Who’s Your Star?

key man insuranceSmall and medium-sized businesses often have employees that are “stars.” Sometimes the star is the CEO or president, other times there is a salesperson who consistently outsells every other sales team member by a two to one margin. Maybe you’re a software company that has a star coder whose ideas led to your product being a number one editor’s choice. The point is that most companies have an employee or two that helps their business thrive. What happens to your business in the short-term if a star employee, referred to by the insurance industry as a “key man,” dies?

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), only 22% of small businesses carry this type of coverage.

Death is an issue that most people do not like discussing, so many small and medium-sized businesses do not have detailed succession plans, and key person life insurance remains an unresolved issue. It is a discussion that helps your company survive the difficult times that can follow the death of a key person.

What is Key Person Life Insurance?

Key man life insurance protects a business from economic loss relating to the death of a key employee. The company buys the insurance, owns the policy, and is the beneficiary of the policy in the event of the sudden death of the insured. Payment from the insurance company to the business is a lump sum, and there are no restrictions on how the company can use the money. Most companies use the money to stabilize the business until they find the key person’s replacement.

Types of Key man Life Insurance

Businesses gravitate to two kinds of policies for key employee life insurance.

Term Life Insurance. Startups favor this type of policy. Startups always try to conserve cash, term life insurance is cheaper than any other kind of personal life insurance.

Policies that build cash value. Whole life or universal life insurance builds cash value that increases the cash value of the policy and is an asset on the company’s book. The company can get access to the excess cash value of the policy at any time for any purpose since the money from the cash buildup belongs to them.

Life insurance premiums vary between companies and smart companies comparison shop for the best insurance program.

The discussion is uncomfortable, but if you do not have key man insurance, it’s worth talking about. Give us a call.

Pollution Liability – Don’t Wait!

pollution liabilityAs an independent contractor, you carry insurance to protect yourself against financial liability from your work. Many jobs require contractors to show that they have a pollution liability policy, which will pay for bodily injury and property damage claims, as well as the expenses of cleaning up toxic waste materials –costs that a standard general liability policy does not cover, and could run into millions.

Any contractor whose business involves risks of hazardous waste exposure, such as asbestos abatement or waste depository, needs pollution liability insurance. This policy will protect you from liability both during the job and if there’s any problem from hazardous waste materials at a later date (“completed operations” coverage). Pollution liability insurance could also be valuable if you own an industrial site that you believe is free of hazardous waste. The inspection you had performed on the property before you bought it might have missed some underlying hazardous substance that could create liability exposure down the road.If you neglect to carry this coverage and have a pollution-related incident at a job site or from one of your completed operations, it will be too late to buy pollution liability. You can purchase pollution liability from a number of insurance companies. The premium will depend on the amount of the policy, the deductible you choose, and whether you buy it on a stand-alone basis or in combination with other types of commercial insurance.Before deciding whether to purchase pollution liability, be sure that you have the information you need to make the right choice. As always, we’d be happy to offer our advice at any time – just give us a call.

Environmental Concerns and D&O

Directors & OfficersDirectors and Officers (D&O) coverage protects company and individual assets from claims regarding the management professionalism of the upper levels of companies.

The leading cause of D&O claims and payouts concerns financial reporting. The books don’t have to be cooked necessarily… they just need to be inaccurate to provoke a claim.

Relatively new accounting standards require real property values to properly reflect environmental impacts and potential clean-up costs. For example your company purchases a piece of land for $50 knowing it is environmentally impacted with an anticipated clean-up cost of $950. The book value of the property is $50 because that is what you paid, and it is the net value including clean-up. Now let’s assume new regulations require an additional $49 of remediation. You must either write down the value by $49, or if the property is held for sale, you can optionally write down only actual costs reflected in the sales price.

Of course, as with most future conditions, it can be difficult to predict what costs will be when we re-mediate the site.

Unfortunately, directors and officers must make management decisions in real time while arm-chair stakeholder quarterbacks get to review results with the power of hindsight. Will the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) decide on a conservative cost structure and reduce the value of the stock? Or, will he choose a more optimistic scenario and not reveal the full extent of the environmental impact thus falsely inflating values?

In today’s regulatory and transparent business environment, adequate D&O limits are a requirement of good management. Also, the CFO might want to consider environmental impairment insurance.

In the spirit of insurance and great risk management, the CFO can swap a premium (known expense) for a future potential claim (unknown loss), thus transferring the loss on the asset, to an expense. The asset value remains unchanged.

These valuation rules are very complex and you should consult with both a licensed insurance agent and a CPA regarding your specific needs. Give us a call… we’ll be happy to make introductions.

