March 23, 2009
Tulsa Safety Analyst Tom Graham, (left) and Local 1180 Pres. Bill Roland review “confined spaces” training material. (Photo credit: Rex Hogan)
Local governments can spend thousands of dollars hiring private trainers to teach safety on the job, but the public works employees of Tulsa, Okla., represented by Local 1180 received their training courtesy of AFSCME International.
“They just couldn’t believe that it wouldn’t cost the city anything,” says Bill Roland, a former crew leader in the city’s water distribution unit and president of the local. “It took us a while to convince them that AFSCME would do this at no charge.”
Tulsa’s Department of Environmental Quality requires all 700 water and sewer workers to obtain licenses to work in confined spaces, which they can get by attending an 8- to 12-hour course. The idea of AFSCME providing that training originated about four years ago with a cost-saving suggestion from then-Local 1180 Pres. Mark Stodghill.
City officials were at first lukewarm to the idea. But, in 2006, they agreed to permit several members of the local, and some supervisors, to take the course and rate it. It was a success, and a second session was conducted last October for about 20 employees and supervisors, who would later teach other employees.
“We all passed each area of the tests, so we can now train city employees without having to hire someone to come in from the outside,” says Roland, who attended the training before he was elected president of the local in December."
Danielle Williams, a wastewater treatment plant operator and a member of Local 1180, also took the course. She says:
“It’s just another way the union is trying to make the workplace better for everyone.”
For more information about AFSCME safety training, ask your union’s staff representative to contact the International at (202) 429-1000. Ask for the health and safety program.