Cut Workers' Compensation Costs Before Accidents Occur

One of the basic costs of doing business is insuring your workers against injury on the job. Escalating medical bills and other factors have caused workers' compensation insurance premiums to increase dramatically. Explore options for reducing the cost of coverage with your insurance agents.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Here are eight other precautions that can help control these costs, ensure incidents are handled quickly and professionally, and promote a safe, healthy workplace.

1. Appoint someone to be in charge. Select someone from your HR team to be to go-to person for workers' compensation matters. He or she should have good rapport with your insurance carrier and attend education programs offered in your area. For example, many local bar associations have workers' compensation programs and, in most cases, you don't have to be a lawyer to attend.

2. Hire carefully. The Americans with Disabilities Act puts certain restrictions on the kind of questions you can pose when hiring someone. For instance, you can't ask someone if they filed prior workers' compensation claims. But you can inquire about whether they have any health problems that would prevent them from doing everything in the job description.

You can also ask an employee to take a pre-employment physical. Don't hesitate if the work is strenuous. If nothing else, this creates a baseline from which the extent of an injury can be determined.

3. Make sure your business and employees are classified properly. You pay higher premiums for employees in hazardous jobs. Make sure that the nature of each staff member's duties is described accurately. If you misclassify office workers as performing a hazardous job, your premiums can increase.

4. Look into whether you must pay based on overtime. In most states, premiums are based on a number of factors, including the size of your regular payroll. That means you may not have to include overtime in the payroll amounts used to calculate premiums. Check with your accountant for the rules in your state.

Your accountant may also be able to help you locate workers' compensation overcharges based on erroneous payroll amounts and classifications. If overcharges are found, your company can file a claim with the insurance company and collect a refund.

5. Run a safe workplace. Know the whole range of safety issues in your line of business. Buy the right equipment, post the rules and enforce them. Discipline workers who don't cooperate.

6. Keep the property surrounding your workplace in good repair. For example, make sure the parking lot is well lit, the sidewalks don't have dangerous cracks, and snow and ice are promptly removed.

7. Hold employee-training sessions that include discussions of health and safety issues. These programs don't have to be lengthy. But schedule them often enough to make sure that new employees learn and old employees are reminded. Your insurer may even offer free training sessions.

8. Communicate with employees. Explain to them exactly what workers' compensation insurance is and how it works. Some people think the state pays, so they don't feel guilty if they cheat the system. At training sessions, tell employees something like: "If you're injured on the job, we want to take care of you, but we're paying a lot of money for this insurance and, like anything else, we have to make sure that we get our money's worth."

Everyone Wins

No matter how careful you are, accidents and injuries can still happen in your workplace. But by taking these precautions, you can keep workers' compensation costs in check — and improve your workers' health and safety.

2 Key Facts about Workers' Compensation Rates

  1. Workers' compensation rates are based on the industry, occupations involved, the size of your payroll, your company's safety record and other factors.
  2. Laws vary from state to state. The coverage is purchased from either a private insurance company or a state fund.

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