2012 Landscaping Workers Comp Rates

December 28th, 2011
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Effective January 1, 2012, Florida workers’ compensation policies will use new rates for businesses in the landscaping industry. For the second consecutive year, the new rates are higher for landscapers, tree trimmers, and lawn care companies. If your business is experiencing higher insurance premiums, contact the insurance professionals at BearWise Landscapers for comparative quotes and cost saving measures.

Businesses in the landscaping industry primarily use the following classification codes to compute the workers comp premium associated with the payroll of their employees. The new rates are listed with each classification code.

9102 Class Code (Rate: 4.11) - This classification code is assigned to employees that maintain lawns and gardens. This is your standard landscape maintenance and lawn care classification and it is used by most businesses in the landscaping industry to rate their workers’ compensation premiums. It is officially titled ‘Parks NOC’ and the 2011 rate for it was 3.47 percent. This new rate results in an 18% premium increase over that 2011 rate.

0042 Class Code (Rate: 7.48) - This classification is applied to employees that are involved in the installation of landscapes. These landscaping operations involve laying sod, planting trees, shrubs, and flowers, and general gardening activities. This classification cannot be used in Florida with employees classified as 9102 unless the operations are conducted by separate work crews. The rate in 2011 was 7.14 and this link provides information on using class codes 0042 and 9102 on the same policy.

0106 Class Code (Rate: 16.11) - This classification code is used for tree trimmers and specifically it is used for those employees or businesses whose operations involve leaving the ground to trim trees. When ladders, bucket trucks, and any other equipment assists employees to get their feet off the ground to prune or trim trees, then this classification is applied instead of the previous landscaping class codes. It also includes the chipping and cleanup activities associated with tree trimming. The 2011 rate was 14.62 percent.

5183 Class Code (Rate: 5.31) - This classification code is applied to employees of landscaping businesses that engage in the installation or repair of underground lawn sprinkler systems. The rate in 2011 was 4.82 percent.

0005 Class Code (Rate: 4.99) - This classification is applied to employees that operate a landscape nursery, and the 2011 rate was 4.60 percent.

8810 Class Code (Rate: 0.27) - 8810 is applied to the clerical office employees of landscaping businesses that do not engage in landscape services. The 2011 rate for this class code was 0.25 percent.

8742 Class Code (Rate: 0.53) - This classification is used for salespeople employed by landscape companies. These employees also may not engage in landscape services to be rated in this lower classification. The 2011 rate was 0.49 percent.

The workers’ compensation rates will be applied to all new and renewal policies that are issued January 1st, 2012 and later. The previous rates will be used on current policies until a renewal policy is issued. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) is the ratemaking organization that files workers’ compensation rates for all carriers in Florida.

For more information regarding workers’ compensation insurance or the other unique insurance needs of businesses in the landscaping industry, please contact BearWise Landscapers. There are many other factors that impact the final workers’ compensation premium of a business, such as claims history (experience modification factor), dividend plans, deductibles, limits of insurance, and others. If your landscaping business is interested in receiving comparative insurance quotes on your workers comp renewal or other insurance products, please call Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM at 866-296-2327 or complete our short online quote request form.

Pensacola Landscaping & Lawn Care

April 14th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

The first area on our Florida tour of landscaping businesses is Pensacola. We begin in the Florida Panhandle. The map below marks the lawn care, landscaping, irrigation, and other businesses providing landscape services to the area. We want to exclusively highlight businesses that have their main office in the area and not regional branch offices. The cities included in this area are Pensacola, Pace, Milton, Gulf Breeze, Navarre, Mary Esther, Ft. Walton Beach, Niceville, and Miramar Beach.

View Pensacola Landscapers in a larger map

Orlando Switches to Bahia Grass

April 5th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Bahia in Orlando

Bahia in Orlando

In the same March issue of Turf Magazine, where I wrote an article about protecting landscape equipment with equipment floater insurance, I saw an interesting article by Patrick White on the city of Orlando switching from St. Augustine grass to Bahia grass. The article discussed how the city is spending money now to make the switch in order to save on the upkeep of the turf in the future. Here is a link to the full article and below are some quotes that I found interesting:

The city of Orlando has decided to make a major investment in the turfgrass on its street medians in order to produce significant savings down the road. Currently, roadways there sport lush St. Augustinegrass, a beautiful turf type that helps Orlando live up to its billing as the “City Beautiful.” The problem is that St. Augustine is also expensive to maintain, requiring frequent mowing, watering and fertilizer and weed control inputs in order to keep it looking great. Sacrificing a little appearance for dramatically lower expenses seems logical, especially in these days of tight budgets, so Orlando will be making the move to Bahia grass.

