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October 8, 2019
It should come as no surprise to learn that among industrial and manufacturing processes, welding operations present significant risks, not only to employees but to property, equipment, and other physical business assets. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), over half a million workers are exposed to the hazards common to the welding profession each year, often resulting in injuries, lost wages, and reduced productivity. Faced with the potential for a serious or even fatal workplace injury, how would you prevent welding-related injuries? In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best risk management practices in the industry, helping your business protect employees and assets from the risks associated with welding operations.
Health and Safety Hazards in Welding Workplaces
In the manufacturing sector, high-heat application procedures like welding, brazing, and plasma cutting can be found across industries. These processes represent substantial risks, not only for workers but also for the facilities in which they work. The four most common health and safety hazards associated with welding include:
- Electric shocks: Many welding operations utilize electric arc-welding equipment, which delivers high voltages to the items being joined. Poorly-grounded electrodes or wet conditions can lead to serious or even deadly electrocution.
- Exposure to gases and fumes: Welding operations release gases and fumes into the immediate environment. Welders exposed to these noxious gases may experience severe respiratory illnesses and can be at a greater risk of developing certain cancers.
- Physical hazards: Welders know that physical hazards during the welding operation are significant. These hazards include burns, damage to the eyes and ears, and injuries related to falling equipment or workpieces.
- Fires and explosions: Poorly-maintained welding and cutting equipment or the presence of flammable materials in and around the workplace often result in fires or explosions. These hazards cannot be overlooked, as the entire facility is at risk if a fire were to break out.
Managing the Risks of Welding Operations
Manufacturing facility owners and managers have a large stake at risk when it comes to workplace injuries associated with welding operations. Managing those risks, then, becomes the cornerstone of overall workplace safety. There are several factors that go into a welding risk management plan, helping to protect workers and property from loss.
First, assessing workplace risks must be taken seriously. Identifying potential hazards before they can cause an injury or fire incident is the foundation upon which a risk management plan is built. When reviewing potential hazards, focus on:
- Welding, cutting, and brazing equipment maintenance and upkeep.
- Presence of flammable materials in welding areas.
- Presence or absence of adequate ventilation systems.
- Slip and fall or trip hazards in work areas.
- Presence or absence of clearly-marked emergency exits.
- Presence or absence of fire suppression equipment near welding workstations.
To protect workers, “personal protective equipment” or PPE is vital to a safe workplace. PPE for welders can include fire-retardant clothing or aprons, face shields, eye and hearing protection, heavy gloves, and steel-toed work shoes, only to name a few of the many PPE items commonly found in welding workplaces. Certain operations may require workers to wear respirators, especially when dangerous gases and fumes are released during manufacturing processes. In most welding operations, building-wide exhaust-venting systems should be considered personal protective equipment, reducing worker exposure to dangerous substances.
Worker training and retraining is another critical component of the risk management strategy. Training employees on safety-oriented procedures and processes is only part of the training; equipment and specialty training should also be the focus. A safe workplace culture begins with training – by involving all stakeholders in this process, the chances of a workplace-related injury decreases dramatically.
With these risk management steps in place, answering the question of “how would you prevent welding-related injuries?” becomes easier than ever before. Welding and cutting operations are inherently hazardous, yet done with an eye toward improved safety, manufacturing facilities can reap the benefits of continued productivity and reduced worker injuries. ◼
September 17, 2019
In any business environment, managing one’s risks is the key to success. Risk management is the practice of identifying the unique risks inherent in an operation, then taking steps to mitigate those risks. In the healthcare sector, risk management is of the utmost importance; unmanaged risks could result in staff injuries, expensive legal claims, or even the deaths of patients. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading broker of specialized insurance solutions for the healthcare industry, understands that healthcare organizations must place risk management at the forefront of their considerations, benefitting the organizations themselves as well as their staff and the patients who rely on them for care.
Risks in Healthcare and Their Costs
It is well understood that the healthcare field is filled with risks, not only for patients but also for caregivers and facilities. Healthcare professionals face injury rates far in excess of many other industries, including dangerous professions like commercial logging and mining operations. High patient loads, exposure to pathogens, staffing issues, and lack of safety equipment contribute to high rates of injury, particularly among nurses and paraprofessional caregivers. Patients are at risk of misdiagnosis, adverse medication interactions, neglect, and medical negligence. Each of these risk factors can result in severe consequences, including death.
Healthcare risks are responsible for rising expenses across the industry. Hundreds of millions of dollars in claims and settlements are paid out each year. Lost productivity due to staff injuries account for millions of dollars in additional expenses. All told, according to a study conducted at the University of California Davis Medical School, direct and indirect costs associated with healthcare occupational injuries and illnesses alone are estimated in excess of $200 billion. It is imperative that healthcare organizations work to keep these costs from skyrocketing, and one of the best solutions is that of risk management.
Healthcare Risk Management
It can be argued that in the healthcare industry, risk management is more important than in any other industry. For the most part, risk management is conducted to reduce the prospect of financial losses; in healthcare, patient and staff safety takes precedence over finances. As shown earlier, risk management strategies in the healthcare environment also help to control spiraling costs – an added benefit of this practice.
It is important to remember that each healthcare organization will have different risks, and as such, a risk management plan must be tailored to individual operations. To thoroughly address risks, most healthcare operations will embark on what is known as “enterprise risk management (ERM)”, a top-down approach that touches on every aspect of an operation. Typically, a risk management plan begins with a careful assessment of potential risks, which includes:
- The factors that represent specific risks.
- The likelihood of those factors in contributing to an incident.
- The severity of an outcome if an incident were to occur.
- The steps that can be taken to reduce any potential impacts.
- Factors that cannot be mitigated or avoided.
With the risk analysis completed, facility managers can then begin to address the factors, situations, and conditions that can lead to incidents. Many of the risks in the healthcare setting center on potential injury risks, such as slip and fall hazards, patient lifting/repositioning tasks, and patient-oriented practices like medication dosages, diagnoses, and daily care operations.
Risks related to regulatory compliance cannot be overlooked. Failure to comply with recordkeeping requirements and reporting of workplace-related incidents can be devastating to healthcare operations in terms of financial penalties. A solid risk management plan for healthcare operations must include provisions for complete and accurate record collection and retention.
Finally, emerging risks are a constant part of the healthcare environment. New technologies, new privacy considerations, and new treatment protocols continually change the face of healthcare delivery. The best organizations have flexible risk management strategies, allowing them to address emerging risks in a proactive way. Getting ahead of risks before they can negatively impact an operation is a smart solution toward continued success in this dynamic field.
Risk Management Services: Supplementing Insurance Coverage
Many specialty insurance providers such as U.S. Risk Underwriters offer risk management services to their healthcare clients. Managing risks becomes easier with the help of professionals specially trained and equipped for the task; with their help, healthcare organizations can enjoy value-added services that complement insurance policies. Organizations may also opt to employ in-house healthcare risk managers in an effort to minimize risk exposures. Risk management in healthcare is a vital part of the care delivery model. This strategy not only reduces the expenditures associated with legal and insurance claims, but it has the very real potential to protect employee health and patient safety. ◼
September 10, 2019
The healthcare industry continually faces significant challenges as it delivers quality care to millions of patients each year. Some of these challenges are centered on the level of and the complexity of the care provided. Others are directly related to workloads, which have increased in recent years. Healthcare staffers are expected to do more with less, often resulting in employee burnout. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading specialty broker of insurance solutions for the healthcare industry, knows that burnout – a severe form of mental exhaustion – is a very serious risk factor that can affect staff and patients alike. Combatting mental exhaustion in staff can dramatically reduce the risks associated with this condition, saving money on expenses while protecting a given facility’s workers and its patients from harm.
The Prevalence of Burnout in the Healthcare Field
Among industries, the healthcare field is known for long hours, difficult working conditions, and backbreaking labor. Over time, these factors can create an emotional strain on caregivers, leading to a phenomenon known simply as burnout. Burnout is characterized by several signs and symptoms, including:
- Feeling detached from the workplace and fellow employees.
- Chronic fatigue that cannot be improved with rest.
- Inability to face workloads and the demands that come with them.
- Reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
- Mental effects (forgetfulness, misjudgments)
- Hopelessness and depression.
Industry analysts have estimated the rate of burnout at a range between 10% and 70% for nursing professionals, while physicians, physician assistants, and other caregivers are estimated to experience burnout at rates of 30% to 50% of all workers. In a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association in 2015, it was found that more than half of all physicians in the United States exhibited at least one sign of burnout. A survey conducted in 2017 showed even higher burnout rates for nurses, with close to 65% of nurses reporting burnout on the job.
Why is Burnout Risky?
Emotional and mental exhaustion is extremely prevalent among healthcare professionals, from nursing home aides to physicians and nurse practitioners. This so-called burnout also presents significant risks, not only for the staff members experiencing it but also the patients they are responsible for. Mental exhaustion can lead to such potentially dangerous circumstances as:
- Misdiagnosis of illnesses in patients.
