Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Safety Tips



Though adult Halloween-lovers embrace spooky evenings, children see the holiday simply as a time for fun and often remain as carefree as on any other day. But the truth is that Halloween involves more dangers than your typical day. Parents with young children may want to take certain precautions to ensure their safety as they dart around the neighborhood at night, knocking on strangers’ doors.


Safety At Home
A favorite Halloween pastime, for both children and adults, is carving pumpkins. However, some standard carving tools have sharp edges that can injure children who aren’t yet coordinated enough to handle them. For younger children, paint pictures on pumpkins rather than carving them. If your child really wants that carved look, he or she can draw their picture with a marker and an adult can carve it out.
Lighting your carved pumpkin with an electric candle or flashlight is much safer than using an open flame. If you do use candles anywhere in your home, never leave them unattended and keep the flame away from curtains, d├ęcor and other flammable objects.
For optimal home safety, clear obstacles away for doorways, walkways, stairs and common areas where sugar-buzzed children may run amok. Your home should be well-lit, both inside and out, and pets should be restrained to prevent them from coming in contact with fire or eating candy.

Selecting a Costume
Costumes provide your children with a way to express their interests and personalities. Unfortunately, they can also lead to injuries if not properly chosen. All costumes should fit snugly as directed. Long sleeves, skirts or capes can cause trips and falls. Any accessories or costume weapons should be blunt and/or soft. Masks often limit eyesight, so you may want to consider makeup instead. Many costumes have tags that signify flame resistance and, much as you’d expect, these are the safest for your children to wear as they repeatedly walk or run past flame-lit jack-o-lanterns. As an extra precaution, you may want to fasten reflective tape to your child’s trick-or-treat bag or bucket to alert neighborhood drivers.

Safety While Trick-or-Treating
The most important way to keep your children safe as they roam the neighborhood is to always accompany them or, if you are otherwise busy, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to accompany them. The supervising adult should ensure that children remain on the sidewalks of well-lit streets. Children should avoid cutting across yards or alleys, and should only cross streets at designated crosswalks.
Dark houses signify either that no one is home or that the residents do not wish to participate in the holiday fun. Only approach well-lit and/or decorated homes. Children should carry a flashlight or glow stick, particularly if they are wearing a dark-colored costume, for added visibility.
If your older children wish to go trick-or-treating alone and you, as a parent, feel comfortable allowing that, ensure that they remain in a group. Agree on a curfew and inform them of any areas you would like them to avoid visiting. At least one person in the group should carry a cell phone.

When All Is Said and Done
When your child returns home with a candy stash, check the treats for evidence of tampering. Any candy that is unwrapped or spoiled should be thrown away immediately. Factory-wrapped candy is safe for your children to consume (in small portions), but avoid letting them eat homemade treats from strangers.
So long as you maintain an awareness of possible dangers, and teach these precautions to your children, Halloween can be a fun-filled holiday to remember and look forward to for years to come.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's So Great About Worker's Comp?

A good portion of our business over the last few weeks has been providing Workers Comp coverage to various industries in our area. With all of the increased attention on this aspect of our business, I have realized that most people are not aware of the full range of benefits offered through Workers Comp insurance.

Workers Comp is not only a necessary coverage, but it is a beneficial coverage to offer your employees. I have done a lot of research on the subject, and I have found that the Insurance Information Institute has published the most comprehensive article featuring the benefits and coverage provided by a Workers Comp insurance policy.


Workers Compensation Insurance

WHAT IS WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE?

 Employers are legally obligated to take reasonable care to assure that their workplaces are safe. Nevertheless, accidents happen. When they do, workers compensation insurance provides coverage.

Workers compensation insurance serves two purposes: It assures that injured workers get medical care and compensation for a portion of the income they lose while they are unable to return to work and it usually protects employers from lawsuits by workers injured while working.

Workers receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in the accident. If a worker is killed while working, workers comp (as it is often abbreviated) provides death benefits for the worker’s dependents.

EACH STATE IS DIFFERENT

Workers compensation systems are established by statutes in each state. State laws and court decisions control the program in that state and no two states have exactly the same laws and regulations.

States determine such features as the amount of benefits to which an employee is entitled, what impairments and injuries are covered, how impairments are to be evaluated and how medical care is to be delivered. In addition, states dictate whether workers compensation insurance is provided by state-run agencies and by private insurance companies or by the state alone. States also establish how claims are to be handled, how disputes are resolved and they may devise strategies, such as limits on chiropractic care, to control costs.

To learn about the requirements where you live, visit your state’s workers compensation department Web site.

If your business expands to another state, you may have to deal with very different rules in the new state. The discussion here covers the general features of workers compensation programs.

WHAT INJURIES ARE COVERED?

Injuries employees sustain on the workplace premises or anywhere else while the employee is acting in the “course and scope” of employment are covered if their employer has workers comp insurance. For example, the leading cause of workers comp death claims is traffic accidents that occur when the employee is in a vehicle for work purposes, whether the trip is made in the company’s car or the employee’s own vehicle. Accidents driving to and from work are not covered.

