In the case of United States v. Atlantic Research Corporation, the Supreme Court ruled that potentially responsible parties (PRPs) that voluntarily clean up contaminated sites may sue other PRPs to recover their cleanup costs under section 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The reinstatement of this right comes after many years of federal court battles over the issues of authority and methodology for recovering cleanup costs from other PRPs.When CERCLA was originally enacted, the courts interpreted section 107(a) as providing a method for PRPs to recover their costs from other PRPs. However, in 1986, Congress enacted the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). Section 113(f) of this law outlined explicit means for PRPs to pursue contribution from other PRPs. After the enactment of SARA, some federal courts held that section 113 was the only remedy for cleanup cost recovery. Other courts prevented PRPs from suing under section 107 of CERCLA and expanded section 113 to allow PRPs’ contributions without the need for a suit.Section 107 makes PRPs liable for “all costs of removal or remedial action incurred by the United States Government or a State or an Indian tribe” and “any other necessary costs of response incurred by any other person.” In Atlantic Research, the United States argued that the section 107 use of “any other person” was limited to suits brought by “non-PRPs.” That meant that Atlantic Research, a PRP, was barred from filing suit. The Supreme Court held that all the words of the statute must be “read as a whole.” They added that using the United States’ reading of the language would decrease the number of plaintiffs permitted to sue to almost zero, which would make Section 107 worthless.Section 113 prohibits claims against PRPs who have satisfied their liability to the United States or a state in an administrative or court approved settlement. In Atlantic Research, the United States argued that permitting PRPs to seek recovery under section 107 negates the protection offered to PRPs who have settled under section 113. The Supreme Court conceded this. However, the Court stated that this “supposed loophole” would not discourage settlements because district courts would take into account any earlier settlements when assigning the level of liability to the various PRPs involved.The Supreme Court also ruled that section 107 and 113 provide two “clearly distinct” remedies. Section 107 permits PRPs to recover cleanup costs they have incurred from other PRPs. A PRP that has satisfied a settlement agreement or court judgment under CERCLA may pursue contribution from other PRPs through section 113. The Court made clear that simultaneous recovery under section 107 and section 113 is not allowed. PRPs can’t choose their method of recovery. The appropriate remedy will depend on the circumstances in each case.
Month: January 2014
How to Prevent Emergency Generators from Becoming a Danger
Having a reliable backup generator can be invaluable during a power outage. From powering a refrigerator, the lights, or heating or cooling during an emergency power outage, an emergency generator can be a real asset and provide many of the essentials that your family would otherwise be without during an outage. That said, generators shouldn’t be used haphazardly. If safety regulations aren’t followed, a generator can become more of a danger than an asset.
Determine what size generator you’ll need. The size of a generator will be based on the items you’d like to power during a power outage. For example, those in colder climates will want to power the furnace to keep the home warm and help prevent pipes from freezing and breaking. A well pump, refrigerator, freezer, and electrical in-home medical equipment should also be considerations. Keep in mind that the generator’s size and cost will increase with the more you need the generator to support.
Once you’ve figured out what size generator you need, you will have two main types of generators to choose from – portable or permanent standby. Understanding the workings and what’s required for each can help you determine which type best suits your need.
Depending on the specific size, a portable generator will allow you to have television, radio, lights, furnace, water well, and refrigerator and freezer powered. Generators can range from 1000-watt to 10,000 watt, with the average home needing at least a 5,000-watt generator. You may switch out the appliances, such as by momentarily disconnecting the refrigerator to operate the microwave, but make sure not to overload the equipment. You’ll plug your desired appliances directly into the portable generator using several heavy-duty grounded extension cords. This type of generator doesn’t need to be installed professionally, but it’s of vital importance that users follow strict safety practices. Never operate the generator inside the home, garage, or otherwise confined space; it must be used in a thoroughly ventilated area. Make sure to keep gas-powered portable generators away from open flames.
On the other hand, a licensed professional electrician should be used to install a permanent standby generator since it’s connected to the home’s wiring system, the installation should meet local building codes, and must be installed with several key safety features. Special equipment must be installed to prevent the generator from backfeeding into the electrical system within the home. Backfeed can result in a fire or equipment damage. It must have a transfer switch installed so that power crews won’t be in danger from live electrical currents if they need to make repairs to lines. You’ll also need to notify the power company when you install a permanent standby generator.
A generator will only be an asset to help you safely and comfortably make it through a crisis when it’s used appropriately. Otherwise, it can create more problems than it solves.
