Understanding Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Saftey Hazards

Illness and injury prevention programs are useful for lowering the likelihood of occupational injuries, fatalities and illnesses. There are many workplaces that have already put safety measures in place. One common way they do this is by participating in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs. They may also enroll in Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Programs, which are designed for smaller employers. Research shows that workplaces participating in these programs experience fewer injuries, and they usually report transformed cultures in the workplace that lead to higher quality of work. They also report better overall productivity, less turnover, greater worker satisfaction and reduced overall costs.

In addition to several other nations around the world, there are 34 states that encourage or require workplaces to have such programs in place. Since these employers have reported positive experiences with their programs in the United States, OSHA believes that prevention programs can create a solid foundation that will promote positive changes in the ways employers and their employees control and identify hazards. They say this leads to a better, safer and healthier work environment for everyone.

Adopting a prevention program will help reduce the number of workplace injuries, illnesses or fatalities. In addition to this, employers will have the opportunity to better their compliance standards with existing ones, which will give them the benefit of experiencing better finances and a safer environment. Prevention programs should have evaluation, identification and control measures for the workplace. These should be aimed at any existing hazards, which is something that will vary from one workplace to another. Some specific tasks should also be assigned to various workers, managers or supervisors.

There are several elements that comprise an effective plan, and these include the following:

– Management should establish concise and clear health and safety goals for the program, and these should provide definitions for the actions that are needed to reach the goals.

– Management officials should choose one or more workers who are responsible to maintain and implement the program.

– Workers should communicate with other workers who are implementing and developing programs to ensure they are involved.

– Management should provide adequate resources to make sure programs are implemented effectively.

– Management should include designated workers in any workplace inspections or investigations following any incidents.

– All workers should be encouraged to report their concerns about injuries, hazards, near misses and illnesses.

– Management should document and assess hazards in the workplace by asking for workers’ input and looking carefully at any available information about hazards.

– Employers must always inform their workers of known hazards in the workplace.

– Employers must protect their workers’ rights if they participate in these programs.

– If injuries occur, employers should investigate such incidents to identify hazards and what caused them.

– Employers should establish a plan that prioritizes dealing with various hazards.

– Employers should verify that all measures for any controls are effective.

– Management should provide interim controls that are designed to protect workers from hazards that are not immediately controllable.

– Employers must provide training and education to workers in languages they understand to ensure they know what to do.

– Employers should talk about hazard control plans with any workers that will be affected by the specific hazards.

– Workers should understand all of the procedures for reporting illnesses, injuries and safety concerns.

– Workers should know how to identify, control, reduce and eliminate hazards.

– Workers should understand all of the elements of a program and how to participate in it.

– Employers should offer refresher courses for the program periodically.

– Employers should look for ways to improve their programs regularly, and they should evaluate program effectiveness each time.

Employers have many responsibilities when it comes to keeping their workers safe. Every workplace has its own types of hazards. Although precautions reduce injuries, it is important to be fully prepared for when accidents happen anyway. To learn more about this topic, call ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website

What are Loss Runs, and How Do These Reports Affect You?

From time to time, you’ll be asked to provide a loss-run report, either on a new insurance application or on a renewal.  What exactly are loss runs, and why do insurance companies request them? What follows is an explanation of everything you need to know about loss runs and how they affect your application or policy renewal.

Loss runs are reports that provide a history of claims made on a commercial insurance policy. Typically, an insurance company will request up to five years of history, or for however long coverage has been provided. A claims history is one of a number of factors that are taken into consideration when your application is being underwritten. If an application is approved, it can also have an effect on the premium, either with credits or surcharges, depending on the history.

What details are included in a loss-run report? The report will include the named insured, the policy number, the date of each claim, and the amount paid or on reserve, and it may also include a brief description of the claim. Each claim is listed on its own line. The report will also specify whether each claim is open or closed. If you have had coverage with more than one insurance company, then you will need to request a loss run from each of these providers.

To request a loss run, you will need to send a letter to either the agent or the insurance company. The letter should include the name the policy is insured under, the policy numbers, and the number of years or policy periods for which you are seeking a history. In most cases, your agent can assist you with this process or provide you with a template letter. In some cases, an agent or company will provide this by way of e-mail or phone call. In most states a company is legally required to provide your loss runs within ten business days.

In some cases, you will be asked to provide loss-run reports every year, even if your policy is insured with the same company. There are a number of reasons for this. Most liability policies are occurrence policies, and this means that a claim may be filed at any time as long as the incident occurred during the policy period. An updated loss-run report will indicate if there are any new claims. Another reason for an updated loss run may be due to an open claim. Open claims are never finalized until they’re closed, and this is when the final, updated details are provided, which can affect both the approval and the premium of a renewal policy.

