Thursday, 01 February 2007 18:00

Making Safe Choices

Written by 
In the high-risk world of utility operations, safety depends greatly on the choices that are made at all levels of an organization. The decisions that are made as to how we will handle a particular situation determine how safe everyone involved will be.
In utility operations especially, when a situation occurs that is governed by safety procedures, the person in charge and the people performing the work must take those procedures into account when making the decision as to how to perform. Unfortunately, this is where breakdowns in safety normally occur.
 In 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industry in the United States reported 5,188 fatalities. Dr. E. Scott Geller, a noted industrial psychologist, states that 95% of all incidents occur through human behavior, because someone made a choice or decision that caused an incident. When we investigate these incidents we find that a decision was made that placed the injured party in harm's way. There are many reasons for this behavior, but the one that has proven consistent throughout my history of investigations is this— the wrong decision was made for the situation at hand.
How many times have you heard someone say, "I've done it this way a hundred times and have never had an accident." Or, "I was only going to be there a few seconds."
When decisions or choices are made because of convenience and not according to the procedures in place, an injury is sure to happen.
 
HABIT FORMING
 Perhaps it's human nature, but when placed in a situation, especially one that is stressful, people will revert to what worked for them before. In utility operations, this "habit" can quickly lead to errors in the decisions or choices we make. Then it is only a matter of time before an incident occurs. To help avoid this situation, it's important to recognize the things that form our habits:
Knowledge—Understanding the task and safety processes or procedures for that task are paramount to forming good safety habits. We can educate people to the correct way to perform tasks and the best way is to teach them early on in their career. Continuing education and refresher courses also aid in keeping people on the right track with their knowledge.
Skill—The ability to perform a task safely includes experience with that particular task. Many line workers have been injured because they were given a new task they had not performed before and tried to accomplish it by "bluffing" their way through.
Attitude—The desire or "will" portion of the safety equation, attitude is about the person whose safety or life is on the line. Supervisors should have open communications with workers, which allow employees to come to the supervisor with problems that could affect their performance. People could be having personal problems at home or at work, which distract or even change their perspective of how they feel toward the company. Employees may be angry because of some sort of discipline or decision that was made by the company that adversely affects them.
One other area related to attitude is about the employee who just is not going to follow procedures no matter what anyone says. This is a dangerous situation. During an investigation I have heard supervisors say that the person involved was their best employee, even though they "bent" a few rules. My answer is simple. If that employee is your best, then that tells me how deep the safety problem is in your organization.
Safety rules and procedures do not prevent incidents. It is the following of those rules and procedures that increase the chances an incident will not occur. Make the right choices about safety and do not let your fellow workers make decisions that you know could cause injury, and everyone will have a safer operation. ip

Rick Tobey has been in the electrical utility/contractor business for 41 years. His background includes serving as a lineman, foreman, trouble man, T&D switching trainer, and supervisor of safety, apprentice training supervisor and loss prevention manager. Tobey, who holds a C.U.S.A. certification from the National Safety Council, now operates a consulting business specializing in T&D safety and training.

Read 5406 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 18:12
More in this category: The Key to Safety at KCP&L »

Safety Management

Utility safety management is no easy job. Managing personnel, staying current on leg/reg issues, understanding record keeping processes and policy enforcement are only a few of the areas Incident Prevention provides in-depth coverage.

Read Safety Management articles

Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards. FR Clothing, Gloves, Head Protection, Eyewear and Protective Footwear are all PPE.  The  articles listed below discuss their proper use and maintenance. Attend iP Safety Conference & Expo to learn more about the latest PPE products.

Read Personal Protective articles

Tailgate Safety Topics

Tailgate meetings are a critical communication component of any strong utility safety program. Incident Prevention supplies the utility industry with topics for these important meetings. Each article can be printed out for use in the field or emailed to your crews.

Tailgate Safety Topic articles

Worksite Safety

Daily hazards face utility and contractor work crews. Understanding the risks involved, knowing the proper procedures, building a strong culture of open communication and constant awareness will prevent incidents. Our articles on aerial work, underground construction, grounding techniques, high-voltage risks provide utility workers a better understanding of the task at hand.  iP Safety Conferences are another great resource for understanding hazards.

Read Worksite Safety articles

Reader Profiles

Building an effective safety culture requires strong safety leadership.  The iP reader profiles features utility industry safety managers who know what it takes to overcome obstacles that brings their workers home each and every day.

Reader Profile articles

Leadership Development

As our current utility workforce retires, new utility safety leaders are coming onboard all of the time.  Incident Prevention is here to assist in the development of their leadership skills.  Managing people, understanding generational differences, building strong communications skills, establishing accountability are just a few of the subject areas covered in the magazine and at iP Safety Conferences.

Leadership Development articles

 

Equipment Operations

Safe equipment operations is required on every jobsite.  Utility work requires the use of cranes, derricks, buckets, trenchers, dozers and more.  Learn about the hazards associated with equipment operations in the articles featured below.

 Equipment Operations articles

Grounding

Grounding systems are designed so they provide the necessary safety functions. Understanding different grounding methods is critical for utility workers.  Incident Preventions relies upon industry experts to author these much needed articles.  For better insight on grounding methods used in the field you may want to attend iP Safety Conference and hear their in-depth presentations.

Read Grounding articles