kelowna valley insurance insurance - Hazards of Hot Work

Hot Work Hazards – Are You Protected From Potential Losses?!

Does your business perform hot work? Make sure you’re covered in the face of various serious hazards and potential losses.

If we talk about the leading causes of fire in our country, among the top three reasons for mid-size industrial or commercial property losses is due to hot work activities on the premises.

For the uninitiated, hot work is any occupation that includes work with sources of ignition – welding, soldering, grinding, cutting, etc. – close to flammable or combustible materials. These include flammable gases or liquids, sawdust, and wood structures, for example. When you work with a source of ignition near these materials, which for many businesses is often inevitable, there’s a greater risk of fire or even possibly explosion.

Not surprisingly, there are inherent hazards associated with spark-producing operations. And it accounts for significant losses to and of property every year. But, the loss is preventable. There are effective safety protocols and procedures that, if in place and utilized effectively and with consistency, can help reduce the hazards significantly.

Never underestimate the hazard of one small spark!

If your business involves frequently working with sources of ignition – hot work – chances are you already have a designated area where the activities take place. Why a designated location? Because it takes but one small spark to cause devastation.

Only one spark can cause a fire that destroys equipment and property, not to mention the costly interruption of business, causing the loss of jobs and revenue. Even worse, a fire caused by a simple spark puts lives at risk. After a devastating fire, as the business tries to recover, it can lose valuable customers to its competitors in the same market. It only takes a moment for a fire to take hold, yet the damage can be overwhelmingly long-term.

Reduce the possible risks of hot work

Don’t think that a stray spark immediately turns into a devastating fire. Not at all. In fact, it will sit for hours in a hospitable, flammable environment and smoulder until it comes to life hours after your team has left for the night.

That’s when the destruction occurs unhindered.

That said, there are best practices to ensure that spark-producing activities don’t result in an unseen spark left to grow into a fire:

  • Check all equipment to ensure that they are properly operational before you do any work.
  • Inspect the hot work area thoroughly before any work begins. Are there flammable or combustible materials or surfaces close to the work area (walls, beams, posts, partitions, ceilings, etc.)? If so, cover them with a material that is fire-resistant and heat-insulating to prevent them from overheating and igniting.
  • Check that you have fire extinguishers nearby, within easy access, and are functional.
  • Use all recommended personal protective devices. They should be easy to access and available at the worksite. Train your staff on how to use them and that they are always clean and stored safely and appropriately.

Inspect the work zone for flammables and combustibles

  • Keep all combustibles away from the zone of hot work as much as possible.
  • If you can’t clear combustibles out of the area, cover them with fire-resistant blankets or shields. Cover or shield any equipment and gas lines in the space from stray and airborne hot debris or sparks.
  • Keep the floor of the work area and surroundings tidy of any combustible materials. If the floors are potentially combustible, try to keep them damp or cover them with fire-resistant blankets. NOTE: To prevent electrical shock, don’t use water if electrical circuits are energized.
  • Sparks must stay out of any ducting. Keep duct openings or other ductwork clean of combustible debris. Seal any cracks in ducts. If there are cracks in ducts, seal them. Cover any duct openings with a fire-resistant barrier.
  • Clean up spilt grease, oil, or other flammable liquids.
  • Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit nearby and easy to access.
  • Learn about more best practices HERE.

A dedicated fire watch is critical

An appropriately and safely prepared hot work zone includes a dedicated fire watch when the spark-producing activity is complete. After any work that produces heat and sparks – welding, soldering, grinding, etc.

For the hours that follow any flammable work, assign a team member to inspect the zone and surrounding area for sparks, visible and hidden, that could settle and smoulder to ignition. Missing an inspection after hot work poses a potentially catastrophic hazard. Pay a relevantly trained employee to keep an eye on the area – a worthwhile expense given the destruction and cost if you don’t.

If you can’t keep a dedicated fire watch for the hot work zone, limit hot work to earlier in the day as much as possible. That should give time to find any stray sparks smouldering during working hours. Monitor for about one to four hours after the work’s completion.

