Tips for reducing liability while hosting company holiday parties

With the holiday season approaching, many companies may be planning holiday parties to show appreciation to employees and staff. These celebrations reward employees for their hard work during the year and can go a long way toward boosting employee morale.

But for company party planners, the many benefits of the traditional company party should not overshadow the legal and safety risks that these gatherings can create, especially where alcohol is served. According to one study, 36 percent of employers reported behavior problems at their most recent company party. These problems involved everything from excessive drinking and off-color jokes to fist fighting and sexual advances.

So how do you reduce your legal liability and still have a safe and enjoyable company party this holiday season? Follow as many of the listed recommendations as possible:

  1. If possible, do not serve alcohol. Simply have a catered lunch at the company’s offices.
  2. If you do serve alcohol, use drink tokens or a ticket system or have a “cash bar” instead of an “open bar” to limit the amount of alcohol served.
  3. Invite spouses and significant others especially if you believe that their attendance will make it less likely employees would engage in inappropriate conduct or excessive alcohol consumption at the party.
  4. Offer a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
  5. Always serve food if you serve alcohol. Foods rich in protein and starch tend to slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream where salty and greasy foods may increase thirst.
  6. Make attendance voluntary. If an employee is required to attend the party and is injured or harmed, the employer is more likely to be held responsible than if attendance was voluntary.
  7. Designate managers to pay attention to behavior at the party and to be prepared to act if inappropriate or potentially unsafe conduct occurs.
  8. Before the party, circulate a memo to your entire workforce reminding everyone that your company’s policies concerning workplace harassment and other inappropriate conduct apply at holiday parties.
  9. Limit drinking time to one or two hours during the party or if dinner is served, offer alcoholic beverages only at a reception before dinner and then close the bar. Or, you may stop serving alcohol one or two hours before the party officially ends.
  10. Make arrangements before the party to provide transportation for those employees who are unable to drive after the party has ended.

Following some basic precautions will protect your business and allow you to host an enjoyable party.  Have a happy holiday!




Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator

New OSHA system takes a global approach to classifying chemical hazards

When was the last time you saw the words “OSHA” and “harmonized” in the same sentence?  That’s what we thought too.

But as of Dec. 1, 2013, we all need to be aware of some upcoming changes about chemical hazards and OSHA’s new Globally Harmonized System, or GHS.  The changes are definitely for the better and the Dec. 1 date will not require much time or energy beyond some basic employee training.

That said, BCN Services’ clients should be aware of the following:

  • The Globally Harmonized System takes an international approach to hazard communication and provides world-wide agreement on classifying chemical hazards with a standardized approach to labeling safety data sheets.  (Material Safety Data Sheets will now be referred to as Safety Data Sheets).  The new system will provide a harmonized classification criteria for the health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals.
  • One of the major drivers of this change has been the globalization of the world economy.  GHS establishes a standard “language” to understand the hazards of chemicals no matter where you are in the world or where the chemicals are shipped to or shipped from, which is a vast improvement towards safety.
  • You will gradually start to see new labeling.  Chemical distributors will no longer be able to ship containers that do not comply with new labeling as of Dec. 1, 2015 and chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must start using new labels and safety data sheets by June 1, 2015.  (BCN Services will provide more information as those dates approach).

Here’s what you need to do at this point

  1. OSHA requires employers to have their employees who handle hazardous chemicals and substances trained on the new label elements and safety data sheet formats by Dec. 1, 2013.  Examples of hazardous chemical and substances are:  asbestos, carcinogens, vinyl arsenic, inorganic arsenic,  lead, cadmium, benzene, formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, spray finishing using flammable and combustible materials, oxidizing gases,  gases under pressure, pyrophoric liquids/solids/gases.  If you do not work with such substances, this new standard may not apply.
  2. If this new standard does apply to any of your employees, call BCN Services at 800.891-9911, ext. 108 and we can set-up a 17 minute on-line safety course entitled “Globalize Your Communication” that will take care of your training compliance.  Upon receipt of a user name and password from BCN Services, visit our homepage.
  3. BCN Services will handle all record keeping for this OSHA-compliant training.
  4. Training can be accomplished individually or in a group setting with several employee’s taking the online course  together.  It’s your choice.
  5. To receive your user name and password, contact Danielle Knuth via email at
  6. To discuss any questions you may have regarding the Globally Harmonized System, please contact Patrick Boeheim at 800.897-9911, ext. 108.



Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Your Next Government Deadline (psssst…it’s OSHA!)

Years ago, before seat belt laws were even dreamed of, I took an insurance class as part of a fleet insurance safety program.  I remember the impact walking out of that class:  From that moment on, my routine was to get in the car, pull that strange shoulder strap (kind of a new feature in cars!) across my body, and connect that buckle.  I felt pretty unsafe—almost naked—if I discovered I hadn’t buckled up.

