ELYRIA — The state’s message to Lorain County employers: It pays to be safe.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation paid more than $857,000 to 136 county businesses that participated in the Lorain County Safety Council this past year, a joint program headed by the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and the workers compensation bureau.
The state began the program three years ago in hopes of bolstering safety in the workplace, said Tony Gallo, director of business development at Lorain County Chamber of Commerce.
Representatives from the 136 companies that participate in the local safety council — one of 79 in the state — were given rebate checks during a meeting at the Elyria Holiday Inn, Gallo said.
The refund is provided to the companies directly from money that they’d paid into the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, though companies that are self-insured or are state agencies cannot participate, Gallo said.
“They actually walked away with a check,” Gallo said. “Those are real development dollars coming back into this community.”
Companies received about 4 percent of what they paid to workers comp last year, money that each company is free to use as it pleases, Gallo said.
“We always encourage them to put it back into the community,” Gallo said. “For additional hires, raises, upgrades to buildings — or safety programs.”
To participate in the Lorain County Safety Council, companies have to submit periodic reports on their various safety-related practices and issues, such as fire prevention, accident-reduction measures, ergonomics and other health and safety issues.
While this year’s batch of rebates offered 4 percent returns, state workers comp officials are raising the bar for next year’s participants: they’ll receive only 2 percent returns, and their safety performance will have to be even higher, Gallo said.
The Chronicle-Telegram was among the area companies that participated in the safety council.