Agriculture Risk Advisor- July/August 2018

FARM BILL UPDATE


On June 13, in a 20-1 vote, a Senate panel approved a modest, bipartisan rewrite of federal farm and nutrition programs. The sole vote against the bill was by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, because his amendment to limit subsidy payments was omitted.

If passed, the legislation would renew farm programs that include subsidies for crop insurance, farm credit and land conservation. It would also extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as the Food Stamp Program—which helps feed more than 40 million people.

The House failed to pass a version of this bill in May due to a still unresolved immigration debate. Contrary to the Senate farm bill, the House is asking for greater job training opportunities for SNAP recipients. However, the bill has been heavily criticized for what some call a poor design and the possibility that it could exclude 2 million people from SNAP.

The current food and farm bill expires at the end of September. Although enacting the legislation this year is unlikely, a short-term extension is expected when the bill is brought back to the floor.

NEW WEB TOOLS FOR CATTLE MARKET


Two new web tools created by the Noble Research Institute will allow cattle producers to easily access Oklahoma cattle auction data. The tools include a price slide table and market charts.

PRICE SLIDE TABLE

The first web tool is a breakdown of the price slide (PS) and value of gain (VOG) for the reported markets. The PS and VOG tool looks at the sales receipts for the selected market, as well as frame size, gender, yield grade and the sale date to give producers a glimpse at the type of cattle buyers are looking for.

Cattle with notes about their features aren’t included in the table in order to prevent the PS and VOG from being affected. However, a link to the original USDA- AMS report is provided near the top of the page for producers who want more details and to see where the original data was taken from.

MARKET CHARTS

The second web tool is a set of charts for slaughter, feeder and replacement cattle. The tool offers an option to compare each group across whichever markets the user selects, either during a specific year or across years.

The auction comparison tool was designed to provide producers with information to help them in their marketing and purchasing options. By comparing years, producers can better evaluate how the current year is stacking up against previous years for a particular market.

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Construction Risk Advisor - June 2018 Edition

ARE SIGNING BONUSES ENOUGH TO KEEP WORKERS?


As the shortage of skilled labor in construction continues, it’s becoming more common for contractors to offer one-time bonuses to attract skilled workers. In fact, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, close to one-quarter of contractors reported using bonuses to attract employees, ranging between a few hundred dollars to over $1,500 per worker.

What employers like about bonuses is that they’re one-time payments that don’t affect employees’ base pay. However, there is a drawback to offering an incentive for getting skilled workers in the door—there’s no proof that they’ll stay, especially if they can easily find another job elsewhere. Workers can stay long enough to collect the bonus but then leave for another opportunity, and yet another bonus.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction pay in the U.S. only rose by a meager 2.4 percent in 2017, even though construction costs are increasing. Unless employers offer competitive pay, it may be difficult to keep workers.

TIME TO GET ON THE CLOUD


By using the cloud, construction companies have been able to completely overhaul the way they interact with each other and with their workers. In a nutshell, the cloud consists of multiple networks of servers that allow apps to be accessed anywhere through the internet instead of confined to a particular computer or network.

Contractors that have projects and crews in multiple locations especially appreciate the benefits of the cloud, since it is efficient and allows for the seamless transfer of information.

What’s more, the cloud allows construction companies to utilize software-as-a-service solutions that are updated automatically as opposed to using traditional products that need to be manually installed and periodically replaced with newer versions.

SMALL CONTRACTORS BENEFIT TOO

Small contractors tend to be under the assumption that using the cloud is either too complicated, too expensive or intended for large construction firms. However, smaller firms may actually benefit most from using the cloud. In fact, the cloud has helped small contractors develop smarter work practices that have allowed them to become more profitable.

The smarter work practices made possible by the cloud can eliminate time- and money-wasting redundancies traditionally caused by the disorganized flow of paperwork and emails.

The overall lower cost of using the cloud also puts small contractors in a better position to compete with their larger competitors for projects.