“Bahia is not native to Florida, but it used commonly. I’d guess about 95 percent of the parkways in the state have Bahia turf beside them,” says Trevor “John” Hogue with Orlando’s Public Works. “Here in Orlando, we’ve got about 1.2 million square feet of St. Augustine turf in our roadway medians and some of our parkways. I did a budget analysis, and we’re spending right about $700,000 to maintain that grass, between mowing, chemicals and water.”

Hogue says the entire project will cost between $1 million and $1.5 million. That’s a lot to spend to get rid of beautiful, healthy turfgrass, but he expects the switch to Bahia will save the city between $350,000 to $400,000 per year in maintenance and water costs, so in just four to five years, the project will have paid for itself, and the city will be realizing substantial cost reductions.

Just as important as the cost savings, says Hogue, are water savings. “With the Bahia, we’ll be saving about 50 million gallons of water per year in irrigation. We have a real problem providing water for everybody here. It’s hard to believe in Florida, but we’re running out of good water.”

Once the new Bahia sod is established, the city will be able to shut down the extensive irrigation system that currently waters the medians throughout Orlando. “The Bahia will quit growing and go dormant in cool weather. It survives, it just puts its energy into sending down deep roots,” Hogue explains. “Really, it’s best not to water it during this time, because the weeds tend to use the water to take over.”

The grass will yellow/brown-out a bit during these stretches, but once the warm, wet weather returns, so does the vigor of the Bahia. “It’ll come back and be just as green as ever, as long as you put a little fertilizer on it,” says Hogue. “You do have to have a little weed control still, but the cost to maintain it is about one-third of what it costs to maintain St. Augustine.”

Not only will Orlando be able to completely stop irrigating the turf, mowing will be required less often because the Bahia will be dormant for long periods of time. “Before recent budget cuts, we were mowing the St. Augustine 42 times a year; because of budget cuts we got that down to 20,” says Hogue. “Because the Bahia will be dormant in the wintertime, we’ll mow that 12 to 15 times a year. In January, February and March, you don’t have to mow it at all.”

Bahia, in the warm summer months, is both fast-growing and durable. “It’s a tough, wiry grass. It’s not something you’d want in your front yard or to walk barefoot through, and to mow it, you need to keep your blades very sharp, but driving down the road at 50 miles per hour, it looks good,” says Hogue.

That sentiment is not universally shared. There has been some grumbling in Orlando that the new grass is not attractive enough, especially during the dormant phase, for a city that prides itself on appearance. One local landscaper quoted by an Orlando television news report on the issue described the Bahia as “tacky.”

Many others in the city appreciate the ability of the grass to reduce costs and water use. The real test of public sentiment will be when the changeover actually occurs, explains Hogue. In part, that’s why the decision was made to sod, the transition will be much faster without a long period of bare ground or thin turf on high-profile medians in town, some of which are in front of businesses and residences.

Bahia is not problem-free, admits Hogue. “It is susceptible to mole crickets, so there is a once-a-year application we’ll need to do in the spring,” he explains. “It does take a good, high-quality mower to cut through it. We’re going to use big, bat-wing mowers wherever we can, or big zero-turn mowers.”

While certainly not the grass of choice for all locations, Hogue says that in roadside settings, Bahia works great. “It does the job, and it takes a lot less fertilizer and mowing, and it takes no irrigation water.”

The Florida Landscaping Industry

March 26th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Florida Landscaping Tour

Florida Landscaping Tour

This post is going to begin a series in which we tour the state of Florida and give links and information about the lawn care, landscaping, irrigation, and tree trimming businesses that are located in various cities and regions of the state.

Florida is a great state and it has a thriving landscape industry with businesses of all sizes and expertise. We are going to start our tour in the panhandle and this link to the Florida Landscaping Topic will keep you up to date on all the posts that have been made. I will upload a map on that page as well.

I will have the ability to go back and edit all of these posts. So, if you know of any businesses that are located in the area and provide landscaping services, please use this contact form to send me information about the company with their address, phone number, and website, so that I can add them to our list of service providers for that Florida region.

I hope you enjoy this tour around Florida and find the landscaping links helpful.

