Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs

What's your state's stance on the cost of prescription drugs? See how Maryland has moved forward in their decision making for drug prices, giving themselves the ability to say "no" in this article from Benefits Pro written by Shefali Luthra.

You can read the original article here.


Lawmakers in Maryland are daring to legislate where their federal counterparts have not: As of Oct. 1, the state will be able to say “no” to some pharmaceutical price spikes.

A new law, which focuses on generic and off-patent drugs, empowers the state’s attorney general to step in if a drug’s price climbs 50 percent or more in a single year. The company must justify the hike. If the attorney general still finds the increase unwarranted, he or she can file suit in state court. Manufacturers face a fine of up to $10,000 for price gouging.

As Congress stalls on what voters say is a top health concern — high pharmaceutical costs — states increasingly are tackling the issue. Despite often-fierce industry opposition, a variety of bills are working their way through state governments. California, Nevada and New York are among those joining Maryland in passing legislation meant to undercut skyrocketing drug prices.

Maryland, though, is the first to penalize drugmakers for price hikes. Its law passed May 26 without the governor’s signature.

The state-level momentum raises the possibility that — as happened with hot-button issues such as gay marriage and smoke-free buildings — a patchwork of bills across the country could pave the way for more comprehensive national action. States feel the squeeze of these steep price tags in Medicaid and state employee benefit programs, and that applies pressure to find solutions.

“There is a noticeable uptick among state legislatures and state governments in terms of what kind of role states can play in addressing the cost of prescription drugs and access,” said Richard Cauchi, health program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many experts frame Maryland’s law as a test case that could help define what powers states have and what limits they face in doing battle with the pharmaceutical industry.

The generic-drug industry has already filed a lawsuit to block the law, arguing it’s unconstitutionally vague and an overreach of state powers. A district court is expected to rule soon.

The state-level actions focus on a variety of tactics:

“Transparency bills” would require pharmaceutical companies to detail a drug’s production and advertising costs when they raise prices over certain thresholds. Cost-limit measures would cap drug prices charged by drugmakers to Medicaid or other state-run programs, or limit what the state will pay for drugs. Supply-chain restrictions include regulating the roles of pharmacy benefit managers or limiting a consumer’s out-of-pocket costs.

A New York law on the books since spring allows officials to cap what its Medicaid program will pay for medications. If companies don’t sufficiently discount a drug, a state review will assess whether the price is out of step with medical value.

Maryland’s measure goes further — treating price gouging as a civil offense and taking alleged violators to court.

“It’s a really innovative approach. States are looking at how to replicate it, and how to expand on it,” said Ellen Albritton, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Families USA, which has consulted with states including Maryland on such policies.

Lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Montana. And in Ohio voters are weighing a ballot initiative in November that would limit what the state pays for prescription drugs in its Medicaid program and other state health plans.

Meanwhile, the California legislature passed a bill earlier in September that would require drugmakers to disclose when they are about to raise a price more than 16 percent over two years and justify the hike. It awaits Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

In June, Nevada lawmakers approved a law similar to California’s but limited to insulin prices. Vermont passed a transparency law in 2016 that would scrutinize up to 15 drugs for which the state spends “significant health care dollars” and prices had climbed by set amounts in recent years.

But states face a steep uphill climb in passing pricing legislation given the deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry, which can finance strong opposition, whether through lobbying, legal action or advertising campaigns.

Last fall, voters rejected a California initiative that would have capped what the state pays for drugs — much like the Ohio measure under consideration. Industry groups spent more than $100 million to defeat it, putting it among California’s all-time most expensive ballot fights. Ohio’s measure is attracting similar heat, with drug companies outspending opponents about 5-to-1.

States also face policy challenges and limits to their statutory authority, which is why several have focused their efforts on specific parts of the drug-pricing pipeline.

Critics see these tailored initiatives as falling short or opening other loopholes. Requiring companies to report prices past a certain threshold, for example, might encourage them to consistently set prices just below that level.

