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Chapter 3: Employee Safety Programs Must Start at the Top

The single most important thing any local official can do is to place the safety program on the discussion agenda each month and request that the CEO report on the program’s status. Local officials are responsible to establish priorities.  The management team and workforce will adjust their priorities based on what local officials decide to monitor.    

Ninety-five percent of all employee accidents are preventable.  In safety engineering, there is a simple axiom - Any dangerous act will cause an accident if repeated often enough and any dangerous condition will cause an accident if it remains uncorrected long enough.  Safety records can be improved by changing behavior – reducing unsafe acts and quickly correcting unsafe conditions.

Long-term effort produces results.  The particular safety standards are not especially complicated.  Local governmental officials and managers are not expected to be a safety engineer.  All MEL affiliated JIFs offer extensive safety services to assist member local governments.  However, to be successful, you must consistently take a visible roll in the program.

  • Permanent Organization:  Every local government is required to have a safety committee.  The CEO should personally chair the committee – this is not a responsibility that should be delegated.   In most forms of local government, the CEO is the manager or administrator – not the Mayor.  In authorities, the CEO is the Executive Director.  The safety committee should also include employee representatives, the head of each major department and, if possible, the unit’s insurance risk manager or agent.  The committee should complete a monthly written report of its activities and a copy of this report should be circulated and discussed with the governing body.
  • Training:  All managerial and supervisory personnel should receive annual risk management training in addition to training required by various safety laws pertaining to their functions.  Some of the training for non-managerial employees is mandated by the regulations established by the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Administration (PEOSHA).  However, this should be supplemented with non-mandated training that addresses safety issues not specifically covered by the regulations.     
  • Safety Awareness:  Managers and supervisors have the daily responsibility to make sure each employee is reminded of the critical safety procedures required for that day’s operations.  They also have the responsibility to observe operations to identify and correct potentially unsafe situations.       
  • Engineering Inspections:  All workplaces should be periodically inspected by a safety professional.  Your JIF provides this service.  Managers and supervisors should supplement these inspections with daily self-inspections.
  • Accident Investigations:  All accidents should be investigated to identify ways to prevent a reoccurrence. 
  • Monitoring and Follow Up:  At a minimum of once each quarter, the safety committee should compare its record to similar communities and authorities.  Comparison data is often available from your JIF.  The report should also track the performance of each department to identify trends.

Model Safety Policy

The (local government name) will provide a safe and healthy work environment and shall comply with the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act (PEOSHA).  The (local government) is equally concerned about the safety of the public.  Consistent with this policy, employees will receive periodic safety training and will be provided with appropriate safety equipment.  Employees are responsible for observing safety rules and using available safety devices including personal protective equipment.  Failure to do so constitutes grounds for disciplinary action.  Any occupational or public unsafe condition, practice, procedure or act must be immediately reported to the supervisor or Department Head.  Any on-the-job accident or accident involving (local unit name) facilities, equipment or motor vehicles must also be immediately reported to the supervisor or Department Head.  The (local government name) has appointed a Safety Committee that meets on a regular basis to discuss and recommend solutions to safety problems.  Employees are encouraged to discuss safety concerns with their Safety Committee representative.