Chesterton town officials gathered at the municipal building, on Broadway at
15th St., on Wednesday to accept an honor that according to Town Manager
Bernie Doyle is “really rare” for municipalities.
For actively improving workplace safety for its 100 or so employees, the
effort by Doyle and others on a town municipal safety committee culminated
in being awarded a Certificate of Excellence Safety Award from its workman’s
compensation insurance carrier Bituminous Insurance.
The award was received due to no lost time injury or workman’s comp claims
filed through the 2012 calendar year.
As Steven Zachert, a safety insurance representative with Bituminous,
explained, there are three criteria a business or municipality must meet in
order to be a recipient of the safety award:
-- A worker’s comp premium of at least $30,000.
-- A loss ratio of 20 percent or below for workman’s comp.
-- An active or ongoing safety program.
Zachert reported that Chesterton’s loss ratio for 2012 was 19.1 percent.
Receiving a safety award is a “very unique” occasion for a municipality in
the category of workman’s comp, Zachert said, primarily because many
departments face potential hazards on a day-to-day basis. Bituminous’
traditionally services construction firms, utility companies and
manufacturers but “municipalities are the hardest things to insure,” Zachert
said, as he praised all involved in the safety efforts.
“You’ve done a wonderful job,” said Zachert. “We’d like to award you for
Also sitting in on the ceremony at the Chesterton Municipal Complex,
certified risk manager Jim Anton with Anton Insurance said having a 19.1
loss ratio is “pretty darn uncommon.” With this the town will pay less
insurance on workman’s comp and the taxpayers benefit, he said, but what is
most important is protecting the workers.
Doyle said he encouraged improvements to worker safety shortly after he
became town manager in 2009, first by reaching out to Anton Insurance and
making sure standard policies were being complied with. A safety assessment
was conducted and after the results officials could see what corrections
needed to be made.
From there, the town formed the safety committee in early 2012 with
representatives from the town’s eight departments. It took the initiative
further by changing the behavior and the culture of town workers by working
with the heads of each department.
Doyle said that instead of only reporting accidents as a traditional safety
committee would, Chesterton’s committee’s goal is “empowering employees to
have an active voice in their work environment” and they have “more than
It’s the same strategy he observed when working for the National Park
Service, he said.
Safety Committee Chairperson Jennifer Gadzala who also serves as the town’s
MS4 operator, thanked the department heads for being cooperative and open
with the committee members.
“We are slowly moving forward but we will make the safety program better as
years go by,” said Gadzala.
Serving as Vice-Chair of the Safety Committee is Stephanie Kuzeila,
assistant to the town manager.
Town Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg said he too appreciates the
cooperation and vigilance from his colleagues considering the dangers they
face each day.
The town is on track to receive a consecutive safety award for 2013 as the
no lost time injury record continues, Zachert said.
Doyle said he hopes the town can be a leading example to other
municipalities of how they can improve their safety programs.