Maryland’s law is noteworthy because it includes a fine for drugmakers if price increases are deemed excessive — though in the industry that $10,000 fine is likely nominal, suggested Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who researches drug regulations.

This law also doesn’t address the trickier policy question: a drug’s initial price tag, noted Rena Conti, an assistant professor in the University of Chicago who studies pharmaceutical economics.

And its focus on generics means that branded drugs, such as Mylan’s Epi-Pen or Kaleo’s overdose-reversing Evzio, wouldn’t be affected.

Yet there’s a good reason for this, noted Jeremy Greene, a professor of medicine and the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who is in favor of Maryland’s law.

Current interpretation of federal patent law suggests that the issues related to the development and affordability of on-patent drugs are under federal jurisdiction, outside the purview of states, he explained.

In Maryland, “the law was drafted narrowly to address specifically a problem we’ve only become aware of in recent years,” he said. That’s the high cost of older, off-patent drugs that face little market competition. “Here’s where the state of Maryland is trying to do something,” he said.

Still, a ruling against the state in the pending court case could have a chilling effect for other states, Sachs said, although it would be unlikely to quash their efforts.

“This is continuing to be a topic of discussion, and a problem for consumers,” said Sachs.

“At some point, some of these laws are going to go into effect — or the federal government is going to do something,” she added.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation. KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Source:

Luther S. (29 September 2017). "Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/29/absent-federal-action-states-take-the-lead-on-curb?page=2


Risk Insights: Donating to Disasters and Avoiding Scams

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. News of the damage it has caused to southeastern Texas is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.

How to Avoid Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your resources go to a legitimate charity with experience in disaster relief:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.

  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security number or a copy of your driver’s license. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating money. Don’t let dishonest people take advantage of your good intentions.

How to Choose a Charity

Even legitimate charities need to be considered with care. The Federal Trade Commission suggests avoiding new charities because, despite their legitimacy, they may not have the resources needed to get your money to its intended recipients.

Donors looking for a worthy charity can access an unbiased, objective list on a website called Charity Navigator. The site receives a Form 990 for all of its charities directly from the IRS, so it knows exactly how

the charities spend their money and use their donations. It also rates charities based on their location, tax status, length of operation, accountability, transparency and public support.

Gaining popularity for charitable donations is a crowdfunding website called GoFundMe, which allows people to raise money for a wide variety of circumstances. Despite its popularity, visitors to the site should be cautious about the campaigns to which they donate. Visitors can report suspicious campaigns directly to GoFundMe via its official website or to their state’s consumer protection hotline.

National Organizations

The following national organizations have long-standing reputations for providing disaster relief and accepting donations:

  • The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to people affected by disasters.
  • AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.
  • Catholic Charities USA supports disaster response and recovery efforts that include direct assistance, rebuilding and health care services.
  • The Salvation Army provides shelter and emergency services to displaced individuals.

Remember that there are other ways to provide disaster relief that don’t involve monetary donations, especially if you live near the affected area. Local food banks and blood centers commonly ask for donations during relief efforts.

 

Sourced from – Zywave.com


Be Prepared: Workplace Violence

Be Prepared is committed to preventing violence in the workplace. In order to keep our workplace as safe as possible, please observe the following guidelines:

Identifying Your Risk

Workplace violence can include actions or words that endanger or harm you, and cause you to believe that you may be in danger, including the following:

  • Verbal or physical harassment
  • Verbal or physical threats
  • Assaults or other violence
  • Any other behavior that causes you to feel unsafe (bullying or sexual harassment)

