Winter 2005 Volume 30

Feature Articles

Exploring Loss Control

After more than three years on the web, it’s time for an emcinsurance.com face lift! Launched in early September, the revitalized EMC website is designed to give you quick and easy access to information and services needed to enhance your loss control program.

An auto parts warehouse in Minnesota came to EMC’s website to order a safety video for their next employee meeting. A human resource manager in Pennsylvania logs on to emcinsurance.com for help in developing a harassment prevention program. A small business owner in Mississippi checks EMC’s website for valuable guidance on disaster planning. All this information and more is available at no additional charge to EMC policyholders, and now with our new website design, accessing it as as easy as 1-2-3.

EMC’s website is an important element of the company’s total service package to policyholders. So if you haven’t seen EMC’s site lately, we encourage you to log on and take a look at the new features that will make emcinsurance.com your source for quick, simple answers to loss control.


STEP 1: Go To emcinsurance.com
If you’ve been to our website in the past, you’ll notice some exciting new changes. Our site has a fresh new look and is organized by five main tabs across the top.

Home Page

STEP 2: Click Policyholders
By clicking Policyholders in the navigational bar, you’ll be taken to a page exclusively designed for you and packed with information and links to the services you are most likely to use.

Policyholder Link Circled

STEP 3: Click Loss Control
Click Loss Control in the navigation bar on the left for a list of loss control services provided free of charge to EMC policyholders — everything from online services to back issues of this newsletter.

Policyholder page: left menu with Loss Control Circled

STEP 4: Click Policyholder Information and Resources
Here you’ll find a complete listing of information and materials you can access online to enhance the effectiveness of your loss control program.

Loss Control Services List

STEP 5: Choose the resource you need
Whether you’re planning a safety meeting or need clarification on a loss control issue, you are now just a click away from the information and materials that can have a positive impact on the safety of your workplace.

Policyholder Information page

Other Topics:

Couple at a party

That is the question many employers face as they begin making plans for company/organization holiday parties. Opinions vary regarding the appropriateness of making alcoholic beverages available at office parties or other company-sponsored events. However, ignoring the possibility that some employees or guests may drive home “under the influence” invites trouble. Improper use of alcohol may expose you to liability under tort, workers’ compensation or other laws.

The best way for you to avoid potential liability for alcohol-related crashes is not to make alcohol available. However, if you do decide to provide or allow alcoholic beverages at an organization sponsored event, the U.S. Department of Labor recommends you take the following steps to minimize any negative consequence of alcohol consumption.

  • Be honest with employees — Make sure employees know your workplace substance abuse policy and that the policy addresses the use of alcoholic beverages in any work-related situation or social function.
  • Post the policy — Use every communication vehicle to make sure employees know the policy. Prior to a party, use break room bulletin boards, emails and paycheck envelopes to communicate your policy.
  • Reinvent the party concept — Try something new like an indoor carnival, group outing to a concert or show or a volunteer activity with a local charity.
  • Make sure employees know when to say when — If you do serve alcohol, make sure employees know that they are welcome to attend and have a good time, but they are expected to act responsibly.
  • Make it the party of choice — Make sure there are plenty of nonalcoholic beverages available.
  • Eat and be merry — Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet foods, which tend to make people thirsty. Serve foods rich in starch and protein, which stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol.
  • Designate party managers — Remind managers that even at sponsored parties, they may need to implement the organization’s alcohol and substance abuse policy.
  • Arrange alternative transportation — Anticipate the need for alternative transportation for all party goers and make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party.
  • Serve none for the road — Stop serving alcohol before the party officially ends.

Remember, preventing accidents in the workplace includes preventing any potential accidents relating to your holiday party. So use this information to enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

People don’t like to admit that they are impaired and may argue that they are okay to drive. Below are some arguments you might hear and ways to respond:

Guest:
Host:
I’ll just have some coffee to sober up.
Only time sobers you up.
Guest:
Host:
I only drank beer and didn't mix drinks.
It doesn’t matter. One 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine or 1-ounce of 80 proof liquor contain the same amount of alcohol.
Guest:
Host:
I need my car.
Find them a designated driver. While receiving a ride home, another sober guest may help by driving the car to the impaired person’s residence.
Guest:
Host:
I live real close. I can make it.
Statistics show that three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of a person’s home.

