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Tag: Leadership Development

Using a Learning Management System to Augment Lineworker Training

“You can’t learn how to climb a pole by looking at a computer screen.”  That’s a sentence that has been repeatedly used in our industry to discredit web-based learning. And it’s true; in any skilled trade, neither distance learning nor classroom work alone can replace the skills and confidence gained from practicing tasks and building up muscle memory in the field. But does that mean there’s no place for distance learning? Absolutely not. When properly used to augment a field skills training program, online training can speed the development of skills, make your training program more efficient...

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Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, and welcoming bad news as an opportunity for improvement, not for implementing discipline. The company is well on their way to that destination, and it’s due in no small part to their employees’ dedication to their jobs,...

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‘But I Don’t Wanna’: 6 Sources of Employee Resistance

“I forgot.” “I don’t want to.” “It’s not that serious.” “It won’t happen to me.” If your employees are forgetting, ignoring, pushing back against or actively resisting the protections you’ve put in place to ensure their safety, then you know how frustrating it can be to get them to follow the rules. Crafting a safety initiative so that you end up with employees who want to follow your safety procedures depends on addressing the driving causes of their resistance. Following are six sources of potential resistance and strategies you can use to help overcome each one. They don’t know. The...

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Just Like the Real Thing: Training the Next Generation of Lineworkers


The Missouri Valley JATC offers comprehensive training at its new state-of-the-art facility. “Many people say that a lot of [lineworker] rules are written in blood, and there is literal truth to that. Safety is our value. We don’t have any competing priorities over safety. It’s not number one. It’s on a list of one.” That’s a quote from Tim Vassios, a lead instructor at the Missouri Valley Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). Both Vassios and his organization – with the support of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association...

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3 Keys to Transforming Safety and Organizational Performance

3 Keys to Transforming Safety and Organizational Performance Engaging in these activities can help companies manage all types of risk holistically. Utility organizations have an opportunity to transform their safety and organizational performance by adopting a proven strategy and approach. This approach – which consists primarily of the following three components – requires leaders to think and manage differently while also challenging industry paradigms and assumptions: Study and learn from success, not just failure. Integrate the organization’s safety and loss prevention system into other...

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A Lineworker’s Three Safety Superpowers

Workplace safety requires each of us to do our part to keep ourselves and our co-workers free from injury and illness. To meet this goal, we must understand the tools we have and know how to use them. Let’s look at a lineman’s life, for example. He can climb poles, float through the air in a bucket, safely touch energized conductors, balance poles and transformers, and construct all of these items into a working system. This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series DECEMBER 2020-JANUARY 2021

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Creating a Culture of Safety Through Elite Leadership

Leaders play a pivotal role in creating a safe work environment that brings out the best in their people and produces quality results. And this doesn’t just mean leaders at the top but at every level of the organization. Leadership isn’t a difference maker – it is the difference maker. This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2020

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Human Error and Organizational Resilience

From 1980 through 2010, safety performance emphasis was on accident prevention through the application of controls. We learned about the hierarchy of controls (elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment) and the multiple barrier principle (use several controls in case one or two fail so there will always be something to protect you). This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series APRIL-MAY 2020

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Collaborating for Safety

One of the most vital responsibilities a utility fleet has to its customers – which typically include operators, field management and corporate management – is to provide vehicles and equipment that meet operational and corporate objectives. Those objectives also must be met without compromising the safety of the operators, other workers or the general public. So, how does fleet uphold safety as a core value while managing all of the other objectives that the department and its customers have – particularly when those other objectives appear to, at times, directly conflict with the safety objective? The...

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The Antidote to Complacency and Familiarity

Safety managers know that when an employee has done a particular task many times, that individual can become so familiar with the action that they no longer have to pay close attention while performing the work. As they become complacent in their ability to successfully complete the task, the risk of accident increases. But familiarity is not an emotional state. It’s a physical condition. Familiarity is the byproduct of habit, and a habit is a neural pathway created in the brain through repetition. How Habits are FormedWhen the brain does something for the first time, the prefrontal cortex...

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Is a Better Job Brief Possible?

If you have studied human performance or read Incident Prevention magazine regularly in recent years, you know that human beings are affected by a variety of cognitive biases. And if you’ve been in the electric utility industry for even a short while, you know that the job brief is hailed as a key to a safe workday. Given the variability in the delivery of job briefs around the country, however, it sometimes is difficult to determine how effective they really are. This article will explore issues presented by some current job brief practices as well as identify behaviors to consider that will...

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Building and Delivering Effective Safety Courses

At some point, you most likely have heard a co-worker say, “Alright, it’s time for the safety meeting.” Immediately after that, you typically have heard grumbling from other co-workers who were not looking forward to a meeting they believed would be slow and painful. If you’re a safety trainer, you’re probably somewhat familiar with this response and routinely wonder, “What can I do to make my safety training sessions both informative and enjoyable?” While there is no magical solution or formula, there are a few strategies that trainers can use that will allow trainings to become valuable events...

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Exploring Human Judgment and Its Impact on Safety

As a human being, you depend on your own good judgment and the good judgment of others in everything you do. For example, in order to avoid an accident, you depend on your good judgment and driving skill as well as those of the driver in the car approaching you. To create and maintain a safe working environment, you rely on the good judgment of all crew members – including yourself – to carry out tasks with skill and precision. In part, every individual’s safety depends on the safe decisions of others. When things go well, it often is assumed that everyone involved made good decisions. And...