Use a hot work permit

A hot work permit protocol helps to reduce the associated hazards. A helpful and essential two-part tag system, the hot work permit requires the worker to complete a safety checklist before they perform any hot work, even beyond your dedicated hot work zones. At the beginning of any hot work, they affix one part of the two-part tag close to their work area. It remains there until the fire watch is complete. The other portion stays on file, audited by management.

The permit system ensures the individual performing the hot work follows the appropriate safety protocols. It requires they sign off on a checklist before working and after the fire watch is complete. A hot work permit is available for purchase from most retailers of safety supplies.

Spark-producing activities safety program

Include a safety program specific to spark-producing operations in your larger safety program. It should include the use of hot work permits. The safety protocols include all spark-producing operations that occur onsite, no matter who does it, your staff or third-party contractors.

Don’t make it complicated! The hot work part of your plan is only a page or two to identify the unique safety specifics pertaining to spark-producing activities.

We specialize in group and union member insurance.  If you are an existing or retired union member in BC, we can get you the best rates.

Wondering if your business doing hot work might impact your commercial insurance? Talk to us!

Safe RV Driving – How to Stay Alert and Focused kelowna valley insurance

Safe RV Driving – How to Stay Alert and Focused

Heading out on your winter road trip? Be safe – RV driving is all about staying alert and focused.

Frightening fact: simply reading or sending a text message takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. Seem like nothing? At a speed of 90 km/h, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field – with your eyes closed!

We want you to get excited about your upcoming winter RV trip and we want you to get to your destination safe and sound! We assume you’re not driving your rig like a maniac, so staying alert and focused is really what it’s all about when it comes to safe RV driving.

There is a multitude of distractions when you spend hours every day on the road. And they can be dangerous. The most recent estimates indicate that driver distraction may be responsible for 20-30% of all automobile collisions – over 1000 injuries and fatal motor vehicle accidents every year. Distracted drivers are eight times more likely to be in a crash or near accident compared with undistracted drivers.

Talking on a mobile phone or texting is still a problem, despite evidence showing how dangerous it is. But there is any number of activities we do while behind the wheel that can present a dangerous risk. As you make your plans for your winter road trip escape, consider the following ways you can eliminate distractions and make safe RV driving a priority:

Organization is key – before you drive!

Safe RV driving requires that you decide on your route before you get started on the road each day. Program the GPS. Adjust your seats, mirrors, and radio before you roll out of the driveway. Be sure that any loose items – water bottles, for instance – are stowed securely to prevent them from rolling around. And you reaching for them.

Reserve your first several nights ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it once you’re on the road.

Be sure that your passengers, including children, are also stowed and ready to go. That includes any furry friends! If they do need attention, pull over and stop to address their needs. Reaching behind you can easily cause you to lose control of the automobile.

Silence electronics

By now, we’re all well aware of the dangers of using a mobile device while driving. But, so many of us continue to sneak a peek at an incoming text or program the phone’s GPS while on the road. When your phone chimes, it’s just too tempting to take a look to see who or what it is.

Do not use your mobile device when you’re driving. Put it in ‘do not disturb’ mode to help you avoid the temptation of checking it. Even at stoplights. If for no other reason than because, in some places, law enforcement may ticket you if they witness you using your phone at a traffic light. Bluetooth and voice commands should help you if you need to make a hands-free call or text while on the road BUT that is still a distraction. Your hands might be on the wheel, but your attention is no longer on the road. Use them only when absolutely necessary.

Avoid multitasking while driving

We know that you do the best you can at safe RV driving. But when you spend that much time on the road, it can be tempting to try to get little things done while you drive – book appointments, reserve that night’s camp spot or table at a restaurant, catch up with friends and family. Avoid it as best you can. If you must take care of those things, pull over at a safe location and stop. Or, let a passenger take care of it as you drive. You need to focus on the road and the other vehicles around you.

Don’t eat and drive

Let’s face it, we all do it. We don’t really think about it interfering with our focus on driving. But it can – easily. Spilt food or drink is a major cause of distraction. Unwrapping, unsealing, and arranging in your lap or in a cup holder; these activities take your attention off the road. Sometimes for an extended time.

