MOUNT VERNON — Safety in the workplace is the No. 1 priority when it comes to working with machinery and in high-risk situations. The Ohio Department of Transportation places a high priority on safety training for all its employees.
“Part of the training that goes on starts at Day 1. All ODOT employees that are hired receive training in elements of safety,” said Scott Varner, deputy director of communications at the ODOT central office.
He added that employees working on highways and roadways undergo additional training on equipment, machinery and work zone sites. Efforts are taken to promote safety within ODOT through regular training courses and initiatives to support a safe environment for employees, he said.
Varner said the fatal accident that occurred last week involving department equipment and an ODOT worker during routine tree and shrubbery work was uncommon. The accident was the first in several years that resulted in a fatality.
“This is a unique incident because rarely do we have a fatality. Typically when we talk about injuries in the work zone, it is often because of a motorist or someone else entering into the work zone, as opposed to a self-contained accident — an accident where it was a piece of our equipment that caused the injury,” said Varner.
In order to understand what happened at the time of the accident, an ODOT safety team is working alongside the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“The safety team is responsible for looking into [accidents] to identify trends or concerns, make recommendations on changes and see if additional training is needed,” said Varner. “Whenever there are injuries in this department, whatever the reason might be, those that are severe are looked at as to what was the cause; is there something that can be done to prevent future injuries?
“At this time we can’t say if any changes will be made to safety procedures until the results of the investigation are completed,” he said.
Road safety is also a high priority for the city of Mount Vernon.
“[The employees] have been through work zone traffic control classes,” said David Carpenter, superintendent for the city’s street department.
He cautions members of road crews to be watchful of their surroundings and what they are doing.
“We stress safety as much as possible,” said Carpenter. “They not only have to be watchful of what they are doing, but of what others are doing around them.”
When it comes to working in risky areas, Carpenter said what has been of benefit to the Streets Department is having “back-up” alarms on the equipment and lime-green safety vests, as well as other safety implementations.
Berlin Township Trustee Steve Bechtel said that when working with machinery and on roadways, he expects his employees to use practical judgment, post “men working ahead” sign, and make sure the flashing lights on the tractor is working.
“We have one full-time employee so he’s pretty much on his own, but we do expect him to use safety equipment, a helmet, a safety vest, and he is to put up signs if he’s out working on the roads,” said Bechtel. “[Safety procedure] is something we should review in light of what happens as far as working around big machinery, but accidents can happen with anything.
“The main piece of equipment we have on the road is the tractor for mowing and clearing ditches. But it’s always an issue if someone pops over a hill,” he added.