Launch Slideshow

Error: less than 300px wide output not yet supported

Making choices on the frontline

Making choices on the frontline

  • Image

    http://www.pwmag.com/Images/tmp339%2Etmp_tcm111-1332578.jpg?width=150

    true

    Image

    150

    Audie Beverly, chairman of the uniform committee, said, "The uniform committee has helped to streamline the ordering process and allow a place to bring up common issues for discussion and resolution. We have decreased the errors in ordering and involved more of the front-line staff in the process." Photo: Orange County Public Works

  • Image

    http://www.pwmag.com/Images/tmp33A%2Etmp_tcm111-1332581.jpg?width=150

    true

    Image

    150

    William Baxter, public works director, addresses the Roads and Drainage Division fore-men at their regular meeting. Photo: Orange County Public Works

  • Image

    http://www.pwmag.com/Images/tmp33B%2Etmp_tcm111-1332583.jpg?width=150

    true

    Image

    150

    According to Charles West, construction foreman, “The corrective action committee helps us to keep our discipline actions consistent. It also allows the front-line supervisors to bring up situations and ask for guidance on discipline issues.” Photo: Orange County Public Works

To alleviate these concerns, the Division formed a heavy equipment users group. Members included front-line users of the equipment, one heavy equipment supervisor, a fleet services representative, and a member of the management team. Purchasing was invited to send a staff member to the meetings. The committee was directed to develop a plan to standardize equipment as it was scheduled for replacement. They also were encouraged to research new equipment by attending dealer demonstrations at local equipment shows, arranging onsite vendor demonstrations, and taking part in hands-on evaluations. Each member participated in democratic group decisions by discussing needs and concerns with their crews and then presenting that information to the committee. The committee then agreed on several recommendations and forwarded them to the Division manager.

The group's recommendations have saved the Division time and money on equipment. For example, air conditioning in all equipment, including tractors, allows operators to work longer, as extra heat breaks are not required. Mowers with shaft drive rotaries were purchased to replace hydraulic flail mowers; rotaries are less expensive to own and maintain, much easier to repair, and more environmentally friendly. These suggestions and others have improved working conditions and productivity in the heavy equipment section of the Roads and Drainage Division, as well as in the maintenance units.

Eric Peterson, chairman of this group, feels the discussion is important. “The heavy equipment users group provides the opportunity to obtain input from the users of the equipment and provides discussion of common problems with equipment,” he said. “The efforts of this committee have provided for a better ordering procedure and a consistency in equipment that provides better service to the citizens of Orange County.”

One of the unexpected benefits of convening this group was with the operation of the equipment. Each day, operators report to work at their assigned work areas. This means one operator may not see other operators for a week at a time. This committee provided an opportunity for employees to discuss various equipment operating techniques. These discussions gave operators some new ideas for working more efficiently and fostered a better understanding of the equipment.

FOREMAN'S MEETING

As the foremen are in the building every payday to pick up the checks for their sections, the manager decided this would be an ideal time to hold a foreman's meeting. The manager and his staff provide information to the foremen on topics such as upcoming projects and award distribution. Each foreman is encouraged to discuss their own section's projects and issues. New employees are introduced, human resources and safety staff provide information, and the public works director is invited to provide comments. Occasionally, other divisions are invited to the meeting to provide information on special events.

The Division has found that this forum opens discussion beyond projects and activities. Critical issues are brought up for discussion, and problems are resolved. Both staff and management benefit from these one-hour meetings, as staff learns about activities they don't have day-to-day involvement in and management learns of issues that are of concern in the field. The meetings also ensure that consistent information is provided to the crews.

SAFETY COMMITTEE

A safety committee was developed with one representative from each section, a supervisor, and the department safety officer, bringing the committee up to 15 people. The unit representative can't be a supervisor; only front-line employees are eligible. Each month, safety issues are discussed and problems addressed. If training is needed in a specific area, programs are researched or designed and implemented to provide that training.

Although many organizations have similar practices, the Roads and Drainage Division safety committee differs in that although the safety officer has final determination on all safety related matters, the representative from each section is responsible for all aspects of the program in that section. They must schedule and host their own unit safety meetings, arrange necessary training, be available for safety reviews, and respond to accidents where safety issues are involved. This system has given ownership to individual representatives and pride to the entire unit, resulting in a program in which they, the front-line employees, are directly invested.

Budhu is manager of the Orange County Public Works Roads and Drainage Division.

Dealing with problem employees

To treat each employee equally, the Orange County Roads and Drainage Division formed a committee to review all disciplinary actions prior to implementation to ensure consistency and fairness. Although the problem with consistency was minor, the Division formed a committee to monitor for potential inequities in the disciplinary process. The committee consists of unit coordinators, upper level supervision, a union representative, and a staff member from human resources.