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Auburn University’s Facilities Management department recently released its 2014 Recordable Accidents data that shows a 52 percent decrease in accidents from last year and a 72 percent decline over the last four years.

“Our employees are our most important asset,” said Dan King, assistant vice president for Facilities Management. “We have a moral obligation to protect our employees by providing the tools they need to safely and effectively do their work and go home to their families at the end of each day. The continued downward trend in accident numbers show that our efforts to create a safety-first culture are working.”

Home to more than 450 employees, Facilities Management is one of the university’s largest departments. A majority of its employees work in the field: operating heavy equipment, inspecting construction sites, performing carpentry work, landscaping, painting and cleaning. They also work with hazardous materials, around low and high voltage, and at heights.

The department’s efforts to lower accident rates among its employees began four years ago when it hired its first safety manager – Margaret Smith. Smith built the department’s safety training program which now includes a variety of monthly, weekly and specialty workshops.

“Attitudes have changed greatly since I came onboard,” Smith said. “I used to receive a lot of complaints from employees about training. Now, they have flipped the page and see that safety is for their benefit.”

Smith said proactive communication has also played an important role in the department’s safety program. She is in constant communication with the staff through one-on-one conversations, visiting campus worksites and placing safety banners and fliers throughout the Facilities compound.

“We had a banner year in 2014,” Smith said. “I can see that our guys realize it pays to take 30 seconds and think about safety issues. Our employees are putting safety first, instead of using the ‘let’s just get this done,’ attitude. I am so proud of these guys.” Department directors and supervisors are also doing their part to facilitate a safety-first culture, Smith said.

“Facilities supervisors and directors are embracing safety and really care about their employees,” she said. “This concern has trickled down to the employees.”

Steven Johnston, Facilities Management Landscape Services superintendent, said he is proud of his employees’ attention to safety.

“The decrease in accidents is due to a combination of weekly supervisor training meetings, Margaret’s monthly training, and the safety reminders and signs posted throughout Facilities,” Johnston said. “But, mostly, I credit our employees for being cognizant enough to think about safety, be cautious and work safely.”

Even with the dramatic decrease in accidents, Facilities will continue to emphasize and promote a safety-first culture, King said.

“When our employees take the extra time to consider safety, they also pay attention to the quality of their work, which in the end, increases the value of services we offer to the campus community.”