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Author Archives: Kuhl Insurance

  1. National Teen Driver Safety Week

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    This week is National Teen Driver Safety Week, a time to have a talk with your children about being responsible on the roads. The problem: too many teens are dying on the roads. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States. There were 1,972 teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2015. An estimated 99,000 teen passenger vehicle drivers were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

    From Drivers Ed classes to conversations at home, it is important to discuss topics like wearing a seat belt, cell phone distractions, and driving under the influence should be brought to new drivers attention now and all the time.

    Teens buckle up less frequently than adults do. In 2013, over half of teens (ages 15-19) killed in crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. They need to know that wearing a seat belt can make the difference between life and death. This week and every week, parents should have conversations with their teens about the important rules they need to follow to stay safe behind the wheel of a passenger car, truck, or SUV.

    Need help in having this conversation with your teen or new driver? Kuhl Insurance has developed a program for teen drivers called DRIVE16. The program provides an outside voice in educating new drivers about the important aspects such as safe driving, how auto insurance works, and what to do if they are in an accident. For more information on scheduling this program for your teen driver, please call our office!

  2. Top Ten Mistakes When Completing an OSHA Log

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    The OSHA law requires most employers with 10 or more full-time employees to keep a yearly log of all work-related injuries and illnesses.

    Which employees are covered by the recordkeeping requirements?

    The employer is required to record on the OSHA 300 Log the recordable injuries and illness for all employees on its payroll, including hourly, salaried, executive, part-time, seasonal, or migrant workers. The employer must also record injuries and illnesses that occur to workers who are not on the employer’s payroll if the employer supervises these workers on a day-to-day basis (including employees of temporary help services, employee leasing services, personnel supply services and contractors).

    How long must the forms be kept?

    Employers must save the OSHA 300 Log, the Form 300-A (annual summary), privacy case lists, and the Form 301 (or equivalent) incident report forms for five years. The stored OSHA 300 Logs must be updated by the employer to include any newly discovered recordable injuries or illnesses.

    Other things to consider?

    Beginning February 1 until April 30 of each year, employers are required to post their annual OSHA Summary Form 300A for the previous calendar year. This annual summary needs to be displayed in a location accessible to all employees.

    Maintaining and completing a log can be challenging and confusing, so here is a list of the most common mistakes made by employers:

    1. Failure to maintain the Log – there are some exclusions to this recordkeeping requirement, but it is required for most companies with more than 10 employees. Not sure if you need to be maintaining an OSHA log, here is a way to help you determine here.
    2. Not using unique case numbers (item A) – this unique number will help keep the cases straight.
    3. Failure to provide a detailed description (items E and F) – OSHA requires the injury type, location and source. Putting “cut finger,” won’t satisfy this requirement. A better entry would be, “employee cut tip of left index finger while using a utility knife in the stockroom.”
    4. Too many columns checked for classifying the case (items G-J) – OSHA wants only the most severe information about the case. So if an employee has both days away from work and restricted days, you would only need to check the column indicated days away from work.
    5. Incorrect lost days count (item K) – the day of the injury is not counted as a lost time day.
    6. Over-counting for restricted and lost workdays (items K and L) – OSHA puts a 180-day cap for each case in each of these columns. Stop at 180 days,even if the worker has lost more time.
    7. Incorrect addition – double-check page totals for each column, and add the correct numbers to the 300A log. The log and summary must match at the time of the annual posting. If you choose to use the excel version of the log, the totals will transpose automatically. Note: any changes in lost or restricted days after the summary is posted must be maintained on the log, but not reported again on the summary. If questioned, any difference between the two postings can be explained.
    8. Incorrect certifying person – the 300A summary must be signed by the highest-ranking person at the site, not necessarily the person filling out the form
    9. Confusing OSHA recordable injuries with workers compensation claims – workers comp and OSHA recordkeeping are two different systems, with different definitions! If you WC insurance denies a claim, it doesn’t mean the injury can be removed from the log. And if an injury is accepted by WC as work-related, it doesn’t necessarily mean it must go on the OSHA log. Usually the two are the same, but not always! Know the difference.
    10. Recording every injury or illness – Know what to and what not to record. Not sure on what OSHA considers recordable? Here is a sheet to help you determine that, here.

     

  3. Halloween Safety

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    For young children, Halloween night is one of the best of the year. But trick-or-treating can be dangerous if kids and parents aren’t careful. On average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to any other day of the year, and more than 70% of accidents occur away form an intersection or crosswalk.

