Commerce City Finds Massive Savings in Safety
Safety culture drives 50 percent drop in workers’ comp premium.
Keeping workers safe in any industry is a challenge. But doing it in a city government with diverse jobs — and hazards — is beyond complex. From law enforcement and landscaping to road maintenance and recreation, Commerce City sees it all.
Recent history illustrates how tough it can be. In 2016, Commerce City filed more than 80 workers’ comp claims and paid a premium of $650,000.
But change was on the horizon as city leadership saw the numbers and made education, accountability, and transparency its priorities.
Building a Safety Culture
The city’s risk manager spent five years creating an environment in which a safety culture could flourish. Educating city leadership was key — but all employees needed to buy in.
One way the city ensured all workers were thinking about safety, was by distributing monthly safety puzzles. Employees who participated could earn points that translated into dollars. The city gave out $10,000 in safety incentives one year — an investment that quickly paid off.
The risk manager was a team of one, so having everyone pitch in on safety was huge. A senior safety consultant with workers’ compensation provider, Pinnacol Assurance, attends: the city’s safety meetings, answers questions, shares data, and provides resources.
The city safety team is composed of employees from each city department. The team meets monthly to talk about city claims. Because claims are declining, every month is a celebration of their efforts.
Sharing the Rewards
It’s easy to hold people accountable when things go wrong. But accountability also means people see the rewards of their work.
Case in point: In 2018, the city decreased employee injuries, helped injured workers recover and facilitated returns to work, resulting in a $91,000 general dividend check from Pinnacol.
Instead of funneling that money back into the city’s general fund, leadership reinvested the funds into the departments responsible for the turnaround.
Part of that dividend went to the parks department, which invested in a new snowblower for a popular city trail. A job that used to take six employees two days with shovels and snowblowers now requires only a half day for two employees, saving time, money, and risk of injury.
Commerce City offers its injured employees five occupational medicine providers to choose from in Pinnacol’s SelectNet network. With help from a Pinnacol claims representative, the city stays in regular contact with the provider and the injured worker to ensure the worker progresses to recovery.
As an employee recovers, Commerce City departments are prepared to welcome them back, even when they aren’t ready for prime time. Modified duty helps the employee return to work as quickly and safely as possible.
The results of the city’s efforts are impressive: a 54 percent decrease in its premium between 2016 and 2021, and a 60 percent decrease in injury severity.
There’s always room for improvement, and new challenges lie ahead. But with a growing safety culture and partners like Pinnacol, Commerce City is well equipped to handle what’s coming.
Pinnacol Assurance puts care to work as Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier.