Experience Modification Rate: Understanding EMR Rating and Workplace Safety

experience modification rate and workplace safety

The Experience Modification Rate (EMR) is a crucial metric in terms of workplace safety and insurance. It serves as a reflection of a company's safety record compared to others in the same industry. By understanding and effectively managing EMR, businesses can significantly influence their insurance premiums and emphasize their commitment to maintaining a safe work environment. This article explores the role of experience modification rate and its relationship with worker and workplace safety.


What is Experience Modification Rate?

To start, let’s define what experience modification rate is. Also referred to as EMR, the experience modification rate is a value primarily used by insurance companies to gauge both past costs of injuries and future chances of risk. Particularly important for construction companies, this rate is crucial for businesses because it directly affects their workers' compensation insurance premiums.

The primary purpose of the EMR is to provide a financial incentive for companies to minimize workplace injuries. It does this by adjusting the cost of workers' compensation coverage based on past claims experience. Essentially, the EMR compares the claims history of one company to the average for all companies in the same industry with similar levels of payroll.

Importance of EMR rating

The EMR rating is not only a financial metric but also a critical indicator of a company's safety culture and performance. Here’s how an EMR significantly impacts worker safety and overall workplace safety:

Safety Performance Benchmarking

EMR serves as a benchmark for comparing the safety performance of a company against others in the same industry. A lower EMR suggests that a company has fewer accidents and injuries compared to its peers, which often correlates with more effective safety practices and protocols. This benchmarking can motivate businesses to adopt best practices for safety and continuously improve their risk management strategies.

Incentive for Improvement

Since the EMR affects insurance premiums, there is a direct financial incentive for companies to improve their safety measures. Lower EMR ratings result in lower insurance costs, providing a tangible reward for businesses that invest in safety and health improvements. This financial impact encourages companies to maintain rigorous safety programs, conduct regular training sessions, and update their equipment and processes to ensure a safer working environment. Companies also with lower ratings typically get more business as the rating is a reflection of minimal losses, accidents, and serious injuries.

Impact on Company Reputation

Companies with excellent EMR ratings often are viewed as safer and more reliable partners or contractors. This reputation can be crucial for securing new contracts, particularly in industries where safety is paramount, such as construction and manufacturing. A strong safety record indicated by a low EMR can differentiate a company from its competitors, making it more attractive to potential clients who prioritize workplace safety in their operations.

Employee Morale and Retention

A lower EMR rating can also positively affect employee morale and retention. Workers are more likely to feel safe and valued in an environment where accidents are rare and their health is evidently a priority. This can lead to higher employee satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and a more committed workforce. Moreover, prospective employees often consider safety records as a factor when choosing their employers, so a favorable EMR can help attract top talent.

Regulatory Compliance and Penalties

Maintaining a low EMR is often indicative of compliance with industry safety regulations and standards. High EMR ratings might trigger closer scrutiny from regulatory bodies, potentially leading to inspections, penalties, and increased regulatory pressures. Conversely, a low EMR demonstrates a company’s commitment to not only meeting but exceeding regulatory requirements, thereby avoiding penalties and enhancing their legal standing.


Experience Modification Rate Factors

The EMR score or experience modification rating is calculated considering a number of factors indicating the company’s financial performance and safety records. Here’s an overview of the different factors involved in the EMR calculation:

