The utilities industry is still one of the most dangerous in the country. Approximately 444 serious injuries and 74 fatalities occur each year among people performing work involving electric power generation, transmission and distribution, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Common hazards include falls, electric shock and burns, all of which can lead to serious injury and death.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways utility workers and their employers can create safer working conditions – all the while saving time and money and creating a happier, healthier working environment. Complying with OSHA standards is a good start, but most companies need to go above and beyond those standards to create the safest conditions possible.
Here are a few ways your utility company can empower its workers for managing safety.
Enforce PPE Use
Improper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) is an all-too-common source of injury, especially in this industry. One of the best ways to combat this problem and reduce easily avoidable injuries is to strictly enforce the use of PPE in any and all situations that warrant it. This includes using thick gloves and other shock-resistant gear for electrical work, hard hats whenever falls or falling debris are concerns and harnesses even for short climbs. Workers may be resistant at first to these seemingly cumbersome rules, but years of data make it clear that consistent PPE use prevents injuries and saves lives.
Aside from strictly enforcing the use of PPE, you can guarantee its proper application by standardizing the equipment your workers use. Different brands and models may have different maintenance requirements and methods of use, making them difficult to consistently use and maintain. And, while large PPE purchases may cost quite a bit upfront, standardized equipment will lead to lower costs in the long run: less maintenance, fewer replacements and fewer incidents related to improper use.
Using an auditing software tool that allows employers to keep track of equipment and immediately take action when something is missing or broken makes it much easier to manage your company’s PPE.
Conduct Safety Training
Even if your workforce is full of industry veterans, you can't assume everyone is up to speed on your safety policies and procedures. In addition to mandatory safety training upon employment, keep your workers safe and well prepared with regular safety training classes.
These classes should reinforce what they've already learned, and they should update workers on new hazards and updated safety policies. To efficiently track each worker's training, use a digital training management system instead of paper-based records.
Inspect and Record Job Site Dangers
Falls, cuts and shocks may be common across different job sites, but different locations will still have unique hazards and trouble spots. Perhaps a particular patch of utility poles is older and more subject to splintering and faltering, or the underground cables in a certain area or more likely to be damaged. Whatever the case, help your workers keep an eye out for these dangers by recording each incident and connecting the dots to find problem areas.
You should also keep track of any hazards you identify through audits. Using an audit management software that allows you to assign follow-up actions as you document each hazard will ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Use Digital Incident Reporting
Manually recording injuries can be a nightmare, and tracking paper-based data is time-consuming. To make the process easier for you and your management team – and to ultimately create a safer environment for your workers – use a digital incident reporting and investigation system. With our software suite, you can record incidents as they happen and compile and filter the data to find commonalities as quickly as possible.
Review Job Safety Analyses
Your employees should have easy access to all documents related to the jobs they’re doing, including job safety analyses (JSAs) or job hazard analyses (JHAs). Unfortunately, too many companies complete these documents and them file them away. This isn’t just a waste of time; it’s a disservice to all your employees. Store your JSAs in a place where all workers can quickly recall and review them before performing an unfamiliar job. Take the time to periodically update them to make sure they still reflect the job as it’s done now and align with any new requirements.
Getting your safety paperwork in order is one of the first steps you can take to keep your workers safer under the hazardous conditions that come with working with electricity.
If you haven’t looked at your JSAs in awhile, start there. Check out our free guide, Quick Tips for Managing Your JSAs, for a quick refresher.