Minneapolis, Minn., officials said they haven’t begun to tally the costs of a massive water main break that sent 14 million gallons of water gushing into downtown streets last week, submerging dozens of vehicles and forcing local businesses to shut down.
City Engineer Steve Kotke said he expected the broken water line would be repaired by the night of Jan. 6. Until then, crews were working around the clock on cleanup and repairs at a cost that’s yet to be determined, he said.
“We don’t even have a ballpark right now,” Kotke said. “I’m working guys overtime. They’ll be working all weekend long.”
Insurers are likely to cover some of the expenses, and City Attorney Susan Segal said the city would seek reimbursement from the party responsible.
The break happened Jan. 3 at a Ryan Companies construction site of a $70 million apartment-retail development. A Ryan subcontractor was working near the 36-inch water pipe when the breach occurred. That contractor, United Sewer and Water of Brooklyn Park, did not return phone messages left by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Associated Press.
Water flooded the underground level of a three-level parking ramp behind a U.S. Postal Service mail-sorting facility, postal spokesman Pete Nowacki said. The water was at least 5 feet deep, submerging up to 30 postal vehicles and an undetermined number of employee cars, Nowacki said.
“Those cars are going to be losses,” he said.
In the aftermath of the break, crews isolated the broken water main from the rest of the city’s water system. That cut off water supply to local restaurants and other businesses, forcing them to shut down and send employees home early.
A block away from the breach, Origami restaurant closed because it had no water through Thursday night. The move cost the restaurant between $4,000 and $5,000 in revenue, manager Tim Theobald said, and his 12 employees lost out on half a day of pay.
“It was kind of a big deal,” he said. “Thursdays aren’t like weekends, but they’re close.”
Marie Asgian, the city’s superintendent of water distribution, said the lost water represents about one-third of the city’s daily use. She said the city would try to recoup its loss.
She also said workers are supposed to dig by hand when they get close to utility pipes, which were marked in this case. She said when workers are dealing with frozen ground they’ll sometimes try to get as close to pipes as they can with machines.
Mobile devices represent a growing security risk for businesses.
Mobile devices have taken the workplace by storm, but the proliferation of these devices has created a new set of security challenges. After a number of high-profile data breaches and “hacktivist” incidents last year, many companies have focused on protecting their corporate networks. But attacks on mobile devices have been quietly accelerating during the past year as cyber criminals have begun to turn their attention to mobile technology.
Smartphones and tablets hold a trove of information, storing not only phone numbers and email addresses, but meeting dates, documents and text messages. That information is valuable in its own right, but it also can be used to give criminals even more leverage in their efforts to break into corporate networks. Mobile devices also can be turned into high-tech spying devices, sending confidential photos and recordings back to hacker-controlled websites.
Security measures, meanwhile, often are inadequate.
As the risk to mobile technology grows, businesses need strong defenses to keep the devices and their corporate networks secure.
The Mobile Explosion
One of the biggest technology trends of the past few years has been a transition away from traditional desktops and laptops to mobile technology. Sales of smartphones, for instance, came in ahead of sales of personal computers in 2011 and will be nearly twice the PC sales this year, according to a “Business Insider Intelligence” report.
As more people buy mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for personal use, they want to use that same device at work. Companies have responded with “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies. This has led many companies to open corporate networks and data to consumer mobile technology.
A Dimensional Research global survey of IT professionals sponsored by Check Point found that 65 percent of 768 IT pros polled allowed personal devices to connect to corporate networks, and 78 percent said there are more than twice as many personal devices connecting to corporate networks now than there were two years ago.
This puts corporate data at risk. In the survey, 47 percent of IT professionals said customer data was stored on mobile devices, and 71 percent said mobile devices have contributed to increased security incidents.
Generational shifts in the workplace mean that younger workers often expect to be able to use their own mobile device on the job.
A global survey by network security company Fortinet in May and June asked more than 3,000 employees in their 20s about their attitudes about BYOD policies and found that slightly more than half view it as their “right” to use their own mobile devices as work, rather than it being just a “privilege.” One-in-three said they would gladly break any anti-BYOD rules and contravene a company’s security policy that forbids them to use their personal devices at work or for work purposes.
Before companies began allowing employees to use their own devices, the corporate market often gave preference to BlackBerrys because of their enterprise-level security features. In the consumer market, however, BlackBerrys have lost ground to Android smartphones, iPhones and iPads.
Android commanded 59 percent of the worldwide smartphone operating system market share in the first three months of 2012, according to IDC. The iOS platform used by the iPhone had 23 percent of the market, while BlackBerry had only 6.4 percent.
