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Posted on: September 28, 2022

City of Spearfish Safety Program pays off

Safety slogan

Safer employees, cost savings highlight benefits of safety culture

SPEARFISH, SD – The City of Spearfish continues to celebrate its safety successes since the launch of a safety program in 2019, with milestones and awards presented during the annual Safety Stand-Down Day September 21st

Data shows that we are definitely safer than we used to be,” Gary Hargens, facilities maintenance superintendent and chair of the Safety Committee, said. 

The mission of the Safety Program states the City and its employees “will integrate occupational safety and health practices into all activities and related operations, planning, and decision making to achieve superior health and safety performance.” The program applies to all personnel and resources employed by the City, as well as volunteers, and the program has been implemented using a six-pronged approach: Safety training, safety inspections, safety committee, risk mitigation, accident/incident reporting, and safety rewards.

Facilities Maintenance Superintendent Hargens referenced data showing the improvements since the program implementation. In terms of recordable accidents/incidents: In 2019, there were 23; in 2020, 13; in 2021, 10; and to date in 2022, there have been six. In addition, the City’s workers’ compensation fund modifier has improved significantly.

In 2019, our fund modifier was 481 out of 491 municipalities, which means we had the 11th worst rating,” Facilities Maintenance Superintendent Hargens said. “However, due to being safer in the workplace, the fund modifier for 2023 has Spearfish now with the ninth best rating out of 511 municipalities. Quite the turnaround in four years.

That turnaround creates a financial benefit, as well: The lower fund modifier has saved the City around $100,000 over the last three years, Parks and Recreation Director and Safety Coordinator Tyler Ehnes explained.

Several employees were recognized during Safety Stand-Down Day. The Hydroelectric Plant staff were recognized this year with the Safety Employee Award. Safety Coordinator Ehnes described the team at the hydroelectric plant worked diligently over the year to close out the items on their department’s hazard log.

They have done a great job turning a 100-year old building into a safe place to work while at the same time maintaining the historical aspects of the building,” he said, highlighting how the staff has added handrails on all stairwells, cleaned out more than eight truckloads' worth of stored material in the basement, and created a new entrance that allows for a safe exit during an emergency and also serves as a safer entrance for visitors.

Safety Coordinator Ehnes was also recognized for his contributions and leadership.

When this individual took on the role of safety coordinator in February of 2019, he had an almost insurmountable task of starting a safety program that was very much needed at the City of Spearfish,” City Administrator Steve McFarland said, describing under Ehnes’ leadership of the program: A hazlog of potential safety issues was created for each department to eliminate or correct (756 items were found, and to date, 691 have been closed); a safety committee was formed, a safety manual was written by the Safety Committee and adopted by the City Council, a safety slogan (“Safety by choice, not by chance!”) was chosen, a safety tracking program for near misses and recordable incidents was created, and a safety points reward program was launched; safety meetings and presentations are now a part of the safety culture; and a safety training program is now part of a new employee’s orientation which takes approximately two to three days to complete.

Other entities have noticed the Spearfish Safety Program, and Safety Coordinator Ehnes has been asked to speak at the upcoming safety conference in Pierre in November.

The City of Spearfish would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to Tyler Ehnes for what has been accomplished under his nearly four years of guidance and leadership as safety coordinator,” City Administrator McFarland said. 

Safety Coordinator Ehnes thanked the employees for their work and buy-in to the program. As the safety manual explains, “The City of Spearfish’s most valuable assets are the employees whose efforts have enabled us to achieve the level of success we enjoy today. The safety and wellbeing of every employee is the most important element in protecting that asset. Consequently, the City of Spearfish is committed to equipping employees to perform their assigned tasks safely.” More information about the Safety Program is available at https://www.cityofspearfish.com/DocumentCenter/View/894/Safety-Program-PDF.

A safety culture is an organizational culture that places a high level of importance on safety beliefs, values, and attitudes. In addition to the benefits to employees in terms staying safe and going home each day with a good quality of life, a strong safety culture benefits worker confidence and retention, organizational behavior, and productivity, as well as reduces the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and their related costs in the workplace.

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