As you prepare your spring-cleaning checklist, ensure the HVAC system is on your list.
The average Ontario household spends over $2,300 on energy costs in their home throughout the year. Approximately half that cost is associated with heating and cooling the home. With rising energy costs, hotter summers and colder winters, staying on top of this household budget line is ever more important.
Beyond keeping immediate household costs down, maintaining your HVAC system helps reduce long-term replacement costs and is beneficial to the health and well-being of your family.
1. Change the filter in your furnace.
This is first because it is easy, quick and effective. A clean air filter is a big benefit to the health of your entire HVAC system and the health of your family. It’s reported a clean air filter can save up to 15% of the heating and cooling costs for your home.
For the HVAC system, a dirty filter means the HVAC motor must work harder to deliver air throughout your home. This wears on the motor while also pulling more energy to push the air through. A clean filter reduces current expense while also prolonging the entire system.
A clean filter also benefits your family with cleaner air. Pet dander is an all-year issue for pet owners but Spring is the season of pollination! With the beauty of blossoming around us comes the suffering of allergies for many. A clean air filter can keep your home as a safe spot for relief from allergies which keeps medical costs down as well.
2. Clean up the outside air conditioning unit.
Many AC units have a very tiny drainage hole located near the cabinet’s base. For the AC unit to work effectively, the hole must remain clear. You can use something small like a bobby pin, screw driver or paperclip to ensure the hole is clear.
While you’re doing that take a couple moments to ensure the space around the AC unit is clear. Clean any debris from the winter season. For garden planning, it is recommended that vegetation be at least two feet away from the unit.
3. Consider a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats are not only the cool new thing to have in your home. A properly programmed thermostat can also save a good chunk on energy costs throughout the year while keeping your home cozy and comfortable.
A smart thermostat can program your home to be warmer (during the spring and summer) while you are not home and cooler while you are. With additional assistance from the user, these systems can also be programmed to get the most out of mid-peak and off-peak energy hours.
For many, operating a retail storefront is an exciting and rewarding experience. For some, opening a retail store is a dream; for others it is a prudent business opportunity while others open with a combination of the two. While it is easy to focus efforts on managing the day-to-day operations of the store, many business owners are not present to important exposures that need to be addressed to keep the business moving as planned.
While the type of store you manage does make a difference, there are a number of risk exposures to consider. These include exposures like product liability, general liability, business continuity, property damage and merchandise damage. We have put together a short list of exposures for you to consider.
Your building, signage, merchandise and equipment are all areas in which your business has invested. If an incident occurs to this or other property it can greatly impact your business’s long-term chance of surviving and thriving. Property exposures can be brought about by both natural and intentional sources including extreme weather, actions by customers and employees and straight up vandalism to your property.
Equipment Breakdown Exposure
“But I am not manufacturing anything, how can I have equipment breakdown exposure?” Great question. For many retail operations, the primary equipment concern is related to equipment to help service customers – like a point of sale system being taken out by a power outage. Things like this could cause interruptions in business or even have them shut down for a prolonged period. Equipment like the owner’s computer, HVAC systems, mechanical/electrical systems all have a chance of breaking down.
We often think about theft (product or money) and crime as the same thing but there are other crime-related exposures and scams that retail businesses need to consider as well. Retail money fraud is a significant concern, checkout fraud (swapping bar codes on products), returning stolen items for cash or store credit and online scams are all exposures your retail business faces.
Premises Liability Exposure
Trips, slips and falls are all significant concerns for retail operations. Many individuals are walking in, out and throughout your store throughout the day. When injuries occur in your business, you could be held responsible. Wet floors, uneven floors, unexpected steps and other small items can lead to big claims.
Product Liability Exposure
Did you know that if the products you sell harm a customer in any way, that they can sue your business? This leads to costly legal fees and settlements. Depending on the severity of the issue, costs can easily climb into 6-figures. You can do everything in your power to protect your business but mishaps happen and it is impossible to safeguard from all potential product hazards.
Business Interruption Exposure
What would happen to your cash flow if your business was not able to operate for a prolonged period? Natural disasters, fires, product recalls, cyber breach shutdowns, staff shortage or supplier issues are all potential reasons for a retail operation to be unwillingly closed. Business interruption, or business continuity, is a big exposure that can lead to an unfortunate end to retail businesses dreams being fulfilled.
