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Incident Prevention Magazine

13 minutes reading time (2551 words)

Total Success at Dominion

Joe Murphy, Manager, Safety & Training-South, explains how striving for excellence is a daily affair for the safety team at Dominion Delivery

One of the nation's largest producers of energy, Dominion's asset portfolio consists of about 28,000 megawatts of power generation, 6,000 miles of electric transmission, about 6.3 trillion cubic feet equivalent of natural gas reserves, 7,800 miles of natural gas pipeline and the country's largest natural gas storage system with about 950 billion cubic feet of storage capacity.
While headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, through a number of operating companies in its Dominion Delivery operation, the company provides energy for 20 million people in 20 states. Included are electric customers in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina who are served through more than 54,000 miles of distribution lines, as well as natural gas customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who are serviced by approximately 27,000 miles of distribution pipes. The company also provides competitive energy and related services to residential and commercial accounts in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

"Throughout our operation," says Joe Murphy, Manager, Safety & Training-South, Dominion Delivery Safety & Training, "our safety performance is the result of a total team effort. Teamwork in our gas and electric businesses is responsible for everything we have achieved and continue to accomplish."
A 29-year veteran at Dominion, Murphy stresses the team approach when it comes to safety and training. The value of having everyone involved, he notes, is a lesson he learned in 24 years as a lineman, lead lineman and field supervisor in the company's Electric Transmission and Electric Distribution groups. In November 2002, Murphy was named Safety & Performance Advisor in the Safety & Training group, where his responsibilities centered on working with the work methods group. One area of focus, he relates, was to use his training in Root Cause Analysis techniques to get past assigning blame when an accident happens and finding out the real causes.
In August 2005, Murphy took on his current role of Manager, Safety & Training at Dominion Delivery. Today, his responsibilities include oversight of Electric Distribution safety and training programs, monitoring the safety performance of the Electric Delivery and other groups within the company, and serving as a liaison between the Dominion Delivery Safety & Training group and the company's leadership team upper management.

How is the safety organization at Dominion structured?
Each of Dominion's business units, including Energy, Generation, E&P and Delivery, have an internal safety organization with differing structures. Dominion Delivery's safety organization is structured so everyone reports to a director. We have several managers that oversee the different aspects of safety and training in the gas and electric delivery areas. Within the business is a training development area, where programs are created and developed in appropriate delivery formats. Another manager's team takes the developed products and delivers them in the field.

How does that team handle field safety activities?
From a field safety perspective, our electric delivery business includes a Safety & Performance Advisor who oversees a group of Safety & Performance Specialists. Each of those people is assigned to a geographically arranged group of offices in our electric business area in Virginia and North Carolina and gas business in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The Safety & Performance Specialist's role is to act as a consultant to those offices by assisting with safety related matters, interpreting safety and training requirements, providing accident and incident investigation assistance, and introducing work methods training programs and new tools, material and equipment.

What safety and training programs are in place at Dominion?
We have developed an activity-based program that includes field observations, weekly 15-minute safety meetings and pre-job briefings. There are also supplemental programs in place in the electric and gas businesses that include a Safety Advocate program for peer to peerpeer-to-peer safety, a Training Advocate program for peer-to-peer training and something we call "Take 5," a job-briefing program for employees who work alone. In addition, we have a comprehensive fire resistant-clothing program.
Along with those activities, Dominion uses an injury probability database program to predict injuries based on historical data and identify employees likely to have an incident so potential problems can be addressed in coaching sessions. Every week there are two safety conference calls hosted by the Senior Vice President/Electric Delivery and Vice President/Gas Delivery for their respective groups with the supervisor and manager of the employee involved. Other supervisors, managers and directors are invited to listen so similar incidents can be avoided.