All organizations face a certain level of security risk everyday. Regardless of the nature of the risks, you have a responsibility to reduce or manage these risks. As an EMC policyholder, you have access to the resources and expertise of Board Certified Security Management professionals to assist you. The following is a brief outline of some of our security services:

  • Security Assessment — A review of your security countermeasures to determine if they meet current acceptable standards.
  • Security Policy And Procedure Review — A physical examination of existing security policies and procedures and recommendations for improvements.
  • Crime Analysis — A review of past criminal activities in the vicinity and a prediction of the probability of criminal activity in the future.
  • Installation Review — An examination of proposed or existing electronic security system installations.
  • Risk Assessment — A process that identifies security related exposures, vulnerabilities, threats, hazards, mitigation and countermeasure efforts, testing of security mitigation efforts, and security strategy modification.
Doctor's office desk

Your phone rings bright and early Monday morning. Jim injured his foot in a pick-up game of basketball during the weekend. The X-rays show a hairline facture, and his doctor wants him off his feet for a few weeks. You wonder if his doctor is being overly cautious, but given privacy issues under HIPPA laws, you decided to err on the side of caution. Your hands are tied when it comes to helping Jim get back to being productive any sooner than the doctor ordered. Then again, maybe you have more control than you realize.

  • Companies have control over, and responsibility for the return to work situation — not the doctor.
  • Employers can talk to their employee’s doctors about off-the-job injuries if they take the right approach.
  • Disability claims can cost just as much as, if not more than, on-the-job injuries. It pays to manage them as well as workers’ comp claims.
  • Communicating with the doctor about return to work is integral.
  • Other keys include realistic expectations and third-party case management.

The payback for managing off-the-job injuries or illnesses is huge for many reasons, but the cost savings can’t be under- estimated. According to the 2004 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts,” off-the-job injuries in 2003 cost the nation $156.2 billion and 160 million days of production time. By contrast, companies in 2003 lost 70 million days of production time due to on-the-job injuries.

For more information on managing off-the-job injuries, visit National Safety Council’s website at www.nsc.org.

[This article is presented courtesy of the the National Safety Council]

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is easy for trained people to use to revive someone undergoing sudden cardiac arrest, but AEDs do not save lives on their own!!

At least five deaths have occurred in Tennessee during the past several years in buildings with automated external defibrillators (AED) on site, and additional incidents have been reported throughout the country. What went wrong? All of these well-meaning early adopters of AED technology had one thing in common. They did not have a system in place that ensured the readiness of their AED programs.

External Defilbrillator

Having an AED on site does not mean your company is ready to save lives. In the situations noted above, the devices were either not accessible (in one instance the AED was still in its box in the basement); not ready for use (the batteries or pads were expired); or personnel did not know where to find the devices or how to use them.

Simply stated, companies need to place as much importance on their AED management programs as they do on selecting the right AED. Successful programs are backed by detailed readiness systems that ensure proper installation, team training and regular, ongoing support. You can establish internal systems with strong controls and clear, mandated accountability that helps ensure program readiness or purchase an outsourced support solution similar to those that monitor and service security systems.

If you choose the internal route, make sure your program includes these important components:

  • Device readiness — Build a process with sufficient checks and balances to help ensure equipment is fully operational. In addition, run in-person spot checks.
  • Team readiness — Build a system to help ensure that well- trained personnel are on each floor during each shift and that their certifications are up to date.
  • Overall program/compliance readiness — Develop a system to help ensure each location within your program meets community and state requirements, as well as manufacturers’ requirements.

Studies cited by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicate that as many as 15 percent of the 450,000 sudden cardiac arrest deaths in America occur in the workplace. Will you be ready if someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest in your workplace? Remember, AEDs do not save lives on their own, but when used in conjunction with a management system that helps ensure total program readiness, you will be prepared to make a difference when it counts the most.

For additional information about setting up an internal program, visit the website of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at www.acoem.org.

Information contained in this article is courtesy of Brent Hetherington, the founder and CEO of AED service provider Premedics, Inc. and reprinted by permission of Stevens Publishing Corporation, Dallas, TX.

