Home

18Jan 2018

Nearly 80 percent of Americans consider their jobs stressful. While it may not be possible to eliminate job stress altogether, you can learn to manage it effectively.

Common job stressors include a heavy workload, intense pressure to perform at high levels, job insecurity, long work hours, excessive travel, office politics and conflicts with co-workers. While dealing with stress is a normal part of everyday life, here are some early warning signs that signify red flags, alerting you to stress on the job:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Low morale
  • Short temper
  • Headache
  • Stomach or back problems

 

Managing Job Stress

The good news is that it is possible to manage job stress by becoming aware of what increases or decreases your stress levels. Here are are six methods to help manage stress at work:

  • Plan and prioritize: Do not panic, make a list to prioritize your work, set realistic deadlines, do not rush into the first idea you have and always have an alternative plan.
  • Focus on what you can control: You know what your job tasks are. Break the larger tasks into smaller, more doable steps.
  • Slow down: Think things through before you act, and begin with a result in mind.
  • Limit interruptions: Use your voicemail to your advantage and only take calls that are a priority when you are on a tight deadline. Set aside designated times throughout the day to respond to e-mails and phone calls.
  • Use all of your resources: If things do not go exactly as planned, do not solely rely on yourself. Ask for help when you need it.
  • Take a break: To release stress, make time to take a short break. Taking a walk or discussing your work situation with another person may help you gain a fresh perspective.

 

15Jan 2018

Safety tips for using knives and other sharp utensils

The food service industry can be a hazardous one. Among other things, workers are at risk for cuts while preparing food, clearing tables and washing dishes. However, there are many safety precautions that you can take to reduce your risk of getting cut at work.

Knife Safety Tips

  • Handle, use and store knives and other sharp utensils safely.
  • Cut in the direction away from your body.
  • Keep your fingers and thumbs out of the way of the cutting line.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as steel mesh gloves.
  • Use a knife only for its intended purpose and use the correct knife for each cutting or chopping job.
  • Never try to rush a cutting, slicing or chopping task—you may get careless and have an accident.
  • Keep knives sharpened and in good condition. Let your supervisor know if you have concerns about the condition of any knife in the kitchen.
  • Store knives and cleavers in a designated area when they are not in use, and never store them with the blades exposed.
  • Let a falling knife fall to the ground—never try and catch it.
  • Carry knives with the cutting edge angled slightly away from your body with tip pointed down to your side.
  • Place a knife down on a clean surface for a co-worker to use rather than handing it to the individual.
  • Avoid placing knives near the edge of a countertop.
  • Never place a dirty knife in the sink after usage. You or a co-worker may reach into the sink and get cut unknowingly. Instead, place them in the dishwasher or in a container labeled “knives only.”
  • Do not interrupt or talk with co-workers who are using knives or other sharp utensils. They may get distracted and hurt themselves accidentally.

Stay Sharp

Your safety is our top priority at Kaercher Insurance. It is your responsibility to follow all proper safety procedures when working with knives and other sharp objects, for your safety and the safety of others in the kitchen.

01Nov 2017

As the global economy expands, many businesses have more exposures related to the transportation of their goods, both domestically and internationally. Traditionally, the responsibility for insuring goods traveling overseas fell on freight forwarders, while local insurers would provide coverage for cargo within the country. However, that arrangement led to potential gaps in coverage when loading and unloading cargo.

In the 1970s, insurers began to devise a type of marine coverage that could address this gap—something called a stock throughput (STP) policy. An STP policy provides end-to-end coverage for the insured’s cargo, both on land and on water.

What Does an STP Policy Cover?

An STP policy is meant to provide protection for the flow of goods from the production point to the final destination, typically covering physical damage to inventory—including works in progress and finished goods—while in transit. An STP policy can help provide continuous coverage to inventory throughout the entire supply chain.

