Public works department skirted safety practices and training
In Colorado, Firestone's Public Works Department had minimal worker safety training and oversight, practiced unsafe storage of chemicals and hazardous materials in an unsecured, unkempt and disorganized facility, and "micromanaged" employees under its former director, a report from a town-hired consultant found.
The report was compiled by Fort Collins-based consulting firm Anfeald. "Overall, the public works occupational health and safety program is minimalistic, inadequate for the risks and inconsistent with consensus codes, best-practices and applicable legal requirements," the report, dated Oct. 6, stated.
But the former department director said he was never approached by town leaders with requests to boost his employee safety training efforts or reorganize the department's facility.
"If they would have said that, I would have complied," he said. "...The guys' safety was always my highest interest."
"Housekeeping at the public works facility is poor," the report stated. "...The overall impression of the facility is it is highly disorganized and unkempt. This disorganization results in safety hazards within the facility, but it also makes it nearly impossible to inventory parts, chemicals, traffic controls and other essential tools of the trade likely resulting in a lack of proper equipment, a lack of proper safety equipment, excessive cost and other problems."
The physical security of the Public Works facility also was below normal standards, Anfeald found.
It lacks a fence and gate and "is open to anyone who wishes to walk onto the site," the report stated. Public Works employees said trash is sometimes dumped in the facility's receptacle over weekends; Anfeald staff found that doors on every vehicle parked on the grounds were unlocked, and one had a key in the ignition; and an employee's boat was stored on site, which Anfeald called an "inappropriate storage location for employee recreational equipment," and the boat's placement an "attractive nuisance."
Anfeald in an assessment of the facility found 24 hazards or violations that would have been out of line with current OSHA standards, although local government entities are not regulated by the federal agency. The would-be violations included flammable containers being placed outside proper storage, an unsanitary eyewash station that was blocked by objects mounted above it that made impossible to use without hitting one's head on them, and welding operations and "hot-work" being performed within 35 feet of combustible materials.
The consultant estimated OSHA penalties for the town would have amounted to $111,961 if the Public Works facility were subject to the agency's authority, and $12,538 for a handful of violations documented on Public Works job sites throughout the town.
Firestone paid Anfeald $5,181 for the investigation.
"The poor state of the facility represents a violation of public trust and poor management of taxpayer dollars," the report stated.
Town vehicles were described by town employees as slow to get repaired, and some felt the vehicles were unsafe, the report said. Anfeald also found employee training on safety practices for work in confined spaces lacking, and workers self-reported improper entry equipment and a failure to use ventilation and gas detectors during confined space entries.
"The (town) operates several types of heavy equipment but does not have a formal training and certification process for operators," the report also stated, adding there was an over-reliance on online safety training courses in lieu of face-to-face sessions.