The City of Missouri Valley is putting a focus on job safety.
The Missouri Valley City Council discussed participating in a shared regional safety coordinator through the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities during its regular council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Missouri Valley Deputy Clerk Vonda Ford, who is the current safety coordinator for the city, presented the proposal from IAMU’s Safety & Health Management Service.
While Ford currently conducts safety meetings for the City of Missouri Valley, the City uses IAMU’s safety services that include face-to-face training, classes, tracking of attendance, hearing and respiratory testing, and OSHA inspection assistance.
The cost for the services currently used with IAMU totals approximately $4,800 annually.
“We already pay membership with them, and that is where we get our safety classes,” Ford said. “We did our CPR training through them.”
However, many of those trainings focus on electrical safety, for which Missouri Valley has no need, according to Ford.
This proposal presented by Ford to the City Council would establish a regional safety coordinator to be shared by the communities within the region, if those communities agree to the terms. If this proposal becomes a reality, it would increase the safety management services provided to the city.
The proposed service adds incident investigation, assistance with establishing a safety culture within the buildings as well as safety policies and procedures, customized job hazard analysis, education and safety programs with annual reviews, multiple assessments and audits, and machine-specific lockout/tagout procedures.
“A lot of this stuff our work comp has told us to update, and we just don’t have the time,” Flaherty said. “Then, some of it is generic and it isn’t tailored. This would be tailored to our city.”
Council asked how this might affect Ford’s position.
“Would it lighten your workload with the safety stuff? Would it free you up to do other things?” council member Rachelle Pfouts asked Ford.
Ford said that she would continue running safety meetings, but the coordinator would likely attend those trainings, so it might lighten her safety workload a little.
“There are a lot of programs we could utilize. I think it would improve our safety program,” Ford said. “The things that I already do, I would still do. The things they would do, I don’t have the expertise to do. I have no idea how to do a lockout/tagout.”
The current safety program costs the taxpayers just over $4,800 annually, paid quarterly. The proposed program, which requires a three-year contract, would cost $17,713 annually if 10 communities participate, also paid quarterly at $4,428. If more than 10 communities participate, the cost per community would decrease. According to IAMU Director of Member Services Dave Hraha, IAMU will provide specific safety trainings for members if it is a training they already provide, including lockout/tagout, which is a safety procedure used to ensure that dangerous machines are properly shut off and not able to start up again prior to completion of maintenance work.
“We do provide training for most of the topics required by OSHA,” Hraha said. “Cost would vary whether they are a member or not; it is a fee for service.”
Council asked if the fiscal responsibility would decrease if more communities participated, and they were told yes, but if only eight communities participate, then Missouri Valley’s share would increase.
IAMU has received feedback from two communities in the proposed southwest region that are not interested, Ford said, but they hope to get eight to 10 communities involved, as anything less than eight would be cost-prohibitive.
“They have based their fees on at least 10 cities participating,” she said. “This person would be here at least two days a month. They would need a place to work out of in city hall.”
Ford said that there would be no additional cost to house a safety coordinator.
“We are going to have to hire it done at some point anyway,” she added. “I also think that it would look favorable to our work comp provider. I think that with the recent concerns, it would show that the city takes safety very seriously and that we want to improve safety conditions for employees. It would show IWCA that we are trying to reduce our claims.”
Though city administration said that the increased measures would not amount to a reduction in insurance costs, safety is a priority for city personnel.
“In my opinion, safety is always important. Anytime you can reduce workplace injuries and increase training, it is a good thing,” Mayor Shawn Kelly said.
Other safety training options have not been researched at the time of publication.
“There is always a need for safety. IAMU has provided our safety training for many years. This has been presented as an option to use a safety coordinator that is specifically trained in safety,” said Ford. “It is unknown if another company could provide the service IAMU provides at a lower cost. There are not many companies out there that provide this type of service to municipalities. If research into another company is determined to be necessary, it will be done at a later date. At this time, IAMU is just looking for support to see if they can even move forward setting this up in our region.”
After hearing the presentation, the council voiced support for the program, making Missouri Valley the first to do so in the region.
“If it saves us one claim a year, it will be worth it,” Flaherty said.