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5 Tips to Improve Your Workers' Compensation Plan

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Apr 11, 2021

Workers Compensation Insurance protection in Philadelphia, Reading, Allentown, Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and everywhere in PA.No Workers' Compensation Insurance program is perfect; however, if you want to improve your company's bottom line, it's imperative that you continually look for ways to improve your WC program.

Here are five tips to help any business improve its Workers' Compensation Plan. 

 

1. Get Started

This may sound like common sense, but sometimes the most challenging thing with any project is just getting started. Here are five areas that you should focus on to see the most significant impact. Pick one and get started!

  1. Improve safety
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Reduce litigation
  4. Build relationships with medical providers
  5. Get injured employees back to work 

2. Create a Culture of Safety

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2019 there were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded and 2,814,000 non-fatal work injuries that resulted in 888,200 cases with days away from work. The median number of days away from work was eight. These work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are costing U.S. businesses billions of dollars every year, which is why workplace safety should be a top priority at any company. 

Creating a business culture that focuses on safety will have one of the most significant impacts on reducing your organization's number of injuries. That culture must be embraced by all employees at every level of the organizational chart. 

Here are three tips to help create a culture of safety:

  1. Create a safety program with a set of controls designed to help protect employees from potential harm within the workplace.
  2. Ongoing training should be a big part of any safety program. According to the National Safety Council, "Investing in workplace training is money well spent. Employers with effective safety and health training programs benefit from fewer workplace injuries and claims, better employee morale, and lower insurance premiums."
  3. Employees should be recognized and/or rewarded for committing to workplace safety practices. 

3. Set Program Goals

Bill Copeland said, "The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score." Research shows that setting measurable and attainable goals boosts performance because it motivates and challenges employees to increase their effort, allows them to focus better, and helps them prioritize. 

Goals you may want to consider are reducing the number of injuries, reducing the time it takes to get an injured employee back to work or reducing the number of litigation claims. 

Once you have specific goals in place, create a plan of action and consider recognizing or rewarding employees for helping accomplish those goals. 

4. Avoid Common Mistakes

There are certain mistakes that many employers make. Knowing those mistakes is the first step to correcting them. Here are seven common Workers' Compensation mistakes to watch for:

  1. Not having a safety plan in place or not enforcing it
  2. Not having a return-to-work program
  3. Underestimating the projected annual payroll
  4. Not assigning the correct classification codes or not changing those classifications when business operations change
  5. Listing an employee as a subcontractor – on purpose or by mistake.
  6. Poor claims management
  7. Working with inexperienced insurance agents 

5. Work With an Experienced Independent Workers' Compensation Insurance Agent

The agents at American Insuring Group specialize in Workers' Compensation Insurance. We have a clear understanding of the WC process and a proven track record of providing exceptional service to businesses – both big and small. 

The American Insuring Group's independent agents can help ensure that you get the best coverage at the lowest cost on all of your business insurance needs because, as independent agents, they are free to shop and compare among competing insurance carriers. Give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online today!

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp, workers comp insurance, workers comp costs, Commercial Insurance

The Cost of Failing to Provide Adequate Workers’ Comp

Posted by David Ross on Sat, Jan 30, 2021

Avoid the cost of failing to provide Adequate WC Insurance. Get the right workers comp insurance from American Insuring Group. Serving Philadelphia, Reading, Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg, Allentown, and all of Pennsylvania.Most employers in Pennsylvania are required to have Workers’ Compensation (WC) Insurance. Failure to carry adequate WC can result in civil and criminal penalties. Therefore, employers must understand their WC obligations. Here's what you need to know... 

What is Workers’ Compensation?

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry defines Workers’ Compensation as “mandatory, employer-financed, no-fault insurance which ensures that employees disabled due to a work-related injury or disease will be compensated for lost wages and provides necessary medical treatment to return them to the workforce.”

The goals of WC are simple:

  • safer workplaces
  • prompt treatment and compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses
  • reduced litigation costs

With only a few exceptions, Worker’s Compensation insurance is mandatory for any employer in Pennsylvania who employs at least one employee. If ALL workers employed by that employer fall into one or more of the following categories, they may be excluded from mandatory WC. This is a general list, minus the fine print.

