Tri-Village News

City's push to increase worker safety bears fruit

Grandview earns honors from area safety council

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It's no accident that the city of Grandview Heights won three awards at last month's Capital Area Safety Council ceremony.

"We've made a real effort in a number of different ways to increase the safety of our employees," Mayor Ray DeGraw said. "We're very proud that we had no on-the-job injuries or illnesses during 2013."

The Capital Area Safety Council is one of 81 councils sponsored by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation's Division of Safety and Hygiene. Each council works with businesses in its area to increase awareness about and improve employee safety.

Grandview was one of only five honorees -- and the only public-sector entity -- to win three awards from the safety council.

The city's honors included the 100 Percent Award, which is granted to organizations that go through the entire year without an employee losing a day's work due to injury; and the Group Award, which goes to an organization that has the lowest incident rate in its group.

The city also received the Achievement Award, presented to organizations that decreased their incident rate by at least 25 percent from the previous year.

Most participants in the safety council are businesses, Street Supervisor Steve McKnight said.

"Grandview has all sorts of jobs that are high-risk, especially given our size," DeGraw said. "We have the safety concerns of police and fire, of course, but sanitation and service department workers are out on the street using trucks and heavy equipment to complete their tasks, and even our recreation employees are out there using mowers.

"There are only about a third of our employees and department heads who are working all day at desks, so that makes our level of safety that much more of an accomplishment and satisfying," he said.

To increase their safety, city crews now wear brightly colored, reflective clothing while out on jobs to make sure they can be more easily seen, McKnight said.

"Before our crews go out on a job, we meet to have what we call a toolbox talk to go over how to do the job safely on-site," he said.

The city also participates in or holds other safety meetings and training sessions through the bureau, service department secretary Pam Rybak said.

Last winter, city crews began wearing Yaktrax on their boots, she said. The wire devices wrap around boots or shoes to help them dig in more securely when snow and ice cover the ground.

All service department employees have completed at least the first level of the Ohio Local Technical Assistance Program's Road Scholar training, McKnight said.

"There are three levels in the Road Scholar program and you have to meet certain criteria to reach each level," he said.

The increased level of safety pays dividends for the city, DeGraw said.

Having no employees injured last year helps to reduce the city's workers' compensation rates, he said.

"There's also a big expense we can save if we don't have to bring in a temporary worker to fill in for someone who's out with an injury," DeGraw said.

If a service department employee is out for six months with an injury -- "which is not unusual" -- the cost of hiring a temporary worker and/or paying overtime to cover the duties could cost the city between $10,000 and $25,000, he said.

There also is the potential loss of efficiency, since the temporary worker may be a laborer who is not as well-trained as a city employee, McKnight said.

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