In its survey of IT professionals, Dimensional Research found that Apple’s iOS was the most common platform used, with Google’s Android-based platform coming in third, behind Research in Motion’s BlackBerry.
As mobile devices have proliferated, hackers have begun to increase their attacks.
In its “2011 Mobile Threats Report,” Juniper Networks found that mobile malware attacks reached record levels in 2011 — especially attacks focused on the Android platform.
The Juniper Networks Mobile Threat Center identified a 155 percent increase in mobile malware across all mobile device platforms from 2010 to 2011. In the last seven months of 2011, malware targeting the Android platform jumped 3,325 percent.
Other security firms have also reported a sharp increase in mobile malware.
Security and anti-spam firm McAfee said it collected about 8,000 mobile malware samples in the first quarter of 2012, most of them targeted at the Android platform. Threats that saw major increases included mobile backdoor malware and the popular premium-rate sending malware.
In one recent example, Google’s Android platform was the target of a new variant of a widely used malware capable of stealing personal information, according to a CSO report. The latest Zeus malware masquerades as a premium security app to lure people into downloading the Trojan, according to Kaspersky Lab. The malware steals incoming text messages and sends them to command-and-control servers operated by the attackers.
Meanwhile, consumers and enterprises are also susceptible to a much more mundane risk — the risk of lost or stolen mobile devices. In 2011, Juniper Networks said nearly one-in-five users of its Junos Pulse Mobile Security Suite required a locate command to identify the whereabouts of a mobile device.
Whether they are lost or stolen, or come under attack from malware, mobile devices represent a growing security risk for businesses. Yet many businesses do not have adequate security policies and practices in place.
Managing the Risk
Companies also should have a chief information officer who oversees the security policy and ensures its implementation throughout the organization.
When it comes to the devices themselves, businesses should take the following steps:
Encrypt Data. One way to protect smartphone data is with encryption. Most Android phones, however, do not have data encryption built into the hardware, which means users will have to rely on third-party applications. BlackBerrys, on the other hand, are known for their encryption capabilities.
Improve Password Strength. Many people do not bother to use a password to protect their devices, or they use one that is too weak. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made news earlier this year when his personal email account was hacked. His password was one of the most commonly-used: 12345. The string of consecutive numbers is the second-weakest password, according to password management application provider SplashData. “Password” ranked first on SplashData’s list of worst Internet passwords. To improve security, passwords should use a combination of letters, numbers and other characters.
Use Remote Wipe Capabilities. If a device is lost or stolen, businesses need to be able to wipe the contents of the device clean. All major smartphones have some kind of remote erase capability.
Use Network Intrusion Software. It can help businesses identify unauthorized intrusions. Mangers should check logs regularly for unusual activities.
While security measures can reduce the risk of a loss, insurance can help to defray the cost of a data breach or intrusion arising from mobile devices, and a company’s internal network.
Insurance companies offer third-party liability coverage for lawsuits that arise as a result of a data breach or network intrusion. Coverage also is available for first-party expenses, such as privacy notification expenses, the cost to change account numbers, crisis management and public relations expenses, as well as losses from business interruption.
When looking for a cyber insurance policy, look for an insurer that has expertise in handling such risks. Policies vary by insurer, and insurers also offer a range of services to assist businesses in managing cyber risks.
Some insurers, for instance, have panels of legal counsel that can offer guidance in case of a cyber attack. Loss control endorsements that cover preventive measures also are available under some cyber risk policies.
As always, work with a financially strong insurer that has strong claims servicing.
As companies open their corporate networks to consumer mobile devices, they face a risk that the devices might be compromised and be used to gain access to the corporate network.
Mobile devices operating on the Android platform are particularly vulnerable. A comprehensive security policy that includes mobile devices and by taking other steps to protect the devices from malware and to wipe them clean if they are lost, businesses can reduce the risk of a loss.
What could be causing this increase? The city’s transportation commissioner suggests pedestrians distracted with their smartphones and iPhones could be partly to blame, according to a news report.
In an article in The New York Times on Sept. 26, New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is quoted as saying that iPhone has not invented an app yet that could alert users when they approach a crosswalk.
In NYC, the number of fatalities involving pedestrians or bicyclists was 176 for the fiscal year that ended on June 30.
She goes on to say that in the past, she has even grabbed and saved a few distracted pedestrians who were looking down at their smartphones and were unknowingly crossing the street when cars were oncoming.
In New York City, the number of fatalities involving pedestrians or bicyclists was 176 for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, up 11 percent from the previous year.
