The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents has made it known that it is cutting the assessment rates that all employers in the state of Massachusetts pay for their workers’ comp policies. Good news, right? The reduction will look to be as much as 5 percent of your previous workers’ comp policy assessment rate. That could equal as much as $2.5 million total is savings for employers across the state of Massachusetts.
The reason for the lower costs, say the officials at the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, is that the Workers Compensation Trust Fund in Massachusetts has experienced a lower payout in the last year, meaning it’s had to pay out less for accidents and disability to injured workers in the state. In fact, this trend is not something new. Perhaps you Massachusetts employers remember that this is actually the second rate cut for workers’ comp assessments in a row. Back in 2005, the workers’ comp assessment rate cut was actually as high as 11 percent, which led to as much as $7.7 million in savings for employers across the state of Massachusetts.
Another reason for the assessment rate cut on workers’ comp policies is that the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, or so they claim, has made a greater effort and had more success at tracking down and punishing employers who have not been paying into the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund.
The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents is the gatekeeper so to speak of this trust fund and over the entire workers’ comp system in Massachusetts. The fund it oversees pays out to those workers who are uninsured for workers’ comp. So in other words, if there are more employers paying into the fund—as well as more employers not avoiding their workers’ comp obligations to their employees—the better off the fund is—and the less money employers need to pay into the fund as an assessment.
If workers’ comp is all about what happens when a worker gets injured on the job at one of work sites, then it would seem that you and all the other Massachusetts employers have nothing to do to save yourselves from the high costs of workers’ comp. But wait a second—workers’ comp must be more than just injuries because there are ways to slow down the costs of the process.
Yes, workers’ comp also includes safety and injury prevention. In other words, you workers’ comp program at work should involve steps and training to help workers avoid getting hurt in the first place, as well as steps and training for what should happen in case workers still do get hurt.
Somebody in Massachusetts must be listening to this mantra, because the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety just announced the in 2005 the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in Massachusetts dropped below the national rate.
Could that mean that Massachusetts employers are using more safety signs and posters at work, or applying more safety stickers around hazardous substances and dangerous machines? We can’t say exactly.
But what we can say is that Massachusetts employers did something to make the state one of the best for workplace safety in all of New England. The state had an accident incident rate of 4.2 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time equivalents in the private sector. The national average is 4.6 cases. That makes Massachusetts the state that can say that for the second year in a year, it is the only state in the New England states to report safety figures below the national average.
On top of it, about 45 percent of all the injuries that did occur did not result in any lost workdays. It is even more interesting to note that it was small employers with 10 or fewer workers who had the lowest injury rate.
The life of a Massachusetts employer at one or another will deal with workers’ comp. As we have seen from some of my earlier blogs, most employers in Massachusetts have to have workers’ comp coverage for their employees. And chances are, in one instance or another, one of your workers is going to get hurt on the job, and then chances are, they will file a workers’ comp claim if they do.
What does that mean for you, and what happens next? Both are good questions. I can tell you what should happen, according to the Massachusetts state regulations for workers’ comp injury reporting. What should happen depends on what sort of injury we’re talking about here.
If we’re talking a medical only injury for your employees, and the injury only keeps the employee out of work for less than five days, then all you have to do is report the injury to your workers’ comp insurance company. In this case, there is no need to report it to the state. And in this case, you can use the first report of injury form that your insurance company accepts.
When an employee is out for more than five consecutive days though because of a partial or total disability that prevents them from doing their job, then they are eligible for weekly compensation payments. And in this case, you have to file the Massachusetts state Employer’s First Report of Injury / Illness / Death form. This form goes directly to the state’s Department of Industrial Accidents, not to mention your insurance company and the employee in question.
As the employer, you have seven days after that fifth day of the employee’s disability to get this form to the state, not including legal state holidays and Sundays.
Employers in Massachusetts have particular responsibilities when it comes to following the workers’ comp law of the land. Like many of the states that we have looked at so far in this section of the blog, all employers in Massachusetts are required to have workers’ comp insurance for their employees, including themselves.
This includes any employee, no matter how many hours in the week they work. Some types of workers, of course, have exclusions that are particular to Massachusetts, but we’ve come to expect such particularities when dealing with each state’s workers’ comp system, right?
When it comes to domestic employees, for instance, they must work at least 16 hours per week before they have to have coverage for workers’ comp. Members of a limited liability company, or LLC, and their partners, or partnerships in general and sole proprietorship businesses of an unincorporated business do not have to have workers’ comp at all for themselves, though they can if they want to.
All of this information may just sound like a bunch of facts read off to you, but Massachusetts employers shouldn’t mess around with the law. If you need workers’ comp in the state of Massachusetts, then it would be important to consider it. Employers who get caught without it, who should have it, are issued a Stop Work Order by the state DIA Office of Investigations.
After that date, a $100 fine per day starts from the day that the Stop Work Order was assessed, and the fine builds up until your workers’ comp coverage begins and your fine is paid off. Plus, you as the employer without workers’ comp could face criminal issues, including up to a one year term in prison and up to $1500 in fines. You may also lose any public contracts that your business has.