One of the ways that Wood County is striving to save tax dollars is through the reduction of workplace injuries. The lessening of the number of injuries translates into a reduction of workers’ compensation costs.
Four years ago, Wood County was paying a large percentage of its budget to workers’ compensation insurance. In 2003 the county paid out $285,400. In the following years, the breakdown has been:
At that time, the county started to think seriously of ways to improve our workers’ safety program. In our precinct, we implemented a program in which most of the jobs we do are required to have two employees on the jobsite. There is always a backup if one worker is hurt or if one is in a bind.
Fire extinguishers and first aid kits are present in each vehicle and piece of equipment. Demonstrations are presented during the year on the proper way to extinguish different types of fires. Another crucial safety issue is eye protection, which we address with an eye wash station that is located in the maintenance shop. Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) on all chemicals are readily located for viewing in a specific place in the shop. We also stage mock emergencies to practice the proper procedures as dictated in the MSDS.
Most of Wood County’s road and bridge employees have CDL driver’s licenses, which require all drivers to daily inspect their vehicles for numerous check-offs before proceeding to their work locations. Maintenance records on all of the county equipment are maintained. Each truck is assigned to two employees; their familiarity with the vehicle facilitates early recognition of maintenance problems.
Wood County Precinct 3 also endeavors once a month to have a safety meeting on different topics. Some of these topics are supplied by the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) Safety Film Library. My foreman has a list that has been provided by Jack Coffey, safety specialist with TAC. We select the topics that best suit us for the different jobs that the employees have to perform.
Earlier this year Randy Selman became the county’s Emergency Management Program director. When Wood County hired Selman, he agreed to be the safety coordinator for the courthouse, sheriff’s department, and all other offices in the county. Immediately upon being hired, Selman scheduled a meeting for all four of the road and bridge departments.
At the April 30 meeting, Coffey spotlighted several key safety lessons, including the state-mandated use of seatbelts. He further stated that approximately four fatalities occur statewide each year – usually two from road and bridge departments and two from the sheriff’s departments.
Wood County has an annual safety meeting in the fall of each year for all county employees. The four road and bridge departments compete with one another during the year for a safety award. As the meeting ends, drawings for door prizes, provided by area businesses, are conducted. All county employees look forward to this annual get-together.
These safety efforts have had a direct impact on our workers’ compensation losses. Our premiums have dropped in 2007-2008 by 23 percent, and Wood County’s share of the renewal credit for 2008 is $52,221.00.
We feel that our safety efforts are beginning to pay off. An effective safety program reduces injuries, thereby increasing worker productivity and saving tax dollars.
Commissioner Pace is in his 24th year of office.
By Wood County Commissioner Roger Pace