The danger of “distracted walking” was also the topic of a recent editorial in The Washington Post.
Titled “Pedestrian deaths show need to curb distracted walking,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote in August that government officials and organizations should consider measures that would require pedestrians to pay more attention to their surroundings.
“If distracted driving is an issue worth addressing, so is distracted walking…No one — neither legislators nor pedestrians — seems to be taking any of this seriously,” according to The Washington Post‘s editorial page.
On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes around the country. In 2010, pedestrian deaths accounted for 13 percent of all traffic fatalities, and made up 3 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes, the report said.
After all the danger, glory, and fame it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day astronauts are federal employees subject to the same General Schedule (GS) pay scale as everyone from typists to CIA agents.Unfortunately, a federal salary wasn’t enough for Apollo 11 astronauts to purchase life insurance.
When Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew of Apollo 11 piled atop that huge rocket packed full of fuel in 1969 they were under no illusions that it may have been the last thing they ever did. Unfortunately, neither was anyone who might have insured their lives, and helped provide security for the astronauts’ families in case they didn’t come home.
Back then astronaut captains made about $17,000 a year, NPR reports and a life insurance policy for Neil Armstrong would have run about $50,000 a year, or more than $300,000 in 2012 dollars.
What the trio did to provide for their families has become somewhat of a low-flying legend, mentioned here on the website, UK Insurance.
It happened like this:
Because some guys from the prior Apollo missions had gotten colds and mild bouts of queasiness on their trips, NASA had implemented a quarantine procedure before liftoffs.
So about a month before they were set to go to the moon, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin were locked into a Plexiglas room together and got busy providing for their families the only way they could — they signed hundreds of autographs.
In what would become a common practice, the guys signed their names on envelopes emblazoned with various space-related images. The ‘covers’ would, of course, become intensely valuable should the trio perish on the mission. They’re now often referred to as ” Apollo Insurance Covers.”
And to ensure the covers would hold maximum value, the crew put stamps on them, and sent them in a package to a friend, who dumped them all in the mail so they would be postmarked July 16, 1969 — the day of the mission’s success — or its failure.
Fortunately, the trip went off without a hitch and all three men went on to live long, healthy lives and all remained alive until Neil Armstrong’s death a few days ago.
The covers are still around, and not too hard to find. In 2011, Collectors Weekly pegged their average value at around $5,000.
An estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated $35 million in property losses, according to a new government report.
The report by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) said that 84 percent of clothes dryer fires took place in residential buildings.
Also, according to the report:
Clothes dryer fire incidence in residential buildings was higher in the fall and winter months, peaking in January at 11 percent.
Failure to clean (34 percent) was the leading factor contributing to the ignition of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
Dust, fiber and lint (28 percent) and clothing not on a person (27 percent) were, by far, the leading items first ignited in clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
Fifty-four percent of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings were confined to the object of origin.
The report, “Clothes Dryer Fires in Residential Buildings,” examines characteristics of clothes dryer fires in residential buildings and was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center, based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
Damaging fires can occur if clothes dryers are not properly installed or maintained.
The report notes that lint, a highly combustible material, can accumulate both in the dryer and in the dryer vent. Accumulated lint leads to reduced airflow and poses a fire hazard. Reduced airflow can also occur when foam-backed rugs or athletic shoes are placed in dryers.
Small birds or other animals nesting in dryer exhaust vents is another hazard. A compromised vent will not exhaust properly, possibly resulting in overheating and/or fire.
ARLINGTON, Va. — If every state adopted all five components of the toughest young driver laws in the nation, more than 500 lives could be saved and more than 9,500 collisions could be prevented each year. Some states could halve or more than halve their rate of fatal crashes among 15-17 year-olds if they adopted the strongest graduated driver licensing (GDL) provisions. These are the main findings of a new analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) meant to encourage states to improve GDL laws.
A new online calculator (go to iihs.org/gdl) developed by the Institute and HLDI shows individual states the safety gains they could achieve by adopting some or all of the most beneficial GDL provisions in effect today. The five key components are permit age, practice driving hours, license age, and night driving and teen passenger restrictions.
The current best practices are a minimum intermediate license age of 17 (New Jersey), a minimum permit age of 16 (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island), at least 65 supervised practice hours (Pennsylvania) and, during the intermediate stage, a night driving restriction starting at 8 p.m. (Idaho and in South Carolina during daylight saving time) and a ban on all teen passengers (15 states and D.C.).
