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It's the Safety Fest

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | February 22, 2024 1:09 AM

POST FALLS — Safe workspaces are more than just hard hats, leather gloves and steel-toed boots.

They also include effective communication, appropriate boundaries, trust and cultural awareness. Other factors to consider are gender, organizational hierarchy and age.

"Age could be a factor as some people refuse to take orders from folks that are young," said Adam Gerson, compliance assistance specialist with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Boise Area Office.

Gerson discussed different aspects of protecting people in the workplace Wednesday morning during his "Leading a Safety Culture" presentation at the 16th annual Safety Fest of the Great Northwest at the North Idaho College Workforce Training Center in Post Falls.

"Folks also could have difficulty saying, 'No,'" Gerson said. "Sometimes people will expose themselves to hazardous conditions because they refuse to contact OSHA or say that 'This is unsafe.'"

He said assembling an effective training team can include a tactical leader, a language leader and a social leader.

It's not as easy as having one person in all of these roles, he said. Sometimes it takes multiple people to train a particular audience. He said building rapport is one of the most important parts of OSHA's work.

"Ideally, we want you to come home safe," he said.

Gerson is one of 50 instructors leading 85 classes this week as Safety Fest continues today and Friday. About 600 people had registered as of Wednesday for classes including Competent Person Trench Safety Training, Confined Space Awareness, Remote Worker Safety and Backcountry Survival, Ladder and Work Platform Safety, Office Ergonomics for Work and Home and Movement Patterns for Injury Protection.

All sessions are free and open to the public.

Safety Fest was founded by Becky Colotti and Greg Rodriguez to help the community and local companies with safety training needs.

"There's a lot of small outfits that can't afford to hire people to come in and get the training that they need," said Colotti, whose background includes mining, lumber, agriculture and production.

"This is an avenue to bring instructors together to make that happen," she said.

Rodriguez, who has worked in construction and manufacturing, said he is pleased by the number of people who return to Safety Fest for training year after year. 

"It's just a passion," Rodriguez said. "From my time working out in construction and not having any training and not knowing anything and then years later finding out this is what we're supposed to be doing, it's like, 'Wow, I really could have gotten injured.'"

ACI Northwest employees Andrew Savage and Pat Dalton participated in training and leadership courses at Safety Fest.

"It's a great opportunity to get training, especially during this time of year when a lot of work slows down," Savage said.

Dalton said ACI employees annually attend Safety Fest. He said it's a great resource for the company as well as the community.

"That's why we promote it from the top to the bottom," Dalton said.

Safety Fest continues today from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to after 5 p.m. Friday.

Info: nic.edu

    Adam Gerson, compliance assistance specialist with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Boise Area Office, talks about leading cultures of safety in the workplace Wednesday during Safety Fest at the North Idaho College Workforce Training Center.
 
 
    Teck Gotreau from Kootenai County Sheriff Volunteer Search and Rescue holds up a tealight Wednesday as she discusses what she keeps handy while out in the backcountry during a session at Safety Fest in Post Falls.