Safety: What gets measured gets done

Worker safety is at the core of a utility’s service. Providing a safe environment for both employees and the public contributes to the overall reliable service of any exceptional public power utility. As standards improve and as utilities continue to create a culture of safety, the industry has been getting safer.

There are many factors that play into the decrease in incidence rates for public power utilities. Engaging in different safety practices, such as using an up-to-date safety manual that aligns with the latest OSHA standards, conducting job briefings, and holding frequent safety meetings with field employees and management, all make a difference.

Paying attention to your utility’s data helps, too. Collecting and analyzing data helps your utility determine areas of strong performance and areas of growth.

The standard metric for determining employee safety is OSHA’s incidence rate. The rate represents the relative number of employees that had reportable incidents on a per 100 workers basis, and is calculated by multiplying the number of recordable cases at a company by 200,000, and then dividing that number by the total labor hours at the company.

For public power utilities, incident data is also collected through our Safety Awards of Excellence. To apply for the awards, utilities submit injury and illness incidence rates from the past three consecutive years. Utilities with low incident rates compared to others of similar sizes are honored with the award.

Using this data, we found that utilities who consistently submit data to the Safety Awards of Excellence program have,  on average, a 21 percent lower OSHA incidence rate than the overall group of program participants. It seems that utilities that regularly calculate their incidence rate are more mindful of their culture and practices.

The same trend also shows among utilities that apply to the Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) program, which includes safety as one of four key pillars. As expected, utilities that score higher on the safety section of the application tend to have lower incident rates.

Taking a step further, in comparing RP3 applications from the last five years with incidence rates, we found that utilities that renew the designation each cycle, and thereby regularly look at key safety measures, show improvements in overall safety.

For each returning utility, regardless of their score, we pulled the incidence rate the utility self-reported in the RP3 application. In cases where the utility did not include an incidence rate in the RP3 application, but participated in the Safety Awards of Excellence, we pulled the incidence rate reported in the safety awards program.

An analysis of the first set of utilities that applied in 2011, and then renewed in 2013 and 2016, found an overall decrease in incidence rates over time (the RP3 application cycle was extended from 2 years up to 3 starting in 2013). As show in the graph below, the overall average incidence rate for the group decreased from 6.30 in 2011 to 4.93 in 2016.

Safety Index Performance Over the Years

Utilities that applied in 2012 and returned in 2014 show the same trend. As shown in the next graph, for these utilities, the overall incidence rate went down, on average, from 6.89 in 2012 to 6.42 in 2014. Note: Utilities included in this cycle of applicants may have also submitted applications in 2017, but the data from this application cycle will not be ready to analyze until 2018. Even so, with the two years of data that we have, we can see the same general trend.

Safety Index Performance Over the Years

Last, we were curious to find out if a utility’s score in the safety section of the RP3 application had any connection with the incidence rate.

We compared the incidence rate over the last five years of available data with how a utility scored in the safety section of the RP3 application. As indicated in the chart below, the more questions a utility missed in the safety section, the more likely it was for the utility to have a higher incidence rate.

Average OSHA Incidence Rate by Number of No Responses

We can see that, overall, incidence rates have decreased over the years. What gets measured, gets done!

As we noted in a recent blog, participating in different safety recognition efforts helps your utility to remain aware and involved in safety efforts. These graphs indicate that utilities that take the time to measure safety, such as those that participate in the RP3 program, are taking steps to improve safety. Identifying areas for improvement, or prioritizing a specific measure, could encourage new safety initiatives or introduce best practices that your utility may not have engaged in before.

Whether it’s through RP3 program, the Safety Awards of Excellence, or through our forthcoming eSafety Tracker, the American Public Power Association is committed to helping your utility improve through metrics and best practices.

Interested in improving safety at your utility?

Apply for RP3 designation and learn more here.

Enter to earn recognition for the Safety Awards of Excellence using the online form. Entries due by February 3, 2018.

Discuss benchmarks and best practices with your colleagues on our safety listserv. Members can request to sign up online.

Get relevant reports on our safety topic page.