Staying Safe

  • Participate in all safety training and apply the knowledge learned to your everyday job.
  • Learn, understand and comply with all company safety procedures and precautions.
  • Share any suggestions for making our workplace safer with your supervisor.
  • Report all violent incidents immediately and accurately, regardless of whether the violence is between an employee and a client or customer, or between multiple employees. Even if you are not involved, be sure to report incidents that you witness.
  • Call 911 immediately if the violent incident is serious. After help has arrived, be prepared to discuss what happened with both authorities and company officials.
  • Report behaviors such as threatening, bullying, stalking or harassing. If it is ongoing, it is helpful if you document each episode.
  • Let your supervisor know if you ever feel threatened or nervous, and would like additional security measures to be established.
  • Report any worrisome or distinguishable changes in a co-worker to a supervisor.
  • Remember, you will never be penalized for reporting violence, whether you are a victim or a witness. The company will observe complete confidentiality. Our concern is for the safety of all employees.


Risk Insights: Donating to Disasters and Avoiding Scams

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. News of the damage it has caused to southeastern Texas is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.

How to Avoid Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your resources go to a legitimate charity with experience in disaster relief:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.
  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security number or a copy of your driver’s license. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.

How to Choose a Charity

Even legitimate charities need to be considered with care. The Federal Trade Commission suggests avoiding new charities because, despite their legitimacy, they may not have the resources needed to get your money to its intended recipients.

Donors looking for a worthy charity can access an unbiased, objective list on a website called Charity Navigator. The site receives a Form 990 for all of its charities directly from the IRS, so it knows exactly how the charities spend their money and use their donations. It also rates charities based on their location, tax status, length of operation, accountability, transparency and public support.

Gaining popularity for charitable donations is a crowdfunding website called GoFundMe, which allows people to raise money for a wide variety of circumstances. Despite its popularity, visitors to the site should be cautious about the campaigns to which they donate. Visitors can report suspicious campaigns directly to GoFundMe via its official website or to their state’s consumer protection hotline.

National Organizations

The following national organizations have long-standing reputations for providing disaster relief and accepting donations:

  • The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to people affected by disasters.
  • AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.
  • Catholic Charities USA supports disaster response and recovery efforts that include direct assistance, rebuilding and health care services.
  • The Salvation Army provides shelter and emergency services to displaced individuals.

Remember that there are other ways to provide disaster relief that don’t involve monetary donations, especially if you live near the affected area. Local food banks and blood centers commonly ask for donations during relief efforts.

To download the full article click here.


OSHA Rule: Respirable Crystalline Silica

On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule regarding respirable crystalline silica. Under this rule, employers will be subject to new standards for protecting workers. The rule became effective on June 23, 2016, but employers in the construction industry have until Sept. 23, 2017, to comply with the rule. Employers in the maritime and general industries will have until June 23, 2018, to comply with the rule.

The rule includes standards that dramatically reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3). The rule also requires employers to implement specific measures to protect workers.

Links and Resources

·   Final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica

·   OSHA FAQs on the respirable crystalline silica final rule

·   OSHA crystalline silica webpage; CDC silica webpage

·   Methods of sample analysis for construction, general and maritime industries

·   Medical surveillance guidelines for construction, general and maritime industries

 

This Compliance Overview presents a high-level summary of OSHA’s final rule regarding respirable crystalline silica.

HIGHLIGHTS

SILICA FINAL RULE

  • The final rule establishes a new permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica.
  • Employers must implement specific measures to protect workers.
  • The intent of the rule is to reduce the risk of diseases caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

IMPORTANT DATES

  • Employers in the construction industry must comply by Sept. 23, 2017.
  • Employers in the general and maritime industries must comply by June 23, 2018.

Background

Crystalline silica (silica) is a common mineral found in materials like sand, concrete, stone and mortar. Silica becomes hazardous when it is reduced to a dust and released into the air where it can be inhaled (called respirable silica). This commonly occurs in operations that involve cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing materials that contain silica. Operations in which sand products are used, such as glass manufacturing, metal casting and sand blasting, also tend to generate respirable silica. When silica dust particles are inhaled, they can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause disabling and sometimes fatal diseases, including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and kidney disease.