- Improper handling or completion of complex procedures.
- Medication errors, including the risk of fatal overdoses.
- Emotional outbursts that can erode confidence and trust between caregivers and patients.
While the numbers are not clear, it is estimated that avoidable medical errors are the third-highest cause of death in the United States. Many of the deaths can be at least partially attributed to healthcare-staff burnout; these avoidable deaths account for millions of dollars in legal claims each year. The victims are not only the patients but the staff who were entrusted with their care.
Combatting Burnout in the Healthcare Industry
Risk management professionals at U.S. Risk Underwriters and other insurers know that reducing burnout rates is the first and most effective step in protecting patients and staff. By reducing the risks associated with mental exhaustion, healthcare facilities can help to ensure that their patients receive accurate care. At the same time, reducing burnout rates benefits employees, allowing them to continue working and to regain a sense of purpose in their lives.
Healthcare facilities like hospitals and nursing homes have adopted several strategies to combat staff burnout. These include both easy-to-implement features as well as more comprehensive plans like:
- Wellness clinics for staff members
- Yoga, stress-reduction, and meditation classes for staff
- Healthy-eating options
- Engagement via regular staff meetings
- Frequent and meaningful interaction with leadership
- Adequate staffing levels facility-wide
With these strategies becoming more common in the healthcare industry, it is hoped that staggering burnout rates are reduced. Facilities, staff, and patients will ultimately benefit, allowing continued high-quality care with fewer and more manageable risks. ◼
September 3, 2019
The healthcare profession is an industry with numerous challenges and risks. Among the many risks healthcare providers face in delivering care is the alarming rate of injuries – a rate that surpasses many other industrial occupations that are understood to be dangerous, such as mining and logging operations. For certain patient demands, such as moving or transferring patients, specialized equipment and practices can help to reduce the instances of staff injuries. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading insurance brokerage, knows that healthcare facilities and their managers need to implement ergonomic features as a fundamental risk management strategy. Ergonomic equipment and features can not only reduce injuries, but also have the potential to dramatically lower the costs associated with insurance and legal claims.
What are Ergonomics?
Defined as the scientific study of people – the human factors – in the workplace, ergonomics looks at how employees interact with the equipment and environments as they work. Ergonomists have two goals in mind as they study workplace environments: to optimize performance and to reduce the risk of workplace-related injury.
Why are ergonomics important in the healthcare field? To answer that, it can be useful to understand injury rates among healthcare workers. In this field, workers are asked to perform routine tasks that can lead to severe injuries, including joint displacements, rotator cuff injuries, and musculoskeletal strains and sprains. In healthcare, the nursing profession accounts for the highest rate of injuries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tasks like patient transfers, repositioning, and handling account for over 100 injuries per 10,000 workers, a number that is three times the national average injury rate across all industries. With this exceedingly high potential for serious injury among healthcare workers, implementing techniques and strategies to reduce rates is imperative.
What are the Risks Associated with Healthcare Workplace Injuries?
In any environment, workplace injuries account for millions of dollars in avoidable annual costs. U.S. Risk Underwriters and many other insurance providers understand that these excessive costs can negatively impact operations, putting facility assets and staff at risk. For healthcare workers, the risk of on-the-job injuries looms large; in fact, many workers in this field all but expect to be injured at some point during their careers. The risks of injury are many, and include:
- Lost productivity
- Lost wages due to the inability to work
- Medical expenses, including treatment and rehabilitation
- Chronic pain
- High rates of disability, which often correspond to high early retirement rates
- Excessive insurance claims (workers’ compensation and occupational accident insurance)
Ergonomics in the Healthcare Workplace
Faced with ever-increasing injuries in the healthcare industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released safety guidelines in 2003 and revised them in 2009, all designed to reduce injury rates among healthcare workers. In the guidelines, processes for identifying risks, creating reporting tools for injuries, and providing staff training on safe workplace practices were presented. The most important part of the guidelines is the concept of ergonomics – implementing equipment and practices with ergonomic features to slash the risks associated with patient care. Ergonomic equipment and practices encompass a broad range of solutions, including:
- Specialized equipment for lifting, repositioning, and moving patients.
- Establishing “lift teams” for patient movement activities.
- Eliminating dangerous conditions such as tripping and slipping hazards.
- Training on safe lifting practices.
- Reducing repetitive motions that can lead to overuse injuries.
Coupled with comprehensive healthcare facility insurance, U.S. Risk Underwriters and workplace safety experts agree that the costs associated with on-the-job injuries can be reduced dramatically by implementing ergonomic practices throughout the healthcare workplace. By doing so, facility owners and managers can help to ensure their staff members have safe workplaces. Safe working conditions contribute to improved staff retention and increased productivity, benefitting caregivers and patients alike. ◼
August 20, 2019
The U.S. transportation industry is responsible for moving cargo and people across the country. This business sector is immensely diverse, encompassing such vehicles as trucks, trains, airliners, and passenger cars. Business relies on the safe, efficient operation of these vehicles, and emerging risks have impacted the industry in unforeseen ways. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading provider of specialty insurance solutions for the transportation industry, knows that commercial vehicle operators and transportation industry players need to be aware of these risks. Several safety topics are of vital importance to the industry, and in this guide, we will explore them and how they may be addressed by the transportation industry.
Transportation Industry Hazards: A Brief Overview
Within the transportation industry, the trucking sector is perhaps the most prominent. It is responsible for moving goods and cargo from manufacturers to consumers and must do so in the most efficient way possible. Hundreds of millions of miles are traveled by the trucking sector each year, with millions of tons of cargo being transported along the way.
Unfortunately, all those miles add up to significant health and safety risks, particularly for the drivers. In 2017, workers within the trucking industry experienced the highest number of transportation-related fatalities – 11 percent of all worker deaths — in the United States. This sobering statistic is courtesy of the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which oversees safety regulations for numerous industries. In addition to the deaths, there were thousands of non-fatal injuries reported, and injuries continue to plague the transportation sector. Injuries and deaths account for millions of dollars in legal claims and expenses, not to mention lost productivity.
Hazards in the Transportation Industry: Established and Emerging Risks
There are many risks associated with the transportation industry, including those that have long been a part of the operating environment as well as new risks emerging with the rise of technology. Perhaps the largest of these risks is associated with cyber criminality, especially in attacks on physical transportation assets. Many fleet operators use telematics to streamline operations, and a cyberattack on these systems can put vehicles and their cargo in jeopardy. The railroad industry is extremely dependent on automated systems, including train control and communications solutions. Interruption of these systems due to cyber-attacks may spell disaster for supply chains and for assets alike.
On its face, driver shortages – attrition of older workers due to retirement and increasing demands — plaguing the transportation industry may not seem like much of a safety risk, but fleet operators know that younger replacement drivers simply do not have the experience as more seasoned drivers. The result is a sharp uptick in accident claims. Pressure to do more with less has spurred many transportation companies to cut corners, negatively impacting safety and potentially creating situations where significant incidents are all but unavoidable. Safety topics related to drivers also include:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to conduct adequate walkarounds and safety checks to vehicles
- Driver fatigue
- Slip and fall injuries
Finally, the state of transportation infrastructure in the United States is a serious concern for fleet operators across the industry. Outdated or poor-condition infrastructure, including rail lines, road surfaces, and bridges create significant hazards for fleet operators. Congestion is another factor, both from infrastructure as well as increased use of roadways, and congestion delays are incredibly costly for the transportation sector. According to a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, congestion delays account for 3.1 billion gallons of wasted fuel and costs exceeding $160 billion.
Managing Safety Risks in the Transportation Industry
It is imperative that fleet operators and transportation companies take safety risks seriously. According to U.S. Risk Underwriters, a culture of workplace safety can dramatically reduce the costs associated with claims, not to mention a reduction in regulatory fines. Implementing safety programs is a smart solution, and many programs include such components as:
- Driver training and retraining
- Enhanced recordkeeping, especially of vehicle maintenance and service records
- Creation of incident management protocols
- Initiatives designed to ensure regulatory compliance
With a safety program in place and the development of a safety-oriented workplace culture, the transportation industry can continue to deliver goods and personnel efficiently while slashing overhead expenses. ◼
August 13, 2019
It can be said that the transportation industry is the lifeblood of the American economy. From long-haul trucking operations and cross-country cargo rail to local delivery vans, public transit systems, and for-hire vehicle operators, fleet management is crucial to transporting goods and people across the country. Fleet operators face many risks as they conduct operations, however, and managing those risks is of the utmost importance. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading specialty provider of tailored insurance solutions to fleet operations and transportation companies, knows that there are many components associated with fleet risk management. In this guide, we will explore some of the best practices in creating an effective fleet risk management plan.
