Commercial Risk Advisor - August 2019

Dress Code Policy Considerations

Clothing and fashion choices can be a fun way for your employees to express themselves while also helping them feel comfortable. But, not all types of expression and comfort are appropriate for the workplace.

The reasons for establishing a dress code can vary, whether maintaining professionalism or guaranteeing safety. Regardless of why your company might need one, it’s important to put thought into crafting your dress code.

Think about these five considerations when putting together a fair and appropriate dress code:

  • Safety—Keep the work environment free of any unnecessary hazards. For example, do not allow employees working with machinery to wear loose jewelry. Also, require appropriate footwear when necessary, such as steel-toed boots or non-slip shoes.
  • Equality—Your employees may come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Make sure that your dress code does not discriminate when it comes to race, religious beliefs and employees with disabilities. Apply the same standards for men and women.
  • Culture—When drafting your dress code, be consistent with the culture and image that your company projects. An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.
  • Balance—You want your workplace to be professional, but you also want your employees to be comfortable. It makes sense to ask employees to wear a suit if meeting with a big client, but otherwise, consider letting them dress down.
  • Current social norms—Understanding current social norms are important. For example, in today’s society, many candidates may have tattoos or piercings. Talk about what is acceptable for your company. A dress code that is too strict can have a negative effect on your organization recruiting top talent.

Four of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past decade.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

Hurricane season runs from June through November and brings plenty of risks. Threats relating to hurricanes don’t only apply to homeowners and aren’t limited simply to physical damage either.

There are plenty of ways that a storm can blow away your business. According to FEMA, over 40% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster, and 90% close within a year if they aren’t able to reopen within five days.

An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.

Protect your company and your employees by taking these steps to be as prepared as possible:

  • Reinforce your workplace from weather hazards with things like window shutters to block flying debris, and sandbags to absorb floodwater.

  • Have an emergency response plan in place and make sure that your employees are trained to follow it. Emergency response plans can include steps such as establishing warning and evacuation procedures, ensuring reliable means of communication, and having supplies such as food, water, flashlights and batteries on hand.
  • Beyond protecting your employees and your physical workplace, it is also important to ensure that your business can function following a hurricane. Back up your data off-site regularly, and test the recovery process to make sure that everything is working properly.
  • Make sure that you are prepared to contact the correct people to get back on your feet. Try to connect with a contractor or restoration company before a hurricane strikes.
  • Even if your business is prepared for a hurricane, others might not be. Companies that you partner with or rely upon could be damaged and hinder your own ability to function. Talk to other businesses that you work with and make sure that they have contingency plans.

An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.

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Trucking Risk Advisor - August 2019

CVSA Brake Safety Week: Sept 15-20

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Brake Safety Week is scheduled for Sept. 15-21. Roadside safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles will be conducted throughout North America by law enforcement officials. Brake Safety Week is an initiative by the CVSA in an effort to lessen the severity and number of crashes caused by faulty brake systems.

Although all components of a motor vehicle’s brake system are crucial to overall safety and function, the inspectors will be paying close attention to a vehicle’s brake hoses and tubing this year. The result of last year’s three-day International Roadcheck enforcement campaign showed that brake system violations made up 45% of all out-of-service violations.

If your commercial vehicle fails to meet the CVSA braking standards or any other inspection item, your vehicle may receive a violation that will result in traveling restrictions until the violation has been corrected.

Inspectors will be looking at four main factors when checking the hoses and tubing of a commercial motor vehicle’s brake system, checking to make sure they are:

  • Undamaged
  • Properly attached
  • Leak-free
  • Appropriately flexible

In order to pass the inspection, all commercial trucks and combination vehicles over a gross weight of 10,000 pounds must have a braking efficiency of at least 43.5%. In 14 jurisdictions, this calculation will be determined by using performance-based brake testers (PBBT), which calculate overall brake efficiency and force over the total gross weight.

Avoid violations during this year’s inspection by conducting regular maintenance on all vehicle operational systems.

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Trucking Risk Advisor - July 2019

How Canada’s New ELD Rules Affect U.S. Companies

The Government of Canada announced its new electronic logging device (ELD) rule June 13, 2019. Canada’s rules and regulations regarding ELDs are largely similar to the United States’ standards, but there are a few differences that could affect U.S.-based companies that send their drivers north of the border.

