Risk Management Archives - Harbor America

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OSHA: Agricultural Risks and Prevention

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With all the risks involved in agriculture, employees must remain diligent in their efforts to prevent injury. Noise exposure is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the agriculture industry. As such, the agriculture industry should implement ways to educate the risks associated with the work, as well as provide adequate training to prevent such injuries.

Exposure to high sound levels increases a worker’s likelihood of hearing injury. Because agriculture uses noisy equipment like tractors, chain saws, grain dryers, and other heavy equipment for extended periods of time, OSHA [recommends] hearing protection for sound levels above 90 decibels or exposure to high sound levels of eight hours or longer.

Employers undertake the responsibility to protect their employees. Here are a few tips to help reduce noise exposures:


Both providing appropriate and sufficient equipment is imperative to adequate protection. Perform regular maintenance checks on all equipment to ensure there are no machine parts increasing decibels while in use. Replacing outdated, worn, or defective parts can reduce noise levels. Remaining up to date on equipment models and featured tools for such equipment can also reduce noise levels.


Delegating work on rotation can help reduce exposure to noisy equipment. For example, having a worker or group of workers operating a loud machine rotates to a less noisy task after a set period of time could reduce exposure to such high noise levels and risks. Individuals with already developed hearing problems should not be tasked with high noise tasks or work in high noise work areas.


Be proactive in identifying any potential risks and preventative methods to reduce hearing injuries. For example, if an individual displays symptoms or complains of symptoms of potential hearing loss, referring him or her to an audiologist to determine a potential injury can prevent further injury. Being proactive can also include awareness of your surroundings, such as ensuring all employees are following safety protocols and adequate safety equipment is provided to all workers. For more information on safety and health in agriculture, please visit OSHA’s website which provides helpful tools to assist with such concerns. If you’re not sure if you are in compliance with OSHA standards or would like to learn more about risk management, please contact Harbor America. We value the safety and wellbeing of all employees and have a team of safety and risk management experts that are more than happy to help find a solution that best suits your business needs.


Source: Agriculture Risk Advisor

Vacant Land and Building Liability

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It is common for land and building owners to find themselves with a parcel of unused, vacant land or a vacant building from time to time. What most owners forget is that it is still important to consider risks associated with the land or building. For example, if an individual is injured on the land parcel, the landowner is still liable.

Land owners must ensure adequate protection and coverage is obtained to ensure they are minimizing risks as much as possible. Limit liability by making sure the property is free of significant hazards that could cause injuries to anyone on the property. Properly cover or block ditches or physical features of the land that could cause unwarranted injury. Additionally, land owners can post signage to help inform the public and keep trespassers out and away from danger.

Dangers on vacant land also extend to construction workers. Theft, trespassing, or fires are regular threats to vacant construction sites. Construction sites are an obvious choice for thieves and vandalism due to the number of structures and availability to expensive equipment and tools. In the last four years, nearly 1,800 vacant buildings under construction were reported on fire to different fire departments across the country.[1]

Owners of vacant property are advised to look into vacant property insurance to help protect against any of the following risks:

  • Lightning damage
  • Smoke
  • Civil commotion damage
  • Vandalism
  • Presence of squatters

If an occupied property becomes vacant, it is imperative to notify your risk carrier immediately to help protect against any losses. Failure to do so may result in denied coverage of the claim. The risks and regulations for vacant land and buildings will vary from state to state, as will the different available insurance options.

To learn more about protecting your business from risks associated with vacant land or buildings, contact Harbor America.

[1] National Fire Protection Association: Vacant Building Fires

Partner Post: Helping Small Businesses Understand Workers Comp

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Workers’ compensation, the insurance that safeguards employers from liability if employees are injured in the workplace, includes coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and ensures the employer will not be sued for injuries or illnesses related to the workplace. A great additional level of coverage for any employer, workers’ compensation underlines an employer’s role in taking responsibility for the safety of employees in the workplace.

Small business owners are not exempt from employee injuries or workplace safety, however, many states require businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. (Check your state’s workers’ compensation laws or contact us at Harbor America.) Regardless of the severity of the employee injury, workers’ compensation will ensure the injured employee, the employer, or a customer receives the care that is necessary to address their medical needs.

However, not all small businesses understand the basics of workers’ compensation. Here is what small business employers need to know:

1. Workers’ compensation coverage is purchased separately from business insurance. We recommend choosing an insurer who is not only familiar with workers’ compensation claims in your state, but that is also well versed in the coverage you need for your specific business.

