Subscribe by Email

Your email:

Trades Hub

Alltop, confirmation that we kick ass

Browse by Tag

Construction Risk Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Winter Driving Safety Tips


winter safety, construction risk advisors, connecticutIt's the middle of January, and finally time for our annual winter driving safety advisory!  Next time it snows more than 2", keep these safety tips in mind before you get behind the wheel.

Clear Off Your Vehicle and Warm up Your Car:

Clear ALL snow and ice from your vehicle before you leave.  We have all seen someone peaking through a small cleared area in their windshield—don’t be one of those people, you know who you are!  Clear the windshield, side windows and rear window of all snow/ice and run the defrosters to clear all condensation.  Clean off the headlights, turn signals and taillights.  Dirty headlights can cut visibility by 50%.  You need to see and to be seen, so take the time to properly clear off your vehicle before you depart. Be sure to let your vehicle warm up properly before you depart.  If the vehicle is snowed in, clear a path in front of the tires and if possible, on each side under the vehicle so you don’t get stuck.  Start out slowly to avoid spinning the tires and creating an even slipperier surface.  If your wheels start to spin, let up on the accelerator until the traction returns.  Sand, kitty litter, or even a floor mat, placed in front of the drive wheels, can be used to provide traction.

Use Your Headlights:

Visibility is reduced in the winter when it snowing, raining, sleeting and on cloudy days.  You want to be seen, so use your headlights even during daylight hours.  If there is fog, snow, rain, ect. use your low beams.  NEVER use your parking lights on the road or on the highway; parking lights indicate to other drivers that the vehicle is stopped. 

Watch for Trouble Spots:

Be aware of areas that are more likely to be slippery.  Some dangerous areas include:

  • Bridges that freeze before the roadway—even if there is no precipitation at the time, there will be left over snow/ice in place. 
  • Areas where the road is shaded may have ice you can’t see. 
  • Where the sun melts snow and the melted snow runs across the road—the run-off may refreeze on the road. 
  • Sand/gravel on the road will make curves dangerous.

Take it Easy:

Whether you are starting up, slowing down, stopping, turning, going around a curve, changing lanes or making any other maneuver, you need to do it in a gentle fashion and with more caution than you use under normal driving conditions.  Four wheel drive doesn't help on ice!

Don't Tailgate:

You need to triple the distance you would normally leave between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead to compensate for the loss of traction.  Even that may not be enough.  Give yourself plenty of room to stop as gently as you can. 

Slow Down:

Speed limits are based on normal road conditions.  If you're going the normal speed limit on a wet road or one with ice or snow on it, you are going too fast!  Slow down to compensate for the reduction of traction.

Braking With Anti-Lock Brakes:

Except in an emergency stopping situation, use the brakes gently as you would with the conventional brakes to avoid engaging the anti-lock system.  Brake slow, gentle and early enough so you can stop slowly. In an emergency situation, you should push the brake pedal firmly.  When the anti-lock braking system engages, you will typically feel the brake pedal pulse or vibrate against your foot.  Do not pump the brake, remove your foot or lessen the pressure on the brake pedal.  The system will keep the wheels from locking up and if necessary, you can steer the vehicle while stopping.

Braking Without Anti-Lock Brakes:

If you have conventional brakes, use the brakes in a gentle fashion.  Apply the brake slow and in plenty of time so you do not have to hit the brakes hard. In an emergency situation, “squeeze” the brakes with slow steady pressure until they begin to lock.  When you feel them start to lock and the wheels sliding, ease off until the wheels are rolling and then squeeze again.  Don’t “pump” the brakes by hitting them hard. 

What To Do If You Start to Skid:

If a skid develops, take the following actions:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator immediately.
  • Keep your foot OFF the brakes!
  • Turn the steering wheel in the direction the rear end of the vehicle is sliding.  If the rear end is sliding to the right, turn the wheel to the right.  If the rear is sliding to the left, steer to the left.
  • Once the vehicle has straightened out, steer gently in the direction you want to go.

Wear your seatbelt at all times.

Insist that passengers buckle up.

Put your cellphone away.

Keep a full tank of gas and remember to top off your washer fluid.