Fleet Management: The Basics
Fleet management comprises a broad range of functions in the management of commercial vehicles, which can include construction equipment, trucks, passenger cars, rail cars, ships, and aviation assets, only to name a few of the many possibilities within the commercial vehicle definition. Fleet operators must manage functions like:
- Vehicle purchasing and financing (lifecycle management)
- Driver management
- Fuel management
- Vehicle tracking and diagnostics
- Vehicle security and control
- Health and safety management
- Efficiency analysis and process improvement
Within each of these functions, fleet operators and managers must identify potential risks, then create solutions to minimize those risks. This can include specialty transportation insurance coverage as a component of risk management. The key to success in fleet management is the creation of a fleet risk management plan.
The Fleet Risk Management Plan
Now that we have a clearer understanding of what fleet management entails, it is time to delve into fleet risk management. In simple terms, fleet risk management is the process of addressing risks before they can cause liability issues for the transportation company or fleet operator. To best approach this crucial part of the industry, it is imperative that operators develop a fleet risk management plan. With ever-increasing regulatory oversight and growing risks associated with on-the-road accidents, the safety of drivers and vehicles is the focus of most management plans.
The main parts of a fleet risk management plan include:
- Driver training and retraining
- Vehicle documentation and inspection records
- Incident management
- Regulatory compliance initiatives
Establishing a safety-oriented workplace culture is extremely important in the transportation industry. This is best facilitated by driver training and retraining programs. Training typically consists of vehicle safety procedures and regulations, vehicle inspection processes, and implementation of safety devices and protocols to minimize liability exposures.
Vehicle documentation and inspection records are required by transportation regulators, and are vital information for fleet risk management processes like vehicle lifecycle and safety management. A good fleet risk management plan lays out the steps needed to collect and retain the necessary vehicle maintenance and safety inspection documentation. This is closely related to regulatory oversight, and a good recordkeeping system will help to stave off issues and fines associated with regulatory recordkeeping noncompliance.
Finally, incident management is the set of steps taken when an accident like an on-the-road collision or other incident occurs. The fleet risk management plan should spell out what to do, what information to collect, and how to handle claims if an incident should cause injury, property damage, or the loss of vehicle assets.
U.S. Risk Underwriters and numerous other specialty transportation insurance providers stress the importance of risk management within fleet operations. With these parts of a fleet risk management plan in place, fleet managers gain significant benefits, including:
- Enhanced safety both on and off the road.
- Improved productivity.
- Improved fleet performance.
- Cost savings associated with fewer claims and better regulatory compliance. ◼
August 6, 2019
The trucking industry has long been romanticized in media and movies. Scenes of the open road and the freedom long-haul truckers experience in these fantasies is far different from the reality of the transportation industry. Long hours, crushing boredom, and numerous safety risks are some of the many reasons why there is high turnover plaguing the industry. Add in myriad complex regulatory factors and the picture becomes even clearer why the transportation industry is facing many challenges. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading provider of specialized insurance programs for the transportation industry, knows that “burnout” is a leading factor in employee turnover. In the following article, we will explore several ways that transportation companies can slash turnover by reducing driver burnout, helping to improve efficiency and to maintain profitability.
Increasing Demand, Dwindling Driver Numbers
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), there are approximately 3.1 million truck drivers in the United States. This number sounds like a lot of drivers until one sees the statistics associated with driver shortages.
In 2018, the ATA reported that the trucking industry was short over 50,000 drivers. That driver shortage is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years; by 2025, the number is estimated to be 174,000 drivers short.
In addition, according to the 2018 Transportation Spotlight Report:
- 69% of trucking executives responding to a survey reported that recruiting drivers is the biggest challenge they face.
- 54% of survey respondents indicated that retention of qualified drivers is a serious issue in the transportation industry.
At the same time, freight delivery demand is growing, with the ATA estimating that 900,000 new drivers will be needed within the next decade. How can a thriving industry have increasing demands and dwindling driver numbers – or driver recruitment numbers that are far outpaced by new delivery demands? The answer lies in the factors contributing to burnout.
What is Driver Burnout, and How is it Affecting the Transportation Industry?
Burnout is a combination of physiological and mental factors that manifests in different ways in different individuals. This condition goes far beyond sheer exhaustion; it often includes indifference and cynicism about one’s job, a loss of confidence in one’s abilities, and a bleak outlook on life itself. It can be extremely difficult to recover from burnout, and many who find themselves struggling often quit their jobs to find any sort of relief.
In the transportation industry, driver burnout accounts for staggering losses, both in personnel turnover as well as in lost efficiency. Trucking companies attempt to stem burnout by looking for the signs of an impending problem in their drivers, then implementing strategies to provide recovery. This can mean giving truckers more time and resources to complete tasks, providing mental health counseling and training, and offering stress-reduction processes to ease the strain of a difficult and demanding job. If caught early, many truck drivers are able to reverse the effects of impending burnout, allowing them to continue working at minimum and gaining a new lease on their lives in ideal outcomes.
Employee engagement and recognition programs can also help to slash high turnover rates, ultimately saving trucking companies money by reducing the need for expensive driver recruitment initiatives. Employee engagement seeks to gather the input of drivers and to reward them for their work – a driver who feels as if he or she is part of a team that values their contributions is less likely to leave employment and is at a lesser risk of experiencing burnout. Such programs can include components such as:
- Offering competitive salaries and perks to attract top talent and to retain existing talent.
- Recognizing contributions through rewards systems such as bonuses.
- Engaging with drivers by involving them in corporate decision-making processes; their insights into the industry can be extremely valuable, and drivers may have many great contributions to improve efficiency, safety, and job satisfaction.
U.S. Risk Underwriters and other specialty insurance program providers know that the transportation industry is filled with risks and challenges. Preventing burnout in driver employees is the key to maintaining on-the-job efficiency. Better yet, it can improve safety on the road. By implementing strategies to help drivers remain engaged, companies can increase productivity, boost profits, and reduce employee absenteeism. ◼
July 2, 2019
Throughout the business world, business owners face many risks as they conduct daily operations. For some businesses, particularly those involved in energy production, manufacturing, and transportation industries, the risks of an environmental disaster are significant. A large-scale pollution loss event can be devastating from a financial perspective, potentially costing millions of dollars in legal expenses, pollution mitigation, and regulatory penalties. U.S. Risk Solutions, a leading underwriter of specialty insurance lines, knows that many business insurance policies exclude coverage for pollution events. It is critical that at-risk businesses seek the coverage of a separate pollution liability insurance policy.
Business Insurance: Inadequate in Protection for Pollution-Related Costs?
Most businesses operate under the protection of some form of general liability insurance policy. Many also have commercial property insurance coverage. While these forms of insurance are important for protecting against common risks, they may not be sufficient to protect assets from the losses associated with an environmental event like a pollution discharge. In fact, specific exclusions for pollution-related events are common in most commercial insurance policies.
What can businesses do to protect themselves in the face of an environmental disaster? The answer lies in Environmental Impairment Liability (EIL) insurance. First introduced in the late 1970s, EIL insurance has evolved to meet the needs of today’s business operations. EIL insurance is often referred to by trade-specific names or names associated with their coverages, such as:
- Contractors Pollution Liability
- Pollution Legal Liability
- Pollution Liability
- Contractors Environmental Liability
These unique insurance policies are designed to fill in the coverage gaps caused by exclusions in general liability and commercial property insurance policies. They can be a valuable addition to the risk-management arsenal, particularly for those businesses involved in hazardous, toxic, or environmentally-damaging industries. It is important to understand that no matter what business your clients are involved in, the risk of environmental damage is ever-present, and can result in significant and unforeseen expenses. This applies to any business, even those not involved in hazardous operations.
What Does an Environmental Insurance Policy Cover?
The typical environmental insurance policy provides a broad selection of coverages and specific coverages for the losses associated with pollution spills or other events which negatively impact the environment. Basic policies provide coverage for:
- Bodily injury resulting from a pollution event.
- Property damage caused by a pollution event.
- Expenses associated with the cleanup of hazardous and some non-hazardous materials as required by established state and federal environmental laws.
- Legal defense expenses (within liability limits).
Of course, some businesses need enhanced coverage. U.S. Risk Solutions and many other specialty insurance underwriters typically offer a number of optional coverages, including:
- Business interruption
- Transportation of hazardous/toxic substances
- Reputational damages
- Loss of rent or other property-related expenses
- Errors & omissions coverage for consultants and contractors
- Coverage for lenders and property developers
- Pre-existing environmental conditions
- Legal defense expenses outside the limits
Business owners should carefully evaluate their needs, investigating the potential for an environmental event and weighing that possibility against existing insurance coverage. A separate environmental insurance policy provides that extra measure of asset protection which traditional business insurance policies may lack or exclude. In today’s environmentally-sensitive society, and with environmental regulations becoming more restrictive, failing to obtain this valuable coverage can spell disaster for any business that is liable for a pollution spill or other catastrophic environmental event. ◼
June 4, 2019
If an employee is injured in the workplace, workers’ compensation insurance is often the means by which the injured worker can cover the costs associated with lost wages and medical expenses. Workers’ compensation is required by most states, and employers of any size may offer this valuable occupational insurance coverage as an employee benefit. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in abuse of workers’ comp systems, with fraudulent claims causing an upheaval in coverage and costs. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the warning signs that may come from fraudulent workers’ comp claims, giving you the tools you need to identify fraud before it negatively impacts your overhead expenses.
