Tom Regan 2018-01-30 11:34:28
BISMARCK, N.D. – Glance to the right as you reach the Bismarck side of the Grant Marsh Bridge from the west on Interstate 94, and perched on the top of the bluff you’ll see the North Dakota Safety Council’s impressive new home. The modern structure, one of the most sophisticated training centers in the region, represents Phase One of a $6 million building project that dramatically advances the 50-year-old nonprofit’s mission of preventing injuries and deaths in our workplaces, on our streets and highways and in our homes. The 24,000-square-foot safety campus, a vision five years in the making, is located near the MDU Resources Community Bowl and the Bismarck Aquatic Center. It was designed and built to grow and enhance what the organization does best: safety training, especially of the hands-on variety. “It is so not an office building,” explained executive director Chuck Clairmont after making the move to the new facility. “The office portion was the last consideration. The main focus was on the classrooms and enhancing and extending the classroom experience.” The features of the new safety campus, such as a 26-foot indoor training tower where realistic fall-protection and confined-spaces training can take place, enable the NDSC to offer top-notch, experiential learning on a year-round basis. Phase Two of the safety campus vision will include an indoor, dirt-floor arena to accommodate training in trenching, excavating and equipment operation. Multiple group training rooms equipped with the latest in technology further expand the Safety Council’s reach and impact. Headquartered in Bismarck with offices in the North Dakota communities of Beulah, Fargo and Minot, the Safety Council has grown exponentially during the 10 years of Clairmont’s leadership. The staff has grown from just a handful to 28 employees. Some of the country’s top trainers offer more than 120 courses impacting 50,000 people a year. Membership has grown by 25 percent. The council’s three-day safety and health conference every February attracts 1,000 attendees from 20 states and multiple provinces, along with 175 vendors and sponsors. A Bismarck native and self-described “numbers man,” Clairmont, 50, worked for an international accounting firm, as chief financial officer for a regional auto parts dealer and for an international medical research company before entering the safety world. But it’s safety that’s now his great passion, he says, and the passion is shared by his staff. “Every single person at our facility could go someplace else and probably make more money doing something else, but you get into the safety world, and it’s captivating,” said Clairmont. “You start realizing how you can make an impact in people’s lives.” The council held a Grand Opening on Sept. 19 to show the public the new safety campus. “We’re here to offer a maximum amount of training in a great setting, delivered by trainers who really care,” said Clairmont. A Q&A with Clairmont Prairie Business: How did you choose the present site for the safety campus? Clairmont: Location is key. This is not just a facility that’s going to support Bismarck; it’s going to support the region. We needed close access to highways, hotels and restaurants. We also want to work with Bismarck State College and its students. It’s important to influence people in college or even at a younger level about safety before they join the workforce. Considering all the industries BSC is working with – oil and gas, construction, the utility industry – we really want to partner with them. PB: You’re a believer in simulated, hands-on training. Clairmont: To sit in a classroom and listen to an instructor, whether it’s with PowerPoint or whatever else, is valuable and it has to happen. But to physically be able to incorporate the discussion into an activity has much more impact. I use the example of First Aid/ CPR. Can you imagine learning CPR just sitting in a classroom watching TV? To actually get the mannequins out and perform the breaths and do the chest pumps means you leave the training with the confidence that you can do it. So we tie the classroom to actual hands-on learning, whether it’s rigging something, fall protection or confined-spaces training. PB: What kind of impact do you feel this new facility will make? Clairmont: We touch 50,000 people a year now, which is so important to us. We feel the new campus is going to add another 20, 30, 40 percent. Because of this facility, hopefully, we’ll get recognition in the city, state and region, with people saying the Safety Council has truly taken the next step in safety training. Industries that slow down during the off-season will be able to train employees indoors year-round at our facility. PB: You had an outstanding high school and college athletic career. Talk about how sports has influenced your life. Clairmont: Sports has been the basis of everything for me. The competition was big to me, to always strive to be the best. My father died from alcoholism, and I had great coaches early on who recognized my home issues and the emotional piece of me that drove me to be successful. Sports was a way of showing my father I was good enough in something, and I didn’t have to follow in his footsteps. My sports background also has helped me make connections in business over the years, and I’ve continued to benefit from great teachers and mentors – people whom I greatly respect. PB
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