Follow Safety Standards, And Common Sense, To Ensure Safe Scaffold Use
A scaffold is an elevated, temporary work platform that is engineered in a specific manner to support a defined weight load. Ensuring the safety of workers who utilize scaffolds, and avoiding injury to nearby people or property, requires choosing equipment that meets current safety standards, installing it as directed by the manufacturer, and using it for its intended purpose. Any tampering with the construction or weight load can result in injury or death.
The first consideration when practicing scaffolding safety is proper selection. Only use scaffolds that have been tested to the ANSI/SSFI SC 100 standard. When choosing a suspended scaffold, be sure that the hoist complies with ANSI/UL 1323 and that it has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or ETL Testing Laboratories. Parapet clamps, cornice hooks and outrigger beams should be tested to the ANSI/SSFI SPS 1.1 standard.
One of the problems associated with scaffold use is collapsing, which can result when the scaffold is overloaded or improperly assembled. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning loading. Evaluate the weight of the workers and materials that the scaffold will support, and determine if the buildings or structures that may be used to support the scaffold are adequate for that weight load.
Another common accident involving scaffolds is overturning or tipping, which can occur if a scaffold is not properly tied. The general rule is that ties must be installed if the scaffold height, as measured to the uppermost platform, is greater than four times the smallest base dimension. Cantilevered platforms, such as side brackets and hoist arms, can exacerbate the problem of overturning and may require that the scaffold be tied at lower points. Additional ties may be necessary if an enclosure is put on the scaffold, because any enclosure, even an open mesh one, increases wind loading, which can cause overturning.
Scaffolds should be equipped with toeboards to avoid injuries to the people and property below from falling tools, materials or debris. The ANSI/ASSE A10.8 standard says that toeboards are required with guardrail systems on all open sides and ends of a scaffold if the structure is in a location where individuals are required to work or pass under it.
The standard goes on to say that when materials are piled higher than the toeboard, the scaffold must be equipped with a safety screen that is strong enough to prevent objects from falling. The screen must be positioned between the toeboard and the toprail and extend along the entire opening.
When a scaffold is in use, don’t allow workers to remove a scaffold component without authorization, because it may cause the structure to become unstable or render safety equipment dysfunctional. You should also never permit workers to alter scaffold components or use them for purposes for which they were not designed.
If a rolling scaffold is being used, wheels or casters must be locked to prevent scaffold movement. In addition, the top platform height, as measured from the rolling surface, must not exceed four times the smallest base dimension. Secure or remove all materials from rolling scaffolds before moving them. Never permit workers to ride a rolling scaffold.
By following established safety standards, and using a common-sense approach, you’ll be able to avoid some of the most common accidents and injuries that can result from scaffold use.
When It Rains, It Pours: Why You Need a Personal Umbrella Policy
In recent years, our society has become what some people call “lawsuit happy.” In other words, an increasing number of people are filing lawsuits for everything from emotional injury to property damage-and they’re suing for larger amounts than ever before. If someone were to file a lawsuit against you, you could end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, even if you won.
While you may have some personal liability coverage through your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy, it’s probably not nearly enough to cover a major lawsuit. Fortunately, you can further protect yourself with what’s known as an umbrella policy. This type of policy offers a higher level of liability coverage and ensures that you and your family will be protected if someone sues you for damages.
Read on to learn more about these valuable policies:
Umbrella policies: A liability coverage “extension”
When it comes to lawsuits, the more assets you own, the more you stand to lose. A personal umbrella liability policy can protect you from these potentially devastating losses. These policies act as an extension to the current liability protection you probably have through your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy.
Umbrella policies are typically sold in million dollar increments, and you can obtain a policy once your home and auto insurance policies meet a minimum “attachment point”-typically a liability limit of $250,000 or $500,000.
What does it cover?
Most umbrella policies covers the following:
- Personal injury, including false arrest, mental anguish, malicious prosecution, libel, slander, defamation of character, wrongful entry or eviction, negligent infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy.
- Bodily injury, such as physical injury or death. In some jurisdictions, this also includes emotional injury.
- Property damage, including destruction of the property of others, cost of recreation and loss of use. However, it does not cover damages done to your own property.
- Defense coverage, including groundless, false and fraudulent suits, bail bond costs, loss of earning and other “reasonable” expenses.
Of course, it’s probably easier to understand exactly what an umbrella policy covers by putting it into real-life terms. Here are a few examples of what this type of policy could cover:
- A deliveryman is hauling your new washing machine into your home when he trips on your door mat, falls and breaks his neck. Your umbrella policy would likely cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damages.
- You’re driving down the road when an important corporate CEO steps into the crosswalk in front of your car. He sues you for millions of dollars in medical costs, lost earning and damages. Your umbrella policy can cover you for these damages.
- Your daughter invites a friend over to play on her swing set. Her friend falls off the slide and suffers from serious injuries. When her parents sue you, your umbrella policy will cover the medical costs.
How much does is it cost?
The price of an umbrella policy depends on how much coverage you want, the number of properties you rent or own and the number of automobiles or watercraft you own. The cost associated with cars and watercraft are much higher than those associated with properties.
Let’s say you are single, you own one home and one car, and you want to purchase a $5 million umbrella policy. You’ll probably pay somewhere between $270 and $550 a year. On the other hand, if you are married with two children, you own two homes, a rental property and three cars, and you want a $10 million umbrella, you’ll probably pay a good deal more-anywhere between $970 or $1,750 a year.
Talk to your insurance agent to discuss whether or not an umbrella policy is right for you. In the long run, by paying a few hundred dollars per year, you could save millions.
Consider Business Income from Dependent Properties to Insure Against Supplier Shut Down
A business that suffers a major accident such as a fire or hurricane may have to shut down for days, weeks or longer for repairs. Often, the income lost during the shut down will exceed the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property. Businesses can protect themselves against this severe financial loss by purchasing business income insurance. However, sometimes a business can suffer a significant income loss, not because of damage to its own property, but because of damage to someone else’s.
Consider the following business situations:
- A metal parts manufacturer derives 80 percent of its income from sales to four customers.
- A restaurant located within a five-minute drive from a factory that employs 1,200 people.
- An electronic components distributor that buys its products from three manufacturers.
- A supermarket chain that sells milk under its own brand name but that outsources production of the milk to a dairy products supplier.
In all of these examples, the businesses depend on third parties for supplies, purchases, or attraction of customers. If any of these third parties were to shut down, the resulting loss of income would devastate the business.
A business that depends on a few third parties for a large share of its income may want to consider buying Business Income From Dependent Properties insurance. This coverage pays for income lost as a result of damage to the property of another business on which the policyholder depends financially. The form classifies these properties, called “dependent properties,” into four groups:
- Contributing locations, which deliver materials or services to the business or to other businesses on the policyholder’s account. The three manufacturers that provide product to the electronic components manufacturer are examples of contributing locations. The form does not consider a supplier of utilities (water, power or communications) to be a contributing location. A separate coverage form exists to insurer these types of suppliers.
- Recipient locations, which accept the business’s products or services. The four customers who provide 80 percent of the metal parts manufacturer’s income are recipient locations.
- Manufacturing locations, which manufacture products for delivery to the business’s customers under a contract of sale. The dairy products supplier producing the milk for sale under the supermarket’s label is a manufacturing location.
- Leader locations, which attract customers to the policyholder’s business. The factory near the restaurant is a leader location.
Coverage applies if the dependent property suffers damage from a cause of loss that the policy would cover if it damaged the business’s own property. For example, a typical property insurance policy covers damage caused by fire or explosion, so this insurance will pay if the dependent property burns or explodes. However, since most policies do not cover flood damage, the insurance will not pay if a dependent property floods.
The insured business has a choice of how to arrange the insurance. One option is to make the amount of insurance covering the business’s own property also apply to the dependent properties. The other option is to buy separate amounts of insurance that apply to each dependent property. Under either option, coverage begins 72 hours after the time the damage occurs.
Virtually every business depends to some degree on other firms for parts of its operation. Dependent property income losses do happen; many businesses in lower Manhattan suffered these losses in the months following September 11. Discussion of the exposure to loss from dependent locations should be a regular part of a business’s review with its insurance agent. Standard coverage protects against loss to a business’s property, but the worst loss may come from damage to someone else’s.
Think Twice Before Drinking and Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released data showing that from 2001-2005, an average of 36 fatalities occurred per day on America’s roadways as a result of crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. It’s this kind of statistic that has spurred all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws making it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
Although you may not be a fatality if you drive while under the influence, don’t think that means you’re home free. If you’re ticketed for a DUI, you’ll face a financial toll that you probably never considered. The following list is an example of some of the expenses you can expect:
- Bail – It can cost anywhere from $250 to $2500 for a first time DUI offender to be released from jail after an arrest depending on the jurisdiction.
- Towing – When you’re arrested, your car is automatically towed. The cost starts at $100. In Chicago, for example, the typical charge is $1,200 for the first 24 hours and $50 for each additional day of storage. If you can’t afford to get your car after 30 days, the city auctions it. Other cities are beginning to follow Chicago’s lead.