Benefits of STP Policies

STP policies are growing in popularity for a variety of reasons. Benefits of this type of coverage include the following:

  • There are no coverage gaps. Coverage begins the moment the insured assumes an interest in the covered goods and ends as soon as interest ends, even if the goods are in the hands of a third party.
  • There are no time limitations. Coverage continues as long as the insured has risk, regardless of whether the goods are in transit or in storage.
  • There is a competitive rating structure.
  • Deductibles are low for goods in storage or detention, even in earthquake and windstorm zones.
  • Liability limits are high. Limits can exceed $100 million per location.
  • Catastrophic coverage is significant. STP policies cover perils that would otherwise be subject to sublimits in property policies.
  • The goods remain insured regardless of the terms of sale, as long as there is still an interest in the goods at the time of loss.
  • STP policies help manage premium expenses by providing a choice of distribution channels. This flexibility can lead to more control of the supply chain and increased purchasing volume.

Although wholesale, retail, and food and beverage industries have historically benefited the most from STP policies, any industry sector with significant inventory and transit exposures can benefit from them. Contact Kaercher Insurance to see whether an STP policy is right for your organization. We have the expertise to help you mitigate your risks and protect your bottom line.

01Nov 2017

No industry is exempt from cyber crime, and the real estate industry has become a common target. As hackers devise plans to obtain sensitive information about real estate transactions, real estate professionals need to take particular interest in cyber security to protect their clients and themselves from wire fraud.

What is Wire Fraud?

In instances of wire fraud, a common ploy involves hackers breaking into a real estate agent’s email account to obtain details about upcoming transactions. Once the hackers have all the information they need, they send an email to the buyer, pretending to be the agent or a representative of the title company.

In an email to the buyer, the hackers state that there has been a change in the closing instructions and that the buyer needs to follow new wire instructions listed in the email. If a buyer falls victim to the scam and wires money to the fraudulent account, they’re unlikely to see the money again.

Red Flags

A potential indicator of wire fraud is an email that makes any reference to a Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) wire transfer, which is sent via the SWIFT international payment network and indicates an overseas destination for the funds.

However, since the emails tend to include detailed information pertaining to the transaction—due to the perpetrator having access to the agent’s email account—many people make the mistake of assuming the email is from a legitimate source. The email addresses often appear to be legitimate, either because the hacker has managed to create a fake email account using the name of the real estate company or because they’ve hacked the agent’s actual email account.

How to Avoid It

Wire fraud is one of many types of online fraud targeting real estate professionals and their clients. To prevent cyber crime from occurring, every party involved in a real estate transaction needs to implement and follow a series of security measures that include the following:

  • Never send wire transfer information, or any type of sensitive information, via email. This includes all types of financial information, not just wire instructions.
  • If you’re a real estate professional, inform clients about your email and communication practices, and explain that you will never expect them to send sensitive information via email.
  • If wiring funds, first contact the recipient using a verified phone number to confirm that the wiring information is accurate. The phone number should be obtained by a reliable source—email is not one of them.
  • If email is the only method available for sending information about a transaction, make sure it is encrypted.
  • Delete old emails regularly, as they may reveal information that hackers can use.
  • Change usernames and passwords on a regular basis, and make sure that they’re difficult to guess.
  • Make sure anti-virus technology is up to date, and that firewalls are installed and working.
  • Never open suspicious emails. If the email has already been opened, never click on any links in the email, open any attachments or reply to the email.

If You’ve Been Hacked

Take the following steps if you suspect that your email, or any type of account, has been hacked:

  • Immediately change all usernames and passwords associated with any account that may have been compromised.
  • Contact anyone who may have been exposed to the attack so they too can change their usernames and passwords. Remind them to avoid complying with any requests for financial information that come from an unverified source.
  • Report fraudulent activity to the FBI via the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov/default.aspx. Also contact the state or local realtor association, which will alert others to the suspicious activity.

Contact Kaercher Insurance today for more information on avoiding real estate fraud and other types of cyber crime.

01Nov 2017

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. News of the damage it has caused to southeastern Texas is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.

How to Avoid Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your resources go to a legitimate charity with experience in disaster relief:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.
  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security number or a copy of your driver’s license. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.

How to Choose a Charity

Even legitimate charities need to be considered with care. The Federal Trade Commission suggests avoiding new charities because, despite their legitimacy, they may not have the resources needed to get your money to its intended recipients.

Donors looking for a worthy charity can access an unbiased, objective list on a website called Charity Navigator. The site receives a Form 990 for all of its charities directly from the IRS, so it knows exactly how the charities spend their money and use their donations. It also rates charities based on their location, tax status, length of operation, accountability, transparency and public support.

