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Video: At OPPD, safety goes beyond power lines

May 24, 2018 | Laura King-Homan | OPPD employees, safety
safety

While some OPPD employees work around dangerous equipment on a daily basis, others may be giving a presentation on a new transmission line in a conference room.

But there is one thing all of these employees will do before they begin these tasks: have a safety briefing.

first thing’s first
safety
Dan Laskowsky, manager of Enterprise Risk at OPPD, conducts a safety briefing at the utility’s Energy Plaza headquarters in downtown Omaha. Credit: Andrew Roger/OPPD

Depending on their location, a safety briefing can be different things for different employees. It can be the location of the AED and fire extinguisher, or it’s the potentially dangerous work awaiting them at a work site. No matter what form it takes, the focus on safety is a pillar of working at OPPD.

The mission of OPPD’s Safety department is that “safety matters” at work, at home and on the road for all employees, said Kevin McCormick, director of Safety and Technical Training.

To accomplish that goal, McCormick said it’s important to give employees the right tools and mindset to safely do their jobs. The Safety team works with OPPD’s 10 apprenticeship programs to ensure safety is intertwined throughout the programs.

“It’s about starting people off in their careers right,” he said. “There is general safety training for all new hires, so they spend time with us fairly quickly. It lets them know OPPD is serious about safety and points out many of the hazards.”

all or nothing

All employees have to take safety seriously, especially those whose work includes any of the life-saving rules. For them, having a safety mindset can be the difference between life and death.

safety
An OPPD crew at the Papillion Service Center conduct a pre-job briefing before arriving at the job site. Credit: Joe Comstock/OPPD

The OPPD crews who work in the field or the plants have an extra layer of safety that starts before they get to their job site. They start with a pre-job briefing, which discusses the conditions and tasks before they get to the location.

Then, once they arrive, they survey the area to see if anything is different than the pre-job brief, paying special attention to hazards. At OPPD, this is called a two-minute drill. If a situation is especially different, the crew will get their supervisor involved.

a change in perception

The safety culture has definitely changed over the last 10 years since the Safety and Technical Training division was created. Instance reporting is up and employees are also reporting “good catches” of hazards that could have led to injuries or equipment damage if not caught early.

“That’s really about trust,” McCormick said. “Trust that management will use that information to do something and not use it against them.”

The good catch program began in October 2017 and the number of catches reported has doubled in that time, he said.

Members of OPPD management are also getting a first-hand look at employees working in the field during safety observations. These activities give senior management a better idea of the work being done and a sense of how well employees are following expectations.

safety
OPPD employees at the downtown headquarters discuss a safety communication distributed to all employees. Credit: Andrew Roger/OPPD

But being safe also applies to employees working in office settings. For those employees, precautions like the pre-meeting safety briefings and 360 walk-arounds of fleet vehicles are important.

The pre-meeting briefings are so employees keep information like the fire extinguisher location, emergency exits and active shooter measures top-of-mind.

“It allows you to have a plan if something happens,” McCormick said. “Human nature is to freeze, so you want some qualified people so you have half a chance someone will react.”

McCormick added that the safety culture of OPPD is in line with the utility’s core values.

“We truly care about our employees. We want them to go home the same way they came and maybe learn tricks they can bring home with them so they don’t get hurt around the house, either.”

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About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the managing editor of The Wire and a communications specialist at the Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

View all posts by Laura King-Homan >

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