Even Small, Mid-sized Firms Need a Crisis Management Plan

With risks to companies and employees growing, sometimes the unthinkable happens and a business has a real crisis on its hands.

While large companies are usually well-prepared for a crisis should one occur, most small and mid-sized firms don’t have the resources or have not put much thought into how they would handle a crisis.

One of the most difficult parts of crisis planning is that you will often not know what you are planning for as a crisis could be a number of different events, like:

  • The sudden death of a key member of your team could lead to operational issues.
  • A defective product leads to an injury, illness – or worse.
  • An accident severely maims or kills a number of your workers.

 

To get started, assemble a team that includes key members from your organization who will be responsible for creating your crisis-response plan. Inc. Magazine recommends the following for your team:

 

Make a plan – You cannot start planning without first identifying your objectives. Once you identify them, you can make response plans for each type of event. Typically, that includes:

  • Safeguarding any person (employee, vendor, customer and/or the public) who may be affected by the crisis. Your plan would include how to respond to the crisis if people’s health and wellness at stake.
  • Making sure the organization survives. This would include steps you would take to ensure the company can continue as a going concern after a significant disruption.
  • Keeping stakeholders (employees, vendors, clients, the public and government) informed on developments.

 

The plan should take into account how a crisis would affect your main stakeholders:

  • Your employees
  • Your customers
  • Your vendors
  • The public
  • Your company’s value and reputation.

 

Create a succession plan – You should clearly outline the necessary steps to follow if you or one of your key managers suddenly became unable to perform their duties. This plan may include selling the company, or transferring ownership to family members or key employees.

Seek advice from the experts – This includes your leadership team, employees, customers, communications experts, investment bankers, exit planners, lawyers and financial managers. Each of these individuals has unique insights that can be invaluable for how to tackle a crisis.

Name a spokesperson – This is important if you have a crisis that spreads beyond your organization and affects the health and safety of a member of the general public, your staff or customers. This kind of crisis could attract media coverage and your organization needs to be ready to respond if that happens.
Funneling all media communications through a spokesperson can help you deliver a clear and consistent message to media, as well as to the public at large.

Honesty is the best policy – Lie or hide details at your own risk. A lack of honesty and transparency can lead to rumors, as well as a general distrust of your organization if the truth is exposed. The best approach is to be transparent and truthful about what happened and what you are doing to resolve the crisis.

Keep your staff up to speed – Besides transparency with outside people, it’s crucial that you don’t keep your employees in the dark after a crisis has hit. Again, to stop the rumor mill and also keep employees from becoming worried amidst the uncertainty, keep your workers abreast of developments – and what the crisis means for the organization, and what you are doing about it. Put together a plan for keeping staff up to date.

Keep customers and suppliers informed – If you have an event that’s causing some disruptions, you also owe it to your clients and vendors to let them know what’s happening. Don’t let them find out from the media. Like your employees, keep them regularly updated on events and the steps you are taking to address the crisis. Put together a plan for how you would keep them posted.

Act fast and update regularly – Keeping the communications alive is important and once you grasp the situation and its effects, you can issue summary statements of the crisis and what’s happened. Then you can follow up with regular updates on your action plans, on people affected, any hotline you may set up, and more.
These days news travels fast and like wildfire on social media. You need to move at the same pace.

Social media is vital – More and more people get their news from social media and the discussions that ensue on posts, so you need to make sure that your company stays on top of the flow. You may want to assign a person or two to monitor social media and post and react to posts on social media. That way, your team can tell the company’s side of the story and put to rest unfounded rumors.
Make a plan for what a social media contact’s responsibilities would be during a crisis.


Get an early start

Your plan won’t be effective if you create it during a crisis. Plan in advance, so everyone can approach the strategizing unrushed and with a clear head.

 

Use Technology to Prevent Losses and Manage Your Risk

Businesses are discovering that smartphones and tablet computers, besides being distractions for their employees, can also help them better manage their risks.

An increasing number of applications for these devices – matched with other technologies – can help businesses prevent losses, reduce the chances of workplace accidents and manage their risks.

Mobile devices can now connect to business security and utilities systems. Many security equipment vendors offer apps that give business owners instant information when they’re away from the premises.

For example, the system may send a text alert to a smartphone if a security camera picks up sudden movements. Other systems communicate via apps that will send alerts to you on your phone in similar situations.