Safety Focus Newsletter - June 2018 Edition

Your Role During Safety Meetings


One of the most effective ways to promote a healthy working environment is to get involved in company safety meetings. These informal, brief meetings allow you the opportunity to stay up to date on potential workplace hazards and safe workplace practices, such as machinery use, tool handling and equipment use.

When it comes to workplace safety meetings, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Attending safety meetings is mandatory. Be aware of what days your employer holds meetings, and plan accordingly.
  • Actively participating is important. Some of the best safety ideas come from workers, often because they know what and where the dangers are.If you have something to add during safety meetings, don’t hesitate to speak up.
  • If you have an idea for a safety topic, chances are others will find it of interest as well. Feel empowered to share safety concerns and improvements with your supervisor.

Above all, it’s important to take safety training seriously. Together with the help of your peers, employers can use safety meetings, training and hazard identification practices to ensure workplace health and safety.

4 Ways Employees Can Supplement Wellness Programs


Workplace wellness refers to the education and activities that a worksite may do to promote healthy lifestyles for employees and their families. Workplace wellness programs can increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and raise employee morale.

Because employees like you spend many of their waking hours at work, the workplace is an ideal setting to address health and wellness issues. While it is an employer’s job to implement general wellness policies, there are a number of things employees can do to supplement health initiatives.

Specifically, to improve physical and mental health and to enhance their employer’s wellness programs, you should do the following:

  1. Eat sensibly.It’s easy to snack at work, particularly if your office is equipped with vending machines. When it comes to healthy eating, moderation is key. Eat a healthy,filling breakfast and substitute greasy food with salads.
  2. Drink plenty of water.Dehydration can cause ill effects, such as drowsiness and sluggishness. Aim to drink between six and eight glasses of water every day. Doing so can even reduce hunger.
  3. Stop smoking.Tobacco use increases your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Abstaining from tobacco is one of the best ways to protect your health and get the most out of wellness programs you participate in.
  4. Manage your stress.Too much stress can lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression, low morale, short temper, headaches and back problems. Finding ways to manage stress will not only improve your physical and mental health, but it can also help you approach wellness initiatives with a positive mindset.

5 BENEFITS OF WORKPLACE WELLNESS PROGRAMS


1. IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY

2. LOWER HEALTH CARE COSTS

3. A STRONG SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

4. WEIGHT LOSS

5. LESS STRESS


FBI Urges Consumers to Reset Their Routers to Prevent a Malware Attack

Your cyber security is important to us. Consider protecting yourself from the recent growing malware attacks and keep your data safe with these recommendations.


Recently, researchers at Talos—a cyber intelligence unit of Cisco—warned consumers of malware (malicious software) that specifically targets networking devices. The malware, which is known as VPNFilter, impacts an estimated 500,000 routers worldwide, particularly targeting devices from the following manufacturers:

VPNFilter Could Collect Your Information Without Your Knowledge

Once on your equipment, the malware could stop your router from working, collect information from any systems that run through it and even block network traffic. Experts are concerned over the scope of the attack, as anyone owning a router from the affected manufacturers could be at risk, including businesses and individuals.

Agencies like the FBI have also expressed concern over VPNFilter, as this particular brand of malware can be used in espionage attacks on military, security and other government organizations.

Reduce Your Risk by Resetting Your Router

Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to tell if your router is infected. To protect yourself, it is recommended that you:

  • Reset your router to disrupt the malware. This can be done by simply turning the router off and on or holding the reset button down on your device. For further protection, you may want to consider doing a factory reset of your router.
  • Install any firmware updates. These updates are typically found on the manufacturer’s website. You may need to search by your router’s model number, which can be found on the back of the device.
  • Create a new, secure password for your router.
  • Disable remote management settings.

For help performing any of the above steps, contact your router manufacturer or click the links provided in this News Brief.


Protect Yourself From Cyber Attacks

In today's world, a day does not pass without a large company being featured on the news because they are suffering from a data breach or hacking incident that has threatened personal information.

