Building, Maintaining A Successful Safety/Damage Prevention Program

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

Another key element to reduce damages, Dunham said, was to establish a team of safety liaison employees who are dedicated to working in the field with contract staking crews throughout the utility’s service territory. Their primary focus is to emphasize quality work, accuracy in locating facilities, and timeliness of completing staking with contractors. The team also provides gas and electric safety training for fire departments.

Investigation of incidents to determine root causes and analyzing how safety procedures can be improved is essential to safety and damage prevention programs.

Company statistics are shared with the CGA’s Damage Incident Reporting Tool (DIRT), a secure web application for the collection and reporting of underground damage information. DIRT allows users to submit damage and near miss reports; browse files submitted by the user’s organization; administer role-based company and user information; edit personal profiles; and submit feedback and questions.

Equally important are the company’s efforts to keep employees safe on the job and to integrate the focus on safety.

“We believe,” Dunham said, “that all employees have the responsibility to hold themselves and their peers accountable for compliance with company safety rules.”

In May 2005, management and union leaders launched a historic joint initiative to radically transform Consumers Energy’s safety performance. This led to the formation of the Safety Culture Transition Team (SCTT). Team members are responsible for identifying cultural issues and developing programs to move the culture in a positive direction.”

A key focus of the SCTT is development of a safety organization responsible for addressing any issues that arise within the teams’ areas of responsibility.

Stop the job

One tool that employees are embracing more is the Stop the Job: Take a Timeout for Safety initiative.
“Management and union leader’s stress that anybody from a rookie to 30-year-plus veterans should feel comfortable in stopping any job,” said Dunham. “Both management and union leaders are consistent in their message that while customer service and productivity are important, working safely is always number one.”

In the event of safety incidents, Safety Flash and Safety Bulletin e-mails keep employees informed, as does the company’s monthly Connect newsletter. State-of-the-art digital television monitors were also installed at all company headquarters locations to share topical safety and company news.