While line contractors can and should focus on making a decent profit, it only takes one incident to take that all away, according to industry veteran Mack Turner. If a contractor expects their team to work in a manner that prevents injuries, then they succeed.
Turner is the executive director of the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction (ISPC), Alexandria, La., a nonprofit focusing on safety in the utility industry. He works across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Turner’s career spans more than 25 years in the electric, gas and communications utility industry. He has specialized in the safety, risk and leadership disciplines and is focused on positive culture change. His experience includes corporate safety, field safety and fleet management, as well as electrical utility craft training, leadership development and soft skills, behavioral-based safety training and consulting. He is also a professional public speaker, including keynote addresses.
Turner is a Certified Utility Safety Professional and Certified Utility Safety Administrator, and he holds advanced safety certificates from the National Safety Council and various safety certificates from Red Rocks Community College. Turner was awarded the John McRae Safety Leadership Award for 2019.
What is the ISPC and how can line contractors benefit from the association’s consulting services and other offerings?
Our mission is utility workers’ safety. Everything we do revolves around keeping people safe so nobody gets hurt. We do that by offering customized training and training development, mostly on-site, and we also conduct webinars and other distance learning.
Our consulting services for powerline contractors include auditing and observations. We also draft work methods, safety manuals and standard operating procedures for companies, and we regularly update all of those for companies.
We also sit on ASTM and IEEE committees, helping to write industry standards.
What are some of the most challenging safety issues that line contractors and their workers should be aware of?
What contractors are especially challenged with is that they do not have the luxury of working in the same environment, conditions and hazards each and every day. Each utility builds their system somewhat differently—there may be similarities among them, but there are always some differences. And there are often different conditions and inherent hazards within each day and between the morning and the afternoon.
How can line contractors mitigate these challenges?
Training is one of the essential keys to not only recognize hazards, but also to do the job faithfully and the right way. We offer a leadership development series that teaches the skills needed to recognize hazards to do the job professionally and [in] the safest way. We also offer craft training that focuses on specific tasks such as transformer, live line work, insulate and isolate, replacing conductors and setting poles.
We truly believe and advocate that the more contractors train their powerline workforce, not only will they be safer, they will be more efficient and professional at doing their jobs.
What are some of the most effective ways to instill a culture of safety within a company’s workforce?
First of all, if powerline contractors want to instill a culture of safety, they’ve got to understand what motivates each individual and then use those motivators to inspire employees to work safely.
Some workers might be motivated by their family commitments, so companies should stress how an employee can be successful by being safety conscious.
Other workers will say their biggest motivator is money, but really money is just a means to an end—enabling them to do more leisure activities, like playing golf or going fishing. And then some workers want to achieve personal goals with continuing
education. Contractors should then remind them that performing their work safely will enable them to make the money they need to enjoy leisure activities or accomplish their goals.
What other advice do you have for line contractors to improve their safety practices?
One thing contractors always focus on is units. Contractors can make money, but it only takes a significant “owie or a bunch of little owies” to take away all profits in the units.
So as contractors evaluate how they’re going to keep their employees safe, they should make sure their employees have the knowledge, skills and motivation to succeed, because only then will contractors succeed.
Header image: Mack Turner