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Workers Comp Small Business Safety Tips

Mechanical engineer working install chilled water pipe system.

Creating a safe workplace reduces accidents, improves employee morale and helps control insurance costs by lowering claims. Effective safety training can also protect against expensive lawsuits and boost your company’s reputation.

It’s important to understand your legal responsibilities for worker safety, as well as how insurance can help you cover the costs of an accident or injury.

Laws and regulations affecting worker safety

The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 states that employers are responsible for providing healthy and safe work environments, and many Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) standards require health and safety training. Familiarize yourself with these requirements, then develop policies and procedures relating to the following six points:

  1. Safety policy: A safety policy is a written statement of attitudes, values and beliefs regarding safety. Use this document to establish a safety culture.
  2. Workplace rules: Your safety rules should follow OHSA standards for your industry and any additional requirements mandated by your state. Rules should be specific to job type and take into account the unique safety hazards of your workplace.
  3. Training programs: You can provide training in a variety of ways, including mandatory programs, seminars, meetings, videos and on-site training. Indicate when training must be completed, how often it should occur and how long it will take. Keep a record of all training opportunities.
  4. Responsibilities: Safety enforcement responsibilities should be clearly stated in writing. In particular, foremen, managers, safety directors, supervisors and others who oversee projects should be made aware of their safety duties.
  5. Discipline and incentive procedures: Clearly communicate to workers the consequences of violating your company’s safety procedures. At the same time, provide incentives for employees to work in a safe manner.
  6. Review: Develop a consistent process for evaluation. Continuously monitor and modify your procedures to ensure workplace safety.

Workers’ compensation considerations

Workplace safety can significantly impact your workers’ compensation insurance costs. If you experience a higher-than-average number of workers’ comp claims for your industry, your rates could increase substantially. In some states, you may have to pay a surcharge, or you could be declined for standard coverage. 

Promoting safety can help you improve your experience rating and reduce premium costs. Adopting certain types of safety programs may also qualify for premium reductions.

Misclassifying W-2 employees as 1099 contractors can result in premium increases or declined coverage. Keep in mind that, while independent contractors aren’t eligible for workers’ comp, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook if a 1099 worker is hurt. An independent contractor can sue your business if they’re injured while working for your firm.

Business insurance protection

There are several other types of insurance your business should purchase to cover safety failures:

  • Commercial liability covers your business when someone other than an employee is injured or their property is damaged as a result of your company’s operation.
  • Commercial auto covers any accidents involving your company’s vehicles. 

Investing in employee safety can pay off in many ways. You’re not only ensuring the health and safety of your workers and the public; you’re also protecting your business from costly losses and claims.

Connect with a Westfield agent to find out more about business insurance.