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Construction Risk Advisor - August 2015


The occupational group with the highest rate of male suicide is construction and extraction, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report was based on data from 17 states and the National Violent Death Reporting System’s totals from 2012 and 2015. It found that the rate of suicide in the construction and extraction group was 53.2 per 100,000 workers in 2015, significantly higher than the suicide rate for all American workers, which was 17.3.

The CDC recommends the following considerations for decreasing the number of suicides in construction:

  • Foster social connections and economic supports.
  • Improve access to appropriate mental health resources, and encourage at-risk individuals to seek mental health treatment without judgment.

For more information, visit the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention website, which provides information about mental health services and other resources.


Because of the shortage of skilled construction labor, close to half of all construction job postings take over six weeks to fill in California, making it the third-longest wait in the country. As a result, contractors from other states may be joining the rebuilding efforts after the recent wildfires. Before securing construction projects in California, keep these considerations in mind.

1. Insurance could affect how you get paid. Most people affected by the wildfires should be covered by insurance, but it isn’t likely to cover the entire cost of rebuilding. And when insurance companies make progress payments for work done, they may subtract the owner’s deductible from your payment. Discuss this with the owner, and make payment arrangements ahead of time.

2. You need a 20-day preliminary notice. If you’re doing construction or demolition work in California, you should send a 20-day preliminary notice to all property owners and general contractors you’re doing work for. This gives you the right to file a valid mechanics lien in the event of nonpayment.

3. California has strict licensing requirements. If you do contracting in California, there is a good chance you’ll be denied payment without a proper license. And if you are paid, you may even be required to pay it back if the state discovers you did unlicensed work, especially if you’re relying on getting paid from your client’s insurance company.

Most importantly, make sure you’re licensed and fully insured before considering taking on rebuilding efforts in California, or in any state.  

Construction Risk Advisor - December 2018


Industry leaders and economists who contributed to the 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook predict that total construction starts in 2019 will increase to over $808 billion from this year’s estimated $806.8 billion. Experts see this small change as an indicator that the economy is in a tug of war between recent growth stimuli (e.g.,tax cuts) and emerging risks (e.g., rising interest rates).Here are some more specific predictions:

  • Single-family housing—Experts predict a 3 percent decline in homebuyer demand resulting from higher mortgage rates and reduced tax advantages for homeowners.
  • Multifamily housing—Although demand in this area remained steady in 2018, it is expected to decline by 6 percent next year.
  • Commercial building—A 3 percent decline is expected for 2019, as a slowing economy leads to an increase in vacancies.
  • Institutional building—Although airport and amusement-related projects are predicted to remain steady, educational facilities and health care projects should see an increase in construction starts.


When construction companies misclassify employees as independent contractors, they can gain a 30 percent bidding advantage, according to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. This is because they avoid paying the labor costs that legitimate businesses pay.

Although there are legitimate independent contractors—small operations that have proper licenses, insurance, expertise and tools—some employers purposely misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying benefits, insurance and taxes.


Although a lack of resources makes it difficult for state and local agencies to crack down on the companies that get away with worker misclassification, some authorities are finding success.

For example, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office recently fined a construction company $837,341.In addition to misclassifying their employees as independent contractors, the company failed to make timely payments to workers and took illegal deductions from their paychecks.

States including Florida and New York have also recently arrested or indicted business owners for worker misclassification. In addition, Colorado recently created a state task force that will make the process of filing complaints easier.

As states and localities take more notice of worker misclassification, these examples should serve as a warning for employers in the construction industry.

Construction Risk Advisor - December 2018


Industry leaders and economists who contributed to the 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook predict that total construction starts in 2019 will increase to over $808 billion from this year’s estimated $806.8 billion. Experts see this small change as an indicator that the economy is in a tug of war between recent growth stimuli (e.g.,tax cuts) and emerging risks (e.g., rising interest rates).Here are some more specific predictions:

  • Single-family housing—Experts predict a 3 percent decline in homebuyer demand resulting from higher mortgage rates and reduced tax advantages for homeowners.
  • Multifamily housing—Although demand in this area remained steady in 2018, it is expected to decline by 6 percent next year.
  • Commercial building—A 3 percent decline is expected for 2019, as a slowing economy leads to an increase in vacancies.
  • Institutional building—Although airport and amusement-related projects are predicted to remain steady, educational facilities and health care projects should see an increase in construction starts.



When construction companies misclassify employees as independent contractors, they can gain a 30 percent bidding advantage, according to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. This is because they avoid paying the labor costs that legitimate businesses pay.

Although there are legitimate independent contractors—small operations that have proper licenses, insurance, expertise and tools—some employers purposely misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying benefits, insurance and taxes.


Although a lack of resources makes it difficult for state and local agencies to crack down on the companies that get away with worker misclassification, some authorities are finding success.

For example, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office recently fined a construction company $837,341.In addition to misclassifying their employees as independent contractors, the company failed to make timely payments to workers and took illegal deductions from their paychecks.

States including Florida and New York have also recently arrested or indicted business owners for worker misclassification. In addition, Colorado recently created a state task force that will make the process of filing complaints easier.

As states and localities take more notice of worker misclassification, these examples should serve as a warning for employers in the construction industry.

Construction Risk Advisor - December 2018


Industry leaders and economists who contributed to the 2019 Dodge Construction Outlook predict that total construction starts in 2019 will increase to over $808 billion from this year’s estimated $806.8 billion. Experts see this small change as an indicator that the economy is in a tug of war between recent growth stimuli (e.g.,tax cuts) and emerging risks (e.g., rising interest rates).Here are some more specific predictions:


  • Single-family housing—Experts predict a 3 percent decline in homebuyer demand resulting fromhigher mortgage rates and reduced tax advantages for homeowners.
  • Multifamily housing—Although demand in this area remained steady in 2018, it is expected to decline by 6 percent next year.
  • Commercial building—A 3 percent decline is expected for 2019, as a slowing economy leads to an increase in vacancies.
  • Institutional building—Although airport and amusement-related projects are predicted to remain steady, educational facilities and health care projects should see an increase in construction starts.


When construction companies misclassify employees as independent contractors, they can gain a 30 percent bidding advantage, according to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. This is because they avoid paying the labor costs that legitimate businesses pay.

Although there are legitimate independent contractors—small operations that have proper licenses, insurance, expertise and tools—some employers purposely misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying benefits, insurance and taxes.


Although a lack of resources makes it difficult for state and local agencies to crack down on the companies that get away with worker misclassification, some authorities are finding success.

For example, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office recently fined a construction company $837,341.In addition to misclassifying their employees as independent contractors, the company failed to make timely payments to workers and took illegal deductions from their paychecks.

States including Florida and New York have also recently arrested or indicted business owners for worker misclassification. In addition, Colorado recently created a state task force that will make the process of filing complaints easier.

As states and localities take more notice of worker misclassification, these examples should serve as a warning for employers in the construction industry.

Construction Risk Advisor - November - November 2018


Looking at almost two consecutive years of rising costs,the September 2018 IHS Markit PEG Engineering and Construction Cost Index report revealed an index reading of 62.1, up 3.2 points from August.

The survey’s creators expect overall costs to continueto rise over the next six months, reaching a reading of 79.8, the highest it’s been since 2012.

Contributing to rising costs is damage from hurricanes Florence and Michael, which are expected to put even more demand on construction services while materials and labor remain limited. Although the work will keep contractors busy, home owners and businesses will have to be patient during the recovery process.

The 25 percent steel tariffs could have a significant impact on construction costs as well. In fact, a Northern Utah waste water treatment plant saw its price tag increase by $25 million after the tariffs. With steel prices jumping by 31 percent since January,developers may rethink future large-scale projects.


A recent survey by the National Safety Council found that 69 percent of workers feel fatigued at work,exposing themselves to on-the-job accidents and injuries.

The workers facing the most risk of fatigue-related accidents are those who do shift work, particularly in industries like construction. In fact, 100 percent of construction workers surveyed reported experiencing atleast one fatigue risk factor.

The survey also unveiled a disconnect between employers and employees. Ninety percent of employers recognized fatigue as a safety concern, compared to only 72 percent of employees.


It is important for employers in safety-critical industries to make sure their workers understand the risks offatigue. In order to keep workers safe, encourage them to take the following precautions:

  • Take break periods and remember to eat during extended shifts to increase alertness.
  • Perform tasks that require heavy physical labor at the beginning of long shifts when most alert.
  • Limit exposure to dangerous amounts of hazardous chemicals and materials for prolonged periods.
  • Inform their supervisor when fatigue interferes with the ability to do their job safely.

It is also critical to train supervisors to recognize the symptoms of worker fatigue so they can intervene and assign alternate, safer job duties when applicable.

Construction Risk Advisor - October - October 2018




The 2018 hurricane season is here, and it’s time for contractors to prepare for emergency weather situations that can not only disrupt current projects, but also hamper recovery efforts. Heavy rain andwinds, surges in demand for labor and materials, and job site hazardsin storm-damaged areas can create dangerous and expensive risks for contractors.

Minimize your risks during hurricane season with these five tips:

1. Identify the potential for flooding. Take steps to prevent on-site flooding, including installing drainage systems, moving large equipment and waiting to install finished products until the building is watertight.

2. Protect your cranes. Lower any cranes before weather events, if possible. Consult with the manufacturer or a professional engineer regarding how to best lower and secure cranes.

3. Create an employee communications plan. Devise an action plan with a list of contact information and a log of on-site workers so you can account for everyone if a storm hits.

4. Check your business continuity plan. Make sure employees understand their roles, and regularly review, update and test your continuity plan for business disruption.

5. Review your insurance coverage. Work with your insurance carrier or broker to make sure your business is adequately protected.

Assess whether a project will be affected by hurricane season, and weigh the risks before agreeing to a contract. Consider whether or not you have enough qualified staff to handle the work post-storm, as well as the materials needed to complete the job, so you’re prepared incase of supply shortages.

Construction Risk Advisor – September 2018 - September 2018


The average time construction professionals in the U.S. spend on avoidable issues like conflict resolution, rework and looking for project data costs the industry over $177 billion annually, according to a new report.

The participants surveyed for the report said they spend 65 percent of their time on “optimal” activities like communicating with stakeholders and optimizing resources that keep projects on track. They spend the remaining 35 percent of their time on “nonoptimal” tasks like hunting down project information, resolving conflicts and dealing with mistakes that require rework. That amounts to almost two full working days lost per person each week.

Some of the reasons for the nonoptimal costs include poor communication, constrained access to data, incorrect data and the lack of an easy way to share data with stakeholders. Another possible reason is that more than 80 percent of the survey’s respondents said they don’t use mobile devices to collaborate and access project data, despite the fact that mobile devices could help them work more efficiently.


Maryland’s General Contractor Liability for UnpaidWages Act becomes effective on Oct. 1, making private contractors for prime construction projects in the state financially responsible for unpaid wages of subcontractor employees. And unless the reason for nonpayment is related to a legitimate dispute, general contractors could be held responsible for up to three times the amount owed, plus attorney fees.

California and Oregon also enacted similar laws earlier this year. In California, general contractors are now liable for the unpaid wages of any employee who furnishes labor to or through them, plus unpaid benefits and interest.

Oregon’s wage protection law creates liability for thegeneral contractor only if the worker's subcontractor employer has not yet been paid in full.


In order to reduce the risk of general contractors having to pay their subcontractors’ employee wages, some industry experts are recommending that subcontractors provide their own payment bonds.

Opponents of the recent laws argue that it could be difficult for subcontractors on rocky financial ground to meet bond underwriting requirements. And since large projects could require several new bonds per job, overall project costs could increase significantly. Plus, if subcontractors don’t pay up, prime contractors will have to pay twice for the same labor.

Construction Risk Advisor – August 2018 - August 2018



Choosing new technology can be difficult for construction companies. It is easy to get caught up in the wow factor of technology and lose sight of what you’re hoping it will improve. Without a plan in place for deployment, you may be wasting your investment.

Before seeking out new technology, consider ways you can improve your processes. After improving your processes, you can identify gaps that new technology can address. No amount of technology will help if your processes are what need to be fixed.

There’s strength in numbers, so involve key employees early in the process. This is also a good time to identify potential leaders within your organization.

In fact, a recent McKinsey & Company study found that companies that invest in developing leaders during an organizational transformation are about two-and-a-half times more likely to be successful with their changes than firms that did not make the investment.

Those leaders can become champions for the technology who, in turn, empower the end user and help the technology do what it was intended to do.



Women only make up 9 percent of the construction workforce, according to the National Association of Women in Construction. That statistic highlights the fact that both parties are missing out on opportunities for a lucrative partnership within the industry.

Despite the lack of gender diversity, women have the potential to earn about 95.7 percent of what men make. Although it isn’t ideal, it beats the nationwide average of 81.1 percent across all industries.

Construction companies also benefit from hiring a gender-diverse workforce, as they’re 46 percent more likely to outperform the industry average, according to the Peterson Institute. But getting women interested in the industry can be a challenge. Here are steps you can take to attract and retain more women:

  • Create an inclusive work culture that values men and women equally.
  • Remove gender-biased words from job descriptions and involve female employees in the recruitment process.
  • Adopt benefits and work policies that promote a work-life balance and are family-friendly.
  • Create a diversity council with representatives from a mix of genders, positions and backgrounds.

Addressing the gender gap is an important step toward encouraging diverse talent to enter the construction industry. For more information on attracting and retaining a diverse workforce, contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc..

Construction Risk Advisor - July 2018 - July 2018


In order to improve worker safety and boost efficiency, about 20 construction companies have launched data science initiatives over the past few years.

One of those pioneers is a Boston-based company whose data scientists have developed an algorithm that analyzes photos from its job sites and then scans them for safety hazards. The algorithm then correlates those images with its accident records.

Although the technology still needs some fine-tuning, the company hopes to use the algorithm to rate project risks. As a result, the technology could prove extremely helpful in detecting elevated threats and then intervening with safety briefings.

Combining the data collected from these efforts could also be used to forecast project delays. Although data science is somewhat new to construction, a recent McKinsey report said that firms could boost productivity by as much as 50 percent through real-time analysis of data.


In the past three years, only 31 percent of construction projects came within 10 percent of their budgets, according to RSMeans, a provider of construction cost information. Completing projects within budget is a constant challenge for many contractors. Here are five estimating mistakes to be aware of, along with best practices to combat them.

  1. Unrealistic expectations—Don’t rely on ideal or worst-case scenarios, which can lead to impractical estimates. Find the middle ground to avoid setting expectations too high and blowing timelines. 
  2. Flying solo—Don’t be afraid to use outside data sources from a credible third party. Create a realistic estimate by including a combination of your own historical data and their custom data.
  3. Lack of or wrong permits—If you lack permits or have the wrong type, work can come to a standstill. Factor proper permits into your estimate, as well as their corresponding costs.  
  4. Unclear parameters—Parameters must be established clearly at the onset of each project. Make sure you clearly understand your clients’ limitations and restrictions before creating an estimate to avoid unnecessary change orders.
  5. Missing details—A lack of knowledge, missing items or generalized task descriptions can lead to estimates that are too low. Take the time to account for all necessary materials, labor and equipment by referencing similar work done in the past or detailed cost data from a third party.

Construction Risk Advisor – June 2018 - June 2018


As the shortage of skilled labor in construction continues, it’s becoming more common for contractors to offer one-time bonuses to attract skilled workers. In fact, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, close to one-quarter of contractors reported using bonuses to attract employees, ranging between a few hundred dollars to over $1,500 per worker.

What employers like about bonuses is that they’re one-time payments that don’t affect employees’ base pay. However, there is a drawback to offering an incentive for getting skilled workers in the door—there’s no proof that they’ll stay, especially if they can easily find another job elsewhere. Workers can stay long enough to collect the bonus but then leave for another opportunity, and yet another bonus.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction pay in the U.S. only rose by a meager 2.4 percent in 2017, even though construction costs are increasing. Unless employers offer competitive pay, it may be difficult to keep workers.


By using the cloud, construction companies have been able to completely overhaul the way they interact with each other and with their workers. In a nutshell, the cloud consists of multiple networks of servers that allow apps to be accessed anywhere through the internet instead of confined to a particular computer or network.

Contractors that have projects and crews in multiple locations especially appreciate the benefits of the cloud, since it is efficient and allows for the seamless transfer of information.

What’s more, the cloud allows construction companies to utilize software-as-a-service solutions that are updated automatically as opposed to using traditional products that need to be manually installed and periodically replaced with newer versions.


Small contractors tend to be under the assumption that using the cloud is either too complicated, too expensive or intended for large construction firms. However, smaller firms may actually benefit most from using the cloud. In fact, the cloud has helped small contractors develop smarter work practices that have allowed them to become more profitable.

The smarter work practices made possible by the cloud can eliminate time- and money-wasting redundancies traditionally caused by the disorganized flow of paperwork and emails.

The overall lower cost of using the cloud also puts small contractors in a better position to compete with their larger competitors for projects. 

Construction Risk Advisor – May 2018 - May 2018


In 2016, 1 in 5 worker deaths were in the construction industry, highlighting the need for safety and procedural enhancements in construction. The following technology is likely to become more common at construction sites in an effort to improve worker safety:

  • Exoskeletons—Workers can wear exoskeletons to transfer weight from repetitive tasks and use less energy when moving objects. The result is a reduced risk of injuries as well as increased strength, dexterity and productivity.  
  • Virtual reality—This technology replicates physical environments and presents training opportunities for employees. It also allows workers to simulate hazardous tasks and identify safety needs. More benefits are expected as technology matures.
  • Wearables—Wearable devices offer real-time monitoring of workers’ vital signs and can alert workers to the presence of environmental dangers. They can also cut health care costs by reducing health risks such as respiratory problems, cancer, dermatitis and hearing damage.


Off-site construction refers to any building process that takes place away from the ultimate point of installation. The term includes prefabrication and modular construction, which can help contractors accelerate schedules and use less labor on-site, as well as:

  • Reduce safety risks—There’s less chance of workers falling from heights, such as off scaffolding, because construction tends to take place on a single-level factory floor.
  • Eliminate weather delays—Work doesn't have to stop because of inclement weather when construction takes place indoors.
  • Ensure consistent quality—Working in a centralized location allows for more supervision and quality control.

Construction Risk Advisor – April 2018 - April 2018


In an effort to replace retiring construction workers and increase interest in the industry, retailers like the Home Depot and Lowe’s are sponsoring programs to increase trade skills. According to a study published by the National Association of Home Builders, out of the 74 percent of young adults who knew what career they wanted to pursue, only 3 percent had chosen careers in construction.

The Home Depot Foundation will prepare 20,000 new workers for careers in construction by donating $50 million to the nonprofit Home Builders Institute over the next 10 years. The Home Builders Institute will train high school students and disadvantaged youth in the Atlanta area, as well as military veterans and active U.S. Army soldiers planning to leave the service. About 75 percent of the trainees will come from the military.

Lowe’s also sponsors a program to increase trade skills, although its target is company employees. The program provides $2,500 upfront for trade skill certification in preparation for pre-apprenticeship opportunities with contractors in the Lowe’s network.


President Donald Trump’s decision to enforce a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports has rattled financial markets and sparked concerns about global trade. The construction industry is bracing for the effects of the tariffs, as it relies heavily on steel and aluminum for its projects. 

Analysts predict that U.S. steel makers will have increased pricing power as imports become more expensive. Since most aluminum is imported, costs are likely to rise. Although U.S. steel workers have praised the tariffs, the construction industry’s labor force could take a big hit. As many as 28,000 construction jobs could be lost, according to a recent study by The Trade Partnership.

For manufacturers of heavy equipment such as Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co., JP Morgan analysts predict that the tariffs could dent their fiscal 2019 earnings by 6 percent and 9 percent respectively. Steel is the largest raw materials cost for both companies.

The National Association of Home Builders has spoken out against the tariffs as it’s still recovering from the Canadian lumber tariffs of 2017. It claims that higher steel costs would raise construction costs, which could eventually be passed on to homebuyers.

Although Mexico and Canada are temporarily exempt from the tariffs, their continued exemption depends on negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada is the largest exporter of steel and aluminum to the United States, accounting for 16 percent of imported steel and 41 percent of imported aluminum.

Construction Risk Advisor - March 2018


Commercial construction sites are especially susceptible to risks like fire, water damage and theft. A good surveillance system is a vital risk mitigation tool. Look for the following must-haves when choosing a surveillance system for your construction site:

Full perimeter protection, fencing and property signage—These additions could make criminals think twice before committing theft or arson.

Video surveillance for live monitoring—This can allow for early detection of a problem and identify perpetrators of crimes. A system that offers live monitoring may be used to notify emergency services during off hours, reducing damage, business interruption and claims costs. Some insurance companies even require a surveillance system with live monitoring on-site.

High-quality cameras—Consider all-weather cameras with pan-tilt-zoom, day and night vision, power backup and two-way voice capabilities.

Minimized service interruption—Choose a surveillance company that can quickly repair or replace damaged equipment.


According to a 2017 study, construction workers are among the most susceptible to opioid abuse, second only to employees in the food service industry. When workers are under the influence of opioids, they put themselves, their co-workers and the general public at risk of serious injury. 

Few construction company officials discuss the issue publicly, fearing negative publicity and the risk of higher insurance and workers’ compensation rates. However, it’s important for them to understand why opioids are a problem and take preventive measures. 

Representatives from the construction industry believe the reason for excessive opioid abuse is that the aging workforce, combined with the fact that fewer young people are entering the industry, leads to older workers being expected to do more manual labor than they were in the past. Before the shortage of skilled labor, aging employees might have focused more on drawing and supervising instead of physically strenuous work. After injury, many aging workers turn to opioids to help them work through the pain.

If an employer notices a worker who might be struggling with opioid abuse, offering to help may not only prevent an accident on a job site, it can also prevent sizeable punitive damages. Some companies enforce a no-tolerance policy, and it is common for unions to offer some sort of rehabilitation program.

To prevent opioid abuse from happening to begin with, some companies issue rewards to employees for maintaining safe work environments. In return, firms with safe work histories have an opportunity to negotiate better premiums with their insurance carriers.

Construction Risk Advisor February 2018 - February 2018


Automation helps construction companies deal with labor shortages and create safer, more efficient job sites. There is one downside, however. According to a recent study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal, automation could displace up to 2.7 million construction workers—almost 49 percent of the nation’s blue-collar construction workforce—by 2057.

Fortunately, until every aspect of every task can be automated, there will still be a need for human labor. For job security, the study’s co-authors stressed the need to transition workers into new roles that complement the rise of automation in construction.

According to one of the study’s co-authors, Frank Manzo IV, increased automation could cause both and economic hardship and economic prosperity. In order to achieve prosperity, Manzo recommended that construction companies invest in vocational training. The study also urged lawmakers to consider taxing capital owned by contractors and investing the proceeds into retraining displaced workers.


OSHA has renewed its relationship with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in an effort to re-establish its commitment to creating safer working conditions for women in the construction industry through its OSHA Alliance Program.

The five-year initiative will address workplace concerns specific to women, including sanitation, how to select appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and how to address gender-based threats arising from intimidation and violence.

Although OSHA previously launched a webpage dedicated to the safety of female construction workers, the new commitment to safety highlights the industry’s new focus toward women during its labor shortage. Less than 9 percent of the construction workforce is female.

By revisiting its emphasis on safety, OSHA hopes to address unique challenges on the job site faced by women, including the following:

  • PPE—Employers need to make sure there is PPE on the job site that fits women, who are often smaller in stature than men.
  • Lack of sanitary or adequate bathroom facilities—Some women have reported not drinking water during the day to avoid the need to use unsanitary or inadequate facilities, leading to an increased rate of kidney and bladder infections.

The renewed campaign will use both OSHA’s and NAWIC's resources to provide information about and prevent hazards that affect women on the job site.

Construction Risk Advisor – January 2018 - January 2018


With ongoing changes in the construction industry, companies need to stay on top of emerging trends if they want to remain competitive. Industry experts anticipate seeing the following trends in 2018:

  • Advancements in technology—Technology such as virtual reality, 3-D printing and drone usage are revolutionizing the industry.   
  • Improved safety procedures—According to recent research from Travelers, 45 percent of construction businesses have concerns about their employee safety procedures. New technology and mobile apps are making it easier than ever for construction companies to ensure safer work environments.
  • Rising material costs—The steady increase in the price of materials throughout 2017 shows no sign of reversal. Companies can think about cutting costs in other areas, such as using mobile apps that monitor employee performance and track materials.

More modular and prefabrication projects—With material costs on the rise, modular and prefabrication projects are becoming more popular.


The recent hurricanes and California wildfires have highlighted the need for contractors to examine their recovery plans and minimize their risks. In the absence of a recovery plan, contractors risk exposing their business to liability and damaging its reputation. What’s more, 1 in 4 businesses fail to reopen after being impacted by a natural disaster.

Although you can’t prevent natural disasters, you can prepare for them. The following are five important steps all construction firms should take before disaster strikes.

  1. Clearly define the terms used in your contracts. While hurricanes and wildfires will likely excuse you from fulfilling a contract, vague definitions—such as severe rain—may cause confusion. Define such events ahead of time to relieve uncertainty.
  2. Prepare an emergency plan that assigns actions to designated individuals.
  3. Provide disaster preparedness training to employees. Include evacuation processes and proper use of emergency equipment.
  4. Protect project records. Contracts, permits and other physical files can be easily destroyed in the event of a disaster. Cloud-based storage can protect valuable data and ensure you have access to it from any location.
  5. Review your insurance policies prior to beginning big projects. CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. can work with you to find coverage that helps you recover damages from natural disasters and protect your reputation. 

