What Is Cold Stress And Are You At Risk?

Cold Stress

Cold StressWorkers who are required to work outdoors in cold environments for an extended period of time may be at risk for cold stress. Weather extremes, such as high winds, cold temperatures, ice, snow, sleet and freezing rain, present potential hazards to workers. Specifically, cold stress can contribute to hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. 

The Risks of Cold Stress

  • Hypothermia occurs when your body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced and your normal body temperature drops to less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include shivering, fatigue, dilated pupils, blue skin, and a slowed pulse and breathing. If you suspect someone has hypothermia:
    • Call for emergency assistance as soon as possible.
    • Move the person to a warm, dry area. Do not leave them alone.
    • Remove any wet clothing and replace it with warm, dry clothing or wrap the person in blankets.
    • Have the person drink warm, sweet drinks (sugar water or a sports drink) if they are alert.
    • Have the person move his or her arms and legs to create muscle heat.
  • Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Symptoms include reduced blood flow to the hands and feet, numbness, aching and waxy or blistered skin. If you suspect someone has frostbite: 
    • Move the person to a warm, dry area. Do not leave him or her alone.
    • Remove any wet or tight clothing that may cut off blood flow to the affected area.
    • DO NOT rub the affected skin, as this can cause damage to the skin and tissue.
    • Gently place the affected area in warm water (105° F) to slowly warm the tissue. Do not pour warm water directly on the skin because it may warm the tissue too fast and cause damage. Warming the skin generally takes about 25 to 40 minutes.
    • After the affected area has been warmed, it may become puffy and blister, accompanied by a burning sensation or numbness. When normal movement, feeling and skin color have returned, dry the affected area and keep it warm.
    • If the affected area could get cold again, do not warm the skin. Should the skin be warmed and then become cold a second time, there could be severe tissue damage.
  • Trench foot is caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold temperatures. Symptoms include numbness, leg cramps, swelling, blisters and ulcers.

What Can Workers Do?

To protect yourself whenever you’re working outdoors in extreme cold, consider doing the following:

  • Wear several layers of loose clothing to provide insulation.
  • Make sure to protect your ears, face, hands and feet.
  • Move into warm locations during work breaks.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend outside.
  • Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in your first-aid kit.
  • Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with your bare skin.

If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding cold stress safety at work, consult your supervisor.

Safety Tips For All Your Holiday Decorating Needs

holiday decorating

holiday decoratingIt’s cooling down and holiday spirit is in the air. For many, it’s time to start holiday decorating! While holiday decorating adds beauty to your home, it can also bring added risk. Trees, garlands, and lights can add extra fire hazards if not used properly. The last thing you want for Christmas is a homeowners insurance claim to deal with. But don’t worry, we have a few tips to keep your home and your family safe this holiday. 

Christmas Tree Safety

  • Keep a fresh-cut tree outdoors and cover the trunk in snow, or immerse it in a bucket of water until you are ready to decorate it.
  • When you are ready to put up a live tree, cut a 1- or 2-inch diagonal off the bottom of the trunk. The new cut will help the tree to absorb water, which preserves its freshness.
  • Select a spot for the tree that is at least three feet away from a heat source.
  • Put the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand with widespread legs, and keep the stand filled with water.
  • Once a tree becomes dried out, do not keep it in your home or garage, as it is highly flammable.

Holiday Lighting Safety

  • Mixing and matching lights can create a fire hazard, so keep outside lights outdoors and inside lights indoors.
  • Always buy lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, such as UL, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings before using them. Throw away any that appear damaged.
  • When hanging your lights, string lights together using built-in connectors. Do not join more than 200 midget lights or 50 larger lamps through one string or cord.
  • Do not connect more than three sets of lights to one extension cord.
  • Remember to unplug all decorations and lights, both inside and outside your home, before leaving or going to bed.
  • If you blow a fuse, unplug the lights from the outlet and immediately replace the blown fuse. If the replacement fuse blows again, a short circuit may be present. Throw the faulty light string or decoration away, or if it is new, return it for a refund.
  • When hanging lights outside use a ladder made of non conductive materials to reduce the risk of electrocution. 

Candle Safety

  • Place candles in stable holders and in a spot where they cannot be easily disturbed.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate your Christmas tree.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended, and always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Avoid placing candles near flammable objects.
  • Keep burning candles out of the reach of children.

Taking extra precautions while decorating can be the difference between a relaxing holiday season or a tragic holiday season. 

If you found this information helpful, please share with others. 