Safe RV driving – passengers matter

Enjoy the company of your passengers, but also, don’t be afraid to task them. Let them answer a text or call. They can reprogram the GPS.

Keep the chit-chat light and easy. Difficult or emotional conversations can become a serious distraction, even a dangerous one.

Don’t drive while drowsy

It may seem obvious, but the fact is, we’ve all pushed through fatigue while driving. We shouldn’t. According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, drowsiness is responsible for 21% of motor vehicle accidents in Canada. It’s as big a problem as driving impaired or with a mobile phone in your hand.

When you drive drowsy, your reaction time is slower and your decision-making is compromised – more impulsive and less rational. When you are fatigued while driving, your vision can become blurred and you can be more sensitive to light. Additionally, your focus diminishes and it’s easier to get confused.

What can you do?

  • Stop the RV and park in a safe location. Put the seat back and take a quick nap – 15 minutes is often adequate to refresh you for driving further. This is probably the tactic with the most impact.
  • To amplify the effects of your break, drink a caffeinated beverage right before your snooze. After your rest, the caffeine should have begun to take effect.
  • Get out of your RV for a few minutes. Stretch your legs and take in some vital fresh air.

Enjoy your upcoming RV vacation. And be safe!

Do you have questions about travel insurance or insuring your recreational vehicle? TALK TO US!

Recent Home Renovations - Update Your Broker

Recent Home Renovations? Be Sure to Update Your Broker!

Have you performed recent home renovations? You should update your insurance broker to ensure that you have adequate home coverage.

Contrary to what many of us thought would have happened during the course of a global pandemic, chances are, a run on home renovations would NOT have been on the list!

But, lo and behold, as we all hunkered down at home, the state of our homes came under far more scrutiny. Not to mention, our need to create spaces in our houses that could better accommodate the increased demand for work, school, and everything else under a single roof.

As of spring, 2021, 1 in 2 Canadians either made major home renovations or were making plans to do so. 1 in 4 had already completed at least some upgrades. And, of those who renovated, over 14% of them claimed it was on impulse. That’s a lot of sudden upgrades to many homes. The question is, did these impulse home renovators update their home policies with their material changes?  

Have you done recent home renovations? Have you updated your homeowner’s policy to reflect the changes?

The cost of your home renovations matter

To maintain coverage provisions, policies identify that you to tell your broker if you spend $5000 or more. For those home improvements that were done rather quickly, it wasn’t unusual for homeowners to not check their policies before launching the work. 

Changes such as finishing a basement or building an addition can change the rebuild value of your home and, as a result, impact your insurance coverage. Across Canada, 13% of home renovations ranged from $5,000-$10,000, 6% cost between $10,000–$20,000, and 7% exceeded $20,000. Approximately 26% of home improvements in Canada cost $5,000 or more, meeting the bar for updating a homeowner’s policy. And, an interesting fact, remote workers working from home spent an average of $1,000 more on their home renovations. 

The question is how many of these Canadian homeowners claimed them with their insurance brokers. 

Keep your insurance broker in the home improvement loop!

The exact data on whether homeowners updated their home insurance policies isn’t yet confirmed, but if the numbers from a decade ago are any indication, chances are, no. In 2013 only 6% of British Columbians said they’d reviewed their homeowner’s policies before they began their renovations. The same number of Ontario homeowners and only 5% of Albertans preemptively checked into their insurance.

Respectively, only 17%, 14% and 13% of homeowners in those provinces followed up with their insurance providers after they completed the work on their homes. 

Among the homeowners who made improvements to their homes in 2021, over half added to or enhanced their backyards, 29% added to their home offices, 23% improved their basements with an entertainment area, 12% added new playrooms, and 3% built additions. 

Do you have other questions about recent or upcoming home improvements and what they mean to your home insurance? Talk to us – we’ll tell you everything you need to know!


Cybersecurity Best Practices –  Protect Your Data Working From Home

Cybersecurity Best Practices –  Protect Your Data Working From Home

You need to understand and implement cybersecurity best practices to protect your data if you work from home.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic remote working is no longer just for the fringe internet workers – web and software developers, stock traders, and hackers. It’s now virtually mainstream. Everyone from oil and gas industry engineers to health professionals to writers and creatives and most other sectors.