Understanding Construction Contracts - December 2017

Construction contracts can contain terms that impact your company’s bottom line. Reviewing them carefully prior to signing is indispensable, and can save your company time and money. This contract review guide is meant to be a starting point for reviewing contracts in general. It highlights some common contract terms and their potential impact. You can begin to understand which terms are most often negotiated in contracts generally. Then, with the help of licensed inside or outside counsel, analyze the commercial risks associated with construction contracts in depth and understand terms and conditions to protect your company’s assets.

Scope of the Agreement

Examine the definition of services to be provided to ensure the language is clear enough for an unrelated third party to understand the scope. The contract should include a time frame for completion of services. The rights and obligations of both parties should be clearly outlined. Any mechanism for changing the scope of the contract, as well as any of the terms, if allowed, should also be outlined within the contract.

Terms of Payment

Terms of payment should be clearly listed within the contract so that the expectations of both parties are clear. The contract should specify the agreed payment schedule for goods received.


There are two types of warranties: express and implied. Both types are assurances regarding particular issues, such as performance.

Express warranties are those that are defined specifically in the contract. Implied warranties are based in statutory and/or common law, depending upon your jurisdiction. They are two-fold: a warranty of merchantability, which requires that goods/services must reasonably conform to an ordinary buyer’s standards, and a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, which states that if a seller knows the intended purpose for the product or service, the act of selling the product to that customer implies that it is fit for that purpose.

Be aware of warranty disclaimers and understand how the disclaimer limits your statutory rights. If it disclaims all warranties, express and implied, then you will likely be limited to the remedies in the contract for issues related to things like performance. You should also examine any disclaimer in the context of the contract. While it may require you to disclaim your statutory rights, other contract language may give you adequate rights and remedies regarding the points about which you are most concerned.

Damages, Limits of Liability and Indemnification

These three items are often in close proximity to one another in a contract, as they are interrelated. Damages may be defined as certain types of losses that could create liability under the contract. A limit on liability would restrict the amount of damages that a party would be required to pay if found liable for such damages. Sometimes this may also include a limit for indemnification.

Indemnification provisions allocate risk and cost between the parties. It is important to examine whether the party assuming the risk is the party with the most control over that risk. For instance, when a company’s employees are required to work at a customer’s location, the company is often asked to release the customer from all liability relating to the employees presence at the customer’s location.

In some cases, indemnification is limited to negligence or to a specific dollar amount, under a heading of “limits of liability.”


Some contracts will contain minimum bodily injury and property damage liability coverage amounts that the party must possess and also may require that the customer is added as an additional insured on those coverages.

Prior to consenting to any contract, it is prudent to examine insurance coverage against the amount of liability exposure in a particular contract.

Terms and Conditions

It is also vital to examine any terms and conditions contained in the contract:

  • Governing Law & Jurisdiction – Look at the governing law provision to make sure that you are comfortable with the implications of the state law chosen by the drafter. This can impact the interpretation of the contract from warranties to indemnification. Additionally, when specific statutes or regulations are referenced in the body of a contract, it is as though that statute or regulation is wholly contained within the contract itself. It is vital to read and understand that language prior to giving your consent. This happens regularly in government contracting situations.
  • Dispute Resolution – This is another clause with which you must be comfortable with the laws of the state or forum chosen by the drafter. The rules chosen to govern dispute resolution can impact the outcome. Additionally, you should consider whether dispute resolution is right for your situation.
  • Intellectual Property – When you are disclosing and/or licensing your company’s intellectual property, be it trademarks, copyrights or patents, it is important to include a clause that recognizes the owner of such intellectual property and affirmatively states that the agreement does not transfer any rights.
  • Standard of Care – A standard of care clause may appear in certain types of contracts. The standard of care that is provided by the law should provide the minimum standard of care for the provision of services under the contract.
  • Term/Termination – The contract should provide both parties with the right to terminate the contract. The situations in which termination is allowed will vary from contract to contract. Some contracts will allow the right to terminate in cases of dissatisfaction; others will allow it with a specific notice, for no cause. It is important that you contemplate in what cases you would want the right to terminate the contract. There should also be language defining the term of the contract. Does it have a finite term? Does it automatically renew each period?
  • Right to Cure – Related to termination, some contracts will contain a right to cure clause. This would give the defaulting party notice of a breach and a finite period of time in which to remedy such a breach.

Standard Form Contracts

Unlike other industries, construction lacks a consistent set of laws like the Uniform Commercial Code or a federal statutory scheme. Contracts produced by professional and trade associations for architects (American Institute of Architects), engineers (Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee) and commercial contractors (Associated General Contractors of America) can serve as important references and benchmarks when drafting a new contract. They are a good source of industry best practices, and using them can greatly reduce drafting and review time, meaning lower overall transaction costs for your company.

For all of their advantages, there are several things that you should be cautious about when using standard form contracts. Note the following cautions about standard forms before using them:

  • Standard forms, which are written broadly to encompass many different contexts, require transaction-specific and jurisdiction-specific modifications. For example, certain states require that indemnities be written in a certain way.
  • Changes made to one part of the document, such as definitions of words or terms, may affect other parts that make reference to it.
  • Custom-drafted and industry-drafted forms are often incompatible. Even industry-drafted forms from different publishers can be incompatible.
  • Standard forms always contain the bias of the drafter. Use this bias; know when to use various standard forms published by different industry organizations.

General Understanding

Reviewing general terms and features of construction contracts will help you grasp the consequences of its terms and conditions for your business. In any case, to ensure its completeness and accuracy, it is necessary to submit each contract you must sign to legal review.

Contractors Pollution Liability Insurance - November 2017

Contractors, no matter what industry they work in, face environmental risks stemming from operations on a daily basis. For most contractors, a single pollution incident or loss can seriously damage their reputation, operations and even their balance sheet. Making matters worse, pollution incidents can be sudden or occur gradually over time.

While many contractors assume that environmental claims will be covered under their commercial general liability (CGL) policy, the unfortunate reality is that most CGLs contain pollution exclusions that leave contractors uninsured in the event of a pollution incident.

Thankfully, contractors are increasingly turning to contractors pollution liability (CPL) insurance to ensure they have the right coverage in place to remain secure and profitable.

CPL Coverage Basics

CPL policies provide contractor-based insurance for third-party coverage for bodily injury, property damage, defense, and cleanup as a result of sudden and gradual pollution incidents arising from contracting operations performed by or on behalf of the contractor. CPL insurance is intended to provide coverage to all types of contracting operations, including contractors who are involved in building construction and environmental firms that remediate polluted sites.

CPL policies are offered on either a claims-made or occurrence basis. What’s more, CPL policies are nonstandard, meaning each policy is different and can be modified to cover the various needs of the contractor purchasing the policy. Policies can be offered on a project or blanket program basis.

In some instances, CPL policies can also be used to cover losses from civil fines, penalties and punitive damages.

Covered Pollution Incidents

Contractors should keep in mind that CPL insurance policies differ in regard to the types of pollution incidents that are covered. Two important considerations when evaluating CPL insurance policies are:

  • Whether or not the policy will respond to gradual releases of pollutants, as opposed to sudden and accidental releases
  • The types of substances that are considered “pollutants” under the terms of the policy

Generally, policies that cover both gradual and sudden releases of pollutants provide contractors with a broader scope of coverage. In addition, policies that provide a broad definition of pollutants are considered superior to those that contain a narrow definition. Accordingly, it is important that contractors work with their broker to find a CPL policy that is tailored to their needs.

CGL Pollution Exclusions

A primary reason why contractors obtain a CPL policy is due to the various pollution exclusions contained in most CGL policies. The pollution exclusions found in most CGL policies take one of two forms, either “absolute” or “total.”

CGL policies with an absolute pollution exclusion remove coverage for most pollution events that would occur in the course of an insured's business operations. However, despite its name, an absolute pollution exclusion may preserve coverage for certain incidental pollution damages, products and completed operations liability, and certain off-premises work.

However, more commonly, CGL policies include a more restrictive “total pollution exclusion.” This type of exclusion effectively removes coverage for any event the insurer characterizes as a pollution incident.

Contractual Requirements

Contractual requirements serve as another motivating factor that lead many contractors to obtain a CPL policy. In many instances, project owners and general contractors will require contractors to obtain pollution insurance that meets certain, predetermined standards.

From this perspective, having a CPL insurance policy in place can serve as an upfront sales tool during the bidding process that enables contractors to qualify for opportunities when such coverage is required.

Finding the Right Policy

Regardless of specialty, all contractors should be mindful of the pollution risks associated with their work. A CPL insurance policy can provide much-needed security in the event of a pollution incident, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Let CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. work with your organization to find the CPL coverage that is right for you.

Hazards of Operating Unguarded Stonecutters and Splitters - October 2017

When used improperly or without proper training, stonecutting machines can cause amputations and other serious injuries. Workers can suffer eye and face injuries from flying rock fragments; amputations can also occur when shears or stone cutters are not guarded properly and a worker's hands or other body part is placed in the point of operation during operation.

The following measures will prevent or greatly reduce the chance that a worker using a stone cutter or splitter will suffer an amputation or other serious injury:

  • Identify the hazards of powered stone cutters and splitters prior to being used, asking questions such as the following:
  1. Does the equipment have machine guarding at the point of operation?
  2. Can the guarding be easily removed or bypassed?
  3. Does the guarding keep the operator's hands, fingers and body out of the danger area?
  4. Is there evidence that the machine guarding has been tampered with or removed?
  5. Could changes be made on the machine to eliminate the point of operation hazard entirely?
  6. Are the machine manufacturer's recommended safety procedures available to the operator and being followed?
  • Ensure stone cutters are equipped with machine guarding to prevent worker access to the point of operation, as required by 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(3)(ii) and 1926.300(b)(4)(ii). A good system eliminates the possibility of the operator or another worker placing parts of their bodies where they could be injured by hazardous moving parts. Examples of machine guarding methods include two-handed starting devices, barrier guards, remote-operator controls and electronic safety devices.
  • Conduct regular inspections and keep machinery clean and properly maintained. Good inspection, maintenance and repair procedures contribute significantly to the safety of the machine operator. Routinely inspect and maintain machinery according to the manufacturer's recommendations and good engineering practice.
  • Identify other possible machine-related hazards that may pose a risk of injury and necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), as required by 29 CFR 1910.132(d) and 1926.95(a).
  • Provide workers with PPE that adequately protects them from recognized hazards and ensure that it is used properly, as required by 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) and 1926.95(a). For example, provide safety glasses with side shields or face shields for workers exposed to eye hazards, face shields to protect workers' faces from flying rock chips, or gloves to protect workers' hands from cuts and abrasions from handling rock or stone.
  • Train workers on the following topics:
  1. All hazards in the work area, including machine-specific hazards
  2. Machine-operating procedures
  3. The purpose and proper use of machine guarding, including instruction in the safe use and care of the machines
  4. Procedures for addressing unsafe conditions, such as immediately reporting problems with machine guards
  5. Safe use of PPE, as required by 29 CFR 1910.132(f)
  • Provide adequate supervision and reinforce safe practices by ensuring the following:
  1. Only trained workers operate machinery
  2. Machine operators do not wear loose-fitting clothing, jewelry or other items that could become entangled in the machinery
  3. All other workers are prohibited from being near the machine during cutting operations
  4. For more information on keeping workers safe from stone-cutters, or to examine the relevant OSHA standards, go to www.osha.gov.

Completed Operations Liability and Obligations - September 2017

Even quality workmanship is not immune to potential claims of property damage or bodily injury. All operations carry the risk that injury or damage may occur as a result of the work, leading to costly lawsuits. Considering the complicated mix of contractors and subcontractors that contributes to each project, who is liable for this risk?

Defining Responsibility

In insurance terms, “your work” as used in an insurance policy is a broadly defined term that includes operations performed by the policyholder or on the policyholder’s behalf, including material, parts or equipment in connection with the operations. Operations or work performed on behalf of the policyholder means work done by a subcontractor is considered the contractor’s work. Therefore, faulty electrical work performed by an electrician that causes a fire or other damage could be considered the contractor’s liability, but would be covered under a standard commercial general liability (CGL) policy.

Contract Requirements

Because a contractor or other involved party could be held liable for defects in a subcontractor’s work years after it has been completed, and filing the claim under the contractor’s CGL policy could cause the premium to rise, many construction contracts require subcontractors to provide insurance coverage for claims resulting from their completed work for a finite period of time, typically the one- to five-year range. Typical contracts also require that the subcontractor name the owner, the architect, the general contractor and other third parties as “additional insured” parties, entitled to coverage under the insured subcontractor’s CGL policy. Naming additional insured parties requires a separate endorsement to that policy.

Contract Implications

This means that as a subcontractor, you can be held liable for claims of property damage or bodily injury resulting from a defect in your work. It is also critical to maintain this coverage into the future; failure to do so could lead to a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by the contractor or other party.

It is important to understand this commitment when signing the contract–the insurance commitment doesn’t end with the project. Furthermore, in the event of a large claim, the subcontractor could be faced with a substantial increase in premiums on the policy.

Reducing Risk

To avoid litigation, it is crucial to know local regulations and adequately document proper performance. Know your company’s documentation practices relative to each subcontract, and carefully keep records of all processes.

Respecting the Contract

It is crucial for subcontractors to respect this requirement if included in the contract. Failure to do so could result in breach-of-contract lawsuits. Naming additional insured parties can be complicated, and it is very important to work closely with CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. to ensure that your contractual obligations are satisfied.

Permit-required Confined Spaces and Emergency Responders - August 2017

OSHA recently developed a standard for confined spaces in the construction industry (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA). These spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to your workers’ lives or health if not properly identified, evaluated, tested and controlled. As a result, preparing to respond to an accident in a confined space is just as important as training workers to enter them.

One provision of the standard requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services in permit-required confined spaces. Any employer who relies on local emergency services for assistance is required to meet the applicable requirements of the OSHA standard.

However, not all rescue services or emergency responders are trained or equipped to conduct rescues in confined spaces. When you identify an off-site rescue service, it is critical that the rescuers can protect your employees. The emergency services should be familiar with the exact site location, the types of permit-required confined spaces and the necessary rescue equipment.

Employer Considerations

Pre-planning for a rescue will ensure that the emergency service is capable, available and prepared to save your workers.

Before the start of any rescue operation, you must evaluate prospective emergency responders, and select one that has the following traits:

  • Adequate equipment for rescues, such as the following:
    • Atmospheric monitors
    • Fall protection
    • Extraction equipment
    • Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the particular permit-required confined space
  • The ability to respond and conduct a rescue in a timely manner based on the site conditions, and the capability to conduct a rescue if faced with potential hazards specific to the space. These hazards may include the following:
    • Atmospheric hazards
    • Electrocution
    • Flooding or engulfment
    • Poor lighting
    • Falls
    • Chemical hazards
  • The ability to notify you in the event that the rescue team becomes unavailable.

To ensure the safety of your workers, you must take a proactive role in securing the services of emergency responders. This includes finding the most efficient way of contacting emergency responders, conducting a tour of the project site with them and communicating any changes made to the site before a rescue becomes necessary.

Communicating With Emergency Responders

Talking with emergency responders about the hazards they might encounter during a rescue will assist in preparing for the situation. The following are some questions responders should be able to answer when you request their services:

  • Are you able to respond and conduct a rescue in a timely manner based on the site conditions?
  • Do you have the appropriate equipment for response and rescue?
  • Are you prepared for the hazards identified at the project site?
  • Are you aware of the exact location of the work site? This includes information on access routes, gates, site plans and GPS coordinates.
  • Can you visit the site and hold a practice rescue?
  • What is the best way to contact you? How would I communicate any changes to site conditions throughout the project?
  • Could other emergencies or group training preclude you from responding, and how will that be communicated?

Additional Resources

Complying with OSHA’s new standard will protect your workers and save you from costly penalties. Contact us today at (619) 297-3160; we can provide you with our comprehensive resource, “Permit-required Confined Spaces in Construction Program and Training Materials.”

Preventing Heat-related Illness - July 2017

Helpful tips for beating the summer heat

Summer heat can be more than uncomfortable; it can be a threat to your health. Unfortunately, you do not have much of a choice when it comes to job site. Follow these tips to stay safe in the searing heat.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when a person cannot sweat enough to cool the body—usually the result of not drinking enough fluids during hot weather. It generally develops when a person is playing, working or exercising outside in extreme heat. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache and vomiting
  • Blurry vision    
  • Body temperature rising to 101°F
  • Sweaty skin
  • Feeling hot and thirsty
  • Difficulty speaking

A person suffering from heat exhaustion must move to a cool place and drink plenty of water to avoid a more severe heat-related condition—heat stroke.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the result of untreated heat exhaustion. Symptoms include:

  • Sweating stops
  • Unawareness of thirst and heat

Body temperature rising rapidly to above 101°F

  • Confusion or delirium
  • Possible loss of consciousness or seizure

Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency that must be treated quickly by a trained professional. Until help arrives, cool the person down by placing ice on the neck, armpits and groin. If the person is awake and able to swallow, have them drink a small glass of water every 15 minutes or until help arrives.

Tips for Staying Cool

The combination of heat and humidity in the summer months can be downright uncomfortable and even dangerous. Stay cool by following these safety tips:

  • Drink plenty of water. In hot weather, drink enough water to quench your thirst. The average adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and even more during hot weather.
  • Skip the caffeine and soda; drink water instead.  
  • Dress for the weather. When outside, wear lightweight clothing of natural fabric and a well-ventilated hat.
  • Eat light. Replace heavy or hot meals with lighter, refreshing foods. And always eat smaller meals before work or intense activity.

Controlling Workers’ Compensation Costs - June 2017

Has your construction business experienced rising workers’ compensation costs due to on-the-job accidents? If so, your first response was most likely aimed at trying to reduce insurance costs and spending. While this may seem like the best approach, a sound safety program designed to continuously improve can yield significant savings by reducing injuries and illnesses—ultimately reducing workers’ compensation costs in the long run.

5 Steps to Building a Solid Safety Program

You can control workers’ compensation costs with five easily implementable steps designed to create a well-rounded safety program that produces a safer job site, achieves OSHA compliance and reduces accidents—saving your bottom line.

  1. Develop safety programs required by the OSHA standards.
  2. Integrate those programs into daily operations.
  3. Investigate all injuries and illnesses.
  4. Provide training to develop safety competence in all employees.
  5. Audit your programs and your worksite on a regular basis to stimulate continuous improvement. 
Develop Programs Required by OSHA Standards

In addition to being a requirement for those in the construction industry, OSHA standards provide a good pathway to incident reductions. Many accidents stem from poorly developed or poorly implemented OSHA programs: not using the proper fall restraint system when working at heights more than 6 feet, improper use of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous job site materials and poor lifting techniques resulting in back strains are just a few examples.

OSHA construction standards require that written programs be developed and then communicated to workers. Experience shows that companies with thoroughly developed, OSHA-compliant programs have fewer accidents, more productive employees and lower workers’ compensation costs.

Integrate Programs into Daily Operations

Policies alone won’t get results; your safety program must move from paper to practice to impact your bottom line. Achieving this requires a strategic plan clearly communicated to workers, good execution, and a culture that both inspires and rewards people to do their best.

When developing your safety initiative, there must be an emphasis on helping your site foreman succeed. If the site foreman understands the safety program and is motivated to make it work, it succeeds; if not, the program is a source of struggle and an endless drain on resources. Providing your site foreman with knowledge and skills through training is critical to the success of your safety program. 

A solid OSHA program, integrated into your worksite’s daily operation and led by competent site supervisors, is just the beginning. Successful safety programs are also proactive instead of reactive.

Investigate All Injuries and Illnesses

Accident investigations provide an excellent source of information on real or potential issues present on the job site. Because workers’ compensation covers a worker’s wages for injuries or illnesses that arise from or out of the course of employment, increasing claims drive up workers’ compensation costs. To reduce costs, you must reduce accidents. And the ability to reduce accidents is significantly enhanced when they are fully investigated instead of simply being reported.

Accident reports cite facts; accident investigations go deeper to uncover the root cause of an accident and make improvements to prevent its reoccurrence. To stop your workers’ compensation costs from rising unnecessarily, you must have an effective accident investigation process. Unless you can determine the root cause of an accident, recommendations for improvement will remain fruitless. Again, training proves beneficial because a site supervisor skilled in incident analysis is a better problem solver for all types of project management issues, not just safety.

All accidents should be investigated to find out what went wrong and why. Some may suggest investigating every accident is a bit over the top and only those that incur significant costs are worthy of scrutiny, but this approach is shortsighted. If your emphasis is only on those incidents that have to be recorded on the OSHA 300 log, you ignore the single largest accident category: first aid-only incidents. Many firms focus solely on recordables or lost-time accidents because of the significant costs involved, but they don’t realize that the small costs and high numbers of first aid-only incidents really add up.

Reducing serious accidents means you must reduce your overall rate of all accidents—including first aid-only incidents. That only happens when every incident is fully investigated, and corrective actions are identified and integrated into daily job tasks.

Training and Auditing for Continuous Improvement

The final steps focus on training and auditing your program for continuous improvement. Training plays a significant role in safety and in reducing workers’ compensation costs. The goal of training is to develop competent people who have the knowledge, skill and understanding to perform assigned job responsibilities. Competence, more than anything else, will drive down costs. Site supervisors must have the knowledge and ability to integrate programs into each job on the job site so that employees know what is expected of them.

Once the programs are developed and implemented, they must be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they are still relevant and effective. This might require a significant change in how you manage your safety program, but if your workers’ compensation rates are high, it may be time to make this leap.

Tangible Benefits

  1. Studies indicate there is a return on investment and that firms see direct bottom-line benefits with a properly designed, implemented and integrated safety program.
  2. A competency-based safety program is compliant with OSHA construction requirements and therefore reduces the threat of OSHA fines.
  3. A competency-based safety program lowers accidents, which reduces workers’ compensation costs. When incidents do occur, a competency-based safety program fully evaluates the issue and finds the root cause to prevent reoccurrence and provides a job site that is free from recognized hazards.
  4. A safer job site creates better morale and improves employee retention. Auditing keeps your programs fresh and effective, and drives continuous improvement.
  5. A competency-based program produces people who are fully engaged in every aspect of their job, producing high-quality craftsmanship.

How Can We Assist You?

At CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc., we are committed to helping you establish a strong safety program that minimizes your workers’ compensation exposures. Contact us today at (619) 297-3160 to learn more about our OSHA compliance and safety program resources.

Safety on Walking/Working Surfaces - May 2017


Slips, trips and falls account for many accidents and accidental deaths on the worksite. These accidents are especially prevalent in the construction and contracting industry because as the site changes, safety hazards will evolve and change as well. Paying close attention to the areas where we walk and work to eliminate the potential for slips, trips or falls is essential to the success of our business.

On the job, there can be many different types of slip, trip and fall hazards. For instance, material debris on the ground is just as hazardous as cords or hoses lying in walking areas. Also, materials stored improperly present spill hazards and can cause slips. The point is that there are many different types of hazards that can be in our work areas. Being aware of these hazards and addressing them is the first step to avoiding slip, trip and fall injuries at the worksite.

What other types of situations do we need to look out for? Here is a brief list of some of the common hazards seen frequently in working areas:

  • Cords lying on the ground or other walking areas
  • Water, oil, lubricants or other liquids spilled on the ground or on elevated areas at the site
  • Materials (pallets, boxes, etc.) stored in a walking area
  • Materials stored near ladders or in machine traffic areas
  • Poor lighting in walking or working areas
  • Poorly marked pedestrian or machine traffic only paths

Cords and Hoses

One of the biggest trip and electrical hazards comes from cords and hoses, and both are commonly used in working areas. First, cords and hoses should not be uncontrolled in walking areas because they pose trip hazards. Secondly, cords and hoses need to be monitored so they don’t become damaged. Cords that have broken insulation pose electrical shock and fire hazards.

Use extra caution when working with extension cords. Extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis. Temporary means only using the cord when you need additional power for a short period of time, such as when operating a power tool. Extension cords may not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring. Extension cords that are wrapped around poles or other equipment are not being used on a temporary basis and are likely being used as a substitute for permanent wiring. This use creates both trip and electrical hazards. Look in your work area and see where extension cords are in use. Report any misuse to your supervisor immediately to prevent trip, fall and electrical hazards at the site. 

Material Storage in Working Areas

Look around your work area and consider how materials are stored. Look specifically at pallets, carts, trays and other material handling or material holding equipment to see if the way it is stored creates a hazard. 

Pallets should not be stored on end because they are not stable in that position. They can easily tip over onto workers or equipment. Storing boxed materials properly will prevent slips, trips and falls. Always think about where material is stored and how it may create a trip hazard or ignite because of what it is stored by.

Stacking materials in work areas is unavoidable, but can also create hazards if materials are not stacked properly. It is important to not stack boxes of materials too high to avoid tip-over hazards. Also, heavier boxes should not be placed on top of lighter boxes for the same reason—even for short periods of time. Whatever materials are needed at your site, stacking them properly will help prevent tip or trip hazards.

