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Masonry Contractors: How to lower Contractor and WC Costs

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Sep 01, 2019

masonry-construction-insurance-300Construction is one of the most hazardous occupations today, and masonry contractors are no exception. According to Masonry Magazine, masonry construction is one of the high-risk specialty trades with a nonfatal injury rate of 191.5 per 10,000 equivalent full-time workers.

Creating a safer work environment for those tradespeople helps you avoid OSHA fines, increase employee morale, keep workers on the job, and lower your Contractor Insurance and WC costs.

About the Work

Masonry is a physically demanding job, and masons often work in fast-paced environments. Lifting heavy materials and standing, kneeling, and bending for long periods of time can be strenuous on workers. Plus, masons often work outside where it can be muddy, dirty, and dusty.

Common hazards for masonry contractors include the Occupation Health and Safety’s (OSHA) top four causes of construction fatalities  – falls, struck by, caught in/between, and electrocutions, along with cuts, heat exhaustion, exposure to noxious chemical, lifting and moving heavy objects, and overexposure to dust.

Here are four of the most common hazards masonry contractors face and ways to minimize those hazards:

Slips, Trips, and Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26% of nonfatal work injuries that result in days away from work are the result of slips, trips, and falls. Construction workers are at risk for fatal falls from height by more than seven times the rate of other industries, according to the National Safety Council.

Masons are often required to use ladders and scaffolding to complete their work, which adds to the risk of falling and injury or death. 

Here are five ladder safety tips to avoid falls:

  • Inspect ladders for defects before using
  • Place the ladder on a stable and level surface
  • Use three points of contact at all times (one hand and two feet/two hands and one foot)
  • Don’t lean, stretch, or make sudden moves while on a ladder
  • The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface

Here are five scaffolding safety tips to avoid falls:

  • Scaffolding should be erected by someone who is properly trained and qualified
  • Inspect scaffolding before using
  • Use proper fall protection
  • Fully plank the equipment
  • Use guardrails

Electrocution

The CDC reports that there were 82 electrocutions or 0.8 electrocution fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers in 2015. To avoid electrocution, know the location of overhead and underground power lines to avoid accidental contact, inspect all tools including extension and power cords for damage before using, ensure that all electrical equipment is properly grounded or double insulated, and protect cords from foot traffic, forklifts, and other equipment.

Lifting Injuries

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, lifting heavy items is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace, and this type of injury often takes a long time to heal. The main causes of these injuries are the weight of objects, awkward postures, high frequency and long-duration lifting, inadequate handholds, and environmental factors.

Here are five lifting safety tips:

  • Use mechanical means to move heavy materials such as forklifts whenever possible
  • When manually lifting a heavy object, place it close to your body at the “power zone” height – mid-thigh to mid chest
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist
  • Turn by moving the feet rather than twisting at the waist
  • Take regular breaks

Heat Illness

Masonry contractors can become ill or even die while working in extreme heat or humid conditions regardless of their age or physical condition.  To help prevent heat illness, OSHA recommends that employers provide workers with water, rest, and shade and monitor workers for signs of illness.

Implementing a culture of safety from the top to the bottom of your organization, providing safety training, enforcing safety processes, and providing proper equipment and PPE can help reduce the number of injuries on your worksite and improve your bottom line. 

Is Your Contractors Insurance Too High?

If you think your Contractors Insurance is too high, contact one of the experienced agents at the American Insuring Group at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online. We specialize in both Contractors and WC insurance and will compare your insurance costs with several companies to ensure that you get the best price.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, Construction Insurance, Contractor Insurance, workers comp costs, Contractor Safety Management

5 Situations When Contractor’s Workers’ Comp Claims May be Denied

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Aug 25, 2019

save-contractors-insurance-300Since the passing of the Pennsylvania Workmen’s Compensation Act in 1915, most contractors with employees are required to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance by law. The purpose of Workers’ Compensation insurance is to protect both employee and employer when an employee is injured on the job - regardless of who is at fault.

Workers’ Comp covers medical costs, disability payments, death benefits, and lost wages to the injured employee and protects employers from direct lawsuits by injured employees. Failure to have Workers’ Comp Insurance can lead to lawsuits by employees and criminal prosecution.  

While Workers’ Compensation Insurance is meant to cover work-related injuries and illnesses that prevent an employee from doing their job, there are some things Workers’ Compensation Insurance will not cover.

