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Your Guide to a Safe Home Office

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of people suddenly to join the work-from-home ranks. And it’s likely that many will continue to do so even after the danger passes. Setting up a safe home office is a top priority for home-based workers, whether they work for themselves or someone else. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know that safety comes partly from your insurance coverage. So we help our customers find the policies they need to protect them at home and elsewhere. Get in touch today for a free insurance review to see how we can assist you.

Safety Considerations in a Home Office

Most people are aware of the health and safety guidelines present in traditional workplace environments. If you work in an office or other business setting, you probably took part in some sort of safety training at one time.  

In your own home, however, it can be easy to take your eye off the ball. The familiar space can allow you to become more comfortable and relaxed, creating a perfect opportunity for an accident. Trips and falls that result in injury are far more common than people often think.

Trips and falls at home are surprisingly common.

Additionally, your employer can have legal repercussions if you are injured, even if the accident takes place in your home. According to OSHA, your employer has a responsibility to ensure your safety by helping you comply with accepted standards. They clarify that this responsibility applies to a workplace “in a designated area in an employee’s home.” 

Ensuring that you are working in a safe home office is not only a benefit for you. It can also be essential for your employer. And if you are self-employed, safety measures are still necessary.

How Can I Set Up a Safe Home Office?

When you prepare your office space, look at your area from the perspective of an employer rather than a homeowner. There are a few crucial areas to consider as you work to ensure a safe home office.

The Environment and Ergonomics

Your workspace needs to be appropriate for your role and the tasks you have to accomplish. If you need to handle any machinery, make sure you have enough room to do so safely. The space should have ample light, be well-ventilated, and provide enough room for you to move around safely.

If you spend hours working at a computer, then a safe home office should include an ergonomic chair and desk. If at all possible, invest in a desk that can raise and lower, as needed. Feet should be flat on the floor when you are sitting, and your arms should be at about a 90-degree angle when typing.

A safe home office includes having an ergonomic chair, desk, and keyboard.

There should also be adequate lighting at your desk so that you can see the screen without needing to squint or strain. Take plenty of breaks from your desk to stretch and move your body. Ideally, you will give yourself a few moments away from the computer about every 30 minutes.

Tripping Hazards

Slips, trips, and falls are surprisingly common causes of injuries suffered in the workplace. This fact holds true even in a home office situation. In fact, your home’s stairs may be one of the biggest hazards to your safety. 

Make sure the floor around your workspace is completely clear and accessible without cords or cables that could cause a fall. Invest in enough storage for products and paperwork so that you do not have things in your way as you walk through your space.

Fire Hazards

A house fire is a significant concern for any homeowner. Fire safety must be a factor when making your plan for a home office. Be sure to include all of these safety tips in your workspace:

  • Keep walkways in your office clear to ensure a quick evacuation.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher in your office. Additional extinguishers should be in the garage and near the kitchen. Learn how to use one.
  • Check that there is a working smoke detector in your office and test it regularly.
  • Know and practice an evacuation plan. This step is critical if your office is not on the ground floor. 
  • Do not smoke or light candles in your home office.

A safe home office should have a functioning fire extinguisher.

Security

Whether you own your own business or work from home for someone else, maintaining a safe home office also includes data security. You must follow best practices for data protection, confidentiality, and customer privacy. It is crucial to have a secure place to store any files and ensure this is only accessible by those with permission.

Your computer will also need protection to maintain the integrity of sensitive data or information. Multi-step authentication and anti-virus software are two vital pieces of home office data safety. 

If you are working for yourself, cyber liability insurance is another critical component to consider. And when working as a remote employee, you still need to adhere to your employer’s requirements and training. Be sure to talk with them about the measures you need to take when working from a home office.

Electrical Hazards

Overloaded electrical circuits can be a major fire risk and could cause an outage that damages your computer or files. Avoid the temptation to use multiple extension cords that could overload your system. If you need to install additional outlets, hire a licensed professional to do the work safely.

A surge protector is essential for protecting your computer equipment. Fuse breakers should have clear labels and be easily accessible. Ensure that you do not have any frayed wires in use and always address electrical concerns right away.

How Can We Help?

The Lake Region independent agents are the friendly experts for your Minnesota insurance needs. We are here to help you find everything you need to protect your home, autos, health, and business. 

With three offices throughout Greater Minnesota, Lake Region Insurance Agency is able to help no matter where you are. Get in touch with the team today for a free insurance review, and make sure that you have sufficient coverage.

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How Does Flood Insurance Work, and Do I Need It?

When it comes to protecting your house, you probably have coverage for the home’s structure and contents. Many homeowners believe that this gives them full financial protection in the event of any disaster. But it’s also important to consider a few questions. Do I need flood insurance? And how does flood insurance work? 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know the damage flooding can cause here in Greater Minnesota. If you feel unsure about your coverage, reach out to one of our agents today. With offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we are here to serve you.