Workers’ Compensation: An Overview
For those not familiar with the concept behind workers’ compensation and the benefits it provides both workers and employers, here is a brief overview. In simple terms, workers’ comp is an insurance program that provides financial compensation for medical expenses and lost wages for personnel injured in the workplace. Employees must be injured in the course and scope of their work duties and may be covered on the job site as well as off-premises. Not all injuries are covered; violent acts between two employees, such as in a fight, are typically excluded from coverage.
Every state except for Texas requires some form of compulsory workers’ comp coverage by law. Requirements for obtaining such coverage are usually dependent on the size of the business, the number of employees, and makeup of the operation. Employers of any size, even those that employ only a small number of workers, may also purchase workers’ compensation plans voluntarily.
Fraud in workers’ comp plans is on the rise. According to statistics compiled by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, fraudulent claims cost employers over $7 billion each year, and that figure is expected to continue to increase.
Fraud in Workers’ Comp Claims
Occupational insurance is required to protect employees from expenses related to on-the-job injuries, including covering the lost wages and medical expenses resulting from an injury. Employees have been known to commit fraud, claiming fake injuries, exaggerating a less-serious injury, or filing a claim on an old injury. It is not only the employees who are committing fraud, however; employers also use fraudulent schemes to avoid paying injury claims, such as creating shell companies or claiming fewer employees than regulations require for obtaining insurance coverage. Overwhelmingly, it is employees who are abusing the workers’ comp protections, and employers should be aware of several red flags that may indicate workers’ comp fraud.
Fraud in Worker’s Comp: The Red Flags
Employers should be on the lookout to identify fraudulent workers’ comp claims. Red flags that may indicate fraud include:
- A workplace injury with no witnesses besides the claimant.
- Injuries that occur just before a weekend or holiday, or that are claimed to have occurred on a Friday but not reported until the following Monday.
- Conflicting descriptions of the acts that resulted in the injury.
- Employees with a history of injury claims, particularly those who have had multiple claims over several jobs.
- Injured employees who are difficult to reach when they are supposed to be at home recuperating.
- Employees who refuse medical treatment, specifically diagnostic evaluations, to determine the extent and severity of a workplace injury.
Protecting Against Workers’ Compensation Fraud
Workers’ comp and occupational insurance can be expensive to administer, especially if fraudulent claims occur. It is imperative that employers seek ways of reducing fraudulent claims in order to protect financial assets. One way that employers can cut fraud is to implement written zero-tolerance policies; employees who attempt to submit a fraudulent claim will be dismissed. Another way is through pre-employment screening; screening employees carefully before extending job offers helps to reduce problematic employees with histories of injury claims.
Improving workplace safety is another smart risk management step that has the dual effect of slashing fraud as well as reducing overall workplace injuries. Workplace safety programs should:
- Identify potential areas and practices that can lead to injury.
- Establish written safety guidelines.
- Implement training and retraining programs on safe workplace practices.
- Eliminate potential sources of injury from the workplace.
Workers’ comp and occupational insurance fraud cost billions of dollars each year, but employers can take the steps needed to fend off fraudulent claims. With a culture of workplace safety at the heart of operations, and with risk management practices and policies in place, injury claims – both legitimate and fraudulent — can be reduced dramatically. ◼
May 14, 2019
Across the country each year, festivals bring together hundreds of thousands of people. These festivals can take any number of forms and can include musical performances, arts and crafts, sports, or thrilling spectacles. For the organizers of these festivals, public events come with their share of risks. Venue owners, event promoters, and vendors each have specific risks, and as such must approach each festival with an eye toward risk management. A specialized form of liability insurance called entertainment insurance is the foundation of festival risk management. With a risk plan in place, festivals can protect their financial interests as well as deliver memorable events for participants.
Festival Risk Management: An Overview
Many pieces must come together to pull off a safe and enjoyable festival. Whether the festival is music-oriented, presenting live musical performances to the assembled crowd, or offers something special and unique, each festival’s organizers must balance several different aspects. These aspects can include:
- Types of licensing and permitting required to host the festival: If the sale of food is planned for the event, this may require licensing from health departments. Alcohol sales are another area where specialized permitting/licensing is needed.
- Security: Every event must take security seriously, ensuring that adequate security staff are present and security protocols are in place. Unfortunately, recent tragedies at festivals have heightened security considerations the world over; overlooking this critical component can spell disaster for event promoters and venue owners.
- Liability considerations: No matter how careful the preparation and delivery of festivals, accidents can and do happen. These accidents may result in property damage, personal injury, or worse. Entertainment insurance is part of the liability picture, and this insurance provides coverage for legal claims if an accident occurs.
- Identifying potential risks and minimizing or eliminating those risks: Smart event promoters know that to ensure public safety, every potential risk must be assessed. Unforeseen circumstances like weather, natural disasters, or fires can wreak havoc on a festival in a manner of minutes. Having safety procedures in place for both foreseeable and unexpected risks is a valuable part of the risk management process.
The Festival Risk Management Planning Process
Risks at festivals can come from nearly anywhere –a freak storm event, the unruly behavior of attendees, or even issues with lighting and electrical service. To adequately prepare for risks and to ensure a safe, enjoyable event, risk management for festivals must begin with a plan. Plans should include all aspects of the event and should span the entire length of the event from the opening until the last guest leaves.
Within this plan, two specific areas stand out: safety and security. Safety considerations must include planning for emergencies, such as what staff needs to do if an emergency were to occur. By having safety front and center in the risk management plan, there is a much smaller chance for confusion – all stakeholders know their role and their responsibilities in the event of an unforeseen emergency. The same goes with security; with security as an integral part of the plan. In the plan, security staffing levels should be addressed and must match the expected size of the crowd, and the venue’s access points. Security teams should even be considered for parking and pedestrian areas to minimize risk exposures.
Finally, entertainment insurance providers may offer risk management services to their clients. Insurance-based risk management specialists typically have a broad range of entertainment industry experiences, allowing them to tailor risk plans for the unique needs of each festival. Barring risk management services from entertainment insurance companies, there may be third-party risk management specialists available. These so-called “risk managers” should be considered a crucial aspect of any risk plan, being part of the entire planning process. More importantly, they are adept at remaining in touch with key stakeholders like promoters, performers, law enforcement agencies, and venue owners.
By adequately identifying potential risks, then developing a risk management plan before the event takes place, festivals across the country can provide safe entertainment and fun for attendees. The right plans can not only reduce injury and property damage risks at the festival itself but can also prevent incidents from negatively impacting the safety and financial security of event host. ◼
May 7, 2019
It is no secret that technology has transformed the healthcare industry. From patient tracking to developing innovative treatment protocols and managing facility providers, staff, and assets, technology has been behind some of the most dramatic advances in healthcare delivery. With more and more healthcare facilities relying on computer-based systems, however, the potential risks have evolved. Among the chief risks is that of cyber liability. In fact, healthcare cybersecurity is one of the top safety issues for today’s healthcare providers. U.S. Risk Underwriters, one of the nation’s leading providers of specialized insurance solutions, knows that cyber liability concerns can wreak havoc on a healthcare facility and its operations. In this guide, we will explore some of the liability issues revolving around cyber exposures, then present tips for defending facility staff members and financial assets from loss.
Data Breaches: A Growing Healthcare Problem
Over the past decade, cyber criminals have been responsible for billions of dollars in business interruption and lost revenue. These criminals target the data that is crucial to business operations. The healthcare industry has not been immune to the onslaught of cyber crime; in 2018 alone, over 500 incidents were reported, compromising the personal health records of over 15 million patients. It is estimated that on average, each of these attacks cost about $3 million in fines, lost business, stolen funds, and forensic analysis after the incident. Attacks take several forms, with the most prominent being known as ransomware attacks, which hold sensitive data hostage until a ransom is paid by the organization to the criminals responsible for the attack. In worst-case scenarios, cyberattacks have made healthcare providers utterly unable to access records, severely limiting patient care and putting patient health at risk.
Electronic patient records have been adopted by most healthcare systems across the United States. These digitized records allow for more efficient handling of patients, from the treatments they have received to their insurance billing records and personally identifying information. Privacy of these records is paramount, and electronic patient records are addressed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Unfortunately, electronic patient records are a lucrative target for cybercriminals. To make matters worse, an industry survey conducted in 2017 revealed that only about 15% of healthcare organizations have a dedicated information security officer on staff, and less than half of all polled organizations perform routine security assessments. Those shortfalls have improved somewhat since 2017, but the major takeaway is that many healthcare facilities are woefully underprepared for cyber attacks.
Protecting Sensitive Patient Records: Reducing Cyber Liability Exposures
What can healthcare organizations do to fight back against cyber criminals? There are many possible solutions, but it is important that healthcare facilities adopt a multi-level cybersecurity approach to ensure that sensitive records do not fall into the wrong hands.