Passageways and Other High-traffic Areas

Aisles and passageways are used by both workers and motorized vehicles. Combining pedestrians with motorized vehicles can be dangerous when safety procedures are not followed. When you are walking anywhere in the workplace, be mindful of where you are walking and what traffic is in the area.

Keeping Your Area Free From Hazards

Some of the most serious safety hazards found in walking or working areas are due to poor housekeeping. As you look at your work area, keep the following issues in mind.

  • Sweep work areas so dust and debris do not accumulate and create a trip or slip hazard.
  • Clean up spilled materials immediately.
  • Don’t let trash overflow in work areas.
  • Don’t store materials in passageways.
  • Always be mindful of powered equipment operations. As a pedestrian, watch for traffic.  As an operator, always be aware of workers and civilians in the area.
  • Never store materials near ladders or machinery.


Walking and working surfaces can cause many different and serious injuries when safety precautions are not followed. The more we pay attention to the hazards in our work area, the better chance we have at preventing injuries and keeping ourselves safe and healthy on the job.  

The Value of Surety Bonds - April 2017

The way project owners evaluate and manage risks on construction projects and make fiscally responsible decisions to ensure timely project completion are crucial to their success. Since private owners cannot afford to gamble on a contractor whose reliability is uncertain or who could end up bankrupt halfway through the job, a surety bond is a great safety net for the investment.

What is Suretyship?
Suretyship is a very specialized line of insurance that is created whenever one party guarantees performance of an obligation by another party.

A surety bond is a written agreement where one party, the surety, obligates itself to a second party, the obligee, to answer for the default of a third party, the principal.

Types of Surety Bonds

There two main types of surety bonds:

  1.  Contract (or Corporate) Surety Bond

The contract (or corporate) surety bond provides financial security and construction assurance for building and construction projects by assuring the project owner (obligee) that the contractor (principal) will perform the work and compensate certain subcontractors, laborers and material suppliers, as outlined via their contract. Contract surety bonds include the following:

  • Bid bonds provide financial assurance that the bid has been submitted in good faith and that the contractor intends to enter into the contract at the price bid and provide the required performance and payment bonds.
  • Performance bonds protect the owner from financial loss should the contractor fail to perform the contract in accordance with its terms and conditions.
  • Payment bonds guarantee that the contractor will pay certain subcontractors, laborers and material suppliers associated with the project.
  • Maintenance bonds guarantee against defective workmanship or materials for a specified period.
  • Subdivision bonds make guarantees to cities, counties or states that the principal will finance and construct certain improvements such as streets, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, sewers and drainage systems.

2.   Commercial Surety Bond

Commercial surety bonds guarantee performance by the principal of the obligation or undertaking described in the bond. Commercial surety bonds include:

  • License and permit bonds are required by state law or local regulations in order to obtain a license or permit to engage in a particular business (contractors, motor vehicle dealers, securities dealers, employment agencies, health spas, grain warehouses, liquor and sales tax).
  • Judicial and probate bonds, also referred to as fiduciary bonds, secure the performance on a fiduciaries' duties and compliance with court orders (administrators, executors, guardians, trustees of a will, liquidators, receivers and masters). Judicial proceedings court bonds include injunction, appeal, indemnity to sheriff, mechanic's lien, attachment, replevin and admiralty.
  • Public official bonds guarantee the performance of duty by a public official, (treasurers, tax collectors, sheriffs, judges, court clerks and notaries).
  • Federal (non-contract) bonds are required by the federal government (Medicare and Medicaid providers, customs, immigrants, excise and alcoholic beverage).
  • Miscellaneous bonds include lost securities, lease, guarantee payment of utility bills, guarantee employer contributions for union fringe benefits and workers’ compensation for self-insurers.

Who Are the Three Parties That Make Up the Surety Agreement?

Surety agreements typically have three parties:

  • The principal is the party that undertakes the obligation.
  • The surety company guarantees the obligation will be performed.
  • The obligee is the party who receives the benefit of the bond.

How is Suretyship Similar to Other Forms of Insurance?

It’s important to recognize the similarities between suretyship and other forms of insurance:
  • State insurance commissioners regulate both suretyship and other insurance.
  • They both provide a safety net for financial loss.

How is Suretyship Different?

Key differences exist between suretyship and other insurance:

  • In traditional insurance, the risk is transferred to the insurance company. However, in a suretyship, the risk remains with the principal and the protection of the bond is designated for the obligee.
  • In traditional insurance, the insurance company assumes that part of the premium for the policy will be paid out in losses. Yet, in true suretyship, the premiums paid are "service fees" charged for the use of the surety company’s financial backing and guarantee.
  • In underwriting traditional insurance products, the goal is to "spread the risk,” while in a suretyship, surety professionals view their underwriting as a form of credit. Therefore, the emphasis is on the pre-qualification and selection process.

Government Regulations

Since 1893, the U. S. Government has required contractors on federal public works contracts to obtain surety bonds to guarantee that they will perform such contracts and pay certain labor and material bills. The current federal law on federal public works is known as the Miller Act. It requires performance and payment bonds for all public work contracts in excess of $100,000 and payment protection, with payment bonds the preferred method, for contracts in excess of $25,000. Almost all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and most local jurisdictions have enacted similar legislation requiring surety bonds on public works as well. These are generally referred to as "Little Miller Acts."
While surety bonds are mandated by law on public works projects to protect taxpayer dollars, the use of surety bonds on privately-owned construction projects is at the owner's discretion. Alternative forms of financial security, such as letters of credit and self-insurance, don't guarantee performance or payment protection of a surety bond or ensure that a contractor is competent. With a surety bond, the risks of project completion are shifted from the owner to the surety company. For that reason, many private owners require surety bonds from their contractors to protect their company and shareholders from the enormous cost of contractor failure. Subcontractors may be required to obtain bonds to help the prime contractor manage risk, particularly if the subcontractor is completing a significant part of the job or is a specialized contractor who is difficult to replace.


How Do Contractors Obtain a Surety Bond?

Surety bonds are issued through agents and brokers who are knowledgeable about the surety and construction industries. Surety bond agents and brokers usually work for companies that specialize in surety bonds or in insurance agencies that have a sub-specialty in surety bonds.

The professional surety bond agent or broker usually maintains a business relationship with several surety companies, which enables them to match a contractor with an appropriate surety company. Also, a solid surety company and producer will help a contractor maintain and increase its capacity.



Hazard Communication Program – For Your Protection - March 2017

Through the course of your job duties, you may be required to work with dangerous chemicals. [C_Officialname] is dedicated to ensuring your safety, so we have a Hazard Communication Program in place. The goal of this program is to make you aware of chemicals you may be in contact with on the job and to help you understand the potential hazards of those chemicals. This education is required by the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA). It is equally important to learn this information to keep customers safe in the event they are exposed to any hazardous chemicals.

Safety Data Sheets

One important key to a Hazard Communication Program is the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), which contains information broken down into 16 different categories. This sheet tells you everything you need to know about a specific chemical, including:

  • The health hazards associated with the chemical
  • How flammable the product is, and at what temperature it may ignite
  • The reactivity of the chemical with water or other agents and how likely it is to explode
  • What personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed to work with the chemical
  • Other important aspects of the Hazard Communication Program include:
  • Accurate labeling of containers that contain chemicals, including warning labels when applicable.
  • Ensuring that labels are not removed.
  • Employee training in accordance with your job duties relating to chemicals.

Important Questions to Ask

Through our Hazard Communication Program, every employee should learn the following information:

  • What chemicals might I handle or be exposed to on the job?
  • Where are the SDSs kept for the chemicals I am exposed to?
  • What kinds of hazards do I face when I use, or misuse, a particular chemical?
  • Do I understand the emergency procedures to follow in the event of a spill?

Though it is our goal to teach you the information you need, it is your responsibility to learn it and ask questions if necessary. You should follow all safety procedures when working around chemicals, keep in mind potential hazards and always wear appropriate PPE. You are also entitled to obtain a written copy of our Hazard Communication Program – simply ask your supervisor.

Achieving Safety Together

It may seem overwhelming to learn about all the chemicals you may handle or be exposed to, but it is important knowledge that all workers should have. Always be sure to ask questions or reference the appropriate SDS if you forget or have yet to learn about a certain chemical. Failing to do so could result in an extremely hazardous situation for you, your co-workers and our customers.

Machine Guards are for Your Protection - February 2017

Machine guards are made to protect you when working with dangerous equipment on the construction site. Unfortunately, many workers also view them as an inconvenience or an obstacle to the task at hand. Regardless, guards are for your protection, and using them properly is a safety requirement here at.

Guarding Against Hazards

Specifically, machine guards are used to protect against:

  • Direct contact with moving parts
  • Flying debris
  • Kickbacks
  • Splashing of metal or harmful liquids
  • Mechanical and electrical failures
  • Any number of potential human errors

While guards may often appear to be a hindrance, overall they have proven to be otherwise for both security and production. Greater machine speeds are made possible through proper guarding, as work does not have to stop due to injuries and employees can often work quicker knowing they have the proper protection in place to do so safely.

Types of Guards

Two types of guards are used to protect machine operators: fixed guards and interlocking guards. Fixed guards are most commonly used and are generally preferred because they protect you from dangerous parts of machines at all times. Interlocking guards are used if a fixed guard is not practical. This type will not allow the machine to operate until dangerous parts are guarded. The interlocking guard is designed to disconnect the source of power from the machine.

Safety devices such as pullbacks, sweeps and electronic devices are used where neither a fixed nor interlocking guard can be used satisfactorily. Safety devices are operated by the machine itself. Regardless of the type of guard or safety device used, all provide the operator with the greatest possible protection while using the machine in question.

Make Safety Your Priority

Of course, no guard can do the job without the cooperation of the person operating the machine. Machine guards are a part of our workplace, and using them properly is your responsibility as an employee. Please observe the following safety requirements:

  • Do not adjust or remove a guard unless permission is given by your supervisor or unless the adjustment is a normal and accepted part of your job.
  • Do not start machinery without the guards in place.
  • If guards are missing or defective, report it to your supervisor immediately.
  • If guards are removed for repair or adjustment, the power for the machine should be turned off and the main switch locked and tagged.
  • Loose clothing, watches, rings and other jewelry should not be worn around mechanical equipment, and long hair should be tied back.

Safety is our top priority at.  To accomplish this, we need the commitment of all employees to respect our safety rules and to use machine guards as intended, to keep everyone on the job site safe and productive. If you have any questions regarding guards or other safety issues, please ask your supervisor.

Jackhammer Safety - Practice caution to minimize your risks - December 2016

Jackhammers are one of the most dangerous types of hand tools because they can cause serious damage not only to your body from intense vibrations, but also to your hearing. On average, a worker operating a jackhammer is exposed to about 130 decibels of noise—that’s a little louder than a jet plane taking off and slightly quieter than firearms or an air raid siren.

In addition to damaging your hearing, jackhammer use also poses large risks to the hands and wrists. In fact, using a jackhammer frequently can quickly lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or Raynaud’s disease, also known as vibration white finger. Follow these tips for safe jackhammer operation.

Precautions Before Use

  • Read the instruction manual and receive the proper training before operating the machinery.
  • Inspect the equipment before use.
  • Ensure that the safety guards are properly in place and in good working order.
  • Make sure bits are sharp.
  • Inspect the compression hose lines.
  • For three-wire system electric models, ensure they are grounded properly to avoid a fire or shock.
  • For electrical models, use an extension cord large enough to accommodate the distance between the hammer and the receptacle tool.
  • For air models, fill the gas tank with the engine off.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, eye protection (goggles or safety glasses), ear protection (earplugs or ear muffs), non-slip gloves, a protective mask, helmet and steel-toed boots with non-slip soles.
  • Do not use a jackhammer in wet conditions.
  • Remove the chuck key before using.

Precautions During Use

  • Disconnect power or air supply prior to putting in or removing tools.
  • Lock tools before using.
  • Grip the tool just tight enough to maintain control, but allow the jackhammer to do the work.

Residential Construction Fall Protection Requirements - November 2016

Falls in residential construction are deadly and common. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 40 workers are killed each year as a result of falls from residential roofs—the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. These injuries and deaths are not only costly to your company due to claims and elevated insurance premiums, they are preventable. For this reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has explicitly stated that residential builders are not allowed to bypass fall protection requirements. 

Who is Involved?

All employers engaged in residential construction work are required to provide fall protection for workers working more than 6 feet above ground. Residential construction includes the following elements:

  • The end use of the structure being built is a home or a dwelling.
  • The structure is built using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods. Limited use of structural steel does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.

Any employer involved in residential construction is required to comply with OSHA regulations regarding fall protection systems. This means employees working 6 feet or more above lower levels must use one of the following safety systems:

  • Guardrails and safety nets
  • Personal fall arrest systems, an example of which being a full body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard and an anchor point.

Certain types of work specified under other OSHA provisions warrant alternative fall protection measures.

What if Fall Protection is Infeasible?

When the use of conventional fall protection methods is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, employers must create a written, site-specific fall protection plan that documents why these methods are infeasible and why they would create a greater hazard. 

Contact Us

At CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc., we have a variety of materials for you to ensure compliance and promote a safe workplace, which are essential components of any construction risk management program.

Erionite—An Emerging Hazard - October 2016

Erionite is a naturally occurring mineral that belongs to a group of silicate minerals called zeolites. Like naturally occurring asbestos, deposits are present in many Western states and can occur in a fibrous form. Disturbance of this material can generate airborne fibers with physical properties and health effects similar to asbestos.

Until recently, erionite was not generally considered to be a potential hazard in North America, in part because relatively little risk for exposure was seen. However, evidence has slowly accumulated that links exposure to erionite with serious adverse health effects in North America, and suggests that some workers may have a greater potential for exposure than previously recognized.

Risk and Regulation

There are no regulatory or consensus standards or occupational exposure limits (OEL) for airborne erionite fibers. Development of a quantitative OEL depends on the development of a standardized, validated exposure assessment method and a quantitative evaluation of the risks associated with given exposures. Still, The National Toxicology Program has designated erionite to be a known human carcinogen.

Little is known about exposures currently experienced by US workers. However, erionite-related disease has most often been reported in road construction and maintenance workers with potential occupational exposures to erionite-containing gravel used in road surfacing. Although it is reasonable to be concerned, erionite-related clinical disease has not yet been reported in other US workers engaged in activities that might crush erionite-containing rock or stir up dust in soils/gravel that contain erionite.

Erionite fibers only pose a hazard if they are disturbed and become airborne, and control recommendations should focus on reducing the potential for exposure to airborne erionite fibers. Activity-based breathing zone air sampling has confirmed that when gravels containing erionite are disturbed, erionite fibers can become airborne. The intensity of these exposures may vary due to a number of factors, including the weather conditions (e.g., damp vs. dry, windy vs. calm), the intensity with which erionite-containing materials are disturbed and the concentration of erionite in the gravels being disturbed. However, bulk gravel erionite concentrations alone are not a reliable predictor of air concentrations, as disturbance of gravels containing erionite in "trace" amounts (less than 0.2%) can sometimes result in relatively high airborne fiber concentrations.

Control Measures

This data supports the need to implement precautions to protect workers by limiting the generation and inhalation of dust known or thought to be contaminated with erionite. A reasonable approach based on current

information would be to take precautions such as those described in existing guidance for working with asbestos, 29 CFR 1910.1001. Existing recommendations for working in areas with naturally occurring asbestos may be particularly relevant to reducing outdoor occupational erionite exposures.

Risk reduction recommendations to limit erionite exposures of workers who engage in activities that disturb erionite-containing gravel/soil or crush rocks that contain erionite can include the following:

  • Train workers about the potential hazards of erionite and control methods for reducing the potential for exposure
  • Know where erionite-containing material is present and will be encountered prior to beginning any work
  • Avoid the use of erionite containing aggregate whenever possible
  • Use wet methods to reduce dust generation for road and other work such as in quarries where erionite is present (e.g., when drilling rock, apply water through the drill stem to reduce airborne dust, or use a drill with a dust collection system)
  • Limit the number of workers who will be engaged in work with erionite
  • Establish decontamination protocols including a change of clothing, showering before leaving the worksite and appropriate cleaning/disposal of personal protective equipment
  • Ensure that work clothing is not washed at home to prevent erionite fibers from being brought home on work clothes and boots
  • Prohibit dry sweeping, the use of leaf blowers, or the use of compressed air for cleaning
  • Protect employees with personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection. An occupational safety and health professional should be consulted for specific guidance about the most appropriate personal protective equipment that should be used for the work being conducted.
  • Prohibit eating, drinking, or smoking in dusty work areas where erionite fibers may be airborne. Workers should move away from the work area for breaks and wash their hands and face before eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • Establish protocols for vehicle use on erionite containing roads (e.g., drive slowly, close vents and roll windows up)
  • Wet wash equipment and vehicle exteriors, and wet clean or use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum vehicle interiors.
  • Follow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) procedures for proper dispose of waste and debris that contains erionite.
  • Limit bystander exposure by preventing visitors and coworkers from standing in work areas where erionite fibers may become airborne.

Although much remains to be learned about erionite in the US, airborne occupational erionite fiber exposures should be considered at least as hazardous as asbestos fiber exposures and similar preventive measures should be used. Contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. to keep your workers safe from erionite exposure and other risks on the work site

Welding and Cutting at the Work Site - September 2016

Welding and cutting tasks are dangerous, especially when working on a construction site. As your surroundings are constantly changing, it is important to keep safety top of mind. 

Prevention and Protection

To avoid injuries on the job, consider these safety recommendations:

  • Always check for fire hazards before you start welding. Wood, paper and other flammable materials should be removed from the area. Flammable liquids should be removed as well. Never weld or cut in areas with a lot of trees or dry grasses.
  • Clean away any debris on the floor or ground before welding over it. Then cover the ground or floor with metal or some other material that will not burn. It may also be a good idea to wet the floor or ground, though this can cause an added shock hazard. Guard against these hazards as necessary.
  • Seal cracks so that sparks or slag cannot fall through them, and never allow these hot materials to fall into machine pits.
  • If you must weld near combustible materials, a fire extinguisher, pail of water, fire hose or a pail of sand should be at hand. It may be necessary to have a worker stand by with a fire extinguisher to put out sparks as well.
  • If you are welding or cutting a tank or drum containing flammable liquids or gas, do not start your operation until an approved test shows that there is no dangerous vapor present. Do not rely on another employee’s word that the tank or drum was tested previously; insist on a new test before you start your work.
  • If you’re working in a confined space at the worksite, make sure your work area is properly ventilated. Many welding and cutting operations produce fumes that are harmful in heavy concentrations, and good ventilation is one of the best methods of protecting yourself against this hazard. Utilize special ventilating equipment, if necessary.
  • Wear face and eye protection such as goggles and a helmet to protect against hazards. Workers dealing with metal, chipping and cleaning should always have their helmets lowered to prevent throw particles of metal from coming into the eyes. Eye protection, such as goggles, are worn to protect against sparks, slag and molten metal, and flash burns caused by radiation from the welding equipment.

Safety First

Make safety a top priority as you weld and cut. Taking these precautions seriously will lower your risk of occupational injuries, which will make your job much more safe and enjoyable.

Safety Tips for Dealing with Lead - August 2016

Lead is a toxic substance that builds up in the body, posing serious health risks to those exposed to it. When you work with lead, it accumulates on your clothing and skin in the form of dust. It can be inhaled or ingested, and can damage the lungs, kidneys, nervous system, intestines and reproductive system. There is no cure for lead poisoning.

How Might I Be Exposed?

Lead can be found in the paint and pipes of buildings built before 1978. During activities such as demolition, window replacement or opening up walls, dangerous amounts of built-up lead dust can be released, putting you at risk of exposure.

In order to do work on houses that contain lead-based paint, our firm has been certified. This means we are expected to uphold certain standards to protect you and the occupants of the building. Study the following work practices that minimize the risk of lead poisoning.

Contain the Work Area

Contain your work area to keep occupants out and to be sure that other areas of the building are not contaminated with lead dust.

  • Create a sealed air lock at the entrance to the area in which you are working, and at the vents and heating ducts.
  • Remove everything, including furniture, from the work area. If an item is too large to move, cover it with heavy plastic sheeting secured with tape.
  • Cover floors with heavy plastic sheeting.
  • Cover doors with two layers of protective sheeting: one with a vertical slit, and one overlapping layer hung from the top of the doorframe.

Protect Yourself

Without the right protective equipment, you may ingest or inhale lead or risk bringing it home to your family. Always wear the following equipment:

  • Safety goggles
  • Disposable protective coveralls
  • Disposable shoe covers
  • Gloves
  • Painter’s hat
  • Properly fitting HEPA respirator

Thoroughly wash your hands and face whenever you stop to eat, drink, smoke or use tobacco. Carefully remove all clothing and launder it separately before returning home.

Minimize the Dust

  • Use wet sanders or misters to keep down dust from sanding and drilling. 
  • Use HEPA vacuum attachments when you are able.
  • When a heat gun is necessary, use a low temperature setting. 
  • Pry and pull apart components instead of pounding and hammering.
  • Never use open-flame burning or torching of lead-based paint, and never use high-speed sanders or grinders without HEPA exhaust control.

Leave the Work Area Clean

Clean the entire area using the following methods each day, throughout the day.

  • Wet sweep and wet mop your work area each day, changing the mop water frequently. Strain out debris from the mop water and dispose of them.
  • Vacuum the walls, tops of doors and windows and the plastic barrier to the work area daily. Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • Dispose of your personal protective equipment or place it in a separate laundry container or plastic bag.
  • Continue to keep the work area completely separate from the rest of the building.

Tips for Teens in Construction - July 2016

The construction industry ranks third in the number of work-related youth fatalities, but you can help lessen or even eliminate this statistic by paying attention to all safety guidelines.

The Basics

  • If you are younger than15, you cannot work on construction sites by law.
  • Make sure you have clear instructions on each and every task. If you do not understand, ask someone before beginning.
  • Never perform a task you have not previously been trained to do.
  • Trust your instincts about dangerous situations.
  • Never work alone.
  • Make sure your personal protective equipment (PPE) is properly sized.
  • Always work under proper supervision.
  • Stay sober and drug-free.
  • Try to familiarize yourself with the federal and state youth employment laws; a good resource is the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov)

Prohibited Jobs

Certain jobs are declared hazardous by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and are therefore prohibited for youth under age 18. Specifically relevant for construction workers are:

  • Driving a motor vehicle
  • Operating power-driven woodworking machines (including drills and nail guns)
  • Operating forklifts, cranes, hoists or elevators
  • Operating power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears
  • Wrecking, demolition and shipbreaking operations
  • Roofing operations
  • Excavation operations

Know the Hazards

There are six main hazards you need to be aware of in the construction industry:

  • Machines and tools – Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe injuries. Any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. Teens under age 18 should not be using this equipment, but it is important to be aware of the dangers regardless.
  • Confined spaces – There are many instances in which workers must squeeze in and out of narrow openings and perform tasks while cramped or contorted. Suffocation is a main concern when doing these jobs.
  • Electrocution – Overhead power lines are a main concern when working in construction. They carry tens of thousands of volts of electricity. Certain equipment (such as aluminum paint rollers or metal ladders) conducts electricity and can be fatal.
  • Falls – Falling is the most common cause of death for construction workers. Fall protection is vital when working at heights above six feet.
  • “Struck-by” – The second most common cause of death is being struck by an object or vehicle. It is important to pay close attention to alarms and horns when on the job.
  • “Caught-between” – Be sure to stay alert when working around any large objects that might move. Being crushed is a scary but very real hazard on a construction site.

Before beginning any job, make sure that you understand the proper safety procedures and policies on the job site. Your supervisor can answer any questions you may have. Safety should always be your top concern.

Top Four Construction Hazards - June 2016

Do you knows the risks?

You’re good at your job and you love what you do. However, every time you come to work, you risk suffering an injury. The construction site is one of the most hazardous workplaces, and many of the injuries that occur there are caused by these top four hazards: falls, struck-by, caught-in/between and electrocutions.

When you have sufficient knowledge, preventing accidents caused by these hazards is easier than you might think. Here are some basic safety tips to keep you injury-free.

Preventing Falls

  • Wear and use fall arrest equipment.
  • Install and maintain perimeter protection.
  • Cover and secure all floor openings and label floor opening covers.
  • Use ladders and scaffolds safely.

Preventing Struck-bys

  • Never position yourself between moving and fixed objects.
  • Wear high-visibility clothes near equipment and vehicles so that others can see you clearly.

Preventing Caught-in-between Hazards

  • Never enter an unprotected trench or excavation that is five feet or deeper without an adequate protective system in place. (Note: some trenches that are less than five feet may need a similar system as well.)
  • Make sure that a trench or excavation is protected either by sloping, shoring, benching or a trench shield system.

Preventing Electrocutions

  • Locate and identify utilities before starting work for the day.
  • Look for overhead power lines when operating any equipment.
  • Maintain a safe distance away from power lines and learn your area’s distance requirements.
  • Do not operate portable electric tools unless they are grounded or double-insulated.
  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection.
  • Be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.

Reducing Falls While Installing Tile Roofs - May 2016


When workers install tile roofs, they are at risk of falling. Using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) is the most common way to control falls during residential construction. But these systems are not the only way to protect a worker—there are other options.

