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Risk Management Bulletin
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Federal Guidelines for Workplace Safety Drills
Safety in the workplace starts with preparation. Your employees need to know what to do if a fire, chemical spill, natural disaster, civil disturbance or other emergency occurs. Federal guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tell you which workplace safety drills to perform as you prepare everyone in your company for emergencies.
Create an Emergency Plan
OSHA guidelines require many companies to create an emergency plan. It's also a good idea for companies that are exempt because it keeps employees safe and can prevent confusion and property damage. The plan includes escape routes and assigns employees to manage escape routes. It also includes procedures for shutting down equipment, counting employees after an emergency, providing medical care and reporting emergencies to the appropriate authorities.
Assign a Safety Coordinator
Someone in your company should serve as the safety coordinator. This person answers questions about the emergency plan, organizes required safety paperwork and overseas the drills.
Sounds the Alarms
Choose emergency alarms with a distinctive sound so that all your employees can recognize them. Hang them in locations throughout your building so that all employees can hear them. Hook up an auxiliary power source, too, to ensure the alarms sound even if the power goes out. When you perform safety drills, use the alarm to signal the drill's start.
Mark the Evacuation Routes
Evacuation routes allow employees to exit the building when an emergency arises. Based on your building's layout, choose several routes that allow quick and easy access to the outside. Emergency routes must also be wide enough for your employees to exit the building safely and kept clear and free from debris and clutter at all times. Post drawings of the routes in prominent locations around the building, and clearly mark the routes with bright, fluorescent paint or stickers.
Perform Regular Safety Drills
Creating a safety plan isn't enough if your employees don't know how to handle an emergency. At least twice a month, perform safety drills. The local fire and police departments should be present to share any tips on how you can improve the drills. Afterwards, meet to discuss improvements.
Also, if you change the emergency plan in any way, schedule a meeting. Ensure everyone knows and understands the new plan.
Safety comes first in any work environment. Begin today to prepare safety precautions and drills for all departments of your company. Then follow federal guidelines and practice until your employees evacuate the building properly and know exactly what to do. Your preparations could save lives, so don't skimp on any of the details.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
What is a Written Employee Code of Conduct Contract and Why Do You Need It?
An employee code of conduct contract tells employees what you expect from them. While it doesn't have to be elaborate or long, it is important for large and small businesses.
What is a Code of Conduct?
In your company's code of conduct, you'll list the expectations you have for employees. This document is different than a code of ethics, but it might include some of the same details. Your employees will be required to sign the contract before they can begin working for you. The contract then becomes a legal document and remains in the employee's file.
What is the Purpose of the Code of Conduct?
Every employee is unique with different values and ways of doing business. Your code of conduct ensures everyone in your organization is on the same page, and it helps to unify everyone in supporting your company's brand and reputation.
The code of conduct can also reduce your liability. If an employee signs the document and then breaks one of the rules, you can pursue disciplinary action because he or she agreed to behave in a certain way and then did not.
What Information is Included in a Code of Conduct?
Your code of conduct will include a variety of information. For example, you may wish to prohibit your employees from engaging in certain behaviors, including illegal activities, discrimination, harassment, drinking, smoking or foul language. The contract could also include:
Proper procedures for emergencies
Proper way to interact with coworkers, customers and vendors
Grievance policy for handling disagreements among coworkers
Non-disclosure and confidentiality requirements
Conflict of interests
When writing your code of conduct, make sure it's written in clear language to reduce confusion and ensure everyone can understand it. You may also include a blanket statement. It directs employees to see the employee handbook for additional rules. The handbook can then include further details about the information in the code of conduct.
Is the Code of Conduct a Legal Tool?
Signed employee codes of conduct are considered legal documents, so you can use them to justify disciplinary or legal actions against an employee who break the contract. However, be sure to hire an employment attorney or qualified human resources professional to review the code of conduct contract first. It cannot violate federal or state employment laws, and it must not contradict your code of ethics or employee handbook.
