Tag Archives: Brian Blaston
Let’s look at what liabilities to consider when reopening a business after the coronavirus shutdown. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to have an unprecedented effect on daily life, many business owners are looking forward to the future and a return to normalcy. However, even when stay-at-home orders are lifted and nonessential businesses are allowed to resume operations, there’s a lot for organizations to consider before reopening a business after the coronavirus shutdown. What’s more, many of these considerations are workplace-specific and could be more involved depending on the industry you operate in.
To protect their customers and employees alike, it’s important for organizations to do their due diligence before opening their business back up to the public following the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHEN TO START reopening a business after the coronavirus shutdown
While many essential businesses (e.g., hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations) have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, other operations deemed nonessential have shut down temporarily or changed the nature of their operations. Not only has this led to significant business disruptions, but, for many, it has critically impacted their bottom line.
However, we may be nearing a time when stay-at-home regulations are scaled back and all businesses are allowed to resume as normal. The question then is: How will business owners know it is acceptable to reopen?
Best Practices When Reopening a Business After the Coronavirus Shutdown
• Review guidance from state and local governments —The COVID-19 pandemic impacts states and regions in different ways. Just because a business is allowed to reopen in one region of the country doesn’t automatically mean your operations will be allowed to resume as well. As such, it’s critical to understand and review all relevant state and local orders to determine if and when your business is allowed to reopen.
• Understand the risks —If and when the government allows all businesses to reopen, that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat to your operations. What’s more, some businesses may have greater COVID-19 exposures than others, underscoring the importance of performing a thorough risk assessment before reopening. Prior to conducting a risk assessment, it’s important to review guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state and local agencies, industry associations as well as your local health department. More information on conducting a risk assessment can be found below.
Again, before reopening, it’s critical to seek the expertise of legal, insurance and other professionals.
CONDUCTING A RISK ASSESSMENT
Even after the government allows reopening a business after the coronavirus shutdown, firms still need to determine if it makes sense to resume operations. Safely restarting your business won’t be as simple as unlocking the front door.
Before reopening a business after the coronavirus shutdown. one should perform a risk assessment to determine what steps must be taken. While the complexity of risk assessments will differ from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:
• Identifying the hazards—When it comes to COVID-19, businesses need to think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person entered their facilities. When identifying hazards, it’s a good idea to perform a walkthrough of the premises and consider high-risk areas (e.g., breakrooms and other areas where people may congregate). It’s also important to consider what tasks employees are performing and whether or not they are especially exposed to COVID-19 risks when performing their duties.
• Deciding who may be harmed and how—Once you’ve identified hazards to your business, you need to determine what populations of your workforce are exposed to COVID-19 risks. When performing this evaluation, you will need to make note of high-risk individuals (e.g., staff members who meet with customers or individuals with preexisting medical conditions).
• Assessing risks—Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyze them to determine their potential consequences. For each risk facing your business, you’ll want to determine:
• How likely is this particular risk to occur?
• What are the ramifications should this risk occur?
When analyzing your risks, consider potential financial losses, compliance requirements, employee safety, business disruptions, reputational harm and other consequences.
• Controlling risks—With a sense of what the threats to your business are, you can then consider ways to address them. There are a variety of methods businesses can use to manage their risks, including:
• Risk avoidance—Risk avoidance is when a business eliminates certain hazards, activities and exposures from their operations altogether.
• Risk control—Risk control involves preventive action.
• Risk transfer—Risk transfer is when a business transfers their exposures to a third party.
For COVID-19, control measures could include cleaning protocols, work from home orders and mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) usage. Additional workplace considerations can be found below.
• Monitoring the results—Risk management is an evolving, continuous process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness and reassess.
Remember, COVID-19 risks facing your business can change over time.
MAINTAINING WORKPLACE SAFETY USING OSHA AND CDC GUIDANCE
Once you conduct a risk assessment, you will need to act to control COVID-19 risks. Again, risks and the corrective steps that organizations take to address those risks will vary by business and industry. Thankfully, there are a number of OSHA and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) workplace controls to consider if your risk assessment determines that COVID-19 poses a threat to your employees or customers. For instance, you should:
• Implement administrative controls—Typically, administrative controls are changes in work policies or procedures that reduce or minimize an individual’s exposure to a hazard. An example of an administrative control for COVID-19 is establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time.
• Utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)— PPE is equipment worn by individuals to reduce exposure to a hazard, in this case, CVOID-19. Businesses should focus on training workers on and proper PPE best practices. Employees should understand how to properly put on, take off and care for PPE. Training material should be easy to understand and must be available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers.
• Consider engineering controls—Engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. For COVID-19, engineering controls can include:
• Installing high-efficiency air filters
• Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment
• Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards
• Be adaptable — You should be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations. This could involve identifying alternative suppliers, prioritizing existing customers or suspending portions of your operations.
• Create a dialogue with vendors and partners — Talk with business partners about your response plans. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities, and especially those in your supply chain.
