Health & Safety

As we put the finishing touches to our Halloween costumes we’ve rounded up some of the not-so-spooky posts from around the insurance blogosphere to keep the ghouls and ghosts away.

First up is Erie Insurance with its post 4 Lesser-Known Halloween Safety Tips. Read all the way to the end and you’ll learn of the dangers of glow sticks. As a parent to two young children who gravitate towards anything that glows, I appreciate the tip that glow sticks cause an increase in poisoning on Halloween. Make sure to tell your kids to keep them away from their mouths.

Next up is Zillow and with an excellent post on how Halloween carries potential financial risk for homeowners. Whether it’s Halloween-related fires leading to property damage or liability claims from trick-or-treaters injured on your property, some practical safety steps and a homeowners or renters insurance policy can help protect your most valuable assets.

Do you have a secure place to park your car? In this Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) post (from 2013) we learn that vehicle vandalism peaks on Halloween with nearly twice as many insurance claims on October 31 as on an average day. Such claims include things like slashed tires and smashed windows. Hence the importance of comprehensive auto insurance coverage.

And for the insurance fans among you, last but not least is a post on WillisWire, reflecting not on make-believe monsters, but on the scariest real risks faced by their clients during the year. Which one keeps you up at night? Have your say and take their poll.

Wishing all our readers a safe and Happy Halloween!


As many parts of the United States enter another day of high heat and humidity, we’re reading about the first ever heatwave warning guidelines issued by the United Nations earlier this month.

The guidelines are intended to alert the general public, health services and government agencies via the development of so-called heatwave early warning systems that should ultimately lead to actions that reduce the effects of hot weather extremes on health.

As the foreword to the publication states:

Heatwaves are a dangerous natural hazard, and one that requires increased attention. They lack the spectacular and sudden violence of other hazards, such as tropical cyclones or flash floods, but the consequences can be severe.”

In their joint guidance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) note that heatwaves are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the length, frequency and intensity of heatwaves will likely increase over most land areas during this century.

Recent world heatwave events come to mind:

Both India and Pakistan were hit by deadly heatwaves in the first half of 2015, leading to 3,600 fatalities, according to Munich Re. Temperatures were exceptional, climbing as high as 47°C and accompanied by high humidity which compounded the effect.

European heatwaves in the summer of 2003 led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, as did the Russian heatwaves, forest fires and associated air pollution in 2010. In fact, the Russian heatwave of 2010 still ranks among the top 10 deadliest world catastrophes 1970-2014.

The UN guidance makes the case that one way to manage the risk of heat-related health effects is through the development of a Heat Health Warning System (HHWS) as part of a broader Heat Health Action Plan (HHAP).

Of primary concern in an HHWS, it notes, is how to assess the level of heat stress associated with the meteorological or climate forecast, translate this into an estimate of a likely health outcome and identify a critical heat-stress threshold for a graded plan of action.

Typically, HHWSs are composed of a number of elements, including:

  • Weather forecasts of high temperatures that may also include humidity;
  • A method for assessing how future weather patterns may evolve in terms of a range of health outcomes;
  • The determination of heat-stress thresholds for action;
  • A system of graded alerts/actions for communication to the general population or specific target groups about an impending period of heat and its intensity and to government agencies about the possible severity of health impacts.

A number of cities and countries around the world have developed these early warning systems, including Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Australia.

The first HHWS was actually implemented in the city of Philadelphia in the United States in 1995. In this system, local city staff work with the National Weather Service (NWS) to determine when a heatwave is imminent.

After an alert is issued, the Philadelphia Health Department contacts news organizations with tips on how vulnerable individuals can protect themselves. People without air conditioning are advised to seek relief from the heat in shopping malls, senior centers and other cool spaces.

Friends, relatives, neighbors and other volunteers are also encouraged to make daily visits to elderly people during the hot weather, ensuring the most susceptible individuals have sufficient fluids, proper ventilation and other amenities to cope with the weather.

After the success of Philadelphia, similar tailor-made systems are being implemented for the 50-60 cities in the U.S. with a population of more than 500,000 and a local meteorological office, the guidance notes.

The NWS reports that heat is typically the leading cause of weather-related fatalities each year.


Check out Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) facts and statistics on drought and heatwaves here.


While Fourth of July is a time of celebration for Americans, man’s best friend may be at increased risk for injury and illness over the holiday.

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co shares the most common Fourth of July related pet injuries based on its database of more than 525,000 insured pets.

Pets are at risk for a number of firework-related injuries. Common injuries include: burns; strangulation from getting a collar caught on a fence or jumping a fence due to the loud noise of fireworks; and laceration from breaking through a glass window or fence. Average costs for treatment run upward from $355.

Other common holiday-related injuries/illness include heat stroke, drowning after falling in a pool and poisoning from eating chocolate or table scraps and ingesting alcohol.

