NAPE/AFSCME Member Ruth Smith is a Social Services Worker at the Buffalo County Courthouse in Kearney. She’s also a union steward who is very familiar with our NAPE contract and its requirements. When employees pointed out safety issues to management at their office and nothing was done, Ruth knew the exact steps to take to ensure this problem was solved.
Staff at the Buffalo County Courthouse had multiple concerns on the safety of the office. First, the office had no access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for emergency use if someone was experiencing cardiac arrest. The office has over 70 employees and members of the public frequently visit the office for assistance, so many people were put at risk by this lack of emergency equipment. In addition, the office failed to hold required safety drills for years. This leaves staff vulnerable if an emergency were to arise, especially new staff who may have never received training on what to do with a fire or similar emergency. There was also a rumor circulating amongst the staff that they were to only use one particular exit in an emergency situation.
With these concerns in mind, Ruth persistently reported these issues to management and asked for them to be addressed. Our NAPE contract requires management to provide a safe working environment, and to timely and diligently make improvements to workplace safety. When Ruth didn’t receive responses from management, she properly escalated her concerns up the chain of command until it would reach someone with the authority to solve the problem. After months of follow up, a Facilities Director addressed the concerns. An AED was immediately purchased and was installed in an area accessible to staff within a few weeks. In addition, management was provided retraining on emergency procedures, including clarifying that they were not to just use one exit. A different exit was assigned to employees under each supervisor. Finally, a training drill was scheduled so that all staff have practice on what to do if an emergency were to arise.
Without Ruth strongly advocating for the safety of staff and the public, these issues could have gone unaddressed for months or more. Union stewards are vital to addressing local concerns, and Ruth took all the right steps to ensure this problem was dealt with. NAPE will be holding Steward training sessions across the state starting in early 2023, so if you want the tools to become a workplace leader, express your interest by clicking here, and we’ll contact you when we schedule a training near you.