Mike Raner of the Northwest Iowa Planning & Development Shield Program told the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday now safety pays.
Raner has been the county's safety coordinator through the Shield Program for the past two years. During that time, he's had a chance to see trends in the county's experience modification factor, also known as the mod factor, which is how past losses impact Worker's Compensation premiums.
Raner said he would like to see a mod factor of 1.00 or lower. Mod factors of .75 or lower result in a 25 percent premium reduction, he said. Realistically, Raner said the best that a county government the size of Emmet could hope for would be a factor of .77. Raner said Emmet County's mod factor is currently 1.03.
Occupation and the frequency and severity of injuries play a larger role in affecting the mod factor, Raner said. And accident injuries of $5,000 or more with three or more lost work days also count toward increasing the mod factor. For a time, loss factors were capped at $5,000. However, larger amounts weigh more heavily, he said.
Raner said the county needs to develop a culture so employees look at safety first.
"That's a broad spectrum," Raner said.
To illustrate just how bad things can get for a county Emmet County's size, Raner said that in one county a courthouse employee going upstairs slipped and fell, resulting in $300,000 in injuries.
"There are things we can do to send this back in the right direction," Raner said, adding that the county carries any work-related injuries for three years and that anything that occurs this year won't affect the county's mod factor until next year.
Raner said days without lost-time injuries are important. "At some point we need to make that a big deal," he said. "Right now, 2013, we've got a great year going," Raner said, with $643 in four claims total.
That compares with $85,946 for 2009.
"That's a bad year," Raner said.
Raner said a claim is defined as anything with medical expense attached, with a large claim defined as anything three days or more.
He said the county needs to have all injury incidents reported if something should result from an injury in the future. That can also help determine if there's a problem somewhere and how the county can prevent similar future injuries.
Raner said he wants to look at each county department, noting there are claims in all departments.
"Secondary roads and conservation are the two biggest," Raner said, adding that those departments and law enforcement are traditionally where counties see the most claims. Falls, slips and overexertion are areas Raner said he likes to "jump on". Bruises and fractures are probably the two main types of injuries Worker's Comp sees, with shoulder injuries particularly debilitating over the long-term. In Emmet County, Friday is the day with the largest number of injuries - something Raner said fits with Mondays and Fridays traditionally being the worst days for injuries. December and January are the worst months, particularly for secondary roads, he said.
"We need to develop a new culture as far as safety," Raner said.
He asked the board to adopt a formal accident investigation report that would be completed by both employees and supervisors.
"Maybe we need to start tracking each and every accident," Raner said, adding that he would like to see that done in more depth.
Raner said the county should also look at having a designated medical facility with an occupational-medical nurse.
Another risk factor Raner noted was distractions such as cell phones, something he said the Highway Patrol calls an epidemic.
"We need to step back and look at due diligence with driving that vehicle," Raner said. "It's relooking, rethinking how important it is."