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Workers’ comp strategy saves Rec and Park cash

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A more efficient workers’ compensation arrangement for the Recreation and Park Department is effectively reducing the cost of claims filed each year, saving The City precious funds.

The new strategy is quite simply to keep the worker working. Now, after an employee is injured — often from heavy lifting — their supervisor helps find a suitable job that does not strain the injury, and the employee is asked to clear it with a doctor. The reassignment allows the employee to continue working and limits workers’ comp claims.

“[Instead of] shovel duty, moving a ton and a half of chips, maybe they can focus on other things, like pruning and weeding the beds,” said Jeffrey Bramlett, the department’s environmental health and safety manager.

The 850 Rec and Park employees make up about 3.4 percent of The City’s work force, but they accounted for about 7 percent of its workers’ comp payouts in fiscal year 2008-09. According to the department, one in five employees is injured while landscaping.

Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg launched the new approach in January, and so far it has saved The City $66,000. That money has not been reserved for anything specific, department spokesman Elton Pon said.

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The savings is only a slight dent in the ambitious goal Ginsburg announced in October 2009. He wants to reduce the amount of workers’ comp by 50 percent based on $3.5 million paid in the 2008-09 fiscal year. Usually, about 15 Rec and Park employees a month collect compensation, Bramlett said.

“I set a very high bar for staff to reduce our workers’ comp costs this year,” Ginsburg said. “I am very proud of our effort to increase our productivity in this awful budgetary climate.”

The City, which employs about 25,000 people, is keeping a closer watch on its injury cases, and it expects workers’ comp costs to rise from $43 million last fiscal year to about $45 million this fiscal year due to rising costs.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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