August is National Eye Exam Month – Read this to see why!

In celebration of National Eye Exam month, here are three compelling reasons you should book your annual eye exam today.

Have you scheduled your annual eye exam? You might be surprised to know that there is more to an eye exam than just checking visual clarity or getting an updated prescription. Caring for your eyes should always be a part of your regular healthcare routine – even if you don’t wear glasses or contacts or have any previous history of eye problems. Although you might not have needed vision correction in the past, your eyes can change as you age. Getting regular eye exams is the best way to make sure you are detecting problems early, have the right prescription lenses and to make sure your overall vision health is maintained to help prevent future vision loss. Here are three important reasons why you should visit your eye doctor every year.

1. Detect Early Signs of Chronic Diseases

Your optometrist can tell a lot about your overall wellness by examining your eyes, the only place on your body where your circulatory system is visible. Optometrists have shocking stories about how annual eye exams helped them detect early signs of serious health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, even in seemingly healthy patients. Getting your eyes checked routinely is critical because vision-related issues can be an indication of a broader health condition.

2. Some Eye Diseases Are Symptom-Free

Some health conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration don’t have any early warning signs. Getting your annual eye exam can help your eye doctor detect otherwise-invisible health conditions before they progress.

3. Your Vision Might Not Be as Clear as You Think

People often ignore taking care of their eyes as part of their regular health maintenance. Many people believe that since they can see well, they don’t need to visit their eye doctor. However, getting routine eye exams is important regardless of age. Your eyes not only affect how you see, but how you feel. Your eyesight impacts your performance at work, school, and home. By having your eyes checked yearly this provides your eye doctor a baseline on how your vision may have changed since your last exam and can help catch treatable conditions earlier on.

Ready to schedule your annual eye exam?
Find a local VSP network doctor who is right for you and schedule your comprehensive eye exam today.

Plus, you can get additional member savings and bonus offers when you visit a doctor who participates in the VSP Premier Program.

After your eye exam, take advantage of the following exclusive offers:

  • Get an extra $40 added to your frame allowance now through October 31, 2021, when you choose frames from popular brands Cole Haan, Flexon®, Lacoste, Pure®, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
  • Get an additional 20% off glasses or sunglasses at your local VSP network doctor or at Eyeconic®.
  • Get $25 off Dragon sunglasses at Eyeconic® through September 30, 2021.
  • Purchase your annual supply of eligible Bausch + Lomb contact lenses and get up to a $250 mail-in rebate


See Well. Be Well.® Make your eye health and eye care a priority by scheduling your annual comprehensive eye exam today. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP vision insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

Information received through VSP Vision Care channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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  • Next up: Avoid becoming another Fire-Loss Statistic
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  • Avoid becoming another Fire-Loss Statistic

    Losses as a result of fire damage put a big dent into business operations every year. U.S. fires resulted in an estimated $11.6 billion in direct property loss during 2014, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average, a civilian fire death occurred somewhere in the country every two hours and 41 minutes. There are a number of steps businesses can take to avoid becoming another fire-loss statistic, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. These steps are centered around four main themes.

    Losses as a result of fire damage put a big dent into business operations every year.

    U.S. fires resulted in an estimated $11.6 billion in direct property loss during 2014, according to the National Fire Protection Association. On average, a civilian fire death occurred somewhere in the country every two hours and 41 minutes.

    There are a number of steps businesses can take to avoid becoming another fire-loss statistic, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. These steps are centered around four main themes

    Create a fire safety plan

    It’s important that businesses have in place a fire safety plan that is reviewed annually. This plan will help employees identify actions that need to be taken to help prevent a fire. This plan should include:

    • designating an outdoor central meeting place that is well-marked;
    • establishing a process by which employees who are trained to use fire extinguishers are trained annually; and
    • acquainting the local fire department with your facility, its location and potential specific hazards.

    Housekeeping

    Keeping a tidy workplace environment can also help support the fire protection cause. Employees and employers should:

    • keep personal workspaces clean;
    • check heating units at least annually;
    • empty waste containers daily;
    • turn off non-essential electrical equipment at the end of each day;
    • ensure extension cords are the correct size and used for portable equipment only; and
    • check electrical outlets regularly to ensure they are not overloaded.

