Pueblo Water reliably delivers clean, safe drinking water through hundreds of miles of pipelines to the city’s more than 100,000 residents.
But effectively protecting and preparing the utility’s employees to respond to physically demanding day-to-day operations and emergencies is a huge challenge.
Ditching from a reactive safety culture
For years, a reactive approach to safety put workers’ comp claims costs on a roller coaster, with losses surpassing $1 million in 2013.
The number and severity of injuries hurt morale and made it difficult to keep crews fully staffed, making it obvious to Pueblo Water’s leadership that there was a crucial need for change.
Finding success with effective workplace safety tactics
So in 2015, Pueblo Water reached out to HUB Client Executive Kevin Keilbach, the utility’s insurance agent, and Pinnacol Senior Safety Consultant Jason McFarland.
Together, they attended monthly safety committee meetings in Pueblo, and they huddled often to share insights and generate new ideas.
“It’s not always easy for tough, hardworking team members to embrace transparency and vulnerability around safety,” said Keilbach. “But that was the goal.”
Pueblo Water’s committee started with small and affordable tactics, such as:
- Focusing safety committee meetings on prevention instead of reaction.
- Engaging employees with interactive safety training
- Rewarding employees with on-the-spot recognition and prizes for safe behavior.
Workers’ compensation coverage and safety services that work
Years of incremental improvements have created a proactive safety culture that approaches workplace safety in a positive, and even fun, way.
Most importantly, Pueblo Water’s employees have taken ownership of their own safety and the safety of those around them. But it took a team.
“Jason has been there from the infancy of our safety efforts to where we are today,” said Contreras. “He brought insights, resources and different strategies. He knows us, and he’s seen our facilities and our people at work.”
While Pueblo Water made a comeback on safety, they still feel like they have something to prove.
“We’re not done,” said Pueblo Water’s Facilities, Safety and Security Manager Darrell Contreras. “There’s always work to do.”
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