addition, employees should be allowed to gradually change from night shifts to normal shifts, as this gives the body time to recover and adapt to a new schedule.

Fatigue due to poor quality or lack of sleep can affect every aspect of an individual’s life, and can severely hamper one’s ability to perform at work. Speak to a doctor if you are concerned about the quality of your sleep or want more general health tips.

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Commercial Risk Advisor-March 2018

Property Insurance Rates Expected to Increase as a Result of 2017 Hurricanes

Over the past few years, most commercial insurance rates have remained flat or decreased because of strong competition between insurance carriers. However, the significant damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017 will likely cause many carriers to raise property insurance rates in 2018 for some policyholders.

Although most businesses aren’t exposed to risks from hurricanes or other catastrophic weather events, experts believe that many property insurance rates will increase as insurance carriers attempt to recover any losses they experienced in 2017. Businesses that are located in coastal areas or have significant flood risks will likely see the highest increases, while businesses with good loss histories and strong risk mitigation procedures may not experience any rate increases.

Here are some other ways that the 2017 hurricanes may affect commercial insurance:

  • Experts don’t expect property rate increases to affect other lines of insurance. However, carriers that experienced significant losses or relied heavily on reinsurance may raise their rates.
  • Business interruption coverage was an important topic as many workplaces closed their doors in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes. As a result, underwriters will carefully examine the interruption exposures of both individual businesses and their vendors when determining rates in 2018.
  • Insured losses from the 2017 hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events have been estimated at $100 billion or more. However, experts believe that property insurance remains profitable overall, and rate increases shouldn’t be an indicator of a long-term hardening market.

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Manufacturing Risk Advisor - March/April 2018

Securing Supply Chains from Cyber Attacks

As connectivity in the manufacturing industry continues to increase due to technology, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, adaptive analytics models and cloud services, businesses may not be aware of new risk exposures in their supply chains. Even if your own business is secure, it’s possible for hackers to infiltrate a third-party supplier and use the information they gain to bypass normal security measures. Here are some strategies you can use to secure your supply chains from cyber attacks:

  • Clearly define the scope of liability in your contracts, and consider including language that protects you in the event of a cyber attack.
  • Conduct regular audits of your suppliers’ cyber security plans, especially if they rely on IoT devices or cloud services to conduct regular operations.
  • Create a contingency plan in case hackers target one of your suppliers. A quick response can help secure your own systems and limit any business interruptions.

Call us at 920-921-5921 today for more help managing your supply chain and improving cyber security.

OSHA Compliance Updates in 2018

Although the Trump administration’s emphasis on deregulation has limited the amount of new and updated OSHA standards, there are still a number of upcoming compliance updates that manufacturers should be aware of. The following is a list of anticipated compliance dates and other updates for 2018:

Manufacturing Grows Despite Widening Trade Deficit

The U.S. trade deficit rose to $566 billion in 2017, the largest such figure since 2008. The trade deficit measures the difference between a country’s imports and exports, and is often used as a general indicator of economic health. Despite the growing trade deficit, the manufacturing industry grew for the 17th consecutive month in January, according to a report from the Institute for Supply Management. The report attributed the growth to rising orders and increased productivity, but also noted that employment is growing at a slower rate.

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Compliance Bulletin: NLRB Reintroduces Indirect Joint Employer Standard

On Feb. 26, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overruled the “direct control” joint employer standard adopted with the Hy-Brand decision and reintroduced the “indirect control” standard set out by the Browning-Ferris case.

The indirect control standard was adopted in 2015 and established joint employer status for employers that had “sufficient” control over a worker’s essential terms and conditions of employment, regardless of whether the employer actually exercised its right of control.

ACTION STEPS

The reintroduced standard may have a large impact on National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) compliance across many industries. Because there is not a clear limit as to where liability ends based on this standard, the list of potential joint employers for any given operation may be increased and can noticeably change the way franchises, staffing agencies and seasonal employers operate.

Employers should review their partnerships with other entities with which they share employees to determine whether they are affected by this NLRB decision.

The NLRA and Joint Employment
The NLRA applies to workplaces with labor unions. However, certain provisions of the NLRA also apply to non-unionized workplaces. Joint employer situations can present a complicated scenario when evaluating compliance with the NLRA.

Among other things, the NLRA protects workers from employer retaliation when workers engage in protected concerted activities. Workers engage in protected concerted activities when they join together to improve their wages and working conditions. The key to determining whether an employee has engaged in a protected concerted activity is whether the worker was acting for the benefit, or on behalf, of others and not solely for his or her personal interest. Workers do not need to formally agree to act as a group or designate a representative to participate in concerted activities.

Concerted activities can include spontaneous, uneventful actions such as a discussion of working conditions and wages or questioning a supervisor on a company policy. In that sense, the NLRA protects any employee who:

  • Addresses group concerns with an employer;
  • Forms, joins or helps a labor organization;
  • Initiates, induces or prepares for group action; or
  • Speaks on behalf of or represents other employees.