    Storage

    Workplace materials must be stored safely. This can be accomplished by:

    • keeping combustible materials at least 3 feet away from heat sources;
    • disposing hazardous materials properly; and
    • maintaining at least 24 inches between the top of a stack of materials and the ceiling.

    Fire Protection

    If fire does occur, it’s important to be prepared. Some fire protection tips include:

    • clearly marking all exit doors and removing any potential obstructions from the door;
    • allowing exit doors to be opened from the direction of exit traffic without the use of a key or any special knowledge or effort;
    • mounting fire extinguishers in accessible and identified locations;
    • keeping a space of at least 18 inches below sprinkler heads and checking the sprinklers annually;
    • testing emergency lighting every month; and 
    • keeping doors closed when rooms are not occupied (closed doors can act as a barrier to smoke and fire).

    Escape tips

    In addition, it’s important to keep in mind what should be done to escape a fire:

    1. If you see smoke, try another way to escape. If you have to escape through smoke, stay close to the floor.
    2. Check doorknobs and the space between the door and frame with the back of your hand before opening closed doors. If it is cool, open the door slowly but be ready to quickly close the door if smoke comes through.
    3. Elevators should not be used during a fire.
    4. Once you're out, STAY OUT. If someone else is trapped inside, tell the Fire Department. Fire gasses in the building are toxic and can kill.

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  • Next up: Aye, Yai, Yai, I-9! Staying out of Trouble With Employment Eligibility Forms
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  • Aye, Yai, Yai, I-9! Staying out of Trouble With Employment Eligibility Forms

    With more focus than ever being put on immigration and citizenship, there's a renewed emphasis on I-9 compliance. Here's what you need to know to stay on the right side of the law.

    In the past, large fines and penalties relating to I-9 non-compliance were rare, but in our new society with heightened focus on immigration and citizenship, Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) audits, investigations and even raids on employers are becoming more common. Recently, employers in the U.S. have experienced a crackdown on all matters relating to immigration resulting in I-9 responsibilities and compliance becoming more important than ever. I-9 non-compliance penalty amounts are increasing and at least one Court has recently held that violations that occurred years ago can be assessed at current penalty rates.  Also, fines and penalties can be assessed based on each I-9 form found not to be in compliance with federal law.  The amount of penalty is dependent on the date of the violation. Case law also has found that violations are generally considered to be continuing until corrected as opposed to a one-time violation resulting increased fine amounts.

    ICE routinely argues in these types of cases, that the fines must be significant despite the size of the employer, to ensure compliance and deter future non-compliance by all employers.  The Department of Justice recently announced the largest I-9 fine and penalty ever assessed at $34 million. In contrast, a dry-cleaning company who employed only 25 employees was recently fined over $44,000 for I-9 non-compliance. Non-compliance with I-9 requirements has become costly to employers and requires new attention and concern.

    What is an I-9, who needs to have one, and what documents are acceptable

    Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form. Mandated by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it is used to verify the identity and legal authorization to work of all paid employees, both citizens and non-citizens in the United.  All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for everyone they hire for employment in the United States.

    Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete the form. On the form, an employee must attest to his or her employment authorization. The employee must also present his or her employer with acceptable documents evidencing identity and employment authorization. The employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9.  

    Employers cannot mandate what documentation that the employee presents, but there is a list of acceptable documentation that meets the requirements of proof for I-9. These documents have been categorized into three lists.  List A documents establish both identity and employment authorization such as a passport or passport card.  If no documentation is available to comply with List A, List B documents establish identity such as a driver’s license and a variety of identification cards along with documents from List C that establish employment authorization. List C documents include, but are not limited to social security card, birth certification or employment authorization card issued by the Department of Homeland Security.  I-9 also allows for specific documentation for individuals under the age of 18 and for those who are not citizens. 

    An employer may not discriminate in failing to hire an employee due to the future expiration date on a document presented in response to an I-9 request. Employers must retain Form I-9 for a designated period and make it available for inspection by authorized government officers.

    Making sure an I-9 is completed correctly

    Section 1 is completed by the employee, but the employer is required to ensure that the form is complete and accurate. Section 1 requires the employee to give his or her full name and maiden name. The employee must indicate by checking the appropriate box whether he/she is a citizen, non-citizen, lawful permanent resident or an alien authorized to work in the U.S.  Employee must sign and date this section and indicate whether a translator was used in the preparation of the form.

