Sentry Celebrates 100 Years of Workers’ Compensation

August 15, 2014 marks Sentry’s 100-year anniversary of writing workers’ compensation insurance—a critical line of insurance designed to provide wage loss and medical benefits to employees injured on the job. Wisconsin was the first state to develop workers’ compensation insurance in 1911. Today, workers’ compensation insurance is offered nationwide and represents a market of more than $50 billion in annual direct written premium.

On August 15, 1914, Sentry—then known as Wisconsin Hardware Limited Mutual Liability Company—bound coverage on its first workers’ compensation policy. Since that day, we have had tremendous success and growth in the market and today have more than 10,000 workers’ compensation insurance policies in force.

In 1961, Carl Jacobs, former President of Sentry, was asked to speak at a symposium held to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of workers’ compensation insurance. A transcript of that speech provides a history of Sentry’s entry into the market along with some other interesting facts:

  • In order to receive a license to write workers’ compensation insurance, Sentry had to create a new underwriting company and obtain 400 applications—i.e., potential customers. There were only five sales people at that time. Their task was to represent a new and unknown company and sell a coverage that was not well known and was not legally required at the time.
  • There were not enough hardware stores to call upon to generate the 400 applications required, so Sentry branched out, pursuing “store risks of any nature, in fact, most anything except factories and mills,” according to an excerpt from an August 1914 edition of the Stevens Point Journal.
  • On August 13, 1914, the 400 applications were filed and $18,000 was deposited as funds to operate and support the new underwriting company.
  • On August 15, 1914, the license to write workers’ compensation insurance was granted and coverage was bound on the first 400 policies. There were three employees at that time to handle the writing, renewing and auditing of the policies and handle the claims.
  • The first claim occurred on August 22, 1914; a cut hand from an employee of a hardware store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin with wages of $7.00 per week. He saw the doctor and received several stitches at a cost of $4.50.
  • The first claim was handled by P.J. Jacobs, who at that time was secretary of the new insurance company. When the doctor bill was paid, Jacobs provided a typed letter to the doctor. He apparently knew the doctor personally, as he referred to meeting with him and his wife a few weeks prior while in Sheboygan and discussing the launch of the new company at that time. He also asked the doctor to, “remember me to your MUCH better half.”
  • The second claim occurred a few months later and involved a fatality when an employee fell off a roof in Ashland, Wisconsin. That claim nearly bankrupted the new company. The death benefit was $3,600, but there was only $2,811 in surplus. An annuity was purchased to settle the claim at a cost of $2,700, leaving just over $100 in surplus.

Today, Sentry enjoys tremendous success in the workers’ compensation insurance arena:

  • More than 10,000 in-force workers’ compensation insurance policies representing more than $392 million in direct written premium
  • More than 50,000 workers’ compensation claims managed annually involving payments of more than $500 million
  • More than 250 people work within Sentry’s workers’ compensation claims operation
  • Sentry provides workers’ compensation insurance and manages claims for many well-known companies such as adidas, Ameriprise Financial, Chanel, Chobani, Colombia Sportswear, Discovery Channel, Dun & Bradstreet, Gibson Guitar, Guess? Inc., Kimberly Clark, Monster Energy Drinks, SiriusXM Radio, Skechers, Trek Bicycle and U.S. Cellular

Sentry continues to enjoy success due to the efforts and commitment of our associates. We have grown from a startup company providing commercial insurance to a small segment of businesses into a multibillion dollar company providing insurance and industry-leading services nationwide. We have come quite a long way since entering into the workers’ compensation insurance market back in 1914 and look forward to the future and what the next 100 years will hold.

Sentry announces technology initiative extension

Stevens Point area students will remain on the leading edge of technology thanks to continued funding from the Sentry Insurance Foundation.

Jim Weishan, executive vice president and chief investment officer of Sentry Insurance and president of the Sentry Insurance Foundation, announced a three-year, nearly $4 million extension to the group’s original five-year, $6 million technology initiative provided to Stevens Point area schools at a news conference today.

The technology initiative, which began in 2009, equipped Stevens Point area public and private school students with laptop computers and software, funded technical training and support for teachers and provided classroom tools such as smartboards, projectors and wireless networks. The three-year extension will provide additional financial support for the schools to further upgrade technology resources and continue professional development and training for staff.

“The use of technology in the classroom is really the wave of the future,” said Weishan. “It’s not just learning to use the technology, it’s integrating the technology into the classroom—that is, bringing an experience into the classroom that the student wouldn’t be able to have without access to the technology. The Sentry Insurance Foundation is proud to continue to support a technology-rich education that enhances skills necessary to excel in today’s job market through this extension.”
“The entire community benefits from the growing relationship between the Sentry Insurance Foundation and the district,” said Dr. Attila Weninger, superintendent of the Stevens Point Area Public School District. “This latest initiative will provide our students with opportunities to prepare for college and careers utilizing many different skills. The professional development for our employees, especially our teachers, administrators and educational assistants, will advance our students’ knowledge and skills to work in digital learning and career environments.”