OSHA first set PELs for respirable silica in 1971, allowing 100 µg/m3 for general industry and 250 µg/m3 for construction and shipyards. Since then, numerous advanced scientific studies determined that much lower levels of silica exposure can causes serious health effects. After reviewing the scientific evidence, OSHA determined that even though significant health risks remain at the 50 µg/m3 PEL, this is the lowest level that most affected operations can reasonably achieve through the use of engineering controls and work practices.

Covered Employers

In its final rule, OSHA issued two separate standards for protecting workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica, one for the construction industry and another for the general and maritime industries.

Both standards are similar and provide comparable protections for workers, but OSHA issued them separately to account for differences in work activities, anticipated exposure levels and other conditions unique to each industry. Although exposure to respirable crystalline silica has also been documented in the agricultural sector, OSHA did not issue regulations for this industry.

General Requirements for Covered Employers

Under both standards, employers subject to OSHA’s final rule must:

  •    Implement engineering and work-practice control measures;
  •    Establish and implement a written exposure plan;
  •    Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica;
  •    Offer medical exams to workers who are exposed to silica;
  •    Train workers on operations that result in silica exposure and on ways to limit exposure; and
  •    Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

Employers in the construction industry must also designate a competent person to implement their written exposure control plans.

Exposure Control Requirements

To comply with exposure control requirements, general industry and maritime employers must measure respirable silica levels in the workplace any time they may possibly be at or above 25 µg/m3 (action level). They must also ensure that employees are not exposed to levels above 50 µg/m3 by limiting access to areas with high levels, using dust control measures (such as wetting and ventilation), and providing workers with respirators.

Construction employers have the option of either using those same methods or following specific dust-control methods that are outlined in Table 1 of OSHA’s final rule. Table 1 provides a list of common construction tasks and specific actions construction employers can take to protect workers who perform each task.

Written Exposure Plan

The final rule allows employers to tailor their written exposure control plans to their particular worksites. Minimum requirements include a description of all tasks that workers may have to do that could expose them to respirable silica and a description of the employer’s methods for protecting workers, including procedures used to restrict workers’ access to potential high-exposure areas.

Construction employers must also designate an individual who is capable of identifying existing and foreseeable silica hazards in the workplace and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or minimize them.

Housekeeping

If housekeeping practices may expose workers to respirable silica, employers must use any feasible alternative as a means of reducing or eliminating the exposure risk.

Medical Surveillance

Employers must offer medical exams to workers who may be exposed to respirable silica levels of 25 µg/m3 or more for 30 or more days per year. The exams must be offered every three years and must include chest X-rays and lung function tests.

Compliance Schedule

Each standard includes a compliance schedule for covered employers. The table below provides an overview of the relevant deadlines.

Industry Deadline Exceptions
General and Maritime June 23, 2018 ·    Medical surveillance must be offered to workers who will be exposed to 25 µg/m3 or more of crystalline silica for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020; and

·    Hydraulic fracturing operations must implement engineering controls by June 23, 2021.

Construction Sept. 23, 2017 ·    Laboratory evaluation sample requirements begin on June 23, 2018.

 

SOURCED FROM ZYWAVE – https://www.zywave.com


Workers' Compensation Services Overview

How is your broker helping you lower your workers’ compensation premiums?

  • Workers’ compensation is a large and necessary cost, but there are still opportunities to save. We’ll help you reduce claims and control costs by establishing workplace safety policies, streamlining your reporting procedures and identifying top loss sources.

How effective is your return to work program?

  • The longer a workers’ compensation claim stays open, the more it will cost you. Hierl Insurance Inc. can help you implement a comprehensive return to work program that will protect your bottom line, while still providing your employees with appropriate care.

Did you know that you can see a massive return on investment for every dollar you put into workplace safety and health?

  • Our clients have access to numerous employee safety materials, including newsletters, flyers, bulletins and comprehensive safety manuals that can help promote a safety-minded workplace.