Risk mitigation strategies for healthcare facilities include:
- Having IT security professionals on staff. There is simply no excuse for a healthcare organization to not have specially-trained computer security specialists, especially as more computerized patient care systems are adopted. Barring in-house staff, third-party security vendors are available to protect sensitive records from breaches.
- Performing routine and regular system maintenance, including updating hardware and software, applying security patches, and probing for vulnerabilities.
- Creating and implementing a cybersecurity action plan, which provides stakeholders with a roadmap for reacting to and recovering from a cyber attack. Good action plans contain policies and procedures for all potential cyber threats, including ransomware attacks, data breaches, and disaster recovery.
- Creating backups of all sensitive computer information. Backups assist in instances of data recovery as well as ensuring access to critical information if a system becomes compromised in any way.
- Providing regular cybersecurity training to all staff members, especially those who have access to vulnerable or sensitive data management systems. With appropriate training, the risks of a cyber breach drop dramatically – staff better understand their individual roles in keeping data safe from intrusion or loss.
Ensuring adequate cyber liability insurance coverage. U.S. Risk Underwriters and many other insurance brokers offer specialized insurance packages, each designed to protect business assets from the exposures and losses associated with cyber crimes. ◼
April 9, 2019
The entertainment industry is a dynamic place, with diverse projects and aspects that are continually changing. The industry aims to provide inspiration, amusement, and enjoyment to millions of people each year; from movie productions to live music performances and the theatrical arts, the entertainment industry is thriving. With those productions, however, come numerous industry risks. Some of these risks are as old as the industry itself, while others are evolving with changing societal trends. Entertainment insurance is the core of risk management in this industry, but production teams, talent, and event venue owners/ operators must be aware of the top risks they may face.
Common Risks in the Entertainment Industry
Since the very beginning of the entertainment industry, producers, actors, and venue owners have had to balance risk against successful completion of projects. A bit of risk-taking has always been a part of the industry, especially as eventgoers have demanded bigger and more engaging performances. Some of the common and expected risks in this industry include:
- Reputation: In any production, the reputation – the public image – of performers and of the production team is as important as the performers’ talents. A star known for risky or unflattering behavior may lead to negative press, not to mention outright boycotts of a production, which can result in less-than-desirable sales figures. Production companies have been in the crosshairs as well; claims of harassment and civil rights violations have plagued the industry for decades.
- Occupational Hazards: With so many parts of a given production, it stands to reason that there are certain physical risks associated with shooting a movie or putting together a live performance. Theater staff, production teams, and performers alike are at risk of serious – even fatal – injuries during the production. In fact, it is estimated that hundreds of people each year receive a serious injury as part of film production alone.
- Third-Party Liabilities: Large projects often require the services of a third-party provider, such as a performance venue, a security company, a special effects firm, or even a construction team tasked with building sets. Entertainment companies, then, are at greater risk of liability exposures, and entertainment insurance is needed to protect against these risks.
Emerging Risks: Facing an Uncertain Future
As society changes, so too do the risks the entertainment industry faces. Perhaps the most troubling emerging risk is that of violence, including terrorist acts that can result in significant injuries or deaths for event attendees. Safety has always been a part of the entertainment industry, but violent acts have risen in both frequency and severity in recent years. Highly-publicized mass casualty events, such as the Manchester bombing, the Las Vegas concert shooting, and even the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon have changed the entertainment landscape forever. In the wake of a violent act, public anxiety can lead to reduced ticket sales and plummeting profits for producers, negatively impacting their ability to continue production. Entertainment insurance policies often include endorsements for terrorism, and event hosts and venue owners must add security services to the mix to protect attendees, performers, and property owners from harm.
Another emerging risk is that of cyber crimes. While intellectual property theft has long been a part of the entertainment industry’s concerns, cybercriminals have upped the ante, leveraging powerful tools to steal data and to interrupt computer-based streaming services. Cyber attacks have led companies to experience harm both to their reputations and in their market share, resulting in significant financial losses. Today, the entertainment industry must add cyber crimes coverage to their insurance policies, helping to protect against the financial losses associated with such crimes.
Entertainment insurance serves as the foundation on which risk management programs are built. With appropriate insurance coverages for both expected and unforeseen risks, the entertainment industry can continue to thrill audiences for years to come. ◼
April 2, 2019
In neighborhoods and community developments across the country, homeowners associations (HOAs) are tasked with maintaining neighborhood standards. These organizations may also maintain and hold jurisdiction over common areas such as walkways, streets, and amenities like playgrounds or recreation areas. The issue of liability has caused many community associations to question who is liable if someone is injured on the property, particularly visitors or other non-resident entities. Leading specialty insurers like U.S. Risk Underwriters have helped community organizations protect their assets and members from the losses associated with personal injuries; insurance is the foundation of any risk management strategy for HOAs and similar organizations.
Injuries in HOA Communities: Who is Liable?
Developed communities may offer a wide range of amenities for residents and their guests. These amenities can include play areas, fitness centers, swimming pools, walking and biking trails, and even beach access in coastal locations. Regardless of the type of amenity maintained by an HOA, these features are designed for the enjoyment of residents and guests. Unfortunately, these features may also attract trespassers or other non-residents. People have received injuries on HOA-maintained properties, which creates questions revolving around liability: who is liable if someone were to receive an injury?
While state personal injury laws vary, there seems to be some commonality across legal jurisdictions. In general, HOAs, their employees, and their board members, are held to a fairly low standard of care regarding residents and guests, requiring these organizations to address known hazards, but not providing for a legal duty to identify and mitigate unforeseen dangers. The legal standard of care regarding trespassers on the property may be even lower; in numerous cases, HOAs have no legal duty to warn such trespassers of danger. Again, this can vary, depending on state personal injury law and the demographics of the trespassers themselves.
When an injury occurs on HOA-maintained or controlled property, two aspects are considered:
- The relationship of the injured party to the HOA community.
- The nature of the injury as it relates to the HOA’s legal duties.
The Relationship Between HOA and Injured Person
Legal standards of care of a homeowners’ association can differ, depending on the nature of the relationship between someone injured on the property and the HOA itself. As mentioned in the previous section, HOAs may only have a legal duty to address known hazards in an effort to protect residents and guests from injury.
Trespassers, however, create potential liability issues. Adult trespassers typically have a very low standard of care on the HOA’s part regarding their presence and actions. HOAs are often under no obligation to warn of hazards inherent on the property. If adult trespassers are known by the HOA to frequently come onto the property and become injured by a known hazard, the HOA may be liable, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the hazards or dangers present on the property.
Child trespassers, attracted by amenities like skateparks, swimming pools, or playgrounds – sometimes referred to as “attractive nuisances” in legal parlance — often have a higher standard of care associated with them. Depending on state personal injury laws, the HOA may be responsible for taking reasonable steps needed to prevent injuries in child trespassers, even though they do not belong on the property.
Failure to Fulfill a Legal Duty
The second consideration in liability surrounding a personal injury occurring on HOA property is that of legal duties. People are injured on HOA-maintained properties on a daily basis. Legal claims against the HOA center on the organization’s legal duties; the nature of the injury and what caused it may be evaluated, as will the HOA’s inability or negligence in fulfilling its duties to not only foresee potential hazards, but to mitigate them in a reasonable manner. If the actions, inactions, or negligence of the HOA and its employees cause the injury, the HOA may face significant liability for the injury. On the other hand, if the injured party receives an injury through his or her unique acts, the HOA is typically not liable.
An HOA attorney is invaluable in personal injury cases, as are community association insurance products provided by companies like U.S. Risk Underwriters. Insurance is designed to protect the property and assets of community associations against property damage and personal injury claims. This specialized insurance protection also provides coverage for employees and members of the organization, including management liability protection. Balancing safety and legal duties can be difficult for HOAs, but with the guidance of a qualified attorney and the protection of a community association insurance policy, these organizations can continue to provide valuable services to the residents and guests of a given community. ◼
March 19, 2019
Workplace accidents can occur at any place and at any time. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly three million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2017. While the frequency and number of these workplace-related injuries are on the decline, employers still face substantial risks in their operations. Injuries occurring in the workplace account for billions of dollars in losses, including financial losses as well as losses in productivity. Occupational insurance has long been a part of the risk management protocol, but much more is needed to eliminate the sources of injury. In this guide, we will illustrate some of the steps businesses can take to improve occupational safety, reducing injury rates and their corresponding financial impacts.
Identifying the Root Causes of Workplace Injuries
The first step in minimizing workplace injuries and improving occupational safety begins with changing mindsets from symptoms to root causes. In the typical workplace, an injury may occur and steps may be taken to correct the damage and get the injured employee the care he or she needs (the symptoms) without ever identifying what led to the injury in the first place – in other words, the root cause. Failure to identify root causes behind workplace-related injuries can lead to skyrocketing insurance costs, not to mention the potential for another injury even more severe than the first.
To change the mindset, it is important to look at the heart of an injury or property damage incident and focus not on what happened, but why it happened. Many factors go into an accident investigation, and may include:
- Training levels or lack of training in the individuals affected by the incident.
