Workers’ Compensation Insurance
AmTrust: Among Artisan Contractors, Plumbers Account for Most Workers’ Comp Claims
The company’s workers’ comp report also found while older workers have a lower frequency of claims, their injuries are more severe.
- John Weber
- November 2021
Younger, new employees at contracting firms pose the greatest risk for injury and almost a third of workers' compensation claims over 10 years came from the plumbing profession, according to a recent report from AmTrust Financial Services.
Matt Zender, senior vice president Workers' Compensation Strategy at AmTrust, discussed the findings of the AmTrust 2021 Contractor Risk Report with AM Best Audio. The report is based on 26,000 workers' compensation claims over 10 years.
AmTrust ranks No. 7 in Best's Rankings of the top workers' compensation writers based on 2020 direct premiums written. Following is an edited transcript of the interview.
What were some of the other key findings of the report?
One of the first things that we noticed that really just kind of jumped right out of the data was the tenure of an employee and the effect that it would have on the frequency of claims.
If you look at younger employees, newer employees, those who were employed less than a year made up a full third of the claims that we saw. That was surprising when you just look at the percentage of employees that they make up otherwise.
It's really clear to us that newer employees have more injuries, and it puts a lot of pressure on these contracting businesses to focus on the retention of the employees. Therefore, they can work with them longer and figure out how to work more safely.
Also, when they do have open positions they need to fill, onboarding is critical for them as well, and the ability for a business to train new employees right away on how to work most safely.
Plumbers are susceptible to awkward work spaces, so there’s a lot of strain injuries that occur. In fact, 31% of our plumbing injuries did involve strains.
Were there certain trades in particular where you were more likely to see claims than in others?
We went through 26,000 claims over 10 years of history that we have. Our focus was primarily on what we call artisan contractors, so we were looking at carpenters and plumbers and electrician/HVAC, tile work, and stuff like that. Along those areas, we saw that almost a third of our claims were coming from plumbing, and that's disproportionate versus the percentage of our total book that it is. In other words, we saw more claims coming from plumbers than we did coming from other artisan trades.
Any idea why that would be?
Plumbers are susceptible to awkward work spaces, so there's a lot of strain injuries that occur. In fact, 31% of our plumbing injuries did involve strains.
There's also more height involvement in plumbing than a lot of people think. I tend to think of the old plumber reaching underneath the sink, and that whole scenario, but there's a lot of times when they're involved in some heights, too. Twenty percent of our claims in plumbing came from falls, which was a little surprising to me.
What were the prevalent injuries that artisan contractors are suffering from?
Mostly, we saw a lot of multiple body parts as you might imagine, a ton of low back and a ton of knee. There's also a fair amount involving fingers and the different appendages. Certainly those fingers and wrists and hands are going to be involved in cut claims. There's a lot of blade activity and sharp tools and things that are going to put those at risk as well.
Can you discuss frequency and severity trends?
Those tend to, interestingly, run down some age lines, so that the younger employees—they tend to have a higher frequency of claims. Older employees tend to have a much lower frequency of claims, but then when you look at the severity side, when those older workers do suffer an injury, they tend to be much more severe. The older employees know what to do to avoid a claim, but when they do get injured, it tends to be more difficult for them to bounce back.
What should workers' comp writers be taking away from your report?
A couple of things that we saw [involved] looking at some of the seasonal trends. Most of our claims occurred in the summer; August had 11 of our total claims, for example. If you look at why that is, you might look at a state like Arizona, where you've got some seasonal workers that are maybe working in the agricultural space, say, in the southern part of Arizona. It's hotter, and the harvest season is going to be during the winter, while in the summer, maybe they pick up some work in the contracting space.
Therefore, you would then look at that and say, “Oh, well then it's going to fly right in the face of what I told you before about younger employees and their length of tenure,” because these are people that are working, basically, seasonally for you. I think it's important for anybody who's looking at this space to pay attention to the trends.
AM Best Audio
Click here to listen to the interview with Matt Zender.