Gas Line Explosion in California Desert Destroys Equipment

Southern California authorities say nobody was hurt when a natural gas line caught fire and exploded, destroying heavy construction equipment in the western Mojave Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The San Bernardino Sun reported blast was reported Sunday just south of Interstate 40, about 25 miles east of Barstow.

Ryan Vaccaro, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, says a crew of about 16 workers was evacuated before the explosion when somebody smelled a gas odor.

The newspaper says the blast destroyed equipment, created a crater in the ground and sparked a small brush fire.

The line belongs to Southern California Gas Co., according to spokeswoman Christine Detz. She tells the newspaper a drop in pressure within the transmission line preceded the explosion.

The cause is under investigation.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:41

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California Transit Agency Fined $220K in Worker Deaths

A Northern California judge has fined the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency $220,000 for the deaths of two workers accidentally hit by a commuter train.

The two workers were killed in 2013 while inspecting a track east of San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission sought the fine and three years of probation after determining the transit agency’s safety rules and procedure were inadequate. The agency will have to pay an additional $440,000 if it violates terms of its probation, which include tightening its safety rules and submitting more detailed safety reports.

BART spokespeople didn’t return phone and email inquiries.

The two workers had their backs to the train when struck in violation of agency safety rules. One member of inspection crews is always supposed to be watching for trains.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:40

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California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Surplus Lines Association Backed Bill

Assembly Bill 1641, legislation offered and lobbied by the Surplus Line Association of California that is designed to give the California Department of Insurance more flexibility in deciding which coverages to add to the Export List, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill unanimously passed both chambers of the California legislature.

The new law will be crucial in ensuring coverage for commercial consumers and also for emerging new technologies, including high-speed rail and autonomous vehicles, as well as other large commercial projects, and new risks such as legal, recreational cannabis and cybersecurity risks, according to the SLA.

AB 1641 was introduced and sponsored by Assembly Insurance Chair Tom Daly, D-Anaheim.

Surplus Lines Association of California Executive Director Benjamin McKay.

“We commend Governor Brown for signing this important bill,” Benjamin McKay, the SLA’s executive director, said in a statement. “The governor has demonstrated a forward-thinking vision and an embrace of innovation, and we are grateful to him for enacting this law.”

The Export List is a list of coverages, maintained by the CDI, which are eligible for placement in the surplus line market without the necessity of a broker obtaining three declinations from the admitted market. Coverages are placed on the Export List after the CDI holds a public hearing and determines that the coverages are not readily available in the admitted market.

The SLA operates as a self-governed private organization that serves as the statutory surplus line advisory organization to the CDI and facilitates the state’s capacity to monitor and direct surplus line brokers’ placements of insurance with eligible non-admitted insurers.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/05/2018 at 19:40

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San Francisco Airport Experiences Another Air Canada Jet Safety Issue

Another Air Canada safety issue at San Francisco Airport is under investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration said this week it is investigating the second serious safety issue in three months involving an Air Canada passenger jet landing at San Francisco airport.

Six times the control tower at San Francisco International Airport ordered an incoming Air Canada plane to abort its landing, fearing another plane might be on the runway. Each time, the order went unanswered.

Finally, air traffic controllers Sunday night took out an emergency red light and aimed it outside their window toward the jet to try to get the pilots’ attention. That didn’t work either, the plane landed and one of the pilots then radioed that he was having problems with the radio.

“That’s pretty evident,” the controller responded.

In July, an Air Canada jet with 140 people on board nearly landed on a taxiway where four planes were waiting before takeoff, prompting the FAA to issue new rules for nighttime landings and control tower staffing at the airport.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/05/2018 at 19:40

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Worker Safety, Regulation Overload Among Highlights of Drone Expo In California

Drones may already be impacting the world of workers’ compensation.

Fewer workers on communications towers are falling to their deaths, according to Todd Schlekeway, executive director of the National Association of Tower Erectors.

Schlekeway, who was speaking at a panel on Tuesday at the Drone World Expo in San Jose, Calif., which runs through Thursday, was citing an OSHA study of 135 deaths on communications towers recorded since 2003.

Schlekeway was moderating a panel to talk about how drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are transforming the communications industry, along with Thomas Camp, in business and product development with Verizon’s innovation program, Christopher Moccia, executive vice president of telecommunications for Measure, and Art Pregler, UAS program director for AT&T.