VPI suggests pet owners plan ahead with the following tips to keep our furry friends safe during the holiday weekend:

  1. Set up a safe zone for your pet and never leave your pet unattended or tied up in the back yard.
  2. Leave out extra water bowls to ensure your pet stays hydrated and be aware of foods that could be toxic to your dog.
  3. Be mindful of your dog around a pool and if they are allowed to swim, make sure they’re a comfortable swimmer and know how to get out of the pool.

The American Kennel Club makes the point that it’s safer to keep your pets at home during Fourth of July celebrations instead of bringing them to your neighbor’s party. Keeping your pet in a safe room where he/she is comfortable can reduce stress from the noise of fireworks.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is coming up… Here are some numbers to consider:

  • • Dog bites caused more than 33 percent of all homeowners insurance liability claims in 2014, costing in excess of $530 million
  • • The average cost per claim has increased more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014
  • • The number of dog-bite claims actually decreased by 4.7 percent but the average cost per claim increased 15 percent from $27,862 in 2013 to $32,072 in 2014
  • • California (1,867), Ohio (1,009) and New York (965) had the highest number of claims in 2014
  • • New York had the highest average cost per claim in the country: a whopping $56,628

Costs per claims have risen due to a variety of factors including increased medical costs and jury awards.  In addition to dog bites, some claims are due to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, which can result in fractures and other injuries. All these factors impact the potential severity of losses.

Contact @LWorters for more information.

I.I.I.’s Jim Lynch brings us a timely reminder on why it’s important to buckle up:

I hate to write this: CBS newsman Bob Simon, who died February 11 in a Manhattan auto accident, was not wearing a seat belt, according to The New York Times.

Simon lately filled an elder statesman role on 60 Minutes, but his reporting career was one of globetrotting daredevilry. He covered America’s urban riots in 1968. He reported for six years from Vietnam and rode one of the last U.S. helicopters that left Saigon before the city fell in 1975. He was captured by Iraqi troops at the outset of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and was held prisoner for 40 days.

Simon died when the limousine in which he rode sideswiped a Mercedes in Manhattan, then hit a lane barrier.

Every death is a tragedy, an accidental death doubly so. Sadder still that a person who survived so much danger might well have survived this accident had he been wearing a seat belt. His driver had buckled up and survived; both of his legs were broken, as was an arm. The Mercedes driver was uninjured.

I.I.I.’s Facts and Statistics on highway safety points out that seatbelts saved more than 12,000 lives in 2012 and could have saved another 3,031, had everyone used them.

I ride in cabs and black cars fairly often and know it feels awkward to buckle up. The action seems to be a referendum against the driver, as if my action says I question the driver’s competence. And I feel weirdly invulnerable when I travel, as if tragedy can’t find me in the back seat.

Still, I always strap myself into the harness, and I wish Bob Simon had done so as well.

In 2011, 65 percent of New York taxi riders failed to buckle up, according to Taxi and Limousine Commission statistics reported in USA Today, vs. about 10 percent in private passenger vehicles. New York is one of 22 states that do not require cab riders to buckle up.

If you’re reading about the rising number of measles cases in California, you may also be thinking about pandemic risk.

First, let’s look at the status of measles cases and outbreaks in the United States.

The CDC notes that from January 1 to January 28, 2015, 84 people from 14 states were reported to have measles. Most of these cases are part of a large, ongoing outbreak linked to Disneyland in California.

On Friday (January 30, 2015), the California Department of Public Health released figures showing there are now 91 confirmed cases in the state. Of those, 58 infections have been linked to visits to Disneyland or contact with a sick person who went there.

At least six other U.S. states – Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska and Arizona—as well as Mexico have also recorded measles cases connected to Disneyland, according to this AP report.

What about last year?

The U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported. Many of the cases in the U.S. in 2014 were associated with cases brought in from the Philippines, which experienced a large measles outbreak, according to the CDC.


Measles, which can be prevented by vaccine, is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets or by airborne spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes.

Approximately 9 out of 10 susceptible persons with close contact to a measles patient will develop measles, the CDC reports.

This is an important point. A study published by Risk Management Solutions (RMS) last year compared the low transmissibility of Ebola (Ebola can only be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids), with other infectious diseases such as measles.

RMS noted that each person infected with measles can generate on average more than 10 additional cases in an unvaccinated environment.

What about mortality risk?

Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. In 2013, there were 145,700 measles deaths globally—about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.

One or two out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications, according to the CDC.

One dose of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine is approximately 93 percent effective at preventing measles, CDC notes, while two doses are 97 percent effective. Measles vaccination resulted in a 75 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide, WHO reports.

A CDC-issued health advisory here provides guidance to healthcare providers nationwide on the multi-state measles outbreak.

The potentially devastating impact of the rapid and massive spread of infectious diseases was a risk underscored by respondents to the recently released World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks 2015 report.

This reflects the need for a higher level of preparedness for major pandemics at both the country and international levels, the WEF noted.

The I.I.I. has facts and statistics on mortality risks here.

As holiday shopping gets underway, several major retailers are opening even earlier this year offering the prospect of deep discounts and large crowds to an ever growing number of shoppers.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) notes that 140 million holiday shoppers are likely to take advantage of Thanksgiving weekend deals in stores and online.

