Insight: An Agent Resource

Industry Featured: Grocery and Convenience Stores

This is the fourth in a series of articles that highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the Texas Nonsubscription Option.

Grocery and convenience stores are among Texas' many nonsubscribers. From small "mom and pop" operations to large chains such as Tom Thumb/Randall's, HEB and Kroger, grocers of all shapes and sizes have found that nonsubscription provides significant advantages for their operations.

While large grocers and smaller convenience stores have similarities such as a large number of part-time employees, relatively low wages and high employee turnover, their worker injury exposures can vary. Even a large grocer can have different exposure in a grocery store compared to one of their warehouse or distribution centers.

This article examines some of the advantages nonsubscription provides for the different types of operations within the industry.

The large number of part-time employees, lower wages and higher-than-average turnover can present challenges for return-to-work programs for all sizes of grocery operators. Because Temporary Income Benefits paid as a result of an injury are not taxable according to the IRS, an injured worker's benefits can often be equal to or even greater than their take-home pay when they are working. So an employee's standard of living is often not changed while they are recovering, providing little incentive for the worker to want to return to work, and in some instances even serving as an enticement to identify ways to avoid doing so.

Because nonsubscription allows a grocery employer greater involvement in and coordination of an injury treatment program, it can provide an effective approach to eliminating questionable claims or unnecessary delays in recovery.

Because of the high employee turnover within the industry, screening measures such as background checks, pre-employment physicals and drug testing can be cost-prohibitive.

This can be problematic in an industry in which, for reasons not fully understood, there is a disproportionately high rate of illegal substance use.

Again, because a nonsubscribing company is afforded greater involvement in managing the medical component of its occupational injury program, measures can be established to address this challenge. Because nonsubscriber programs often require an injured worker's off work recovery be under the care of a company-credentialed doctor, the grocer can ensure that protocols are in place so that the employee is automatically drug tested at the time of initial treatment for an injury.

One company with an unusually high rate of back injuries reported a significant drop in reported injuries once it announced that every injured employee requiring medical treatment would be drug tested. The employer had found that the employees reporting the injury seemed to return to work as soon as they received their time off and full wage-replacement benefits. Once the testing policy was implemented, there was not a single reported injury of any kind for the next eight months.

Because of the success of drug-testing programs, grocery operations should consider implementing these policies in all of their operations. In warehouse and distribution centers where the workforce may tend to be more stable, the cost of such programs, especially pre-employment and/or random drug testing, can be more feasible. Additionally, a nonsubscriber insurance policy and the ERISA plan state that proof of intoxication eliminates the claim. As a result, one positive finding on the drug screen would more than pay for the entire substance abuse and drug-testing program for the year.

Due to the nature of their operations, grocery warehouses and distribution centers have greater exposure to injury. Material lifting, forklift operations, loading and unloading of trucks, packing, lifting, and shipping are heavy exposure, which contribute to a high number of musculoskeletal injuries. The importance of using of company-credentialed physicians in treating an injured worker cannot be emphasized for warehouse and distribution centers as a means of ensuring these types of claims don't get out of control.

For those grocers that operate over-the-road carriers, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) allows nonsubscription, but only with a specified minimum coverage for drivers. All nonsubscriber policies provided through the Combined Group more than satisfy these minimums.

Unfortunately, convenience stores face a unique robbery risk, especially those open 24 hours. With nonsubscription's focus on safety, convenience stores can treat this risk through the installation of security cameras and patrols, alarms, enhanced lighting and numerous enhanced preventive measures. As a result, use of safety measures as a means of addressing the severity of the robbery hazard is typically higher with nonsubscribers.

Interestingly, meat cutting is a greater contributor to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) than data entry, another unique exposure for the industry. Once again, exercising a greater role in management of the medical treatment for an injured worker can not only help ensure the right care is provided, but also eliminates a great number of misdiagnoses of CTS and unnecessary surgeries.

The grocery industry historically operates within a very small profit margin. Containing costs in both premium and worker injuries along with an increased focus on safety can mean the difference between staying open or being forced to close.

To learn more about the Texas Nonsubscription Option, contact us.


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ALL ABOUT YOU: Relationship Building Blocks

Human beings are social creatures. Sociability is, in fact, our biggest strength and our best tool for survival. Even the most independent among us are deeply interdependent on other people. We rely on others for our food, electricity and money in the bank. Relationships, whether you like it or not, are not just the landscape for our personal lives, but our professional ones as well.

Relationships are founded on actions. Actions of kindness or aggression build up or tear down relationships. Most of the time we are aware of what kind of action we are taking with another person. You may look back through your day and think about smiling at someone on the street or wishing your co-worker a happy birthday. Sometimes, though, we dismantle a relationship by accident or inaction. Would your co-worker be upset if you had forgotten his or her birthday?

Everyone makes mistakes. It is inevitable. This makes intentional acts of kindness all the more powerful. People are more willing to forgive and forget a misstep by a person who is overall kind and good. By going out of your way to be kind, you are building up a stronger relationship for the times that you may, with or without knowing it, need someone's forgiveness.

Challenge: Go out of your way to be kind to someone today. Send a thank-you card to a potential client who sat down for a meeting with you or buy a coffee for someone you know is having a hard day.

Challenge: Identify one of your own bad habits. Sit with it for a while. In a week or so, come up with a plan for how to get rid of it.

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