If you decide to outsource AED service, ask about ongoing monitoring services. AED service companies should provide monthly reports to each location they serve. These reports detail the status of each AED and when trained personnel need to be re-certified. Exceptional service requires consistent dialogue between the service company and those accountable. These services are designed to prevent the worst case scenario — someone dying in your building because your AED program was not ready. But they also provide an AED expert who helps ensure your program complies with federal, state and local laws and manufacturer’s requirements. Currently, the costs for such services are relatively low, ranging from $20 to $50 per month per AED.

WATERSHED MANAGEMENT
Questions about managing pollution runoff, increasing wildlife habitat and controlling invasive species in the nation’s estuaries are among those addressed in a new EPA Handbook. For more information, go to http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/handbook_index.cfm.

CONSTRUCTION SAFETY GUIDE
The construction industry will benefit from a new OSHA Pocket Guide on Construction Safety. This reference tool helps identify potential hazards and possible solutions. The publication can be downloaded at www.osha.gov.

SECURITY DOLLARS AT WORK
A survey of ASIS International members reports that some 55% of respondents have increased spending on access control. View the complete study at www.asisonline.org.

HANDS-FREE CELL PHONES
According to a recent study in the British Medical Journal, talking on a hands-free cell phone while driving is no safer than using a handheld phone. The report concluded that using a mobile phone while driving quadruples the isk of an accident.

Contractors

Workmen on Scaffolding

A laborer working on the third level of a tubular welded-frame scaffold, which is covered with ice and snow, slips and falls, headfirst, approximately 20 feet to the pavement. Was it the slippery conditions on the scaffold that caused the accident or the lack of an adequate guardrail? According to a study of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, safety training may have very well been the culprit in this accident and the more than 700 other fall-related worker fatalities reported in 2002.

The Department of Labor estimates that 2.3 million construction workers, or 65% of the construction industry, work on scaffolds frequently. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent 4,500 injuries and 50 deaths every year, at a savings for American employers of $90 million in lost workdays. Safety experts agree that the steps in reducing scaffold accidents is training workers on the safe use of scaffolds and having a trained “competent person” erect and inspect all scaffolds.

Design and Construction of Scaffold
Each scaffold and scaffold component must be capable of supporting its own weight plus at least four times the maximum intended load without failure. Each suspension rope must be capable of supporting at least six times the maximum intended load.

Shielding of Ropes
Suspension ropes and droplines for body belts or harness systems should be shielded from heat producing processes, corrosive substances, and sharp edges or abrasions.

Inspections
A “competent person” must inspect all scaffolds, scaffold components and personal fall protection equipment for visible defects before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect a scaffold’s structural integrity.

Use of Fall Protection Equipment
Provide personal fall protection equipment and make sure it is used by all workers on suspension scaffolds.

Use Of Structural Members As Anchor Points
Use structurally sound portions of buildings or other structures to anchor droplines for body belt or harness systems and tiebacks for suspension scaffold support devices.

Check The Fine Print
Follow scaffold manufacturers’ guidance regarding the assembly, rigging and use of scaffolds.

More Study Results

In its investigation of 113 scaffolds, The Bureau of Labor rated 32 percent unacceptable.

  • Of the 113 scaffolds, 27% had at least one structural flaw, including: missing/improper base plates; lack of proper ties to the building; uneven platform slope; missing horizontal supports; or severe overloading.
  • Of the scaffolds rated unacceptable, 92 percent were missing guardrails,83 percent had structural flaws, 78 percent had poor access, and 72 percent were insufficiently planked.
  • Of scaffolds with a trained “competent person,” 78 percent were rated acceptable, compared with 39 percent of acceptable sites among the scaffolds without a trained competent person on site.
  • Eight in 10 scaffolds erected by outside contractors received acceptable ratings, compared with only six in 10 erected by the contractor using the scaffold.
Man exiting semi cab

Falling while getting into or out of heavy equipment or a truck, hooking up air on electrical lines, and mounting or dismounting trailers can cause serious injury. In fact, falls to lower levels accounted for 86,946 injuries in 2002 and 6,207 deaths between 1993 and 2002, according to the 2004 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts.”

The biggest cause of falls according to the University of Kansas Transportation Center is driver error and failure to follow the “Three-Point Rule.” The Three-Point Rule means three of your four limbs are in contact with the vehicle at all times — two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand. The system allows a person to have maximum stability and support, thereby reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling.