 

STATE-SPECIFIC EMPLOYER REQUIREMENTS

Get a quick, clear understanding of all of your workers’ compensation requirements with these comprehensive summaries. With these materials, you can rest easy knowing that your workers’ compensation obligations are met.

 

EMPLOYEE SAFETY MANUALS

Take steps to reduce workplace injuries with these customizable safety manuals, which feature general safety policies and procedures to support safety programs. Choose from a general template or from over 25 industry-specific versions.

 

RETURN TO WORK RESOURCES

Use these return to work materials to reduce the length of workers’ compensation claims and support your employees. These policies, forms and employee communications will help ensure that everyone at your business is on the same page and focused on recovery.

 

INJURY AND ILLNESS INVESTIGATION PROGRAMS

Make sure the injuries and illnesses only cost you a single time. These resources can help you establish best practices for investigating the true sources of workplace incidents and reduce the chance of reoccurrences.

 

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ARTICLES

 

Stay up to date on new workers’ compensation developments with informative and easy-to-read articles. These articles examine a variety of topics and can help your business stay prepared before, during and after a workers’ compensation claim.

 

 

Sourced from Zywave - https://www.zywave.com.

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3 takeaways from the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study

IBM has just released their findings on their cost of data breaches study. Check out this great by Denny Jacob from Property & Casualty 360 and find out what they key findings from IBM research means for you.

As companies continue to infuse technology into their business models, they must also keep up with an ever-changing digital landscape. In 2017 and beyond, companies need to consider their cybersecurity practices.

As cyber attacks continue to rise in frequency and sophistication, companies should also consider where data breaches are occurring. For those looking to understand data breaches by country, the latest report from IBM Security and Ponemon Institute sheds light on such a topic.

Sponsored by IBM Security and conducted by Ponemon Institute, the study found that the average cost of a data breach is $3.62 million globally, a 10% decline since 2016.

To explore the complete report, visit the IBM Security Data Breach Calculator, an interactive tool that allows you to manipulate report data and visualize the cost of a data breach across locations and industries, and understand how different factors affect breach costs.

Or, keep reading for highlights from the study's key findings.

The costs by region.

In the 2017 global study, the overall cost of a data breach decreased to $3.62 million, which is down 10% from $4 million last year. While global costs decreased, many regions experienced an increase.

In the U.S., the cost of a data breach was $7.35 million, a 5% increase compared to last year. When compared to other regions, U.S. organizations experienced the most expensive data breaches in the 2017 report. In the Middle East, organizations saw the second highest average cost of a data breach at $4.94 million  an uptick of 10% compared with the previous year. Canada ranked third with data breaches costing organizations $4.31 million on average.

European nations experienced the most significant decrease in costs. Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. experienced significant decreases compared to the four-year average costs. Australia, Canada and Brazil also experienced decreased costs compared to the four-year average cost of a data breach.

Time is money when you're containing a data breach.

For the third year in a row, the study found that having an Incident Response (IR) Team in place significantly reduced the cost of a data breach. IR teams, along with a formal incident response plan, can assist organizations to navigate the complicated aspects of containing a data breach to mitigate further losses.

According to the study, the cost of a data breach was nearly $1 million lower on average for organizations that were able to contain a data breach in less than 30 days compared to those that took longer than 30 days. The speed of response will be increasingly critical as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is implemented in May 2018, which will require organizations doing business in Europe to report data breaches within 72 hours or risk facing fines of up to 4% of their global annual turnover.

There's still room for improvement for organizations when it comes to the time to identify and respond to a breach. On average, organizations took more than six months to identify a breach, and more than 66 additional days to contain a breach once discovered.

Additional key findings.

