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IA Blog

IA Blog

Space Heaters – How to Keep Your Home and Business Safe This Winter

It is almost that time of year again.  The time of the year when the weather turns cold and families and businesses use a variety of options to keep warm.  A popular choice is the use of a space heater.  Every year there’s stories about a home or business burning down because of a space heater.  As you have probably heard before, homes and buildings can be rebuilt, lives can’t.

A widely talked about rule suggests keeping a minimum of 3 feet between the space heater and anything combustible.  Sounds simple.  The reality is that there are many precautions, not just that one.  Unfortunately the number of space heater fires is continuing to increase year over year.  If it was...

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Don’t Get Hosed By Your Water Damage Claim

We all have a monster lurking in our walls, under our floors and above our ceilings.  Water seems so nice coming out of the faucet into our cup, or when waking us up in the shower each morning.  However, when a pipe ruptures, a fitting fails, or toilet overflows, it can ruin your day, and wreck your business.

If your business is housed in a multi-unit development, especially a multi- level building, you are also surrounded by your neighbor’s plumbing and a mishap in their space can rain havoc onto you.

As Murphy’s Law seems to dictate, water damage losses often seem to take place after business hours, during holidays and weekends.  Your first notice may be when you arrive...

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The Medical Marijuana Dilemma – RX for Workers Compensation Disaster?

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has addressed the issue of Medical Marijuana in two recently released articles with three still to come.  The series is titled “The Marijuana Conversation”.  The first two installments covered the questions that insurers are asking and the questions the employers are asking.  The third installment will cover the questions that employees are asking.  This is a topical issue with no easy answers to these questions.  Many states have voted to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use which has led to this dilemma in regards to the various stakeholders in regards to Workers Compensation.  Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and eight have legalized it for recreational use.  This...

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The Reality of the 100 year flood – Separating Myth From Fact

By now everyone has seen footage of the devastating flooding in Southeast Texas from Hurricane Harvey.  It seems like there’s always some catastrophic flooding somewhere in the US frequently.  Various terms relating to floods and insurance are thrown around; such as 100 year flood, flood plain, FEMA flood maps, etc.  It probably seems odd when you hear that some place has had a 100 year flood, but you remember how it seemed like yesterday that same place had another 100 year flood.  How can that be?  It was on the news that such-in-such area has a 1% risk of a 100 year flood, so the odds of that happening more than once in that short of time must be lottery...

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OSHA Proposes New Deadline for Electronic Reporting Rule

In 2016, OSHA issued a final rule that requires certain employers to submit data from their injury and illness records (forms 300, 300A and 301) electronically so it can be posted on the agency’s website. Although the rule initially required affected employers to submit this data by July 1, 2017, OSHA recently proposed a new deadline of December 1, 2017.  Today simply not participating is not an option, this is a rule that is REQUIRED, let us help you follow this new mandate.

The proposed deadline is the result of a delay to the Injury Tracking Application , the online tool that OSHA will use to collect data. The Injury Tracking Application will be ready to receive electronic reports on August 1, 2017, and employers...

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Decreasing Preventable Auto Accidents: Key to Fighting Rising Commercial Auto Premiums

Commercial auto insurance rates are increasing due to a significant spike in accidents in the last few years. More miles are being driven (about 3%) which combined with other factors, has led to a significant increase in commercial auto claims across the industry. The increase in miles driven is not linear to commercial vehicle accident rates. The increase in accidents is actually much higher than the increase in miles driven. As a business owner with a fleet of vehicles, it is more important than ever to keep accidents in company vehicles as low as possible.

While miles driven is the biggest factor for the increase, other factors such as distracted driving and speed are also contributors. Some accidents are bound...

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Internal Controls: Critical to Safeguarding Assets From Employee Fraud/Theft

Employee fraud/theft frequency and severity continues to rise for all sizes of business each year.  Companies that have less than 100 employees are especially vulnerable, as that employer size has the highest percentage of frequency of fraud/thefts and the highest median amount stolen.  The single biggest denominator in almost all cases is the lack of internal controls that the company had in place.  As I will explain below, implementing the right internal controls can be the difference between experiencing a large theft and protecting those company assets.

While there are many insurance options for this kind of loss, the preferable option is to never have to get to that point.  Because so many companies that work in construction and the...

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The Scary Truth about Cyber Security Breaches

Data breaches and the lack of proper cyber security continue to threaten businesses of all sizes, but the rate in which businesses properly respond to such threats with the appropriate insurance coverages remains underwhelming.

50% of U.S. firms do not have cyber risk insurance. 27% of U.S. executives say their firms have no plans to obtain cyber insurance, even though 61% of them expect cyber breaches to continue to increase in the next year.

Even among those that have insurance, only 16% reported having cybersecurity insurance that covers all risks.

The U.S. falls behind the U.K. and Canada in this regard, where only about 40% have no cyber coverage.

The research behind these statistics come from a survey conducted by...

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Swimming Pool Safety Tips

With warmer weather comes an array of outdoor activities for the whole family, including cooling off in a pool if you are lucky enough to have one. But with a pool also comes the responsibility of safety must-haves and best practices that any parent or home owner should be concerned with. With over 200 young children drowning in backyard pools each year, these tips are critical to ensuring a fun environment for anyone who owns a pool to keep both their friends and family safe and secure.

