An interview with Jack D. Sahl, Director - Corporate Environment, Health & Safety, Southern California Edison
One of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., and the largest subsidiary of Edison International, Southern California Edison (SCE) has provided electric service for more than a century to some of the most dynamic and growing areas of central, coastal and southern California. On an average day, SCE provides power to13 million people in a 50,000 square mile area encompassing 11 counties with 430 cities and communities.
In addition to a vast number of residential electric consumers, SCE serves the power needs of 5,000 large and 280,000 small businesses. To deliver that power, the electric utility utilizes 16 utility interconnections and 4,990 transmission and distribution circuits. Its 425 transmission and distribution crews include more than 12,000 employees.
Behind all of SCE's activity is a comprehensive set of safety and environmental programs developed and overseen by Jack Sahl, Director—Corporate Environment, Health & Safety. Sahl has overall responsibility for all aspects of worker safety and environmental performance at SCE, including safety and environmental strategic planning, policy development, and integration of activities with key stakeholders.
In particular, Sahl is charged with Corporate Environ- mental Services & Consulting; Environmental Projects (including remediation and mitigation projects); Corporate Safety (including EMF issues management); and Corporate EH&S Compliance. These responsibilities extend to SCE's generation (hydro, coal and nuclear), transmission and distribution, and customer service functions.
With SCE for 17 years, plus five years as an external consultant, Sahl's first job at the utility was in its Research Organization. There, he was instrumental in starting the company's Occupational Health & Safety Research Group that focused on PCBs, and emerging energy technologies like coal gasification and power frequency electric and magnetic fields. To make the research efforts useful in SCE's safety programs, the group was combined with the Occupational Health & Safety division.
After leaving SCE in 1997 to start a consulting company, Sahl returned to the utility to lead the Transmission and Distribution Business Unit's Environment, Health & Safety section. This included environmental programs, safety, EMF, and a new Root Cause group. In December 2003, he assumed his current role of Director—Corporate Environment, Health & Safety. The newly created position marked the first time SCE had combined environment and safety programs into a single division. Recently, Jack Sahl discussed those programs and SCE's safety philosophy with Incident Prevention:
How is the safety organization at SCE structured?
SCE has a combination of centralized and decentralized safety programs. We have two permanent safety committees to coordinate safety programs—the EH&S Executive Team comprised of VPs with direct operational responsibilities, and the Corporate Safety Council comprised of Business Unit and Corporate Safety Managers. There are 72 professional staff in the Corporate EH&S Division, including 12 in Corporate Safety, and there are another 70 safety professionals within SCE's Business Units.
Corporate Safety at SCE is responsible for:
• Identifying regulatory requirements and best practices
• Interpretation of standards
• Developing rules and procedures that integrate safety into the work
• Identifying training requirements
• Review and approval of training materials
• IH and industrial ergonomics services and consulting
• Managing Public Safety and EMF programs
• Tracking Corporate and Business Unit safety performance targets
• Creating and maintaining a compliance management system
• Coordinating Corrective Action Plans from internal audits and learning initiatives from leading practice benchmarking and research
• Maintaining oversight of Business Unit safety programs.
Business Units at SCE, such as Corporate Center, Shared Services (including Transportation Services), Customer Service, Transmission and Distribution, and Generation are responsible for:
• Design and effective implementation of safety programs
• Integration of safety with work • Creating an effective safety culture
• Holding employees and management accountable for safety performance
• Developing and implementing corrective action plans
• Tracking safety performance
• Delivering required safety training
• Tracking and measuring performance.
What process do you follow to determine hazards and develop safety practices and programs?
We have a job hazard analysis procedure coupled with root cause, learning, benchmarking, and Corrective Action Plan approaches (see chart next page).
What regulations impact your decisions about safety and compliance? How do regulations impact operations at SCE?
We follow Cal-OSHA, California Public Utilities Commission, Nuclear Regulatory, and Nevada (Federal) Department of Transportation regulations as they relate to our operations. However, today's drivers do not come from additional regulatory requirements. They come from an internal commitment to improve performance.
What types of vendors do you work with and why is it important to get involved in strategic partnerships?
We work with a wide range of consultants, vendors and tool and PPE providers as strategic partners in our safety programs. These groups are essential partners in our plans. We encourage their input and ideas.
What safety and training programs do you develop and implement for SCE?
We partner with the Business Unit safety programs to perform safety compliance training (hearing conservation; Hazard Communication) and skills training such as supervisor safety leadership.
How do you measure safety performance? How can safety professionals mark progress in improving safety records?
SCE's 2006 safety goals include enhancing performance through improved management practices and leadership training. We measure our success in those areas by our progress toward achieving goals, such as delivering safety leadership training to 90% of all targeted supervisors and managers, achieving 85% "On Time & Complete" work injury reporting, improving the effectiveness of core safety programs and achieving a Serious Injury Rate less than or equal to 0.49 for TDBU.
How would you sum up the philosophy and approach toward safety at SCE?
Formalize clear expectations for management, supervisors, and employees with respect to their safety roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. Create meaningful data capture and reporting systems to track performance. Build on SCE's long history of success and emphasize the safety leadership inherent in our supervisory positions. Set high expectations for success. In one phrase, we would say, "Follow the rules, focus on prevention, and everyone goes home safe." ip