Risk and Reward: Auto and Other Businesses Can Tap Benefits to Help Prevent Workplace Injuries and Control Costs

L&I Blog 7.14.16

Written by Chris Alcatraz

Insurance Services, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the July issue of our monthly magazine Torch Talk. You can find past L&I articles on bbb.org/northwest.

Continuing our series of articles for consumers, workers and business owners, this month we focus on the automotive industry —but don’t scroll away yet! There are some good tips below that will apply to you no matter where you work, or what business you own.

What you should know about risk classifications

In Washington State, the workers’ compensation insurance system uses different risk classifications to set insurance rates based on a number of criteria including the nature of the work for the industry and the exposure to risk for injury.  Things like what equipment and materials are used on the job and what duties are performed are considered. Businesses may be assigned to multiple risk classifications if the nature of the work performed is significantly different from job to job.

Example: Risk Classification 3411 covers automobile and RV dealerships, along with repair shops.   However, sales personnel at auto and RV dealerships who do not perform vehicle repair or maintenance – and therefore are exposed to less risk for injury on the job — may be reported separately in Risk Classification 6301. This risk class is specifically written to include showing vehicles, performing clerical work and taking test drives.

Why it matters: Premiums, also called rates, vary based on the assigned risk classification.  The base rate for auto and RV dealerships is $1.2174 per worker hour in 2016, while the base rate for sales personnel is only $0.3898 per hour.  Business owners should check to make sure their worker hours are being reported under the correct risk classification.  It makes good business sense to pay only the amount needed for insurance coverage.

The Takeaway: Go to www.Lni.wa.gov/riskclass and use the “Risk Class Lookup” tool to search for risk classifications by key words.

Contact: Call L&I’s Employer Services at 360-902-4817 to talk to your Account Manager if you need additional risk classifications added to cover your business, or if you have questions on how your workers are classified.

Watch out for injuries!

Around 33 percent of all job-related injuries that occur at automobile and RV dealerships, parts stores and auto repair shops are related to strains and sprains.

Examples:

  • Lifting and carrying heavy parts to and from storage.L&I Blog Graph 7.14.16
  • Holding heavy parts in place during installation.
  • Lifting and lowering wheels during service.
  • Working for long periods in awkward positions, such as bending at the back, kneeling, squatting.
  • Reaching overhead, lifting above the shoulders or below the knees.
  • Using heavy tools, or tools that require a lot of force to operate

Why it matters: You can prevent injuries by knowing what to look out for, and by being mindful of the risk of awkward postures while you are working.

The Takeaway: L&I’s website contains information on Washington laws for safe workplaces, as well as some great tips for keeping workers and do-it-yourselfers safe. Check out these resources for:

Contact: L&I offers businesses free consultation services for safety, risk and ergonomics assessments. Safety and Health Consultations include going over your Accident Prevention Program, plus looking for hidden hazards that could cause injury or illness, and providing air and noise monitoring services.  Risk Management Consultations provide you with information on how to protect your Claim-Free Discount and manage an injury claim to maximize recovery and control costs.  Ergonomics Specialists can come to your worksite and spot potential causes for sprains and strains.  Find out more about L&I’s free consultation services for businesses at www.Lni.wa.gov/safety/consultation .

Injured at work? Advice for workers and employers

If you are injured at work, be sure to notify your employer and seek necessary medical treatment as soon as possible. If you need help finding an L&I network medical provider, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/FindADoc.  Your medical provider can assist you with filing a workers’ compensation claim, or you can file online at www.Lni.wa.gov/FileFast or call 1-877-561-3453 to file a claim by phone.

Your medical provider will give you a form noting any work restrictions. Ask your employer about light-duty if you do have work restrictions.  L&I staff can assist your employer if needed by helping identify light-duty tasks that will meet your medical restrictions while you recover.

Light-Duty Work Examples:

  • Parts Driver
  • Repair estimator
  • Inventory
  • Tool cleaner
  • Light mechanical work such as oil changes
  • Checking in customers, scheduling appointments and cashiering

Why it matters: Returning to work in a medically-appropriate light-duty or modified job has been proven to speed the recovery process, and reduces the risk of depression and permanent disability.

