Walking in the footsteps of ancient giants can feel like a dream job. That’s how many employees at Dinosaur Ridge feel about the work they do every day. But showcasing one of the largest outdoor fossil collections in the country comes with risks to employees and visitors alike.
Dinosaur Ridge encompasses three large outdoor sites spread along the western edge of the Denver metro area. Exposure to the elements and wildlife are ever present. Tasks like carpentry, landscaping and welding are physical and involve the use of power tools. Maintaining the facilities that welcome more than 235,000 visitors every year is no small task. “There are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong,” said Executive Director Jeff Lamontagne.
For a small nonprofit with limited resources, investing time and money in workplace safety can feel like a stretch. “Working for a nonprofit, every dollar matters,” said Robin Morris, operations director. But a serious workplace injury in 2018 and a visit from Pinnacol Senior Safety Consultant Patrick McGill lit a fire under the organization to be more intentional about safety.
“I felt stressed before my first meeting with Patrick,” said Lamontagne, “but I quickly realized that Pinnacol was there to help us take steps to improve.” McGill shared a variety of resources Dinosaur Ridge, as a Pinnacol customer, could use at no cost, including:
McGill also provided resources to help the organization start developing a risk management program that meets the State of Colorado’s Premium Cost Containment standards. Employers certified by the program are not only better prepared to prevent and manage workplace injuries, but they receive a discount on their workers’ compensation costs as well.
Using resources and guidance from Pinnacol, the Colorado Nonprofit Association and others, Dinosaur Ridge employees now have safety top of mind. Employees have embraced the new approach, recognizing the need for formal safety efforts. One tactic that has been effective is a standing agenda item at bimonthly staff meetings to discuss “near-miss” incidents in which an employee could have been injured. This proactive approach helps them identify and eliminate hazards before anyone gets hurt. The organization has created a culture in which every employee is empowered to bring safety issues to the attention of leaders. And they’re well on their way to achieving cost containment certification.
While Dinosaur Ridge has built an impressive program, they started small. And they suggest other small employers and nonprofits do the same. “Start by investing a couple of hours to outline a plan and put milestones on the calendar,” said Lamontagne. “Then connect with the tools and resources available to you.”
Colorado nonprofits like Dinosaur Ridge enrich our lives, preserve our history and provide essential services, and Pinnacol is proud to help them continue delivering on their mission while keeping their employees safe.