Cyber Risk Exposure
Retail businesses are known targets for cyber crime. Retail operations process a high volume of debit and credit card information. Depending on the nature of the business, it is common for retail operations to keep personal data on clients. The biggest cyber threat is still human error and it can be challenging to make the time to properly train all staff on computer and data safety. This exposes your operation to ransomware, viruses, phishing scams and malware.
Employee Liability Exposure
Retail operations are known for slightly higher turnover than other industries. Each new hire and additional departure increase the employee liability risk for the employer. Employers are also required to create safe working environments for their employees. In a retail environment it is challenging to control who comes in the store and how those patrons act. An employee that goes through a distressing event due to a client or co-worker adds to the overall employee liability risk.
Some retail operations require employees to operate a vehicle on behalf of the business. This may include local delivery of goods, delivery to shipping locations, local deposit and banking, marketing material pick-up and delivery and many other business-related uses. While this is important for operations, improper use of a vehicle does lead to accidents and insurance claims.
If I loan my car to a friend and they get into an accident does it affect my insurance?
"When you loan your car, you loan your insurance." What do we mean by this? Matthew Leyland, Bryson's Director of Personal Insurance, shares liability concerns car owners need to consider before letting other people drive their vehicle.
If you still decide to loan your vehicle to someone, please confirm they have a valid driver's license in place and that they have active car insurance.
*You may be wondering if this changes when using a designated driving service to get your car home safely at the end of the evening. Unfortunately, like this Toronto woman found out post-accident, you are also loaning your insurance to the driver in a scenario like this too.*
For us, we see our purpose as your insurance broker as much more than ensuring you have the lowest price on your personal insurance (though we routinely save individuals and families a significant amount on their personal insurance). We believe in knowledge and in sharing that knowledge.
If you value authentic advice, a sense of partnership and personalized interactions, then it is time to see if the Bryson Experience is right for you.
What does legalized cannabis mean for Ontario employers? We asked Carole McAfee, partner with Toronto law firm Fernandes Hearn LLP, to share insight on employee practices risk management concerns employers should be considering.
Carole also joined back in June, before Canada legalized cannabis, to review current legislation, probable outcomes and provide best practices for employers in Ontario. You can view the Cannabis in the Workplace webinar here.
~ Transcript ~
My name is Carole McAfee Wallace and I am a Transportation Lawyer in Toronto.
Now that cannabis has been legalized my clients are contacting me to ask:
What are employee rights in the workplace and what employers dutie and obligations are?
First and foremost, if you don't already have a fit-for-duty policy or you haven't reviewed and updated your fit-for-duty policy, you should do that to ensure that everyone understands that, not withstanding it is now legal, recreational cannabis is not permitted in the workplace. Employees must come to work fit-to-perform free from impairment. So, that is the first thing.
The other thing that employers need to be mindful of is the human rights implications that we are reminded of now that cannabis is legalized. That is if an employee has a substance abuse issue or an addiction that it is a disability that is protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Human Rights Act if you are federally regulated. An employer must accommodate to the point of undo hardship.
Second, medical marijuana has been legal for a number of years In Canada. This also leads to employers duty to accommodate the employee to the point of undo hardship.
Bottom line, there is no duty to accommodate the use of recreational cannabis in the workplace.
Additional questions? Email Carole McAfee here.
What is the price of a hack? It is an important question that Dina Temple-Raston and Karen Duffin, hosts of NPR’s Planet Money, seek to find out. Though the discussion is focused around a hack with a US-based company, the situation is the same for Canadian businesses as well.
Hackers are an expensive headache for companies. But there might be a simple economic fix. ~ NPR
A big shift in how Canadian organizations manage data breaches occurred at the tail end of 2018. As of November 1st, 2018 Canadian businesses are mandated to publicly report data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner and to any potentially impacted person or company. The report from Planet Money provides a good look into what it may be like for you if your company experienced a data breach.
The story of the podcast revolves around Mavis, a supervisor in a financial services organization. One day Mavis comes into work, opens her inbox and sees an email from someone she knows. But the email content seems a little fishy. She emails back and asks the person if it is a legitimate email. Mavis received a response confirming that the email was legitimate and Mavis made the decision to click the link… and that is where everything turned.
