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Good safety records pay

Kimberly Nicoletti

by Kimberly Nicoletti

For Harris Construction in Summit County, monthly meetings reminding employees about safety measures pay off ” literally.

The company is one of 605 in Summit County that Pinnacol Assurance is paying a dividend to for instilling safety consciousness in employees.

“It’s reviewing things employees already know ” like safety with tools, ladders, scaffolding ” but it puts it back in their face,” said Ambur Stevens, project manager at Harris Construction. “We have a great record on safety, and a lot of it is that the employees are aware that we’re on it.”

General contractors oversee safety practices on the job, and Stevens visits sites regularly, noting any dangers she finds. The dividend Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s oldest and largest workers’ compensation provider, pays out has motivated Harris Construction to step up its safety awareness, she said. In 2003, the company received a $2,664 dividend, and in 2004, it received $1,142.

The lower amount did not have anything to do with injuries at Harris Construction, because the company participates in a larger group of 150 members called Summit Workers’ Compensation Safety Group.

Summit Chamber members can enroll in the workers’ compensation insurance option, which Arrow Insurance Management and Pinnacol Assurance offer. The plan is designed to reduce workers’ compensation costs by promoting risk management and accident prevention plans. Companies are eligible for dividends, 4 percent discounts, safety education and more. Since April 1, 2000, members have received more than $200,000 in dividends, according to the Summit Chamber. The group offers quarterly meetings, which average 50 people in attendance and have included topics such as pre-employment screening, claims management and fraud investigation.

Originated in 2002, the Vail-Eagle Valley Safety Group is made up of the Vail Valley Partnership and the Eagle Valley Chamber members. Its quarterly meetings focus on safety packet reviews (of losses, loss ratio, trends and so on), review of open claims and planning of bi-annual safety seminars. Every one of the its 90 businesses must participate in one online or personal safety seminar annually. Last year, the group had 107 claims from May to April 27, and this year, it has 71 so far, said Alison Hubbard, director of Vail Valley Partnership.

For the third year in a row, Pinnacol Assurance will issue nearly $60 million in policyholder dividends to customers with good safety records and low claims costs.

Summit County companies will receive $605,000, and 1,171 Eagle County companies will see $1.56 million, said Haley McKean, public relations specialist.

Approximately 93 percent of Pinnacol customers, or 56,000 Colorado businesses, will receive a check, with the average check totaling $1,100. On average, businesses see a 10 percent return from their premium payments.

The reimbursement program has provided $172 million dollars to businesses statewide. This allows them to invest in more safety programs, hire more employees, expand operations or share the money with employees in the form of bonuses, said Pinnacol president and CEO Ken Ross.

The program has paid off for Pinnacol, as well as for its customers. Pinnacol has seen fewer claims, partially because some companies reinvest the dividend into safety programs or machinery, Ross said. And businesses are able to connect the dollar-amount value associated with keeping employees safe.

After 23 years in business, the Pinnacol board of directors determined that the company was financially stable and strong enough to begin returning money to customers, Ross said. Thus, premium rates transformed from increasing every year to giving businesses money back, said Maggie Lifland, owner of Arrow Insurance in Summit County. And as Lifland pointed out, as the tourist season ends, extra money in the form of dividends always helps mountain businesses.

The company’s goal is to continue to pay dividends, which are based on the amount of premium paid and any injuries or accidents workers in a particular company experience, Ross said.

Loss Prevention CD-ROM: an easy-to-navigate, web-based CD-ROM with information on OSHA compliance; cost containment certification; safety-related topics categorized by hazard and industry; sample safety programs and safety rules; safety training materials; and return-to-work information.

Safety Program Development: Pinnacol safety consultants can assess individual business needs, finding ways to help cut losses and increase safety through a flexible yet structured program.

Loss Analysis: Pinnacol safety consultants can help determine why a business is incurring losses and formulate a plan to minimize risk.

Onsite Train-the-Trainer Instruction: Pinnacol safety consultants can help trainers and managers improve their skills and knowledge on issues such as ergonomics, general workplace safety and industry-specific safety training.

Construction Safety Services: Pinnacol safety consultants offer specialized assistance in construction safety and OSHA regulations.

Safety Materials: Pinnacol policyholders can order free safety resources including training booklets, paycheck stuffers, and posters.

Video library, safety seminars, PowerPoint presentations, monthly safety talks and online safety training.


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