Tackling Those (Seemingly Exponential) Workers’ Compensation Costs – Step One: Don’t Just Accept It!

October 23rd, 2015 • by Mary Salamone
Mary Salamone

Mary Salamone

As Vice President – Strategic Business Advisor at Gilroy Kernan & Gilroy (New Hartford, NY), Mary works proactively with NY breweries and businesses of all sizes in the development and implementation of customized plans to address their hazard, business, and strategic risk. Mary’s 30+ years of industry experience and expertise includes: Risk Management, Workers’ Compensation, Employee Benefits, Self-Insured & Loss Sensitive Plans, Captives, Private Exchanges, Wellness, Cyber Liability, and Executive Risk.

As you know well, the Workers’ Compensation governing class for New York State breweries (2121) has increased more than 74% since 2011. Why? Well, to put it (very) simply, the brewing industry in New York State has had substantial and costly workers’ compensation claims; that has, in turn, driven up the costs of coverage.

So, how do you tackle it? Well, there’s lots that can be done, but let’s start simple.

Step One: Don’t just accept it. Sounds like you’re already good to go here!

Step Two: Partner up with the best. Like any other business decision, you need to make sure that you’ve got the best team on your side. When it comes to Workers’ Compensation, this includes your insurance agent and insurance carrier. Their top priority should be understanding the ins and outs of your business so that they can lead you in creating a customized plan.

Step Three: Soften the impact. The fact that the governing class is going up by almost 23.5% in 2015 does not necessarily mean that you have to go up that much yourself. Are you taking advantage of any/all additional credits (i.e. safety and/or drug-free workplace credits)? Have you considered switching to an insurance carrier that could offer you a more competitive alternative?

Step Four: Get creative! I know this is right up your alley (this is also where step two becomes really important!). Use the expertise of your team to look at some creative strategies. Are there other funding strategies you could look at; perhaps a dividend plan or loss sensitive program?

Step Five: Always look forward! You can’t go back in time, but you can certainly take steps to impact the future and hopefully avoid ending up back at Step One. Workers’ Compensation claims can come in many forms in the brewing industry: burns caused by the brewing process, machinery, or chemicals; back injuries from lifting heavy kegs and cases; hearing loss due to exposure to excessive noise; poisoning caused by leakage of anhydrous ammonia refrigerants in confined spaces; etc. Risk Management 101 says that the best way to decrease your risk is to avoid it in the first place. A solid Risk Management program protects your workers, your equipment and infrastructure, and your bottom line.

Bonus Tip: You may also want to consider boosting your knowledge of OSHA regulations and best practices (you can start by signing up for OSHA’s QuickTakes email newsletter, right on their website) and even joining a safety association (like the Mohawk Valley Safety Professional Consortium) to leverage the experiences and expertise of other local business to your advantage.