When Safety Culture Grows, Premiums Decline

October 30, 2019 • Previsor

Hentges Tree Service (HTS) was started and owned by Harold Hentges in 1969, and they have partnered with MEM for their workers compensation insurance off and on since 1995. When Harold turned the business over to his son, James, MEM was there to help make sure safety remained part of the organization through the transition.

To get expenses under control, Harold and James met with MEM’s Claims Field Service Manager Terri Sweeten and Senior Safety and Risk Consultant Dale Muenks, as well as their independent insurance agent, Rick Naught, and their own Safety Officer, Gerard Schulte. After the meeting, James asked Terri if she had time to look at their garden located in the back of their Jefferson City, MO, office building. Although it was a hot day outside, Terri agreed to pick some green beans and continue their safety discussion one-on-one.

Picking beans together, James simply asked Terri what they could do to lower their claims costs. Terri’s answer was simple, “Look for ways to prevent the incident in the first place, and then develop and implement a written and enforced light duty Return to Work program.”

Both Terri and James walked out of the garden with a clear path to helping HTS control their costs:

  1. Initiate a light duty program to improve loss history.
  2. Lower premium costs and e-mod rate.
  3. Focus on and reduce suspected fraud.

Return to Work program

Gerard Schulte is the HTS Safety Officer. With the cooperation of James, Harold, and the Supervisors at HTS, Gerard developed a robust Return to Work program as a way to mitigate the growing business expenses related to claims. MEM provided a Return to Work guide and sample policy, and they implemented the program.

“Several years ago, work comp costs threatened our ability to continue to operate,” says Gerard. “Our claims were not well managed; lost-time was excessive and exacerbated, the whole issue of out-of-control business costs.”

Gerard’s dedication to growing the Return to Work program, with the support of HTS management and Supervisors, has succeeded in reducing their e-mod and getting employees back to work sooner and safer. The difference is mainly attributed to the implementation and development of a light duty program.

Light duty

One of the primary benefits of offering employees light duty work after an injury includes reducing the number of lost-time days. Lost-time is calculated by the number of productive days lost when an employee is unable to be present on the job. According to MEM policyholder lost-time claim data, this business category experienced an average of 39 days of lost time in 2018.

“While there initially was some hesitation to offer light duty, Hentges Tree Service has fully realized its benefits,” said Terri. “Since implementation, the business has been able to reduce their lost-time days and get employees back to productive work much quicker, resulting in significant claims savings.”

Gerard often makes contact directly with the treating physician once care begins. A doctor may choose to impose restrictions for an injured worker during a period of recovery after an injury. For example, a doctor may recommend the injured worker follow lifting restrictions for two weeks after experiencing a lower back strain injury. Once the restrictions are received, Gerard and the injured worker’s Foreman and Supervisor look for tasks or duties that can be performed in order to get back to work.

“Light duty options benefited us in terms of improving recovery times and the morale of the affected Crewmembers,” said Gerard.  “Providing modified or alternative work options for any one of our injured workers helped us reduce claim costs associated with long recovery times, and my crewmember is still able to contribute to the output of the team.”

Other examples of light duty tasks that may be included in a Return to Work program are (by industry):


  • Perform safety checks
  • Attend classes/seminars
  • Clean and inspect tools
  • Conduct site, building or other safety inspections


  • Check medication expiration dates
  • Greet patients’/residents’ family members
  • Interact with residents one-on-one
  • Clean surfaces to prevent sickness


  • Install safety and warning signs
  • Adjust calipers
  • Attending buyers’ fairs
  • Calculate estimates, make calls (sales)


  • Prepare mailings for customers
  • Detail delivery vehicles
  • Data entry
  • Audit maintenance records
  • Break down boxes


  • Complete OSHA paperwork
  • Work in dispatch or reception area
  • Ride-alongs
  • Light clerical work

Click here to read more about how to get injured workers back on the job with a Return to Work Program.

October 30, 2019
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