No one wants workplace injuries. But accidents can happen, particularly when projects need to be finished right away.

“That’s usually where the breakdown occurs. If you have to rush a project through and you’re potentially cutting corners for the sake of efficiency, that’s generally when injuries happen,” says Derek M. Hoch, president of Leverity Insurance Group.

Smart Business spoke with Hoch about complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, which can result in a safer overall workplace.

Do most manufacturers have workplace safety programs?

Larger corporations usually do. Some smaller operations may not have any program in place, as they have had the same employees for a long time and, while they know the equipment and systems very well, they don’t necessarily follow established procedures.

Employees may take shortcuts because they’re comfortable with equipment they’re using. They can lose sight of the fact that doing something in a hurry and not in the proper manner can result in a workplace injury.

How is a workplace safety program developed?

The best way is to sit down with your risk manager — your insurance broker — to develop a program because it’s really about managing and controlling risk. You should work with an expert who can guide you through proper policies and procedures that should be in place.

This plan should be followed by a legal review to ensure that everything complies with OSHA regulations.

A good safety program includes appointing a company inspector who will routinely evaluate the workplace and conduct self-audits to make sure employees are following standards and adhering to policies.

The company inspector asks the same questions and uses the same checklist that an OSHA compliance officer would. These items include required employer postings, record keeping, medical services and first aid, fire protection, personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout, company evacuation plan, tools and equipment, environmental controls, electrical safety and accident investigation.

How often do programs need to be updated?

Programs need to be updated accordingly to comply with workplace and regulation changes. But, more importantly, you need to educate employees by providing refresher courses and holding quarterly or semi-annual safety meetings. The staff should have knowledge of OSHA standards and what the regulations are within their specific industry.

Revisit the program and make it real, because there is a tendency to get complacent in a job you’ve been doing for a long time. Spot checks help to ensure that everyone is complying with company procedures.

What are particular areas of risk?

OSHA’s most frequent citations are for violations of standards covering fall protection, hazard communication and respiratory protection.

Problems are particular to industries. For example, a manufacturing facility presents potential respiratory hazards if employees aren’t wearing the proper protective masks, or losing limbs if they are not wearing protective guards or guards aren’t properly installed on the equipment.

Powered industrial trucks, like forklifts, also can pose potential risks if proper training is not established. Another issue involves lockout/tagout procedures — having machines shut off and started up properly when there is maintenance or servicing work.

If violations exist, what are the potential costs and penalties?

Penalties can be significant, but not valuing a workplace safety program will lead to larger issues beyond OSHA citations, like employee injuries, fires and mechanical failures. Unfortunately, many companies wait until there is an accident before focusing on implementing, correcting or amending a safety plan.

Derek M. Hoch is the president of Leverity Insurance Group. Reach him at (216) 861-2727 or

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Leverity Insurance Group

Published in Cleveland

Even with the proper insurance coverage, recovering from a disaster can be difficult for businesses that have not thoroughly prepared for the rebuilding process. Disaster plans and insurance money may not be enough to save a company that hasn’t tested its ability to address a crisis.

“Yes, there’s insurance to protect against a disaster, but what happens after the catastrophe occurs? It’s great to have a written plan in place, but if you don’t do a trial run or an audit of the plan, how do you know it’s going to work?” says Derek M. Hoch, president of Leverity Insurance Group.

Smart Business spoke with Hoch about the basics of disaster recovery and how insurance supplements the planning process.

What is often overlooked in terms of disaster planning?

Both business owners and key employees can become complacent because there is a plan in writing; they assume it will automatically work. Employees read the plan, understand their role, then over time there is no refresher about what they specifically need to do in that job function if a disaster were to occur.

From an insurance aspect, it’s easy enough to get monetary relief and rebuild if you insure the building structure and business personal property. What often gets overlooked is business interruption, or business income coverage. This is a major component in any businesses risk management program. It represents the economic loss, the potential loss of key employees, ongoing payroll and utility expenses, as well as any extra expenses that you normally wouldn’t have if the disaster didn’t occur. There are a lot of variables that business owners do not think about until after a disaster, and those costs are often overlooked and underinsured.

The problem with business interruption insurance is that it’s a difficult number to determine. There are business income worksheets and calculations that can be made, but it’s not a static number like replacing a building, which has a specific dollar amount.

What is necessary, once the written plan is in place?