Other systems may stream videos from multiple security cameras to a smartphone app, enabling the owner or personnel to keep an eye on the premises during off hours. This real-time information can help business owners limit the size of losses.

For example, a system might send a text alert when it detects a leak in the building’s plumbing system. Once alerted, the building owner can shut off the water remotely or in person, thus limiting the extent of the damage.

Video from cameras that monitor the premises can also be saved and used in helping businesses and police recover stolen property.

A coffee manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, implemented a system like this. Weeks after installation, it recorded video of a burglar stealing thousands of dollars in equipment. The owners downloaded the video, sent it to the local police, and posted it on social media channels. The video produced a full criminal investigation, arrest and conviction.

Companies that install security and utilities systems and accompanying apps can often get a reduction in their premiums.

This is particularly true for businesses that own or sell items attractive to thieves, such as jewelry, electronics, medicine, or certain building materials such as copper.

 

Vehicles

Businesses can also reduce losses and insurance premiums by using telematics technology with their vehicles. These devices transmit real-time information about how a vehicle is being used.

They capture information such as driving, speed, stopping speed, time and location. Businesses can use this data to monitor how their drivers are performing and identify training and incentive issues.

With this information, management might decide to reward drivers for a certain number of accident-free miles. This should reduce accident frequency and lower the businesss’s auto insurance premiums.

GPS technology can also help businesses track stolen vehicles and trailers, so an insurance claim will be either unnecessary or recoverable. Also, if a driver has an accident or medical event, GPS enables the business to locate the vehicle and driver immediately and dispatch emergency responders to the scene more quickly.

Some insurers offer discounts to businesses that implement GPS tracking.

 

Other risk management apps

Risk Reporter is for Android devices, iPhones and iPads. It is designed to help risk managers keep track of their organization’s potential risks. Users can record risk-related events as they occur and e-mail them to supervisors, all the while noting suggested risk-control measures and action plans

 

Citicus MOCA is for iPhones and iPads. It is a risk-management application that identifies the various effects that supply-chain disruption can have on a business. The app enables the user to list the company’s resources, exposures and probability of risk-event occurrence. It then generates a graph, which can be uploaded into a PDF, plotting the organization’s asset worth and maximum loss value over time.

 

Risk Assessor is for both Android and iPhones. It lets you create detailed safety reports from your phone or tablet. Brand up the reports with your company details and create a bespoke hazard and control list to suit your business.

 

 

 

Conducting Legal Background Checks

With the number of harassment, discrimination and other employee lawsuits growing, besides examining their internal policies, employers need to be careful about who they hire.

Apart from calling previous employers and schools and checking for any lawsuits with the courts, many businesses will also consider using a vendor to do a background check and to look at an applicant’s social media posts.

The key to staying on the right side of the law is following the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Despite its name, the law covers more than just credit checks. It governs how an employer or a third party entity gathers background information and what it can access. It established requirements for:

  • Notice
  • Consent
  • Steps required before taking an adverse action based on information from the background check (like rescinding an offer).
  • Using out-of-state agencies to pull court records.

 

Follow the law

The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates the FCRA, outlines the rules employers must follow on its website.

Here are the basics:

  1. Always notify the employee or applicant that you plan to conduct a background check. Use a notification form with the singular purpose of notifying applicants that you plan to conduct a background check and need their consent.
  2. Get written permission from the applicant or employee. This can be part of the document you use to notify the person that you will get a consumer report. If you want the authorization to allow you to get consumer reports throughout the person’s employment, make sure you say so clearly and conspicuously.
  3. If you are using a third party to conduct the background check, certify that they comply with the FCRA.
  4. Before you reject a job application, reassign or terminate an employee, deny a promotion, or take any other adverse employment action based on information in a consumer report, you must give them:
  • A notice that includes a copy of the consumer report you relied on to make your decision; and
  • A copy of “A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” which the company that gave you the report should have provided to you.

Give the applicant or employee the notice in advance so they have the opportunity to review the report and tell you if it is correct.

 

Checking social media

Several US states have social media laws in place that restrict employers from asking job applicants or existing employees from sharing their login credentials or private information. But hiring managers and recruiters are free to check the information and photos of anyone which is available in the public domain.

