A recent Minnesota worker safety survey shows that the state’s injury and illness rate decreased by 3.8 percent last year, following a 3.6 percent decrease in the previous year. An estimated total of 104,100 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in Minnesota’s private-industry and public-sector workplaces, resulting in a rate of 5.1 cases per 100 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers, according to the annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.
The prior year injury and illness rate was 5.3 cases per 100 FTE workers. Rates for injuries and work-related illnesses are calculated based on full-time-equivalent workers, or FTE. For example, 2 employees who each worked 20 hours per week, would count as 1 FTE. Usually accident rates are expressed as per 100 FTE workers.
Any decline in injuries is good news for Minnesota worker safety. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) collected injury and illness records from approximately 4,800 Minnesota employers. State agencies and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gather the survey data, which is the primary source of workplace injury and illness data nationwide.
The number of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in Minnesota dropped slightly from the prior year rate of 105,500 cases. The current year rate is 6.7 percent below that of 2 years ago, a total of 111,600 cases.
Nationally, an estimated 4.2 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in private-industry workplaces during the most recent reporting year, resulting in a rate of 4.6 cases per 100 workers. In the prior year, there were an estimated 4.3 million private-industry cases reported nationally, with a rate of 4.8 cases per 100 workers.
An estimated 50,100 cases resulted in days away from work, job transfer or restrictions. The rate for these injuries was 2.4 cases per 100 workers. In 2004, there were 52,300 cases, with 2.6 cases per 100 workers.
Minnesota is another one of those states, like Massachusetts, where it depends on how long your employee is out of work when it comes to which forms, and to whom, you the employer have to submit.
For instance, if your employees are out of work for more than three days in Minnesota, then you have to file a First Report of Injury form to the state Department of Labor and Industry, as well as to your workers’ comp insurance company. If the disability doesn’t last that long, then you still have to submit a First Report of Injury form to the workers’ comp insurance carrier.
You have no more than 10 days after your employee reports an injury to you to get that form filled out and sent in. The rules in Minnesota state that you also have a copy out eventually to the employee himself or herself, and a copy to their union if they belong to one.
When you give the employee the First Report of Injury form, you also have to five them another form for them to fill out. It’s called the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation System Employee Information Sheet, which gives your employees the basic info they nee to navigate the system and not feel threatened or frightened by what’s going on around them.
And what will go on around them, after you successfully get these forms into the respective parties, will be an investigation by your insurance company into whether or not the injury and accident were truly work related and deserving of workers’ comp payments, or not.
During this whole process, you might want to use a workers’ comp information sheet for your employees, so they have as much information on what their rights and responsibilities are. For instance, make sure they know that they are to keep you abreast of all the goings on with their medical condition and doctors visits.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. In Minnesota, the workers’ comp law requires that every employer have workers’ comp in case one of their employees gets hurt or killed at work. Sounds familiar, right? That’s because this part of the Minnesota workers’ comp law is similar to many other states’ workers’ comp laws and regulations.
The Minnesota law, as with many of the previous state workers’ comp laws that we’ve looked at, allows for employees to also self-insure, which have learned means that the employers themselves act as their own insurance companies. They figure out how many workers’ comp claims they will have in a year, and then they set aside a certain amount of cash each year to cover those claims.
As with other laws that we’ve looked at, of course some business owners are exempt from the state’s definition of “employers.” For instance, if you are a sole proprietorship, meaning that you own and operate your own business, then you don’t have to have workers’ comp for yourself. Of if you are in a partnership in a business or farm operation where each and every employee is a partner or a spouse of a partner or a child of a partner, then they don’t have to be covered either.
Some employees are exempt from having to be on your workers’ comp policy, too, if you are a regular business. A so called casual employee is not required to have workers’ comp. A casual employee is someone who doesn’t work in the usual course of the business, and both you and the employee know their work is only on a one-time or very infrequent basis and not permanent and full time.
Household workers are also exempt from Minnesota’s workers’ comp laws. A household employee could be someone from a domestic worker, to a repairer, to a grounds keeper, to a maintenance worker, at any private household.
Michigan prides itself on its workers’ comp system. Unlike in some states with state based workers’ comp insurance companies, Michigan allows open competition in the free market to determine the rates that employers have to pay for their workers’ comp coverage. There are more than 220 insurance companies in the state, in fact, that can deliver workers’ comp insurance to employers in Michigan.
And that is a good thing for employers in Michigan, because practically all of you must have this coverage. The cut off in Michigan is three employees. As we talked about in previous blogs, most states determine which companies must have workers’ comp insurance by the number of employees they have. In Michigan’s case, employers must only have three or workers at any one time to qualify.
Yet another twist to the Michigan law is, though, that an employer can also qualify for needing workers’ comp if they have had, within the last year, a regularly employed worker for 35 hours or more per week for at least 13 weeks. Another particularity—all public employers must have workers’ comp. And even if you do not meet these qualifications, you can voluntarily buy workers’ comp at any time.
A major benefit of the Michigan system for employers is that through workers’ comp, their employees can no longer sue them for damages because of their on the job injury. The workers’ comp system is known as an exclusive remedy because of this for any lost wages and medical costs. So what could normally lead to a million dollar lawsuit—such as a worker losing a leg on the job, say—instead gets turned into the workers’ comp system and the claim is handled by the insurance company.
However, in Michigan, in many other states, if the employer purposefully hurts one of their employees, they don’t get any of this protection.
There are probably more misconceptions about workers compensation than any other labor law topic. Many small business owners mistakenly believe that family members are exempt from workers compensation coverage. While a spouse or close relative may be exempt from coverage in some industries such as farms, most relatives must be covered just as any other employee would.
Workers compensation is designed to protect employees who are injured on the job. Prior to the advent of workers compensation laws, employees who were injured or even killed on the job had no legal recourse. The employer would often fail to pay for any required medical care. Employees were deprived of income while they recovered. In the most extreme cases, the families of injured or killed workers became destitute.
Many states have seminars on workers compensation law for employers. An excellent example is the program by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC). The council places a strong emphasis on preventing injuries in the workplace.
In a statewide series of meetings, the WCAC is on the road in September to listen to problems and concerns throughout the state. The meetings are free and open to the public. Participants who wish to speak should register with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 800-342-5354. Employers in other states should contact their own workers compensation commission for information.
The WCAC meetings address many misconceptions that employers have, in addition to mandatory posting requirements. Too many employers are unaware that by not displaying the required workers compensation posters prominently, they are subject to citations and/or fines.
Workers compensation is a federally mandated program that is administered by each individual state. Each state has a workers compensation commission, although the exact name of the organization varies from state to state. The state mandates that all employers carry workers compensation insurance, to protect the employee’s income in the event of an accident.