  • Federal workers
  • Longshoremen
  • Railroad workers
  • Casual workers
  • Persons who work out of their own homes or other premises not under the control or management of the enterprise AND make up, clean, wash, alter, ornament, finish, repair, or adapt articles or materials for sale that are given to them.
  • Agricultural laborers making less than $1200 per year
  • Domestic workers who have not elected to come under the provisions of the WC Act (they must notify the Department of Labor & Industry)
  • Sole proprietor or general partners with no other employees
  • People granted exceptions due to religious beliefs
  • LLC’s in which only the employees are members of the LLC
  • Executive officers who have been given an exclusion
  • Licensed real estate salespersons or associate real estate brokers

Workmen’s Compensation rules for independent contractors can be complicated. Merely referring to someone as an independent contractor doesn’t mean the Department of Labor & Industry will agree. Here are a few factors that may indicate an individual is not an independent contractor but an employee.

The individual…

  • Performs duties assigned by the employer
  • Works hours set by the employer
  • Uses tools, equipment, or materials that the employer provides

The bottom-line is… before you assume your employees are exempt from Workers’ Compensation Insurance, check with your insurance agent or the Department of Labor & Industry or risk facing civil or criminal penalties.

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, the estimated cost of WC Insurance in Pennsylvania is $1.34 per $100 covered in payroll.

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Employers are required to report all injuries to their insurer or program - in the case of a self-insured employer - the person responsible for managing their WC. 

Employers are also required to submit a First Report of Injury to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation within seven days if the injury results in the loss of one or more day, shift, or turn of work. If the injury results in death, the employer must file a First Report with the Bureau within 48 hours. The injured workers and the employer’s insurer should also receive copies of the First Report. 

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Refusing to file a Workers’ Compensation claim on behalf of an employee is against the law.

 If an employee is injured, and the employer does not have WC insurance, the Uninsured Employers Guaranty Fund will pay the employee’s benefits. The employer will be required to reimburse the fund, including costs, interest, penalties, and other fees. 

Injured employees covered under WC insurance have very limited ability to sue their employers. However, that is not the case when the employer fails to carry WC insurance. Employers without WC are open to litigation for workplace injuries and illnesses. And often, the damages awarded are higher than what the employer would have paid for WC insurance. 

Employers who fail to maintain WC coverage could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. If the courts decide the failure to comply was intentional, the employer could be facing a felony charge that carries a fine of up to $15,000 and up to seven years in jail. 

Getting the Right Workers’ Compensation Insurance

American Insuring Group specializes in Workers’ Compensation Insurance. We can help you determine 1) whether or not your business is required to carry WC and 2) how you can get the best price on quality insurance protection if it is needed. Call us today at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp, workers comp insurance, workers comp costs

Telecommuting and Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Posted by David Ross on Sat, Oct 10, 2020

Telecomuting can impact your workers compensation insurance costs in Philadelphia, Berks County, Lancaster County, Alleghany County, PA and beyond. Here's what you should know.If the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of your employees to work from home, have you considered the ramifications it may have on your Workers’ Compensation Insurance? It may not be high on your radar as you continue to struggle through all the logistics of staff working from home, but it should be.

Workers’ Compensation claims can be complicated enough. If that injury occurs while the employee is at home, it can complicate it even further. The Society for Human Resource Management states, “In general, an employee injury or illness is compensable under workers’ compensation if it arises out of and in the course of employment, regardless of the location the injury occurs.”

Due to 1) a lack of defined case law in this area and 2) the limited ability to investigate incidents that occur at home, telecommuting is creating WC issues for many employers.

Injuries can and do occur while employees are working from home. Therefore, you must do your best to ensure that…

  • Employees have a safe work environment even if they are working from home

  • Both you and your employees understand what is expected of them

  • You respect their rights

  • Employees receive appropriate medical attention if an injury “arises out of and in the course of employment”

  • You have a process in place to properly investigate work injuries that occur at home.

The best way to ensure this and avoid potential WC issues is to create a Telecommuting Policy before something does happen.

A Telecommuting Policy

A Telecommuting Policy forces you to address the potential risks of working from home and lets employees know what is expected of them. Create and implement a written work-at-home contract that is signed by both employee and employer and is strictly enforced.

This contract should do the following:

  • Outline the hours that an employee will be working, including meals and rest periods. Also, include provisions regarding overtime. If the schedule changes, it should be documented via email.