Risks While Installing Tile Roofs

Roofers installing tiles risk permanent injury or death from falls. Even experienced roofers are exposed to unpredictable fall hazards caused by uneven sheathing, sudden gusts of wind, loose roofing materials and surfaces that become slick when wet. Taking appropriate fall protection measures can reduce risks and save lives.

Employers must provide a training program for each worker who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program must enable each worker to recognize the hazards of falling, and must train each worker in the procedures to follow to minimize these hazards. For fall protection training requirements, refer to 29 CFR 1926.503. In all cases, employers must evaluate the hazards and take measures to reduce the risk of falls.

Reducing Risks While Installing Tiles

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

Communicating Your Needs

The contractor that is building and sheathing the roof structure will need fall protection equipment for workers performing these jobs. At a pre-construction meeting, or at the first meeting on the worksite, ask the building contractor to leave roof anchors or other fall protection equipment in place after sheathing is completed.

Using the Right Equipment

Roofers must use fall protection equipment that meets OSHA requirements whenever they work 6 feet or more above a lower level. States with OSHA-approved state plans may have additional requirements beyond OSHA requirements. Depending on the tasks involved, where the work is taking place and other circumstances specific to tile roofing, contractors may be able to protect their workers using the following equipment:

  • Scaffolds
  • Aerial lifts
  • PFAS
  • Guardrails

Preparing the Worksite

Safeguarding against hazards is as important to preventing fatal falls as having good fall protection equipment. When work begins on a roof, employers must prepare the site by protecting workers from the following hazards that could cause them to fall.

  • Wet or windy weather: Roofing should only be performed when weather permits. Wind and rain put workers at a greater risk for falling. In damp or windy weather, put work on hold until conditions improve.
  • Skylights and openings: Every year, workers die from falling through openings and weak surfaces on roofs. Employers must use covers, PFAS or guardrails to protect employees working around skylights and roof openings.
  • Accessing the roof: Employers must provide safe roof access and make sure that workers know how to get up and down from a roof in a way that minimizes the risk of falling. Extension ladders must extend at least 3 feet above the roof level to ensure safe access to the roof. For other requirements on the safe use of ladders, refer to 29 CFR 1926 Subpart X—Stairways and Ladders.
  • Staging materials: Employers must put all working materials in safe spots. Loose tiles and hand-held equipment create tripping hazards. Workers can fall after tripping or slipping on something they did not see. While walking on the roof and carrying materials, the worker should keep the materials on the down-sloped edge to prevent the materials from falling into him- or herself if the materials are dropped.
  • Performing edgework: When installing the first rows of tile near the roof edge, workers have several fall protection options. In addition to a PFAS, scaffolds and aerial lifts can provide safe access to the edge:

   o     Scaffolds: When properly constructed and used, external scaffolds can provide suitable protection for roof repairs along the edge of the roof. Pump-jack scaffolds offer a secure platform from which to work and can be raised and lowered for specific tasks, such as working from underneath the eaves. Guardrails along the scaffold will provide fall protection. For other requirements for scaffolds, refer to 29 CFR 1926 Subpart L—Scaffolds.

   o   Aerial lifts: A portable boom lift can allow roofers easy access to the leading edge of the roof. The adjustable angle is useful for working on roofs of all grades. It offers an easy place for workers to tie off their lifelines and to work from within the basket. Care must be taken when loading material. Do not let workers overload the lift. For other requirements for lifts, refer to 29 CFR 1926.453—Aerial Lifts.

Fall Protection Methods

There are many methods available to protect workers from falls, but the method used should be determined by the unique characteristics of each job site.


A PFAS is a tool available to roofers during installation jobs, and is the system of choice for many roofers. However, a breakdown in any component of a PFAS could be disastrous for a worker.

The system includes three major components:

  1. An anchorage to which the other components of the PFAS are rigged
  2. A full body harness worn by the worker
  3. A connector, such as a lanyard or lifeline, linking the harness to the anchorage. A rip-stitch lanyard, or deceleration device, is typically a part of the system.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on selecting, installing and using PFAS components correctly. Some PFASs include special elevated anchor assemblies that permit the system to protect workers even when they stand near the anchor locations. Certain anchorage assemblies rotate or offer extension arms to improve mobility and prevent lifelines from contacting the roof surface. This is particularly useful during roof demolition when a line could catch on a nail or debris.

For more information on the requirements for a PFAS, refer to 29 CFR 1926.502(d).

Remember that workers must use full-body harnesses in fall arrest systems. Body belts can cause serious injury during a fall, and OSHA prohibits their use as part of fall arrest systems.

Attaching Anchors

When working in an area where a scaffold or aerial lift is not practical, workers can use a PFAS with a secure anchor. OSHA requires that anchors for a PFAS be able to hold at least 5,000 pounds of weight per person, or maintain a safety factor of at least two (twice the impact load) under the supervision of a qualified person [29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15)]. Anchors must not be attached to sheathing alone, since it may not be strong enough to hold the sudden weight of a falling worker. Anchors should be fixed to a strong structural feature (like a sheathed truss). Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a qualified person when installing anchors. When choosing an anchor to use for fall protection, employers have a number of options, including the following:

  • Peak anchor: At the top of the roof, peak anchors are typically solid, nonmoving pieces secured by the anchor to the trusses underneath.
  • Permanent D-rings: Inexpensive D-ring anchors are attached to the truss frame; they are often removed after the job is done, although they can be left permanently on the roof.

When installing an anchor above the area being built, choose an anchor that is appropriate for the tile type and anchor location. Depending on the roof design, the best location might be at the peak of the roof, directly over a truss.

Otherwise, where practical, consider leaving anchors in place. It will make the current job simpler and reduce the burden for roofers in the future. Roofing is not always the last step in the construction process. Skylight windows and solar panels might be installed later during construction. Workers installing those units will also need fall protection anchors.

Written Fall Protection Plans

When working at heights of 6 feet or greater, if the employer does not use ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts or fall restraint systems and can demonstrate that it is not feasible or would create a greater hazard to use conventional fall protection equipment (guardrails, safety nets or PFAS), the employer must develop a written site-specific fall protection plan in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.502(k). The plan must be prepared by a qualified person. This person could be the owner, the supervisor or any other worker who has extensive knowledge, training and experience with fall protection and is able to solve problems relating to fall protection.

The site-specific fall protection plan must document, for each location, why the use of conventional fall protection equipment is not feasible or will create a greater hazard. The plan must also describe the alternative methods that the employer will use so that workers are protected from falls. Workers and their supervisors must be trained on the proper use of those other fall protection methods.

Conventional fall protection equipment can reduce or eliminate the chances of a fatal fall. Otherwise, a written site-specific fall protection plan ensures that protection continues, even when conventional fall protection methods are determined to be unfeasible.

Contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. today to learn more about protecting your construction workers from falls.

Avoid Electrical Shock - April 2016

As you go about your work tasks that involve portable electric tools, you may not give much thought about the hazards electricity can pose. That is why it is so important to take the proper safety precautions at all times.

Causes of Shocks

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electricity travels in closed circuits, normally through a conductor. However, sometimes a person’s body – an efficient conductor of electricity – mistakenly becomes part of the electric circuit. Shocks occur when a person’s body completes the current path with:

•  Both wires of an electric circuit;

•  One wire of an energized circuit and the ground;

•  A metal part that accidentally becomes energized (such as a break in its insulation); or

•  Another “conductor” that is carrying a current.

When a person receives a shock, electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to the ground.

Inspect Your Tools

Accidental grounding is one of the most common preventable incidents occurring when working with electricity. One way to avoid this is by always examining your tools for these conditions:

•  Defective or broken insulation

•  Improper or poorly made connections to terminals

•  Broken or otherwise defective plugs

•  Loose or broken switches

•  Sparking brushes

If any of these conditions exist, have the tool repaired before using it, report it to your supervisor and above all, do not use it!

Additional Safety Rules

•  Do not attempt to repair or adjust portable electric tools while they are plugged in.

•  Do not use portable electric tools in the presence of flammable vapors or gases, unless they are designed for such use.

•  Always use the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job, even if it may seem unnecessary.

•  Maintain tools regularly.

•  When using a tool to handle energized conductors, check to make sure it is designed to withstand the voltage and stresses to which it has been exposed.

•  Ensure your portable tool is equipped with a three-prong plug, the best way to guard against shock.

If you or a co-worker does receive a shock, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Even if the victim does not exhibit signs of injury or stress, internal injuries may have resulted from the shock. Low voltage shocks can actually be fatal.

Knowing how to work safely with portable electric tools can save your life. Stay alert on the job, always check equipment prior to use and do not take any unnecessary chances.

Your Multicultural Workforce - March 2016

Diverse employee populations are becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s workforce. Though such diversity is positive in many ways, it can also create problems. Differences in culture and language may create tension among your employees or communication difficulties on the job site. Minorities may feel unwelcome or misunderstood and may perceive a strained relationship with site foremen or the company. It is essential that you address these issues proactively to ensure all your employees have a positive working environment.

Learn About Your Workers

Make the worksite a welcoming environment for all employees by keeping an open mind, learning about your employees and avoiding over-generalizations.

• Understand that diversity exists. When gathering information about the ethnic and cultural makeup of their workforce, many employers are surprised to learn the number of identifiable culture groups and subgroups within their company. Each of these groups may gather and process information differently, and they may have different needs and expectations from their employer.

• Learn about different employee groups. Research the various cultures and ethnicities represented in your company to gain a better understanding of each group. Also, keep in mind that any females you employ represent a minority in your typically male-dominated profession. Though research is a start, the best source for information is your employees themselves – ask them about their values, preferred communication methods and how your workplace could better fit their needs.

• Don’t generalize. While it is true that certain characteristics or preferences can be common among a gender, ethnic or racial group, you should never assume that all employees of one group feel the same. It is important to learn about broad cultural differences, but always think of employees as individuals with unique feelings and needs.


Employers often make mistakes when communicating with bilingual employees without even realizing it. You may assume that since your workers have an English vocabulary sufficient for them to function on a daily basis that communicating everything in English is adequate. However, for many workers, English is a second language, and they still feel more comfortable communicating in their native tongue. This is especially true when it comes to safety rules, company policies, HR forms and other essential and potentially confusing information.

One way to solve this problem is to use bilingual forms of communication (whether written or spoken) when providing health and safety information. Also, be sure to post federal and state compliance posters in the language in which your employees are fluent – in some states, this is required, so check your local regulations.

Communication may prove to be a problem on your job site. If you have bilingual employees, make sure you have someone who can fluently translate back and forth if needed, and encourage all workers to be patient if problems arise with the language barrier.

Encourage Acceptance

A multicultural workforce can cause tensions among employees. This may be due to underlying prejudices, discomfort or unfamiliarity with other ethnic groups or displeasure with changing established policies and procedures. In order for everyone to have a comfortable and pleasant working environment, you need to address these issues.

Create company-wide nondiscriminatory policies, and distribute them to all employees. Emphasize that the company is committed to a diverse, inclusive workforce and prejudiced or discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated. You may also want to implement mentoring or shadowing programs to help new employees feel welcome and help all employees feel comfortable with others.

To open employees’ minds to other cultures and raise their self-awareness, consider providing diversity training or learning seminars for your staff. Open or semi-directed dialogues among employees can be useful for breaking down barriers, fostering respect and understanding, and helping employees feel comfortable despite their differences. Planning company social events, including picnics, outings, parties and clubs, can also be beneficial in bringing employees together and providing laid-back opportunities to get to know each other.

Train Your Site Foremen

Site foremen should be trained on communicating effectively with workers of other cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  Not only do foremen play an important role in verbally communicating information, but their non-verbal actions can also have a big impact.

Foremen should be careful to always display the same attitude toward all workers regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Any difference in mood or attitude, whether real or perceived, can make a minority group feel isolated or unimportant and expose the company to unnecessary risks. It is crucial that foremen avoid becoming irritated or impatient when a minority employee needs extra help or is confused by something. This type of response can cause non-English speaking employees to avoid asking safety questions out of fear of further agitating an impatient or already aggravated supervisor. Plus, the company becomes vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit if the employees feel they are being treated differently because of their minority status.

Recommend the following tips to site leaders:

1. Treat all employees equally, despite any language barriers.

2. Don’t make patronizing comments about a specific group of employees, even if you think they are complimentary. Not only will you risk insulting your employees, but you also open the door to discrimination lawsuits.

3. Don't overcompensate any specific group of employees with the belief that the extra money will alleviate communication barriers. This type of activity will ultimately alienate other members of the workforce, and it is a very discriminatory practice.

4. Be patient with workers who may have a hard time understanding the English language or who struggle to adapt to certain communication methods or working styles.

Hiring Practices

If your company has a diverse workforce, you might want to include a multicultural aspect in your hiring considerations. Hiring site foremen with multicultural management expertise or workers that have previous exposure to multicultural work settings can help you bridge any communication or personal gaps among your workers.

A Simple Approach

While there are many resources available that can help employers develop, promote and value a multiethnic or multicultural workforce, it really all comes down to four simple actions. By encouraging the following, you will be well on your way to creating a more welcoming environment for all of your employees:

1. Work to understand all your employees and their unique needs so the workplace is comfortable and accessible for everyone.

2. Promote open and honest communication within the company between employers and employees.

3. Encourage acceptance and respect among all employees.

4. Establish a commitment from top management to promote and support diversity and equal opportunity as a core value of the organization.

Builder’s Risk Coverage: Understanding the Policy Period - February 2016

Construction projects, regardless of their size, can present complex insurance issues. Are you confused about your exposures and policy options? If so, it’s no surprise—there are no standard builder’s risk policy forms covering these types of risks. To help you limit your exposure, here are some helpful builder’s risk policy basics.

The Basics

Builder’s Risk coverage is a type of property insurance specifically designed to cover property during the course of construction, including renovation and repair. Why do you need it? There are additional risks and responsibilities inherent in this type of work that a typical property policy is not designed to cover. For example, if someone steals contractors’ equipment from the job site or if construction materials are damaged, you could be liable for the loss if you do not have builder’s risk coverage.

Typically the coverage is purchased by either the property owner or contractor. Regardless who purchases the coverage, all parties that have property involved in the project should be named in the policy. This may include the owner, contractor, subcontractors, the financial institution funding the project, and, in some cases, the architects and engineers. Once the project is completed and/or accepted by the owner, your regular property policy kicks in.

Since builder’s risk coverage only deals with the property, it does not include coverage for worksite injuries or design/construction defects. For any mishaps that occur on the job, you should rely on liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies for coverage.

Policy Period

When purchasing builder’s risk coverage, one of the issues often overlooked is the policy period—it may not be clear when the coverage begins and ends. As a result, keep the following in mind:

Commencement of Coverage: Builder’s Risk policies provide coverage for property in the course of construction, renovation or repair. But at what point does construction renovation or repair begin?

  • Typically, contracts require that insurance be provided for the duration of the contract period. This means that the policy inception date would be the date the contracts are signed.
  • The lender may also specify the inception date.
  • However, be sure to review insurance policy provisions to determine whether there are restrictions on when coverage begins. Policies may contain clauses that state coverage begins when construction commences or that the insurance company will pay for losses at the time you become legally responsible for the covered property, either on or after the effective date. Prior to any site preparation, demolition, or delivery of materials or equipment, review the policy to ensure there are no restrictions on coverage inception.

Coverage Expiration: Determining when coverage terminates can be equally problematic. Builder’s Risk policies can contain provisions that terminate coverage prior to policy expiration. The provisions typically state that coverage will end at the earliest of the following:

  • The policy expires or is cancelled
  • The property is accepted by the purchaser
  • Your interest in the property ceases
  • You abandon the construction with no intention of completing it
  • Unless specified otherwise in writing:

  o  90 days after construction is complete

  o  60 days after construction is complete and building described in the declaration is occupied in whole or in part, or put to its intended use

Problems and Solutions

There are some limitations to builder’s risk coverage, but none that don’t have a simple solution:

  • There is no coverage under the policy if the building is occupied to any extent, for over 60 days, without written consent of the insurance company.
  • The policy only provides coverage for up to 90 days after the completion of construction. In the case where the building is completed only two days before policy expiration, there are only two days of coverage available. There are 90 days of coverage available after completion only if there are at least 90 days remaining in the policy period.
  • Coverage issues can arise at the end of a project, after construction is complete and the structure is occupied, but a "punch list" and final completion work remains.

Here are strategies to understand the extent of your coverage:

  • Understand the insurance coverage obligations of the project documents and contracts to ensure the policy period, at a minimum, fulfills the requirements.
  • Understand the terms and conditions of the policy and what triggers the coverage to commence and cease.
  • When coverage ends make sure permanent coverage is in place so no gaps in coverage exist.

Careful planning is the foundation for a smooth construction project, which includes the right exposure coverages. Many businesses choose to transfer or accept risk through contracts, purchase orders and lease agreements. However, not all contracts or endorsements are created equal. An agent who understands your business can knowledgeably help you with builder’s risk policy language to meet your individual needs. Call us today at (619) 297-3160 to learn more about contractual risk transfer and its place in your overall risk management program.

What You Need to Know about the HAZWOPER Standard - January 2016

Following the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) requirements and regulations not only protects the health and safety of your employees, but it also saves you from expensive litigation you could face if you accidentally expose the outside environment and nearby residents to the potentially hazardous toxins on the worksite.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) all have input on HAZWOPER’s regulations because of the widespread effect hazardous waste has on the population as a whole, not just the industries’ workforces. This document will help you understand the basic requirements of HAZWOPER and determine whether you are in compliance. For a complete list of HAZWOPER requirements or to read the standard in its entirety, visit www.OSHA.gov and search HAZWOPER (Standard 29 CFR 1910.120).

Who Needs to Comply?

HAZWOPER applies to the following types of operations, unless the employer can demonstrate that the operation does not involve the reasonable possibility of employee exposure to safety or health hazards:

  • Cleanup operations required by a government body (federal, state or local) involving hazardous substances conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Corrective actions involving cleanup operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Voluntary cleanup operations at sites recognized by government bodies (federal, state or local) as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Operations involving hazardous waste conducted at treatment, storage or disposal facilities


Following the HAZWOPER standard not only protects the health and safety of your employees, but can also save you from expensive litigation.


What qualifies as an emergency under HAZWOPER can vary, and you should consider the nature of your operation and the extent of your employees’ training. For example, small acid spills by a firm that routinely handles acids would not be an emergency; however, the same situation might be considered an immediate hazard on a site where employees have less training, equipment or experience. In the event that employees are in the following situations, the HAZWOPER standard would apply:

  • Presence of high concentrations of toxic substances
  • Any situation involving hazardous substances that is life- or injury-threatening
  • Environments that present imminent danger to life and health (IDLH situations)
  • Accidents that present an oxygen-deficient atmosphere
  • Conditions that pose a fire or explosion hazard
  • Any situation that requires the evacuation of an area or that requires immediate attention because of the danger posed to employees in that area


This standard provides specific safety regulations, emergency procedures and training guidelines for employers to follow at worksites that handle hazardous waste or who have the potential for accidental release of dangerous chemical substances. HAZWOPER’s main goal is to get employers to think about how they would handle a spill before it occurs.

HAZWOPER sets five basic training levels related to chemical emergency response, and training requirements for these five groups vary depending on how closely they work with the hazardous material spill. All training must be completed upon hiring for any employee that is expected to participate in emergency response.

1. First Responder Awareness Level — individuals likely to witness a hazardous substance release and whose only responsibility would be notifying the proper authorities. Must have sufficient training to demonstrate:

  • Understanding of what hazardous substances are and the risks associated with them in an incident
  • Understanding of the potential outcomes associated with a hazardous substance emergency
  • The ability to recognize the presence of hazardous substances
  • The ability to identify the hazardous substances, if possible
  • The ability to realize the need for additional resources and make appropriate notifications
2. First Responder Operations Level — individuals who respond to releases of hazardous substances for the purpose of protecting nearby people, property or environment from damage. They should respond defensively by containing the release and keeping it from spreading. Must have eight hours of training or sufficient experience to demonstrate:
  • Knowledge of hazard and risk assessment
  • Knowledge of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use
  • Knowledge of basic control, containment and/or confinement operations
  • Understanding of standard operating procedures
3. Hazardous Materials Technician — individuals who respond to releases with the purpose of actively and aggressively stopping it. They will attempt to plug, patch or otherwise stop the hazardous substance release. Must have at least 24 hours training, all the first responder operations knowledge and:
  • Knowledge of how to implement the employer’s emergency response plan
  • Ability to classify, identify and verify known and unknown materials by using survey equipment
  • Knowledge of how to select and use specialized chemical PPE
  • Have the ability to perform advanced control, containment and/or confinement operations with the resources and PPE availableKnowledge of basic chemical and toxicological terminology and behavior
4. Hazardous Materials Specialist — individuals who respond with and provide support to hazardous material technicians, but with more specific knowledge of various hazardous substances. Also acts as the site liaison with government authorities. Must have 24 hours of training, all technician-level knowledge and employer-certified knowledge on: 
  • The local, state and federal emergency response plan
  • Classification, identification and verification of known and unknown materials using advanced survey equipment
  • The implementation of decontamination procedures
  • Advanced chemical, radiological and toxicological terminology and behavior
5. On-Scene Incident Commander — individuals who assume control of the incident site. Must have 24 hours of training and employer-certified competency in the following areas:
  •  Ability to implement the employer’s incident command system
  • Ability to implement the employer’s emergency response plan and the local/state/federal emergency response plan
  • Understanding of the hazards and risks associated with employees working in chemical protective clothing
  • Understanding of the importance of decontamination procedures

Some important notes on training regulations in the HAZWOPER standard are that measurements of a qualified trainer can be met by academic degrees, completed training courses and/or work experience. Also, HAZWOPER specifically addresses the use of video or online training to satisfy requirements, saying that computer-based systems are an incomplete solution and must be supplemented.

HAZWOPER Emergency Response Plan

Another important section of the HAZWOPER section you should take note of is the need for an emergency response plan with regard to hazardous substance releases. HAZWOPER gives the following guidelines for employers’ emergency response plans, saying it should at least include the following:

  • Pre-emergency planning
  • Personnel roles, lines of authority, training and communication standards
  • Emergency recognition and prevention
  • List of safe distances and places of refuge
  • Site security and control standards
  • Evacuation routes and procedures
  • Decontamination procedures
  • Emergency medical treatment and first aid procedures
  • Emergency alerting and response procedures
  • Critiques and follow-ups on previous emergency response situations

For more information on how you can further implement HAZWOPER loss control methods, contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc..


The Davis-Bacon Act - December 2015

Whether it’s the construction of a new highway interchange or the renovation of an old municipal building, government funded projects can be very desirable to contractors. But before you begin work there are some special regulations that you will need to be aware of to ensure that your project runs smoothly.

The Davis-Bacon Act covers all contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded or assisted contracts over $2,000. It applies to all construction, altercation or repair of public buildings or works. The Act requires that contractors pay their laborers and mechanics working on the project at least the local prevailing wage and fringe benefits received by those doing similar work in the area.

Local Prevailing Wage

To determine the prevailing wage rates the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) conducts surveys in the individual counties of each state every three years. The surveys target a random sampling of contractors in four classes of construction: building, heavy, highway and residential. For each location and construction type the survey finds the average wage and fringe benefits paid to various classes of laborers that are usually involved in construction projects.

When the survey results are compiled. The average wage and benefits becomes the minimum wage and benefits that contractors must provide to their employees while working on government-funded projects.

Who Receives Davis-Bacon Wages?

The Act states that “laborers and mechanics” on the “site of work” must be paid at the local prevailing wage. Understanding what is meant by these terms is essential to staying in compliance with the Act.



The Davis-Bacon Act provides regulated minimum wage and benefit rates to all laborers and mechanics working on federally funded or assisted contracts.



According to the Act, laborers and mechanics are anyone “whose duties are manual or physical in nature (including those workers who use tools or who are performing the work of a trade), as distinguished from mental or managerial” work. This definition also includes any apprentices, trainees or helpers and, in the cases when they are needed, site security guards or watchmen. Those not included as laborers or mechanics are those whose tasks are primarily administrative, executive or clerical.

Working foremen that spend at least 20 percent of their time each week performing mechanical or manual duties are considered laborers for the time they spend doing such work. The rest of the time they are considered to be in an administrative position and not subject to the Act’s payment requirements.

Those who fit the definition of laborers and mechanics fall under the Act when performing duties on the “site of work.” The Act defines this as “the physical place or 

places where the building or work called for in the contract will remain; and any other site where a significant portion of the building or work is constructed, provided that such site is established specifically for the performance of the contract or project.” This means that the provisions of the Act are only in effect when the applicable workers are on the primary location of the construction or any other site that was created especially to aid with the construction at the primary site. If work is done at a location that does not fall under this definition of a “site of work,” then the Act does not apply.


Employees who are covered by the Act must be paid weekly. To ensure they adhere to the requirements of the Act employers must keep and submit weekly, detailed payroll records for the employees that work on applicable projects. These records, which the employer needs to keep on file for three years, must include:

  • Name, address and social security number of each employee;
  • Each employee's work classifications;
  • Hourly rates of pay, including rates of contributions or costs anticipated for fringe benefits or their cash equivalents;
  • Daily and weekly numbers of hours worked;
  • Deductions made;
  • Actual wages paid;
  • If applicable, detailed information regarding various fringe benefit plans and programs, including records that show that the plan or program has been communicated in writing to the laborers and mechanics affected; and
  • If applicable, detailed information regarding approved apprenticeship or trainee programs.