• Encourage social distancing — Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. In terms of COVID-19, social distancing best practices for businesses can include:
• Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
• Instructing workers to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people
• Hosting meetings virtually when possible
• Limiting the number of people on the jobs site to essential personnel only
• Encouraging or requiring staff to work from home when possible
• Discouraging people from shaking hands
• Manage the different risk levels of their employees — It’s important to be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a distance of 6 feet from other workers, customers and visitors.
• Separate sick employees — Employees who appear to have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers and visitors, and sent home. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19. The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.
• Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene — Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVD-19. This can involve:
• Providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles
• Providing soap and water in the workplace
• Placing hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene
• Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection — Businesses should regularly sanitize their facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some best practices include:
• Cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
• Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
• Providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
While resuming operations following the COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a daunting task, businesses don’t have to go it alone. To help with this process, organizations can seek the help of their insurance professionals to determine what actions they need to take to ensure their business reopens smoothly. To learn more about reopening a business after the coronavirus shutdown, contact Hardenbergh Insurance Group today.
Let’s explore some winter weather liabilities. The winter months bring more than just cold weather and shorter days; they bring the possibility for winter weather and storms that may result in a snow and ice-covered landscape. While it may be a winter wonderland for some, as a property manager, snow and ice buildup means a hazard with the potential for costly liability.
If you deal with either commercial or residential property, you are responsible for the side effects of winter. In legal terms, snow and ice are the same as any other hazard presented on a property, and just like any other hazard, property managers can be held liable if they cause injury. To avoid litigation resulting from winter injuries, it is important that you are vigilant in your snow and ice removal efforts.
RECOGNIZING AND PREVENTING HAZARDS
Winter brings a variety of hazards that you need to prepare for; slips and falls are by far the most common injury associated with winter weather conditions. Diligent snow and ice removal can go far in keeping walkways and parking lots safe. Remove snow quickly after snowfalls, and salt regularly to keep ice from building up.
Not all winter hazards are under foot, however, icicles, along with other accumulations of frozen or heavy snow above walkways and building entrances, can cause serious injury if they fall on those below. Remove icicles and other buildup as soon as possible. If it still appears to present a hazard, consider rerouting foot traffic around the area.
Performing preventative maintenance in the summer and fall can also keep you prepared for winter storms. Make sure eaves are properly installed, and check that downspouts are aimed away from walkways. If eaves leak or downspouts direct water onto walkways, snow that melts in the heat of the day has the potential to freeze and create a hazard with cooler nighttime temperatures.
TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITIES TO TENANTS
For smaller residential rentals, such as single family homes or duplexes, the responsibility for snow and ice removal is commonly accepted by the tenant. To make sure responsibility is clearly established in this situation, the lease should include a provision citing the tenants as responsible for any snow and ice removal. This section of the lease should also establish how long after a snowfall the tenant has to clear public areas such as sidewalks, as most municipalities have laws requiring prompt snow removal. It is important to be as specific as possible to avoid any unnecessary liability or disputes after heavy storms.
CONTRACTING SNOW REMOVAL
Based on the size and number of properties you manage and the average snowfall in your area, you may be inclined to contract out snow removal to an independent company. While this can save you the time and costs associated with managing snow removal yourself, it is important that you choose wisely to avoid complicating matters.
First, make sure the contractor has sufficient resources to meet your demands. It is important that they can be onsite quickly after, or even during, a snowfall to make sure walkways and parking areas are cleared. It is also important that they have the equipment and manpower to finish the task quickly to reduce any disruption to tenants’ lives or businesses.
Second, make sure the company you hire carries the proper insurance, covering both its operations and its employees. The last thing you want is to end up being liable for a worker’s injury when liability for injury is the very thing you were trying to avoid. Also, much like the lease agreement with a residential tenant, it is important to specify the conditions and time constraints for removal in writing. When contracting any type of service, it is essential to have a written contract that will guarantee you receive the services you pay for.
It should be noted that hiring a removal service does not absolve you of liability. If the company you hire provides poor service, or simple does not show up at all, you are still the party responsible for any injury resulting from a winter hazard. Make sure to pick a reputable company that you can trust to do a good job, and always have a plan of action for removal if they are unable to complete the work as quickly or effectively as you require.
For additional questions on your risks and exposures, or on appropriate coverages to protect you from liability or costly disputes, contact Hardenbergh Insurance Group today.
For more information, contact:
Commercial Lines – Manager
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
Let’s take a look at equipment breakdown insurance. Companies need safe and working equipment to operate efficiently and generate revenue. In fact, some organizations rely exclusively on a few pieces of equipment to run their entire business. Following a breakdown, major losses can occur, and many organizations turn to equipment breakdown insurance (sometimes referred to as boiler and machinery insurance).
Breakdown coverage is a form of property insurance designed to protect a company’s mechanical, electrical and computer equipment from unexpected breakdowns. These policies are flexible, and help organizations recoup financial losses related to property damage, business interruption and spoilage. Read on to see examples of this coverage in action.
