Safety is holistic

Within utilities, safety is a priority not only for those whose work exposes them to potential hazards, but across all employees. I’ve seen how important it is for the priority mindset to begin with the utility’s leadership, who set the stage for a culture of safety that then ripples throughout the utility. I’ve also seen how lineworkers and other crew members have spoken up and effectively advocated for themselves and their peers when needed, and how much their commitment to working safely impacts the utility’s mindset as well.

Far too many of us who’ve been working in this field for a long time know about the real dangers we face as part of our daily work. We know that utility work can be difficult and puts our employees into potentially hazardous situations. But I’m glad that as a whole, we’ve been making strides to change this narrative. 

Over my years of working in the industry, and in collaborating with peers on keeping the National Electrical Safety Code up to date, I’ve been glad to see utilities increase their commitment to safety. From investing in protective equipment to implementing a daily safety message at meetings and setting robust standards, utilities have made strides in making sure that their employees can go home at the end of the day.

For public power, having a culture of safety is not just about protecting line crews and other utility employees who might work in hazardous conditions. You also represent our cities and towns — and your priorities and actions in protecting your employees and citizens embody your city’s views on safety. We all are “in safety,” because a culture of safety means we are looking out for our communities in using electricity safely. This means our customer service and outreach is conducted with safety in mind, including going into schools and sharing regular messages with the community on how to safely use an ever-expanding array of technology that relies on electricity. 

This issue of Public Power magazine takes a look at safety from many perspectives. For our workforce, public power has helped implement best practices through our Safety Manual, and utilities are instilling a culture of safety in the emerging workforce through training and other means. And while safety starts with people, technologies and data can help us to recognize and avoid potentially unsafe practices.

We at the American Public Power Association are eager to continue to help make public power utilities safe places to work. Whether by coming together to showcase how we work safely at the annual Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo, or by sharing and benchmarking incidents and near misses in the eSafety Tracker, our hope is to connect public power to better understand how we can work safely. Through each other’s experiences, we are all continually learning how we can further reduce the number of injuries that happen each year. Because we can — and should — all return home at the end of the day.