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EPA Revises Worker Protection Standard

Pesticide WorkerStarting in 2017, the health of greenhouse, plant nursery, urban farm, and other workers will be better protected.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) with elements designed to reduce the risk of illness or injury from unsafe pesticide exposure.  Employers must comply with most of the new requirements starting January 2, 2017 and certain other requirements starting January 2, 2018.

Exposure to pesticides is associated with a number of illnesses and injuries such as nausea, vomiting, neurological disorders, and cancer, just to name a few.  This is not only bad for a worker’s health and wallet, but it’s bad for your horticulture business, too.  These health risks can increase worker absenteeism, reduce productivity, and add to your costs.  The revised WPS aims to reduce preventable illnesses relating to pesticides through stricter regulations.

Who Needs to Comply with the Worker Protection Standard?

Employers can be subject to significant civil and criminal penalties if WPS requirements are not met.  This affects establishments that grow and harvest commercial plants in greenhouses and nurseries, fruits and vegetables on farms, or timber and trees in forests and nurseries.

Employers of researchers who help grow and harvest plants and employers of commercial pesticide handling establishments are also required to meet WPS regulations.

Learn more from EPA on which employers are affected by WPS and exceptions here.

Which Employees are Protected by the Worker Protection Standard?

The WPS protects pesticide handlers and agricultural workers. EPA defines pesticide handlers as compensated workers who:

• mix, load, or apply agricultural pesticides;
• clean or repair pesticide application equipment; or
• assist with the application of pesticides

EPA defines agricultural workers as “those who perform tasks related to growing and harvesting plants on farms or in greenhouses, nurseries or forests.”  This includes compensated workers that perform activities directly related to agricultural plant production, including repotting and watering plants.

What Changes Were Made to the Worker Protection Standard?

EPA made a number of changes in 2015 to the existing Worker Protection Standard.  These revisions improve safety measures, training, and access to information.  Some of the major changes include:

• Individuals under the age of 18 can no longer handle pesticides or perform early-entry work during a restricted-entry interval  (REI) (effective January 2, 2017)

• Pesticide handlers must complete medical evaluations, annual fit testings, and annual training prior to using a respirator; a record of these completed activities must be saved for two years (effective January 2, 2017)

• Eye flush water must be accessible at mixing/loading sites for pesticide handlers required to use eye protection (effective January 2, 2017)

• Warning signs must be posted for outdoor production areas if the REI is greater than 48 hours (effective January 2, 2017)

• Mandatory training on required protections must be provided to workers and handlers annually (effective January 2, 2017)

• “Enclosed space production” replaced the term “greenhouse” to include greenhouses, mushroom houses, grow houses, hoop houses, and high tunnels in its definition

• And more

How to Protect Your Horticulture Business from Financial Loss

To protect your horticulture business from paying penalties, it’s important to follow requirements specified in the Worker Protection Standard.  Standardize procedures for your employees and provide additional training if needed.   Each worker should be trained in recognizing hazards, using equipment and chemicals properly, and following the required safety procedures.  Enforcing safety not only prevents violations and worker injuries, it could help lower your insurance premium, too.

If an injury or illness does occur from pesticide exposure or other cause, make sure you have comprehensive workers’ compensation insurance coverage.  This covers medical costs, foregone wages, and other related costs that can be financially devastating for your business.  With this, your employees can focus on restoring their health and you can continue growing your business.

Find insurance coverage for your horticulture business.  NIP Group’s GrowPro insurance program includes workers’ compensation and other important coverages that can be custom-tailored to your operational and financial needs. For information on insurance coverage specific to your needs, visit nipgroup.com/programs/growpro or contact your broker.

 

NIP Programs develops and manages business insurance programs for industries with specialized insurance and risk management needs.

 

Source: epa.gov

Safety Tips that Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Stress and Illness

Safety Tips that Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Stress and IllnessThe physical demands of outdoor work and extreme heat is a dangerous combination.  Landscape, tree service, construction, and other  outdoor workers spend hours under the hot sun, making them more vulnerable to heat stroke, exhaustion, dehydration, and other serious health problems.  This is not only bad for their health, but bad for your business too.

Heat stress and related illnesses have been one of the many occupational hazards OSHA aims to prevent.  In May 2015, for example, the State of California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) changed employer requirements to better protect agricultural and other outdoor workers from illnesses related to heat exposure.  This includes stricter regulations.

To avoid violating OSHA regulations and control hazards, enforcing safety procedures is your best bet.  Below we list some tips for protecting your workers from these heat-related health problems.

Safety Tips for Working in Hot Temperatures

  • Dress cool.  Wear light-colored, breathable clothing and a hat.
  • Stay hydrated. Thirsty or not, drink water every 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Take breaks. Rest in the shade when possible.  Eat during lunch or other breaks to re-fuel.
  • Watch your workers’ backs. Keep an eye out for signs of exhaustion and other heat illnesses.
  • Have a response plan. Know which steps to take if a worker shows symptoms of heat illness.

