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Utility Safety Leadership Development

Matt Edmonds, CHST, and Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP

Understanding Safety Culture Through Perception Surveys

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. For example, management may perceive the company’s safety program to be among the best in the industry because very few accidents have occurred. On the other hand, field employees may feel like no one cares about them or their safety.

In a nutshell, an employee’s perceptions often dictate his or her attitude toward on-the-job safety. And if perceptions about safety in your organization differ greatly from employee to employee, this can indicate that your company’s safety culture isn’t as strong as it needs to be.

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Kate Wade

2015 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

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 John McRae Safety Leadership Award was created to honor McRae, a fourth-generation lineman who enjoyed a 42-year career before passing away July 27, 2010. He was active in the military reserves for nearly 30 years and instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts Municipal Lineman’s Association. McRae, a member of San Diego’s IBEW Local 465, spoke across the country about electrical training and went on to assist in the launch of Incident Prevention magazine.

Maryyanek was chosen to receive this award because of his commitment to workplace safety and heavy investment of time and energy in industry safety organizations including the USOLN. “To personally know Bo is to understand his passion for safety,” said Carla Housh, USOLN executive director and publisher of Incident Prevention magazine. “His intensity and dedication to building a safer utility work environment come straight from the heart. Bo is a tremendous supporter of the Certified Utility Safety Professional program, and he also had the pleasure of knowing John McRae as a member of IUOTA. I know John would be extremely pleased that Bo is the 2015 recipient of his namesake award.”

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Jerry Havens, COSS

Recruiting and Training the Next Generation

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 natural gas utilities are currently eligible for retirement, and 40 percent will be eligible in the next five years. The report also cited U.S. Department of Labor statistics, which indicate that up to 50 percent of the country’s utility workforce will retire in the next five to 10 years.

The burning question is, who’s going to step in to replace these workers? And once they’re hired, what’s the best way to go about training them to safely perform their job tasks?

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Guest — Dwight Miller
The picture is very telling, and I'm just wondering how many actually noticed it. Probably nobody except a trainer. I am usually a... Read More
Sunday, 25 October 2015 08:53
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Phillip Ragain

Shifting Your Organizational Safety Culture

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 wild and unmanaged – unpredictably influencing employee performance and elevating risk – or it can be understood and deliberately shaped to ensure that employees uphold the organization’s safety values.

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Keith Lindemulder

Stepping Up Steel Safety Education

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 and coursework for student, apprentice and journeyman lineworker programs nationwide. For years, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) has developed training standards and guidelines, and in 2013 it teamed with several respected leaders in utility safety and line work training to update and bring new materials to the trade. Among the organizations SMDI collaborated with are the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction (ISPC), based in Alexandria, La., and Metropolitan Community College (MCC) in Omaha, Neb., which offers a leading utility line technician program. Through these partnerships, steel pole training programs have become well-established, and both coursework and program participation continue to evolve.

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Kekai Batungbacal, CUSP

Facing Unique Challenges

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, combined with the state’s clean energy initiatives, continues to pose unique challenges to Hawaiian Electric as the company strives to meet the demands of customers and the state’s Public Utilities Commission for lower bills and increased levels of renewable energy.

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Phillip Ragain

The Safety Side Effect: How Good Supervisors Coincidentally Improve Safety

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 their employees are more likely to do something that improves safety: take initiative.

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David W. Bowman

Growing a Human Performance Culture

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. It seems that everyone wants the same things, but the processes to achieve them do not reflect these shared goals.

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Guest — Carlos Abarca Serrano
Excellent article, I'm hopping to get as much as I can from it. Clearly this things are unfortunately forgotten by a lot of manage... Read More
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 09:16
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Kate Wade

2014 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

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.

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Mike Caro, CUSP

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 criticisms of BBS and are they valid? How have the proponents of BBS answered them? How is BBS different or better than it was 30 or even 20 years ago? What is its future?

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

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.

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Guest — John Gibbs
Great Job !!
Friday, 12 December 2014 19:27
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Mike Engelman

Injury Prevention Through Leadership, Employee Engagement and Analytics

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 model.

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Phillip Ragain

Understanding and Influencing the ‘Bulletproof’ Employee

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.

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Parrish Taylor

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.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

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.

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Parrish Taylor

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.

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Kate Wade

2013 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

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.

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Richard Hawk

Spice It Up!

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.

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Parrish Taylor

Leadership Skill Set 5: Social Persuasion

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.

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Parrish Taylor

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.

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