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Posted on: September 20, 2023

Facilities Maintenance Technician Nelson recognized as 2023 Safety Employee of Year

Safety Employee of Year Austin Nelson with City Administrator Steve McFarland

SPEARFISH, SD – Facilities Maintenance Technician Austin Nelson was recognized as the 2023 Safety Employee of the Year Wednesday during the City of Spearfish Safety Stand-Down Day at the W.S. Tretheway Pavilion. 

City Administrator Steve McFarland presented the award, describing how Nelson is constantly working to enhance the City’s safety culture, from always having proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to making sure the public is aware of the work being done in City facilities.

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 of 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.

Austin takes ‘Safety By Choice, Not By Chance’ (the City’s Safety Slogan) to heart,” City Administrator McFarland said, describing how Nelson conducts numerous walkthroughs with the public as they utilize the City’s rental facilities, making sure to point out where emergency exits and fire extinguishers are located.

It’s very important to Austin that the public is kept safe during their events,” City Administrator McFarland said. He added, in the winter, Nelson strives to keep parking lots, walkways, and steps clear of ice and snow to eliminate slip hazards. Nelson is responsible for training new facilities employees on proper cleaning techniques and emphasizes proper usage and handling of cleaning chemicals, as well as the proper PPE to use while cleaning.

Austin does all of this and more and doesn’t expect any recognition for it. To him, he is just doing his job. Well, you’re going to be recognized for it, so congratulations on getting Safety Employee of the Year!” City Administrator McFarland said, presenting the award to Nelson.

The award certificate reads, “For your commitment to safety and enhancing the Safety Culture for the City of Spearfish, you have been selected as Safety Employee of the Year by your peers.”

Nelson, who has been employed with the City since December 2017, said he never expected to receive the award and thanked everyone for the recognition, describing how he wouldn’t be able to do his job without the contributions of every City employee doing their jobs. 

I appreciate all of you,” Nelson said.

Safety Employee of Year Austin Nelson with City Administrator Steve McFarland

Photo caption: Facilities Maintenance Technician Austin Nelson, left, was recognized as the 2023 Safety Employee of the Year Wednesday, presented by City Administrator Steve McFarland.

Safety Stand-Down Day is one component of the City’s Safety Program, and the mission of the 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.

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

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