BENTON - Scott County officials will begin to take more preventative measures to cut down on accidents that could result in worker's compensation claims.
"We need to readjust," said Jamie Burger, presiding commissioner. "We need to think about what we're doing in-house and be aware of our surroundings."
Commissioners and other department representatives met with Robert "Bob" Holthaus, a loss prevention coordinator with the Missouri Association of Counties Self-Insured Workers' Compensation Fund. The county has been placed on MAC's "watch list" because it's average number of claims is 37 percent higher than the norm for the rest other counties in the state.
"When you are put on a watch list, it means (Holthaus) is going to do everything he can to get our work comp claims in order," Burger said.
A failure to drop the claims can result in one of two things -- the county could be kicked out of the MAC, "which would be a disaster for us," Burger said, or be given a surcharge, which would make the costs quite expensive.
Although the largest portion of incidents within the county occur within law enforcement and the highway department, the commissioners asked representatives from each department to attend the meeting to inform them of proper procedures and brainstorm ideas.
"We felt it is something everybody needs to know because it affects our bottom line," Burger said.
As a first step of getting the number of claims "under control," commissioners adopted an injury protocol, which they shared with the departments.
If an injury occurs, the elected official, their designee or a supervisor should be the first to know. "We have too many people that bypass their supervisor or department head," Burger said.
On the day of an injury, a first report must be completed at the county clerk's office. If the accident occurs after hours, it must be filled out at the beginning of the next day.
"The whole key is that they want to know the same day," said Rita Milam, county clerk.
Holthaus stressed that reports should be filled out even for a minor accident the employee doesn't think needs medical attention.
"You report it as an incident, but it doesn't have to be filed as a claim," he said.
Teresa Houchin, the county assessor, agreed that was a good idea. "Sometimes it takes a day or two to start hurting," she said.
As soon as the employee has recovered, they are to fill out another report with their supervisor, where they document the accident scene and what they feel led up to the accident, what caused it, any witnesses, and how to prevent similar instances in the future.
"When an accident occurs, it's important to get the names and phone numbers of any other possible responsible party," Holthaus said.
All injured employees will be drug tested. "If alcohol and drugs are involved, they could lose up to all of their benefit," Holthaus said.
The employees will also report to the workers' comp doctor -- who will be appointed by the first of the year -- or their representative before they are allowed to return to work.
Another part of the protocol deals with fraud, and states that only work-
related injuries are compensable. Burger suggested officials keep a log of any pre-existing conditions they may see in an employee, too.
Although it's important to follow those steps after an accident, it's even more important to identify concerns and stop accidents from happening.
"You need to be proactive in your safety approach," Holthaus said. "Start preventing the problem before it starts."
Burger said trips, slips and falls are some of the biggest causes of accidents. He urged workers to look around frequently and eliminate hazards, such as electric cords not taped down. "We don't want to remember it's there, we want to move it," he said.
Houchin suggested installing a rail in the middle of the stairs on the north and south sides of the building. "A lot of times if you're going to fall, you grab a rail or something," she said.
Enderle also said something needs to be done about the people who sit on the stairs during court days. "They're often blocking the rails," she said.
Other suggestions were made, such as requiring people to take the elevator if carrying a large box and replacing the tile steps on the north end of the court house; as well as ergonomic exercises for clerical workers.
"That's what we're looking for," said Dennis Ziegenhorn, commissioner. "Prevention ideas."
Some changes, such as mandatory seat belt usage and wearing vests when working on the roadside have already been made at the highway department, he said.
"We've made some improvements, but we're far from where we need to be," Burger said.
Drops in the number of claims also provides some incentives. Holthaus pointed out savings in premium costs and dividend credits as two benefits.
Commissioners also pointed out that the money that would be used to pay insurance premiums could be used otherwise.
Also on Thursday, commissioners discussed the Southeast Regional Commissioners Association meeting the county hosted at Lambert's Cafe on Wednesday.
"We had a real good turnout and learned that most everybody's problems were the same," Ziegenhorn said. "And 911 is on everybody's mind."
Burger and McCormick agreed, and said there was discussion among those that attended last week's forum in Advance.
"I guess the biggest concern everybody has is the lack of interest by the state of Missouri to fund 911 with cell phones," Burger said. "Every county is struggling to make 911 budgets."
The deficit in fees comes out of the general revenue budget. So far this year, that deficit is about $200,000, Burger said.
Ziegenhorn said several who attended the forum were disappointed, and felt nothing was accomplished.
Commissioner Ron McCormick, who attended, said metro areas are saying the same thing.
"What we're finding is that the general public assumes we have 911," he said. But that's not the case, as several counties in Missouri -- including Bollinger and Iron counties -- don't provide that service.
In other business, commissioners appointed Debra Gunter of Benton to the Riverside Regional Library Board to fill the remainder of a term vacated by Shirley Essner.