Here are Five Situations When Workers’ Compensation Insurance Benefits Could be Denied:

Off-Site Work Injuries

The primary purpose of Workers’ Compensation is to protect employees who are injured on the job; therefore, any injuries that are not work-related and occur off a job site are not covered, but you would be surprised how blurry the line between on and off job site can become.

If an employee is injured on their lunch-break and they are not on a job site, the injury is typically not covered under Workers’ Comp. However, if the employee is injured while picking up lunch for their boss or while in an employee lunchroom, it usually is.

Typically, Workers Comp also covers employees who are injured at events such as parties or picnics hosted by the employer.

Workers’ Comp generally does not cover employees who are injured while driving to or from work unless they are driving a company car, doing errands for the employer, traveling on business, or regularly travels for work.

Company Rule Violations

If an employee is injured while violating a company safety rule or any other act the employer has prohibited, they may be ineligible for Workers’ Compensation depending on the level of misconduct. Sometimes that employee’s medical costs and lost wages are covered under WC, but does not allow the employee to sue the employer.

Breaking the Law

If an employee is injured while breaking the law, any Workers’ Compensation claims may be denied.

Under the Influence

If an employee is injured while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, which impairs their motor skills, any Workers’ Comp claim could be denied – regardless of what the company policy is. When an injured employee goes to the doctor for a work-related injury, employers have the right to ask for a drug and alcohol test.

Self-Inflicted Injuries

The majority of Workers’ Compensation claims are legitimate, but as with anything else, there are dishonest employees who may purposely cause their own injury to collect on a claim. Although Workers’ Comp usually does not take fault into account, a claim based on a self-inflicted injury may be denied.

Security cameras throughout a job site can often help determine whether or not Workers’ Compensation insurance should cover an injury.   

Are You Paying Too Much for Workers’ Compensation?

The agents at American Insuring Group specialize in Workers’ Compensation Insurance. They will work hard to ensure that you get quality Workers’ Comp Insurance at the best rates by comparing your costs with companies who are competing for your business.

Let us help you save money while still protecting your employees and your business by giving us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, Contractor Insurance, PA Workers Compensation Insurance, Contractor Safety Management

The Cost of Hearing Loss in Construction Workers

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Jun 23, 2019

construction-hearing-loss-cost-300Work-related hearing loss is costing construction companies millions of dollars in contractors’ insurance costs every year. 

If you own a construction company, the chances are good that your employees are exposed to a lot of noise – heavy equipment, jackhammers, etc., which can lead to hearing loss and have an impact on your contractors’ insurance costs. 

Hearing loss is the most common work-related injury. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 22 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous levels of noise every year. A 10-year-study of more than one million construction workers in the U.S. found the construction industry has the second highest number of employees affected by hearing loss. 

Work-related hearing loss is costing businesses an estimated $242 million in workers’ comp claims every year. Training your employees about hearing loss and ways to avoid it and enforcing safety measures can help not only lower your contractors’ insurance costs but also save your employees from permanent hearing loss. 

The Science Behind Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can occur as a result of exposure to loud noises, exposure to metals or solvents, or a result of physical trauma like a blow to the head. 

Studies show that regular exposure to sounds 85-90 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss. A truck or motorcycle that is five yards away can emit sound at 90 dB, and a jackhammer that is three feet away can emit 120 dB. 

Approximately 9% of workers who were NOT subjected to noise levels above 90 decibels experience noise-induced hearing loss by age 50, but 60% of construction workers who were repeatedly exposed to noise at 120 dB did experience hearing loss by the age of 50. 

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise-induced hearing loss. 

As an employer, you are required to take proper measures to protect your employees from hearing loss when workplace noises exceed those levels. 

Tips to Avoid Hearing Loss

Once an employee experiences noise-related hearing loss, it is usually permanent. The good news is that like most workplace accidents and diseases, hearing loss is preventable. 

If you want to save your employees’ hearing and reduce your WC costs, share the following tips with your employees:

  • Avoid Excessive Noise both on and off worksites
  • Wear industrial-grade hearing protection any time you are working at a noisy construction site.
  • Take regular breaks away from noisy areas
  • Work as far away from loud equipment as possible
  • Using headphones to listen to loud music to drown out a noisy work environment can do more harm than good. A better option is to use noise-canceling headphones, which can reduce your exposure to harmful noise levels both on and off the job.
  • Quit smoking because smoking suffocates the cells in your body, including those in your ears, which can increase your chance of experiencing hearing loss.
  • High blood sugar levels can damage cells in your body; thereby, causing hearing loss, so watch your blood sugar levels.
  • Never put anything including cotton swaps directly into your ears because you can injure your eardrum.
  • Schedule regular hearing tests 

Younger workers often feel impervious to workplace injuries including hearing loss, so it’s your responsibility as an employer to make your employees understand the prevalence of hearing loss among construction workers, what causes it, and how to avoid it, and you should require hearing loss protection protocol.  Eventually, they will thank you, and you will see immediate benefits in lower WC costs. 