Todd Schlekeway (left), with the National Association of Tower Erectors, moderated a panel to talk about how drones are transforming the communications industry, along with Art Pregler, with AT&T, Christopher Moccia, with Measure, and Thomas Camp, with Verizon.

The OSHA study shows that after a spike in deaths in 2013 and 2014, when a massive amount of communication tower building took place to keep up with an explosion in cellular demand, the number of deaths have been falling.

There were four deaths in 2015, seven deaths in 2016 and two deaths so far this year, although the year isn’t over and there were some recent deaths that have yet to be reported, according to Schlekeway.

He noted that there are now 1.2 smartphone devices per person in the U.S., and there are more than 308,000 cell sites and towers. With demand continuing for more towers, and maintenance required of all of those towers, Schlekeway and his fellow panelists said drones are increasingly important in helping to keep workers safer.

Drones are being used often to check out towers for natural hazards like bee hives and raptor nests, to look for infrastructure defects that could injure or kill someone ascending a tower, and to determine what tools will be needed when workers get to their destination high in the air to save trips up, the panelists said.

Rules and Regulations

Despite some consensus followed by some decision making from Congress and the FAA on drone regulations over the past few years, just who is calling the shots when it comes to making drone laws and regulations is far from decided.

It was a difficult question members of one panel tried to tackle, including Charles Raley, unmanned aircraft systems team lead for enforcement, policy and outreach for Federal Aviation Administration.

He and fellow panelists attempted to give a picture of the state of laws and regulations concerning drones, which are being hammered out from federal down to local levels.

“The current state is there’s a lot of tension in this area, and there’s a lack of clarity as well,” Raley said. “Unfortunately, there’s not exactly a clear answer as to who controls what.”

Speaking for the FAA and what it controls, he offered that “we think it’s a lot.”

He said many laws already on the books of state and local governments, such as nuisance ordinances and laws governing acts of voyeurism, that will cover most issues that are being created by drone operators.

Drone Insurance

The lone insurance presence with a booth at the expo was BWI Aviation Insurance, a Corona, Calif.-based broker specializing in drone and other aerospace coverage.

Wesley Ellish, who was working the booth with a few fellow brokers, said they decided to take a spot at the expo in hopes of selling polices and educating drone users on the need for insurance.

“It kind of seems like insurance is on the backburner for some of these guys,” Ellish said.

She said that while several attendees who stopped at the booth felt insurance was the last of their worries, they were able to give dozens of quotes for basic liability policies to offer drone operators coverage.

Quotes were given to a mix of operators, ranging from startup companies to companies that were already considered mid-sized with growing fleets of drones, but by far the class of business that showed the biggest interest in buying drone insurance were instructors, she said.

“I’ve noticed we’ve had quite a few instructors coming up,” she said.

She said they were interested in a training policy that covers the drone and property damage incurred while they or their students were operating the drone.

Panels on Wednesday include “Drones in the Insurance Industry,” “Follow the Money: Exploring the Drone Investment Climate,” and “Drone Response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”

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Posted by Insurance - 04/29/2018 at 19:41

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Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Acquires New Mexico’s Reynolds & Rodar Insurance Group

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. has acquired Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Reynolds & Rodar Insurance Group Inc. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

With roots going back to 1882, Reynolds & Rodar is the oldest independent agency in New Mexico. It provides a full range of commercial property/casualty and employee benefits coverages and services, and high-net-worth personal lines coverages, to clients in New Mexico and throughout the southwestern United States.

Jake and Shona Rodar, and their associates, will continue to operate from their offices in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, under the direction of Bret VanderVoort, head of Gallagher’s South Central retail property/casualty brokerage operations, and Norbert Chung, head of Gallagher’s Western employee benefits consulting and brokerage operations.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international insurance brokerage and risk management services firm, is headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Source: Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

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Posted by Insurance - 04/29/2018 at 19:40

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California Wildfires: May Take Years for Full Recovery

It will take at least months and likely years to fully recover from devastating wildfires that ripped through Northern California earlier this month, destroying at least 8,900 structures and killing 42 people, Sonoma County officials said .

“We don’t control these things, and it makes you realize how small you are in the world when something like this happens,” Sheriff Rob Giordano said. “I don’t think we understand the level at which it is going to impact lives, and the community will be different.”

Giordano spoke before hundreds of people gathered at a college in Santa Rosa, one of the hardest-hit cities, for a memorial service to honor the lives lost in the deadliest series of wildfires in California history. The fires sparked Oct. 8, eventually forcing 100,000 people to evacuate.

