The Lincoln County Commissioners discussed the current state of safety for county employees and the potential to improve on it during their Jan. 8 meeting.
County Clerk and Recorder Robin Benson presented the commissioners with the annual safety audit by the Montana Association of Counties Worker’s Compensation Trust, for which Lincoln County recevied 21 out of 24 possible points.
Benson said that the above-average status of the county affects worker’s compensation costs.
Later in the meeting, Brad Salonen from Payne West Insurance presented to the commissioners regarding the county’s worker’s compensation data.
Salonen told the commissioners that the payouts for 2018 so far were the lowest in about five years.
He added that about 26 percent of claims come from slips, trips and falls.
“Twenty-six percent is very low,” he said. “In the last year, Lincoln County did not have one slip, trip and fall turned into MACo.”
Salonen said, given the exposure to slick conditions that county employees face, they are doing very well to not be dealing with more slips and falls, which are common for his other accounts.
Commissioner Mark Peck brought up the idea of reimbursing county employees who purchase ice cleats in order to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
County Administrator Darren Coldwell said that there were funds available for such expenditures.
County Emergency Management Director Brent Teske said that he thought it was a good idea.
“This is employee preservation,” he said. “Right before I came over here there as an ambulance call at Henry’s (Restaurant). A gentleman slipped in the parking lot, fell and hit his head.”
Benson told the commissioners that the subject had already been breached at the monthly meeting of the county employee Safety Committee. There was concern for the safety of those working at the County Landfill.
Peck said that he was concerned even about employees getting from their cars into work.
The commissioners agreed to authorize the purchase of ice cleats that slip over shoes for county employees.
Later in the meeting, Peck asked County Justice of the Peace Jay C. Sheffield if he felt authorizing employees to purchase ice cleats would be a good idea.
“I think so,” Sheffield said. “At least twice a day my clerks have to come across from the Annex, down the sidewalk, across the road, and we’ve actually had a couple of falls.”
In addition, there are runners making the trip from the County Attorney and County Sheriff’s offices — some late into the evening — carrying documents to the County Annex, he said.
“We just came across there, and it’s pretty ugly,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
During discussion of the replacement of vehicles from the Sheriff’s department that were totaled — one during a forced stop on a vehicle that was fleeing law enforcement and another totaled when an elk ran into the side of it — safety training came up again.
Coldwell pointed out that with three vehicles totaled in the past year, the Sheriff’s Office could use the situation as an opportunity to stress safety.
“I agree,” Sheriff Darren Short said. “The elk is an unforeseen, for sure. But the vehicle that was totaled in the pursuit was kind of a — unfortunately a cost of doing business. They were out of options.”
Undersheriff Brian Griffeth said that during the next patrol meeting, they could work on putting something together.
During a later interview, Griffeth said that regardless of the the situations surrounding the accidents, it is always good to reinforce safe practices.