- Insurance premiums – If you are convicted, your insurance rates will increase substantially for the next three to five years. This could mean anywhere from two to four times more than you are currently paying. You could even face losing coverage all together. In that case, you would be forced to find a company specializing in higher risks that will insure you, or see whether your state has an assigned-risk pool for insurance. Either way, you’ll pay considerably more for coverage.
- Legal fees – Expect anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 depending on how much time an attorney has to invest in your case to defend you. In addition to what you pay your lawyer, you may also find yourself paying for an investigator to examine the arrest scene, and expert witnesses who can testify about the inaccuracy of field sobriety tests.
- Fines – The fines and court fees for breaking the law vary from state to state, However, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1200.
- Alcohol Evaluation – This is required of anyone sentenced by the court for drunk driving. The cost for these evaluations starts at about $100 depending on the jurisdiction.
Treatment/Education Program – A conviction means you will be required to undergo treatment or education in order to get your driver’s license re-issued. The extent of these programs differs greatly, and the costs can range from $300 to $2000.
Candle Fires Present a Burning Problem
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, candles caused 15,600 home fires, accounting for 4 percent of all reported home fires that year. These fires resulted in an estimated 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries and direct property losses totaling $539 million.
Most common causes of candle fires:
-50 percent were caused when combustible material was placed too close to a lit candle.
-18 percent were caused when a lit candle was left unattended.
-12 percent were caused when someone fell asleep while a candle was still burning.
NFPA data shows that 38 percent of all reported candle fires started in the bedroom. However, the living room, family room, and den were most often the scene of deaths caused by candle-related fires.
Why is the number of candle-related fires so high? It has grown in direct proportion to the increase in candle usage in this country. The National Candle Association (NCA) estimates U.S. retail sales of candles at approximately $2 billion annually, excluding sales of candle accessories.
To help keep consumers safe while enjoying their candles, the NCA offers the following tips:
- Keep a burning candle within sight. Extinguish all candles when leaving a room or before going to sleep.
- Move burning candles away from furniture, drapes, bedding, carpets, books, paper, flammable decorations, etc.
- Do not place lighted candles where they can be knocked over by children, pets or anyone else.
- Trim candlewicks to ¼ inch each time before burning.
- Use a candleholder that is heat resistant, sturdy and large enough to contain any drips or melted wax.
- Place the candleholder on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
- Keep the wax pool free of wick trimmings, matches and debris at all times.
- Don’t burn a candle longer than the manufacturer recommends.
- Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents to prevent rapid, uneven burning, and avoid flame flare-ups.
- Burn candles in a well-ventilated room.
- Stop burning a candle when 2 inches of wax remains or ½ inch if in a container.
- Never touch a burning candle or move a votive or container candle when the wax is liquid.
- Never use a knife or sharp object to remove wax drippings from a glass holder because it might scratch, weaken, or cause the glass to break upon subsequent use.
- Use a candlesnuffer to extinguish a candle so hot wax doesn’t splatter.
- Never extinguish candles with water because it may cause the hot wax to splatter.
- Use flashlights and other battery-powered lights during a power failure.
- Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick ember is no longer glowing before leaving the room.
- Extinguish a candle if it smokes, flickers repeatedly, or the flame becomes too high.
- Never use a candle as a night-light.
Are Your Employees Vulnerable to Automation-Related Injuries?
As office technology grows, it is developing its own special brand of injuries. Many of your office workers perform work that can lead to automation-related illnesses. To protect your workers and decrease your liability, you need to identify such health hazards and take measures to prevent their occurrence in your workplace.
The most common automation-related injuries are repetitive motion injuries, also known as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). The name stems from the fact that the injury develops over time because an employee performs the same task in the same range of motion.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common CTD. This disorder typically develops from the repetitive motions of typing and computer work. The continuous bending of the wrist causes the tendons to swell in the tunnel formed by the carpal bones and ligaments. The swelling pinches the median nerve that gives feeling to the hand. Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are burning or painful tingling in a hand or shooting pains throughout the entire arm.
There are several steps you can undertake to combat the problem of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries:
· Be sure workstations are ergonomically correct. The computer components need to be adjustable and every workstation should have a footrest, wrist rest, and document holder.
· Train employees how to work in an ergonomically correct manner. Their keyboard should be positioned at elbow height so that their wrists remain straight and elbows remain at a 90-degree angle while they work. The top of the monitor screen should be at, or slightly below eye level. They should sit with their backs against the chair.
· Provide adequate break times so that employees can leave their workstation for at least 15 minutes. There should be both a morning and afternoon break.
· Keep productivity requirements reasonable. Employees shouldn’t feel continually pressured to skip breaks to complete assignments.
· Rotate employees so they don’t have to perform the same motions all day.
