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4 Factors in Your Workers’ Comp Insurance You Can’t Control (and 1 You Can)

Toby Graham /

Workers’ compensation insurance is costly, complicated, and legally mandatory.

Not exactly a pleasant combination, is it? Still, it’s better than the alternative. If you fail to pay your workers’ comp premium, you become liable for work-related injuries and illnesses at your facilities. You’ll also likely face serious penalties, lawsuits, and criminal charges.

That said, workers’ comp insurance isn’t always a predictable or controllable cost, either. Here are a few factors that providers consider when determining your premium:

1. The Insurance Market

Insurance is a business. As in any business, costs are subject to larger market trends. Sometimes, a carrier needs to raise its workers’ comp rates to turn a profit. Other times, it may lower rates to compete. Such decisions are in the hands of the insurer, not the insured.

2. The States in Which You Do Business

Every state has its own insurance market subject to state-level trends and regulations, and the coverage you pay depends on the state or states in which your organization does business. Some states have significantly higher average premium rates than others. In 2018, for instance, employers in New York paid approximately 3.75 times what employers in North Dakota paid.

3. The Kind of Work Your Employees Perform

Your industry and niche largely determine your workers’ comp insurance rate. Providers assign codes to organizations based the work employees perform, and certain codes carry higher costs. Employers in industries such as agriculture, oil production, and transportation pay more for insurance than art galleries, retailers, and real estate companies do. Generally speaking, the smaller, more hazardous, and more volatile your industry, the greater your insurance expenses.

4. Your Payroll

Workers’ comp insurance is calculated per $100 of payroll. That means that both the size of your workforce and the size of employees’ salaries matter. Again, keep in mind that the work your employees perform comes into play. For example: a well-paying, 100-person construction company would face much higher insurance costs than a 5-person accounting startup might.

These 4 elements shape your manual premium, and unfortunately for organizations seeking to lower their insurance costs, they can be difficult—if not impossible—to control. Short of lowering your employees’ wages, moving operations to a different state, or changing the nature of your business, there’s not much you can do to change your manual premium.

But that doesn’t mean your insurance premium is entirely out of your control. There are plenty of other factors that determine your experience modifier—the multiplier on top of the manual premium—including…

  • the number of environmental health and safety incidents and losses at your facilities,
  • your claims record,
  • the results of safety audits,
  • participation in drug-free workplace programs,
  • implementation of automated workforce compliance and management systems,
  • and more.

In the next installment in this series, we’ll offer some tips and guidance about how to lower your ex-mod—and lower your premium as a result. Be sure to subscribe to the Better Workplace Blog so you don’t miss a thing.

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