Your Brain Is Your Best Tool When It Comes to On-The-Job Safety

Everyone has heard the old adage ”Experience is the best teacher.” While it is true that you remember what you learned from an experience, especially a bad one, you may not like the other consequences that are part of the learning process.

This is especially true when it comes to on-the-job safety. Learning from a bad experience usually involves injury, and sometimes death. This shouldn’t have to be the case. But unfortunately, not exercising proper caution, and not paying careful attention can lead to these outcomes.

You probably hear a supervisor tell you or your co-workers, “Be careful,” or “Pay attention” any number of times during the day. The next time you hear those words, stop a minute and think of all the reasons you should be careful. Then follow that supervisor’s advice, so you can avoid having an accident that may be the last thing you ever learn.

You may be thinking, ‘I’m experienced, I don’t have accidents.” If you are, you’re setting yourself up for a bad learning experience. Accidents happen when you least expect them, and no worker, no matter how experienced, has any special immunity from having an accident. That’s why it is so important to follow safe work procedures. They are designed to help you avoid the causes of possible injury while getting the job done correctly. That’s also the reason your employer provides you with personal protective equipment (PPE), because using it prevents or minimizes the probability you will be injured.

Always remember your brain is your best defense against injury. Let it remind you to:

  • Follow proper work procedures at all times. Never take short cuts, even if you think that they will save time. All of the time you save will be lost if your short cuts cause you to be injured.
  • Concentrate on the task at hand. That means giving it your full attention until it is completed. Avoid any kind of distraction like talking, or joking around with co-workers because they can result in your being seriously hurt.
  • Use PPE whenever appropriate. Be sure it fits correctly, and that you wear it in the manner it was intended.

Where’s the Insurance? Beware of Uninsured Drivers

About twenty years ago, a famous hamburger chain ran a series of commercials featuring a cute octogenarian named Clara Peller.  This feisty little old lady claimed her fifteen minutes of fame asking that now famous question, “Where’s the beef?”  While it may have been funny to watch her put fast food restaurant owners on the spot, it is not at all funny if you’re in a car accident and you ask the other driver for their insurance card only to find out they have none.

Unfortunately that’s a scenario that happens all too frequently.  As the cost of living rises and paychecks don’t meet needs, people start making decisions about where to cut expenses.  One of those decisions may be to eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of their car insurance.  They need the car and take the calculated risk that they won’t get into an accident, but invariably, they are wrong.  In fact, the possibility of an uninsured motorist hitting you is greater than you may realize.  There are some states in which almost 32 percent of all drivers do not carry automobile insurance.  The national average is 14 percent.

You can protect yourself from an uninsured driver, or even an underinsured driver, whose negligence causes you to be involved in an accident. The first way is with uninsured motorists (UM) coverage.  It provides insurance protection for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, caused by an uninsured driver.  This type of policy permits you to collect from your own insurance carrier just as if it provided liability coverage for the uninsured driver.

Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are injured in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance.  Uninsured motorist coverage also pays for injuries that result from a hit-and-run accident.  Policy owners choose the coverage limit when they buy their policy.

Uninsured motorist property damage coverage protects you if your vehicle is damaged in an accident caused by a driver without car insurance.  Other protection provided by this type of policy varies from state to state.  If available, the deductible for uninsured motorist property damage is usually $250.  This is often substantially less than the collision coverage deductible found in your auto insurance policy.

The other policy alternative is underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage.  This provides insurance protection for bodily injury, and in some states, property damage, caused by a negligent motorist who is not sufficiently insured and whose negligence results in an accident.  The bodily injury portion of this kind of coverage pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are injured.  It usually pays the difference between the coverage limit you select and the other driver’s bodily injury coverage limit.

Underinsured motorist property damage coverage protects you if your car is damaged in an accident caused by a driver with insufficient auto insurance coverage.  Other specific protection provided by this type of coverage varies by state.  As with bodily injury, property damage coverage pays the difference between your policy’s coverage limit and the other driver’s property damage coverage limit.

