Roofers Insurance Fall Safety Part 1

Re-roofing exposes workers to the hazards of demolition work at heights. With the proper fall protection, the risk of serious falls can be substantially reduced. The next two blog posts will highlight information from OSHA to point out some of the hazards workers encounter during re-roofing and will list some practical methods employers can use to protect workers who replace roofs.  Please remember that employers are responsible for ensuring compliance with applicable OSHA requirements.

Risks During Re-Roofing

Workers replacing roofs risk permanent injury or death from falls while they demolish old roofs and install new roofing material (for example, shingles, tiles, or slate). Even experienced roofers are exposed to unpredictable fall hazards caused by uneven sheathing, sudden gusts of wind, loose roofing materials, and surfaces that become slick when wet. Taking appropriate fall protection measures reduces risks and saves lives.

The employer must provide a training program for each worker who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program must enable each worker to recognize the hazards of falling and train each worker in the procedures to follow to minimize these hazards.

More than one-third of fall deaths in residential construction are caused by falls from roofs.

Safe Roofing Practices: Important Steps

Before beginning the job, focus on identifying fall protection needs. Survey the roof to determine if there are pre-installed anchorages available that can be used. If not, then plan immediately to identify those systems needed to protect workers from falls and have them in place before the workers report to the job.

Reducing Risks: Determining Structural Integrity

Many workers have been injured when the roofs they were working on collapsed from under them. Employers must determine the structural integrity of the roof and take all necessary precautions to protect the workers before the job begins. If workers notice signs of structural deterioration (for example, dry rot), a competent person should evaluate the area.

Other considerations for a safe construction site:

• Guard against falls through skylights or other roof openings. Use a guardrail system, a personal fall arrest system (PFAS), or a protective cover that will support two times the weight that may be imposed on it at any one time.

• Appropriate footwear is important personal protective equipment on any construction site, but it is critical during roof demolition. A nail or shingle-removal tool injury can cause a worker to lose concentration and fall.

• Workers should be careful of air hoses and power cords for nail guns and other electrical equipment. If a worker steps on one, hoses and cords can slip underfoot and lead to falls.

Staging Material

Loose material and hand-held equipment can create tripping hazards on the roof surface. To minimize exposure to fall hazards, employers can stage materials so that workers on the roof have quick and safe access to them. While handling material on the roof, the worker should hold the material on the side of his or her body that faces the down-sloped edge to prevent being struck by the materials if they are dropped. Material can also be staged so it cannot slide off the roof edge and potentially strike a worker on the ground. Slide guards can help to keep material from sliding off the roof. Establishing a restricted area around the perimeter of the project can also keep workers out of the danger zone where debris, tools or materials may fall to the ground. The area should be posted with signs that warn of the potential hazard.

Coming up in part 2 we will discuss the specific personal safety systems roofers can use to avoid potential injuries.

Winter Weather Preparations

If you live in area where it snows you know the drill. Three to four months of heavy clothes, seeing your breath and generally freezing outside.  But beyond the inconvenience and discomfort, a winter storm or other severe weather conditions can cause real damage. So it’s important to think about winter preparedness.

Protecting your home is vital. A frozen water pipe can burst and flood your house or basement. An ice dam in your gutter can cause water to seep into and saturate an interior wall. And then there’s your car. Making sure it’s prepped to face winter’s worst is just as critical. After all, what would happen if a blizzard stranded you in your car?  Below you will find tips for preparing your home and auto for the upcoming winter months.

Curious on how your homeowners and auto insurance will respond to winter risks? Please give our office a call and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.


Prepare yourself
Some winter weather tips to help you get through a severe stretch of cold:

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. It’s a serious workout, and going at it too hard can bring on a heart attack − a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits the cold rapidly.

Cold-related injuries

  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities. If any of these occur, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.
  • If any of the hypothermia symptoms appear, get yourself (or the victim) to a warm location, remove wet clothing, and warm the center of the body first. Give the patient warm, non-alcoholic beverages if they are conscious. And of course, get medical help as soon as possible.