In addition to injuries from accidents, workers comp covers injuries employees may sustain from other events that may occur while they are working, including workplace violence, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Workers comp insurance also covers certain illnesses and occupational diseases (defined in the state statutes) contracted as a result of employment. For example, employees who work with toxic chemicals can be made ill by exposure to the chemicals.

WHAT TREATMENT DO INJURED WORKERS RECEIVE?

Injured workers receive all medically necessary and appropriate treatment. With medical costs soaring, many states have adopted measures designed to rein in expenditures. These include utilization management guidelines, which describe acceptable treatment protocols and diagnostic tests for specific injuries.

WHAT BENEFITS DO INJURED WORKERS RECEIVE?

Income replacement benefits are based on whether the disability is total or partial and whether it is permanent or temporary. Impairment is generally defined as a reduction in earnings capacity, sometimes using the American Medical Association’s criteria.
Most states require that benefits be paid for the duration of the disability, but some specify a maximum number of weeks, particularly for temporary disabilities. The benefit amount is a percentage of the worker’s weekly wage (actual or state average).

DO I HAVE TO BUY WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE?

In most states sole proprietors and partnerships aren’t required to purchase workers compensation unless and until they have employees who aren’t owners. Most states will allow sole proprietors and partners to cover themselves for workers comp if they choose to. Some states don’t require employees to be covered if they are paid solely on commission.

Employees are generally defined as people performing services at the direction of the employer, for hire, including minors and workers who are not citizens.

Many states exempt employers with only a few employees from mandatory coverage laws. The threshold number of employees that triggers mandatory insurance is either three, four or five, depending on the state. Texas is the only state in which workers comp insurance is truly optional.

In some states, businessowners' immediate family members—parents, spouse and children—who work for the firm may not have to be counted as employees for purposes of determining whether you must have workers comp insurance. These exceptions usually do not apply to other family members, such as sisters, brothers or in-laws.

Under some laws, independent contractors are not considered to be your employees. However, for the purpose of workers comp insurance, most states will treat an uninsured contractor or subcontractor or employees of an uninsured subcontractor as your employee—meaning you may be liable if he or she is injured while working for you. To avoid any unintended liability, larger companies often require any contractors or subcontractors doing work for them to provide proof they have workers comp insurance.

Regardless of whether insurance is required and regardless of how few employees you have, if an employee protected by the state statute is injured or killed in the course of working for you, you may be legally liable. One claim for a serious employee injury could bankrupt many small businesses. Insurance, through the payment of premiums for workers comp coverage, provides a predictable cost for handling this risk.

More information on this subject can be found by reading the full article published by the Insurance Information Institute.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

De-stress Your Home for the Holidays

The holiday season can become pretty hectic pretty quickly. Between in-laws visiting, kid's school Christmas pageants, and more cooking than any one person should do, it is easy to let the stress of the season ruin your holiday joy. I found this article a couple days ago and thought I would share. After implementing a couple of the tips in my own house, my downtime between craziness has become exactly that: down time. Help yourself by de-stressing your home so that your down time can be spent relaxing and not planning for your next event.


DE-STRESS YOUR HOME

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WHY DO THIS?

Modern life is high-tech, fast-paced and stressful. It’s a jungle out there! Turning your home into a sanctuary from the always on, always-connected world we live in is not only good for your mind, it’s good for your health! Make your home a relaxation zone with these design fixes.
Difficulty: 
 
 
Time: 15 minutes

how to:

  1. 1
    Let in light. Sunlight is nature’s stress-buster, because it positively impacts both physical and mental health. Lift the blinds and lift your mood. If you’re lacking in the natural light department, mirrors can be used to brighten up a room, instead.
  2. 2
    Dim down at night. While light boosts energy levels, darkness can soothe the soul, so balancing the two is key. In the evening, keep certain spaces (such as your bedroom) low-key by reducing overhead lighting and using a candle or two. The low light will help transition your system to a relaxed state and prepare you for sleep.
  3. 3
    Frame your loved ones. Remember that fun vacation with those amazing people? You should. Every day. Reliving happy memories breeds an upbeat outlook and framed photos will do the trick. Surround yourself with snapshots of friends, family, places and pets for a daily jolt of positivity.
  4. 4
    Simplify. Clutter is the enemy of calm. Pick one especially disorderly space in your home (thekitchencloset or living room are three good options) and spend ten minutes sorting your clutter into three piles: keep, discard and relocate. Eliminate the “discard” pile and move the “relocate” items to their proper places in the house.
  5. 5
    Add nature. Plants are a great way to make any room feel tranquil and peaceful. Whether you make a statement with a single staghorn fern or scatter jars of wildflowers throughout your home, you can’t go wrong. In addition to the high-traffic display spots, we recommend placing plants in obscure places (like the kitchen, home office or your bathrooms) to keep the natural vibe alive through and through.
  6. 6
    Power down. The electronics in our lives can drain more than electricity. Surrounding ourselves with screens – computers, TVs, tablets – can take a toll on our sleep habits, too. Hide them if you can, at least an hour or so before bed. The blue light emitted from most electronics actually affects your REM cycle, so you don’t sleep as well. And nothing knocks your stress levels up a notch like a poor night’s sleep!