When you are deciding whether or not to buy either of these coverages, keep two very important points in mind.  Both UM and UIM coverage are broad in scope because they provide benefits for you and your family members’ injuries that occur in your own covered car, in cars you don’t own, and as pedestrians.  Despite all of this protection, the cost for this coverage is reasonable compared to liability coverage and physical damage coverage for your own car.

Teenage Drivers Are a Threat to Everyone

Teenagers and fast cars are a Hollywood legacy that dates back to James Dean. The “Rebel Without A Cause” and his Porsche 550 Spyder were the ultimate symbols of teenage rebellion during the 50s. Despite all the Hollywood hype surrounding a teen’s need for speed, the problem with teenage reckless driving has serious consequences that reverberate beyond the drivers themselves.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s report Fatality Facts: Teenagers 2003, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teenage drivers are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

As if those statistics weren’t bad enough, the Automobile Club of America (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety published a study that shows the majority of people killed in teenage driver crashes are people other than the teens themselves. The Foundation study analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1995 through 2004.

The research data indicates that young drivers represent a little more than one-third of all fatalities caused by crashes in which they were involved. However, almost two-thirds of those killed in crashes are other vehicle occupants and pedestrians.  Between 1995-2004, crashes involving 15-, 16- and 17-year-old drivers took the lives of 567 people in Minnesota, of which 212 or 37.4 percent were the teen drivers themselves. The remaining 355 or 62.6 percent included 171 passengers in the cars driven by 15- to 17-year-old drivers, 155 occupants of other vehicles, and 29 non-motorists. The AAA of Minnesota is using this data in their lobbying efforts to beef up state driving laws.

As a result of their findings, the AAA is suggesting a two-pronged approach to solving the problem. The first is a graduated licensing law (GDL). Graduated licensing requires that a new driver be given driving privileges in three stages: a learner’s permit, a probationary license and finally full driving privileges.

The AAA made it their goal in 1997 to pass GDL laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This goal was finally achieved when Wyoming and Montana enacted laws in 2005. The legislation requires teens to obtain more supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience as well as phased-in driving privileges. However, not every state’s GDL laws are as comprehensive as they should be.

The second part of their approach involves educating parents. Parents are encouraged to prevent their teenagers from riding with other teen drivers, or transporting other teens during the first year of driving.  To help parents overcome any awkwardness about enforcing these rules, especially if other parents may not be following the same track, the AAA has designed a new parent discussion guide. It encourages parents to work as a team to ensure their teens gain driving experience in the safest driving environment possible during that first year. For more information, log on to http://www.aaapublicaffairs.com/Main/Default.asp?CategoryID=14.

Laptop Lockdown: Safeguard Your Company’s Laptops

According to the FBI, there were 221,009 laptops reported stolen from 2008 through 2009. As an increasing number of business men and women are traveling with laptops in tow each year, this already high number is likely to keep rising.  Statistics show that the most popular targets for laptop thieves are office buildings, airports, hotel rooms and cars.

While some laptop snatchers are simply looking to make a quick buck by selling your computer, others are much more malicious. These higher-level laptop thieves are more interested in the valuable information stored within your computer-from business plans and customer contact information to Social Security numbers and passwords. Once they get a hold of your laptop, these cyber criminals may be able to gain access to your company’s server. One FBI study found that 57 percent of computer crimes were linked to stolen laptops. Plus, research suggests that the theft of just one laptop can cost a company up to $90,000 or more!

Unfortunately, many laptop owners forget just how much their computer and personal information is worth-and how much they stand to lose if their computer is stolen. That’s precisely why experts say you should guard your laptop as closely as you would your wallet.

Here are a few steps you can take to protect your laptop from these spiteful computer crooks:

Travel incognito

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, be sure to carry your laptop in a protective, inconspicuous case. With thousands of laptop case styles available, you may be able to find one that looks more like a backpack, handbag or briefcase-which decreases your risk of being targeted by a laptop thief.

