Georgetown County government was presented this week with the Outstanding Safety Achievement Award from the S.C. Association of Counties. The annual award is presented to counties that have demonstrated significant progress in a specific area of their risk management and safety program through special projects.
Georgetown County received the award due to safety initiatives introduced following a ransomware attack it fell victim to in January 2021. The initiatives demonstrated county staff had learned from their experiences and taken action to prevent such an attack from happening again.
The county’s program obviously included making major improvements to its cyber security, but also training and educating employees to make them more aware of various ways cyber criminals try to gain access to networks and steal information or funds, and how to avoid becoming a victim. Employees learned about methods such as phishing, malware and more.
Shortly after a training event, cyber criminals tried to steal funds from the county via an email sent to the county attorney by someone posing as the county’s finance director. The attorney was in the process of completing a property purchase on behalf of the county and had instructions for an electronic transfer of funds. The fraudulent email instructed him to use different account information from what he was originally given for the transfer. Training helped him avoid falling victim to the scam.
“Here, training and teaching resulted in a savings for the county,” said Robert Benfield, director of risk management services for the S.C. Association of Counties. “It’s a great example of everyone coming together at a huge benefit to the county.”
He added that programs like this don’t work without across-the-board support from staff at all levels. He also commended the county for getting creative in its training initiatives to overcome obstacles to in-person training that were created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgetown County Risk Management is always looking for new and creative ways to improve safety. It most recently held a ladder safety training course for staff in its Facilities division.
“In a county, you want to preserve and protect the greatest asset you have, and the greatest asset you have is your people,” Benfield said. He also talked about the financial benefits of keeping employees safe and reducing the number of accidents at the workplace. The safety of a work environment is measured by an “Experience Modification Factor.” The average modifier is a 1. Anything higher results in higher workers compensation premiums for the employer; anything lower results in a discount.
Benfield said the county’s Experience Modification score for the current year is .87, resulting in a 13% savings, or $140,000 in taxpayer dollars that can be used elsewhere in the budget.