OSHA recently released an Interim Guidance report for protecting workers from the Zika Virus. The virus, once contained to Central & South America, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean and US territories has now reached the U.S. mainland.
Below is a synopsis of the report:
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can become infected when they bite an infected person therein is how the virus is rapidly spreading.
Current science-based evidence suggests that approximately 1 out of 5 infected people develop symptoms of Zika virus, usually beginning 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms, usually mild and lasting 2-7 days include: fever, rash, joint pain and red or pink eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The symptoms are similar to dengue fever. Zika can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus resulting in serious birth defects.
Control and Prevention for Employees
Outdoor workers are at some of the highest risk for contracting Zika Virus – according to the OSHA report, employers should:
- Inform workers about their risks of exposure to Zika virus through mosquito bites and train them how to protect themselves. Check the CDC Zika website to find Zika-affected areas.
- Provide insect repellents and encourage their use according to the EPA guidelines
- Provide workers with, and encourage them to wear, clothing that covers their hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Consider providing workers with hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck.
- In warm weather, encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. This type of clothing protects workers against the sun’s harmful rays and provides a barrier to mosquitoes. Always provide workers with adequate water, rest and shade, and monitor workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
- Get rid of sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) whenever possible to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas. Train workers about the importance of eliminating areas where mosquitos can breed at the worksite.
- If requested by a worker, consider reassigning anyone who indicates she is or may become pregnant, or who is male and has a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant, to indoor tasks to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.
For more information about Zika Virus please visit the CDC’s page on the virus. Please note these are just broad informational guidelines and are not to be construed as medical advice or guidance. We encourage you to stay abreast of current updates on the Zika Virus via the CDC and OSHA.
P&C Operations Manager
You’ve built a great benefits package for your employees. Congratulations – the hard work is done! Or is it? Almost as important as the work that goes into the development of a comprehensive benefits package is the way it’s communicated out to employees.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how great the benefits are if employees don’t understand and utilize them. Not effectively communicating your benefits is a lost opportunity. Not only have you made a significant investment, but a comprehensive benefits package also make employees more satisfied with their jobs and helps attract top talent.
So how can you make sure your employees are aware of and maximize the benefits you offer?
- Tell the Whole Story –Make sure employees understand the “big picture” of the benefits package they receive. If possible, consider providing a comprehensive benefits statement to employees so they understand their total compensation – from salary and medical benefits to retirement plans and stock options, to non-traditional and intangible benefits like flexible work arrangements, tuition reimbursement and community volunteering opportunities. Where possible, assign a total value. Each workplace has a unique benefits story that needs to be personalized.
- KISS – Keep it simple, silly! Make sure your mass communications about benefits to employees aren’t overwhelming and that the language is relevant and easy to understand. Chose the highlights and provide links or references where employees can go to get more information or link to a full benefits handbook. Also consider if you need to provide benefits materials in other languages or hard copies to employees without access to technology.
- Lead with the WIFM – Always think about benefits from an employee’s viewpoint and think about the “WIFM – “What’s In It For Me?” For example, if you’re offering an incentive for employees to participate in biometric screenings, lead with what they’ll get out of participating.
- Make It Accessible – Where possible, utilize technology to communicate benefits information and even make your full benefits information and employee’s compensation statements available via your company’s intranet site, if relevant. At the same time, if you have a workforce that is out in the field without access to technology, consider different tactics and communication vehicles.
- Add the Human Touch – There’s nothing more frustrating than having a question that you can’t get an answer to and having nowhere to turn. Make sure you provide an internal contact or hotline that employees can call to get their personalized questions answered. Similarly, consider holding benefits fairs and in-person opportunities for your employees to learn about their benefits.
- Follow Up – Create a consistent schedule of communication around benefits so that it’s top of mind and employees are being reminded of what is available to them. Consider timing as well. For example, ensure employees are aware of open enrollment windows and beef up communications educating employees on options leading up to the period.
Communicating your full benefits package to employees not only ensures they are fully utilized but it also demonstrates the investment and value you are placing in your employees, leading to a more engaged, satisfied and productive workforce.
Group Life and Health Manager
It’s no secret that regular exercise, eating well, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are the keys to leading a healthy life. However, many men don’t know that a few other simple lifestyle choices can have a big impact on their health and help them avoid some of the most common preventable threats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top causes of death among adult men in the United States are heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease. While genetics are a factor, lifestyle changes can help to significantly lower men’s risks for these common threats.
Beyond the obvious healthy lifestyle habits outlined above, here are five tips to help minimize health risks:
1) Wear sunscreen – Use sunscreen every day and don’t skip the hat and sunglasses – always protect yourself from the sun. Also get regular skin screenings and practice early detection.
2) Get Your Z’s – A good night’s sleep is almost as important as what you eat and how much you exercise (and can impact your weight and health dramatically). A long term lack of sleep can lead to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease and stroke. Try to get on a set schedule and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Also make sure you’re not eating your last meal after 7 PM and avoid screen time an hour before bed.
3) Consume Enough Fiber – While it may not be necessary to take a fiber supplement and opinions vary on how many grams of fiber you need each day, eat a fiber rich diet filled with as much whole, unprocessed food as possible. Not only does fiber fill you up and help you not to overeat, but it helps slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. Fiber rich foods include fresh produce, whole grains and legumes.
4) Manage Stress – Long term stress can break down your immune system, cause sleep
issues and negatively impact your health. Work to reduce the stress in your life or learn how to deal with it. Consider incorporating meditation into your daily routine, as mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress and help your concentration and sleep.