To easily manage this information, the DOL has provided an optional worksheet, Form WH-347, which is available on its website at www.dol.gov. While you can use your own system for recordkeeping, using this form is an easy way to keep in compliance.


Job-made Wooden Ladders - November 2015

Workers who use job-made wooden ladders risk permanent injury or death from falls and electrocutions. By understanding the hazards that workers are likely to encounter while working on job-made wooden ladders, employers can take steps to reduce injuries through proper training.

What is a Job-made Wooden Ladder?

A job-made wooden ladder is a ladder built at the construction site; it is not commercially manufactured. A job-made wooden ladder provides access to and from a work area, but is not intended to serve as a work platform. These ladders are temporary, and are used only until a particular phase of work is completed or until permanent stairways or fixed ladders are installed.

Training Requirements

Employers must provide a training program for employees who use ladders and stairways. The training must enable each worker to recognize ladder-related hazards and to use ladders properly to minimize hazards. Examine the following topics related to job-made work ladders, and tips to keep your workers safe:

Side rails:

  • Use construction-grade lumber for all components.
  • Side rails of single-cleat ladders up to 24 feet long should be made with at least 2-by-6-inch nominal stock lumber.
  • Side rails should be continuous, unless splices are the same strength as a continuous rail of equal length.
  • The width of single-rung ladders should be at least 16 inches, but not more than 20 inches between rails measured inside to inside.
  • Rails should extend above the top landing between 36 inches and 42 inches to provide a handhold for mounting and dismounting, and cleats must be eliminated above the landing level.
  • Side rails of ladders that could contact energized electrical equipment should be made using nonconductive material. Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.


By understanding the hazards workers are likely to encounter while working on job-made wooden ladders, employers can take steps to reduce injuries.



  • Cleats should be equally spaced 12 inches on center from the top of one cleat to the top of the next cleat.
  • Cleats should be fastened to each rail with three 12d common wire nails, which are nailed directly onto the smaller surfaces of the side rails.
  • Making cuts in the side rails to receive the cleats is not advisable.
  • Cleats should be at least 1 inch by 4 inches for ladders 16 feet to 24 feet in length.

Filler Blocks:

  • Filler should be 2-by-2-inch wood strips.
  • Insert the filler between cleats.
  • Nail the filler at the bottom of each side rail first. Nail the ends of a cleat to each side rail with three 12d common nails. One nail is placed 1½ inches in from each end of the filler block.
  • Nail the next two fillers and cleat, and then repeat. The ladder is complete when a filler is nailed at the top of each rail.
  • Make all side rails, rungs and fillers before the ladder is assembled.

Inspecting Ladders

Ensure that ladders are properly inspected to guarantee worker safety:

  • A competent person must visually inspect job-made ladders for defects on a periodic basis and after any occurrence that could affect their safe use.
  • Defects to look for include structural damage, broken/split side rails (front and back), missing cleats/steps and parts/labels painted over.
  • Ladders should be free of oil, grease and other slipping hazards.

Filler Blocks:

  • Filler should be 2-by-2-inch wood strips.
  • Insert the filler between cleats.
  • Nail the filler at the bottom of each side rail first. Nail the ends of a cleat to each side rail with three 12d common nails. One nail is placed 1½ inches in from each end of the filler block.
  • Nail the next two fillers and cleat, and then repeat. The ladder is complete when a filler is nailed at the top of each rail.
  • Make all side rails, rungs and fillers before the ladder is assembled.

Inspecting Ladders

Ensure that ladders are properly inspected to guarantee worker safety:

  • A competent person must visually inspect job-made ladders for defects on a periodic basis and after any occurrence that could affect their safe use.
  • Defects to look for include structural damage, broken/split side rails (front and back), missing cleats/steps and parts/labels painted over.
  • Ladders should be free of oil, grease and other slipping hazards.

Do’s For Safe Ladder Use

To prevent workers from being injured from falls from ladders, employers are encouraged to adopt the following practices:

  • Secure the ladder’s base so that it does not move.
  • Smooth the wood surface of the ladder to reduce injuries to workers from punctures or lacerations and to prevent snagging of clothing.

To prevent workers from being injured from falls from ladders, employers are encouraged to adopt the following practices:

  • Secure the ladder’s base so that it does not move.
  • Smooth the wood surface of the ladder to reduce injuries to workers from punctures or lacerations and to prevent snagging of clothing.
  • Use job-made wooden ladders with spliced side rails at an angle so that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is one-eighth the working length of the ladder.
  • Ensure that job-made wooden ladders can support at least four times the maximum intended load.
  • Only use ladders for the purpose for which they were designed.
  • Only put ladders on stable, level surfaces that are not slippery, unless they are secured to prevent accidental movement.
  • Ensure that the worker faces the ladder when climbing up and down.
  • Maintain a three-point contact (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) when climbing a ladder.
  • Keep ladders free of any slippery materials.
  • Maintain good housekeeping in the areas around the top and bottom of ladders.

Don’ts For Safe Ladder Use

To prevent injuries, employers are encouraged to avoid the following practices:

  • Painting a ladder with nontransparent coatings
  • Carrying any object or load that could cause the worker to lose balance and fall
  • Subjecting a job-made wooden ladder to excessive loads or impact tests

Contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. at [B_Phone] for additional information and employee training materials on ladder safety or fall prevention in general.


Construction Sites and Attractive Nuisances - October 2015

Attractive nuisances are man-made conditions on your property, vacant site or active site after-hours that draw trespassers. If children trespass on site due to these conditions, the general contractor on the site can be held liable for any injuries they sustain.

Construction sites have an abundance of attractive nuisance hazards, especially for children, including unstable walls and surfaces to climb, heavy equipment to play on and man-made ditches that could present a falling hazard. You have the ability to prevent entrance onto your property and discourage young trespassers from getting hurt.

If you have any reason to believe that children might trespass onto your construction site, treat the problem with the highest gravity. Doing nothing to prevent the entry or injury of trespassers creates a serious risk for anyone that may enter and for the liability of your company. 

Liability of the Owner

Even though you may not own the property, if you are working on a site, you are responsible for taking steps to ensure that anyone who enters, whether welcome or unwelcome, stays safe from injury. While warning signs are an excellent start, many children may not be able to read them, so it is important to find additional ways of protecting your worksite. Ensure that gates are secured and fences are not easily climbed. Adequately cover or protect any conditions, including ditches, walls or other man-made physical features that might present a hazard. Your plan to protect from injury may also consist of placing sturdy fencing around hazardous areas and placing warning or “No Trespassing” signs. In addition, all safety equipment, such as hard hats, respirators and safety clothing, should be stored and locked at the end of each shift to avoid trespasser tampering. 

Hazards abound for children trespassing on construction sites. You are responsible for taking steps to protect even unwelcome visitors from injury.

Keeping Up the Premises

Contractors are also liable for the maintenance and security that the property needs so that it remains safe for all visitors. This includes the following:

  • Fixing cracks or gaps in walkways to avoid slip and fall dangers
  • Locking all hazardous tools, equipment and chemicals away from the public
  • Ensuring that employees can conduct work duties without the risk of injury
  • Hanging flood lights in areas with low visibility
  • Taking steps to install wireless electronic alarms or security doors and screens
  • Installing rescue equipment

In attractive nuisance cases, negligence means that the contractor was aware that someone could be injured on the property and did nothing to prevent it. If you take all necessary precautions to prevent injury on site, you are less likely to be found negligent in a premise liability suit. 


Safe Standards for Temporary Wiring - September 2015

Whether it’s a renovation or new construction, temporary wiring is regularly used to provide power around a job site before the permanent electrical system is in place. To ensure worker safety, OSHA has created standard 1926.405, Wiring Methods, Components and Equipment for General Use, which regulates safe work practices for dealing with temporary wiring.

General Requirements

When installing temporary wiring, follow these guidelines established by the OSHA standard:

  • Wiring systems cannot be installed in ducts used to transport dust, loose stock or flammable vapors. Wiring systems also cannot be installed in ducts used for vapor removal.
  • All metal enclosures for conductors must be metallically joined together into a continuous electric conductor that provides effective electrical continuity.
  • Flexible cords or cables (extension cords) cannot be used as a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure. They also cannot be concealed behind walls, ceilings or floors.

 Temporary Lighting

Often times, there will be a need for an alternative form of lighting before permanent fixtures are in place. If your project needs temporary lighting, remember:

  • All lights used for general illumination must be protected from accidental contact or breakage.
  • Light sockets must be properly grounded.
  • Temporary lights cannot be suspended by their cords unless they are specifically designed to do so.
  • Portable lighting used in wet and/or conductive locations must be operated at 12 volts or less, unless you are using a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

 Proper Maintenance

With all the work going on around it, temporary wiring can take a beating. It is important to regularly inspect temporary installations to ensure that they are in proper working order. When inspecting temporary wiring ask yourself:

  • Is wiring in good condition and firmly secured?
  • Is this wiring capable of safely carrying the amount of current that is required?
  • Is there a circuit breaker to prevent overload?
  • Are all wires grounded properly?
  • Do all conductors have the proper insulators?
  • Are temporary light fixtures guarded properly?
  • Are switches clearly labeled as to what they control and what positions are on and off?

Leave No Wire Behind

All temporary wiring must be removed as soon as the project that requires it is completed. Even if wiring is concealed during the course of construction, it still needs to be removed. Move temporary wiring as you go to avoid difficulties at the end of the job.


How to Protect Hands, Wrists and Fingers - August 2015

Helpful tips for reducing your risk of injury at work

A recent study funded by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) found that fingers and hands are the most injured body parts among construction workers, accounting for a third of all emergency room visits. Injuries can be not only extremely painful, but also debilitating. An occupational injury causes initial pain and can require weeks or months of rehabilitation.


Throughout the day, your hands come in contact with a multitude of hazards such as heavy or fast-moving machine parts, sharp tools and corrosive chemicals. Other hand, wrist and finger hazards you might face on the job every day include:

  • Cutting tools operating at high speeds
  • Heavy machinery
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Pinch points
  • Equipment without machine guards
  • Wearing clothing that can get caught in a machine



To avoid suffering from a hand, wrist or finger injury, you must learn how to recognize potential hazards and then take the proper steps to avoid them. Consider the following recommendations while on the job:

Develop a “safety first” attitude and take time to familiarize yourself with the hazards in your working environment. Become familiar with all equipment and know what others are doing around you.

Concentrate on the task at hand, even when you’re frustrated or when there are distractions.

Use common sense and remain alert for unexpected problems. Be wary of possible hazards.


Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed to shield your body from hazards. Since the hands, wrists and fingers are so susceptible to injuries, there are many varieties of PPE to choose from.

Select appropriate gloves. Make sure they are long enough to cover your wrists and fit correctly. Gloves that are too big can get caught in machinery, and gloves that are too small wear out easily.

Leather gloves provide protection from bruises, cuts and minor burns. Cut-resistant gloves offer shielding from sharp-edged tools. Heat-resistant gloves offer protection against burns. Rubber, vinyl or neoprene gloves shield hands from corrosive materials.

Barrier creams applied to the skin provide an invisible protective coating against minor irritations.

Guards or hand pads protect against heat and abrasive materials.

Finger guards protect against pinch hazards. 



Safety Interview Questions - July 2015

The objective: We are trying to assess the integrity of the prospective employee and his or her attitude toward safety.

Encourage the prospective employee to talk in a manner that helps you to understand hisor her attitude and safety behavior.

Feel freeto lead off with these questions:

1. What do you think about the safety instructions on the JSA? Have you ever worked anywhere that had a good safety program?

2. What did you like most about your last job?

3. What did you like least about your previous job?

4. What were some of the safety hazards of your previous job?

5. What protective measures were in place to address these hazards?

6. Do you know about lock-out?

7. What type of equipment did you operate, and did you use lock out procedures?

8. What kind of guards were on the equipment?

9. Did the guards ever get in the way?

10. How was safety enforced at your previous place of employment? Were the supervisors held accountable if employees did not follow safety procedures?

11. What type of protective gear did you wear at your previous job?

12. When you weld, what type of protective gear did you wear?

13. Why is it important to make sure that your equipment is grounded?

14. Did your previous employer have a stretching and lift training program? Did they make sure you followed proper lift procedures and did stretching exercises?

15. Would you like to lead some stretch sessions or work with the safety committee to continue to improve our safety efforts if you were employed here?

16. Do you think zero accidents are achievable in a work environment?

Using the above questions will allow you to get a good idea of the prospective employee's feeling toward safety ensuring that you are adding the same safety culture to your existing work force.

Influencing Attitudes of Safety - June 2015

Do attitudes matter?

Attitudes have a great deal to do with how staff members perform their daily tasks.  Positive attitudes are conducive to safety and negative attitudes lead towardaccidents and injuries.

Attitudes- The bad ones:

  • Safety is a matter of chance. I will get hurt when my number comes up.
  • It is necessary to take chances to get my job done.
  • If I knowwhat I'm doing, I can take risks and get away with it.
  • This organization does not really care about safety.
  • My coworkers will not respect me if I am always being careful because it slows medown.

Attitudes- The good ones:

  • Accidents have causes and they can always be prevented.
  • Accidents interfere with production meaning that safe work is efficient work.
  • The organization is truly interested in safety and so are the people who work here.
  • My coworkers will respect me if I show good judgment and work safely.
  • Working safely is a mark of skill.
  • We areproud of our safety record.

There are many other attitudes for safety. If we accept and express positive attitudesfor safety those around us will do the same and safety will become a part of our daily conversation.

Create aculture of safety:

Attitudesare contagious! So they will spread and flourish best in favorable environments. If we create a good environment for safety ideas, everyone ismore likely to accept them.

Attitudesare influenced by example! If we set an example of working safely and working for safety, everyone will be influenced by what they see.

New hires are impressionable! They are strongly influenced by the behavior of the veteran workers and supervisors. Be sure they are given the correct direction right from the start.

Positive safety attitudes will spread through out the work culture of your organization if each employee takes an active part in discussions about how accidents can be prevented.

Safety Tips When Working Around Suspended Loads - May 2015

It iscommon practice for construction workers to be working in, around and/or near suspended loads, however, all too often the individuals are not properly trained nor aware of the exposures, which at times can lead to serious injury or death. There is a high risk of serious injury if a suspended load shouldfall during handling operations.

To preventan injury, the following approaches, at a minimum, should be implemented:

  • Make sure all are trained and, as needed, certified in the gear they use!
  • Avoid carrying loads over people. This is required to protect people from the hazard of a falling load due to inadvertent failure of a crane, hoist, forklift or other machinery; or operator error.
  • A suspended load can be moved using a crane, forklift, hoist or tractor bucket. However, don't forget that forklift masts and forks, hoists or empty buckets are also considered a suspended load. When someone stands under any of thesei tems they are at risk of injury. Be aware as well of what is being moved, its swing, and stability.
  • It is bestto have a "10' foot rule". This requires that no one is allowed within 10 feet of the area in which the load would fall if a failure occurred.
  • For overhead cranes and hoists, look at installing remote controls to allow operation and movement of the machinery from a safe distance.
  • Establish specific hand signals for operators and employees and make sure everyone at your facility understands what they mean.
  • Make sure that the load rating for slings, chains or straps is adequate for the rating ofthe crane, forklift or bucket. If you do not know, it is not safe to use! Always limit the load to the lowest rated part of the lifting system. Assure all slings, hoist, crane and machinery components are inspected before use and in adherence with your preventive maintenance and manufacturer's requirements.
  • Always place the forklift forks, tractor bucket, or sling on the ground when not inuse, even when they are not carrying a load.
  • Guard against "shock loading" (activating lifting controls abruptly by placing excessive forces on the lifting components) by taking up the slack inthe load slowly. Apply power cautiously to prevent jerking at the beginning ofthe lift, and accelerate or decelerate slowly.
  • Check for proper balance and that all items are clear of the path of travel. Never allow anyone to ride on the load or in the tractor bucket!
  • Keep all personnel clear while the load is being raised, moved, or lowered. Operators must watch the load at all times when it is in motion and, as needed, have a signal person.
  • NEVER allow more than one person to control a lift or give signals to a crane or hoist operator except to warn of a hazardous situation.
  • Never raise the load more than necessary, or leave the load suspended in the air.
  • Never allow anyone to work under a suspended load.


Construction Sites and Attractive Nuisances - April 2015

Attractive nuisances are man-made conditions on yourproperty, vacant site or active site after-hours that draw trespassers. Ifchildren trespass on site due to these conditions, the general contractor onthe site can be held liable for any injuries they sustain.

Construction sites have an abundance of attractive nuisancehazards, especially for children, including unstable walls and surfaces toclimb, heavy equipment to play on and man-made ditches that could present afalling hazard. You have the power to thwart – or attempt to thwart – entranceonto your property and discourage young trespassers from getting hurt.

If you have any reason to believe that children mighttrespass onto your construction site, treat the problem with the highestgravity. Doing nothing to prevent the entry or injury of trespassers creates aserious risk for anyone that may enter and for the liability of your company.

Liability of the Owner

Even though you may not own the property, if you are workingon a site, you are responsible for taking steps to assure that anyone whoenters, whether welcome or unwelcome, stays safe from injury. While warningsigns are an excellent start, many children may not be able to read them, so itis important to find additional ways of protecting your worksite. Ensure thatgates are secured and fences are not easily climbed. Adequately cover orprotect any conditions, including ditches, walls or other man-made physicalfeatures that might present a hazard. Your plan to protect from injury may alsoconsist of placing sturdy fencing around hazardous areas and placing warning or"No Trespassing" signs. In addition, all safety equipment, such as hard hats,respirators and safety clothing, should be stored and locked at the end of eachshift to avoid trespasser tampering.

Keeping Up the Premises

Contractors are also liable for the maintenance and securitythat the property needs so that it remains safe for all visitors. This includesthe following:

  • Fixing cracks or gaps in walkways to avoid slip and fall dangers.
  • Locking all hazardous tools, equipment and chemicals awayfrom the public.
  • Ensuring that employees can conduct work duties without therisk of injury.
  • Hanging flood lights in areas with low visibility.
  • Taking steps to install wireless electronic alarms orsecurity doors and screens.
  • Installing rescue equipment.

In attractive nuisance cases, negligence means that thecontractor was aware that someone could be injured on the property and didnothing to prevent it. If you take all necessary precautions to prevent injuryon site, you are less likely to be found negligent in a premise liability suit.

Forklift Rules and Responsibilities - March 2015

Safety rules are an important part of workplace efficiency.This is especially true for lift truck operators due to the potential forproperty damage, injury, and even death. The operator is in charge of thevehicle, and he or she is responsible for personal safety, vehicle operation,load handling, company property and equipment, and the safety of otheremployees or pedestrians. Only qualified drivers may operate forklifts, asdetermined by the supervisor based on training and/or licensing. It is the qualifieddriver's responsibility to ensure that unauthorized persons do not operate theforklift.


  • Only company certified operators are allowed to operate theequipment.
  • Follow load limit and other restrictions of equipment beingused such as not driving with loads elevated.
  • Follow set speed limits.
  • Always wear the safety belt when operating the forklift.
  • Wear hard hat, safety glasses, and safety shoes as required.
  • Employees are not permitted on or under the load.
  • Horseplay is strictly prohibited.
  • No riders are permitted.
  • Report all accidents and near misses immediately.

Traffic, in general, observe the usual traffic rules and regulations whereverpossible:

  • Keep to the right on roadways and wide aisles.
  • Drive at a SAFE speed depending on location, presence ofpedestrians and condition of surface.
  • Slow down at intersections, corners, ramps and other dangerpoints. Stop at blind spots. BEEP before proceeding.
  • Leave plenty of space between trucks when traveling (threetruck lengths, minimum).
  • Use the horn in blind spots and before backing up.
  • Watch in turning that you don't cut it short; remember withrear steering, the back will swing out!
  • Be alert for wet, slippery, or uneven surfaces whiledriving.
  • Give pedestrians the right of way. Assume they are notthinking about lift trucks.
  • Stop at all stop signs.


  • When parking, do not block traffic, exits, or safetyequipment such as fire extinguishers or electrical panels.
  • Park with forks on the floor.
  • Turn off the power and secure the key.

Pointers - How to Transport Wide Loads - February 2015

Transport of wide loads on roads, construction sites andother areas can create challenges for the driver and others. An oversize load(or overweight load) is a load that exceeds the standard or ordinary legal sizeand/or weight limits for a specified portion of road. The legal dimensions andweights vary between countries and regions within a country.

A vehicle which exceeds the legal dimensions usuallyrequires a special permit for the oversize/overweight vehicle to legally travelon the roadways. The permit usually specifies a route the load must follow aswell as the dates and times during which the load may travel. The Federalgovernment does not issue permits for oversize or overweight vehicles; this isunder state jurisdiction.

Moving of wide loads, whether it be construction equipment,manufactured homes, towed units, or wide non-divisible loads, may berestricted to specific days or time periods in different states; restrictionsand permit approvals are based typically around hours of darkness, routes, andholidays and peak commuter hours. State Departments of Transportation(DOT)* allow for permits to be issued for wide loads based on theallowable width of the load, and hauling hours and days.

Permits for over-dimension variances are needed when thewidth of a load or the hauling equipment is greater than State specificregulatory limits (typically when loads exceed 8 feet, 6 inches). You mustcheck with State Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies* and obtain apermit for such loads. Pilot cars, flags and other additional signage arerequired based on load size and State specific regulations.

Sample Driver Checklist:
1. Permit issued and in possession
2. Driver training and certifications allow for transport
3. Route pre-planned
4. Pilot car(s), and flagging established as required
5. All truck and trailer components inspected and safety approved
6. State specific and permit restrictions known and route allows for compliance
7. Load well secured and checked frequently for stability
8. Check-in before entering jobsite to plan route and any specific site issues

*Click on the link below to access a list of StateTransportation Web Sites:

Lessons Learned: Contractor Fatality Crushed by Dump - January 2015

The following is an overview of a recent fatality occurring this past month at a project site. This overview is meant to provide information on the errors of the accident that lead to this unfortunate result so that we can learn from these errors in avoiding them in our own practices.

During parking lot paving operations, a 52 year old male asphalt worker was laying string line to be used as a paving guide and was working bent over in the front blind spot of a dump truck full of asphalt. The truck spotter walked from in front of the truck toward the paving machine and tapped the worker on the hard hat cautioning him of the impending truck movement. Spotter then made eye contact with the driver through the passenger side window signaling to back the truck up to the paving machine. Driver unaware of the crouching worker in the front blind spot traveled forward instead of backward in order to reposition the front tire so as not to roll through theadjacent fresh asphalt. The truck rolled forward and crushed and killed the worker with the right front tire.

Direct Causes:
*Close proximity to moving heavy equipment
*Driver unable to see vehicle's front blind spot

Indirect Causes:
*Spotter had his back turned to the vehicle after signaling to the driver
*Ambient noise from wind, dump truck, and adjacent airfield impaired oralcommunication effectiveness

Teaching Points:
*Laborers, drivers and spotter need to be fully cognizant of moving vehicles and blind spots
*Spotters need to maintain positive control of vehicle movements at all times

Safety Tips: Proper Use of Aerial Lifts - December 2014

This procedure applie sto all locations or projects involving the use of scissors lifts, extensibleboom platforms, aerial ladders, articulating boom platforms, vertical towers orany combination thereof.

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of thisprocedure is to require the safe use and proper operation of aerial lifts andscissor lifts.


Implementation of thisprocedure is the responsibility of the management.


  1. Require that the manufacturer'soperating instruction manual be available onsite.
  2. Allow only trained,authorized personnel to operate aerial lifts.
  3. Inspect the unit forunsafe conditions each day prior to use. Units that have been damaged orweakened from any cause must be taken out of service until repairs arecompleted.
  4. Test the lift controlseach day to determine they are in safe working order.
  5. Require that both lowerand platform controls be plainly marked as to their function.
  6. Survey the route to betraveled immediately prior to the work trip to check for overhead obstructions,holes in pavement, slopes, ditches, or other potential hazards.
  7. Wear fall protection inthe form of a full body harness and lanyard attached to the manufacturer'sprescribed anchorage point. Fall protection is not required for scissorslifts utilizing standard guardrails unless specifically required by themanufacturer.
  8. Stand firmly on thefloor of the basket when working from an aerial lift. Sitting or climbing onthe edge of the basket and/or use of planks, ladders, or other devices for workposition are prohibited.
  9. Never exceed the boomand basket load limits set by the manufacturer.
  10. Set the braking system before elevating thebasket.
  11. Install wheel chocks before using an aerial lifton an incline, provided they can be safely installed.
  12. Electrically ground or barricade aerial liftswhen working near energized lines or equipment and consider the lift to beenergized equipment.
  13. Do not pass equipment between a pole orstructure and an aerial lift while an employee working from the basket iswithin reaching distance of energized conductors or equipment that are notcovered with insulating protective equipment.
  14. Do not operate lower controls unless permissionhas been obtained from the employee in the basket, except in case of emergency.
  15. Alteration of the insulated portion of an aeriallift that may reduce the insulating value is not permitted.
  16. Never field modify an aerial lift for uses otherthan those intended by the manufacturer.