  • Define where the employee will be working, whether that’s his or her home address or another physical location they chose to work from. Define the specific work area(s) within the home or other location and provide training to help them set up a safe workstation. If it is possible, check an employee’s home office to identify potential safety hazards and how to eliminate them.

  • Discourage employees from performing personal activities in their at-home workspace.

  • List what employer-owned equipment – such as laptop computers – the employee can use outside of the workplace.

  • Describe how employees should store and dispose of sensitive information.

  • Include details about how any work-related injury investigations will occur. You need to respect your employee’s privacy, but you also have the right to do an investigation of any work-related injury. Specific language is key. Require the employee to state in writing that they understand that their home-work environment must be safe and that they need to cooperate if a work-related injury occurs. That includes seeking medical treatment if needed, documenting the injury, and allowing the employer access to the workspace during regular business hours.

  • Include a Workers’ Compensation Statement that informs the employee of their protection under WC laws and that they are responsible for reporting all work-related injuries promptly.

Our Experts Will Help You Save on Workers’ Compensation Costs

Ensuring the safety of your employees and having a process to investigate injuries that occur at home can help you save on Workers’ Compensation costs.

Another great way to save is to work with one of the independent insurance agents at the American Insuring Group. We specialize in WC insurance and will compare pricing and coverage among many competing insurance carriers. We research so you can save! Give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp, workers comp costs

Workplace Ergonomics Minimizes Injury and Lowers WC Costs

Posted by David Ross on Sat, Jun 27, 2020

Workplace ergonomics can impact Workers Compensation Insurance costs in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Lancaster, Erie, PA and throughout the US. We often focus on minimizing Workers’ Compensation Insurance costs in potentially dangerous workplaces such as restaurants and construction sites: however, office spaces are not immune to workplace injuries.

One of the most significant work-related injuries in an office are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to OSHA, “Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are the most widespread occupational health hazard facing our Nation today.” Every year, almost two million workers suffer from work-related MSDs, and approximately 600,000 of those workers lose time from work due to the MSD.

OSHA estimates the direct cost of MSDs to be between $15 and $20 billion every year, with total yearly costs in the $45 to $54 billion range. Plus, $1 out of every $3 spent on WC is a result of insufficient ergonomic protection, which can help avoid MSDs.

What Are Musculoskeletal Disorders?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the Department of Labor describes MSDs as “musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders when the event or exposure leading to the case is bodily reaction (e.g., bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting), overexertion, or repetitive motion.” MSDs affect joints, bones, muscles, the spine, etc. Examples of MSDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, degenerative disc disease, and tension neck syndrome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes work-related MSDs as conditions in which “the work environment and performance of work contribute significantly to the condition; and/or the condition is made worse or persists longer due to work conditions.”

What is Workplace Ergonomics?

Workplace ergonomics - the science of fitting a job to a person so that they can work safely, without injury or pain - can help prevent MSDs, thereby reducing workplace injury and reducing Workers’ Comp and other expenses. A bonus is that it can actually improve a worker’s productivity.

Often, a few simple adjustments can make a huge difference, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Ergonomics in the Office

Occupational Health & Safety reports that workers spend an average of 1,700 hours per year in front of a computer screen. That’s more than 70 days every year sitting at a desk. Sitting in the same position for long periods of time can cause pain and injury and lead to MSDs. Many office workers don’t even realize that they are sitting in awkward postures that can affect their health and safety.

Here are some of the most common ergonomic problems in an office:

  • Monitors are too low, which forces flexion of the cervical spine.
  • Armrests are not used properly or not at all, which can cause tensions in the neck, shoulders, and trapezius muscles.
  • The mouse is not aligned with the shoulder, which can cause pain in the neck, wrist, and upper limbs.
  • Workers use phones without a headset, which can cause pain in the shoulder and spine.

Here are some tips to improve office ergonomics:

  • An office chair should allow for height adjustment so that the worker can sit with his or her knees at a 90-degree angle. It should also have adequate lumbar support and armrests, so elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  • The desk and chair should allow enough space for the user to cross their legs. Users should be able to rest their feet flat on the floor, so use a footrest if needed.
  • Pad the edges of the desk if there are hard edges.
  • A monitor should be placed, so the top is at or just below eye level and is an arm’s length away. The brightest light source should be to the side to avoid glare.
  • The mouse should be directly in line with the shoulder, so the wrist remains straight.
  • The height of the keyboard should allow the user to keep their wrists straight while typing.
  • A phone should be held in one hand, or the user should use a headset.

