A worker operates a crane at a construction site on Monday, Jan. 30, 2018. The Iowa Municipalities Workers Compensation Association recently recognized Johnson County as No. 1 in the state for workplace safety. (Katina Zentz/ The Daily Iowan)

Johnson County honored for workplace safety

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Johnson County has been recognized  for workplace safety, ranking the best of 79 counties.

By Brooklyn Draisey

brooklyn-draisey@uiowa.edu

Johnson County has been recognized for keeping employees safe in the workplace.

The county has been named No. 1 in Iowa for workplace safety by the Iowa Municipalities Workers’ Compensation Association, according to a press release from the Board of Supervisors. Last year, the county tied with Woodbury County.

Each county has an Experience Modification Factor, which is based on its workplace-injury history. According to the press release, Johnson County has a factor of 0.60, both the lowest the county has had and the best of 79 counties in the worker-association program.

This modifies the claim it’s the best in the state, however, because 20 counties are unaccounted for.

Supervisor Mike Carberry said it feels nice to have recognition for the work they and others have put in, but the important part is showing the county’s employees they’re doing everything in their power to keep everyone safe.

“I think it reassures our employees that they work in a very safe environment, safe as it possibly can be,” he said.

The county has implemented a number of programs to keep workers safe, Supervisor Janelle Rettig said.

RELATED: Johnson County receives high honor for solar energy accessibility

Depending on the department, both online and in-person classes are offered on subjects such as safe driving and protocol, as well as adding safety as a category on job evaluations. Rettig noted the programs gives the county a boost.

“It kind of changed everything when we made it a goal of the county and put it in our job evaluations,” she said.

There is also a safety committee that looks into aspects of working spaces to improve, such as tripping hazards, appropriate signs, and nonessential items that could cause an accident.

Having such a low modification factor helps more than just the employees, Carberry said. Workers’ compensation is affected by claims of workplace injuries, so having fewer claims lowers insurance premiums, which in turn lowers taxes.

“When it’s all said and done, it’s the public that pays those bills through taxes, so if we’re the safest place to work in the state …” Carberry said. “It saves the taxpayers money because their premiums are as low as they possibly can be.”

When workplace injuries do occur, Rettig said, officials go over what happened to see if they can prevent it from happening again. County officials conduct post-accident interviews with anyone involved to better understand the situation, then they take what they’ve learned and use it to teach others how to stay safe.

“We use [workplace injuries] as a teaching opportunity,” Rettig said. “What happened here, why was there an injury, and what can we do to prevent it in the future? Mainly we try to learn from it and not let it happen again.”

Though Johnson County is now No. 1, risk-management coordinator Adam Grier said the county will strive to be better and make the employees as safe and secure as possible.

“We have a lot more to accomplish, and that makes me excited, because I think we can do even better,” he said.

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