What Responsibilities Do Small Businesses Have For Workers Comp?

Major corporations remain prominent in our popular imagination. But think of our local landscapes. Because 99% of companies in the US fit the description of small businesses. Typically you can define small businesses as employing fewer than 500 people. In other words, small businesses make up the heart of our economy. And yet they don’t get much attention. Nor do their leaders consistently receive the support they need to thrive.  And that can lead to big problems. Consider employee injuries, for example.

Workers Comp for Small Businesses

Do you own a small business? Then you want to have a thorough grasp of the workers compensation system. And do it before you ever need to deal with it directly. Learn what you need to know to support your workers. And protect your business when dealing with a workplace injury.

Insurance Expectations

When it comes to workers compensation, the most important issue that small business owners need to concern themselves with is that of insurance. Generally speaking, businesses are required to carry workers compensation insurance, though the law varies based on your location, the type of business you run, and how many employees you have. Many states also exempt businesses from covering seasonal workers; you can consult the U.S. Department of Labor’s workers compensation guidelines to determine your coverage requirements.

Even when small businesses think they understand their local workers compensation requirements, many discover that they haven’t purchased the correct coverage only after a case arises. In particular, some small business owners think that general liability covers workers compensation claims, and while they do cover some of the same things, there are also some key differences. General liability may cover bodily injury, for example, but it typically applies to customers, vendors, and other outside entities who might make a claim against the business. Workers compensation, on the other hand, specifically covers injuries that occur in the course of work.

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Assessing Common Injuries

Accidents can occur in any workplace, even among the most responsible workers, but as an employer, one of your major responsibilities is to ensure that your workplace and any external jobsites are operated safely. That includes ensuring that workers have the right equipment, that the equipment is maintained properly, and that workers have received proper training and supervision. So what does that mean for your small business’s workers compensation plan? Simply put, the best defense is a good offense – and in the workplace, that translates to understanding the most common risks facing your workers and having a plan to prevent those scenarios.

Among the most common reasons that employees bring workers compensation claims against their employers include machine injuries, burn and falls, crane and scaffolding accidents, exposure to chemicals, and repetitive stress injuries. But while preparation and training can help minimize the risks of these injuries, the most important thing you can do as an employer, besides having adequate insurance, is to create a culture of safety. Most workplace accidents occur because of small acts of carelessness, which are often the result of bad habits that have developed over time. Furthermore, when accidents do occur, you should record them in an accident report log so that you have appropriate documentation in the event of a workers compensation filing.

Additional Duties And Requirements

You’ve created a culture of safety. You’ve purchased appropriate workers compensation insurance. What else is required of you as a small business owner when it comes to your workers’ safety and your business’s insurance coverage? In addition to contacting emergency medical services at the time of the accident as necessary, you have a few other obligations.

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Remember the most important thing small business owners need to do. If an employee gets hurt, report the injury. And file the appropriate workers compensation paperwork with the compensation board’s office and your insurance company. Also record as much detail about the accident as possible.Because the insurance company may request more information. Workers compensation cases can continue for an extended period of time. It depends on the complexity of the case and duration of the injury.

Finally, small businesses tend to have relatively broad worker assignments. And workers can sue employers if injured performing a task outside their job description. They can also file a compensation claim. So clearly define worker duties. And ensure everyone gets properly trained. Help minimize your liability before assigning employees to a new task.

Workers compensation cases prove upsetting for a small business. Because the community tends to be especially close. Compare this to what you might experience at a large corporation. But proper insurance coverage remains the key. So accidents don’t become financially devastating. Handle this as you do other professional issues. Know the law and your requirements under it. And prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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