MyAbilities offers a tool called Rapid Office Strain Assessment (ROSA), which is a self-guided self-assessment that shows workers how to adjust their workstation to prevent discomfort and injury.

Want to Save Even More on Workers’ Compensation?

Creating safe workplaces to avoid injuries is the best way to reduce WC costs. Another way to save on all commercial insurance costs is to work with one of the independent agents at American Insuring Group who specialize in Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Give us a call today at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online to see how we can help you save on your Workers’ Compensation and other insurance costs.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp, PA Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp costs, Safety Programs

Marijuana and Contractors Insurance

Posted by David Ross on Sat, Jun 20, 2020

Marijuana and the impact on contractors insuranceMore than four years after Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act into law, the implications of the law on construction site safety and Contractors Insurance is still unclear. Pennsylvania was the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana, and today, nearly thirty states have similar laws.

The challenge for construction companies is balancing safety with compliance with a variety of conflicting state and federal laws regarding the use of both recreational and medical marijuana.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), “While medical marijuana-using employees have mounted legal challenges, state statutes usually side with employers who reject potential employees or reprimand workers that test positive for cannabis, even if they have a medical marijuana card. Some states protect employee rights and safeguard against disciplinary action for medical marijuana use, however. Marijuana is still illegal according to federal law, which classifies it as a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Federal law supersedes state law.”

NSC also states that the Americans with Disabilities Acts sides with employers, most states will not pay worker compensation benefits to an employee who is under the influence at the time of the accident, and most state health insurance programs won’t pay for medical marijuana.

Putting legal and ethical issues aside, the bottom line is that marijuana use can impact job safety, and in an industry already fraught with its share of hazards, safety should be a priority for any construction site. Workplace injuries not only increase Workers’ Compensation Insurance costs they also decrease employee productivity and morale.

Marijuana and Job-Site Safety

Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound, which has shown to have adverse effects. It can change a person’s sensory perception, create short-term memory problems, and impair thinking. Physically, marijuana use has been shown to impair motor skills, cause a loss of balance and coordination, and impair depth perception. These effects can prove deadly to someone driving a forklift or working on a roof.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.”

What Can Construction Companies Do?

While much of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act is unclear – or even conflicting - some sections support employers and workplace safety. For example, if an employee has more than ten nanograms of THC in their blood, they cannot operate or be in physical control of strong chemicals or high voltage electricity and that an employee who is “under the influence of medical marijuana” cannot perform duties in confined spaces or at heights.” It also states that an employer can prohibit an employee from “performing any task which the employer deems life-threatening, to either the employee or any of the employees of the employer.”

If you are working on a federal project, you have no choice but to maintain a drug-free job site, and the use of marijuana on the job should always be prohibited on any job site.

The NSC recommends that construction companies have a drug-testing program and a solid drug policy in place that include the following:

  • A definition of the terms “marijuana,” “cannabis,” or any other derivation
  • Proper management and supervisor training
  • Access to support for employees with drug addictions
  • Clearly defined use and possession parameters
  • Drug testing policies and procedures – Tests should be conducted uniformly for all employees to avoid liability for discrimination claims.
  • Education for employees on clinical issues relating to marijuana, such as how long it remains in the system, the effects it can have, including the potential impact on workplace safety.
  • Established rules for post-accident testing
  • Rules on how to handle employee convictions or arrests
  • A reminder that on-the-job impairment will not be tolerated, including medical marijuana

Include your drug policy in all recruiting and new-hire on-boarding materials. Review your drug policy with a lawyer and update it as laws change.

Here's How to Save on Contractors Insurance!

Creating a safe worksite is just one way to lower Contractors Insurance rates. Working with one of the American Insuring Group independent agents who specialize in Contractors Insurance will ensure that you get the right coverage at the best price. Give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Construction Insurance, Contractor Insurance, workers comp, Contractor Safety Management, Safety Programs

7 Smart Ways to Save on Contractor Insurance

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Mar 22, 2020

Ways to Save on Contractors InsuranceContractor Insurance is required to protect your assets and your business, whether you’re a one-person independent contractor or the owner of a construction company.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t lower the cost of your insurance premiums.

