July 2022 Newsletter

A Word from our President

by – Shawna Cooley-Fenix Heating & Cooling

Hello,

I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself. Many of you, outside of the board and Fenix employees, may not know me. My name is Shawna Cooley and I have been with Fenix for 8 years now and on the KCCA board for 5 years now.

This month’s meeting will be our annual planning meeting. It is free for all who attend. Join us for lunch at the Scotch and Sirloin and bring your ideas on how we can better serve you as we plan and organize our meetings for the rest of the year. If you would like to see something different out of this organization or have any great ideas, this would be your chance to give some input. You can also email me directly at shawnac@fenixheat.com with any questions, concerns or advice.

I hope to see everyone at this month’s planning meeting. Don’t forget to bring your business cards for a chance to win $100!

Please feel free to email or call Shawna at (316) 945-4842 or shawnac@fenixheat.com with any concerns or questions.


Education

We are planning to have 3 IN-PERSON classes scheduled this fall.  Once we get dates they will be posted, don’t wait get signed up as soon as they come out.


KCCA $500 TOOL SCHOLARSHIP
The board revised the Tool Scholarship a little. KCCA wants the employee to be working for the KCCA member for 3 months before they are eligible for the $500 tool Scholarship. So in short the employee or employer need to submit application and proof of graduation from one of our local trade school after the employee has worked for them for 3 months.


June’s General Meeting

Unfortunately we had to cancel June’s meeting due to speaker unable to make it.

Come to July’s meeting to help up plan for the upcoming year and a NEW chance to win $100.

Hope to see you @ future meetings!! All general meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of every month except August & December.


2022-2023 Meetings

 
July               Planning meeting @ Scotch & Sirloin
August          NO MEETING
September
October         Tom Roberts
November
December     NO MEETING
January         Stoney W/MABCD
February
March
April
May
June

This list is subjust to change due to speakers not able to make the date we have selected for them.

When Are Workers Off the Clock for Compensation Claims?

HVAC contractors need policies to reduce risk of claims

HVAC contractors are looking for ways to improve employee morale and foster company culture. One way many do that is by allowing technicians to take their work vehicles home with them. This minimizes drive time, a major factor in job satisfaction for technicians, and saves on fuel costs. Many HVAC contractors also see group events, including social gatherings and volunteer projects, as important for team building.

But are the benefits to the employees worth it? Because all this carries the risk of bringing a worker’s compensation claim. However, there are ways to mitigate that risk while retaining the benefits.

Allowing technicians to take company vehicles home is one of the most common perks and one of the most common sources of risk. According to data from ServiceTitan, technicians who drive more than 50 minutes for more than 20% of their jobs are 27% more likely to leave that company. If technicians can drive the work vehicle home from their last job and then to their first job the next morning, this can reduce drive time. In addition, it can save both the technician and the contractor on fuel costs, an important consideration today.

But much can go wrong in the course of driving a vehicle from one point to another. If there’s an accident and the employee is injured, it could trigger a worker’s comp claim. If the employee is at fault, that creates more potential problems, including the possibility of a lawsuit. In addition, a vehicle becomes lost for use while it’s in the repair shop or a police impound lot.

“The moment that employee gets in that employer-owned vehicle, the employer is on the hook for anything that employee does going forward,” said Kaleigh Vierra, an HR compliance consultant with Comprehensive Employment Solution (CES).

“It’s definitely something you want to be clear in your handbook. It’s definitely something you want to be clear in your onboarding process. And it’s definitely something you want to be clear in your training.”

Kaleigh Vierra
HR compliance consultant, Comprehensive Employment Solution

Clock can Start When the Key Turns
Then there’s the question of when an employee starts on the clock for pay reasons. Some states have very specific rules about when an employee needs to start being paid. That period could start while the technician is on the way to a job site in a company vehicle. In some states, it starts when the key is turned in the morning.

Employers who want to offer access to company vehicles need to make sure they do so as an optional perk, said Melanie Gentry, CEO for CES. The best practice remains having employees use their personal vehicles and leave work trucks at the firm’s offices.

Whatever policy an HVAC contractor chooses for the use of company vehicles, that policy needs to be clear and documented. Gentry said many generic handbooks, such as those provided by payroll services, often lack good driving policies. They are written for people who stay in one place all day long.