Use protective software

Take advantage of password protection programs, anti-virus software, encryption software and other robust programs that will protect the information stored on your laptop.

Keep unused laptops out-of-sight

If your company has extra, unassigned laptops, keep them locked safely away in fully enclosed, secure closets. Never leave them in a cubicle or unlocked cabinet.

Lock it up

Never leave your laptop out in your office, even if you’re just leaving for a few minutes. Either lock it into your docking station or lock it away in a secure desk drawer. Don’t ever leave your laptop in plain view next to an office, house or car window.

Guard it in the airport

When traveling through an airport, be sure to keep your laptop within reach and in sight all the time. Never check a laptop with your baggage, and be extremely careful when you’re passing through security checkpoints. Hold onto your laptop as you wait in the security line, and do not set it on the belt until you’re getting ready to pass through the X-ray machine.

Protect it in the car

If you have to leave your laptop in the car, lock it up in the trunk where it’s out of view. If you drive a truck or SUV with a window looking into the trunk, lock it in your glove box or conceal it under a seat. You should also keep your laptop in a weatherproof case. Avoid storing your laptop in the car in extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Keep track of it

Make sure your name or company’s name and ID is engraved on your laptop. Also, be sure to write down your laptop’s identification number and store it in a safe place. Ask the laptop manufacturer or your local police department if they offer an asset identification or registry program.

Four Rules of Thumb to Follow When Purchasing an Auto Insurance Policy

There probably aren’t very many, if any, drivers that look forward to buying auto insurance. If you’re like most people, you feel that you have an overwhelming task when it comes to sifting through dozens of companies and agents to find the ideal insurer for your vehicle and unique financial situation. The process can leave you feeling unrewarded and irritated as you think about writing a check for a policy that you hope you’ll never need to use.

On the other hand, you know that having auto insurance is a necessity that can be the difference between a financial catastrophe and enduring a minor inconvenience if you were to have an auto accident.  Furthermore, there are steps you can take that make the act of buying insurance less painful and complicated.

The following four rules of thumb can help you drastically simplify the process, while still getting the best auto insurance policy for your needs:

1. Don’t forget to consider the size and type of vehicle you drive when you choose your limits.

Insurers will not sell you a policy that is less than the minimum requirements for your state. However, that doesn’t mean that you should mistakenly opt for auto insurance limits based on the minimum amount required. Depending on the size and type of vehicle you drive, the bare minimum may not be enough to fully cover you if you should have an auto accident. For example, let’s say that you’ve selected the $10,000 minimum property damage amount set by your state, you drive an SUV or large truck, and you hit and cause $22,000 in damage to a brand new Mercedes. Since you’re only covered for $10,000, you will pay the remaining $12,000 out of your pocket.

2. Be forthcoming and honest with insurers.

Even if you think it won’t be favorable on your premiums, it’s extremely important for you to just tell it like it is when you’re asked about your driving history. You can choose to be less than truthful regarding your moving violations and auto accidents, but you won’t be given an accurate quote. This wastes both your time and the insurers, as all insurers will check your driving record themselves and make adjustments to the quote based on your actual driving record. Be honest from the start and you will save time by getting accurate quotes that you’ll be able to compare side-by-side.

3. Look at the whole picture.

It’s tempting to opt for the insurer offering the lowest rate, but cheapest isn’t always the best deal. Know exactly what you’re getting for your insurance dollars and pay careful attention to the fine print in the contract. Unusually low rates have a catch. Would you rather pay low rates with an insurer offering substandard service, or slightly higher rates with an insurer offering an attractive package and reliable 24/7 customer service? Are options on repairs and parts an important option to have? Is it price or convenience that’s at the top of your priorities? These are questions only you can answer in choosing your insurer.

4. Don’t waste insurance dollars on duplicate coverage.

Look at all your auto coverages and ensure options aren’t being paid for twice. For example, AAA members most likely have their towing costs already covered and wouldn’t need a policy with roadside assistance.