    Section 2 is completed by the employer and must be done within 3 days of the hire date of the employee. Employers are required to inspect the documents presented by the employee, note the type of document, issuing authority and expiration date.

    Section 3 is to only be completed by the employer when necessary and relates to reverification and rehires.

    Common errors or omissions made by employers in completing the I-9 include:

    • Failure to use the most current I-9 form.  Current form is USCIS Form I-9 OMP No. 1615-0047 (Expires 8/31/2019) and can be obtained at www.uscis.gov/i-9.
    • Failure to complete both sections of the I-9.
    • Failure to include past/maiden names of the employees, and if no prior names were used “N/A” should be noted on the form.
    • Failure to include the employee’s first day of employment.
    • Failure to provide complete name and address of the employer.

    The form is complete. Now what?

    Do not mail or send the completed form to USCIS or ICE but instead retain original document.

    If a mistake is found or later discovered on the I-9, employers are required to correct the mistake by completing a new form but should not post-date the corrected form.

    Under record keeping rules, employers are required to retain all I-9 forms for 3 years after date of hire or 1 year after date of separation, whichever comes last.  Employers should have I-9 completed forms on all current employees. Employers are not required to keep photocopies, but if you decide to do so, make sure that this is consistent for all employees.  Finally, keep your I-9 forms separate and apart from the employee’s other personnel records to minimize exposure in an audit or investigation by keeping unrelated personnel documents out of the inquiry.

    This article is meant to be utilized as a general guideline for Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. Nothing in this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to provide legal advice on which you should rely without talking to your own retained attorney first.  If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact a legal professional.

    Cathryn Ensign’s practice focuses on employment law. She can be reached at 216-287-2979 or by email at ce@gertsburglaw.com.

    Stop worrying if your company is vulnerable to lawsuits or liability and schedule a confidential, no-cost CM6 Vulnerability Check with Gertsburg Law Firm. CEO Alex Gertsburg will walk you through the minefields in your documents and key processes and tell you how to fix them yourself. Call 440-571-7774 or e-mail

    mc@gertsburglaw.com to schedule your CM6 Vulnerability Check today. Explore the full CoverMySix legal audit suite at covermysix.com.

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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Be Disaster Ready
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  • Tips for Your Business: Be Disaster Ready

    July 8th was an anxious day for some and a fearful one for others. During the course of a four-hour span, three well-known institutions – United Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange and The Wall Street Journal – were suddenly offline, leaving their customers, partners and the global market fretting over a possible larger-scale issue. While each of these organizations continue to consider the effect of these outages and what could have been done to prevent it, all businesses can learn a valuable lesson from this calamity. Ask yourself: Are you prepared for a disruption to your business?

    July 8th was an anxious day for some and a fearful one for others. During the course of a four-hour span, three well-known institutions – United Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange and The Wall Street Journal – were suddenly offline, leaving their customers, partners and the global market fretting over a possible larger-scale issue.

    While each of these organizations continue to consider the effect of these outages and what could have been done to prevent it, all businesses can learn a valuable lesson from this calamity. Ask yourself: Are you prepared for a disruption to your business?

    The ever-increasing reliance on technology has brought business continuity and disaster recovery to the forefront of many businesses, presenting a challenge to IT and business leaders as to how to create an effective disaster recovery (DR) plan. 

    The first step in creating a DR plan is identifying and understanding the types of common disaster events that can affect your business, including:

    • Environmental – tornado, hurricane, snowstorm, flood, and fire.
    • Deliberate – terrorism, sabotage, theft, arson (internal personnel or external).
    • System Failure – hacker, employee destruction.
    • Other Emergency Situation – public transportation, governmental, legal.

