Electric cooperative workers won't have to look far for safety information thanks to an app that's been developed as part of a new safety initiative.

The S.A.F.E. (Stop And Focus Everyday) App is the first tool in the Commitment to Zero Contacts initiative to be made available. After more than a year of development involving safety and loss professionals from Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange and NRECA, the app is now available for both iPhone and Android.

It is expected to receive broad exposure during NRECA's 2018 Safety Leadership Summit in Atlanta, April 25-27.

"We want to make the job-planning process better," said Corey Parr, vice president of safety and loss prevention at Federated. "We've developed an interactive tool that co-ops and their employees can use to drive the messages that help alter behavior to enhance safety."

The app is designed to highlight risks associated with specific job tasks and offer key solutions to help avoid injuries. For example, before a restoration job, users would answer questions about line voltages and their sources; work zone clearances; the presence of downed lines; and the use of insulated tools or personal protection equipment. Customized briefing questions could also cover hazards, work procedures and precautions.

Users are encouraged to check off each question and their answers are time-stamped and reported to a secure database, where results can be tabulated, reviewed and analyzed to support ongoing improvements. Among the other job types addressed are repairs, maintenance and construction.

According to research conducted by Federated and NRECA, repetitive reinforcement enhances overall focus on specific goals.

"When three specific behavior patterns are common in incidents that lead to injuries, we can ask specific questions multiple times to get people focused on ways to avoid those risks," said Parr. "When they've responded directly to those questions repeatedly, that can really change behavior patterns."

Many younger co-op employees prefer digital technology, and veteran workers are getting increasingly familiar with apps on their phones and other handheld devices. Developers believe that presenting, collecting and analyzing the data with the S.A.F.E. app will allow for faster reactions by the industry.

The information shared is also much more likely to be read and absorbed than if it were presented on paper as just one more item included in a daily work plan.

"This creates opportunities for conversations about safety," said Parr. "If this were just on the back of a staking sheet, people would have the option of just signing it without paying much attention to the content."

"As an industry, electric co-ops are committed to reducing and eliminating the risks posed by contact with energized lines and other co-op equipment," said Bud Branham, NRECA's director of safety programs.

"The S.A.F.E. app will not only enhance safety discussions, but it will help create opportunities for more effective feedback when issues arise that need to be quickly addressed."

Registered users of cooperative.com can get more information on NRECA's Safety Leadership Summit in the conference section of the website.

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