Finding the best auto insurance policy isn’t always fun or easy. However, by following a few rules of thumb during the selection process, you can certainly save yourself a lot of money, frustration, time, and regret.

Where is Your Coverage When the Lights Go Out?

In the aftermath of a blackout that left some 50 million American and Canadians powerless and, others stranded, many people are asking how and why the August 2003 Northeast Blackout occurred.    While most were merely inconvenienced by the effects of the blackout, some significant property losses undoubtedly were suffered.  What property loss might occur as a result of a blackout?  What factors might come in to play to limit coverage availability or applicability? What types of coverage are typically available?

First and foremost, it is advisable that you look into whether your insurer offers any kind of coverage for food spoilage or other loss caused by failure of power that originates outside of the insured premises.  In lieu of such an endorsement to the policy, most property policies exclude claims arising out of loss resulting directly or indirectly from power failure that does not emanate from the covered property.  In other words, if the power loss occurs somewhere within the vast and complex grid that powers your home or business, it is not covered.  The London Financial Times noted that companies most likely to hold such coverage “are those with perishable goods they need to protect, such as supermarkets, other grocery stores, florists and restaurants. Theatres, hotels and restaurants suffering perhaps from loss of business in cities last night were unlikely to have any chance to make a claim.”* 

It is important to note that there are many different potential causes of blackouts.  A power crisis in California in 2001 was caused by a confluence of factors which were foreseen long before the rolling blackouts occurred, making them very different from the August 2003 Northeast Blackout, which occurred despite largely adequate power supply and with no advanced warning.   These differences may impact upon the coverage afforded for any given claim as the California scenario may be argued by your carrier to be a “known” hazard, which was foreseeable and preventable, thus excluded.

In addition to the limited types of coverage available under homeowners and commercial property policies, “Power Plant Insurance” may be available under a Boiler & Machinery or SMP (Special Multi-Peril) policy.  If you have or need such a policy to cover your business, check with your agent as to whether or not this endorsement is available and if so, for what additional premium.  Note, however, that such coverage often comes with time constraints for the blackout duration.  For example, a blackout that lasts for less than 24 hours may not be a qualifying trigger for coverage, despite whatever losses have been incurred.

Last but not least, what about the disruptions at airports that left travelers stranded during the Northeast Blackout?  Coverage may be available on your travel insurance policy – if you purchased one.  If you are planning a trip in the near future look into this valuable coverage, but be prepared – some companies offer a dizzying array of products for just about every type of travel possibility.  It can be confusing even to the well informed.  Check the fine print before you purchase as there is a great deal of variability in coverage.  Certainly, if a blackout caused you to miss a flight connecting you to a cruise, it would be reasonable to expect that travel insurance would reimburse you for the lost money spent on the cruise, but again, check the fine print for any power failure exclusions. Some policies will reimburse you a set amount per day for having to make alternate travel arrangements due to an unforeseen delay.   On the other hand, if you are unable to find a hotel room and you find yourself lying in a cot in the airline terminal as many hapless travelers did during the Northeast Blackout, you may just have to grin and bear it. 

New Study Shows Texting Bans Are Ineffective at Crash Reduction

There are currently thirty states that have made it illegal for motor vehicle operators to text while driving a vehicle. The bans were made in an effort to reduce vehicle crashes. But, since texting is only one known element of distracted driving, some people have long questioned what the effectiveness of such laws would be on accidents related to distracted driving.

A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) now shows that there has not been any reductions in crash statistics following texting bans. Contrarily, following texting bans, the study found that there is actually a slim increase in how many collision coverage insurance claims are filed for crash-related damage. The findings were very similar to a previous HLDI study concerning driving and handheld cellphone usage, which ultimately found that banning handheld cellphone use during driving didn’t decrease the number of vehicle crashes.