    Once these events have been classified, establishing a DR checklist is the next step. Below is a standard outline of a checklist:

    • Justification – Define the Executive Sponsors. Executive Sponsors are the business leaders within your organization responsible for creating a DR plan.  Business leaders must determine the timeframe for recovery (how long can the business be unavailable), as well as establish a budget to support the initiative. In general, this phase begins the process of establishing a business impact analysis, which is a risk assessment of the impact to your business should a disaster occur.
    • Inventory – Document your entire IT environment (applications, network elements, access points, data, etc.).  You will also need to understand how the applications and data are being accessed and used by employees, partners and customers. 
    • Prioritization – Prioritize applications in tiers, from the most to least critical.
    • Budgeting – Forecast the initial setup fees (capital expense) as well as the operating cost of managing a disaster recovery plan. Operating costs include training, testing, fees to host the DR environment and the applicable software licensing fees.
    • DR Planning – Formalize an action plan in the event a disaster impacts your business. Elements of this plan should include an appropriate alternative location to operate from (technology platform and people), processes and procedures for declaring a disaster, and individual and/or team-based responsibilities in the event a disaster is declared.
    • Maintenance – Be diligent in revising the plan as technology and your business evolve and change. Test your DR plan annually and review the outcomes to understand what gaps occurred and what risks can be mitigated, and update the plan accordingly.

    Once the dust settled from the outages of July 8th and the cause of each disruption surfaced, the concern of a terrorist cyber-attack was diminished. It was revealed United Airlines suffered a network outage that caused the carrier to ground flights by more than an hour, the NYSE’s online trading platform crashed due to a misguided software update and WSJ.com was overwhelmed by traffic due to investors and the market seeking information as to why the NYSE trading environment was offline.  

    Even a small scale disaster can impact business on many levels. In the event of a disaster or disruption to your business, do you have a plan in place to continue your day-to-day operations? 

    David Saliba is vice president of Expedient, a leading provider of cloud computing, managed services and colocation in Cleveland.

    This article originally appeared in the August 3, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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  • Next up: Benefits Beyond Health Coverage for Ultimate Value
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  • Benefits Beyond Health Coverage for Ultimate Value

     

    A benefits package can say a lot about a business and the relationship with its employees. Providing benefits that help keep your employees healthy and financially protected can be a key factor in employee retention and satisfaction. It can also be an integral part of attracting new talent and growing your business. 

    Together, COSE and Medical Mutual understand the importance of high-quality benefits and outstanding customer service, while knowing that each business has unique needs. That’s why COSE MEWA groups have access to a wide selection of Medical Mutual specialty products to enhance health coverage, including:
     
    Life and Disability
    Dental
    Vision
    Accident
    Critical Illness
    Hospital Indemnity 

    Working with a single carrier for your health and specialty coverage can provide you and your employees an enhanced experience at the best value. This means avoiding the need to coordinate customer service or employee resources with multiple providers. Plus, your employees will have consistent communications and tools that make it simple to understand their benefits. 

    Supplementing health coverage with our specialty products provides your employees with fully integrated coverage at an affordable rate for you and them. As a reminder, all COSE MEWA groups who elect life coverage gain access to an employee assistance program (EAP) administered by HealthAdvocate at no additional cost. This provides 24/7 confidential and personal support for employees and their families for everyday challenges. 

    For more information on these specialty product offerings, please contact your broker or Medical Mutual Sales representative. 

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  • Next up: "Best Benefits Decision I Ever Made…"
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  • "Best Benefits Decision I Ever Made…"

    “Joining COSE’s group-rated Workers’ Comp Program has helped me in my business in so many ways. Not only has COSE saved me money on premiums, but they understand my needs and can fight for me better than any other program. I’m not just another number among many other businesses to them. They provide individualized attention and navigate my problems for me, leaving me to continue focusing on what I’m passionate about – my restaurants.”  - Eric Williams, owner, Momocho and El Carnicero, and partner, Happy Dog and Jack Flaps

    “Joining COSE’s group-rated Workers’ Comp Program has helped me in my business in so many ways. Not only has COSE saved me money on premiums, but they understand my needs and can fight for me better than any other program. I’m not just another number among many other businesses to them. They provide individualized attention and navigate my problems for me, leaving me to continue focusing on what I’m passionate about – my restaurants.”

     - Eric Williams, owner, Momocho and El Carnicero, and partner, Happy Dog and Jack Flaps

    With his passion for good food and his desire to support his hometown and the local economy, Eric Williams has independently opened or partnered in some of Cleveland’s hottest restaurants in the last few years. He has encountered a few bumps along the way, with new and different challenges for each new operation, and relied on COSE’s workers’ comp team to help him navigate the obstacles.

    Get a free quote on COSE’s group-rated Workers’ Compensation Program.

    This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.



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