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Columbia County Highway Department and County Mutual Put Safety in the Spotlight During Four-Day Training Marathon

Columbia County’s Highway and Transportation Department covers over 3,200 lane miles of roads, as well as other infrastructure. Keeping these roads safe and clear of snow and debris are the over 62 county highway field employees. Yet, this job doesn’t go without risk. And a lot of it. From fixing potholes sometimes a few feet from speeding cars to clearing snow in low visibility situations to using heavy equipment such as chainsaws, there is danger around seemingly every corner.

As Columbia County highway commissioner since 2015, Chris Hardy has made it his top priority to keep safety at the foundation of the work of the department. “We’ve created policies and procedures to establish that tasks are done in the safest manner possible. There are expectations in the department and we have annually held safety training days to keep these important topics at the forefront of the minds of everyone out on the frontlines."

In late October, Commissioner Hardy, along with the County Mutual, held a comprehensive four-day risk management training session for all highway department employees. The cost of the event was covered through the county’s training budget, as well as County Mutual sponsored speakers.

Covered topics included chainsaw safety, wellness, stretching and ergonomics, defensive driving, sexual harassment, diversity and bullying, and communication skills training.

Speakers at the four-day training event included Brian Langenhorst, of Workfit Solutions, who spoke on wellness, stretching and ergonomics. “County employees are constantly bending, twisting, picking up heavy items and spending long hours operating heavy equipment,” said Jessica Schroeder, Risk Management Consultant with Aegis Corporation, which acts as the general administrator of the County Mutual. “Brian does an amazing job demonstrating what each employee can do to prevent injuries on the job.”

Jessica spoke on sexual harassment, diversity and bullying, as well as provided a session on defensive driving. In addition, Laura Paige of UW-Madison's Division of Continuing Studies, presented on communication skills and emotional intelligence. There were also two full days of hands-on chainsaw safety training presented by Chainsaw Safety Specialists.

“There is such a huge benefit to bringing in all foreman, supervisors and employees to go over such important issues,” said Chris. “We are all on the same page and hear from industry experts on the right way to do things. In the end, our goal is to have every single employee safe on the job, while keeping the public safe as well.”

“Chris has done an incredible job of identifying problem areas and working with employees through specific risk management training events such as these to prevent accidents and losses,” said Jessica. “It’s been a pleasure working with Chris and because of his commitment to safety, this county department has seen real changes.”

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