OSHA Sets Rule for Affordable Care Act Whistleblower Complaints

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a final rule that establishes procedures and time frames for handling whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) . The rule protects employees from retaliation for receiving Marketplace financial assistance when purchasing health insurance through an Exchange. It also protects employees from retaliation for raising concerns regarding conduct they believe violates the consumer protections and health-insurance reforms found in Title I of the ACA.

The rule also establishes procedures and time frames for hearings before Department of Labor administrative law judges in ACA retaliation cases, review of those decisions by the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board and judicial review of final decisions.

“This rule reinforces OSHA’s commitment to protect workers who raise concerns about potential violations of the consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act or who purchase health insurance through an Exchange,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

In 2013, OSHA published an interim final rule and requested public comments. The final rule responds to the comments and updates the rule to clarify the protections for workers who receive financial assistance when they purchase health insurance through an Exchange.

OSHA’s Affordable Care Act fact sheet provides more information regarding who is covered under the ACA’s whistleblower complaints protection, protected activity, types of retaliation and the process for filing a complaint. The fact sheet is available at Whistleblowers.gov/factsheets_page.html.

UL-listed Smoke Vent Skylights Minimize Warehouse’s Power Consumption

Trojan Battery, a manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries, occupies a 160,000-square-foot industrial facility in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., along with several other large industrial buildings in California. Each facility consumes a significant amount of electrical power each month. By adding 100 polycarbonate dome UL-listed smoke vent skylights, Trojan Battery will be able to save upwards of 40 percent on its power consumption for its warehouse in Santa Fe Springs.

By adding 100 polycarbonate dome UL-listed smoke vent skylights, Trojan Battery will be able to save upwards of 40 percent on its power consumption for its warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

By adding 100 polycarbonate dome UL-listed smoke vent skylights, Trojan Battery will be able to save upwards of 40 percent on its power consumption for its warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

According to a representative of Santa Ana, Calif.-based IRC (Independent Roofing Consultants), a roofing consulting firm: “Typically, a 2 percent density of skylight units are utilized for effective energy reduction. Densities of 2.5 to 3 percent are being provided for newer buildings and being installed in conjunction with roof replacements to reduce energy costs associated with building lighting.”

The roof originally consisted of outdated skylights significantly reducing the benefits of natural lighting. New polycarbonate dome skylights and smoke vents from SKYCO Skylights allow owners to maximize the use of free daylighting. Additional benefits include 10 years against yellowing and breakage.

Aside from the energy benefits, Trojan Battery was able to reduce its safety liability. UL-listed smoke vents with polycarbonate domes not only provide ample daylighting, but they are life-saving devices. The smoke vent is designed with two thermal triggered hatches that automatically open up in the event of a fire.

Fire marshals and insurance companies recognize the benefits of a UL-listed smoke vent skylight because they allow the smoke, heat and hot gasses inside a burning warehouse to escape providing trapped workers a visible route for safe exit. They also reduce smoke damage to warehouse inventories. In many cases, insurance companies will provide a much needed break on rates when UL-listed smoke vents are added to the rooftop.

The smoke vent is designed with two thermal triggered hatches that automatically open up in the event of a fire.

The smoke vent is designed with two thermal triggered hatches that automatically open up in the event of a fire.

The reroof was performed by Highland Commercial Roofing, Baldwin Park, Calif. The commercial roofer specializes in and provided Trojan Battery headquarters with a RainShield seamless single-ply roofing system. The RainShield system, reinforced with a tough polyester mat, uses waterproofing-grade asphalts and highly reflective elastomeric acrylic surfacing to create a seamless, waterproof, highly reflective membrane providing a permanent, high-performance roofing system guaranteed not to leak for at least 20 years. The cool roof system chosen reflects more than 80 percent of the sun’s radiant heat, which can reduce a building’s cooling cost by as much as 50 percent.

With average temperatures and power costs rising, building owners and occupant are looking for new innovative ways to save money. Highland Commercial Roofing recommends a complete analysis of the skylights when owners consider reroofing their building. Replacing old, ineffective skylights at the time of reroof is the most cost effective method for the investment.

