By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

As road department management and staff, we can be asked to wear many different hats within the county structure. I will not go through the many hats we can be asked to wear, but I will appeal to the individual wearing the hat of safety professional within the organization.  This is not usually the most positively received position within the organization, but I would argue that it is the most important. The responsibility and practice of the safety professional affects all the other responsibilities that a road department manager has, including the budget.

In a recent article published in the National Safety Council magazine, Safety+Health, the question was asked “what challenges do safety professionals experience when delivering worker training?” This article is part of the annual training survey that the National Safety Council conducts. The article always catches my attention and I have twice now printed off this page of questions and responses to keep on my desk as a subtle reminder of what other safety professionals experience. Many of the experiences they have are true to what I am experiencing and have also heard at county road department meetings. In the best interest of keeping this a “safety short,” I am going to speak to some of the challenges experienced in this article. Next month, I’ll follow up with some mistakes made and lessons learned.

Challenges we can experience are:

Getting senior leadership to get on board with safety programs. I say this very cautiously because I do not want to encourage insubordination, but if this is your experience, take the time to have safety meetings on your own. These do not have to be a big production; they can be short weekly toolbox or tailgate talks. This approach is generally limited in time to 15 minutes or so in length. These can be conducted daily or even weekly, with the intent to keep employee safety fresh in our minds.

Keeping the newer generations interested while not losing the older generations. This one is challenging. One approach that I have seen and used myself, is to use games to reinforce the material being taught. Now I am not a game guy myself, but I was encouraged to give it a try by one of MSHA’s training specialists. He told me very point blank, training can be fun! So, I reluctantly tried using the game Jeopardy during an MSHA training I conducted and what do you know, it worked! I have since learned that there are road departments using games to keep their employees of all ages engaged. I want to warn you though, road department employees can be SUPER competitive! Think outside the box when trying to come up with new ideas.

Finding training that is specific to our needs. This is an easy challenge to correct. NIRMA is a great resource for material to use for training. There are multiple online resources offered from NIRMA for you to use at your safety meetings. I would also remind you that the NIRMA loss prevention staff are here to conduct safety training also, and we would be happy to help you with your needs.

Our budget is too small for safety meetings. This one is very simple. Think about the effects that the lack of a safety program can have on your budget. Employee injuries and property damage are expensive. Safety meetings are supposed to be proactive and not reactive. I would say that no one has the budget for employee injuries and property loss. I would also like to ask you if you have enough of an emotional budget when someone has been injured and the injury could have been avoided while on your watch?

Scheduling safety meetings around weather and projects. If you do not make safety a priority, it will never happen. I don’t know if there will ever be a day that has perfect weather, but every day is perfect for safety. Just schedule a date and go with it, regardless of the weather or projects.

How do I ensure what is taught is remembered? Teach safety, practice safety, model safety and supervise safety. It is going to take effort, but the results are worth it. Your employees are worth it!

Again, these are just some of the challenges many of us can experience. Don’t let them be the reason you are unsafe or use them as an excuse to be unsafe, because these are challenges that can be overcome. If you need help with your safety training or program, do not hesitate to contact us for help. I can be reached at  I look forward to hearing from you!