How Does Flood Insurance Work?

As the name suggests, flood insurance is a specialized form of coverage that kicks in if a flood damages your home. This type of policy is for flooding due to natural causes. Some examples of events that might trigger a claim include:

  • Heavy Rain
  • Rapid Snowmelt
  • Levee Failure
  • Storm Surge

Flooding from burst pipes or a malfunctioning washing machine falls under a homeowners policy. That’s a whole different event.

Only a small minority of homeowners have flood insurance, even in high-risk areas. This lack of coverage can result in a significant eye-opener if disaster strikes.

But I Already Have Homeowners Insurance. Isn’t That Enough?

Too often, people believe they have coverage for flood damage under their homeowners insurance. But this is not the case. Flood insurance, like earthquake coverage, is a separate policy that you purchase. Unfortunately, many owners do not realize this until it is too late.

In some situations, buying flood insurance may be a requirement to secure a mortgage. This necessity is especially true if you are in a high-risk area.

For commercial properties, the same concerns apply. Your business insurance policy likely doesn’t protect you against flood damage and loss.

How Do I Decide If I Should Buy Flood Insurance?

You may assume that you do not need flood insurance, especially if you have never experienced a disaster. Many people think if they don’t live in a high-risk area, they don’t need to worry about it.

However, flood maps tend to change over time. These alterations happen according to shifts in local infrastructure, weather patterns, or nearby building work. 

For example, the construction of a new neighborhood on a local floodplain could mean there is no longer an escape for excess water. As a result, your property may have inadvertently slipped into the high-risk category without you realizing it. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains the Flood Map Service Center to help determine risk. They update the data annually, and you can check it to see how your home fares. Mortgage companies use this information to decide whether or not to require flood insurance on a property. 

Even if the data place your home in a low-risk category, that doesn’t mean flooding can’t happen. And home could be at risk. 

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The NFIP is a program that FEMA manages, and it is available only in communities that choose to participate. There are two types of coverage: structural property and personal property.

A policy for the building itself is ‘replacement cost value’ coverage. That is, it pays for your home’s repair and replacement costs, up to the limits of the policy. To purchase coverage through NFIP, you must also have full homeowners coverage.

Replacement cost value protection typically covers:

  • The foundation of your home and the physical structure 
  • Built-in kitchen appliances such as stoves and refrigerators
  • Electrical and plumbing
  • Furnaces and air conditioners
  • Heaters
  • Flooring
  • Wallboard and paneling
  • Window blinds
  • Permanent bookcases and cabinets
  • Detached garages
  • Removal of debris

Personal property or contents coverage addresses the items in the home. This option generally covers:

  • Clothing
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Curtains
  • Portable kitchen appliances
  • Washer and dryer
  • Freezers and any food in them
  • Up to $2500 in valuables, including artwork and jewelry

As with any insurance policy, some exceptions apply under NFIP coverage. These include:

  • Basements or any areas of your home below ground level
  • Any damage caused by mold, mildew, or moisture not caused by floodwater
  • Stock certificates, cash, or bearer bonds
  • Precious metals
  • Loss of income
  • Trees, plants, or shrubs outside the home
  • Swimming pools or hot tubs
  • Walkways
  • Decks and patios
  • Septic systems
  • Temporary housing
  • Cars

NFIP coverage is simple to obtain through an insurance agent. Typically it takes 30 days from the date of purchase before a policy goes into effect. Premiums vary significantly depending on where the property sits. 

Private Flood Insurance

There are a limited number of private insurers who can offer flood insurance, as well. These options are outside the federal government. This coverage can have several benefits for homeowners, including:

  • Higher Levels of Coverage – Private flood insurance tends to offer higher levels of coverage than NFIP does. This option may be important for those with high-end homes and belongings.
  • Lower Premiums – As data has become more sophisticated, private insurers have been able to offer competitive rates. For some homeowners, these premiums may be less than those offered by NFIP.
  • Shorter Wait Times – You typically have to wait 30 days for NFIP policies to go into effect. Private coverage can start in less than a week.
  • Extra Perks – Unlike with NFIP, you may be able to claim short-term housing costs. And your policy may cover items that NFIP excludes.

There are some negatives associated with private insurance. It may not be available in very high-risk areas. Also, banks may not accept a private policy when you take out a mortgage with them. 

Lake Region Is Here to Help

Insurance decisions can feel confusing and overwhelming. The lingo and terminology aren’t very user-friendly at times. 

That’s why the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to serve you. We definitely can answer the question, “How does flood insurance work?” 

We have years of experience working with a range of insurance policies. Our independent agents have access to coverage from many different companies, so we are sure to find just what you need.

