Health and Safety Resource

​October-November 2017

Workers’ compensation premiums show one measure of Oregon’s success

Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA Administrator

The least expensive claim is the one that is never filed because the injury or illness never occurs."

Oregon OSHA Administrator

Last month, the Department of Consumer and Business Services, of which Oregon OSHA is a part, announced that the average pure premium rate for Oregon workers’ compensation would see yet another meaningful reduction in January 2018. The 14 percent decrease in the average rate represents the fifth consecutive drop – and a total 33 percent decrease since 2013. Oregon will see its average rates drop to the seventh lowest in the country, in spite of having better than average benefits.

But those numbers, as encouraging as they are, do not tell the complete story. Since the workers’ compensation reforms of the late 1980s – reforms that also focused on injury prevention and that included the creation of Oregon OSHA in its current form – the average premiums have dropped year after year. For two decades, Oregon’s rates decreased steadily – with only four years in which they saw no change. Finally, in 2012 and 2013, the average pure premium rate rose slightly (by 1.9 percent and 1.7 percent). But even those modest increases were almost immediately overcome with a 7.6 percent decline in 2014.

Those who keep an eye on national trends know that Oregon has for years been bucking those trends when it comes to workers’ compensation costs. Part of that success is the result of effective return-to-work efforts, as well as success in keeping medical costs under control. But a continuing part of Oregon’s success is the result of our early recognition of a simple principle: The least expensive claim is the one that is never filed because the injury or illness never occurs. Primary prevention works. And that’s the goal that workplace health and safety professionals, workers, and employers throughout Oregon have pursued.

Oregon has taken a comprehensive approach to workplace health and safety for years. And we have relied upon effective partnerships between employers, their workers, the insurance carriers, and government to make safer workplaces a reality.

That comprehensive approach has paid off. It continues to pay dividends in decreasing the cost of doing business in the state. And it pays even more important dividends every time an Oregon worker finishes the day – or completes a working career – whole and healthy and able to enjoy all that life has to offer.

That’s a job well done. And it’s a job worth celebrating!