Key ways to prevent water damage from frozen pipes

When the temperature falls to 32ºF or below, you can prevent water damage from freezing pipes by taking a few simple steps.

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To prevent freezing pipes:

  1. Keep the thermostat at 65º F or above, day and night. Make sure all inside doors are open, so warm air can easily circulate.

  2. Drain and shut off any water supply to the outside. Install frost-proof spigots or protect them from freezing with faucet insulators

  3. Add insulation to outside walls that contain pipes. If you see moisture or mold, or your walls feel cold to the touch, consider reinsulating or using spray foam to add protection.

  4. Use snap-on insulation for pipes in unheated areas. You can also use heated plumbing tape or cable that automatically turns on when temperatures approach freezing.

  5. Install smart technology, such as low temperature sensors, “smart” thermostats, back-up generators, and water leak detection systems.

If you think your pipes are frozen:

  1. Keep the faucet open, with both cold and hot water running, to slowly unfreeze the pipes.

  2. Turn your thermostat up, to increase the warmth of the surrounding air.

  3. Contact a licensed plumber if you are not certain where the freeze is, because you may cause the pipe to burst if you’re not concentrating on the right area.

If a water pipe bursts:

  1. Turn off the water leading to the pipe, to prevent additional water from flowing and damaging your home.

  2. Contact a licensed plumber to fix the problem.

OSHA Increases Civil Penalty Amounts for 2019

OVERVIEW

On Jan. 23, 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule that increases the maximum penalty amounts the agency may assess against employers that violate workplace health and safety requirements. For most violations, the new maximum penalty amount is $13,260. For willful or repeated violations, the new maximum penalty amount is $132,598.

Federal law requires OSHA to increase its penalty amounts by Jan. 15 every year. Because the federal government shutdown delayed the increases for 2019, however, OSHA announced the new amounts  in a “pre-publication” version of the final rule issued on Jan. 15, 2019. Now that the final rule has been officially published, the new amounts apply for any civil penalties assessed after Jan. 23, 2019.    

ACTION STEPS

Employers should become familiar with OSHA’s new penalty amounts and review their workplace policies and practices to ensure compliance with OSHA requirements.

Background

Federal law requires OSHA to adjust its civil monetary penalty levels for inflation no later than Jan. 15 of each year. Under the law, adjustments are made by issuing a final rule that becomes effective on the day it is officially published in the Federal Register. On Jan. 15, 2019, OSHA issued an unofficial final rule to increase the maximum penalty amounts for 2019. However, the federal government shutdown delayed the rule’s official publication. The final rule was officially published on Jan. 23, 2019.    

Penalty Changes for 2019

The table below compares current penalty limits to the increased amounts for 2019 outlined in OSHA’s final rule. The new amounts apply to any penalties OSHA assesses after Jan. 23, 2019.      

MAXIMUM PENALTIES

VIOLATION CURRENT EFFECTIVE JAN. 23, 2019

Other-than-serious violation $12,934 per violation $13,260 per violation

Serious violation $12,934 per violation $13,260 per violation

Failure to comply $12,934 per violation $13,260 per violation

with posting requirements

Failure to correct $12,934 per day $13,260 per day

a violation until corrected until corrected

Repeated violation $129,336 per violation $132,598 per violation

Willful violation   $129,336 per violation $132,598 per violation

More information

Please contact Insurance of the San Juans or visit OSHA’s website for more information about OSHA penalties.

Pinnacol warns that the most dangerous place for workers could be their vehicle

Employers in Colorado should consider adding safe driver training for any employees who drive for work more than occasionally, according to leading workers’ compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance. Pinnacol recently analyzed the collective impact of motor vehicle accidents on workers. According to Pinnacol claims data, motor vehicle accidents account for 40 percent of the workplace fatalities in Colorado, potentially because more workers in certain professions are increasingly on the road as part of their jobs. 

Pinnacol, which covers about 60 percent of the businesses in the state, notes they receive approximately 1,500 motor vehicle accident-related claims every year. In the past few years, Pinnacol estimates about 40 percent of worker fatalities were caused by motor vehicle accidents, with the remaining deaths resulting from a broad array of causes. 

Motor vehicle accidents can result in severe injuries that impact multiple parts of the body, including the skull, neck and head, which is also why they are the most expensive workers’ compensation claims; they cost Colorado employers $173 million in the past five years. The other concerning factor noted by Pinnacol from their analysis is that in 26 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents, workers were ejected and may not have been wearing their seatbelts at the time of their accidents. 

