FORT WORTH, Texas—It’s easy to lose sight of the golden rule when the rulebook runs 80 pages. That’s what was happening with safety at some Minnesota co-ops, and the statewide knew things had to change.

"Long gone are the days where we followed a rule because the boss said, and we never questioned it," said Lidia Dilley Jacobson, director of safety and loss control at the Minnesota Rural Electric Association.

Today, it's not uncommon to find four generations working side-by-side at co-ops. And the youngsters ask questions.

"You want to rely on them to have input, to speak up, to say something if it's not making sense," Jacobson told a Nov. 17 session at NRECA's Safety Leadership Summit at the Radisson Worthington.

When revamping the rulebook, Jacobson said to start with the one you have.

"Don't throw out the book. It has some value, some meaning. But start to look at it with a different light," she said. Ask honestly if it's making the co-op a safe workplace, and if it's engaging employees.

"Take out those statements that don't mean anything. We had a whole host of them," Jacobson said, citing an example: "Approved railings shall be used to guard stairways and open-sided floors."

"What's 'approved?' " Jacobson asked. "It's making you go look up something else."

Jacobson also suggests seeing what other co-ops and companies are doing with their rulebooks.

MREA finally came up with 24 "Basic Life-Saving Rules." They include rules covering things no one envisioned 75 years ago, such as, "No employee shall use a cell phone while performing hot work."

And what happened to all the other rules in the original 80-plus page manual?

"We put them into something called 'Expected Safe Work Practices,'" Jacobson said.

"What does that mean?" Jacobson asked before answering the question: "I expect you to do the job this way."

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