Here are seven smart ways to you can start saving on contractor Insurance:

Increase Deductibles

A deductible is the amount of money that you will need to pay if you make a claim before the insurance company pays anything. In other words, if you have a $500 deductible and make a $2,000 claim that is covered, the insurance company would pay $1,500 only after you have paid the $500.

Increasing the amount of your deductible will lower the cost of your premiums, freeing up funds that could be used to buy new equipment, give raises, or however you think that money could be best used.

However, before you make that decision, make sure that you have enough money in reserve that you could pay that deductible if you made a claim. Otherwise, you could find yourself without a tool or vehicle that you need to conduct business if it is stolen, damaged, or destroyed. If you can’t pay that deductible, you can’t repair or replace that item.

Pay Upfront

Most insurance companies will discount your rate if you can pay your insurance premium upfront, rather than monthly. So, if you have the cash available, pay your insurance premiums annually.

Combine Insurance Policies

Every contractor should have Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance, which covers your business for injury or property damage caused by the operation of your business or on your business premises. Chances are good, that isn’t the only insurance you will need to protect your business.

You may need property insurance to protect your buildings and its contents, auto insurance to protect your vehicles, or any number of other types of insurance. Many insurance companies will give you a discount if you purchase more than one type of insurance with them.

Lower Commercial Auto Insurance

If you hire drivers with bad driving records, you will pay more for your commercial auto insurance; it’s that simple. Before hiring anyone who will drive one of your commercial vehicles, check their driving records and only hire those with excellent driving records.

Another way to save on auto insurance is to evaluate new vehicle purchases. The more a vehicle is worth, the more your insurance premiums will be. So, when you are comparing the price of vehicles, don’t forget to factor in the cost of insurance to cover it. You may find a less-expensive model will meet your needs and save you a ton of money in the long run.

Identify and Minimize Your Risks

The fewer claims you make, the lower your premiums will be. Identify any potential hazards and create a plan to prevent those risks, and you should be able to reduce the number of claims.

For example, there is always the risk of your tools or equipment being stolen, so if you can minimize the risk of theft – such as installing security cameras, locks, or tracking devices – you will lower the chances of those items being stolen, which means fewer claims. Fewer claims can reduce the cost of your premiums and minimize any deductibles you have to pay.

Create a Safer Worksite

We would be remiss if we didn’t include this one. A safer worksite means fewer employee injuries, which means lower Workers’ Compensation costs. A safer worksite also means fewer third-party injuries, which could result in expensive lawsuits; thereby, increasing your CGL costs.

OSHA offers a variety of resources to improve worksite safety, and you’ll also find many tips to create a safer worksite on this blog.

Work with an Independent Insurance Agent

Independent Insurance agents – like the experienced agents at American Insuring Group – can compare several different insurance companies to ensure that you get the right coverage and the best price on all your business insurance needs, including contractor insurance. By comparison, a captive (single-company) agent can only sell policies from a single insurance carrier.

Ready to start saving? Give one of our independent agents a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Contractor Insurance, workers comp, Commercial Insurance, Contractor Safety Management, Commercial Auto Insurance

Reduce Workers’ Comp Insurance Costs With Vocational Rehabilitation

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Mar 15, 2020

How to Reduce Workers Compensation Insurance Costs with Vocational RehabilitationVocational rehabilitation (VR) is one of the benefits of Workers’ Compensation Insurance. It can benefit both the injured employee and their employer by getting the employee back to work more quickly, thereby reducing the costs associated with Workers’ Compensation claims.

However, this benefit needs to be closely monitored to ensure that it continues to benefit the injured employee. If VR is no longer benefiting them, it could be costing your business.

What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational rehabilitation as a WC benefit is designed to help injured employees return to work. Vocational rehabilitation services can vary depending on what the injured employee needs.

According to the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC), some of the services a rehabilitating consultant (QRC) may provide include the following:

  • vocational assessment and evaluation
  • training
  • upgrading of general skills
  • refresher courses
  • on-the-job training
  • career counseling
  • employment searches
  • consulting with the employer for job accommodations or modifications.

Who Can Benefit From Vocational Rehabilitation?

Typically, VR is a WC benefit reserved for injured employees who have been out of work for an extended time. The process begins with a consultation with a QRC who can make recommendations regarding whether VR could be a benefit for the injured employee or not.