Your company's code of conduct is an important document. If you don't already have one, prepare one today.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
How Long to Keep Job Applications You Receive
Advertise an open position in your company, and you probably receive multiple applications. These applications contain the applicant's personal information, including social security numbers, addresses and past employment history. They need to be protected. Not only do you want to prevent identity theft that may result in an expensive lawsuit from the applicant, but you also may need the applications to fill future open positions. You also need to follow federal laws. Instead of tossing job applications after the position is filled, read about several laws that tell you how to handle these applications and the information they contain the right way.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
This federal act prohibits employment discrimination based on color, race, sex, religion or national origin. Part of the act also requires employers to keep job applications associated with permanent positions for at least one year after the application is received. If you're charged with discrimination or unlawful employment practices, keep the job application and any other relevant personnel records until the issue is resolved.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Applicants over the age of 40 cannot be discriminated against according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It also requires you to retain applications, resumes, applicant test results and referrals for permanent and temporary jobs for one year after you receive them. If the applicant is 40 or older, keep the records for two years.
Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act protects employees from discrimination in the workplace and was specifically written for disabled people. It requires you to keep job applications and related documents for at least one year or until any discrimination charges are resolved.
How to Store Job Applications Properly
Typically, the Human Resources department is responsible for organizing and storing job applications and related documents. Only your company's Human Resources staff and hiring managers should have access to the files. The paperwork should be kept in a locked filing cabinet or other secure location or in an offsite record storage facility. Once the federal requirements for keeping the applications ends, shred the documents or send them to a confidential recycler off-site.
Protect yourself and your small business when you store job applications properly. A little effort and organization can protect you from costly lawsuits that stem from stolen personal information. Proper storage also ensures you are compliant with federal employment laws and have access to information if you're sued for discrimination.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
How to Reduce Risks When a Key Employee Leaves
Losing a key employee can cripple a small business. That person may hold responsibility for essential tasks, know your clients or be in charge of a large project. If you're not prepared for the loss, your entire company will be affected by low morale, loss of productivity and an economic hit. Minimize the risks when you take several steps.
Identify Your Key Employees
Who in your organization can you not afford to lose? Which employees keep your company running or boost sales each month? These employees are the ones you need to be prepared to lose. Otherwise, your company is at risk of failing when that person decides to move on.
Develop a Knowledge Management Program
In many organizations, the key employees have important knowledge in their head but not on paper. Develop a knowledge management program that documents this vital information for the next person in the position.
Instead of resting important responsibilities or projects solely on one person's shoulders, cross-train at least one other employee in the job or position. That way, you're not left hanging as you search for and train a replacement.
Hold Regular Update Meetings
Cross-training may not be possible for you. In this case, hold regular staff meetings where you update everyone on the project and prevent your staff from being blindsided if a key employee leaves.
Communicate the Good and the Bad
Improve employee retention and satisfaction when you keep communication lines open. Discussing the good and the bad can prevent small problems from growing and help key employees feel included and valued.
Stay in Touch With a Staffing or Recruiting Firm
If you don't have a current employee who can step in and take over the key spot, have a staffing or recruiting firm on call. They have access to professionals who are experienced, trained and ready to step in with minimal effort from you.
Conduct an Exit Interview
When possible, interview the employees who leave your company. Discover the reasons for the departure and use that information to improve your salary, benefits package, company culture or other deficits as you prevent the loss of other key employees.
Focus on Current Employees
Even though a key employee left, you still have staff members who need you. Communicate clearly about the departure and discuss the impact it will make on the department or company as a whole. Restructure as needed, too, to keep business going.
It's easy to see a departure as a bad thing. However, a new employee brings fresh perspective, business connections and great skills that can improve your organization.
While losing a key employee is not easy, you can make the transition as smooth as possible when you're prepared.
HMS Insurance Associates, Inc.
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