Gaining popularity for charitable donations is a crowdfunding website called GoFundMe, which allows people to raise money for a wide variety of circumstances. Despite its popularity, visitors to the site should be cautious about the campaigns to which they donate. Visitors can report suspicious campaigns directly to GoFundMe via its official website or to their state’s consumer protection hotline.

National Organizations

The following national organizations have long-standing reputations for providing disaster relief and accepting donations:

  • The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to people affected by disasters.
  • AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.
  • Catholic Charities USA supports disaster response and recovery efforts that include direct assistance, rebuilding and health care services.
  • The Salvation Army provides shelter and emergency services to displaced individuals.

Remember that there are other ways to provide disaster relief that don’t involve monetary donations, especially if you live near the affected area. Local food banks and blood centers commonly ask for donations during relief efforts.

 

01Nov 2017

Automobile accidents are an expensive liability for companies that rely on the use of vehicles for their business. That risk has increased in recent years, mainly due to distracted driving and a legal concept called negligent entrustment.

Negligent entrustment occurs when an employer is held liable for negligence in choosing an employee to operate a dangerous instrument, usually a vehicle. An employer can be found negligent if both of the following situations occur:

  1. A driver becomes injured while driving for company business, causes injury to a third party or damages physical property.
  2. The employer knew, or should have known, not to trust the vehicle to the driver or that the vehicle was unsafe.

If a driver is working within the scope of his or her job duties and has permission to use a company vehicle, it is presumed that the employer has trusted the driver with the vehicle. The following can be used to prove a finding of negligence:

  • An investigation of the accident scene
  • Interviews with the drivers and witnesses
  • Other applicable evidence that includes citations issued to the drivers

Companies must be able to show that they took all possible precautions to prevent accidents. If not, the actions they did or did not take might be construed as negligent entrustment.

Liability Coverage is Not Sufficient

General liability policies do not offer coverage for incidents of negligent entrustment. Although business auto policies do not exclude negligent entrustment, coverage may not be sufficient if an employee is involved in a harmful accident. Juries often award the plaintiff punitive damages in excess of any compensatory damages resulting from negligent entrustment.

How to Avoid Negligent Entrustment

Reduce exposure to negligent entrustment lawsuits by adhering to the following best practices:

  • Prescreen all individuals granted permission to drive for company business. Review their driving records annually.
  • Provide regularly scheduled driver reviews and comprehensive training sessions.
  • Maintain company vehicles to ensure that they meet strict safety standards.
  • Provide post-accident reviews and training on how the accident could have been avoided.
  • Put clear safety policies in writing to minimize risks. Follow all OSHA guidelines as well as guidelines specific to your business.
  • Define your permission policy. Anyone with permission to drive a vehicle for company business is classified as an insured on a company policy. That is why it is important to define your permission policy in a way that ensures flexibility but isn’t too broad.
  • Regularly enforce drug and alcohol policies.
  • Enforce a zero tolerance policy for driver misconduct.

By taking the aforementioned precautions, you’ll minimize the risk of your employees creating a situation in which your company is found liable. Although commercial auto insurance can minimize some liability risks, more advanced business and umbrella policies can protect against additional risks.

Kaercher Insurance can help you choose an auto insurance policy that is best for your business. Contact us for more information on how you can reduce your risk of negligent entrustment liability.

 

01Nov 2017

According to a recent report from the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout, 791 data breaches were reported during the first half of 2017 in the United States alone, marking a 29 percent jump from the same period in 2016. The increasing rate of cyber breaches indicates that many companies are still failing to take cyber security seriously.

Most Vulnerable Sectors

The report organized the data breaches into five sectors: banking, health care, government, education and business. At 54.7 percent, the business sector experienced the highest percentage of total breaches reported. Coming in second was the health care industry at 30.7 percent. Third was the education sector at 11.3 percent, with financial and government trailing at 5.8 and 5.6 percent respectively.

The Real Numbers

The 791 breaches reported included at least 12 million records, which contained credit card numbers, medical files and Social Security numbers. However, the actual amount of records exposed could be much higher, since most industries aren’t required to share the type of information stolen and number of records compromised. In fact, 67 percent of all the breaches omitted such details, marking another record high.