“It’s definitely something you want to be clear in your handbook,” Vierra said. “It’s definitely something you want to be clear in your onboarding process. And it’s definitely something you want to be clear in your training.”

Volunteering or Working?
Attorney Ken Scholtz of Tucker Arensberg said any time an HVAC contractor considers a new policy, it’s crucial to determine if it furthers the employer’s interest. That’s true for use of the company’s vehicles, and it’s true for community activities. Many younger employees say they want an employer that gives back to the community. However, volunteer events bring risk if they lack clear policies.

recent New Jersey court case illustrates this risk. A cook at a nursing home made a worker’s comp claim when she fell while preparing a meal for a customer appreciation event. The cook was donating her time and participation was optional, but the court ruled in her favor because she performed the same tasks for which she would otherwise be paid, and because the event mainly benefitted the employer.

HVAC contractors often perform charitable activities, such as a free equipment installation, as a way to give back to the community and to enhance their image. Gentry said that it’s a best practice to pay employees who participate in these activities, just as the contractor would for a paid installation.

“It’s the company that’s doing this promotion, not the employees,” Gentry said.

It’s All Fun Until Some Files a Claim
Some off-duty activities are for the employees’ benefit, such as a company picnic. But even these must follow the right procedures to avoid risk. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recent awarded six years of retroactive wage loss to a worker who was injured driving home from a work-sponsored happy hour. Since the employee normally wouldn’t have been at the happy hour if not for work, Scholtz said, the court determined the employer was liable for the injuries.

Serving alcohol always increases risk. Vierra recommends taking steps to mitigate this risk, such as handing out drink tickets to limit intake or providing rides home. She said vendor-sponsored events carry less risk for the HVAC contractor, but some risk remains.

Even alcohol-free events need proper procedures. For example, axe throwing has become a popular social event for companies. Vierra said it’s important to get all the waivers properly filled out.

Many activities that promote company culture and morale, no matter how well-meaning, bring a certain amount of liability risk. In the end, HVAC contractors need to evaluate every policy and determine if it benefits the employer or the employee. Then they need to spell out these policies clearly and convey them to employees.

“The biggest way to reduce any kind of liability is to make sure there is documentation, implementation, and an ongoing conversation about whatever that policy is,” Vierra said.


Funny Photos


risk management corner

Planning for Extreme Weather Conditions

As temperatures around the world continue to rise, scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent. Unusually hot summers, warmer winters, dangerous heat waves, fluctuations in precipitation throughout the United States, increases in severe storms and wildfires, and changes to flood events and drought patterns are all linked to climate changes.1 These weather conditions can disrupt many aspects of your business — so what can you do to help keep it safe?

Clear Guidelines

Do you have an emergency preparedness and response plan for your business? If not, now is the time to put one together. Emergency planning is a year-round endeavor, but pay extra attention before the start of severe weather season in your area.

Consider “best practices” before, during, and after a weather emergency, along with actions to address potential unique challenges specific to your business’ facilities and operations. Ensure your plan covers your most valuable assets and operations, conduct regular training, and make sure employees have access to your response plan should they need it.

Plan Ahead

Specific weather trends vary by region, so be sure to do your research. If your business is located in an area where extreme weather conditions occur, or are occurring more often, you may need to plan ahead to prepare for what could happen.

Consider these tips:

  • Regularly test and service your air conditioner, heater, and generator to ensure they are functioning properly.
  • Inspect vulnerable areas of your business and make necessary repairs and fortifications in advance.
  • Ensure emergency systems are functioning and up-to-date, and that employees know how to report and respond to emergencies.
  • Utilize a checklist to streamline your planning process.

Check the Forecast

While weather forecasts aren’t 100 percent accurate, they can offer a good starting point for you. If you have employees who are out on the road, or who have long commutes, keep them in mind when scheduling. Most meteorology services, such as the National Weather Service, publish their predictions a week or more in advance, and update them as conditions change. Start planning for road conditions early, but be prepared for last minute changes. If you deem the conditions too dangerous, keep your employees and vehicles off the road.

As extreme weather conditions continue to persist and intensify, keep in mind that you may need to plan for the highest ranking threats possible to be prepared for the worst. Emergency planning can help make your business more resilient, and better able to withstand potentially extreme weather events. Access Federated’s mySHIELD® or contact your local marketing representative for more information or resources.

1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Climate Change Indicators in the United States. https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/weather-climate. Accessed
5/9/22.

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