As workplace injuries decline, so, too, does the workers’ comp rate — and that saves employers millions.
THE good news about a proposed drop in workers’ compensation rates really is good news. It’s that simple.
Labor & Industries recently announced a proposed 2.5 percent decrease in the 2018 average premium rate employers will pay for workers’ comp insurance. It’s certainly good for employers and workers; together they’ll keep $67 million because of lower premiums. Yet there’s clearly a much bigger, more significant story.
Worker safety is improving in Washington, and the workplace-injury rate is dropping. That’s not about politics; it’s about hard work. Washington workplaces are some of the safest in the country with among the lowest fatality rates for all major hazardous industries.
Each of the numbers cited above relate to real people and real families who are spared the anguish of a mom, dad, brother or sister killed or seriously injured trying to make a living.
The facts show that The Seattle Times’ recent editorial speculating that a drop in injuries and fatalities is due to lost manufacturing jobs is off base [“Reason for rate drop in workers’ comp should be clearer,” Opinion, Sept. 22]. The types of manufacturing may be changing in our state, but data show the hours worked in that industry are actually up in the last few years.
While it’s true that some companies have gone out of business, others have increased production, and new companies have come along to take their places.
Curiously, the editorial ignored the fact that construction, among the most dangerous industries, is booming in Washington. Walk through any number of Seattle neighborhoods, and you’ll see an army of construction workers. Still, Washington has one of the lowest construction-fatality rates in the nation.
There’s more work than ever happening in fields that regularly have the most workplace injuries, here and around the country. So, I’m pleased to say the decline in injuries is real — not just a result of an upturn or downturn in one industry or another.
Safer work places are a result of hard, smart work by employers, workers, L&I and others. It’s no accident.
There are a couple other pieces to this equation that we know are making a difference. L&I has been purposefully offering vocational assistance and support to injured workers much earlier in their claims.
We’re also addressing the use of opioids to treat pain. In recent years, L&I directed doctors to prescribe opioids only for the most serious pain and only for short periods, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in long-term opioid prescriptions.
These changes are helping injured workers heal and return to work sooner. With that, the number of injured workers on long-term disability is down by more than 700 a year.
We’ve made it a point to keep workers’ comp premiums steady and predictable. Small rate increases the last several years, the strong economy, dropping injury rates and fewer workers with long-term disabilities are helping and allowing for lower rates.
When it comes to workplace safety, we all can do better. Still, I like to share a little good news every now and then. Safer workplaces and lower premiums really is news that we should all feel good about.