Before a bell rung 42 times to commemorate the dead, Giordano and other officials praised the ordinary and extraordinary acts of heroism by first responders and community members as the firefight raged on for more than a week. Some firefighters worked days on the front line, refusing to take breaks, while sheriff’s dispatchers continued taking calls even as the fire came close to taking out their building.

A firefighter walks near a home in Santa Rosa, Calif., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

“The night of Oct. 8, we were all tested,” Santa Rosa fire Chief Tony Gossner said.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and five members of Congress spent Saturday attending the memorial, touring the fire ravaged areas and gathering advice from federal, state and local officials on what Congress can do to aid the recovery efforts. In a briefing in Santa Rosa, officials asked them to ease red tape that will make it easier to erect temporary housing and to ensure the Environmental Protection Agency has the resources it needs to clean up any hazardous material before it infiltrates the water supply.

The EPA has assessed 740 properties so far, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency has given out $6 million worth of rental and other assistance to displaced Californians, officials said. Officials estimate the cleanup of debris and other hazardous materials will last into early 2018. The losses are estimated to be at more than $1 billion.

Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, who represents Santa Rosa, said they must make their fellow lawmakers in Washington understand the unprecedented nature of the fires, the deadliest in California history. They drove through a neighborhood near Coffey Park where entire streets are wrecked, with only burned-out cars and charred remains of once-standing houses lining the streets.

“It was just unfathomable the amount of destruction that we saw,” Pelosi said. “My colleagues will have to understand this is different from anything else, many times over.”

But Pelosi said Northern California’s response to the fires can serve as a national model for disaster response if done right. She urged her colleagues in Congress to think beyond the incremental rebuilding needs to consider the big picture of helping the region better prepare for and mitigate damage from future disasters. Obtaining the appropriate amount of relief money will require detailed documentation of homes lost and other destruction, she said.

Santa Rosa alone lost five percent of its housing stock, Pelosi said.

“What would we like to see the result be? Let’s engineer it back from there,” she said of the rebuilding efforts.

Thompson and other members of Congress, meanwhile, were asked to look at ensuring immigrants living in the country illegally are not at risk if they contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They were also asked to look into improving the system for alerting people of pending disasters, a more difficult task now that more homes rely on cellphones instead of landlines.

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Posted by Insurance - 04/29/2018 at 19:40

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Tornado in Oregon Damages Small Planes

Authorities say that it was a tornado that touched down south of Portland, Ore. last week overturning small airplanes, downing power lines and damaging several glass greenhouses.

National Weather Service meteorologists say the tornado touched down at the Aurora State Airport near Canby at about 3:45 p.m. on Thursday.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported the storm prompted a tornado warning for west Clackamas County until 4:15 p.m.

Aurora Fire District Lt. Bill Hansen says two unoccupied planes at the airport overturned while others were blown around but not damaged.

Hansen says glass greenhouses and an office building housing a plant nursery also were damaged and that winds snapped a large tree in half and downed several power lines.

Molalla High School students stayed inside the high school during the storm, which delayed the school’s homecoming parade.

No injuries were reported.

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Posted by Insurance - 04/20/2018 at 19:40

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Venbrook in California Names Mercer’s Exton Managing Director

Los Angeles, Calif.-based Venbrook has named Lee Exton managing director of employee benefits and total rewards.

Exton will oversee all aspects of benefits and total rewards programs.

Exton has more than 25 years of human resources and benefits consulting expertise in both the public and private sectors. Exton was most recently a principal at Mercer developing employee benefit solutions. Prior to Mercer, he served was vice president at Keenan and Associates, a healthcare practice leader at Segal, and a consultant for Willis Towers Watson.

Venbrook is an independent insurance brokerage and services firm.

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Posted by Insurance - 04/17/2018 at 19:40

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Searing Heat Brings Fire Warnings to Southern California

The risk of wildfires will spike as triple-digit temperatures blanket parts of Southern California early this week.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says red flag warnings are in effect through Wednesday from Santa Barbara to San Diego as high winds and low humidity move through.

Cal Fire says extra firefighters are on duty with Santa Ana winds expected to top 50 mph.

The National Weather Service says temperatures in excess of 100 degrees could break records for late October in some areas.

The weather service has issued an excessive heat warning and says people should limit strenuous outdoor activity.

Temperatures aren’t supposed to cool significantly until Thursday.

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Posted by Insurance - 04/17/2018 at 19:40

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