  • Payroll Size - The total payroll size of a company plays a foundational role in the EMR calculation. Insurance carriers and underwriters use payroll size as a measure of the overall risk exposure, with larger payrolls often indicating more significant risk due to the higher number of employees.
  • Claim History - This includes the frequency and severity of workers’ compensation claims filed by the company. A higher number of claims or more severe incidents result in a higher EMR. Conversely, fewer and less severe claims lead to a lower EMR. If an employer does have an injury, it's important to work with the employee to get back to Max. Medical Improvement (MMI) to reduce costs, therefore reducing the effect on EMR
  • Industry Classification - Each business is classified according to its industry and the typical risks associated with that sector. Companies are compared against others in the same classification to determine if they are performing better or worse than the industry average. The industry or job classification rate is crucial as it sets the benchmark for expected performance in terms of safety.
  • Expected Losses - This factor is based on the aggregate loss data for similar companies within the same industry and is used to predict potential losses that a company might experience. It provides a normative measure against which a company’s actual losses are compared.
  • Actual Losses - The real amount of losses that a company incurs due to workplace accidents and illnesses. This includes both medical payments and compensations related to workers’ compensation claims. Actual losses are compared to expected losses to assess a company's safety performance.
  • Loss Frequency and Loss Severity - These are two critical sub-factors in the EMR calculation. Loss frequency relates to how often losses occur, while loss severity concerns the financial impact of each loss. A high frequency of minor incidents may be less concerning than a lower frequency of major incidents, depending on their cost.
  • Discounts and Surcharges - Depending on the jurisdiction and the specific insurance provider, various discounts or surcharges may apply based on a company’s safety initiatives, such as formal safety training programs or investments in safety technology.


How to Calculate Experience Modification Rate?

Calculating the Experience Modification Rate (EMR) is a complex process that involves several key components and calculations. Understanding this process can help businesses better manage their risk and potentially lower their EMR.

EMR Calculation

emr score formula

The basic formula for calculating the EMR involves comparing the actual losses a company incurs to the expected losses for similar companies in the same industry. This formula can be expressed as:

EMR = Actual Losses / Expected Losses

Where the Actual Losses include both medical and indemnity (compensation) claims costs that a company has experienced during a specific period, typically three years. The Expected Losses are statistically determined by comparing data from similar companies in the same industry and are intended to predict what a company’s losses should have been, given its size and industry. This formula is often adjusted to remove the influence of high-severity, low-frequency accidents to focus on the frequency and preventability of losses.

Here are the step-by-step details involved in the EMR calculation:

Step 1: Classifying the Business

Each business is classified according to its primary operations. These classifications are typically based on industry-wide data that categorizes businesses according to the types of jobs and associated risks. For example, construction work has different risk factors and expected loss rates than office work.

Step 2: Gathering and Segmenting Payroll Data

Payroll data is segmented according to the classification codes. This segmentation is necessary because different job classifications within the same company can have vastly different risk levels. The payroll amount is crucial as it represents the volume of exposure to risk.

Step 3: Analyzing Claims History

The next step is a thorough analysis of the company’s claims history. This includes:

  • Frequency of Claims: The number of claims filed during the assessment period, typically three years. Frequent small claims can be more indicative of risk mitigation and management issues than a single large claim.
  • Severity of Claims: The total cost of these claims, which includes medical expenses, legal fees, and compensatory payments. High-severity claims significantly affect the EMR.

Step 4: Calculating Expected Losses

Expected losses are calculated using historical data for similar businesses within the same industry. This involves complex actuarial tables that predict typical loss figures based on the company’s classification and payroll data.

Step 5: Actual versus Expected Loss Comparison

The core of the EMR calculation is comparing the company’s actual excess loss and expected excess loss. However, adjustments may be applied on a case-to-case basis. For example, adjustments based on the credibility factor take into account the impact of actual losses based on the size of the company. Larger companies with more substantial payroll figures have more stable and predictable loss data, hence a higher credibility factor. In other circumstances, if a company has no losses, a minimum EMR is still assigned, reflecting the inherent risk in the industry.

Step 6: Ballast Values

In some cases, ballast values are added to both actual and expected losses to stabilize the EMR calculation against fluctuations due to extremely low or high losses in a single year.

Step 7: Experience Rating Adjustment (ERA)

For certain claims, if a company has made substantial payments towards medical costs but kept the worker on payroll, this can be factored into the calculation, reducing the claim’s impact on the EMR.

Step 8: Final EMR Calculation

All these elements are compiled to produce the final EMR figure. This rate is typically recalculated annually, allowing companies to benefit from improvements in their safety practices over time.


Industry-Specific Considerations in Calculating EMR Rate

The EMR calculation is not a one-size-fits-all process; it significantly varies across industries due to the diverse nature of operational hazards and work environments. Each industry carries its own set of risks and standard safety challenges, which are factored into the EMR calculations.

