Communication Necessary For Bonding And Contracting Success

In today’s economy, comprehensive financial data comes at a premium. It is increasingly necessary that contractors provide updated financial information to bonding companies in order to maintain a solid working relationship. Many bonding companies feel an increased need to pressure contractors for necessary banking documents, balance sheets, income statements and more.

This is certainly not conducive to a mutual understanding between parties of what type of bonding is needed and even what is accessible to a contractor. Without up-to-date documents, bonding companies are challenged to determine if contractors are qualified for specific types of bonds initially. What’s more, when lacking quality prepared financial statements, working through a bond market becomes increasingly difficult for contractors.

Determining qualifications for projects cannot be based on how a contractor performed in previous years or on the sizes of previously conducted projects. No contractor wants to be left without the proper bonding tools because they depended too heavily on outdated financial information.

Contractors must remember that their relationship with a bonding company or representative is a highly important one that should be maintained throughout the course of their work. Properly maintaining this relationship with the most recent financial documentation makes the workflow easier for all parties involved.

Current financial data goes a long way in determining the success of a contractor. Bonding companies rely on correct information to be able to cater to the individual needs of each contractor, so a little financial cooperation can go a long way in an unstable economy.

Image: Contractors

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

It is that time of year when many of us head to the coast to open up our summer homes. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most active times of the year for hurricanes.

Experts predict that America faces the possibility of 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. You should check that you have the proper insurance to cover damage from these potential calamities, should they occur, and remember the following:

  • Hurricane insurance can be expensive. It has had steadily increasing rates in both premiums and deductibles over the last few years, thanks in part to the escalating number of claims related to hurricanes as well as the sluggish economy. Still, those costs are a fraction of paying for uninsured damages.
  • Flooding is not covered by hurricane insurance. Even when a hurricane obviously causes water damage to a residence or business, hurricane insurance typically is limited to covering catastrophes caused by wind from a storm. You will need a separate flood insurance policy to cover destruction from excess water, including mold.

Call your local insurance agent to get more details on the proper coverage for your summer coastal home.

Image: BGATLIN

Pool and Spa Drain Cover Recall

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which protects the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products, issued a news release on May 26 that warned pool and spa owners, operators and consumers about a recall. http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml11/11230.html

The recall involves various pool and spa drain covers. The recalled drain covers were incorrectly rated to handle the flow of water through the cover, which could pose a possible entrapment hazard to swimmers and bathers.

The press release states that the pool and spa drain covers can be identified by the manufacturers’ name and model information listed below.

Company

Model Information (websites)

Dates Sold

Remedy

A&A www.aamfg.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
AquaStar www.aquastarpoolproducts.com Dec. 2008 – Apr.2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Color Match www.poolfittings.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Custom Molded Products www.c-m-p.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Hayward Pool Products www.hayward-pool.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Pentair Water Pool & Spa www.pentairpool.com June 2009 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Rising Dragon www.risingdragonplastics.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Waterway www.waterwayplastics.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit

The press release also states that these pool and spa drain covers have been sold through independent distributors to professional pool and spa builders and installers. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises pool owners/operators and consumers who have one of the recalled pool or spa drain covers to immediately contact the manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit, depending on their make and model. Except for kiddie pools, wading pools and in-ground spas, retrofit or replacement of installed covers are not required in pools with multiple drain systems or gravity drainage systems or for covers installed before December 19, 2008.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, consumers should contact the Drain Cover Recall Hotline toll-free at (866) 478-3521 any time, or visit the Drain Cover Recall website at www.apsp.org/draincoverrecall. Consumers with drain covers from Waterway Plastics should contact the firm toll-free at (866) 719-6044 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, or visit the manufacturer’s website at www.waterwayplastics.com. If you have been impacted by this recall please call SIA Group, as we will gladly assist in connecting you with the appropriate contact.

Photo source: Joe Shlabotnik

Weddings, Vacation and Event Insurance

Insurance is purchased constantly for one specific reason – to protect individuals, property and investments from unexpected or unfortunate occurrences. Though we would like to believe that when we are hosting an event or celebration, or planning a wedding, we could avoid unforeseen disasters, it’s simply not reality. With upfront fees, deposits and countless expenses accumulating, insurance coverage should be considered as a means for additional protection.

When would event insurance be applied?

It’s the horror stories that no one wants to become reality. Whether it’s the inability to attend events due to unanticipated weather destruction, sudden hospital admittance of the bride or groom, event reschedules caused by postponed construction or vendor cancellations – insurance protection can allow affected parties to recoup lost finances.

Depending on the occasion and budget, event insurance costs can range from minimal to all-inclusive for appropriate protection. If you’re looking to apply event insurance, start by evaluating the inclusions of general liability, liquor liability, cancellation and third party damages, as these will most likely cover all basic needs.

Protect yourself against the “worst case scenarios.” When the unexpected happens, insurance coverage won’t alleviate the stress and frustration, but will at least protect the investments of your expensive undertakings.

Photo source: TheGiantVermin

Out of State Workers

These economic times are trying for workers in every industry – especially construction. Contractors have to find work wherever they can. Oftentimes this means leaving their hometowns to travel out of state to obtain contracts. The problem is when contractors cross state lines, gaps in their insurance policies may surface.

Every state has its own statutory laws regarding benefits to injured workers and specific requirements for required coverages. Leaving your home state, you may enter a state with laws different from the ones that dictated your policy. In some states, sections require that you list specific states on your compensation policy to avoid being fined for noncompliance. These fees can amount to hundreds of dollars.

So, how can you avoid these gaps in coverage and the penalties associated with noncompliance? Before you enter into any contract out of state, discuss the coverage that you currently have with your insurance agent. Understanding the availability of your insurance carrier to provide coverage out of state will help to reduce the aforementioned gaps.