The QRC considers several factors before making a recommendation, including whether or not the injured employee will be able to return to the job they had before the injury, whether or not the injured employee is expected to be able to find gainful employment with the employer he or she was with when injured, and whether or not the injured employee is able to find gainful employment through VR services based on the treating physician’s opinion.

How Can Vocational Rehabilitation Be Monitored?

If vocational rehabilitation is approved, the claim handler must monitor the regular reports issued by the QRC. Those reports will include what services are being provided and how well the employee is recovering.

When reviewing those reports, the handler should consider several things. Are the employees’ physical limitations (new or ongoing) interfering with the completion of the rehabilitation plan? The employee could have a setback or could incur a new injury or disability that could stop him from completing the VR program.

Is the injured employee fully engaging in the VR? If the employee is not cooperating, such as missing appointments or not keeping in touch with his or her employer and/or QRC, he or she is not fully engaged in the program and probably won’t benefit from it.

Should the goals of the VR be changed? Perhaps the injured employee is not progressing as expected. Perhaps they’ve had a setback. If this occurs, it may be necessary to adjust the VR goals.  

When is it Time to Terminate Vocational Rehabilitation?

If, while reviewing these reports, it appears that the injured employee is no longer benefiting from VR services, termination of those services should be considered. The individual asking for the termination of VR services has to prove that those services are no longer benefiting the injured employee.

Typically, grounds for terminating those services include the following:

  • Death of the injured employee
  • The Workers’ Compensation case is settled
  • The injured employee is no longer participating in the services
  • The injured employee returns to work with a minimal or no wage loss

Vocational Rehabilitation can often help an injured employee return to work more quickly, benefiting both employee and employer. However, Vocation Rehabilitation that is not monitored can end up costing employers big time.

That’s why it’s imperative that someone continues to monitor the injured employee’s status and level of cooperation and take steps to terminate VR services if evidence shows that the injured employee will no longer benefit from those services.

 

Here's How to Save Even More on Workers’ Compensation Insurance!

The independent agents at American Insuring Group specialize in Workers’ Compensation Insurance. We have the experience and the knowledge to help you lower your WC costs. Our independence allow us to shop and compare insurance providers and policies to get you the right protection at the best price.

Give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

We provide worker's compensation insurance solutions in Philadelphia, Berks County, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Erie, PA and beyond. 

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp, PA Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp costs, Vocational Rehabilitation

Workers Comp Costs, Musculoskeletal Disorders, and Ergonomics

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Dec 15, 2019

Ergonomics_Workers_Comp_CostsWhen it comes to increasing workplace safety and reducing Workers’ Compensation Insurance costs, your mind may immediately go to improving safety among construction workers, drivers, or maybe factory workers. These occupations are notoriously dangerous. We often hear about a worker breaking his or her leg after a fall or sustaining a concussion after being struck by something.

These are legitimate safety concerns. But there is another threat to safety that many employers overlook – workplace ergonomics, which can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and be just as costly to employers.

MSDs are injuries, pain, stiffness, tingling, burning, cramping, or discomfort in the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, and ligaments. The disorder can affect your neck, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, hands, and the upper and lower back. Examples of MSDs include muscle sprains, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis.

This disorder can be caused by acute trauma like a car accident, but bad ergonomics, such as repetitious motions, vibrations, and awkward postures, can also cause MSDs.

If your employees work in a relatively safe work environment, such as an office, you may not spend much time thinking about how you can improve safety to lower your Workers’ Comp costs. If the majority of your employees work in environments where other types of injuries are more prevalent, you may dismiss the impact of MSDs on Workers’ Compensation Insurance costs.

You may want to re-think either of those attitudes.

The Cost of Workplace MSDs

An estimated 126.6 million Americans are affected by MSDs, according to Science Daily. That’s one in two adults. The cost of the disorder is estimated at $213 billion every year.

And workplaces are not immune to the impact of the disorder. According to ErgoPlus, MSDs account for almost 400,000 injuries every year, account for one-third of all WC costs and result in 38% more lost time than the average injury or illness.

MSDs often result in chronic pain, disability, and mobility issues. The World Health Organization reports that MSDs are the second largest contributor to disability worldwide. The direct cost of MSDs in the workplace is about $20 billion, but the indirect costs, such as lost productivity, product defects, etc. can be much higher.