The second most common automation-related injury is eyestrain. This results when employees stare at computer monitors all day. Some ways you can minimize the risk of vision problems include:
· Reduce florescent lighting in the work area and provide desk lamps instead.
· Use window shades to reduce glare on computer monitors.
· Provide equipment that will allow employees to place reference materials close to the computer monitor and at the same distance from their eyes.
· Train employees on the hazards of staring at computer monitors for long periods of time.
· Ask computer operators to have a yearly eye examination.
Excessive noise can also result in automation-related injuries, such as headaches and migraines. In addition, noise compromises efficiency and decreases productivity. You can reduce the effects of noisy equipment by installing heavy drapes and thick carpeting. Placing a rubber mat beneath a machine helps reduce vibrations.
Is Your Home’s Chimney Ready for Winter?
Some of the smoke that flows up your chimney condenses and becomes creosote that sticks to the flue. Creosote is a hard tar-like substance that builds up over time. As the coat of creosote thickens, it increases the chance of a fire breaking out in the chimney.
When a chimney fire burns, extremely high temperatures are created that can cause cracks to form in the flue. These cracks can pose a serious health threat to your family because they allow carbon monoxide that would normally vent up the chimney to be drawn back into the home. Carbon monoxide is an odorless colorless gas that can be lethal.
To prevent chimney problems, you should have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned yearly. The National Fire Protection Association has adopted these levels of inspection to create code NFPA 211, Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances. This is the standard that certified chimney sweeps use when cleaning chimneys:
· Level I Inspection: Recommended when the chimney is easily accessible and the homeowner is planning to maintain it as is. In this inspection, a certified chimney sweep verifies that the chimney structure is sound and that the chimney is free of obstructions and combustible deposits such as creosote.
· Level II Inspection: If the homeowner has added a new home heating appliance or changed the type of fuel being burned, the chimney requires a Level II inspection. This inspection level may also be required after the sale of a property or an event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. This inspection includes the Level I inspection plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attics, crawl spaces and basements. It may also include a performance test, such as a smoke or a pressure test, and an interior chimney video inspection if recommended.
· Level III Inspection: When a Level I or Level II inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without access to concealed areas, a Level III inspection is recommended. This type of inspection confirms the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Level III inspections are also necessary when investigating an incident that caused damage to a chimney or building.
In addition to yearly inspections, you may also want to consider a metal chimney liner. They protect the chimney from corrosion as a result of the byproducts released during combustion. Liners are made from stainless steel or aluminum and can be used to repair existing chimneys. They are U.L. tested, and if properly installed and maintained, they are safe and durable. Stainless steel is used in chimneys for wood burning, gas, or oil applications. Aluminum is only used for certain medium efficiency gas applications. High temperature insulation is required to be used in conjunction with the liners to ensure safety.
Duke Study Says Obese Workers File More Worker Compensation Claims
A Duke University Medical Center study revealed that obese workers filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims as non-obese workers. In addition the over-weight workers had 7 times higher medical costs from those claims and lost 13 times more days of work from work injury or work illness than did non-obese workers.
The results of the study were published April 23, 2007, in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The researchers looked at the records of 11,728 employees of Duke University who received health risk appraisals between 1997 and 2004. Duke ordinarily gathers this information anonymously as a way of identifying potential areas of occupational risk in order to develop plans to reduce that risk. The analysis covered a variety of occupational titles, such as administrative assistants, groundskeepers, nurses and professors.
The study compared the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and the rate of workers’ compensation claims. BMI assesses a person’s weight in relationship to their height, which is why it is considered the most accurate measure of obesity. For Americans, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal; 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30 and above is considered obese.
The researchers discovered that workers with a BMI greater than 40 had 11.65 claims per 100 workers, compared with 5.8 claims per 100 workers for employees with a normal weight. They also found that obese workers averaged 183.63 lost days of work per 100 workers, compared with 14.19 per 100 workers for employees of normal weight. The average medical claims costs per 100 workers was $51,019 for the obese and $7,503 for the non-obese.
The study showed that the body parts most susceptible to injury among obese workers were the lower extremities, wrist or hand, and back. The most common causes of these injuries were falls or slips, and lifting.
The researchers concluded that their findings were applicable to the community as a whole, since the demographics of Duke closely reflect the local area. They plan to use the Duke population to help the community, so the solutions they devise can benefit the community as a whole.
However, the primary message they hoped to deliver is that the solution to reducing the burden on workers’ compensation involves eliminating both individual risk factors such as obesity and the risk factors within the workplace that cause injury. By targeting obesity and workplace risks simultaneously, businesses can reduce absenteeism, increase the overall health of workers, and decrease the cost of health care.