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Using Simulators to Standardize Utility Operator Training

The Missouri Valley Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training Program has supplied a steady stream of qualified workers to the electrical industry of the American Midwest since the mid-1960s. Operating out of seven locations in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, Missouri Valley Line Constructors has approximately 600 apprentices enrolled in the lineman, traffic signal technician and substation technician programs at any given time. “We offer a four-year, 7,000-hour apprenticeship program for the power-line industry,” said Robbie Foxen, executive...

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Feedback and Accountability in the Disciplinary Process

Disciplining employees is always a tough task to handle, so it’s not surprising that many leaders and employees have a fear of the disciplinary process. However, discipline is a necessary part of business. That’s because sometimes, despite people’s best intentions, course correction must occur. As leaders who are tasked with doling out discipline, we should be careful to focus on the company’s needs in addition to the well-being of our employees throughout the process. We also need to keep in mind that our employees are our most valuable asset and should be treated with respect regardless of...

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How to Build a High-Performing Team

I’m really excited to be writing this article for my utility family. I enjoyed all 33 of my years working in the industry. Now, as a leadership consultant, I have the privilege of using my knowledge, experience and passion to help the utility industry improve. My goal is to provide you with proven tools that will enable you to lead your team to their highest level of performance – where each of your team members will be able to consistently perform at their top potential every day, in every task. It is at that level where zero accidents and zero injuries occur on a consistent basis, and that’s...

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Microlearning: Another Critical Piece of the Employee Training Puzzle

Few people involved in helping others learn new skills suggest that doing so is easy. In the electric utility industry – or any industry, for that matter – training typically ranges from the informal, on-the-job variety to more formal classroom-type training. The results from each continue to be mixed. In the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve also seen training evolve to include computer-based education. And over just the past several years, another type of training – referred to as “microlearning” – has started to take off. So, what is microlearning? And why should you bother educating yourself about...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Four: People Influence Each Other

“That night in the city, when you thought I was the Special, and you said I was talented, and important … That was the first time anyone had ever really told me that, and it made me want do everything I could to be the guy that you were talking about.” -Emmet in “The LEGO Movie” When Emmet made this statement to Lord Business in 2014’s “The LEGO Movie,” he nailed human performance (HP) principle four – that people influence each other – and taught viewers of the movie some valuable lessons about how safety should be led. In this installment of “Frontline Fundamentals,” I’m going to present...

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Solving the Safety Culture Puzzle

Have you ever thought about the similarities between solving a puzzle and transforming a safety culture? For one thing, the challenges of solving a puzzle – no matter if it’s a jigsaw puzzle, a Rubik’s Cube, a riddle or a maze – range from simple to difficult, just as the challenges of a safety culture transformation do. And second, people approach solving puzzles and creating cultural transformations in myriad ways.   Whether you’re trying to solve a puzzle or transform the way your organization handles safety, two things are for certain: to be successful in your mission, you must have...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Three: You Cannot Outperform Your Organization

What happens to a saltwater fish if we put it in fresh water? No matter what that fish does, no matter how well it can swim, no matter how strong it is and no matter how hard it tries, it cannot survive because we put it in the wrong environment. When it comes to human performance, HP principle three states that individual behavior is influenced by organizational processes and values. It implies that incident causation goes deeper than individuals, and that to prevent incidents, organizational (systems) deficiencies must be identified and corrected. The challenge for an organization is to create...

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Overcoming the Effects of Short-Service Employees

“Are you calling his family, or do you want me to?” the superintendent asked. The project safety manager replied, “I’ll call his emergency contact after I find out where the ambulance is heading. Can you call the division manager and give her an update?” The superintendent shook his head as he surveyed the scene and said, “I’ll have to keep it short and simple for now, but tomorrow morning we’re going to need to be able to explain to everyone how a 19-year-old kid with three months of experience was able to jump into that piece of equipment and put it into an overhead power line.” Although...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Two: Your Crystal Ball

I have fond memories of G.I. Joe. When I was a kid, I played with the toys and watched the cartoons. I sang along with the theme song and was ready to say “knowing is half the battle” in unison with the hero at the end of each episode, after Cobra had been defeated. The Joes were smart to realize that knowledge is power, and knowledge is especially powerful when it comes to safety, and more specifically, incident prevention. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to know the future – think about how powerful it could make you. How much money could you make if you could predict winning lottery...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle One: People Screw Up

The first principle of human performance (HP) is that people are fallible and even the best make mistakes, or in simpler terms, people screw up. How error-prone are we? Studies vary, but for our purposes, we will use an average of five mistakes per hour. That’s a lot of mistakes, and a scary thing to think about is we often are not aware of our mistakes. Let’s consider how this relates to safety, and more specifically, how HP Principle One needs to be incorporated into your safety and health management system. Safety programs tend to be based on the concept that if there is a rule and the rule...

