Safety pays. Just ask Joe Cannon, chief executive officer of Geneva Steel.

The Workers Compensation Fund of Utah presented Cannon with a dividend check for $123,782 recently. Workers Compensation Fund gave Geneva the check because of its highly successful employee safety program and in recognition of the contributions the steel company makes to economic development in Utah, said Blaine Palmer, fund president.The Workers Compensation Fund is the largest provider of medical and disability insurance in the state - representing 22,000 businesses in Utah that pay more than $70 million in annual premiums. The fund was established as a state agency in 1917, but since 1988 it has operated as a private enterprise. It processes about 45,000 claims annually.

The fund declared a $4 million dividend for policyholders insured during 1989, Palmer said. This is the first dividend declared by the fund in five years. Around 15,900 businesses with positive claim histories or employee safety records, including 85 percent of Utah County businesses covered by the fund, are receiving dividend checks.

Geneva's dividend is the largest given out by the fund. Provo City received a dividend of $39,942. Other Utah County businesses receiving dividends are W.W. Clyde, J.M. Sumsion and Son, General Refractories and Tri-Valley Transport. The size of the dividend is based on the premium amount paid by a company and its loss record, Palmer said.

Palmer complimented Geneva for its "highly successful employee safety program . . . where employees are well-trained, safety conscious and have a safe working environment."

Cannon said Geneva managers demonstrate concern for employee safety on a daily basis.

"I live in daily fear of having to go to a funeral of someone from Geneva Steel," Cannon said.

Cannon said his company could have signed up with any number of insurance providers but selected Workers Compensation Fund because premiums paid by Geneva to the fund boost Utah's economy.