Cause for Celebration – SafetyFestMT
California celebrates a garlic festival. Colorado hosts a blue grass festival. And in Montana, safety festivals are organized across the state through the Montana Department of Labor and Industries (DOLI) SafetyFestMT.
SafetyFestMT was created in 2010 to address Montana’s high rates of workplace injuries. The program began as a free, weeklong conference filled with workshops and classes for Montana’s employers and employees to improve on-the- job safety. The conference was made possible through a public/private partnership between DOLI and Montana businesses. Montana State Fund is one of the founding members.
“SafetyFestMT’s success is due in large part to our partnership with Montana State Fund and other entities that believe that safety is more than a priority, it’s a core value,” said Casey Kyler-West, SafetyFestMT Coordinator. “Without the buy-in from our partners, we would not be able to offer the number of training opportunities we do, or the wide variety of topics at no cost to our attendees, who might not otherwise have access to this type of training.”
Initially, SafetyFestMT was held once or twice a year in Billings or Missoula. But attendance has steadily grown, and it is now held four times a year in various cities across the state; in Missoula, Helena, Billings, Kalispell, Miles City, Havre, Butte, Sidney, Lincoln, Lewistown, and Great Falls. From 2010-2020, there have been 13,367 attendees and 1,627 classes offered. Montana State Fund safety professionals have shared their expertise at these events.
Kyler-West explained that SafetyFestMT is more than safety training, “it’s an effective workforce development tool.” The attendees who earn certifications can advance in their current career or attain employment that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.
“We’ve also added a variety of topics that don’t deal with the traditional safety training, such as Active Shooter, Mental Health First Aid, Management of Aggressive Behavior, as well as topics that are pertinent to current events such as the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Kyler-West.
And speaking of COVID-19, SafetyfestMT organizers didn’t let the virus stop them. The group quickly pivoted to host three virtual conferences in 2020, with a fourth virtual event coming March 29- April 2, 2021, from Kalispell. To register or learn more about the program, go to the SafetyfestMT website.