Montana High Compensation Rates Affect Businesses - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montana High Compensation Rates Affect Businesses

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Montana has the highest worker compensation rates in the country. The state Department of Labor and Industry officials are trying to change that by educating employers on safety to lower injuries and claims.

Andria Huntsinger is the Executive Director for the Sweet Pea festival held in Bozeman every summer. She has to pay the high worker compensation rates even though she is only on site for the festival three days out of the year.

"They have me classified as an amusement park worker even though I spend majority of my time in the office during administrative work," said Huntsinger.

She said she pays well over $1,000 a year to be insured.

"Workman's compensation rate is a big part of budget. We would like to put that money towards other things like performers or committees," said Huntsinger.

Fred Miller with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry said Montana employers paid about $145 million in worker compensation last year.

"Our costs are hurting people. It takes 23 days longer than the national average to get them back to work once they are out on a work compensation injury," said Miller.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction has the highest worker's compensation rates. But, compensation rates for Montana construction workers is double the national average.

Miller said we can decrease those rates if employers put in a safety plan for its workers.

"First employers need to ask themselves, what are you doing? What is the work process and what is the work environment? Number two, how can you get hurt in and how do you keep from getting hurt," said Miller.

Miller said high worker compensation rates could drive business away from our state.

"It's the cost of doing business," said Miller. "Employers have to take all those costs associated with those injuries; That goes into our workers compensate insurance and that's what's driving our worker's compensation insurance up."

Miller said if everyone has a safety plan in place, production and the quality of goods and services will all improve.

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