Swimming Pool Safety Tips

  • It is important to maintain secure fencing and a locked entrance around the pool and deck area to prevent access when adequate supervision is not available. Install self-closing...
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American Workforce Drug Use at a 12 Year High

According to the annual Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index, positivity in drug testing in the combined American workforce is the highest since 2004.  In 2016 there was a five percent increase over the prior year.  This was fueled by illicit drugs including cocaine.  This troubling increase was found among all testing specimens among virtually all sectors of business.

From an employer perspective, the reasons for an employer to create a safe and drug-free workplace are clear.  This is especially the case for employers in the trades and the construction industry.  Implementing a company-wide drug testing program can be tricky.  Fortunately Insurance Associates can assist with your needs in getting this in place.

The positive rate in cocaine testing has increased...

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Pollution Coverage! What could happen?

As I meet with clients and we discuss coverages that are available and recommended, we always get to pollution coverage and the question always arises, “What are my exposures to pollution as a fill in the blank contractor?”  As you will see below, these scenarios in real-life settings are not unbelievable situations, but rather real life happenings that are common within each trade’s routine scope of work.  Pollution coverage should be considered to protect your business.  In addition to your need, we are starting to see the requirement for pollution coverage in more contracts, specifically trade contractors such as HVAC and masonry.  There are options available for job-specific policies when a need arises contractually, but with minimum premiums required by...

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Facts You Should Know For Distracted Driving Month

April is distracted driving awareness month.  Society has been lulled into a sense of security in that as long as one is using a hands-free device while driving that there’s no risk.  While this may be the law in many states, the reality is that the risk of crashing when talking on a hands-free phone conversation is about 4 times greater than when not using a phone at all while driving.  The TV show “Mythbusters” found that driving while using a hands-free device is as dangerous as drunk driving!  This should be an eye opener for everyone including employers that allow their employees/drivers to use hands-free devices.

For most employers, an employee that multitasks well is an asset.  Multitasking while...

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The American Healthcare Act: What Does it Repeal and What is the Replacement?

There has been much in the news regarding the proposed American Healthcare Act that is currently making its way to the House for a vote. Proponents think it is the answer to issues people have had with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Critics are concerned it either does not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act and/or it may result in higher costs and loss of coverage.

So, let’s take a look at what the American Healthcare Act, as it stands today, does NOT change. The AHCA maintains the following requirements:

  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Dependent child coverage up to the age of 26
  • Caps on out of pocket expenses
  • No lifetime or annual benefit limits
  • Guaranteed...
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PRESIDENT TRUMP’S TRILLION DOLLAR INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

There is high expectation and generally strong political support for the Infrastructure Plan that President Trump has promised to announce shortly. Although the need to repair and replace the aging United States infrastructure is clear, the details of the promised Plan are somewhat vague, especially in regards to funding and project selection. To hopefully provide some insight, recently the Kansas City Star, A McClatchy Newspaper, published a “top 50” priority list of the infrastructure projects reportedly in the Trump Plan. The summary of the 50 projects makes for interesting reading, and does include some local projects; the Maryland Purple Line (No. 23), Washington DC Union Station (No. 22), Baltimore Howard Street Tunnel (No. 33), among others.

Click Here for the 50 Projects

Information about the Author:  Bill Cowan has 40 years of surety bonding experience.  He successfully advanced...

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5 HR Compliance Resolutions for 2017

As you may have heard, the Senate and the House have passed budget resolutions that instruct Congressional committees to begin working on legislation to repeal parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Additionally, President Trump has signed an executive order calling upon federal administrative agencies to minimize the economic burden of the ACA, pending repeal of the law.  While we do not have a crystal ball so we can’t predict what changes are coming, it is a new year and a good time to review your company’s compliance with current federal, state and local labor law requirements.   The following includes a few highlighted items that HR professionals should be reviewing and updating annually, but can get put aside...

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Let’s Bring In 2017 By Decreasing Workplace Falls/Injuries And Reinforce Some Ladder Safety Tips!

I know it may sound almost too fundamental, but think about it.  Many of your employees have been using and climbing ladders daily for years.  It’s simple, it’s routine.  I get it.  But workplace falls, including those from ladders, account for a huge portion of all on-the-job injuries.  If it really is so fundamental and so basic, then let’s make sure that you are not one of many contractors in 2017 that will have one of your employees fall off a ladder and incur a preventable work comp claim.

Incredibly the estimated annual cost of ladder injuries both on-the-job and off is $11 billion in the US alone.  About 300 people die each year from ladder injuries.  If you consider...

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Things to Consider When Purchasing Builders Risk Insurance

Builder’s Risk Insurance tends to be one of the most confusing policies to implement for most Contractors and Owners.  As is the case with insurance on construction projects, the first consideration should be to carefully review the terms of the Construction Contract/ Agreement to be certain that the policy/coverage/terms purchased are in compliance.