2. If your business requires employees to work with or around occupational hazards or illnesses related to your industry, it is a good idea to obtain coverage.

3. Employee health insurance isn’t the same as workers’ compensation insurance. These are two separate and, in fact, very different policies.

4. Physical injuries or illnesses obtained while on the job qualify for workers’ compensation coverage. However, if an employee was using a piece of equipment against manufacturer instructions or were acting dangerously even after receiving proper training, the claim could be denied.

5. Independent contractors are typically ineligible for workers’ compensation coverage.

6. Workers’ compensation typically does not cover injuries or illnesses obtained while not on the job, injuries that occurred while the employee was committing a crime or as a result of violating company policy, or self-inflicted injuries.”

Protecting your employees, yourself, and your customers is an important aspect of making sure your business runs smoothly—especially for a small business owner. Workers’ compensation, in addition to employer liability, can help pay for legal fees, court costs, and settlements the employer may be required to pay in the event of a lawsuit. Learn how to best protect your business by contacting Harbor America.


As seen originally on insured Solutions Blog: August 13, 2019.


Basic Components of Cyber Risk Management

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Most organizations are moving to cloud-based or digital storage when it comes to data and client information. Implementing a cyber risk management program to address prevention, crisis management, and insurance coverage becomes even more important when the threat of a cyber data breach may influence your business. , While you may think you’re immune from risk or that these threats would never directly impact your organization, the reality is that most of those businesses who share that same mentality wish that they had put a framework in place beforehand to guard against those exact dangers.

From sensitive financial information to patient data or simple payroll processing, your business is ripe for hackers or viruses to steal your sensitive and valuable data. To help safeguard against cyber threats like these, all employers, including small businesses, are encouraged to establish a cyber risk management program to aid in situational awareness, setting clear expectations, and communicating effectively.

Develop a Response Plan

When developing a response plan, be sure to reiterate the significance of a timely and accurate response. The response plan should include:

  • How the breach occurred
  • The type of information obtained
  • The number of affected individuals
  • Potential resulting risks

Constant communication with clients or customers is imperative to properly manage the crisis. Use these opportunities to let clients know what actions have already been taken, what you are doing now, and what will be done, without disclosing too many details. Focus on making improvements for the future so there is not a repeat situation.

Collaborate as much as possible with your in-house team of risk management subject matter experts, IT department, and general counsel. In the event of a cyber threat or breach, it is crucial everyone knows when to jump into action and is aware of the specific items of which they are fully responsible.

Plan Considerations

Business both large and small may have varying budgets, which may not allow for all aspects of a full cyber breach crisis response plan to be fulfilled. Prioritize risks and responses by evaluating trends, potential impact, and likeliness in terms of a time frame.

Additionally, organizations should work to improve their internal intelligence, including security software and breach prevention. Take this a step further to ensure the right leaders and stakeholders are aware bought in, properly trained/prepared, and ready to engage cross-departmentally to limit the potential business impact.

At the end of the day, being as prepared as possible and ready to act quickly in the event of a cyber crisis, will help to minimize the overall impact to the business. Review these plans regularly and enact drills or dry runs to test reaction time and close any necessary gaps.

Protect Your Data

Your cyber risk management program should include cyber liability insurance (CLI) coverage that fits the needs of the business. CLI is designed to address the risks associated that are not covered by more general business liability coverage. Business coverage levels are dependent upon the type of coverage you require and range of exposure.

To learn more about preparing a cyber risk management program for your business or enabling cyber liability insurance coverage, contact Harbor America. Human resource management can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of running a business. Leave the heavy lifting to us.

Minimizing Risk: Updating Your Policies and Procedures

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Companies deal with their policies and procedures in one of two ways: Proactive or Reactive.

A business that operates under the proactive approach will make necessary or anticipated changes as they happen. As the direction of the company changes, or as the generational gap in the employee base closes, companies may adjust their policies and procedures to evolve with more modern wants and needs of the industry and to keep employees happy.

Conversely, businesses that are satisfied with the status quo and have the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mindset operate under the reactive approach. These businesses are under the impression that everything is running smoothly and there is no need to either document something that hasn’t happened yet or edit/update a policy simply because of a single, isolated issue.