Want to Learn More About Saving on Your Contractors’ Insurance?

Give one of the experienced agents at American Insuring Group a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

As independent agents and specialists in contractors’ insurance, we will compare the cost of your insurance with several companies to help ensure that you get the right coverage at the best price!

Tags: Construction Insurance, Contractor Insurance, workers comp costs, Contractor Safety Management

Contractor Insurance and the Main Cause of Construction Injuries

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Jan 20, 2019

How to avoid the main cause of injury in construction, and lower your contractor insurance costThis is the final blog post addressing what OSHA has labeled the “fatal four.” The fatal four are four hazards that are responsible for 63.7% of all construction worker deaths.

Recognizing and preventing these hazards will save lives, improve employee morale, and help reduce insurance costs.

The Fatal Four include the following hazards (statistics are from 2016):

1- Falls accounted for 38.7% of deaths
2- Being struck by an object accounted for 9.4%
3- Electrocutions accounted for 8.3%
4 -Caught-in/between accounted for 7.3%

Today, we’ll be addressing the most common cause of construction site injuries and the leading cause of construction worker deaths – falls.

 

4 Leading Causes of Falls and How to Prevent Them

 

1 - Unprotected edges, wall openings, and floor holes

Falling from a higher level can result in sprains, breaks, concussions, and death. Unprotected edges, wall openings, and floor holes can cause workers to fall from great heights. OSHA requires the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, and/or fall arrest systems when workers are exposed to a fall hazard of six feet or more above a lower level.

Guardrails – the only solution that prevents falls from happening - must be 39 – 45 inches in height from the surface, the top rail must be able to withstand a minimum of 200 pounds and the middle rail 150 pounds.

Safety nets must be placed less than 30 feet below the work area and must extend at least eight feet out from the worksite. Border ropes must have a minimum strength of 5,000 pounds.

Fall arrest systems consist of the anchorage, connecting device, and full-body harness. Arrest systems should be inspected before each use.

Other safety precautions to avoid this type of fall include the following:

  • Before cutting a hole, barricade the work area if possible.
  • Holes should be covered or guarded immediately, and the covers should be able to support two times the weight of employees, materials, and equipment.
  • Clearly mark where there is a hole.

2 - Improper Scaffolding Construction

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accidents involving scaffolding account for approximately 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths in the U.S. every year.  The BLS found that 72% of scaffolding injuries are caused by the planking or support giving way, the lack of guardrails and/or fall protection, and objects falling from overhead.  OSHA requires that employees on scaffolding that is higher than ten feet above a lower level must be protected.

Safety precautions to avoid falling from scaffolding include the following:

  • Construct scaffolding according to manufacturer’s specifications
  • Install guardrails
  • Brace or tie scaffolding to the building if height or width of scaffolding calls for it.
  • Use metal walk boards instead of wood if possible
  • Ensure safe access to and from the platform
  • Follow the load capacity guidelines
  • Wear hard hats and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

3 - Unguarded Protruding Steel Rebars

The chance for injury from a fall from an elevated position increases significantly if protruding steel rebars are left unguarded, and even the simple trip or fall can cause serious injury when steel rebars are left unguarded. Unguarded rebars can cause cuts, abrasions, impalement, and other injuries.

Assess the site for rebar-related hazards. Cap any protruding steel rebars with steel-reinforced rebar caps or wooden troughs or bend the rebar at the very least. Make sure that all employees wear appropriate PPE and those working above rebars wear fall protection.

4 - Misuse of Portable Ladders

Falls from ladders are an all-too-common cause of injury at construction sites. Improperly placed ladders can shift or fall, and workers can slip or lose their balance when working on ladders. To avoid injuries, the proper ladder should always be used for the job, it should be safely positioned on a solid surface, and workers should take their time when working on ladders.