No Shave November! (for Jennifer Mimms)

No Shave November

Sometimes you hear a story and it just touches your heart.  That’s what happened when I learned that Jennifer Mimms had a tumor growing in her spine, which turned out to be lymphoma. And she has three young children. I mean… can you imagine?

Actually, I can. Five years ago (to this week) doctors found a tumor encased in my husband’s spinal column – just like Jennifer. The diagnosis was lymphoma - just like Jennifer. We had (have) three children – just like Jennifer.

I remember feeling overwhelmed, first by the circumstances, and then by the way our friends and family — our community — surrounded us with love and prayer, and financial support at a time when our family desperately needed it. We could not have gotten through that difficult ordeal without all of you.

When I learned what my son-in-love’s sister Jennifer was dealing with, I wanted to make sure she and her family received the same kind of support we did. And so the Mason & Mason “No Shave November (for Jennifer)” event was born. The rules are very simple, and there are so many ways you can help.

1. Join the “No Shave November (for Jennifer Mimms)” Community on Facebook.

2. Donate $10 (or more) to support Jennifer Mimms and her family (mail to PO Box 750, North Conway, NH 03845 – Attention: Heather Clement)

2. DO NOT SHAVE.

3. Invite your friends to get in on the action by telling them about the event and sending them the links.

4. Post your pics in the community facebook page.

 

It’s that easy. Won’t you join us in helping this family?
Jennifer Mimms no shave novemberAbout Jennifer Mimms:

Jennifer Mimms is a young mom of three awesome kids who are her entire life, along with her long time partner, Evan. Not too long ago Jenn started having some symptoms that made her visit her doctor. Shortly after her visit she received the shocking news that she had a tumor on her spine. After the removal of the tumor and more testing, she learned that she does in fact have cancer, a form of Lymphoma. Jenn still has a lot more tests ahead of her to figure out exactly what is wrong and where the cancer is coming from. As if life isn’t tough enough trying to raise three children in the world today, add in a medical problem this serious and it could be enough to sink a young family. Your generous donations willgo towards the basic needs of the family, such as bills, groceries and gas to get to and from treatments. Jenn is currently in the hospital for chemo treatments, five days per week.

CPVC ABC’s

CPVCChances are that you’re using chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) – a thermoplastic material – in pipes and related products, because it’s less expensive and easier to install than copper or iron piping. Failure of CPVC components can lead to extensive water damage, and repairs can be costly and complex because these pipes and fittings are located above ceilings, behind walls, and below floors.

In case of a piping mishap, here’s what to do:

Identify the material. CPVC pipes and fittings are usually yellow, cream, orange, or gray. Don’t confuse them with components made of its distant cousin polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has different chemical properties, physical characteristics, and functions. In general, it’s not advisable to combine CPVC components with those made of PVC.

Preserve the failed part for forensic analysis. This involves a complex chemical/materials evaluation that requires unique skills and specialized examination methods, using such advanced techniques as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. To avoid contamination during analysis: 1) don’t tape labels on the damaged part; 2) handle it as little as possible; and 3) if you can’t leave the part in its installed position, wrap it in aluminum foil before placing it in a plastic bag (the materials in these bags can leach out).

Never break open cracked pipes and fittings to see what’s inside. Leave this to a forensic scientist under controlled conditions.

Because CPVC failures can have a variety of causes from raw material flaws and manufacturing defects to improper installation and maintenance, determining which party is responsible can be difficult. However, using proper procedures for installing and maintaining these components can go far to reduce this risk.

A word to the wise… ;-) For more construction risk management tips, feel free to browse around our website or give us a call. You can trust the construction insurance specialists at M&M Assurance Group!

It’s a Crane… It’s a Truck…

craneIf your business use several types of vehicles, it’s important that you classify them properly for insurance coverage purposes. Either of two policies might apply, depending on vehicle classification and whether the policy defines the vehicle as “mobile equipment” or as an “auto.”

As you might expect, Commercial Auto insurance covers your autos, while your General Liability Package policy covers mobile equipment.

It’s clear that bulldozers and pickups are autos. However, when it comes to mobile cranes and other types of self-propelled equipment, the waters get a bit muddier – and if you attach a crane or drilling rig to a pickup or flatbed truck permanently things can get even trickier.

Why should you care? Two words: coverage and cost. Depending on the policy under which the vehicle falls, coverage might vary in both specifics and the amount available to pay claims. Because the two types of policies rate coverage differently, the premium will change. There’s one mistake you definitely want to avoid. In the confusion, make sure you don’t wind up paying for a single vehicle under both policies!

However, there’s a silver lining in this potential dark cloud. The specialists at our agency can review your list of vehicles and check the vehicle classification, assigning each its proper policy, without charging you twice. It’s our job to get things right. If you’re unsure whether your current coverage is treating your trucks as cranes, or the other way around, just give us a call. We’re here to serve you.

