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STATEWIDE TELECONFERENCE SHOWS HOW IMPROVED WORKPLACE SAFETY CAN SAVE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COSTS

 HARRISBURG, Pa., April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 3,000 employers, workers and others today took part in a statewide teleconference that emphasized the importance of workplace safety committees in reducing job-related injuries and illnesses and in cutting the costs employers pay for workers' compensation insurance.
 The two-hour conference, sponsored by the state Department of Labor and Industry, was beamed by satellite to more than 37 downlink sites throughout Pennsylvania. The department also had published satellite coordinates to make the conference accessible to anyone with a capability to pick up the signal.
 "Workplace safety committees can generate immediate and long-term results for employers and workers," Gov. Robert P. Casey said in taped remarks opening the conference.
 In 1991, Gov. Casey proposed a four-point workers' compensation reform plan in response to an insurance industry request for a rate hike of almost 52 percent. One of the governor's proposals was the establishment of workplace safety committees to reduce accidents and save costs.
 In 1993, the state Legislature passed a compromise proposal, Act 44, which contained many of the elements in the governor's original proposals. Act 44 mandated a one-time five percent premium discount to employers with approved labor-management workplace safety committees.
 Panelists representing the department included Thomas S. Barrett, deputy secretary for collections and compensations; Carl Lorine, director, Bureau of Workers' Compensation; Jack McNulty, director, Governor's Office of Labor-Management Cooperation and John O'Malley, director, State Workmen's Insurance Fund (SWIF).
 Other participants included Fred Rine, vice president, National Safety Council; and David Amos, manager, National Safety Council's Labor Department.
 Panelists presented videos and discussions on how to qualify for the discount, the advantages of workplace safety committees and how to organize effective labor-management safety groups.
 Conference participants also phoned in questions on workplace safety provisions of the law.
 Barrett and Lorine opened the conference with an overview of the state's workers' compensation system and a discussion of how rising costs, particularly costs for medical care, had created the crisis which led to Gov. Casey's proposal.
 "Medical costs accounted for the lion's share of rising premiums to employers, and Act 44 already is working to rein-in those increases," the governor said in a conference printed program.
 "In fact, the medical cost caps in the new law resulted in rates being cut 6.7 percent this year."
 Another significant contributor to cutting costs will be increased emphasis on workplace safety throughout Pennsylvania, Barrett said.
 "The five percent discount is just the beginning, to get these committees started. The real long-term savings will be seen when safer workplaces produce fewer injuries and workers compensation premiums continue to drop," he said.
 Tapes of the conference will be available in the near future. For information on the teleconference, the discount, or other questions related to Act 44, contact Jack McNulty, director, Governor's Office of Labor-Management Cooperation, 717-787-1116.
 /delval/
 -0- 4/19/94
 /CONTACT: John Currie or Jack McGettigan of the Department of Labor and Industry, 717-787-7530/


CO: Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

MK -- PH042 -- 8260 04/19/94 16:26 EDT
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Date:Apr 19, 1994
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