Halloween Doesn’t Need To Scare Your Bank Account

Halloween

Halloween

What do you get when you mix costumes, decorations, and candy? A Happy Halloween!!
Those that have children, probably feel the sting a little more while at the check-out. But Halloween doesn’t need to break the bank.

A few tips to keep in mind to help you save money

• Buy bulk candy to get the most for your money.
• Ration out how much you will give each Trick-or-Treater.
• Buy pumpkins close to Halloween to get the best deal.
• Make your own decorations – use leaves for stuffing in outside decorations, spray paint cardboard or cereal boxes for DIY headstones, or use cotton balls as cobwebs.
• Make your own costumes or only buy what you have to.

Halloween Safety Tips

In addition to saving money, your family’s safety is extremely important. Costumes, trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving are all Halloween traditions. But there are also dangers associated with each of those activities.

Costume Precautions

• Do not let children wear baggy or long costumes, as they are difficult to walk in and can be tripping hazards.
• Purchase wigs, costumes and accessories that are fire-retardant.
• Select face makeup and paint that is labeled as “FDA Approved” or “Non-toxic” to prevent allergic reactions.
• Place reflective tape on your children’s costumes and candy buckets if they are going trick-or-treating at night.

Trick-or-Treat Safety

• Remind children to walk only on the sidewalk and look both ways before crossing the street.
• Do not allow children under 12 years old to go trick-or-treating by themselves.
• Remind children to never approach or get into a car with a stranger offering them candy.
• Once your children get home, inspect their candy.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

• Only carve pumpkins on a flat surface with good lighting, such as a kitchen table.
• Use a pumpkin-carving kit that includes tools appropriate for the task.
• Place lit jack-o’-lanterns away from flammable objects such as sheets and curtains.
Having a good time does not mean spending a lot of money. Even on a budget you can have a spooky Happy Halloween!

Dealing with flu season and the COVID-19 Pandemic

flu season and the COVID-19 Pandemic

flu season and the COVID-19 PandemicThe arrival of the fall and winter months signals many things, including the beginning of flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity peaks between December and February. This means that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only public health concern as we approach the winter months. 2020 we will be dealing with flu season and the COVID-19 Pandemic.

This combination has public health experts fearing a potential “twindemic” in surges of COVID-19 cases and another deadly flu season. As such, the CDC is urging the public to take action to avoid another deadly flu season and prevent further spread of COVID-19 cases.

Flu vs. COVID-19 Symptoms

Because both the flu and COVID-19 affect the respiratory system, it can be difficult to determine whether you have the flu or COVID-19.

The flu is most often associated with the sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. Most people recover within a few days to less than two weeks. Occasionally, complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections can occur. Seasonal influenza can cause serious complications for people of any age, but children and the elderly are more vulnerable.

The list of COVID-19 symptoms is vast, and the disease affects people differently, with some experiencing little to no symptoms and others experiencing severe illness. Generally, symptoms can appear two to 14 days following exposure to COVID-19. According to the CDC, the most common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Because there is some overlap between the symptoms, it may be difficult to determine whether you have the flu or COVID-19 without being tested. As such, if you believe you have the flu or COVID-19, please call your doctor and explain your symptoms before going to a facility to seek care. Doing so will ensure that you receive the care you need without risking the spread of COVID-19.

Prevention

In preparation for a potential twindemic this fall and winter, take these steps to protect yourself and loved ones:

  • Get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is your best chance of preventing the illness. Currently, the CDC recommends that anyone over 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccine by the end of October. Talk to your doctor to learn more.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay away from others when you feel under the weather.
  • Practice social distancing, which means staying at least 6 feet away from others, when out in public.
  • Wear a protective face covering or cloth mask when out in public.
  • Avoid large gatherings, especially those that aren’t socially distanced and don’t require masks or face coverings.
  • Wash your hands often using soap and warm water to protect against germs. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that’s been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active and drink plenty of water to keep your immune system strong.
  • Manage your stress and eat a nutritious diet rich in healthy grains, fruits, vegetables and fiber.

Click here to learn more about the CDC’s prevention recommendations for both the flu and COVID-19.

Take Action Today

Do your part to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season. By taking action, you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and another deadly flu season.

3 Ways Your Cell Phone Is Harming Your Sleep

harming your sleep

harming your sleepThe personal electronic devices that help make your daily life easier may be doing the opposite in regard to your nightly sleep habits. If you’re having a hard time falling and staying asleep, your cellphone, TV and tablet may be to blame. Keep reading so see how these devices are actually harming your sleep. 

