Does Workers’ Comp Insurance Cover Plumbers? A Closer Look

Posted On: March 6, 2024

In Orange County and across California, every licensed contractor, including those in plumbing, must carry workers’ comp insurance. This requirement extends beyond businesses with employees; a new law initiated in 2023 stipulates that all licensed contractors, even those without employees, must obtain workers’ compensation coverage by 2026. 

You may question whether your plumbing business needs workers’ comp insurance in California. What if you’re a small business? What if you hire people but only part-time? Are the people who work for you employees? What happens if you take a gamble and don’t get the insurance? If someone gets hurt, won’t their health insurance just pay for it? 

As a business grows from a sole proprietorship to a larger organization, these are the types of questions that may arise. However, neglecting to carry workers’ comp insurance in California is more risky and costly than most small-business owners realize — especially for those in the plumbing profession

Insights Into Workers’ Compensation in California

Workers’ compensation for plumbers offers a range of benefits to support employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. For approved claims, these benefits generally include:

  • Medical costs: Workers’ compensation covers short-term and long-term medical expenses for injuries sustained on the job. It includes immediate care, ongoing treatment, and any specialized medical needs related to the injury.
  • Lost wages: If an injury prevents a plumber from working, workers’ compensation provides a portion of their lost income. 
  • Death benefits: In the unfortunate event of a fatal workplace accident, workers’ compensation may cover burial expenses and provide financial support to the deceased employee’s surviving spouse and dependent children.
  • Vocational rehabilitation: If an employee’s injury prevents them from returning to plumbing work, workers’ compensation may cover vocational rehabilitation to help them retrain for a new occupation.
  • Mileage reimbursement: Employees traveling to doctor appointments or medical facilities for treatment related to their work injury may be reimbursed for their travel expenses.

Under California workers’ comp laws, employers are responsible for all these costs when an employee sustains a work-related injury or illness. If an employee has health insurance, the liability still lies with the employer — meaning that even if the individual’s health insurance pays initially, the insurance company will seek reimbursement from the responsible party through subrogation. 

Navigating California’s legal requirements and bearing the financial burden associated with workplace injuries can be significantly costlier compared to the premiums for a comprehensive workers’ compensation policy. Such a policy not only alleviates the financial strain but also ensures coverage for all related expenses, making it a prudent investment for businesses.

My Plumbing Business Doesn’t Have Employees — Do I Still Need Workers’ Comp? 

The state of California is keen on the fact that some companies attempt to bypass the workers’ comp requirement by organizing the business with 1099 contractors versus employees. Regardless of how the company is structured, workers’ comp looks at the actual nature of employment to determine liability. 

Misclassification of employees is common and can lead to legal challenges and financial penalties for businesses. For example, even if a plumber signs an agreement stating they are an independent contractor, the state workers’ compensation board or a court might consider them an employee based on the actual nature of their work relationship, meaning the “employer” is on the hook for all the costs associated with a work injury. 

Types of Risks Plumbers Face That Subject Them to Covered Injuries

In terms of workers’ comp, “workplace injuries” don’t only include “accidents” but also health conditions that arise due to exposure over time. Plumbers face various risks on the job that can lead to both immediate accidents and injuries as well as health issues from prolonged exposure. These hazards span a range of physical, chemical, and environmental factors.

Accidental Risks

  • Cuts and lacerations: These can occur from handling sharp tools and materials.
  • Electrical shocks: Risks arise when working near electrical lines or using power tools, possibly leading to severe injuries or fatalities.
  • Burns: Exposure to hot water, steam, or flammable materials can cause severe burns.
  • Falls: Working in elevated areas without proper safety measures can lead to falls from heights, causing significant injuries.
  • Slips and trips: Wet surfaces, cluttered work areas, or uneven terrain can lead to slips and trips, potentially causing bruises, fractures, or more severe harm.

Long-Term Exposure Risks

  • Hearing loss: Continuous exposure to loud noise from machinery and tools without proper ear protection can lead to gradual hearing impairment.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: Repetitive motion injuries, strains from lifting heavy equipment, and other ergonomic hazards can develop over time, affecting the back, knees, hands, and other body parts.
  • Respiratory diseases: Long-term exposure to harmful substances like mold, asbestos, and sewage gasses can lead to respiratory issues, including chronic conditions.
  • Skin conditions: Regular contact with harsh chemicals and other irritants can cause dermatitis and other skin problems.
  • Infections: Plumbers are at risk of infections due to exposure to biohazards and raw sewage, potentially leading to serious illnesses.

Safeguard Your Plumbing Business With Workers’ Comp Insurance

Navigating workers’ compensation requirements and ensuring adequate coverage can be complex, particularly in the specialized field of plumbing. With the legal landscape constantly evolving and the fine line distinguishing employees from independent contractors, plumbing businesses must stay informed and compliant to protect themselves legally and financially. 

Specialized insurance professionals like Western Republic serve as specialists in your corner, providing up-to-date information on regulations, assisting in accurately classifying workers, and checking that your coverage meets state requirements. We can show you how to implement programs that reduce your premium costs and cover liability gaps and vulnerabilities while ensuring you’re not overpaying for insurance.

About Western Republic
Locally owned and operated since 2009, Gabe Stubin of Western Republic Insurance Services has delivered quality insurance solutions to individuals in Huntington Beach, California, for over 17 years. Specializing in Commercial Business insurance coverage, our team of knowledgeable insurance professionals is committed to helping you find a policy that fits your needs. We focus on providing individualized attention and quality customer service to create an experience that’s difficult to find in today’s market. At Western Republic Insurance Services, we’ll work with you to ensure that you and those you care about most are protected.

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