The Gary Griffith Excellence in Workplace Safety Winner for 2023
Fairfield – A small community with a big heart – Title town!
When you ask Superintendent of the Fairfield Schools Dustin Gordon a question about safety, you readily hear in his answers echoes of his past life as a long-serving and very successful coach. He begins by immediately stating the shared goal, and then, as any good coach would, lays out the plans to achieve it. Not surprisingly, the results reflect Dustin’s winning approach to improved district safety.
When asked pointedly about how Fairfield achieved its terrific results, Dustin said, “We’re working hard and taking it day by day.” He then characteristically shared the credit for the impressive workplace safety achievements with MSGIA’s risk manager Harry Cheff, with the Fairfield district department heads, and, of course, with his entire staff/team.
Dustin noted when sharing the credit that the district has smartly followed Harry’s advice and in this regard formed a true and productive partnership with the MSGIA. In fact, the district credits Harry with providing the staff with important and timely reminders that, when passed along to the district and the entire staff monthly, have even greater impact on workplace safety.
Among the recommendations he has made that have proven effective under Dustin’s capable leadership, Harry has assisted with training the staff, conducting playground and facility inspections, and attending safety committee meetings. He has, moreover, helped with a building inventory as requested through the property program, which led to getting rid of obsolete and broken equipment.
Dustin has shared that the district has an active safety committee and that the department heads are striving to assist with a safer environment. And, as part of cultivating this cultural embrace of safety, leadership at these committee meetings and in other such venues mention safety at each staff meeting, and they make available the articles Harry shares and discusses each month.
To further elevate and amplify the all-in commitment, the district administration offers a modest award to the person with the most demonstrated safety knowledge or best demonstration of safety-related information. Without question, every staff member understands what an experience-modification factor is and how it affects the overall district budget.
One particularly notable point of emphasis for the safety program has focused on preventing slips, trips, and falls. All the employees receive training in preventing these injuries, and those employees who will be in and out of the building often receive extra training on this subject. For starters, each is encouraged to wear proper footwear and ice trekkers.
When asked about who is considered in and out of the building routinely, Dustin laughed and stated “Well, everyone, but the paraprofessionals, custodial staff, playground aides, kitchen staff, and bus drivers usually get extra training.” He further noted that the district is willing to put money into the facility and equipment to keep it up and to keep it in the best working condition so as to make a safer and healthier learning environment. He cites as examples the fact that new gutters had been added to the building over the entrances (to prevent water draining onto the main paths and to prevent ice build-up), and he points out that three-step stepladders are in every classroom, custodial closet, nook, and crannies where needed. To equip the nooks AND the crannies is truly next level.
The district under Dustin’s supervision is also trying new equipment and some creative approaches to safety. The district has made great use, for instance, of the E3 application, which assists in evacuation procedures in case of an emergency. The district also has emergency plans in a small, printed format that are carried on keyrings so that employees have the appropriate response at their fingertips.
The Fairfield website has a few gems that embody the spirit of pervasive, thoughtful planning and prevention. The first is the statement, “It’s a great day to be an Eagle.” This is followed closely by a picture of the staff and their very active students. The second is “Fairfield a small community with a big heart.”
The district may be in a small community, but its safety efforts are large and full of heart.