Don’t spend another minute worrying about protecting your home, car, business, or health. Reach out to Lake Region today for a free insurance review.

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7 Lawn Mower Safety Tips for Your Summer Yard Care

Getting your garden into tip-top shape is one of the perks of warmer weather. Lawn maintenance is a significant part of keeping your yard in good order, but this can be a risky business. To stay safe, you need to know some lawn mower safety tips.

Owning a home brings both challenges and rewards. But at all times, you need protection as a homeowner. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, our job is to offer that protection. Our independent agents are available in Greater Minnesota to help you find the perfect policies for your needs. Give us a call today to get started.

The Best Lawn Mower Safety Tips

This time of year, there are plenty of yard chores to keep you busy. From planting colorful flowers to creating a relaxing area for entertaining, outdoor projects beckon. And mowing your lawn is probably the job you need to do most often.

With that in mind, here are seven tips to consider before firing up the lawn mower.

1. Protect Your Feet

Your footwear may not seem like a priority, but it can have a significant impact on your safety. When the temperature rises, it can be tempting to kick off your shoes or switch to sandals. This habit may be comfortable, but it also can be dangerous during yard work.

Wearing inadequate footwear increases your risk of slips, trips, and falls, which can up the chances of injuries. You may also hurt your foot by stepping on something sharp. Additional hazards include stubbed toes, stings or bites, and burns from bumping against a hot lawn mower. 

 

And let’s not forget the moving blades under the carriage and all the damage they can do. Their sole purpose is to cut, and your toe or foot will not get special consideration. To stay safe, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes while you are operating the lawn mower.

2. Only Move Forward

If you realize you have missed a spot, it can be tempting to pull the mower backward for easy access. This move is hazardous, however. It is far too simple to slip or lose your footing. In that case, the mower could end up on top of your body. 

Fortunately, this is an accident that you can avoid. If you missed a spot while mowing, maneuver the machine to where you want it only by pushing it forward. It may take longer than backing up, but it helps to keep you safe.

3. Never Touch A Moving Part

Never touch any moving blades or parts of the mower. Yes, this may seem obvious. But there are more than 6000 injuries each year due to lawn mowers. So this tip must not be as obvious as it seems. More than 20% of those injuries result in amputations.

When you are in a hurry, it is tempting to reach down and remove an obstruction. The danger here is that one small slip could have catastrophic consequences.

Be overly cautious at all times when operating the lawn mower. If you notice that something is clogged in the blades, don’t touch anything until you shut off the machine. All moving elements must come to a complete stop before you put your fingers anywhere near them.

4. Don’t Forget Your Ears

Another unexpected body part that needs protection during lawn mowing is your ears. Experts recommend ear protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels, and mowers fall into this category.

Most lawn mowers emit a volume of around 100 decibels. Over time, this can cause discomfort and hearing damage. The risk may seem small, compared to broken bones or amputations. But it is better to be safe in this case. Invest in some quality protection to ensure your long-term hearing health.

5. Prepare Your Lawn

Lawn mower safety does not come solely from the operation of the machine. You also need to check that the grass is free of debris. These items could fly up and hit you or someone else.

Before you get started, take a few minutes to clear away any rocks, pebbles, or clumps of dirt. These could catch in the mower and turn into projectiles. 

6. Read The Manual

It may not be the most exciting read of your life, but your lawn mower manual is essential. It will help you operate safely, and there may be features and buttons which take you by surprise. Understanding your equipment means you can make the most sensible choices.

Chances are, you have used a lawn mower before, so you may try to skip this step. Remember, however, that each machine is different. Take the time to do your research. If the manual is long gone, a quick online search for the model number should give you the info you need.

7. Keep Children Away From Mowers

To young children, anything can seem like a toy, and a lawn mower is no exception. Make sure to store the machine away when not in use. A child could easily pull the lawn mower over onto themselves, tip it over to cause an injury, or cause other damage. 

When operating the lawn mower, make sure that children are well out of the way. Children tend to move impulsively and are at high risk of significant injuries from lawn mowers. Burns, cuts, and amputations are surprisingly common each year.

Riding lawn mowers create a different level of concern. Around 800 children are run over by these machines every year, and the vast majority of these accidents result in amputation.

Safety First With Lake Region

Keeping your yard in beautiful shape is a joy for many American homeowners. These lawn mower safety tips help ensure that your yard looks fantastic while everyone stays safe.

One of the best ways to protect your family and loved ones is to be sure that you have excellent insurance coverage. At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we offer a great variety of policies. 

As independent agents, we can access a wide selection of options. This range allows us to tailor the coverage you purchase to your exact requirements. Get in touch today with one of our agents. We offer a free consultation in our offices in Cokato, Willmar, and New London, MN.