Clearing up confusion about Brewery Workers’ Comp premiums

June 10th, 2019 • by Scott Newburge
Scott Newburge

Scott Newburge

Scott Newburge is, first and foremost, a passionate advocate for all things craft beer. He and his agency, The Feltner Group, bring 70+ years combined commercial property and casualty expertise to service their clients in the Central and Western NY region. Scott and his commercial team work with a number of area craft brewers, and in the process, have developed a strong knowledge of risk exposure and risk management in the brewery category. The people and products in the craft beer business are simply incredible, and the Feltner Group is proud to be a partner to the industry.

“What are these rates and where do they actually come from?” is a common question we hear when going through the initial quote process for a start-up brewery. Even our established brewery clients ask this question a year, or two, or three in because let’s face it, your job is to make phenomenal brews not to retain detailed information on insurance.  

Breweries may not know or remember how these costs can be managed or perhaps even decreased to improve profitability. Here are some key steps you can take to exert a little more control over the outcome:

Safety is crucial.

If you don’t have a brewery safety plan or employee training manual, you need to make time to create one or both. There are a wealth of resources available to you to make this somewhat turnkey.  While OSHA is always a good stop, as are fellow breweries, here is a favorite:

Have a return to work program. 

Nobody should be forced to come back to work prematurely, but if your brewery has a formal method for having injured workers get the treatment they need to get better, the sooner they can get back on the job… and that = a smaller work comp claim.

Check what class codes your employees are working under.

If you have employees that do multiple jobs—such as an assistant brewer that also tends bar (I’m guessing you might!), check with your payroll provider to see if their system allows for something called Labor Distribution. This allows the multi-tasking employee to have their hours at each specific job to be properly attributed. This is critical because a brewer’s comp rate is typically about triple that of a bartender. You may simply be overpaying premium based on this seemingly innocuous oversight.

Ask for pricing help! 

If you have been around for a few years and have little or no losses on your workers’ compensation policy, ask your agent to see what he/she can do to get you a better deal. The ways in which this can be accomplished are many and somewhat complex—so I won’t delve into them here. But you cannot get what you do not ask for.

Most importantly, we encourage you and your staff to remember the all for one, one for all supportive and typically collaborative nature of this incredible industry. With workers’ compensation a high tide does raise all ships (or in the case of workers’ comp rates, lowers them). Safer breweries mean fewer work comp claims. Fewer claims means lower rates… for everyone.  And in fact, there has been a rate reduction in the past two years in both primary classes of employment typically found in craft breweries.