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Avoiding the Silent Danger: Three Skills for Improving Your Safety Culture

The other day my oldest son cooked himself a batch of steaming hot Rice-A-Roni. He didn’t even wait until he’d found a place to sit before the first spoonful hit his mouth. And I’m guessing the deliciousness overpowered his cognitive abilities because he then staggered into the TV room and plopped down on one of the couches – a definite “no Rice-A-Roni zone.” Now here’s where things get interesting. First of all, my son knows the rule. His mother and I explained it, we demonstrated it, we had a group discussion about why it’s important to obey it, we practiced taking food to acceptable...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Measure What You Want

Imagine this scenario: A worker seriously cuts his nose on the job. The laceration causes part of his nose, at the base of the nostril, to partially separate from his face. The worker glues his nose back together with super glue to prevent going to the doctor and having an OSHA-recordable injury. He then receives two rewards through the company’s safety incentive program. The first is an immediate reward when his supervisor recommends him for safety excellence because he prevented a recordable injury. This is followed by a financial incentive at the end of the year, when his work group is given...

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Overcoming the Effects of Rapid Growth

Once upon a time, there was a construction company that did great work. The employees delivered their projects on time without change orders, and they completed them without harming people or the environment. All their happy clients gave them more and more work, which the company gladly accepted, believing that surely the fairy tale would continue. But then the company discovered that this rapid growth had spread them so thin that their production, safety and environmental quality had faded away. This moved them from best to worst in the eyes of their clients, and the company almost went bankrupt...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Organizational Culture: What Caves Can Teach Us

If you were in a cave and someone yelled “Watch out for that stalagmite!” would you look up or down? If you said down, you are correct. Both stalagmites and stalactites are formed in caves by mineral deposits from trickling water. Stalactites result from water dripping from the ceiling. They hang down, typically are hollow, have smaller bases and form faster than their counterparts. Stalagmites are built from the ground up when water drips on the cave floor. They have a more solid structure with a larger base that takes more time to form. This imagery is useful when contemplating and discussing...

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The Human Error Trap

The agitation of the managers sitting in the meeting room is palpable. The safety director sits stiffly at the conference table. Everyone is overwhelmed by a hurricane of thoughts. “We did everything we could, right?” Conjectures whirl. Voices surge. “We’ve spent the last three years installing a safety management system to keep this sort of thing from happening. It was textbook!” These leaders wonder to themselves, “Did I do something that led to this?” But soul-searching eventually gives way to frustration as a voice stands out in the room: “What were they...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Responsibility for Safety

You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of others. Most people would say they agree with that statement, but do their actions reflect their agreement? Let’s consider that question in the context of the following incident investigation. The IncidentBob, who works in shipping and receiving, has just cut himself with his pocketknife while attempting to cut a zip-tie off a package. Randy, the shipping and receiving manager, is Bob’s immediate supervisor. Pam is Bob’s co-worker. Ron is the facility’s safety supervisor and is interviewing Bob, Randy and Pam as...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Risk Tolerance

A fundamental premise of working safely is that hazards must be identified and then controlled. Too many incidents occur because hazards are not identified, or worse, they are identified but ignored or tolerated. One of my favorite ways to introduce the concept of risk tolerance is to ask a Frontline class this simple question: “What are some things you might hear someone say before something really bad happens?” It always amazes me – and scares me – how open participants are when I ask this question. Typical responses I have heard include:• “We’ve done this a thousand times and no one has ever...

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The Silent Secret About Successful Safety Communication

It’s a chilly morning, and the crew is eager to make progress on the substation upgrade before tomorrow’s snow. A shiny pickup truck pulls up to the job site, the driver’s door opens and out walks a good-looking guy in neatly pressed khakis, a white button-down shirt and highly polished lace-up shoes. He stops a couple yards away from the crew, looks at everyone, breaks into a cheesy smile and makes a joke about his golf game. Nobody laughs or even snickers. After an awkward pause, “Joe Office” tells the crew that fall protection is the day’s safety discussion topic. He points to one of the...

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February 2017 Q&A

Q: We are a small, distribution-only municipal utility that has been looking into human performance. We are having some trouble understanding it all and how it could benefit us. Most of the training resources are pretty expensive. Can you help us sort it out? A: We can. Human performance management (HPM) has been around in various forms and focuses since before the 1950s. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, it seems the focus was on companies performing functional analysis and correcting issues that created losses, thereby promoting more efficient and error-resistant operations. In the ’60s and ’70s,...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Controlling Hazards

“Get us a bucket truck, a rock and a hard hat. The rest of the class and I will meet you outside in 10 minutes.” Those were my instructions to a participant who, during a recent Frontline program session, challenged me as I was teaching the hierarchy of controls and explaining why PPE should be considered the last line of defense. The participant was adamant that he had always been trained that PPE is your primary protection and that if you are wearing it, you are protected and can work as you want. The rest of the group validated that was how they understood their training. This put us at...

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Assimilating Short-Service Employees Into Your Safety Culture

Culture is one of the most significant drivers of an organization’s safety performance. It can take time to build a safety culture, and it also takes time for employees to assimilate into an existing culture after beginning work for an organization. This poses a serious challenge for organizations that regularly scale to meet project demands. An influx of short-service employees (SSEs) often coincides with an increase in incidents. While there are a number of reasons for this – such as poor hazard recognition – one significant reason is that SSEs have not yet assimilated into the existing culture’s...

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Does Your Company Have an Effective Safety Management System?

Your safety program can have fully developed rules and procedures, a top-notch training program and the best safety equipment and tools money can buy – and there is still the possibility that it may not be successful. Although these things are extremely important and necessary, safety success will not occur until your safety program becomes a fully functional safety management system. This means that everyone in the organization is actively pursuing the same safety goals and working together in a synchronized manner to achieve those goals. A fully developed and well-executed safety management...

