I think that those of us in the workers’ compensation industry sometimes forget just how vital it is to the health and vitality of the US economy. The vast majority of the 156 million workers in this nation (2019 stats) perform their duties while covered by an occupational protection policy or program. Yet, for both the employers we serve and their employees, we remain largely a mystery; a government-mandated entity whose purpose and benefit remain fundamentally unknown to the masses. 

I experienced another reminder of that recently while dealing with yet another tradesman in my home. 

I’ve recently mentioned a kitchen remodel that was a major undertaking at our home. The reality is that we have been doing extensive work throughout the new abode we purchased last summer. I wrote in July that my wife and I have seemingly committed to singlehandedly restarting Florida’s economy. Governor DeSantis will be conducting the ribbon cutting for our new home, if the damn work is ever done.

Some of the work has gone well. Other projects, well, not so much. In conjunction with the kitchen remodel, we ripped out and replaced 600 square feet of tile on the main floor. Too bad our installer didn’t notice that the tile came from different dye lots and what should be a shiny white polished floor is instead 50 shades of gray(ish white). The retailer who provided the tile appears to be working with us on this, and we have been taking quotes to tear it out and experience the joy of floor installation once again. 

This weekend we had a professional tile installer in to look over the situation. After measuring and seeing what needed to be done, he asked for my email address so that he could send the quotes to me. Now, this point is always an interesting juncture in these discussions, especially when dealing with people in the trades. My email address ends in “workerscompensation.com,” and it most often evokes a response of varying levels and intensity. Sometimes I might be dealing with an employee who has had (or knows someone who has had) a less than pleasant experience in the comp system. Or I might be dealing with a boss who doesn’t understand or appreciate the protections it affords them. One contractor, looking at a job that would have required multiple workers and who apparently did not have comp coverage, said, “Workers’ comp? That’s expensive, isn’t it?” 

Thanks for stopping by. Have a nice day, but don’t have it here.

The gentleman this weekend had a bit of a different reaction. It turns out his brother is an IT manager for a regional workers’ comp carrier. He was a bit more aware than the average Joe on the topic (and he certainly was much brighter than the moron who installed the original floor). He still didn’t have workers’ comp coverage, but he immediately explained why he and his partner were exempt. He also without prompting explained his liability coverages to assure me he offered reliable protection for his customers. That, of course, would remain to be seen, but apparently has never been put to the test. Still, I’ll give him credit for proactively bringing it up. He’s way ahead of many of his brethren on the topic.

I must note that in Florida there are guidelines that do not allow construction-related activities to be exempt. I don’t profess to be an expert on whether tile installation is actually defined as construction, but it certainly seems to me like it would be in the ballpark. 

I suppose my point, if any of my blogs actually have a point, is that the workers’ compensation industry has done a poor job overall of making the case for our existence to John Q. Public. Sure, we’re mandated, but that is not a strong educational point to ensure that adequate coverage is provided to those who need it. My experience over the years is that some small employers spend a great deal of energy looking for ways to avoid carrying comp coverage. That puts their employees at risk, but it also puts their business at risk. And they are generally clueless about it. When it comes to convincing employers that carrying a comp policy is in their best interest, “because you have to” is about as convincing as “because I said so” from a parent denying their child some requested item or activity.

Workers’ compensation is a vital cog in the American economic engine, bridging the risks for employers while protecting the workforce moving our country forward. Surely, we can make the case for our existence beyond the obvious legal requirements. The industry came about out of need; a need that is still in existence, but ironically masked by the activities of our own industry. We need better proactive communication as to why the system exists, and why employers are better off with it than without.

Otherwise, we will continue to help the world go ‘round, while being largely a mystery to those we serve.

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