A claims history can have an effect on your company’s insurance rates. This is why it’s very important to practice risk management in order to prevent potential claims. Businesses can also avoid claims submissions  by establishing high deductibles and processing smaller, property-only claims through a reserve fund. Liability claims should never be handled by your company unless you have in-house counsel to manage claims incidents. These steps can help save your company thousands of dollars in the long run while maintaining good rates and producing loss-run reports that are viewed favorably during the application and renewal process.  ACBI can help by reviewing your coverage and providing expert advice.  You can contact our office at 203-259-7580 or visit our website. 

What Is a Workers Compensation Rating and Why Does It Matter?

Most business owners and executives understand the value of workers compensation insurance not just to protect the worker, but to protect the company as well. Fewer, however, are aware of the mechanics of how premiums are arrived at, and how their own company’s safety track record figures into their rating.  Understanding the process, however, may well enable you to qualify for lower premiums down the road, saving your business money and making you more competitive.

Industry underwriters set workers compensation premiums using a process similar to how most companies price group health insurance: They look at the actual claims experience for similar workers in your area, and if there is a history of claims, at your company specifically. Where there is insufficient local claims experience to look at, underwriters turn to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a clearing house of workers injury and compensation data.

Generally, underwriters will take your payroll and multiply it by an average claim factor for that type of worker. This produces a baseline average of the total number of expected claims, which they subdivide as claims per $100,000 of payroll, claims per year, or claims per time unit. The frequency of claims is considered to be a close proxy for the safety culture of the individual business. They then account for the average severity of claims for that type of worker in your industry and combine the two to arrive at a baseline prediction for expected losses.

Underwriters must then try to assess your business and answer the following question: Given the policies and procedures in place at your business and your claims history, is your company likely to produce losses that are higher than the industry baseline or lower?

Over time, underwriters have discovered that the most likely future claims predictor is a past history of claims at your company. Therefore, to save money on workers compensation premiums, it behooves the company to invest aggressively in preserving the safety of the work environment, both in terms of resources and management focus.

Your workers compensation agent and underwriting team will assign your company an insurance rating, with 1 deemed equal to the average claims experience in your industry for the area.

Any rating higher than 1 indicates a worse-than-average risk for workers compensation claims. If your rating comes out higher than 1, you may be able to qualify for lower rates in future years by reviewing your safety program and the types of losses your company has incurred. Identify any patterns and refcurring themes. You may benefit from bringing in a risk management consultant for an outside set of eyeballs. Some investment in equipment or improved training may be needed, or you may need to be more vigilant for workers compensation fraud in a few cases.

Best Practices

In the long run, your safety record is a reflection of your overall safety culture. That’s not something limited to the rank and file worker and shop foremen, though. The most important link in the safety culture chain is at the top.

 

  • Invest in training your workers in all aspects of safety relevant for their jobs.
  • Appoint a senior manager with clout to monitor your safety and OSHA compliance, and empower him or her to enforce it throughout the company.
  • Empower any worker to halt work activities if he or she becomes aware of an unsafe work condition, until that condition can be corrected.

 

Everyone is part of your workplace safety culture – but senior management is the most important link in the chain, because management sets the tone throughout the organization.

ACBI utilizes a unique tool to help analyze your Workers’ Comp experience and rates.  To learn more, call us at 203-259-7580 or visit our website.

New Ladder Safety App Helps Construction Workers Avoid Falls

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health promoted a new ladder safety phone application recently. The app is available for all smartphone users, and it uses audio and visual signals to aid workers who must use extension ladders. The app checks the ladder’s angle when it is positioned and also provides several helpful tips for proper ladder use. It is free to download for Android and iPhone devices.

Every year, there are many injuries resulting from ladders falling on construction sites. Whether a person is on the ladder or standing under it when it is knocked over, injuries are usually severe enough they require emergency medical attention. Falls are one of the biggest concerns, and many people fall while they are on an extension ladder if safety precautions are not followed. One major risk is misjudging the angle of the ladder. It may look secure from one point, but it may actually be far from a safe angle for climbing. When it is set too steep, it often falls backward. However, ladders where the bottoms are set too shallow may fall out from below.

Experts say that the new phone app is a good way to keep workers safer in two useful ways. They also believe it will help prevent injuries if construction workers are encouraged to download it. They point out that the app is proof of how experts are constantly looking for easier ways for workers to protect themselves. This app provides feedback for setting up ladders at certain angles. In addition to this, there are references users will find helpful. There is also a guide for inspecting, using, accessorizing and selecting extension ladders.