- Faulty equipment that had not been taken out of service.
- Stress and workload levels in affected employees.
- Maintenance issues, such as preventative maintenance steps being skipped or overlooked.
- Failures in workplace safety standards.
Management teams must ensure that there are adequate resources available to investigate any accident and to take the steps needed to prevent similar accidents in the future.
Safety Program Integration
Too many companies approach workplace safety as a piecemeal operation, with different protocols for different departments and situations. This is a recipe for disaster, according to occupational health and safety industry analysts. Standalone safety programs are simply insufficient; all elements of a company’s safety programs must be integrated into one system. While it is true that different parts of a given operation may have different risks associated with them, the integrated safety plan provides a roadmap for preventing accidents regardless of the unique circumstances found in a typical workplace. Safety analysts also suggest that companies develop safety systems that prevent problems rather than simply solving them; this is a reflection of the changing mindset between symptoms and root causes discussed above.
Developing a Workplace Safety Manual
At the core of an integrated workplace safety plan is often a safety manual. These workplace safety manuals are designed to help stakeholders and employees understand what is expected of them should an injury or workplace death occur. Workplace safety manuals may be required by regulations, and serve to improve regulatory compliance along with certain legal protections. Occupational insurance providers often provide templates for employers to develop their own manuals, and here it is critical that each company tailor it to the specific needs, concerns, and dynamics of their own workplaces.
A comprehensive workplace safety manual should include:
- Policies on general health and safety, including descriptive information for all stakeholders.
- Company rules and standards, which may include provisions for personal protective equipment, accident reporting mechanisms, and maintenance protocols.
- Job safety procedures, which are step-by-step guides to perform certain tasks or to use certain potentially hazardous equipment.
- Hazard assessments, which are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA regulations require employers to conduct thorough and regular workplace safety inspections to identify potential risks and the protective measures employees may need to complete their tasks.
- Training standards – including schedules and requirements for new employee safety training as well as follow-up training for established employees.
- Workplace incident reporting guidelines, including who to report to, when to report an incident, and how the reporting/data gathering should be handled.
- Emergency preparedness details so that all employees know what is expected of them and what roles they must take if an emergency situation (catastrophic fire or explosion, floods, etc.) occurs.
There are many additional steps an employer may take to ensure a safe, productive workplace. Occupation insurance is only one part of a risk management strategy, and employers are wise to review insurance coverages on a regular basis. With a little insight and a commitment to creating a safe workplace, employers can reduce the lost productivity and expenses associated with workplace injuries. ◼
March 5, 2019
Event producers and venue owners know that there are many planning steps in pulling off a successful and safe event. Whether the event is a concert, a street festival, or an athletic competition, many aspects must work together to ensure adequate crowd control and event safety. Unfortunately, even the best-planned event can result in injuries and property damage, creating unforeseen liability issues. Special events insurance for concerts and other events is part of an overall risk management strategy for event planners, hosts, producers, and venue owners. There are also industry best practices that these stakeholders must employ in regard to event security. In this guide, we’ll explore the liabilities arising from security personnel and their actions or inaction, then provide details on how to minimize risk exposures associated with event security.
Liabilities in Event Security
Larger event venues may operate their own security services, while smaller venues and outdoor events may opt to hire a third-party security team to manage crowds. In each case, security personnel must balance their duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of event attendees while stemming problems before they can result in injury, theft, or property damage. It may come as a surprise to many that security guards and bouncers may be liable for injuries incurred during the course of their duties. In some cases, event producers and venue owners may also be held liable for the actions or inaction of security personnel, particularly in cases of negligence or neglect. These liability concerns fall into two major categories: direct liability, where the onus is placed on the person or persons who actually commit an act, and vicarious liability, or holding employers responsible for the acts or inaction of the security personnel they have hired to manage a given event.
There are many factors that go into a potential liability claim. As security guards perform their jobs, they have a reasonable duty to protect guests. In some cases, the use of force may be necessary to remove an unruly guest from the premises. If an injury were to occur, the victim may claim excessive use of force or any number of other claims against the security staff and their employer. Venues with insufficient security personnel may also be held liable if an injury were to occur; in this case, injury victims could claim negligence on the part of the venue owners and event producers.
When hiring security teams for an event, it is important for event planners and venue owners to carefully evaluate the capabilities and track records of third-party security services. Many such companies carry their own liability insurance, which can supplement the coverage needed to protect event hosts and owners from the financial risks they face. It is paramount that security personnel be adequate for the expected size of event crowds and have the training necessary to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Injuries incurred at the hands of security guards can result in legal claims totaling thousands or even millions of dollars; event hosts need to protect their financial assets against these potential exposures.
The Role of Special Events Insurance
There are numerous risks involved in producing and hosting an event. To protect business owners and their employees, specialty event insurance is the foundation of a robust risk management strategy. Sometimes referred to as concert insurance, this form of insurance protection typically provides both general and professional liability coverage. Many policies include coverage against legal claims, providing financial protection against the settlements and legal costs associated with injury lawsuits. With the right event insurance, event hosts, venue owners, and event planning companies can ensure that their assets and their staff are protected, regardless of the event and its unique aspects. ◼
February 19, 2019
For concert promoters and venue owners, event management is a complex process. To pull off a successful and safe event, the process begins with effective crowd management. Crowd control can be a make-or-break component of events, including concerts, outdoor festivals, and professional sports events. Done right, and the risks associated with crowd-related injuries and property damage drops. Done poorly, the lack of effective crowd control can lead to injury, damage, or even death. Event promoters typically carry some form of concert insurance to protect against a wide range of event-related risks. Implementing crowd control methods is a vital part of the overall risk management strategy.
Why is Crowd Control So Important?
At events across the country each year, millions of people come to enjoy entertainment ranging from sporting events to live music, performance art, and food and wine tastings. The impact large crowds can have on the event cannot be overstated; some events may draw as many as 150,000 or more attendees, and these people must be managed effectively from start to finish. Crowd control begins in parking areas and continues to venue entrances, the event itself, and exits when the event has concluded. Failure in any part of the crowd control strategy can have devastating consequences. Here are but a few of the tragedies associated with poor crowd control measures:
- In 1944, a fire at a Ringling Brothers circus performance in Connecticut resulted in the deaths of 168 people, most found at blocked or congested exits.
- 66 people were killed, including children, and another 200 people received injuries in Glasgow, Scotland in 1971 when barriers designed to contain crowds failed. Many of the victims were trampled to death.
- Congested entrance points led to the deaths of 9 people and the injury of nearly 30 others in New York in 1991 when a charity basketball event was oversold.
- In 2003, 100 victims died due to trampling and asphyxiation when a concert fire broke out in Rhode Island. Congested exits and poor crowd control practices were culprits in this tragedy.
- Larger-than-expected crowds at the Millennium Point Concert in Birmingham, England resulted in the injuries of over 60 concertgoers in 2009. Crowd control barriers failed, leading to a stampede of people.
- In 2016, a fire at an illegal warehouse “rave” called the Ghost Ship in Oakland, California led to the deaths of 36 people and the injuries of dozens more. Entrances and exits to the building were concealed, and event promoters made few, if any, plans to control attendees during the event itself.
Effective Crowd Control Strategies: The Key to Event Safety
Faced with the possibility of injuries, property damage, and death when unruly crowds stampede at events, event promoters and venue owners need to take the concept of crowd control seriously. In fact, this should be one of the leading concerns for event stakeholders, as failure to effectively manage crowds can have severe and life-threatening consequences. Think of crowd management as one component of risk management, which may include concert insurance and special event insurance to protect against financial risks associated with safety lapses.
Effective crowd management begins long before the event takes place. This includes starting off with a focus on risk analysis factors such as:
- Estimating the size of the expected crowd.
- What type of event will be held, and what the demographics of expected attendees are.
- Whether or not alcohol will be served.
- How big the venue is, and what its rated capacity is according to local and state regulations.
- What potential failure points in entrances, exits, and walkways are, and how those potential danger areas can be mitigated.
The information collected from this detailed analysis is then used to form a crowd management plan. A crowd management plan is the roadmap to a successful and safe event, regardless of the number of attendees or the type of event itself.
Next, it is imperative that event hosts hire enough security staff to help manage attendees. Too few security personnel can lead to confusion among event attendees, and may result in crowds penetrating off-limits areas. Finally, training all members of the event team is crucial for helping to prevent crowd-related incidents. When everyone on the team knows what is expected and what they are to do in the event of an evacuation emergency or other unforeseen circumstance, the chances of a crowd stampede are lessened significantly.
Concert insurance is one part of the risk management puzzle, but without adequate planning, staffing, and training, event promoters and venue owners are at risk of serious, even fatal, crowd-related incidents. ◼
February 5, 2019
Healthcare systems face unique challenges as they deliver medical care to millions of people each year. Healthcare costs are rising – for facilities, caregivers, and patients alike. Among the rising costs is that of professional liability insurance, which has increased dramatically due to a sharp uptick in the number of catastrophic liability claims. U.S. Risk Insurance, a leading provider of insurance solutions for the healthcare industry, knows that these rising liability costs are causing changes to the way healthcare providers and health facilities do business.
