City Manager's Blog

May 03

[ARCHIVED] Modesto Takes Safety Seriously

The original item was published from May 3, 2019 4:17 PM to May 21, 2019 3:01 PM

The accidental death of an employee in April 2018 should never have occurred, and although the city had a safety program prior to the accident, the city took the opportunity to thoroughly review whether or not the safety program should be strengthened.  In fact, the City took the initiative several years ago to commence a study to identify the gaps in its program, and substantially updated the Injury & Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) as a result.  The City has instituted many of the recommendations within this report.

Prior to the incident, the city had a good track record of employee accidents, and much of this can be attributed to the dedication to our safety program. 

We all bear some level of responsibility for safety and training, and following the safety assessment, I ordered a myriad of improvements to our safety program, including instituting an official citywide safety program, which the city did not have before.  In addition, the IIPP was updated, and monthly safety meetings began; each division had a safety liaison that had required attendance.  We hired a consultant to assist with the implementation of safety programs and trainings, and specifically focused on the required trainings that were missing.  

Several years ago, training was decentralized across city departments out of necessity due to lack of staffing.  A 2012 safety assessment was conducted to ensure we were providing necessary trainings, and ensuring compliance with the various programs.  We subsequently updated the IIPP and instituted the monthly safety meetings to ensure the safety of our employees.  In addition to the IIPP, we also created the Exposure Control Program, Electrical Safety Program, and a Respiratory Protection Program.  

Safety should be prioritized at the top of the organization, and it will be.  Based on the findings of the recent Serious Accident Review Team (SART) investigation, I’ve authorized an additional investigation in order to ensure we continue to address deficiencies and make appropriate corrective actions.  

We are continuously trying to improve all processes, protocols, and trainings.  The city has invested in and prioritized safety training, and I will continue to advocate and cultivate a culture of safety.  

Click here for specific examples from Public Works, Utilities, and Parks.

There are departments, including Fire and Police, that invest heavily in training, personal protective gear, Standard Operating Procedures, and equipment.  There are complete teams of internal employees who participate in ensuring the safety of their coworkers.  

Total training hours for the fire department in the 2018 calendar year was 29,625 hours.  Each fire department employee is required to complete a minimum 20 hours of reportable training each month, a total of 240 hours per year.  

Total training hours for the police department in the 2018 calendar year was over 31,000.

Here is a look at funds the city spent with the contractor on previous safety program development and training:

 2012   $4,999.00
 2013  $30,221.25
 2014  $17,032.72
 2015  $23,085.00
 2016  $53,192.50
 2017  $46,271.25
 2018  $60,078.75
 TOTAL  $234,880.47
In just the next two years, it is anticipated the city will spend more than $600,000 on the safety program.  

Again, one of the biggest lessons learned for our safety program is that it must be centralized.  That is to say, there needs to be independent oversight and not individual programs based on department objectives.   We need an individual who has the autonomy and authority to intervene when proper protocols and requirements are not being followed, and that is what we now have with the Safety Officer and additional contract assistance.

The death of an employee was a tragic and pivotal incident in the life of our city, and we responded quickly – and will continue to respond – in order to ensure a similar accident never occurs.   

Let me be clear, again, this city will focus on doing everything possible to prioritize safety going forward.