 

Employee Lawsuits – Curb Your Liability

employee lawsuitsDisgruntled workers can sue your business at any time – and even if you win, you’ll be out time, money, and energy defending yourself from employee lawsuits.

The first step in reducing this risk is to ensure that every hire is “clean”, and made purely on the basis of job requirements. The Americans with Disabilities Act has very strict rules about what employers can and cannot ask during the hiring process.

To help the cause, industrial relationship experts recommend these guidelines:

    • Avoid discriminatory language when advertising job opportunities. For instance, an advertisement stating “young” or “recent grad” might discriminate against older job applicants, while “’salesman” implies discrimination based on gender.
    • Have a specific job description that gives the essential functions and abilities of the job.
    • Use a standardized interview form that asks all applicants the same questions – which must be related to the job.
    • Don’t ask applicants questions that might identify their membership in a protected class such as age, religion, or national origin, unless it’s essential to the job (For example, a parochial school can ask about the religion of a potential teacher, but not a maintenance worker).
    • Never ask whether an applicant is married, pregnant, has children, or is planning to do so.
    • Ask only questions related to the applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions, not personal items such as past history as such as drug addiction.
    • If an applicant is otherwise fit for a position, don’t refuse to hire him or her based on presumed susceptibility to injury. You can, however, set bona fide physical criteria required by a job, such as the ability to lift a certain weight.

Although these “ounce of prevention” tips can help curb hiring-related discrimination claims, your business also may need a comprehensive Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy to protect against employee lawsuits.

For more information, just give us a call. We’re in the business of protecting you.

 

Scaffolding Safety

scaffolding safety

 

At M&M, we’re all about protection for our contractors. Most construction projects include the use of scaffolding, which can leave your workers vulnerable to injury. To help you prevent falls on site, industry experts recommend that managers follow these proactive guidelines:

 

  • Slow down or consider efficiency building alternatives. Although the pace of construction work is important, it can easily lead to careless and costly mistakes, including gaps in safety on the jobsite. “You don’t have to sacrifice speed for safety, as long as you’re working at the highest level of efficiency, and being safe plays its own role in this process,” says Mike Mumau, president of Kee Safety – North America.
  • Keep your workplace organized. Careful placement of tools can reduce the risk that they’ll injure workers by falling from scaffolding – and make it safer to move around on the scaffolding.
  • Identify potential hazards and find solutions in advance. For example, if you’re working near power lines, keep scaffolding far enough away to prevent electrocution risks. If scaffolding needs to be moved during the project, have a plan before each move.
  • Provide training. Make sure your workers are trained and up to date on OSHA requirements. “Training in the setup and construction of scaffolding can ensure a solid work space for overhead workers and guarantee a rig that will not inadvertently collapse from instability,” warns Mumau.
  • Keep reviewing the site throughout the project. Be sure to identify any new hazards that might arise during construction. During the course of the job, workers tend to become increasingly more comfortable with “routine” activities – which might easily lead some of them to neglect safety precautions inadvertently (or blatantly).

Our construction safety specialists stand ready at any time to offer a complimentary review of your job site safety programs. Remember… the safer your workers, the healthier your bottom line – and the less you’ll pay for insurance.

 

Ready to BE KIND?

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Workplace Safety: Materials and Waste Management

workplace safetyEach year around 1,000 trips or slips on construction sites result in fractured bones or dislocated joints, often leading to permanent disability, harming workplace morale, reducing productivity, and raising insurance premiums. Many of these accidents are due to negligence in dealing with building materials or waste. Workplace safety is everyone’s business.

Safety requires co-ordination between the client, contractor(s), and suppliers. Before beginning a project, agree with the client on arrangements for handling materials and waste. Larger projects should include this agreement in the construction phase plan.

To reduce the risk of mishaps in storing materials, experts recommend that you:

  • designate storage areas for materials, waste, and flammable or hazardous substances
  • don’t allow storage to ‘spread’ on walkways or store materials where they might obstruct access or interfere with emergency escape routes
  • store flammable materials separately and protect them from accidental ignition
  • install guard rails if materials are stored in high places
  • keep all storage areas tidy
  • plan deliveries to keep the amount of materials on site to a minimum

In dealing with waste, decide how to manage waste streams produced during construction and assign responsibility for collecting and disposing of these materials on site.

Waste risk reduction guidelines include:

  • Have all flammable waste materials (such as packaging and lumber) cleared away regularly to reduce the risk of fire
  • Make clearing waste a priority for all workers, and be sure that everyone is on the same page
  • Include enough space for waste bins and containers in accessible locations, and set a schedule for collection
  • Provide carts or chutes for safe removal of waste from the building safely

Our construction insurance professionals stand ready to advise you in regards to workplace safety. Give us a call!