The new HLDI study looked at insurance claims for vehicles less than ten-years-old during the months prior to and following the July 2008 texting ban in Louisiana, January 2008 texting ban in Washington, August 2008 texting ban in Minnesota, and January 2009 texting ban in California. To ensure that collision claim changes not related to texting bans, such as from seasonal driving pattern changes, were controlled, the claims made in the above four states were compared with those made in nearby states that hadn’t substantially altered their texting laws during the time frame of the study.

When the data was compared, HLDI found that banning texting while driving hasn’t reduced the number of vehicle crashes. In fact, crash numbers actually increased after texting bans in three of the four states involved in the study. The data could be an indication that texting bans create an added risk from drivers that recognize texting is illegal, but continue texting anyway. These drivers may attempt to hide their phone from the view of law enforcement, thereby lengthening the amount of time and distance that their eyes are taken from the road. The texting and handheld cellphone ban findings from the HLDI studies may also indicate that singling out and banning one source of distraction over another isn’t an effective approach to address the overall problem of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving.

Federal Rules Governing Civil Litigation Require Businesses to Keep Better Tabs on e-Documents

New rules, which took effect on December 1, 2006, require U.S. companies to keep better track of their employees’ e-mails, instant messages and other electronic documents in the event the companies are sued. These new rules are part of amendments to federal guidelines governing civil litigation and were approved by the Supreme Court in April 2006 after a five-year review.

Under the new rules, a company that is party to federal litigation must produce electronically stored information as part of discovery. This is the process by which both sides share evidence before a trial. Federal and state courts have already been requiring such evidence in individual cases. The new rules now make the production of such evidence mandatory for companies involved in federal lawsuits. Furthermore, any information technology employee who copies over a backup computer tape once a lawsuit has been filed could be accused of committing “virtual shredding.” Companies are still permitted to purge databases if the information they contain isn’t relevant to pending cases or cases the company anticipates being a party to in the future. However, sectors, such as financial services, remain subject to the data-retention rules they have always followed. In-house attorneys and IT staff will have to work together to ensure routine erasing of backup data doesn’t present legal issues. Lawyers must also know where company data is stored.

Many large companies are unaware of the data they have on hand, which makes them unprepared if sued. Because they lack a real knowledge of what data they house and where it is located, these companies are more likely to settle lawsuits to avoid the costs associated with electronic discovery. Better organization of the data will lower these costs and enable companies to avoid settling.

On the other hand, large companies are likely to face higher costs from organizing their data. The new rules make it necessary for companies to know about items more difficult to track, like work-related digital photos on employee cell phones and information on removable memory cards. As a result, firms that help businesses track and search their electronic data are experiencing a huge surge in new business.

Most legal experts agree that it isn’t a question of companies changing how they keep electronic files, but rather a question of having a more complete knowledge of where documents are stored. The new rules also provide more direction as to how electronic evidence is to be handled in federal litigation. This includes guidelines on how companies can be exempted from providing data that isn’t reasonably accessible, which could lessen the burden of electronic discovery.

Black Boxes Are No Longer Just for Planes

A black box, also known as the Cockpit Recorder or Flight Data Recorder, documents all of the data transmissions on an airplane, such as altitude, air speed, and voice and sound transmissions.  Typically, black boxes aren’t black at all.  They are brightly colored, which makes them easier to find in the wreckage following an accident.

Everyone knows that airplanes have black boxes.  What you may not know, however, is that your car may have one too.  This box, which is approximately the size of a carpenter’s tape measure, is installed in about 70 percent of all new car models.  It is usually fitted under your dashboard or seat, and it kicks into high gear when your car’s airbags are deployed.

