What Will a Biden Administration Mean for Workplace Safety?
By Mike Horan
Insurance costs have already been rising — the property and casualty space has seen 11% rate increases annually, on average — due to uncertainty around pandemic losses, catastrophic natural-disaster claims, a lack of capacity in the reinsurance market, low interest rates, and increased size of claims due to social inflation.
Now, just a couple weeks into Joe Biden’s presidency, we are asking ourselves: how will the incoming administration impact businesses like yours, and, consequently, the insurance marketplace and your premiums?
With the inauguration of Biden on Jan. 20, we expect a return to a highly pro-union, pro-workers’-rights administration similar to what we saw under President Obama (and Vice President Biden) from 2009 to 2017. This could very well come with a change of leadership at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The current acting administrator, Loren Sweatt, has been in the role as an interim since 2017, and experts anticipate a changing of the guard.
“To prepare for the incoming administration and the changes that will accompany it, we encourage you to prioritize your safety practices. OSHA will be examining this much more closely, and so will the insurance companies.”
Most importantly for your business, you can count on a shift back to heavier enforcement of OSHA workplace violations. During his campaign for the presidency, Biden called on OSHA to “double the number of OSHA investigators to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines.” Based on this, we expect more inspectors visiting businesses to ensure compliance, and heavier fines for infractions. We also anticipate a return to practices such as issuing press releases publicly naming companies that have been fined for workplace-safety violations, in an effort to discourage other businesses from making the same mistakes.
At Webber and Grinnell, we place heavy emphasis on loss control and creating a culture of safety within our clients’ operations. This is not just because we care about doing the right thing and keeping everyone safe (although that is certainly the primary reason). It’s also because we know that insurance companies are scrutinizing safety and losses more than ever due to the aforementioned facts about rising costs in the marketplace. They are rewarding safe companies and penalizing unsafe companies. One of the primary resources they use to make these decisions is OSHA records, so it is absolutely essential that you adhere to OSHA’s policies and guidelines.
To prepare for the incoming administration and the changes that will accompany it, we encourage you to prioritize your safety practices. OSHA will be examining this much more closely, and so will the insurance companies.
You need to be a step ahead by doing everything you can to create a culture of safety. Long-term benefits include fewer injuries, less downtime, lower insurance costs, better employee morale, and a work culture that will attract the best talent.
Mike Horan is a business insurance specialist and RiSC consultant at Webber and Grinnell Insurance.