Co-ops celebrate safety goals

Columbia-The state's electric cooperatives are celebrating the completion of an ambitious, year-long safety plan that drastically reduced the number of employee loss-time accidents.
Loss time accidents are defined as a work-related injury that hinders an employee from carrying out any duties the day after an accident. In the past 12 months, loss-time accidents involving co-op workers decreased by 75 percent, successfully reaching the program's goal.
"This was one of the most aggressive safety campaigns in the country," said Mike Couick, president and CEO of The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. "Some of my colleagues thought the goal was unreasonable. But we believed unprecedented action was necessary to create a true culture of safety, and I think we're doing that."
The safety initiative, officially named 75 by 75 for 75, can best be described as:
A 75 percent reduction in loss-time accidents
At 75 percent of the state's electric cooperatives
To honor the 75 years co-ops have provided service to residents in South Carolina
"Reducing the number of accidents by this magnitude tells us something important: co-op employees in this state committed themselves to this program 100 percent," said Todd Carter, vice president of loss, control and training at The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. Carter was instrumental in implementing and managing the program. "There's no way we would have reached this goal unless every co-op made safety its top priority. This was a total team effort across the state." The state's twenty electric cooperatives employ more than 2,000 people and distribute electric service in all 46 counties.
In the year preceding the 75 by 75 for 75 program, there were 28 loss-time accidents involving cooperative employees. Since the start of the initiative on April 30, 2013, the number of loss-time accidents statewide stands at seven.
"When there is a concerted focus on a safety priority, the culture changes as the commitment of the employees changes," says Mike Bird, vice president of safety and loss prevention for Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, the leading provider of property and casualty insurance for electric cooperatives in 42 states. "Congratulations to the electric cooperatives in South Carolina for their commitment. The results suggest fewer injuries and that directly correlates to more employees going home uninjured daily."
Prospects for a successful 75 by 75 for 75 campaign faced a serious obstacle in February. Winter Storm Pax coated portions of the state in thick ice, crippling a number of co-op power systems. Some service areas endured historic damage, more than the destruction caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
In the immediate aftermath of Winter Storm Pax, South Carolina co-op crews logged more than 500,000 work-hours restoring power to their members-often working in dangerous conditions that pose serious safety risks. Another 300,000 work-hours were logged by out-of-state crews.