Canada’s mandate includes a provision that ELDs are required to be certified by a third-party group. In other words, ELD vendors cannot certify their own products. According to industry experts, some devices introduced under U.S. standards have been shown to be prone to tampering, such as allowing drivers to falsify statistics like hours spent behind the wheel.

Requiring certification from a third-party will mean that U.S.-based companies whose drivers cross the border will need to have their devices approved in Canada. If a company’s ELD provider chooses not to go through the third-party certification process, the company will have to switch to a different manufacturer that is willing to do so.

Accommodating the new rules in Canada could be as simple as a software update to existing devices, although industry experts noted that some companies could start having to use two separate ELDs in the same vehicle in order to meet both U.S. and Canadian standards.

Canada’s mandate also includes a hard deadline. The United States adopted its ELD rules in 2017 but has allowed for a transition period during which companies can continue to use less advanced automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) until December 2019. Canada’s rules demand fully compliant devices by the June 12, 2021, deadline.

To read the full mandate, click here. Hierl Insurance Inc. will provide any relevant updates as they are announced.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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Commercial Risk Advisor - July 2019

Lightning Safety for Outdoor Workers

Although about 90 percent of people struck by lightning survive, these strikes can cause serious and permanent disabilities. And, even if employees aren’t hurt by lightning, they may be at risk from any fires, explosions or other hazards that result from a strike. Together, these facts outline the importance of protecting employees who work outdoors from lightning hazards.

There are a number of ways to do this, including taking steps to reduce lightning hazards, creating an emergency action plan and training your workforce.

All of your managers, supervisors and outdoor workers should collaborate on your plan to ensure it accounts for your business’s unique operations.

Consider these tips when you’re drafting your plan:

  • Train all employees on lightning safety, including early warning systems for severe weather and the best locations to take shelter when working outdoors.
  • Post information on lightning safety around all of your outdoor work areas. These postings should indicate the location of safe shelters, when to stop and resume work after hearing thunder, and any other guidance that applies to your business or work sites.
  • Make sure employees check weather reports before working outside. Employees should also check the weather at each work site they’ll be visiting each day, as weather patterns can vary widely—even over short distances.
  • Require employees and supervisors to monitor weather reports regularly once they’re at an outdoor work site. Have employees stop work and seek shelter immediately if they hear any thunder.

For more resources to help keep your outdoor workers safe, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.

Direct costs of MSDs can be as high as $20 billion a year, with indirect costs (e.g. lost productivity and absenteeism) costing employers five times more.

The Importance of Ergonomics in the Workplace

Ergonomics is a catch-all term that often comes up in discussions about workplace health, safety and design—and for good reason. Employers who fail to implement ergonomic solutions at their place of business put their employees at risk of serious injuries.

When your employees perform tasks under the stress of an awkward posture, extreme temperature or repeated movement, their entire musculoskeletal system can be affected. This can lead to adverse symptoms like fatigue, discomfort and pain, which are the first signs of a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).

MSDs are conditions that affect muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. These conditions can develop over time or occur immediately when workers overload themselves. Direct costs of MSDs can be as high as $20 billion a year, with indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity and absenteeism) costing employers five times more.

Ensuring workstations and tasks are designed with ergonomics in mind does more than promote productivity. When employers invest in ergonomic workplaces, it:

  • Saves organizations money by reducing absenteeism, injuries and workers’ compensation claims
  • Creates happier employees, as workers feel valued when employers take steps to create a safe workplace
  • Contributes to employees’ long-term health and quality of life

While ergonomics can mean different things depending on the industry you operate in, the goal is the same: identify the ergonomics-related risks in your workplace and take steps to protect employees. This can be accomplished by establishing an ergonomics program.

An ergonomics program is systematic process for identifying, analyzing and controlling workplace risk factors, often created with the goal of reducing MSDs. In order to address ergonomics-related concerns, your program needs to identify the most common risk factors present in your workplace.

Although about 90 percent of people struck by lightning survive, these discharges can cause serious and permanent disabilities.

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Agriculture Risk Advisor - Third Quarter 2019

Pesticide Safety

Administering and working around pesticides is an important part of working in agriculture. However, while these products are very effective in protecting crops from pests, they can also cause health problems for those who are constantly exposed to them.

For example, results from a recent Michigan State University study found that workers exposed to high levels of pesticides are more likely to lose their sense of smell later in life. The study surveyed over 11,000 farm workers over a 20-year period as part of the Agricultural Health Study.

