During a report to the Lincoln County Commission Wednesday, Risk Management Coordinator Janet Harrison said that the county will be enjoying a noticeable reduction in their insurance premiums because there were no on-the-job injuries in the past year. Harrison said the recently formed county safety committee worked hard to organize various employee groups and to enlist their participation in raising the awareness of how to keep safety foremost in their minds, whether they are an assistant to a county commissioner or working on a bridge repair job in the field. Harrison said the safety committee still has a ways to go, but they are making progress at creating a safety manual and personnel handbook.
County Commissioner Terry Thompson raised the issue of wellness and how that mirrors the benefits of working safely on the job. Harrison said although the two subject areas are closely related, they really are handled differently but that certainly the two themes interact on the subject of smoking. She said smoking is restricted around the courthouse. But that prompted further discussions about how a number of courthouse workers on the upper floors often complain about smokers standing outside the front entrance puffing away. They say the smoke wafts up the side of the courthouse and into their windows. And it makes them irritated, not only from the smell but from a safety perspective of breathing toxic fumes on the job. That, they say, is a documented health and safety issue, not only for courthouse workers but for the public who have to walk through the clouds of cigarette smoke as they travel the sidewalks in front of the courthouse, which is frequently filled with smokers staying the required 25 feet away from the entrance.
Commissioners say they understand the frustration of non-smokers but also noted how much progress has been made relative to smoking from the days when people smoked in every room of the courthouse. Then it was scaled back to just in certain rooms. Then smokers were sent outside. Then they were told to smoke no closer than 25 feet from the entrance. Then the “smokers’ hut” was later built behind the courthouse.
Commissioners then pondered if it isn’t time again to tighten restrictions further. The suggestion was made that there be no smoking allowed anywhere on the courthouse front lawn, from the front door of the courthouse, all the way to, but not including, the sidewalk on the street. Others would have to use the smoker’s hut out back. The question was raised if what’s good for the courthouse wouldn’t also be good for all other county buildings. Harrison and County Counsel Wayne Belmont said the question requires careful analysis. Belmont said he and Harrison will examine all county buildings and determine just what the art of the possible might be on making them smoke-free zones and to report back to the commission with a plan.