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Council OKs expanded safety training

Solon to join cost-share for regional coordinator

SOLON– It’s time to enhance safety training for city employees.
At an Oct. 16 meeting, Solon City Council members gave informal approval to join a pool of regional communities looking to hire a full-time safety instructor.
Currently, public works employees receive Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training through the Eastern Iowa Area Safety and Support Organization (EIASSO).
According to Public Works Director Scott Kleppe, EIASSO was created in the mid-1990s by a group of communities working with the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities to contract for safety training for their employees.
One downside, Kleppe said, is training sites can be as far away as Clinton.
“They’ll host four training sites a year and they try to scatter those around,” Kleppe said. Solon has hosted workshops, as has Mount Vernon, North Liberty and Tipton. “But you also go to Eldridge and Durant and such, all the way to Clinton.”
The EIASSO provides the minimum training required by OSHA regulations, he said, “and that’s about it. It’s up to each municipality to enhance their program, which nobody has really got the manpower to do.”
EIASSO membership costs the city about $2,500 a year, but includes the training classes, which were valued at an estimated $50,000 for the period between September 2019 and August 2020.
For about $9,500 a year, Kleppe reported, the city could participate in a new cost-sharing arrangement with other towns to share a regional safety coordinator.
The new coordinator, also provided by the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU), would provide not only safety training, but work zone safety audits, mock OSHA inspections and standardized record-keeping and safety manuals for member communities.
“Our safety plans haven’t been updated in 20-some years,” he noted.
North Liberty was pushing the idea, but Kleppe told council members he expects the growing neighbor to eventually provide its own training.
IAMU is hoping for eight to 10 communities show an interest, he said.
“This is something I am totally in support of,” Kleppe stated.
The dedicated safety coordinator would live and work in a specified geographic area and could on-demand training in-person or remotely.
For example, Kleppe noted new employee training doesn’t appear on the current schedule of sessions until July and August, when seasonal workers have already been on the job for several months.
Under the new program, the training could be requested from the regional coordinator and conducted much sooner.
Participating would also allow the city to take further strides in ensuring worker safety, Kleppe said.
One area would be hearing conservation, measuring decibels in different work environments like the wastewater and water plants to see how long public works employees should be in an area without hearing protection.
“This is much needed for us,” he concluded.
Kleppe said there was likely be demand for the program and he predicted the IAMU would have no problem finding members. He indicated a similar model has been working well in Northwest Iowa.
“(City Administrator) Cami (Rasmussen) and I both felt this is something that’s going to be a real benefit to the City of Solon and to its employees and we’d like to get in on this,” he said.
Council members took no action, although Mayor Steve Stange asked for concerns or questions.
A minor clarification was requested, but no concerns were expressed by council members.
“Well, one OSHA fine would probably pay for that for 30 years,” Stange noted.