If you do plan to check an applicant’s social media:

  • Know what you are looking for and why the information would be relevant to your hiring decision. Remember, there are laws against considering a person’s gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, age, disability or religion when making hiring decisions. Social media may reveal all that information.
  • Is the information relevant to the hiring decision? You may find social media posts that are distasteful, and you might think based on that you would never hire the person. But you may not know the whole story behind a post.
  • Is the information reliable? While you can glean some important information about somebody on their public profiles, it can also likely be a very unreliable process. Social media sources may contain false, doctored and biased information, and posts can easily be forged. People can also alter pictures using Photoshop and other editing software.
  • Give a candidate the chance to explain or dispute any information you find.

 

 

 

Preparing for a Workers’ Compensation Audit

Just the mention of a workers’ compensation audit can stir up the butterflies in your stomach and add a serious dose of stress to your existence.

But, if you are scheduled for an audit, there is no need to dread it. A small amount of preparation and common sense can save you a lot of aggravation and money.

Timing
Devoting a few hours of effort now can save you a lot of time in the future. Give your full attention to the auditor and remain with them throughout the entire process. The process may take a couple of hours to complete, so make sure that the time and date of the scheduled audit are convenient for you. Call to reschedule the audit if it has been scheduled at an inopportune time.

 

Documentation

As soon as you learn about the audit, begin to collect and organize:

  • Payroll records,
  • Overtime payroll records,
  • Classification divisions, and
  • Insurance certificates.

 

This should give you plenty of time to compose a summary of each, which will help you to better communicate important data during the audit process. Information that is well organized will also expedite the process. If you can reconcile your calculations to payroll records, such as W2s and payroll stubs, the auditor might be more comfortable trusting your data.

You will also want to make any needed adjustment to payrolls; for example, subtracting bonus pay from overtime pay.

If applicable, you will need to apply the maximum and minimum payrolls to the calculations. This part may take a little research, since the minimum and maximum will vary based on state, career, and even among sole proprietors, partners and executive officers.

 

Classification and subcontractors

Before the audit, review the different employee job classifications and make sure that each person is correctly classified.

This is a key element to ensure that the audit flows smoothly. If there’s any question about how to classify an employee, call us. The auditor is most likely going to ask you about the classification and job duties for multiple different employees, so be prepared and armed with knowledge.

One last important preparation concerns subcontractors. Payments issued to subcontractors can go against your workers’ compensation in the event that the subcontractor did not have a certificate of workers’ compensation.

You can get a copy of the certificate, but make sure that it is current and shows coverage during the time the subcontractor worked for you.

 

D-day

Once the audit arrives, you’ll be glad that you took a little time collecting, organizing and summarizing your information. You will also find that the auditor is not a nemesis, especially when you provide honest answers and organized paperwork.

At the conclusion of the audit, ask the auditor for the audit worksheet. Then ask us to review the accuracy of the final audit.

You have a legal right to ask for a corrected audit anytime you think there were any errors. If any overpayment was made under the last three preceding audits, you also have a legal right to recover it.

 

Do You Need Workers’ Comp Coverage for Family Members?

One question we get often from small business owners is whether they have to secure workers’ comp coverage for family members that work for them. The short answer is “yes,” in most cases.

Under California law, every employer in the state that uses employee labor, including family members, must secure workers’ comp coverage, as per California Labor Code Section 3700. When we talk about family members we usually mean children, spouses, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins.

If you fail to include a working family member on your workers’ comp policy, you could risk a fine, so it’s wise to understand the regulations.

Here are a few scenarios:

Your nephew helps in your business for a few hours a day, but you don’t consider him an employee. – Under labor law he is considered an employee. An “employee” is defined as someone you engage or permit to work. Even though your nephew is part of your family, he is considered an employee and hence must be covered by workers’ comp insurance in case he is injured on the job.

If the state finds out that you don’t have the necessary workers’ comp insurance, you could face serious consequences including fines ($1,500 per employee or twice the amount you would have paid in insurance premiums, whichever is more) and even misdemeanor charges.

Also, if your nephew got hurt at the store, he (or his parents) could file a personal injury lawsuit against you if you don’t have him covered on your policy.

