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MEC’s Culture of Safety

Posted: May 1, 2023
Mark Hayden
Mark Hayden, GM

National Electrical Safety Month

Safety is a word that is often talked about but used loosely by many. A commitment to safety needs to be a priority at every level of an organization, no matter the industry. Unfortunately, when it really counts, proactive measures to keep employees, customers and communities safe are often ignored and safety protocols take a “back seat” in the interest of expedience or convenience.

The Co-op strives to provide its members safe, affordable and reliable electricity. For Missoula Electric Cooperative, safety, especially electrical safety, is our top priority. This commitment to safety spans our employees, Board of Trustees, members, community, state, region and beyond. We take great pride in the culture of safety we have created over the years. MEC’s culture of safety is owned by every one of our board members and employees. Building this culture requires ongoing focus, dedication and vigilance.

Working with electricity is an inherently dangerous job, especially for lineworkers. Not only does the Co-op have strict standards of safety and industry-specific safety practices, but we have a dedicated Operations Specialist whose sole focus is keeping cooperative employees and community members safe. Crews must wear fire-resistant (FR) gear, use specialized equipment and follow meticulous procedures when working with or near electricity.

Additionally, we understand safety is not specific to our operations team. It takes a commitment from all departments. Therefore, our Safety Committee comprises representatives from multiple departments who are like-minded and dedicated to a culture of consistent and never-ending improvements in safety.

Crews are encouraged to speak up and hold one another accountable for safe work practices. This helps us create a culture of openness, transparency, problem-solving and teamwork. We examine accident reports to discern patterns and use safety metrics to improve in areas where we have fallen short. Our safety message doesn’t stop within the walls of the Co-op. MEC is committed to the safety of the communities where we live and work. We routinely host electrical safety demonstrations for students, first responders and local businesses.

Although our focus on safety is a 24/7, 365-day commitment, in May, we celebrate our safety accomplishments in honor of National Electrical Safety Month. In 2022, we saw zero lost time accidents, a significant nod to our team’s dedication to safety. Our Safety Program also received an award from Northwest Public Power Association (NWPPA) for MEC’s dedication to a safe working environment.

According to a 2022 study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, there are approximately 1000 deaths per year due to electrical injuries. Of these, nearly 400 are due to high-voltage electrical injuries. There are also at least 30,000 non-fatal shock incidents per year. Approximately 20% of all electrical injuries occur in children, with the highest instance in toddlers and youth. Many of these accidents are preventable.

A few key things to remember:

1. Prevent electrical equipment from contacting liquids.

2. Childproof all outlets!

3. Always hire a certified electrician to handle electrical projects.

4. Make sure light bulbs are the correct wattage for light fixtures and lamps.

5. Don’t overload your power outlets or pull a plug by the cord.

6. Use UL-certified extension cords that are not broken or frayed. Please don’t use them as a permanent solution.

7. Ensure you have GFCI outlets installed as necessary and they are working correctly.

8. Report downed power lines, unlocked substations or transformers that look amiss.

9. Don’t fly kites or drones around power lines. Similarly, don’t climb trees near power lines.

10. Obey and respect warning signs and substation fencing.

Follow the Co-op on Facebook, where we will be sharing electrical safety tips throughout the month. In addition, if you would like to schedule a safety demonstration for your business, a community event, or a school assembly, please email SeanE@meccoop.com.

In honor of National Electrical Safety Month, I encourage you to do an electrical safety check at your home and/or business and have meaningful discussions with your family. Be mindful, pause and take the extra time to plug into safety this month.