This month's question: As a co-op leader, what is one way you try to motivate safe behavior in your employees' daily work?

Answer: Safety is about taking care of people and people taking care of one another. People matter—always. This is something that we communicate early and often at Petit Jean Electric. Safe work practices and our culture of safety are things that everyone can rally around. One of the ways we try to motivate safe work behaviors in our employees’ daily work at Petit Jean is by starting each and every workday with a stretching routine and a morning brief. We take this opportunity to get our bodies ready for the rigors of the workday and also to communicate how important each of us are to our members, our families and our friends. Safety is not just about “safety rules.” It’s about awareness, commitment and accountability. We work hard to give our employees a voice and let them demonstrate their understanding, skills and knowledge of safe work practices. It is an ongoing conversation that allows everyone to be present and focused on the tasks at hand so that everyone has the opportunity to elevate their skill sets and develop safe work habits that can be passed down from generation to generation. At Petit Jean, we believe that the morning “safety stretch” keeps the safety conversation going and ultimately improves the quality of our work life. It is all-inclusive and allows all employees from every department to be involved and demonstrate their ability to be safe, professional and accountable for their safe work behaviors.

Answer: The driving force behind Trico’s safety culture is our Employee Safety Committee. Earlier this year, the committee was empowered to redesign its charter, set its mission and determine how it can most effectively engage with the employee group to prioritize and inspire safety. This redesign process was a cooperative-wide strategic priority. The committee is composed of 10 voting members—five named by Trico management and five by IBEW Local 1116—who meet at least once a month. The committee chair rotates each year to encourage a variety of employees to take a leadership role. The current members of the committee include linemen, office staff, IT staff, meter technicians, operations supervisors and our safety director. Participation from a diverse group is part of the design, and it helps facilitate the spread of information about safety and safety initiatives throughout Trico. Safe behavior is a choice that employees must embrace, and when employees are part of the process, they take ownership and take it to heart that safety matters. While support for a strong safety culture must start with co-op leadership, day-to-day safe behavior is the result of a safety culture that is constantly encouraging employees to think about risks and how to manage or avoid them. We strive for this by encouraging employees to take ownership of safety for themselves and their fellow employees.

Answer: At EKPC, we begin establishing our safety culture the first time we meet each new employee at their orientation session. EKPC continues building that awareness and culture with routine safety observations and conversations by supervisors, managers, directors and executive staff. We begin each meeting at EKPC with a safety moment and keep employees focused on safety with events such as our annual safety week and family safety fair. With more than 700 employees and numerous locations, it is difficult to visit each person on a regular basis. One simple, effective step EKPC has taken is providing a safety coin to every employee. The coins are emblazoned with EKPC’s safety slogan, “Safety is the Reason I Go Home Tonight.” It’s a constant physical reminder that each of us has loved ones who expect us to return home safely every day. We encourage employees to carry these coins. As I travel around EKPC, I ask employees if they are carrying their coin. If they have it with them, I thank them and sometimes buy lunch that day as a token of EKPC’s appreciation of their dedication to safety. There is no silver bullet for safety motivation. It takes hard work and dedication by everyone. Safety is a learned habit that must be discussed continuously, and leaders must be vocal champions of safety. If not, old and unsafe habits will creep back into the organization.

Answer: I believe the best way to motivate and encourage safe behavior within our co-op is creating a culture where safety is the highest priority. This culture encourages employees to take ownership and demands safe work practices from one another. We have an environment where every employee is empowered and encouraged to question work practices in relation to safety. For example, they have the authority to shut down a job because of safety concerns. Every employee has the latitude to make important decisions within our daily work lives; however, safety is non-negotiable. Creating this culture has not happened overnight. It has required continual work and investment from the co-op. Working safe, not taking shortcuts, and looking out for one another is expected and understood within our organization. In the past five years, we have seen a large turnover with the retirements of tenured employees. Although this might have been an opportunity for safety to relax, quite the opposite has occurred. The new leaders have continued to expand and improve our safety culture. They have questioned old practices, looked at problems through different lenses and improved the way we do things. As the manager, my mission is to support and promote a culture where every employee goes home safe to their family every night—but it is the buy-in and execution from our employees that makes this possible.