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The Safest States for Workers’ Compensation

As Americans, we are presented with an onslaught of warning signs, flashing lights and a seemingly endless list of safety regulations every day. Most of these “precautions” have become routine. We don’t even think about buckling up our seatbelts — we just automatically click them into place. These safety measures are meant to help us get through our normal day without getting into an injury-causing accident. What about on the job? At the workplace, employees are presented with another wide range of warnings, protocols and regulations that have been put into place to mitigate accidents.

Even a sign boasting the number of days since the last workplace injury is meant as a cautionary warning to watch what you’re doing. No job is 100 percent safe, but some states have much lower nonfatal occupational injury and illness incident rates. Does this mean you should move to those states to insure better workplace safety? That response might be something to consider.

Which State is the Safest? For Workers' Compensation

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Incidence Rates

Since their inception, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been compiling data related to all aspects of the workplace, including incidence rates of accidents — a key issue in understanding how various states craft their workers’ compensation laws. Where does your state fall on the ranking list?

The BLS bases its statistics on the total recordable case incidence rate per 100 full-time workers. Simply put, the higher the rate, the more occurrences of occupational injury and illness. For 2015, the top ten states with the highest incidence rate were:

1. Maine  (5.3)
2. Vermont (5.0)
3. Washington (4.6)
4. Montana (4.5)
5. Nevada (4.0)
6. West Virginia (4.0)
7. Iowa (3.9)
8. Oregon (3.9)
9. Wisconsin (3.9)
10. Indiana (3.8)

Apparently, region isn’t a factor because the states with the highest rates are across all time zones. As for the lowest incidence rates, these are the top eleven states that made that cut:

1. District of Columbia (1.6)
2. Louisiana (2.0)
3. Texas (2.4)
4. New York (2.5)
5. Delaware (2.6)
6. Arkansas (2.6)
7. Massachusetts (2.7)
8. Virginia (2.7)
9. North Carolina (2.7)
10. South Carolina (2.8)
11. Illinois (2.8)

Workers’ Compensation Premium Rates

The other occupational safety factor to consider are premium rates, or the average amount of money taken out of your weekly paycheck in order to compensate for workers’ compensation benefits. In many ways, your workers’ comp premiums will pay for your coworkers’ benefits. You might prefer to have that extra money in your pocket. However, it is good to know that if you should find yourself in an accident, you can be covered through workers’ comp laws. The same guiding principle lies behind paying for health and auto insurance.

The workers’ compensation premium index reveals that the top ten most expensive states for these premiums are as follows:

1. California
2. Connecticut
3. New Jersey
4. New York
5. Alaska
6. Oklahoma
7. Illinois
8. Vermont
9. Delaware
10. Louisiana

Ironically, four of the five states listed above — California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Alaska — don’t rank among the top ten states with the lowest occupational injury and illness rates.

Want to have less money taken out of your paycheck each week? The top ten states with the lowest workers’ compensation premium rates are:

1. North Dakota
2. Indiana
3. Arkansas
4. Virginia
5. Massachusetts
6. Nevada
7. District of Columbia
8. Utah
9. Oregon
10. West Virginia

This is another set of data points that doesn’t seem to relate to the information. The top five states for the highest worker’s comp premium didn’t place in the top ten for lowest incident rates. A decent argument could be made by employees for state legislatures to review workers’ compensation laws. After all, if you’ve demonstrated that you are abiding by safety regulations, why should you pay more for workers’ compensation that might never be used?

Overall Safest States for Workers’ Comp

Lawmakers and insurance companies examine this BLS data to make the final determinations about the safest states with regard to benefits. The trend appears to lean toward reducing benefits. So far, 33 states have enacted measures that cut benefits while keeping premiums high. This has made it increasingly difficult for workers who are injured on the job to be properly compensated for both medical care and lost wages. Hawaii, Arkansas, Texas and Florida have led the charge with regard to raising worker compensation benefits while Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have generated the deepest cuts.

As it happens, Arkansas, with those high benefit payouts, also ranks among the top ten overall safest states. The list of those overall safest states includes the following:

1. District of Columbia
2. Arkansas
3. Virginia
4. Massachusetts
5. Louisiana
6. North Dakota
7. Indiana
8. Texas
9. Nevada
10. New York

In some cases, states that have consistently demonstrated a high incidence rate must institute a thorough workplace safety review. This is especially true if those high incidence rates don’t show any sign of decreasing. That safety review is actually good news for the workers who might find themselves toiling away in unsafe conditions. Employers will also feel the pressure from state and local authorities to “get their safety act together” or else face fines. Bottom line: Paying attention to these workplace safety numbers will elevate the working environment.

The genuine hope is that you never have to file a workers’ compensation claim, but if you want to take extra precautions, consider working in one of those previously mentioned safest states for workers’ comp. Clearly, they are doing something right when it comes to occupational safety.

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