The pandemic has reinforced the importance of workplace safety and the flexibility required of employers and employees.
The pandemic has tested U.S. businesses to the limit. However, a silver lining is that it has provided a level of insight into how businesses can prepare for future risks and be more resilient.
For the workers compensation insurance market, the pandemic has reinforced the necessity of workplace safety and the flexibility required of employers and employees. Plus, it has demonstrated how policymakers, regulators and businesses can work together to find solutions when needed.
“The pandemic tested companies' resiliency and business continuity plans, helping many employers identify gaps that needed to be addressed," says Song Kim, senior vice president, construction, CNA. “It also spurred many employers to develop specific strategies or pandemic playbooks that will hopefully become a permanent part of their business continuity plans."
Here are four pandemic-tested risk mitigation strategies to lower workers comp risks and make businesses more resilient:
1) Identify hazards and offer solutions. “An independent agent should actively help their clients assess and identify hazards and provide solutions to diminish or control the hazards," says Becky Pinto, president, workers compensation programs, Arrowhead General Insurance Agency.
“This will help clients reduce claims activity and contribute to a safer work environment," she says. “A strong culture rooted in solid safety protocols and hiring practices, and those that provide an average to above average-wage and benefits, will typically net the best results and help mitigate risk."
Putting a service plan in place that includes prescheduled meetings to review losses and project financial impacts will enable clients and agents to stay up-to-speed on signs of potential problems. “These meetings should be attended by the carrier representatives and the agent's internal workers comp claims advocate," says Dave Garcia, president, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services Inc., in Santee, California.
Additional resources and tools an agent can provide include “experience modification projections for the upcoming year prior to it actually being published, an internet-based risk management center for safety training materials, harassment training, regular workshops, trainings, and webinars covering various risk management topics," Garcia says.
A client's ability to be resilient in times of change will certainly be a factor for carriers “as risk selection continues to be a priority for many carriers," Kim says.
2) Consider workplace safety practices. Having policies and plans in place to minimize workplace disruptions before a risk becomes a reality is vital. “Continue to stress and discuss the importance of pre-planning, job hazard analysis, site safety awareness, and site situational awareness, especially for contractors," Kim says.
Agents should partner with carriers who provide services to help their clients better control their workers comp risks. “Examples of services include telephonic nurse triage, bill review, return-to-work programs and specialized risk control," says Erin Stober, assistant vice president, casualty underwriting, EMC Insurance Companies. “Agents can focus not just on price, but on overall services a carrier can provide."
Additionally, putting employee health and wellness programs in place is important. “Comorbidity is an important factor, in that promoting overall employee health can have a positive impact on reduction in workplace injuries as well as decreased recovery times once an injury occurs," Kim says.
3) Be cognizant of state requirements. Rules, rates and regulations differ from state to state. Therefore, “agents should learn about the workers comp system in states where they write," Stober says. “Partner with carriers with different appetites and services to best support the workers comp business they are targeting. With this knowledge and a set of skilled carrier partners, agents can be successful at writing workers comp."
4) Embrace the future. The world has changed and so has the way we work and conduct business. Further, new technologies and software are constantly emerging that are giving employers the opportunity to make their workplaces safer and more resilient.
“Product knowledge, and understanding a client's business and insurance needs, together with responsive customer service and a willingness to embrace technology, are key contributors to success," Pinto says.
When looking toward possible future changes in the workers comp market, “be strategic in the insurance placement process and look for insurers who can provide a macro-level solution and a value proposition across all lines of business," Kim says. “This can help the client protect themselves from known and emerging risks, ensuring the viability of their organization for the future."
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.