NRCA Roofing Contractor Members Receive Free Consulting Services

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) announces it is now providing consulting services at no charge to its roofing contractor members.

NRCA’s Consulting Services is a benefit of membership that enables contractors to get tips and advice on current business issues, discuss business strategies or issues with consultants in the following areas.

•Legal— Roofing contractor members can obtain information about general legal issues encountered in daily business.

•Marketing— Assistance with current marketing plans is provided, as well as strategies for increasing homeowner and business owner sales and profitability.

•Information Technology— IT strategies for improving and streamlining operations for maximum business performance.

•Human Resources— Solutions to human resources related issues including federal or state employment law, employee relations and human resource management.

•Enterprise Risk Management— Advice about health, safety, insurance, legislative and regulatory issues, or learn more about loss control and regulatory compliance responsibilities.

•Technical— Solutions to technical questions including proper installation, maintenance or repair of various roof systems, or advice on a specific project.

Contractors Benefit from GAF Vendor Partnerships

GAF continues to offer those contractors participating in its GAF Certified Contractor Program business-building benefits through vendor partnerships. So far in 2015, the company has added four additional relationships that contractors can take advantage of to help make running a business easier.

Roofer’s Choice Insurance is a roofing-specific insurance agency based out of Texas that offers insurance coverage in all 50 states. Its mission is to provide coverage that will protect businesses in the event of a loss. Offerings include general liability, worker’s compensation, a full range of employee benefits, a human resources department, a payroll service and more. Have you had claims denied or are you worried about coverage issues pertaining to your current insurance program? Roofer’s Choice Insurance offers free evaluations of your current insurance portfolio.

Enrolling in the Contractor’s Financial Services accelerated payment program provides accelerated (usually within 24 hours) and predictable A/R cash flow, generates immediate working capital to bid more jobs without incurring debt, and makes the contractor’s invoicing and accounts receivable management simpler, more professional, and less costly.

JumpHawk builds a website in contractor’s key markets. The company’s HawkSite technology has been tested with GAF Master Elite Contractors with incredible results—JumpHawk successfully demonstrated its ability to deliver top organic (free) rankings for hundreds of relevant search terms. So when homeowners are searching for roofing products and services on the Internet, companies using this technology will be at the top of the ranking results.

Admirals Bank is a federally chartered financial institution operating in all 50 states. The bank has a history of uncovering niche markets and has pioneered lending in the residential solar market. GAF has partnered with Admirals Bank to offer its contractors a broad and innovative program for home improvement and residential renewable energy customers.

“A critically important part of our CCP offering is our vendor-partner relationships. Helping our contractors create more leads, grow their sales, and build their business capabilities is another way we can assist them,” states Jim Slauson, vice president of GAF’s Certification Program and Services. “We are pleased to be adding these new vendors to our ‘Tools 4 Success’ vendor portfolio to further assist our CCP contractors.”

Single Insurance Policies that Insure All Parties on a Specific Construction Project Offer Benefits and Risks

With the use of wrap-up insurance policies on the rise for commercial construction projects, many contractors and subcontractors have questions about how these policies work and what unique concerns and questions they present.

Generally, wrap-up insurance refers to single insurance policies written to insure all parties involved in a specific construction project—providing coverage for the job-site risks of the owner, construction manager, general contractor, contractors, subcontractors and design firms—instead of the individual parties each purchasing and carrying their own insurance policies. Wrap-up insurance policies are most commonly used on very large commercial or public projects. Many project owners and general contractors have found that using these policies is an effective risk-management technique for handling loss exposures related to single and multiple-site construction activities.

With wrap-up insurance, the cost and extent of coverage are generally within the owner’s control.

With wrap-up insurance, the cost and extent of coverage are generally within the owner’s control.

Benefits

There are two primary types of wrap-up insurance policies: Owner Controlled Insurance Policies (OCIPs), in which the project owner is the primary sponsor, and Contractor Controlled Insurance Policies (CCIPs), which are controlled by the general contractor. Additionally, owners and general contractors can cover multiple projects under a single program in Rolling Controlled Insurance Policies (RCIPs). Typically, wrap-up insurance policies include general liability, workers’ compensation/employer liability, excess liability and builder’s risk as standard coverages, but many owners also add coverage for project environmental liability and project design team errors and omissions.