“We’ve seen employers in Colorado making tremendous improvements in workplace safety that ultimately keep our workforce safer and more productive, and these efforts resulted in fewer and less severe workplace injuries and illnesses,” said Jim McMillen, Pinnacol Assurance’s director of safety services. “But the consistent threat of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities is of great concern, and it’s clear employers should look to their driving employees and ensure they are properly trained and equipped to avoid accidents whenever possible.” 

The most common types of workers at risk for motor vehicle accidents were health care workers, truckers and noncommercial drivers (like chauffeurs and messengers), followed by auto servicers and police officers. Clerical employees are also at great risk. “Whether it’s health workers driving to clinic sites or patient homes or office workers simply driving across town to a meeting or for a work errand, it’s clear employees in nonprofessional driving roles are driving more often,” continued McMillen. “We are also distracted by technology more than ever, and this confluence of factors is important for employers to manage.”  

Pinnacol also noted 42 percent of motor vehicle claims involve drivers with less than one year on the job and that accidents most commonly occur in the summer months, between July and September.  

McMillen stresses that some of these accidents could be avoided with more safety training and adherence. “Defensive driving training should be part of any risk management program in which employees must drive for work, even if they’re not considered professional drivers or are driving their personal vehicles. The truth is, most of us could stand to take more driving training, and we should always, under all circumstances, put our smartphones away and wear seatbelts.”

Pinnacol safety consultants recommend all employees who drive as part of their job receive driver training. They also recommend employers consider driver performance management technology as the most effective strategy for fleet drivers or for individual vehicles. 

Check out Pinnacol’s Motor Vehicle Accident profile for a more comprehensive list of safe driving resources for employers.   

Intoxication and workers' comp: What every employer should know

Keeping the workplace as safe as possible should be a top priority for all employers. But accidents can happen even when you’ve taken steps to prevent them. When employees don’t follow safety procedures, injuries on the job are more likely to occur, but even more so when intoxicating substances are involved. Here, we share what every employer should know about workers’ comp and intoxication.

The injured worker will still receive benefits

The state of Colorado doesn’t deny workers’ comp benefits to injured employees, and this includes workers who were under the influence during work hours. But if the injury was caused by the employee’s intoxication, he or she may be penalized with reduced benefits. If you have reason to believe that your employee was injured due to intoxication or use of a controlled substance, you’ll need to submit proof of the individual’s failure to follow workplace procedures.

You have the right to request blood alcohol testing

While it’s uncomfortable for everyone when intoxication in the workplace is suspected, employers have the right to ask for a blood alcohol test. Keep in mind that you should only request additional testing if you’ve noticed the glaring signs of intoxication: slurred speech, staggering or a sighting of drug or alcohol use at the worksite.

Post workplace rules in an easily visible location

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In the best working environments, each team member knows what’s expected of them. It’s good policy to post workplace rules in a prominent place. When everyone’s on the same page and there’s a written record of clear expectations, it’s easier to avoid mishaps. For best results, try implementing a training program for each new hire, and hold workshops occasionally to refresh seasoned veterans. Offering an Employee Assistance Program can head off a variety of emotional and health-related problems that can lead to substance abuse.

The use of drugs and alcohol can play a major role in causing work-related injuries. While intoxication on the job is relatively rare, it’s a must to ensure that everyone involved is covered.

When you’re ready, we are here to help. To get a quote please call, email, or stop by either of our locations. We’ll work with you to get your company cost contained with the state and, when possible, enrolled in our Safety Group.

As the temperature drops, prepare your business for winter in Colorado

The calendar says October, but already parts of Colorado, including Denver, have experienced the first snowfall of the season. The onset of this winter weather brings new safety concerns and hazards. 

Snowstorms can cause costly damage to businesses — remember the blizzard of 2003? It dumped up to six feet of snow on some parts of the state, and according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, it resulted in tens of millions in insurance claims. 

Winter worries include an increase in slips, trips and falls; travel complications; illnesses; and exposure leading to hypothermia and frostbite. However, by incorporating the right precautions, you can decrease your employees’ chances of being injured on the job by these seasonal hazards.

Here are some tips for proactively preparing for the most common winter weather risks:

  • Slips, trips and falls: Encourage workers to wear footwear with slip-resistant treads. Clear ice and snow from places your employees walk and use deicer to eliminate slush buildup. If you must clear snow from rooftops, employ caution on a ladder, and always use a fall-protection system.