Prior Institute and HLDI research has shown that states with the strongest laws enjoy the biggest reductions in fatal crashes among 15-17-year-old drivers and the biggest reductions in collisions reported to insurers among 16-17-year-old drivers, compared with states with weak laws.
“Even the best states can do better,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. “There’s room for improvement across the board, and states could see immediate reductions in fatal crashes and collision claims as soon as the beefed-up provisions are in force.”
Graduated licensing enables new teen drivers to gradually build up driving experience as they mature and develop on-the-road skills. The system has three stages: a supervised learner’s period, an intermediate license (after passing a road test) that limits driving in high-risk situations except under supervision, and a license with full privileges. Teens with learner permits should get lots of supervised driving practice, and once they have intermediate licenses they should be subject to limits on night driving and teen passengers. The longer the restrictions last the better.
In the mid-1990s, states began adopting elements of graduated licensing. By December 2000, all but nine states had GDL laws. Since there is no nationwide GDL system, the laws vary.
To recognize states with the best laws, the Institute began rating them in 2000 from good to poor. Initially, only six states and D.C. earned good ratings, and nine were poor. By May of 2011, 36 states and D.C. rated good, seven rated fair and seven were marginal. No states earned poor ratings. In recent years, legislators have been slow to toughen GDL laws, particularly when it comes to raising the age for a permit or license. During the 2010-12 legislative sessions, for example, nine states strengthened elements of their young driver laws, compared with 20 states during 2007-09 sessions.
The ratings initially encouraged states to adopt three-phase graduated licensing systems. The ratings, however, didn’t show legislators how any state — even ones with already-strong laws — could boost the benefits of graduated licensing by targeting specific components, such as night driving restrictions, for improvement. The Institute now knows more about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to keeping young drivers safe. Based on more than a decade of data, researchers are able to estimate the effects of changing individual provisions of GDL.
As a result, the Institute has decided to stop grading state GDL laws and switch to a calculator system designed to outline opportunities for improvement in every state. In addition to the best-practice scenario, the online calculator shows the estimated fatal crash and collision claim reductions that a given state can achieve with any combination of specific law changes. Users can easily navigate among states using a drop-down menu.
“States don’t have to adopt the toughest laws in the nation to realize safety gains. Strengthening one or two components pays off. To maximize all of the benefits of graduated licensing, however, we would encourage lawmakers to consider the strongest provisions,” McCartt says.
Stronger laws yield benefits
Iowa and South Dakota are examples of states that could sharply lower fatal crash and collision claim rates among teen drivers. Both states allow 14 year-olds to obtain learner permits. Iowa makes drivers wait until they’re 16 to get a license, but South Dakota allows teens to get a license three months after their 14th birthday. The state has the youngest licensing age in the nation.
“That’s too risky,” McCartt says. “The younger teens are when they get their licenses, the higher their crash rate.”
If South Dakota raised its license age to 17, the benefit would be an estimated 32 percent reduction in fatal crash rates among 15-17-year-old drivers and a 13 percent reduction in collision claims among 16-17-year-old drivers. Raising the license age to 15 1/2 could reduce fatal crashes by an estimated 16 percent and collision claims by 6 percent among teen drivers.
A crucial provision of any GDL system is a night driving restriction. South Dakota’s starts at 10 p.m., but Iowa’s doesn’t begin until 12:30 a.m. Moving Iowa’s restriction to 8 p.m. would reduce teens’ fatal crashes 10 percent.
Neither state bars beginners from transporting other teens, a practice that increases crash risk. If both states adopted such a policy, they each could realize a 21 percent drop in fatal crashes among 15-17-year-old drivers and a 5 percent decline in collision claim rates among 16-17-year-old drivers. A one-teen-passenger limit would reduce teens’ fatal crash rates 7 percent in either state.
If Iowa adopted the strongest provisions across the board, the state could see a 55 percent reduction in teens’ fatal crash rates. South Dakota’s estimated safety gains are even bigger — a 63 percent reduction in fatal crashes and a 37 percent drop in collision claims.
Even best states can improve
Connecticut’s young driver law comes the closest to representing the current best-practices system. The state makes teens wait until age 16 for a permit and restricts all teen passengers during the intermediate stage of licensure. If Connecticut also adopted the best provisions for practice hours, license age and night driving, it could realize a 17 percent reduction in fatal crashes and a 13 percent reduction in collision claims among teen drivers.
New York is another state with a strong GDL program. It has a permit age of 16, a license age of 16 1/2, a night driving restriction beginning at 9 p.m., a one-teen-passenger limit and a 50-hour supervised-practice-driving requirement. Adopting the toughest provisions would reduce fatal crashes among 15-17-year-old drivers by 24 percent and collision claims among 16-17-year-old drivers by 7 percent.
