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SWIM Helps Workshops Save Money, Improve Safety

“It’s really hard for workshops to purchase regular work comp. SWIM is a risk-sharing agreement created as an alternative way to have cost-effective insurance. It’s owned by the members, and its entire cost purpose is to serve the members.”

– Shellie Knight, Sheltered Workshop Insurance of Missouri

Shellie Knight has some big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she’s ready and is getting guidance from the very person she’s been selected to follow.

Shellie is working with veteran Leslie Miles to lead the Sheltered Workshop Insurance of Missouri (SWIM) program. Miles has been with the 27-year-old network since 1998 and plans to retire late this year. Their work affects a majority of Missouri’s workshops.

United They Stand

SWIM is a group of eligible workshops that pool their funds for workers compensation coverage.

Administered by Arthur J. Gallagher and Company, SWIM is a 501c3, non-profit organization formed to offer an alternative to the expensive and risky environment of workers compensation.

An independent board of directors comprised of workshop managers, including Chair Ginger Williams of Farmington, governs SWIM. Serving for three-year terms, board members oversee SWIM policies and ensure a workshop orientation.

A key to SWIM is its financial foundation. Rather than purchasing insurance in a traditional market, the nearly 70 shops contribute to a pool at a rate based on actual loss costs. At the end of each year, unused funds not needed for projected expenses are returned to member shops. While this doesn’t produce dividends every year, it does bring competitive costs for services that are highly tailored to the unique needs of workshops serving people with disabilities.

“SWIM is not here to make money,” Miles explained. “It’s a pool to provide coverage that’s designed especially for workshops. And on good years when they collect more than needed, they can return it to members of the pool.”

The workshop-centered approach is important. “It’s really hard for workshops to purchase regular work comp,” Knight added. “SWIM is a risk-sharing agreement created as an alternative way to have cost-effective insurance. It’s owned by the members, and its entire purpose is to serve the members.”

Other Benefits

Beyond cost, one of the most widespread problems with for-profit solutions is unfamiliarity with workshops and the people they serve. SWIM claim handlers and staff understand workshops, certified employees and more.

“A dedicated adjuster handles all of our SWIM claims,” Miles said. “She has an understanding of guardianships and benefits that may be affected by a settlement or the medical challenges that some of these workers with disabilities face. In the standard industry, you’ll get the next available adjustor who may know nothing of people with disabilities.”

Equally important, SWIM has three dedicated loss-control consultants who visit participating shops and look for possible issues of concern that could impact safety – before injury and loss are encountered.

“They can look at where we’re paying claims, then go out and help avoid problems in advance,” Knight said. One example involved a number of people who were tripping over chairs. The loss-control team spent time teaching why it’s important to push in a chair after getting up.

“That’s a simple example,” Knight said. “There definitely are more complex things. The key is that we look at trends and help reduce losses. It helps keep losses to a manageable level and reduce costs for workshops.” Another benefit involves member training, which occurs throughout the year at various locations.

On-Call Help

Even when accidents happen, SWIM has other advantages. “If you’re a SWIM member and you have a claim, you’re connected with a nurse who can give advice on how to treat that injury,” Miles noted. “It takes the workshop out of making medical decisions. Most of them wear enough hats as it is.”

Both Knight and Miles are more than just mildly interested in the program. “I’ve always had a very special passion for this program,” Miles noted. “I have a son who’s developmentally disabled, and I believe in the opportunity offered by workshops.”

Shellie has been with the program since early 2018 and agrees. “It’s exciting to see something that works well and to have a role in carrying it forward,” she said. “Plus, workshops are really extraordinary. It’s gratifying to help them navigate something that can be challenging.”

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MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact: President Aaron Martin – (816) 796-7070 or amartin@jobonekc.org;
or Legislative Chair Brian Hogan – (816) 483-1620 or bhogan@bvinds.org