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Safety— everyone’s business, By Loren Howard

Who doesn’t talk about safety? Everyone has a role to play in making the world we live in a safe place. In the Valley, almost everyone thinks about fire safety – making our homes and communities as fire safe as possible within our capabilities. The electric utility industry is no exception and has an inordinately large task of keeping employees safe. Certainly, linemen have a particular responsibility to work safe.
REC spends significant time and money to provide a safe environment for all employees. First, I want to focus on the line crew. Linemen are always working on and around a potentially dangerous environment – live electricity, usually 7,200 volts. It takes special training, equipment and personal safety gear to make the workspace of a lineman safe. Understanding concepts like “minimum approach distance” and “step potential” are examples of specialized training and education required for our crews working on power lines and in substations. These employees have unique personal gear like rubber gloves, rubber sleeves and line coverup that they need and use when work requires being close to energized lines.
All REC employees participate in regular— and in some cases, extensive— first aid training and CPR. Employees in the field may also be required to complete avalanche training, field rescue techniques and traffic control procedures in order to make their work adequately safe.
In addition to some of the more obvious safety training required at REC, employees regularly engage in evacuation training, hazardous material handling and spill response procedures. In recent years, given the world we live in, training on active shooter response and incident command procedures used during forest fires are now conducted regularly.
So, how can members assist in keeping all REC employees safe? When our crews are working out in public areas, it might be tempting to stop and see what they are doing, but that distracts a lineman and can pull their attention away from the work. At night, during storms and other challenging environmental conditions, please let crews and employees focus on their work. We are all appreciative when power is restored, but it is safer to write a note and mail it into the office, thanking the crew for their work.
Electricity makes our lives easier by doing lots of work for us. Making it safe to use is pretty easy for most users – just pay attention when using it. Keep outlets covered when small children are around; don’t overload outlets and circuits by plugging in multiple devices; replace frayed extension cords, and if an appliance has a bad cord, get it replaced by a qualified electrician or destroy it.
Let’s all keep electricity in its place and let it work for us.

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