Learning to see our jobs in the utility industry through the lens of safety is probably the most important task we can accomplish. Our employers, the customers we serve, our co-workers and – most of all – our families benefit when we safely arrive at and return home from our jobs each day.
However, safely coming and going is not always easy; there are many hazards and distractions in the utility work environment that can and do make our work difficult. We respond to different surroundings each day, which requires each worker to be aware of his or her environment and abide by the proper rules and procedures in order to prevent incidents from occurring. Workers can address risks by prioritizing the hazards we are exposed to during a particular job, which helps to keep exposure to a minimum. There might be several ways to do the job, but the ultimate goal is to find the best method to keep risk at a low level for as many workers as possible.
One way to help keep risk at a low level is to use a sequence referred to as L.I.V.E.S., which stands for Look, Investigate, Visualize, Execute, Safely. This sequence can be used every day for our tailboards – on any worksite – to help ensure we have productive discussions and solid work plans, both of which are key to keeping workers in a safety state of mind.
Now, let’s break down each section of the L.I.V.E.S. sequence.
Along with all of your crew members, take a 360-degree look around the worksite prior to beginning any tasks. Identify any hazards or dangers you spot, including those that could harm you, your co-workers or members of the public. Take note of any weather- or traffic-related issues that may become problematic. Point out equipment that may be in the way or equipment that may be needed in order to safely complete the job. There is not necessarily one right way to complete this observation process; you may come up with several ways to effectively complete this step.
Take time to consider the traps and other unknown situations that could impede your ability to safely complete the task or job at hand. Discuss these potential problems with the rest of the crew, and work with them to create a list of how to prioritize and address all potential worksite hazards in order to mitigate the risk of them occurring.
During this portion of the L.I.V.E.S. sequence, visualize the job going poorly. Try to picture the worst-case scenario, and then consider how to keep all of the workers on your site in the best positions to safely complete their work with the least amount of hazard exposure. At times this will not be easy because there may be multiple ways to do the job, all of which are technically safe. However, one of those methods will typically put crew members in the best position to avoid injury.
Next, execute the plan that has been developed for the job, which includes following your utility’s safety rules and procedures. In addition, maintain constant, accurate communication with crew members; three-way communication is particularly important. Strong communication is one of your greatest defenses against incidents on the job site.
Make sure that the No. 1 priority at all times is for crew members to safely perform their work. Productivity, peer pressure and public pressure matter little if even one worker is at risk of injury or death. Unfortunately, these pressures are factors in a majority of accidents because when they are present, some workers proceed in the face danger, even when they know they should not. Keeping the focus on working safely even when workers are facing one, two or all three of these types of pressure is critical to completing a job without injury.
Doing our work in the utility business requires a great deal of training, planning and attention to keep our job sites free of accidents. Ensuring thorough communication among workers is paramount, and it requires that discussions regularly take place on the site. Every crew member must be aware of his or her role in the plan in order to execute the job safely with the least amount of hazard exposure.
About the Author: Doug Hill, CUSP, is an electric distribution lineworker for Consumers Energy in Michigan. He has provided 32 years of service to the utility industry.