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City struggles to hold down workers' compensation benefits

Cities in Arizona have to hire many employees to do the work of local government. Some of these jobs can be particularly risky, such as law enforcement, firefighting or working with the street crew on a roadside project in dangerous traffic.

One city in another state has recently noticed that many of its employees, exposed to the risk of working for a municipality, have had to file workers' compensation claims under that state's system. The city has also noticed that it pays out more money in workers' compensation benefits than would be expected for a municipality of its size.

The mayor of the city claims to understand that the families of the city's employees expect that their loved ones will return home from work every day safe and sound. He acknowledges that when that does not happen, it hurts not only the worker and his or her family but also the taxpayers who wind up shouldering the workers' comp costs on the city's behalf.

The mayor's solution has been to re-focus his city's employees on workplace safety. To that end, he has established a "safety steering committee" and has charged that committee with regularly working to create greater safety awareness among the city's employees so as to cut down on workplace injuries. The committee is made up of representatives from the police and fire department as well as other significant groups of employees.

Emphasizing workplace safety may be the best bet for towns in Arizona that also are looking to cut down on worker's comp payouts. Arizona has a no-fault workers' compensation system, meaning that if a worker injures himself or herself at work, he or she will be eligible for compensation for his or her medical bills and lost income.

Creating a culture of safety in the workplace can mean that an employer will have to pay fewer workers' comp claims and thus save money. More importantly, a safe work environment will ensure that good and productive employees stay that way.

Source: Tulsa World, "Tulsa works to reduce high workers' comp cost," Ziva Branstetter and Curtis Killman, Feb. 9, 2013

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Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C., provides experienced representation for workers' compensation cases in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Avondale, Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Prescott, Tucson and Yuma, and throughout Maricopa County, Pima County, Pinal County and Yavapai County, and all of Arizona.

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