What has been the most beneficial safety program that has been initiated at Dominion?
It is difficult to pinpoint one program, but without a doubt the weekly safety conference calls have had a significant impact. The calls started in August of 2004 and since that time we have seen our job-related injuries reduced by 64 percent. The intent of this program is to bring visibility to things that are causing injuries and learn from every incident. At the conclusion of the calls, a synopsis of each event and recommended preventive measures are posted on the Safety & Training website for review by all employees. Today, our employees are not getting hurt due to the increased focus they are putting on safety and performance themselves as well as their supervisors, managers and co-workers.

How do your weekly safety programs benefit Dominion?
The benefit of weekly safety conference calls is in the consistency of pertinent information that is delivered to the field in a timely fashion. The weekly calls help us put a spotlight on events that take place in the field that might otherwise go unnoticed. Many safety-related cures have resulted from these calls. In addition, we find that supervisors are taking a proactive approach to keep employees focused on doing their work safely from the start, as opposed to doing something haphazardly and having to explain it to everyone after the fact.
Weekly safety meetings are held as well. Topics are sent by email to every manager and supervisor for delivery to their teams and, over time, we've seen the quality of the topics improve along with the methods of delivery. For example, they are distributed in PowerPoint format and supervisors are given a discussion guide to assist them. These meetings are the first step in educating employees on safety-related expectations. Every employee is required to attend and, if absent, to review the information upon their return to work.

What are the benefits Dominion has derived from field observations?
Field safety observations are another tool we use to influence the behavior of employees. The emphasis is for the supervisor to be in the field and provide feedback on safety performance and compliance with rules and regulations. The benefit of these field observations is an increased presence by supervisors in the field, spending time with employees in a coaching and mentoring role instead of directing work activities.
On a system-wide level, supervisors' notes on any cautionary or violation behaviors are placed in a database to help us detect trends in risky behavior that are occurring. Delivery Safety & Training queries the database to discover trends and to develop future safety meeting topics, as well as to develop and implement preventive measures.
Tracking the results of the field observations helps us react accordingly, and stop the manifestation of problems before the behaviors become detrimental to the employee's health and the company's business.

How do pre-job briefings impact safety?
Pre-job briefings are probably the most important tool that is available to field employees because the emphasis is on recognizing, assessing and controlling hazards at job sites. One benefit they provide is improved communication among team members so each knows what the others are doing and hazards on the site have been eliminated to help them complete the job safely. Participation in pre-job briefings by everyone is mandatory. New employees have found the briefings to be especially valuable since they are in a learning mode.

Can you offer a few details about the Take 5 program?
Take 5 is a sister program developed from the pre-job briefings that emphasizes recognizing, assessing and controlling hazards when an employee is working alone and has nobody to consult with during the planning stages of a job. In practice, these employees must be able to answer "YES" to five questions that are provided to them in the form of a specially made badge they use as they walk the job site and recognize potential and real hazards. This has worked so well that teams of employees are using the questions as part of their documented job briefing sessions.

What process do you follow to determine if an employee is at risk and how do you address the problem?
The identification of high-risk employees was the result of a Six Sigma project at Dominion and is another tool we use to be proactive. Using data we have compiled, we've alerted a number of employees who are statistical candidates to suffer an injury within two years of a previous one. This alert takes place in the form of a face-to-face conversation with the employee with the expectation that an increased focus on safety performance and compliance is imperative.

What regulations impact your decisions about safety and compliance? What changes do you see coming in regulations that will have an impact on safety in your operation?
The mirroring of the OSHA Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1910.269 Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution) with construction regulations is a good thing. This will eliminate confusion over what regulations need to be followed when doing particular types of work.
A future area of concern is the proposed FR clothing hazard categories. These will present a challenge in terms of advising employees about specific types of clothing that will have to be worn. For example, we don't want to be forced to use maximum protective clothing for a situation that would call for minimum protection. This is particularly important in the summer in warmer, southern climates where additional clothing can lead to heat stress, as well as encourage employees to take shortcuts to finish sooner. Shortcuts lead to accidents.

