City safety program commended during KDOL survey
The City of Independence’s employee safety program was recently acknowledged for exceptional achievement during a routine survey by the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL). Inspector Shane Etzold with the KDOL’s Division of Industrial Safety and Health visited the city’s facilities on January 2 to conduct a complete review of the safety program. This survey process is routinely scheduled by the state every five years to ensure the city is providing safe working conditions and facilities and safety policies and procedures are effectively being administered.
David Cowan, the city’s director of Safety and Code Enforcement, explained that while municipalities in the state of Kansas are not regulated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the OSHA standards for inspection and compliance are the benchmarks used by the State of Kansas. He noted that inspector Etzold was highly complimentary of the city’s overall safety program, and in particular, its efforts over the past 10 years to manage employee injuries and workers’ compensation insurance issues.
Cowan explained that the city’s long-standing safety program was completely revamped in 2008 to improve safety practices and general safety awareness among employees and to foster a better understanding of the appropriate use of workers’ compensation insurance. The program overhaul was prompted by record-high insurance claims and premium costs hovering around $319,000 that year.
“With the help of a newly formed employee-driven safety committee, policy changes and lots of education, we were able to create a true ‘culture of safety’ within our organization,” Cowan said.
He noted that on-the-job injuries decreased, and premiums dropped by more than $65,000 in the first year after the changes were implemented. Today, 10 years later, premiums are anticipated to come in approximately 41 percent lower than the 2008 figure, he said.
“Inspector Etzold was impressed with what he learned about the City of Independence’s safety program, and said our program was a star among many of the other cities he surveys,” Cowan said.
Cowan said that even with improved statistics related to injuries and premium costs, the City’s safety committee recognizes that constant attention is required to keep safety top of mind within the organization. The committee has planned further improvements to the overall program going forward, including more employee participation and a mechanism for individual employee recognition for their contributions to a positive safety culture.
“While job-related injuries are sometimes unavoidable, our goal is to minimize risk and send our employees home safely after each day of work,” Cowan said.