A few days later Mavis opened her sent folder to see hundreds of sent emails that she did not send! And in that moment Mavis realized her computer was hacked. As a supervisor, Mavis had access to social security numbers, banking information, bank statements, and even documents with wiring instructions attached. For a hacker it was like finding a gold mine.
Mavis instantly felt panicked and ashamed for being the cause of her company having to spend so much money and time for her mistake.
CYBER RISK TIP: Create an environment where staff feel comfortable sharing with their Manager or IT Department when they think they MAY have clicked a bad link or made some other cyber error.
Next, Mavis’ boss, Wendy, received a call. It was a large client calling who asked Wendy “Did you get hacked?” Wendy shook inside… imagine getting THAT call from a client with whom you have spent years building trust with.
What would you do next?
Find out how Wendy confidently sprang into action with her secret weapon… Cyber Insurance.
The holiday season is supposed to be full of joy and cheer but that is not how everyone experiences it throughout the entire holiday season. Taking care of your own wellness is paramount. Here we share some of the most common holiday triggers and some tips to help reduce holiday stress, depression and anxiety.
Experiencing Family Overload
As much as we may like to believe, not everyone gets along with the members of their family. You may also be asked to participate in things or contribute more time than you can handle. Advice to manage this is to stay grounded in what you can commit to and what you can not. Set boundaries to keep yourself well and share those with your family. It is unlikely that everyone in your family will understand and just be okay knowing that you are taking care of yourself.
If necessary, set limits for visiting time. There is no rule that states you need to stay all day and evening. If it seems too much, only visit for a couple hours instead. And if you are staying over at another family member’s place during the holidays, be comfortable letting them know that you will be taking some alone time throughout your visit to relax and recharge.
Spending Too Much Money During the Holidays
We all want to make everyone happy during the holidays and the way many people in North America choose to do that is by purchasing gifts. Advertising and social media gets into our minds and has us thinking we need to show our love and appreciation through the latest gadgets and other expensive items. And while there may be that moment of joy when the people in our lives open gifts, the impact is often short-lived. What isn’t though is the incoming credit card bill in January.
A big credit card bill can bring stress and heavy emotion during the darkest month of the year. Instead, take on shifting the conversation this holiday season. Be responsible and do not spend beyond your means. Plan your budget in advance and use cash or debit to avoid the large bill in January.
Feeling Lonely and Isolated
We see in TV shows and movies big families getting together but in reality, there are many people who spend the holidays alone. This can leave a person experiencing isolation and loneliness. Fortunately, there are many free and local holiday activities. Check out a community events calendar where you live and see what is happening there. You can also visit a site like MeetUp.com and join a group there. Groups you can find may have a common interest in things like hiking, board games, restaurant-hopping, crafts and many more.
Volunteering is also a great way to get out of the house and shift your mindset during the holidays. Volunteers are often warm and welcoming by nature. Beyond giving back to others, it is an opportunity to meet great people.
Dealing with Loss and Grief
Holidays can be a big reminder of the loss of a loved one. While we may want to keep our feelings quiet to not dampen the mood, it is important to share and be open. There is a good chance others in your circle of family and friends are experiencing similar emotions.
Instead of keeping quiet, acknowledge the season will not be the same without them. Create a new tradition to embrace new beginnings. The new tradition could capture memories of that person or be entirely new. And spend time with supportive and caring people who will give you the space and freedom to be yourself during this time.
Suffering the Affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a real thing. This type of depression is related to the change in season. There is less sunshine during the winter season. The sun rises later, sets earlier and there are many of the daytime hours with clouds of snow above us. If you are experiencing feeling blue, consider joining a support group. In part, the affect could be as a result of a shortage of Vitamin D and lower levels of activity. Walks, vitamin D supplements and mood lighting may help but we suggest visiting your family physician to talk it over for your specific situation.
Reflecting on the Year that Was
As the year comes to a close, many of us take time to reflect on what has changed over the past year. While we aim to focus on what we accomplished, many get stuck in looking at what did not happen or what we fell short on. If you are heading down that road of negative self talk, take a moment to interrupt it and instead give yourself credit for the things that are going well in your life. Look for even the smallest things. It is the little things that can make a big difference over time.
