By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
A few years ago, the city of Enid safety program was referred to as a “cesspool” by Oklahoma State Commissioner of Labor, but since then, things have changed.
The city’s safety program recently received the 2012 Award of Excellence for Safety, which City Manager Eric Benson called “a monumental success for the city of Enid.”
He credited Safety Director Billy McBride with the success of the program.
“Billy took over a very badly failing safety program and turned it into the best in the state. That speaks volumes to his professionalism and devotion,” Benson said. “Clearly, it takes all hands, it’s an all-employee effort. But if I had to cite one person for success, it’s clearly Billy McBride.”
The city of Enid employs about 500 people, including police, fire and municipal workers. Since the addition of McBride in 2008, the city has progressed from one of the worst in the state to one of the best, Benson said.
The city tracks safety concerns based on recordable injuries. A recordable injury is one that requires more than basic first aid. In 2007, the city had 112 recordable injuries and in 2011, was down to 32 injuries.
McBride credited city employees with “buying into” the program. The unions are supportive, and the city commission also has been behind the program, he said. He said his initial step was to become acquainted with the employees and let them understand he is a “safety person, rather than a safety cop.”
“Training was a lot of it,” McBride said. “People were noncompliant — they may not have even known the right protective gear to wear. Enid never had a true safety program,” McBride said.
Employees are trained through Autry Technology Center, and now employees have the proper certifications and McBride’s safety office tracks those certifications to make sure none expire.
The city commission has purchased a large amount of new equipment to help the employees do their job. McBride said purchases such as tractors with cabs on them help eliminate many of the breathing issues that are common. The city does in-house drug testing through Garfield County Health Department.
“About 90 percent are behind it,” McBride said. “It’s legal, it’s done through the health department. I set it up like one where I previously worked, and we’ve had only minor complaints.”
McBride said employees have supported the program.
He goes to the hospital each time an employee is injured to protect their rights and to protect the city’s rights. He is on call 24 hours in case an accident occurs, and he said he is compassionate, and that makes a difference.
“I care. I care about each employee and treat them with respect and work with them through this. We have a good understanding and they trust Mr. Benson. It’s a pretty well-run machine,” McBride said.
When McBride came to Enid almost five years ago, Enid and Lawton were the two worst safety programs in the state in terms of workers’ compensation claims. He said the award is a big honor for the employees who made it happen.
“The employees get credit for what they do, and they’re finding out we do care about them,” he said.
McBride said so there is a lot of experience among the employees — the average age of city employees is 561⁄2 years. He said the state is very impressed with Enid, and the workers compensation judges in Oklahoma City are happy with the way Enid’s program has progressed.
McBride is a former bridge contractor who returned to school late in life. He has a commercial driver’s license and is certified to use most of the equipment the city uses, and he believes the employees respect that.
“The safety effort at Enid was a cesspool, according to the labor commissioner. Now look what he’s done,” Benson said. “It doesn’t happen unless someone is committed to safety and the employees bought into it and had to practice it. It wouldn’t happen without Billy.”
The city will be honored at the 2012 Oklahoma Safety Conference June 12.