Cost of a Breach

Not only is the number of data breaches at a record high, but so is the average cost of a breach—up 5 percent from last year at $7.35 million. What’s more is that since data breaches are so common, only a small portion make the news, so many businesses fail to realize the threats they’re exposed to until they find themselves victimized.

Be proactive, and contact Provant Group to ensure you have the proper coverage to protect your company against losses from data breaches.

01Nov 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to provide a safe work environment for their workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for creating workplace safety standards and enforcing compliance with the OSH Act.

OSHA enforces compliance with the OSH Act by conducting inspections, gathering evidence and imposing penalties on noncompliant employers. OSHA penalties are civil penalties that may result in fines. However, OSHA may refer certain violations to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Actual penalties imposed on an employer take into consideration the gravity of the violation, the size of the employer’s business, good faith efforts the employer makes to comply with the law and the employer’s compliance history.

This Compliance Overview provides a summary of the OSHA inspection process as well as some tips and reminders that employers should be aware of during an actual inspection.

Employers Subject to OSHA

Most private sector employers in the United States, the District of Columbia and other U.S. jurisdictions are subject to the OSH Act, either directly or through an OSHA-approved state program. State plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs operated by individual states instead of federal OSHA. The OSH Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. State-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.

In general, state and local government employees (public employees) are not subject to the OSH Act. However, public employees may be covered through an approved state program.

OSHA Inspections

OSHA inspections are conducted by OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers. Compliance officers have authority to:

  • Conduct inspections;
  • Assign specialists to accompany and assist them during an inspection (as appropriate or required);
  • Issue citations for noncompliance;
  • Obtain court-issued inspection warrants; and
  • Issue administrative subpoenas to acquire evidence related to an OSHA inspection or investigation.

Whenever possible, OSHA will assign compliance officers with appropriate security clearances to inspect facilities where materials or processes are classified by the federal government.

Compliance officers are required to obey all employer safety and health rules and practices for the establishment that is being inspected. This includes wearing all required protective equipment and necessary respirators. Compliance officers must also follow restricted access rules until all required precautions have been taken.

Employers can request compliance officers to obtain visitor passes and sign visitor registers. However, compliance officers cannot sign any form or release, nor can they agree to any waiver. This prohibition extends to forms intended to protect trade secret information.

OSHA inspections can last for a few hours or take several days, weeks or even months. All inspections can be divided into three stages, an opening conference, a walk-around and a closing conference.

Inspection Scheduling

OSHA inspections can be either programmed or unprogrammed. Unprogrammed inspections generally take precedence over programmed ones.

Unprogrammed inspections are usually triggered by particular reports. OSHA gives priority to unprogrammed inspections in the following order: imminent dangers, fatalities or catastrophes, and employee complaints and referrals. OSHA may also conduct an unprogrammed follow-up investigation to determine whether previously cited violations have been corrected.

Programmed inspections are scheduled based on neutral and objective criteria. Programmed inspections typically target high-hazard industries, occupations or health substances. OSHA considers various factors when scheduling programmed inspections, including employer incident rates, citation history and employee exposure to toxic substances.

Inspection Notice

The OSH Act prohibits providing employers advance notice of an inspection. Individuals that provide advance notice of an OSHA inspection face criminal charges that may result in a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 6 months or both.

However, the OSHA Act also allows OSHA to authorize exceptions to the no-notice requirement in situations where advance notice would:

  • Allow an employer to correct an apparent imminent danger as quickly as possible;
  • Facilitate an inspection outside of a site’s regular hours of operation;
  • Ensure the presence of employer and employee representatives or other appropriate personnel during the inspection; or
  • Enhance the probability of an effective and thorough inspection (such as in investigations for complex fatalities).

When an exception is approved, OSHA will not provide more than a 24-hour notice to affected employers.

Inspection Scope

The scope of an OSHA inspection can be comprehensive or partial. A comprehensive inspection is a complete and thorough inspection of the worksite. During a comprehensive inspection, the compliance officer will evaluate all potentially hazardous areas in the establishment. However, an inspection may be considered comprehensive even though, at the compliance officer’s discretion, not all potentially hazardous conditions or practices are actually inspected.