There is associated risk, though, when it comes to not proactively updating your organization’s operating policies and procedures. For example, more than 19 lawsuits were filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for alleged violations concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) resulting in “more than $6 million in settlements.”[1]

Employers are encouraged to fully understand their responsibilities to their employees, their consumers or clients, and the industry in which they serve. In a situation where the business does not have the best practices in place, there is no time like the present to start working toward getting on track.

Begin by taking a look at all policies and procedures individually, apart from the employee or company handbook as a whole. The handbook may have a recent revision date, but that date will reflect the last revision, not the most recent update for each policy. Each individual policy and documented procedure should feed into the overarching handbook. However, each policy and procedure should also have its own revision or last update date. It is recommended that all policies and procedures are reviewed annually to ensure that nothing gets overlooked every twelve-months.

With each audit or subsequent update, instruct those responsible for managing the process to schedule a training on the updated documentation. Then, once annually, a larger training should be held, in more of a town hall set-up, to review the parent handbook with the entire group. Spending time to review the changes with the entire organization will help business leaders to understand if there are any knowledge gaps requiring additional training on any of the policies or procedures.

Finally, comprise a working list of controls to help mitigate any outstanding or potential risk. This step will help those with the responsibility of managing the regular policies and procedures audit the documentation properly, while actively planning for future improvements.

Going forward, it is important to note that policy and procedure documents should be easily accessible in a digital format, rather than delivered only as printed materials. This will also save the organization when it comes to the need to republish any of the documentation. It can simply be updated digitally rather than reprinted for all employees.

It may be difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing legislation that feeds HR policies and procedures directly. Here are some websites to help keep you current:

If you’re ready to provide your business leaders and employees better policy and procedure documentation, Harbor America can help. Contact us to learn more about improving operational effectiveness and efficiency.

[1] HR Daily Advisor: EEOC, Employee Continue to See Success in Disability Cases

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Creating a Portable Fire Extinguisher Checklist

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It is reported that nearly 80%[1] of fires could have been extinguished by a portable fire extinguisher. Unless employees are tasked with fire safety, they may never actually notice the thoughtfully placed fire extinguishers around the building.

Fire extinguishers are designed to fight small, early-stage fires that present a relatively small hazard to the operator. “Portable fire extinguishers can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives…”[2] Fire extinguishers are designed for small, slow to grow fires with minimal smoke and heat.

Portable fire extinguishers require monthly visual inspections to help ensure the extinguisher is in proper operating condition. The best practice is to create a checklist for managing regular visual inspections. The below items should be included on the monthly checklist:

  • The extinguisher is easily located in a conspicuous, designated, and unobstructed location
  • The locking pin is in place
  • Tamper seal is unbroken
  • Extinguisher feels full when lifted
  • The pressure gauge is within the operable range
  • Legible operating instructions are facing outward
  • Check the last professional service date is within 12 months

Annual inspections may require additional time and more maintenance or testing to be completed by a certified fire suppression professional.

Protect your employees and business by ensuring you have the right fire prevention and protection in place. From fire extinguishers to automatic sprinklers secured overhead, these are your business’s best bet for extinguishing small, controllable fires.

Contact Harbor America to discuss preparing a unique safety plan specific to your business to reduce risks and keep your employees safe.

[1] Fireline: The Importance of Fire Extinguishers
[2] National Fire Protection Association: Fire Extinguisher

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Maintaining Clean Room Safety Standards

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Cleanrooms are a standard facet in most manufacturing facilities. Cleanrooms control the working and storage environment to regulate air quality, temperature, and moisture (humidity). These rooms are reserved for sensitive electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, sterile medical devices, or the manufacturing of products where the contamination could compromise the products’ structure or functionality. And of all potential contamination threats, people pose the largest risk of contamination.

There are different cleanroom standards for which organizations should abide by as they help to determine the level of production safety. Ensuring the facility meets the air quality standards begins with employees wearing proper cleanroom equipment and attire, as specified by the organization. Contamination, no matter how inadvertent or small, could cost your company downtime and increased production costs.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent contamination:

  • Encourage employees to practice good hygiene to limit contaminants. Everything from perfume or cologne, jewelry, make-up, or gum can be important to consider when working in a cleanroom.
  • Regularly remind employees of the proper way to put on and take off disposable cleanroom garments. Each company’s garment procedures may be unique, but the one constant is that specific garment procedures will be required, and employees should receive follow-up training on a regular basis.
  • Supplies used in a cleanroom should be designated as such. From pens and notebooks to any other tools or instruments needed to complete day-to-day activities should be used only in the cleanroom.
  • Instruct employees to clean their workstations, tools, equipment, and supplies after their work, or use of those items, is complete.

