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Words of Wisdom from a Longtime Safety Man

Words of Wisdom from a Longtime Safety Man

I first got into the electric utility industry in 1965 when I was hired to work as a lineman’s helper. Lineman’s helpers were also called by another name: grunt. At that time, you were not considered a grown adult until you were 21 years of age. I was just 18 in 1965. I could not drink, I could not vote, and I could not be a lineman, but I could be a grunt. So, I grunted for a couple of years and then went into the U.S. Army for a tour. The job the military chose for me was light weapons infantryman, so I was essentially still a grunt.

When I finished my tour of duty, I went back to the power company I had started with; they gave me back my old job. I was finally 21 and able to begin my apprenticeship to become a lineman. I successfully completed that and afterward went on to work as a top lineman, troubleshooter and foreman.

At one point I was offered the job of safety man, so I tried that, too. I soon found out that it beat working for a living, so I have now been a safety man for almost 40 years. During this time, I have used a wide range of phrases to express my views. Some people started calling them RL-isms, and I want to share some of them with you today in hopes that they will make a difference in the safety of your crews and work sites.

1. You do not have the right to expect zero incidents. This statement normally gets some attention, so I generally follow it up with the second RL-ism I want to share, which you’ll find below.

2. You have the right to demand zero incidents. There are laws and regulations that ensure that right. Does your company have an effective stop-work policy?

3. We do not work in unsafe environments, but we do work in hazardous ones. However, we can make any environment unsafe when we do not mitigate our hazards.

4. No one plans to fail. However, we sometimes fail to plan. Have you experienced this? I suspect you may have, either directly or indirectly. The solution is to make sure you always devise a plan for the work, and then work your plan.

5. No one violates a life-threatening rule. You may have witnessed or experienced…

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