According to the study, 10% of workers reported that their sense of smell was impaired, either partially or completely, after being exposed to high levels of pesticides. However, those who washed with soap and water immediately after a high pesticide exposure event had a lower risk of impairment, with longer times between exposure and washing correlating to higher chances of impairment. This underscores the need for a quick response after an exposure event.

Other safety tips that should always be observed to protect from adverse health effects include the following:

  • Follow directions on the label for the attended use and application.
  • Note first-aid instructions in case of accidental poisoning.
  • Follow directions on the label for proper storage or disposal after use.
  • Do not smoke, eat, drink, apply cosmetics or use the washroom directly following the use of pesticides.
  • Do not use pesticides in winds stronger than 10 mph.

Additionally, wearing protective gear is one of the best lines of defense against exposure to chemicals. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, nonabsorbent gloves, rubber boots, hats, eye protection, masks, aprons, face respirators and dust mist filters are all beneficial while applying pesticides. Clothing should also be checked beforehand for defects or holes that may allow pesticides to reach the wearer.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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11 critical grilling safety tips for your summer barbecues

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, outdoor barbecues are sure to be popular. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), July is the peak month for grill fires, followed by June, May and August. Read this post for 11 grilling safety tips to use this summer.


With July 4th right around the corner, outdoor barbecues are sure to be a popular item on the agenda.

Before lighting up the grill this summer, take note of a few critical grilling safety tips to keep people and property safe from the dangerous fire hazards that come with outdoor grilling.

From 2013-2017, grills, hibachis and barbecues were involved in 10,200 home fires per year. These fires were responsible for at least 10 deaths, 160 reported injuries, and $123 million in property damage. July (17%) is the peak month for grill fires, followed by June (14%), May (13%) and August (12%), according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

To stay safe this summer, check out 11 grilling safety tips, provided by the NFPA.

  1. The first thing to know about grilling is that propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  2. The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  3. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  4. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  5. Never leave your grill unattended.
  6. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
  7. There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  8. If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  9. Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  10. There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  11. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

SOURCE: Ling, D. (28 June 2019) "11 critical grilling safety tips for your summer barbecues" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/06/28/11-critical-grilling-safety-tips-for-your-summer-barbeques/


Essential safety tips for warm-weather work

According to OSHA, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill every year while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. Read this blog post for essential safety tips for employees who work in warm weather.


Dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill every year while working in extreme heat or humid conditions, according to OSHA. As June marks both the official start of summer and National Safety Month, now is a perfect time for employers to review emergency plans with outdoor workers and provide tips on how to beat the heat and stay safe during lightning storms.

Beating the heat

With temperatures quickly rising, employers should first understand the factors that can lead to heat susceptibility.

Heat susceptibility can be caused by:

  • A combination of high temperature, direct sun and humidity;
  • Intense physical labor during peak hours; or
  • Sudden hot days after cool weather conditions or workers who have not yet acclimated to the heat.

To prevent these factors from causing illness, employees must stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water to ensure fluids are replenished. Ideally, workers should drink water before beginning a job and re-hydrate often. Any caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they increase heat sensitivity.

Workers also should avoid waterproof or tight clothing that doesn’t breathe. To dress for the heat, workers should wear a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored clothes and sunscreen. Fabrics that pull moisture away from the body and provide a cooling effect also are recommended.

Proper attire and hydration can be a big help, but it’s still important to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Headache, dizziness, weakness, wet skin and fainting are indications that workers must get out of the heat immediately — or at least move to the shade. If an employee experiences confusion, slurred speech, excessive thirst, nausea or vomiting, it’s very possible he/she may be experiencing more severe heat stroke. Immediate medical attention should be sought in these cases.

Employers can also do their part in preventing heat-related illness with smart planning for outdoor work. This includes setting earlier schedules to avoid the hottest part of the day and arranging frequent rest periods and water breaks in shady, cooler areas. Project managers should also increase the number of workers for strenuous tasks on hot days and acclimate employees who haven’t worked in hot conditions lately by gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks.

