Safety Culture and Day-to-Day Safety Practices
By Mitchell Keel
Electric lineworkers are employed in one of the world’s top 10 most hazardous jobs, with a 20.5 fatality rate per 100,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A good safety record is unique in any business, and we strive for this each and every day. But with the nature of the work of an electric utility, it has even more significance. That’s why for nearly 80 years, Four County EMC and electric co-ops across the state have been committed to providing a reliable, but most importantly, a safe electrical system for our members, communities and employees.
North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are part of a national accreditation program, Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP), that evaluates cooperatives on their safety procedures, system inspections and maintenance, training and public education. RESAP is one of the few programs in the country that provides electric cooperatives a management tool for continuous safety and loss control assessment. Four County EMC received its first safety accreditation in 1972 and has been re-accredited every three years since then.
An important key is being committed, as well as the attitudes and actions of all employees to keep a positive outcome when considering our safety culture and day-to-day practices. Each employee is held accountable for their safety performance. Being accountable goes hand in hand with our new safety initiative. The electric co-ops’ Raleigh-based Job Training & Safety team has incorporated human behavior and personal accountability into safety procedures. Employees make a personal commitment to raise the safety bar to a higher level as individuals.
Another essential part of Four County EMC’s safety program is keeping all 92 employees educated by reviewing safe work practices. Monthly safety meetings are held for all line personnel and quarterly meetings are held for inside and outside employees.
Additionally, line workers perform tailgate meetings to review safe practices and recognize job hazards on every job before they begin work on energized lines. We are fully committed to regular safety meetings, and we constantly remind our employees that our goal is for every employee to go home safe to their family every day.
Working toward a wholesome culture of safety, Four County EMC also has in place an employee safety committee, which includes office and field personnel. The committee meets at least once a year and more often if needed to discuss ways of improving procedures and avoiding problems in the workplace and in the field.
Our efforts are paying off, and I’m proud to say that from July 2015 through February 2017, our co-op’s employees worked more than 281,697 hours, including a major storm restoration of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, with no lost time accident.
Our lineworkers face many risks every day, not only with high voltage lines, but also working and driving in all kinds of weather and terrain day and night. Like other co-ops across the state, Four County EMC has invested in more bucket trucks to assist in line and service work, and we have purchased hydraulic tools and other equipment we believe reduces injuries and helps workers continue their careers longer than in the past.
Safety is more than just a buzzword for the state’s electric cooperatives. Our employees work conscientiously toward keeping themselves accident-free and making each co-op a safe place to work.
About the AuthorMitchell Keel is CEO at Four County EMC in Burgaw.
Learn more about electric lineworkers