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!

 

Accidents Happen

construction liability insuranceNo matter how much care you take to keep job sites safe and finish projects according to specifications, accidents happen. Sometimes all it takes is one mistake for your world to come crashing down (check out this suit involving Eddie Van Halen). In many cases, construction liability insurance could be the key to holding it all together. Consider these scenarios:

  • an improperly installed kitchen cabinet shelf in a home you built collapses, injuring the owner
  • one of your employees posts a blog accusing a competitor of shoddy workmanship
  • a visitor to your worksite trips over an air hose, falls, and fractures her leg

To protect your business against the financial threat of costly litigation from such all-too-common mishaps, you need construction liability insurance.

This coverage will pay costs and legal expenses (up to the amount of the policy) for something your business did — or failed to do — that damages a third party, related to

1) your products or services (products and completed operations)

2) allegations of slander (personal and advertising injury) OR

3) injury on your premises or job site (medical expenses)

As a common business practice, both residential and commercial clients will require you, and your subcontractors, to show evidence of construction liability insurance before starting a job.

In general, residential contractors should buy coverage two to three times the amount of the construction budget. Commercial contractors usually carry policies in the multi-million dollar range. Firms that face higher risk of damages (for example, roofing contractors or those in specialized trades) tend to have more coverage. Some contractors prefer to pay their premiums up front, while others make a down payment and finance the premium over the policy period (six months to a year).

No matter how large or small your business, having comprehensive construction liability insurance is always the best policy.

We’d be happy to review your situation and recommend the coverage that’s best suited for you.

The Ten Commandments

job safetyNow that you’re picturing Charlton Heston, I’ll tell you we’re not talking about THOSE ten commandments, but these are important as well. Instead we’d like to draw your attention to ten principles of leadership that will help you and your employees to focus on job safety.

  1. Don’t walk by. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent any potentially unsafe acts and conditions they witness from turning into accidents.
  2. STOP! Encourage employees to stop working whenever they feel unsafe, no matter what reason they give.
  3. Focus on a safe working environment. If you expect your workers to work safely, make their workplace as safe as possible.
  4. Don’t blame the worker first. Unsafe ways of working, accidents, incidents, and ill health aren’t necessarily the worker’s fault. The problem often comes from less obvious causes, such as decisions by management.
  5. Use your workforce for ideas. Employees often have a more accurate idea than you or your managers about which safety and health practices will work, because they deal with these issues every day.
  6. Be patient. Don’t expect quick wins. Improvements in job safety will emerge over time, but only if you stick with them.
  7. Explain your decisions. Just telling workers that something is wrong or a safety risk isn’t enough. If they’re to act on the information you provide, they need to know why and how to avoid harm.
  8. Lead by example. Your behavior sends powerful signals. If you carry out your job in a safe way, your workers are more likely to do the same. If you don’t, they won’t imitate you.
  9. Focus on co-operation. Treat your subcontractors in the same way as employees by encouraging them to communicate with each other.
  10. Don’t neglect occupational health. If you look after the health, as well as the safety, of your workers today, you’re less likely to create problems for them or your business tomorrow.

Sound advice! If you follow these commandments carefully, you will see job safety improve over time. By nature, most organizations resist change. Successful business owners will learn how to take these ten commandments and integrate them into the culture of their company. They will help their construction supervisors to go from simply managing, to leading.

At Mason & Mason, we’re pleased to be part of your team. Managing risk is our business – thank you for trusting us with yours.