View Florida Landscaping Businesses in a larger map

The Florida Freeze

March 22nd, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Landscape after Florida Freeze

Florida Freeze Causes Damage to Landscapes

In the same March issue of Turf Magazine, where I wrote an article about protecting landscape equipment with equipment floater insurance, I saw an interesting article by Carol Brzozowski on the recent Florida freeze. The article discussed how the freeze in Florida offered business opportunities to a number of landscaping businesses throughout the state. Here is a link to the full article and below are some quotes that I found interesting:

When Florida experienced a sustained cold snap earlier this year, it sent temperatures dipping into the freeze zone, even in the southern part of the state. Citrus and other agricultural crops were threatened, as were the lush landscapes of many residential and commercial properties. The unexpected weather presented a challenge for turf, landscaping and irrigation specialists, including Judy Benson, owner of Clearwater PSI, a water and turf management company in Longwood, Florida.

Frozen backflow devices presented one of the biggest challenges for her clients.

“There were a huge number of systems that no longer had the backflow prevention working,” says Benson. “In some instances, that made it a very immediate concern, especially those that rely on a single meter, meaning their irrigation water was also tied to the same line with their residential water. We wiped out the manufacturers of their parts, as well as their complete units.”

Many property owners wanted their landscapes renovated or fixed immediately, but Benson says she is a “conscientious contractor” who does not want to put a bandage over the problem only to have the landscape damaged by another freeze in subsequent weeks.

While the freeze has presented many opportunities for contractors to help with landscape renovations, “it’s starting to become a very tight supply and demand market,” Benson says.
She says client service calls as a result of the freeze have created an opportunity to educate them on impending codes and statutes.

Palm Tree after Florida Freeze

Palm Tree after Florida Freeze

“There is an opportunity at this point to speak with property owners to see if they will renovate their irrigation and landscape to meet these new codes and statutes,” says Benson.

“It takes a little more planning and a longer amount of time to speak with property owners to give them good information that they feel comfortable with in order to get them to take hold of the idea,” Benson adds. “Some are readily interested in it, others just want their landscape set back more to what they had earlier.”

Benson says the balance comes in looking at the whole picture. Current statutes, what’s good for the environment and working with property owners to give them the aesthetics they’re interested in achieving.

She also favors using technology to the greatest extent possible in servicing clients. She has an e-mail alert system for those signed up for her company’s newsletters. When an extreme weather event occurs, “We can send out weather alerts to try to get a head start on freezes and exceptional weather patterns,” Benson says.

“We’re utilizing all of our tools to help property owners prevent some damages that are avoidable just by bringing it to their attention,” she says.

Protecting Your Landscape Equipment

March 16th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Turf Magazine - March 2010

Turf Magazine - March 2010

NOTE: This article about equipment floater insurance was published in the March issue of Turf Magazine.

Protecting Your Landscape Equipment
An introduction to equipment floater insurance

Lawn care and landscape businesses have unique insurance needs that are not encountered by other types of businesses. In the landscaping industry, tractors and other pieces of equipment are some of your largest assets. This equipment travels to the properties of multiple clients each day and, therefore, has a higher risk of not only theft, but other causes of loss and damage.

These facts are common knowledge to many landscapers, but a large percentage do not realize the insurance implications. A typical property insurance policy will only cover your equipment while it is in your office building or other place of storage. A commercial auto policy may cover damage to your trailers, but it will not protect your equipment while on the trailer. To protect this equipment with insurance, a policy needs to be written and rated to cover valuable items while away from the premises of a building.

Equipment floater insurance is specifically designed to cover your landscape equipment and tools while located anywhere in the broad coverage territory. It is a type of inland marine insurance, and that general term may be used on your policy documents. Virtually any type of mobile articles, tools, machinery and equipment (other than motor vehicles designed for highway use) can be insured under an equipment floater.

In order to allow the flexibility to meet the individual coverage needs of insured businesses, there is not a specific contract wording used by every insurance carrier in their policy documents. This is different than insurance like standardized general liability, which will have the same policy documents and unendorsed contract terms regardless of the insurance carrier. When purchasing equipment floater insurance, it is important to ask questions and understand the insurance coverages that are offered.

The good news for landscapers is that the price of equipment floater insurance is a good value, with annual premium rates ranging from 1 to 4 percent of the total value of the insured equipment. Some insurance carriers also provide discounts when this coverage is packaged into one insurance policy with general liability or commercial auto coverage. Other premium discounts may be available for safe storage techniques, theft deterrent systems, claims history and equipment maintenance procedures.

