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Summer Electrical Surges are a Serious Risk to Business Technology

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Almost every modern business relies on expensive electronic equipment, computers and networks to maintain efficiency and day-to-day operations. While businesses take the proper precautions to secure these components from theft, they often leave them susceptible to another danger, electrical surges. Unfortunately, without the proper protection, surges can result in costly damage to a business's physical assets.

Causes of Electrical Surges 
Electrical surges are caused by a variety of reasons, but most are the result of direct lightening strikes to a building or a nearby electrical source. In many cases, the strike occurs elsewhere on the utility system's electrical distribution system and the surge travels into a business via the electrical lines. According to the Lightning Protection Institute, lightening strikes cause approximately $1 billion in property damage every year. Other causes of surges include accidental line crossing by utility companies or during severe weather when lines fall. They can also be caused when the electrical system is overloaded, such as in hot summer months. 

Equipment That's at Risk
Computers, servers, micro-processor-based controllers, telephone switchboards, robotics, cash register systems, and televisions are just a short list of the items that can be damaged by a surge. Basically, anything that is plugging into a wall or directly into the electrical system is at risk of damage when a surge occurs. 

Physical Protection Devices
All electronic devices that plug directly into an electrical outlet should be plugged into a surge protector instead. The surge protector, also called a Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS), is then plugged into the outlet. When electrical surges occur, the TVSS absorbs the current and stops it from flowing into the device. More advanced surge protectors must be installed on a business's main switch board and any sub-distribution panels for larger facilities. 

Insurance Protection
Of course, even the most prepared business can still suffer losses from electrical surges. That's why business owners must ensure that all electronics and technology equipment are properly insured. Additionally, the surge protectors themselves can be costly and are also often insured under insurance policies if they fail due to an electrical surge. 

 

Summer Dangers: How Employers Can Prevent Heat Exhaustion

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Higher summer temps mean fun in the sun on weekends, but those scorching temperatures can be deadly for workers who aren't prepared for them. Heat exhaustion affects a wide variety of workers, and unfortunately, most businesses aren't prepared to handle it. Once the temps start to rise, employers must be proactive to protect employees from succumbing to heat exhaustion and know how to respond if they do. 

Who Is Susceptible?
Those most at risk are workers whose job requires them to be outdoors. These include construction workers, HVAC workers, roofers, landscapers and many others. However, there are other jobs, such as automobile sales people, that may seem like an indoor job but actually require time outdoors. Even traditional office workers can succumb to heat if they are required to exert themselves too much during times of warm weather. For example, moving boxes or supplies from storage sheds or walking long distances between buildings. 

Preventing Heat Related Illnesses
Preventing heat exhaustion is simply a matter of remembering to take it easy during hot weather. Employees should avoid exerting themselves beyond the physical activity that they are accustomed to. Additionally, they should take frequent breaks in a shady, cool location, especially if they begin to feel weak. Employers can help by supplying adequate drinking water and sports drinks, which can help rebalance electrolytes lost through sweating. Workers such as landscapers and roofers who must be outside, should schedule work as early as possible to avoid the hottest times of the day. 

Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Employers and workers must be watchful for signs that someone is experiencing heat exhaustion, as many individuals will continue to push themselves even when lightheaded or weak. Symptoms include headache, blurred vision, nausea, paleness, excessive sweating, a weak pulse and shallow breathing. In severe cases, the individual will pass out. If these symptoms occur, force the individual to stop working, move them to an indoor location with air conditioning and make them lay down. A cool drink of water or a sports drink should also be given in small sips. If symptoms don't subside within 15 to 20 minutes, call the paramedics. 

 

Hazard Ahead: Company Vehicles Increase Company Liability

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Many businesses require travel during the workday, whether to client locations or on short errands around town. During these trips, employees can encounter accidents and other mishaps, which may happen in a company-owned vehicle or in their personal vehicle. Unfortunately, many of the consequences of these driving mishaps can negatively impact the company that employs them. However, there are ways to alleviate the company liability involved with owning company vehicles by establishing safety protocols and obtaining the right insurance.

Developing Safety Protocols

When employees are allowed to drive company vehicles, it is imperative that employers develop a safety program that communicates the popery operating and safety procedures that they must follow. Some important rules to include are:

- Avoid using cell phones during vehicle operation unless using a hands-free device.
- Seat belts must be worn at all times and by all passengers.
- Drivers are required to follow all state and federal traffic laws.
- Only approved employees are allowed to drive the vehicles.
- Establish the times and days of the week that the vehicle may be driven.
- Company policy on personal use of company vehicles.
- Proper procedures for reporting accidents and maintenance issues.

Obtain Proper Insurance 

Businesses have additional insurance needs when they own vehicles because most general business policies do not cover vehicles. Instead, they need a separate business auto policy. These policies are flexible enough to provide the same coverage to all vehicles, or provide some vehicles with additional coverage. For example, vans that transport merchandise may need more coverage than cars which simply go to the post office daily.

Employees and Personal Vehicles

Many businesses allow employees to conduct business in their personal vehicle. While employers typically pay the employee a certain amount per mile for wear and tear, they are not required to insure an employee's vehicle. Instead, employers must make it clear to employees that they are responsible for damage caused to their own vehicles. However, if employees will be transporting anything of value, those items should be insured to obtain compensation if they are damaged or stolen. 

 

Is Your Business Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

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Natural disasters can strike anywhere and at anytime, but many businesses fail to recognize that they are at risk for damaging losses when they occur. Even businesses that don't operate in Tornado Alley or hurricane-prone coastal regions are at risk. For example, the recent flooding in Texas has caught many businesses completely unprepared. That's why every business must develop a disaster plan that will help keep the business running in case the worst does happen. Additionally, business must thoroughly examine their insurance policies to ensure that they are covered for natural disasters.

Developing a Disaster Response Plan
Developing a disaster response plan starts with identifying the events that are most likely to affect a business. Insurance agents can help with this, as they have access to insurance data that isn't available to the general public. However, business owners can also review local newspapers or contact their local emergency management officials for information.

Another important aspect is appointing a person in charge of facilitating communication among staff members. Determine what method of communication will occur and at when it will be initiated. Keeping employees informed, both at work and away from work, is critical to maintaining everyone's safety.

Protecting Business Assets
The next step is to install physical protection methods to reduce the impact of each scenario identified. For example, if flooding is an issue in an area install additional drainage, a retention pond or use waterproofing techniques around the base of the building. Those in tornado-prone areas should have a safe location for employees to wait out the storm. However, they should also install shutters to protect windows and consider upgrading roofing material so that it is wind-resistant.

Update Business Insurance Policies 
It also pays to have an insurance agent review the business's coverage for natural disasters. Some businesses learn that their policy doesn't cover flooding or earthquake damage, and opt to add that coverage as an additional rider. Additionally, ask the agent to describe scenarios where the coverage would not apply. For example, does it cover all flooding, including burst pipes from winter storms as well as flash floods?