Prepare your home
Some tips to brace your home for a winter storm:

  • Clean out the gutters, disconnect and drain all outside hoses. If possible, shut off outside water valves.
  • Insulate walls and attics, and caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Repair roof leaks and remove tree branches that could get weighed down with ice or snow and fall on your house – or your neighbor’s. (Avoid liability for the latter.)
  • Wrap water pipes in your basement or crawl spaces with insulation sleeves to slow heat transfer.
  • Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater.
  • If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed when you’re not using it.
  • Have a contractor check your roof to see if it would sustain the weight of a heavy snowfall.
  • Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking your home’s heating vents.
  • During cold spells, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly those in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces.
  • If your house will be unattended during cold periods, consider draining the water system.
  • Avoid ice dams – where water from melted snow refreezes in the gutters and seeps in under the roof, soaking interior walls.

Prepare your car
According to the Department of Transportation, 22% of all vehicle crashes in the U.S. – and 16% of the fatalities – are due to severe weather such as rain, snow, sleet and ice. So, prepare your car for treacherous conditions and extremely cold temperatures – and know what to do if you find yourself stranded in a vehicle. When the temperatures start to drop:

  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive, travel during the day.
  • Don’t travel alone. Keep others informed of your schedule.
  • Stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Top off antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, gas, oil and other fluids.
  • Make sure your tires have enough tread. Consider snow tires.
  • Keep bagged salt or sand in the trunk for extra traction and to melt ice.
  • Clear snow from the top of the car, headlights and windows.
  • Save the numbers for your auto club, insurance agent and towing service into your cell phone.
  • Keep a cold-weather kit in your trunk. It should include a blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, hard candy, bottled water, folding shovel, first aid kit, flashlight and cell phone charger.

If you’re trapped in a vehicle

  • Remain inside. Rescuers are more likely to find you there.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes every hour. Clear any snow from the exhaust pipe to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Move around to maintain heat.
  • Use maps, floor mats and seat covers for insulation.
  • Take turns sleeping. Someone should always be awake to alert rescuers.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so rescue crews can find you.
  • If you’re stranded in a remote area, stomp out the words “SOS” or “HELP” in the snow.

Are there different types of homeowners insurance policies?

he different types of homeowners policies are fairly standard throughout the country. However, individual states and companies may offer policies that are slightly different or go by other names such as “standard” or “deluxe”.

If you own your home

If you own the home you live in, you have several policies to choose from. The most popular policy is the HO-3, which provides the broadest coverage. Owners of multi-family homes generally purchase an HO-3 with an endorsement to cover the risks associated with having renters live in their homes.

HO-1: Limited coverage policy
This “bare bones” policy covers you against the first 10 disasters. It’s no longer available in most states.

HO-2: Basic policy

A basic policy provides protection against all 16 disasters. There is a version of HO-2 designed for mobile homes.

HO-3: The most popular policy
This “special” policy protects your home from all perils except those specifically excluded.

HO-8: Older home

Designed for older homes, this policy usually reimburses you for damage on an actual cash value basis which means replacement cost less depreciation. Full replacement cost policies may not be available for some older homes.

If you rent your home

HO4-Renter
Created specifically for those who rent the home they live in, this policy protects your possessions and any parts of the apartment that you own, such as new kitchen cabinets you install, against all 16 disasters.

If you own a co-op or a condo

H0-6: condo/co-op
A policy for those who own a condo or co-op, it provides coverage for your belongings and the structural parts of the building that you own. It protects you against all 16 disasters.

Ways to Save on Renters Insurance

If you’re buying renters insurance for the first time, here’s good news: Protecting your belongings generally costs less than protecting other assets like your car. Plus, there are ways to lower the price of your renters policy even more.  Here are four ways to save on your renters premium:

1. Consider a higher deductible.
Choosing a higher deductible—the amount you pay out of pocket when you have a renters insurance claim—could save you up to 25 percent (with a $1,000 deductible).

2. Bundle, if you can.
Consider buying your renters policy from your auto insurance company, if it’s an option. Many insurance companies will discount property insurance for their auto customers.

3. Maintain good credit.
Most personal insurance companies will do some sort of credit check in the calculation of your premium.   Better the credit, the lower your rate. Paying bills on time, only having as much credit as you need and keeping low balances all contribute to good credit.