Fast forward a lot of years.  I just became certified by OSHA by completing my “OSHA 10-Hour”, in a class with seven of BCN’s best clients.   It is a designation which I always looked at with interest, because 10 hours of anything, particularly government regulation, seems daunting.  I can assure you, the risk management professionals that organized and taught this class needed every minute to focus the audience of owners, managers, and key administrators on learning to stay safe, and complying with the very detailed OSHA law.

In every module, we started by reviewing raw statistics on fines assessed to businesses, and what drove those amounts.  Chilling, to say the least.  Then we learned step by step,  video by video, demonstration by demonstration, situation by situation, what it takes to do it right.  The Safety Data Sheet (what used to be Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS), is your roadmap.  PPD’s are required by us as business owners to protect workers from untimely and serious injury (lost time, cost).  Reacting properly to an incident, from reporting, to investigating using the 5-Whys, gives you a shot to prevent the next injury and get it right going forward (lost time, cost).  Too often, we just accept that things happen in the workplace; I can confidently say that these problems can be prevented.

So you are all worried about Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), right?  How about December 1st?  What’s that, you say?  All of our worksites will have completed the initial requirement for the Globally Harmonized System for OSHA compliance by that date.  We will then work to help you through Phase II and beyond.

As a business owner, when I hire people, it is my responsibility to keep my employees safe, no matter what the environment.  OSHA always seemed like a four letter word and something to avoid.  But the truth is, the OSHA body of work provides a great framework to keep employees productive, creating your products and delivering your services, and making you more profitable.  I couldn’t recommend this  OSHA 10-hour workshop enough for creating a great business environment and culture of success.

Thank you to Amerisure, Wells Fargo, attending clients, and the entire Risk Management team of BCN Services.  The next “Certified OSHA-10 Hour” is scheduled for February 6 & 7, 2014.  I would highly recommend this to our clients.  Please contact us to reserve your spot in this workshop.




Andrew (Andy) C. Hans, CEO

Individual insurance and the Affordable Care Act: Part 1

BCN’s goal with our weekly blog is to provide our partners with information that is important to our clients and employees.  Recently, as you might imagine, we are fielding many questions, comments and concerns regarding individual insurance and health care exchanges under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

This week we will begin to explore health insurance for the individual and try to answer the questions we have been receiving.  Please feel free to send comments and questions to us as we venture down this path.

As more and more employees, employers and the general public  is exposed to the world of health insurance, many people are confused by the language of insurance.  A recent poll found only 14 percent of Americans could define and understand the basic terms commonly used to define health plans.  The questions we receive at BCN support these numbers.

Today we will identify and define the most common terminology used for individual as well as group plans:

  1. Deductible:  The amount you owe before your health insurance benefits kick in. For example, if your deductible is $500, your insurance won’t pay for anything until your costs are more than $500.
  2. Co-pay:  A co-payment, or co-pay, is the amount the insured person pays every time he or she receives a health service. For instance, if your co-pay to see a doctor is $25, you pay that amount each time you see him or her. The insurance takes care of the rest.
  3. Co-insurance:  Your part of the costs of a health service that is covered by insurance. It is calculated as a percentage and you pay it in addition to whatever deductible you may owe. For example if your plan allows $100 for a doctor visit and you’ve already met your deductible, your 20 percent co-insurance payment would be $20. The insurance plan picks up the rest of the cost.
  4. Out-of-pocket maximum:  The most you pay during the period of your policy (most policies are in effect for one year) before your insurance plan begins to pay 100 percent of the allowed amount. This total does not include your balance-billed charges, your premium, or health care services that your plan doesn’t cover. (Some plans don’t count payments to out-of-network providers (see No. 8 below), , co-insurance payments, co-payments, other expenses or deductibles toward this amount, so read the plan instructions carefully.)
  5. Premiums:  The fee you pay to be enrolled in your insurance plan.
  6. Claim:  The bill you or your doctor or health care provider submits to your health insurance company.
  7. Allowed amount:  This may also be called an “eligible expense” or “negotiated rate” or “payment allowance.” It is the maximum amount on which payment is based for health care services that are covered by your insurance.
  8. In- and out-of-network:  An in-network provider is a health care office that has contracted with the health insurance company to provide services for people on that insurance plan. An out-of-network provider is someone who does not have such a relationship with the insurance company. Typically, insurance will only cover the cost of services from health care providers who are “in-network.”
  9. Essential health benefits:  This is the set of health care services that must be covered by certain plans starting in 2014. There are 10 categories in which insurance plans must provide services and items: Maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services and devices, lab services, ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, wellness and preventive services, chronic disease management, and pediatric services that include vision and oral care.  For more about how these 10 categories will be handled, see this article: Essential health benefits.
  10. Preventive care:  Routine health care that includes checkups, patient counseling and screenings to prevent disease, illness and other health complications.

Next week we will begin exploring the options, costs and alternatives to the healthcare exchanges.

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