Roofing / Roofers

Workers’ Compensation in the Roofing Industry

Roofers Roofers are considered a high-risk classification for workers compensation insurers. Many roofing businesses are small, making them less appealing to a workers compensation insurance carrier. Workers compensation insurance for roofers is both expensive and difficult to obtain.

Obtaining workers compensation insurance for roofers includes:

  • The standard insurance market if coverage can be found.
  • The specialty insurance market where coverage is available at a higher price.
  • The state’s assigned risk pool, if available.
  • A trade association group policy, if permitted by state jurisdiction.
  • If the company is dedicated to safety, roofing self-insurance groups (captives) are an excellent option.
  • Self-insurance is not a feasible alternative for small roofing companies because they lack the financial resources to set aside for future claim costs but may be for large commercial operators.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) deems the roofing industry as the fifth most dangerous occupation, based on fatality statistics*. The difficulty roofers have in obtaining workers compensation is a reflection of the dangers in the roofing trade.

Roofing Jobs: Hazards of Being a Roofer

Roofing job hazards, all of which result in high frequency, severe injuries, include:

  • Working at a height greatly increases the risk of serious or deadly falls.
  • When injuries occur, they are usually serious in nature.
  • Steep roofs increase the risk of slips and subsequent falls.
  • Falls from heights is the most common reason for fatalities in the construction industry.
  • Improper use of scaffolding, ladders, lifts, and other equipment increases the risk of injury.
  • Weather events increase the exposure to injury.
  • Deteriorated roof structures fail to support the weight of added roofing materials and roofers.
  • The failure of many roofing companies to use fall prevention systems.

Roofing companies with ineffective safety programs and safety training are prone to high losses. The combination of heavy roofing materials, ladders, nail guns, steep slopes, and weather (extreme heat in the summer, icy and slippery in the winter) requires an extensive safety program. The roofing companies with a strong safety program are rewarded with a lower experience modification factor when their insurance premiums are set – i.e., lower premiums. A better safety program means a lower mod thus lower premiums.

Roofing Industry Employment Challenges

Employment challenges for roofing companies include:

  • Legitimate roofing companies which pay employees’ wages often have to compete with roofing companies who classify employees as independent contractors, or who pay employees “cash under the table,” or who employ illegal workers to avoid paying for workers compensation.

  • Roofing companies have higher turnover than other industries.
  • Improper screening or hiring practices opens the door for:
    • Employees with substance abuse problems.
    • Employees with Prior injuries who cannot safety perform the job.
    • Inexperienced workers not qualified for the job.
  • Language barriers.
  • Inadequate training or safety programs.

Smaller companies should explore the cost benefits of using an outside firm to screen applicants and complete paperwork for hiring when internal resources are not available. A lower mod means lower premiums in the long run.

Roofers Workers’ Compensation Cost Reduction

Roofers can reduce the cost of workers’ compensation by:

  • Maintaining a strong safety program that measures the return on the investment in safety.
  • Enforcing a strong certified drug-free workplace program with pre-hire, post accident and random testing to obtain a drug free workplace credit on insurance premiums.
  • Requiring the satisfactory completion of a pre-employment (pre-placement) physical as a condition of a job offer.
  • Having a return-to-work program with temporary job options with the employer.
  • Understanding the impact injuries have on the calculation of the mod factor and resulting workers compensation premium.
  • Offering incentives for qualified laborers like bonuses for staying on 60-90 days, incentives for no lost work days or awards such as barbeques for no safety violations or fall protection violations.

Light Duty / Transitional Work Assignments in Roofing Industry

Providing light duty work when an employee is injured is challenging unless a company plans ahead. The employee needs to be capable of using all four extremities on most roofing jobs, and most roofing work is physically demanding. Hand injuries can be particularly difficult because they limit the type of work dramatically.

Sample positions for modified or transitional work for roofers.:

Transitional Duty Tasks Description of Tasks 
Flagger: Allow employee to direct traffic by holding up sign.
Roofing assistant or helper: Employee remains at ground level, picking up debris, tools, supplying water to workers etc. Be aware of lifting restrictions and make sure employee is allowed frequent rest periods.
Controlled access zones: Employee monitors those entering and exiting the work area and reports any safety issues at the job site.
Non-Profit Agency: An excellent alternative as it keeps the employee active and productive, preventing physical de-conditioning often occurring when employees, capable of light duty, stay home.
Office Work: Answering telephone, filing, sales, light office housekeeping.
Inventory Control: Tracks the use of inventory, supplies and completes purchase orders.

*Reference: http://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0250.pdf

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