Benefits of Equipment Breakdown Insurance
• Repair cost coverage — Following an breakdown, organizations may have to pay thousands just to get their business up and running again. Equipment breakdown insurance can help soften the blow, reimbursing organizations for the cost to repair or replace damaged equipment due to an accident.
• Expediting expenses — Repairing complex equipment in a hurry can be an expensive endeavor. Most equipment breakdown insurance policies cover any expenses needed to speed up the repair or replacement of damaged property, including the cost of temporary repairs.
• Protection against business interruptions — Virtually in all cases, an equipment failure disrupts a business. In some instances, these disruptions are quantifiable, leading to lost revenue and productivity. Equipment breakdown insurance covers some of these costs, including income lost as a result of a covered accident. What’s more, this protection is in effect until the equipment is repaired or replaced.
• Coverage for perishable goods — Following an equipment failure, food-related businesses experience some of the most direct losses. Food industry equipment is not only expensive to repair and replace, but businesses can lose thousands of dollars worth of product if a freezer or refrigerator fails. Thankfully, equipment breakdown insurance provides adequate protection and covers food spoilage, manufactured goods or other perishable items after a covered incident.
Claims Scenario: Give Me a Break
The company: A metal cutting company.
The challenge: Equipment failure is a broad risk—one that can affect organizations of all kinds. What’s more, equipment failure isn’t always the result of a specific catastrophe, and many events that lead to a breakdown are out of a company’s control. Recently, a power surge caused by a major storm destroyed two circuit boards at a metal cutting shop. This unexpected outage left the business without the necessary machinery to continue operations. Furthermore, in order to meet production deadlines, shop workers had to travel to the company’s sister location. Between the lost time, travel expenses and repair costs, the organization experienced $52,000 in losses—all from just one storm. Equipment breakdown insurance in action: Equipment outages and breakdowns are not generally covered under standard commercial insurance policies. Instead, organizations should acquire comprehensive breakdown insurance to cover the cost to repair or replace damaged equipment. In addition, the insurance reimburses companies for lost time, which can prove invaluable following a sudden outage.
Claims Scenario: Spoiler Alert
The company: A small, family-owned restaurant.
The challenge: A restaurant recently experienced major losses after several of their refrigerators stopped working. The restaurant depends on these appliances to deliver fresh food to their clients. After several attempts to fix the system, the restaurant had to close for the day and call for repair services. Not only did the restaurant have to pay over $1,000 in maintenance costs, they also lost about $18,000 worth of food products due to spoilage—a major hit for a small business. Insurance in action: Just one equipment failure can lead to multiple losses, including lost revenue from business interruptions and lost product from spoilage. Thankfully, breakdown insurance can protect against these risks. In fact, equipment breakdown insurance is one of the few ways restaurants and other food-related businesses can recoup losses from spoiled inventory. An outage of any kind could easily result in the inability to prepare, cook, serve and sell food. As such, organizations need to secure the right policy to ensure their business is protected before, during and after an breakdown.
Learn More About Equipment Breakdown Insurance
Problems with your equipment can be extremely risky if you are not properly insured. What’s more, standard property insurance policies do not guarantee cover for these types of losses. In these instances, breakdown insurance is invaluable, protecting you in the face of unforeseen damage or breakdowns. Consult Hardenbergh Insurance Group today to learn more about equipment breakdown insurance to combat costly, and often unpredictable, problems at your place of business. We have the commercial property expertise to help you mitigate your risks and protect your bottom line.
Winter weather is unpredictable and can have a large impact on your business. While maintaining business operations is always at the forefront of your mind, it is important to consider employee safety as well. You should have policies and procedures in place before bad weather hits so that your company and employees are as prepared as possible.
Driving in Winter Weather on Company Time
A major concern regarding winter weather is employees who drive a company car or vehicle as part of their workday. All vehicles should be given a safety check by a mechanic before the bad weather hits, and they should also be equipped with emergency materials such as a snow scraper, blanket, first aid kit and
In addition, employees should be instructed to dress properly for the weather, including a hat, scarf and gloves, or have extra clothing on hand in case of a breakdown or accident. In order to protect your company against liability, any employees who may drive in bad weather on company time should be trained in safe, cautious driving techniques and what to do in case of an accident. Also consider employees who drive as part of their commute—it may be wise to educate them in cautious winter driving techniques to ensure their safety while driving to and from work.
Employee Pay During Winter Weather
Pay issues arise when weather forces your business to close for any length of time or prevents employees from making it to work even if your business remains open. For non-exempt (typically hourly) employees, you are only required to pay them for the hours they actually work. Thus, if your business opens late, closes early or closes for an entire day, you are not required to pay them for any time missed.
