Chesterton Tribune



Town of Chesterton honored for no lost time to injuries in 2012

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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 that.”

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 exceeded expectations.”

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.


Posted 8/1/2013