The topic of last week's blog was the hazards of serving alcohol at the annual employee Christmas party. I don't want to be a scrooge, but liquor is not the only holiday-related hazard that small business owners need to think about. Here are some other things to consider when planning your holiday festivities.
Christmas Tree: Many people (including me) love the smell of conifers. Nothing evokes Christmas like the spicy aroma of a freshly cut pine, spruce or fir. Sadly, a Christmas tree can be a fire hazard, especially if it has begun to dry out. If you use a real tree to decorate your workplace, be sure to keep it watered. A dry tree can go up in smoke in 20 to 30 seconds. Even a well-watered tree should be placed far away from any source of sparks or flames. An artificial tree is much less likely to burn than a real one but only if it is fire-retardant. No matter what type of tree you use, place it somewhere where it won't block exits or impede foot traffic.
The holiday season is rapidly approaching. Like many small businesses owners, you may be eager to reward your hard-working employees by sponsoring an employee Christmas party. Holiday festivities can boost morale by providing a welcome break from routine. A party is also a good way to communicate to your workers that you appreciate the accomplishments they have achieved in the past 12 months.
While you want your employees to enjoy themselves at the party, it's important to ensure that they don't overindulge in holiday cheer. Employees or their guests (if guests are invited) may become intoxicated and then injure themselves or someone else after they leave the party. Drunken employees may also become aggressive or behave improperly toward other attendees.
Like many small businesses, your company is probably insured under a general liability policy. But do you know whom your policy covers? If not, read my new article.
It seems like every few weeks I hear yet another news story about a sinkhole. These phenomena are quite common. Just a few days ago NBC News reported that an 80 foot-wide sinkhole "swallowed" two homes in Dunedin, Florida. In August, a large sinkhole damaged a resort in Clermont, Florida near Walt Disney World. Meanwhile, officials in Louisiana are watching an enormous sinkhole that has generated tiny earthquakes. According to the Los Angeles Times, this sinkhole opened over a year ago and has consumed 25 acres.
What obligations does your insurance agent or broker have to you, the insurance buyer? Find the answer in my new article. Also, what constitutes an insurance policy? How is a typical policy organized? Read this article to find out.
Unless you live in a cave, you know that the Philippines recently suffered the worst windstorm in the country's history. I've never experienced a typhoon (or hurricane) myself. Even for Filipinos, who are used to typhoons, the winds from Typhoon Haiyan must have been terrifying. Can you imagine wind speeds of 195 miles per hour?
Are your employees stealing from your company? Few small business owners expect their employees to steal but, unfortunately, some employees are thieves. Find out how to protect yourself by purchasing Employee Theft coverage.
Lawsuits were recently filed by several residents of Black Creek Village, a housing development located on a portion of the former Love Canal dump site. The plaintiffs claim that they are experiencing many of the same ills that plagued residents of Love Canal before the site was cleaned up in the 1980s. Their suits allege that chemicals buried underground are leaching out of their containers and making them sick.
Can your insurer refuse to renew your commercial insurance policy? To find out, read my new article.
It's been a year since Hurricane Sandy roared up the East Coast. The storm was a reminder of the havoc that Mother Nature can wreak in coastal areas. It also generated controversy over questions that arose after Hurricane Katrina. Should taxpayer funds be used to repair properties that are likely to be damaged repeatedly because they are located in high-risk areas? How should the cost of flood insurance be apportioned? These questions have no easy answers. They have become particularly thorny now that property owners in coastal areas are being hit with large premium increases for flood insurance. These increases are dictated by the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, also known as the Flood Insurance Reform Act.
The Insurance Journal reported this week that states are cracking down on employers that misclassify employees as independent contractors. Misclassifying workers is not new. Unscrupulous employers have been doing this for decades. Here is an example:
Russ owns a small roofing company called Reliable Roofers. Business has been booming since the recession ended and Russ needs extra help. He's found a worker he wants to hire but he's concerned about the costs. There's the hourly pay plus overtime pay (Russ' employees often work more than eight hours a day). Then there are the taxes for Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance. Russ will also have to pay for workers compensation insurance and possibly healthcare coverage as well. That's a lot of money to spend on one worker.
Of the technological inventions that have occurred in my lifetime, the Internet has had the greatest impact on business communication. The Internet has radically changed the way businesses interact with customers. When I began working in the insurance industry some thirty-odd years ago, all communication was done by telephone or hand-written memos. Times have changed and most communication now takes place via the Internet. I rarely write anything by hand anymore. My handwriting, which was never very good, has degenerated with disuse.
The children (also known as Congress) continue to squabble in their big old sandbox called Washington. It is now the eleventh day of the government shutdown. For me, the government's shenanigans are merely annoying. They have not affected my livelihood. Many small businesses are not so lucky. For some, the shutdown has been a disaster.
Don't miss my two new articles on the About.com Business Insurance site. One explains who needs Errors and Omissions Liability Coverage. The second article explains what you can expect to find in a typical Commercial Property Policy.
One of my pet peeves as a car owner is drivers that don't use turn signals. I can't count the number of times I've been on the freeway and a car has suddenly zipped in front of me with no warning. I live in California, so I've assumed that the failure to use turn signals is a peculiarity of California drivers. I now know that this is not the case.