VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Drycleaning business owners now, more than ever, need to be aware of their workers’ compensation coverages and be involved in the process of mitigating potential claim situations for their teams.
“A dollar saved on your insurance coverage when you start a policy is not necessarily a dollar saved in the long run,” says Jamie Albano, president and CEO of Albano Cleaners in Virginia. “Owners need to know their coverage, know their business, and have an agent who can know the details. Otherwise, a ‘savings’ on a policy could cost you a lot of money.”
She has a good point.
As the drycleaning industry evolves and changes, owners and managers face increased regulations, high client expectations, and the potential for decreasing profits.
Ben Latta, owner and CEO of Master Dry Cleaners, also located in Virginia, describes the situation as: “Trying to give clients an Outback-quality product on a McDonald’s budget.”
Today, there is an emergence of more efficient machinery. There are “green solution” cleaning products. There are also increased regulations from OSHA in regards to slips, falls and burns (among the most common workers’ compensation injuries in the drycleaning field).
In working hands-on with workers’ compensation accounts in the drycleaning industry and in speaking with numerous owners in the Hampton Roads, Va., area, six tips are identified here that drycleaning owners and managers can consider when selecting workers’ compensation insurance.
These tips (numbers 1 through 3 can be found in Part 1) could not only save your operation a significant amount of money, but also help protect your business from lawsuits, decreased production, and lowered team morale:
TIP FOUR: SAFETY
Every owner and manager should maintain a culture of safety.
In speaking with Albano, she mentions that at Albano Cleaners’ drycleaning plant locations, they do regular walk-throughs on extremely hot days to make sure that employees are drinking water and taking food breaks.
“These people are our family,” says Albano. “Being hands-on with the management of safety for my team is a way to, first and foremost, keep them safe.”
Latta echoes a similar sentiment when discussing safety management for his plant location: “We have members of the management team on the floor all day, every day, six days a week. By being present, we are able to help mitigate possible issues and prevent falls and burns. Our goal is to serve with excellence not just our clients, but our team as well.”
Being present and aware of possible issues can be as simple as making sure your team is drinking water on hot days, taking regularly scheduled breaks, removing boxes and debris from walkways, and mopping up spills immediately.
It also means advising and training your team on burn prevention, performing routine safety inspections, hosting company training through your insurance agent’s loss-control department or through OSHA, and keeping your equipment inspected and running correctly.
Some insurance companies provide safety training as a partner-resource for clients at no charge.
Also, a vital part of maintaining a culture of safety is to have an updated employee safety manual that every single employee is required to read and sign off on before starting employment with your company.
It may sound tedious, but it is recommended that you have employees sign or initial each page of the manual.
This provides a paper trail of evidence that you performed due diligence in making your team aware of dangers and took steps to mitigate those risks.
TIP FIVE: PHYSICIANS PANEL
Every owner and manager should provide a panel of physicians for injured employees.
Even with hands-on management and loss-mitigation techniques, accidents still occur. When they do, how you handle the process can either help protect your business or expose it to possible legal harm.
This step may seem odd to some owners. However, Virginia state law, for instance, requires that each employer provide injured employees with a panel of three physicians from which an employee can choose to consult.
Providing a panel of physicians ensures that the employee is properly taken care of and can assist in minimizing “extended” work outages.
It is recommended that you speak with your agent to become familiar with the laws in your state.
TIP SIX: JOB RETURN
Owners and managers should focus on returning their employees to work as promptly as possible. This step can be tricky.
Many owners relate that employees do not want to miss work, and are concerned that if they report an injury, they will be fired.
“We always encourage our employees to seek treatment,” Latta says. “They want to keep working, but we might have to modify their job until the injury is recovered.”
Albano shares a compatible philosophy practiced within her company: “Owners have to utilize job modification for their people. Otherwise, people are going unpaid and missing out on money they need for their families, and the company is looking at a long workers’ compensation payout which costs money.”
It should be noted that owners should always encourage and allow injured employees to seek medical attention. Any and all responses and actions should be documented.
If the employee refuses medical treatment, the incident should still be documented and the owner may consider having the employee sign a waiver that states they declined to seek medical treatment against their employer’s recommendation to do so.
This practice, while by no means foolproof, does provide a paper trail of compliance that can be helpful.
CONCLUSION: HAVE A PLAN
Finally, successful owners and managers consistently mention that “not all insurance is created equal.”
All owners should take a hands-on approach to their workers’ compensation and business insurance policies.
The owners that view business insurance as a nuisance miss the point that insurance is in place for their business to provide protection to keep their operation running.
Neglecting this area of your company’s management makes about as much sense as neglecting to inspect your steam boilers or neglecting to train your employees.
Incorporating these steps for your company’s workers’ compensation into your business plan can help you save money, lower claims and increase productivity, all of which are vital to helping you plan, achieve and protect the growth of your company.
Good planning is good business!
To read Part 1, go HERE.