The number of absent workers regularly spikes between December and March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, last January marked a five-year high for the number of U.S. full-time workers taking sick days — an estimated 1.3 million stayed home and 3.3 million worked part time.
Although some of this is related to seasonal illnesses, what can you do this winter to make your workplace safer and cut down on the number of absences and injuries?
Smart Business spoke with Cliff Baseler, a vice president at the SeibertKeck Insurance Agency, about cold weather safety.
How can you decrease wintertime injuries to employees and customers?
Encourage employees to wear snow appropriate shoes, including rubber soles and boots. Those wearing dress shoes and high heels have a notably higher chance of injury in snowy, icy and wet conditions.
Keep all walkways, sidewalks and parking lots shoveled and clear of ice and snow with regular salting and shoveling. According to the Worker’s Compensation Fund, almost 80 percent of slips and falls due to snow and ice occur in parking lots and on sidewalks, with more than 50 percent occurring between 6 a.m. and noon. Snow removal must be done properly and promptly. A local snow removal business can be contracted for the winter months to keep walkways safe.
Customer safety should continue inside. Be sure floor mats and runners are at all entrances to absorb excess snow, water and salt. This prevents puddles or a build-up of salt, which cause slips, trips and falls.
What about employees who work outside?
When the snow falls and the temperature dips, it’s important to keep warm and stay dry, especially for any workers who are outdoors for any amount of time.
Recognize that working conditions have increased danger with the extreme temperatures, wet conditions and windy locations. Any signs of uncontrolled shivering, clumsy movements, disorientation, fatigue, slurred speech and/or confused behavior require immediate medical attention. Frostbite and hypothermia are serious conditions. Teach employees the signs, so at first indication the person can be brought to safety.
Other tips are:
- Proper attire for cold weather is a hat, gloves, scarf, several layers and a warm coat.
- Schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
- Work in pairs so one worker can recognize danger signs his or her partner displays.
- Drink warm beverages and avoid highly caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.
How can employers winterize vehicles?
When severe weather hits, it’s important to only drive when necessary. More than 50 percent of winter storm deaths are auto-related. If you or your employees must drive, do so when it is lightest out and always inform someone of the schedule, route and destination. Have all employees program emergency numbers and contact information into their phones.
Maintain full levels of fluids in vehicles at all times. Stock vehicles with a cold-weather kit containing a blanket, extra gloves, hat, sweatshirt, bottled water, first-aid kit, flashlight, snack and phone charger, as well as a folding shovel and a bag of salt or sand.
In the event of an accident, remind employees to stay calm, stop safely, turn on emergency lights and watch for oncoming traffic. Then, notify police and call an ambulance if required; be sure to always cooperate with authorities and police. Employees should take photos if it is safe to do so, exchange information with the other driver, and write a complete description of the accident while it is fresh in their mind.
You or your employees shouldn’t discuss accident details with anyone other than the police and your insurance company. Never agree to a phone recording or to give a signed statement to another driver’s insurance company without consulting your agent first. Never allow vehicles to be towed to an unfamiliar repair shop or authorize repairs by signing a tow release unless you’ve decided to have the vehicle repaired by the shop to which it is being towed.
Taking precautions early, and knowing the signs of danger can help prevent injury and loss. ●
Cliff Baseler is vice president at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. Reach him at (614) 246-7475 or email@example.com.
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If your company has 500 employees or less, you want to be in a group rating program to get better workers’ compensation rates. Some court rulings have decreased the amount of group credits and increased rates for group rated employers.
“It’s still the best thing going for the small to medium-size employer,” says Cliff Baseler, vice president at Best Hoovler McTeague Insurance Services Inc., a SeibertKeck company. “The group is a fantastic idea, and an employer can receive much lower workers’ compensation premiums.”
Smart Business spoke with Baseler about the advantages of a group rating program and how the landscape has changed.
How does group rating save money?
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) allows employers with better than average claim histories to join together through a sponsoring organization for the purpose of being rated as a large group. As a standalone business with no losses, you might only develop an experience modification of a 5 to 7 percent credit off your rates. However, when combined with thousands of other companies in a group, your company can earn up to a 53 percent credit to your base rates. The credits can vary for individual businesses, depending on your type of business, whom you are grouped with, final loss figures, total enrollment and reported payroll.
What are other benefits of enrolling?
A third-party administrator (TPA) will manage your claims cost-effectively and aggressively, as well as representing you at Industrial Commission hearings for contested claims. You also have real-time access to claims information rather than trying to obtain it directly from the BWC.
The TPA physically reviews your rates and classifications assigned to your company. Many times the company classifications are wrong because of a change in operations or they were incorrect from the beginning. All of this can result in higher premiums.
The TPA also provides training, education, bulletins, seminars, newsletters, etc. It will help you receive various other credits for safety or a drug-free environment too.
What happens if you have a large loss?
With a group rating, if you have a shock loss, a death claim or a large medical claim, you can be asked to leave at the end of the policy year. Typically that precludes you from any group for two or three years, as all groups look at your current year and the previous three years of claim history. After you’ve been relatively loss free for two or three years, many groups allow you to re-enroll.
The problem is you might have been enjoying 45 percent credit, but now have a 35 percent debit — an 80-percentage point rate swing. For a lot of small businesses, that creates a financial strain since premiums can double the next year. Extra dollars in premiums could result in a workforce reduction.
If asked to leave, you still can sign a contract with the TPA to help you limit and possibly prevent other losses with the goal of returning to a group plan.
How are recent court rulings impacting workers’ compensation?
Some recent rulings in favor of plaintiffs in Cuyahoga County have hurt the rating structure of group plans. The argument was that if Company A has a bad claims history and pays a $20 rate per hundred, but Company B is in a group rating paying $5 per hundred, that creates an unfair advantage in a public bid situation.
As a result, the BWC decreased the maximum group credit to 53 percent and raised classification rates as much as 21 percentage points versus nongroup rates. This action seeks to equalize the playing field, in the court’s opinion.
Also, the governor authorized the release of $1 billion of ‘overpaid premiums’ to private employers and public taxing groups for the 2011 rating year as a result of another court ruling. Employers are receiving rebate checks for 56 percent of premiums paid.
With the increase in rates for groups and the decrease in the credits, many companies have to decide whether to stay in the group. While it may no longer be as cost-effective, you get extra services — aggressive claims management, hearing representation, rate analysis, etc. — and service means everything to your experience and rates.
Cliff Baseler is vice president at Best Hoovler McTeague Insurance Services Inc., a SeibertKeck company. Reach him at (614) 246-7475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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