The red Solo Cup has long been an icon of good times.

But at SEMO Electric Cooperative, “the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates, fairs and festivals"—as sung by the late country singer Toby Keith in “Red Solo Cup"—is a symbol for a job well done.

Earlier this year, to observe a year of zero lost-time accidents, CEO/General Manager Sean Vanslyke and the co-op's 65 employees toasted the milestone with—what else?—red Solo Cups filled with non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider.

“I see sports teams on TV celebrating with the cups, and I thought, 'Every year we can go with no accidents, that's a championship,'" said Vanslyke, adding that the Sikeston, Missouri-based co-op went through 19 bottles of sparkling cider.

Vanslyke celebrated with each department, sometimes meeting individually with part-timers.

“It's important to include everyone because everyone at Team SEMO has a hand in safety, whether you're out in the office or in the field. You contribute to that by reminding people about safety or talking about safety," he said.

The genesis of the idea was a contact incident in November 2022 that severely injured a lineworker and shook the co-op, Vanslyke said. When 2023 ended with no lost-time accidents, “it was a way to bring our group back together. As an industry leader, I want to encourage people to celebrate milestones, whether they're small or big." He plans to hold the toast for safety each year.

The gatherings' positive message resounded with everyone at the co-op on several levels, said Angie Byford, senior manager of administration and human resources.

As a parent, “I've learned that it's in the good days that we find joy and motivation and on the bad days, we find strength and resilience. This perspective is vital in the workplace, too," Byford said. “Recognizing our successes boosts morale and reinforces safe practices, while acknowledging and learning from our challenges strengthens our commitment to safety and fosters a supportive environment for everyone."