  • For the seventh year in a row, healthcare topped the list as the most expensive industry for data breaches. Healthcare data breaches cost organizations $380 per record, more than 2.5 times the global average overall cost at $141 per record.
  • Close to half of all data breaches (47%) were caused by malicious or criminal attacks, resulting in an average of $156 per record to resolve.
  • Data breaches resulting from third party involvement were the top contributing factor that led to an increase in the cost of a data breach, increasing the cost $17 per record. The takeaway: Organizations need to evaluate the security posture of their third-party providers  including payroll, cloud providers and CRM software  to ensure the security of employee and customer data.
  • Incident response, encryption and education were the factors shown to have the most impact on reducing the cost of a data breach. Having an incident response team in place resulted in $19 reduction in cost per lost or stolen record, followed by extensive use of encryption ($16 reduction per record) and employee training ($12.5 reduction per record).

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jacob D. (2017 August 8). 3 takeways from the 2017 cost of data breach study[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/07/05/3-takeaways-from-the-2017-cost-of-data-breach-stud?ref=rss&_lrsc=05d8112f-7bfb-4c4d-916f-0e2085debd9a&slreturn=1502379703&page_all=1


Safety Focused August 2017

When traveling for work, even for short periods of time, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself from cyber criminals.

Cyber Tips for Traveling

Staying safe while traveling involves more than simply locking your valuables in a hotel safe. Today, cyber crime is just as prevalent as conventional crime. In fact, your digital property may be more valuable to criminals than your personal property. Before packing for your next business trip, take the following precautions to protect yourself and your belongings while away:

  • Turn off home and work computers before you leave. Computers that are always left on are more vulnerable to hacks.
  • Back up all data. Store sensitive files either on a removable storage device locked in a safe or in a secure facility in the cloud.
  • Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. If it is necessary to go online in public, use a secured connection. If you have to use an unsecured connection, avoid checking bank balances or visiting any site that asks you for personal information, which can be easily stolen.
  • Enable a pass code on your smartphone. This can prevent hackers from accessing sensitive information should you lose your phone.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card for purchases. A cyber criminal can deplete your bank account with your debit card.

How to Avoid Distractions While Driving

Driver distractions have joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in crashes that cause fatal and serious injuries. However, cellphones aren’t solely to blame. Anything that takes 100 percent of your attention away from driving is a distraction. There are three main types of distractions:

  • Visual—Taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual—Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive—Taking your mind off of driving

Whether driving for work or for personal reasons, it is important to remember that any activity that you engage in while driving is a potential distraction that increases your risk of crashing. Taking the following precautions can help you avoid distractions while driving:

  • Silence your mobile devices and keep them away from you while driving to avoid being distracted by incoming calls or texts. If you must receive phone calls while on the road, pull over before answering, even if using a hands-free device.
  • Set destinations in navigational devices before you depart.
  • Make a playlist on your smartphone before you leave to avoid the temptation to change radio stations.
  • Avoid eating while driving. Take proper breaks to allow yourself time for meals.
  • Speak up if you’re a passenger of a distracted driver. Offer to take over the driving responsibilities if possible.
  • Review ’s safe driving policy to ensure that you are fully aware of the best practices when it comes to road safety and know what to do in an emergency.

To download the full article click here.


Beyond the Basics: Snapchat "Snap Map" Safety

Did You Know?

Snapchat is one of the top five social media platforms among young people, with approximately 150 million daily active users. While Snapchat is designed to be a fun photo, video and text messaging app, a number of features—particularly the Snap Map function—pose serious safety concerns.

What is Snap Map?

Introduced in a June 2017 update, Snap Map allows users to share their exact location with their friends within the Snapchat app. Snap Map gathers location data using a smartphone's GPS sensor and displays the time of day an individual is at a specific location and his or her speed of travel. This information is shown on a map that can be accessed when a user first opens Snapchat and pinches the screen to zoom out.

While Snapchat users can choose to share their location with selected friends, any posts users share on Snapchat’s “Our Story” feature will appear on the global map regardless of their privacy or location settings.

