WASHINGTON – Secretary Dirk Kempthorne today kicked off the U.S. Department of the Interior’s annual workforce safety awareness campaign, urging employees to strengthen their commitment to a healthy, injury-free workplace and emphasizing the critical role of Interior managers in providing a safe and healthy worksite.
“Managers have a special responsibility to provide a safe and healthy worksite and to provide employees with the guidance, support, resources and knowledge to recognize and control hazards,” Kempthorne said in a proclamation. “I take this responsibility very seriously, and I expect all of our managers and supervisors to do the same.”
Kempthorne urged managers, supervisors and employees to use Safety and Health Awareness Week activities at Interior’s 2,400 worksites around the nation to communicate and demonstrate their commitment to workplace safety, health and security through planned activities.
“The theme, Focus on Prevention, provides an opportunity to step back, take a fresh look at our operations, and assure ourselves that we are doing the best we can to prevent situations that could result in injury or even fatalities on the job,” Kempthorne said.
Interior’s 70,000 employees and 200,000 volunteers operate park, refuge and recreational areas that receive more than 450 million visitors annually. Employees work in a variety of settings, ranging from urban office buildings to national icon parks and remote wilderness areas. They perform tasks involving substantial risk, such as wildland fire fighting, law enforcement, search and rescue and wilderness studies. Last year, the Department suffered eight fatalities of on-duty employees (mostly in vehicle and equipment accidents) as well as 1,800 workplace injuries that kept employees off the job.
“This is not acceptable, Kempthorne said, “and we must do everything within our ability to work safely, to follow departmental and bureau safety guidance, and to protect ourselves from potential harm.”
Kempthorne noted that in a recent Federal Human Capital Survey by the Office of Personnel Management, Interior employees said they felt protected from health and safety hazards on the job. At the same time, they felt less comfortable about the department’s preparation for security threats.
“In response, the Office of Law Enforcement and Security and Emergency Preparedness and the National Business Center will work in partnership with the Office of Occupational Health and Safety to provide training activities during this designated week to help address these concerns and ensure that our employees feel prepared for all types of emergencies.”
Although Interior agencies are encouraged to conduct these awareness activities during this designated week, bureaus, field offices, and local worksites have the flexibility to conduct their safety week activities at a time that is most appropriate between now and the beginning of the busy summer season. The goal is to reach the greatest number of employees possible, including interns, volunteers, seasonal hires and others outside of the given timeframe, should the need arise.
Planned activities include motor vehicle and equipment safety classes; hands-on training demonstrations; health, safety and wellness fairs and competitions; and safety and wellness events. Some locations involve local fire and police departments and medical centers. Employees are recognized for outstanding safety records or their contributions to a safe and healthy workplace. Some worksites involve DOI employees along with families, visitors, school children, contractors, and others.
More information on Interior health and safety awareness events and activities is online at http://safetynet.smis.doi.net/doiwideA.htm#doiSWkDay.