Monthly Archives

January 2018

3 Workers’ Comp Mistakes Small Business Owners Should Avoid

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As an employer, you never want to go through the nightmare of employees being injured at your workplace. Unfortunately, accidents sometimes happen at work and especially at construction sites. When they do occur, it’s important to handle workers’ compensation claims correctly.

Why It’s Important to Cover Your Employees with Workers’ Comp Insurance

First of all, if you have a small business, check to see if workers’ compensation insurance is a requirement in your state. If workers’ comp insurance is required, failing to carry it can result in severe consequences, such as having to pay out-of-pocket benefits to an injured employee. Furthermore, you may have to pay penalties that are levied by your state. Even worse, you could be sued by an employee and face criminal prosecution.

Here are a few common workers’ comp mistakes to avoid:

Not Obtaining All the Necessary Medical Evidence

One of the most common mistakes many small business owners make regarding workers’ comp claims is failing to collect all the necessary medical evidence involving a claim. In fact, having accurate medical records regarding injuries before a workplace injury occurred is just as essential as securing medical records following the injury.

When examining medical evidence, you’ll need to determine if medical records back up a claimant’s physical grievances pertaining to an injury at work. Another consideration is deciding if the medical records provide facts that aren’t consistent with how the injured employee looks or behaves. Check to see if the claimant has a history of changing doctors after being released to go back to work. Additionally, determine if the claimant has received treatment in the past for the injured area of his or her body.

Failing to Conduct a Thorough Investigation

A huge workers’ comp mistake is failing to do a thorough investigation or procrastinating in starting it. A methodical investigation needs to begin on a workers’ comp claim as soon as possible. The investigation should include facts, such as:

  • An employee’s full name. In the case of an injured female employee, the maiden name should also be noted.
  • Include any nicknames or previous names.
  • A current address, besides an employee’s previous address
  • All phone numbers
  • Social Security number
  • Drivers’ license number
  • Vehicle information, including make, model and year
  • The injured body part
  • Source of the injury, such as a slippery floor or a machine
  • The date and specific time of the injury, in addition to the date and time the injury was reported
  • Any witnesses to the accident, including their phone numbers, emails, and other contact information

Being Unprepared for a Hearing

Not being prepared for a possible hearing is another big mistake some small business owners make. Just because an injured employee doesn’t submit a particular form or retain legal counsel doesn’t mean there won’t be a hearing. Thus, it’s important you be prepared for a hearing. Keep in mind that a hearing officer needs detailed proof that’s reliable.

How a PEO Can Help with Workers’ Comp Claims

Having to manage and process workers’ compensation claims can be time-consuming and stressful. As a result, it can affect work productivity. However, this doesn’t have to be the case when a PEO (Personal Employee Organization) does the job. Not having to handle workers’ comp claims is only one benefit of hiring a PEO for your small business. These professionals can make running your small business easier, so you have more time to invest in your small business. Some of their many duties include:

  • Making improvements in workplace safety
  • Scheduling employees’ vacations
  • HR solutions
  • Compliance support
  • Commercial insurance
  • Handling payroll
  • Managing paperwork and performing other valuable services

You can do a better job of managing your business when you have a PEO on your team. Our Harbor America workers’ compensation specialists are there when you need them, providing efficient and quick claim services for both you and your workers, being sure they get the needed benefits and care they deserve. We serve small to mid-sized business owners in construction industries as well as other blue-collar industries. Please contact us for a free consultation.

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Outsource HR and Get Back in the Driver’s Seat

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Human Resources worker requires constant education and workforce development if you want them to stay up-to-date on employment law. For most small businesses, keeping up with the latest changes is both time-consuming and expensive. However, failure to follow federal and local laws can really cost you.

In order to reduce costs, many small business owners choose to perform their own HR rather than hire additional employees. Unfortunately, a small business owner isn’t just another employee, and the time they spend working on HR is time they aren’t spending out in the field building their business.

An alternative solution is to hire a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) to handle your HR for you. When you outsource your HR to a PEO you save time, enjoy more seamless hiring and onboarding experience and keep your business compliant without sacrificing your business’s most vital resource – you.

Getting you Moving

The amount of time an owner can be waylaid by HR duties adds up. Taking on a new employee incurs a sizable paperwork debt that must be paid off before they can get out into the field. It isn’t unusual for a small business owner to spend 10 or more hours a week dealing with human resources paperwork.

Contracting with a PEO for Human Resources can save you a considerable amount of time and effort. When you take all the paperwork, reports, and forms off of your desk you’ll find a whole lot of time you didn’t even know you were missing.

From Door to Jobsite

Getting a new employee on board and ready to work takes a lot more than a handshake. Depending on your field, your new employee may need to be bonded, licensed or have a volley of tests performed before they can set foot on your job site – not to mention all the standard forms, files, and copies that need to be filled out and stored away too. Contracting out means handing over all of the paperwork to the PEO. When your new employee is ready your PEO representative will let you know – reducing your liabilities while saving you the time, effort and worry that comes with getting someone new onboard.

