Do you have family members who rely on you? Would you like to provide a better life for your children than the one you’ve had? Is there a purchase you’d like to make with your hard-earned paycheck? Do you want to reward your hours of dedication to the company by taking a trip that’s long been on your bucket list? No matter the length of time you’ve been employed in the utility industry, I challenge you to answer the question, “What is your why?” What is it that motivates you to come to work each day and focus 100 percent of your energy on doing your job well and safely?
It’s important to keep this source of motivation in mind as you perform your daily tasks. As you are likely well aware, the work that an electric utility company’s team of employees is exposed to on a daily basis can be very hazardous. Throughout the U.S., from Alaska to Florida, you can find crews engaged in the following work and more:
• Building roads with high levels of traffic next to their work zones.
• Working around rock crushers with fast-moving conveyor belts and heavy machinery.
• Hauling enormous loads of materials out of rock pits, often up steep grades.
• Working deep underground in tunnels large enough to be featured on History Channel’s “Modern Marvels.”
• Donning a wet suit and wiggling through 24-inch pipes in preparation to line the pipes.
• Working in electrical substations with 500,000 volts overhead.
• Building bridges over frigid water with barge-mounted cranes.
The tasks we conduct can be complex, and the margin for error very small, which is why working safely is critical if we want to go home each day and have the opportunity to fulfill our whys. At the company I work for, we have been able to raise the bar year over year through detailed planning and a culture of taking care of one another. We have lowered our incident rate, which translates to less of our work family suffering injuries. The commitment of each and every employee is crucial for us to maintain our level of safety performance as we pursue our goal of zero injuries. As a utility employee, wherever you work, remember to always plan your work as if your life depends on it – because it does.
And yet even if you and your crews have achieved a great deal of safety success, as human beings you still run the risk of allowing complacency to set in. Utility workers must continually strive to find new and innovative ways to build a culture of zero harm; remembering why you do the work – and encouraging others to do the same – is an essential aspect of this. I am fortunate to work at a company that values the contributions of each individual. It is a great pleasure to work for an employer that is committed to its employees going home safely each day. This level of commitment has enabled us to implement and develop many tools for our safety toolbox. A few items in our safety toolbox are:
• Our policies and procedures.
• Local, state and federal regulations.
• Detailed job hazard analyses.
• Programs such as “Speak Up, Listen Up.”
• New-employee and project-specific orientations.
All of these tools contribute to why our company has been successful. However, sustained safety performance falls into the hands of each employee. The actions of a sole individual can lead to success or failure in regard to the company safety program. Because these individual actions are so important, we must strive to continue to build our safety culture within every employee.
With that said, I want to turn back to my initial question: What is your why? Do some soul searching and really think about your answer. Whatever it is that motivates you to come to work each day and provide your time and effort to deliver great results, I ask that you think about the benefits you and others will derive from your hard work. If you are injured at work, will you be able to reach your goal of providing for your personal why? Will your family members still be able to rely on you? Will you be able to make that special purchase or take that dream vacation?
Keeping employees free from injury is not only the right thing to do, it is good business. By providing a safe environment for your team, you are offering an opportunity for employees to enjoy a long career, as well as eventually sending them into retirement with a body still capable of enjoying all that life has to offer. The company I work for has a world-class safety program that is committed to working on innovative programs and educating our team. We strive to provide a workplace where employees can earn a living while also enjoying the spoils of a life without injury. Our path to zero is not only possible, it is probable. We are counting on each and every one of our employees to commit to ensuring their why is a part of their future, and we strongly urge you to do the same within your organization.
About the Author: Brad Brill, CHST, CSHO, CUSP, is the division safety manager for Kenny Construction’s Power Division. He has been with the company for five years, managing the safety of overhead transmission line, substation and underground transmission projects. Prior to working for Kenny Construction, Brill served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a communications officer and an embedded trainer in Afghanistan.