5) Drive Responsibly –Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of death among men as well. Always wear your seat belt, follow speed limit laws and if you’re feeling sleepy or under the influence, don’t drive.
While it may seem like common sense, also make sure that you get routine physical exams and recommended screenings. Don’t avoid your doctor or only visit when you’re sick. Instead, treat your doctor as your ally in maintaining your health and preventing issues and ask about when you should have certain health evaluations, like cancer screenings. Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations if you do have health issues like diabetes or high cholesterol. Also ensure you have adequate health and life insurance to protect not only yourself, but those you love as well.
Understanding and taking action to prevent common health risks can have a big impact on your health, happiness and longevity.
Here at Founders, we embarked on a workplace wellness program at the start of the year called Humana Vitality. You know those great Facebook quizzes that ask you questions and tell you your age based on your answers? Well, it’s kind of like that except it’s based on your lifestyle habits.
All our employees started out at a Bronze level and then had the opportunity to do a wellness assessment that asked questions – from whether we eat a lot of fried food to if we smoke and how often we exercise. Based on our answers, we were given a Vitality age. Some of us were disappointed it didn’t match our Facebook quiz scores for how old we act but generally, the higher risk our behaviors are, the higher our vitality age.
Based on each of our assessments, we were given customized goals, which varied from weight loss to diet changes to increasing our exercise. What’s really great about the program is that we aren’t competing against each other and we don’t see each other’s specific points, just our levels, so it creates a safe environment to focus on getting healthier individually and collectively.
For those of us that need a little extra push (ahem), there are different challenges along the way that we can participate in, such as a diet challenge to learn to eat more lean and avoid processed foods. For folks that are trying to quit smoking, there’s a program that teaches tips and tricks for smoking cessation. For each of these challenges and the initial assessment, we’re awarded points that can help us get out of the Bronze level and head toward Silver (5,000 points), Gold (8,000 points) and Platinum (10,000 points). For all the overachievers, the points are limited to 18,000 each year but it doesn’t stop some of us from continuing to implement walking meetings every chance we get.
It’s also great that our fitness devices link into the program easily, so if we’re able to get a quick power walk in over lunch or log 10,000 steps, it counts as a verified workout that also generates points. In addition to getting points for the initial assessment – we also get larger point values for going to preventative visits – physicals, eye exams, the dentist – as well as getting our blood work done and being within the target glucose levels, cholesterol numbers, etc.
Our points accumulate in a database throughout the year-long program and we’re able to trade them in for everything from gift cards to a Fitbit and all the way to a bicycle (24,000 points). Our points reset each year but can stay active for trade ins for up to three years. While it may seem simple, we truly have to sweat for every point and, ironically, the point levels for things like exercise, steps and diet changes generate smaller points than the doctor visits and blood work, making it challenging to jump from Silver to Gold and Gold to Platinum.
But we are still stepping up to the challenge. In fact, we’ve been collectively tracking everyone’s steps at Founders since we started the program and, as of mid-April, we have enough steps to walk to Las Vegas! And while they may call it Sin City in part because of the decadent fried foods and lavish lifestyle, if we make it there, you can bet we’ll be sure to order our egg white omelets and green juice.
It’s not just about losing weight and trading points for gift cards, this wellness program is about being healthy and learning simple and easy ways to stay on track with diet and exercise. If you have the opportunity to set up or be part of a wellness challenge or program – we highly suggest you do it – and it’s actually FUN!
Did you ever turn on HGTV and think, “I want that chef’s kitchen in my home” or “I would love to have a spa master bath”? The good news is that with interest rates still relatively low and the housing market thriving in major cities, now is the time to consider renovations to your home. Besides, don’t you deserve that dream kitchen & bath?
Here are some tools to get you started.
Why are you renovating? Clarify your motivations. Are you renovating to fix? To sell? To improve utility? To create a comfortable home? To hike the value of your property? Articulating your goal can guide you in prioritizing repairs and improvements.
Draw up a plan: Prioritize the projects on your ‘wish list’. Experts advise that you narrow your project to one at a time because your needs may change. Choose and buy your material and tools for that phase and produce ‘construction documents’ only for that segment. Operating this way makes the work more doable.
Consider the costs: A good idea is to draw out your budget before you start. Extensive home renovations, which include design, construction, and securing permits, take approximately a year. Would it be cheaper for you to remodel or cheaper to move? Moreover, if you’re intending to renovate in order to increase the value of your property, consider the predictive value of your home and neighborhood. Would your house become too expensive to buy? A real estate agent and a general contractor could answer these questions. If you’re intending to buy a property to renovate, have a contractor estimate the costs first. You don’t want to find yourself out of pocket after you’ve pocketed the key! It’s also a good idea to pad some dollars to your budget. There’s bound to be speed-bumps along the way.
Find the potential: One of the blessings of remodeling is that you have the chance to polish some obstructed potential. Your house may have some hidden character that you may want to highlight such as a quaint stairway that has been covered by yellow paint, or a 19th-century historical architectural façade that was speckled over by whitewash. Remodeling gives you the opportunity to develop it. Consider hiring an architect or designer who specializes in residential renovations. They can point out property potentials and inadequacies and maybe help you find alternate solutions to problem areas.
Investigate constraints: If you’re considering an addition or extensive remodel, you may have constraints on height limit, lot coverage, or grading. Your property came with a title report that should describe covenants on the building. Some homes are ‘non-conformist’ which means you can remodel almost as you please but others have current land-code requirements or are located in historic areas. In all cases, check with your building department before smashing that sledgehammer against the wall.
Personal Lines Account Manager