Greg Garrett mug

Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett

I believe around this time last year I spoke about an unprecedented feat accomplished by the employees of the city of Tehachapi. The year 2017 was the first time in our history that the city operated with zero lost-time incidents. Essentially, nobody was hurt on the job which required them to miss work time as a result.

What was unprecedented 12 months ago is now apparently trend-setting. For the second year in a row, the city of Tehachapi went without any lost-time incidents. That's two years straight of every employee returning home the same way they left for work in the morning, two years without accident claims, two years without a life being altered due to something happening on the job.

Considering there are 75 full- and part-time employees working for the city, and that includes the high-risk jobs of our police officers and public works professionals, this is a big deal. To extend that trend two years is even better. I couldn’t be more proud of the work being done by our employees and the safety in which they are exercising those duties.

This is not just a simple stroke of luck; this is an intentional practice. Over the last few years the city has invested time and resources into a safety program for all employees. This program is specific in some departments, focusing on topics like ladder safety and confined space training for public works; and generic to all with training about bloodborne pathogens, first aid, driver’s safety and even ergonomics evaluations for employee work stations.

The last one I believe is critical. According to the United States Department of Labor and OSHA, poor ergonomics account for 33 percent of all worker’s compensation expenses in the U.S. and those injuries usually result in at least 11 days off work to recover. The study says that most other work-related injuries take eight days to recover, meaning ergonomics claims increase lost productivity by 38 percent. I’m happy that we don’t have those issues to worry about. Each work station was evaluated by a professional, necessary adjustments were made and resources allocated to avoid any potential issues.

Tyler Napier, our utilities supervisor at the city, was designated as our safety officer. Tyler has created and implemented a variety of plans and safety training for employees to complete throughout the year. Each one of us has a safety binder in our desk that has copies of the information we covered, certifications and best practices. Napier has done an outstanding job of also outfitting city vehicles and buildings with first aid and bloodborne pathogen kits along with gloves and other safety equipment.

It’s not the most exciting topic to cover, but it is the most important for the well-being of our employees as well as the public. By eliminating risks and working safely, we are not only keeping city employees safe, but also reducing the risk to the public and keeping insurance costs down. The latter is less important, but that means additional funds can be used in other areas of our operation and not allocated for rising insurance costs.

Accidents happen, but with a safety-minded operation and employees buying in to their training and applying it to their everyday work, we’ve been able to avoid them for two years running. When the unprecedented gives way to commonplace, I believe we can all agree that is true progress.

Merry Christmas and as always, please feel free to reach out with any questions

Greg Garrett is Tehachapi's city manager.