CAMARILLO : City Hall Rewards Safe Work Habits With a Breakfast

Camarillo officials are used to taking heat over issues such as city salaries, farmland preservation and budget cuts.

But on Tuesday, the mayor, two City Council members and department managers sweated over a different type of heat: a large, black stove in a local church kitchen, where officials cooked breakfast for about 80 city employees.

At the third annual employees' safety breakfast, officials whipped together an old-fashioned meal of hot cakes, scrambled eggs and sausage to reward workers for their low rate of on-the-job injuries.

Finance Director Anita Bingham, who organizes the yearly event, acknowledged that the high-cholesterol menu may conflict somewhat with the city's goal of promoting workers' health.

"We could serve them oatmeal and toast and fruit," she acknowledged. But, she said, "No one's complained."

Indeed, the city's secretaries, sanitation workers and other employees all sported grins as Mayor Charlotte Craven hustled plate after plate of food from the kitchen to the dining hall at United Methodist Church.

"They're excellent cooks," planning analyst Dodie White said after she finished her meal.

"They should have it once a week or every month," street maintenance worker Richard Aceves said.

Engineering Inspector Rocky Hale, 43, said he and fellow workers in his department deserve the show of appreciation from their bosses.

"We work in a field where you've got to be safe every day or you get hurt," he said, adding that he regularly operates bulldozers, backhoes and other heavy equipment.

Bingham agreed that the $300 cost of the breakfast is money well spent.

In fiscal 1988-89, city workers filed 24 workers' compensation claims for job-related injuries, costing the city's insurance provider $233,000 and resulting in insurance premiums of $96,045 the following fiscal year.

In response, city officials beefed up their worker-safety program, which includes weekly employee meetings on the topic.

The extra attention appears to be paying off. The insurance payout on Camarillo's workers' compensation claims dropped to $3,792 and insurance premiums fell to $33,465 in fiscal 1991-92, Bingham said.

Tuesday's breakfast was intended to encourage employees to continue safe work habits, but it also gave city officials a break from their routines.

"It gives us a good excuse to mess up the kitchen," said Police Cmdr. Ray Abbott, who helped City Manager J. William Little flip hot cakes. "The worst part is the cleanup. It always is."

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