By Raul Chacon, Special to bizNEVADA
While businesses across the state are setting sales goals and implementing plans for 2019, many are overlooking a critical component to success in the New Year: their workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Workplace injuries and illnesses affect approximately 2.8 million workers per year. Businesses often experience lower productivity, higher out-of-pocket expenses, and reduced office morale as a result. Workers’ compensation insurance is an important safety net that protects businesses and employees in case of an on-the-job injury or illness occurs.
Whether looking for a new policy or renewing current coverage, there are a few critical questions Nevada business owners should ask themselves at the start of the New Year:
- Did I increase headcount? The amount of workers’ compensation insurance premium a business owes is determined, in part, by its annual payroll. Business owners need to accurately assess their employee headcount and payroll at the start of each year and throughout the year. Inaccurate payroll reporting or paying workers “under the table” can lead to workers’ compensation premium fraud, a serious crime that could result in litigation, fines and even jail time.
- Did my business expand into a new state? Every state has slightly different workers’ compensation insurance requirements. If a business expanded into a new state or hired an employee who works in multiple states, it’s important to consult an experienced, local insurance agent to confirm the business is properly covered. Failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance or otherwise meet a state’s requirements can leave an employer liable for penalties.
- Do I still have the right insurance partners for my business? As a business grows, it needs to evolve. A workers’ compensation insurance policy should be reviewed annually to make sure it is providing the most protection and value to the business. Evaluating the insurance carrier’s services should be part of that annual review. Business owners should look for carriers that understand their industry and are experienced working with companies of a similar size. Also, consider the carrier’s customer support resources and whether they offer additional resources to help policyholders, such as loss control services, a dedicated fraud investigation unit, return to work program support, flexible payment plans, or an injured employee hotline that helps business owners and employees in the event of an injury.
Develop a Safety Plan
While it’s important for Nevada businesses to have the right workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their business, it should be one piece of a larger risk management and employee safety strategy. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, committing to a safety plan can increase productivity, mitigate risk and cut workers’ compensation insurance claims. Successful safety plans may vary from company to company, but there are a few important elements to include:
- Identified Risks and Proper Procedures – The first step business owners should take, is to identify and address potential hazards in the workplace. This involves proactively analyzing employees’ workspaces and job tasks to anticipate and prevent injuries. Be on the lookout for uneven flooring; frayed or severed electrical wires; or areas that can become dangerously slick, such as entryways. Workers’ compensation insurance agents and carriers can provide resources and guidance to help identify common workplace safety risks that are specific to a variety of industries.
- Regular Training – Whether an employee has had multiple jobs or is new to the workforce, it is essential to review safety procedures as part of new employee onboarding and provide regular refresher courses to keep safety top-of-mind. Consider implementing short weekly safety sessions to review important procedures for specific jobs. During these trainings, make sure to explain what the expected safety protocols are and why these procedures matter. Safety policies and procedures should also be outlined in employee handbooks and on posters throughout the workplace.
- Enforcement and Evaluation – The best safety plans are woven into a company’s culture and have the full participation and buy-in from everyone involved in the business. This starts with owners and managers who should clearly define the company’s safety goals, frequently communicate those goals to employees and always follow safety policies and procedures. It is also important to conduct annual safety audits and evaluate the safety program whenever new or previously unknown hazards are discovered. Owners and managers should encourage workers to share suggestions for ways to make the work environment safer by instituting an open-door policy or creating an anonymous suggestion box.
Creating a safe work environment for employees should never be considered “done.” While the New Year is an excellent time to check up on a business’s insurance coverage and safety plan, it is important to review these elements throughout the year as well. By putting the health of employees first, business owners can help ensure their business stays healthy as well.
Raul Chacon is Western Region Loss Control Manager for EMPLOYERS, America’s small business insurance specialist, which offers workers’ compensation insurance and services through Employers Insurance Company of Nevada, Employers Compensation Insurance Company, Employers Preferred Insurance Company, and Employers Assurance Company. Not all insurers do business in all jurisdictions. EMPLOYERSÒ and America’s small business insurance specialistÒ are registered trademarks of Employers Insurance Company of Nevada.
The information provided is intended to provide a general overview. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. EMPLOYERS® makes no warranties as to the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of the information provided, and will not be responsible for any actions taken based on the information contained herein. If you have legal questions or need legal advice, please consult an attorney.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employer-Reported Workplace Injury and Illnesses, 2017.” Retrieved on 11/16/2018 from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/osh.nr0.htm
 Work Comp Lab, “Workers’ Compensation Insurance Laws and Penalties.” Retrieved on 11/9/2018 from https://workcomplab.com/laws-penalties/
 Safety and Health Add Value. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Retrieved on March 26, 2018, from https://www.osha.gov/Publications/safety-health-addvalue.html