“We encourage states to sharpen the core elements of their teen driver laws, particularly restrictions on night driving and young passengers,” McCartt says. “Raising the licensing age would help in many states, but we realize that this isn’t always a politically popular option.”
About the calculator
The calculator grew out of the Institute’s and HLDI’s 2009 evaluation of the effects of various provisions of teen licensing laws on fatal crashes and collision claims for teen drivers. In this analysis, fatal crashes are the rate of 15-17-year-old passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes per 100,000 teens. Collision claims are the frequency of collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years for 16-17-year-old drivers (an insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year, two insured for six months each, etc.). Collision coverage insures against damage to the policyholder’s vehicle. The findings indicate strong benefits of restricting when teens are allowed to drive and how many young passengers may ride along. Raising the license and permit age also reduces teens’ fatal crashes. The calculator estimates reflect the relative importance of each provision and reductions states have seen as a result of GDL laws. Longer learner permit holding periods, a criterion under the prior rating system, don’t show independent benefits in the new analysis.
In a surprise move, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate by a 5-4 vote released this morning, relieving insurance companies of what would have been a heavy burden under the 2010 health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act. More…
The weight of claims costs that go into figuring employers experience mod is scheduled to double next year, the first increase in more than 20 years and the first in a series of annual increases scheduled by the National Council on Compensation Insurance and most state rating bureaus.
The change is expected to push up the e-mods of employers with frequent, less severe lost- time claims. However, the NCCI and other rating bureaus project the change overall nationally to be premium neutral.
Help clients control loss costs
Agents can work with individual clients to lessen the impact of the change on their e-mods. Helping them with early return-to-work and better injury prevention are significant ways to reduce the cost and frequency of claims and produce positive impacts on their e-mods, according to SFM officials.
The change in 2013 is effective:
*Jan. 1 in Iowa
*Jan. 1 in Minnesota, if approved.
*Feb 1 in Nebraska
*July 1 in South Dakota
*Oct. 1 in Wisconsin
In Minnesota and Wisconsin, which are not NCCI states, the change was approved by the Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau and is under discussion by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Insurers Association, which typically follows the NCCI’s lead on changes like this. Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota operate under the national rating bureau services of the NCCI.
$5,000 threshold to change
Currently, the e-mod calculation for an employer puts losses into two buckets. The first $5,000 of a claim is the primary amount. Above that is the excess amount. All the primary amount for each lost-time clam is included in the e-mod calculation. Excess amounts are given partial weight depending on the size of the employer.
The rating bureaus’ $5,000 threshold – or “split point,” as it is called - was put in place more than 20 years ago. Since then, the average claim cost has tripled, according to the NCCI.
To update the split point, the NCCI and most non-NCCI states plan phased-in increases. The current $5,000 doubles to $10,000 in 2013, then rises to $13,500 in 2013, and $15,000 in 2015. After that, the split point will adjust annually to a national claims cost index.
According to a Wisconsin WCRB analysis of the effect of raising the split point to $10,000, “insured’s with greater than 1.0 mod tended to receive more of a debit.”
The Wisconsin bureau analysis also shows that the percentage of claims above the current $5,000 split point rose from about 60% of claims in 1998 to nearly 80 percent in 2011, due to the continuing rise in claims costs. For more, Google, “NCCI Understanding the Filed Experience Rating Plan.”
Article used from SFM “The Work Comp Experts”, SFM Agent Agenda July / September 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Minn., June 7, 2012—Workers nationally filed more charges of employer retaliation in 2011 than any other discrimination charge, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Charges of retaliation, up 3 percent from the prior year, were involved in 37 percent of all cases against employers.
Charges of race and sex discrimination remained the second and third most common charges, but both declined slightly in frequency from the prior year.
However, charges of disability discrimination and age discrimination increased. Each is involved in about a fourth of all charges against employers.
The EEOC said the overall total number of charges against employers in 2011 was flat compared 2010. However, the overall total number of charges has risen 32 percent since 2006, when charges against employers began rising steeply.
Charges of retaliation are up 66 percent since 2006.
Most cases against employers go no further than arbitration or administrative hearing. But even in those early stages of the legal process, defense costs can be staggering for small businesses.
Typically, more than half of employment practices lawsuits are against small businesses.
SFM offers insurance coverage for employment practices liabilities, including defense costs. It is specially designed and priced for small businesses and is easily available as an endorsement to your SFM workers’ compensation policy.
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