What types of vendors do you work with and how can strategic partnerships be of value to Dominion?
Dominion partners with several vendors to procure cost savings and reliable service standards. Some of these partners are OBBCO, our safety items tools suppliers, and Hughes Supply, our supplier of line equipment and some tool items. Also, we purchase our FR clothing from a fire-resistant clothing supplier, which manages our clothing allowance program and maintains a direct relationship with our employees to keep the program running smoothly.

How closely do you work with insurance carriers?
Dominion has a close working relationship with our automotive liability insurance provider, and through that partnership we benefit from their desire to minimize claims. Our liability insurance supplier provides us with safe driving programs and consulting services, which benefit both parties.

Are you involved in the purchasing decisions for vehicles, tools and personal protective equipment for work crews? Why is it important to get involved?
Dominion Delivery Safety & Training oversees all tool evaluations and purchases as well as keeps tight reigns on what tools, equipment and material is used on our system. We evaluate new equipment and arrange in-service training for vehicles and equipment. We have also set up a permanent team to monitor changes and advancement in FR clothing. It's important to control these things because without proper oversight they can get out of control rather quickly. How do you measure safety performance? Dominion Delivery measures safety performance using historical data, graphing and charting.
We make use of Six Sigma tools and apply that methodology to our safety program. We use control charts to build a bandwidth of historical highs and lows pertaining to injury histories, which tells us what we should expect from worst, expected and best case scenarios. Dominion also uses a rolling 12-month total chart to count injuries that have occurred. That chart showed steady results for quite some time and has shown a positive trend since we started the weekly safety conference calls in 2004. We make use of Six Sigma tools and apply that methodology to the safety program. Using statistical data we are able to predict restricted duty or lost time injuries in any given month with close to 80% accuracy. Our locations are excited to see where they stand each month and have the opportunity to react proactively to prevent injuries we tell them are going to happen. We call this program the "Probability Tables" because the information is provided in table form and the results are probable based on our research.

You also have a unique way of illustrating safety performance issues. Please tell IP readers about that practice.
To put our safety philosophy into a graphic, we use an iceberg that depicts where we were and where we ultimately need to spend effort going forward. The iceberg represents all the things that can and do cause us pain. For example, in 2004 it was lost day and restricted duty (LD/RD) injuries that seemed to be our biggest problem, something we cured with weekly safety conference calls. Putting the spotlight on these injuries and discussing them in an open forum resulted in the numbers of injuries spiraling downward.
In essence, we lowered the water level; however, that revealed a multitude of other problems that hadn't been seen before. In some cases, these things were accepted as part of doing business in a sometimes dangerous environment. We started reviewing these less serious problems in the weekly safety conference calls. For example, we now review every vehicle accident, every electrical switching error, as well as near miss events. The intention is that we learn from these and don't let them happen again.

How can associations, publications and conferences help you enhance safety?
Our associations with the Southeastern Electric Exchange, Edison Electric Institute and IEEE, to name just a few, are invaluable. We learn from each other constantly; we share best practices; we communicate interpretation of regulations and assist each other in times of need. Publications such as Incident Prevention help keep us abreast of important industry issues and open new lines of communication with our peer companies. With everyone working together, we can provide an extremely safe work environment for our employees, even in some very dangerous jobs. Cooperation heightens safety for the public and protects company assets.

How would you sum up your philosophy and approach toward utility safety?
As our iceberg graphic shows, beneath the surface the foundation of our success is based on addressing Competency, Commitment, Compla-cency and Cultural Habits. Dominion leadership and employees from the top to the bottom are focused on these issues. It's going to take years to reap the rewards of our efforts, but we are heading in that direction as fast as we can go. The philosophy behind the Dominion Delivery safety program is that until we can say to ourselves that no employees or members of the public were injured today, we aren't a total success. On the other hand, we can look back on where we were just two short years ago, look at the progress we've made since then, and strive for excellence going forward. That is the only way we will reach the total success level. ip

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