Workers’ Compensation Policy Requirements
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
A business owner from Illinois called me the other day to talk about his Company’s safety program. Despite instituting a good safety program (e.g., training, documentation, accountability), the owner continued to see his company’s annual workers’ compensation premiums climb even though very few employee injuries occurred. At the risk of stating the obvious: This condition is all too common in the green industry.
Our discussion first considered potential new initiatives within the company. My professional opinion is that every company should have a dedicated Safety Coordinator position, equivalent to a Foreman, responsible for training, legal compliance, and investigations. Additionally, since most employee injuries occur in the field, I firmly believe companies should adopt extensive job site audits addressing safety behaviors like pre-job inspections which can identify potential hazards (e.g., holes in the turf, low-hanging branches, heaving roots, and slopes), proper lifting techniques, and safe equipment operation. I also recommended that the owner consider monthly safety raffles to reward those employees who demonstrate safe work practices on the job as noticed by their peers.
While pleased with those standard industry practices, the business owner became increasingly intense as the discussion migrated to external considerations.
It has been my observation that workers’ compensation companies are getting much more money from their clients each year, all the while seemingly delivering fewer services to those same clients. The owner’s eyes widened.
As a test to see how large I could get his eyes to expand, I gave him my three standard requirements that all companies should have included within their vendor’s workers’ compensation policy .
- The vendor must provide a well-rounded set of safety tools to the company: training materials, job aids, videotapes, standard operating procedures, cell phone safety apps, web site best practices, and reference materials related to the green industry.
- The vendor must provide quarterly on-site support. A safety representative should review 4-5 jobs one day each quarter and share a written report to Company management capturing Start/Stop/Keep safety behaviors demonstrated by field employees.
- The vendor must provide a thorough Company-wide OSHA audit (e.g., yard, office, shop) once a year. Workers’ compensation companies frequently have former OSHA employees on staff and/or partner with former OSHA auditors to either identify safety shortcomings or defend the company in safety legal proceedings. Instead of waiting for an accident or a formal OSHA audit to occur, companies should take the pre-emptive stance of requiring their workers’ compensation vendor to provide that same service proactively.
In case you were wondering, his eyes got so big, his monocle fell off his face.
I reminded the owner that in this instance, he is the customer, and he has a right to get his money’s worth from his workers’ compensation business partner. Employee safety is too important and too expensive to settle for mere administrative support from a vendor, when in fact customers need operational resources, guidance, and value to improve their safety programs.
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