By Tim Baxter, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist
One of the important items found missing from the Internal Road Department Assessments conducted in 2017 and 2018 was a comprehensive Road Department Safety Manual. Only 25 of 82 members at the time, or 30%, had Road Department Safety Manuals, some of which were seriously lacking in important safety issues.
Due to those findings, NIRMA has developed a Model Road Department Safety Manual for our member counties. We have done our best to make it a comprehensive manual, but you may want to add safety topics that pertain specifically to your county.
One of the first things county boards and road department management need to realize is this manual is a MODEL. The county board and highway superintendent should review and make any changes to fit your county prior to adoption by the county board. Don’t just adopt the manual as is without review as there may be issues that you want to change. We have provided the manual in WORD form on a CD so you can easily edit as well as add your county name in the proper locations.
After reviewing, editing, and adopting the manual, an in-depth safety training should be held with all county road department employees to review the manual. New employees should be given the county road department safety manual as soon after hire as practical, along with other necessary paperwork.
Safety should be a priority in every county road department. NIRMA’s workers’ compensation adjusters continuously receive injury claims which could be greatly reduced through a good, comprehensive safety program. Safety culture is the way in which safety is managed in the workplace, and often reflects “the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety.” Every county has a safety culture, whether it be good or bad. A good, positive safety culture will reduce accidents and injuries, reduce claims and lawsuits, and generally provide a good, safe work environment for your employees.
A safety manual is more effective at preventing accidents if you get support from management and employees. You want everyone involved in reading the manual, updating it from time to time with accurate information and attending training according to the procedures detailed in the manual. With upper management support, employees become more aware that safety is important in your county’s positive safety culture. You can hold them accountable for knowing the relevant parts of the safety manual based on their job duties.
Adopting a comprehensive safety manual, developing a road department safety committee, holding quarterly committee meetings, presenting quarterly safety training to employees, conducting quarterly shop safety audits, etc., all contribute to a good, positive safety culture that benefits everyone.