My Story: Richard D. Tekulve
My story begins in the fall of 1999 while employed by the National Park Service at Glacier National Park. The National Park Service is one of many agencies within the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service had, at that time, the worst safety record in the agency, with Glacier National Park coming in with the worst safety record. In other words, we were at the bottom of the pile.
I was tasked with putting together an all-employee safety committee, bringing together employees from all the different disciplines within Glacier NP to try to ascertain what our problem was and how to correct such a shabby safety record. We began with monthly meetings that outlined each department’s duties and how work was being performed, and then began picking each task apart to find the apparent flaws in the system. The flaws were many. With the superintendent’s full support, we started a training program that was behavior-based and provided much-needed safety training and safety equipment.
As many of you are aware, it is far more difficult to correct bad work habits than it is to form new good work habits, and that was the No. 1 obstacle the committee faced. We were constantly being told that “this is the way we’ve always done this or that,” and the attitude was that getting the job done was far more important than getting it done safely – hence this park’s extremely poor safety record. The park’s safety officer did not seem to concern himself with day-to-day work activities and was left out of this committee’s activities per instructions from the park superintendent.
We were to find answers and proffer suggestions to the superintendent, and we had her complete backing for whatever training and equipment would be needed. The changes did not happen overnight, nor even over the course of months, but in a little over two years’ time from our committee’s inception, Glacier National Park rose from the ashes of the bottom of the pit to receive the Regional Safety Award, which comprises many national parks in the Inter-Mountain Region, in 2003.
Since that time, I have relocated to northern Colorado, where my interest in safety has led me to earn a Bachelor of Science and master’s degree in occupational safety and health. In other words, my experiences with the National Park Service have become for me a passion in life to promote safe work practices and general safety everywhere.
Richard D. Tekulve
Life, Safety and Asset Protection Manager (retired)