Workers’ comp coverage encourages proactive safety habits

No one can predict if and when an accident will occur. That’s why finding the right workers’ compensation coverage is key in not only protecting your company from costly lawsuits and payouts but also in establishing a culture of safety that will further reduce the chance of an accident.

In a previous article, FreightWaves explored how motor carriers can protect themselves from these and other liabilities since failure to provide worker’s comp can result in hefty fines and even the closure of the company. 

Continuing this conversation, FreightWaves spoke with Johnathan Marshall, Director of Safety at P&S Transportation Inc. and Tammy Thomas at Reliance Partners for their insights about how trucking companies can take full advantage of the benefits that worker’s comp coverage provides. 

The Benefits of a Safety Program

Workers’ comp insurance protects companies from lawsuits claiming negligence, as well as from massive medical expenses and lost wages of employees injured on the job.

It also provides physical assistance like rehabilitation and other programs to employees with job-related injuries or illnesses. 

The question is, when should a company be proactive with safety? Marshall told FreightWaves that motor carriers should establish a safety program at the onset of operating. As a director of safety, Marshall added that complacency has no place in trucking and that leaders should always be looking for ways to make their company safer in the workplace and over the road.

After a motor carrier purchases worker’s comp coverage, the insurance carrier will more than likely schedule a visit to conduct a Loss Control consultation. Insurance providers use these visits as a way to gauge the company’s current level of safety and to assess its future risk.

Thomas echoed Marshall’s statements by emphasizing how insurance companies always want to know whether a company has a safety program. This factor alone can mean the difference between higher and lower premiums. Reminding drivers of even the most basic safety rules can go a long way in preventing avoidable injuries.

Workplace Injuries

The majority of drivers’ worker’s compensation claims involve injuries from getting in and out of their truck, according to Thomas. This is despite the fact that most truckers have heard countless times the “three points of contact” rule – using two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet – to support your body is the safest way to enter or exit a vehicle. Carelessly disregarding the procedure can result in a painful injury. 

“Once a trucking company gets coverage, an insurance carrier can highlight areas that need improvement and help to build a safety program,” Thomas said. “It benefits the company in the long run.”

What else can trucking companies do to prevent accidents? Thomas suggests carriers should implement weekly, monthly or quarterly safety meetings and hire a designated safety director to investigate all injuries. Depending on the size of the company and its budget, Thomas said having an employee wellness program can also improve a driver’s overall health.

Marshall detailed a number of safety programs that P&S Transport has implemented to vastly reduce its accidents and liabilities.

The first of these safety programs is conducting post-injury calls. Marshall said that all P&S employees injured on the job receive a call from the driver manager, the Vice President of Operations and the Safety Manager, whose jobs are to determine the root cause of the accident and prevent recurrences from happening. In addition to their investigative work, management also makes sure the driver is properly taken care of throughout the recovery process and is on track to return to work.

P&S Transportation also offers a light-duty program based on restrictions. Marshall said the program allows the company to provide temporary job placement to the injured driver during recovery and allows the driver to stay engaged in the company.

Thomas also praised light-duty programs for benefiting employees greatly.

“Drivers who are pressured to get back to work quicker aren’t fully recovering,” Thomas said. “Sitting at home and doing nothing can really hinder drivers’ ability to get back into the workplace.”

Thomas added that in cases where companies don’t have the capacity for light-duty jobs, many insurance companies can refer injured drivers to companies that offer rehabilitation-like programs (depending on the severity of the claim).

Pre-Employment Testing

The most advanced safety program Marshall mentioned takes place before a driver even climbs into a truck. P&S Transport partnered with a third-party to provide post-offer screening that would help prevent future injuries from occurring.

“We have partnered with ErgoScience out of Birmingham, Alabama,” Marshall said. “ErgoScience has helped us develop a job demand analysis for each specific truck driving job offered in our organization. The analysis was then used to develop a post-offer screen that an applicant must pass prior to being assigned a truck.”

ErgoScience is a workforce injury prevention and treatment provider that collaborates with its clients to provide solutions that find the right people for the job and reduce the risk of workplace accidents.

P&S Transport participated in a five-year case study conducted by ErgoScience as it implemented a Pre-Employment Physical Abilities Testing (PAT) program in the hopes of decreasing the company’s worker’s compensation costs and injury rates as the carrier experienced growth.

Working alongside P&S, ErgoScience reported the flatbed carrier saw its injury rates fall from 15% to under 6% as the company tripled in size over the five-year period. The company’s direct workers’ compensation cost per employee also dropped significantly – from $4,420 to $1,417 – in five years, a 68% decrease. 

ErgoScience reported that because P&S Transport took the advice of its worker’s compensation carrier and began screening all potential employees for its demanding jobs, the motor carrier’s injury cost-per-employee dropped by half of the predicted costs.

These savings reflect the motor carrier’s willingness to act upon the advice of its insurance company to reduce the overall cost of risk. The company’s steps to be proactive in regards to safety will prove to save the flatbed carrier thousands in worker’s comp expenses and a great deal of stress for years to come.