Safety Concerns

As with many apps that use geolocation features, privacy is a major concern. Many fear the Snap Map feature opens users up to the risk of stalking, burglary or kidnapping, particularly because locations in Snap Map can be viewed down to exact addresses.

Safety Tips

  • Edit your location settings by clicking the gear icon in the Snapchat app. From there, scroll down to the “See My Location” tab and turn on “Ghost Mode.” This will prevent others from seeing your location.
  • Be mindful of what you’re sharing on Snapchat, and avoid providing your exact location online.

Safety First

Snapchat is a popular app for young children. As such, it’s important for parents to speak with their kids about online safety. Children should be instructed to avoid sharing their location on any social media app, even if they think the information is only viewable by friends and family.

If you have other safety concerns related to Snapchat, you can submit them to the company here.

To download the full article click Here.


P&C Profile: July 2017

New Study Demonstrates the Dangers of Talking While Driving

It’s commonly known that smartphones, entertainment systems and other electronics can be a dangerous distraction to drivers. However, a new study from the University of Iowa found that simple conversations can also cause unsafe driving conditions.

The study used eye tracking equipment to analyze where subjects were looking and how long it took them to focus on a new object. Some subjects were also asked true or false questions at the same time in order to simulate a simple conversation. Data collected from the study found that subjects who answered questions took twice as long to focus on a new object than those who were asked no questions.

Although engaging in conversation seems simple, it involves a number of complex tasks that the brain must handle simultaneously. Even if the topic of conversation is straightforward, the brain has to absorb information, overlay what a person already knows and prepare to a construct a reply. And, although this process is done extremely quickly, it can also slow down reaction times and lead to a dangerous accident on the road.

The best way to keep your employees safe while driving is to encourage them to eliminate or turn off all potential distractions, including their cellphones and any hands-free accessories they may use to make a call. You can also consider including language about safe driving practices in your workplace safety policies.

Preventing Workplace Violence

As reports of shootings and other violent incidents become more common, workplace violence is a topic than no business can ignore. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace homicides rose 2 percent in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. Additionally, the number of workplace shootings increased by 15 percent.

The best way to address potential acts of violence at your business is to be prepared to act before, during and after an act of violence occurs. Here are some programs you can use to ensure the safety of your employees and customers:

  • Pre-employment screenings—Background checks can help identify candidates who have violent histories.
  • Security—Security systems can ensure that only employees have access to certain areas.
  • Alternative dispute resolutions—Techniques like facilitation and mediation can help solve a conflict before it escalates.
  • Threat assessment teams—A designated team can work with management to assess the potential for violence and develop an action plan.

Congress Considers Flood Insurance Reforms

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is one of the few ways to get insurance coverage for flood risks, and the program is set to expire later this year. However, Congress is currently examining a number of possible changes to the NFIP before it’s reauthorized.

One of the most important topics regarding the NFIP is its financial stability. The program is currently $24 billion in debt as a result of rising claims costs and severe weather events, and some lawmakers believe that the program needs substantial reforms in order to remain viable.

The following are some of the changes that are being considered to the NFIP:

  • Making private flood insurance more available to consumers
  • Limiting payments to properties that flood repeatedly
  • Reducing taxpayer subsidies for flood insurance
  • Creating financial incentives for flood mitigation

DOL Withdraws Joint Employment and Worker Classification Guidance

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently withdrew administrative interpretations regarding joint employment and the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors. These withdrawals can have significant consequences on legal protections for employees and eligibility for benefits.

  • Worker classification—Employers will need to satisfy tests established by the courts—such as the economic realities test—when classifying workers.
  • Joint employment—Joint employment can only be established when an employer has direct control over another employer’s workplace.

To learn more about what these withdrawals could mean for you, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. and ask to see our comprehensive compliance bulletins, “DOL Withdraws Joint Employer Guidance” and “DOL Withdraws Worker Classification Guidance.”

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