If an exempt (typically salaried) employee works any part of the day, you must pay them for a full day. Similarly, if the business is closed for a day or more but less than a full week, you need to pay exempt employees their normal salary if they worked any part of that week. You do not need to pay employees if business is closed for a full week. This applies whether your company uses a five-day or seven-day workweek. You may, however, require that they use available paid time off or vacation time, if available. If your business remains open but an exempt employee cannot come in due to weather conditions, this is a personal reason, and you do not need to pay them. One option to ease the loss of a business day or any missed productivity is to ask exempt employees to work from home if you are already paying them for the day. You may also consider offering a telecommuting option during inclement weather even if your business remains open so employees can avoid the dangers of driving in the extreme cold or snow.
Be Prepared for Winter Weather
Employees should be informed of your company policies related to inclement weather—safety, attendance and pay-related. You should have an established communication method to inform your employees of a business closing or delay. When bad weather is coming, address all your policies again, remind employees of communication channels to address attendance and plan for the worst potential outcome to ensure your company is prepared for the weather.
Commercial Lines – Manager
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
Let’s look at lightning safety for your outdoor workforce. Although about 90 percent of people struck by lightning survive, these strikes can cause serious and permanent disabilities. And, even if employees aren’t hurt by lightning, they may be at risk from any fires, explosions or other hazards that result from a strike. Together, these facts outline the importance of protecting employees who work outdoors from lightning hazards.
There are a number of ways to do this, including taking steps to reduce lightning hazards, creating an emergency
action plan and training your workforce.
All of your managers, supervisors and outdoor workers should collaborate on your plan to ensure it accounts for your business’s unique operations. Consider these tips when you’re drafting your plan:
Train all employees on lightning safety, including early warning systems for severe weather and the best locations to take shelter when working outdoors.
Post information on lightning safety around all of your outdoor work areas. These postings should indicate the location of safe shelters, when to stop and resume work after hearing thunder, and any other guidance that applies to your business or work sites.
Make sure employees check weather reports before working outside. Employees should also check the weather at each work site they’ll be visiting each day, as weather patterns can vary widely—even over short distances.
Require employees and supervisors to monitor weather reports regularly once they’re at an outdoor work site. Have employees stop work and seek shelter immediately if they hear any thunder.
For more resources to help keep your outdoor workers safe, contact Hardenbergh Insurance Group today.
Let’s examine the typical insurance policies for small business. With so many different types of insurance to choose from, it can be overwhelming to determine what type is best for your small business. Hardenbergh Insurance Group is here to help explain the types of insurance policies available and how they can help protect you, your employees and your business’s bottom line.
Here are 7 Insurance Policies for Small Business to Consider
Commercial Property Insurance
In the case of a catastrophic event such as a fire, explosion, burst pipe, storm or theft, commercial property insurance compensates you for losses or damage to your building, leased or owned equipment, and other property on the premises. In fact, commercial property insurance can cover items such as furniture, inventory, computers and anything that would be considered necessary for performing normal business operations.
Commercial property insurance is typically purchased as a stand-alone policy or as part of a comprehensive business owner’s policy that includes property and general liability coverage. Commercial property insurance is offered on either a replacement cost or actual cash value basis.
• Replacement cost: Pays the cost to replace or repair the damaged property with materials of like kind and quality, without any deduction for depreciation.
• Actual cash value: Pays the cost to repair or replace the damaged property, minus depreciation.
General Liability Insurance
Out of all the insurance policies for small business, General liability insurance policies typically cover an organization for claims involving bodily injuries and property damage resulting from its products, services or operations. What’s more, this form of insurance can help cover medical expenses and attorney fees resulting from bodily injury or property damage claims for which your organization may be legally responsible.
GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE POLICIES TYPICALLY HAVE FOUR COVERAGE ELEMENTS:
Premises liability covers you in the event that a person who is not employed at your business becomes injured on your property. If someone sued your business because they tripped and fell on your property, liability insurance can help cover those expenses.
Products liability covers you if a product or service causes injury to someone’s body or inflicts damage on a consumer’s personal property. If you’re a tech company that broke a customer’s computer while performing a service on it, those damages could be covered.
A personal injury is when your business inflicts a physical, financial or mental injury to a third party. For instance, let’s say you take action in detaining someone who you had reason to believe was stealing from your store. If it turns out your accusations are false and the person decides to sue you, you’d be covered under your general liability policy.
Advertisement injuries are caused by alleged misinformation, copyright infringement or slander made by your company. If you were advertising a product that claimed it could help clear acne and it ended up making a consumer’s acne worse, that could be considered an advertisement injury.
Overall, a general liability policy is beneficial for covering any medical bills or legal costs that accrue if the injured third party decides to sue your business.
Employment Practices Liability
Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) is a form of insurance that covers wrongful acts that occur during the employment process. The most frequent types of claims covered under an EPLI policy include claims of discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment and retaliation.
These policies will reimburse your company against the costs of defending a lawsuit in court, and for judgments and settlements. EPLI covers legal costs, whether your company wins or loses the suit. However, these policies typically do not pay for punitive damages, or civil or criminal fines.