In addition to downloading this app, it is helpful for construction workers to brush up on their extension ladder safety basics frequently.

The following are some useful points to remember:

– Never stand above the ladder’s highest safe standing level, which is outlined by the manufacturer and is usually above three rungs.

– Always keep three or more points of contact during a project.

– Avoid extending the center of the body beyond the sides of the ladder.

– Do not carry tools while using a ladder. Instead, wear a window cleaner’s belt or similar product designed to meet the purpose.

– Always face the ladder when descending or ascending.

– Do not leave an erected ladder unattended for any length of time.

– Always wear non-slip footwear when climbing a ladder.

If you have any questions about insurance for your Construction Business or Workers Compensation, please contact ACBI at 203-259-7580 or visit our website by clicking here.

How Obamacare Could Affect Property Casualty Insurance

The key changes in federal health care reform remain months away but property/casualty actuaries are already trying to determine what impact they will have on their own lines of business, particularly workers’ compensation and medical malpractice.

Elements of the Affordable Care Act have been phased in since the law’s 2010 passage but many key reforms begin January 1, 2014. Property/casualty actuaries need to consider the potential impact of these effects so they can adjust rates and reserves when changes occur.

At the recent Casualty Actuarial Society’s (CAS) Ratemaking and Product Management Seminar, two fellows of the CAS led a discussion of the health care law’s major changes and how the reforms may affect property-casualty lines.

Many of the law’s measures have already been enacted But, according to Laura N. Cali, chief actuary and manager of product regulation for the Oregon Insurance Division, the biggest changes remain, including requiring everyone to buy insurance and eliminating health insurers’ ability to deny coverage.

Key questions include:

  • How effective will the individual mandate be?
  • Will the uninsured population entering the market be healthier or less healthy than current insureds?
  • How much pressure will fall upon primary care givers like physicians, as millions of new insureds seek treatment? Will more treatment be handled by non-physicians, such as nurse practitioners, and what impact will that have?
  • How will medical specialists be affected? They may not face an instant influx of patients, the way primary care physicians will, but demand for specialists’ services will increase as new insureds work their way through the system.

The law is creating “a lot of new regulations,” Cali said, “and it’s happening quickly.”

The changes could significantly affect property/casualty insurance, said Anne M. Petrides, a director and consulting actuary with Towers Watson, although as of now it is hard to tell what impact the reforms will have on liability and costs.

The changes could either increase or decrease liability and costs in medical malpractice and workers’ compensation but the impact will differ by state as both lines are sensitive to state laws and regulations, Petrides said.

Health care reform will increase the number of people who have health insurance, which could reduce medical malpractice liabilities if new insureds are able to visit doctors earlier than they would have without insurance and receive earlier treatment.

Early treatment could lead to better medical outcomes and thus help prevent the adverse outcomes that can trigger malpractice lawsuits.

But the increase in the insured population could raise liabilities, as more patients per unit exposure would imply more potential risk. Also a physician shortage could impact the frequency of medical errors.

The same change could lower costs in workers’ compensation if greater access to health care created a healthier workplace. But it could increase costs if a doctor shortage delayed treatment and a return to work.

Also for workers’ compensation, costs could go down if research created greater agreement on what are now questionable treatments. But costs would go up if the research indicated more treatment, or more expensive treatment, is warranted.

Reform’s attempt to create financial incentives for improved care and patient safety could lower medical malpractice liability if the incentives work as intended. But liability could increase if failure to qualify for an incentive becomes considered as evidence of negligence.

Other lines will be affected, too. If reform triggers a wave of mergers and acquisitions, directors and officers coverage could be at risk. Auto liability could be affected by any changes in how medical care is provided. For both workers’ compensation and auto liability coverages, uncertainty exists if decreases to provider fees in the health care system will require the providers to shift shortfalls to third party payors so as to remain financially sound.

Cali and Petrides agreed that while it’s impossible to know right now how this will all shake out, property/casualty actuaries can begin gathering and analyzing data that will help them respond when changes do occur.

Source: The Casualty Actuarial Society

Paid Sick Leave Equals Fewer Workers’ Comp Injuries

Employers looking to cut their workers’ comp costs may want to offer or expand their paid sick leave benefits. New research indicates workers who took paid time off when they were sick performed better and had fewer workplace injuries.

“Workers with access to paid sick leave were 28 percent less likely overall to suffer nonfatal occupational injuries than workers without access to paid sick leave,” reported the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “Workers in high-risk occupations and industry sectors, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and health care and social assistance, appeared to benefit most from paid sick leave.”