Staying safe when lightning strikes

The chance of being struck by lightning is only about 1 in 500,000, according to the CDC, but the risk increases in states that have frequent storm activity, like Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. Wherever employees may be doing outdoor work, encourage them not to tempt fate. They should be smart by following these CDC safety guidelines:

  • Look to the skies. If dark clouds form and the winds pick up, do not begin any task that cannot be stopped quickly. If lightning can be seen, follow the 30-30 rule. First, count to 30. If thunder sounds before 30, get inside. Suspend outdoor work or activities for at least 30 minutes after thunder ends.
  • Shelter indoors. Although the best place to be during a lightning storm is inside, indoor spaces aren’t lightning-proof. Avoid sinks and showers since lightning can travel through the building’s plumbing system. Do not use electronic equipment and corded phones. And, of course, stay away from windows and doors, even concrete as lightning can travel through metal bars in concrete walls or floors.
  • Go low. If caught out in the open, find a low spot — like a ditch — and crouch or squat down low so as little of the body is touching the ground as possible. Electrical currents from lightning can travel along the top of the ground.
  • Find refuge in a car. If a hard-topped truck or car is available, hop inside. Although most people think rubber tires are the grounding force, it’s the metal shell that dissipates the electricity and keeps you safe.

Thunderstorms may be thrilling, but lightning can kill. Remind employees to respect the power of nature and observe storms from a safe vantage point inside.

Each season comes with a new set of liabilities. Now that the risks of cold and icy conditions have passed, reeducate employees on how to protect their safety during summer months. It’s far easier to act now than in the heat of the moment.

SOURCE: Arrison, J. (24 June 2019) "Essential safety tips for warm-weather work" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/06/24/essential-safety-tips-for-warm-weather-work/


Safety Focused Newsletter - June 2019

Emergency Preparedness During National Safety Month

It’s always important to take a proactive approach to safety in the workplace, but sometimes an emergency can arise at a moment’s notice. Taking some time to plan before an incident takes place can help you take action quickly and ensure the safety of yourself and your co-workers. And, because the National Safety Council organizes National Safety Month every June, it’s a great time to review emergency preparedness in various workplace settings.

Here are some strategies to help ensure you’re ready to respond to an emergency in the workplace:

  • Check workplace policies—There may already be plans in place for how to respond to an emergency, but they’ll only be effective if you and your co-workers follow them. These plans may also include evacuation routes or strategies to help contain a hazard.
  • Stay focused and calm—You may not have time to react to an emergency, so you should always be ready to get to safety at any time. Try to keep essentials on hand so can take them with you, as you should never go back to a dangerous area to gather your belongings.
  • Have a communication plan—After you’re in a safe area, you should have a plan to communicate with your manager, co-workers or emergency responders. Try to meet in a designated location that’s established by a workplace policy and give an update on your status as soon as possible.
  • Help others when possible—Make your own safety a priority during an emergency, but offer any help you can if there aren’t any hazards present. It may be a good idea to check the locations of first-aid kits in your workplace if you need to treat an injury.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 330 heat-related fatalities every year.

5 Tips for Outdoor Heat Safety

The hot summer months can cause body temperatures to rise to unsafe levels, especially when combined with strenuous work. Outdoor workers are also be vulnerable to heat-related illnesses since they spend long periods in direct sunlight.

There are many types of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat cramps. Each of these conditions have various symptoms, but they commonly cause dizziness, weakness, nausea, blurred vision, confusion or loss of consciousness.

Here are some tips for staying safe in the heat while working outdoors:

  1. Wear loose, light-colored clothing so your skin gets air exposure.
  2. Shield your head and face from direct sunlight by wearing a hat and sunglasses.
  3. Take regular breaks to rest in a shaded area. If you’re wearing heavy protective gear, consider removing it to help cool off even more.
  4. Ease into your work and gradually build up to more strenuous activity as the day progresses. You should also avoid overexerting yourself during the hottest hours of the day.
  5. Drink water frequently, even if you aren’t thirsty. Experts recommend drinking at least eight ounces every 20 to 30 minutes to stay hydrated. Stick to water, fruit juice and sport drinks and avoid caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate you.

Employees should take care to monitor themselves and their co-workers on hot days. If you notice any signs of heat illness, notify your on-duty supervisor immediately.

Heat illnesses can usually be treated by being moved to a cooler area and drinking cool liquids. In extreme cases when heat illnesses cause unconsciousness, health care professionals should be alerted immediately.

Taking some time to plan before an incident takes place can help you take action quickly and ensure the safety of yourself and your co-workers.

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