If you own and operate a construction company and don't provide your employees with health insurance, or if you primarily work with independent contractors who are, by law, responsible for their own insurance costs, you may give little thought to whether your workers have made coverage arrangements elsewhere. But in many construction-related industries, up to half of all workers aren't covered by any type of health insurance policy.
This can put employers at risk of a lawsuit if an injured employee or worker tries to access "deeper pockets" to pay for medical expenses that may have been caused or exacerbated by an on-the-job injury. Read on to learn more about this troubling trend and how you can protect your business from the potential consequences that may stem from having a significant number of employees who don't have health insurance.
Why Construction Workers Are Less Likely to Be Insured
The uninsured rate across all industries is around 12 percent - which means slightly more than one in every 10 workers lacks any form of health insurance. But in the roofing, drywall, and painting industries, a staggering 43 to 50 percent of workers have no health insurance. Slightly more than one in every three workers who are classified as general "construction laborers" also lack health insurance.
This absence of health insurance among some of the country's most dangerous industries can have a major impact on both employers and employees. A lack of health insurance can make it harder for these workers to access medical care when they need it, increasing the risk of absenteeism due to treatable conditions or injuries.
And if an employee or independent contractor is injured on the construction site or comes down with a long-term illness caused by chemical exposure, this employee may attempt to sue you or your business, even if the workers' compensation claim period has long expired. Even if such a claim is ultimately unsuccessful, defending your business against personal injury lawsuits can be time-consuming and expensive.
How You Can Shield Your Business From Liability
There are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk of a lawsuit or another legal claim stemming from an employee's illness or injury.
Carry Enough Workers' Compensation Coverage
This insurance is designed to provide benefits for employees or other workers who are injured while performing work at your direction. This can insulate you from personal injury lawsuits that stem from on-thejob injuries while also protecting your employees against dangerous or deadly conditions.
Each state has its own workers' compensation laws and regulations, but one way to significantly reduce your exposure to lawsuits is to make sure you're always carrying more than the state-mandated minimum coverage.
Emphasize Workplace Safety
Ignoring dangerous conditions in the workplace can not only void your workers' compensation coverage and make you personally liable for damages, but it can also make it far more likely you'll wind up losing good employees to preventable injuries. By complying with all relevant industry standards, including OSHA standards, and implementing an "if you see something, say something" policy with your employees, you can reduce the risk of injury-causing accidents.
Publish and Enforce a Drug-Free Workplace Policy
Operating heavy equipment or performing manual labor while under the influence of opiates or psychoactive drugs can put yourself and others at risk. As a business owner, it's your responsibility to create and enforce a drug-free workplace, using tools like random and pre-employment drug screens to identify employees who may have an illicit drug problem.
By keeping these tips in mind, you'll significantly reduce the risk that you or your workers will become embroiled in a personal injury lawsuit. And if you still have questions, contact your commercial insurance agent or broker as a good resource for answers.