eight men in orange safety vests standing in a line in front of construction equipment and smiling. logos at the bottom are for eagle river waster and sanitation, colorado special districts pool, and safest district of the year

Safest District of the Year Goes to…Eagle River Water and Sanitation

Nestled in the picturesque Eagle River Valley, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (ERWSD) provides drinking water and wastewater services to 27,000 to 55,000 people, depending on the season.

ERWSD provides services from East Vail to Wolcott and has etched itself deeply into the fabric of the local community and environment. ERWSD conducts its operations in an environmentally sound manner, ensuring regulatory requirements are met while also forging strong partnerships within the recreation and tourism-based community.

With a robust team of approximately 135 dedicated individuals at the helm, overseeing the intricate operations of three wastewater and three drinking water facilities, their commitment to safety, loss prevention, and their community are among the many reasons they were selected as the CSD Pool’s 2023 District of the Year.

Michael Rae, Safety & Risk Specialist for Eagle River Water and Sanitation, radiated enthusiasm at the news of ERWSD receiving the District of the Year award from the CSD Pool. “We were thrilled,” Michael said, “We take safety at the District very seriously and strive to be a safe and positive place to work. Staff put a lot of dedication and effort into improving our safety protocols, practices, and operations and we are grateful to know they’ve been recognized.”

Managing risk and averting losses is a major endeavor for ERWSD. Michael emphasized the expansive scope of their risk assessment, stating, “We look at risk from several perspectives: for the employees, for the community, regarding water quality, infrastructure and equipment maintenance, regulatory compliance, and resource scarcity.”

To address these multifaceted challenges, ERWSD has adopted a holistic approach. Michael elaborated on their comprehensive strategies, saying, “We aim to train and educate our team, inform our customers, monitor and test for contaminations, perform system checks and tests, and use data-driven resources and technology to provide clean water, sanitation, and a positive work environment for our employees.”

Training serves as the linchpin of ERWSD’s safety initiatives. Michael provided a detailed overview of their comprehensive training program, “We conduct a new hire safety orientation to give the appropriate training to each employee relevant to the job. We provide multiple safety trainings pertinent to different departments and positions including Confined Space, Hazardous Communications, Control of Hazardous Energy, Lockout/Tagout, Respirator Fit Tests, Ergonomics and CPR and First Aid.”

Looking ahead, ERWSD is resolutely committed to maintaining its position as an industry leader. “While this year’s emphasis has been on enhancing wildfire mitigation and response efforts,” Michael stated, “our leadership is also focused on promoting the overall well-being of our workforce through innovative initiatives that assist employees with housing, financial literacy, wellness and mental health.”

Moreover, ERWSD has set ambitious goals for 2024, including a 10% reduction in workplace incidents and injuries, enhanced business continuity planning, and an expanded in-house training program.

In response to the support the district receives from the CSD Pool, Michael remarked, “The CSD Pool has provided on-site employee trainings, has conducted safety facility tours, and helped to implement new software programs.” This collaborative effort has markedly strengthened ERWSD’s safety infrastructure, fostering a more robust and secure work environment.

The integration of software programs provided by CSD Pool has been transformative for ERWSD’s operations. Michael underscored their impact, “Vector EHS makes reporting easier for the user and tracks historical data for future decision making. Vector Solutions has been a useful learning management system and helps provide trainings to all employees. Vector SDS has streamlined our locations of safety data sheets and has become more readily available and accessible to all employees. SambaSafety has also been able to provide us a risk management tool to help monitor safe driving at ERWSD.”

Michael wisely points out that safety and risk management are dynamic fields that demand ongoing dedication and adaptation. “Because of that, there’s no one right way that can change everything overnight,” Michael emphasized. “It requires a leadership commitment to set the tone that safety is a core value. It requires employee involvement to provide valuable insight on processes and areas of improvement. It requires clear policies and procedures to ensure everyone knows their responsibilities regarding a safe working environment.” Michael also stressed the importance of data-driven solutions and cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.

At its core, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District transcends being a mere service provider. It is a community partner, a steward of the environment, and a tireless advocate for responsible water management.

Michael encapsulated their mission, saying, “Our role is to fulfill the District vision of managing our organization and water resources to meet evolving regulatory requirements, water supply needs and customer expectations in the future.” Their values, including service, accountability, customer confidence, and environmental stewardship, guide every facet of their operations.

In closing, Michael reflected on ERWSD’s enduring commitment to safety, “We continuously strive to cultivate a culture of safety. Our leaders consistently demonstrate safe behaviors to set the standard and grant all employees a ‘stop work authority’ if there’s an unsafe act. We believe it’s better to recognize and incentivize employees who prioritize their safety and their teammates rather than punish those who make mistakes.”

As the accolades pour in, it’s evident that the recognition ERWSD receives is a testament to the unwavering dedication of their team. Michael concluded, “It’s important to recognize that safety truly is a ‘team sport.’ It requires dedication, willingness to adapt and evolve, and commitment. We have a great team at ERWSD and feel honored to be receiving this awesome recognition.”

To view our other District of the Year winners, as well as our quarterly Safety Heroes, visit csdpool.org/awards

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