Each employee should be trained in safety procedures, including recognizing and controlling hazards, and steps to take in an emergency.  By creating a safe working environment, your workers are better protected from harm and the risk of a costly claim is significantly reduced.  If a health problem does occur even after following safety procedures, an insurance plan with workers’ comp will cover medical costs, foregone wages, and other related costs to take the heat off of your business financially.

NIP Group’s insurance programs include comprehensive workers’ comp to back you up financially so your employees can focus on restoring their health and you can continue growing your business.  Click the links below for more information or contact your broker.

LandPro Insurance >

For landscape and lawn care professionals

TreePro Insurance >

For arborists and tree service professionals

GrowPro Insurance >

For greenhouse and plant grower professionals

Resources

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/documents/Heat-Illness-Prevention-Regulation-Amendments.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2013-143/pdfs/2013-143.pdf

http://landscapeonline.com/research/article/17720

Found a Negative Online Review of Your Commercial Business? Here’s How to Respond

 

Respond to a Negative Online Review of Your BusinessA negative online review of your services could discourage other prospective clients from hiring your commercial business.  In a study by Dimensional Research, 88 percent of respondents said they “have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision.”  Not so good for your bottom line.  Don’t panic just yet, though – a quick response coupled with some TLC (tender loving care) can help turn a negative review into a positive.

A bad review can happen to even the most reliable service businesses, whether it’s from a dissatisfied client (warranted or not) or a sneaky competitor using a fake name.  Monitoring both social media and service review websites helps you gauge customer satisfaction and your reputation.  It also enables you to showcase your company values to the World Wide Web and do damage control if an online user writes a less-than-stellar review.

Below we provide some helpful response tips for maintaining a positive reputation when an unexpected bad review is written for the world to see.

Step 1: Breathe

Your passion as a business owner makes any feedback more personal.  While it’s normal human response to get defensive, staying positive will get you the best outcome.  Remember, “the customer is always right” (even if they’re wrong).

After seeing a nasty review, collect your thoughts first and then respond in a professional way.

Step 2: Show You Care

It’s important to remember that other prospective clients browsing the web will read your reply.  To make a personal connection with the reviewer, send a private message first, if possible, before posting a public reply.  A thoughtful, prompt response communicating a solution to resolve their complaint can restore your reputation.  Offering a refund or discount on their next purchase doesn’t hurt either.

For example, a reviewer complained about a delay in your cleaning or janitorial service.  Although this delay may have been due to an unavoidable situation, such as an unexpected equipment malfunction or bad traffic, this is the chance to highlight your company values, not to backlash.  Your reply could include an acknowledgement of their complaint, a statement that reinforces your company’s commitment to customer satisfaction, and how you will rectify the problem or who to contact for resolution.

Step 3: Take the Good with the Bad, and then Learn from It

Comments about your business on review sites, both positive and negative, can be used to improve your product or service.  Make it a learning experience.  For example, incorporate negative reviews into your employee training with steps to prevent future issues.  Highlight positive reviews to keep up the good work.

Rectifying a negative online review doesn’t end with these steps, however.  If given another chance, make sure the client’s next experience with your business meets or exceeds expectations.  Follow up with them after service to see how it went.  By being responsive and showing you care both online and offline, you can help influence other prospects into becoming clients.

How did you handle a negative online review?

Resources

http://cdn.zendesk.com/resources/whitepapers/Zendesk_WP_Customer_Service_and_Business_Results.pdf

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242429

 

How to Get a Business Insurance Claim Resolved More Efficiently

 

Get a Business Insurance Claim Resolved More EfficientlyAccording to a recent study by The Hartford, four out of ten small businesses will experience a property or general liability claim within the next ten years.  Knowing which steps to take when an unexpected situation happens, including theft, property damage, and injuries, can save you a lot of headache and time.  To get fair resolution of a claim through a more efficient process, prompt response and preparation are required.

Below we’ve detailed the steps that will help you move along the claims process more smoothly.

Before an Incident

Following a risk management plan, including safety procedures, can help prevent a claim from occurring. However, even the most careful businesses can face loss or damages.  For this, preparation is important to ensure you’ll be covered financially.

  • Review your insurance policies so you know exactly what is covered and if these terms fit your business needs
  • In case of a claim, store your insurance policy, including policy number and expiration date, and the contact information of your insurance provider in a safe place

Reporting a Claim

Failure to report theft, property damage, injuries, or other incidents right away drags out the claims process and, if evidence is lost, could compromise how much you’re covered financially.

  • Contact law enforcement to file a police report and request a copy of the report
  • Contact your insurance company to have a claim filed immediately
  • Have a surveillance camera or digital camera readily available for documenting evidence to support your claim
  • Make a list of any stolen or damaged items for your insurance company
  • For any damages, get multiple estimates for repair costs and confirm with your insurance provider when repairs can be made

After a Claim is Filed

Save all copies of the evidence, police reports, and claim information.  When you can, communicate in writing for documentation.  After the claim is filed, there are more steps that may need to be taken to get fair resolution.

