City of Henderson Parks

Published on Jul 13, 2012

Number of days away from work decreased by 72 percent in one year.

The City of Henderson is the second largest municipality in Nevada with more than 270,000 people. The vision of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, which employs 189 full-time people, is to promote community health and well-being through fun, progressive and memorable experiences for all. It serves the community with seven recreation centers, 11 pools, 52 parks, five skate parks, two sports complexes, more than 60 linear miles of trails, the Acacia Demonstration Gardens, the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, and thousands of programs for people of all ages and abilities.


In 2009, the City of Henderson was ready to try a new approach to incident prevention. While its safety culture was sound, it felt it needed to take steps to get to the next level in order to continue decreasing incidents and injuries. The Citywide Safety Committee decided a behaviour-based approach would fit their needs, with its focus on identifying unsafe acts that can potentially lead to an injury or illness. From there, dss+ STOP® for Supervision quickly became the best choice, explained Michael Francis, the City's safety officer.

"As a safety officer, I've worked in other industries and I'd used dss+ STOP® at another employer," he explained. "The quality of the program was the deciding factor. It's very comprehensive, easy and inclusive."

– Michael Francis

The Citywide Safety Committee Chair, Vice- Chair, and Safety Officer approached Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ellen Donner to pilot a dss+ STOP® program in her department. "Parks and Rec was a good fit for the program, and I knew I'd have a partner in Mary Ellen," said Francis. Donner immediately jumped at the offer. "The possibility of decreasing our incidents and near miss rate, that's what it's all about," she said.

To prepare, he attended an Implementation Assistance Workshop (IAW), an intensive train the- trainer meeting, in Denver. The IAW proved invaluable, giving Francis the opportunity to meet and network with individuals from a cross section of organizations. The trainers also had in the-field experience that Francis found convincing. "My trainer had worked in the oil and gas industry, and she talked about how tough it was to implement behaviour based safety on an oil rig. But in the end she was successful. I knew she was giving me tried-and true methods. Plus, I felt if she could do it in the more dangerous oil and gas industry, Parks and Recreation would be much simpler."

While the goal was to launch the dss+ STOP® program, it was extremely important that training be fun and engaging for supervisors. Francis used a variety of collateral visual and interactive materials to maintain interest. In addition, Donner conducted the sixth and final session to demonstrate that the dss+ STOP® program was enthusiastically supported from the top.

Supervisors began making observations in January 2010. They are expected to complete two observations each month. Participation is highly encouraged, with the Citywide Safety Committee sending monthly reminders to supervisors. Compliance is high. The data collected and entered into STOP® DataPro® is used to track progress and to pinpoint repeat issues within the department. Results are reported to all Parks and Recreation staff each month through the department's Senior Staff meeting minutes.

The Result

In a comparison of calendar year (CY) 2010 safety and health performance to CY 2009, the numbers speak dramatically:

  • The number of workers' compensation claims submitted decreased by 25 percent.
  • The total number of OSHA recordable cases decreased by 24 percent.
  • The number of Days Away Restricted Job Transfer Cases decreased by 32 percent.
  • The number of Lost Workday Incident Cases decreased by 20 percent.
  • The number of days away from work decreased by 72 percent.
  • The number of days of job transfer or restriction decreased by 53 percent. Uploading it with the Coastal LMS,"

I'm very happy that the statistics bore out," Donner said.

"I would have been disappointed if we didn't see improvements. It was a win, win, win: employees are safer, costs are down, and I feel we are being diligent on the safety front."

Because the department is funded with tax dollars, it was important to Donner to prove that the money was a sound investment. "As department head, I am dealing with taxpayer dollars, so I need to be careful what we invest in," she said. "But in this case, if we didn't invest in safety, we would be spending more on incidents. So in the end, I'm being a good steward of taxpayer dollars, as well as keeping my employees safe."

Again, the statistics bear this out:

  • The return on investment to date of the direct costs associated with the Parks and Recreation Department workers' comp costs for the period January 2010 through June 2011 is 51 percent, with a payback period (in years) of 2.0.
  • The return on investment to date of the direct and estimated indirect costs associated with Parks and Recreation Department workers' comp costs for the period January 2010 through June 2011 is 230 percent, with a payback period (in years) of 0.4.

In addition, Donner and Francis delivered a presentation regarding dss+ STOP successes to Henderson's city manager and department directors. The feedback was phenomenal. It really made people sit up and notice what was happening in the department, they noted.

"It was a mixture of 'wow, it does work' and a heightened awareness of safety," Donner added. "When you actually have proof that incidents are down, and expenditures, people take it seriously. And they begin to think that maybe they should look into this too."

On the employee front, using STOP® For Supervision has enhanced the department's safety culture. Supervisors are more attuned to what employees do and how they do it, explained Francis. They also think differently about safety. "They aren't just focused on observations in their area alone," he said. "They see the bigger picture of Parks and Recreation as a whole."

Donner sums up the impact on employees: " dss+ STOP gives people permission, no matter their place on the proverbial ladder, to ask if what you are doing is safe. In the past, employees might have thought it, but not said it.

"Using dss+ STOP breaks down the hierarchy, those barriers to speaking out, so we can improve safety. It empowers people and encourages them."

– Mary Ellen Donner

Going Forward

Starting in September 2011, Parks and Recreation will begin training an additional 120 supervisors to perform observations. Meanwhile, the initial 50 supervisors will participate in refresher training. In January 2012, the 120 supervisors will then sync data with the initial 50 to launch an expanded STOP™ For Supervision program. At that point, all Parks and Recreation supervisors will be participating in the program.