Georgia cracks down on workers comp

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 ATLANTA -- Companies that don’t cover their employees for on-the-job accidents can expect to hear from state inspectors using new tools for finding noncompliance.

The State Board of Workers Compensation has already uncovered 538 businesses without a policy that resulted in $480,000 in fines and $1.2 million in premiums to cover their 2,700 employees since January.

Richard Thompson, chairman of the board, said Tuesday that greater reliance on computers is leading to more cases, more fines and greater numbers of employees eventually gaining protection because the four inspectors and four compliance officers stationed around the state can cover more territory.

“We’re able to be more efficient,” he said.

The agency used to rely on complaints and random inspections that required employers to show proof of coverage. After all, experience tells them that many restaurants, stores and small construction-trades companies are the most frequent violators, often claiming workers were independent contractors.

Now, the inspectors can instantly check a national database from their cars to see if a business is paying premiums for coverage.

With a few computer keystrokes, they can check out a dozen businesses in the time it would take for a physical inspection.

“That’s a time saver. We don’t have to waste our time going into the business. We’re more interested in knowing which businesses don’t have insurance,” said Stan Bexley, director of enforcement.

At year end, inspectors check former violators in the database to ensure that they haven’t dropped the coverage they were forced to buy when they were caught originally.

The agency also recently began cross checking data from the Department of Labor to seek employers who are paying unemployment-insurance premiums but don’t provide accident coverage. So far, that process has generated more false alarms than genuine violations, he said.

“Once we can narrow this list down, I feel like we will get more positive hits on the list,” he said.

The board would need a law change to begin combing state tax records. And it doesn’t often alert sister agencies in the state or federal government of the violators they turn up.

Still, many of the noncompliant companies find when they try to buy a worker’s comp policy that the insurance companies demand they develop legitimate records with those agencies.

A report released last week by the state’s Department of Audits & Accounts was mildly critical of the board for not having standard penalties for violations. The agency says it needs a law change to do that, and it prefers to give its administrative-law judges the discretion to set fines based on the facts of each case.

Overall, the audit concluded the enforcement division was on top of its job, but it offered suggestions.

“The division has limited resources available to enforce the state’s workers’ compensation laws; however, it still does not use the board’s claims data to focus on-site inspections on businesses that pose the greatest potential risk of injury nor to identify potential fraud cases,” the auditors wrote. “In addition, a formal policy has not been established regarding assessment of penalties.”

Check the database

Workers can check the state’s database to see if their employer has coverage at www.sbwc.georgia.gov and look on the right side under “How do I verify an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance?”

Comments (7) Add comment
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double_standard
166
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double_standard 04/03/12 - 08:58 pm
0
4
Worker's Comp the white man's

Worker's Comp the white man's entitlement.

Riverman1
83470
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Riverman1 04/03/12 - 09:02 pm
3
0
One thing about all this. You

One thing about all this. You have to have had a job to get into it.

justthefacts
21698
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justthefacts 04/03/12 - 09:04 pm
2
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haha River, yep, "worker" is

haha River, yep, "worker" is the key word.

JRC2024
8837
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JRC2024 04/03/12 - 10:47 pm
0
0
The state law says you have

The state law says you have to carry workers comp if you have 3 employees but you can exempt yourself and only pay on two. Columbia County will not give you a permit to do business if they do not have a copy of your WC and liability insurance. Richmond county chooses to not require workers comp but you have to have liability. Workers comp in my business is 29.9% of every dollar you pay the worker. Quite expensive. I wonder why Richmond County does not require WC. Seems to me they are skirting state law.

daphne3520
950
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daphne3520 04/04/12 - 08:21 am
1
0
"double_standard: Wake up
Unpublished

"double_standard: Wake up and smell the coffee!

double_standard
166
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double_standard 04/04/12 - 09:33 am
0
1
Well daphne I'm business

Well daphne I'm business owner in a skilled mechanical trade you wouldn't understand the basis of my comment. Workers Comp needs to be overhauled. It is the most abused entitlement program in America. This is truly what keeps the price of business so high and yes the cases of fraud are prevalent in the white community.

david jennings
590
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david jennings 04/04/12 - 04:28 pm
0
0
For goodness sake, somebody

For goodness sake, somebody give the man a beach towel to dry his eyes

JRC2024
8837
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JRC2024 04/04/12 - 11:01 pm
0
0
David if you are replying to

David if you are replying to me and think I need a towel you are really really wrong. The cost of the WC is added in the job for the gross cost and then the profit is added on top of that.
The min $67.00 permit that Richmond County Charges or the $50.00 min that Columbia County charges is also included. All companies make a profit on those charges and the customer always pays. You should know that.

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