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Accidents can be a disaster But safety can be profitable

While our work can be hazardous, it does not have to be deadly.

However, according to the recent Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Census of Fatal Occupational In- juries, between 2003 and 2006 there were a total of 789 deaths “due to traumatic injuries among landscape services workers and their first-line supervisors.” Of those deaths, “nearly 80 percent occurred in the landscape services industry.”

Human and

One in every 50 landscape workers suffers an injury each year that keeps her or him away from work, for an average of seven days at a time. And the cost of injury can be catastrophic.

economic cost Statistics don’t lie; this is one arena where the cold, hard, truthful story is told. One in every 50 landscape workers suffers an injury each year that keeps her or him away from work, for an average of seven days at a time. And the cost of injury can be catastrophic.

In a recent case where a landscape crew member was struck by an errant motorist and lost his legs, a New York jury returned a $11.2 million verdict; more than half the blame was appor- tioned against the employer, charging improper training.

Tese shocking statistics and story all show that lack of safety can take a massive human and economic toll.

Te flip side, though, is also true. Safety can be profitable. • First and foremost, it protects the lives and health of both your employees and your customers.


• Second, it means that your company is effectively putting into action the exten- sive and ongoing safety training that you are doing with your employees, both at head- quarters and “on the tailgate.”

• Finally, running a company with an exem- plary safety record can put actual dollars in your pocket by saving you money on your premiums.

Dollars and cents Nelson Colvin, a former president of the Califor- nia Landscape Contractors Association and now president of Golden Oak Cooperative Corpora- tion in Chatsworth, California (a cooperative group that provides insurance coverage for landscape industry businesses), explains the dol- lars and cents of safety when it comes to work- ers’ compensation, the system that pays workers wages and health bills for on-the-job injuries. Most landscape contractors with any significant number of employees are in the various state systems. Tose that aren’t are risking shattering losses in the event of an employee accident.

“Te idea is to stay safe and avoid losses,” Colvin says. “Tough the workers’ compensation system is administered differently in different states, the principles are the same no matter where you are. In California, your workers’ comp experience is rated by the state. You start with a baseline rating of 100, and you get adjusted up or down, based on claims made during a three-year period.”

Colvin talks through the numbers with this example: “Say you’ve got 400 employees at $15 an hour. Tat’s a $720,000 annual payroll. With a workers’ comp rating of 100, your premiums could be eight dollars per $1000 of payroll. Tat’s an annual insurance bill of $57,000. If you have a bunch of accidents, you could find yourself re-rated up to 125, which means a 25 percent higher premium. When that happens, you’ll find yourself paying $72,000 a year on the same payroll. Potentially, you could get re-rated again to 160—then prepare to pay through the nose.”

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