4. Consider replacement coverage.
Although choosing replacement coverage might not save you money upfront, it could save you big if your belongings are ever damaged beyond repair. Here’s why: With replacement coverage, your insurer will pay to replace your belongings instead of just paying you their current value.

Avoiding Identity Theft

According to a report by Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab, in what could be one of the largest bank heists in history, more than 100 banks and ATMs have been rigged so that thieves could steal up to $1 billion in cash.

Hackers from Russia, Ukraine, China and Europe were involved in the organized crime ring that was just recently exposed. The hackers installed spying software on bank computers, studied bank employee workflows so they could learn how to mimic their actions and used their knowledge to transfer money into bank accounts set up in other countries.

While the report did not name specific bank institutions, it stated that financial institutions in at least 30 countries were affected, including the United States.

We all know that identity theft is the act of taking someone’s personal information and using it to impersonate a victim, steal from bank accounts, establish phony insurance policies, open unauthorized credit cards or obtain unauthorized bank loans.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that 7% of all U.S. citizens will be victims of identity theft over the next 12 month resulting in over $50 billion in costs.  Identity theft is also a long, arduous process for victims as they try to repair their credit, erase erroneous collection accounts, and restore their lives.

Did you know that many homeowners insurance policies actually offer some form of identity theft as part of the policy?  You can find out more about this coverage, its cost, and provisions within the rest of the of article below.

If you would like to see if your policy includes identity theft coverage or would like to receive quotes on this coverage, please feel free to give our office a call.


Identity Theft Insurance

What is it? 

Some insurance companies now include coverage for identity theft as part of their homeowners insurance policy.  Others sell it as either a stand-alone policy or as an endorsement to a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

What does it cover? 

Identity theft insurance provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. It generally covers expenses such as phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs, and sometimes attorney fees (with the prior consent of the insurer). Some companies also offer restoration or resolution services that will guide you through the process of recovering your identity.

What does it cost? 

Some insurance companies will include identity theft coverage for no additional cost.  However, most will charge anywhere from $25 to $100 annually for the additional insurance coverage.

Tips for Avoid Identity Theft

  • Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Don’t throw them into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
  • Do not give out personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, don’t give out any personal information unless you have initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with and that they have a secure line.
  • Proceed with caution when shopping online. Use only authenticated websites to conduct business online. Before submitting personal or financial information through a website, confirm the site is secure.
  • Make sure you have firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs installed on your computer. These programs should always be up to date.
  • Monitor your accounts. Don’t rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Make sure it’s accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized.
  • Shred any documents containing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications, before disposing of them.

Grilling Safety

Did you know that leaving the grill unattended, not cleaning grease or fat build up properly, or placing the grill too close to combustible siding can cause injuries, fires and property damage?

Charcoal or Gas?

Nearly 9,000 home fires a year involve grills, according to a National Fire Protection Association report. Of all the home fires involving grills, gas-fueled grills accounted for four out of five fires, while 16% involved charcoal or other solid-fueled grills. Gas and charcoal grills each have ardent advocates, who praise the convenience of gas or the flavor of charcoal. Whichever your preferred grilling method, follow these important safety considerations.

Gas Grill Safety

A leak or break was the leading factor contributing to gas grill-related fires, according to the NFPA report.

  • Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
  • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose, which will quickly reveal escaping gas by releasing bubbles.
  • If you smell or otherwise suspect a gas leak, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get a professional to service it before using it again. Call the fire department if the leak does not stop.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
  • Never turn on the gas when the lid is closed. The gas may build up inside, and when ignited, the lid could blow off and cause injuries or burns.
  • After cooking, make sure you completely close the valve on your gas grill.
  • Always store gas grills – and propane tanks – outside and away from your house.

Charcoal Grill Safety

The leading cause of structure fires from use of charcoal grills was leaving or placing an object that could burn too close to the grill, according to the NFPA study.