Companies will put the plan in writing and explain it to employees, but never conduct a test because they don’t want the disruption to their business for a half or full day. A catastrophic event could occur at any moment. You may need to shut the business down in order to:

  • Test the facilities.
  • Make sure employees relay the proper information to the correct people or authorities.
  • Confirm anything done off-site to back up systems is in place, and you’re not losing valuable information and data that would compromise the sustainability of the operation.

Companies don’t want to disrupt their businesses. What they don’t realize is that one day off to test their plan could potentially save them thousands or even millions of dollars.

Why is it vital to reopen quickly, and what can businesses do to speed up the process?

Unless you’re in a niche industry, planning for a disaster is vital because you will have competitors able to come in and supply your customers when you are shut down. This is the equivalent of business death, because the longer it takes, the more customers and employees will go elsewhere.

Your insurance broker/risk manager should sit down with you and — just as you do regarding the physical structure and assuring adequate coverage — walk you through the potential disasters that could happen and help formulate what necessary steps to take to ensure sustainability. It’s really a team approach, asking open-ended questions and letting the business owner talk about their business, so a plan can be instituted. This plan will complement the other forms of insurance coverage you purchase to protect the rest of your business.

You can try to prepare for everything, but having a plan in place and practicing it at least annually can help get you back up and running earlier in the event of a disaster.

Derek M. Hoch is the president of Leverity Insurance Group. Reach him at (216) 861-2727 or

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Leverity Insurance Group

Published in Cleveland

Auto insurance premiums are based on several factors relating to risk. Companies with strong fleet safety programs reduce their risk level, resulting in lower insurance rates.

“Depending on what steps you take, the savings could be substantial,” says Derek M. Hoch, president of Leverity Insurance Group.

Smart Business spoke with Hoch about what companies can do to improve the safety of employees who drive while working.

How are auto insurance rates calculated?

They are based on several factors, including frequency and severity of crashes, auto repair costs, medical and hospital costs, lawsuits and court judgments, insurance fraud, vehicle type and deductibles.

One of the best things you can do to reduce insurance premiums is to decrease the frequency of accidents. A U.S. Department of Transportation study indicated that 90 percent of collisions were because of driver action, attitude and behavior. Keeping your drivers safe will lead to fewer and less severe accidents.

Some steps to implement are:

  • Buying newer model vehicles that are in better condition.
  • Hiring drivers that have good motor vehicle records.
  • Providing driver safety programs that include incentives for positive performance.


All of these factors can have an impact on lowering your insurance premiums.

How can you determine if drivers are being safe?

Constantly supervise and monitor drivers’ motor vehicle records. Many companies have implemented GPS tracking that shows how fast drivers are going, where they are going — if it’s the best route, and if fuel is being used efficiently.

Maintenance of the vehicle also can produce telltale signs someone is driving too fast. For example, there will be more wear on tires, brakes and other equipment than there would be for someone operating it in a safe or proper manner.

Companies that are really dedicated to safety have installed electronic onboard recorders to monitor how drivers are doing.

What should be done about cellphone use?

Almost everyone talks on the phone while driving at some point — a nationwide poll found 81 percent of cellphone owners admitted to talking while driving. Distracted driving also resulted in about 3,000 fatal traffic accidents in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If employees are driving on company time, you need to establish a policy with clear-cut rules restricting cellphone use while driving, and offering suggestions such as pulling over to either place or answer an important call.

Even with a comprehensive cellphone use policy that employees sign off on, courts may still hold employers responsible for harm caused by employees while conducting company business; so it’s important that your policy is upheld and enforced.

What are essential elements of a good fleet safety program?

There are five main components:

  • Management support and ongoing supervision.
  • Driver prequalification.
  • Driver training and ongoing education.
  • Vehicle maintenance.
  • Accident investigation.


Safety starts with the culture of the business owner and the management team; they need to create a solid plan and hire the right people. Next comes driver selection and qualification. That involves checking motor vehicle reports, conducting criminal background checks and contacting former employers about work history.

Once a program is in place, continuously remind employees about safety and provide ongoing training courses. Even seasoned drivers can get complacent as it becomes routine; don’t let them forget their training.

Fleet safety programs aren’t just for companies that employ drivers, they are for any company with employees driving anything from a private passenger vehicle to an extra-heavy truck while on the job.

A true insurance professional or adviser can help your company develop a comprehensive driver safety program. That way you can create a safer culture that not only enhances the well-being of employees but also decreases insurance premiums.

Derek M. Hoch is the president of Leverity Insurance Group. Reach him at (216) 861-2727 or

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Leverity Insurance Group

Published in Cleveland