Your trunk should have a shovel, a warm blanket, and some emergency food in it in case you get stuck.

NTSB Calls for Full Ban on In-Car Phone Use


distracted driving lawsAnd in my humble opinion, it's about time this issue was addressed on the Federal level.  As far as I know, the States have had their own authority on whether to put a law on the book regarding this issue, but a statement issued by the NTSB could very well be the catalyst to restoring order and safety to our highways.

From CNN:

Federal accident investigators Tuesday called for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.

The recommendation is the most far-reaching yet by the National Transportation Safety Board, which in the past 10 years has increasingly sought to limit the use of portable electronic devices. It has recommended such bans for novice drivers, school bus drivers and commercial truckers.

The new recommendation, if adopted by states, would outlaw non-emergency phone calls and texting by operators of every vehicle on the road.

It would not apply to hand-free devices or to passengers.

We've addressed cell phone laws from the risk management as well as the legal standpoint on this blog before, but our commentary has always been of someone in the state of Connecticut.  CT Cell Phone Laws, Distracted Driver Penalties , OSHA & Distracted Driving 

This legislation, if successful, will have far reaching risk management implications on every company policy, handbook, and insurance program.  The announcement today by the NTSB follows the results of an investigation in which a 19 year old driver was found to have sent 6 texts, and received 5 in the 10 minutes prior to causing an accident that killed him, a 15 year old student, and injured another 38.  LINK 

Obviously, with legislation that is this far reaching, there will be complaints that the "constitution is being stepped on"  "big brother is extending his reach further" and it probably won't be pushed through on the Federal level in the next 6 months.  However, there are already 35 states with bans on texting and of those 35, 10 have full bans on the use of all handheld devices.  I feel with that momentum on the national level, and this recommendation by the NTSB, it won't take much for the remaining 15 states to get on board.  However, as anyone that has driven in CT knows, these laws are only as good as their enforcement. 

Now, about the whole risk management and insurance angle of this...if this becomes a national law, or some derivative therein, there will be clauses, endorsements, and changes to many business auto and workers' comp policies regarding who will be liable if an on-duty employee causes an accident because they were on their phone.  It's much too early to speculate on how that will shake down, but much like the hard market, it's coming.  Thanks for not reading this while you were driving.

Safety Tips for the Summer Heat


Ted Stryker sweating resized 600It's coming folks!  The weatherman is calling for temperatures in the upper 90's-low 100's to end the week here in Connecticut, and if you're stuck working outside, here's a few suggestions to stay safe:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Replace Salt and Minerals

Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Sunburn affects your body's ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully

If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a chance to recover.

Pace Yourself

If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Stay Cool Indoors

Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Use a Buddy System

When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Monitor Those at High Risk

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.

  • Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
  • People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
  • People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
  • People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Adjust to the Environment

Be aware that any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. If you travel to a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any vigorous exercise, and work up to it gradually.  Info from

OSHA's New Webtool for Recordkeeping


If you have a workplace incident and you are questioning whether it's an OSHA recordable, OSHA has developed a website with an easy yes/no question system to help you figure it out.  Some details on how it works are below as well as here

And please, if an injured worker is bleeding badly, unconscious, or has an obviously serious injury, please call 911 and apply first aid prior to seeing if it is OSHA recordable.

If you want to read any of our other blog posts about OSHA regulations, preventing OSHA visits, and OSHA 300 recordkeeping, they're available here:

Construction Risk Blog OSHA Posts

osha record keeping

New Web tool helps employers understand OSHA recordkeeping rules

The OSHA Recordkeeping Adviser is a new Web tool that helps employers understand their responsibilities to report and record work-related injuries and illnesses under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations. A set of questions assists in determining quickly whether an injury or illness is work-related, whether it needs to be recorded and which provisions of the regulations apply.

More Info From OSHA's Website:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor has developed this elaws Advisor to address the federal requirement to report and record work-related injuries and illnesses. The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor is intended to help determine:

  • Whether an injury or illness (or related event) is work-related
  • Whether an event or exposure at home or on travel is work-related
  • Whether an exception applies to the injury or illness
  • Whether a work-related injury or illness needs to be recorded
  • Which provisions of the regulations apply when recording a work-related case

The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor presents questions and relies on responses to determine the appropriate course of action. The Advisor does not store any information. If the Advisor does not address the circumstances of a particular case, please contact OSHA or obtain expert advice.