    To help ensure adults and children have a safe holiday, here are some Halloween safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

    • A responsible adult should accompany young children on the neighborhood rounds
    • If your older children are going alone, plan and review a route acceptable to you
    • Agree on a specific time children should return home
    • Teach your children never to enter a stranger’s home or car
    • Instruct children to travel only in familiar, well-lit areas and stick with their friends
    • Tell your children not to eat any treats until they return home
    • All costume, wigs and accessories should be fire-resistant
    • Avoid masks, which can obstruct vision while walking/crossing streets
    • If children are allowed out after dark, fasten reflective tape to their costumes and bags, or give them glow sticks
    • When buying Halloween makeup, make sure it is nontoxic and always test it in a small area first
    • Remove all makeup before children go to bed to prevent skin and eye irritation

    Children and adults are reminded to put electronic devices down, keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.

    Safety Tips for Motorists

    • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs
    • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully
    • At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing
    • Discourage new, inexperienced drivers from driving on Halloween
    • Avoid using handheld electronic devices
    • Slow down in areas where pedestrians are likely to be or where sight distances are limited. Keep your windshield clean.

    Safety Tips for Pedestrians

    • Walk on a sidewalk if one is available. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic, as far to the side as possible so you can move quickly out of the road.
    • Drivers do not expect pedestrians to come out from between parked cars or behind shrubbery, expect that drivers will not see you and wait for them to pass.
    • Follow the rules of the road at driveways and intersections. Cross with a traffic signal if there is one and even if you have the right of way, make sure traffic has stopped or passed before you step into the street.
    • Make yourself as visible to motorists as possible, especially at night and in low light by carrying a flashlight, wearing a small flashing strobe light, and wearing reflective clothing. Bright colored clothing is not enough.
  4. Benefits of Listing Specific Items on Your Homeowner’s Insurance

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    Homeowner’s policies are very important because they provide coverage for our personal property. Most homeowner’s policies carry coverage limitations on personal property like jewelry, silverware, firearms, etc. Unless your property is scheduled, or specifically itemized with a value on your policy, your home deductible will apply to a loss. Many people choose higher deductibles to reduce their premiums. If you’re one of them, it’s possible you may not receive a payment if your deductible is more than the amount of the loss.

    For example: a $400 floor lamp is broken after the dog knocked it over. If you carry a $500 home deductible, your insurance won’t pay to replace the lamp since the amount of the loss is less than your deductible.

    Talk to your insurance agent, you may be able to schedule jewelry items at a nominal premium charge with no deductible. You may also have the choice of scheduling them on a replacement cost basis or an agreed value basis.

    Replacement Cost Coverage: your insurance company may pay the cost to repair or replace the damaged or lost property without factoring in depreciation. However, the amount paid will not exceed the least of these amounts:

    • Replace cost at the time of loss;
    • The full cost of repair at the time of loss; or
    • The amount of insurance that applies to the property as shown on the declarations page of your policy.

    Agreed Value Coverage: For each item designated on your policy as having agreed value coverage, the full amount shown is paid. The amount is agreed to be the value of that article or property.

    You may also have the option to insure some personal property on a blanket coverage basis. In that case, your insurance company will pay the replacement cost at the time of the loss, but not more than the individual coverage amount for any single item of insured properly.

    Several types of property can be scheduled specifically (with no deductible, and/or broader coverage). This includes cameras, collectibles, coins, fine arts (prints, paintings, sculptures, etc.), furs, golf equipment, musical instruments, silverware, sports equipment, and stamps.

    The advantages of scheduling specific items are that you have broader coverage without a deductible.

    Be sure to talk to us to determine if you have the best coverage for your personal property. We also offer a free in-home photo inventory, call us today to learn more!

  5. How-To: Clean Out Your Gutters Safely

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    Cleaning your gutters is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your home. Your roof act like a net, catching everything from rain to falling leaves, and it all has to pass through the gutters. Neglecting this task can result in clogged gutters, which can lead to water seeping into your home.

    It is recommended that you clean your gutters three times a year: summer, fall, and spring.

    In August or September, blow all the small debris out of the gutters. There will often times be sand and grit that comes from the sediment that’s naturally lost from a composite roof. It’s important to clear things out before fall kicks into gear, when more debris fall from the trees.

    Sometime between October and January – depending on when the leaves turn and fall in your area, clean your gutters again to clear out the debris from the trees. This is important to get done before spring showers arrive.

    And with the spring comes showers, which bring more debris. Perform another cleaning before summer kicks off.

    Safety Considerations for Cleaning Gutters

    Set up your ladder in a proper and safe position, the ladder should be leaning against a secure part of the home. The top the ladder should also extend at least 3 feet above the landing zone, to give you something to hold on to when climbing up/down. When standing on your roof, don’t turn your back to the edge, if you can’t see the edge you are more likely to fall off of it. You can consider purchasing safety equipment like a rope, harness, and carabineers to ensure you’re secure, especially if you have a two story house.

