Rural Missouri - February 2018 - 10

Above left: Safety trumps speed as a crew from Three Rivers Electric Cooperative in Linn restores power following a winter storm. Top right: AMEC's Craig Moeller teaches a portion of the transformer and meter
school at the association's headquarters in Jefferson City. Right: Lineworkers listen to instruction during an underground school at AMEC. More than 1,000 co-op employees are trained annually by the association.

Cooperatives work in unison to make sure everyone gets home safe

by Paul Newton |


he temperature dipped below freezing long ago and the power lines are
coated with ice. Missouri's cooperative lineworkers are on the job restoring power to their members. While the harsh conditions can prove challenging to their task, these lineworkers have been trained by programs
ingrained in a culture of safety.
For decades, Missouri's generation, transmission and distribution cooperatives have worked in conjunction with co-op members, vendors and the Risk
Management and Training Department of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives to ensure your power is delivered in the safest way possible.
Through innovative training, outreach and community involvement, Missouri's
electric cooperatives make safety a top priority.
AMEC Executive Vice President/CEO Barry Hart says safety on every level
of the power grid is the top priority in 2018. "We want these co-ops to be safe
places to work and visit for everyone," he says.
AMEC organizes schools, conferences and training to help cooperative
employees - both those who work inside and outside of their respective offices
- at its Jefferson City headquarters as well as locations throughout the state.
Rob Land, vice president of risk management and training, oversees the
department's safety efforts. "We have a lot of different training and our objective
is to return every co-op employee to their wives, husbands and children every
day," he says. "Giving them every skill and piece of knowledge they would need
to do this is our goal. We have some of the best instructors in the country who
work hard delivering this goal."
Lineworkers get the bulk of the training provided by the department, as
their jobs can be both the most physically demanding and dangerous. Offerings range from a climbing certification and lineworker fundamentals class to
an advanced lineworker school to an apprentice program that requires fourplus years of work. Overhead and aerial basket, multiple meter, maintenance,
underground and hydraulic operation are just a few of the other schools available to those co-op employees who work in the harshest conditions.
"The electric industry can be very unforgiving without following the correct
procedures," says James Ashworth, CEO of Southwest Electric Cooperative in
Bolivar. "Safety is just an area that has to be first and foremost at the co-op.
From the apprentice lineman to my position to the boardroom, it's important
for everybody."
The department covers safety in all aspects of delivering electricity. Testing
crews travel across the state from co-op to co-op making sure everything from
personal protection grounds to bucket trucks are in safe working order. Rob
Gerling, assistant director of testing services, says testing and preventative
maintenance are a way to keep all employees and members safe.
"A lot of these tools are used on a daily basis. They are really common," he
says. "We need to not only keep them working properly, but actively find items



that aren't. It's not about the 10,000 things we test that are working correctly.
It's about those one or two bad ones we find. That's how we prevent accidents."
This past September, the department hosted the inaugural AMEC Lineman's
Rodeo which pitted both teams and individuals from Missouri's electric cooperatives against each other to see who could come away with the top spot.
Safety is the objective in the competitions that simulate required handson and communication skills lineworkers use daily. Speed wasn't the goal.
Instead, points were deducted for not completing the tasks exactly right.
Craig Moeller, director of risk management and training, says it was a success raising more than $26,000 for Missouri International programs. More
importantly, it brought Missouri cooperative lineman together to compete doing
routine activities, with the concentration on safety. "It gave these linemen an
opportunity to network with their peers from around the state and showcase
their knowledge, skills and abilities in a competitive but safe environment,"
he says. "The concentration of the rodeo was on safety first and speed second
ensuring they focused on doing the events the right way."
A recent addition to the bevy of programs offered to cooperative staff in Missouri is Speak-Up/Listen-Up. The training applies to all cooperative employees,
regardless of title, and empowers them to be involved, engaged and voice their
concerns whenever they see or hear an unsafe act about to happen.
"The program also encourages all employees to be better listeners when safety issues are brought up," says Allan Branstetter, director of risk management
and training. "It demonstrates that when everyone is held accountable to speak
up and listen up when a situation arises the outcome is beneficial to all."
Other classes focus on the well-being of all employees including safe use
of fire extinguishers, slips, trips and falls and a distracted driver simulator.
In total, AMEC provides each of its 46 members with six on-site safety meetings annually. Each is a minimum of four hours and topics range from OSHAmandated topics to general training. Additionally, each year at least 26 schools,
labs, conferences and seminars are held for more than 1,000 participants.
This is in addition to the department managing the mutual aid during widespread outages caused by disasters.
Following an electrical contact that resulted in the death of an employee in
1997, Fulton-based Callaway Electric Cooperative invested its resources into
a proactive safety program rooted in respect, expectations, accountability and
shared responsibility. Tom Howard, CEO/general manager, and Clint Smith,
assistant manager, gave an impassioned presentation on safety to a room full
of cooperative leaders at the 2017 AMEC Annual Meeting in Branson. "When
you put a face on safety, it begins to change the way you look at all of the questions," Tom shared. "It's about sending your employees home safe every day."
Barry points to the standing ovation that presentation received as a reason
to re-double the association's safety efforts. "We have a willing audience that
wants to work safely," he says. "It's our job to provide a road map on how to
do that."


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2018

Rural Missouri - February 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - February 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - February 2018 - Contents
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