These event data recorders (EDR) as they are known, can record information only in the 5 to 10 seconds before and after it senses an airbag is about to be deployed.  EDRs record the following data:

·   Vehicle speed

·   Engine speed 

·   Brake status

·   Throttle position

·   If the driver’s seat belt is on or off

·   If the passenger’s airbag is on or off

·   If the IR Warning Lamp is on or off

·   Time from vehicle impact to airbag deployment

·   Ignition cycle count at time of the crash

·   Ignition cycle count at investigation 

·   Maximum velocity before deployment

·   Velocity vs. time for frontal airbag deployment

·   Time from vehicle impact to time of maximum velocity

·   Time between the air bags about to deploy and deployment if it is within five seconds

Insurance carriers and police officers use the information gathered by the box to reconstruct the events leading up to a crash.  General Motors has been installing black boxes in their cars since 1999, and several other car manufacturers have been installing them since 1996.  Crash investigators, insurers, police and government researchers say such information is the cornerstone to learning how to build safer cars.  Privacy advocates say EDRs are a way to obtain data that can be used to incriminate drivers.

The controversial practice of installing black boxes in cars will become even more hotly contested when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a new rule in 2006, requiring carmakers to standardize black box technology.  The standardization will necessitate that all data is recorded and stored in the same way, which will make it is easier for researchers to recover the information.  However, only a few states have addressed the privacy concerns associated with black boxes and have enacted laws that ensure the car owner’s ownership rights to the data.

Are Men and Women Equal When It Comes to Bad Weather Driving?

The Battle of the Sexes has raged from the time Eve showed Adam she was not about to play second fiddle when she tempted him to bite that notorious apple. Since then, women have proved that they are not just a product of male spare parts. One of the most cherished arenas in the male-female competition is the ability to handle a car. Men have always felt that automobiles are in the masculine domain, pretty much like arc welding and plumbing. Women, of course, have taken a somewhat different view. Now the Chrysler Group has come along to confirm that men and women do not see eye to eye when it comes to rating each other’s driving skills.

According to its Bad Weather Driving Survey, men believe that they are better drivers than their mates. Out of 1,000 adults surveyed, sixty-eight percent of the men expressed this opinion.  Forty-nine percent of women polled think they are just as adept at driving as their male significant others. Twenty-six percent, more than one in four women, responded that they are better drivers than men.

Men and women may have rated their driving abilities differently, but the genders agreed about driving in bad weather conditions. Eighty-four percent of the men and eighty-six percent of the women chose icy roads and pouring rain as the two most difficult weather conditions to drive in. Only seven percent of the drivers surveyed chose heavy snow as the most difficult weather condition for driving. Four percent of those polled chose sleet as the most difficult condition, while three percent chose strong winds.

Oddly enough, the same situations that make male drivers uncomfortable also make female drivers nervous. Seventy percent of both men and women said the possibility of losing control of your car or having to swerve because of something unexpected in the road were the two most frightening driving situations.

Whether you are male or female, knowing how to adapt to changing road conditions can save your life. Consider the following tips:

·        Slow down and leave wider space cushions between you and other drivers when you encounter bad weather, glare, narrow/twisting roads, and low light conditions.

·        Remember that, even with headlights, it is extremely difficult to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Use your headlights between the hours of sunset and sunrise. For the best visibility, use your high beams when you are over 500 feet from oncoming vehicles or 300 feet behind the vehicles ahead.

·        When driving under foggy/smoky conditions, turn on your low-beam headlights and fog lights (if your vehicle is equipped with them). Be prepared to stop suddenly. If the fog or smoke becomes so thick that you cannot see well enough to keep driving, pull completely off the pavement and stop. Turn on your emergency flashers.

·        Remember that roads are extra slippery at the start of a rain shower because oil, which has risen to the road surface, has not had a chance to wash away. Heavy rains will cause more problems because your tires can begin to hydroplane, like water skis. In this case, the key to keeping your tires in contact with the road is to simply slow down. Also, keep your headlights on when it is raining at any time of day.

·        An important skill to learn in snow and ice is the controlled slide. If your vehicle begins to slide, take your foot off the gas pedal. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply them firmly. Otherwise, avoid using brakes, pumping them gently only if you are about to hit something. Steer the car into the direction of the skid to straighten out the vehicle. Then steer in the direction you wish to go.