Most accidents with ladders are caused by the following:

  • Incorrect ladder choice
  • Improperly secured ladders
  • Trying to carry tools and equipment while climbing a ladder
  • Lack of attention
  • The condition of the ladder
  • Ladder placement
  • Not taking your time

Safety precautions when using a ladder include the following:

  • Place ladders so the side rails extend at least three feet above the landing
  • Attach the top and bottom of the ladder to something secure to keep it from slipping or falling
  • Use the correct size ladder so that it can be placed at a stable angle
  • Maintain three points of contact when going up or down a ladder
  • Stay near the middle of the ladder
  • Face the ladder when climbing up or down 

Imagine if you could eliminate (or at least significantly reduce) falls at your worksites. Nearly 40% of accidents would be eliminated, and you’d be left with happier, safer, and more productive employees and lower insurance costs.

The Quickest Way to Lower Your Contractor Insurance Cost

Contact us to save on Contractor Insurance in Philadelphia, Berks County, Lehigh Valley, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Erie, PA and beyond!Another way to save on construction and contractors insurance is to work with the independent agents at American Insuring Group.

We work with multiple insurance companies to ensure that you get the very best price on all your Contractor Insurance needs. 

Get started by calling us today at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or contact us online.

Tags: Construction Insurance, Contractor Insurance, Commercial Insurance, Contractor Safety Management

Prevent Injuries and Save on Contractor Insurance Costs

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Aug 05, 2018

Prevent Injuries Through Safety, Lower Your Contractor Insurance Costs in Pennsylvania and Elsewhere.We talk a lot about safety on this blog, but the truth is that reducing and preventing the number of injuries in the workplace, is one of the best ways to reduce your workers’ compensation and liability insurance costs. These costs tend to be higher than average in the construction industry due to its dangerous nature, so we’re going to keep talking about safety.

One of the best ways to prevent injuries is to be aware of where and how most accidents occur. Here are the five top events or exposures that lead to injury on construction worksites according to ConstructConnect, along with some tips to avoid them.

The Top 5 Injury Factors on Construction Worksites

#1 - Contact with Objects

Construction sites are filled with heavy equipment and dangerous tools, so it’s no surprise that in 2016, there were 29,160 cases of injuries caused by contact with objects. Being struck by objects or equipment caused the most injuries. Most of those were caused by handheld equipment or objects slipping or being swung by the injured employee. 5,220 accidents were caused by a falling objects or equipment hitting workers.

Injuries also occurred when workers hit an object or a piece of equipment. Some injuries occurred by hitting something stationery such as stepping on an object, but more happened when workers hit a moving object such as a moving part of the machinery.

There were also 3,260 injuries caused by a worker being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects.

Safety Tips:

  • Always wear a hardhat onsite
  • Avoid areas where work is being done overhead
  • Use lanyards or netting to avoid dropping tools or materials to a lower level 

#2 – Slips, Trips and Falls

In 2016, there were 24,700 reported cases of construction workers being injured by slips, trips, or falls. The majority of those injuries were caused by falling to a lower level.

Safety Tips:

  • Provide fall protection for anyone working up high
  • Keep areas where people walk clear
  • Inspect personal arrest systems to make sure that everything is in good working order

#3 – Overexertion

Construction is hard work, so it’s no surprise that in 2016, 21,150 overexertion injuries were reported. These injuries were caused by lifting or lowering objects; pulling, pushing, or turning; holding, carrying, or wielding, and other things like bending, twisting climbing, reaching, etc.

Safety Tips:

  • When lifting an object, bend at your knees and use your legs
  • Wear a back brace when lifting a heavy object
  • Take regular breaks when feeling fatigued or doing something that requires repetitive motion

#4 – Transportation Incidents

U.S. roads can be dangerous. In 2016, 3,470 injuries reported in the construction industry were the result of transportation incidents. This includes vehicle collisions and pedestrians being struck and injured by vehicles in both work zones and off the road – like on construction sites.

Safety Tips:

  • Obey traffic rules when driving
  • Be aware of what’s going on around you
  • Avoid blind spots with mirrors and visual aid devices such as backup alarms and lights
  • Control traffic using barricades and signs to alert drivers of work zones, shifting traffic patterns, etc.
  • Wear proper safety equipment including hard hats, highly visible clothing, steel-toed boots, etc.

#5 - Exposure to Harmful Environments or Substances

In 2016, there were 1,470 injuries caused by exposure to extreme temperatures and 420 injuries caused by exposure to electricity. Electrical injuries can include electrocution, electrical shock, burns, and falls, and low voltage does NOT mean low hazard.