Workers’ compensation is important in the event that an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness. This type of insurance is required in most states and is used to cover medical bills or wage replacement for employees who experience a work-related injury.
For example, if a worker pulled a back muscle at work and was unable to perform their duties, workers’ compensation would help in covering any physical therapy costs as well as compensating the employee for any lost wages.
Having worker’s compensation insurance can also protect your business from civil suits made by employees against your company related to their injuries.
Cyber Liability Insurance
If any part of your business is on an online platform, it is crucial to obtain cyber liability insurance. This type of coverage can protect your business from a cyber attack or interruption that can cause a loss in data, revenue and the trust between you and your customers.
Cyber liability insurance is not only there to protect the internal information of your company, such as employees’ social security or financial information, but it also protects your customers’ personal and banking information.
Most cyber liability policies include both first- and third-party coverage:
• First-party coverage is for the business itself— helping the business recover from any losses after a cyber attack.
• Third-party coverage is to cover claims by people who have been injured because of your business being hacked.
Restoring compromised or lost data can be very costly, so cyber liability insurance is there to help cover financial losses to your business and the costs of claims made against your company by clients or other third parties who were affected.
Commercial Auto Insurance
Commercial auto insurance helps cover the costs of an auto accident if you or an employee is at fault. This coverage can help pay for damaged property and medical expenses.
• Your business should consider a commercial auto policy if any of the following are true:
• Your business owns, leases or rents vehicles such as cars, trucks or vans.
• Your business has employees who drive their own vehicles to conduct business.
• Your business has employees who operate leased, rented or owned company vehicles.
Professional Liability Insurance
Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, can protect your business against claims that a service you provided caused a client to suffer due to a mistake on your part or because you failed to perform a service.
Professional liability insurance can cover the cost of defending your business in a civil lawsuit for an alleged error or omission. What’s more, depending on your industry, professional liability insurance may be required by law.
While many types of businesses need professional liability insurance, you should especially consider this type of insurance if your business works directly with customers while providing services.
Contact Hardenbergh Insurance Group to help you analyze your needs and decide on the right Insurance Policies for Small Business.
Brian Blaston, Partner
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
An uncontrolled fire can be extremely damaging to your organization, and while a fire protection system may be able to protect against many threats, impairments are an inevitable part of a fire protection system’s life cycle.
For the safety of your organization and its employees, it is necessary to have a fire protection impairment program in place. An impairment is any time that a fire detection, alarm or suppression system is out of service or unable to operate to the full extent of its intended design. During an impairment, the chances of a fire developing and causing major damage is greatly increased. The goal of a fire protection impairment program is to minimize the risk of a fire developing and spreading during an impairment while maintenance, repairs and tests are performed to the system.
There are two types of impairments: planned and unplanned, which are grouped into two different levels of severity: major and minor.
• Planned—The system is purposely put out of service for maintenance.
• Unplanned—The system is unintentionally out of service, and may be so without anyone’s knowledge.
• Major—The impairment lasts more than ten hours and/or affects multiple systems.
• Minor—The impairment lasts for fewer than ten hours and is limited to a single system.
When an unplanned impairment is discovered, accurately determining its severity is crucial to understanding how to handle the impairment. When scheduling an impairment, such as for routine maintenance, it’s important to limit the extent of the impairment as much as possible, aiming to make it a minor impairment so that the threat of fire damage is lessoned.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES DURING FIRE PROTECTION IMPAIRMENTS
Ensuring safety and efficiency during an impairment requires a great deal of work, planning and coordination. To be prepared for an impairment, organizations should develop a written program, assign responsibilities to staff and train employees in the procedures to be followed during an impairment. The written program should outline exactly what to do before, during and after an impairment based on its type and severity, as well as assign and detail the role and responsibilities.
Commonly, there are two primary roles needed during an impairment: an impairment supervisor and a fire watcher. Responsibilities should only be assigned to supervisor-level staff, with impairment supervisor responsibilities going to a safety manager. There should be a primary and alternate impairment supervisor for each shift.
FIRE IMPAIRMENT SUPERVISOR—The impairment supervisor’s job is to implement and manage the fire protection impairment program. They take care of scheduling planned impairments and implementing the plan during unplanned impairments. The impairment supervisor must also minimize the impact of the impairment by considering the unique factors of the situation and keeping as many effective fire protection systems online during the impairment as possible. This person is also responsible for notifying all relevant personnel, departments and agencies of the impairment, including the fire watcher.
FIRE WATCHER — The fire watcher’s job is to work with the impairment supervisor to ensure that conditions during the impairment are as safe as possible, and to report any unsafe conditions to the impairment supervisor. As part of this, the fire watcher is in charge of and should be fully trained on using temporary fire protection, such as fire extinguishers and water hoses, which they should keep at the ready in the area with the impairment for the duration of the impairment. This person should be very familiar with the impairment program, the facility and the procedures related to sounding a fire alarm.