  • Charcoal grills can continue to remain hot for many hours after the flames extinguish. Avoid placing any burnable objects near the grill or moving the grill while the coals are hot. Keep combustible items that may be blown by the wind away from the grill.
  • Check for rust damage in metal grills, which may make it possible for charcoal to fall through onto surfaces below and cause a fire.
  • Purchase the proper starter fluid. Store out of reach from children and away from heat sources.
  • Do not add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited. Never use any other flammable or combustible liquid to get the fire started.
  • If the fire is too low, rekindle with dry kindling and more charcoal if needed. Avoid adding liquid fuel because it can cause a flash fire.
  • Do not leave the grill unattended.

Here are some other important tips to help you keep danger away when you are enjoying food and fun.

Choose a safe location for your grill. Keep grills on a level surface more than ten feet away from the house, garage or other structures. Keep children and pets away, as well as overhanging branches. Grills should not be used on a balcony or under an overhang. Avoid placing grills too close to combustible deck rails.

Grill outside only. Never use a grill in a garage, vehicle, tent or other enclosed space, even if ventilated, due to risk of harmful carbon monoxide buildup.

Keep the grill going on a cold day. During cool weather days, avoid wearing a scarf or other loose clothing that may catch on fire. Consumer Reports recommends shielding the grill from wind, placing it about ten feet from combustible surfaces and materials, and keeping the lid closed to retain as much heat as possible. Allow extra time for pre-heating the grill in colder weather and check temperatures of meat and fish with a meat thermometer to ensure that food is safe to eat.

Teach kids to stay safe. Make a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the grill and areas where hot food is prepared or carried. Children under five are especially vulnerable to burns from contact with a hot grill surface. Grill contact accounted for 37% of burns seen at emergency rooms in 2014 involving children under five.²

Remember post-grilling safety. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. If you grill with charcoal and need to dispose of the coals, soak them in water to extinguish them before disposing in a metal container. Otherwise, cover the grill tightly and close the vents, this should extinguish the coals and whatever is left will be ready for next time.

Storm Preparation Tips for Utah Residents

Denver in April can bring sudden thunderstorms, and major storms are fraught with peril.  Here are some tips to make sure you’re prepared in the event of a storm:

Take shelter in a safe location.
This might require evacuating your home—despite the natural desire to stay behind and protect it. If so, monitor weather and traffic reports to identify your evacuation route, secure your property and head for higher ground. If you can, take all of your vehicles with you. If you can’t, store them indoors or on high ground as close as possible to a sturdy building.

Keep insurance documents with you.
Place your insurance documents, vehicle registration and title in a waterproof bag and keep them with you. Then, take photos of your vehicles; this can help if you have a claim.

Report vehicle damage immediately.
Don’t try to start or move a flooded vehicle; you could cause more damage. Rather contact your agent or insurance company.

If it’s safe to drive, use caution.
Never drive over a downed electrical line, and avoid low-hanging and fallen power lines and debris. Never travel down a road submerged in water; underlying currents could carry your vehicle away. And if your vehicle stalls in water, immediately abandon it; floodwaters can rise several feet in a matter of minutes.

Sharing the Road with Self-driving Cars

Turn signals, brake lights and horns are useful features on a car, but they’re not the only ways we communicate with other drivers. We flash our headlights to signal it’s OK for another vehicle to go ahead, wave to thank another driver for letting us into their lane, or make eye contact with pedestrians to let them know we see them.

But what happens when it’s software, not humans, driving the other cars? Self-driving cars (SDCs) from auto and tech companies have already driven millions of miles under software control. Though there are still legislative hurdles and liability questions that need to be addressed before SDCs are available to consumers, you still might spot one on a test drive. Below you will find some tips on what to expect—and how to communicate—if you’re sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle.

If you have any questions on how your insurance will handle self-driving cars, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.


Check for labels and sensors

You can spot some self-driving cars by sensors mounted on the roof or hood, but others simply have a label on the side. “Most likely, other drivers won’t be able to tell a self-driving car apart from a regular car.  .

At this stage, SDCs still have humans riding along in the driver’s seat, so while you might be able to identify the car, you may not be able to tell whether it’s in autonomous mode. This means there should be no need for other drivers to behave any differently around self-driving cars.

Be patient behind the wheel

Most self-driving cars are programmed to drive cautiously. The cars are designed to be “very conservative” —always maintaining the speed limit and slowing down for yellow lights. In doing cross-country automated drives, many auto companies observed a number of unhappy human drivers because the vehicles were driving the posted speed limits. (One California resident, where Google is testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, complained that “Google cars drive like your grandma.”)

