Serious About Safety
Lamar Elliott is line foreman on a four-man crew working out of Murphy, N.C. His crew was helping a contractor on a line reroute, prior to a conversion from a 69-kilovolt to 161-kV system. As the sun went down, some wanted to finish the job.
“There was a mixture of rain and snow,” says Elliott. “They wanted to get the line up, and that was fine. But safety regulations call for adequate lighting, and they had only handheld flashlights. We didn’t have enough light to proceed, so I said, ‘Let’s stop now. If we continue, we will be endangering people and endangering property.’ I called [Transmission Services Manager] Ronnie Vinson. He said, ‘If it’s not safe, shut it down. I’ll back you up.’
“We went to the house. There were some unhappy people, but we did the right thing.”
Doing the right thing is at the heart of TVA’s renewed commitment to fostering and maintaining a safety culture.
“You sometimes hear that safety is a priority,” says Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum, “but priorities can change. We are challenging all employees to make safety a core value in the workplace and in our personal lives.”
A key message in TVA’s safety culture is that if employees see or suspect an unsafe situation, they should say, “Stop!” and make sure any unsafe conditions are fixed. Employees will be supported by supervisors and managers at all levels, says McCollum.
Chester Smith, a labor steward at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, and the Watts Bar Trilateral Safety Alliance, created an “intervention model” that is being rolled out across TVA to help people know when to say “stop.” The model builds on two key safety responsibilities – 1) own your safety and 2) intervene if you see an unsafe act or condition. (See poster on next page).
The renewed focus on safety includes initiatives across the TVA system. The Valley Tour & Steak Out meetings are reinforcing the safety focus in Power System Operations. The Quick Start initiatives are identifying immediate safety-improvement opportunities at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant and the Power Service Shops.
These efforts and others support the No. 1 goal of workplace safety, says Chief Administrative Officer and Designated Agency Safety & Health Official John Long: “It is important to everyone that each of us returns home safely to our family and loved ones at the end of each work day.”
TVA has strong partners for safety through the Tri-Lateral Safety Alliance, a joint effort by TVA, the Tennessee Valley Trades & Labor Council and TVA’s partner contractors.
A safety program is not a one-person program,” says Lamar Elliott. “Everybody needs to be looking and policing behind you, in case you overlook something. You can write all the rules you want but we all have to follow them.
“It’s up to us in the field to make this work. It’s up to us to say, ‘Let’s back up here and look at this.’ ”
When and How to INTERVENE
How to decide whether to intervene and stop work due to what is—or what you think could be—an unsafe act or condition
Things to think through
- Recognize that everyoneon the site is aware of the responsibility to intervene when unsafe acts or conditions are observed. They will know where you’re coming from.
- Believe you can make a difference, and have the courage to challenge things you believe to be unsafe.
- Don’t assume that people—even experienced people—always do things safely.
- What is the worst thing that could happen? Could you live with your decision not to intervene if someone was injured or killed? Think about what your family, friends, co-workers, and their families would think if you didn’t step in when you had the chance to keep someone from getting hurt, or worse.
- Rely on gut instinct. Trust your intuition; it is usually right.
- Work we perform can result in injury or death. You don’t have to know it’s unsafe, just have a feeling it could beunsafe.
How to intervene
1. Introduce yourself.
2. Remind the person(s) that everyone is responsible for questioning acts or conditions that could be unsafe.
3. Explain your concern:
- What you think looks wrong
- What you think could go wrong.
4. Ask if it could be done more safely. If you get a response such as, “I’ve done it this way hundreds of times without getting hurt,” you should feel confident that you are right to challenge the work.
5. Discuss the situation and try to reach agreement on a safer way to do it.
6. If you cannot agree, let the person(s) know you feel obligated for their safety andfeel you should express your concern to their supervisor/management/ job steward. The work should be stopped until a decision is made by management.