MANAGING THE IMPAIRMENT
Before an impairment period, or upon discovering an unplanned impairment, the impairment supervisor should obtain a copy of the organization’s fire protection impairment program form and fill it out. This form must be updated as progress is made to include further details of the impairment and repair process.
The following persons and organizations should be notified in the event of an impairment as soon as possible:
• Insurance company or companies
• Local fire department
• Safety manager, or relevant managers and supervisors
• Building owner or their designated representative
Prepare the area to reduce the risk of a fire as much as is possible. Cease all processes that may be hazardous, and relocate all combustibles from the impaired area. Ensure that fire protection systems are working in all but the smallest area necessary to carry out maintenance during the impairment, and have manual fire extinguishers and other fire protection alternatives at the ready.
Display a fire protection impairment permit during the duration of the impairment and issue a hot work permit if any operation involving open flames, sparks or excessive heat is necessary. Maintain a continuous fire watch throughout the impairment and work continuously until systems are restored, keeping the impairment time as short as necessary. In the event that an impairment lasts longer than a single shift, have a formal handover procedure in place to ensure an efficient transition and continued safety. Supervisors taking over should be made fully aware of the details of the situation and the precautions in place.
When repairs are complete, restore the fire protection systems and test to ensure that they are fully operational. Once operational status has been verified, notify the local fire department and insurance company that the impairment period has ended. Lastly, finalize the impairment form and keep it filed for at least one year, as it may need to be referenced at a later date.
For more information about protecting your organization from a fire, reach out to your friends at Hardenbergh Insurance Group.
Brian Blaston, Partner
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
In a time when layoffs and foreclosures are widespread, your firm may be forced to manage vacant real estate. The insurance risks and liabilities associated with owning vacant property can be extensive, and to ensure you are adequately protected, it is important to know these risks. In addition to purchasing comprehensive insurance coverage, there are numerous preventive strategies for maintaining vacant properties to reduce risk and liability.
Potential Risks of Vacant Real Estate
There are a host of risks and concerns associated with owning vacant real estate. Vacant buildings are an obvious target for theft, trespassing and vandalism. For example, the rising cost of copper has given rise to an increase in the theft of copper pipes from vacant properties. In addition to any loss or property damage that may occur, keep in mind that the owner of a property can be held liable for criminal activities or accidents that take place on the premises.
In addition, vacant properties are susceptible to undetected damages, such as fire, water damage, electrical explosions, wind or hail damage, and mold. A study by the U.S. Fire Administration shows that approximately 30,000 fires occur every year in vacant buildings, costing $900 million annually in direct property damage. Many of these incidents occur in vacant buildings due to small, undetected maintenance issues; someone in an occupied building would have recognized and handled the problem before it caused a larger loss.
In certain facilities, there may also be environmental hazards that the owner needs to consider. Facilities that are used to store chemicals or other pollutants should ensure that such materials are removed or securely stored— the owner may be held liable for any hazardous materials that contaminate groundwater or other nearby natural resources. Also, underground fuel tanks present serious challenges and thus should be frequently and carefully inspected by professionals.
Other Ways to Mitigate Risk with Vacant Real Estate
In addition to extending coverage, there are some simple steps that owners of vacant property can take to limit their risk and liability.
Prevent vandalism: Notify local authorities of vacated properties so they can watch for criminal behavior.
Maintain an “occupied” appearance: mow the lawn, have mail forwarded or picked up regularly and install light timers and/or a security system.
Limit liability: Make sure the property is free from significant hazards (e.g., broken railings or steps, broken windows) that could cause injuries to anyone on the property—this could include police officers, maintenance workers, firefighters or even trespassers.
Avoid damage: Performing regular maintenance on the property can decrease the odds of sustaining damage. Make sure the heating system and chimney are cleaned and inspected regularly. Have the plumbing system winterized to prevent frozen pipes. Periodically inspect roof, insulation, attic, basement, gutters and other areas of the property for any necessary repairs, mold, damage or other problems. Consider installing smoke detectors that are tied to a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will be notified in the case of an alarm. Remove all access material and combustibles from in and around the building.
Insuring Vacant Residential Properties
Most insurance companies include a clause that the homeowner’s insurance will expire if a home is left vacant for more than 30 or 60 days. This leaves the property owner financially vulnerable for all previously noted risk. However, many insurance companies do offer vacant property insurance, also known as vacant building insurance or vacant dwelling insurance.
Insuring Vacant Commercial Buildings
Vacant commercial buildings are more difficult to insure because they present greater risks, including increased chance of theft, malicious damage and burst pipes. It is important to disclose all relevant facts when seeking insurance, including the reason for the property’s vacancy and a schedule of any work to be done on the property. Because of the increased risks and liability associated with a vacant property, these types of insurance tend to be costly—ranging from one and a half to five times the cost of a property insurance policy. It is important to look beyond the price and consider the suitability and comprehensiveness of the coverage being purchased.
For more information about vacant property insurance and other strategies to help protect your assets and mitigate loss from vacant real estate, contact us today at (856) 489-9100.