Equipment floater insurance typically has a substantially lower premium rate for scheduled equipment than the blanket coverage that applies to all other equipment. Most policies contain a schedule listing of each piece of equipment with the identification number, year, make, model and value. This is commonly used for landscaping equipment with an individual value of more than $1,000. Scheduled equipment will usually have lower deductibles and other coverage advantages in addition to the lower rate.

As the owner of a landscaping business, you certainly have many things on your mind. Take time to verify that your landscape equipment is adequately covered with equipment floater insurance, since it cannot be properly covered under other insurance. Research the coverage options to see if they fit your business needs and check the accuracy of the equipment schedule. On the declarations page of the policy, the premium will be computed with the associated rates and premium discounts. If no discounts are applied, or if other corrections need to be made, then I recommend you discuss available options with your insurance agent.

Welcome to BearWise Landscapers

March 5th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Welcome to BearWise Lanscapers

Welcome to BearWise Lanscapers

Welcome to BearWise Landscapers!

BearWise Landscapers is a division of an insurance agency (Black Bear Insurance Agency, Inc.) located in Orlando, Florida. Our agents specialize in serving the insurance needs of lawn care, landscaping, tree trimming, and other related businesses throughout the state of Florida. This specialized approach allows us to provide more valuable resources and services to our clients than other insurance agents who do not specialize in the industry. As a division of an independent agency, our agents have access to multiple insurance carriers and can shop the rates between those insurance carriers to offer multiple quotes and be very competitive with rates. We are proud to partner with the top insurance carriers that underwrite landscaping businesses.

More important than all of these business advantages we use to pass along insurance savings to our clients, is the fact that we enjoy what we do and enjoy working with Florida landscapers. I personally enjoy learning about insurance and explaining practical ways that business owners in the landscaping industry can use insurance to protect themselves. We pride ourselves on the exceptional service we provide to our clients and would like the opportunity to provide your business with comparative insurance quotes.

Please take a few minutes to browse through the articles on our website and let us know if we can provide further information to you. You can call our office toll free at 866-296-2327 and dial extension 3917 to speak with me or extension 3852 to speak with Dawn Bennett, who leads the client services for BearWise Landscapers.

Thank you and again welcome to our website and the services we provide for the Florida landscaping industry.

Standard Discounts in Workers Comp

February 25th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

Understanding Discounts

Understanding Discounts

Many lawn care and landscaping businesses have asked us about a standard premium discount that our insurance carriers apply to their workers’ compensation policies. In the premium summary section of the policy documents, this discount will show up for insureds that pay over 5,000 dollars a year for workers comp insurance. It will be marked as a percentage and that percentage will change as your payroll changes. This is a standard discount in Florida and is used regardless of the insurance carrier on guaranteed cost policies (not retrospective rating policies). It can be used with dividends and other discounts. Here is how this standard discount is computed:

The standard discount is tiered. There is not a discount on the first 5,000 dollars of premium and the discount is applied to only the premium above that amount. Below is a chart with the current discount percentages applied to each level of premium.

Standard Premium Discount
Discount by Insurance Carrier Type
Premium From: Stock Co. Non-Stock Co.
First $5,000 0% 0%
$5,000 - $100,0000 10.9% 3.5%
$100,0000 - $500,000 12.6% 5.0%
Over $500,0000 14.4% 7.0%

The principle behind applying a premium discount to larger workers’ compensation policies is that expenses of handling compensation on a risk are proportionately less, as a percentage of premium, as the risk becomes larger. Typically, agency commissions are also reduced on larger policies. These discounts only apply in the state of Florida and although other states may use a similar formula, please check with the workers’ compensation insurance division of your home state.

If you have any questions regarding premium discounts for your lawn care, landscaping, or tree trimming business, please do not hesitate to contact me or one of the other insruance agents at BearWise Landscapers. If you would like a comparative quote on your workers’ compensation policy, you may request it by calling our office or completing our online quote request form.

Reducing Workers Comp Costs

February 19th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

PRO Magazine - February 2010

PRO Magazine - February 2010

NOTE: This article about reducing the costs of workers’ compensation insurance was published in the February issue of PRO Magazine.

Lower Your Workers’ Comp Costs
Tips for Landscapers to Reduce Workers’ Compensation Premiums

For landscapers all over the United States, the premium of workers’ compensation insurance is a large expense that’s often required by state laws. In other words, there’s not much you can do about it. Or is there?