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Optimizing Your Safety Observation Program

World-class organizations do not achieve sustained safety excellence without a process in place that identifies risk exposure well before an incident or injury occurs. Yet countless companies have established observation programs without measurable success. In the paragraphs that follow, my goal is twofold: to provide readers with a greater understanding of the importance of employing a proactive safety observation strategy in the workplace, and to offer a step-by-step guide to ensure its effectiveness. Broken WindowsTo begin, I want to provide two examples of a topic that has significant influence...

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The Road to an Innovative, Award-Winning Safety Program

Monday mornings at Coutts Bros. – an electrical line construction and maintenance contractor – begin the same way they have for more than 50 years. The crew meets on the old Coutts family property in Randolph, Maine, before 6 a.m., coffee and lunchboxes in hand, wearing shirts and hats that sport a variety of company logos from the last few decades. Conversations are lighthearted; depending on the season, discussions range from the weekend’s Red Sox, Bruins or Patriots game to embellished fishing and hunting stories, complete with cellphone pictures to prove the tales are mostly true. This...

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10 Tips for Better Incident Investigations

Several years ago, when I was serving as chief investigator for the NIOSH-funded Missouri Occupational Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program, I was called to a scene where a 39-year-old journeyman lineman had been electrocuted while working for an electrical contractor. At the time of the incident, the lineman, his co-worker and the foreman had been working at an electrical substation. The city that owned the substation was in the process of switching their electrical service from a three-phase 4-kV system to a 12-kV system. There were several feeders on the structure, but only...

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The Job Brief’s Hidden Influence on Utility Safety

On your way to work today, how many dashed lines in the middle of the road did you pass? What ornaments decorate your dentist’s office? How many people wearing glasses did you see last month? If you’re like most people, you don’t know the answers to these questions, and that’s a good thing. In his book “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload,” author Daniel J. Levitin states that the processing capacity of the conscious mind is estimated to be about 120 bits per second, barely enough to listen to two people talking to you at the same time, yet in our waking...

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Don’t Leave Employees to Fill in the Blanks

Early in my marriage, my wife asked me to pick up some groceries on my way home. This task seemed easy enough; after all, I had been feeding myself for years. How hard could it be? We needed food and the grocery store had food for sale. The path to success appeared to be pretty well laid out. All I needed was a method of payment and a shopping cart with four functioning wheels. As I negotiated my way up and down the aisles of the grocery store, I put great thought into what I added to my cart. I made sure to get the basics, including bread, milk and eggs, and I rounded out the cart with some...

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Field-Level Hazard Recognition Training That Works

As a safety professional or operations leader in your organization, one of your primary responsibilities is to ensure your employees can and do complete their work safely. People don’t want to get hurt and you don’t want them to. With that as a given, the question then becomes, how do you accomplish this? You can’t be everywhere watching everything all the time. You can’t point out every hazard on every job site for every worker. So, how do you rest easy in the belief that your employees are recognizing and mitigating hazards and working as safely as possible when you are not around? I’m going...

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The CUSP Program Expands to Canada

We are pleased to announce that the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network has developed a version of the Certified Utility Safety Professional program that directly serves utility workers employed in Canada. Starting this summer, individuals will have the opportunity to enroll in the two-day utility safety leadership review course and sit for either the CUSP Blue or CUSP Green exam. The USOLN was founded in 2009 to advocate for a safe, productive utility work environment. In 2010 the organization offered the first CUSP program session in Denver. The program continues to be the only one...

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Understanding Your Safety DNA

Last summer my extended family planned and hosted a long-overdue family reunion. This one was particularly special because my Uncle Roy, who is now in his 80s, was there, and it was the first time in many years that I had the opportunity to see and spend time with him. Prior to his retirement, Uncle Roy was a railroad engineer in charge of and responsible for driving a freight train engine. From a safety perspective, I should explain a few details about trains before I continue. First, a typical freight train can be 120 to 140 cars or approximately one-and-one-half miles in length. Second,...

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Train the Trainer 101: Safety Cops and the Continuum of Safety

Words have power. We confirm that every day when we examine why people do what they do. Communication is often the root cause of accidents, particularly how the receiver interprets what he or she hears. That communication is not always something said in the moments before an incident; it can occur days, weeks or months in advance. I have discussed this issue with behaviorists on a number of occasions, and I am convinced that some of the words I – and many others – have repeatedly heard over the years have served to limit our success in the quest for a strong, positive safety culture. The real...

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Understanding Safety Culture Through Perception Surveys

If you asked workers at your company who is responsible for their safety, how do you think they would answer that question? Would they say the safety director is responsible, or would they tell you they’re personally responsible for their own safety? You might be surprised by the answers you receive. While the reality is that we are all responsible for our own safety, some employees may perceive that the safety director bears that responsibility. What if you asked them about your safety program in general? Do employees think it’s strong or weak? Again, you may receive answers that widely vary....

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2015 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

On September 28, the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network held its annual awards ceremony at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Louisville, Ky. During the event, USOLN board members presented the John McRae Safety Leadership Award to Robert “Bo” Maryyanek, CSP, CUSP, MBA, and the Carolyn Alkire Safety Advocate Award to David McPeak, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM, CUSP. Maryyanek currently serves as eastern regional safety manager for Asplundh Construction Corp. McPeak is director of corporate safety programs at Pike Enterprises LLC, as well as director of Stay Safe Solutions LLC. The...

