What is a “Preliminary Physical Audit”?

Preliminary Physical Audit

At the beginning of your policy year, an on-site audit may be performed to review operations, classifications, and exposures. The auditor will review a representative base period in order to project exposures for the full policy term.

We are starting to see an uptick in preliminary physical workers compensation policyholder audits. Rather than waiting until the policy year-end audit to address any potential classification or payroll issues, carriers are looking for corrections at the beginning of the policy year.

Why are they doing this?

There are two main reasons. The first is to make sure that the insured is using proper classifications and the second is to make sure that appropriate payroll amounts are being attributed to the correct classifications. Both of these reasons collectively, decrease the amount of uncollected premiums as a result of improper classifications or underreporting of payroll.

Most “voluntary” workers compensation carriers do not perform preliminary audits, although they are permissible according to the policy terms & conditions. We are seeing most of them carried out by the servicing carriers of the various state “Assigned Risk” workers compensation programs. These servicing carriers are also known as the residual market, for those companies who for one reason or another have trouble getting voluntary coverage. (Hazardous industries, having higher than usual loss history or having poor safety and loss control programs are some examples of companies that use the residual markets.)

Most payroll and employee hour tracking reports are automated and readily available through payroll processing companies. These reports help to ensure that companies eventfully pay the correct amount of workers compensation premium. However, it is not unheard of for underreporting to take place during the year. Some insurance carriers are trying to collect the proper premiums at the beginning of the policy year instead of waiting until the final audit.

Employee classifications can have a drastic impact on workers compensation premium as the rates are significantly different from class to class. For instance, the Massachusetts “Clerical” (code 8810) rate per $100 of payroll is $.09, whereas the rate for “Iron or Steel Erection” (code 5040) is $54.08 and there are hundreds of classifications with rates in between. Purposeful misclassification is a criminal act. However, there are many ways to interpret what an employee does as his “governing” classification. It is natural for the policyholder to want a lower rated class and for the carrier to want a higher rated class.

If you have any questions as to what the proper payroll run rate should be or how to properly classify your employees please reach out to us and we would be happy to assist you. It is important to keep in mind that you can and in certain instances should have your broker at any audit, not just a workers compensation preliminary audit. We are always available to assist you.

At Cleary, we will evaluate your business exposures and work with you to develop a comprehensive plan to safeguard your business. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700.