This impatience may account for human drivers’ less-than-stellar record versus self-driving cars; recent reports from the California DMV found that all accidents involving autonomous cars in the state were caused by human driver error. If you find yourself behind a self-driving car, pay attention to its speed, don’t follow too closely and wait for it to proceed at stoplights and intersections.

Keep cycling as usual

Not only do self-driving cars have sensors that detect movement (often a combination of cameras, radar and lidar, which is similar to radar but uses laser pulses instead of radio waves), they’re programmed to make human-like decisions. For example, if the car detects a cyclist, the vehicle will either slow down until it’s safe to pass, or pass if it detects that the opposing lane is open and clear for it to go around.

Trust the cars when on foot

When it comes to managing distractions, self-driving cars have the advantage over human drivers—their electronic eyes never drift to phones, the radio or passengers. And since they are still at the testing stage, safety is the manufacturers’ main priority. So they’re programmed to be careful at crosswalks. Give them time to brake before you cross the street, but trust that they can see you—even if there’s no human driver to make eye contact and wave you across.

Questions to Ask When Buying Auto Insurance

When buying auto insurance, there are a number of questions to consider as you look at coverages and companies to work with.

1. How Much Do You Love Your Car? Okay, your car is not a family member or even a person, but do you have a very special attachment to it? If so, you’ll want it fixed perfectly—or replaced with the same model—if anything happens to it. So shop for the fullest range of insurance, including collision, comprehensive and even glass coverage.

2. How Much Do You Drive? Do you absolutely need your car every day—for instance, to get to work? Or is owning a car mostly a matter of convenience that you could forgo if needed? Do you drive 100 miles a month or closer to 1,000 or more? Make sure your policy reflects how much you drive.

3. Will You Be Using Your Car for Work? If you use your car not just to get to work, but to perform work tasks, commercial auto insurance is a necessity. A personal auto policy will not provide coverage if you deliver pizzas, drive as a courier, transport paying passengers through a ride-share service or use your car for other commercial activities.

4. Where Do You Live—and Park? Where you live will impact your insurance rates—and it may be a factor in what coverage you purchase. For example, cars parked on the street in urban areas face a greater risk for theft or vandalism, so you may want to purchase comprehensive coverage.

5. Who Else Will Be Driving the Car? Generally, your car insurance will cover other occasional drivers. However, if other drivers live with you and use your car—whether a spouse, a teen driver or a housemate—they should be listed on your policy.

6. What Are Your Legal Obligations?  Nearly every state requires that you carry minimum liability coverage for your car. At the very least, you need to make sure your policy complies with state mandates. However, the levels of required coverage are generally pretty low. To be safe, you’ll probably want additional liability coverage—keep in mind, if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money.

7. Is Your Car Financed or Leased? If you still owe money on your car or have to return it in good condition when a lease expires, you’ll likely be required to insure the car for its full value—and even for any gap between what you owe and the car’s market value. Collision and comprehensive will cover damage to your car up to its value—and supplemental gap insurance will cover the rest.

Crime Insurance Claim Scenario: Phantom Vendor

In the past we’ve talked about how susceptible small businesses, including contractors, are to employee-related crimes like theft and forgery.  With an average loss amount of over $200,000, we recommend that businesses purchase some sort of crime insurance policy.

We have found one of the best ways to explain the need for crime insurance to talk about some of the claims similar companies have had.  So the following is a real-life example of a crime claim that happened to another company.

Description of Event

The head of accounting of a construction firm approved payments to several vendors with made-up names that were very similar to real vendors the company worked with.  For example, he approved checks for ABC Company, a legitimate consulting firm the company worked with, and ABC Inc., a phony consulting firm he made up.   After more than two year, another employee finally noticed the slight difference in the two names and the accounting employee’s scheme was discovered.

Outcome

In this particular case, the employee actually took over $500,000 from his employer.

As you can see, even with the proper controls, dishonest employees can still find ways to make off with significant money from their employers.  It is for cases exactly like the one above that we recommend looking at a crime policy.