  • Keep the following in mind when entering and exiting heavy equipment and trucks:
  • Wear footwear with good support and slip resistance.
  • Exit and enter facing the cab.
  • Get a firm grip on rails or handles.
  • Look for obstacles on the ground before exiting equipment.
  • Exercise extra caution when working in inclement weather.
  • Don’t climb down with something in your free hand. Put it on the vehicle floor and reach up for it after getting to the ground.
  • Don’t rush when climbing out.
  • Don’t use tires or wheel hubs as a step surface.
  • Don’t use the door frame or door edge as a handhold.

No matter what type of access system your vehicle has, these tips along with the Three-Point Rule will significantly reduce the likelihood of a slip or fall.

[Courtesy of the National Safety Council.]

Local Governments

Emergency Vehicles

Firefighters, utility workers and EMS providers must constantly be vigilant in protecting themselves from electrical hazards. From vehicle crashes and structure fires, to floods and other disasters almost all incident responses can result in electrical dangers. Cooperation between emergency personnel and utility workers is essential to ensuring everyone on the scene is protected.

Downed Power Lines
One of the most frequent and most hazardous sources of electrical energy is the downed power line. Firefighters are most likely to encounter a downed line while responding to vehicle crashes. In these situations, responders should step back and evaluate the situation, avoiding the adrenaline rush that can tempt responders to run into danger without assessing the scene.

If power lines are down at the scene, the incident commander should notify the power company immediately so they can remove or de-energize the lines. Firefighters are not trained to handle live wires and typically do not carry the proper equipment, such as “hot sticks” utility workers use to handle wires.

Hybrid Vehicles Present Unique Hazards
If rescuers arrive at a crash scene and no power lines are down, that does not mean they can forget about electrical hazards. Power or sparks from motor vehicle batteries can shock rescuers or ignite a fire. In recent years, the increasing prevalence of hybrid vehicles have required firefighters and EMS providers to learn new victim evacuation techniques to mitigate electrical hazards. Most hybrid vehicles also include multiple batteries that increase the risk of electrocution or fire. Firefighters should ensure that all the batteries in such vehicles have been disengaged.

Electrical Hazards On The Fireground
Electrical risks abound in structure fires. Making sure the power is shut off in a building is a top priority when firefighters arrive on the scene. To search for hidden fire or ventilation, firefighters often have to break through walls, floors or ceilings. Metal tools coming in contact with wires behind these surfaces pose a serious electrocution hazard. In addition, firefighters must be careful when positioning metal ladders and other equipment, making sure they keep safe distances from power lines. Including the local utility companies in pre-incident planning is a wise move to help ensure that electrical hazards are eliminated before firefighters enter a structure.

[This article is reprinted courtesy of National Safety Council and Safety+Health magazine]

Electrical shocks can stop a person’s breathing or heart and cause burns. Here are some first aid tips your emergency crews should follow in the event of an electric shock.

  • Don’t touch victims if they are still in contact with the electrical source.
  • Unplug the appliance or turn off the power at the control panel.
  • If you can’t turn off the power, use a piece of wood, like a broom handle, dry rope or dry clothing, to separate the victim from the power source.
  • Unconscious victims should be placed on their side to allow drainage of fluids. Do not move the victim if there is a suspicion of neck or spine injuries unless absolutely necessary.
  • If the victim is not breathing, apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the victim has no pulse, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Then cover the victim with a blanket to maintain body heat, keep the victim’s head low and get medical attention.
Man exiting semi cab

Falling while getting into or out of heavy equipment or a truck, hooking up air on electrical lines, and mounting or dismounting trailers can cause serious injury. In fact, falls to lower levels accounted for 86,946 injuries in 2002 and 6,207 deaths between 1993 and 2002, according to the 2004 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts.”

The biggest cause of falls according to the University of Kansas Transportation Center is driver error and failure to follow the “Three-Point Rule.” The Three-Point Rule means three of your four limbs are in contact with the vehicle at all times — two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand. The system allows a person to have maximum stability and support, thereby reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling.