Documentation Summary

File the followingdocuments in the Shop/Project Health and Safety File

  • Copy of the cover page of the Manufacturer'sOperation Manual.
  • Training documentation.
  • List of authorized employees.
  • Daily inspections

Construction Sites and Attractive Nuisances - November 2014

Attractive nuisances are man-made conditions on yourproperty, vacant site or active site after-hours that draw trespassers. Ifchildren trespass on site due to these conditions, the general contractor onthe site can be held liable for any injuries they sustain.

Construction sites have an abundance of attractive nuisancehazards, especially for children, including unstable walls and surfaces toclimb, heavy equipment to play on and man-made ditches that could present afalling hazard. You have the power to thwart – or attempt to thwart – entranceonto your property and discourage young trespassers from getting hurt.

If you have any reason to believe that children mighttrespass onto your construction site, treat the problem with the highestgravity. Doing nothing to prevent the entry or injury of trespassers creates aserious risk for anyone that may enter and for the liability of your company.

Liability of the Owner

Even though you may not own the property, if you are workingon a site, you are responsible for taking steps to assure that anyone whoenters, whether welcome or unwelcome, stays safe from injury. While warningsigns are an excellent start, many children may not be able to read them, so itis important to find additional ways of protecting your worksite. Ensure thatgates are secured and fences are not easily climbed. Adequately cover orprotect any conditions, including ditches, walls or other man-made physicalfeatures that might present a hazard. Your plan to protect from injury may alsoconsist of placing sturdy fencing around hazardous areas andplacing warning or"No Trespassing" signs. In addition, all safety equipment, such as hard hats,respirators and safety clothing, should be stored and locked at the end of eachshift to avoid trespasser tampering.

Keeping Up the Premises

Contractors are also liable for the maintenance and securitythat the property needs so that it remains safe for all visitors. This includesthe following:

  • Fixing cracks or gaps in walkways to avoid slip and falldangers.
  • Locking all hazardous tools, equipment and chemicals awayfrom the public.
  • Ensuring that employees can conduct work duties without therisk of injury.
  • Hanging flood lights in areas with low visibility.
  • Taking steps to install wireless electronic alarms orsecurity doors and screens.
  • Installing rescue equipment.

In attractive nuisance cases, negligence means that thecontractor was aware that someone could be injured on the property and didnothing to prevent it. If you take all necessary precautions to prevent injuryon site, you are less likely to be found negligent in a premise liability suit.

The Importance of Machine Safeguarding - October 2014

We use a variety of dangerous, heavy machinery and equipmenton the construction site, and safety is our biggest priority. One of the mostimportant safety measures is the safeguards that many machines have to protectthe operator. Machine guards may not always seem convenient, but they areessential in keeping you safe, and they are a requirement on the job site.

What Should Be Guarded

Any machine part, function or process that may cause injuryshould have a machine guard.

Where Mechanical Hazards Occur

Potentially hazardous moving parts on machines fall intothree basic categories:

  • Point of operation: Where the work is actually performed.This is probably the largest hazard area and where the more sophisticatedmachine safeguarding methods will be used.
  • Power transmission apparatus: All components of themechanical system that transmit energy (power) to the part of the machineperforming the work. These components include flywheels, pulleys, belts,connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks and gears.
  • Other moving parts: All other parts of the machine that movewhile the machine is working. This can include reciprocating, rotating andtransverse moving parts.

Hazardous Motions and Actions

A wide variety of mechanical motions and actions may presenthazards to you while operating a machine. These can include the movement ofrotating members, reciprocating arms, moving belts, meshing gears, cuttingteeth and any parts that impact or shear. These different types of hazardousmechanical motions and actions are basic to nearly all machines, andrecognizing them is the first step toward protecting yourself from the dangerthey present. Familiarize yourself with the hazardous motions and actions onany equipment you are operating or working near, so that you can avoid injury.

Requirements for Safeguards

What must a safeguard do to protect workers againstmechanical hazards? Regardless of the hazard, there are several goals allmachine safeguards have in common. Theyare:

  • Prevent contact: The safeguard must prevent hands, arms andany other part of a worker's body from making contact with dangerous movingparts.
  • Remain secure: Guards and devices should be made of durablematerial that will withstand the conditions of normal use. They must be firmlysecured to the machine.
  • Create no new hazards: A safeguard defeats its own purposeif it creates a hazard of its own such as a shear point, a jagged edge or anunfinished surface, which can cause a laceration. Having to "work around" amachine safeguard isn't helpful.
  • Create no interference: Safeguards that significantly impedethe ability to do work are not helpful safeguards.
  • Safeguards should protect workers but not prevent them fromoperating a piece of machinery properly.
  • Allow safe lubrication: Safeguards should allow for the safelubrication of machines without the need to completely dismantle the guardingsystem.

If you feel a guard isn't properly preventing contact orremaining secure during operation, or the guard is interfering with your work,alert the site foreman. Never tamper with or remove a guard.

Operating Machinery

When operating heavy equipment, you should be familiar withthe machine you are using, the machine safeguarding methods, emergency stopbuttons and switches, and how to safely perform routine maintenancefunctions.

You should be able to identify the various types of machinesafeguarding methods incorporated into the machine or tool you are using. It isimportant that you know how to properly use those machine guards and how tomake sure they are functioning properly. Prior to starting work, inspect the equipmentto make sure all machine safeguards are attached and functioning properly.Machines should not be used if the machine safeguards are not in place or notfunctioning.

You should also consider other potential hazards on the jobsite, such as long hair, loose-fitting clothing and hanging jewelry, which canget caught in a machine and cause serious injury. Always tie back long hair andavoid wearing clothing or jewelry that could get entangled in a machine.

Number 1 Most Cited OSHA Fine - September 2014

The number 1 most cited and also the number 1 as relates to major injuries including fatalities within the construction industry. is fall protection.

As with most of these most cited topics, we could talk for days on relevant information related to the standard so for our purpose here, I will choose a broader topic applicable to the masses versus being very specific. That would be a review of the four Fall Protection Categories and areview of safety harnesses including their care.

The four functional categories of fall protection products is Fall Arrest, Positioning, Suspension, and Retrieval. A review of each:

Fall Arrest

A fall arrest system is required if any risk exists that aworker may fall from an elevated position, as a general rule, the fall arrestsystem should be used anytime a working height of four feet or more is reached. This is conservatively speaking. Working height is the distancefrom the walking/working surface to a grade or lower level. A fall arrestsystem will only come into service should a fall occur. A full-body harnesswith a shock-absorbing lanyard or a retractable lifeline is the only productrecommended. A full-body harness distributes the forces throughout the body,and the shock-absorbing lanyard decreases the total fall arresting forces.


This system holds the worker in place while keeping his/herhands free to work. Whenever the worker leans back, the system is activated.However, the personal positioning system is not specifically designed for fallarrest purposes.


This equipment lowers and supports the worker while allowinga hands-free work environment, and is widely used in window washing andpainting industries. This suspension system components are not designed toarrest a free fall, a backup fall arrest system should be used in conjunctionwith the suspension system.


Pre-planning for retrieval in the event of a fall should betaken into consideration when developing a proactive fall managementprogram.

Safety harnesses may be required when working at elevatedheights as part of a fall protection system. Only full body harnesses areallowed to be used as fall protection, not body belts. Also note that harnessesmust be made out of synthetic material.

Follow all training regarding the use, fit, inspection, donning, and careof the harness, as your life may depend on its effectiveness.

Prior to putting on your harness:

  • Inspect and test your harness and hardware carefully beforeuse to assure that there are no defects such as fraying, holes, cuts, or otherdeterioration or weakness.
  • Take equipment out of service whenever you suspect defectsor problems. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Handle your harness with care:

  • Never drop it on the ground.
  • Keep it away from sharp tools or other objects which mightscratch or cut it.
  • Never weaken the harness or its strap by cutting or punchingextra holes.

Protect the harness from hazardous materials:

  • Do not permit acids, caustics or other corrosive materialsto get on the harness.
  • Paint and coatings may compromise the integrity of theharness by restricting movement and potentially causing chemical damage.

Take care when washing or drying the harness:

  • If needed, wipe off a soiled harness with warm water andmild soap. Rinse with warm water.
  • Wipe a wet harness with a clean dry cloth and let it dryslowly at a temperature no higher than your hand can bear.
  • Do not expose a wet harness to extreme cold, heat, orsunlight.

Replace harnesses as needed:

  • If the harness is accidentally cut or damaged, turn it infor repair or salvage.
  • Any safety harness subjected to in-service loading, such asa fall, needs to be removed from service.
  • Replace harnesses, following the manufacturer's instructionsand timeline.

Store harnesses in separate, dry compartments or hang themso that they will not be crushed, worn, or creased.

In closing, each organization needs to ensure a properfall protection program including continuous training andsupervision. We all want our employees going home safe each day.

Safety Procedures: Aerial Lifts - August 2014

This procedure applies to all locations or projects involving the use of scissors lifts, extensible boom platforms, aerial ladders, articulating boom platforms, vertical towers or any combination thereof.

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this procedure is to require the safe use and proper operation of aerial lifts and scissor lifts.


Implementation of this procedure is the responsibility of the management.


  1. Require that the manufacturer's operating instruction manual be available onsite.
  2. Allow only trained, authorized personnel to operate aerial lifts.
  3. Inspect the unit for unsafe conditions each day prior to use. Units that have been damaged or weakened from any cause must be taken out of service until repairs are completed.
  4. Test the lift controls each day to determine they are in safe working order.
  5. Require that both lower and platform controls be plainly marked as to their function.
  6. Survey the route to be traveled immediately prior to the work trip to check for overhead obstructions, holes in pavement, slopes, ditches, or other potential hazards.
  7. Wear fall protection in the form of a full body harness and lanyard attached to the manufacturer's prescribed anchorage point.  Fall protection is not required for scissors lifts utilizing standard guardrails unless specifically required by the manufacturer.
  8. Stand firmly on the floor of the basket when working from an aerial lift. Sitting or climbing on the edge of the basket and/or use of planks, ladders, or other devices for work position are prohibited.
  9. Never exceed the boom and basket load limits set by the manufacturer.
  10. Set the braking system before elevating the basket.
  11. Install wheel chocks before using an aerial lift on an incline, provided they can be safely installed.
  12. Electrically ground or barricade aerial lifts when working near energized lines or equipment and consider the lift to be energized equipment.
  13. Do not pass equipment between a pole or structure and an aerial lift while an employee working from the basket is within reaching distance of energized conductors or equipment that are not covered with insulating protective equipment.
  14. Do not operate lower controls unless permission has been obtained from the employee in the basket, except in case of emergency.
  15. Alteration of the insulated portion of an aerial lift that may reduce the insulating value is not permitted.
  16. Never field modify an aerial lift for uses other than those intended by the manufacturer.

Documentation Summary

File the following documents in the Shop/Project Health and Safety File

  • Copy of the cover page of the Manufacturer's Operation Manual.
  • Training documentation.
  • List of authorized employees.
  • Daily inspections


New 2014 Law: Immigrant Protections - July 2014

Many new laws will affect immigrants in 2014 for California Employers.  New protections will address retaliation against immigrant workers who complain about unfair wages or working conditions.  Privileges such as drivers' license for undocumented immigrants were also extended.

Retaliation and Unfair Immigration Practices

AB 263 prohibits an employer form engaging in "unfair immigration-related practices" when an employee asserts protected rights under the Labor Code.  For instance, an employer may not threaten to contact, or contact, immigration authorities because an employee complained that he/she was paid less than the minimum wage.  AB 263 authorizes various penalties against employers who engage in unfair immigration-related practices, including a private right of action.

Further AB 263, prohibits employers from discrimination, retaliation or taking any adverse action against an employee because the employee updates, or attempts to update, his or her personal information.  There is exception if the changes are directly related to the skill set, qualifications or knowledge required for the job.

License Revocation for Threatening to Report Immigration Status

SB 666 permits the state to suspend or revoke an employer's business license where that employer reports, or threatens to report, the immigration status of en employee because the employee makes a complaint about employment issues.  It also allows for disbarment of attorneys for similar conduct against witnesses or parties in a lawsuit.

The law covers reports, or threats to report, employees, former employees, prospective employees or family members, as defined, to immigration authorities.  Employers are not subject to the suspension or revocation of a business license for requiring a worker to verify eligibility for employment under the Form I-9.

Criminal Extortion for Threatening to Report Immigration Status

AB 524 clarifies that a person may be guilty of criminal extortion if the person threatens to report the immigration status or suspected immigration status of an individual, or his/her relative or a member of his/her family.

Driver's License for Undocumented Immigrants

AB 60 requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a driver's license to an undocumented person who can prove indentity and California residency and who can meet all other licensing requirements, such as the written and behind the wheel exams.

The card will bear a notation stating that the card is not acceptable for federal purposes, such as verifying eligibility for employment.  In other words, this card is not acceptable for Form I-9 verification.

AB 60 does not take effect until January 1, 2015, or on the date the Department of Motor Vehicle's director executes a specific declaration, whichever is sooner.  The DMV must adopt regulations to implement the new law, including documents acceptable for the purpose of proving identity and California residency, as well as procedures for verifying authenticity of documents.

Information provided courtesy of CalChamber 

Workplace Safety - the Role of your Staff - June 2014

As construction safety professionals, it is always important to be addressing safety issues, reviewing your company specific trends, indentifying appropriate training to minimize an identified risk, and then monitoring your actions. 

The one area that is also important is the training of your staff on their responsibilities as relates to OSHA, as well as their rights.  Updating your staff periodically should be an important aspect of your employee training.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).  The Act requires each worker to comply with occupational safety and health standards, as well as all rules, regulations, and orders issued under the Act that apply to his or her own actions and conduct.

Staff Responsibilities:

  • Read the OSHA poster at your jobsite.
  • Comply with any applicable OSHA standards.
  • Follow all of your employer's safety and health standards and rules.
  • Wear and use prescribed personal protective equipment.
  • Report hazardous conditions to your supervisor.
  • Report any job-related injuries or illnesses to your employer and seek treatment promptly.
  • Cooperate with OSHA compliance officer when conducting an inspection if he/she inquires about conditions at your jobsite.
  • Exercise your rights under the Act responsibly.

Staff Rights:

  • Obtain a copy of the OSHA standards and other rules, regulations, and requirements from your employer.
  • Request information from your employer on safety and health hazards in your work area, on precautions you need to take, and on what you must do if you are involved in an accident or exposed to toxic substances.
  • Accompany the OSHA compliance officer during the inspection walk around if you are designated by your union or worker association.
  • Observe monitoring or measuring of hazardous materials, including the right of access to records on those materials, as specified in regulations under the Act.
  • Request access to Material Safety Data Sheets for information on whether any substance in your workplace has potentially hazards and controls for chemicals used in the job place.
  • If you have any questions or concerns regarding know or possible hazards in the workplace, ask your supervisor!

Driver Fatigue - May 2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that the main causes of police-reported road crashes each year are related to driver drowsiness and fatigue. Extra precaution from both employees and employers is needed to assure safety on the road.

Symptoms of driver fatigue:

  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Eyelids feel heavy
  • Twitching and/or muscle tension
  • Thoughts wander and are disconnected
  • Limbs feel heavy, or light and tingly, or numb

Factors contributing to fatigue: 

  • Length of shifts worked - the length of shifts worked can contribute to fatigue.
  • Previous hours and days worked - the effects of fatigue are cumulative (drivers may have sleep debt due to the previous hours and days worked, which can contribute to fatigue).
  • Time of the day when the work is being performed - remember that disrupting the "body's clock" can cause fatigue and also impact job performance.
    Delays loading or unloading.
  • Roster design and scheduling that does not allow for rest and recovery between shifts.
  • Human factors - capability, skill, experience, age, physical fitness and health status.
  • Work environment - vibration, noise, climate/temperature, etc.
  • Consuming heavy meals.
  • Cold or allergy medicines.

Worker Solutions:

  • Exercise on a regular basis. Maintaining a balanced exercise program can help improve stamina and decrease fatigue.
  • Improve sleep patterns; ensure you receive plenty of sleep.
  • Get the proper nutrition. Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet that includes the major food groups. Avoid heavy and greasy foods.
  • Improve your working environment. Your cab and sleeping quarters should be as comfortable as possible. Check for noise, poor ventilation, high or low temperatures, lighting and other issues that could disrupt your sleep. 
  • Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a drug that may over-stimulate the body and mind, interfering with sleep and increasing anxiety levels. Use caffeinated beverages (coffee, teas and energy drinks) in moderation. Limit consumption to a couple of drinks a day to minimize fatigue.
  • Get and stay fit. Extra pounds carried around every day are taxing to the body and may increase fatigue. Set a weight loss plan that includes proper diet and exercise.
  • Schedule relaxation time. Spend your free time doing something you enjoy (sports, traveling, family time, etc.) to reduce stress.
  • Quit smoking. Nicotine produces an initial stimulation, but is followed by a depressant phase of action. It is a drug that creates dependency and is incompatible with good health. Effects of tobacco smoke have been linked to many of the diseases that cause fatigue.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is a drug that depresses bodily functions, causing lethargy and fatigue. Alcohol consumption, especially close to bedtime, can disturb sleep and cause emotional distress which can lead to daytime fatigue.

Employer Solutions 

  • Give drivers sufficient notice to prepare for working periods.
  • Ensure drivers have the opportunity for at least 7 hours of continuous sleep in a 24 hour period.
  • Minimize irregular or unfamiliar work shifts.
  • Operate flexible schedules to allow for short break times or discretionary sleep.
  • When drivers return from leave, minimize night-time schedules to give drivers time to adapt to any change in sleep patterns.
  • Give sufficient notice of a change between night and day shift, to provide adequate time for employees to alter sleep patterns.

Employee Training
Training should be provided on causes and controls of fatigue and should include drivers, supervisors, schedulers and any other person whose actions may affect road safety. Training should address:

  • Common causes of fatigue, including shift work, extended working hours, demands placed on drivers and delays in loading and unloading.
  • Tips to identify signs of fatigue.
  • Potential health and safety impacts of fatigue.
  • How drivers are responsible for making appropriate use of their rest days and breaks to assure they are fit for duty at the beginning of every shift.
  • Company policy and procedures.
  • Medication safety requirements.
  • Employee Solutions/ Best Practices outlined above.

Adequate supervision to ensure that control measures are being used correctly is a must. This can include activities such as monitoring fatigue levels of drivers or ensuring compliance with company and regulatory safety requirements. Driver ride-alongs and on-the-road assessments should be done on a regular basis. For drivers working alone, employers should consider providing a means of communication and a procedure for regular contact.

Lesson Learned - Ladder Fatality - April 2014

In a report filed in Portland, Oregon, a cable splicer was attempting to move a cable tap to a utility pole.  The man worked from an extension hook ladder, hung from a nearby cable strand. He had decided to forego the necessary steps to secure his ladder because the task that he was to perform was relatively simple.

Unfortunately, this decision would end up costing him his life. The ladder soon became loose and the cable splicer fell head-first on to the pavement below, suffering massive head trauma that killed him before anyone had noticed he fell.

The above is a true story of a man who neglected to take the proper precautions, and paid the ultimate price. Investigators of this accident learned that none of the necessary safety precautions had been taken. To avoid this kind of accident, learn from the mistakes of this unfortunate cable splicer.

  • Evaluate the worksite for safety BEFORE beginning work
  • Use a safety strap to prevent ladders from falling unexpectedly
  • Wear a hard hat
  • Wear a high visibility vest when working around traffic
  • Ensure that all necessary traffic controls are in place
  • Ensure that work is supervised

Learn the necessary safety precautions, and ensure that they are taken.


OSHA Requirement - Lockout-Tagout - March 2014

As most of you know, OSHA has readily available a list of the top most frequently cited standards, and one of the top items every year on the list is lockout/tagout procedures.  

Failure to lockout/tagout machinery and equipment before working on it is a major cause of serious injury in the workplace.  Injuries from not locking out machinery properly include amputation, crushing, electrocution, and death.  This is caused by machinery inadvertently being turned on while maintenance or other work is being conducted.

Hazardous energy control measure procedures are needed and must be followed whenever repairing, servicing, or cleaning machinery or equipment.  Separate steps need to be developed for each piece of machinery.  All employees that work with and participate in activities that involve maintenance and adjustment must be fully trained on lockout/tagout procedures and related hazards. Awareness training is necessary for all staff.

During machine servicing operations, the power source must be de-energized or disengaged and the movable parts of the machine locked or tagged-out to prevent movement.  Potential hazardous energy sources include pneumatic, mechanical, hydraulic, thermal, chemical, and electrical.  Stored energies must also be identified and controlled; including such sources as springs, gravity, electrical storage devices, pneumatic or hydraulic, chemical sources, etc.).

It is CRITICAL that machines be de-energized at the power source and not just the "shut off" at the controls or emergency stop.  Accidents can occur when control switches short out and the machine may restart. 

Follow your organization's lockout/tagout procedures and polices at ALL TIMES when conducting de-jamming, maintenance and service work on all machinery and equipment.

When auditing your companies lockout/tagout program, you should be comfortable with the following areas and if not, you should look to improve upon it.  This includes:

  1. Written program developed and accessible
  2. Awareness level training provided to all employees
  3. Full lockout training with specific lockout procedures for specific machinery/equipment provided to authorized employees
  4. Lockout supplies readily available
  5. Locks individually keyed
  6. Lockouts identify who is performing lockout, and equipment being serviced
  7. Lockout performed for de-jamming activities
  8. Lockout effective in that no employee is reaching in or exposing any part of their body to areas where injury could occur
  9. Lockout program addresses all applicable stored energies
  10. Lockout procediures included for vehicles and mobile equipment
  11. Specific loclout prodecures development for each piece of machinery and posted on each piece of machinery
  12. Front-line supervisory staff are observing employe behavior and enforcing the lockout procediures
  13. The lockout program and supervisory staff are audited quarterly to ensure that an effective progaram is in place and that all affected and authorized employees are aware and follow the procedures.


OSHA Logs Due - February 2014

By February 1, 2014 most contractors will be required by law to post their OSHA 300 logs. If you are still utilizing a system in which you manually fill out your log each year versus utilizing a claims tracking system for handling your logs, you should seriously consider reviewing alternatives to better utilize your time.  There are many low cost tracking systems that include many other benefits including but not limited to target training based on past loss analysis. 

Additional Insured ISO Changes - January 2014

Many insurance companies are now updating their additional insured forms with changes enacted by Insurance Services Office (ISO) earlier in 2013.  Effective April 1, 2013, most of the additional insured endorsements announced by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) to be attached to the ISO Commercial General Liability Coverage Form (April 2013 Edition) include three significant changes:

  1. Insurance provided to an additional insured will apply only to the extent permitted by law;
  2. If additional insured coverage is required in a contract or agreement (which is customary), the additional insured will not be provided coverage that is any broader than required in that contract or agreement with the named insured;
  3. The limits available to an additional insured will be the lesser of the limits required by contract or available under the policy.

Extent Permitted by Law
For the past ten years, Acme General Contractors has required its subcontractors to include them as an additional insured for Acme's negligence, but only if the negligence of the subcontractor also has contributed to resulting bodily injury or property damage. This means that Acme expects additional insured coverage only if they are partly at fault and the subcontractor is also partly at fault for the injury or damage (Acme is not demanding coverage for its sole negligence). While Acme has had some pushback from its subcontractors, most have complied with their demands using standard ISO additional insured endorsements. 

After a serious injury to an employee of subcontractor Rose Iron & Steel, the courts found Acme to be 95 percent at fault for the injury (and Rose to be 5 percent at fault). Acme has tendered the claim to Rose's CGL insurer and has demanded coverage as an additional insured. To Acme's surprise, Rose's CGL insurer has denied all coverage to Acme as an additional insured. Rose's CGL insurer is claiming the state's construction anti-indemnification statute prohibits protection of Acme for any of its negligence - either as an indemnitee or an additional insured.

Because the state's anti-indemnity statute is vague as to whether it applies to contractual indemnification and additional insureds, it takes years for the case to reach the state's highest court.  Ultimately, the court finds that the word "indemnify" as used in the statute applies to both the indemnity agreement and additional insured coverage.

The result of the court's decision is that Acme is not covered as an additional insured for its shared negligence with its subcontractor, Rose. Thus, despite the fact that the wording of the additional insured endorsement expressly includes coverage for Acme as an additional insured for bodily injury caused at least in part by Rose's fault, no insurance will be provided to Acme as an additional insured. Coverage for an additional insured per the April 2013 Edition ISO endorsements applies only to the extent permitted by law. As the insurance for Acme was not permitted by law, Acme will not be covered.   

No Broader Than By Contract
Wilson's Windows adds the general contractor, Holmes Homes Corp., as an additional insured, but the construction agreement between Wilson and Holmes states Holmes is to be an additional insured for ongoing operations only. Holmes does not require coverage as an additional insured for claims arising out of the products and completed operations hazard.

Nonetheless, Wilson uses standard ISO additional insured endorsements, including Holmes as an additional insured not only for ongoing operations but also as an additional insured for the products and completed operations hazard. 

After construction was completed and the building occupied, a window fell out of the building and landed on the Lamborghini owned by Ronald Frump, who also owns the building. Frump sued Holmes as his car was badly damaged. It turns out Wilson failed to properly install the window, causing Holmes to seek coverage from Wilson's CGL insurer as an additional insured for damages to Frump's car.

While the endorsements' wording would normally provide coverage for Holmes as an additional insured for products and completed operations as that is the coverage actually purchased by Wilson for Holmes, Wilson's CGL insurer denies Holmes is covered as an additional insured.  Holmes required only that Wilson purchase coverage for its ongoing operations and did not require any coverage for a completed operations claim.