Cyber security is a concept that has become a high priority in the past five years. Since this issue is fairly new, demand for cyber insurance is emerging, since most cyber related claims are currently not covered under a standard insurance program. The questions that arise the most regarding cyber security and liability are about understanding the level of exposure a company's data faces and knowing what cyber coverage encompasses.

VP, Property & Casualty

Large companies are not the only ones at risk, it is often small businesses that are most vulnerable simply because they are not prepared. Most small (under 250 employees) businesses do not have the IT staff necessary to help protect a business. Even manufacturing companies are at risk because while credit card information is a large component, it is not the only type of attack. can you afford the risk of not protecting your employee, client and company data?

With 10+ years of experience addressing cyber risks, Hierl's process of approaching cyber security begins with an assessment of client's risk and exposure. This involves knowing what data a client has, who has access to it, how it's stored and how they are backing it up. Hierl can expertly evaluate the coverage that is necessary to keep an organization secure. 

Because it is an emerging coverage, cyber insurance plans are not standard. Hierl advises a three-fold type of coverage including:

  • Business coverage for customers and employees
  • Protection for your company and the data it houses
  • PR assistance of a security breach occurs 

The best policies offer assistance to help you to work through things if something was to ever happen, as well as forensic and technical assistance to determine how the breach occurred.

"Many Organizations that have suffered cyber-crime are sophisticated, big businesses. If they can't stop these attacks from happening, most other businesses can't either."

If it determined quickly that a breach has happened and a good backup exists a company can recover quickly and the attack is much less damaging. However, when a company's data gets out in the wild is when attacks become most expensive.

The 2016 Ponemon Institute Cost of Data Breach study reported that the average cost of a los record rose form $154 in 2015 to $158 in 2016. Even if, you only have 20 employees now and that doesn't seem all that bad... you need to think about how many employee records do you have from the past 10 years? Cyber-attacks don't just affect current records nor do they only target employee data  but client and company data too. This type of insurance is becoming a must have coverage for businesses because of how sophisticated these attacks have become.

Three reasons to explore cyber coverage for your business:

  1. There is a higher incidence of cyber crime
  2. The longer it takes to detect an contain a data breach, the costlier it becomes
  3. Effects of a cyber-attack extend beyond monetary and data losses to losing businesses and customers 

If you'd like to know more about protecting your company from a cyber breach, please reach out to Cathleen at 920.921.5921 or send her an email via cchristensen@hierl.com.

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April 2018 Safety Matters: Elevator Best Practices

Elevator Best Practices

Millions of employees use elevators each day at work. While elevators are considered one of the safest forms of transportation, it is important to follow best practices and safety precautions when using an elevator.

Boarding the Elevator

Take note of the following procedures for entering an elevator:

  • Make sure you are aware of the risks associated with riding the elevator prior to boarding, such as falls and accidents.
  • Allow all passengers to fully exit the elevator before you begin boarding.
  • Watch your step when entering the elevator, as it may not be exactly level to the floor.
  • Steer clear of the doors once you enter the elevator. Keep all clothes, carry-ons and body parts within the car. Never attempt to stop a closing door.
  • Pay attention to the elevator’s capacity limit. Do not attempt to board an elevator that has reached capacity.

Riding the Elevator

Keep in mind the following procedures for riding an elevator:

  • Stand as close to the elevator wall as possible. Be sure to leave as much room as possible for others.
  • Pay close attention to floor indications and transitions to ensure you are able to exit at the right time.
  • Press the “door open” button in the event of the elevator stopping on a floor without opening its doors.
  • Be courteous of other passengers on the elevator. Do not push other riders in front of you when exiting and be sure to move out of the way of passengers when they exit the elevator.

Watch your step as you exit to avoid tripping on uneven ground.

In Case of Emergency

Although rare, elevator accidents and malfunctions do happen. Keep in mind the following procedures in the event of an elevator emergency:

  • Never use an elevator in the event of a fire. Always take the stairs.
  • Remain calm at all times. If you are in a stalled elevator, utilize the alarm button or phone button to contact emergency services.
  • Reassure those who are panicked in the situation. Remind everyone that they are safe inside the elevator.
  • Do not engage in horseplay.
  • Do not try to exit the elevator or pry open the doors. Always wait for trained professionals to arrive.

