Member Spotlight: Grand River Mosquito Control District

No Lone Worker Left Behind: Safety and Community Coincide at Grand River Mosquito Control District

Grand River Mosquito Control District (GRMCD) came to our attention after our safety consultant Adam Johnsen paid them a visit back in April. He was impressed by their policies, training programs, and approaches to risk management. We had the privilege of interviewing district manager Tim Moore about some of Grand River’s procedures, concerns, and preemptive measures. We believe other members can learn from their efforts as we have.

Training Done Right

One of GRMCD’s notable qualities is its relationship to the community it serves. The district singularly prioritizes safety for both its employees and community. Due to Grand Junction’s mosquito season, which begins in May and runs through September, the district employs 24 full-time seasonal employees in addition to its five full-time, permanent positions. GRMCD’s seasonal workers are often comprised of locals seeking additional work, including teachers, retirees, and university students. Though these seasonal workers have proven to be major assets in achieving the district’s annual goal of controlling the mosquito population, GRMCD recognizes that they are often unfamiliar with the hazards associated with the job.

To address this concern, GRMCD’s permanent staff and safety committee developed a five-day comprehensive training and safety program for new employees. Taken at the start of every season, some of the covered training topics include hazards and risks associated with working alone, monitoring and notification policies, mosquito breeding site classifications, operation of vehicles and mandatory safety equipment, first aid, and more. As their training progresses, more specific hazards are addressed, including but not limited to, responding to potentially violent individuals and difficult property owners, navigating difficult terrain, and exercising awareness of environmental factors such as floodplains and flash flooding.

Since developing the program, the district has reduced its number of work-related injuries. Tim reports that the program is evaluated and modified every year.

Turning Workers into Beacons

One of Grand River’s chief concerns involves staff working alone while out in the field. The “lone worker” situation has high risk implications given the district’s large service area, and it could take hours before an employee is found during an emergency. Additionally, supervisors may not even be aware that something is amiss until the employee in question doesn’t return at the end of their shift.

To address this, GRMCD assigned personal tracking devices to its seasonal workers in 2017. Working with Vestige, a Verizon-based company, these devices act as GPS beacons that allow continuous monitoring of staff. Additionally, these trackers allow employees to send instant notifications such as distress signals, and have been programmed to prompt employees to electronically “check-in” at specific time intervals. A push of the button messages GRMCD’s supervisors that the employee is safe. Should an employee fail to check-in, the appropriate supervisor is notified. The supervisor then follows the standard operating procedure of calling the worker’s phone. If they don’t answer, the supervisor would then drive to their location using the GPS system in order to check on the employee’s well-being.

Since deploying the devices, the district has been fortunate not to have experienced an emergency situation. As part of its ongoing safety program, they intend to evaluate the use of its tracking devices at the end of the mosquito season.

David A. Reinertsen, board member at GRMCD and Assistant Manager at Clifton Water, had this to add:

“Employee safety is one of our operating principles and employees working alone have always been a concern to the Board. This year’s identification and implementation of the Lone Worker Program not only allows for Supervisors and Management to account for staff, it also provides the field staff with the assurance that, should the need arise for emergency response and support, help will be on its way sooner rather than later. The Board is very pleased with the results of this new component of the District’s Safety Program.”

Self Protection 101

Recently, Grand River received a call from a local who raises bees and believed the district’s fogging operations were responsible for the dead bees scattered throughout his yard. By checking its database, GRMCD quickly determined and provided proof that there had been no fogging operations near the local’s address for several weeks.

Since the 2016 spring season, GRMCD has been utilizing a system in their fogging operations that can adjust the flow rate of the aerosol to match the treatment flow rate pre-programmed by the district. Not only does this reduce the risk of over-treatments, it also ensures compliance with federal standards. Additionally, this system is used to monitor the speed of the fogging vehicle and provides records of each fogging operation replete with details like when the fogging pump was turned on and off, a map of the route, flow rates, and the duration of the operation. This data is recorded on a digital memory card and transferred to GRMCD’s office for filing.

The district has also made it a policy to obtain access agreements from all commercial and residential properties before mosquito breeding sites are treated. The access agreements are signed by the property owner of record or their agent and kept on file at the office. Access agreements are also identified on iPads issued to seasonal staff for their use in the field. If a property does not have a signed access agreement, district staff will not approach the site.

Grand River has an impressive operation and an enviable dedication to their employees. We look forward to hearing more stories from them in the future about how the Lone Worker program responds to potential issues.

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