By Katie Dahlstrom
After six months on the job, Clinton Safety Director Jeff Chapman has created a safety manual that he hopes will correct an unsafe culture among city employees.
“It’s not a secret that I believe we have an unsafe workplace,” Chapman told members of the Internal Operations Committee last Tuesday. “I think most of that is driven by the morale and attitudes of the employees we have. Happy employees work safe.”
Chapman said the unsafe work environment also is a product of the city’s lack of safety policies. One of his goals is to create policies and put verbal understandings on paper so that all employees are governed by the same set of rules.
“When I say, ‘what training do you have that says you’re a snow plow driver?’ Nobody can give me anything that states the person has been trained on that,” Chapman said. “There’s nothing saying that person behind that gigantic truck is qualified to drive that.”
The safety manual he presented to members of the IOC called for training and orientation so employees are prepared to carry out their jobs safely. Unsafe condition reports will also be readily available for employees should the City Council approve Chapman’s safety manual.
Injury and incident reporting will play an integral role in increasing safety because it will allow the city to look at the incident and prevent future occurrences, Chapman said. The charge of the safety director is to increase safety in order to stem the amount of workers’ compensation claims the city incurs. By lowering claims, the city hopes to reduce costs.
As part of his everyday efforts, Chapman works with department heads to evaluate what their employees do and what can be changed to create a safer work environment. This also entails holding department heads accountable for enforcing the safety policies and taking responsibility for their employees.
Implementing these safety measures has not been easy.
“What we’re trying to do is change a culture. It’s been rough. It’s been way rougher than I thought it would be to change this culture. It’s a culture of ‘I don’t care.’ It’s a culture of ‘I’ll show you’ and it can’t be that way. It has to be a safe culture. I don’t know why people would want to come to work and risk themselves and not go home,” Chapman said.
Despite any hurdles that Chapman has overcome in the first few months as safety director, he remains enthused to work with the city’s 175-plus employees.
The safety director position will be funded for two years with a $110,000 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant the fire department received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I have a year and half and by the end of that time my goal is to have policies in place so we have a safe workplace,” Chapman said.