While elevators are considered one of the safest forms of transportation, it is important to encourage best practices and safety precautions to all employees or building occupants that frequent the elevator.

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RISK INSIGHTS: April 2018

The #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement has spread across the globe since gaining traction in Hollywood, and small business owners should see it as a wake-up call for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Small Businesses Most Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment Claims

In wake of the #MeToo movement, awareness of sexual harassment has increased, but not necessarily at small businesses. Unlike their larger counterparts, small businesses are more vulnerable to sexual harassment claims because they’re less likely to have formal workplace policies in place.

According to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey of more than 2,000 small business owners, only half of businesses with 5-49 employees had formal sexual harassment policies in place. That number decreased to 39 percent at businesses with less than five employees. That’s a stark contrast to businesses with 50 or more employees, as 85 percent said they had formal sexual harassment policies in place.

Eleven percent of the businesses surveyed said they issued companywide reminders of their sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures as a result of the #MeToo movement and other high-profile sexual harassment accusations. Nine percent said they’ve reviewed policies regarding diversity and gender equality. Seven percent have required new or additional training, and 4 percent have issued new reporting procedures. However, 61 percent of all businesses surveyed did not take any of the above precautions.

Role of HR

Complicating matters for small businesses is that two-thirds of those surveyed lacked an official human resources professional, meaning that the business owner was responsible for handling any harassment claims.

Only 3 percent said it was the job of human resources personnel to handle harassment issues and 10 percent said they had no specified way to handle harassment at all. Without a designated, unbiased person to speak to about harassment, employees may be afraid to report it for fear of retaliation.

Protect Your Business

A lack of a formal policy and procedures for handling sexual harassment in the workplace doesn’t mean that a business owner is exempt from liability. Although federal law exempts small businesses with less than 15 employees from the requirement to have a sexual harassment policy, it’s in their best interest to establish one.

Other than the fact that state laws may have smaller thresholds for requiring a formal policy, the financial and reputational costs are too high to risk running a business without one.

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Commercial Risk Advisor - April 2018

Insurance carriers, courts and regulatory agencies will begin to examine businesses closely to ensure that they take sexual harassment seriously and take steps to protect their employees and customers.

It’s always been important to protect your business and employees from sexual harassment, but recent high-profile cases show the importance of re-examining this topic at your business. Social movements such as the “Me Too” campaign have drawn attention to sexual harassment in the workplace, resulting in a growing number of misconduct allegations. These allegations can result in a wide variety of claims and lead to serious financial and reputational damage.

Insurance carriers, courts and regulatory agencies will begin to examine businesses closely to ensure that they take sexual harassment seriously and act to protect their employees and customers.

3 Questions to Ask When Addressing Sexual Harassment at Your Business:

How do you encourage employees to report inappropriate conduct?

The best way to address sexual harassment allegations is to respond quickly. Employees should be regularly reminded that there won’t be any retaliation for reporting inappropriate behavior. You should also ensure that there are multiple ways for employees to make anonymous reports to management.

Does your employee harassment training address your workplace’s unique traits?

A standard workplace policy is a good starting point for addressing sexual harassment, but you should also think about how your employees interact with co-workers and customers.

Do your insurance policies include exclusions for sexual harassment?

Many commercial general liability policies exclude claims for sexual harassment. Although employment practices liability insurance can provide you with coverage, you also need to ensure that policy periods offer coverage throughout the statute of limitations in your area.

1 in 8 drivers are uninsured and liable for damage and medical bills, according to a new study.

Even if you don't use commercial vehicles, employees who use their personal vehicles for any kind of business-related task can put you at risk:

25% of all vehicles in the United States are used for business in some way.
The average uninsured motorist claim is almost $20,000
Most personal auto policies don't provide coverage for uninsured or underinsured drivers without an endorsement.

Uninsured drivers cause about 1 out of every 8 accidents.

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.

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

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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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