In this same conversation, it is common to take on setting New Year Resolutions. When setting these resolutions, it is often common to set unrealistic goals that instantly cause added stress and pressure to meet. Instead, take on creating a small and manageable resolution. Take on setting a resolution that begins later in the year (instead of right away on January 1st), or give up creating resolutions at all!
If you are finding yourself stressed and overwhelmed…
Take a moment to note the phone numbers listed below. If you find yourself in a situation where you are stressed, overwhelmed, depressed or anxious, reach out to these organizations. It is what they are here for and you are not alone (or they would not exist).
First, if you are in immediate crisis do not hesitate to call 911. That is what the service is there for so if you need it, use it.
Here are some other organizations that are available to you:
- Durham Distress Line – 1-800-452-0688
- Durham Mental Health Services – 1-800-742-1890
- Ontario Shores Crisis Line – 1-800-263-2679
- Ontario Mental Health Helpline – 1-866-576-2997
From our team at Bryson, we wish you a happy holiday season. Be sure to take care of yourself.
Mind yourself and mind your mental health.
When was the last time your auto garage reviewed the total value of vehicles you keep on your lot?
I am John Flanagan and I am an Account Executive with Bryson Insurance. My previous experience has provided me with the knowledge to be a valuable partner for auto garage owners. I have a background as a mechanic and still practice on my own vehicles today. Please watch this video as I share the reason I care so much about helping auto garage owners. I also provide one piece of advice garage owners should consider today.
If you are a garage shop owner and practice in the care, custody and control of your customer's vehicles it is imperative you obtain a garage policy. Garage liability insurance is part of the policy and includes coverage for the physical damage to a customers' automobile when you are held legally responsible for such damage. As the value of vehicles continues to rise and inside technology continuing to rise in cost to repair, it is important to review your current liability limits in this area. If there is a gap between your limit and the value of vehicles in your care, you may find yourself in a challenging position should damage occur.
It is prudent to sit down and review your current limits today. I am happy to visit you at your shop. Click below to send me an email now and we can set up time to meet. You can also call me directly at 905-426-5003.
When was the last time you had a conversation with your insurance broker about your inventory limits?
During holiday times throughout the year, businesses will bring on additional inventory to sell throughout the holiday season (not just at Christmas) and naturally forget to advise their insurance broker. If you know your organization carries additional inventory at certain times through the year you may want to check in with the team member charged with overseeing insurance considerations to ensure they are aware to have this conversation with their broker.
It is important to take this added step and let us know as some of our insurance carriers offer a Peak Season endorsement as part of their extensions of coverage. While these extensions may have restrictions (such as 125% of the average 12-month stock limit) it will still provide added protection in case of a loss while carrying extra goods.
A business may be extremely busy during certain times of the year. In these cases, we find that the extension limit is still insufficient to protect the increased value of inventory. When we discover these situations, we take time to review coverage with our client to ensure insurance protection is aligned with inventory risk.
We are ready to support your business success. Get in touch with our team today to start a conversation.
Work holiday parties are a time for co-workers to laugh, mingle and connect. As the party host we have share tips to keep everyone in the spirit of the season!
The holiday season is filled with events full of good cheer, connection and fun. And while these events have every right to be focused on maximizing the enjoyment for staff, they can create a series of risks for the company hosting the party. Consider if an employee is injured at the party or causes damages - the employer is often on the hook. Depending on the significance of the injury or damage, it can lead to costly litigation and damage to your company reputation.
To recover larger losses it is important for companies to have the right insurance coverage in place before the party beings. Saying this, there are a number of best practices to minimize risk so you can focus on maximizing fun.
How do we responsibly serve alcohol at the holiday party?
If alcohol is served you will be classified as a ‘social-host’. Why is this important? Social-hosts may end up being responsible for the acts of their guests both at the party and after the party. An employer may be liable following a drunken driving or similar incident.
While the obvious way to limit alcohol liability risks is to avoid serving it, this is not usually common practice. To promote safety of employees and guests at employer events, consider these best practices:
- Host event at a restaurant or hotel (away from your office);
- Make available non-alcoholic beverage options;
- Utilize bar stations instead of servers circulating the room. This slows down consumption;
- Minimize free or low-cost alcohol. It is common to provide an ‘open bar’ but it is safer to provide a ‘free drink ticket’ or two instead;
How do we monitor marijuana consumption at a company-sponsored party?