You run a diner and your daughter works 25 hours a week in the kitchen< – Your daughter would be considered an employee subject to workers’ comp laws and she would not be able to be excluded on your workers’ comp (unless of course she was an owner/officer, member or partner).

You have a small business and your husband helps out about 10 to 15 hours per week – Your workers’ comp policy may not have to cover you and your husband.

But it could depend on whether your business is a sole proprietorship (which can be owned by a married couple in California), a partnership or a limited liability company.

If you are a married sole proprietor, in the state of California, typically your insurance company will consider your spouse a co-owner and exclude them without any question. But different insurance companies will handle this situation differently, so it’s important to know how yours handles it.

If you’re a corporation, LLC or partnership, your spouse cannot be excluded merely because he/she is your spouse. If you formed a corporation, your spouse would have to own shares and be a titled officer in the corporation in order to be excluded.

If you formed an LLC, your spouse would have to be member of the LLC in order to be excluded. If you formed a partnership, your spouse would have to be one of the partners to be excluded.

 

 

Vacant Buildings Pose Risks, Insurance Challenges

According to the website Statista.com, the average 2018 average vacancy rate for offices nationwide was to 12.2%, while 12.1% of retail spaces and 7.8% for industrial spaces were vacant.

Unfortunately, when buildings stand vacant they become susceptible to a variety of problems.

There are approximately 31,000 fires in vacant buildings annually, resulting in dozens of deaths, hundreds of firefighter injuries, and an average $642 million in property damage.

Vacant buildings receive little or no maintenance, attention, or security. This can lead to problems such as:

  • With no security on the premises, the building becomes a target for vandals. Vacant buildings frequently wind up with broken windows and graffiti-covered walls.
  • Fixtures and materials inside the building, such as copper piping, may attract thieves.
  • Vacant buildings can become convenient hang-outs for young people or shelters for homeless people; they also can become centers of criminal activity such as drug dealing.
  • Trespassers smoking on the premises, decayed wiring, arson, and production of illegal drugs like methamphetamines may cause fires in vacant buildings. In addition, automatic sprinkler systems may be shut off, allowing fires to spread, and lack of security prevents early detection.
  • Toxic substances remaining on the premises may leak and contaminate soil and groundwater.

 

Owners of vacant properties can take many steps to prevent these problems or make them less likely.

  • Visit the property at least weekly or hire a property management company to do so.
  • Clear the exterior of the building of scrap wood, paper, cardboard, and brush.
  • Remove any toxic substances that could contaminate the area or harm police or firefighters.
  • Maintain sidewalks and parking areas in good condition, and clear them of snow and ice.
  • Erect obstacles to keep vehicles and pedestrians out of the parking areas.
  • Hire security guards to watch the building at night and have exterior lighting turned on.
  • Maintain the heat or drain the plumbing system to keep pipes from bursting, but maintain at least a minimum temperature in areas protected by automatic sprinkler systems.
  • Maintain electricity to emergency lighting and exit signs.
  • Shut off utilities except where necessary to power desired lighting and alarm systems.
  • Maintain fire detection systems and link them to a central station monitoring service.

 

Insurance implications

Buildings that are more than 70% percent vacant for more than 60 days also lose some important insurance coverage. If the building is largely vacant, the standard commercial property insurance policy reduces loss payments by 15% for most causes of loss and does not cover others at all, including vandalism, water damage, glass breakage, and theft.

For an additional premium, the building owner may be able to purchase vacancy permit coverage which reinstates some or all of this coverage for a specific period of time. An alternative, vacancy changes coverage, can reduce the minimum occupancy that the building must have before the insurance company will consider it vacant from the standard 31%. We can work with you to get the coverage you need.

A vacant building is never a good situation, but with the proper precautions, the owner can maintain its value and keep it secure until new tenants move in.

 

Smartphones and the Wage and Hour Dilemma

Do you ever wonder if your non-exempt employees are sneaking a peek at work e-mail off the clock? Ever suspect their bosses of pressuring them to respond to calls and e-mails after the workday ends?

If those thoughts keep you up at night, it’s time to make sure your employees’ smartphones aren’t putting your organization at risk of violating wage and hour laws.

The proliferation of smartphones has led to a rapidly rising number of lawsuits by employees claiming they were required to work uncompensated on evenings and weekends when not on the clock. The lawsuits are often class actions stemming from overtime-eligible employees using smartphones to extend their workday without those after-hours tasks being compensated.

