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COOPERATION KEY TO WORKER SAFETY

Consider this business scenario:

The accounting employees in a company who pay the workers' compensation premium notices are apparently unaware that money could be saved if accidents are reduced.The safety director at the same company knows what is causing most of his firm's lost-time accidents but isn't aware what is being paid for workers' compensation premiums.

A State Industrial Commission meeting Wednesday explored what Utah needs to achieve safety in the workplace. Several people said accidents can be reduced and workers' compensation premiums lowered through cooperation.

Cooperation by employees, employers, state and local government officials, private organ-izations like the Utah Safety Council and even educational institutions. Many of the people making presentations said training is an important way to reduce industrial accidents.

Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley said the meeting was scheduled because earlier this year the Legislature passed SB117, which allocates money to the commission in a dedicated fund to develop workplace safety programs through an ad hoc committee of the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council.

The money will be available in July 1996, but until then the commission, in conjunction with the ad hoc committee, will determine where the money will be utilized to promote work-related safety.

As an example of the high cost of industrial accidents, Hadley said that in 1994 there were 66 work-place fatalities, and the surviving spouses received $7 million. That figure will reach many more millions in the coming years, depending on how long the surviving spouses live.

A dramatic example of what a safety program can do for a company came when Wayne Price, safety director of Kremco Inc., a drilling equipment manufacturer, told about the transformation of his company, which was on the verge of closing because of the high cost of workers' compensation premiums.

Price said that in 1990 the company had 331 lost-time accident days, was paying huge sums for workers' compensation insurance and eventually the company's insurance carrier canceled the policy.

Kremco got insurance from the Workers Compensation Fund of Utah, which also provided help in establishing a safety program. Lost-time accident days dropped to 111 in 1991 and were zero in 1994. Price said the turnaround was due to awareness by management and the employees that the company could save money by being safe.

Price said the advantages of a safe workplace are reduced insurance premiums, companies are more likely to do business with safe companies, employees are motivated, a company gets a good reputation and can attract top employees, less paperwork involved in filling out accident reports, keeping Occupational Health and Safety officials away and less chance of lawsuits.

Ronald Morgan, president of the Utah Restaurant Association, asked the ad hoc committee to give his group $65,000 that would be used to train restaurant employees in safety. He said the majority of people working in Utah's 3,500 restaurants are 16-20 years old, and they need safety training.

Robert Bergman of the Utah Mechanical Contractors also requested funds for safety training since the construction industry is among the highest in work-related injuries.