The city of Anchorage has paid more than $137,000 in federal safety fines over the decades, including for instances where inspectors found employees didn't receive required training or the city failed to document it, officials said.
Hoping to avoid future citations, city safety managers say they are now seeking out better technology to host and track employee training. The Anchorage Assembly will vote next week on sole-source contract with Washington-based Vivid Online Learning Systems for software that would train employees on a range of topics, from bloodborne pathogens to driving safety to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
The city-owned power utility, Municipal Light & Power, has used the software for years because it offers electrical courses for linemen. Because ML&P was a long-time client, the company dropped its prices so the city could afford it, said Anneliese Roberts, the city safety manager.
Roberts said better training software will help avoid future citations tied to regulations from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA.
She said the city is also keenly interested in doing what it can to prevent accidents.
"We're trying to make the city safer by implementing this," Roberts said.
OSHA has specific regulations that require employers to provide training to employees, said Krystyna Markiewicz, the chief of Alaska's OSHA enforcement and consultation division.
OSHA then conducts inspections and interviews employers and employees to ask if the training happened, Markiewicz said.
"If they (employers) don't have documentation, then it is really difficult to prove the training was provided," Markiewicz said.
ConocoPhillips, one of the Alaska's largest private employers, has specific training software that tracks required training for every position in the company, as well as assigning compliance dates, said Natalie Lowman, a spokeswoman for the oil company.
Since 1982, the city has paid about 74 OSHA citations, totaling $137,511 in penalties, according to Roberts.
But poor record-keeping for employee training has cost the city in other ways in the past. In 2017, the city paid $675,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman who was injured four years earlier when an equipment operator backed into her, according to Roberts.
Part of the reason for the amount of the settlement was failure to document safety training, Roberts said.
At the moment, city departments store safety training records in different ways, Roberts said. Some records are digital, and others are on paper, such as meeting sign-in sheets.
The new software would standardize both training and record-keeping, allowing managers to pull data from the same area, Roberts said.
In addition to record-keeping failures, the city has been cited by OSHA for other workplace safety issues, like employees failing to dress properly for work, Roberts said. That's human error, Roberts said, but getting employees on the same system would make a difference.
The new software would be used by all city workers, whether it's temporary hires in the Parks and Recreation department or the mayor, Roberts said.
She said she hopes the new software will be fully in place by the end of the year.