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Commissioner Touton recognizes safety leaders at the annual Safety and Occupational Health Seminar and Leadership Forum

Media Contact: Peter Soeth 303-445-3615 psoeth@usbr.gov
For Release: May 29, 2024
Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton talking with Reclamation safety professionals about her commitment to employee safety, health, and wellness Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton talking with Reclamation safety professionals about her commitment to employee safety, health, and wellness

DENVER - Safety is vital to the Bureau of Reclamation and every activity it undertakes. Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton emphasized this earlier this month at the annual Safety and Occupational Health Seminar in Denver. Commissioner Touton stressed her commitment to employee safety, health, and wellness and continued Reclamation's efforts to ensure safety is a core value.  

“Employee safety and health is not a mere talking point at Reclamation locations," said Reclamation's Chief of Safety and Occupational Health Office Buddy Byrd. "It is routinely demonstrated by investments related to personal protective equipment, funds, and training to ensure Reclamation creates safe and healthful work environments where our employees can be successful." 

Commissioner Touton also recognized the winners of the 2023 Safety Awards. Those receiving awards are: 

The Commissioner’s Group Award for Safety Excellence 

The Four Corners Construction Office was presented to the Commissioner's Group Award for Safety Excellence. 

The Four Corners Construction Office distinguished itself by providing expert oversight to a demanding contractor working on the Navajo Code Talkers component of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. The contractor had repeatedly disregarded their employees' safety and Reclamation safety and health standards.  

With leadership backing, the Four Corners Construction Office safety staff provided extensive support and coaching to the contractor to help them be successful. Working collaboratively with Reclamation, the contractor identified innovative solutions for correcting high-risk and unsafe work practices. The results have been measurable as the contractor has become a success story. Four Corners Construction Office leadership and safety team invested considerable time and effort towards training a first-time government contractor. 

The Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Safety Professional of the Year 

Erin Nielsen, safety and occupational health manager at Snake River Area Office, received The Commissioner's Award for Outstanding Safety Professional of the Year. 

Nielsen made numerous contributions and improvements to the area office safety and health program and culture, which included: 

  • Mentoring employees so they know how to resolve situations on their own. 

  • Developing new safety training and evaluation requirements for heavy equipment operators to ensure operators have the skills to operate their equipment safely. 

  • Developing a work zone traffic control plan for crane activities conducted adjacent to a public road at American Falls Dam to ensure the safety of employees and passing motorists. 

  • Communicating lessons learned from incident reviews and investigations to employees to prevent similar events from occurring.  

  • Participating in several Reclamation-wide safety initiatives. 

The Commissioner’s Individual Award for Safety Excellence 

Raymond J. "RJ" Wardle, general maintenance work leader, Minidoka Field Office, Snake River Area Office, received the Commissioner's Individual Award for Safety Excellence. 

Wardle works collaboratively to ensure safe working environments for employees and members of the public. He is involved with many facets of safety, including becoming a heavy equipment instructor, participating with the local safety committees, and being a champion in all aspects of safety. His efforts were instrumental in implementing a new heavy equipment training program for the entire region.  

Wardle has built trust and open communication with his staff to ensure they feel empowered and supported when bringing up safety concerns or making suggestions that positively impact the safety and operations of the facility.  

Since becoming general maintenance work leader for the Minidoka Field Office, Wardle has made significant strides to mitigate physical safety hazards, such as fabricating steel walkways to dam instrumentation, working with engineering to develop lifting devices for Minidoka intake racks, and designing and manufacturing bulkhead gate stands that allow quick deployment of stop logs for maintenance and emergencies. 

The Commissioner’s Organization Award for Safety Excellence 

The Eastern Colorado Area Office received the Commissioner's Organization Award for Safety Excellence. 

The Eastern Colorado Area Office leadership strives to build a culture of trust, coalitions, and organizational relationships to promote the safe achievement of mission-related goals. The following is a small summary of safety-related initiatives and accomplishments within Eastern Colorado Area Office: 

  • Volunteered to field test the new Reclamation safety climate survey.  

  • The Eastern Colorado Area Office area manager volunteered to serve on the Reclamation Safety and Health Standard Working Group. 

  • The safety manager volunteered to be on the Reclamation Lessons Learned Working Group to support mishap prevention.  

  • Safety is a standard agenda item during weekly operations and maintenance meetings. 

  • Eastern Colorado Area Office partnered with Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Safety representatives to improve fall protection at the Dille Diversion site. 

  • Management quickly responded when Green Mountain Powerplant employees voiced concerns regarding mold, hazmat storage, paint mixing operations and coatings applications.  

  • Formed a working group to determine the safest action when the Mount Elbert Powerplant's fire alarm system stopped functioning. 

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