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Hark the Herald Agents Sing: 3 Ways to Reduce Holiday Workers Comp Risk

Added demand, heavier workloads, new seasonal employees and COVID-19 present workers compensation exposures this holiday season. Here are three tips agents can share with clients to keep the season merry and bright.
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hark the herald agents sing: 3 ways to reduce holiday workers comp risk

Every holiday season presents increased workers compensation exposure, with added demand, heavier workloads and new seasonal employees. But in true 2020 fashion, COVID-19 adds further challenges.

Just as Santa and his elves needed Rudolph to cut through the fog with his shiny red nose, workers comp clients will be relying on agents for guidance through the uncertainty of the first modern holiday season in a pandemic.

“The biggest thing insurance professionals should communicate with their clients is that safe work practices don't just happen by accident," says Chris Hayes, second vice president of auto and workers compensation risk control for Travelers. “Always be on the lookout for the risk and get ahead of it."

Here are three tips agents can pass on to their workers comp clients to keep the season merry and bright:

1) Follow COVID-19 safety guidance from health officials. As independent agents seek to help their clients mitigate risk, the most important thing to remember is that “everything you've heard about reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission absolutely applies inside the workplace," Hayes says. “The key thing for an employer to think about is keeping those COVID-19 protocols in place with their employees, especially any employee they might be hiring just for the season."

“It's important for agents to think about this and communicate it to their clients: Stick close to all the guidance coming from the CDC," he adds. “The insurance companies are looking at their guidance as well. They [CDC] are a great source of information."

2) Re-evaluate risk mitigation plans in light of changes. As workers comp clients adhere to coronavirus prevention guidelines, other protocols may need to change also.

“What worked last year may not work this year," Hayes says. “Manufacturers have likely reorganized the way they're set up. Stores have reorganized the way people shop and the shelves are stocked. Take a fresh look back at any risk management protocols that had been in place and ask, 'Are those still the right plans for this year?'"

Hayes provides an example of how the workplace shifting to accommodate safe coronavirus practice leads to other challenges. “You may have a manufacturer that used to be set up where people are working in tight conditions and a supervisor could, at a glance, see what was happening at every workstation," he says. “With social distancing, that may be impossible." 

 “We know that an engaged employee is a safe employee, more likely to follow safety rules," he continues. “Getting that engagement with social distancing can be challenging."

Many businesses are shifting to adhere to local pandemic safety orders, and Hayes encourages agents to stay on top of any operational changes being made.

“I can just speak from a risk control standpoint, but since our risk control consultants are part of the underwriting process, I can tell you it's helpful for us to get a perspective on how things are different this year versus last year," Hayes says. “If your store has gone from having people coming in and out of your storefront all the time to largely shipping products or curbside pickup, that changes your workplace design."

3) Proper training for seasonal workers is a must. Another challenge agents should bring to their clients' attention is the increase in seasonal hiring. “New employees have a higher risk of injury. It's challenging to onboard people. And that was in the best of times," Hayes says. “In the middle of a pandemic, workplaces have processes that have been in place for the last eight months to reduce the risk of disease transmission, but they need to bring those same protocols to new employees."

Training is crucial. “Are these new employees people who can meet all the COVID-19 protocols?" Hayes asks. “You have to take every new employee and get them oriented to the workplace and to their tasks."

Ultimately, the easiest way to be a Scrooge this holiday season is to gloss over safety training and protocols. Agents should remind clients how important risk mitigation is to ensure a silent night. 

“It's one thing to say, 'we're going to try to work really hard and rush to accomplish everything,' but a single injury can disrupt a line," Hayes says. “Keeping on top of these safety practices is going to be important."

AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor. 

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Monday, December 7, 2020
Workers Comp