A partial inspection is usually limited to certain potential hazardous areas, operations, conditions or practices at the employer’s establishment. However, at his or her discretion, a compliance officer may expand the scope of a limited inspection. The compliance officer will generally make this decision based on the information he or she gathers during the inspection.

Compliance Officer Arrival

OSHA inspections begin with the compliance officer’s arrival. In general, a compliance officer will arrive for a worksite inspection during the site’s hours of operation. However, OSHA may authorize additional times for an inspection as necessary.

Upon arrival, a compliance officer should present his or her credentials. If necessary, employers can contact their local OSHA office to confirm a compliance officer’s authority to conduct the inspection.

A compliance officer has the right to enter an employer’s premises if he or she has obtained consent from the employer or a warrant ordering the employer to admit the inspector. In either case, employers cannot unreasonably delay an inspection to await for the arrival of the employer representative (inspectors may wait up to one hour to allow an employer representative to arrive from an off-site location).

Consent

Employers can consent to admit a compliance officer and perform a worksite inspection. Employers may also provide partial consent, and allow a compliance officer access only to certain areas of their facilities. Compliance officers will make note of any refusals or partial consent and will report it to OSHA. OSHA may take further action against any refusals, including any legal process it may see fit to obtain access to restricted areas.

In sites where multiple employers are present, the compliance officer does not need to obtain consent from all employers present. Consent from just one employer is sufficient to allow the inspector to access the entire worksite.

Warrant

Compliance officers are not required to ask for an employer’s consent when they have a court-issued warrant. The warrant allows the compliance officer access to the employer’s facilities to conduct an inspection.

Employers that do not provide consent have the right to require compliance officers to obtain a warrant before allowing them access to the premises. As a general practice, few employers actually require warrants, though some employers have done so to delay the start of an inspection.

There are, however, some exceptions to the employer’s right to require a warrant. A compliance officer does not need to obtain employer consent or a warrant to access the premises if he or she can establish:

  • The existence of a plain view hazard;
  • That the worksite is an open field or construction site; or
  • The existence of exigent circumstances.

Opening Conference

In general, compliance officers will try to make the opening conference brief in order to proceed to the walk-around portion of the inspection as soon as possible. In general, the opening conference is a joint conference, where both employer and employee representatives participate. However, the compliance officer may hold separate opening conferences if either employer or employee representatives object to a joint conference.

During the opening conference, compliance officers will discuss with employers:

  • The purpose of the inspection;
  • Any complaints filed against the employer, if applicable;
  • The officers’ right to document evidence (handwritten notes, photos, video and audio recordings);
  • The advantages of immediate abatement and quick fixes;
  • The intended scope of the inspection;
  • A plan for the physical inspection of the worksite;
  • The audit of employee injury and illness records;
  • Referring violations not enforced by OSHA to appropriate agencies;
  • Employer and employee rights during the inspection; and
  • Any plans for conducting a closing conference.

As applicable, during the opening conference, employers will also need to present their written certification of hazard assessment and produce a list of on-site chemicals (with their respective maximum intended inventory). Compliance officers will use these documents to determine the hazards that may be present at the worksite and set initial benchmarks and expectations for the physical inspection of the establishment.

Finally, at their discretion, compliance officers can conduct abbreviated conferences in order to begin the walk-around portion of the inspection as soon as possible. During an abbreviated conference, a compliance officer will present his or her credentials, state the purpose for the visit, explain employee and employer rights, and request the participation of employee and employer representatives. All other elements of the opening conference will then be discussed during the closing conference.

Walk-around

The walk-around is the most important stage of the inspection. Employer and employee representatives have the right to accompany compliance officers during the walk-around stage of the inspection.

During the walk-around, compliance officers will take notes and document all facts pertinent to violations of the OSH Act. In general, compliance officers will also offer limited assistance (as appropriate) on how to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards.

The OSH Act requires compliance officers to maintain the confidentiality of employer trade secrets. Compliance officers should only document evidence involving trade secrets if necessary. Compliance officers must mark trade secret evidence as, “Confidential – Trade Secret,” and keep it separate from other evidence. Compliance officers that violate these requirements are subject to criminal sanctions and removal from office.