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Recruiting and Training the Next Generation

The electric utility industry has a big problem on its hands. A great number of lineworkers born between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s either have reached or are nearing retirement age. As these individuals age out of the workforce, the industry will continue to experience an inevitable downturn of knowledge and talent. The proof is in the numbers. According to a February 2015 report in Power Engineering magazine (see www.power-eng.com/articles/npi/print/volume-8/issue-1/nucleus/who-will-replace-nuclear-power-s-aging-work-force.html), approximately 20 percent of workers at U.S. electric and...

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Shifting Your Organizational Safety Culture

In one way or another, culture helps to shape nearly everything that happens within an organization, from shortcuts taken by shift workers to budget cuts made by managers. As important as it is, though, it can seem equally as confusing and hard to control. Culture appears to emerge as an unexpected byproduct of organizational minutiae: A brief comment made by a manager, misinterpreted by direct reports, propagated during water cooler conversations and compounded with otherwise unrelated management decisions to downsize, outsource, reassign, promote, terminate and so on. Culture can either grow...

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Stepping Up Steel Safety Education

It’s estimated that between 2 million and 4 million utility poles are replaced annually in the U.S., and in almost every region of the country, many of those replacement poles are now made of steel. In fact, more than 1 million steel distribution poles have been installed by electric utilities across the country in the last decade. That number is expected to rise considerably as utilities strive to keep up with the need for new lines, replace aging and damaged poles and harden existing lines. The increased use of steel utility poles in distribution lines has created a need for new training...

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Facing Unique Challenges

Established in 1891 by a royal charter from King David Kalakaua, today Hawaiian Electric provides electric service to 95 percent of the state of Hawai‘i. The company has approximately 1.4 million customers on five islands, with Hawaiian Electric providing service to O‘ahu; subsidiary Maui Electric providing service to Maui, Moloka‘i and Lana‘i; and subsidiary Hawai‘i Electric Light providing service to Hawai‘i Island. The state of Hawai‘i is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles away from the coast of the continental United States. This isolated geographic location,...

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The Safety Side Effect: How Good Supervisors Coincidentally Improve Safety

Why do those supervisors whose employees are the most engaged, productive and efficient also seem to elicit the best safety performance? Without having to climb atop their safety soapboxes, boisterously wave the banner of safety or plaster every surface with “Safety First” stickers, their style of leadership coincidentally generates safer performance. It is a side effect of the way that good leaders facilitate and focus the efforts of their subordinate employees. But what, specifically, produces this side effect? As it turns out, supervisors who lead in a certain way create a climate in which...

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Growing a Human Performance Culture

Human performance methods help us to understand some key aspects of business: accountability, conservative decision-making, and overall commitment to goals and values. These fundamental principles comprise a larger objective known as organizational alignment. The concept of organizational alignment derives from years of studying, using and teaching human performance techniques, and even from an old TV rerun, which I’ll soon discuss. The constant challenge is demonstrating to employees how to relate to management and vice versa. I have continued to search for the reason why there are disconnects....

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2014 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

During the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo held this November in Costa Mesa, Calif., representatives from the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network presented the 2014 Carolyn Alkire Safety Advocate Award to John Morton, CUSP, of Willbros Utility T&D, and the 2014 John McRae Safety Leadership Award to John Price, CUSP, of ENMAX Power Corp. The Carolyn Alkire Safety Advocate Award honors Carolyn Alkire, a 40-year employee of San Diego Gas & Electric and a partner in safety to the U.S. electric utility industry. Alkire passed away on July 11, 2008. She was active in a variety...

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Behavior-Based Safety: What’s the Verdict?

From its infancy in the late 1970s and early 1980s until now, behavior-based safety (BBS) has been a source of conflict in the safety profession, among company and union leadership, and even between practitioners. Nonetheless, after 30-plus years of use at companies that run the gamut of industries in dozens of countries around the world, it seems safe to assume that the theory and practice of BBS are here to stay. And since that is the case, this reality begs several questions. What is it about the BBS system that companies, safety professionals and practitioners find appealing? What are the...

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Elements of an Effective Safety Committee

There are a number of components necessary to create and maintain a strong, effective safety committee. Key among them are employee involvement and evolution – that constant search for ways to improve both how the committee functions as a group and the results committee members produce. Other ingredients for success include ownership at all levels of the organization, a clearly defined committee charter, sponsorship, effective committee facilitation, and companywide communication about committee activities and progress. Evolve and InvolveForming a safety committee is a great way to instill a...

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Injury Prevention Through Leadership, Employee Engagement and Analytics

Safety is a core value and central to everything we do at Duke Energy. It is an ingrained part of how we operate the company, and we put safety first in our workplaces and communities. Our goal is for everyone we work with to return home safely each day. We continue to drive a culture of safety through an excellence model comprised of three key elements: safety leadership, employee and contractor engagement, and robust safety processes. Everything we do – from activities and programs to safety improvement initiatives – falls under one or more of the elements that comprise the safety excellence...

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Understanding and Influencing the ‘Bulletproof’ Employee

Some employees are regrettably willing to take risks, as though they believe that they cannot be injured. This is the challenge of the “bulletproof” employee. To influence these kinds of employees, we first need to understand why they take the risks that they do, and our approach to understanding these employees, as it turns out, is where the challenge starts. By breaking a handful of old habits and adopting a more useful model for understanding others’ decisions and actions, we can become better equipped to tackle this challenge head-on and positively influence these employees. Dealing...

