County proactive on losses

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt County Commissioners took action Tuesday they hope will lead to loss prevention related to insurance claims by employees, which the county manager says are climbing at an alarming rate.

Bruce Swingle of the New Mexico County Insurance Authority gave commissioners a presentation on a relatively new program aimed at loss prevention through a 50-week Risk Awareness Program. The program targets training to make employees aware of safety issues and procedures that can cut down on claims.

“We’re experiencing a three-to-one ($1 spent on loss for every $3 in budget) in all the county’s statewide,” Swingle said. “So we came up with some strategies to help employees reduce the loss.”

The program is available free through Roosevelt County’s membership in the New Mexico Association of Counties. It goes through a series of 12-15 minute weekly training sessions that are tailored to specific departments.

The program has over 100 training programs currently, according to Swingle. Those programs range from slip, trip and fall prevention, appropriate for all departments to pursuit training specific to sheriff’s departments.

Swingle told commissioners that Roosevelt County has averaged approximately $200,000 in losses over the last three years.
“You’re county’s one of the fortunate ones,” Swingle said. “You have a very good loss average. It’s up but we want to get back on track.”

Swingle said that currently 11 of the 33 counties are involved with McKinley County being the only one that has completed a full cycle.

He said Mora and Grant Counties in particular were showing strong results midway through the program.
County Manager Charlene Hardin said she’s concerned by increasing premiums and claims.

“We’ve had more workman’s comp claims in the last month than we would have had in some years,” Hardin said. “We’ve got to do something to change that trend.”

Hardin said she believed the program would be a help but she wanted to make sure department heads had buy-in with the program so that it would be carried out.

“When you see the program and you see the data, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to participate,” Swingle said.
He suggested tying some sort of incentive to training attendance, making it a positive thing for employees to participate.

A quick poll of various department heads at the meeting told commissioners enough to vote to institute the program.

“I think it’s our responsibility as an elected official to help reduce these claims as much as possible,” said County Treasurer Nancy Belcher.

In other business commissioners:

• Approved $53,348.59 in indigent claims for the quarter.

• Agreed to try and re-institute a reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of anyone dumping along county roads. Sheriff Darren Hooker noted a increase in dumped calf carcasses on several county roads recently.