Hiring a Tree Service – Workers Comp
How can you know if the Tree Service you are hiring is legit? Here in Washington State it is relatively easy to find out about a company through the state’s Labor and Industries website.
At the state’s website you can follow the links through the lookup a contractor section of their site. Below is a series of screenshots to help you navigate a very large site:
The very first link at the following page will take you to the “Look Up Contractors or Tradespeople” page
Here you can enter the information you have to look up any contractor in Washington State. (A quick tip here – Use the Contractor’s License Number as the best way to search. Many companies, like mine, use a DBA or Registered Trade name which does not always show up through this search. Remember, you are using a government website here folks.) For our company, Tree Resource, (Official corporate name is TreeSource, Inc.) you would use the number TREESI*910JB
Here you will find detailed information about the company, including license status, what type of bond they carry, who their insurance provider is and how much insurance they carry. Do a little digging and you will also see if they have any issues with litigation or open claims against them. You can also follow various links to other state agency websites to verify corporate officers and licensing types. Here are the screenshots for Tree Resource:
I would recommend highly for research into the status of their Worker’s Comp Premium Status. The link is located at the top and left of the page and brings you to the following page:
Notice that you will see how many employees are being reported and whether or not their premiums are being paid. There is also contact information for the company representative at L&I. Look towards the bottom of the page and you will find links for Risk Classification and Experience Factor histories. Check them out, too:
Experience Factor History indicates how safe (or unsafe) a company has been in statistical comparison to the rest of the industry. A 1.0 is the industry average. Higher numbers would tell you that there has been some history of injuries resulting in L&I payouts to workers. If you see some higher numbers here make sure to ask the company what happened? In our own little company we have had a few incidents and you’ll see that our Experience Factor has gone up and down to reflect those occurrences. Right now we are being charged a lower rate than the industry average based on having fewer claims and less disastrous incidents than the the rest of the Tree Service sector.
After checking out the Experience Factor it is a good idea to see what the Risk Classification looks like:
Here you can see that we pay premiums for three different jobs, Tree Care and Pruning at the rate of $3.37 per hour per employee, Clerical (office positions) at the rate of $.15 per hour, and Construction Estimators, the category we use for our consulting personnel at a rate of $.23 per hour worked. The prices we pay here are based off of the Experience Factor; an accident at any part of the company drives up costs for all positions. (We like it when they go down – a very good reason to stay safe.)
Lets look at some examples of some of our competitors. First is a company that advertises for Tree Care although they are actually a Logging/Site Construction outfit. Here are screenshots for their Experience Factor and Risk Classifications:
I use them as an example primarily because a customer recently compared them to us on an online review site. The reviewer, who hired them based on their quote that was less than half of ours wrote “A crew of 7 persons showed up in 3 trucks. They performed the work promptly, quickly (and in a safe manner)…” You’ll notice that this company has an Experience Factor more than double the indusry average and must pay out over $7 foe each man hour worked. It really makes me wonder (as it should a potential customer) how a company that pays more than double the average insurance rates can be low-balling all of their estimates. My personal opinion about safety and how it affects a tree job is that if a company doesn’t care enough to keep their employees safe how can you expect that they will care about the trees in your yard or whether or not they break something while working at your property?
Next let’s look at a company that recently went out of business. Here is a screenshot of their Risk Classification page:
I want you to notice that classification “Lawn Care Maintenance”. Some companies, including a few prominent ones in the area, use this classification as a way to avoid paying the much higher rates for tree workers. They argue that they only use the Tree Care classification for their employees that are actually climbing and working at height and then only for the portion of their day that they are aloft. Once again, you can use the links on the L&I site to check out these things, too. If you click on the description for Lawn Care and the one for Tree Care you will be taken to the portion of the website that has the legal descriptions for each type of job. Notice the screenshots below:
I find it very interesting that the classification for Lawn Care actually contains a warning not to apply this to tree service operations.
What does all of this mean? With a few minutes of time a consumer in the State of Washington can find out not only if a company is appropriately licensed, but also if they are safe and whether or not they are skirting the law in some way or another. As always, we encourage all of our clients and customers to check on these things. And we are always ready to answer any questions you might have about our business and how we operate.