Commercial Lines – Manager
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
The best way to avoid lawsuits from tenants is by creating and maintaining good tenant relationships. Investing the time and money required to maintain and cultivate a positive working relationship with your tenants can be the difference between amicably settling differences and a costly lawsuit. Working on the relationship also creates value by maximizing tenant cooperation with timely rent payments, property upkeep and longer lease terms.
AVOID LAWSUITS BY SCREENING POTENTIAL TENANTS
Conducting a background check on prospective tenants is a wise way to ensure a mutually successful experience for you and the applicant, and it is an effective risk management tool. Background checks do present some costs, but the risk of not performing the screening on tenants could have more serious financial consequences, resulting in lost income, property damage and litigation costs. Elements of a thorough background check include the following:
• Criminal history
• Credit check
• Previous landlord verification
• Identity verification
• Employment verification
AVOID LAWSUITS BY TAKING CARE OF YOUR PROPERTY
Taking measures to properly maintain the premises sends a powerful message to tenants. It proves that you take your role as building manager seriously and encourages them to take pride in the condition of their rented space. Better, it could bolster relationships and lessen the probability that they will take legal action in the event of an incident or dispute.
Take these measures to be prepared for maintenance issues:
• Establish a procedure for dealing with maintenance requests that guarantees prompt service to tenant requests
and maintenance issues
• Create, clearly communicate and promptly enforce policies regarding shared spaces.
AVOID LAWSUITS BY TAKING SECURITY MEASURES
States and municipalities have differing legislation regarding the duties of building owners and managers. Although you may not be expected to guarantee the safety of tenants, visitors and guests, you must exercise reasonable care to protect them from foreseeable events. What’s more, security measures make tenants feel safe, strengthening your relationship with them and lowering the likelihood of a lawsuit. They can also potentially lower your insurance premiums.
AVOID LAWSUITS BY FOCUSING ON CUSTOMER SERVICE
Taking extra steps to make tenants feel welcome helps to create a cooperative relationship that is unlikely to end in legal litigation. Small gestures such as the following can dramatically improve the relationship you have with tenants:
• Prompt, polite responses to requests
• Support during moves
• Clearly outlined policies and swift enforcement for all tenants
AVOID LAWSUITS BY TRANSFERRING RISK
Even with positive landlord-tenant relationships, there are potential exposures that must be addressed with well designed property and liability insurance policies. For more information, contact the insurance professionals at Hardenbergh Insurance Group today.
Brian Blaston, Partner
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
Do you know the market value and replacement cost of your commercial building? In today’s article we discuss market value and replacement cost and obtaining the best insurance policy.
If you own commercial property, choosing a property insurance policy that fits your specific needs is important. A wide variety of policy options are available at different prices that cover an assortment of reimbursement options. Although there are policies that offer a large amount of financial coverage, depending on the type of property that will be insured, it may make more financial sense to pick a policy that still offers adequate coverage while having lower premiums. Commercial properties can be covered in a variety of ways, and a number of factors can determine whether your property’s value goes up or down each year. Knowing how much your property is worth, market value and replacement cost, and obtaining the insurance policy that both protects you and suits your financial needs is important. The following are descriptions of common types of policies and valuation, and the costs that they generally cover.
Simply put, market value describes the estimated amount that a property would sell for on the date of valuation. Any land included in a commercial property is also a part of its market value. The term market value can be used interchangeably with open market value, fair market value or fair value. A number of factors are considered when a property’s market value is appraised, some of which cannot be influenced by the buyer, seller or appraiser. These include the location of the property, capitalization rates, rent growth rate, the general state of the real estate market and more. Market value is most often used when buying or selling a property. However, it may also be examined when determining the type of insurance policy to place on a property, or the amount of compensation in the case of a loss.
Replacement or reconstruction cost is a type of insurance that covers the cost to replace or repair a building with materials of the same or comparable quality. For the purposes of coverage—and unlike market value—replacement cost policies do not include the value of any land and is determined based on the amount needed to hire contractors and purchase materials to repair a building or construct a replacement.
Functional replacement cost coverage can also be used to repair a partially damaged property with less expensive materials, such as replacing a wall with drywall instead of plaster. The main reason for using functional replacement cost coverage would be to save money with lower premiums, so it may be a good option for properties that use expensive materials that are not necessary to the function of the property or for buildings with intangible value that is not relevant to their commercial function.
WHICH TYPE OF COVERAGE BEST FITS YOUR NEEDS?
The value of any piece of commercial property changes constantly. Knowing your property’s value and obtaining the policy that best suits your needs will safeguard your current and future assets. Contact Hardenbergh Insurance Group today to appraise your property’s value and learn more about which type of policy is best for you.
For more information, contact:
Let’s explore how Tenant Improvements and Betterments impact insurance. Suppose that a landlord leases a storefront to a retailer that makes improvements to the facility by adding features to help sell its products. During the lease, a fire breaks out and damages the building, including the features added by the retailer to improve the space. When the insurance claims are made, the following questions arise:
• Who did the improvements belong to?