The Negative Effects

Researchers at Harvard identified three main ways that using your phone, or any electronic device, before going to bed can derail your sleep schedule:

  1. Melatonin suppression. The Harvard study revealed that those who used electronic devices before going to sleep had lower levels of the sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin. That’s because the blue light emitted by electronic devices suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin controls your circadian rhythm—your body’s natural sleep and wake clock.
  2. Later sleep onset. The study also found that the amount of time it took to fall asleep was longer for those who used electronic devices than for those who didn’t. If you’re mindlessly scrolling through social media sites instead of reading a book or meditating, it’s more likely that you’ll have a harder time falling asleep.
  3. Reduced REM sleep. Research shows that electronic device usage before bed results in a reduced amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles. REM sleep is a vital component of our sleep patterns.

What Can You Do?

To prevent the harmful effects of electronic devices, there are a few steps that you can take, including:

  • Check your device’s settings for a “nighttime” mode, which adjusts the screen lighting to promote sleep.
  • Refrain from using your phone for at least an hour before bed.
  • Set your device’s sound settings to “silent”. This way you won’t be woken by texts or emails while you’re trying to sleep.
  • Try reading a book or meditating to relax before bed instead of using your phone or watching TV.

Cell phones are an important part of our daily life, however take the above tips into consideration and quit harming your sleep. For more information on sleep-promoting activities, contact your doctor today.

5 Strategies You Need To Know To Reduce Benefits Costs In 2021

Reduce Benefits Costs

Reduce Benefits CostsHealth benefits costs are almost certainly going to rise in 2021. They’ve been trending upward for years—over 50% in the last decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation—and the current state of economic uncertainty over COVID-19 won’t slow things down. Realistically, after enduring months of business closures and managing exhausted workforces, many employers will be lucky to maintain uninterrupted operations.

That’s why it’s critical for employers to think about reducing health costs right now—figure out cost-effective benefits first so money can be shuffled as needed later. Having a solid plan going into 2021 will better position organizations facing limited budgets.
Here are five strategies employers should explore when looking to reduce benefits costs:

1. Dig Into Health Costs

Employers don’t let themselves overpay for the materials they use during production, so why is health care any different? Employers should look into every health care figure they can, from overall premium costs to individual employee expenditures. Understanding where money goes can help focus cost-cutting efforts.
For instance, if employees are going to the emergency room for every health visit, employers know they must promote more health literacy among their workforce.
Speak with Rinehart, Walters & Danner for details about digging into your health plan cost data.

2. Embrace Technology

The health care landscape of today is starkly different than the one of even a few years ago. Now, the name of the game is virtual health care or “telemedicine.” There are numerous ways for individuals to take charge of their health care without the hassle—and added cost—of in-person consultations.
For example, there is tech that can monitor glucose levels to help diabetic employees without test strips; there are virtual visits available for doctors, psychiatrists and other health professionals; and there are countless wellness apps that can help individuals make proactive health choices.

3. Consider Alternative Plan Options

Not every plan option will work for every organization. For years, PPOs were the standard, but now high deductible health plans with savings options are having their moment. These plans enable greater heath consumerism and put the decision-making power into employees’ hands. Employers should consider offering mechanisms like HSAs, FSAs and HRAs to help shift costs without compromising health care quality.

4. Require Active Enrollment

Some organizations allow employees to passively enroll in their health benefits. This may seem like a nice timesaver, but it can actually hinder employee health literacy. Instead, employers should require active enrollment among employees. This approach would force employees to review all their benefits options each year before making selections. Not only does this make employees consider important life events, it also affords them an opportunity to reevaluate the benefits they’re paying for and potentially not using. Ultimately, active enrollment can make employees wiser health care consumers, improve proactive health care and lower overall health expenditures.

5. Change the Funding Structure

Another, more drastic, cost-cutting strategy is changing how health plans are funded. Most organizations use a fully insured model, where employers pay a set premium to an insurance provider, but that’s not the only option. For some employers, self-funding, level-funding or reference-based pricing models may be more attractive solutions.

Let us help you review your options to reduce benefits costs

Suffice it to say, there are a variety of ways that employers can structure their health plans—even if that means requiring employees to seek insurance in the individual health market.

Whatever your needs, know that Rinehart, Walters & Danner is here to help. Contact us today to discuss your 2021 benefits and ways to reduce benefits costs.