“This technology partnership further cements Sentry’s role in central Wisconsin as a key contributor to the community and the future of our students,” noted Todd Kuckkahn, president of Stevens Point Area Catholic Schools. “The foundation’s gift allows our students and teachers to be on the same page with technology and is further enhanced by the goal of training our teachers to make the best use of technology.”

St. Paul Lutheran School has been truly blessed by the continued generosity of the Sentry Insurance Foundation,” added Bill Zuelsdorff, principal of St. Paul Lutheran School. “The original funding enabled us to improve and increase our technology by leaps and bounds. It provided for resources that we have been able to put in the hands of our students and teachers to keep them in stride with twenty-first century learning, and we look forward to the new resources we will be able to bring into our school through this extension.”

Sentry Receives Best Digital Mailroom Award

Sentry Insurance received the Kofax Transform Award for Best Digital Mailroom Solution on March 11Kofax Digital Mailroom Award, 2014 at Kofax’s annual customer and partner conference in San Diego, California. Joe Pfiffner, director of application development, was there to receive the award.

Kofax’s Transform Awards recognize companies for their innovative and successful implementation of Kofax products that have resulted in significant process improvements, lower operating costs and increased customer response times.

Sentry’s Digital Content Management Team began working on a digital mailroom solution for the claims department in 2010. That project then transitioned to a corporate-wide initiative. Eight months ago, an Enterprise Digital Mailroom was created at Sentry’s Dixon Street office, which included processing of Sentry’s remittance. Since that time, Sentry has seen an increase in operating efficiencies through the use of state-of-the-art scanners, data extraction, and automated routing, along with additional benefits in customer service elements and ease of data access.

“Having the ability to convert paper mail into a digital format provides a more streamlined processing system. We’ve seen improvements Sentry's Digital Mailroom Team.in workflows and now have an immediate disaster recovery solution for inbound mail that’s scanned.,” said Jeff Sanner, director of IT – digital interactive.

Congratulations to Sentry’s Digital Content Management Team, Facilities and the Claims and Finance areas who contributed to this success!

SENTRY TO ACQUIRE ANCHOR MANAGING GENERAL AGENCY

STEVENS POINT, Wis. – Sentry Insurance will acquire Anchor Managing General Agency (MGA) based in Montgomery, Ala.

Anchor is a managing general agency serving the states of Alabama and Mississippi by writing standard commercial insurance business through 350 independent insurance agencies.  In purchasing Anchor, Sentry will assume underwriting responsibility for the book going forward.

“Sentry is very pleased to be entering the independent agency general commercial market through Anchor,” said Pete McPartland, Sentry chairman of the board, president and CEO.  “Anchor has served the independent agency community with distinction in their 23 years.  In Sentry they have selected a partner who can best align with their values and commitment to providing a stable market for their agents and policyholders.

Anchor MGA is a third generation managing general agency and has maintained strong relationships with independent agencies in the Southeast.  It offers commercial insurance products designed for main street businesses through independent agents in Alabama and Mississippi.  Products include the following commercial policy types:  package, property, inland marine, general liability, commercial automobile and commercial umbrella.

In joining one of the nation’s largest and financially strongest mutual insurance companies, Anchor will benefit from greater market stability.  Its agents will also be able to write business using Sentry’s A+ rating.

“Needless to say I am very excited about the future for Anchor MGA,” said CEO John W. “Billy” Kitchens.  “My father would be so pleased to know that Sentry’s investment in Anchor will provide our agents with a strong future to build on.”

Anchor’s employees will become Sentry associates, continuing to work from Montgomery, McPartland said.

Sentry Insurance is one of the largest and strongest mutual insurance companies in the United States, holding an A+ (superior) rating from A.M. Best.  The company and its subsidiaries sell property and casualty insurance, life insurance, annuities and retirement programs for business and individuals throughout the country.  Headquartered in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Sentry employs more than 4,000 associates in 41 states.  A complete list of underwriting companies can be found at www.sentry.com.

Employee Safety on Your Premises

It’s been reported that slip and fall injuries are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims. They are also the primary cause for lost days of work. The takeaway from these statistics is the need for businesses to make their workplaces safer for employees.

Causes to note

Slip-and-fall injuries on your premises can result from a variety of factors:

  •          Insufficient light.
  •          Improper use of ladders.
  •          Loose handrails.
  •          Loose or irregular surfaces and walkways, such as rocks.
  •          Obstructions (such as wiring).
  •          Open flooring (such as uncovered or unguarded pits).
  •          Wet, slippery, or oily floors or stairs.

Prevention

You can minimize or avoid slip-and-fall injuries to employees by taking certain actions: 

Identify problems or hazards so you can fix them. Of course, it isn’t always easy to notice potential problems or to fix them simply or without substantial cost, but you can certainly make a start.

