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$1.2 million paid in Butler city workers’ compensation claims to employees since 2017

A recent increase in workers’ compensation claims from employees prompted Butler City Council to form an internal safety committee in June, but the number of claims paid in 2022 were the lowest in five years.

Since 2017, there have been 117 paid workers’ compensation claims at Butler, with a total payout of more than $1.2 million.

Mindy Gall, Butler city clerk, said the safety committee, which consists of employees from public works, police department, fire department and city building, is just one way the city tries to prevent injuries — and accidents in general — in the workplace.

“We have a risk assessment done every year,” Gall said. “They look for hazards that may or may not come to be. We have a committee now, and they evaluate accidents.”

The 2022 Pennsylvania workers’ compensation report said the department paid more than $2.6 billion in indemnity and medical compensation in 2021. During 2022, 167,254 work injury and illness cases were reported to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The 2022 total is 5,662 more than the number reported in 2021, according to the report.

In City of Butler jobs, the highest number of paid claims was in 2017, when there were 32, totaling just over $32,000. From Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, there were 20 paid workers’ compensation claims totaling $475,800.

There were five paid claims in 2021 — totaling more than $67,900 — and five since Oct. 1, 2022.

Pennsylvania workers who submit a claim to workers’ compensation have to report their claim to the Department of Labor and Industry, which will then assign an investigator who will determine the validity of the claim. Depending on the nature of the findings, the department will cite any safety deficiencies found and issue an order to the employer to correct violations, issue a report indicating that no deficiencies or violations were found or even pursue criminal prosecution.

A majority of the claims each year in Butler come from the Bureau of Police, with the Bureau of Fire coming in second each year. There are one or two claims per year from the parks department, as well as one or two from city building employees, the streets department and meter monitors.

Employees from some departments report claims to their department heads — so firefighters report workplace injuries to Butler Bureau of Fire chief Chris Switala. Switala said a firefighter could file a claim after being injured — even slightly — while performing their duties at the scene of an emergency.

“Sometimes they have a minor injury at a scene, and they still fill out a report,” Switala said. “They have to have it on file even if it isn’t a paid claim.”

Gall said the city is insured by MRM, an insurance agency based in Franklin Park, which evaluates claims once they are filed. Workers’ compensation pays for workplace injury claims and also pays a percentage of an employee’s wages if they are unable to work because of a workplace injury.

The 2022 Pennsylvania workers’ compensation report said there were 9,711 injuries reported in public administration jobs that year; and the most common type of injury were sprains and strain, accounting for 37.4% of public administration injuries. The most common cause of injury is reported to be overexertion, which caused 2,155 injuries, or 22.4%.

Butler solicitor Tom Breth said employees are required to complete a form to submit a workers’ compensation claim, which then goes to the city’s workers’ compensation carrier who handles the matter.

“Sometime, claims arise because the employee fails to follow existing safety policies and procedures” Breth said. “Most time, it’s just an accident related to the employee properly performing his or her job.”

The safety committee has met a few times already since its formation, according to Gall. She added she tells employees to fill out a claim after an accident more often than not, just to be safe.

“What counts as workers' comp. is if you are working and get hurt,” Gall said. “Every accident must be reported. Even if it’s a rug and they trip and fall on it, I’ll usually say they should fill out a form.”

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