Understand Your State’s Laws

Not every state requires businesses to provide workers’ comp. In fact, most states only require businesses to provide it when they have more than three employees.

Even when not required by law, offering workers’ comp is still beneficial for landscapers to avoid prosecution from injured employees who waive their rights to file damage lawsuits against the employer when receiving workers’ comp benefits.

The premium for workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide sufficient funds to not only pay for benefits to the injured employees, but also to operate the system that delivers those benefits. It is a pre-funded insurance system, which means that premiums are determined before the policies are issued, and that premiums are intended to meet all future claim payments made under those policies.

Nearly 40 states have designated a non-profit statistical organization called the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to advise their insurance regulators on the appropriate premium rates. Insurance carriers within those states are required to use the state-mandated rates, along with the roughly 600 different classifications for employees.

For landscapers dealing with workers’ compensation insurance in one of these 40 states, not to mention many of the remaining states, I recommend the following five steps to avoid overpayment.

Use Correct Employee Classifications

Each of the 600 classification codes for employees has a specific rate. Ask your insurance agent for copies of the official descriptions for those used in your policy—and verify that they are correctly assigned.

Many states allow a business to use multiple classification codes; your employees who fulfill clerical duties will have a substantially lower rate than those out on jobsites. For landscapers, most states use code 0042 for landscape installation duties and the code 9102 for lawn maintenance duties. It is common for lawn maintenance employees to pay a double rate when misclassified in the installation code.

Use Correct Payroll Numbers

The rates on workers’ compensation policies are multiplied by the premium basis, which is commonly referred to as payroll, but the correct term is actually “remuneration”. There is an important difference between these terms because remuneration excludes some pay received by employees; this needs to be removed from the premium basis on your policy.

Severance pay is not included along with overtime wages above the regular amount of pay.

Corporate officers can be excluded from coverage, and their payroll should also be completely removed. If not excluded, partners and sole proprietors often have a fixed amount of payroll and other executive officers will have a maximum amount. Find out the specifics in your state laws.

Be Proactive with Claims

The best long-term approach to saving on workers’ compensation premiums is to minimize the number of employee injuries, along with the costs associated with each injury.

Most states utilize an experience rating technique that allows premiums to be adjusted higher or lower based on claims history. To take advantage of these systems and lower future premiums, it is important to partner with an insurance carrier that efficiently handles claims and controls claim costs.

Report claims immediately to your carrier to minimize the employee’s time off work. Offer light-duty jobs to injured employees to minimize their loss of wages. Use techniques to prevent injuries—and make safety a priority for your business operations.

Obtain Available Premium Credits

In some states, there are discounts of 5% and greater for having a drug-free workplace. There are also standard discounts available for utilizing a written safety program.

In states without these standard discounts, many use “schedule rating”, which allows an underwriter to apply premium discounts for factors such as safety practices and management experience that are not otherwise reflected in the claims experience. Find out what credits are available in your state and seek to obtain the associated premium discounts.

Analyze Other Premium Discounts

To allow insurance carriers to compete on price when rates are pre-determined, many states allow specific forms of premium discounts based on claims.

Landscapers with larger premiums may be offered dividend plans, which allow funds as high as 50% of the premium to be returned at the expiration of their policies for no employee injuries or good claims results.

Retrospective rating plans allow businesses to receive discounts for lower claims, but claims within a policy period can adjust the premium amounts and result in higher premiums. It is important to ask questions and understand what premium discount options are available to your landscaping business.

Landscaping Links

February 15th, 2010
by Drew Roberts, CPCU, ARM | No Comments »

I have enjoyed the opportunity to provide services to the landscaping industry. Through conferences, writing articles for magazines, communicating in online forums, and other events, I have met many businesses that are in the industry or that also provide services to this great group of businesses. I wanted to provide a page on this website to add links to their websites. I am going to add more pages for businesses located in Florida, but on this page, I simply wanted to list a few websites of businesses that are located outside of Florida. I will continue to update this article with new links, so feel free to check back.

Here are some links to landscaping businesses outside of the state of Florida:

Here are some links to services for the landscaping industry:

If you have a business that fits into these link categories, feel free to contact us with some information about your business and website link. Simply mention in the contact form that you are interested in being included in this section and I will review your site and services and add you to our list. I look forward to running into all of you at upcoming events for the landscaping industry.

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