Knowledge is Security

Human Resources isn’t just a job title; it’s a complicated field of expertise. Overlooking the important role that HR plays in your business can lead to hefty fines and litigation. Knowing that you are in compliance, rather than just hoping you are, can help reduce the stress of owning your own business.

Harbor America staff receive reliable, up-to-date training from a variety of local and national sources. As a client, you receive all the benefits of a professionally trained HR representative without incurring the heavy cost of employing and training one.

Keeping You in Control

Many small businesses aren’t aware of how much trouble an unhappy employee can cause. If your business does not have the right policies, documentation, and training available to your employees you may be leaving yourself open to legal and financial attacks.

Developing policy and training handbooks for your employees helps keep you in control. We will guide you in developing an enforceable set of employee policies and action guidelines that keep you and your company on the right side of the law.

However, even with the best policies in place, you will inevitably encounter a few unemployment claims. Harbor America can help you navigate these claims to find the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

Contracting with Harbor America helps you get back to doing what you set out to do in the first place – develop your business and generate revenue. A PEO saves you time, streamlines your employment operations and keeps you in compliance without the high costs of employing trained staff. Contact us today online or by phone at 800-845-5695 for a free consultation.

construction staff absenteeism

Tips for Reducing Construction Staff Absenteeism

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When employees miss work, companies pay: in the mining and construction industries alone, the annual cost of lost productivity because of absenteeism is $1.3 billion. If you’re doing the math about what portion of that came from your company, it’s time to start reducing your own construction staff absenteeism.

First, you need to understand why it’s happening.

Why Do Your Construction Staff Members Miss Work?

There are many reasons for absenteeism:

  • Disengagement, Disinterest, and Burnout: If your employees aren’t excited about their work, and if they don’t feel appreciated on the job site, they’re more likely to miss work. If they get disengaged enough, they might start missing work in order to interview for another job.
  • Childcare: If a child is sick or has a day off school, the parent may have to stay home to care for him or her.
  • Illness or Injury: Construction workers are especially at risk of injury given the nature of the job. Some of the most common construction site injuries include broken bones, head injuries, burns, cuts, overuse injuries, and heatstroke. In 2013, it was reported that more than 80 percent of construction and mining workers have a chronic health condition or unhealthy weight.
  • Depression: As of 2013, depression was one of the major causes of absenteeism across all industries.

How to Reduce Absenteeism

There’s no one sure-fire way to ensure every employee comes to work every day, but by using a variety of approaches in your strategy, you can decrease the number of days lost to absenteeism.

Show Your Appreciation

If you value your employees, let them know. Know their names and a little about their lives. Tell them, verbally and maybe occasionally in a written note, that they’re doing great work and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Take Care of Their Health

Construction work is hard on the body, and that toll can show up in missed workdays. Help your employees stay as healthy as possible by offering a solid health insurance plan as well as, perhaps, outside of the box benefits like gym memberships, discounts on massages, chiropractic care, and education on nutrition, sleep, and proper body mechanics. Encourage them to seek help for small injuries or illnesses before they get worse. Sometimes, “toughing it out” for a couple of days can result in a couple of weeks away from the job site.

This also includes going above and beyond when it comes to safety on the job site. Follow all regulations and enforce strict safety policies. Encourage employees to look out for one another.

In addition, manage the scheduling to ensure adequate rest between shifts and that each employee takes his or her allotted vacation days. Encourage a work-life balance that allows for their growth and fulfillment with their families and personal interests.

Offer Skill Development

Training programs not only make your workers more efficient but also boost their confidence and morale. They feel like you’re invested in them, which makes them more likely to enjoy their work and want to do a good job for you.

Offer Incentives

Rewards might include catered lunches, tickets to sporting or arts events, or a financial bonus, and can be given when an employee completes an optional training program or goes a certain number of days without missing work.

Build Unity

Consider this: “…absenteeism is noticeably lower in work units that have a strong team spirit or when the group is cohesive.” Encourage your employees to get to know each other, maybe via a mentoring program, monthly catered lunches, or employee gatherings like holiday parties or happy hours.

Communicate

Make sure your employees know they have someone to speak with–confidentially–if they have issues with work or are concerned about their mental health. In addition, encourage them to share ideas that could create a better workplace for everyone.

Basically, it all comes down to being a good place to work. Many of the strategies you can employ to reduce absenteeism–like offering training, building unity, and caring for your employees–will make you a stronger company overall.

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Watch Out for Common Workplace Hazards

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Construction work comes with some inherent risk. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) points out, “The fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average in this category for all industries.” However, you can work to keep your company below that average by taking precautions. Workplace safety is essential not only for keeping your employees healthy and injury-free, but also to bolster job satisfaction and trust in the managers and the company, and to protect yourself against the expense of lawsuits and replacing injured workers.

Common Workplace Hazards

These are some common construction workplace hazards that your safety and risk management plan should consider and address:

  • Falls, struck-by, caught-in-between, and electrocution: these are the top four construction risks as outlined by OSHA.
  • Scheduling mistakes that result in overworked employees who haven’t gotten enough sleep when they arrive on the job site.
  • Broken, worn-out, or out-of-date equipment.
  • Improper or ill-fitting protective gear.
  • Overuse injuries (caused by repetitive motions day after day, year after year).
  • Poorly trained or unskilled workers.
  • Failure to comply with safety guidelines.

