Officials strive for safety improvements

Robert Smith
Osage County road workers from District 1 took part in CPR training recently at Tri-County Tech in Pawhuska. Photo courtesy of Morgan D. Shuping.

Osage County’s director of Emergency Management is looking for ways to continue to make both county employees and the general public safer, and to do it as economically as possible.

Emergency Management Director Jerry Roberts said his deputy director, Katie Davis, is going to become certified to serve as an instructor for CPR classes, so that county employees can routinely be recertified at less cost to taxpayers. It’s the same frugal approach Roberts applied when making sure there were automated debrillators available in all Osage County road barns at no cost to the county.

The concern for safety extends right down to matters as apparently simple as making sure every new employee gets a briefing on the county safety manual.

“We just want to make sure our people are safe,” Roberts said.

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney said with hot weather having set in, he goes out of his way to make sure his road crews know that safety comes first.

“It’s a dangerous time,” McKinney said. “I just tell them, if you get hot, get in the pickup. I don’t want anybody going down for any reason.”

District 1 Commissioner Jerry Howerton’s road crews should be at the peak of safety awareness, having completed a CPR class at Tri-County Tech in Pawhuska within the past two weeks.

“There’s no telling what kind of impact this could have,” Howerton said regarding the training his road workers received. He explained that he expects his crew members to help the general public, as well as one another. “You can quickly be thrust into a situation where you’re their only help. We are a public servant, more than just our job title.”

Howerton said he had been working for a while to set up the CPR training, and he thanked Tri-County Tech and its training coordinator, Cindy Helmer, for making the course available at a bargain rate. He also thanked the Osage County Health Department for providing a staff member to help with the training, which was essential to controlling the cost, he said.

Tri-County does safety training for both Osage and Washington counties.

“It keeps our insurance down, which keeps our cost down,” Howerton said, “but no commissioner wants to call a family and say anyone’s not coming home.”

Helmer said Tri-County does regular safety training sessions at Osage County road barns, and she credited Howerton with having a very serious interest in the safety programming that her organization offers.

“Jerry comes out here monthly and checks in and asks what we’re going to do,” Helmer said.

District 1 has more than 1,100 miles of road and three shops, and the training that Tri-County provides addresses subjects ranging from blood-borne pathogens to chainsaw safety to effective community relations, Helmer and Howerton said.

Howerton said that the increased influx into Osage County of tourists from across the nation creates a situation where even road crew members need to remember not to use language that could cause a problem.

“Sweetie or honey could be seen as offensive,” he said, adding he doesn’t want any of his crew members in trouble over anything like that. “I’m very proud of my guys for taking a professional attitude toward this.”

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay said he holds regular safety meetings for his road workers, at the end of each month or the beginning of the next month.

“We let them voice any concerns they have or any recommendations they have,” Paslay said, emphasizing that he tries to be aware of safety issues that are on the minds of employees.

Paslay also noted that workers from all three road districts recently did a safety-oriented driver simulation that will hopefully help to increase safety on county roads. And, like McKinney, he mentioned the importance of county workers keeping tabs on one another in potentially dangerous situations, such as summer heat.