The problem for employers is that when one employee complains to the Labor Department that they are not being compensated for time working on their smartphones when away from work, the agency’s investigators won’t stop with the complaining employee. They also look at how many others are “similarly situated.”

A single employee’s complaint can turn in to a class action when all the other similarly situated employees are included.

Just a few minutes a day over months or years can add up to financial disaster if an employer has a number of employees regularly using their phones for uncompensated work.

In the last several years, the courts have seen a flood of lawsuits in which groups of employees claim the time they spend reading and responding to e-mail should be considered work time, and therefore paid.

The danger is that when a boss sends a worker a message off-hours and asks them to read something or send an e-mail, the employee will usually feel compelled to do as they’re told, even if they don’t want to. It’s unlikely a subordinate will refuse to a superior for many reasons, such as job security and also advancement possibilities. Who wants to look lazy when the go-getters are the ones who are recognized?

Employees often are expected to check their work e-mail, and it’s not too much of an overstatement to say many employees today are under pressure because they are required to respond to after-hours messages.

You might think that just a few minutes of after-hours work won’t cause a problem because the time is minimal. But when employees sue claiming they should be compensated for after-hours smartphone work, the employer typically uses the de minimis defense.

De minimis means very little, perhaps just a minute or two. The employer maintains that the time spent is de minimis, but it isn’t. Just five minutes a day adds up to almost a half hour a week. But there are precedent-setting court decisions that have said that even 30 minutes extra a week is not de minimis.

Also, besides federal law, you have our own state law to contend with.

Additionally, you may not even know that some employees are checking work e-mail at home whether they’re told to or not.

Just because the employer doesn’t require employees to stay tied to their phones doesn’t eliminate legal risk. The law defines work time as the time an employee is “suffered or permitted” to work.

So, an employer doesn’t have to require employees to answer e-mail and perform other tasks off the clock to run into trouble. Merely permitting that work without counting it as compensable time, puts the employer at risk.

 

What should you do?

The extension of work time made possible by smartphones and other electronic devices poses a new danger for employers.

To ensure you don’t’ find yourself the target of a wage and hour lawsuit, you need to put in a place a solid policy about non-exempt employees working on their smartphone after hours.

You should put the policy in place, communicate it to your staff in a meeting, as well as include the policy in your employee handbook. Passing out a memo on the matter is also helpful.

Once the policy has been communicated, you have to monitor and survey staff to make sure they are not breaching the rules.

Does Your Business Have to Comply with GDPR?

On May 25, 2018, a major rules change that impacts millions of businesses took effect. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most significant change to European data security standards in two decades.

While the regulation has a direct impact on enterprises located or doing business directly in EU countries, it can also apply to U.S.-based businesses. GDPR gives consumers more control over how companies use their personal data. In particular, European consumers now have the right to:

  • Be informed about when companies are collecting their information.
  • Access the information companies possess about them, via a “subject access request.” Companies must provide the requested information within one month and correct any inaccuracies.
  • Have their information erased (this is known as “the right to be forgotten”).
  • Ask for restrictions on the use of their data.
  • Move or copy their data from one source to another (this is known as “data portability”).
  • Object to how companies use their data, including for direct marketing and when companies make automated assumptions about what an individual might want to buy.

Companies outside the EU are subject to GDPR if they collect personal data or behavioral information on individuals located in an EU country, even if no financial transaction takes place. A simple survey can trigger compliance requirements. Any businesses with websites that target-market to international customers may also have to comply.
A business is bound by the requirements if it specifically targets consumers in an EU country. For example, if the web pages use the particular country’s language and refer to users and customers in that or other EU countries, the EU regulators would consider that target marketing. Target marketing does not include a web page written in English that makes no such references, but that a European consumer could possibly access.
Any company selling goods and services via the Internet, and that targets EU customers, may have to comply. If your company fits the bill, you should:

  • Obtain clear and explicit customer consent for collection and use of their data for each type of processing done on the data. For example, one permission is required for sending e-mail marketing messages, another for sharing with third parties, and others for additional types of processing.
  • Protect collected customer data. The protection requirements are similar to standards in place in the U.S.
  • Notify the EU or other supervising authority within 72 hours of some data breaches. A breach must be reported if it involves “accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed” that can cause “risk to the rights and freedoms” of EU customers.
  • Notify the individuals within the EU when a breach presents a “high risk” to basic property and privacy rights, such as when account passwords are compromised

The EU can fine a company 2% of its global revenue for failing to report a breach on time. Other penalties can be up to the larger of 4% of revenue or €20 million (about $24.4 million.)

