Insights > From hot sticks to hard hats: Utility safety has evolved and improved

From hot sticks to hard hats: Utility safety has evolved and improved


The members of this 1970 Indianola crew demonstrate a strong commitment to safety by all wearing hard hats, which were adopted as essential gear for line workers in 1961.
The members of this 1970 Indianola crew demonstrate a strong commitment to safety by all wearing hard hats, which were adopted as essential gear for line workers in 1961.

Some 16 short years after being chartered, Mississippi Power & Light won second place in the utility division safety awards at the National Safety Congress in Atlantic City, N.J.

That 1939 win was an accomplishment in an industry where safety standards were far from cohesive. In fact, it would be 31 more years before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created, and another nine before the Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces was released.

But that doesn’t mean employees weren’t focused on safety along the way. In 1961, for example, MP&L adopted hard hats as essential gear for line workers, which was just one of many improvements in personal protective equipment over the years that demonstrates that safety is a core value for the company. 

And in 2006, shortly after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated much of Entergy’s four-state service area, Mississippi operations and communications staff came up with a campaign that broke safety down to its most basic element — the human one.

Darryl Daves, retired senior manager of both distribution operations and utility safety, said that campaign, called Safety: Remember the Reasons, was hatched during a brainstorming session in conference room 2 at Entergy Mississippi’s Tombigbee Street location.

Stressing the importance of going home safely each and every day to family, friends and loved ones, it resonated with employees and quickly picked up steam not only around Mississippi, but around the rest of utility operations, nuclear operations and power generation. 

Remembering the reasons resonates with team

“In all my years at Entergy, I would say that Safety: Remember the Reasons was the best program we ever had because it was all-inclusive,” said Daves. “From the lineman who liked to fish with his dad to the engineer who coached little league, from the apprentice who had just joined the company to the employee who had been here for 30 years, everyone jumped at the opportunity to share their reasons for working safely.”

Daves added that the campaign helped the company turn a corner in impressing upon all employees the value and importance of keeping safety as the top priority for the people and activities they cherished most. Bolstered by a special logo and anchored by employee stories, it included posters, stickers, photo frames, calendars, hats and other items employees could use on a daily basis.

“I would say that Safety: Remember the Reasons set Mississippi and the rest of Entergy up for a safer future,” said Daves. “It breathed new life into previous efforts, helped change the mindset from reactive to proactive and was a hit from the break room to the boardroom.”

Current Entergy Mississippi safety team member Larry Smith agrees. Having been with the company since 2000, he saw first-hand the positive impact the campaign had on his co-workers and the groundwork it laid for today.

“Even if we no longer use the Safety: Remember the Reasons campaign name, there still is nothing more important to our employees than going home at the end of each day the same way they came to work that morning,” said Smith. “The personal nature of working safely still strikes home and is the driving force behind staying focused and following procedures.”

Living safe begins with training

Today, the motto “Live Safe: All Day, Every Day,” embodies safety as a core value and reminds employees to give safety unwavering attention on and off the job. The company is also giving employees the tools and training necessary for them to put this motto into practice.

Entergy is investing in workforce safety through its high-tech training facility right here in the Magnolia State. Not only designed to prepare new Mississippi line workers, the Center of Excellence in Clinton is used to train those from locations around Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas as well. 

This goes hand-in-hand with a new safety manual Smith said the company recently rolled out with great success. And in the 23 years he’s been here, he said the Mississippi safety team has gone from having just one safety specialist to five plus a supervisor. This growth is crucial to hazard mitigation and accident prevention.

“With the input of both craft employees and management, we rewrote the safety manual to make it more user-friendly than the previous one had been,” said Smith. “This version is downloadable and searchable, and employees have easy access to it on their tablets. We’ve gotten good feedback from crews so far, and they especially like the way potential scenarios are listed with corresponding guidance.”

Smith said the current safety program is centered around Quanta’s The Capacity Model™ that “aims to eliminate life-threatening, life-altering and life-ending events by focusing on human performance and building the capacity to fail safely.” Entergy partners with Quanta through Northwest Lineman College.

Preparation is prevention

Further, Smith said that crews focus on STKY — otherwise known as stuff that kills you — and by using a hazard-identification tool known as the Energy Wheel, they can incorporate the capacity for failure into their work. 

“For many years, our industry has been touting the idea of Target Zero accidents that, in a perfect world, would be ideal,” Smith continued. “But humans are fallible and Target Zero is never completely attainable. By using STKY and the Energy Wheel, crews can now examine all facets of a situation and prepare for the event that something may go wrong. By acknowledging that incidents will happen, they can discuss in advance ways to ensure that nobody is injured or killed.”

Smith said Mississippi is one of the first Entergy operating companies to begin using this model. Allowing for deeper conversations and more effective coaching surrounding jobs, he said it has really clicked with crews and enhanced communication across the board.

“We’ve noticed that learning has improved and teams have gotten stronger,” added Smith. “By building upon our personal reasons for working safely and adding ways to successfully overcome failures, we’re better able to adapt to ever-changing circumstances while still meeting the needs of our customers.”

Mississippi Editorial Team