National Electrical Safety Month

By Jenna Hirsch, CREA Director of Safety

“Safety” is a universal word that is mentioned often but used loosely. Communities large and small, as well as companies across all industries say they are committed to safety.

Over the past couple of decades, safety measures have increased exponentially in the NFL, and those efforts have trickled down to youth football leagues. But how many times have we seen players, coaches and trainers bend the rules, even just a little bit? And fans get annoyed when a tackle we see on television doesn’t seem “that bad,” but the player is pulled from the field, and it affects the outcome of the game.

Often, when it really counts, steps to keep the public, workers, athletes and loved ones safe are ignored in the interest of expediency, convenience or a scoreboard.

Safety is more than just a catchphrase. It is a serious issue. And for Colorado’s electric co-ops, it is paramount.

Over time, each co-op across the state has created a culture of safety by putting its employees’ safety and the wellbeing of the community above all else. Your co-op has a core mission to provide affordable, reliable and safe electricity. And your co-op wants its staff and crews to return home to their loved ones at the end of the day. This requires ongoing focus, dedication and vigilance.

May is National Electrical Safety Month and with this comes an increased effort to educate consumer-members about how to use electricity safely. It also is a great time to highlight your local electric co-op’s overall commitment to safety.

The Colorado Rural Electric Association, the statewide organization representing electric co-ops, has a safety department that focuses on training and educating co-op employees on safe workplace practices.

I oversee three job training and safety instructors who are each assigned a group of co-ops — they’ve got the whole state covered. The team also has an assistant who helps administer the programs we facilitate. CREA’s safety team offers a great deal of experience, knowledge and dedication and is available to assist your local co-op with any safety issues that come up in its day-to-day operations.

CREA provides training and services based on regulations and leading national safety best practices for the utility industry. Facilitating and participating in the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program is a prime example of this.

RESAP is a national safety program established by NRECA. The program was developed to strengthen leadership engagement, create a continuous safety improvement process, promote employee involvement and help co-ops to reduce injuries over time.

RESAP helps your electric co-op evaluate its safety program and develop safety improvement plans to make sure it is living up to its mission to keep everyone safe.

A team lead from CREA’s safety department and three to five volunteers from other Colorado electric co-ops visit your co-op every three years to perform an onsite observation. The team uses a comprehensive checklist to assess your local co-op’s adherence to safety criteria, with each section rated by the evaluation team over a three-day observation period.

RESAP criteria covers 21 sections — it is rigorous and thorough. Among many other things, your co-op is assessed on warehouse and storage safety, hazardous materials, administration and office areas, company vehicles, personal protective equipment, arc-rated clothing, fall protection, substations and bucket trucks.

The team also conducts visits with crews in the field and interviews employees on safety practices. At the end of the evaluation, the team lead presents the findings to your co-op’s general manager, operations manager and line superintendent.

I applaud all 21 of CREA’s member co-ops for participating in RESAP observations and opening their doors to feedback and improvements. Your local electric co-op takes safety seriously everywhere they work — in the field, at its headquarters building and beyond.

Your co-op’s participation in RESAP observations shows it is committed to safety from all angles. Be assured that your co-op also looks outside of its own four walls to keep you and your community safe around electricity.

Whether shutting and locking the gate to a substation facility, trimming trees that are growing into power lines, or closing a pad mount transformer after maintenance, your co-op has your safety at the forefront across all aspects of its work.

I encourage you to connect with your local electric co-op to learn more about electrical safety — it may even have resources available to educate you, your family and your community on both the obvious and hidden dangers of electricity.

Together, we can work together to keep everyone safe.

Jenna Hirsch is the Director of Safety and Loss Control at CREA, the statewide trade association that represents your electric co-op. She has an extensive background in safety, including training, incident investigation and management; regulatory standard interpretation and program implementation; and performing safety audits and risk assessments.