New Measure Aims to Protect City of Cincinnati Workers

The motion asking for greater safety oversight comes after the death of city worker Leroy Garrison, Jr.

Cincinnati City Hall - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati City Hall

Following the death of a city worker on the job last week, Cincinnati City Council June 25 unanimously passed a motion asking the city to collect data about worker safety.

Leroy Garrison, Jr. was electrocuted June 17 in Mount Airy while installing a police surveillance camera. He died at the scene. A week after his death, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said that the preliminary findings of a state investigation show significant safety issues within the city's Department of Public Services.

That investigation, conducted by the Ohio Public Employee Risk Reduction Program, is ongoing.

"There is no question Mr. Garrison should still be with us right now," said councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, who introduced the motion. "Obviously this is a set of immediate steps meant to be a response to a tragedy that occurred. More will be forthcoming."

The measure asks the city to establish a worker safety task force, collect and provide data that compares workplace fatalities among city of Cincinnati employees to its peer cities over five and 10 year periods.

The motion also asks the city to provide weekly updates on safety upgrades in city departments, especially the city's Department of Public Services and to share findings from any internal probes and the state's investigation as they present themselves.

Finally, the motion asks that non-emergency electrical work not be performed without council approval and seeks assurances that city employees have the appropriate safety equipment.

"Our employees are extremely important to us, and this tragic death is something we need to prevent in the future," AFSCME Local 240 President Christopher McDonald said, noting the union supported the measure.

Garrison's funeral was June 25. He was 48 years old.

After today's council meeting, Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney issued the following memo: 

Today has been a difficult day for the City of Cincinnati. We laid to rest one of our dear colleagues and friends, Mr. LeRoy Garrison Jr.

The events today served as a stark reminder of the importance of our evaluation of the Traffic Service Bureau that we are currently undertaking. This weeks-long review will consist of an overall evaluation of general policies, procedures and safety standards utilized by the bureau and culminate in a path forward that allows use to ensure best practices are being utilized.

As you know, immediately following the tragic incident involving Mr. Garrison I made the decision to suspend all non-emergency electrical maintenance work performed by Public Services. This will remain in effect throughout our evaluation process. I would like to thank you, the members of Council, for understanding and supporting these efforts.

A crucial part of this evaluation process will be ensuring it is as transparent as possible. I have made a promise to the Garrison family, as well each of you, that this process will not only be comprehensive but also done in the public eye. As I’ve mentioned previously, a major component of this process will include regular updates to you, as well as the public, on the status of our investigation. 

Currently the Public Employment Risk Reduction Program, or PERRP, is conducting a third-party investigation of the incident. Additionally, Risk Management is actively working with leadership from Public Services to review and revise several DPS policies and procedures including the Control of Hazardous Energy Program and written energy control procedures, as well as lockout-tag out procedures and daily inspection requirements.

My office is working with Risk Management and Public Services to evaluate the overall organizational structure of Traffic Service Bureau to determine the feasibility of reconstituting the bureau for efficiency reasons. Additionally, our review will include ensuring Traffic Service Bureau employees are outfitted with all OSHA recommended Personal Protective Equipment and tools. Proactively, we are establishing additional training opportunities for those who work in the Traffic Service Bureau. This includes a CPR/first-aid training being held tomorrow by the Cincinnati Fire Department, as well as an electrical safety training with Duke Energy early next month. We have also identified vendors to provide enhanced bucket truck training. A specific date for the training has not yet been determined.

To bolster our training efforts, we are working to create a digital platform that will help us better track available trainings and guarantee every employee is up to date on all required trainings.

We are also expanding the current City Wide Safety Committee to include union representation. This will enhance the consistency of communications efforts and provide a forum for all critical involved parties to discuss safety and related issues. I feel this will provide the medium as requested per the Council motion on the Safety Task Force.



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