A fair number of small business owners identify workers’ compensation costs as a significant challenge to profitably doing business. This expense is rapidly growing across many types of businesses and cannot be treated lightly by entrepreneurs of businesses large and small. How can a company protect its profits from workers’ compensation costs that seem to be spiraling upward? Today’s blog addresses the ways an employer, in some cases with the help of employees, may reduce workers’ compensation costs.
Employers should make an injury-free workplace their primary goal. The Workers’ Compensation Act encourages employers to provide safe working environments by providing premium discounts to employers whose workplace has been free of compensable lost-time injuries in the two-year period prior to the current calendar year.
Formulating and developing a certified workplace safety program is an excellent first step for any employer. In Pennsylvania, employers who institute a functioning workplace safety committee, certified by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, are eligible to receive a five (5) percent annual workers’ compensation policy premium discount.
For initial certification, a workplace safety committee must meet all certification requirements set forth in the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Regulations. An applicant-employer who has more than one workplace within Pennsylvania may form either a single, centralized workplace safety committee representing each of its workplaces within Pennsylvania or separate and individual safety committees at each workplace within Pennsylvania for certification. Committee membership must represent all primary operations of the employer’s workplace.
The committee must be composed of at least an equal number of applicant-employer and employee-representatives unless otherwise agreed upon by both parties and must be composed of a minimum of two employer-representatives and a minimum of two employee-representatives. A representative may not function as both an employer-representative and an employee-representative
Next, an application must be completed and approved by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. A committee must continue to meet these requirements to renew certification and to earn discounts in subsequent years. To qualify for certification, workplace safety committees must have responsibilities that include:
(1) Representing the accident and illness prevention concerns of employees in the respective workplace.
(2) Reviewing the applicant-employer’s hazard detection and accident and illness prevention programs and formulating written proposals.
(3) Establishing procedures for periodic workplace inspections by the safety committees for the purpose of locating and identifying health and safety hazards. The locations and identity of hazards must be documented in writing, and the committees must make proposals to the applicant-employer regarding correction of the hazards.
(4) Conducting a review of incidents resulting in work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses and of complaints regarding health and safety hazards made by committee members or other employees.
(5) Conducting follow-up evaluations of newly implemented health and safety equipment or health and safety procedures to assess their effectiveness.
(6) Establishing a system to allow the committee members to obtain safety-related proposals, reports of hazards or other information directly from persons involved in the operation of the workplace.
These are just the primary functions of a workplace safety committee and further include reports, evaluations, proposals, managerial responses, and any decisions made related to workplace hazards and corrective measures taken to remedy these and any other applicable safety concerns. Employees who work in workplaces that have a functioning workplace safety committee should maintain a vigilant eye on this organized body to ensure that it performs as required by Pennsylvania law.
Powell Law protects workers who have suffered injuries in the workplace by helping them assert their rights to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Our decades of experience make us the clear choice for representation in workers’ compensation cases in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. We effectively help our clients throughout the entire workers’ compensation claims process. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!