Mount Laurel School District earned the top designation of Safety District of the Year at the recent annual Burlington County Joint Insurance Fund (JIF) awards ceremony.
A shared service of school districts within Burlington County, the JIF is a cooperative venture started in 1984 to reduce the high cost of insurance to schools. It is overseen by a board of trustees and a professional staff that provides safety training to school staff in addition to providing pooled insurance costs for liability and workman’s compensation.
Mount Laurel Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Business/Board Secretary Robert Wachter, Jr. said the JIF is made up of 22 school districts and also provides for property, casualty, and auto insurance.
“We had a very good year last year which is the direct result of a lot of hard work from a lot of people,” he said, noting the award goes to all parts of the district, from custodial to board of education.
“We’re very happy, very excited,” Wachter said, adding that luck also played a part in receiving the award. “You could put in all of the preventive maintenance, preventive measures but sometimes you just have bad years.”
Along with the award is $2,500, which the district will use to purchase safety items like protective gear, goggles, gloves, safety ladders, and floor mats.
“The money has to be used for some kind of safety item,” Wachter said. The district has regular safety committee meetings.
“Our maintenance and custodial staff do an excellent job trying to keep an eye out for things that are not safe,” he said. “We constantly promote safety as an ongoing part of our culture.”
Wachter said safety is difficult to manage in a school district of Mt Laurel’s size.
He said he was surprised the district received the award, which was the first time.
Wachter added that, throughout the year, the district does several in service training programs for all the staff which address things like blood borne pathogens, right to know, defensive driving, and workshops for bus drivers.
Combining the purchasing power of all member districts, the JIF saves local taxpayers thousands of dollars each year in insurance premiums. It also provides more than 64 different training programs to school employees ranging from basic first aid to safe lifting to workplace violence throughout the year in an effort to minimize claims.
The annual surplus distribution program awards funds back to member districts when claims are reduced.
In addition to tying with Haddon Heights School District for the top honor of Safety District of the Year, Mount Laurel Schools was hailed for financial excellence for maintaining a loss ratio below 50-percent for three years. It also received an Elite II Safety Incentive Award meeting and exceeding safety surveys, inspections and training components.