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Union County hit with unexpected worker’s comp

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 10:59 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 11:53 a.m. CDT

During the 2013 fiscal year, Union County tackled two major bridge projects — 210th Street east of Cherry Street and 230th Street southeast of Thayer.

When Union County set its spending projections for worker’s compensation, it did not budget enough money to cover the amount of hours set under the employment code associated with bridge work.

A worker’s compensation audit revealed Union County is responsible for about $25,000 more in worker’s compensation fees than originally projected.

“I never would have guessed the impact would have been like that,” said Phil Tyler of Tyler Insurance at the Union County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday. “It’s a $25,000 lesson.”

Based on the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), each job is given a four-digit code to delegate the amount of risk that goes with each job.

For example, the code for a secretary is rated much lower because of the lack of risk of injury on the job compared to the code of a bridge worker.

Tyler added that companies have no say in the rates, it is set by NCCI, and Iowa has some of the most generous and expensive compensation rates.

“We didn’t have any accident history,” said Union County Engineer Steve Akes said. “It’s too bad to get charged for something you didn’t encounter.”

Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell said the $25,000 will come out of the county’s liability insurance and there is enough to cover the amount.

Future plans

While most fiscal years Union County does not do two major bridge projects, Akes and the Union County Supervisors are taking precautions to limit future worker’s compensation expenses.

“We have codes for labor, materials and maintenance (just to name a few),” Akes said. “We might be able to be cutting, welding or modifying beams (for bridges while in the shop) and we can code it for materials.”

He said while building bridges in Union County is still potentially dangerous work, it is not as dangerous as bridge work on an interstate highway.

“We don’t have a lot of traffic or height,” Akes said. “Our jobs are much safer, but I see how they (NCCI) has to have some base for the codes.”

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