Shore leave: Do I need boat insurance?

Don’t count on your homeowners policy to automatically protect your boat — especially when you hit the water (or the road).

Your homeowners insurance provides some very limited coverage for watercraft: theft while on your residence or weather damage only if it’s in a fully enclosed building. To completely protect watercraft that you own, you need additional coverage for your boats, sailboats, and jet skis.

A special endorsement on your homeowners policy or a separate boat insurance policy can insure you against risks like sinking, collision, and theft. But even more importantly, boat insurance provides liability coverage, meaning you’re insured if you injure someone or damage property while operating or transporting your boat.

Ask your agent about the following:

Watercraft, motors, and trailers: Protect the whole package and insure your boat, outboard motor, and trailer as part of your boat insurance.

Boater safety: Some carriers offer discounts for policyholders who’ve completed a boater safety course. Discount or not, safety training is always a good idea. You can even do the course online.

Territory limits: Taking your boat on a big vacation? Check your policy first for any limitations. Common territory limits exclude ocean coverage after a certain number of miles off shore.

New purchases: If you already have boat insurance, it may include a “newly acquired property” provision that would extend coverage to a new boat purchase for a short period of time. No such extensions exist, however, for first-time boat owners. Your best advice is to call your agent before you leave the dealership…whether or not you already own a boat.

When you do purchase a policy, check the exclusions carefully and be sure that you’re protected for all the boating activities you and your family enjoy.

5 ways to protect employees’ ears

Noise is a necessary byproduct of many industrial processes. But employees who are exposed to a lot of it could experience temporary or permanent hearing loss.

If your workplace is particularly loud, OSHA may require that you have a written hearing conservation program in place to protect your workers.

Your program should include the following:

Sound survey 
Employers are required to monitor workplace noise to determine if employees are regularly exposed to 85 decibels or more — even if the noise is only intermittent or occasional. Monitoring should be repeated whenever there is a change in operations or equipment that could impact noise levels.

Audiometric testing 
If employees are exposed to noise levels that average 85 decibels or more, OSHA requires employers to maintain an audiometric testing program. Essentially, this means employees must receive a free baseline hearing test and annual tests thereafter.

If a hearing test determines that the employee has experienced a measurable hearing loss, the employee must be notified, fitted with adequate hearing protection, and required to wear it.

Hearing protectors
Likewise, at the same high noise level, the employer must provide several types of hearing protection at no cost to the employees. (Employees exposed to noise levels of 90 decibels or more are required to wear hearing protection.)

Furthermore, employees must receive annual training on the effects of noise, the pros and cons of various hearing protectors, care and fit for their hearing protectors, and the purpose of audiometric hearing tests.

Noise exposure measurements must be kept for two years, but records of an employee’s audiometric test results must be kept for the duration of the employee’s employment.

In a flash: Practice home fire drills

If your house is on fire, every second counts. Plan and practice home fire drills so you and your family can get out quickly in a real emergency.

Two ways out 
In a fire, getting out safely might mean more than heading for the nearest door. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, you should have two ways out of any room.

If you have upstairs bedrooms, purchase collapsible escape ladders. Do a practice walkthrough and make sure children are able to open doors and windows and get out on their own.

Get out and stay out 
Get out first and then call for help. Sometimes it only takes 30 seconds for a small flame to turn into a major fire. When a fire occurs, you should exit the house immediately.

Once out, stay out. If someone is missing or a family pet is trapped inside, tell the firefighters. They have the equipment to perform rescues safely.

Practice different scenarios 
Talk about what to do if you have to escape through smoke. Practice crawling close to the floor with your t-shirt or pajama top pulled up to cover your mouth. Smoke contains toxic gases that can cause you to become disoriented or pass out.

When you come to a closed door, feel the doorknob. If it’s hot to the touch, there’s a fire on the other side and you need to find a different way out.

Practice what to do if you can’t get out. Stuff a blanket or towel under the cracks in the door to keep the smoke out. Signal for help at the window using a white shirt or a flashlight.

Remember, fire is fast, hot, dark, and deadly. Installing working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.

Play smart this summer

Summer’s almost here and that means it’s time for summer rec leagues. But before you send your family out to face down any cut shots or chin music, take a few moments to keep them safe:

Appropriate safety gear. Make sure everyone has and uses the proper equipment for each sport. In other words, don’t send your kid onto the soccer field in baseball cleats.

Maintenance. Scope out the ballpark or field before your kids join an organized sport. Be sure the grounds and equipment are well maintained. The same goes for any safety equipment. Worn out gear will not do an effective job of keeping your child safe.

Knowledgeable adults. Talk to the organizers about injury prevention. Do they enforce the safety equipment rules? Do they know the warning signs of a concussion? Will they limit practice in the worst heat and sun? Ideally, coaches will have first aid and CPR training. But if not, they should still have a sound action plan in case a player gets injured.

Warm-ups and cool downs. Help prevent strains and sprains by taking time for warm-ups and cool-downs. Warm-ups stretch the muscles and get the body ready for competitive play. Cool-downs help loosen muscles that constricted during exercise.

Water. Remind your kids to stay hydrated. Send them off with large, refillable water bottles or sports drinks.

Sun protection. Sunscreen is a must. Just one blistering sunburn before age 18 can double your child’s chances of developing melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer) later in life. If you can, buy extra sunscreen for the coaches to keep on-hand with the rest of the team equipment.

Whether you’re 14 or 44, using some simple good judgment will help keep you safer, and in the game, this summer.