building in field behind fence under blue sky

Widefield Water and Sanitation Wins Safest District of 2019

Water and Sanitation District Finds Success in Safety

This year, Widefield Water and Sanitation District received recognition as the CSD Pool’s Safest District of the Year. Throughout the past year, Widefield has continued to build upon their success as a district by focusing on the safety and well-being of their staff and customers.

With their attention turned to continuous training, safety-related events, and great customer service, Widefield remains dedicated to placing safety at the forefront of each employee’s mind, creating a culture that sustains itself.

“We’re such a small company and work as teams; it makes us more family oriented,” said Carmen Slagle, Widefield’s Senior HR Analyst. “You want everyone to go home to their families.”

For Widefield, the key to their success can be found through continuous engagement.

With a staff of just 28 employees, achieving employee buy-in is the recipe for success. History has shown that the more employees are engaged and interested, the more apt they are to follow policies, procedures, and training methods.

“I always encourage feedback from employees anytime they have something to add as far as what we need to train on,” Slagle said.

Slagle reiterated the fact that her employees are the ones that have the best insight and knowledge about where to focus their attention. The district’s team, she attests, is full of go-getters that are intent on getting things done.

However, they know the importance of stopping and thinking about a task before rushing into it. Their top priorities remain safety and customer satisfaction, which translate to an understanding that the staff is often times the best source for training.

“Because they’re out in the field, they have time to know the subject better than I do,” Slagle noted. “Therefore, if they’re on top of a topic for a training session and want to do one, I encourage that.”

In addition to relying on employee insight, Widefield continues to direct attention to safety standards. Safety is a part of the culture and begins at onboarding, and the district practices site specific, departmental, and general safety through training, an accident review committee, and building inspections.

Their safety committee, another critical piece of the puzzle, consists of HR, a representative from each department, and management and supervisors. And Widefield maintains that some of the best safety improvement ideas come from employees.

Meetings are held once a month and training covers potential safety and health hazards, safe work practices, and procedures to eliminate or minimize hazards.

“We talk about reviewing safety manuals, emergency safety response plans, and our safety trainings held once a month,” Slagle said.

Widefield’s safety trainings require enlisting the support of third parties or engaging the staff and having them deliver trainings. In recent sessions, Widefield has asked the CSD Pool to present confined space training, and plans to invite Colorado Safety Association to demonstrate the safety protocols behind trenching and shoring at the beginning of next year.

The last training session held was a hazard assessment conducted by district staff.

“[Staff] went out in the field and took a backhoe and set it up as if doing a dig. They made some things wrong, and a group came out and talked about hazard assessment and the different things to think about as they’re going through the work,” Slagle explained.

During these sessions, Slagle reiterates the acronym “SAFE” which stands for: “Spot the hazard,” “Assess the risk,” “Find a safer way,” and “Every day, every time”. She also provides her participating employees with a risk assessment sheet where groups attempt to identify all potential hazards within the demonstration. Then, as a group, the employees discuss what can be done to fix it.

“We like to do hands on—I don’t like to sit in the classroom,” Slagle said. “Our training is more targeting a…concept and getting their minds to know what to look for and think about.”

In June 2018, Widefield Water & Sanitation District held their first Safety Fair to coincide with National Safety Month. The idea came about when the district’s General Manager suggested putting on a safety fair to encourage safety for staff and members.

To make this happen, Widefield reached out to a few of the vendors that sell them their safety supplies and asked them to participate. Last year, these vendors, as well as a few other districts, came together to help Widefield recognize their employees’ hard work and bring awareness to safety and health within the workplace and industry.

Just recently, Widefield held their second annual Safety Fair, and Slagle, who also serves as the District’s Safety Coordinator, commented that the message of safety and its purpose remain as important as ever.

“The goal is emphasizing the daily importance of safety, to think more about the information that’s given and the tasks at hand,” Slagle said. “You have to get up every day and prepare yourself for work.”

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work. Each week of the month highlights a different topic related to accident prevention. For 2019, the focus was on hazard recognition, fatigue, falls, and impairment.

“We incorporate all four themes,” Slagle said. “And we have asked our vendors to…not only provide information but also offer safety training.”

This year, Widefield coordinated with several vendors and participants to provide brief training on some of the different topics. Other organizations that joined the district for their event include Stratmoor Hills Water and Sanitation, Security Water and Sanitation, the City of Fountain Utilities, and Fountain Sanitation.

Slagle pointed out that “the main thing is to not only have other districts attend, but to actually have them participate and learn from the training provided.”

As far as participants go, Widefield lined up a long list for this year’s event, complete with a diverse offering of various trainings.

Henderson Consulting, who specializes in DOT training and EAP services, was on-site, Marathon Health offered blood pressure and glucose checks, and White Cap provided a brief course in fall protection as well as glove safety. To focus on hazard recognition, safety training was provided on trenching and shoring services.

CSD Pool’s Safety Management Consultant, Adam Johnsen, was also on-hand to answer questions. This was his second time in attendance.

“The effort put into the safety fair, their safety committee, and their overall safety program is incredible to see,” Johnsen said.

Beyond the focus on safety and health, Widefield’s Safety Fair is about celebrating and commending safe work habits and a job well done. And with more than 3,000 days without a no-loss accident, they have a lot to celebrate. Their dedication to safety and health goes way beyond the few hours of the safety fair.

Widefield also takes advantage of a few different services offered by the CSD Pool.

Specifically, their utilization of the training service, TargetSolutions, and the mass communications service, SmartNotice, has proved to be helpful. With TargetSolutions, Widefield makes sure their employees are aware of the types of classes and training available.

“Every year we send out a memo that the classes are up and running and they need to take a class,” Slagle said. “We utilize it for all types of training—leadership and safety.”
With SmartNotice, Widefield has made sure all their employees are in the loop when it comes to potential bad weather or emergency notifications.

“It’s a wonderful tool,” Slagle says. “We set it up and used it for weather delays and closures. We’re ready to go.”

Widefield hopes to keep the momentum of the Safety Fair’s success throughout the remainder of the year.  In the coming months, their district is focused on trainings pertaining to trenching and shoring, flagging, CPR, and first-aid.

In October and December, they will be implementing “Table Talks” with their staff, where they expect to run through emergency disaster drills and refine each department’s response in crisis situations.

They also recently implemented a brand new policy prohibiting driving while using cell phones on the job. Through all of this training and employee engagement,

Widefield has demonstrated the necessity of making safety a priority. With them, it’s obvious—every month is a safety month.

Congratulations to Widefield Water & Sanitation District for being awarded this year’s Safest District of the Year!

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