The benefits of using wrap-up insurance are numerous, especially for the owners or contractors who sponsor them. A successful wrap-up insurance program can significantly reduce risk for owners or contractors, giving them more control over insurance coverage for all the parties and avoiding unpleasant surprises about the extent of coverage parties have. Under the traditional model, owners or general contractors establish minimum insurance requirements for subcontractors and require them to furnish a certificate of insurance specifying coverage areas and limits. However, because all insurance policy terms differ slightly, there is no guarantee that a given subcontractor’s insurance will be adequate, or still in force, at the time of a loss. Furthermore, contractors and subcontractors normally have to build their insurance costs into their contract costs, and this increases bid amounts.

With wrap-up insurance, the cost and extent of coverage are generally within the owner’s control. When sub-contractors no longer have to increase their bids to factor in insurance costs, owners claim they can utilize the cost savings to fund the costs of the wrap-up insurance. And the potentially more streamlined process for handling claims can make prospective litigation less time-consuming and costly.

Risks

OCIPs and CCIPs, of course, come with their own set of risks and drawbacks for owners, contractors and subcontractors, and the parties who are asked to enroll in these policies do not always look upon them favorably. Some subcontractors and contractors have found that enrolling in wrap-up insurance policies is administratively burdensome and that the resulting decrease in volume of insurance purchases for their companies can increase the costs of other insurance they must purchase. Additionally, subcontractors should make an effort to understand the limits of coverage; it may differ from the coverage in the policies they have been accustomed to using. This should be done at the procurement stage, before a project begins, and not later, after project contracts have been signed.

Those investigating the level and limits of coverage will want to determine how responsibility for any injuries, losses or damage will be addressed and confirm that the responsibility is outlined in the building contract or the written wrap-up policy. One potential source of misunderstanding is builder’s risk coverage. Often, builder’s risk insurance is carried by the builder. With wrap-up policies, owners and general contractors may be particularly concerned with the scope of the builder’s risk coverage. For example, if a wrap-up policy excludes property damage occurring during construction but the builder’s risk policy excludes faulty workmanship, a potential gap in coverage would exist. The wrap-up insurer might take the position that it won’t pay for what is essentially a builder’s risk claim. To prevent such an outcome, owners may find they need to add coverage to the builder’s risk policy to cover faulty work or at least repairs.

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Commercial Roofs Will Be More Difficult and Expensive to Insure

Early in the evening hours of June 12, 2014, Abilene, Texas, was hit by a hailstorm that covered approximately 40 percent of the town.

Early in the evening hours of June 12, 2014, Abilene, Texas, was hit by a hailstorm that covered approximately 40 percent of the town.

Early in the evening hours of June 12, 2014, Abilene, Texas, was hit by a hailstorm that covered approximately 40 percent of the town. What made the storm unusual was the size of the hailstones combined with the intensity and duration of the storm. Hailstones varied in size from 2 to well over 6 inches and fell for more than 23 minutes. Most of the stones were frozen rock-hard; some pieces formed when two to three mid-size hailstones froze together.

Some residents reported multiple deck and ceiling punctures with several homeowners reporting stones that penetrated deck and ceiling to smash flat-screen TVs. The damage covered most of the downtown business district; Hardin Simmons and Abilene Christian universities; and a large regional hospital complex, including outlying medical and laboratory facilities. Auto damage was severe and widespread, exacerbated by the large number of visitors gathered downtown for a popular monthly event. There were a few injuries, but no deaths, other than some animals at the local zoo. Initial damage estimates topped $400 million, a sizeable amount for a town of 100,000.