Prioritize your compliance efforts
Experts advise companies that are just starting their compliance efforts to identify the most important thing they need to do, and tackle that first. Lesser priorities follow from that.
As Chris Combemale of the Direct Marketing Association said, compliance is an ongoing process: “GDPR is a way of thinking about your customer, a way of thinking about your business that is permanent and long term.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preventing Heat Illness as Temperatures Soar

With temperatures rising, employers with outdoor workers need to take steps to protect them from heat illness.

California employers need to be especially mindful as Cal/OSHA has workplace safety regulations governing the prevention of heat illness. The heat illness standard came into effect about seven years ago as the number of deaths due to heat illness started climbing, particularly among, agricultural, construction and landscape workers, among others.

Heat illness occurs when the body’s temperature control system cannot maintain an acceptable level. Under normal circumstances, the body cools itself by sweating. However, when high temperatures and high humidity prevent the body from releasing heat efficiently, a person’s body temperature can rise quickly.

Progression to serious illness can be rapid. If left untreated, very high body temperatures might damage the brain and other vital organs – and ultimately cause a person’s death

You should take immediate action to seek treatment for a worker if they start exhibiting one or more of the following signs:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Cramps
  • Exhaustion

 

Workers with existing health problems or medical conditions – such as diabetes – that reduce tolerance to heat, need to be extra vigilant. Some high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also increase a person’s risk for heat illness.

To ensure you are in compliance with California workplace safety regulations, you need to ensure the following:

 

Access to water

Staying hydrated is probably the single-most important step in heat-illness prevention. Water must be “fresh, pure, suitably cool” and located as close as practicable to where employees are working (and enough to provide at least one quart per employee per hour for the entire shift).

Employers should encourage workers to stay hydrated and drink water.

 

Access to shade

When temperatures reach 80 degrees, you must have and maintain one or more areas of shade at all times, when employees are present. Locate the shade as close as practical to the area where employees are working and provide enough to accommodate the number of employees on meal, recovery or rest periods.

Even if temperatures are less than 80 degrees, you must permit access to shade for workers to rest.

 

Preventative cool-downs

If an employee starts feeling unwell, they must be allowed to take a “preventative cool-down rest,” during which they must be monitored for symptoms of heat illness.

They should be encouraged to remain in the shade and not ordered back to work until symptoms are gone. Employees with heat illness symptoms must be provided appropriate first aid or emergency response.

 

Weather monitoring and acclimatization

Instruct supervisors on-site to monitor the weather so they can institute the correct procedures (like erecting shade at 80 degrees).

Acclimation procedures include close observation of all employees during a heat wave —defined as at least 80 degrees. New employees must be closely observed for their first two weeks on the job.

 

High-heat procedures

High-heat procedures (which are triggered at 95 degrees) must include:

  1. “Effective” observation and monitoring of employees, including a mandatory buddy system.
  2. Regular communication with employees working by themselves.
  3. Designating one or more employees to call for emergency services, if needed.
  4. Giving more frequent reminders to drink plenty of water.
  5. Holding pre-shift meetings on prevention.
  6. During high heat, agricultural employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours.

 

Employee and supervisory training

Ensure appropriate training of both your workers as well as supervisors. Nobody should be working outside in heat if they have not been trained in heat illness prevention and emergency procedures.

Employee training should cover:

  • The company’s heat illness prevention procedures.
  • Their rights to take regular water and rest breaks.
  • Importance of frequent consumption of small quantities of water.
  • Signs and symptoms.
  • Appropriate first aid or emergency response.
  • Importance and methods of acclimatization.
  • Importance of immediately reporting signs or symptoms of heat illness to a supervisor.
  • Procedures for responding to possible heat illness.
  • Procedures to follow when contacting emergency medical services, providing first aid.