Marijuana is legal now in Canada. Similar to alcohol, cannabis can increase risk at the party. However, depending on location, it may not be permitted to smoke cannabis in certain areas. Post-party can be dangerous too. Approximately 34% of vehicle crash deaths can be linked to drug-impaired driving, nearly the same percentage as crashes related to alcohol.
To keep guests safe and avoid liability concerns, consider stating the rules for cannabis consumption at the party. Remind employees that although it is a social event, it is still a work function and workplace policies still apply.
How do we keep workplace harassment and discrimination out of the party?
You may have heard stories of inappropriate behaviour at holiday party functions but what you may not have heard is that workplace harassment and discrimination policies are still present at company-sponsored events. Not enforcing these policies at a party can lead to costly litigation and claims.
In the event of a harassment related issue, does your organization have Employee Practices Liability coverage in place?
Additional best practices include:
- Aiming to have a single entrance and exit for the party. This makes it easier to know who is at the party and easier to keep unknown guests from entering;
- Making the event a family party where employees can bring their spouse, partner, children or friend. This certainly helps to deter inappropriate behaviour;
- Avoid making attendance mandatory. Employees who do not want to be at the party may be more likely to take out their frustration on others at the party;
- Keep event themes and decorations as neutral as possible. Ideally your holiday party would not make reference to certain religions or beliefs. It is also important to pick a party date that does not conflict with a religious holiday.
How do we best manage food in-sensitivities?
Food is often a centerpiece of any great party. Food is also a useful way to keep party goers sober (starchy foods help reduce absorption of alcohol). However, there are food-related risks employers would benefit from considering.
If an employee or guest gets sick from food, there is the potential to sue the employer for negligence.
To minimize food-related risks, employer best practices include:
- Ask employees to disclose any allergies they or their guests have. Two solid ways to manage this would be to (a) have employees respond back on the RSVP and (b) have employees reach out to the event coordinator directly;
- If you are serving a buffet, include food cards that list ingredients in the food. If it is a sit-down meal, request the ingredients be listed on the menu;
- For added protection against illness, employers can ask those preparing the food to share their preparation and handling practices.
- Moreover, when working with a third-party food provider, ensure they have proper insurance in place as well.
Is property damage really a concern at our party?
Property damage can occur at just about any kind of party, even small, company-sponsored events. As the host, it’s your job to ensure your guests remain safe, behave appropriately and respect the venue and its contents.
To do so, employers should:
- Set behaviour expectations before the party.
- Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behaviour. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
- Remove valuable items from the party area wherever possible. Make sure any areas that you don’t want guests to enter are locked, roped off or secured in some way.
- Review your liability insurance and know what it covers.
- Ensure the venue is equipped to handle the number of individuals invited to the party.
Secure the Coverage You Need in Advance
Even if you take all the appropriate precautions, incidents can still occur. As such, it’s important for all organizations to secure adequate insurance.
Each business is different and may require additional policies to account for all of their exposures. Contact our team at Bryson Insurance today. We would be happy to discuss having a safe holiday party and other insurance needs as well.
One question we often receive from classic car owners that we insure is "If my classic car suffers a total loss will I get it back?"
We have good news to share...
For many classic car enthusiasts the vehicle means much more than a device to get from point A to point B. There is deep pride in the restoration of a classic vehicle and memories created from the many hours working on and in the vehicle. For many classic car owners, the most painful day is when that classic car is lost forever.
One of the common reasons we have forced to say goodbye to our classic vehicles is when the car suffers a covered total loss. A covered total loss is when something happens to the vehicle - vandalism, accident, natural event - and the vehicle is deemed non-salvageable. What usually happens when a classic vehicle can't be salvaged the insurance company takes possession of the vehicle and provides the vehicle owner with a cheque for the guaranteed value.
That is not how it has to be anymore! We know many classic car owners that would love their vehicle back regardless of the condition. It gives you the opportunity to rebuild the vehicle, up-cycle for a future project, or even simply take off a piece to retain as a memory.
By adding the Cherished Salvage coverage to your existing classic vehicle insurance policy, you will be able to keep your vehicle to restore it or use the parts for another project and STILL receive the full guaranteed value of the vehicle. Either way, the car you love lives on!
It is time to get a quote from Bryson Insurance for your classic vehicle.