Some employers may be exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping rules, for example those with 10 or fewer employees during the previous calendar year and those classified in specific industries. If you are unsure whether your company or business is covered by the requirements, please see, OSHA’s regulations at 29 CFR 1904.1, Partial exemption for employers with 10 or fewer employees; 29 CFR 1904.2, Partial exemption for establishments in certain industries; and 29 CFR 1904.3, Keeping records for more than one agency; and Appendix A (the list of industries). Employers in States with OSHA-approved State plans should contact their States for information on State-specific exemptions. In addition, public sector employers in these States are subject to State recordkeeping regulations.

While using this Advisor, please remember that you should treat incidents such as any cut, laceration, needlestick, splash with bodily fluid, or exposure to tuberculosis as an injury or illness. (The Advisor addresses “privacy concern cases” as needed.) Furthermore, a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) in hearing in one or both ears, any significant diagnosed injuries and illnesses, and cases involving medical removal under an OSHA standard should be considered injuries or illnesses for the purposes of this Advisor.

The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor is written in plain language and intended to assist employers, especially small business employers, in understanding their recordkeeping requirements under OSHA regulations. It is not, however, a substitute for the OSHA Recordkeeping Rules 29 CFR 1904, the OSHA Recordkeeping Handbook or for the OSHA Recordkeeping Related Letters of Interpretation. For those who wish to read exact regulatory language, links are provided throughout the Advisor where appropriate.

Back to the Basics: Workers' Compensation


describe the imageSome of our clients needed some insurance help that unfortunately took precedence at the end of last week over blog posts.  We’ll be cranking them out fast and furious until Friday, and will get through all 13 that were promised.  Today we’re going to be digging into Workers’ Compensation.

What is it?

A number of years ago when I was in insurance school, our teacher taught us a rhyme to help us remember what workers’ comp is:  Workers comp is meant to be the sole and only remedy for work related injury.

Workers’ comp has been available in the United States since 1911 as a way to prevent employees from suing their employers for at work injuries.  Prior to workers’ comp, if the employee had any contributory negligence in their injury, regardless of whether it was due to faulty machinery or a dangerous location, the injury was then their problem.  Industrial and construction accidents were accepted as a fact of life, and workers’ comp was designed as no-fault insurance to pay for any at work injuries with the acceptance that the injured party could not sue their employer after receiving medical and wage benefits.  More history on workers’ comp systems around the world is available HERE.

Why should my construction company carry it?

Unless one of these bullet points applies to your company, you are legally required (at least in Connecticut) to carry this coverage.

In Connecticut, here are the types of employers and employees that aren't legally required to carry workers' comp:

  • Domestic employees working less than 26 hours weekly  – or officers of fraternal organizations paid less than $100 per year.  
  • A corporate officer is automatically included and must carry WC unless they elect to exclude themselves.
  • Sole Proprietors and partners are automatically excluded , but may elect to include themselves.
  • Single Member LLC are automatically excluded, but may elect to include themselves.
  • Multi Member LLC members are like Corporate officers – automatically included but can exclude.

If you’re a contractor with a wife and kids, here are some more reasons to buy it


Types of Claims:

Any injury sustained by an employee in the course of performing their job is considered a workers’ comp claim.  Whether it happens in the office, in the field, in the car, or at your desk, workers’ comp is your first dollar source for getting compensated for medical treatment and lost wages.

Loss Control Suggestions:

Make safety your construction company’s #1 goal. 

Provide safety training and personal protective equipment to each and every field employee.

Post-offer, pre-hire drug testing.  People that aren’t drunk or on drugs, statistically don’t injure themselves at work as much as people that are.

Safety committees.  Make one.  Meet quarterly at the very least.

Toolbox talks.  No matter how seasoned the employee, people can forget and become complacent.  Keep safety top of mind at all times.