  • If you have a business interruption insurance policy, document the length of time your operations are shut down (e.g., from building fire damage) and income lost during that time period for later compensation
  • Ask your insurance provider for a cash advancement if money is needed to get your operations running again before the claim is settled
  • Follow up routinely with your insurance provider to keep track of progress

At NIP Group, our dedicated claims expert reviews each claim routinely to ensure they are being handled properly and promptly.  Through a customer-focused network, we’ll update you about the status of a claim, assist you with loss control, and work directly with the carrier to get you fair and fast resolution.

To get comprehensive coverage specific to your business risks and responsive claims handling support, check out NIP Group’s commercial insurance programs by visiting http://www.nipgroup.com/programs/.

Related Articles:

Will Your Insurance Carrier Be Able to Pay Your Claim?  Here’s One Way to Tell

Resources:

http://newsroom.thehartford.com/releases/the-hartford-reports:-more-than-40-percent-of-small-businesses-will-experience-a-claim-in-the-next-10-years

http://www.business.com/business-insurance/tips-for-filing-a-business-insurance-claim/

5 Ways to Save Money on Your Business Insurance Bill

Save Money on Business Insurance

A few simple and quick actions could put more money into your business.  The components that influence the cost of your insurance bill, including your business risks and coverage selection, can be controlled to lower your premium without compromising the quality of your coverage.  With a lower premium to pay each year, there’s more money for you to continue growing your business.

Here are five simple ways to save money on your insurance bill without sacrificing coverage:

1. Implement Safety and Loss Reduction Practices

Control workplace hazards and maintain the working condition of your commercial equipment and vehicles to keep your insurance premium low (and avoid injuries).  With a lower risk of a claim, the lower your premium will likely be (see item #3).

2. Bundle Your Policies with One Carrier

Bundling multiple lines of insurance coverage through one carrier usually comes at a lower cost than purchasing each policy individually through various carriers.  A Business Owners Policy (BOP), for example, can benefit small and medium-sized businesses because it packages major liability and property risks into one insurance plan for a lower premium.

3. Ask About a Claims-Free Discount  

Your carrier may reward you with a discount on your insurance plan if your business hasn’t had a claim in years.  To get this cost benefit, avoid filing small claims that can be paid out of pocket.

4. Increase Your Deductible

A higher deductible can lower the premium you pay annually.  It’s always good to have money set aside, however, in case an unexpected claim does occur.

5. Talk to Your Insurance Broker 

Choose a knowledgeable agent that can help you get the best coverage for you and your business.  Your broker can answer questions about different coverage options and available discounts.

Following these five tips can help you save money to continue growing your business.  At NIP Group, we get businesses custom-tailored insurance coverage at a competitive premium rate to better fit your operational and financial needs.  Visit nipgroup.com/programs or contact your broker to find out how you can save money without compromising the quality of your insurance coverage through NIP Group.

Resources

http://www.business.com/business-insurance/9-ways-to-save-money-on-business-insurance/

http://www.iii.org/article/how-can-i-save-money-on-my-business-insurance

April is Safe Digging Month – Tips to Help Your Contractors Control Exposures and Claim Costs

iStock_000013069217_MediumAn underground utility line is damaged every six minutes because someone decided to dig before calling 811. All states have laws that require utilities be pre-located by an appropriate locator service, which can be reached by calling 811 – the national “Call Before You Dig” phone number.
The following steps can help contractors control exposures, avoid losses, or contain losses that do occur:

Take daily photos of the work site

Check utility marks to help ensure all known utilities have been located

In the event a strike does occur, once site safety is established, gather detailed documentation of where the marks were in relation to the excavation; documentation can include photos, diagrams and witness statements

Not collecting these facts immediately could seriously damage your contractor’s defense. The average utility damage claim is approximately $25,000, and as such, implementing an effective incident investigation plan containing the elements above can help you defend your contractor.

Tree Safety Tips

An arborist cutting a tree with a chainsaw

Now that winter is coming to a close, it’s time to start trimming trees. Trees can be a cause of danger for some obvious reasons, and here at NIP Group with the LandPro and/or TreePro program, the commercial insurance for landscapers, arborists, and tree services, we want to ensure your safety. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has compiled a few safety tips to help both tree care professionals and private citizens to stay safe.

• Never trim trees in dangerous weather conditions. You should also, be sure to perform a hazard assessment of the work area before starting work.

• Those who operate chainsaws should be trained properly and know how to keep the equipment properly maintained. Always wear protective equipment such as gloves, safety glasses, hard hats, hearing protection, or anything else recommended in the equipment manufacturer’s operating manual.

• Determine the tree’s felling direction, as well as the proper amount of hinge wood to safely guide the tree’s fall.

• Inspect tree limbs for stability and strength before climbing. When the tree has been determined safe to climb, be sure to climb with no tools in hand. If a tree is under pressure, make sure to determine the direction of the pressure and make small cuts to release it.

• Be alert at all times. Never turn your back on a falling tree and watch for any objects that may be thrown back by a tree while it falls.

Info from: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3301-10-05-english-06-27-2007.html