Closing Conference

As with the opening conference, unless an objection exists, the closing conference is generally a joint conference. However, the closing conference may be conducted in person or over the phone. The inspection and citation process will move forward regardless of whether employers decide to participate in the closing conference.

The compliance officer will document all materials he or she provides to the employer during the closing conference as well as any discussions that took place. Discussion topics for the closing conference may include:

  • Employer rights and responsibilities
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the employer’s safety and health system
  • The existence of any apparent violations and other issues found during the inspection
  • Any plans for subsequent conferences, meetings and discussions

The closing conference is not the time for employers to debate or argue possible citations with the compliance officer. Employers should take sufficient time during the closing conference to understand the inspector’s findings and any possible consequences. Employers should also discuss any abatements completed during the inspection or any plans to correct issues in the near future.

During this conference, employers should also request copies of recorded materials and sample analysis summaries. Finally, employers should take time to discuss their right (and the process they must follow) to appeal any possible citations.

02Aug 2017

As a nonprofit organization, most of your workforce is probably comprised of volunteers. These individuals devote their time and energy to help the community through your organization. Though these individuals offer their services without expecting compensation, they still require supervision to ensure that their jobs are done correctly. Furthermore, it is important for your organization to manage its volunteers to minimize the risk of harm to the community members you serve and the volunteers themselves.

There are three types of volunteer liabilities that may affect your organization as follows: 

Direct liability: The organization or volunteer is liable for an action or failing to act. For instance:

o   Not properly screening volunteers who will work with children

o   Providing volunteers with unsafe tools such as a ladder while doing repair work

Indirect (vicarious) liability: The nonprofit is liable for the actions of a volunteer on the organization’s behalf. For instance:

o   Volunteer damaging city property while working for an organization in a park

o   Medical bills accrued by a community member after an injury while supervised by a volunteer at an organization-sponsored event

Strict liability: The need to determine negligence is not necessary because responsibility for inflicting harm is automatic.

Training Program

As a nonprofit, it is essential for your organization to develop a training program for its volunteers. The individual program will depend heavily on the position the volunteer holds, the experience he or she brings to the role, the needs of community members he or she serves, and your organization’s policies.

While in the training program, volunteers should be given a safety handbook outlining your organization’s policies. Further, he/she should sign a waiver after reading through the organization’s policies and procedures.

The training program should also include the following at minimum: 

  • An official welcome to the organization and education on the history, mission statement and services provided. Outline the goals of the organization and the specific needs of the community members to be serviced.
  • Provide an overview of the skills and responsibilities required for the position. If special equipment is used, a supervisor should teach the volunteer how to use it until the volunteer feels comfortable.
  • Explain the organization’s policies and procedures such as reimbursement policies and sexual harassment training.
  • Conduct a safety briefing that covers how the volunteer can protect him or herself and community members from danger and injury while representing the organization.

Managing Volunteers

After volunteers complete the training program, it is essential that your staff members continue to monitor and manage them throughout their tenure at your organization. Ensure that your staff members feel comfortable delegating responsibilities to the volunteers and correcting them if they make mistakes. Furthermore, if a volunteer acts inappropriately, advise the staff members to dismiss the volunteer before he or she inflicts harm onto another person or him or herself.

On another note, provide motivation to your volunteers to work hard for the community. Encourage them and praise them for giving it their all. In addition, provide them with a t-shirt, hat or poster as gratitude for their hard work.

Checklist for Supervising Volunteers

To ensure that your organization is fully prepared to manage volunteers, determine if your nonprofit has the following in place:

  • A description of all volunteer positions that describes the tasks and duties expected.
  • Maintain and distribute a volunteer safety handbook for use during training.
  • Establish a grievance policy in the event that volunteers are dissatisfied while working for the organization.
  • Ensure that all volunteers sign a waiver that acknowledges the organization’s policies.
  • Establish disciplinary standards for volunteers.
  • Train all staff members and supervisors who come in contact with volunteers on how to interact with them.

Our team of P&C experts at Kaercher Insurance is here to help. If you need assistance with establishing policies for volunteers, please contact us today at (702) 304-7800.

02Aug 2017

Regular property inspections are an important part of managing condominium or homeowners association (HOA) risks. Thorough inspections increase the safety and well-being of homeowners, protect property values, and reduce the risk of costly repairs and lawsuits.