  • Industry Classification Codes - Each business is assigned a specific classification code that reflects the primary nature of its operations. These codes are essential in the EMR calculation because they are used to establish a baseline for expected losses.
  • Baseline Loss Rates - For each classification code, there is a corresponding baseline loss rate, which is calculated based on historical data collected from all companies within that classification. High-risk industries typically have higher baseline loss rates, reflecting the greater likelihood of workplace injuries and accidents.
  • Variability in Risk Exposure - The nature of work significantly affects the risk exposure. Industries that require heavy machinery, toxic chemicals, or high-altitude work will inherently have different risk factors compared to those that operate mainly in office settings.
  • Regulatory Impact - Different industries are subject to varying levels of regulatory oversight, particularly concerning occupational safety. Industries like nuclear energy, chemical manufacturing, and healthcare have stringent regulatory requirements, which can influence both risk management practices and EMR calculation.
  • Economic and Seasonal Factors - Economic conditions and seasonal variations can also play a role in industry-specific EMR calculations.
  • Technological Advancements - Technological improvements within specific industries can lead to significant shifts in EMR calculations. As industries adopt safer, more efficient technologies, the baseline for expected losses may decrease.

    EMR Score Explained - What is a Good Experience Modification Rate?

    A good EMR varies by industry, but generally, a rate below 1.0 is considered good because it indicates that a company's loss experience is better than average. An EMR of 1.0 is average, and anything above 1.0 suggests that a company's losses are worse than average. Companies strive to keep their EMR below 1.0 to benefit from lower insurance premiums and to signal their commitment to safety.

    In relation to this, the EMR score can also be used as an indicator of how safe certain companies are operating in terms of serious injuries. When looking for a contractor, subcontractor, or vendor, a higher-than-average EMR rating can indicate that their practices may not be up to standards. In such instances, it is suggested to request OSHA logs and recordable rates to gain a deeper understanding of their safety practices and operations

    Experience Modification Worksheet

    An experience modification worksheet is a detailed document provided by insurance companies or rating bureaus that breaks down the elements used in calculating a company’s EMR. It includes data such as past claims, payroll amounts by classification code, and the expected loss rates. These worksheets are essential for employers to understand how their EMR is calculated and identify areas where they might improve safety and reduce claim frequency or severity.

    Employers should review the worksheet thoroughly to ensure all payroll and claims data are accurately reported. Any errors in this data can adversely affect the EMR. By analyzing the data over multiple years, companies can also identify trends in claims and address prevalent safety issues.

    Understanding the cost and frequency of claims can help employers manage and mitigate these incidents more effectively, potentially leading to a lower EMR. Furthermore, the worksheet can be used for financial planning and budgeting, as the EMR directly affects workers’ compensation insurance premiums.


    EMR Safety Tips and Strategies

    emr safety tips and strategies

    Maintaining a low Experience Modification Rate (EMR) not only reflects a company's commitment to safety but also significantly impacts its financial health due to insurance premiums. Here are effective strategies and tips for enhancing workplace safety and, consequently, improving your EMR:

    Engineering Controls, Elimination & Mitigation

    Companies should first consider eliminating hazards. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, such as lowering an object to the ground, rather than working off a ladder, mitigation controls should be put in place. Using guardrails, fall protection, and the like can help prevent and mitigate risks and ensure worker safety. Ideally, elimination and engineering controls should be considered the first option. Only then should companies move to PPE as a last resort.

    Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    Ensuring that all employees have access to and consistently use the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) for their specific tasks is crucial. PPE such as helmets, hard hats, gloves, eye protection, and safety footwear can dramatically reduce the incidence of workplace injuries. Regular audits and training on the proper use of PPE also ensure that these protective measures are as effective as possible. To ensure PPE is properly selected for the hazards, companies should hire or consult with a safety or health professional to conduct a certified PPE Assessment. This will help assess hazards and identify proper PPE for each hazard associated with the tasks and exposures.