Ensuring your employees are well trained and reminded regularly of cleanroom guidelines will save your company thousands of dollars in lost productivity or downtime by lessening the risk of cleanroom contamination.

As you understand the best practices for your business, Harbor America understands the areas of your business that will require documented procedures for continual employee development. Adding a Harbor America human resources expert to your arsenal of valuable resources can help to ensure cleanroom contaminants are limited and not the result of insufficient training or miscommunicated policy and procedure. Are you ready to learn more about effectively managing contamination risk?

The SPCC Rule: What you Need to Know

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The Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule helps organizations create, maintain, and implement an SPCC plan to prevent or control spills should one occur. Information on how to create your own SPCC plan can be found on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site, along with plan templates and examples. While risks are a natural part of any business, Harbor America aims to control risks, including environmental oil spills, in order to establish the long-term success of your business. Contact us for additional information.

What You Need to Know:

  • SPCC stands for Spills Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure
  • The SPCC Task Force was formed in 1988 after the Floreffe, Pennsylvania oil spill.
  • The rule clarifies provisions in the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation, regulates facilities, and requires facility-specific response plans.
  • The goal of SPCC is to prevent oil spills from reaching waters or shorelines.
  • In the event of an oil spill, contact the National Response Center, the EPA regional office, or the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.

Learn more about where your organization stands in terms of the SPCC rule by visiting the EPA website. Contact Harbor America to learn more.

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Hazard Communication Program Plans

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Each employer who has employees working with or around hazardous chemicals is required to implement a formal hazard communication program to help manage and maintain employee safety. These five steps are crucial to keeping employees safe from hazardous chemicals.

  1. Develop a written program plan to document the business policy for hazardous chemicals. Details of the plan should include how to communicate a chemical hazard, employee training, and an inspection schedule. The plan can and should contain additional details specific to your business that may be pertinent to a successful hazard communication program plan.
  2. Create a complete inventory of all hazardous chemicals. Inventory should be taken regularly with any deviations reported immediately.
  3. Employees should be able to access chemical safety data sheets (SDS), which include a full library of the chemicals housed on-site. Find the full 16 sections required for a complete SDS here.
  4. Hazardous chemicals should be clearly labeled with highly visible permanent labels.
  5. Employees should receive regular training and communication regarding hazardous chemicals. Reinforcing the hazard communication program plan and details about how to handle and report issues when dealing with hazardous chemicals is the key to the success of your program.

OSHA’s sample hazard communication plan can be found here.

Employee safety is one of the most important investments you will routinely make as an employer. It helps to reestablish a strong sense of culture and workplace safety for employees and managers. Contact us today to learn about the different compliance resources offered by Harbor America.

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Improving Cyber Security at Your Business

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With smaller amounts of data, assumed minimal levels of security, and a smaller sample of employees from which to target, small businesses are an appealing group to hackers and cyber criminals. Cyber criminals are interested in everything from client data and financial information to employee login credentials and personal details.

Employers can help defend their small business security by implementing these improvements:

Employee Education

Encourage employees to actively participate in cybersecurity training. The selected training should contain details as to cybersecurity best practices and how to identify red flags.

Back-Up Data Regularly

No security protocol will protect your business data 100%. For this reason, backing up data is one of the best ways to safeguard your documents, spreadsheets, financial information, human resources files, payroll information, etc. It is always recommended to back up all data to a storage system kept off-site to maintain data security in the event of a natural disaster, including a fire or flood.

Computer Updates

Consider keeping all computers updated regularly, including desktops, laptops, and any mobile devices used to access the company network or Wi-Fi. Updates to devices typically include improved security and new versions of the operating system software.

Multi-factor Authentication

One of the key ways to ensure strong security is to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA). This means identifying a user by validating two or more factors, including password, mobile device verification, or fingerprint matching, among others. MFA is typically recognized in single sign-on portals.

Check out these cybersecurity resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Investing in cybersecurity improvements means you’re making a commitment to the digital safety of clients and the education of your employees. Harbor America is proud to support your efforts to improve cybersecurity. Contact us today to learn more.