Thus, the additional insured endorsement of the April 2013 ISO Edition restricted coverage that is not broader than required by the contract (ongoing operations only), which is less broad than the actual additional insured wording purchased (including products-completed operations). Holmes will not receive more coverage than required in its contract with Wilson - even if the additional insured endorsement wording actually provided coverage.

Lesser of Limits
Benoit's Bottling Company includes its retailers as additional insured vendors as required by its supply contracts between the retailer and Benoit's. Although the contract between Benoit's and the retailers requires $5 million of liability coverage, Benoit's is a large organization and has traditionally purchased greater liability limits - usually $25 million.

A new product liability claim against its retailer is quite large - the jury finds damages of $9 million against the retailer. The retailer seeks coverage for the damages as an additional insured-vendor on Benoit's liability policies. As the certificates of insurance provided by Benoit's to the retailer for the last five years have listed Benoit's liability limits of $25 million, the retailer expects all $9 million of the damage to be covered. The retailer is stunned to learn that Benoit's insurer will not pay more than $5 million on behalf of the additional insured/retailer.

Even though Benoit's actual liability limits far exceed the damages suffered by the additional insured/retailer, the retailer will receive the lesser of the policy limit or the limit required in the supply contract between Benoit's and the retailer ($5 million).

The above illustrations capture only a very limited number of possibilities - the implications of coverage that is determined by documents or laws extrinsic to the additional insured endorsements are far ranging. While it appears that the purpose of these above three changes is to prevent an additional insured from reaping the benefit of coverage never requested or required, there is little doubt the changes increase the uncertainty of coverage. By increasing the uncertainty as to whether a person or organization will ultimately be an additional insured, one of the prime advantages of being an additional insured may be lost - defense of that additional insured. In other words, an insurer's duty to defend applies only to an insured. With the April 2013 additional insured changes, it seems evident that in many circumstances it may be more difficult for the person or organization to demonstrate the status of additional insured - and thus more difficult to obtain the defense that is central to an additional insured.    

Information provided courtesy of AmWins Group, Inc.

Change in California Workers Comp Wage Thresholds - December 2013

Please note effective January 1, 2014 that wage thresholds for the following California Construction classifications have increased. 

Below are the new rates per class code that have been amended within the construction field:

5183(1) / 5187(1) - Plumbing - $26.00
5183(2) / 5187(2) - Refrigeration Equipment - $26.00
5190 / 5140 - Electrical Wiring - $30.00
5484 / 5485 - Plastering / Stucco Work - $27.00
5538 / 5542 - Sheet Metal Work - $27.00
6218(1) / 6220(1) - Excavation - $30.00
6218(2) / 6220(2) - Grading of Land - $30.00
6218(3) / 6220(3) - Land Leveling - $30.00 
6307 / 6308 - Sewer Construction - $30.00
6315(1) / 6316(1)- Water Main Construction - $30.00
6315(2) / 6316(2) - Gas Main Construction - $30.00

These changes go by your policies effective date.  Any policy wtih an effective date of January 1, 2014 or later will use the above wage thresholds. 


The Importance of Hearing Protection - November 2013

Don't take your ability to hear for granted.

If you are not careful, you can lose your hearing. If you are exposed to very loud noise or moderately loud noise for an extended period, you must take some form of hearing protection precautions.

When must hearing protection be provided and worn?

  • The "Best Practices" approach to hearing protection requires that whenever a worker's noise exposure is at or above an 8-hour average of 85 decibels, hearing protection should be worn.
  • The best defense against hearing loss is to use engineering and work-practice controls to eliminate the excessive exposure wherever possible.
  • If you are exposed to loud noises intermittently - wear protection.
  • Rule of thumb: If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone, you are in an area where the noise level is at or above 85 decibels, and you should be wearing hearing protection.

How can noise exposure be reduced or eliminated through engineering and work-practice controls?

  • Periodic rotation of workers to less noisy areas.
  • Adding or replacing mufflers on motorized or pneumatic equipment.
  • Following equipment maintenance procedures to keep bearings and other moving parts lubricated.
  • Isolating loud equipment such as compressors and generators away from work areas.
  • Replacing older, noisier equipment with newer, quieter models.
  • Installing sound absorbing materials on walls and ceilings.

What are the types of hearing protectors?

  • Foam plugs: Disposable and cheap with good noise reduction ability. Insert correctly to ensure the plugs expand for maximum hearing protection.
  • Reusable plugs: Provides protection similar to foam plugs, but are made of PVC or a polymer blend. Good for people who are allergic or sensitive to foam plugs.
  • Canal caps: Designed to fit into the outer ear and to be held in place by a headband. Good for situations where protection must be removed frequently.
  • Ear muffs: Come in a range of noise reduction levels to meet different needs. More comfortable than plugs or canal caps.

Know the noise level of the job and how long your exposure will be. Then use the information provided by your safety supplier to select the best hearing protection.



Buyer Beware - Contractual Liability - October 2013

Over the past few months we have visited various coverage forms, endorsements, exclusions, and warranties, touching on their importance and restrictions to be aware of if included on your coverage.  The latest review looks closer at the "Contractual Liability" exclusion which is oddly enough where we also find our coverage for contractual liability and is part of the standard general liability coverage form.  WE will then also look at two popular endorsements issued that amend this exclusion/coverage. 

Part of the standard CG 0001 ISO General Liability coverage form is the exclusion for "Contractual Liability", however, part of this exclusion is the give back coverage including coverage for those contracts that are defined as an "insured contract" and assumed by you in the contract.  It is this section that we also find many carriers issuing endorsements that alter this section and the "insured contract" definition.  Two of the more issued endorsements include the CG 2139 and CG 2426 each amending this section, but one being much more restrictive than the other. 

The CG 2139 ultimately eliminates the "insured contract" definition entirely while the CG 2426 amends the definition of an "insured contract."  By most, but not all standards, an indemnification/hold harmless section of a contract between a subcontractor and general contractor will be considered an "insured contract."  The CG 2139 simply deletes "all other business related to contracts" which is provided under part "f" of the "insured contract" definition.  This in turn removes your coverage for liabilities assumed in your contract.

The CG 2426 simply alters the definition to add ". . . bodily injury or property damage is caused , in whole or in part, by you or by those acting on your behalf" which still provides indemnification as along as you, the insured is partially at fault or negligent.  The key difference in this amendment is the fact that you must be partially responsible for the loss thus the carrier is avoiding picking of losses whereby you are/were not at all negligent.

In the end, your insurance advisor or professional when possible should avoid the CG 2139 and as an alternative have the CG 2426 issued in its place.  Most carriers can accommodate this request.

Buyer Beware - Prior Work Exclusion - September 2013

Over the past few months we have visited various coverage forms, endorsements, exclusions, and warranties, touching on their importance and restrictions to be aware of if included on your coverage.  The latest review looks closer at the "Prior Work" exclusion that when possible should be avoided given its possible costly restrictions to the coverage.

The prior work exclusion in most interpretations, severely limits coverage to the confines of the work performed during the policy term.  To many that seems fair and does not present an issue when the policy is being written on an occurrence form, which most are.  This endorsement will preclude coverage for any occurrences related construction activities performed prior to the inception of the policy in which the endorsement is included. 

Unfortunately, the occurrence is not always in the same policy period as the period in which the work was completed.  A bodily injury for instance could occur today that is related to work that was completed last year and in that example, any policy with this exclusion would not have coverage for that injury and occurrence.

In most instances, your insurance professional or broker can get this removed following evidence of proper insurance being in place during prior terms.  Under no circumstances should an insured allow this exclusion solely as a cost saving mechanism given its restriction on coverage as noted above.

Buyer Beware: Action Over Exclusion and Additional Insured Limitations - August 2013

A critical component of coverage for a general contractor and subcontractor is for their general liability insurance to provide coverage for "bodily injury" that occurs on their project site excluding their employees (workers compensation).

A common claim that can occur on a project site is that a subcontractor or sub-subcontractor's employee is injured and then proceeds to file a lawsuit against the general contractor or subcontractor for any number of reasons including, but not limited to an unsafe work environment. If you general liability policy has an Injury to Independent Contractors type exclusion, your policy will not react to this lawsuit in protecting and indemnifying you. They will exclude coverage and respond that in fact the subcontractor's or sub-subcontractor's workers compensation policy should react and be primary. That is correct, but it does not disallow the lawsuit filed by the injured worker against the general contractor or subcontractor that contracted with the injured worker's company. You still need to defend yourself against this claim. Another exclusion to be aware of and ensure is not included is an Action Over exclusion, which again removes coverage for "bodily injury" to another party on your project site in certain circumstances. The scenario in this instance would be your employee being injured and filing suit against the upper tier contractor who in turn tenders the suit back to you. This is a third part action over claim and if your policy has an Action Over exclusion, coverage will not apply to defend and indemnify you.

These same principals also apply when reviewing an additional insured endorsement for your company. The intentions of the additional insured endorsement is to make sure you are included on the lower tier's general liability insurance policy for claims against you related to their work. Many times these endorsements will include an exclusion for the additional insured that no coverage as an additional insured will apply as respects to an injury to the insured's (contractor supplying the additional insured endorsement) employees. This means that when you are sued by the lower tier's employee for an unsafe work environment and you tender that suit back to the lower tier contractor's general liability policy as an additional insured, they will deny such status given the noted exclusion included in your additional insured endorsement. You are then in a position of having to defend yourself through coverage on your general liability policy, assuming you do not have an exclusion noted above, which in turn adversely affects your loss history. Or you have to attempt to counter sue the lower tier contractor in hopes they accept your demand to defend and indemnify you for the "bodily injury".

The above is just another example of ensuring that you are reviewing your policies and asking questions of your insurance expert when you see exclusions such as this that you need clarification on to ensure your understanding an what your exposure is related to that specific exclusion. Always be asking questions as it could turn out to be costly when exclusions such as these are included.


Be Aware of your Subcontractor Warranty Endorsement! - July 2013

If your general liability insurance is issued through a non-admitted carrier, it is likely that you have a subcontractor warranty endorsement that requires you to ensure the subcontractor has general liability insurance including additional insured status in your favor.  In some cases it may also require that a contract be in place with indemnification in your favor.  Failure to comply with these provisions can lead to a varying number of consequences dependent on the endorsement that you have.  Making sure you know what those consequences are, is critical.

While most are aware of the importance of always having a contract in place with your subcontractors including the requirement of general liability insurance, some fail to collect the certificates of insurance to evidence the GL coverage including additional insured status.  Should their be a loss due to this subcontractors work who you come to find out does not have the proper GL insurance or lacks the additional insured status, your warranty endorsement will likely react in one of three ways.  The harshest penalty is complete denial of the claim related to the subcontractors work due to you not complying with the warranty endorsement.  It is not recommended that you ever accept such an endorsement.

Other subcontractor warranty endorsements will not alter coverage, but will assess a higher deductible on the claim in question.  For instance, should you fail to comply with this warranty and your GL deductible is $5,000, it may increase to $25,000. 

The third penalty again does not alter your coverage, but does charge you an additional premium that in most cases is based on the contract size of the subcontract using a rate that is reflective of the type of work being done.

In a perfect world, we would like to avoid this limitation endorsement all together, but it is unlikely if you are being insured via a non-admitted carrier.  Many times, admitted carriers will not have this limitation, but also may not write your class of business.

The key is simply understanding your warranty endorsement ensuring compliance, but also making sure it does not alter your coverage at time of loss, which could prove catastrophic.



Basic Safety Review - Power Hand Tools - June 2013

Power tools can be very dangerous when used improperly. Cuts, punctures, electric shock, and burns are common consequences of accidents involving these tools. Always exercise caution when working with or around power tools.

  • Keep tools clean. Poor maintenance is responsible for many accidents.
  • Ensure that all guards are in place.
  • Disconnect the power source before adjusting, oiling or changing accessories - always replace the guards when you are done.
  • Ensure that all cords are placed in safe locations, where they do not create a tripping hazard.
  • Inspect the insulation on all wires each day. Report all damaged wires.
  • Inspect the couplings on pneumatic hoses before each use. Report all damaged couplings immediately.
  • Ensure that the tool that you are using is properly grounded.
  • Sanders should be moved away from the body when using.
  • Only properly trained and certified operators may use powder actuated tools.
  • Tools must always be left unloaded until ready for use. Studs should be driven a safe distance from the edge of material.
  • Operators should wear safety goggles or face shields.


Construction Standards Most Violated - May 2013

Job Hazard Analysis (JHA): Thorough hazard assessments for your worksites are critical to assure continued protection of staff.

Construction standards most violated - Assess these with JHAs:

  • Guarding open-sided floors, platforms and runways
  • Housekeeping
  • Stairway railings and guards
  • Fall protection
  • Guarding floor openings
  • Storing of compressed gas cylinders
  • Portable fire fighting equipment
  • Wearing protective helmets
  • Guardrails and toe boards on scaffolds
  • Height of ladders above landings
  • Securing portable ladders
  • Grounding of portable and/or plug-connected equipment
  • National Electrical Code
  • Use of approved containers for flammable, combustible liquids
  • Guarding temporary lights
  • Guarding or covering floor holes
  • Guarding wall openings
  • Exit from trenches
  • Defective portable ladders
  • Shoring, sloping, sheeting or bracing trenches
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Specifications for guardrails and toe boards on scaffolds
  • Securing valve protection caps on compressed gas cylinders
  • Shoring or restraining material at excavations?
  • Cleat on job-made ladders
  • Requirements for woodworking tools and machinery

Do not be on of the ones to be caught by OSHA.  Review the hazard and ensure a complete JHA is in place. 


New OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (GHS): December 1, 2013 Employee Training Deadline - April 2013

OSHA's updated Hazard Communication Standard is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). According to the US Department of Labor, the objective of the new standard is to "improve the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals."

According to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, "revising OSHA's Hazard Communication standard will improve the quality and consistency of hazard information, making it safer for workers to do their jobs and easier for employers to stay competitive." In fact, OSHA estimates that the revised standard will prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses annually. (http://tinyurl.com/facts-hcs-ghs).

Our agency's exclusive new online Hazard Communication Training includes current information about the Globally Harmonized System to help you keep pace as the revised OSHA Hazard Communication Standard takes effect. Incorporating the GHS requires revisions of old hazard classifications because it requires specific criteria for different health and physical hazards as well as mixture classifications. Your employees will need to become familiar with the new classifications.

Container labels and pictograms with harmonized signal words and hazard statements for each hazard class and category are topics that are included in the Hazard Communication Training. Your employees will also be introduced to the new Safety Data Sheets in the internationally-approved 16-section format.

The previous version of the Hazard Communication Standard gave workers the right to know about the hazardous chemicals in their workplace. The 2012 Standard, with the incorporation of the GHS, requires that workers also understand the hazards associated with those chemicals. Organizations are required to provide employee training on the new system and to ensure employees understand the chemicals they work with before the December 1, 2013 deadline. Ensure your organization is compliant by including the Hazard Communication Training in your regular curriculum.

The new course is now available in CMR's web-based Risk Management Center, in the learning management system and risk management library. The Risk Management Center also contains other OSHA-required programs, training materials, and integrated software solutions.

The Risk Management Center as provided by CMR is only available to current clients, so if interested to learn more about it, please visit our website at www.cmrris.com.  Otherwise, please seek other avenues to be compliant with this training for your employees.

Courtesy and in conjunction with Succeed Management Solutions, LLC

Refresher: General Construction Safety - March 2013

For safety professionals it is a daily process and duty to be reviewing and monitoring safety plans while implementing new ones. All too often, however, the most basic safety items that are typically taken for granted are overlooked, which can lead to injuries for your employees. While many seem like common sense it is always a good idea to advise your workers of those basic safety measures and general safety procedures that should be adhered to and monitored by your supervisors. Such safety items include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Report to work rested and physically fit to perform your job.
  • Wear clothing suitable for the weather and your work. Torn or loose clothing, cuffs, or neckwear can be hazardous.
  • Wear approved safety footwear suitable for your trade.
  • Use gloves, aprons or other suitable skin protection when handling rough materials, chemicals, hot or cold objects. Replace if worn.
  • Jewelry (rings, bracelets, neck chains, etc.) should not be worn.
  • Special safety equipment is provided for your protection. Use when required. Keep in good condition, and report loss or damage immediately.
  • Locate gas, power and water sources before starting work. Contact utility companies.
  • "No Smoking" signs stand guard near fire dangers. Obey them - always!
  • Know location and use of fire extinguishing equipment and how to give fire alarm.
  • Flammable liquid containers should be clearly labeled and stored in a protected, separate area.
  • Flammable liquids should be used only in small amounts and kept in approved metal safety cans.
  • Do not refuel a hot or running engine. Clean up spills before starting.
  • Do not block aisles, traffic lanes or fire exits.
  • Have safe access to work areas.
  • Avoid shortcuts - use ramps, stairs, walkways, ladders, etc.
  • Properly brace or shore up excavation side wall if not sloped.
  • Place excavation spoils far enough away to avoid load strain on walls. Remove surface rocks that may fall in.
  • Do not permit vehicles close to edge of cut.
  • Bend knees, keep back nearly straight when lifting. Leg muscles, not your back, should do the work.
  • Get help with heavy or bulky materials to avoid dropping load or getting thrown off-balance.
  • Have just one person give commands when team lifting big loads.
  • Intoxicants and illicit drugs are NOT permitted - cause for disciplinary action.
  • Rely on your team's knowledge and experience if you do not understand any rule or work operation.
  • Work with care and good judgment at all times to avoid accidents - whether or not a specific rule exists.
  • Give your wholehearted support to safety activities. Preventing an accident depends on YOU!!

By ensuring the above and refreshing your employees on the basics, you will have a safer workforce and a workforce thinking safety.


Incident Investigation: Important in Prevention of Future Losses - February 2013

Injuries must be thoroughly understood in an effort to prevent repeat occurrences. Incident investigations are so important that both management and the Safety Committee must be involved. The investigation pinpoints the causes of an incident and also provides an accurate analysis of the steps that must be taken to prevent a recurrence. After the investigation, all missing safeguards or corrective measures must be put into place.

An Investigation Team must be established and prepared before an incident happens, so that it will be ready to respond when the need occurs. Investigation Team members will change periodically, but the ideal team will include the following:

  • A worker from the area where the incident occurred.
  • A supervisor from a work area not involved in the incident.
  • A maintenance supervisor who understands equipment or processes associated with the incident.
  • The Safety Supervisor.
  • A Safety Committee representative.

There are five steps to an effective incident investigation:

  1. Gather information: The Investigation Team learns the facts about the incident and interviews witnesses and others involved. The Incident Investigation Form is used to document the facts and organize the information.
  2. Analyze facts: The Investigation Team identifies the incident's causes and contributing factors and determines how the incident could have been prevented.
  3. Report findings: The Investigation Team prepares a written report that describes who was involved, where the incident occurred, when it happened, and what caused it. The Report recommends what can be done to prevent the incident from happening again.
  4. Act on recommendations: Management reviews the report and determines how to prevent the incident from happening again. A modification to a Safety policy, procedure, or program needs to be developed and implemented to prevent future recurrences. This assures proper corrective action is taken.
  5. Follow up: The Safety Supervisor, Safety Committee and Investigation Team follows up to ensure that appropriate corrective action was taken to prevent the incident from happening again.


More Important than Ever; Your Experience Modification - January 2013

As many of you know, workers' compensation rates are on the rise in the state of California. The WCIRB (Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau) of California has increased pure premium advisory rates over 45% in the past year alone. While this is obviously critical, we as employers cannot control this directly, but there are areas that you can control and in this article we are going to examine one such factor; a company's experience modification.

As touched on above, employers cannot control their base rates in California, directly anyways, but we do have a say over our company specific experience modification factor and given the large increases we are seeing and will continue to see, it makes it that much more important to be able to control this factor. For those that do not know, your experience modification is used directly in determining your final workers compensation premium. For instance, for a contractor with a 0.88 modification, they receive an automatic 12% credit on their premium. For another contractor with a 1.22 modification they receive an automatic 22% debit to their workers compensation premium. So imagine the impact in premium one contractor may face, if coupled with the aforementioned rate increase, their modification increases as well! That will be felt directly on the bottom line of any contractor and unfortunately, it is anticipated that many contractors will face this exact scenario. Given the economic conditions, this could be a crippling affect to a company's bottom line and competitiveness in their bids.

So what can a contractor do to ensure they have the best modification possible? The easy answer and the most important one is don't have losses. If you don't have losses, your modification will be low and ensure you a credit on your workers compensation premium. Prevention of employee injury is done through proper risk management incorporating in proper risk controls, safety policies and procedures, as well as consistent training and monitoring of your safety plan. Each month, we try examine the various risk controls that we utilize with our clients in an effort to prevent loss as we understand how paramount this is for long term success, employee safety and lower insurance costs.

So we know that prevention of loss is the ultimate way to control your experience modification, but in an inherently dangerous industry, how do we control this factor to the best of our ability following losses? You need to control the process from start to end. All too often, claims get out of control and adversely affect the experience modification. Here are some things to consider when managing a claim:

  1. Ensure there is a proper investigation plan in place following any work related injury. This should be a written procedure that each supervisor has so they can immediately begin the process following injury.
  2. Review the area of the incident including equipment that was being used at time of injury.
  3. Determine what was not normal, if anything, before the accident that contributed to the incident.
  4. Make sure witnesses are interviewed about the injury immediately while it is fresh in their mind and before they have time to speak with others. Speak with each witness separately.
  5. Once the investigation is completed, present your findings to your broker and claims adjuster so they can know quickly if their are any red flags they should be aware of

I capitalized the final point because while the first 5 get the claim started in the right direction the final step is what takes time and is the most critical in ensuring an efficient and effective handling of your claim. Wether this is done directly by you as the safety manager/claims manager or your broker representative, examples of items that should be reviewed as the claim progresses includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Verification of claimant's impairment of disability percentage rating based upon state statutes.
  2. Confirming status of current and ongoing medical treatment
  3. Confirming number of treating physicians
  4. Confirming the need for surgery
  5. Evaluation of future medical treatment program
  6. Verifying the claimant's impairment rating and the date the claimant was released from the medical treatment
  7. Identify the need for an independent medical exam
  8. Request activity check and surveillance by the insurance company when appropriate
  9. Review lump sum demands and advise on appropriateness of settlements

Again the above are just some of the items that should be reviewed when managing a claim to ensure it is handled properly and correctly.

By implementing a plan to ensure proper claim management, you can better control the loss amount, avoid costly delays, and ultimately minimize the negative affect on your company's experience modification factor, which will be all the more important in 2013.




First Aid Basics - December 2012

As they say, you need to walk before your can run so making sure that all employees have a basic understanding of first aid and its importance can be a great start to teaching them and certifying them in other safety areas while also providing a valuable resource to your crew and the safety of all.

The essential rules of First Aid:

  • Rule 1: Call 911 if needed. Time is important. If it is determined that 911 assistance is needed, call immediately. 
  • Rule 2: You must be properly trained and certified in order to assist an injured person.  You may do more harm than good if you are not properly trained. It is important to know not only what to do, but what not to do.
  • Rule 3: Do not move an injured person:   Do not try to move an injured person unless the person is in imminent danger. Improper or careless movement can increase the severity of an injury.

Types of injuries:

Fractures: Treating broken bones is not for amateurs. Leave the victim in place until a medical professional arrives with proper supplies and equipment.

Electrical wire contact: If a person has come into contact with a live electrical wire, a properly trained individual may try to free the person if it can be done in a safe manner.

Chemical splash, burn or ingestion: Different first aid steps will be required based on the chemical and the part of the body that came in contact with the chemical.  Refer to the Safety Data Sheet on file for required First Aid procedures.

Minor injuries, such as burns, nicks, cuts and scratches: These are the most common injuries you will encounter. Treating minor injuries right away is better than dealing with them after they have gotten worse. If a chemical is not involved in the injury, clean the wound with soapy water for 3 minutes and cover with a bandage. If the injury involves contact with another person's bodily fluid, including blood, saliva or open skin, follow the post-exposure steps in your bloodborne pathogen exposure control plan.

Follow additional workplace guidelines:

Report all incidents to the supervisor immediately!

If you do not know how to handle a situation:

  1. Activate the Emergency Action Plan.
  2. Call 911.
  3. Get help immediately.

Through some of these basic rules you can assist in the safety of your employees and getting them to the appropriate urgent care center safely.

Driver Safety - The Fundamentals - November 2012

A good driver knows how to operate a vehicle safely at all times and under all conditions.

He or she may encounter emergency situations, but these are the exception rather than the rule. A driver must understand how to start, how to drive under normal conditions, how to make turns, how to stop, and how to park.

The following habits should be part of your regular driving routine:

  • Adjust the seat for comfortable and safe driving, check the mirrors, lock the doors, apply pressure to the brake pedal to check the braking system, and fasten your seat belt!
  • Check to see if the parking brake is on and if the gear selector is in park or neutral. After starting the car, check the instruments on your dashboard.
  • Check for oncoming traffic before pulling out from the curb.
  • Keep a safe driving distance.
  • Keep your car under control when approaching a stop light.
  • When waiting for an intersection light to change, watch cross traffic as well as the signal.
  • Come to a complete stop and look both ways to make certain there is no approaching traffic before proceeding.
  • When making a right turn, stay in the right lane; do not attempt a turn from the middle of the street.
  • When making a left turn, make certain that it is permitted. Do not try to beat cars coming from the other direction, or assume that they can or will slow down for your vehicle.
  • Watch traffic, and show consideration for other drivers before making a lane change.
  • Avoid frequent lane changes.
  • Adjust your speed with the flow of traffic.
  • Stay within the posted speed limit.
  • Use turn signals!