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Learning Leadership: Personal Protective Emotional Armor: Part 2

In the first part of this article (“Personal Protective Emotional Armor: Part 1,” December 2013), we briefly touched on the evolution of the value of human capital in the utility workplace. In the 1970s, government – including OSHA – and industry leaders began to combine efforts to define written safety procedures for nearly every craft. In recent years, with a growing interest in leading indicators such as near misses – which are often caused due to workers thinking and feeling that they are safe – it has become more commonplace for employers and employees to discuss thoughts and feelings. Today,...

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Train the Trainer 101: Practical Elements for Developing a Safety Culture

If you have been a safety person for any time at all, you have heard someone say, “I can’t believe they did that!” It is usually in the context of an incident investigation. As the interviews are completed and the evidence is analyzed, it comes to light that the crew did something completely out of character, or maybe even violated a well-known rule or procedure. Sometimes we find out that the crew involved had just completed training or attended a safety meeting regarding the very risk that caused the incident. But you know these people. They are highly skilled journeymen lineworkers,...

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Learning Leadership: Personal Protective Emotional Armor: Part 1

Prior to the 1990s, thoughts and emotions typically were not topics of discussion. That was a time when children were to be seen and not heard, and employees were not to think, but rather just do as they were told. The very idea of talking about what was on your mind or how you felt often was the last item on anyone’s priority list. Times certainly have changed over the years, but the idea that we don’t need to share thoughts and emotions still lingers in some organizations. Unfortunately, safe work will be hindered by refusing to establish open dialogue about these subjects. Neglecting to discuss...

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2013 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

During the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo held earlier this year in Louisville, Ky., representatives from the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network presented the 2013 John McRae Safety Leadership Award to Jim Vaughn, CUSP, and the 2013 Carolyn Alkire Safety Advocate Award to Michael Getman, CUSP. The John McRae Safety Leadership Award was created to honor John McRae, a fourth-generation lineman who enjoyed an inspiring 42-year career before passing away on July 27, 2010. He was active in the military reserves for nearly 30 years and instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts...

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Spice It Up!

Would you go to a fine restaurant that only served bland food? Of course you wouldn’t. One of the main reasons we enjoy going to restaurants is because the food is seasoned and tasty. The same applies to safety presentations. People enjoy them if they are pleasing to the senses. That’s why spicing them up so they aren’t bland will not only make your presentations more enjoyable, but will help stimulate your employees to get involved. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. Your goal for any safety presentation is to change or reinforce behaviors. To do this, you’ve got to get and keep your audience’s...

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Leadership Skill Set 5: Social Persuasion

Social persuasion is the final skill set needed to understand the science of emotional intelligence. The concept behind emotional intelligence is that everyone can learn its five skill sets. Some people have a greater need for them than others, but the point is to start the process of better understanding others by studying the disciplines and applying them to each of your relationships. Studies in the last three to five years validate the notion that your understanding of emotions can improve your ability to bridge relational gaps and ultimately improve personal and professional performance. Developing...

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Learning Leadership: Leadership Skill Set 4: Social Awareness

You’ve surely heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Truth be told, it’s not up to you to lead the horse to water or get him to drink. If you are wise in your ways of understanding others, all you must do is make the horse thirsty. A thirsty horse will find its way to water and drink all on its own. In our continuing efforts to learn and lead through emotional intelligence, this segment will focus on the critical leap from understanding self – including the skills of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-motivation – to bridging the gap into the social...

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Passing the CUSP Exam

The Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network’s Certified Utility Safety Professional exam is like no other in the safety industry. There is strict criteria an individual must meet to sit for the exam, and the exam itself is challenging, but for good reason. From the beginning, members of the USOLN exam development team challenged ourselves to create a valid process to identify the skills a utility safety professional should have, and then to establish a process to validate those skills. The culmination of these processes is the CUSP credential – a reliable means for employers to identify...

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Learning Leadership: Leadership Skill Set 3: Self-Motivation

A fundamental requirement of leaders is the ability to motivate. A leader must lead by example by first motivating himself. Once that’s been accomplished, a leader can then work to motivate others through the art of emotional intelligence. The five core skill sets of emotional intelligence empower frontline leaders to become more effective and efficient in achieving personal and team objectives. In the February issue of iP, you learned about self-awareness and the importance of becoming more cognizant of your thoughts and emotions. In the April issue of iP, you learned how critical self-regulation...

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Learning Leadership: Leadership Skill Set 2: Self-Regulation

Has someone disrespected you in a group setting? Have you clearly been treated unfairly? Do you sometimes sense that no one is listening or that you’re unappreciated? If you find yourself affirmatively answering any of these questions – or all of them – you must learn and understand self-regulation, the second skill set in learning to lead through emotional intelligence. Science validates that in order to be a top performer at any task, self-awareness – which is discussed at length in the February 2013 issue of Incident Prevention – and self-regulation are key. These two skills are the basis...

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Evaluating Crew Supervisors

Do your crew supervisors know what they should know about effectively managing a group of lineworkers to construct and maintain high-voltage power line systems? Often we find out the answer to this question too late. We made too many assumptions early on and the crew supervisor has now failed – possibly in a big way. If we had only realized what this supervisor didn’t know before he took on all these responsibilities, maybe we could have prevented these problems. Sound familiar? We hire people and promote our folks into supervisory positions with the best of intentions. When companies grow,...

