Building, Maintaining A Successful Safety/Damage Prevention Program

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | January 2014, Vol. 69 No. 1

EDITOR’S NOTE: In recent years, much public attention has been focused on worker safety in the sometimes hazardous working conditions of underground condition. In fact “DPS” or damage prevention and safety, has become somewhat of a buzzword for companies touting their commitment to safety.

But talking about safety and being truly committed to that concept is another matter. Contractors and owning companies who have established and maintained an effective and successful DPS program have taken great effort to create a culture of safety within their companies. The benefits are plentiful and often undervalued, ranging from human safety, elimination of property damage and reduced insurance costs. The risk of not having a quality DPS program can be catastrophic.

In this issue of Underground Construction, we decided it was time to stress the positive accomplishments of the underground industry in the arena of damage prevention and safety, rather than the often tear-jerking disasters we see on the evening news. Fortunately, we found most companies today take safety seriously. Senior Editor Jeff Griffin talked with four companies (one owner and three contractors) about their approach to developing and maintaining a culture of safety within their companies.

As Michigan’s largest utility provider, Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electric service to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents, and the company’s safety and damage prevention efforts must address multiple challenges that include:
• Protecting company employees who construct and maintain power and gas transmission and distribution systems plus contractor crews hired for projects;
• Protecting the public and preventing damage to the company’s extensive gas and power infrastructure;
• Educating customers and the general public about the safe use of electricity and gas; and
• Safeguarding the environmental integrity of the company’s extensive land holdings.

Consumers Energy construction and maintenance crews are in the field on a daily basis, and they receive continuing safety training. In addition, the company must ensure contractors working on Consumers projects operate in accordance with company safety policies and procedures.