SANDY City workers here are half as likely to get hurt on the job as they were 12 years ago, and hundreds of them have more money in their pockets as a result.
Everything from injuries to lawsuits and insurance costs have plummeted in Sandy over the past decade, despite population increases and a doubling of the city work force. And that leaves millions of dollars to spread around in salaries, bonuses and capital projects, officials say.
A large part of the thanks goes to Bryce McEuen, the attorney who manages risk for the city. But the longtime safety advocate defers praise to city department heads who doggedly implement safety policies.
Regardless, the Workers Compensation Fund has placed the responsibility squarely on McEuen's shoulders and honored him with a one-of-a-kind Safety Champion Award plus a plaque and a copy of Frederic Remington's noted sculpture of four cowboys "Coming Through the Rye."
Compensation Fund spokeswoman Peggy Larsen said the bronze sculpture represents triumphant cowboys returning from battle safe and sound. The artist probably intended to convey carousing cowboys drunk on rye whiskey, but no matter, McEuen said, grinning. The grandfather of 10 plans to add the sculpture to his home art collection.
McEuen believes 98 percent of risk is controllable, and he sees himself as responsible for all the fingers, toes, eyes and lives of Sandy's nearly 650 employees, he said.
"I think that's kind of why I got this award, because I'm such a freak," he said.
McEuen's co-workers don't go that far but do tease him about the foot-tall piles of papers scattered on his desk. The safety manager is very analytical but also kind and great to work with, they say.
Sandy assistant chief administrative officer Scott Bond has worked with McEuen for 16 years.
"He's very valuable to the organization," Bond said. "I don't think we could do what we've done without Bryce and his expertise. He's allowed us to set up our own safety and insurance program in a way that's really allowed us to take a lot of money that would go for injuries and claims and use that to serve the citizens."
Over the years, that saved money has been used for projects such as sidewalk repair and installation of ventilators to protect city mechanics. Funds have also gone toward employee raises and safety bonuses, which Mayor Tom Dolan hands out annually to employees with no history of safety violations.
McEuen believes that policies such as Sandy's are essential to create happy communities. Studying and preventing risk is vital to maintaining safety, he said. Companies and individuals should take deliberative, positive steps rather than becoming cynical, he believes.
The city agrees, citing McEuen's work as a reason for the city's consistently high public safety rankings.
Years ago, McEuen and five of his colleagues came up with a formula for reducing risk in any situation. First, assess "What could go wrong?" according to the formula. Then, ask "What can we do about it?" Next, determine "What should we do about it?" and finally get to "Who should pay for it?"
The simple system creates a "culture of safety" for the loose conglomeration of disparate organizations that make up a city, he said.
"The police chief has to judge policemen, but we want to be there and we want to help them," he said.On top of McEuen's awards, Sandy received the Charles A. Caine Award for Workplace Safety from the WCF, a customer-owned insurance agency that covers 30,000 Utah employers and 55 percent of the work force in the state. The city is the fund's only customer, public or private, to have received that award three times.
Rewards of risk avoidance
• The cost of insuring general liability for Sandy decreased from $662,169 in 2006 to $137,025 in 2007.
• The city is embroiled in 10 fewer lawsuits now than it was in 1996.
• Worker compensation claims are down from 8 claims for every 100 employees to about 5.
• Sandy recently received $15,000 from the Workers Compensation Fund because so few claims were made there.
Source: Sandy city
E-mail: [email protected]