Millennials are most eager to shop, with the NRF survey showing 8 in 10 (79.6 percent) of 18-24 year olds will or may shop over the weekend, the highest of any age group.

Much has been written about the risks of online shopping, but for those who still head to the stores, there are dangers there too.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds us that crowd related injuries can occur during special sales and promotional events. In 2008, a worker at Wal-Mart died after being trampled in a Black Friday stampede.

According to the aptly named, since 2006 there have been seven Black Friday-related fatalities and 90 injuries. As well as stampeding crowds, injuries have occurred as a result of altercations over TVs, road rage over parking spaces, shootings and distracted driving.

For employers and store owners OSHA offers comprehensive tips on how to create a safe shopping experience.

Crowd management planning should begin in advance of events likely to draw large crowds, and crowd management, pre-event setup, and emergency situation management should be part of event planning, OSHA says.

Tips include: hiring additional staff; having trained security or crowd management personnel on site; determining the number of workers needed in different locations to ensure the safety of an event; and preparing an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire.

For shoppers too, a personal safety and security plan is a good idea. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) advises not to buy more than you can carry and to plan ahead by taking a friend with you or asking a store employee to help you carry packages to the car. Travelers offers some important tips here.

To all our readers, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

As you prepare to welcome a throng of Frozen Elsas and Olafs to your front door, you may not be thinking about insurance but we’re here to tell you, you’re covered.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) points out that standard homeowners and renters insurance will provide coverage for the following:

Vandalism: In the event your home or your personal possessions are damaged by neighborhood tricksters, homeowners and renters insurance policies provide coverage for vandalism and malicious mischief. You are on your own, however, when it comes to removing the toilet paper from your front yard….

Fire: If a jack-o-lantern, or other decoration, goes up in flames and damages your property, your homeowners or renters policy will cover fire-related losses. And, should the blaze make your home uninhabitable, additional living expenses (ALE) coverage will pay for alternate accommodations, such as a hotel, while your home is being repaired.

Injuries: The liability portion of a homeowners or renters policy comes into play if a Halloween party guest, or a trick-or-treater is injured while at your house or apartment. These policies also include no-fault medical coverage so the injured person can file their claim directly with your insurer. And if Fido gets a little skittish from all the commotion and accidently nips a trick-or-treater your liability coverage includes damages or injuries caused by pets.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!


Construction workers, farmers and landscape workers take note: insect-related deaths are most likely in your line of work.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal’s The Numbers blog, a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that insects, arachnids, and mites were involved in 83 fatal occupational injuries from 2003 to 2010.

During the course of the eight-year period, farmers and farm workers (20 fatalities), construction occupations (19 fatalities) and landscaping workers (17 fatalities) accounted for two-thirds of the deaths.

Bees were responsible for 52 workplace deaths – more than spiders, wasps and ants combined (25), The Numbers blog reports.

Most of the deaths (72 of the 83 total) were directly caused by an insect, including cases in which the worker was bitten or stung.

Another 11 deaths were indirectly caused by insects. These include cases where an insect distracted the worker while driving or caused the worker to fall from a height.

Anaphylactic shock, often associated with insect-related injuries, occurred in close to half the deaths, the BLS said.

By state, Texas saw the greatest number (21) of insect-related workplace deaths during the 8-year period, followed by Florida (8).

However, when it comes to non-fatal insect-related workplace injuries and illnesses with days away from work, four states: California, Florida, New York and Texas had more than 250 cases reported in all three years between 2008 and 2010.

As a percentage of all days-away-from-work cases in those large population states, though, insect-related cases were less than 1 percent of the total cases in any year.

Not surprisingly, these incidents tended to occur in the warmer months. Almost 94 percent of the cases occurred between April 1 and October 31. The largest number of deaths (17) occurred in September.

Check out National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) information on workplace safety and insects here.

Most of us have heard of distracted driving, but it appears cell phone use while walking – also known as distracted walking – is a growing danger.

More than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to be treated in emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking, according to a nationwide study by Ohio State University researchers.

The number of such injuries has more than doubled since 2005, even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that time, and researchers believe that the actual number of injured pedestrians is much higher than these results suggest.

Jack Nasar, co-author of the study and professor of city and regional planning at the Ohio State University, says:

If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of injuries to pedestrians caused by cell phones doubles again between 2010 and 2015.

The role of cell phones in distracted driving injuries and deaths gets a lot of attention and rightly so, but we need to also consider the danger cell phone use poses to pedestrians.”

The study found that young people aged 16 to 25 were most likely to be injured as distracted pedestrians, and most were hurt while talking rather than texting.

Researchers examined data for seven years (from 2004 to 2010) involving injuries related to cell phone use for pedestrians in public areas (not at home).

A wide variety of injuries were reported including a 14-year-old boy who suffered chest and shoulder injuries after falling 6-8 feet off a bridge into a rock-strewn ditch while walking down a road talking on a cell phone.

The study appears in the August 2013 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Claims Journal has more on this story.

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