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Learning Leadership: Leadership Skill Set 1: Self-Awareness

One of the greatest educational journeys you can take in life is to study yourself, other people and business, in that order. Too many people today have the journey backward. Knowing yourself is a fundamental objective when learning and understanding leadership. Throughout this article, we will build a case for why effective leadership of others starts with leading yourself. By definition, leading means to take to or show the way. Before you begin to lead and show others the way, you have to first learn the skills to lead your own way. The age-old cliché of the blind leading the blind is a trap...

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Learning Leadership: The Leadership Paradigm Shift

When you are the one held most responsible, you must learn to manage efficient workflow, processes and outcomes. You do not manage people – you lead them, either effectively or ineffectively. In today’s competitive marketplace, you will be judged and evaluated on how you do both. If your ambitions are to move up the ladder to take a leadership position, or if you have found yourself already there, you must understand how to manage processes and lead people and discipline yourself to do just that. It is the combination of managing and leading that creates long-term results and the ability to...

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How Six Sigma Can Improve Your Safety Performance

Six Sigma is the evolution of statistical quality improvement processes that have been used extensively to improve manufacturing and other process-related industries. How good is Six Sigma? It is a statistical measure of variability or standard deviation. The Six Sigma process calculates to 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Needless to say, that is near perfect execution of a process. Although not often used in the safety arena to full potential, Six Sigma tools can help produce significant and sustainable improvements in safety performance, injury reduction and associated pain. Total Quality...

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Voice of Experience: Safety Excellence Equals Operational Excellence

I have been asked to present the opening keynote address at the fall iP Safety Conference & Expo, which will take place September 25-27 in Vancouver, Wash., just a few minutes outside Portland, Ore. It will be an honor to stand before conference attendees to share a safety message that will set the tone for the three-day conference. I plan to discuss safety excellence – how employees who work and operate with excellence at all times promote an excellent safety environment, one free from serious injuries and fatalities. At the time I’m writing this, there have been at least four fatalities...

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Oh, No! Changes in the Workplace

Change is rapidly becoming a common denominator for many utility safety programs for a variety of reasons. New equipment and automation bring changes to traditional work practices. Generational differences are changing the demographics of the workforce. Safety programs no longer focus just on OSHA compliance and lagging indicators. Certifications, such as the Certified Utility Safety Professional credential, are focusing on leadership, human performance, standards, hazard identification, operations and incident prevention techniques to achieve safety excellence. Introducing change into the...

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That’s What I Meant to Say: Safety Leadership in Communication

Individually, the disciplines of safety, leadership and communication each encompass a broad range of specialized experience. Yet, if we look at the relationship between the three disciplines, we can create a general understanding of how safety and leadership are directly impacted by communication in a specific work environment. Defining leadership can be a difficult task; everyone has his or her own definition of a leader. According to John C. Maxwell in his book “Developing the Leader Within You,” leadership is synonymous with influence. This definition applies to a safety culture in that...

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Apprenticeship Training

Apprentice training has been around as long as man has worked. I retired after a nearly 50-year career that began with an apprenticeship, and I currently act as a safety and training director, working with power line and electrical apprentices. My personal training was all on the job with almost no bookwork. A lineman I worked with gave me his copy of the “Lineman’s Handbook” and told me to read it. This book was perhaps the first version of a distance learning program. Fortunately, our crew leader was a very conscientious man and the linemen were exceptionally good. Several years later, with...

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Behavior Safety Training for Safety Committee Members

Industries concerned about bottom-line expenses tend to place behavior safety training low on the priority list. However, consider the direct costs your company paid for incidents, accidents, injuries, lost time, lost productivity, and damage to equipment or facilities during the past year. This article will outline a training program that can create significant safety advances as well as immeasurable returns on safe work practices. The Role of Safety CommitteesIn the United States, most companies have safety committees comprised of employee volunteers. These individuals play a significant...

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Integrity and Respect: Two of Our Most Important Tools

Few things are more difficult to establish or easier to lose than integrity. As safety professionals, if our workers, bosses and peers see us as people of integrity, we can ask things of them with a very real expectation that they will buy in, comply, participate and change. The level to which they will do these things is always a matter of degree, but trust built over time gives us options we otherwise do not have. Because integrity is such a key component of our success, it is worthwhile to spend some time considering how to build it, how to maintain it and what can destroy it. Many of these...

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The Value of Safety Certification

Certified. Qualified. Competent. What do these words mean and how are they interrelated? A customer of a utility contractor recently rejected an application from a safety professional who wanted to work on their project, stating he was unqualified. The safety professional had CSP certification and more than 20 years of relevant experience. He is obviously certified, and his experience arguably makes him competent, raising the question: Is it possible to be certified, competent and unqualified? During the same week, this contractor bid on another job that required a CSP on staff. So what, exactly,...

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Effective Customer Relationships for Crew Leaders

In iP’s earlier installments of the Supervisory Series (April 2011, June 2011, August 2011, October 2011 and December 2011), we discussed the importance of career development for lineworkers targeted for supervisory responsibilities. We also discussed the supervisory skills required to be effective as a crew leader or foreman, including a full article on human behavior and communication skills. Installments 4 and 5 dealt with crew best practices and safety management, respectively. In this installment, we will discuss the foreman’s role in customer relationships. The Operations Department has...

