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2012-04-05

Commishes advise, 'Safety first' for county workers

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County will shortly embark on a rejuvenated safety program designed to cut the number of work-related accidents among employees, which lead to increased workmen's compensation claims.

On Thursday, March 22, Larry M. Boccaccio, a risk control consultant with the Texas Association of Counties, presented commissioners with training options for risk control services. He also reviewed county workers' compensation claims history for the last four years.

Finally, Boccaccio asked the court for a resolution to support the new safety programs, with which commissioners unanimously complied.

County Auditor Christina Moeller and Human Resources Director Sharon Dowda supported a revitalized county safety program.

According to Boccaccio, in 2008, workers' compensation claims of $3,711 had escalated to $119,710 by 2011. "We need to put the brakes on the workmen's comp before this gets out of hand," Boccaccio said.

However, he characterized the $10,780 of claims in the current fiscal year as "looking good."

For the loss years 2007 through 2012, the road and bridge department topped the list of loss locations by total gross incurred at $528,472, followed by the Bandera County Sheriff's Office, $115,200; county volunteer fire departments, $39,917; county jail, $33,095; public works parks, $18,939; probation department, $7,979; EMS, $6,710; public works, $796; county clerk, $497; and public works truck-transport, $422.

County Judge Richard Evans said that the higher claims were somewhat expected since the county covers volunteer firefighters. "A substantial number of firefighters have filed claims," he noted.

"The firemen's claims are on the radar screen," Boccaccio said. "What we want to do is to get a safety culture going again."

To assist bringing the numbers down, he recommended developing a plan and having the court issue a resolution.

A series of four safety-training programs would be geared for specific departments. As an example, Boccaccio suggested offering a program on back safety to jailers. "We would focus on workplace safety and not getting hurt," he said. "We can offer employees of various departments things they can do to make their jobs safer.

Since they have had a substantial number of claims in the past, Evans asked Boccaccio to include the volunteer firefighters in the safety session. He would also target the sheriff's office and road and bridge department.

Boccaccio also reminded the court that a "huge road and bridge claim" would soon go away. He referenced a county worker who was killed several years ago while working on a vehicle at Mansfield Park.