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.

 

 

 

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.