Q&A: Workers' compensation and your business

Q&A: Workers' compensation and your business

Bill Brandl, director of workers' compensation claims with Sentry Insurance, explains important factors of workers' compensation policies.

November 17, 2016

Business owners face myriad complex challenges, including what to do when an employee is injured on the job. Workers’ compensation insurance provides the peace-of-mind for an owner, but rules and regulations regarding workers’ compensation can be confusing and difficult to navigate.

In 2015, Sentry Insurance signed an affiliation agreement with Florists’ Mutual Insurance Company, which serves the horticultural industry under the Hortica brand name. Hortica is now a member of the Sentry Insurance group of companies. With the affiliation, workers’ compensation claims are now being handled by Sentry’s claims staff. Bill Brandl, Sentry’s director of workers’ compensation claims has advice for garden centers, greenhouses, and nurseries regarding adding or changing a workers’ compensation policy.

GIE Media: If a company was looking to change their policy or sign up for a new one, what critical factors should they be sure to consider?

Bill Brandl: Employers want to first and foremost consider a company that has a great reputation in the industry. Sentry Insurance is a leader in workers’ compensation. Employers should also consider companies that have been doing it for a long period of time and have the necessary scale and technical capabilities. Employers should try to align with insurance companies who understand their business operations and know how to mitigate their exposures. Sentry Insurance has been writing workers’ compensation policies and handling claims for more than 100 years for employers in a wide cross section of industries. The company’s longevity and financial strength should provide confidence that we will be there in times of need.

It’s also important to think about scale. Some employers have operations in multiple states so they need a carrier that has the ability to provide that coverage and to offer claims handling outcomes in a consistent manner. Sentry Insurance offers workers’ compensation coverage in all states.

Finally, employers should look for companies that have been around the block … one that is going to be in business years from now. We’re really big about building relationships and maintaining those relationships over five, 10, 15, 20 years.

GIE: Are there any clients you’ve worked with who had a particularly interesting or effective method of preventing issues with workers’ compensation – training, safety, reporting systems, etc.?

BB: Customers that do the best job of avoiding losses are those that are constantly looking for ways to remove hazards. For example, avoid slippery surfaces and minimize repetitive bending or lifting activities. Once a loss occurs, report it right away. A primary key to reducing workers’ compensation costs can be achieved through offering the injured worker modified duty employment. If there’s some sort of alternate employment, that is a fantastic way to reduce expenses.

The longer that an injury goes unreported, the less control we are able to exert and generally the more expensive the ultimate cost will be. We want employers to report claims right away even if they do not believe that its work related. Let our claims handling experts get involved early in the process.

Finally, customers who work with our loss control experts and minimize reoccurring losses tend to see their workers’ compensation expenses go down.

GIE: Is there any indication that the recent presidential and congressional elections could impact the policies behind workers’ compensation laws?

BB: There will not be anything imminent as the workers’ compensation systems are regulated at the state level and very few politicians ran on changing existing laws. That said, eight states elected their insurance commissioner on November 8, but none of them look to be large change agents to existing rules and regulations.

It is still too early to determine if President-elect Trump really plans to alter the Affordable Care Act and whether that could have an indirect impact on the workers’ compensation industry. It is also too early to determine if a new administration will look to make any changes to federal agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

GIE: Any final thoughts on workers’ compensation in horticultural businesses?

BB: The horticulture area has its own set of challenges and its very dynamic. Florists' Mutual is a leader in the horticultural industry and we are ready to help customers through education and securing solid financial outcomes while also taking care of their injured employees.

For more information, visit www.hortica.com

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Disclaimer: This document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should act on the information contained in this document without advice from a local professional with relevant expertise.

Disclosure: Hortica® property and casualty coverages are underwritten, and loss control services are provided, by Florists' Mutual Insurance Company and Florists' Insurance Company, members of the Sentry Insurance Group. For more information, visit hortica.com. Policies, coverages, benefits and discounts are not available in all states. See policy for complete coverage details.