Consequently, there are a unique set of challenges to working from home, including work-life balance, autonomous time management, and information security.

While we can’t address the first two in this article, we know that cybersecurity and the need to keep your work and data safe working remotely online can be very hard to address. When you work in an office environment, your employer likely manages all issues regarding cybersecurity to prevent data breaches. Rather, when you work from home, you expose yourself to a number of information security risks. Some companies work to get ahead of this by deploying remote networks to protect work-at-home employees. Others do not. You may be working at home and need to safeguard your data on your own. You have to understand how to manage the security of your company’s sensitive information. And, it helps to effectively secure your personal information as well.

Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to ensure that you protect your data and help mitigate cybersecurity risks:

Always use strong passwords

No matter where you work, you should always create strong, long passwords for all of your devices and online accounts. Strong passwords are key to protecting your data and sit at the top of any list of cybersecurity best practices.

Strong password protection should include your Wi-Fi network and router. Avoid using passwords that someone might easily guess – your address, name, or birthday, for instance. The more challenging the password, the less likelihood for a hacker to crack it and gain access to your devices or accounts.

If you want to evaluate the strength of your password choice, tools such as How Secure is my Password will check if it’s strong enough. It will also calculate how many days, weeks, months, or years it would take for a computer to crack it – kinda cool!

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is fundamental to cybersecurity best practices. Yes, it secures your privacy online and can allow you to access to blocked content due to geography. Additionally, though, a VPN also protects your online traffic from interception for nefarious purposes.

A VPN is a virtual internet tunnel that encrypts all of your internet traffic. It ensures that data sharing amongst your network has protection from hackers. If you use a free VPN, you risk compromised internet speeds due to the higher volume. For business purposes, it’s best to spend the money on a VPN to maintain optimum productivity.

Implement two-factor authentication

A strong password is great. But, for those highly sensitive accounts, it isn’t always enough to mitigate the online security risks. For instance, if your credentials don’t have adequate encryption within the systems of your company or, using advanced password hacking tools, an attacker can “guess” the password.

Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection for your accounts. It effectively validates employees’ identities more accurately and efficiently. It’s an extra step via text message, email, or a randomly generated PIN. Only the employee is able to provide the required authorization.

While not 100% hacker-proof, two-step authentication adds yet another measure of protection. It is another barrier to help prevent an unauthorized intrusion into company systems and accounts.

Keep systems updated

Updating systems such as your computer operating system as well as software and web platforms can be time-consuming and somewhat annoying. But, they are an essential component to the security of your data. System updates often address security vulnerabilities identified in previous iterations.

As remote workers access company digital infrastructure through their personal computers, it’s more important than ever that they keep their computers and software up to date.

Use solid anti-virus software

Even if a Windows machine has good built-in virus protection in the form of Widows Defender, it’s not enough. If you work remotely, you need to install strong anti-virus software and conduct frequent scans to identify possible infection.

There is a variety of good antivirus software available. A few to consider:

  • McAfee
  • Bitdefender
  • Norton 360 Deluxe

Don’t get sucked into phishing scams

An important element of cybersecurity best practices, being aware of phishing scams is integral to your online security. Unfortunately, with more professional online usage throughout the pandemic, it offered more opportunities for hackers to take advantage and send far more phishing emails.

Phishing emails can result in corrupted systems or unauthorized access. This can result in vulnerability or compromise of your personal computer as well as company systems. With email often the primary means of communication, remote workers are far more susceptible to email phishing attacks.

First rule-of-thumb – click on NOTHING if you don’t trust or can’t identify the sender. To identify a phishing email, first check the sender’s email address for gobbledy goop URLs or spelling errors. Look for grammar errors in the subject line, preheader text, or email body.

If you’re still curious beyond that, hover over any links contained to see the URL – DO NOT click. And, certainly, do NOT click any attachments.

