The Commitment to Zero Contacts initiative is a little more than a month old, but electric cooperative leaders are showing strong support of the program's goal to help eliminate serious injuries and fatalities among lineworkers.

More than 180 co-op CEOs in 35 states have signed the initiative's online pledge, as of June 4. A job briefing app developed by Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange also has a healthy response: 400 downloads from co-ops and more than 1,200 registrations for user names and logins from line crews.

John Lee, president and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, took the pledge to set an example for line crews and managers at the Chase City, Virginia, co-op.

"I believe any organization's safety culture and the effectiveness of their safety program will reflect the president and CEO's commitment to safety. Period," said Lee. "They'll only believe in it and be committed to it as much as I am."

Launched at the 2018 NRECA Safety Leadership Summit in late April, the voluntary initiative targets the alarming rate of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) among co-op lineworkers. A nationwide survey of 51,000 co-op employees conducted annually between 2006 and 2015 found an average of more than 23 SIFs each year.

MiEnergy Cooperative, operating in Iowa and Minnesota, tested the initiative's job briefing app for three months before its rollout a few months ago. The app has replaced paper-and-pencil discussions among line and construction crews.

While it took a bit for employees to warm up to the new procedure, they like the app's convenience, said Brad Pecinovsky, the co-op's compliance and training coordinator.

"The app provides an informative, organized job briefing so that everyone knows their duties and hazards to get in the proper mindset for working safely," said Pecinovsky, who helped test the app for Federated.

A Commitment to Zero Contacts initiative toolkit with guidebooks, the CEO safety pledge and other resources is available on cooperative.com.

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