Archive | April 2015

Motorcycle Passenger Safety for Spring

motorcyleAs the weather warms up, motorcycle enthusiasts across the U.S. prepare their bikes for the first ride of spring. Whether you’re the operator dusting off your favorite ride, or you need tips for riding on the back of a motorcycle, we’ve got you covered. Make sure your bike and your riding partner are ready to get back on the road again with the following motorcycle passenger tips and checklists.

1. Review tips for riding on the back of a motorcycle.

As the owner of the motorcycle, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers. Ideally, anyone who rides on the back of your bike should be physically and mentally capable of operating the bike solo. Before you start the first ride of spring, take the initiative to review a few motorcycle passenger tips from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

  1. Feet on footrests, even when stopped
  2. Helmet and safety clothing on
  3. Legs, feet and hands away from mufflers
  4. No sudden movements or turns
  5. Hold onto the driver’s waist, hips, or the passenger handles.
  6. Brace against the tank when braking, not against the driver’s back.
  7. When turning a corner, look over the operator’s shoulder, toward the turn.

According to DMV.org, most states require that you have a full-fledged motorcycle license before carrying passengers on the back of a motorcycle, not an instructional permit. Also, check your state’s equipment requirements for riding on the back of a motorcycle, which usually include passenger footrests and separate seating. If your license and passenger equipment are in order, refer to your owner’s manual to check weight limits and make any necessary adjustments to the suspension.

Motorcycling expert and author Basem Wasef advises that an empty parking lot or a back road can be a good place to get used to turns and stops together, and review tips for riding on the back, before you hit the highways.

2. Make Sure You, Your Passenger, and Your Bike Are Still Street Legal.

The Fort Campbell Courier notes that state laws may change without much notice, especially after the start of the new year. Make sure you are caught up on any safety classes and certifications required by your state, and that your registration, motorcycle insurance, and operator license are up to date.

Any passengers you bring along must meet the age requirements and other restrictions imposed by your state. Check requirements in your area before you hit the road.

3. Clean and De-winterize Your Motorcycle.

It’s a good idea to thoroughly clean the bike after unveiling it, to better see any new damage or dents that may have occurred in storage. Small animals or insects may have taken up residence in nooks and crannies, so inspect it carefully, and make sure all openings are clear.

4. Follow the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s T-CLOCS inspection.

T-CLOCS stands for:

  • Tires: Check the air pressure, check for wear on the tread, look for bent or broken spokes, inspect bearings and brakes.
  • Controls: Check the levers, switches, cables, hoses, and throttle for breakage, wear, and leaks.
  • Lights and Battery: Make sure all lights and electronic components still work properly. Look for corrosion on the battery leads. They may need to be cleaned with baking soda and water.
  • Oil and fluids: Look for leaks, and check levels of oil, hydraulic fluid, and coolant. Check for gunk in the fuel cap. If this is dirty, you may need to drain the fuel and refill it before starting. If you need to top off brake fluid, make sure it is from a new container of the same brand.
  • Chassis: Adjust the suspension for the load you will carry, including extra passengers, and check drive components.
  • Sidestand: Make sure the tension spring is in working order.
5. Be Gentle.

Wasef advises, “Don’t just take off after a thorough inspection; let the bike idle for a few minutes to get its fluids circulating. Take those moments to get reacquainted with the bike’s ergonomics.” You may be rustier than the bike after three or four long months without a ride. A few minutes of review time while your bike warms up can make a big difference in your response times, your safety, and the safety of anyone riding on the back of your motorcycle.

6. Ride on.

Once your springtime prep rituals are finished, and you’ve reviewed your motorcycle passenger tips, and everything is warm and in order, you’re ready to go. Enjoy the first ride of the new year!

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New OSHA Report: Employers Must Do More to Prevent Injuries

“Employers must do more to prevent injuries”

new report released by OSHA explores the substantial impact of workplace injuries and illnesses on income inequality workersDespite the decades-old legal requirement that employers provide workplaces free of serious hazards, every year, more than three million workers are seriously injured, and thousands more are killed on the job. The report states these injuries can force working families out of the middle class and into poverty, and prevents families of lower-wage workers from attaining greater economic opportunity. “For many, a workplace injury or illness means the end of the American dream, and the beginning of a nightmare,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Employers must do more to prevent these injuries from happening in the first place and insure that when they do, workers receive the benefits to which they are entitled.”

OSHA is asking workers who have been affected by the cost of a workplace injury to share their story

It’s Not Easy Going Green

You’ve heard about “green.” You know it has to do with eco-friendly buildings, vehicles and systems. Now you’re hearing more and more insurance companies touting “green” offerings. What does this mean to you?

Those who currently own green-certified homes, hybrid/electric vehicles or both may have noticed a reduction in insurance premiums for those items. For example, some carriers offer discounts as high as 5% for a home that is certified by the government’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Other companies use LEED as a benchmark for determining applicable discounts but may not require the home to be LEED certified.

Discounts on auto insurance may also be substantial. Some major carriers will cut the premium by as much as 10% for an eco-friendly car. Such a discount may have its roots in risk data. One major insurer has found that drivers of hybrid vehicles tend to be more mature and drive fewer miles than other motorists. Because they cause fewer accidents, the increased cost of replacing the expensive parts found in hybrid vehicles may be balanced out by their “preferred” status as insured.

Do You Plan to “Go Green”?

