City's 'Safety Buck' program saving city $50k annually in insurance costs

City of Washington employees have been working so hard at staying safe, they have lowered their insurance rates and saved the city over $250,000 in the last five years.

“The city really started totally revamping our safety program about six or seven years ago and we worked pretty hard on some things for the first couple of years and were awarded what’s called best practices,” said Keith Henkel, engineering technician with the city.

Along with that award, in February 2015 the city was awarded a safety grant in the amount of $1,000 from the Iowa Municipalities Workers’ Compensation Association (IMWCA). They began looking into ways to invest the money into a safety incentive program for workers.

The first suggestion was to give a small monetary gift to workers who had no violations against them at the end of the year. Henkel said that plan was quickly tossed out as it did not promote positivity in the workplace.

“It was all focused too much on negatives because you would lose it if you got caught doing something bad,” he explained. “So we chose to approach it from a positive aspect instead of a negative aspect.”

In its place, the city introduced the “Safety Buck” program which allows supervisors to award their employees for positive, safe behavior such as passing a seat belt check. Once employees earn safety bucks, they write their names on them and drop them in a bucket Henkel has in his office. At the annual department banquet at the end of the year, three names are drawn and those three employees are given $100 each.

That grant is no longer available, but Henkel approached City Council last week and asked for an annual donation of $300 to keep up the program because he believes it is making a difference in the community.

“We’ve drastically reduced our insurance rates over the last five years to the tune of just over $250,000,” he said. “We have brought those insurance premiums down close to 30 percent of what we were paying five years ago.”

The council approved the request and the program will continue on its fourth year this year. Henkel said he sees a difference in city employees as well, as they are more cautious of their actions because they recognize the money that would have been allocated to insurance can now be used to better the city.

“That’s more stuff that we can buy. That’s more equipment, that’s new opportunities for training, that’s new opportunities for employees, they can see the buy-in now,” he said. “Everybody is serious about keeping that modification rate down and keeping things in the direction that they’re going.”