• Who is responsible for paying the damages?
Defining Tenant Improvements and Betterments
While legal definitions vary, improvements and betterments are anything that a tenant attaches to the landlord’s real estate that becomes a permanent part of that real estate. Under most leases, such improvements become the property of the landlord and tenants are responsible for repairing or replacing the improvements in the event of loss. However, property policies can be customized to determine whether tenants’ improvements and betterments are covered under the building category or under the contents category.
A Landlord’s View of Tenant Improvements
When a tenant makes substantial improvements and betterments to a building, it adds to the building’s value. In order to realize this added value, the landlord needs to clearly establish who is responsible for damages to that property to avoid insurance complications. In doing so, the landlord typically has to make one of the following decisions:
1. Increase the limits of the property insurance policy to account for this extra value.
2. Add a clause to the rental contract stating that the tenant is responsible for damages to improvements and betterments.
In the absence of one of the aforementioned decisions, the landlord may face penalties in the event that he or she has to make an insurance claim. For example, if a tenant makes $100,000 worth of improvements and betterments to a property that was initially worth $500,000, and a fire destroys the entire building, the insurance adjuster will value the property at $600,000 when processing the claim. But, since most landlords’ property policies consider improvements and betterments as covered property, the landlord may be charged an underinsured penalty if the building’s policy hasn’t been increased to reflect the amount of the improvements
A landlord who does not wish to insure for the values of the improvements and betterments should specifically exclude them.
A Tenant’s View of Tenant Improvements
If the lease requires the landlord to repair or replace tenants’ improvements and betterments that become damaged, the tenant does not need to insure them. In contrast, if the lease does not require the landlord to repair or replace tenants’ improvements and betterments, tenants need to make sure they are covered under their own property policy.
Tenant Improvements – Considerations When Entering a Lease
When entering into a new lease or renewal, it is critical for both landlords and tenants to carefully review the terms of the lease to ensure that it adequately delegates the responsibility for insuring tenant improvements and betterments. It is also important to make sure that each party’s insurance policy is adequate enough to properly protect the scope of the tenant improvements agreed upon in the lease. When reviewing the lease, both the landlords and tenants should discuss the following questions:
• Who owns the improvements?
• Who is responsible to replace the improvements if damaged?
• Which insurance policy covers the improvements—the landlord’s or the tenant’s?
• Is the policy adequate?
Insuring Tenant Improvements and Betterments
Tenant Improvements and betterments are not difficult to insure, as a building’s insurance forms automatically cover them. However, many landlords expect their tenants to insure any improvements and betterments that are
made, and some landlords refuse to increase the value of their building policies to reflect the new value of such changes. Therefore, it is important to understand the insurance ramifications of tenants’ improvements and betterments. Hardenbergh Insurance Group can help you identify your exposures and make appropriate recommendations.
For more information on Tenant Improvements and Betterments
Brian Blaston, Partner
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139
Let’s look at tips to improve comfort and ergonomics at work. Sitting at a computer for the majority of your workday can negatively affect your health if your workstation isn’t properly adjusted. Follow these suggestions to make your workstation work for you.
Ergonomics at Work – ADJUSTING YOUR CHAIR
• Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to—or slightly lower than—your hips.
• Adjust your armrests so that your shoulders are down and relaxed. If your armrests are in the way, remove them.
• Sit in the chair with your hips positioned as far back as possible. Use a foot rest if your feet don’t touch the floor.
Ergonomics at Work – MONITOR PLACEMENT
Placing your monitor in an appropriate position helps prevent excessive fatigue, eye strain, and neck or back pain.
• Center and position the top of the monitor approximately 2 to 3 inches above seated eye level.
• Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen, making adjustments to suit your vision.
• You can reduce glare by positioning your screen away from windows, adjusting blinds or using a filter.
• Position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard, using a copy stand.
Ergonomics at Work – KEYBOARD AND MOUSE CONSIDERATIONS
If your keyboard and mouse are not adjusted properly, it can lead to discomfort in your wrists, arms and shoulders.
• Place the keyboard directly in front of you at a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body and your forearms approximately parallel with the floor.
• Use the keyboard feet to adjust the tilt of your keyboard. If you sit in a forward or upright position, try tilting your keyboard away from you at a negative angle. If you are reclined, a slight positive tilt will help maintain a straight wrist position.
• A wrist rest can help you to maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces, but resting on it while typing is not recommended.
Ergonomics at Work – TAKE A BREAK
Regardless of how well your workstation is set up, sitting still and working in the same posture for prolonged periods is not healthy. Try to change your working position frequently throughout the day.
• Take a break or change tasks for at least 5 to 10 minutes after each hour of work. Try to get away from
your desk during lunch breaks.
• Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically.
• Make small adjustments to your chair or backrest.
For more information, contact:
Hardenbergh Insurance Group
phone: 856.489.9100 x 139