Immanuel Lutheran recognized for safe working conditions

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Montana’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company is giving $35 million back to its policyholders across the state. The Montana State Fund is directing more than $2 million of that money back to Flathead County businesses. 

Montana State Fund’s CEO and President, Laurence Hubbard, presented a $93,090 dividend check to Immanuel Lutheran Corp on Friday morning.

Before the event, Hubbard said dividend amounts fluctuate from year to year and are based on the size of the premiums and the losses that happen during a policy period.

Larger dividends, like the one presented to the Kalispell senior living facility, are a result of lower than expected workplace injuries due to increased safety practices by the employer.

Hubbard said the dividends act as an incentive to improve safety in workplaces throughout Montana.

“Our state is diverse in industry geography and workforce,” Hubbard said. “We believe it is important for employers to place an added focus on safety to reduce the potential of costly injuries.”

The event took place a day after a Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co. employee died in a work-related accident at near Seeley Lake. Missoula County sheriff’s spokesperson said the victim was crushed by a piece of machinery Thursday morning.

“To see a workplace death, it’s hard — it’s tragic for all of us,” Hubbard said. “But it really reinforces the importance of workplace safety.”

The fund gave 2,191 companies in the Flathead County a dividend.

Eric Vardell, the director of human resources at Immanuel Lutheran Corp, said this year’s dividend follows a $154,278 check the organization received from the state fund last year.

“Workplace safety is like anything else, you get what you pay attention to, whether that’s a love relationship, work or a project or sales,” he said. “We’ve been paying a lot of attention to safety and it’s been worth it in a lot of ways.”

Immanuel Lutheran offers assisted and independent living along with short-term rehabilitation.

Vardell said Immanuel Lutheran is 18 percent less likely to have workplace injuries compared to the national average for similar workplace environments, according to the nonprofit’s worker’s compensation reports.

More than 40 percent of Immanuel staffers have hands-on nursing positions.

“Hands-on nursing positions are tough. Those jobs have a higher back injury rate than even firefighters or police officers,” he said. “But nationwide, you’re safer working here.”

There are more than 35,000 back related and other injuries among nursing employees every year, according to surveys by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The injuries are severe enough that nurses miss work.

According to the American Nurses Association, health-care workers are 16 times more likely to face violence from patients or clients, compared to other service workers.

In a nationwide survey by the association of more than 3,700 registered nurses and student nurses, roughly 24 percent reported they had been physically assaulted by a patient or a patient’s family member.

Vardell said when the nonprofit has a safe working environment, it’s good for the communities it serves, Immanuel employees and the Montana State Fund.

“When we get checks back like this, it goes back into strengthening our safety here, and providing good care to the people who come to us,” he said. “And really, it’s great for this valley.”

Reporter Katheryn Houghton may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at khoughton@dailyinterlake.com. 

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