City's 'hazardous workplace' designation removed after review
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Nov. 23, 2004 -- The city of Sulphur Springs is not a hazardous place to work after all.

After being designated as a hazardous workplace by the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission two months ago, the state agency has changed its mind.

In a letter received this week by the city, Robert Giacomazza, administrator of the Hazardous Employer Program, said "We conclude that Sulphur Springs should not be identified as a hazardous employer ... "

Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell said the city knew all along it was not a hazardous place to work.

"I wish I could say we are delighted to learn we are not a hazardous employer, but we knew it all along," Maxwell said.

The time frame used by the state agency to make the determination was between Jan. 1, 2003 and Dec. 31, 2003, according to Steve Pedersen in the Worker's Health and Safety Division office in Austin.

Pedersen said it was highly unlikely the designation was being applied to all city departments, but to a specific department.

While the state agency did not supply the specific incident or accidents that prompted the designation, the city manager identified three injuries, but said he could not imagine the incidents would warrant any special designation for the city.

"The whole issue was they had a problem with the parks and recreation department," the city manager said. "There were three worker's compensation accidents in 2003 in the city that resulted in time lost from the job."

In seeking an administrative review of the designation, Maxwell told the commission there was a problem with the area of work of the three injured employees.

"For some reason, they thought that all three of those employees were employees of the parks and recreation department," Maxwell said. "In fact, none of them were. One of them was a firefighter, one works at the water plant and one was a water and sewer distribution employee."

Specific job and department information was submitted with the review request.

"We sent them documentation to that effect and asked for the administrative review, which concluded we were right," he said.

"As a result of the corrected and verified information, the hazardous employer status is removed," Giacomazza wrote in the Nov. 10 letter. "Sulphur Springs is no longer subject to the requirements relating to hazardous employers during this audit period."

If the designation as a hazardous workplace had been allowed to stand, it would have had some detrimental effects on the city.

"It would have been costly," the city manager said. "We would have had to hire a consultant, and consultants don't come cheap."

Had the city been forced to hire a consultant, Maxwell said, the city would have had to follow his recommendations, which might have led to unnecessary expense for city taxpayers.

"With the designation of hazardous employer, we would have had to jump through a lot of hoops," Maxwell said. "Our rates for worker's compensation insurance would go up and stay that way for two years and would have been a costly thing all the way around."

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