Employees tend to recoil at the thought of an extra work meeting. But for line crews at Ohio electric cooperatives, the debut of a new weekly briefing is having the opposite effect.

The Stop And Focus Everyday (S.A.F.E) Talks at most of Ohio's 24 co-ops are an addition to daily crew briefings. They last around 10 minutes and focus on a specific safety incident—anything from a near-miss to a fatality—and include a summary, background information, and discussion starters.

"The guys are loving these," says Dwight Miller, director of safety training and loss prevention at Ohio's Electric Cooperatives (statewide) in Columbus. "I had been looking for an effective way to more consistently communicate with co-op management about critical, sometimes sensitive safety issues. This tool offers the perfect solution."

Miller created the S.A.F.E. Talks program after his statewide's CEO, Patrick O'Loughlin, signed on to NRECA's Commitment to Zero Contacts initiative in mid-2018.

Commitment to Zero Contacts was launched in April 2018 to combat an 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.

As of early December, 481 CEOs in 42 states had taken the initiative's simple online pledge, in which the CEO declares he or she will work to eliminate line contact incidents. A job-site safety briefing app developed for the program by Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange had gotten a similarly strong response: about 3,150 downloads from co-ops and 2,658 registrations for usernames and logins from line crews.

Other program resources include guides on implementing the initiative in the workplace and a Federated-produced video to promote discussion among supervisors and crews on clearance procedures for downed lines.

Program organizers hope to see 100 percent of the 900-plus co-op leaders sign the Commitment to Zero Contacts pledge.

"But we don't want CEOs to just make the commitment a quick check-off and go back to business as usual," says Bud Branham, NRECA's director of safety programs. "We would rather CEOs and general managers take their time, review the concepts and materials, and thoughtfully involve their people in a planned approach to strengthen their current practices."

Read more about the Commitment to Zero Contacts intiative.

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