‘Safety’ is the word for WM Utilities

Department workers complete training

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

Safety training took a step forward at the West Memphis Utilities in 2015. Brett Sims delivered a training summary to the Utilities Commission at the January meeting. Sims, an Electric Department employee, took on training duties in April last year. The best news about the new found commitment to safety was that classes were offered to the utilities for free through three other government sources. The Arkansas Technology Transfer Center offered 14 days of training paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Arkansas Highway Department. In all three-fourths of the Utility Department employees received training in 2015. The Department carries 82 employees, 65 received training totaling 1,296 hours. “It’s free training for city and county governments,” said Sims. If we were to have paid for that training a conservative cost estimate would be $18,000. OSHA regulations have changed. Its not enough to just show videos anymore. Trainees have to show proficiency.” A wide variety of safety topics were addressed with the classes. Training topics offered included work zone traffic control (flaggers), fork lift operation, evacuation of competent persons, confined space procedures, arc flash person protection equipment, safely operating aerial lifts and back yard buckets, fall protection; and tree trimmers qualified on line clearance. First aid sessions brought CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) training topped the list. “I thought we made a real good demonstration by getting the AED units and showing our employees we were serious about safety,” said Sims. “We got state contract pricing on them and saved $6,000 on vendor pricing.” In all 59 employees were trained as responders on the 11 new Zoll AED units around the utilities department. The AED units were purchased in 2015. Five wall cabinet units have been installed and six mobile units travel with electric, water and waste water crews. The utilities department tallied some OSHA recordable accidents last year. The training and changes to ice and snow removal policies at the main office were made to address those accidents. “We’ve also been recording injuries,” said Sims. “I began recording in April. We had five OSHA reportable accidents, from dog bite to one minor electrical contact, and a motor vehicle accident. Prior to my starting last year we had injuries that resulted in quite a few lost days of work. They were from the ice event in January 2015. This year when we had the ice we were proactive. I had cleats to hand out to the employees to get out on the ice to prevent slip trip and falls. We got out early one morning this year and did our own salting and prep on the property here.” Defensive driving is slated for later this year. A training room is being built at the utilities complex and Sims outlined training program development. Commissioners asked for quarterly safety updates moving forward.

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