Safety Training: Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset

Safety Training: Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset

By Michael Hersman, Circuit Rider, West Virginia Rural Water Association

We are a technology driven industry. There are many changes being made in the water and wastewater utility industry and everyone is busy and many utilities are short staffed. Today utility workers are asked to do more with less and are expected to be productive, extremely efficient and well trained. We work in an environment that requires our full attention to what we’re doing. There is no room for mistakes, that’s just the way our business operates.

No matter what job you have in the utility there are responsibilities associated with your job. Part of these responsibilities is safety – safety for you, your co-workers and visitors to your facilities. Over the years, safety has evolved into a very high profile responsibility. Safety laws and regulations are becoming more stringent and demanding. Insurance companies that insure our utilities are demanding that we are better trained. This means there is more responsibility in your job today, than there was many years ago. Times have changed, so has the industry in which we work.

The goal of a safety training program is to help utility employees understand that their job responsibilities include safety. Safety is a major part of your job, no matter what type of job you perform within the utility. Persons who work in areas where it appears there are no hazards, such as in the office, often have a misunderstanding of how safety applies to them. Sometimes we think that safety doesn’t apply to us. Actually, safety applies to everyone, in all cases and all the time. You’d be surprised to learn that office accidents can occur as often as any other department, even though the physical hazards appear to be less in an office environment. Safety is your responsibility, no matter where you work or what job you perform within the utility.

It is management’s responsibility to provide safety training and information about your specific job, machines, equipment and other potential hazards. In every utility there are or should be policies and procedures relating to your job and how to perform it. If these policies and procedures exist, it is your responsibility to learn and follow them. If you have questions, be sure to ask management or your supervisor. If you are new to the utility, there are many questions you’ll have during your orientation process. Ask questions if you’re not sure about something. There are no dumb safety questions.

Keep in mind that you must be trained and authorized to operate any equipment or machine before you should attempt to use them. If you are operating equipment that has the potential of injury to you and others, more detailed training would be required. Additionally, there are some new safety standards that require “site specific” or job specific training. In other words, if you’re assigned to operate a backhoe, you must be trained in backhoe operations, and you must also be trained in all other potential hazards of that job.

You see that training is more involved and detailed than most people believe. Years ago, training was fairly simple because safety issues were simple. In today’s utility environment training is an ongoing process. There are always more things to learn, especially about safety.

First featured in WVRWA’s Mountain State Water Line Fall 2020 Edition.