Employers and employees can work together to reduce MSD risk factors by understanding ergonomics and taking steps to minimize the risks

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science of increasing efficiency and reducing discomfort by helping the job fit the worker instead of trying to fit the worker to the job. It can involve engineering controls, such as improving the design of tools or workspaces or automating certain processes. That could mean providing workers with ergonomically friendly accessories such as adjustable tables or chairs, footrests, or lumbar support.

Administrative controls can include actions such as job rotation, reviewing injury logs, and providing employee education, such as discussions on MSD risk factors, how to be mindful of postures, and how to avoid awkward positions.

Reduce MSDs in the Workplace

The first step to reducing MSDs is to learn how to recognize the risk factors, which include highly repetitive tasks, high-force loads that increase muscle effort, and awkward or sustained awkward postures.

ErgoPlus offers this advice to help reduce the risk of MSDs:

  1. Maintain a Neutral Posture by keeping the body aligned and balanced when sitting or standing.
  2. Work in the Power or Comfort Zone, which means lifting close to the body between the mid-thigh and mid-chest.
  3. Allow for movement or stretching if you’re working for long periods of time in a static position.
  4. Reduce excessive force
  5. Reduce repetitive or excessive motions
  6. Minimize contact stress, which is caused by continuous contact or rubbing between sharp or hard objects and body tissue
  7. Reduce excessive vibration
  8. Provide adequate lighting

Lower Your Workers’ Compensation Insurance Costs

Whether you work in a highly dangerous or a relatively safe industry, your workers can be affected by musculoskeletal disorders, which costs both you and the injured worker big time. Learn to recognize ergonomic risk factors and how to reduce the risk of MSDs to improve the safety of your workplace and the well-being of your employees and lower your Workers’ Compensation costs.

Another way to save on WC costs is to work with an agent who can help you identify potential risks and has experience with Workers’ Compensation Insurance, like the independent agents at American Insuring Group.  Why not give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online?

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, Business Insurance Philadelphia Pa, workers comp, Commercial Insurance, Contractor Safety Management

Understand Electrical Hazards to Lower Contractor Insurance Costs

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Oct 27, 2019

Electrical_Safety_Lower_Insurance_300Construction sites are among the most dangerous work sites in the U.S., which is why Contractor Insurance costs – Workers’ Comp Insurance, Commercial Liability Insurance, etc. - tend to be higher than other industries. The good news is that creating safer work sites and reducing injuries can lower your insurance costs.

Electrocution is one of OSHA’s Fatal Four – the four types of accidents that were responsible for more than half of the construction workers’ deaths in 2017. Working with or around electricity can kill you, and construction work sites present many electrical hazards.

Most electricians are aware of the dangers electricity can pose and how to avoid injury from those dangers, but anyone on a construction site can be exposed to electrical hazards and should understand how to recognize those hazards and how to avoid them.

All construction employees should be thoroughly trained on proper electrical safety.

Here Are Five Common Electrical Hazards at Construction Worksites:

Power Tools

Here are a few Power Safety Tool Tips from OSHA:

  • Don’t carry tools by the cord
  • don’t yank on the cord to disconnect it from the receptacle
  • Keep cords away from heat, oil, and sharp edges
  • Disconnect tools when you aren’t using them, when changing accessories, and before servicing or cleaning them
  • Maintain your tools
  • Follow the Users’ manual

Power Lines

Every year, workers sustain injuries and lose their lives due to electrocutions caused by overhead and underground power lines. Look up for power lines on any job site, especially any time you are framing a building, constructing scaffolding, or painting.

OSHA requires that all objects remain at least ten feet away from any lines operating at 50 kV or less, 15 feet for 200 kV, 20 feet for 350 kV, 25 feet for 500 kV, 30 feet for 650 kV, and 35 feet for 800 kV. If you have no choice but to work closer than ten feet, have the power company de-energize or move the power line.

Buried power lines can be just as dangerous, but unlike overhead power lines, buried power lines aren’t easily identified. Don’t take a chance; call 811 before digging.

Improper Grounding

Improper grounding (Aka earthing) of equipment and circuitry is the most common OSHA electrical violation. Grounding helps stabilize voltage and protect workers (and their equipment) from power surges.