Preventing Injuries at the Workplace

You can help prevent some of these injuries with the following tactics:

  • Arrange for thorough training and skills assessments for all employees.
  • Give each new employee a complete employee handbook. Update this handbook as necessary.
  • Have periodic reminders about safety guidelines. Sometimes, a failure to comply isn’t because the employee is defiant, but because he or she forgot the rules.
  • Protect against the top four construction zone risks by ensuring equipment is installed properly; checking equipment periodically for wear and tear and replacing worn-out items immediately; using guardrails, harnesses, and safety nets; keeping walkways clear; using tread and handrails on stairs; choosing the right ladder length for each job; not overloading equipment; providing well-fitted protective gear for all employees; knowing where the power lines are and keeping ladders and scaffolding away from them; and more.
  • Educate employees about overuse injuries and offer care plans that might help prevent the injury, like chiropractic care, acupuncture, gym or yoga memberships, and physical therapy. Even learning proper body mechanics can help an employee avoid some joint, back, and muscular pain. Consider the possibility of allowing certain employees to rotate positions to help prevent this type of injury.
  • Schedule employees to ensure adequate rest between each shift.

Your Workplace Safety Plan

One of your main objectives should be to minimize safety hazards for the benefit of your workers and the company as a whole, and that starts with a solid Workplace Safety Plan. Each plan is unique to the company it serves and should be carefully written to address as many potential safety concerns as possible.

A professional employer organization like Harbor America can help your small- or medium-sized business create an appropriate Workplace Safety Plan. It starts with a complete understanding of OSHA standards. From your training manuals to your employee manuals to compliance posters, we can help you ensure your workers are up-to-speed about all safety guidelines and regulations, and we offer a wide range of accident prevention strategies.

Of course, accidents do happen despite precautions. In that case, your thorough workers’ compensation insurance will be able to help your injured employee through his or her recovery. Hiring a PEO to handle the claims also saves you time and ensures the procedure is done correctly to prevent any legal complications.

Minimizing Your Risk

Workplace injuries don’t have to be common or inevitable. Do what you can to limit the risk so your employees can enjoy a healthy, happy work environment that leads to greater job satisfaction and greater productivity. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about your Workplace Safety Plan, or how Harbor America can help you with your safety and compliance strategy.

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4 Cost Management Tips for Construction Business Owners

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As a business owner, oftentimes it seems like you’re putting money in plenty of other people’s pockets, but not your own.

In the construction business, that’s especially true as you constantly shell out big bucks, whether it’s for supplies, equipment, interest on loans or credit cards and, especially, payroll.

With all the other juggling you have to do just to keep your job sites running, your office staffed and your customers and subcontractors happy, finding more ways to manage costs doesn’t easily fit into your 24 hour day. Construction business owners deserve a little help, so here are four cost management tips:

Automate Dispatching

Cloud-based services, which come with monthly fees and little up-front cost, allow you to schedule and dispatch employees with greater efficiency. Dispatchers will know where key employees are and ensure they are at the site where most needed, especially when you have multiple job sites to manage.

The software also allows you to integrate subcontractors into the mix so you can schedule them as needed or, if they are not available, work around their schedules to ensure your employees are kept busy rather than just waiting for that subcontractor to show up.

Your dispatchers will also be able to send messages via text, email or an internal messaging system so workers are kept up-to-date on where and when they need to be on the site.

Monitor Material Prices

The same technology that lets shoppers compare prices between online stores and big-box retailers can work to your advantage to monitor construction material prices, which you know are in constant flux.

Set up a system to receive push notifications from your suppliers when they have good prices on materials you use frequently. Also, when drafting bids you can check prices with all of your suppliers with a click of a mouse and lock in the best prices. Small savings on each job will add up to big savings over the course of a year.

Balance Scheduling

Take the guesswork out of scheduling your jobs. Figuring out the delicate balance between paying your current construction staff overtime or hiring additional staff either requires a lot of pencil pushing or you just throw your hands up and make an educated guess. With modern software, you can run the parameters of the job and learn exactly which option provides you a lower cost.

Outsource Administrative Functions

Managing your human relations, payroll, benefits, safety and risk management, insurance and compliance doesn’t have to involve a huge (and costly) HR department. Outsourcing these duties to a professional employment organization (PEO) brings an expert staff to your business for a fraction of the cost of having staff members deal with all of these functions. These experts also find ways to reduce your cost for such vital issues as insurance and bonding. The added bonus is that it frees up a great deal of your time to handle all the other important issues of running a successful construction business.

When you have experts handling all of these administrative and compliance functions, you also greatly reduce the risk of falling out of compliance and being hit with costly fines, which can flip your business from profitable to bankruptcy in a flash.

Harbor America brings all these resources and more to your construction business at a cost that will more than pay for itself each year. If you’re ready to put more money into your pocket, contact us today for a free consultation on how you can save money and take a load of tasks off your shoulders.