DEED-funded project offers series of safety training videos

Working with several other public power organizations, the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association (MMUA) has developed a series of safety training videos as a result of a grant of $100,000 from the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments (DEED) program.

The target audience for the videos is line workers who work at public power utilities. The content and training presented in the videos reinforce the Association’s Safety Manual, National Electrical Safety Code, and appropriate Occupational Safety and Health standards.

The video series is expected to be particularly beneficial to smaller utilities that may not have a full-time safety professional on staff.

Several videos are updates to videos produced in 2002 using a prior DEED grant. Mike Willetts, Director of Training & Safety at MMUA, was involved in the 2002 set of videos, as well as the new set of safety videos.

Willetts noted that Lee Hicks, who was the safety manager with Indiana-based public power utility Peru Utilities at the time, took the lead on the original set of videos. Peru Utilities sponsored the project, which was an eight-volume series of safety training videos.

Willetts and Hicks worked together on several of the video shoots including designing the story boards. “Lee did most of that, but we all talked about the ideas,” Willetts noted. “We did two of the shoots at the MMUA training center,” Willetts said.

With respect to the new set of videos, one of the first decisions that was made as part of the effort was to work with the Northwest Lineman College. “I had seen some of the videos they had done and we were impressed,” the MMUA official said. “Their expertise was much more advanced than ours.”

Along with Willetts, Jack Kegel, Executive Director for MMUA, was also involved in the DEED project for the new safety videos.

The decision to work with the college was a key difference between the approach to the new set of safety videos and the ones that were produced in 2002, Willetts said, noting that “they’re professional videographers.”

He said that “all the new videos were shot at several different camera angles,” whereas the original set of videos were shot with one angle.

In the discussions with the college, “we started talking about number one, the new technology, but also the new audience,” Willetts said.

The new audiences, from apprentices to the journeyman line workers, are used to accessing videos on their smart phones. It is getting harder these days to expect the workers to have the patience to sit through a 15 to 20-minute video, Willetts noted.

Each video is one minute and 30 seconds to three minutes long and perfect for viewing in the field on a smart phone or tablet. In the original series, the length of the individual videos was about ten minutes each. The team that created the new videos decided that shorter, more focused videos would be a better fit for the needs of current utility staff.

Also, the shorter format enabled the team to create twenty-two videos, which was more than initially expected. 

Willetts pointed out that the introduction on the original videos is longer than the longest of the new safety videos.

With respect to the new videos, Willetts described his role as being the subject expert on the safety material, while the college provided its expertise on video production. Officials at the Northwest Lineman College “really understand our world well.”

Several new topics have been introduced in the second edition of the videos. By updating and adding to the original series, the goals of the original project have been further realized and amplified. The original series was intended to provide a framework for future expansion in response to future needs, while the latest series of videos achieves that goal. 

Willetts wanted to give public power utility officials involved in the first set of safety videos the opportunity to be able to be involved in the new set of videos.

The first new safety video was shot in coordination with Jon Beasley, director of training and safety for Electric Cities of Georgia. “We did the hurt man rescue and self-rescue from the bucket truck, including pole top rescue from the pole,” Willetts said, with the video including several line workers from Electric Cities of Georgia.

Another video shot in Georgia focused on confined space rescue, Willetts said. This video focused on a confined space rescue from an electrical vault.

Willetts said that every group that has reported back on the new safety videos has provided positive reviews. “They like the new format. Everybody’s excited about making more,” he said, noting that there are a lot more topics that can be addressed with respect to various hazards facing line workers.

“It’s all been a great response,” he said. “I don’t believe I’ve heard one negative comment.”

Along with the $100,000 grant from the DEED program, the project was funded by in-kind contributions from more than a dozen DEED member utilities. 

The videos are available to DEED members. For non-DEED members, the videos are available for purchase on the APPA Product Store.

The videos are also available in the beta version of the Association’s eSafety tracker.

A line worker can watch a safety video on a smart phone “right at the pole or the confined space or whatever you may be going into. You can brief yourself through the eSafety tracker and do a job briefing and watch the video and it’s all documented at that time. It’s really going to be a nice system.”