Wet Conditions

Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and increases the risk of electrocution. If a worker touches water that is touching electricity, they can become the electricity’s path to the ground.  Workers should never operate electrical equipment in wet conditions.

Exposed Electrical Parts

There are usually plenty of exposed electrical parts on a construction job site such as electrical cords, temporary lighting, open power distribution units, and detached insulation parts. Contact with any of these can cause injury or even death.

These are just five of the most common electrical hazards on a job site. There are many other hazards that all construction workers should be trained on if you want to keep your workers safe, avoid OSHA fines, and keep your insurance costs down.

Additional Precautions

  • Only certified electricians should install or work on electrical systems such as receptacles, outlets, switches, etc.
  • Proper protective gear should be supplied to workers including insulated and approved head protection when working around overhead wires, face and eye protection to minimize injuries from arc blasts, and hand protection.
  • Training is key to a safe work environment.

What Other Steps Can You Take to Lower Your Contractors Insurance?

If you want to keep your Contractors Insurance rates as low as possible, find an independent agent who specializes in Contractors Insurance to ensure you get the right coverage and is willing to check with several insurance companies to ensure that you get the best price. That’s what you’ll find at American Insuring Group!  Give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, Contractor Insurance, workers comp, Contractor Safety Management, Safety Programs

4 Steps to a Speedy Workers’ Comp Insurance Claim

Posted by David Ross on Sun, Oct 13, 2019

workplace_safety_lower_insurance_300Despite all of your best efforts to create a safe work environment, accidents do happen on worksites – whether it’s a restaurant or a construction site or even an office, and you should be prepared.

Knowing what to do when someone injures themselves in the workplace can help ensure that the injured employee gets immediate medical attention and that any Workers’ Comp insurance claims are processed quickly and accurately. You should have a process in place, and all managers and supervisors should be trained in that process.

Here Are Four Steps That Should Be Included in the Process:

Take Care of the Injured Employee

Your employee’s welfare should be your first priority. As soon as an injury occurs, determine the appropriate medical treatment. If it’s a serious injury, call 911 immediately. If it isn’t a serious injury, take the injured employee to a medical care facility.

Some insurance carriers offer a 24/7 injured employee hotline that has registered nurses who can provide medical guidance. If your Workers’ Comp insurance carrier has a hotline, all managers and supervisors should be aware of that number.

Survey the Scene of the Accident

Once the injured employee has received appropriate medical care, survey the scene. If it’s a severe injury, any equipment involved in the incident should be secured, and the area where the incident occurred should be cordoned off with cones or tape until the local police and/or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are finished with their formal investigation.

Even with minor injuries, surveying the scene could reveal what caused the injury. For example, if an employee falls because of a wet floor, that area can be cleaned up to avoid further accidents.

The purpose of an investigation isn’t to lay blame but to determine the root cause of the accident, so it doesn’t happen again. In that same example, if a faulty refrigerator caused that wet floor, the appliance can be fixed to avoid any additional injuries.

Collect Information

A manager or supervisor should then gather details about the incident. Write down the details of the accident – where it happened, how it happened, etc. – and any medical treatment the injured employee received. Also, talk to anyone who witnessed the incident and document what they share and their contact information. 

Complete the Incident Report

Before the details of the injury fade from memory, the incident report should be completed. OSHA requires employers to maintain records of all work-related injuries using its Injury & Illness Record-keeping Forms and to notify OSHA if the injured employee needs to be hospitalized.

Any Workers’ Compensation claims should be filed within 24 hours of the incident. 

If the injury is fairly minor but still prohibits the injured employee from performing his or her regular tasks, you may also need to consider if a transitional or modified job may be appropriate. The longer an employee is out of work, the harder it is to go back and the more it costs you. A return-to-work program can help keep injured employees off of long-term disability and save you money.

You may also want to take a look at your safety program. Did an employee not receive proper training? Was a safety procedure ignored? What can you do to help ensure this type of accident doesn’t happen again?

Want to Save on All Kinds of Commercial Insurance?

The agents at American Insuring Group specialize in commercial insurance, including Workers’ Compensation. We can help ensure that you have the right coverage and – as independent agents who can compare costs with several companies – that you get it at the best price!  Give us a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or connect with us online.

Tags: Workers Compensation Insurance, workers comp, workers comp insurance, workers comp costs, Return-To-Work Programs