Why should HOAs conduct regular inspections?

Conducting inspections regularly keeps an HOA on top of security risks, as well as maintenance and building problems. A thorough inspection should do the following:

  • Increases the safety, health and welfare of all association members and guests: Regular inspections ensure your HOA community is a safe place to live. One significant area of liability for HOAs is slip-and-fall accidents, which indicate the need for frequent inspections of sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and roadways throughout the property. Surfaces should be inspected for uneven and free of snow and ice during cold weather.
  • Identifies problem areas before they get worse: If deterioration of common amenities is detected early, it could save the HOA money if repairs are made before the damage becomes even more costly.

Different seasons bring different property risks. Season-specific inspections—such as checking chlorine levels in an outdoor pool during summer, leaf buildup in eaves and gutters in the fall and sidewalks for ice in winter—should be done along with regular inspections.

Inspections show an HOA’s insurance carrier that it is proactive in addressing exposures and reducing loss.

Can an HOA inspect a homeowner’s unit? 

Shared amenities—parking lots, pools and the clubhouse—are the usual places to inspect, but there may be instances where homeowners are violating rules on their individual properties. Sometimes the rule violation simply has to do with maintaining the aesthetics of the property as stated in the bylaws; but other violations pose serious health and wellness issues or other costly risks to the HOA. For example, if the condominium is a nonsmoking building and some residents choose to smoke in their units, they create a potential fire hazard for all homeowners.

The media has recently drawn increased attention to hoarding behaviors and the dangerous health and environmental problems hoarders can pose for themselves and those around them. This may also be an issue of concern for your HOA.

However, an HOA cannot enter a homeowner’s private unit to investigate potential violations or conduct inspections without his or her permission, unless due to an emergency. In some cases, the HOA may have to obtain a court order, which could be difficult, as the HOA must show probable cause as to why the residence must be entered.

What is the property manager’s role in inspections?

An HOA property manager is responsible for carrying out site inspections according to a schedule determined by the bylaws or the HOA board. Not only do they conduct formal inspections, but they serve as the HOA’s eyes and ears, finding and correcting hazards, and ensuring members and their guests follow the rules for both individual properties and shared amenities.

If your HOA does not have a property manager, the board or another appointed person should conduct the inspections. Keep in mind that inspections should always be fair, especially when it comes to individual homeowners’ properties.

Six HOA Site Inspection Steps 

Whether inspecting communal areas of the HOA or a homeowners’ properties, take a comprehensive approach to examine all areas of risk. This may take extra time and effort in the beginning, but will become easier and routine over time:

  1. Check the HOA’s bylaws and state statues: The HOA’s bylaws may have inspection requirements, including the minimum for what should be inspected and how often. Also, look at state statutes regarding inspections; for example, HOAs should check local fire codes and conduct inspections of fire alarms and extinguishers a certain number of times per year, depending on the state. An HOA’s insurance company may also have recommendations for what to inspect and how often.
  2. Document the inspection: Documenting the inspection results is critical, as it serves as a written record of problems, issues and violations. As with any HOA document, the inspection documentation should be clearly written and professional, as it may serve as evidence in case of a claim against the HOA.
  3. Create an inspection checklist: List all areas and amenities of the association’s property and define the items to check in each area. It’s important to revise or add to the checklist as new issues emerge; but the same checklist should be used for every inspection.
  4. Update the checklist with corrective measures: It’s important to identify problems, but it’s just as important to fix them—either on the spot or in a timely manner. Serious problems should be addressed immediately, but there should also be a timetable for correcting problems of other varying priority levels.
  5. Present site inspection results to the board: Outcomes from site inspections should always be communicated to the board, as the results may require action from the HOA’s leadership and or affect the annual budget. For example, if the inspector notes that the pool is beginning to deteriorate and will need repair, the board should keep this in mind when they discuss the annual budget.
  6. File the checklist with the HOA’s records: Inspection checklists should become a permanent record of the HOA. They serve as a record of maintenance, how problems were addressed and when, and may serve as evidence in a lawsuit.

Inspections are a major component of an HOA’s risk management plan. For more information on inspection basics and insurance for your HOA, contact Kaercher Insurance today.