One last thing to think about. Your experience modification factor drives your comp premium and your ability to bid jobs with certain general contractors and owners.  Keep it low, and keep your company competitive.

If you want to read some more on workers' comp, here are the other 20 or so blog posts that we have written about it

About the author:

Dan Phelan runs the marketing department at Construction Risk Advisors when he's not out helping his clients with risk management and insurance issues.  If you want to connect on twitter, he's at @fixyourrisk and here on Facebook

dan phelan litchfield insurance group


And because everybody enjoys funny safety pictures...

comp1 resized 600comp2 resized 600

comp3 resized 600

comp4 resized 600comp5 resized 600

New Distracted Driving Penalties for Connecticut Contractors


connecticut cellphone lawSome tougher penalties for drivers using cellphones have just passed Connecticut's Judiciary Committee.  Currently, the fines for being caught talking while driving are $100 for the 1st violation, $150 for the 2nd, and $200 for the 3rd and any subsequent violations.  The new proposal would change these fines to $100 for the first, and $500 for any subsequent violations.  Another proposed consequence for repeat offenders, is a 24 hour license suspension.  If caught talking on the phone, the state or municipal officer that pulled you over would seize your license, and you would suffer the inconvenience of having to retrieve your license 24 hours later in the town or district where it was seized.

For work, I'm on the road fairly often and see plenty of contractors driving vehicles both small and very large while talking on their phones.  Seeing someone driving a cement mixer or pulling an excavator while talking on the phone doesn't do much for my piece of mind!

Do you have a hands-free rule for your employees?

Is it in your employee handbook?

Is every employee at your construction company required to read and sign this handbook?

Are there any penalties for employees that are caught on their phone?

What would happen if one of your drivers had their license seized and couldn't legally operate one of your vehicles the next day?

What would happen if one of your drivers was pulled over during the 24 hours while their license was seized?

Regardless of your own thoughts on this matter, it is illegal to drive in the State of Connecticut while talking or texting on a cellphone without the use of a hands-free device.

Check back on our blog for updates as this bill moves through the House and Senate. Read more HERE

connecticut contractor insurance

Distracted Driving and OSHA Fines


distracted driving, cell phone liabilityWe all know that distracted driving has become an epidemic in the U.S.   In 2009, the DOT reports, more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distraction.  And yet, we continue to drive distracted.

As an employer, it is your obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace.  If that workplace happens to be a company vehicle, than make sure you have policies and procedures in place regarding the use of cell phones and texting while your employees are operating company vehicles and machinery. 

OSHA has joined the ranks of those trying to combat this epidemic.  If you are an employer who requires the use of cell phones or texting while driving,  or who organizes workloads in such a way that texting is a necessity you could be setting yourself up for an OSHA citation and fine!  If OSHA receives a complaint regarding the necessity of employees talking or texting while driving, they will investigate and where necessary assess citations and penalties!

So, save a life (or 2 or 3) and save a penalty – establish and enforce your policy today!

Here's another blog post on the subject, and one more

Top 10 OSHA Violations for 2010


Were almost identical to the Top 10 OSHA Violations for 2009!

1.                      Scaffolding

2.                      Fall protection

3.                      HazCom

4.                      Ladders

5.                      Respiratory protection

6.                      Lockout/Tagout

7.                      Electrical Wiring

8.                      Powered Industrial Trucks

9.                      Electrical Systems design

10.                    Machines

osha fines 2010The top 10 list changes little from year to year.  It appears this is an area where we haven’t learned from our mistakes.  It’s time to start paying attention and not continuing to make the same mistakes over and over.

Safety should be your number one priority! Not just to avoid an OSHA violation or keep your Experience Mod under a 1.00!  You want to make safety your number one priority to assure that your employees leave their workday in the same physical condition (with all the same body parts) as they arrived.

A good place to start is to conduct regular reviews of equipment and procedures with employees. Are safeguards in place? Do employees understand how and when to use the equipment?  Is there a policy in place for disciplining those who decide to “take short cuts”? 

Awareness is the key to workplace and construction jobsite safety and you can involve every employee in your program. Let’s see if we can make a difference in the top 10 for 2011!