    Cleaning Your Gutters

    To clean a stretch of gutter while standing on a ladder, work at chest height with your body facing the house. Gather the debris into piles, reaching only as far as you’re comfortable. You don’t want to lean too far outside of your ladder. If you don’t have the option of using a pole – or there is a lot of debris in your gutters – use gloves. It will take more time, but nothing is more important than your safety.

    To avoid debris sliding into the downspout, stop six inches short of the downspout and remove as much of the debris as you can. Keep a bucket handy for the debris.

    You can also sit on your roof while cleaning the gutters. Once you have made piles of debris, begin collecting them and putting them in the bucket. Stop when the bucket is 3/4 of the way full – especially if the debris is wet – it can get heavy. If you’re not comfortable with transporting the bucket up and down the ladder while full, you can leave it on the ground and toss the debris in it.

    Another option only works if the debris are dry. You can walk along the gutter line with a blower and blow the debris out onto your driveway or lawn. This option takes the least amount of time, and it also gets all the tiny pieces of sand and grit removed. It is not recommended to walk on metal, ceramic tile, or cedar shake roofs, as these can require special knowledge and even tools to navigate safely.

    After you’ve cleaned out your gutters, it’s time to move on to the downspouts, which drain the water and prevent overflowing.

    Check elbows and downspouts. Start by removing the elbow, to do this, you’ll need a flat head screwdriver or an unbeveled quarter-inch nut driver to remove the bolt that connects the elbow to the gutter. Gutters can have sharp edges, so use caution when removing pieces. And don’t put your hand in the hole created by the removed elbow – there may be exposed screws in there.

    If something is clogged, you may have to do some additional cleanup. Before you open a downspout, put a five gallon bucket beneath it and use a hose to clean out any remaining debris. To remove a stubborn clog, work a plumber’s snake into the downspout to loosen the debris, then flush it again.

    After you’ve re-attached everything, do one final test with a hose, jetting water through the system.  Taking time to clean your gutters a few times a year will save a lot of stress and frustration in the future. It is possible to DIY this one – but if you’d rather have some professional help, there are many options in most areas.

  6. Enrolling for Medicare

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    The Medicare initial enrollment period is a seven-month period that starts three months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and three months after the month you turn 65.

    When to Sign Up for Medicare

    If you’re collecting Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be signed up for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance, inpatient care, skilled nursing and hospice care and home health services) and Part B (medical insurance things like doctor visits, lab tests and x-rays). If you don’t receive Medicare automatically, first-time Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Part A  and/or Part B  during their 7-month initial enrollment period.

    Medicare Open Enrollment

    The Medicare Open Enrollment period is from October 15 until December 7th each year. During the annual enrollment period you can make changes to various aspects of your coverage.

    • Change from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage Plan (and vice versa)
    • Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan
    • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage (and vice versa)
    • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
    • Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan
    • Drop your Medicare drug plan coverage completely

    The Cost of Medicare

    For most people, Medicare Part A comes with no cost if they or their spouse worked 10 years and paid Medicare taxes. People who did not work a minimum of 10 years may still obtain Medicare Part A coverage but may have to pay a monthly premium for the benefits. The amount is determined by Social Security.

    If you or your spouse are still working when you turn 65 and have health insurance through your employer, you may be able to delay signing up for Part B without incurring a penalty. In many cases (though not all) the benefits you’re offered through work provides the similar coverage for outpatient medical care. Before you make a final decision, call your employer’s benefits department to see if that coverage is sufficient and for information on how it might work with Medicare Part D, separate Medicare plans that provide coverage for prescription drugs.

    We know Medicare can be confusing, and that’s why we’re here to help! We are ready to answer all your questions and help you navigate the Medicare landscape and get the coverage you need, call us today!

  7. Everything You Need to Know About Planning Your Own Funeral

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    Dealing with a loss of a family member can be stressful and disorienting. Most of the time, we’re asked to make important memorial and financial decisions while still in a state of grief, which compounds the challenges of making reasonable, sound choices. As if all that isn’t enough, there’s the added burden of trying to ensure that the deceased’s after-life wishes are honored at an affordable price. Depending on those wishes, this may be no small task. Fortunately, you can help prepare your loved ones for these memories by planning your own funeral in advance.

    It may seem strange, but planning your own funeral not only guarantees that your life is celebrated and remembered the way you want, but it also eliminates the financial stress put on your surviving family members so they can be free to focus on what really matters – finding emotional comfort in your absence.

    The Benefits of Funeral Preplanning

    Planning your own funeral carries with it a number of benefits. The most important is that it tells your loved ones exactly what it is you want. This is especially useful in the case of an unexpected passing. It not only ensures that your wishes are taken into consideration, but it also relives your family members of having to make all of the decisions that come into play at your passing.

    The average cost of a funeral can run anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 – no small sum or any occasion, let alone a memorial. By preplanning your funeral, you can take care of those expenses ahead of time, which takes a lot off the plate of a grieving family.

