Water Online

MAR 2017

Water Innovations gives Water and Wastewater Engineers and end-users a venue to find project solutions and source valuable product information. We aim to educate the engineering and operations community on important issues and trends.

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By Sheldon Primus T he liquid utility field (water and wastewater treatment plant and field workers) most often falls in the category of unsung heroes or workers who are taken for granted. This professional disconnect can be due to the negative connotation led by the name "wastewater" or the entry-level position's being a high school diploma or equivalent. Many liquid utility workers may be fighting an uphill battle in gaining respect from engineering groups, city and county management, or even support personnel in the management team of the utilities' administration offices. However, all operators must have on-the-job experience and some technical training to obtain a state license. Once operators become licensed, their value increases as current employees age and the job market expands due to regulatory concerns. Some operators leave one municipality for another due to an increase in salary, better schedules, and better working conditions. This article will highlight how having a good safety culture can help the municipality retain promising workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the need for water and wastewater operators to increase by 6 percent from 2014 to 2024 (the average national rate for all occupations). 1 But are the municipalities filling vacancies at the same rate of attrition due to retirements or workers leaving the industry for better working conditions? Do the operators feel that they are valued as workers and safe on the job? These are core questions that lead to the retention of utility workers. The BLS notes that utility workers are at a higher risk of injury and illness than most. 2 There have been a few fatalities making national news that could have easily been prevented by having a better safety culture at the utility. • "Water Workers Recover Inspector's Body From Municipal Tank" (Massachusetts, Dec. 2016) • "NYC Contractor Dies After Falling Into Wastewater Tank" (New York, Oct. 2016) • "Second Worker Dies From Accident At Wichita Falls Treatment Plant" (Texas, July 2016) • "Wastewater Worker Dies After Falling Into Toxic Sludge Basin" (New Mexico, July 2016) OSHA notes that worker safety is a key to worker retention, increased productivity, lower workers' compensation costs, and increased revenue. Employers that have an active safety and health program that values safety over compliance with rules or regulations are rewarded with the benefits previously listed. A safety culture is the value system from top management to the new hire that promotes a proactive approach to finding and fixing workplace hazards as a way of doing business. Safety is not "first" as most signs and promotional materials mention, but safety is incorporated seamlessly into operations. There are seven interrelated elements in creating an integrated safety 28 wateronline.com n Water Innovations Utility Safety Culture: A Hidden Key To Employee Retention Sound safety policy does more than keep your workforce free from harm. It keeps them around. Industry 2 NAICS code 3 Total recordable cases Cases with days away from work, job transfer, or restriction Other recordable cases Total Cases with days away from work 4 Cases with job transfer or restriction Electric power generation ................................................................................. 22111 1.4 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.7 Hydroelectric power generation ................................................................ 221111 2.4 1.7 1.6 - 0.7 Fossil fuel electric power generation ...................................................... 221112 1.8 0.9 0.4 0.4 0.9 Nuclear electric power generation ........................................................... 221113 0.2 0.1 ( 9 ) - 0.2 Electric power transmission, control, and distribution .................. 22112 2.3 1.1 0.7 0.4 1.1 Natural gas distribution ........................................................................................ 2212 2.4 1.7 1.1 0.6 0.7 Water, sewage and other systems ................................................................. 2213 4.1 2.6 1.2 1.4 1.5 Water supply and irrigation systems .......................................................... 22131 4.4 2.8 1.2 1.6 1.6 Table 1. Incidence rates* of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses by industry and case types (2015) *The incidence rates represent the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers and were calculated as: (N/EH) x 200,000, where: N = number of injuries and illnesses; EH = total hours worked by all employees during the calendar year; 200,000 = base for 100 equivalent full-time workers (working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year). 3

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