The study, Paid Sick Leave and Nonfatal Occupational Injuries, is published in the American Journal of Public Health. The authors surmised that safer operations and fewer injuries may result from fewer people working while sick. It also prevents the spread of contagious diseases.

The study examined information from the National Health Interview Survey of more than 38,000 working adults from 2005 to 2008. Those in the sample were asked whether they had access to paid sick leave through their main job or business and whether they had suffered any injury or poisoning that required medical consultation during the three months prior to the survey.

“Employers may benefit from improved productivity if paid sick leave helps reduce absenteeism, or unscheduled leave, and ‘presenteeism,’ or the problem of sick workers continuing to work while not fully productive,” the study says. “Sick or stressed workers who continue to work are likely to take medications, experience sleep problems or be fatigued. These factors can impair their ability to concentrate or make sound decisions, which can in turn increase their probability of suffering an additional illness or sustaining a workplace injury.”

Previous research has indicated paid sick leave is associated with shorter recovery times and reduced complications from minor health problems. Nevertheless, 43 percent of private sector workers in the U.S. reported having no access to paid sick leave, according to the study. While the Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies to provide up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible workers, that leave can be paid or unpaid. Only California and New Jersey have systems that provide workers with partial wage replacement, according to the study.

“We hope that our study along with previous research that supports our findings and conclusions will encourage policy makers and employers to consider the overall wellbeing of workers when making policy or funding decisions,” the report states. “Such a holistic approach would lead to more integrated development of programs that both prevent occupational injury and illness and improve other aspects of worker health.”

If you have questions about your Workers Comp Coverage and would like a no obligation analysis of your program, please contact ACBI at (203)259-7580.  With our unique Mod tool, we can help you understand what the mod is, how your loss history affects the mod and how the mod impacts your bottom line.  We are able to identify and analyze problem areas and develop targeted solutions to improve problem areas and reduce  premium and claims costs. 

From Risk & Insurance, Copyright 2012© LRP Publications

Obesity Trumps Aging as Top Influencer on Workers’ Comp

ORLANDO — Concerns about the aging of the workforce may all be for naught, suggest two workers’ comp experts. Comorbidities will likely result in more baby boomers leaving the workforce sooner than previously thought.

“This has reached pandemic proportions,” said Robert Hartwig of obesity, diabetes, and other comorbid health conditions. “We are going to face mass premature retirements of baby boomers.”

Hartwig, the president of the Insurance Information Institute, predicts many older workers who become injured won’t be able to reassimilate into the workforce. “”So the aging workforce may not be as strong as people thought,” he said. “Baby boomers won’t be able to come back into the system.”

Speaking at the recent Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute conference, Hartwig and NCCI’s Jeff Eddinger outlined the latest factors impacting workers’ comp and offered their predictions. Some positive labor market developments as well as adverse long-term developments are driving workers’ comp exposure, Hartwig said.

 “While the [economic] recovery has not been anywhere near what we want, it hasn’t fallen back into recession,” Hartwig said. “That’s critical for the labor markets and for workers’ comp.”

Hartwig predicted the economy would grow in 2013 — barring any major actions by Congress. He noted that consumer spending is up, as are auto sales and private sector housing construction. “We’re not too far from seeing an increase,” he explained, “powered in part by rich, foreign buyers.”

But Hartwig noted public sector construction has stalled as municipalities focus their dollars on pensions rather than new buildings. “That doesn’t drive comp exposure,” he said.

Manufacturing has been a bright spot for the economy; something Hartwig said he would not have predicted five years ago. At the same time, there are not a plethora of new jobs in that industry.

“The U.S. manufacturing sector has become much, much more productive,” he said. While that drives foreign investment, it has not resulted in more jobs.

The number of business bankruptcies continues to drop while the number of business starts is increasing, Hartwig said.

Among the adverse, long-term labor market developments harming workers’ comp exposure, Hartwig said, the rate of people unemployed for six months or more continues to be a serious issue, as their skills may atrophy. “I wonder if they have a higher rate of injury,” he speculated.

Hartwig also said the labor force participation rate continues to shrink despite lower unemployment.

NCCI. “We’re seeing some larger policies going to the residual market,” said Eddinger, senior division executive of regulatory services for NCCI. “The market is getting tighter. You want to watch the residual market.”

The workers’ comp residual market saw its first premium increase since 2004. Growth in the residual market grew by 80 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year.

Overall for the workers’ comp market, Eddinger said underwriting results, flat frequency, and historically low interest rates were the negative factors while premium increases, only moderate growth in severity, and a minimal overall loss cost impact of frequency and severity are the three positives for workers’ comp.