 

Supervisors must be trained on the following:

  • The heat standard requirements.
  • The procedures they must follow to implement the requirements.
  • Procedures to follow when a worker exhibits or reports symptoms consistent with possible heat illness, including emergency response procedures and first aid.
  • How to monitor weather reports and how to respond to hot-weather advisories.

 

Emergency response and written procedures

Emergency response procedures include:

  • Effective communication.
  • How to respond to signs and symptoms of heat illness.
  • Instructions on what to do when employees exhibit severe heat symptoms.
  • Procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers.

 

Written procedures form part of an effective heat illness prevention plan that should include, but not be limited to your responsibility to provide:

  • Water
  • Shade
  • Cool-down rests.
  • Access to first aid.
  • The employees’ right to exercise their rights under this standard without retaliation.

 

 

How to Retain Your Fleet Coverage

As insurers continue tightening their underwriting for commercial auto insurance, they are inquiring about companies’ fleet management programs.

If a company lacks a program, some insurers are asking them to implement one if they want coverage. With this trend likely to continue as the number of traffic accidents and injuries continues to rise, it’s imperative for any company with a fleet – or even just a few vehicles – to identify opportunities for improvement and take any appropriate remedial action.

Areas to focus a fleet management program on include:

 

Driver training

One key element that’s often overlooked is senior leadership support, the lack of which can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including getting mixed messages from what is emphasized in training and performance feedback provided to drivers from supervisors. You should also:

  • Continually reinforce safety priorities in regular driver feedback.
  • Use annual performance reviews as training opportunities.
  • Have employees sign off on areas targeted for improvement or development.

 

Focus on distracted driving

If you have a fleet or any individuals driving for you, it’s of utmost importance that you have a strict policy for avoiding distracted driving. In your fleet manual, you should document that you continually reinforce rules on avoiding distracted driving.Focus on the use of hand-held mobile devices, the use of which increases the potential for accidents by 23%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

You have a choice to make:

  • Use technology-based measures, such as those used to prevent vehicles from starting when mobile devices are in use, or
  • Establish strict protocols on the use of mobile phones or other hand-held devices.

 

The latter may be sufficient in your case.

Tracking systems and litigation defense

Enhanced tracking systems, including video and telemetry, can help strengthen litigation defense, improve outcomes and reinforce training. Companies implementing telemetry systems with dash cams can verify what caused an accident. By using these systems, some operators have reduced litigation costs and court awards by 90%.

Logistics software

Logistics software can be used to enhance safety and improve efficiency in routing and job distribution. Even field vehicles can be equipped with shock sensors, operator requirements to complete inspections prior to movement, tracking and other features.

Review your coverage

On an annual basis, you should talk to us to ensure your insurance levels for drivers are adequate and appropriate.For contractors with fleet operations, commercial automobile insurance policies should have a minimum of $1 million in liability limits. Higher limits of $3 million to $5 million are typically required for transporting passengers or hazardous materials.

Driver screening and safety

Screen and monitor drivers by:

  • Obtaining an annual motor vehicle record for each driver with a points qualification system.
  • Administering DOT 7- or 10-panel drug tests with standard cut-off levels for pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion and incidents that warrant testing.
  • Requiring that drivers complete online or in-person driving courses annually.
  • Requiring that drivers wear high-visibility reflective vests when outside the vehicle.
  • Identifying personal protective equipment for drivers in the right situation (plan for rain, snow, footing, etc.).
  • Supplying polarized sun/safety glasses to reduce glare.

Generally, from a risk management perspective, candidates applying for driver positions that have DUI offenses, reckless operations and suspended licenses are considered unacceptable, as are those with two tickets and one accident in a five-year period. Many firms try to keep drivers to below three minor tickets in a five-year period.

Incident management

All fleet drivers must be trained on what do after an accident. The top priority is to ensure all people are safe and taken care of. The next aspect is to collect all necessary information and take as many photographs of the accident as possible.

Subsequently, there should be follow-up to ensure everyone is safe and the incident report is completed correctly. Require that all incidents must be reported by the end of the shift, and set a 24-hour deadline for getting the claim into your system.

Inspections

Inspect vehicles prior to each usage. Pre-trip inspections typically include visual checks of tires and lug nuts, windshield, windows, wipers, lights and mileage.

Oil levels and tire pressure should be inspected weekly or more often, depending on weather conditions and vehicle utilization.