Controlling your risk by Bob Carruth

As Risk Control Manager for the NCACC, Bob Carruth manages the operation of the Risk Control Team for the Risk Management Pools. The team assists members with development of safety policies and programs and identification of liability exposures and controls. Carruth is a Certified Safety Professional and is certified as an Associate – Risk Management.  For archives of this column click here

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Jan 27

Review of the 2013 County Safety Index

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 10:35 AM by Chris Baucom

 A part of this tradition is the annual County Safety Index, which can be a valuable tool for our North Carolina (and other) counties to compare their own operations as they relate to the NCACC Risk Management Pools  in regards to accidental losses from employee incidents and auto mishaps. 

Why is this a valuable tool for you?  Let’s take a look at what is currently covered by our two risk management pools:
67 of the 100 counties are members of either the Workers’ Compensation Pool or Liability & Property Pool. These counties include 2.8 million citizens, or 29 perent of the state’s population.  These numbers show that the Risk Management Pools are the primary provider of risk management services for our small to medium sized counties in North Carolina.
More than 28,000 county employees are provided WC coverage.
Approximately 12,000 autos, buses and trucks are provided coverage against liability and property loss.
More than $4.2 billion of property, to include most of the courthouses and county administrative facilities, are covered under our property program.

The county safety index provides an annual, public glimpse at where accidental losses are occurring in our member county governments and related entities.  The focus of the index is in two areas of loss:  Workers’ Compensation and Auto.  Given the volatility of general liability losses, as well as the infrequent nature of property losses, these are not included in the index.  

Finally, for comparison purposes, losses are measured at 6/30 for each year, to provide for a better year-year comparison.

For reasons of simplicity, as well as space constraints, I am including the two primary charts – one for WC (Figure 1), the second for Auto (Figure 2). You can review and download the entire presentation at the risk control webpage.

 Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 3.03.35 PM.png Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 3.03.20 PM.png 
 Figure 1 Figure 2

Workers’ Compensation – Claims frequency resulting from workplace related injuries was down in the most recent year after experiencing an increase the year before. The indemnity frequency, or those claims involving lost workdays or disability being paid, was up in 2012-13 (Figure 1). Although the frequency of this type of claim is higher, for the first time in four years, the majority of indemnity claims occurring were settled prior to the end of the year, and the average number of days away from work in 2012-13 was at 9.7 for closed indemnity claims, down from  13.0 days for the 2010-11 membership year.  Returning employees to work and efficient settlement of WC indemnity claims make the most significant impact on the long-term control of insurance cost for our members.

Slips and falls, followed by overexertion and auto crashes, continue to be the leading cause of claims in both frequency as well as lost cost.  Losses tend to also be clustered around four primary county functions – Emergency Medical Services, Law Enforcement, Health Department and Social Services.  This is to be expected, given the higher risk that some employees in these departments face each day.

Auto – The frequency of auto incidents continues to decline.  Any given auto related incident can result in up to three different types of claims, so it is important to isolate the separate incidents that occur to get a better picture of loss trends.  In addition, property damage in an auto crash is usually restricted to the overall cost of vehicle replacement; severity therefore is primarily measured by the presence of medical claims made by the vehicle passengers.  All three indicators, when measured by the frequency per 100 vehicles, are down:  the number of incidents, incurred losses, and number of bodily injury claims (Figure 2).

The primary auto loss drivers can be narrowed to three main sources – deputies, deer and transit passengers.  Law enforcement operations account for almost half of the auto claims filed each year.  One particular loss cause – animal strikes – accounts for one of every five vehicle incidents, and one out of every three incidents involving a patrol car.  This is consistent to what is occurring for all types of vehicle operations, but is even more pronounced because of the nature of law enforcement operation.   

Finally, transit operations by county operated and independent transit agencies provide unique exposures from the transport of special needs and elderly passengers.   Each year, the pools see injuries from passengers who were either improperly secured or who intentionally removed their passenger restraints.  Often, these incidents occur even when there has been no associated vehicle crash.  In addition, passengers may not realize an injury has occurred for hours or even days after the crash, which hampers adequate investigation of the incident and settlement of any claim.  Installation by the NC DOT of cameras on each van should help in the future in determining the validity and severity of claims that are made.

The data presented above points to improvement overall by our member counties in development of their internal safety and risk management systems, but also shows that continued work is necessary to sustain the effort and directly address the identified loss areas.  Focusing on slip and fall prevention measures, coupled with driver training for public safety employees, will continue to be important as we try to reduce the losses even more.  Further application of technological advances such as sensors and driver cameras will also greatly aid in the reduction of vehicle crashes.  Finally, the targeted work of our risk control team, along with the resources at their disposal, will continue to make an impact. 

If you have any questions about the County Safety Index, or would like to have it presented to your organization’s leadership, please contact your regional risk control specialist or our office at (919) 719-1150.