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Construction Risk Advisor - March 2018

SURVEILLANCE MUST-HAVES

Commercial construction sites are especially susceptible to risks like fire, water damage and theft. A good surveillance system is a vital risk mitigation tool. Look for the following must-haves when choosing a surveillance system for your construction site:

  • Full perimeter protection, fencing and property signage—These additions could make criminals think twice before committing theft or arson.
  • Video surveillance for live monitoring—This can allow for early detection of a problem and identify perpetrators of crimes. A system that offers live monitoring may be used to notify emergency services during off hours, reducing damage, business interruption and claims costs. Some insurance companies even require a surveillance system with live monitoring on-site.
  • High-quality cameras—Consider all-weather cameras with pan-tilt-zoom, day and night vision, power backup and two-way voice capabilities.
  • Minimized service interruption—Choose a surveillance company that can quickly repair or replace damaged equipment.

ADDRESSING OPIOID ABUSE

According to a 2017 study, construction workers are among the most susceptible to opioid abuse, second only to employees in the food service industry. When workers are under the influence of opioids, they put themselves, their co-workers and the general public at risk of serious injury.

Few construction company officials discuss the issue publicly, fearing negative publicity and the risk of higher insurance and workers’ compensation rates. However, it’s important for them to understand why opioids are a problem and take preventive measures.

Representatives from the construction industry believe the reason for excessive opioid abuse is that the aging workforce, combined with the fact that fewer young people are entering the industry, leads to older workers being expected to do more manual labor than they were in the past. Before the shortage of skilled labor, aging employees might have focused more on drawing and supervising instead of physically strenuous work. After injury, many aging workers turn to opioids to help them work through the pain.

If an employer notices a worker who might be struggling with opioid abuse, offering to help may not only prevent an accident on a job site, it can also prevent sizeable punitive damages. Some companies enforce a no-tolerance policy, and it is common for unions to offer some sort of rehabilitation program.

To prevent opioid abuse from happening to begin with, some companies issue rewards to employees for maintaining safe work environments. In return, firms with safe work histories have an opportunity to negotiate better premiums with their insurance carriers.

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Compliance Bulletin: IRS Issues New Tools for 2018 Tax Withholding

As of Feb. 15, 2018, employers must use new tables to determine how much income tax to withhold from their employees’ paychecks. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the required new tables in Notice 1036 on Jan. 9, 2018. The new tables are also available in IRS Publication 15.

In addition, the IRS issued a new Form W-4 and a new withholding calculator on Feb. 28, 2018.

The updated tools aim to help employers improve the accuracy of their tax withholdings under changes made by the tax reform law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was enacted on Dec. 22, 2017.

ACTION STEPS

Employers should already be using the new tables for 2018. Employers are not required to use the new Form W-4 for 2018 but may use it for any 2018 withholding changes. Employers will be required to use the new version of Form W-4 for 2019.

Taxpayers can use the updated tax withholding calculator to determine whether they should make any changes to their 2018 withholdings.

Background

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made several changes to the tax code that will affect individual taxpayers in 2018. For example, the new law:

 

  • Adjusted tax rates and tax brackets;
  • Increased the standard deduction;
  • Repealed certain exemptions;
  • Changed itemized deductions;
  • Increased the child tax credit; and
  • Created a new dependent credit.

 

To reflect these changes, the IRS has issued three new tax withholding tools. The tools aim to help employers avoid withholding too much or too little from their employees’ paychecks for income taxes in 2018 and 2019.

For 2018, New Tables Work with Existing Forms W-4

The IRS’ new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that employees have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances for 2018. Thus, employers do not need to obtain updated Forms W-4 from their employees to use the new tables. The deadline for employers to begin using the new tables was Feb. 15, 2018.

New Form W-4 for 2019 May Be Used in 2018

For 2019, the IRS has revised Form W-4 to more fully reflect the new tax law and to help employees determine appropriate withholding amounts. Released on Feb. 28, 2018, the Form W-4 can be used in 2018 if an employee starts a new job or if existing employees wish to update their 2018 withholding in response to the new law or changes in their personal circumstances.

New Calculator

The IRS’ updated withholding calculator allows employees to perform a quick “paycheck checkup” to help them determine whether they should make changes to their 2018 withholdings. While the IRS encourages all taxpayers to use the new calculator, employees who have simple financial situations are not likely to require any revisions for 2018. Those with more complicated situations, however, are strongly encouraged to check their 2018 withholdings using the calculator. These include employees who itemized their deductions in 2017 or have:

     Two-income households;

Two or more jobs at the same time;

     Children who claim credits; or

High incomes.

Employees with even more complex situations (such as those who owe self-employment tax or have capital gains) may need to use Publication 505 instead of the withholding calculator. The IRS expects to release an updated version of this publication in the near future.

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