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Safety Blitz

Electric co-op line workers are safer these days.

This month�s Future of Electricity column concludes a two-part series on a remarkable safety initiative that electric cooperatives in Kentucky have been developing over the past few years. What makes this program extraordinary is the blend of hard work and smart thinking that gives it a great chance to actually work.

This new safety effort started in a roundabout way 10 years ago, when Kentucky�s electric co-ops set up a self-insured workers� compensation program. One unplanned result was that, with statewide accident statistics collected in one place, it became easier to identify the top problems. Co-op leaders responded by starting to put together a serious improvement plan. So far that has involved opening new training centers, setting up testing programs, and bringing in new equipment and teaching techniques.

What�s smart about all this activity is that it shows deep thinking about what will make a difference. It�s not just adding an hour a month for workers to drink coffee and watch safety videos. It takes steps to figure out the best way to get information to utility workers.

The Future of Electricity column describes one of those steps, in which a specially equipped training van drives out to where the line workers spend their days, for small-group seminars. And those sessions don�t just preach, they listen to ideas the employees have for creating safer working conditions.

The hard-work part of this safety blitz comes from the sustained effort over the years. Good ideas often fail because people lose interest over time. This safety program has been gathering steam over several years.

And that attention has been coming from top management. I recently sat in on a day-long meeting of the chief executives from electric co-ops all across Kentucky. They spent most of their time talking about safety.

And there�s more to come.

The new safety emphasis has been mainly on protecting electric co-op employees. But in September a co-op working group met in Cave City for what it called a Safety Summit. That group recommended a complete revitalization of electric co-op efforts to keep the general public safe from electrical hazards.

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