The Named Insured(s) should include the Contractor and the Project Owner and/or anyone else having a financial interest in the structure.  It is also important to decide which party will be listed as the First Named Insured since the First Named Insured has the rights and responsibilities associated with the policy.

Builders Risk can be written on two different types of policies.  The One-Shot / Single Structure...

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Proud to be a Top Workplace

Our agency is excited to announce that in June this past year we were named a Top Workplace in The Washington Post.  This is our second year in a row that we are pleased to have won this honor.  We were ranked 17th out of 70 small businesses in Washington DC metro region.  This title was bestowed upon our agency by a survey that was conducted by a third party company, Workplace Dynamics, which surveyed the level of workplace satisfaction among our employees.

We are proud that our employees hold our agency in such a high regard.  As an employee of the agency for almost five years, it is my personal opinion that this is due to the many benefits...

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CONTRACTORS: ARE YOU CONSIDERING BUYING A DRONE?

Drones are becoming more popular, especially with larger contractors.  They can be a great tool to give an overview of jobsites and showcase the progress of work.  They are also being misused in some cases so one must be cautious in their use.  Therefore, one must be aware of guidelines and restrictions and utilize common sense.

First, if you purchase a drone for your company, be aware that they are excluded for General Liability, under the Aircraft Exclusion.  You need to contact your agent to obtain liability coverage and possibly property coverage for the drone(s).  Second and most important, you must follow FAA Guidelines.  There are new regulations issued (14 C.F.R. Part 107) which take effect on August 29, 2016.  In summarizing guidelines, there...

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What Do You Mean My Theft Claim Is Not Covered??

Several months ago it was discovered that the president of a medium-large sized payroll company embezzled millions of dollars of clients’ payroll taxes that the owner stole instead of remitting them to the IRS or state & local tax authorities.

The worst part was that this loss was not covered by the clients’ crime/fidelity policies, since the payroll company nor its owner were employees of the clients.  Neither was there coverage under the payroll company’s crime policy, since standard policy wording excludes theft by the owner of the company; it will not reimburse the policyholder for committing a crime.

The IRS does not care that the client acted in good faith in turning their payroll taxes to the payroll company. ...

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Job-Site Security: Video Surveillance

If you own or operate a construction site, you know that theft is a major and costly concern. In fact, it’s estimated that more than $2 billion in construction equipment and copper electrical components like tubing or wiring is stolen each year. According to the National Equipment Register (NER), heavy equipment theft has been on the rise the past couple of years with 11,625 thefts being reported to law enforcement in 2014.

The cost of being the victim of construction theft runs deeper than just the value of the items stolen. You also have to factor in the delays in work, the cost to replace materials and supplies, renting or replacing equipment and tools along with the increased insurance premiums...

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Builders/Developers: Surety Bonds are your Best Option to Guarantee Improvements

Many political jurisdictions have statutes that require an owner or developer of real property to post financial security to guarantee the completion of designated improvements as a precondition to granting a construction permit or to allow the recordation of a final parcel map.

There are various ways to satisfy the financial security obligation, including:

  • Cash Deposits
  • Irrevocable Letters of Credit
  • Surety Bonds (Subdivision/Improvement Bonds)

The tool that should be seriously considered by all builders and developers is the use of surety bonds issued by licensed sureties, obtained through an experienced bond agent that specializes in subdivision/improvement bonds. Generally, all jurisdictions accept surety bonds (there may be some minor exceptions in a few isolated jurisdictions.)

The problem with cash is,...

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Landscape of Small Group Plans is Changing – What are Your Options?

As we progress further into 2016, we have observed significant changes to medical products offered by the carriers who insure small groups.  Complicating matters is the fact that, not only are products changing, but the previous products are no longer available.  This has put small businesses in a bind and has left them to juggle conflicting goals of keeping costs in line with their budget while still providing employees with what will be perceived as a strong benefits package.

With the advancement of the Affordable Care Act, carriers have been held to strict guidelines within which their products must adhere to.  Most recognizable are the metal levels (i.e., Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze) and actuarial values that each plan must...

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Cyber Liability For Contractors – Credit card information isn’t the only data at risk

Many contractors believe that they have little exposure to cyber-crime if they don’t take credit cards or store credit card data. Unfortunately, hackers have many ways to profit from your information once they’ve gained access to your computer system.

Why contractors need to be concerned

It’s not just large financial institutions or retailers that get hacked. In fact, Verizon’s “Data Breach Investigation Report” states that 85% of targets are small businesses. There are a number of reasons hackers may want to gain access to your systems, including:

  • Access to Personal Information. While contractors may not have as much personally identifiable information (PII) as a retailer or financial institution, construction firms still have employee information that could include social security...
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IA Wellness Initiative

wellness

The idea that physical activity is important to health is not new. Ancient physicians and scholars believed it and Hippocrates wrote about it.  Regular physical activity comes with a wide range of benefits: weight loss, stronger muscles, healthy bones, and increased mood.  There is also a reduced risk of many diseases such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and colon and breast cancer [1].  But did you know that physical activity can also improve your productivity?  Regular physical activity has been shown to make you happier, smarter, and more energetic which are all important characteristics to have in the workplace...

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