  • Keep the following in mind when entering and exiting heavy equipment and trucks:
  • Wear footwear with good support and slip resistance.
  • Exit and enter facing the cab.
  • Get a firm grip on rails or handles.
  • Look for obstacles on the ground before exiting equipment.
  • Exercise extra caution when working in inclement weather.
  • Don’t climb down with something in your free hand. Put it on the vehicle floor and reach up for it after getting to the ground.
  • Don’t rush when climbing out.
  • Don’t use tires or wheel hubs as a step surface.
  • Don’t use the door frame or door edge as a handhold.

No matter what type of access system your vehicle has, these tips along with the Three-Point Rule will significantly reduce the likelihood of a slip or fall.

[Courtesy of the National Safety Council.]

Petroleum Marketers:

Drug capsules

How much is employee drug use costing your company? According to a recent OSHA study, 65 percent of accidents on the job are caused by substance abuse, and employees that abuse drugs file six times more workers’ compensation claims. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that drug-using employees utilize health benefits 84 percent more and record 16 times more work absences.

A well-thought-out employee drug testing policy as a component of employee screening can save you several thousand dollars each year. But when should a DOT drug test be given and when is one not required?

Who Can You Test?
Your first step is to determine if your driver falls under Part 382 — Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing. The applicability for this portion of the regulations is found in Sec. 382.103.

Don’t Forget About Occasional Drivers
Many times someone who only operates a Commercial Motor Vehicle on an occasional or temporary basis may slip through the cracks of a random drug and alcohol testing program, including the required pre-employment drug screen. This could include an owner-operator operating under your authority, a seasonal employee or a leased driver. Even if a dispatcher, manager, mechanic or warehouse worker drives on an occasional basis, he or she could fall under Part 382.

Some Exceptions To Remember
An employer is not required to administer a pre-employment drug test if the following conditions are met:

  • The driver must have participated in a drug testing program meeting the requirements of this rule within the previous 30 days.
  • While participating in this program the driver must have either been tested for controlled substances in the previous six months or participated in a random drug testing program for the previous 12 months.
  • The employer must also ensure that no prior employer of the driver has a record of violations of any DOT controlled substance use rule for the driver in the previous six months.

To take advantage of these exceptions, the motor carrier must contact the testing program administrator prior to using the driver and obtain the following information: the name and address of the program administrator; verification that the driver participates or participated in the program; verification that the program conforms to the requested procedures set forth in 49 CFR Part 40; verification that the driver qualified under this rule; the date the driver was last tested for alcohol and drugs; and the results of any test administered in the previous six months, and any violations of the alcohol misuse or drug rules.

Make Sure You’re In The Know
It is crucial that you find out who is and who is not supposed to be in your random drug and alcohol testing program. In addition to participation in your random selection and the pre-employment drug screen, these individuals must meet all the other requirements of Parts 40 and 382, and you must maintain the appropriate records. This includes: Previous Employer Alcohol and Drug Testing Information (Sec. 382.413); Previous Pre-employment Alcohol and Drug Testing (Sec. 40.25(j)); and Driver Drug and Alcohol/Company Policy (Sec. 382.601).

Understanding the DOT alcohol and drug regulations will help to prevent possible violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and address potential liability, and safety and security concerns. For more information, go to www.dot.gov.

[Information contained in this article was provided courtesy of J.J. Keller & Associates.]

Man exiting semi cab

Falling while getting into or out of heavy equipment or a truck, hooking up air on electrical lines, and mounting or dismounting trailers can cause serious injury. In fact, falls to lower levels accounted for 86,946 injuries in 2002 and 6,207 deaths between 1993 and 2002, according to the 2004 edition of the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts.”

The biggest cause of falls according to the University of Kansas Transportation Center is driver error and failure to follow the “Three-Point Rule.” The Three-Point Rule means three of your four limbs are in contact with the vehicle at all times — two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand. The system allows a person to have maximum stability and support, thereby reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling.

  • Keep the following in mind when entering and exiting heavy equipment and trucks:
  • Wear footwear with good support and slip resistance.
  • Exit and enter facing the cab.
  • Get a firm grip on rails or handles.
  • Look for obstacles on the ground before exiting equipment.
  • Exercise extra caution when working in inclement weather.
  • Don’t climb down with something in your free hand. Put it on the vehicle floor and reach up for it after getting to the ground.
  • Don’t rush when climbing out.
  • Don’t use tires or wheel hubs as a step surface.
  • Don’t use the door frame or door edge as a handhold.

