Association’s new tracker aims for better safety benchmarking

A core purpose of the American Public Power Association’s new eSafety Tracker is to collect public power utility safety data, said Alex Hofmann, the Association’s Senior Director of Energy and Environmental Services, on April 1.

Hofmann made his comments at a presentation at the Association’s Engineering and Operations Technical Conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he was joined by Kenny Roberts, Senior Safety and Training Specialist at ElectriCities of North Carolina, and Aaron Haderle, Manager of T&D Operations at Kissimmee Utility Authority.

Hofmann, Roberts and Haderle, as well as several other public power utility stakeholders, collaborated on the development of the eSafety Tracker. Funding for the tracker was provided through the Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) program.

“What we’re doing here is trying to get ourselves as public power utilities to zero,” Hofmann said at the start of the session. “We want zero incidents. We want zero accidents. We want zero reportables. What we want is for public power utilities to be the safest place to work of any industry,” Hofmann said.

“What we see is that we are doing better all time,” he noted. Public power utilities “can tell a story of continuous improvement and as your trade association, what we want to do is help facilitate that improvement.”

While public power’s overall safety trend has been heading in the right direction, Hofmann raised the question of whether there is a “base level of unsafety that we cannot overcome.” For now, that question does not have a definitive answer, he said.

“We’re doing really well if you consider where we came from in the 90s, but we’ve stopped doing better,” Hofmann said.

“I’m not saying we’re doing bad,” he went on to say. “But it does set up the argument for why we would want to do more, why we would want to push safety harder, why we want to go to a wholistic safety culture, which you’re hearing more and more, and move that back into improved safety rules.”

The eSafety Tracker is an effort by the Association to “try to make it so that we are all collecting data consistently,” he said.

“The idea here is something that we played with a lot on the reliability side,” Hofmann noted. “If you’re familiar with our work, one of the things that we tried to do is unify everyone’s terminology so that we can do better benchmarking,” he said.

“So we can get into why have we plateaued in terms of safety. We are very safe compared to how we were, but why have we stopped getting safer? We don’t understand that and as far as we can tell, no one else does.”

That is where the eSafety Tracker comes into play. The aim of the tracker is to “make it so that everyone’s communicating and collecting safety data in the same way and that we’re interlinking the things that we think are responsible for accidents at utilities because ultimately we don’t really know.”

Comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges

Roberts said that the idea behind the eSafety Tracker was to come up with a better way to start comparing “apples with apples and oranges with oranges instead of comparing apples to oranges. The only way that we can better doing that is to collect more data.”

The eSafety Tracker is intended to ease the collection of data “back and forth and do a better job” of tying things like training, safety meetings, job site briefings, near misses and accidents together to see if there is a pattern that emerges, if there are ways to make improvements and to determine if “we’re getting good data or do we just think we’re getting good data.”

What will the eSafety Tracker record?

Among the things that the eSafety Tracker is expected to record is environmental conditions. “When does exposure matter? And most of you in the room will say, well, it depends,” Hofmann said. “It depends on what you’re used to working in and essentially the change to where you are working.”

He noted that “it’s not the same for someone who’s used to working in hot weather when it gets hotter as it is for someone who’s used to working in very cool weather going to work somewhere that’s hot. We have to consider this in mutual aid situations.”

With better collection, “we can start to understand this a little better and then write better safety rules that have to do with exhaustion, with exposure.”

Attendees given a live demonstration of the tracker

Attendees at the session were given a live demonstration of how the eSafety Tracker works by Ethan Epstein, Energy and Environmental Services Coordinator at the Association, and were able to ask questions of Hofmann, Roberts and Haderle as the demonstration progressed.

After the session ended, attendees were able to sign up to purchase the eSafety Tracker Beta, which is also available for purchase in the Association’s Product Store.