    What Costs are Associated with a Funeral?

    There’s more to planning your own funeral than just financial decisions. You’ll need to choose whether or not you want a graveside serve or some other post-funeral ceremony. There’s also the option to have a pre-funeral viewing or wake and what sort of reception you’d like, if any. There are religious practices to be taken into consideration as well as personal touches like where you want the services to be held, who you want to conduct those services, and the guests you’d like to be invited.

    There are prayers, poems, eulogies, songs, and even charity donations to think about. All of these details make funeral planning a long and arduous process if it is not taken care of ahead of time.

    Other Ways To Help Those Left Behind

    If you have a life insurance policy, make sure that you’ve left that information available to your family so they can take advantage of that benefit. To that same end, make sure you’ve listed at least one person as a beneficiary of any life insurance policy or retirement plan. You might also want to consider adding a “payable upon death” beneficiary to your bank account to make those funds available as well. Even with planning your own funeral, there are sometimes unexpected costs after the fact, which you’ll want to anticipate and make arrangements for.

     

  8. Illinois OSHA has a Unique Recordkeeping Rule for all State and Local Government Employers

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    After a recent review of its 2016 final rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses (also known as the electronic recordkeeping rule), Illinois OSHA will require all State and Local Government employers in Illinois to electronically report OSHA 300A injury and illness logs.

    The following employers are required to submit Form 300A to Illinois OSHA electronically:

    • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep OSHA injury and Illness records.
    • Establishments with 20-249 employees in Illinois designated high hazard industries. These categories are as follows:
      • Transportation
      • Department of Public Works
      • Local Fire Protection
      • State Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
      • Water and Sewer Treatment Facilities

    All the affected State and Local Government employers are to submit injury and illness data into OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) online portal.

    Injury and illness data for calendar year 2017 must be submitted between June 15th and September 30th, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, submitting the information for the preceding year will be required by March 2nd.

    Additional details regarding the final rule can be found on OSHA’s website. Please note that the compliance schedule timelines outlined in the OSHA resource page are superseded by the information and dates provided by the State of Illinois OSHA. 

  9. Department of Labor Proposes Rule to Better Protect Personally Identifiable Information

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    The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular individual by removing provisions of the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule. OSHA believes this proposal maintains safety and health protections for workers, protects privacy and reduces the burdens of complying with the current rule.

    The proposed rule eliminates the requirement to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 30 (log of work-related injuries and illnesses), and OSHA form 301 (injury and illness incident report) for establishment with 250 or more employees that are currently required to maintain injury and illness records. These establishments would be required to electronically submit information only from OSHA Form 300A (summary of work-related injuries and illnesses).

    Under the current recordkeeping rule, the deadline for electronic submissions of Calendar Year (CY) 2017 information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 was July 1st, 2018. In subsequent years, the deadline is March 2nd. OSHA is not currently accepting the Form 300 and 301 data and will not enforce the deadlines for these two forms without further notice while this rulemaking is underway. The electronic portal collection Form 300A data is accepting CY 2017 data, although submissions after July 1st will be marked late.

    For more information on this rule, please visit here.

  10. What is an independent insurance agent?

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    The definition of an independent insurance agent is “an insurance agent that sells insurance policies provided by several different insurance companies rather than a single insurance company.”

    An independent insurance agent is able to provide their clients with more options when it comes to insurance products. An insurance agent that sells policies offered by a single insurance company is referred to as a “captive agent.” And while in some cases the policies offered by the captive agent may be less expensive, the client may never know whether he or she is getting the best deal or coverage since only one option is available.

    An independent agent can do some important things for you:

    Agents have the ability to check prices and coverage with a number of different insurance companies. And since rates can vary widely from carrier to carrier, the independent agent is most likely able to get you a better deal than you can get for yourself.

    Independent agents don’t just sell one type of insurance – you can use them to handle your many insurance needs in one place.

    Insurance is complicated to say the least. It’s an independent agent’s responsibility and job to understand and be able to communicate it to you in a way that helps you understand it as well.

    More and more companies have switched to automated phone systems, which can make it difficult to get to the right person. At an independent agent, more than likely an actual person will still greet and be able to assist you. If you need to file a claim, your agent can help you not only report it but explain exactly what your policy covers and what to expect at each stage of the claim.

    There is nothing wrong with going directly to an insurance company. However, dealing with an independent agent offers you certain services and protections. Many independent agents offer no obligation consultations and will take the time to explain to you exactly what it is they can do for you.

    As an independent insurance agency, we think about you and the best ways to protect your assets. Independent means that when you need to file a claim, you have an advocate who knows the fine points of both your policy and insurance carriers. We’ll be there during the tough times to answer your questions, stay on the case and clear the way for a resolution that’s in your best interest.

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