What is that thing?

VHSPainful … that’s how some employees used to describe watching the Iowa Department of Transportation’s outdated safety videos. But we all need to know this stuff, right?

Amy Knight from the Office of Employee Services, said, “The old videos have served their purpose. Many were very long and started with the most basic information. Besides the fact that the videos were long and outdated, they were VIDEOS… on VHS tapes. One employee emailed me to say ‘The '70s called and they want their videos back.’ That’s how outdated they were.”

Another issue is that the department had no real tracking system. Over the years many videos had been  misplaced, damaged, or simply were not being used. Knight said, “Safety is our main focus. Getting relevant and interesting information to our employees is very important. As it stood, we didn’t have a good handle on what videos were where.  Every office or area seemed to have a different set of five to seven videos, so the information wasn’t consistent across the agency. We really needed to fix this.”

The first place Knight looked was the internet. While there are many online resources that can be accessed, many field locations told her that internet access is sometimes an issue. So Knight started exploring DVD library options. 

Working with John Hart in the Office of Maintenance, funding was identified to support the safety library. “After talking to the people in the field, we decided early on that each district needed to have a local library of safety information,” Knight said, “We looked for options that would include a bar code system so the materials could be checked in and out for better tracking. The safety library would function just like any other library, and we would be able to have data on what was actually being used.”

Safety_videos D1Hart and Knight found a source for short, to-the-point safety DVDs that captured viewer attention and met the department’s needs at Hart said, “We looked for content that is relevant to what our employees face on a regular basis. We also wanted to get the same information to all locations, so the content was consistent across the state. We also looked for a source that provides updates when regulations or best practices change. It’s not perfect, but it is much more complete and addresses many more of the occupational issues than the previous videos.”

Screen shotOnce the list of DVDs was decided on, a library of more than 30 titles was purchased for each district. Each district has designated “librarians” in charge of the DVDs. Tammy Hamilton, executive officer 1 in the District 5 office is one of the librarians for her area, along with Lisa Luko and Janet Sutter. Hamilton said, “The library is very user friendly and simple to use. It’s quick to check DVDs in and out. In our area, the DVDs are being frequently used, unlike some of the old videos that just sat on a shelf. Now, when the supervisors come in to the office for meetings, they will bring back the DVDs they have used and check out new ones. They are in circulation a lot. Getting safety information out to our workforce should help us work safe. Implementing and improving safer work processes will reinforce this DOT core value.”

Knight says she’s heard very positive comments about the safety DVDs. “The people I’ve talked to say they really appreciate the quality of the DVDs. They are short and include content that makes you think. Many of them are reminders of core safety values while performing various activities, but they aren’t condescending or too elementary. There is a good balance in the DVDs.”

Office safety topics
There are a few "office" safety topics in the DOT's main library in Ames.

Another benefit of the libraries Knight noted is flexibility. “We can look at what is being used and what isn’t. Then we can have conversations about topics that might be of more interest and look for DVDs on those topics, while removing the ones that aren’t being used. There is accountability because we’ll be able to see where each DVD has been checked out so nothing will be lost.”

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