Secure your personal home network

Chances are that the router in your home included a default password at installation. It’s important to know that modern cybercriminals can find their way into default credentials for just about every kind of device. It will be among their first attempts into hacking your network.

Upon installation the first thing you should do is set a new, strong, long password to protect your personal network.  Additionally, similar to the updates to your system and software, be sure that your router’s firmware is up to date. Hackers know which vulnerabilities to look for when it comes to outdated versions of technologies, including your home network. Home working has increased the likelihood of vulnerabilities to be exploited more easily and more frequently.

An easy step to prevent attack is to set your network’s encryption to WPA 2 or 3, which is far more challenging to crack than traditional WEP encryption.

Questions about your insurance and cybersecurity risks? Talk to us to ensure you’re protected.

Renew Your ICBC Auto Insurance Online

Renew Your ICBC Auto Insurance Online!

ICBC is making buying insurance even easier. Quickly and easily renew your auto insurance online!

Exciting news from ICBC! For policies expiring May 2022, British Columbia drivers can now renew their auto insurance online.

In line with many of the new online options for consumers as a result of the pandemic, ICBC will transition their auto policy renewals online. A long time coming, this is a change that is sure to simplify the lives of many of our customers.

But, while the change is welcome, there are restrictions. Here are a few vital details regarding the new online service:

What insurance coverage can – and cannot – be purchased online?

Generally, according to ICBC, an insurance policy may be eligible for renewal online if it’s a personal policy due to be renewed in less than 44 days (for those policies expiring on or after May 1, 2022). Additionally, there can only be one name listed as owner and they intend to keep the terms of their policy the same.

There are circumstances where an otherwise eligible policy still isn’t approved for online renewal – if the customer has outstanding debt owed to ICBC, for instance.

If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re eligible to renew your auto insurance online, GET IN TOUCH! 

Types of insurance policies cannot be renewed online

There are criteria that will not allow you to renew your auto insurance online:

  • The vehicle is jointly owned
  • Your vehicle is leased
  • Your vehicle is company-owned
  • It’s a motorcycle
  • Yours is a collector vehicle
  • It’s a commercial policy
  • Your policy has expired
  • You need to add, change, or remove your ICBC optional coverages
  • You have outstanding debt owed to ICBC

These are but the most common situations that make a policy ineligible for renewal online. Be aware that there may be other factors that might make you ineligible to renew your auto insurance online.

If you want to renew a policy that is ineligible or if you have further questions, CONTACT US!


Before you renew insurance online – what you need to know

When can I renew my insurance online?

You can renew online as early as 44 days before your policy expires (if it is expiring on or after May 1, 2022). When you opt to renew your insurance online, we recommend getting the ball rolling well in advance of the policy expiry date.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just as with the policies you’ve always renewed in person at our office, if you do not complete the renewal of your auto policy BEFORE the expiry date, you will NOT have coverage. There is NO grace period for late insurance renewals.

Take a look at this helpful video about how to renew your auto insurance online.

Can I renew my insurance online any time, any day?

No, you can’t. The system is offline 12 a.m.–5 a.m. for processing and daily system maintenance. You will not be able to log in or complete an insurance renewal during this time.

Can I renew my insurance online if I have optional coverage from another insurance provider?

Yes. BUT only your ICBC coverage will be renewed. You will still need to renew your non-ICBC optional coverage with your other provider. Rather than online, it might be more convenient to renew all at once, in person.

Can I make ANY changes or do anything else once logged in?

In addition to renewing an eligible insurance policy, you can:

  • During your renewal, you can add drivers with a valid B.C. driver’s licence to your policy
  • Select a broker’s office to review your renewal after you’ve purchased your insurance policy

Other than your renewal, you can:

  • Prepare an estimate of changes to your coverage or your listed drivers (or both)
  • View and print your insurance documents
  • Keep up with when your policy expires

Can I purchase a new policy for auto insurance online?

No, you can’t. Nor can you purchase a Temporary Operation Permit online. You also cannot change or cancel an active policy online. Contact your favourite insurance office for more information.​


Do you have other questions about purchasing your auto insurance online? Talk to us – we’ll tell you everything you need to know!