Rost takes safety to new venue — retirement

Headquarters was her official workstation, but Cheryl Rost’s influence and personal touch extended to all six ITD districts and most of the maintenance facilities.

As manager of Employee Safety and Risk Management, Rost was responsible for ensuring that employees operate in the safest environment possible, using the safest equipment available. It wasn’t just her job – it was a professional passion.

Today (Feb. 18) she assumes a new formal title: “Retired.”

After more than 31 years molding and nurturing the department’s safety and risk management program, Rost bid farewell to colleagues last week. She spent most of her final week purging outdated files and preparing to pass the baton to an eventual successor.

Rost joined the department’s construction group, which was part of the Division of Highways in October 1979. Duties expanded during the ensuing two years to include work in the Ports of Entry permits office and bridge data.

She filled in for the department’s safety manager during his illness and accepted the position as her own in about 1983. EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity), Safety and Training was organized under the personnel office at the time. It was split into an independent office later and recently returned to Human Resource Services.

During that 27-year span, Rost:

  • Developed a program for hazardous materials training with the Division of Highways
  • Developed a certified flagger training program through the state’s Division of Professional-Technical Education
  • Implemented a drug and alcohol testing program for employees
  • Initiated a training program for employees who had chauffeur licenses and helped them migrate to the department’s commercial drivers license program
  • Founded the department’s wellness program at the request of the Transportation Board
  • Processed and helped resolve tort claims related to ITD activities
  • Investigated and reported on employees involved in vehicle crashes or personal injuries while on the job
  • Monitored ITD activities for compliance with the Idaho General Safety and Health Rules for places of public employment, and
  • Played a lead role in creating the department’s Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)
  • Improved high visibility clothing for department employees
  • Arranged many employee exposure monitoring projects on hazardous substances
  • Conducted ergonomic evaluations of work sites to reduce repetitive injuries and arranged physical therapist assessments when warranted.

She worked directly with EEO, Safety and Training coordinators in each district and helped deliver the annual Maintenance Tool Box training.

The emphasis on safety prompted Rost and her staff to develop “job safety analyses” for functions related to construction. Approximately 100 JSAs have been created to identify hazards associated with specific construction tasks; the analyses also include strategies for preventing on-the-job injuries.

Rost accepted new challenges through the years, but the primary focus of her job never changed – ensuring employee safety and minimizing risks to the department and Idaho citizens. Even with evolution of the department, those functions will always be essential, she predicts.

“Most organizations recognize the value and importance of preventing injuries and damage to their most greatest assets – employees and equipment,” Rost says. “I don’t see it diminishing at all … having a preventable loss program can save your organization a lot of money.”

What awaits in retirement?

Rost wants to remain active, possibly volunteering for civic organizations, such as United Way or the American Red Cross as a way of contributing her expertise in preparedness and emergency planning.

One of her core beliefs is that a community is needed to raise a child – a shared responsibility for improving the quality of life for individuals within a community. That commitment probably will occupy part of her new freedom.

But it will have to compete with two young granddaughters, ages 4 and 7, and bass fishing on local reservoirs.

Rost’s mother, three of her sisters and a son still live in southern Idaho, and she envisions a busy schedule keeping in touch with them. She also wants to remain on a first-name basis with fish in her favorite holes – Lake Lowell, C.J. Strike, Brownlee and Owyhee reservoirs.

Photos: (Top) The URS Safety Fest Committee members presented Cheryl with the ‘Outstanding Contributor Award’ on Jan. 26 during the opening ceremonies. The award plaque states “In Recognition of Your Outstanding Contributions towards the Boise Safety Fest, we present to you this 2011 Safety Fest Star Award.” Pictured are: Rick Callor, Bill Bankhead, Cheryl Rost, Darrell Manning, Brad Giles.

Lower left: Friends offered a lot of hugs during part of the retirement party this week.

Published 2-18-2011