Remember that agents review your policy on a quarterly basis, and these intervals are good times to discuss possible changes in your travel schedule and home address as well as coverages provided by national versus regional insurance carriers.

Photo source: Jason Riedy

Avoiding OSHA Fines and Penalties

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has levied its largest fine in history against BP North America – to the tune of $87 million.

As an employer, it is critical to know what your responsibilities are before an accident or other event occurs. As trusted advisors, it is the goal of the independent agents at SIA Group to assist you in taking a proactive role in preventing these accidents.

Taking measures prior to a situation can make a large difference in reducing or eliminating OSHA fines and penalties. First, employers must know where their responsibilities lie. Employers have certain responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing a workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards and that complies with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSHA Act.
  • Examining the workplace conditions to ensure they conform to applicable OSHA standards.
  • Posting, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA poster (or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Keeping records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Reporting to the nearest OSHA office within eight hours of any fatal accidents, or an accident that results in the hospitalization of three or more employees.

In addition to these responsibilities, OSHA has provided a list of the 10 most frequently cited standards that cause employers to incur fines and penalties. These standards are the cause of far too many preventable injuries, illnesses and deaths. They include:

Contact us today to see how the trusted advisors at SIA Group can help you proactively ensure the safety of your company and employees.

Back to the Tennis Match

So where are we on health care reform?

“I know I heard something about it in the news the other day, right?”

It seems that keeping up with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is like watching a big tennis match.

So far in 2011, on Jan. 19, in the first big vote of the new House of Representatives, the Republican majority voted to repeal health care reform. They were successful by a vote of 245 to 189 – thus fulfilling many of the campaign promises of the incoming representatives. Score: 15-Love.

On Jan. 31, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida issued a summary judgment declaring the PPACA to be unconstitutional. This was the case in which governors and attorney generals from 22 states joined Florida, claiming that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. Shortly thereafter, Florida and Alaska stated that they would halt implementation of the new law. Score: 30-Love.

On Feb. 2, the U.S. Senate took up the vote to repeal health care reform. They rejected the amendment to repeal by a 51-47 straight down party lines, with independents siding for the Democrats. Score: 30-15.

On Feb. 23, Senior Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the health care reform law, stating Congress was acting within the bounds of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution when they passed the law. Score: 30-all.

Enough already! The sad truth is that it is not over yet, and I believe we will keep seeing this back and forth for some time. Just how long exactly? Well, one of two things has to happen.

First would be a vote in the House and Senate to repeal the legislation, and the President would have to sign the bill. That will not happen until 2012, when the elections might shift the power in the Senate and most likely require a Republican president. The other thing that could create a match point would be for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and make a ruling on the constitutionality of health care reform.

Although we are sure they will take the case sometime, it could take years. The court could be waiting to see how more of the cases standing in the lower courts fall before they decide to make their own decision. And knowing the big issues don’t take place until 2014, they have some time.

So, once again it is the law of the land and we must comply. We will do our best to keep you informed and compliant. Please feel free to visit our Health Care Reform Toolbox (http://www.siahcrtoolbox.viprespond.com). You will find all the model notices and employee communication pieces to help you stay in the game.

Until next time, the score is 30-all, and we will keep an eye on the game and let you know how it turns out.

Photo source: Qrodo Photos

The Importance of Maintaining Your Bonding Tools

Bonding is becoming more prevalent in today’s economy, and knowing that you are able to obtain a bond when needed is a very wise business decision. Setting up your company initially for bonding may be somewhat tedious at first, but it is well worth the time and effort. There is great peace of mind in knowing that your company has been qualified and established with a bonding company and can actively pursue the projects you want. The ability to obtain bonds when needed to complete a project before getting started should be a primary tool contractors should keep maintained in order to keep functioning in this day and time.

When it comes to bonding, are you sure that you qualify? All too often, contractors enter into agreements that contain intricate language that is beyond their realm of understanding. Occasionally, these agreements may leave contractors without the bonds that are necessary to continue with the contract.

Contractors need to remember that bonds are not a “one-size-fits-all” item, and contracts of grand scale may have special requirements. Your surety company will be able to tell you whether or not you are currently qualified to compete for large projects, and if not, can help put you into a position where you are.

Many factors contribute to a contractor’s ability to obtain bonds. Fluctuation of financial strength, previous experience with projects of a similar scale and credit worthiness are all contributing factors to your ability to apply for bonds. Even if you had qualified for a comparable large project just a few years back, it is in your best interest to ensure the qualifications have not changed.

Bonding is just one tool in a contractor’s tool box. But it is important to make sure it is properly maintained, because having the right tool for the job really does make all the difference.

Photo source: Historical Society

Incorrectly Titling Your Company Vehicle

When it comes to vehicle ownership within a company policy, there tends to be a lot of confusion. Many business owners, majority owners and company presidents think it is acceptable to purchase a vehicle in their own name, but have it insured under the company’s policy. It is not.

Additionally, when companies that begin as sole proprietorships transition to become incorporated, they do not change the titles and registrations of company cars to reflect this transition.

So, what is the problem?

In the event that a vehicle is lost or damaged beyond repair, your insurance carrier may withhold coverage if it is discovered that the car is incorrectly titled. This financial setback can be too much of a burden for some businesses and lead to bankruptcy.

To prevent this financial loss, your insurance agent should review all vehicle titles prior to quoting or binding auto coverage. If your vehicle is not titled to the correctly named party, a lease agreement should be drafted and the proper endorsement, including the titleholder on the company auto policy, should be added.

Otherwise, the responsibility for payment will be on you. And there will be no confusion about that.

Photo source: Dei3Nascar8