Hailstorms are not unknown in our area though not as common as might be assumed. Since I have been in the roofing business, we have had damaging hails in 1967, 1973, 1988, 2011 and 2014. Our company, now in its 124th year, did not keep records of storms prior to 1967. It has been my experience that no two storms are alike, each taking on a life of its own with regard to how the insurance industry reacts. The last several years, Texas has had major storms in a number of areas, including Amarillo, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and Rio Grande Valley. In these areas, roof claims litigation has exponentially increased, driven by a cottage industry of public adjusters, roof consultants, restoration contractors and attorneys, all making a business of inserting themselves between the insurance carrier and the building owner/policy holder. While there can be legitimate need for all these people at times, it does appear some may have crossed the ethical line to shake down insurance carriers with inflated claim demands.

The last several years, Texas has had major storms in a number of areas, including Amarillo, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and Rio Grande Valley.

The last several years, Texas has had major storms in a number of areas, including Amarillo, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Austin and Rio Grande Valley.

We experienced a little of this activity during our 2011 hail, but it was limited because the hail coverage area included few commercial properties. I was personally aware of several claims made in areas where there was no hail and the damages claimed far exceeded the value of the building.

In response to these perceived abuses, the insurance industry in 2014 has become much more aggressive in its claims handling, especially with gravel-surfaced built-up roofs. Gravel-surfaced roofs remain a significant portion of the roof inventory in this market. Adjusters have been paying for modified bitumen and metal roofing without too much argument. But, since the June hail, we have looked at dozens of buildings with gravel-surfaced roofs that, in our opinion, should be total losses, only to have the adjuster, who is often only vaguely familiar with gravel roofing balk at paying and call in consulting engineers to take sample cuts for lab analysis.

So far, it appears that in the absence of multiple punctures, the assumption is that there is no damage—or at least damage short of a total loss.

So far, it appears that in the absence of multiple punctures, the assumption by adjusters is that there is no damage—or at least damage short of a total loss.

My roofing intuition suggests this activity is a prelude to claims denial. So far, it appears that in the absence of multiple punctures, the assumption is that there is no damage—or at least damage short of a total loss. I can understand the adjuster’s desire to have incontrovertible evidence to base his payment or denial decision, but my experience as a contractor suggests that lab analysis is not foolproof. Some of the tests are based on theories that are at least debatable. The public adjusters and restoration industry have their own labs and tests to compete with the carriers. Regardless of tests, my experience as a contractor suggests that a built-up roof, even with gravel surfacing, is no match for a 20-minute pounding of baseball-sized hail. It is my hope that our industry does not devolve into an adversarial system, which pits dueling laboratories and experts into the claims process.

My suspicion is that it will become much more difficult and expensive to insure commercial roofing, with limits on coverage, much higher deductibles and more specific language to define what is damage. The real loser will be the building owner, forced to assume a much larger portion of the risk.

PHOTOS: JERRY SIEWERT

Zurich Helps Risk Managers Understand Challenges and Solutions of Photovoltaic Systems

As businesses across the world increasingly are turning to green technology for lowering energy costs and reducing their own carbon footprints, Zurich is working to help risk managers understand the risks associated with photovoltaic (PV) solar panel systems and how they can protect themselves from those risks. Key information related to the risks and challenges and recommended solutions was recently released in a Zurich RiskTopics white paper on photovoltaic systems, available at RiskTopics – Photovoltaic Systems.

Photovoltaic systems are designed to supply usable electric power for a variety of purposes, using the sun as the power source. When installed on or integrated into existing building components, the systems have unique characteristics that can introduce a variety of potential challenges and risks.

“Solar PV system use has increased three-fold over the last three years, which means more and more businesses need to understand the risks associated with them in order to help protect their property and business operations,” said Mike Widdekind, Technical Director – Property for Zurich Services Corporation. “We have developed the Photovoltaic Systems RiskTopics white paper specifically to provide detailed information to help our customers make necessary decisions about hazards associated with PV operations.”

Fire-related risks are among the top challenges associated with PV systems. They have more fire ignition sources and present more opportunity for fires to occur beyond the reach of standard fire protection and fire detection systems. Also, when a building fire requires firefighting activities, firefighters typically turn off all sources of electric power to the building. However, when PV systems are involved, a complete shutdown of electric power may not be possible since the PV panels continue to generate current from either daytime sunlight or even night time fire service scene lighting.

