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By: Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP, CUSA

Has your organization implemented a new safety procedure that was well developed by the safety department but fails miserably in the actual application? If you answered yes, don’t feel alone because a large percentage of your peers will answer the same way.

Why do you think these well thought out safety programs and procedures, when implemented, are failing? I would suggest that failure can be linked to organizations that hold the safety department solely responsible and accountable for employees’ safety.  Early in my working career, a top officer in my utility would ask me regularly “are you keeping people safe today?”. Reflecting back on his statement frankly infuriates me, but at the time, I really thought it was my responsibly in the safety department to keep people safe.

The safety department cannot own the safety program; rather it is the facilitator of the safety process that is owned by all employees. The top officer along with every level of management should know whether people are being safe, what is being done daily throughout the organization and what they personally need to be doing to ensure safety excellence. No ownership will equal no success! Without this understanding, safety will always be a program and the example given earlier will continue to occur.

Having management lead the process and take total ownership is a requirement for safety success. Without total ownership for all affected employees, the change may never occur uniformly throughout the organization.  Management must be able to successfully gain buy-in from employees for the change to occur and safety excellence to prevail.  Management and employees are responsible for owning the new procedure.

Do you think the new safety procedure would have a different outcome if all employees owned the actions and results, as described? When everyone throughout the organization is actively pursuing the same safety goals and working together in a synchronized manner to achieve the goals, safety success will occur.

Leaders and Management must be empowered to understand their safety role in the organization and to take total ownership for the safety of their team.  All leaders must be actively involved and participate in safety decisions daily as they do with all other decisions made in their job. All leaders must support each other and understand each others’ roles. A frontline crew leader cannot be successful if he has no upper level support or he has not received effective training and coaching to support safety.

It’s not just the safety department’s responsibility.  It’s not just management’s responsibility.  It’s not just the frontline leaders’ responsibility.  It’s not just the employees’ responsibility.  Safety is everyone’s responsibility!


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Employee Training- How hard can it be?


By: Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP, CUSA


Mark Twain said "There is nothing that training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach or below it. It can turn bad morals to good, good morals to bad; it can destroy principles, it can recreate them; it can debase angels to men and lift men to angels".  We all know high-quality training must take place to ensure the overall development of employees.

Does having well trained employees mean the employee only attends a safety meeting monthly to gain training knowledge? Certainly not! Training should provide employees with a continual understanding of job task requirements, the hazards associated with the tasks and the appropriate abatement strategies for their safety. A monthly safety meeting may help validate these issues but it cannot be the sole delivery method for training. Unfortunately, many employees may never receive any additional formal training other than safety meetings.

Having the knowledge that training is important and required may not always ensure it takes place due to time constraints and a lack of funds and resources. Many utilities and utility contractors hire employees, then leave any training to time on the job and knowledge learned from existing employees who may use improper or unsafe work procedures. When no specific plan is developed for training, employees may never reach their full potential.

Developing a Plan

Developing a well planned training process is not easy. Each training plan should address the desired length of training, the number of training steps with compensation ranges and the requirements for employee completion and advancement. Ask the question- What knowledge is required to ensure full competency at the end of training? Academics, skills training, on the job training and demonstrated proficiency should all be addressed in the training plan. Plans must have full management and employee support to ensure success.

In many cases, a developed plan will change the structure of a job classification. This is especially true for jobs that only have one designation and salary range. Ensuring appropriate compensation for job knowledge and experience is a very important part of plan development.

Jobs such as customer service representatives, line designers and system operators (dispatchers) need a developed plan no less than an employee who works on energized lines and equipment. Although these employees do not necessarily perform work on or near live energized parts, their jobs directly impact other employees as well as the public. Customer Service Representatives need to understand electric system fundamentals to determine customer requirements; the line designer needs to understand how to design a system that is functional and safe for construction and maintenance; and a system operator needs to understand how to operate the system to ensure safety and reliability. 

In the next article, we will discuss qualification requirements and training organizations as additional factors in employee training.





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Does Your Company Have an Effective Safety Management System?

Does Your Company Have an Effective Safety Management System?

Your safety program can have fully developed rules and procedures, a top-notch training program and the best safety equipment and tools money can buy – and there is still the possibility that it may not be successful. Although these things are extremely important and necessary, safety success will not occur until your safety program becomes a fully functional safety management system. This means that everyone in the organization is actively pursuing the same safety goals and working together in a synchronized manner to achieve those goals. A fully developed and well-executed safety management system is the backbone of safety excellence.

Safety Management System Components
What does a safety management system need in order to be effective? According to ANSI/AIHA Z10-2012, “Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems,” the following components are required for success:
• Management leadership and employee participation
• Planning
• Implementation and operations
• Evaluation and corrective action
• Management review

Let’s take a closer look at how each component is defined.

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Auditing for Safety Improvement

The mere thought of participating in an audit can be unnerving. Consider IRS audits for a moment – they can never mean good news, right? So why would an organization want to spend time, money and other resources to conduct an audit when it could be painful? The answer is that, regardless of the feelings they evoke, audits – when done right – can be a powerful organizational improvement tool rather than just a way to monitor compliance.

To better understand the importance of auditing for improvement, let’s review an example of a traditional compliance audit. In this example, the audit identified a distribution underground crew whose members did not use insulating cover-up while working inside a single-phase underground transformer. The apparent cause of the violation seemed straightforward – the crew members had simply failed to use appropriate insulating cover-up, so management reviewed the violation and mandated the crew to follow the rules in the future.

The action taken by management in this example seems acceptable, but was it truly enough? Will the apparent cause of this violation be completely remedied through talk and discipline? Although rule compliance is extremely important, audits that focus solely on this type of compliance may neglect to identify major gaps that contribute to an ineffective safety system. What happens if a utility doesn’t have the right people in place to support safety? For instance, it’s possible that workers have not been properly trained and frontline leaders don’t know how to apply the rules on a job site. In the previous example, the crew may not have understood how to use insulating cover-up on underground applications as they were only trained for application of cover-up on overhead lines.

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Understanding Safety Culture Through Perception Surveys

Understanding Safety Culture Through Perception Surveys

If you asked workers at your company who is responsible for their safety, how do you think they would answer that question? Would they say the safety director is responsible, or would they tell you they’re personally responsible for their own safety? You might be surprised by the answers you receive. While the reality is that we are all responsible for our own safety, some employees may perceive that the safety director bears that responsibility.

What if you asked them about your safety program in general? Do employees think it’s strong or weak? Again, you may receive answers that widely vary. For example, management may perceive the company’s safety program to be among the best in the industry because very few accidents have occurred. On the other hand, field employees may feel like no one cares about them or their safety.

In a nutshell, an employee’s perceptions often dictate his or her attitude toward on-the-job safety. And if perceptions about safety in your organization differ greatly from employee to employee, this can indicate that your company’s safety culture isn’t as strong as it needs to be.

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SET Solutions, LLC

A Full-Service Safety
Training & Management
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P:  (803) 407-4707
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