The number of homes in the U.S. currently enjoying LEED status is small. Many homeowners choose to spend a few dollars on minor upgrades but cannot afford to completely reconfigure. To serve this segment, quite a few insurance companies have introduced “green” optional additions to the existing homeowners policy that are designed to pay for the replacement of damaged property with more eco-friendly options. For example, if the home is damaged in a fire, most homeowner policies will replace damaged property with like kind and quality. With an eco-friendly option selected, the damaged property is replaced with materials that are more environmentally appropriate, such as those recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Some auto insurance companies have followed suit, creating additions that can be purchased with an existing personal auto policy. Such an addition would mean that, if the vehicle were damaged to the point of replacement, it would be replaced with an eco-friendly equivalent, such as a hybrid model.

Get credit for your work

You can receive federal tax credits for qualified efficiency improvements and residential energy property. Qualified energy efficiency improvements are the following improvements that are new, can be expected to remain in use at least 5 years, and meet certain requirements for energy efficiency.

  1. Any insulation material or system that is specifically and primarily designed to reduce heat loss or gain of a home.
  2. Exterior windows (including skylights).
  3. Exterior doors.
  4. Any metal or asphalt roof that has appropriate pigmented coatings or cooling granules specifically and primarily designed to reduce heat gain of the home.

Residential energy property is any of the following:

  1. Certain electric heat pump water heaters; electric heat pumps; central air conditioners; natural gas, propane, or oil water heater; and stoves that use biomass fuel.
  2. Qualified natural gas, propane, or oil furnaces; and qualified natural gas, propane, or oil hot water boilers.
  3. Certain advanced main air circulating fans used in natural gas, propane, or oil furnaces.
  4. Qualified solar electric property, solar water heating property, fuel cell property, small wind energy property, and geothermal heat pump property.

Visit http://www.irs.gov for more information on tax credits for going green.

Watch for Ordinance and Law

It’s true that “green upgrade” insurance for homes and similar products for commercial buildings may pay to replace your damaged building and contents with eco-friendly alternatives, but most green upgrade products are optional. They are typically more expensive; thus, many will choose to forgo the coverage.

If you choose to skip them, keep in mind that many communities are adopting strict environmental building codes requiring homes or buildings to be repaired or replaced with more expensive eco-friendly materials. For this reason, pay close attention to your policy’s ordinance and law coverage. One of the important functions of this insurance is to help cover the increased cost of construction incurred due to a governmental rule. For example, your homeowners insurance policy will pay to replace HVAC equipment damaged in a house fire. If an applicable building ordinance or law requires the HVAC to be repaired with an eco-friendly, more costly alternative, you may have to rely on ordinance and law coverage to pay the difference. If that coverage is insufficient or not present on the policy, you will have to absorb the costs of the mandatory upgrade.

Building ordinances and laws differ depending on where you live; some communities are much stricter than others. It’s important to make sure that ordinance and law coverage is included in your policy and that it will respond to ecological requirements.

Some Questions to Consider

Is going green with your insurance a smart move? There are several considerations. For example, how substantial are the discounts available for eco-friendly property you may already own? Is the increased premium for upgraded insurance products worth the cost, or would it be a better value to stick with traditional insurance and pay the cost of upgrades yourself? Does your policy include ordinance and law coverage? What ordinances or laws are in effect in your community that could result in a higher cost of repair and replacement?

Where should you start? Schedule a “Green Insurance Review” with your insurance professional today. We’ll walk you through possible discounts, upgrades and features of your existing insurance that will help you decide which insurance is best for you.

Does Volunteering My Time Mean Volunteering My Insurance?

Millions of Americans donate time—their most valuable asset—to serve as a volunteer board member on non-profits, booster clubs, churches, PTAs and civic organizations, just to name a few. The decisions these folks make can have a dramatic impact on their respective organization—and not always for the better. If a volunteer endeavor goes bad, would a volunteer board member have coverage against a lawsuit under his or her homeowner’s policy?

Homeowners’ Insurance

The last thing volunteers want to consider is what would happen if their favored organization file suit against them as a result of their efforts. But it happens, and not infrequently. This does happen, especially when volunteers make decisions that directly influence the finances of an organization. Often, the only insurance these volunteers have to back their efforts is a homeowner’s policy. Unfortunately, this policy may be of little assistance. The reason homeowners’ policies do not usually cover liability stemming from actions as a volunteer is the nature of the claim. The policy is designed to cover claims of “bodily injury,” such as someone slipping on cracked pavement in your driveway; and/or “property damage,” such as accidentally setting your neighbor’s house ablaze when burning some brush on a windy day.

Claims against board members do not usually involve bodily injury or property damage. Rather, they involve bad decision making that results in financial loss to the organization, such as the decision to invest in an IT system that turns out to be a debacle, costing the organization tremendous time and money.

There is another problem. Homeowners policies do not cover “professional services.” This is important to note, because board members are often asked to serve in a capacity consistent with their profession. For example, a church member who is a CPA may be asked to serve on the church’s board as finance chairman. Even though he is not paid for his services, the “professional services” exclusion under his homeowner’s policy would still apply.

In addition to the above, homeowners policies do not cover claims of personal injury unless this coverage is specifically added. Personal injury insurance is added to the homeowner’s policy to cover claims such as libel, slander, wrongful eviction, and false advertising.

What to Do

Events causing claims are unpredictable. While the reasons shown above prove it’s unlikely, not all claims against volunteer board members are excluded by a homeowners policy. Decisions to purchase personal injury coverage and a personal umbrella policy will increase your ability to find coverage for a suit against you.

The best method for insuring the actions of board members is for the organization to purchase a directors and officers (D&O) liability policy. These policies are relatively inexpensive for most non-profits. Before volunteering, request information on the organization’s D&O policy. The absence of this insurance leaves you at risk of having no personal insurance to defend a suit brought against you by the organization and should influence your decision to serve.