Risk managers also need to be aware of unexpected structural loads not anticipated by codes and standards such as snow or ice loads that accumulate in shaded areas below panels. When PV panel systems are installed on low slope – or flat – roofs, snow accumulations on panels will melt which can refreeze and may develop into unexpected ice accumulation, and over time might event result in building collapse.

In addition, PV solar panel systems can be vulnerable to wind loads and susceptible to damage caused by wind borne debris. Zurich has been especially involved in the impact wind has on solar panels through its active participation as a member of Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) Research Advisory Council. At Zurich’s recommendation, IBHS is currently testing the impacts of wind on solar panels and will apply the learnings from the study to help customers build more resilient communities around the world.

Zurich’s RiskTopics white paper identifies unresolved challenges as well as provides possible solutions to issues related to PV systems, and recommends that commercial building managers and risk managers try to avoid the installation or integration of photovoltaic systems onto or into buildings until the challenges and risks associated with this system are fully understood and addressed.

CNA Makes Donation to Chicago Chapter of Rebuilding Together

In celebration of National Roofing Week, Chicago-based insurer CNA has donated $5,000 to the Chicago chapter of Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates the homes of low-income homeowners.

CNA’s donation was presented during NRCA‘s board of directors meeting Thursday, July 10, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. The meeting was part of NRCA’s Midyear meetings, which are held concurrently with National Roofing Week.

Taking place July 6-12, National Roofing Week aims to increase recognition of the significance of roofs to every home and business, promote the good deeds of the roofing industry and stress the value of professional roofing contractors.

NRCA contractor members are encouraged to give back to their communities and charitable organizations during National Roofing Week.

“As part of our commitment to serving our communities and as a proud partner of NRCA for more than 44 years, CNA is excited to support National Roofing Week with a donation to Rebuilding Together, an organization dedicated to improving the homes of Chicago’s most challenged neighborhoods,” says Rhonda Lohmar, CNA’s program director for NRCA.

CNA Recognizes Insurance Agencies with Commitment to Construction

CNA Financial Corp. has announced the members of its 2014 Construction Leader Board. The company selected 28 agencies from more than 1,000 construction-focused agencies throughout the United States.

“CNA is committed to growing profitably within the construction industry and to deepening relationships with our best producers,” says John Tatum, CNA’s senior vice president, Construction. “The idea behind Leader Board is to recognize those agencies that have also demonstrated their commitment to construction and provide them with the tools they need to continue to grow and succeed in the future.”

The 2014 Construction Leader Board members include:

    Anchor Insurance & Surety, Portland, Ore.

    Barmore Insurance Agency, Houston

    Bowen, Miclette & Britt Insurance Agency, Houston

    Brown & Brown, Lisle, Ill.

    Dawson Companies, Cleveland

    E.J. Wells Insurance Agency, Westford, Mass.

    Gans & Smith Insurance Agency, Longview, Texas

    Halcyon Underwriters, Maitland, Fla.

    HUB International, Metarie, La.

    IMA Inc., Denver, Colo.

    INSURICA, Oklahoma City, Okla.

    InterWest Insurance Services, Sacramento, Calif.

    Lawley Insurance, Buffalo, N.Y.

    Moody Insurance Agency, Denver

    Neace Lukens, Cincinnati

    PayneWest Insurance, Missoula, Mont.

    Sihle Insurance Group, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

    T.P. Daley Insurance Agency, West Springfield, Mass.

    The Cashion Co., Little Rock, Ark.

    The Charles L. Crane Agency, St. Louis

    The Manuel Lujan Agencies, Albuquerque, N.M.

    Thomas & Farr Agency, Monroe, La.

    TIBCO, Montgomery, Ala.

    Time Insurance Agency, Austin, Texas

    United Valley Insurance Services, Fresno, Calif.

    Wells Fargo, Louisville, Ky.

    Wells Fargo, Albuquerque, N.M.

    Wells Fargo, San Carlos, Calif.

    CNA’s Construction Leader Board was developed in 2012 to recognize and reward top-producing construction agencies who have demonstrated their commitment to the industry.

    Benefits of being a Construction Leader Board agency include enhanced access to services and resources offered by CNA.