  • Hypothermia and frostbite: Encourage employees to dress in layers if they will be outside, including waterproof clothing as the outer layer. Have them remove wet clothing as soon as possible when coming indoors, double up on socks and choose mittens over gloves. Watch for frostbite signs such as lost feeling in extremities or blistering of skin. 

  • Winter travel: Stay informed and check road conditions before driving. The Colorado Department of Transportation has a handy websiteto gauge weather wherever you’re headed. Remind employees not to use cruise control, which can trigger skids in wintery conditions. If you become stranded on the road, tie brightly colored cloths to the side-view mirrors, door handles and the antenna if you have one. Stay with your vehicle, turning it on for a few minutes every hour to generate heat, but keep the windows open to avoid carbon monoxide buildup. Don’t forget to make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked. 

  • Blizzards: Identify and patch any pipe and insulation leaks before a storm. If you have inventory, take pictures of it for reference afterward. Review evacuation plans with employees. If you do not have time to evacuate, keep employees inside. Buy a battery-powered radio for storm updates in case you lose power. 

  • Avalanches: Before undertaking work-related trips to the backcountry, look up local conditions via the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. An avalanche is more likely to occur in an area that has already had one. If employees must venture into such a place, make sure they’ve received training, and provide them with avalanche beacons along with probes and shovels. Read the Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management’s list of recommendations for people caught in an avalanche.

  • Illness: During the winter flu season, encourage employees to wash their hands frequently and get their flu shots.

Watch Pinnacol’s winter weather pointers video for more suggestions on readying for cold weather.

Winterize your vehicle like a safety professional

Idling your car to warm it may harm your engine.

Idling your car to warm it may harm your engine.

In addition to winterizing your work vehicles, you should encourage your employees to get their personal cars ready for winter. Try these suggestions safety consultants use for their own cars:

  • See if your lights, battery, brakes, wiper blades, antifreeze and heater/defroster work.

  • Make an emergency kit for the car that includes a flare, ice scrapers, tire chains, a tow rope and jumper cables. 

  • Install snow tires and/or measure the tread on your all-weather tires to see if they need to be replaced.

  • Store kitty litter or salt in the trunk to help with traction on slippery roads.

  • Stow a warm blanket, water and dried fruit in the trunk in case you get stranded on the road.

  • Check the exhaust pipe for clogs caused by snow or ice, which can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into the vehicle.

  • Always keep the gas tank above half full to prevent gas line freezing.

  • Don’t idle the car to warm it up; this wastes gas and may harm your engine.

8 Ways to Minimize Damage After a Hurricane

The howling winds and torrential rain has died down. But just because the hurricane has passed doesn’t mean you’re in the clear yet. With the danger of dangling power lines, fallen trees, flooding and more, you’ll want to keep these 8 things in mind when safely returning to your home or assessing it for damage.

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  1. Check your power lines
    Beware of loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the proper authorities. If you see a power line that’s down, move away from it and beware of any water or other objects touching the lines.

  2. Don’t use your water
    Use your emergency supply of water or boil water before drinking until officials have given word that it’s safe.

  3. Operate a generator safely
    If you’ve lost power, make sure to operate your generator outside your home in a well-ventilated area. Do not operate generators or gas, propane or charcoal grills indoors or near your home’s ventilation areas.

  4. Protect the exterior
    If your home has sustained damage, cover the roof with tarps and your windows with plywood if it is safe for you to do so.

  5. Clean items left indoors
    Dust items with a soft brush and wipe metal objects with a soft, lint-free cloth.

  6. Assess interior damage
    If you have wet or damaged artwork, blot off excess moisture, remove wet backings, mats and frames and keep them in an air-conditioned room. Take pictures of any damage and contact professionals for assistance.

  7. Inspect your car
    Wash any debris from your car and take photos of any damage.

  8. Use caution while driving
    Be aware of fallen power lines, debris on the road, missing signs, or broken traffic lights. Be cautious of any moving water before driving through it, and make sure you have a spare tire.

    What to do if your suffer damage
    If you have suffered damage from a hurricane or severe storm, please call your agent or insurance carrier and get a claim filed immediately to get the process started.

    If you’re our client, please call and we’ll work quickly to make your home whole again.

    For more tips on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane, check out these resources from Ready.gov.