Safety Tips:

  • In hot weather, keep hydrated, try to schedule work during the cooler time of day, bring shade, and keep an eye on each other
  • In frigid weather, provide a heated break area; ensure that workers dress appropriately with layers of loose-fitting, insulated clothing; gradually introduce workers to the cold; know the symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot; and monitor each other
  • Check electrical cords and wires before using
  • Wear personal protection when handling electrical materials

Understanding Leads to Prevention

Understanding your biggest risks for injury and how to prevent them before they happen are your first steps to minimizing injuries in a notoriously dangerous industry. Providing a safe work environment is good for you and your employees. Plus, it provides cost savings on insurance and other costs of workplace injuries such as missed days of work, training new employees, lower employee morale, etc.

 

We'll Help You Save on Every Kind of Commercial Insurance!

To learn more ways to save on contractor insurance, workers comp insurance and all types of commercial insurance, simply call American Insuring Group at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or click to contact us online.

Our independent agents aggressively shop the market to find you the very best deal on quality insurance. Contact us today to start saving in Pennsylvania and beyond!

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, Contractor Insurance, Commercial Liability Insurance, workers comp costs, Contractor Safety Management

Contractor Safety Management in 5 Easy Steps

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Dec 17, 2017

Contractor Safety Management and Workers Comp Insurance Tips for Reading, Philadelphia, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Erie, Lancaster, York, PA and beyond.In 2015, 937 construction workers were killed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s 21.4 percent of all worker fatalities – the most deaths of any industry sector. Safety and Health Magazine puts those numbers into perspective: “Every week in 2015, 18 construction workers went to work and did not return home.”

Good Safety Management Goes Beyond Workers Comp & Contractor Insurance

As a contractor, you should be committed to creating and maintaining safe construction sites for the protection of your workers and your business. A good safety management program helps strengthen your reputation, attract the best employees, allow your workers to be more productive, comply with OSHA and local regulations, reduce liability exposure, keep your workers compensation insurance and contractor insurance costs down, and – of course – keep your employees safe.

Safety for Contractors and Subcontractors 

Hopefully, you have and enforce a safety management program for your employees, but what about contractors and subcontractors? Your contractors could bring workers to your job site who don’t have the training or certifications that you require of your employees. They may not understand site-specific issues or their responsibilities. And if an injury does occur, it could become your responsibility.

While it may take a little more effort, a good Contractor Safety Management program can prevent many safety issues created by contractors and may be even more critical if the Protecting America’s Workers Act – an amendment to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 – is passed.

The Protecting America’s Workers Act  

Part of this Act includes requirements relating to an “employer's duty to furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm that the employer creates or controls or in which the employer exposes any individual (not just an employer's employee) performing work there” and “site-controlling employer's duty to keep a site log for recordable injuries and illnesses of all employees, including employees of the site-controlling employer or others (including independent contractors) performing work there.” 

 

Here is a 5-Step Process for Creating an Effective Contractor Safety Management Plan:

  1. Prequalification – Any potential contractors should complete a prequalification process that includes safety requirements such as basic EHS (Environments, Health, and Safety) metrics like their recordable incident rate and days away from work, the quality of their services and their technical qualifications and competencies. Look at the contractor’s internal training programs and ask if they use safety as criteria for employment.

  2. Planning – Take an EHS assessment of every job site identifying specific hazards and what additional requirements might be needed from a sub-contractor.

  3. Orientation and Training – Inadequate training is often the cause of contractor fatalities. Even if the organizations you’re hiring provide safety training (which they probably do if you’ve considered their safety record), you should provide site-specific training that addresses hazards, emergency procedures, and safety requirements.

  4. Monitoring and assessment – Monitor the progress of work to identify any safety issues and address those issues promptly. Provide timely feedback on the contractor’s safety performance early on.

  5. Performance evaluation – Evaluate and document the contractor’s performance including if the work was done safely, if it was completed on time, and if the quality is acceptable. This can make it easier to choose contractors for future projects.

Taking these five steps, aligning your safety strategies with your contractors, and creating a culture of safety across all of the workers on your work site will create a safer environment for everyone on your job site, help you can comply with any future regulations, help protect your business, and save you money.

 

Protect Yourself With Workers Compensation & Contractor Insurance

Regardless of your best efforts to create the ultimate safety management plan, accidents can happen. At American Insuring Group our independent insurance agents will help you get the precise level of commercial insurance coverage you need, including Workers Comp Insurance and Contractor Insurance at the best possible price.

So contact us online or call today at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848.

Tags: Contractor Insurance, Contractor Safety Management