    Provision of the Right Tools and Equipment

    Providing the right tools and equipment not only increases efficiency but also enhances safety. Ensure that all machinery and tools are well-maintained and suitable for the tasks they are used for. Regular maintenance checks can prevent accidents caused by equipment failures, which can influence your EMR negatively if injuries occur. Implementing safety measures such as the use of lockout tagout devices for energy control can minimize risks and prevent accidents during maintenance.

    Regardless, it is important to ensure employees are properly trained and have the right aptitude for working and interacting with tools and equipment. If employees are found using tools unsafely, these behaviors should be discussed and corrected prior to injury.

    Establishing a Rigid Safety Program

    Develop and enforce a comprehensive safety program tailored to the specific risks of your workplace. This program should include clear policies and procedures for all safety and health issues, emergency response plans, and regular safety audits. A robust safety program not only prevents accidents but also fosters a proactive approach to risk management.

    Workplace Signage

    Effective use of signage can significantly enhance safety by providing continuous, visible reminders of potential hazards and the necessary safety precautions. Ensure workplace signs are clear, visible, and placed at strategic points around the workplace. This includes warning signs, information on how to use equipment correctly, and directions for emergency exits.

    Employee Training and Awareness

    Regular training programs are essential to ensure that all employees are aware of potential hazards and the correct safety procedures. Training should be comprehensive, covering all aspects of workplace safety, including the proper use of machinery, emergency procedures, and health and safety regulations. Refresher courses and new employee orientations are crucial for maintaining a high level of safety awareness throughout the organization.

    Encouraging Safe Behavior and Safety Culture

    Foster a safety culture where safe behaviors are recognized and rewarded. Encourage employees to take an active role in maintaining a safe workplace by reporting unsafe conditions, suggesting improvements, and participating in safety meetings. Recognition programs for safe behavior can motivate employees to adhere to safety practices consistently.


    As a safety expert with years of experience, I have witnessed companies with poor EMRs miss out on major job opportunities due to fatalities, worker compensation premiums, and serious disabling injuries. This emphasizes the critical role of safety measures designed to address common occupational hazards and risks not only to ensure safety but to improve their EMR score, along with their reputation.

    To do so, incidents that cause injuries to employers, vendors, and employees must be investigated, analyzed, and prevented from recurring if companies wish to improve or reduce their losses. Enhancing workplace safety through preventive protocols, proactive measures, and a strong safety culture is key to minimizing accidents that directly influence a company’s EMR score.



    Is EMR a leading indicator?

    No. EMR is a lagging indicator. Actuaries working for insurance brokers or companies take the prior 3 years actual vs. expected losses. For instance if the company’s Actual Losses are 1.5M and your expected losses were 1M, the basic calculation would be 1.5 / 1.0 = 1.5. They are paying 50% more premium than the average company in your industry.

    What is the highest experience modification rate possible?

    There is no absolute maximum for an EMR, as it can exceed 2.0 or more, depending on the severity and frequency of claims. However, any number significantly higher than 1.0 indicates a worse-than-average safety record.

    How to find EMR rating?

    You can find your company’s EMR rating by requesting the Experience Modification Worksheet from your workers' compensation insurance provider or the relevant state rating bureau, such as the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).

    How many years are typically included in an experience mod calculation?

    Typically, an experience mod calculation includes data from the three years prior to the last completed year. For example, for a calculation done in 2024, it would include data from 2020, 2021, and 2022.

    How do I lower my experience mod?

    To lower your experience mod, focus on reducing workplace injuries through robust safety programs, consistent employee training, proper use of equipment, and adherence to safety regulations. Regularly review and adjust your safety measures to ensure they are effective, and actively manage and mitigate risks.

    The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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    Author: Steven Stogner

    Steven Stogner is a seasoned safety professional with 14 years in sectors like heavy industrial construction and petrochemical. He is a Certified Safety Professional, skilled in incident analysis and root cause methodologies. Holding a BS in Industrial Technology from Southeastern Louisiana University, he is a recognized contributor to safety publications. At TRADESAFE, Steven enhances product development and supports the creation of key safety resources, strengthening the brand’s commitment to workplace safety.