Keizer first city in Oregon to get certification from OHSA’s health and safety program

City of Keizer’s Safety Committee, from left: City Manager Adam Brown, Shannon Johnson, city attorney, Tracy Davis, city recorder, Brad Beverly, Tim Wood, finance director, Lt, Trevor Wenning, Machell DePina, Human Resources director, Arsen Avetisyan, Amanda Hague, Kristin Meyers, Dan Collingham, Franklin Wall, Bill Lawyer, Public Works director and Shane Witham, Planning director.

The City of Keizer’s commitment to workplace health and safety has resulted in it achieving third-year certification as part of Oregon OSHA’s five-year Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

The city’s interest in the SHARP program began when it completed a year-long project developing and implementing its Safety Manual. The Safety Committee wanted to ensure a continued focus on safety, which led to reaching out to senior Occupational Safety consultant, Bryan Annis. With Annis’ support, as well as assistance from senior Occupational Health consultant, Jennifer Ekdahl and the efforts of the city’s Safety Committee, many city employees and the support of the leadership team, the city decided to go for what hasn’t been done before— certification of a municipality in the SHARP program. The SHARP program is generally used by businesses.

“For those who wonder if it’s worth it,” said city Human Resources director Machell DePina, “we would say absolutely, yes. We believe our focus on safety through the program has made it clear to our employees we are serious about proactively addressing issues and concerns. Yes, some of the things we’ve put in place cost money but it costs less to address prevention than to pay for incidents.

“We also believe we have the potential of lower insurance rates given anticipated lower number of incidents and time loss were we not participating in this program,” she added.

City Safety Committee members included Arsen Avetisyan, detective sergeant with Keizer Police, Brad Beverly, customer service, municipal utility department, Dan Collingham, Facilities and Maintenance, Machell DePina, Human Resources director, Sarah Eisenhut, Keizer Police support specialist, Amanda Hague, property and evidence specialist, Jeff Heyen, IT systems technician, Kristen Meyers, human resources generalist, Franklin Wall, municipal utility, parks and Lt. Trevor Wenning, Keizer Police.

The SHARP program encourages Oregon employers to work with their employees to identify and correct hazards and to continuously improve. In turn, companies are recognized for their success in reaching specific benchmarks during the five-year program. An employer may graduate from SHARP after five years of participation. 

The benefits of the program include lower injury and illness rates, decreased workers’ compensation costs, increased employee morale, lower product losses, and community recognition. 

Although departments of other city governments have achieved SHARP certification, the city of Keizer is the first city in Oregon to earn the designation on a citywide—not just department-level—basis. During the City of Keizer’s SHARP journey—formally started in 2018—the city has engaged in numerous projects and process improvements designed to strengthen on-the-job protections for city workers. Examples include everything from installation of eyewash stations at key locations and the completion of training for all new safety committee members to implementation of exhaust and dust collection systems in pump stations and improved training and access to information for emergency evacuation coordinators.

In assessing the city’s efforts as a SHARP participant, Oregon OSHA consultants recently concluded that the city “has consistently followed through with all evaluations, training, programs, and procedures for both the safety and health of all employees.”

DePina, human resources director and safety administrator for the City of Keizer, said the city decided to pursue SHARP after completing a safety manual project and after the city’s safety committee indicated it wanted to “ensure a continued focus on safety, not just a binder that is put on a shelf.”

So, DePina said, the city decided “to go for what hasn’t been done before-certification of a municipality in the SHARP program.”

Putting a focus on workplace safety through SHARP has shown employees the city is committed to proactively addressing their concerns, DePina said. Meanwhile, the SHARP designation has caught the attention of prospective job candidates who have noted the designation shows the city takes safety seriously. 

“It’s hard, but important, work,” DePina said of SHARP. “Our employees are our most valuable asset, and we need to do what we can to ensure they go home as well or better than when they arrived.”