The safety and health of our employees, contractors and the public is our highest priority. We continue to make significant progress; however, we still have work to do to get to Zero.
We take every opportunity to get better at what we do and learn how to work safer. Continually assessing our performance enables prioritization, immediate attention to at-risk behaviors and identification of supporting best practices. During 2019, we continued implementing new technologies, processes and systems to help us better understand our performance. Through these processes, we identified slips, trips, falls and stepped-in-hole injuries, as well as overexertion (strains and sprains), as the most common injuries among employees. We are strengthening our programs around these injury types to encourage hazard recognition and risk mitigation.
The actions we take to keep our employees safe extend to our contractor workforce. We are working with our contractors to ensure that new team members learn the right and wrong way to complete a job and that they understand our commitment to Zero Harm. For example, in addition to contractor training, AEP Ohio’s largest tree-trimming contractor gives green hard hats to all of its entry-level crew members. It is a way for everyone to identify the newest person on a job site and watch out for them. It gives everyone a clear, visible indication of who may need attention and to check and adjust their understanding of safety expectations.
- Standardizing Processes
In 2019, more than 1,800 contractor companies worked over 36 million hours on our behalf. Having a standardized and common set of systems and processes across AEP is foundational to providing our contractors clear and consistent expectations. We aim to have a common onboarding program to provide a common work experience across AEP’s territory so they know what we expect of them.
During 2019, we began implementation of a new systemwide contractor safety data management system, which will centralize contractor safety event information across all of our businesses. This new system houses contractor qualifications and tracks hours worked. When fully implemented in 2020, the system will simplify communication with contractors and serve as a resource and communication center. Users will be able to find AEP’s Supplemental Safety and Health Terms and Conditions, templates and videos. It can also push safety updates to contractors, keeping them informed of the latest safety information and news.
Additionally in 2019, we issued new Supplemental Safety and Health Terms and Conditions for use in all contracts, standardizing this important information across all of AEP. It also makes it easier for contractors to understand AEP’s requirements. We are doing this in collaboration with contractors to ensure understanding and to set clear expectations.
We also recognize the need for different focus areas for AEP employees and our contractor workforce. Our contractors have different needs and, starting in 2020, we are providing clarity on what is expected of our employees and contractors, together and separately, in achieving Zero Harm.
- Identifying & Addressing Hazards
The work we do is challenging, and every job has hazards that require focused attention to prevent harm. Having strategies to identify, understand and control hazards is a fundamental part of our safety culture. Increasingly, we are using the number of CORE visits conducted or Good Catches logged, to identify hazards before injuries occur. By identifying patterns in at-risk behaviors, we are able to better adapt training programs and safety governance processes, further reducing risk.
- CORE Visits
Coaching through Observation, Recognition and Engagement (CORE) is a leadership tool used to assess a variety of activities. The visits connect employees with their leaders in a two-way dialogue to improve engagement and performance. In 2019, leaders documented more than 28,700 CORE visits. We use this information to identify trends and areas for improvement.
In 2019, AEP Texas piloted a standard CORE visit framework that helps improve understanding of how employees in the field can work safer. It identifies both successes and opportunities associated with knowledge gaps and employees’ use of safety controls. Having this information helps employees identify hazards before those hazards turn into events. Starting in 2020, all business units will use this framework to conduct targeted assessments of high-risk activities.
- Good Catch Program
AEP’s Good Catch program encourages proactive sharing of information about unsafe conditions or events that resulted in no harm or damage. Through the program, situations are reported and corrected, and learnings are communicated across the organization. In 2019, employees reported more than 6,500 Good Catches, an increase of 32% compared with 2018. We continue to see the quantity and quality of Good Catches improve. Beginning in 2020, we are capturing more Good Catches for the most common injury types – slips, trips, falls, stepped-in-hole and overexertion (strains and sprains). We are also capturing the number of times a job is stopped to encourage crew members to ask questions when unsure or something seems unsafe.
- Preventing Overexertion
Approximately 30% of employee DART (Days Away, Restricted or Job Transfer) injuries are caused by overexertion. To reduce these types of injuries, we developed four key recommendations for prevention: improve lifting and weight awareness; create instructional videos on how to provide feedback about safety issues; incorporate ergonomics into tool selection criteria; and develop role-specific stretching and flexibility plans for employees.
For example, we are adding labels on materials and equipment to indicate their weight and provide the appropriate lifting strategy to avoid injury. We continuously seek opportunities to reduce exposure to overexertion injuries. In 2020, we will deploy a micro-learning course to help employees make better decisions about what materials they lift and how they should lift materials. Employees will learn about ergonomics, lifting techniques and risk factors. The lessons build on each other and provide opportunities for interaction.
- Sharing Information
Sharing lessons learned from injuries and Good Catches helps our employees work safer. It creates awareness about potential risks and actions that can prevent injuries and enables us to make better decisions about how we do our work. To be effective in communicating important safety and health information, we must have the proper tools, analytics and communication channels in place.
To maintain our focus on safety and health throughout the year, we communicate key safety events, Good Catches and policy updates across AEP. These include safety alerts, web-based tools such as a safety and health dashboard, a private Facebook page and a safety and health video channel.
- Data Analytics
Data analytics provides us with insight into patterns and trends so that we can identify underlying causes of common safety and health events. Analytics can also help improve our prevention efforts. One example of this is the installation of in-cab camera technology across our entire fleet. This technology has been installed in more than 6,900 vehicles to-date.
Driving is a critical task for many people at AEP. Our employees collectively drove more than 95 million miles behind the wheel for work in 2019. Telematics equipment monitors speed, idling, braking, driving, seat belt use and other vehicle data. The information gathered helps us learn about how we drive and identify risky driving behaviors. Our drivers’ skills are improving through publishing tailored safe driving best practices and providing guidance to supervisors on a monthly basis so they can have safe driving conversations with their teams. This is an example of where we are using information to improve behaviors.