ATLANTA—Here's something you don't find in a typical lineworker safety manual: "I will consider family before I engage in risk."

In addition to rules on personal protective equipment, grounding and other safe work practices, some co-ops are adding a personal element to safety reminders. These programs, several of which were featured at the 2018 NRECA Safety Leadership Summit, encourage personal accountability to influence compliance.

They avoid a "bad cop" approach and instead nudge employees toward "making that right decision when the supervisor isn't there, when no one is looking," said Farris Leonard, manager of job training and safety field services at the North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives in Raleigh.

"If these campaigns help our employees slow down that one extra second, then it's well worth the effort to ensure that everyone goes home safe at the end of the day," said Brad Kimbro, COO at Wiregrass Electric Cooperative in Hartford, Alabama.

The 'I Will' Program

Leonard was part of a safety team at the North Carolina statewide association that created the "I Will" safety challenge. The program began in 2016 to counter an increase in serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) that year among co-ops, he said.

"I Will" employees agree to keep eight personal safety promises, each appealing to individual accountability.

"We wanted to touch the heart of individuals, and we knew those heartstrings were going to be what worked for us and get at things not in the safety manual," said Chris Walker, a safety specialist at the North Carolina statewide association.

The safety team introduced "I Will" to all 26 member co-ops in the first half of 2016—rolling out a promise about every three weeks before a final "safety stand-down" in June.

"I Will" has a homespun feel to encourage employee buy-in, said Leonard. "We used our employees from across the state in each of the videos saying, 'I will.' If you come in with a slick program, [employees] will say it's another flavor of the month."

The personal approach has helped the job training and safety team "create personal relationships with the individual and present the most important aspect of safety…we care," said Leonard.

'This is Why' and 'Always and Never' Campaigns

Lineworkers make a public commitment to safety in two campaigns at Wiregrass Electric Cooperative.

"We wanted a campaign that showed why safety is at the core of everything we do," said Kimbro.

In 2015, the co-op's safety committee—a group of employees from different departments—created "This is Why," a multimedia campaign with images of lineworkers and their families splashed across banners, videos and a calendar.

A photo of your spouse holding a newborn baby is a powerful reminder to think twice before taking a shortcut on the job, said Johnny Hudson, a crew leader and safety committee member.

"When you walk out of the door and get in your truck at the beginning of the day, you see these signs," said Hudson. "It's the last thing you see before you go to work—you and your family sitting right there looking at you."

Families also are prominent in a follow-up safety campaign, "Always and Never," highlighting 10 simple safety rules.

Both campaigns have improved the co-op's safety culture, said Kimbro, adding that lost-time accidents and worker comp claims have gone down.

"But I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, our employees' attitude about our safety culture is so much better since we implemented our safety campaigns and renewed our safety focus."

Additional coverage of the 2018 Safety Leadership Summit:
Commitment to Zero Contacts Initiative Targets Lineworker Injuries and Fatalities