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Officials look at insurance premiums

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scott County news

BENTON -- Scott County Commissioners are looking for ways to bring down the county's workers' compensation insurance premium.

Commissioners met with Bob Holthaus, loss prevention coordinator for the Missouri Association of Counties Self-Insured Workers' Compensation Fund, during their regular meeting Tuesday.

"There are lots of ways you can prevent your insurance premiums from getting higher," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said. He added that their goal is also "to make the workplace a lot safer."

The good news in Scott County's loss ratio is only at 39 percent of its premium for 2007 so far.

"You may already be on a good trend here," Holthaus said.

Ziegenhorn noted, however, that the county's annual premium is $98,000 -- nearly twice the $53,000 premium the county paid in 2001.

The county's loss ratios for 2001-2004 were excellent, according to Ziegenhorn. But in 2005, the county's loss ratio spiked to 282 percent of its premium with nearly $180,000 in losses while paying a premium of $63,000. In 2006, the county had a loss ratio of 124 percent.

Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said 15 out of the 95 counties who have workman's' comp insurance through MAC are on a "watch list."

"And we're one of those 15," Burger said. "Our loss ratios were too high."

Holthaus discussed the commissioners a list of 19 things the county could do to keep premiums down.

"No. 1: file claims promptly -- within 24 hours if possible," he said.

Documentation related to safety issues was the dominant theme throughout the list such such as having job descriptions in writing and a safety manual for each job description.

"One of my recommendations is that you find a safety coordinator," Holthaus said.

Commissioners have also scheduled a workers' comp review with Holthaus at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 25.

"The whole safety program is covered on our Web site," Holthaus said. "All the general loss prevention information is there."

He advised officials can download and make copies of the loss prevention manual.

Holthaus said he also will cover items specific to Scott County during the review Oct. 25.

He said that "most of the claims come out of road and bridge or sheriff (departments)."

"We have some really serious accidents with chain saws," Holthaus said. "It's an area of high accidents." He recommend always using a bucket truck when chain saws are used.

Another task that has a lot of accidents is changing tires, he said.

Burger said commissioners hope to initiate the county's drug testing program on or around Jan. 1.

Commissioners intend to implement drug screens for pre-employment, following an accident, and random drug testing for Department of Transportation-licensed drivers which would just be road and bridge department personnel.

In other safety-related business, Burger said he planned to meet with road and bridge department personnel at 7 a.m. today to tell them to start wearing their seat belts.

"It's a proven fact: it saves lives," he said.

Burger said seat belts are especially important in slow moving vehicles such as motor road graders. "If you are hit in the back you are propelled out the front," he said.

In addition to being a safety issue, Ziegenhorn said it is also important they "abide by the law" by wearing seat belts.

In other business Tuesday:

* Burger directed Joel Evans, county developer, to look into finding funding for security measures at the courthouse.

"I don't know how we are going to do this, but we need four metal detectors in this courthouse and we need a guard," he said. "What happened in Cleveland can happen in Benton."

Burger said if there is funding available for schools to get resource officers for security, there should be money for courthouse security somewhere.

"For not only the protection of employees, but also the people who visit the courthouse to conduct their business," Burger said. "We owe it to them."

* Norman Brant, Scott County highway department superintendent, said his department should be receiving a new mower around Nov. 1.

With the new mower in service, a model that is 14.5 feet wide, "we'll be able to do twice as much mowing," Brant said.

While it is late in the season, "it will be there for next year," he said.

Brant also advised commissioners that road and bridge department crews have been trimming trees and chipping limbs in the south end of the county.

* Commissioners discussed a complaint of irrigation equipment spraying County Road 514 and the damage the water may be doing to the county road.

"It's their loss, too, if the water is going out on the road," Ziegenhorn said. He said water spraying on the road may also be a safety issue.

Burger noted Mississippi County officials have also recently been discussing the need to address irrigation water damaging county roads there.