Although many of these seem obvious they are common practices missed resulting in a car accident, both minor and serious.  It is always a good idea to give your drivers a reminder of the basics. 


Choosing the Right Glove - October 2012

Chemicals and hazardous products often require the use of protective gloves. Different glove materials are effective for protection against different chemical agents. The wrong glove could put the user in contact with a vapor or liquid that causes injury or illness. The selection of chemical-resistant hand protection must be done properly to ensure that employees are adequately protected.

The hazard assessment:

The first step in choosing the right glove is conducting a hazard assessment of the task.
1) The chemicals being used.
2) The properties for each chemical, including: 
3) The conditions for chemical use, including:
    -The frequency of exposure
    -The duration of exposure
    -Whether protection is needed against full immersion, splash protection or incidental contact. 
4) How much grip and manual dexterity is needed for the task.
5) Whether puncture and cut resistance is needed for the task.

Thicker glove material increases chemical and cut resistance, but can reduce grip and dexterity.  Ideally, gloves should be selected to provide adequate chemical protection without unnecessarily sacrificing other safety considerations.

Glove resistance:

Once you know the conditions your glove must withstand, consult manufacturer glove charts to identify the glove with the level of chemical resistance you need. Resistance for a specific chemical varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. 

Resistance can be measured with:
1) Breakthrough time:  The time in minutes between initial chemical contact on the outside of the glove and the analytical detection of vapor on the inside.
2) Permeation rate:  The rate at which chemicals pass through the material once breakthrough occurs, usually reported as micrograms per square meter per minute.
3) Degradation: An adverse change in physical properties, such as weakening of the material or excessive swelling.


Train employees on your personal protective equipment program, making sure to cover inspection, proper use and how frequently the gloves need to be replaced.

Gloves must be checked prior to use:

1) Visually inspect gloves for:
    -Holes or other signs of wear. Note whether the gloves were worn previously.
    -Discoloration or stiffness that could result from manufacturing flaws.
    -Signs of improper storage.
2) Test the gloves for leakage: A simple test for leaks is to roll the open end of the glove to trap air inside, then to squeeze to increase air pressure and check for leaks. 
3) Do not use gloves that show signs of obvious wear or leakage. 

Proper glove use:

When putting on the gloves, it is a good practice to turn the cuff of the glove up.  This can prevent chemicals from running down the glove from the hand and contacting the arm.

Remove gloves properly to prevent exposure to hazardous materials by one of two methods:
   -Wash the gloved hands before removing. 
   -Remove the glove from the first hand with the other gloved hand, then grab the inside of the other glove and peel it off, inside-out, over the first glove. 

Safely dispose of the gloves after use; Replace the gloves as needed.

Common glove types:

Rubber gloves may include:
   -Natural rubber

Available polymeric materials include:
   -Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
   -Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)

Injuries can be prevented by simply reviewing and ensuring proper use of gloves based on the chemicals being used. It is good practice to consistently check your practices and educating your staff on proper use to prevent injury. 



Hand Tool Safety - September 2012

The potential for injury from commonly used hand tools is always present.

Often these tools become so much a part of the job that we take them for granted. Certainly a broken tool can prove to be a hazard, but so can using the wrong tool for the job or failing to recognize the other hazards that can develop while using common hand tools.

Hand tools by definition are not powered by a secondary source. They rely on the force, strength and skill of the user to function properly. In order to do that safely, they need to be in good working order.

Did you know that each employer is responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees, including tools and equipment which may be furnished by the employee?

Many potential injuries are associated with using simple hand tools:

  • Strain, sprains and overexertion
  • Cumulative trauma injuries
  • Foreign objects in the eyes
  • Hand or body injuries
  • "Struck-with" or "struck-by" injuries
  • Lacerations and punctures

Many hand tools are used on virtually any job. Here are a few common types:

  • Wood working tools such as chisels
  • Pounding tools such as hammers
  • Digging tools such as shovels
  • Cutting tools such as pruning loppers
  • Mechanical tools such as adjustable jaw wrenches
  • Various types of hand saws, rakes and pliers

Before use:

Regardless of the type of tool, all hand tools should be inspected before they are used. Even employee-owned tools used on a job site should be inspected before use. Damaged, bent or defective equipment should not be used.

  • Handles should be inspected for cracks:
    • They should not be painted, lacquered or covered up with tape or material that prevents adequate inspection.
    • Jaws should be in good shape, not loose, worn or stripped.
  • Blades should be sharp and in good condition.
  • Striking surfaces should be solid and free of wornedges or mushrooming that could create a flying debris hazard.
  • Certain equipment requires ANSI or other certifications; non-approved tools should not be used in place of the approved equipment.

During use:

  • Follow the instructions. Hand tools are designed to be used under particular manufacture-specified conditions and only used for the intended purpose.
    • Never use "cheater bars," extension handles, power equipment, or other non-approved alterations.
    • Make sure you are not going beyond what the manufacturer intended by making variations on either the equipment or its use.
  • Many accidents and injuries occur when the wrong tool is selected for a specific task. Common occurrences include:
    • Using screwdrivers as chisels or as pry-bars.
    • Using wrenches as hammers.
    • Using loppers instead of a pruning saw on larger branches.

Personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • Proper use of any hand tool includes considering the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed while using the tool.
  • In many cases safety glasses or gloves should be used.
  • With exposed blade cutting equipment, chaps or other cut-resistant material should be considered.
  • One of the best examples of eliminating the hazard is the new style of razor knife that eliminates the possibility of people cutting themselves.

There are other potential hazards that can impact the type of PPE to be used:


  • The type of PPE required may be altered by the presence of:
    • Electricity
    • Spring energy
    • Compressed air
    • Chemicals
    • Fluids
    • Heat or cold
  • A person working during a warm summer day may need different types of PPE than a person working on a cold winter day, even though they are using the same tools and performing the same tasks.
  • In some cases the PPE may require that a different tool be selected or that considerations be made for other pertinent hazards depending on the conditions that are encountered.

Ergonomics must be considered:

  • The conditions or tasks to be performed may require the worker to hold the tool in an awkward position:
    • This may create a hazard in and of itself, or it may make the worker more susceptible to other hazards such as falls or potential damage to knees or other body parts.
  • Another common problem with the use of hand tools can be repetitive motion issues that can produce cumulative trauma disorders.
    • One of the more common occurrences of this condition is when framers and roofers repeatedly swing a hammer in the course of a day.
  • Many great new tool designs have been developed to reduce this type of injury in the workplace:
    • Hammers with more ergonomically designed handles are now available.
    • The amount of force required to properly use some of these new, more ergonomically designed tools is also considerably less.

Hazard Assessments:

  • Employers need to perform hazard assessments in their workplaces to characterize the nature and types of hazards that are present.
  • They are simple and do not have to be cumbersome.
  • Consider the types of tools that will be used, the conditions that will be experienced and the type of personal protective equipment that may be needed.
  • Hazard assessments should be in writing and specific for the job or task to be performed.

Is Your Safety Incentive Program Discriminatory? A Behavior Based Incentive Program is a Better Option - August 2012

In March 2005, 15 workers died and 180 others were injured during an explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas. A study conducted after the explosion found that refinery workers feared reprisals for reporting potentially risky conditions. The refinery had a safety incentive program that tied workers' bonuses to low rates of accidents and injuries.

The implication that an incentive program may have discouraged reporting of hazardous conditions, which might have contributed to the accident, led to further inquiry. The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2009 that safety incentive programs "can provide disincentives for workers to report injuries and illnesses to their employers." And in early 2012, the GAO concluded that "experts and industry officials ... suggest that rate-based [incentive] programs may discourage reporting of injuries and illnesses."

Some Incentives Discourage Reporting

In March 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warned that certain workplace policies may result in unlawful discrimination against employees who report injuries, illnesses, or workplace hazards. Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee who reports an injury or illness (29 CFR 1904.36). Reporting a work-related injury or illness is a core employee right, and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination under section 11(c). Among other things, OSHA advises that discrimination can occur when employers' safety programs unintentionally or intentionally give employees incentives not to report injuries or illnesses.

For example, if an employee of a firm with a safety incentive program reports an injury, then the employee, or the employee's team, may be disqualified from receiving an incentive; this could be considered unlawful discrimination. This is exacerbated when the incentive is so large that failure to receive it dissuades workers from reporting injuries. This may be more likely in cases where an entire team is disqualified by one worker's reported injury, because the injured worker in such a case may feel reluctant to cause disadvantage to the other workgroup members.

OSHA has observed that the potential for unlawful discrimination may increase when management bonuses are linked to lower injury rates.

Accurate Reporting Helps Everyone

Prompt reporting of injuries, illnesses and unsafe conditions is critical not only so that injured employees may receive prompt medical care and the workers' compensation benefits to which they are entitled, but also that employers may correct, dangerous working conditions. Accurate reporting yields reliable statistics about workplace illnesses and injuries. Employers who do not accurately report all workplace injuries and illnesses, and who do not provide employees with a way to report those incidents, are in violation of OSHA's record keeping rules.

Reward Behavior, Not Numbers

The incentive programs of concern are rate-based programs, where employers give prizes or bonuses to employees or teams that report the lowest number of work-related injuries or illnesses during a specific period. Because a low number is the goal, employees may be reluctant to report anything that could raise that number. Under-reporting is more likely when 1) workers' injuries are minor and easy to conceal and the rewards are relatively large and when 2) the incentives are team-based, and members of the team may coerce or intimidate an injured employee not to report.

Behavior-based programs reinforce safe behavior by giving incentives to employees or teams who demonstrate safe behavior; these programs are not tied to incident rates. Because the goal is safe behavior, not a low incident rate, employees are encouraged to be active participants in the safety program. In a behavior-based program, employers might reward employees when they:

* Follow safety rules and encourage others to do so.
* Wear personal protective equipment consistently, and remind others to do the same.
* Report hazardous situations, broken machines, violations of safety rules, etc.
* Find a safer way to do a job.
* Complete a safety training program.
* Help investigate accidents or "near misses."
* Serve on a safety or health committee.
* Suggest ways to improve safety and health.

Review safety incentive programs to identify and revise any aspects that might be discriminatory. Discontinue rate-based incentive programs that may discourage proper reporting; implement a behavior based program that supports safety in a positive way.

Article Courtesy of Sequoia Insurance Company

What to do When a Motor Vehicle Accident Happens - July 2012

As drivers, we must do all we can to prevent accidents: If you are in an accident, you should know what to do so the situation is not made worse. Your actions should be almost automatic.

Make sure to report the accident: No matter who is responsible, every vehicular accident must be reported at once. It is a criminal offense to leave the scene of any accident before identifying yourself.

Turn the vehicle off: If you are in an accident, turn off the ignition and try your best to stay off the road. Commercial drivers must comply with Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and set up reflective triangles and flags or flares.

Stay at the scene of the accident: Stay until someone relieves you, unless you need medical attention or go to call for help.

Call the appropriate people: Call the police and your home and or office immediately.

Collect information: Get the license numbers of all vehicles involved and the names and addresses of all drivers and passengers. If there has been any property damage, get the name and address of the owner or owners. List the companies that insure the property and vehicles. Try to get the names and addresses of anyone at the scene, whether they actually saw the accident or not.

Do not argue or discuss fault: People are usually emotionally upset at an accident and will argue without making much sense. Arguing only prevents you from getting the facts down on paper. A good driver sets a good example by his or her behavior at the accident scene. One should be calm and businesslike.

Search for the owner: If the accident involves an unattended vehicle, do a reasonable search for the owner. If the owner cannot be found, leave a note in a conspicuous place, so they can contact you. Inform the police and ask if they want you to remain at the scene.

Don't move injured victims: Never move injured victims unless it is absolutely necessary to get them away from fire or passing traffic. Moving them can easily make their condition worse, especially if they have internal injuries. If there are injuries, call 911 immediately. Give first aid, but only if you are certified and confident in what you are doing.

Keep other people away: If people gather around, help keep them away from the victims and accident scene so as not to destroy any of the evidence e.g., skid marks and parts of vehicles. Keep everyone away from spilled fuel or other materials - a careless cigarette toss can turn a minor accident into a major one.

Take pictures: If you have a camera, take several pictures from different angles including the directions from which the vehicles approached the accident location.

Make a record: As soon as time is available, write an account of the accident as it looked to you. Fill out all required incident investigation forms and insurance reports. Such reports may seem like a burden at the time, but your description can be the basis for preventing such accidents in the future. 

Although these steps seem rather simple, all too often drivers are unaware of what to do in the event of an accident, which can lead to a worse situation then it has to be.  Educating your drivers on the above steps is critical to proper investigation of the accident. 

Heat Stress and Safety - June 2012

It is that time of year again, when the temparatures rise and heat related injury or illness becomes ever present in the workplace.  While we all know of the requirement of OSHA related to the prevention of heat related injuries, it is equally important to understand and recognize the symptoms of a heat related illness and how to respond with first aid.

Heat stress is a condition in which the body has an elevated core temperature; this can lead to illnesses of varying severity. Heat illnesses may cause extreme discomfort and even complete temporary disability. Heat stroke is potentially fatal and may occur suddenly if heat exhaustion is ignored.

Facts about heat stress:

  • A body at work generates heat faster than at rest, often more heat than is needed.
  • Roughly three-fourths of the stored energy the body draws on during activity converts to heat rather than motion.
  • More strenuous activity naturally generates more heat.
  • The elevation of core body temperature disturbs functioning, so the body protects itself by dissipating excess heat.
  • The mechanisms of vasodilatation and sweating are critical to moving heat from a human body to the environment.

How to avoid heat stress:

  • To maintain comfort and health in a hot environment, it is critical for people to replace both the water and electrolytes they lose through sweating.
  • If body fluid is not replenished at the same rate as it is lost, or if replacement lacks electrolytes, the cooling mechanisms lose effectiveness and exposure to heat stress rises.

Here are some common symptoms of heat stress and the treatments for each:

  • Heat rash:
    • Symptoms: Red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
    • Causes: Excessive sweating leading to clogged pores - can develop into an infection.
    • First aid: Cleanse and dry the affected area and use calamine lotion or dusting powder to increase comfort.
  • Heat cramps:
    • Symptoms: Painful spasms of leg, arm or abdominal muscles, heavy sweating, and thirst.
    • Causes: Typically occur during or after hard work or exercise and are caused by electrolyte deficiencies that result from extended periods of intense sweating.
    • First aid: Stop all activity and sit in a cool place and drink plenty of water or electrolyte fluids. Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps have subsided.
  • Heat exhaustion:
    • Symptoms: Fatigue, headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea, chills, tingling of hands or feet, confusion, loss of coordination, fainting and collapse.
    • Causes: Dehydration, lack of acclimatization, reduction of blood in circulation, strain on circulatory system, and reduced flow of blood to the brain.
    • First aid: Rest in the shade or a cool place. Drink plenty of water (preferred) or electrolyte fluids.
  • Heat stroke:
    • Symptoms: Body typically has a core temperature exceeding 104 degrees F and can no longer cool itself.
    • Causes: Can occur suddenly if heat exhaustion is not treated, and can be fatal.
    • First Aid: A person suffering heat stroke needs immediate attention and should be taken to a medical facility as soon as possible. Brain damage and even death are possible.
      • Call 911 or summon medical aid immediately
      • Move to cool shaded area
      • Douse the body continuously with water.

Hopefully your jobs do not present the above issues that can result from the heat, but should it happen it is critical you and your employees can recognize the symptoms and react accordingly.


Analysis: 2012 Mid-year rate proposal equals an average pure premium rate increase of 47.33% - May 2012

On April 12, 2012, the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) proposed new pure premium rates for businesses that renew their workers' compensation insurance starting July 1, 2012.

Because these proposed rates could affect the price policyholders pay for coverage, WorkCompare.com has compared the pure premium rates in force July 1, 2011 to the rates proposed for July 1, 2012 and found the following:

1.  There was no mid-year rate change approved in California in 2011.  That means the pure premium rates in force July 1, 2011 were the rates approved for January 1, 2011.
2.  Out of the 490+ standard classifications, all rates are proposed to INCREASE
3.  Average pure premium rate in force July 1, 2011 was 4.69
4.  Average pure premium rate proposed for July 1, 2012 was 6.91
5.  That equals an average pure premium rate increase of 47.33% (Average rate calculation does not include per capita or per race rates: 7707 - Firefighters - volunteers; 7722 - Police, Sheriffs - volunteers; or 8278 - Jockeys)

Courtesy of WorkCompare.com

Flash Report! - 9.1% Increase in Pure Premium Rates for Workers Compensation - April 2012

Employers in California are going to be very unhappy with the mid-year workers' comp rate filing the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau is about to make. It will soon file for a 9.1% average increase. This is over and above the 37% rate increase that Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones approved for January 2012. The filing will come in at an average rate of $2.51 per $100 of payroll compared to the $2.33 for last year.

The amount is 7.7% above what the Bureau filed last year. It says the increase represents deterioration in the system that is largely tied to the 2010 accident year. The actual increase to rates being used by carriers, however, is likely to be lower since carriers have been steadily increasing their filed rates. Stay tuned for additional coverage.

Courtesy of Workers' Comp Executive Newsdesk (www.wcexec.com)

Safety Interview Questions - March 2012

The objective: We are trying to assess the integrity of the prospective employee and his or her attitude toward safety.

Encourage the prospective employee to talk in a manner that helps you to understand his or her attitude and safety behavior.

Feel free to lead off with these questions:

  1. What do you think about the safety instructions on the JSA? Have you ever worked anywhere that had a good safety program?
  2. What did you like most about your last job?
  3. What did you like least about your previous job?
  4. What were some of the safety hazards of your previous job?
  5. What protective measures were in place to address these hazards?
  6. Do you know about lock-out?
  7. What type of equipment did you operate, and did you use lock out procedures?
  8. What kind of guards were on the equipment?
  9. Did the guards ever get in the way?
  10. How was safety enforced at your previous place of employment? Were the supervisors held accountable if employees did not follow safety procedures?
  11. What type of protective gear did you wear at your previous job?
  12. When you weld, what type of protective gear did you wear?
  13. Why is it important to make sure that your equipment is grounded?
  14. Did your previous employer have a stretching and lift training program? Did they make sure you followed proper lift procedures and did stretching exercises?
  15. Would you like to lead some stretch sessions or work with the safety committee to continue to improve our safety efforts if you were employed here?
  16. Do you think zero accidents are achievable in a work environment?

Using the above questions will allow to get a good idea of the prospective employee's feeling toward safety ensuring that you are adding the same safety culture to your existing work force.


What's So Hard About Concrete? The Latest in the Evolution of Concrete - December 2011

Concrete. It has been used since the time of Ancient Rome. We all may take it for granted, but not all concrete is created equal and it continues to evolve. What is important for contractors to know is how these modifications impact the exposures we insure for the contractors who work with concrete.

Advances in concrete material sciences have led to a new "class" of concrete materials. This new class of concrete is UHPC or Ultra High Performance Concrete. It has been in development for some time and has some very interesting characteristics. For example, the compressive strength of UHPC may be 4 to 6 times higher than traditional Portland cement concretes. UHPC also contains organic or steel fibers in the mix which may eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of steel reinforcement further reducing labor costs. In traditional Portland cement concretes, dry shrinkage may cause cracking (it is hard to imagine, but traditional concrete shrinks as it dries). UHPC significantly reduces dry shrinkage. The superior durability and impermeability of UHPC to chlorides from road salts and marine environments translates to greatly reduced maintenance costs and longer life spans in these climates.

So what does this mean to you? UHPC is being piloted in elevated road and bridge construction that you may be working on. Advances in UHPC are altering the road and bridge building process. For example, more components are built offsite and brought in when the site is ready to accept the components. This means that precast road and bridge components (whether made on site, off site near the project or in a manufacturing plant) can be constructed with less traffic exposure to workers and less traffic disruption. Some of these components are common elements in the structure, and some are full bridge sections (where, for example, a bridge can be placed overnight).

We expect to see more full-thickness pre-cast slab sections placed in bridge repairs instead of on-site re-decking. You may see other bridge component premade and installed with limited traffic disruptions. The work is not occurring in all states at present. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is working with a handful of states on select projects.

So how does this tie back to your insurance and risk management? When exposures change, risk may change too. Here are some questions to consider. What does the UHPC process and modular preassembly do for immediate exposures such as project completion timelines, workers traffic exposure and reduced public disruptions? How about heavier or more frequent crane "lifts"? Will the construction defect exposure change compared to typical Portland cement concrete and traditional construction? It is all in front of us. The first order of business is awareness.

Information provided courtesy of Travelers Insurance Company 

FLASH Report! Cal/OSHA: Serious Cites Easier to Give Says Chief Council - November 2011

Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) Chief Counsel and prosecutor Amy Martin, on 10/19/11, minced no words when addressing what she says in the part of AB 2774 that employers should put their focus on.

"All people want to talk about is the stupid 1BY form, Martin commented at the 2011 professional development conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers' Sacramento chapter.  "Nobody care about that."  Instead, she urged safety professional to pay close attention to what she says is the "heart" of the 2010 law that changed the way DOSH cites employers for serious violations: the "rebuttable presumption."  That's the provision that makes it far easier for Cal/OSHA to cite for a serious violation than under the previous rules.

She also admitted that the much-ballyhooed law isn't written very well.  it's a prosecutorial admission every defense attorney will be delighted to hear - and use against DOSH's cases.  She went on...

AB 2774 establishes a "rebuttable presumption" that a serious violation exists if DOSH can show a "realistic possibility" that death or serious physical harm could result from the workplace hazard.  Under the former California Labor Code definition, a serious violation could only be upheld if DOSH could show a "substantial probability" of death or serious harm from the violation, a bar the Division said was almost impossible to meet.

DOSH has issued more than 1,600 serious violations under the AB 2774 rules in 2011.  The cases are winding their way through the process.  many will end up before the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board.  But Martin urged employers to become very familiar with the new rules:

"You should sit down and read [AB 2774] very carefully," she told the ASSE audience, "Why?  Because it's not clear."

The persecutor noted that the term "realistic possibility" is defined nowhere, and ultimately it will be up to the Appeals Board to decide how it is applied.  The phrase was crafted by a coalition of stakeholders, including Cal/OSHA, employer representatives and labor unions.  "We made it up," she admitted.  The law and language was shepherded through the process by former Chief Len Welsh who negotiated the deal between the stakeholders.

But she also noted that the law codified an "affirmative defense" for employers.  An employer may rebut a serious allegation by demonstrating that it did no know and could not have known of the violation with reasonable diligence.  It also requires the employer to show it took "all the steps a reasonable and responsible employer in like circumstances should be expected to take."

As for the "stupid" 1BY forms, which DOSH must issue before actually issuing a serious citation, giving the employer a chance to make its case that is doesn't deserve a serious violation, Martin said DOSH does not have data on the percentage of such forms that actually dissuaded Cal/OSHA from serious citations.  "I know that communication is happening," though, she said.  She disputed allegations from one employer-allied defense attorney that Cal/OSHA inspectors and even district managers are actually ignoring the form and consider it useless.  "They are not ignoring it," Martin said, but not until after she said "nobody cares about it."

Information provided courtesy of Workers' Comp Executive 

Refresher: MSDS Sheets - March 2011

Many companies today have to deal with MSDS Sheets and while most know about the importance it is always a good idea to refresh your employees on the importance and regaulation involved.

What is an MSDS?

An MSDS provides information the manufacture of a chemical considers necessary for you, the worker, to determine what chemicals are in a product and what steps to take to protect yourself when using the product.

Although MSDSs from different sources may look very different, they all contain the same type of information. MSDSs may look difficult and while they do contain a lot of technical language and data, the information you need to identify, understand, and work safety with a chemical product is easy to find.

MSDSs are divided into sections usually beginning with the chemical and common name of the product. Besides knowing what this product is called, it's important to know who makes it and where to reach the manufacturer. The manufacturer can answer questions about the product and help you if an emergency arises. You will usually find a phone number for the manufacturer in this section.

The "Health Hazards" section of the MSDS will tell you how dangerous the product can be, the type of danger is represents and what happens if you are overexposed to this product. Equally important is the section that deals with "First Aid". This section will give you some basic steps to take if you or another person is affected by the chemicals in this product.

MSDSs also provide information about the necessary "Protective Equipment". Here, specific recommendations for safety equipment and procedures are listed. This section tells you how to protect yourself from exposure when working with or near this product.

Why are MSDSs important?

By taking the time to read a MSDS, you can find some important basic information about the chemical(s) you work with including:

  • What it is called
  • What's in it
  • What happens if the chemical affects you
  • What First Aid steps to take if exposure occurs
  • How to protect yourself and work safely with the chemical

Other sections of a MSDS will tell you what the chemical looks, smells and feels like, how to safely handle and store the chemical, what happens to the chemical in the event of a fire, and what if any exposure limits have been set or recommended for the chemical(s) or product.

More information on MSDSs, chemical information references and chemical safety can be obtained by asking your supervisor.