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T&D Safety Management for Crew Leaders

In iP’s earlier installments of the Supervisory Series (April 2011, June 2011, August 2011 and October 2011), we discussed the importance of career development for lineworkers targeted for supervisory responsibilities. We also considered the supervisory skills required to be effective as a crew leader or foreman, including a full article on human behavior and communication skills. In the last issue we dealt with the concept of crew best practices. In this installment, we will focus more on crew practices, specifically those concerning crew safety management. Safety Attitudes and the Corporate...

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CUSP Basics: Introduction to Human Performance Principles

Have you been involved in an accident investigation? It’s very sad when we find out after the fact that some very simple actions or decisions led to a tragic outcome. Wouldn’t we be better off if we could anticipate incidents and prevent them? In 1990, human performance emerged as a new area of study that uses our knowledge of human nature to prevent events. This article provides some of the principles to start your journey on the road to prevention. These principles are also the basis for the human performance section of the Certified Utility Safety Professional (CUSP) program....

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T&D Best Practices for Crew Leaders

In iP’s earlier installments of the Supervisory Series (April 2011, June 2011 and August 2011), we discussed the importance of career development for lineworkers targeted for supervisory responsibilities. We also discussed the supervisory skills required to be effective as a crew leader or foreman, including a full article on human behavior and communication skills. In this installment, we will discuss a concept of fieldwork known as best practices. As you will see, it is not enough that the foreman be effective as a personnel supervisor. It is just as important to understand the work practices...

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Safety Circuitry: The Power in the Brain

“What was he thinking?!” This frustrated question of supervisors, managers and safety professionals speaks directly to the future of safety in utilities. What are workers thinking when performing unsafe acts or walking past hazards, if indeed they are thinking at all? For companies to realize their goal of zero incidents, an understanding of thought, attention, motivation and decision-making is a must. They must now enter the realm inhabited by psychologists for decades, the world of the human brain. It has been said that while we are all born with a brain, no one gets an instruction manual....

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Cultivating a Mature Workforce

Your workforce is one of your project’s greatest assets. From the top down, the maturity of this asset has a dramatic impact on your safety culture and ultimately your bottom line. In this article I identify personal maturity metrics. By using the metrics, maturity is now identifiable. The idea is that your safety culture becomes stronger based on each individual’s ability to demonstrate mature behaviors. We can now recognize, demonstrate and teach these mature behaviors at all levels of management. In doing so, we are fostering maturity by empowering personal responsibility. The reverse holds...

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Human Behavior and Communication Skills for Crew Leaders

In iP’s earlier installments of the Supervisory Series (April 2011 and June 2011), we discussed the importance of career development for lineworkers targeted for supervisory responsibilities, as well as the supervisory skills required to be effective as a crew leader or foreman. In this installment, we will discuss one additional set of supervisory skills that are possibly the most critical for the new supervisor: human behavior and communication. Human BehaviorWhy do people do what they do? Is human behavior predictable? Human behavior, and people in general, are so complex; could there be...

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Supervisory Skills for Crew Leaders

In iP’s first installment of the Supervisory Series (April 2011), we discussed how many organizations react when they are in sudden need of a crew foreman. Most have no career development plans for their lineworkers and have not taken the time to adequately prepare qualified crew members to move into a supervisory position. A quick decision is made out of desperation to promote the best employee we can find at the moment. Unfortunately, with good intentions, we often set up our best employees to fail this way because they have not been properly prepared for their new responsibilities.   The...

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Crew Foreman Needed: Who Do We Pick?

It happens all too often. We need a foreman as soon as possible. The crew leader position is vacant for any number of reasons – often suddenly – and we need someone now. A powerline crew can possibly continue to work minus a groundman, helper or apprentice. Depending on the crew configuration and work assignments, we may even get by a few days without a lineman. But to be without a foreman is usually grounds for shutting down the crew. If we’re lucky, maybe an operations manager can fill in temporarily, but the crew foreman’s position must be filled sooner rather than later. Limited...

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Innovate or Follow: The Argument Against A Best Practice

Careless adoption of a best practice may result in placing dangerous blinders on individuals within the organization, ceasing the search for vital fresh approaches. Someone, somewhere, pioneered the approach you are considering. Is your goal to innovate, or follow? The English writer, Charles Caleb Colton, said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” The average safety performers imitate; the best create a culture of collaborative innovation within all levels of the organization. Best practice is often defined as a proven method to accomplish a task in a more efficient and effective...

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Keeping the ‘Fighter Pilots’ of Your Company Safe

A consistent, clear safety message backed by unwavering actions is what is takes to keep your employees flying straight. Most fighter pilots are 25-years-old and full of vinegar. Sure, they’re smart, but most have a lot of velocity, and often very little vector. There’s no way they can keep themselves from harm. Therefore, peacetime training losses are acceptable. This is the way military leadership used to think. Back then (1988), old school commanders honestly believed that if we were going to train (fly) like we were going to fight, a few losses were to be expected and accepted....

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Training for the New Century

Experiencing high turnover?  Too many incidents?  The answer to these problems could lie in a new, innovative training program. Electric utilities of all business models, whether investor owned, municipal or cooperative, are undergoing a transition. This transition is partly driven by evolving business strategies toward better cost controls that result in efficiency. With the possibility of electric utilities forced through deregulation to enter the competitive market, utilities must seriously evaluate the traditional business model. One attractive resource for cost effective restructuring...

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