News for Small Business - December 2005


L&I reorganizes for more consistent enforcement

Director Gary Weeks told L&I staff on Dec. 1 that he is reorganizing management of agency field staff who regulate businesses to make enforcement and consulting services more consistent statewide.

In WISHA Services, managers of workplace safety consulting and compliance services in L&I’s six regions will report to the WISHA assistant director rather than to regional administrators. The assistant director for WISHA Services will assume day-to-day management of both headquarters and field staff.

In Specialty Compliance Services, supervisors of inspectors and other field office staff will report to the six regional administrators, while hiring of field staff and evaluation of their performance will be done jointly by the headquarters chiefs and the regional administrators. Specialty Compliance Services includes the electrical, plumbing, contractor compliance, elevator, factory assembled structures, employment standards and boiler programs.

Regional administrators will have an increased role as the primary contact and liaison with employers and workers in their regions. They also will supervise a new customer service manager, the field service coordinators, front counter staff, the field fraud prevention and compliance staff, as well as day-to-day activities of Specialty Compliance staff.

“The idea is that this new structure will improve program and management accountability,” Weeks said. “It will establish clear and easily understandable lines of reporting between Central Office and field. And it will improve consistency in alignment of programs between Central Office and field. And this new structure will help L&I deliver the results that our customers expect.”

2006 workers’ comp hourly premium rate increases smaller than expected

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries workers’ compensation insurance premium rate increases will be lower for most employers than those proposed last August, while premium rates for all workers will go down.

The mix of smaller increases for employers and decreased rates for workers will result in no general rate increase in 2006 – meaning that revenue from premiums is not expected to increase compared to 2005. L&I Director Gary Weeks said the strong economy, good investment returns and successful control of medical costs allowed L&I to drop the 3.8 percent overall revenue increase proposed in August.

Of the three workers’ compensation funds managed by L&I, only the Accident Fund is facing costs in 2006 that require higher rates (11.5 percent average increase across all industries). This fund, which is supported only by employers, pays for partial replacement of wages lost while a worker is injured (time-loss), and pension and disability benefits. Rates were reduced in the two funds that pay medical benefits (down 10.6 percent) and annual cost-of-living adjustments (down 15.9 percent), both of which are paid into equally by employers and workers.

Below are examples of how the average annual cost per full-time employee in 2006 will change compared to 2005. Your rates can be higher or lower than the “base” rate for your risk class depending on your company’s history of workers’ comp claims:

  • Sheet metal installation, Risk Class 0519
    • Employer’s share up $786, employee’s contribution down $118
  • Auto Body Repair Centers, Risk Class 3412
    • Employer’s share up $197, employee’s contribution down $34
  • Orchards, Risk Class 4803
    • Employer’s share up $21, employee’s contribution down $33
  • Restaurants and taverns, Risk Class 3905
    • Employer’s share down $5, employee’s contribution down $31

Links to the L&I web site for more information:

Tools to Save Time and Money

Be in the loop and save money on treatment of your injured workers

The Centers for Occupational Health and Education, or COHEs, bring L&I, employers, doctors and other health-care providers together in one cooperative system that benefits everyone. A University of Washington study shows that workers treated through COHE were less likely to need partial wage-replacement (time-loss) payments or long-term disability support, and were more likely to stay on the job. It saved an estimated $5.8 million in one year.

How does COHE work? Participating health-care providers build and share their experience getting injured workers back on the job as soon as medically possible. Workers get the right treatment and the support they need to recover more quickly. Employers are involved with the worker’s recovery, providing valuable information and opportunities for light-duty work, helping the injured worker get back on the job faster.

Employers who participate in COHE receive an e-mail notice when their employee seeks care from a participating doctor for a work-related injury. Employers participating in the Eastern Washington COHE also receive a notice when the doctor updates work restrictions at subsequent appointments.

The Renton COHE is sponsored by Valley Medical Center and covers southern King County, including Renton and Auburn, and part of Pierce County. The Eastern Washington COHE is sponsored by St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute and is now being expanded to most counties in Eastern Washington.

If your business is in a COHE area, don’t miss this opportunity to help your injured workers, save money and be in the loop on your workers' comp claims.

To sign up for the Spokane COHE, call toll-free 866-247-COHE or go to the Internet at:

To sign up for the Renton COHE, call toll-free 866-663-2643 or send an e-mail message to


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