Professional Liability Claims: The Numbers
In October 2018, the American Society for Health Care Risk Management (ASHRM) produced its annual Hospital and Physician Professional Liability Benchmark report. In the report, typical self-insured liability claims are rising at an annual rate of about two percent, while catastrophic professional liability claims are rising at even high rates – in some cases, as high as 10%. The ASHRM report looked at numerous factors, comparing such data as demographic, health system type, and region. The projected loss rates in the report for facilities and caregivers are staggering:
- Projected loss rate for hospital professional liability is just under $3000 per bed for events in 2019, translating to about 1.58 claims per 100 occupied bed equivalents and about $180,000 per claim.
- Projected loss rate for physician professional liability is about $5500 per physician; frequency is about 3.5 per 100 physicians and about $156,000 per claim.
- Labor and delivery professional liability claims are especially high, with an average claim of over $400,000. Facility loss rates for obstetrics are projected to be about $180 per birth.
According to healthcare industry analysts, rising professional liability costs are an ongoing problem for caregivers and the facilities who provide health services. In some cases, these costs have impacted the type, frequency, and availability of certain health-related services. While quality of care has improved across the board, providers are still expected to absorb some of the costs associated with liability claims. Industry analysts – and hospital staff and managers — are clamoring for liability reforms, such as arbitration agreements and dispute resolution systems. These can help bring professional liability costs to a more reasonable level.
Insurance Considerations Leading to High Costs
Professional liability claims are not the only factors leading to rising costs. The healthcare insurance industry, such as represented by U.S. Risk Insurance and many other firms, is facing a changing landscape. These changes have strongly influenced costs. Numerous healthcare systems are engaged in vigorous mergers & acquisitions activity, leading to a smaller group of insureds and a resultant drop in premiums. Healthcare insurance regulations are also in flux, leading to an unprecedented level of uncertainty in the insurance marketplace.
As touched on earlier, liability reforms can help to bring down costs. As the healthcare insurance market stabilizes, particularly in regulatory considerations, costs may trend lower as well. Healthcare professionals and facilities have weathered many changes over the past few decades, including the rise in liability claims. With comprehensive risk management solutions, regulatory updates, and improved delivery of care can bring liability insurance costs back within reach of the people and facilities that need it most. ◼
January 22, 2019
Around the world, events bring people together. Whether these events are a professional sports game, a music festival, or a live art performance, large crowds can be expected. As such, these special events may be a target for acts of terrorism. Recent terrorist attacks targeting event attendees have raised the specter of terrorism insurance in the minds of event promoters, leading to many questions. Is entertainment insurance sufficient to cover the risks associated with a terrorist attack? The answer to that question is not as clear-cut as many event promoters hope.
Terrorism on the Rise
Terrorists attacking special events entered the national consciousness in 1975 with the publication of Black Sunday, a bestselling fiction novel by author Thomas Harris about a plot to bomb the Super Bowl. The book was inspired by the 1972 Munich Olympics incident where Israeli athletes were held hostage, then murdered, by Palestinian terrorists. Although the book was a work of fiction, the threat of terrorist attacks on special events is very real.
In recent years, several highly-publicized tragedies at the hands of terrorists changed the way event promoters plan for unforeseen incidents. Together, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017, and the mass-shooting incident at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, claimed the lives of nearly 100 people and caused hundreds more serious injuries. The injuries and fatalities led to millions of dollars in liability claims – claims which event hosts, promoters, and venue owners were forced to confront.
Entertainment and Terrorism Insurance: The Basics
Entertainment insurance, sometimes referred to as event or special event insurance, comes in two common forms: standalone policies specific to each event and annual special events coverage that cover a promoter or producer for all events they may perform in a given year. These specialized forms of insurance are designed to protect venue owners and event promoters from the liabilities associated with an event, including property damage if property cover also purchased,. In some cases, if the event were to be cancelled, entertainment insurance – specifically event cancellation coverage — may provide financial reimbursement for event hosts and venues.
Prior to the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, coverage for acts of terrorism were not necessarily excluded as part of a commercial insurance package. Today, the story is quite different; in today’s commercial insurance market, terrorism insurance is not typically covered under special event insurance policies. In truth, acts of terrorism may be specifically excluded from coverage under entertainment insurance policies. Thankfully, terrorism insurance is available from specialized insurance firms, typically, London based, and can be added to a venue, event planner’s or promoter’s slate of coverages they purchase for an event. This factor was made possible by the passage of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA, in 2002, but it is important to note that TRIA, or TRIPRA as it called today, is not true terrorism insurance. . According to an insurance industry survey, about 60% of all U.S.-based businesses have some form of TRIA or TRIPRA insurance in place.
Important Information about TRIPRA coverage
For insurance agents, it is critical to inform business clients that not all attacks may be covered. In fact, there are specific requirements that must be met for losses to be covered. First, for insurance to provide coverage in a terrorist attack, that attack must be certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a terrorist attack or incident. The Secretary of the Treasury has the jurisdiction to certify both domestic and foreign terror acts. To qualify for terrorism certification, the attack must be violent in nature and have as its objective an effort to influence governments or civilians. In addition, no act will be certified if the aggregate of property and casualty losses do not exceed $5 million in value, and the act itself must also cause a minimum of $100 million in property damage and injuries to be considered a terrorist attack by the Treasury Department.
Entertainment insurance protects against many losses, but as shown above, there are limitations. In order to provide coverage for accidents, business interruption, and acts of terrorism, event promoters, venue owners, and entertainment companies must seek the appropriate insurance policies – perhaps even a combination of commercial and specialty policies. With this insurance in place, the business assets are protected from the losses associated with a wide number of circumstances. ◼
January 15, 2019
The world’s economy depends on the timely and safe delivery of goods from manufacturers to consumers. Trucking is the cornerstone of industry; without trucks and drivers, companies are limited in sales, and consumers may have difficulties in obtaining the products they demand. Looking at America’s highways and byways, one may be surprised to learn that the transportation industry is facing an unprecedented driver shortage. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading provider of specialty insurance solutions for the transportation industry, knows that companies are scrambling to understand the reasons behind the driver shortage. In this guide, we will take a deeper look at the U.S. driver shortage and ways that the transportation industry is addressing this challenge.
Trucking: Facts and Figures
In the United States, trucks account for nearly 70 percent of all freight tonnage, and the percentage is increasing each year. The trucking industry was worth just over $700 billion in 2017, the most recent year figures are available.
In 2017, the American Trucking Association (ATA) indicated that there were over 900,000 drivers employed in the U.S. That number has shrunk; 2018 figures saw the number of drivers employed contract to about 870,000. In other words, there is a driver shortage of approximately 30,000 to 35,000, according to the ATA. Another industry resource suggested the shortage figure is even higher, with a shortfall projected to be almost 300,000 in the second quarter of 2018. This shortage only applies to the trucking class known as long-haul or over-the-road truckload carriers; privately-owned trucking fleets and a segment known as Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) volume do not experience chronic driver shortages. In order to meet volume demands, the long-haul trucking segment will have to recruit and train about 100,000 new drivers each year – a steep task for an industry that has been expected to do more with each passing year.
Reasons Behind Driver Shortages in the Trucking Industry
There are many factors that influence the trucking industry and its ability to both retain experienced drivers and to attract new qualified drivers. The driver numbers began to decline starting in 2004 when the federal government changed rules regarding a driver’s maximum workday of 11 hours of driving in any 14-hour period. Because drivers were constrained from working longer hours, more were needed to cover freight routes. The truck driving population is aging rapidly, as well; only 20 percent of drivers in the U.S. are in the 23-34 age bracket, and many of the remaining driver population is nearing retirement age. Recruiting new long-haul truck drivers fresh out of high school is out of the question for most of the industry, thanks to federal regulations that require a driver to be at least 21 to cross state lines. This regulation has served to stifle recruitment among younger generations.
Salaries are a contributing factor as well. In the private fleet and LTL sectors, experienced drivers may make $75,000 to $80,000 each year. Some drivers in the private fleets may make as much as $100,000 annually. In the long-haul and for-hire sector, however, salaries lag far behind, with the average around $45,000 in annual salaries. The lifestyle of truckers has lost its appeal among younger generations, too. Long-haul truckers may be away from home for days or even weeks at a time, interfering with the ability to start families and lead normal, stable lives.
Expenses Rising Along with Demand for Truckers
Industry analysts have long known that the trucking industry can be extremely wasteful, driving millions of miles each year with empty trucks. Current freight-brokering operations also account for substantial waste, leading to more trucks remaining empty on return legs of their long-haul journeys. The industry has been investigating ways to make trucking more efficient by leveraging technologies like GPS and supply chain management practices. For now, the driver shortage remains at the top of industry concerns. Technology may improve the logistics of trucking, but improving salaries and recruitment among younger generations is the key to overcoming driver shortfalls.
