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Wastewater treatment facility operation can be an extremely unsafe occupational field, with all the major classifications of hazards, plus factors such as shift work and diverse tasks. In the past few years, OSHA and EPA both recognized the dangers associated with chemicals commonly used in wastewater treatment and mandated programs to protect both employees and the public.

Inherent dangers can be compounded by a loss of focus on safety and common misunderstandings between labor and management about why injuries occur. Several recent studies show that employee stress caused by issues ranging from working long hours to fear of layoffs can lead to decreased safety motivation and compliance and in turn to more accidents and injuries. As a result, labor and management relations can become even more adversarial. By creating an environment with core values of trust, respect, communication, participation, and cooperation, an organization can transform the workplace, improving production, quality, customer service, and environmental compliance. Safety is the natural entry point and effective rallying point for creating this type of environment.

Without management's commitment, the safety effort may be destined to fail. But while it ultimately may be management's responsibility, all employees play critical roles in their own safety and the safety of those around them. This paper demonstrates how a targeted strategy with grassroots tactics can help an organization create a culture where employees at all levels take ownership of the safety program. Using a case study, it shows the dramatic results Operations Management International, Inc. (OMI) achieved when it turned its focus to safety.

Regulated by strict OSHA requirements and driven by stringent customer demands, the OMI safety program must be easy to understand and easy to adapt at over 170 remote locations where the company is responsible for the O&M of municipal and industrial treatment facilities. Adopting the tagline “Safety begins with me” to emphasize each associate's individual responsibility for safety, OMI rolled out a promotional campaign that included a variety of new tools and materials, and publicly recognized individuals and teams for their contributions. Among the results: Associate morale and satisfaction went up, and accidents and workers compensation claims went down.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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