Important Insurance Tips For Your College Student

Insurance tips for your college student

Insurance tips for your college student

High School is over and it’s time for the next big step, college. The new students schedule is done, books are purchased and the day is approaching fast for the big move. New furniture, décor and electronics are all packed and ready to go. Before your college student can begin their next adventure you have one last item to complete on your check list. Talking with your insurance agent. While that may seem like an odd item to have on your checklist, it is probably one of the most important. Your insurance agent will have important insurance tips for your college student. When your child leaves home and takes up a new residence at college, that can affect how their belongings are covered. Below are a few questions you may have when it comes to insurance and your college student.

Will my college student’s belongings be covered by my homeowners policy?

Does your child lives in a campus dorm? There is usually a small amount of coverage that would be extended from your homeowners policy. If your child has expensive items, or a lot of items, you may need to consider purchasing additional coverage. Does your child lives in off campus housing? Their belongings may not be covered at all.

Is renters insurance really necessary?

Yes. Chances are your child’s belongings will exceed the amount provided by your homeowners policy, if they are even covered at all. Renters insurance will cover the possessions in your child’s housing at a small cost. You can purchase renters insurance for as little as $15 per month. This will not only give you the extra coverage, but peace of mind that that expensive new laptop or TV will be protected in the event of fire, theft, or other disaster.

In addition to your college students belongings, the move to college can affect your auto coverage and health coverage.

Will your child move more than 100 miles away from home?

If this answer is yes and they do not keep a vehicle at school, your insurance premiums could decrease by as much as 30%. If they are taking a car with them, be sure to review your auto coverage with your agent. Make sure you have the appropriate coverage and your child understands how it works in the event of a claim.

Does my child need to purchase health insurance?

In the state of Ohio, many health insurance carriers are now required to coverage children up to age 26. This rule applies regardless of full time student status. Be sure to review your health coverage to verify the dependent age limit on your plan. Also, make sure your child has an ID card with them if they should need to see a Dr or get a Prescription. They should also understand how the coverage works and if there is any copay they will be responsible for if they should have to use the coverage.

Sending a child to college can be a scary yet exciting time for everyone. When you add your insurance agent to your list of people to talk to during this transition, it can help give you peace of mind for you and your child’s future insurance needs. Remember, your agent is a great source for insurance tips for your college student.

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What You Need To Know For Summer Cook Out Safety

Cook Out

Cook OutIt’s getting warmer and you know what that means? It’s time to get out the grills and cook out! As soon as the weather get nice, most families take the cooking duties outdoors. From dinner to family cookouts, fun in the sun includes the gas or charcoal grill. In spite of how great grilled foods taste, gas and charcoal grills account for an average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries and $40 million in property loss each year! (According to the United States Fire Administration). 

We want you to have a great time with your outdoor cook out, but also be safe. Keep reading for some important safety tips. 

Food Safety

  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw and cooked foods separate by not using the same platters or utensils. 
  • Cook your food thoroughly. Cooking on a grill often results in quicker browning of the meat on the outside, but the inside typically remains raw. Use a food thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked properly. 
    • All raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. 
    • All ground beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 F. 
    • Poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. 

Avoid Grilling Mishaps

  • Don’t let children and pets play near the grilling area when cooking until the grill is completely cool. 
  • Place your grill at least three feet away from other objects including your home, trees and outdoor seating. 
  • Use starter fluid for barbecue grills that use charcoal only. Do not use starter fluid for gas grills. 
  • Check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to make sure it is not leaking and is working properly before using a gas grill. 
  • If you suspect that your gas grill is leaking, turn off the gas and get the unit fixed before lighting. Never use a match to check for leaks.
  • Do not bring your grill into an unventilated or enclosed space such as the garage or inside of your home. This is not only a major fire hazard; it is also a carbon monoxide hazard. 

Cook Out Carefully To Prevent Fires

  • Wear tight-fitting clothing that cannot drape over flames or into pans.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back.
  • Do not place oven mitts, hand towels or hot pads on or near the range.
  • When you are done cooking a meal, double-check to make sure that all appliances are turned off.
  • Unplug portable appliances when they are not in use.
  • When cooking on your range, turn on the vent hood fan to minimize any smoking. 
  • If your gas range does not light on its own, be extremely careful when lighting it.

           If The Event Of A Fire:

  • Turn off the gas or electrical appliance that is fueling the flames, if possible.
  • If the fire is in a pan on your range, cover the pan with its lid or a baking sheet. If this does not work, use a fire extinguisher or sprinkle baking soda on the pan.
  • In the event you are cooking with oil and it catches fire, DO NOT pour water on the flaming pan. This will make the fire worse.

We hope that you take the time to use these simple safety tips to have a great summer cook out season with your friends and family!