Are you a Connecticut contractor that might need some assistance to get your staff up to date on OSHA training and fine prevention? Maybe you'd like a second set of eyes to make sure that your jobsites are compliant with OSHA regulations?

Request a Consultation with one of CRA's Risk Advisors.

Social Media for Contractors and Online Brand Management


On Tuesday of this week, a crane on a commercial construction site in Middletown, CT tipped over.  Unlike other crane accidents in the last 18 months, no one was injured this time, including the driver.  Since there was no loss of life or serious injury and there's an election a week away, this accident didn't make too much of a splash in the news, but there was a blurb about it in the Hartford Courant.  As far as insurance ramifications go, there will be a General Liability to cover the hydraulic fluid leak and a contractor's equipment claim to repair the damaged crane.  However, after digging a little deeper into which contractor was responsible for the crane toppling, I discovered that various construction companies and crane operators in Connecticut were being anonymously thrown under the bus by various parties via social media commenting in the Middletown Press.  A few things worth noting about the commentary following the article (screen caps below).

1.  Since the article failed to name the crane contractor that owned the crane, several people with too much time on their hands decided to throw out some suggestions on who might be responsible based on their experience in the Connecticut construction landscape.

2.  Several social media savvy contractors (they do exist!) saw the negative comments about their companies, and did their best to set the record straight.

3.  Even though the crane operators who were responding that they had no equipment on the site and had nothing to do with the accident are now going to have their company name lumped into google whenever someone searches for "middletown crane accident".  Even though their only participation in this accident was to defend their company's good name online, they will now be part of that article forever. (google never forgets!)

4.  The general contractor on the site would do well to defend themselves in the comments.  As the comments go right now, rampant speculation and defamation are taking place and I doubt they have anyone at their company watching out for this type of thing.

5.  This could potentially effect the risk profile of all the Connecticut construction companies mentioned below.  Even though the negative comments are slander, pure and simple, an insurance company underwriter could view them as having some truth and consider that when they're pricing your account upon renewal.

Comments are below.  Make your own decisions on who won the argument and who looked like the contractor that lost the bid on this job.

middletown crane construction insurance


crane insurance connecticut

Apologies for the small pictures.  Full article is HERE if you want to read the comments without wearing binoculars.

Let me know what you think.  As the world gets more and more connected, contractors need to be mindful of what is being said about their company online and learn how to effectively handle criticism and crisis digitally without getting into a mud slinging contest with each other.

Reporting More on Your OSHA Log Than you Need to?


Many years ago OSHA issued a list of 14 items that qualify as First Aid.  If the incident required only the First Aid treatment, the case did not need to be recorded.  Yet I still see commercial contractors that are listing everything on their OSHA Logs.  Just because an employee visits the occupational health clinic for a workers compensation claim, does not make it an OSHA recordable case!

connecticut construction insuranceThe 14 items that OSHA considers First Aid are:

1.       Using non-prescription medications at non-prescription strength (i.e. over the counter Motrin)

2.       Administering tetanus immunizations

3.       Cleaning, flushing or soaking wounds on the skin surface

4.       Using wound coverings, such as bandages, gauze pads, butterfly bandages, etc.

5.       Using hot or cold therapy

6.       Using any totally non-rigid means of support, such as elastic bandages or wraps

7.       Using temporary immobilization devises while transporting injured employee (splints, slings, neck collars)

8.       Drilling a fingernail or toenail to relieve pressure, or draining fluids from blisters

9.       Using simple irrigation or a cotton swab to remove foreign bodies not embedded in or adhered to eye

10.   Using eye patches

11.   Using irrigation, tweezers, cotton swab or other simple means to remove splinters or foreign material from areas other than the eye

12.   Using finger guards

13.   Using massages

14.   Drinking fluids to relieve heat stress


So, before just adding another case to your OSHA Log, check to make sure it is really a recordable incident.  If you really aren’t sure whether to enter a case on your Log or not check it out at  and click on R for Recordkeeping.  This will take you through the steps to determine if a case is recordable or not!

We also know a couple of great risk advisors that can also help you sort out your OSHA recordables ;)

All Posts