  •          Tour your premises. Look around to find obvious problems, such as unlit stairs, loose railings, or torn carpeting. A fix to a potential hazard may be as easy as removing clutter, installing non-slip treads to stair edges, and adding more light. Make sure electrical cords do not cross walkways.
  •          Ask employees for input. What do they think can be done to make them safer? Encourage them to report any situations they think are hazardous.

Use caution tape or signs to denote any hazards until you can correct them.

Make it your practice to repeat your examinations and corrections on a regular basis (say quarterly). While you may have fixed one hazard, another may occur later on.

Review employee practices. For example, it’s up to the company to require that employees wear proper footwear. For example, injuries in restaurants can be cut dramatically by requiring staff to wear rubber-soled shoes. Keeping shoe laces tied is a simple fix.

Also make sure that employees are trained in ladder usage (e.g., using proper fall protection when working above four feet for most industries). Failing to require two employees to handle a job requiring a ladder (one to climb and one to secure the ladder) can result in injury that might otherwise have been avoided.

Institute procedures to maintain safe floors. For example, be sure that wet floors are promptly mopped and that spills are immediately removed. Signs to alert people to wet floors should be displayed immediately and not removed until cleanup can be made. Procedures for maintaining safe floors should be included in employee manuals. Instruct your staff to pick up objects that have fallen, such as paperclips. Employees should be trained on proper safety procedures.

Help with correcting problems

You may not notice or understand potential problems and may need help is identifying them. Here are some resources to help:

  •          Check with your trade association. Usually they have material available to help with this issue.
  •         Work with OSHA. Read this fact sheet. Also consider participating in OSHA’s ADD.
  •         Work with your Sentry representative.

Conclusion

The old adage of an ounce of prevention is apt for slip-and-fall injuries. By making changes to your premises and your staff’s actions, many of which are minor, you can keep your workforce safe as well as reduce your injury-related costs. Talk with a Sentry representative to learn more.

 

Article provided by Sentry Insurance, courtesy of Barbara Weltman, publisher of Big Ideas for Small Business, a monthly newsletter. Barbara has been a tax and business attorney since 1977 and, through the years, has developed a reputation as an insightful source of knowledge for small businesses.

For more information, visit: http://www.barbaraweltman.com.

Easy Energy Fixes for Big Savings

With the cost of energy rising, what can you do now to lower your energy bills? Some quick yet inexpensive fixes can pay off handsomely.

Lighting
Lighting your premises may account for 20% to 50% (http://www.sba.gov/content/lighting) of your monthly electric bill. There are many steps you can take that will provide significant savings.

• Install energy-efficient fluorescent overhead lighting; replace old fluorescent bulbs with new, more energy-efficient bulbs.
• Install compact fluorescent bulbs in task lights and high-performance T8 lamps and ballasts and/or pulse-start metal halide systems in larger applications. A compact fluorescent light uses 75% less electricity to produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb.
• Install lighting control systems, including daylighting controls, occupancy sensors, and timers, to turn lights down or off when they are not needed.
• Convert exit lights to LEDs (light-emitting diodes); these use only two to three watts and can last up to 20 years.
• Clean bulbs, fixtures, and lenses to increase lighting output.

Check with your local utility company about programs it may offer to help you with lighting questions. For example, in the New York City area, ConEdison has a Small Business Direct Installation Program (www.coned.com/energyefficiency/businessdirect.asp) for customers with an average peak monthly electric demand under 100kW. ConEd-approved vendors will conduct a free energy survey of your facility to show you how you can spend less on lighting. They will also install compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) (there’s no cost for the installation).

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Basics (www.eere.energy.gov/basics/) can also help you make smart decisions about lighting and other items.

Vehicle maintenance
Your business may use a car, truck, van, or multiple vehicles, and gasoline can be a significant cost for your business. The better your vehicle is maintained, the less gas you’ll use. Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to improve your gas mileage:

• Keep tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% when the pressure in all four tires drops by just 1 pound per square inch (psi).
• Get regular tune-ups. You’ll save an average of 4% on gas usage over the cost of vehicles that are out of tune or have failed emissions tests. (See even greater savings through tune-ups when a car has are more serious problems or by fixing small issues before they become costly repairs).
• Change the oil regularly. Use the oil recommended by the manufacturer to improve gas mileage by 1-2%.
• Replace clogged air filters for vehicles with carbureted engines (for fuel-injected vehicles, this won’t improve mileage but will help with acceleration).

Find more tips from the U.S. Department of Energy (www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/maintain.shtml).

Article provided by Sentry Insurance, courtesy of Barbara Weltman, publisher of Big Ideas for Small Business, a monthly newsletter. Barbara has been a tax and business attorney since 1977 and, through the years, has developed a reputation as an insightful source of knowledge for small businesses.
For more information, visit: http://www.barbaraweltman.com.

Roadcheck: Buckle Up!

Check out this helpful brochure on safety, courtesy of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

602462 06/05/13

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