Safety training starts on Day 1 at the Iowa DOT

Jeremy showing Collin safety proceduresNote: This post is the first in a series related to Iowa DOT training efforts to improve the safety of our field staff.

Safeguarding our Iowa DOTers who spend their days working on the road starts the first day they enter a garage. New standardized training tools are being used to ensure our team members have the best possible training to safely get the job done and return home to their loved ones after each shift. Continually updating our field training system strengthens the well-being of our entire Iowa DOT team.

Jason Fisher, the Iowa DOT’s field training coordinator, said, “At the end of last year we were able to publish our Intro to Maintenance Activities Manual, a standardized set of training tools that can be used in any Iowa DOT garage. For the development of this training tool, we worked with the district maintenance managers who were incredibly open to the concept of standardized training for all of our field staff.”

Collin and Jeremy in the truck
(Left) Collin Kleppe, summer help in the New Hampton garage, is being trained by Highway Maintenance Supervisor Jeremy Weber (Right).

The statewide, uniform nature of the maintenance training is something relatively new to the Iowa DOT as is the ability to track training activities efficiently.  Fisher said, “Each garage or circle has always trained new employees, but sometimes there were differences in the way basic things were done. With the standardized training, if you’re hired in Sioux City and move to Dubuque, you should be doing the basic work the same way. Each garage still has its own way of doing some specialized things, but the basics will be the same everywhere. That’s a major step in the right direction.”

This standardized manual and training system was a joint effort among DOT’s six district safety garage operations assistants and District 6 Maintenance Manager Mitch Wood in his former capacity in the Maintenance Bureau. Wood said, “The pandemic actually helped us get this project moving. We had time to put this manual and training plan together. Having Microsoft Teams put in place at about the same time really helped us collaborate electronically to get this training up and running.”  

District safety GOAs

For the core training elements, each maintenance circle has a designated trainer.  Fisher said, “For all new employees, our trainers work with them on the basic elements of the job. This foundational field training for new employees can take up to a week. If they need additional assistance to obtain a commercial driver’s license, we’re certified to provide that, too. All of the training is a combination of hands-on and video instruction through IowaDOTU.”

Fisher continued, “Using IowaDOTU, we’re able to better track employee training. In the past, documenting training activities wasn’t the most organized and it wasn’t always easy to provide training records. The IowaDOTU system has built-in accountability for tracking each individual’s training program.”

Recent online tools like Workday have also assisted with documenting employee training programs. Fisher said, “Workday connects to the IowaDOTU system and automatically enrolls new employees in required courses as part of the onboarding process. That’s extremely helpful. This process of getting new employees enrolled in training used to be a time-consuming process that is now for the most part automated. We can also quickly and easily provide training records for each employee whenever those records are needed.”

Fisher explained the support for the new employee doesn’t end once the initial training tasks are completed. He said, “We pair our newer employees with an experienced operator as a mentor, someone to answer questions and help out when they are needed.”

“Safety First” and “People Matter” aren’t just catchphrases on posters around the Iowa DOT. We’re putting actions behind these core values every day to weave them into our culture. We are investing our time and energy into providing the training our people need to safely get their jobs done from the first day they step into one of our facilities and continuing throughout each employee’s career.

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