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A Safety-First Culture Can Lead to Big Benefits in the Utilities Space

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Almost all business leaders in the utility space will agree that utility worker safety is their top priority, and the last thing anyone wants is to have employees working in dangerous or life-threatening conditions. Unfortunately, when the proper controls are absent, insufficient, or ignored, employees could quickly end up in harm’s way.

Utility employees face hazards on a regular basis, from working high off the ground to operating near high-voltage lines or flammable gas pipes. According to research from safety consultancy DEKRA, the utility sector has a higher-than-average rate of serious injuries and fatalities.

To reduce the SIF rate, utility managers must constantly assess the dangers their employees face. Most importantly, they should standardize and implement safety rules, training and incident reporting systems, and checklists. Thanks to technological advances in utility safety and design, software systems can be used to create checklists or standard operating procedures for each job type, allowing field technicians to collect and enter data. Data then goes back to managers, and business leaders can then analyze the results and further improve controls and processes.

With an iterative process, utilities can keep employees safe out in the field and ensure the proper protocols are being followed. Employees can even be graded on safety measures and incentivized to adhere to standard operating procedures. With these efforts and the right utility safety technologies in place, you can begin to create a safety-first culture that has a lasting impact on your organization.

Safe Organizations Are Strong Ones

Once company leaders start to focus more closely on utility worker safety, they unlock a number of benefits that can spread throughout their organization:

1. The number of recordable incidents should decrease.

Forty years ago, Peter Drucker remarked, “What gets measured gets improved.” Those words continue to ring true today. By using customizable software solutions, utilities can standardize processes and implement step-by-step procedures for employees conducting fieldwork. Solutions can then be refined based on data, allowing companies to arrive at the most effective practices. Utility safety technologies such as augmented reality also present exciting possibilities to improve efficiency and safety in the utility space, but companies will still need to focus on procedures and consistency in order to take advantage of them.

2. Employee morale should improve.

When employees feel valued, they return that value to the organization. The knowledge that higher-ups care about employee well-being will encourage workers to report close-call events to help avoid them in the future. Typically, employees are hesitant to report these types of events for fear of repercussions. But in a safety-first culture, staff work together for the common goal.

When employees believe they’re supported by their company, SIF rates drop. Utilities can also deploy end-of-day workflows to mobile devices that prompt field employees to submit any close-call events and rate their day on a scale from one to 10. The job satisfaction rate in the utilities sector is just 57 percent, but a safety-first culture can lead to improvements.

3. The lifespan of assets should improve.

Vehicle assets are one of the primary causes of employee injury in the utility space. With the latest tracking tools and alert software, business leaders can keep employees operating within predetermined safety limits. For example, vehicles could be equipped with alerts to flag hazardous driving, or employees could wear proximity alarms to ensure they stay out of harm’s way. In the utilities space, vehicle incidents account for 30% of all SIF exposure. Basic precautions can drastically reduce this number and promote utility worker safety.

Saying you prioritize safety and demonstrating a safety-first mentality are two very different things. Many organizations pay lip service to the idea of safety and simply hope for the best. Meanwhile, the most forward-thinking companies will take ownership of outcomes and prioritize the creation of a safety-first culture. The utility space has lots of room for improvement, but some businesses are leading the way as they implement procedures that keep their people safe.

Lee Schwartz's picture

Thank Lee for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on July 10, 2019

While most people agree safety should be top priority for safety's own sake, your post brings to light some of the 'side' benefits that come with it-- a true win-win

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