By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer
The naysayers insisted it couldn’t be done. But when electric cooperatives in South Carolina aimed high in a safety improvement campaign, they proved the doubters wrong.
“75 by 75 for 75” was a yearlong effort to cut loss-time accidents by 75 percent at 75 percent of the state’s co-ops. The other 75 was to honor the number of years those co-ops have provided service.
The program ran April 30, 2013, through May 1, 2014. In the 12 months before it began, the state’s 20 co-ops saw 28 loss-time accidents. While that wasn’t egregious, “It was a number that did cost money. The insurance rates for the co-ops were headed up,” said Mark Quinn, director of member and public relations at The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.
The consensus was that a safety program was called for. It would be “something we were out front, talking about all the time,” Quinn said.
All of South Carolina’s approximately 2,500 co-op employees were involved. While linemen probably come to mind as being most at risk, “Your inside people could slip, fall and have a back injury, or break a leg, an arm, and be out for several days,” said Todd Carter, ECSC vice president of loss control and training.
“Some of the co-ops have not had any accidents in several years,” Carter noted, so the program was customized.
For those co-ops, Carter called it “more of a peer pressure for them” to keep those records intact. At other co-ops, the training focused where it was needed.
“We just aggressively attacked those weak areas,” Carter said, adding that across the board there was “a true buy-in from the CEOs, the boards, right on down to every employee.”
Did it work? Like a charm.
During the yearlong campaign there were seven loss-time accidents—a drop of exactly 75 percent from a year earlier. Quinn called it “a point of pride” for co-ops to prove that the goal so many thought unattainable could be reached.
Even a massive February ice storm couldn’t stop the campaign.
Some co-ops saw the worst destruction in a generation. Yet Quinn said the crews that logged a half-million ice storm work hours were reminded of the safety program with the message, “If we can make it through this, then you know we can make it through anything.”