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Published: Winter, 2004; Vol 6, Num 1
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Help with Workers' Comp Discount Opportunities

Workers' compensation insurance, though mandated by federal policy, is a state-based program, and every state runs it differently (see related story, Florida, California Model Workers' Compensation Reform).

"Unless a contractor has the resources to investigate how the state system works, it's difficult to even know what opportunities exist to save on premiums," says George Macaluso, Associate Director of the LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Division. "PENNSAFE is a case in point."

Since 1996, Pennsylvania has offered a five percent discount on compensation premiums to any contractor that has an active safety committee. Once a six-month waiting period is complete (to ensure time for a company's program to become operational), the discount is renewable, year after year. Yet, data show that only 5100 employers - and far fewer construction contractors - take advantage of the program.

The state requires that the safety committee be composed equally of labor and management representatives and that each representative receive four hours of annual safety training by a professional certified by the state.

Alternate description

LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck

The chief obstacle to widespread use of the program among union contractors was eliminated this fall when Macaluso and Mid-Atlantic LECET Director Dennis Desmond - working with District Council Business Managers Gerald D. Temarantz (Eastern PA), Samuel Staten (Philadelphia and Vicinity) and Joseph Mazzoni (Western PA) - won approval by state regulators for their proposal that Laborers-AGC training center instructors be certified to provide the safety training required under the program. Previously, only persons with advanced degrees or professional certification (such as a medical doctor, a PE, a CIH or a CSP) could be authorized to provide the training.

"It will be a tremendous help to signatory contractors in Pennsylvania," says LIUNA Vice President and Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager Dennis L. Martire, "now that Laborers-AGC instructors, who have OSHA 500 certification, can provide the required training for the safety committees."

In January, the state will conduct a train-the-trainer session with instructors from the three Pennsylvania training centers to review the material used to train union and management safety committee participants. Then, Mid-Atlantic LECET will conduct outreach to signatory contractors and local unions in Pennsylvania to arrange the designation and training of committee members.

According to Desmond, "The material to be taught to the safety committees is fairly basic - safety committee operation, hazard identification and inspection and accident investigation. It is well within the framework of the OSHA 500 course that all of our training directors complete. Actually, our training directors are among the most professional safety instructors in the state. Not only do they know safety, they know how to train others. They do this all the time. It's their job."

The training center instructors will train both the labor and management safety committee members. "It's the cooperation between labor and management that makes PENNSAFE work and allows the state to pass along the five percent discount," says Noel C. Borck, Management Co-Chairman of the LHSFNA.

"Now that our Pennsylvania training instructors are approved," continues Desmond, "PENNSAFE can be promoted by our training network across the state. For the first time, we can be confident that our signatory contractors will know about the program and have an effective way to take advantage of it. At the same time, we'll be improving safety on construction sites and helping the state reduce the number of injury and illness incidents. It's a win-win situation for everyone concerned."

PENNSAFE is unique to Pennsylvania, but other states allow various kinds of discounts. The LHSFNA staff recently helped union signatory employers in Ohio establish a drug-free workplace program that allows them to gain workers' compensation premium discounts, and it investigated a similar option under state law for a new association of LIUNA contractors in south Florida.

"We appreciate how difficult it is for contractors to devote the time and resources necessary to investigate discounts available under state regulations," says Borck. "Even for us, it is a big job. But, if signatory employers or local business managers are aware of a possible opportunity to save on workers' comp, we're ready to look into it and make recommendations."

[Steve Clark]