Safety First – And Always

At most of the emergency drills we do, one of the most passionate people in the Incident Command room is usually the Safety person. That’s to be expected. The Safety team is entrusted with the lives and welfare of all involved in a restoration. Whether you’re a lineman, a damage assessor, a stand-by or wires-down person, or just driving to work after the storm has passed, restoration is an inherently dangerous job.

We all know that in the utility industry, “Safety Is Our Number 1 Priority.” We say it and hear it all the time. But when things go wrong, it’s the Safety team that has to investigate, probe, uncover the unpleasant and sometimes damning details, and report them. Maybe that’s why these people get so passionate about their mission.

It’s easy to get jaded about safety on blue sky days. The numbers on the “Days Without Injury” or “Days Without Accident” signs keep adding up with hardly a notice. Accidents or injuries get serious attention. Days that go by without incident go without notice or celebration.

It is part of human nature that routine and repetition can begin to dominate our actions, making safety considerations dangerously subliminal and not always “Top of Mind.” Add stresses like weather conditions, task urgency, resource limitations, unfamiliarity with second role assignments or working with foreign crews – things can get really hazardous during restoration if you’re not thinking first about your own safety, or the safety of others.

To show how easy it is to take this “Number 1 Priority” for granted, we asked a group of managers at a recent exercise: “How many of your daily meetings begin with a safety message?” Embarrassment ensued and there were a lot of people looking at their shoes. They had to admit that too many of their daily meetings omitted a safety message. And here at EPP, we are as much at fault as everyone else. Since our founding in 2001, this is the first time we’ve posted a blog with safety as the main topic. We’re trying to correct that omission with this post.

So how do we keep safety a top-of-mind consideration in our daily jobs? Here are a few ideas:

Every Meeting – Start every single meeting, every single time with some sort of safety message. It does not have to be long or involved. It could even be a slogan developed for your company as a whole. Deliver the message with emphasis and intent. Get your point across. Do not let the message pass without notice. Be passionate.

Use a Different Angle – Every now and then, access sites like the US Department of Homeland Security’s Daily Digest and talk about actual hazardous or safety-related issues that occur outside the utility industry. Approaching things from outside the industry can help keep things fresh, providing a completely different perspective.

Lead a Discussion – Why do all the work yourself? Come up with a topic and throw it out there for reaction. Ask for input for improvements to your section’s safety performance.

Celebrate Success Oddly – This idea follows the “Ambush Someone Doing Something Good” principle. Whether with donuts or fresh fruit in the morning, or convenience store gift cards at the end of the day, or some other unusual unexpected token of recognition – pick an unexpected, unpredictable milestone and ambush your group with a celebration for achieving days without injury or accident.

With our thanks to the dedicated and passionate Safety team members among you who keep trying to drive home the message about your company’s Number 1 Priority, we’ll end with this wish for all of you this summer:

“Let’s be safe out there.”

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