The Takeaway: Washington’s Stay at Work Program reimburses eligible employers for a significant portion of the costs to support medically-approved light-duty, including:

  • 50 percent of the base wages paid to injured worker (up to $10,000 or 66 days).
  • Up to $2,500 for equipment and tools.
  • Up to $1,000 for training and materials.
  • Up to $400 for clothing for the light-duty job.

Reimbursements may include funds towards purchasing a lift, or special gloves to reduce vibration to the hands, for example.  Businesses need to meet certain criteria for the reimbursement, so it’s best to understand how the program works before an injury occurs.

Contact: To learn more, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/StayAtWork  or email staff at StayAtWork@LNI.wa.gov or call 1-866-406-2482.

Making it easier to do business

Insurance coverage for occupational and industrial insurance, also known as worker’s compensation, is offered to most businesses exclusively through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Supporting businesses with information to help make workplaces safe and help injured workers heal and return to work are two priority goals. If you have any questions about your coverage, check out the information and resources available at www.Lni.wa.gov or contact your L&I Account Manager.

 

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5 Tips for Buying a Used Car [Infographic]

5-Tips-for-Buying-a-Used-Car

Shopping for a Used Car? Beware of Flood Damage

Image courtesy of ponsulak | freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of ponsulak | freedigitalphotos.net

With the recent floods in Texas, Oklahoma and other states, consumers looking to purchase a used car—even in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska—should be wary. Scammers and unscrupulous car dealers often ship these damaged vehicles to other states to sell to unsuspecting buyers after natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) estimates up to 10,000 insured vehicles in Texas had water damage from the May 2015 floods.

Flood-damaged vehicles that have been declared a total loss by an insurance company will have “salvage” stamped on the title. Most of these vehicles are then sold to parts companies who will sell the useable parts.

But scammers get around that by title washing: transferring ownership and retitling the autos in several states where they often “lose” the salvage stamp in the process. Other flooded vehicles may not have gone through the insurance claim process. They were purchased at bargain prices and taken to another state by unscrupulous sellers, so a title search will not indicate the car may have water damage.

These cars will show up on used car lots, in the classifieds ads in newspapers, on street corners with “For Sale” signs and online at sites such as Craigslist. Because these natural disasters happened in another part of the country, it may not be on a local car buyer’s radar to look for water damage. Flooded vehicles can be cleaned up to disguise the water damage while they are actually rotting on the inside. The car’s electrical, mechanical and computer systems can be corroded and rusting, and the lubricants may be contaminated.

“Approach a used vehicle thinking it has been flooded and look for signs to prove it,” says Frank Scafidi, Director of Public Affairs for the NICB. “If you don’t find water damage, great. If you do, don’t walk, but run from buying it.”

You can protect yourself from buying a flood-damaged vehicle by doing your research first. Remember: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do a title search through a national tracking company such as Carfax. Review the title and ownership papers for damage labels. Check the date and place of the vehicle transfer to see if it came from a flood-damaged area. And always have a trusted mechanic inspect a used car before you buy it, and ask to have the vehicle searched for flood damage that would not be visible.

Test drive the vehicle but also look for other telltale signs of possible water damage:

  • Is there a musty odor?
  • Check the wires under the dashboard. Are they flexible or are they brittle or cracked? This is a sign the car may have been submerged in water.
  • Are there any signs of rust?
  • Check all carpeting, including in the trunk. Check the condition under the carpet for signs of sand or dirt. Has the carpeting been changed? Is it too loose or not the same color as the interior of the car?
  • Check the glove compartment and beneath the seats.
  • Test everything in the car. Turn on the ignition to see if all lights and gauges come on (including the air bag lights); test the windshield wipers, turn signals, radio, air-conditioner and heater.
  • Remove a door panel and look for water marks. Check the door speakers, as they will often show damage from flooding.
  • Check under the hood for mud, grass, leaves or rust in the engine.

Better Business Bureau urges consumers to be cautious when purchasing a used vehicle. Do your research at bbb.org and make the investment to have the car inspected by a trusted mechanic.