No matter what type of access system your vehicle has, these tips along with the Three-Point Rule will significantly reduce the likelihood of a slip or fall.

[Courtesy of the National Safety Council.]

Schools:

Teacher in classroom

By age 40, most U.S. school buildings start deteriorating rapidly. As they get older, their worsening physical conditions can have an alarmingly negative impact on a child’s education. This is especially true if cleaning and maintenance of schools has been allowed to decline as well.

Several reports indicate that environmental conditions that affect physical comfort, such as airflow, lighting, ventilation and cleanliness, can influence a student’s performance. Moreover, these studies have found that test scores in math, reading skills, comprehension and vocabulary were 5 to 17 percent lower among students in older, substandard and/or poorly cleaned and maintained buildings than among those in clean, well maintained or renovated schools.

With serious financial constraints found in many school districts today, it is unrealistic to consider simply replacing school buildings after age 40. A more realistic option would be to evaluate and update maintenance efforts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, evaluating maintenance efforts doesn’t have to mean more dollars and more surveys. Many of the day-to-day activities or systems used to plan and operate a maintenance program also generate the types of information needed to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. These can include:

  • Physical inspections: To care for buildings and grounds, staff must observe and assess their condition on a regular basis. Inspections should result in work orders for items requiring service or repair.
  • Work order systems: All maintenance work should be recorded on work orders, which then provide valuable quantitative information for evaluations.
  • User feedback/customer satisfaction surveys: There are many ways to gather information from users/customers, including collecting satisfaction surveys and convening stakeholder advisory committees.
  • Audits: Annual reviews of accomplishments provide important data for the facility plan and ensuing evaluation.
  • Alternative resources: Maintenance and operations manuals, vendor expertise, warranties, insurance loss control specialists and other resources can be sources of benchmarking data or evaluation standards.

More effective maintenance programs will result in improved student performance, and at a much greater savings, to school districts than replacing aging schools.

[Data cited in this article is courtesy of Stephen P. Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in greening the cleaning process.]

Considering that the nation’s 52 million schoolchildren spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, it’s not hard to understand why the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing schools to evaluate air quality.

Potential sources of indoor air pollution in school classrooms range from leaky, moldy ceilings and blocked air ducts to dander from classroom pets, dusty books and papers and emissions from new furnishings, flooring and office equipment.

Children who are exposed to chemicals and dirty air may have trouble concentrating and are more likely to be absent. Classrooms that are too cold, stiflingly hot or sour-smelling may also interfere with teaching and learning.

Keeping students and staff alert, healthy and focused makes good academic and fiscal sense. Districts that spend a little bit more on routine maintenance of school buildings can save money and help prevent problems in the future.

[This information is courtesy of the California School Boards Association.]

Identity theft is a serious crime. According to a Federal Trade Commission study, nearly 10 million people a year fall victim to identity theft. Add those affected by credit card fraud, and the result is that 1 in 20 Americans suffer from identity theft or card fraud every year. Among those victims was a school district in Iowa!

A high school teacher in the district used a credit card issued to him by the school to purchase materials for his classroom. Unbeknownst to him, the clerk stole the account information from the card and purchased $11,000 worth of televisions which he sold to local pawn shops. Fortunately, the $11,000 purchase has been expunged from the school’s credit card bill.

This experience taught the school district a valuable lesson. Although credit cards are a convenient way to purchase equipment and supplies, good old-fashioned purchase orders are still one of the safest and most secure ways to make purchases. Especially, in light of the dramatic rise in identity theft.

If you do use credit cards, here are a few tips to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of credit card theft and fraud.

  • If you believe that your credit card was lost or stolen, or you have charges that you did not make, contact your credit card company and the police immediately.
  • Only carry the cards when you know you’re going to need them; otherwise, keep them stored in a secured place.
  • Sign your new card as soon as it arrives. If a criminal signs your card in his or her handwriting, he or she will have no trouble using it.
  • Destroy any carbons you may receive at the time of transaction. Make the merchant destroy the carbons in front of you.
  • Never release your account number, expiration date, or personal information over the phone without verifying the caller’s identity.
  • When a merchant returns your card to you, make sure that it is your card. Mistakes can happen, and cards get switched.