The transportation industry faces many unique risks as it delivers goods and services across the country. U.S. Risk Underwriters has developed insurance solutions to meet the needs of a changing industry. With fleet and non-fleet coverages and numerous options available in a variety of state segments, the trucking industry can protect its financial assets and its employees, even as it is expected to meet increasing demands for its services. ◼
January 8, 2019
Among occupations in the construction and manufacturing trades, welding represents one of the most hazardous. The process of joining metal parts together using high-voltage electrical currents or volatile gases and heat is inherently dangerous, even for skilled professionals. Most manufacturing operations have implemented rigorous standards to ensure the safety of their personnel; this aspect of the risk management strategy also typically includes welding and fabrication insurance to protect against liability claims. Even with these protections in place, welding remains a leading source of injury. In this guide, we will explore the greatest sources of injury in welding operations and address solutions for minimizing risks.
Welding Injuries in the Workplace: Facts and Figures
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), over half a million U.S. workers are at risk of welding-related injuries. In fact, the risks associated with workplace operations that include welding, cutting, and brazing result in the deaths of approximately 60 workers each year in the United States alone. This number translates to a risk of greater than four fatal injuries in every thousand workers over their careers.
Specific non-fatal injuries may vary, and include exposure to high heat, radiation, gases, and chemical fumes. Injuries may include:
- Electric shocks
- Burns from fire and explosions
- Manganism (exposure to toxic manganese released during welding operations)
- Arc radiation burns, including burns to the eyes
Eye injuries are the most common. “Welder’s flash,” or burns to the eyes due to ultraviolet light emitted from certain welding operations, account for nearly 6% of all workplace-related eye injuries for all construction trades. In Canada, more than 20% of all workers compensation claims for eye injuries were filed by those in the welding profession.
Reducing Workplace Welding Injuries
Manufacturing and fabrication firms have a duty to protect their employees from injury on the job. The fact is, however, that even with safety standards in place, injuries can and do occur. For welding operations, access to personal protective equipment, or PPE, is critical in reducing common injuries like burns and exposure to gases. PPE includes protective face masks and eye shields to eliminate welder’s flash injuries to the eyes and face. This protective equipment typically includes heavy gloves and fire-resistant aprons or coats to prevent welding spatter from causing burns. In areas where exposure to metal fumes or toxic gases may be at elevated levels, welders often use helmets with breathing apparatus to avoid inhalation of dangerous substances.
Regular training and recertification of welding professionals is a critical part of the risk management process. In fact, the risks associated with welding are so great that OSHA designates the profession as one of its risk priorities, and has established industry training best practices as a result of this designation. Manufacturing operations that include welding as one of the fabrication processes must ensure that their employees have the latest information and techniques to protect themselves in the workplace. Combined with protective equipment, this training is invaluable at reducing the instance of injury claims.
The Role of Welding and Fabrication Insurance
No matter how careful manufacturing firms are during welding operations, the possibility of a severe or fatal injury occurring in the workplace remains. To protect the company, its employees, and its financial assets from the losses associated with injury claims, welding and fabrication insurance represents the foundation on which risk management is built. Major insurance underwriters offer this form of general liability supplemental insurance across target classes, including welders and fabricators in the agricultural, automotive, transportation, and aerospace industries, among many others. Welders of all types may be covered under such insurance policies, including those who use electrical arcs, thermite, and inert-gas to complete fabrication work. With adequate welding and fabrication insurance in place, the unique risks associated with welding operations are covered. Workplace injury claims can be reduced, but not eliminated, from modern construction and manufacturing practices. With comprehensive risk management systems that include insurance, manufacturing and fabrication companies and their employees can continue to provide their valuable services to consumers. ◼
December 18, 2018
Once reserved for upscale establishments, valet parking of patrons’ vehicles is now as common as that famous chain with the yellow arches. No longer confined to fine-dining restaurants, exclusive clubs, or resorts and hotels, valet parking is now seen at businesses as diverse as car dealerships, airports, medical centers, and even grocery stores. Most of the time these venues subcontract their valet parking to a parking professional that specializes in these operations. The valet operator then becomes contractually liable for all claims relating to their parking duties.
The perilous (and often overlooked) risks that valet-parking professionals face
The sad mistake most valet operators make is assuming that their biggest exposure is damage to patrons’ cars while in their care. While there’s no doubt that fender-benders, scrapes, and even vehicle thefts are commonplace, the greatest danger is to human lives every time valets move the ton-or-more weapon that is the American automobile. This exposure increases exponentially when valet drivers take cars onto public roads to move them to a remote location for parking. Pedestrians crushed between cars, hit in crosswalks, and knocked over by opening doors—these are only a few ways that valets have inadvertently injured people. Add to that the multi-car collision with passengers in the car the valet hit, the collision of a bicyclist with a car door swung open by a valet just ahead, or the valet’s loss of control of a high-powered, unfamiliar vehicle—with disastrous results—and you’ll see where the greatest peril for tragic claims lies. Most of these types of claims settle in the high six-figure or even seven-figure range.
The cost is of physical damage to customers’ cars is not small either. Vehicles are no longer worth just a few thousand dollars, and drivers of high-valued vehicles commonly utilize valet-parking services. Minor scrapes and dents can end up costing thousands of dollars for repairs, with higher-valued vehicles costing tens of thousands for what seems to be minimal damage. Just imagine the cost to repair the world’s most expensive SUV, the Bentley Bentayga—or an Aston Martin or Lamborghini! Those cars are common in sports and celebrity cities from coast to coast.
It’s no wonder, then, that covering valet operators is unpopular in the insurance community!
The right kind of valet-parking insurance
Many insurance policies provide inadequate liability coverage for valet operators. Today’s parking professionals need policies that include high limits for Garagekeepers Legal Liability, in addition to broad, extended-coverage General Liability that protects them from all claims—on and off premises—relating to their operations. Without the right kind of broad coverage specifically designed for this industry, parking operators could be at risk for losing their businesses or personal assets in court if a tragedy were to occur when they had, unknown to them, an uninsured gap in coverage. ◼
December 11, 2018
Healthcare facilities like hospitals, clinics, and long-term care operations are tasked with providing compassionate and effective care to their patients. These facilities also have a duty to provide safe working conditions for their staff. Most people think of healthcare facilities as safe places to work, but Bureau of Labor Statistics figures suggest otherwise. Slip-and-fall hazards are some of the most common sources of injury, both for patients and facility staff. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading specialty insurance broker, knows that healthcare facilities can protect their patients, their staff, and their assets with liability insurance as a part of an overall risk management strategy.
Slip and Fall Injuries: Facts and Figures
According to the United States Department of Labor and the agency’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hospital injury rate exceeds even that of risky industry classes like mining and hazardous waste disposal. In a report published in 2014 – the most recent year figures are available – the hospital injury rate is 6.2 injury and illness cases for every 100 full-time workers. By contrast, the injury rate in the mining industry is 3.8; manufacturing is 4.0, and hazardous waste treatment and disposal injury rate is at 4.6. This staggeringly high injury rate in healthcare facilities is caused by numerous factors, but one of the primary sources of injury is through slips, trips, and falls, or STF. In the U.S., 25% of healthcare worker injuries come from STF, while in the United Kingdom, almost half of the reported injuries of healthcare workers result from STF.
Patient injuries resulting from slips, trips, and falls are also a serious concern; in fact, STF injuries are the second-most common source of patient injury in healthcare facilities — right behind infections. For elderly people, such as residents of assisted living facilities or nursing homes, slip and fall injuries can result in severe consequences, including bone breakage and head trauma, and in worst-case scenarios can increase the risk of premature death. STF injuries cost healthcare facilities millions of dollars each year in both increased healthcare costs as well as legal liability claims.
Preventing Slip and Fall Injuries
Healthcare facilities have recognized that slip and fall hazards greatly increase the chance of injury to both patients and staff members. Many facilities have implemented risk mitigation strategies to reduce the health and financial impacts of these largely preventable injuries. Some of the steps healthcare operations take to reduce slip and fall hazards include:
- Identifying potential hazards such as irregular walking surfaces, areas prone to moisture, transitions between walking surfaces, and damaged flooring or loose carpeting.
- Adding support structures like railings, handholds, and barriers.
- Improving signage, including both temporary and permanent signs warning of hazards.
- Removing potential trip hazards like tubing, electrical cords, and portable equipment from walkway areas.
- Employee training conducted on a regular basis.
- Improving lighting, particularly in dimly lit areas or areas where walkway transitions exist.
- Staff and patient diligence, including reporting spills or hazards and correcting them immediately.
While slip and fall injuries are generally preventable, provided the healthcare facility implements the risk mitigation steps illustrated above, these injuries can and will occur. U.S. Risk Underwriters understands that to protect the facility itself as well as its patients and staff, liability insurance should be considered as a critical part of the risk management protocol. With the right insurance and the steps needed to mitigate slip and fall injuries, healthcare facilities can continue to deliver outstanding patient care while helping their employees remain safe on the job. ◼
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