Working in the utilities sector can be very dangerous—and that’s not just hyperbole.

A 2018 Dekra research study found that the Utilities Sector maintains the highest risks for fatalities and injuries than any other sector, including mining, manufacturing, and construction.

According to the findings, water utilities had the highest injury exposure rate at 42%, followed by electric (32%), then gas (29%). Another important finding was that almost 60% of all significant or fatal injuries were from two primary contributing factors: motor vehicle incidents (30%) and “struck-by” or “line of fire” incidents (28%). Other events included contact with biohazard materials, a serious fall, or accidents involving powered equipment.

In order to protect employees, utilities companies need to invest more time, money, and effort into safety programs, policies, and equipment.

We at Mechanix Wear engage with customers from utility companies all the time, and have safety experts on staff who regularly share their expertise. We’ve taken some of their recommendations and shared them below, in order to help make your own organization safer for your people:

1. Create a culture of safety

If your employees are to be protected, safety needs to be a core part of the company’s operations and culture. Safety is an investment and it has to be ingrained in everything you do.

The Dekra research study found that, when ranking organizational factors by site, those with higher scores in management credibility, perceived organizational support, organizational value for safety, procedural justice, and leader-member exchange had lower injury rates.

In other words, employers who value safety, engage and support their employees, and earn credibility with their teams build effective safety cultures with better safety practices and lower risk of injuries.

Building a safety culture doesn’t just reduce risk; it also improves morale and company loyalty.

2. Conduct risk assessments for each task

It’s not enough to make blanket recommendations for general safety policies. You have to conduct a thorough and effective risk assessment for each of your employee’s assigned tasks.

The reason for this is that individual tasks may contain unique risks—risks that may not be covered by a generic safety procedure or protected against by standard-issue PPE.

In order to prevent injuries (high-risk or not), you first need to carefully assess the task and identity related hazards. Don’t just stop at the biggest hazard; be thorough and detail all possible hazards.

Here are some of the most common risks - and some of the hidden dangers:

Utilties hazards

If your employees are to be protected, safety needs to be a core part of the company’s operations and culture. Safety is an investment and it has to be ingrained in everything you do.

By taking these proactive steps, you can prevent accidents and injuries, promote a culture of safety, and demonstrate your commitment to the well-being of your employees.

3. Train employees to recognize hazards

An interesting insight from the Dekra study was that tasks perceived as having a higher risk of injury actually had lower injury rates. Procedures were followed and best practices were performed when employees thought their tasks had a greater life-threatening hazard associated with them. In contrast, those tasks that were not thought of as being as hazardous had a higher frequency of incidents as significant injuries.

In other words: complacency kills.

You need to train employees to recognize hazards—all hazards, not just the most obvious or most dangerous ones—and how to either correct them or mitigate them. You can’t skimp on safety training when even the tiniest mistake can lead to injury or more.

4. Engage employees for input

A large part of creating a culture of safety is engaging employees in the conversation. Ask employees for suggestions on how best to perform assigned tasks safely and efficiently. They are out there on the sharp end, so they will have a unique perspective that you may not.

If employees are taking shortcuts or ignoring procedures, there has to be a reason for it. Find out why. 

As an example, we frequently hear about linesmen who don’t wear their PPE properly (or not at all) because it’s too heavy/thick and they overheat. One possible solution is to get lightweight PPE Cat 4 arc-rated garments that still provide adequate protection.

By listening to employees, you build trust and credibility. They’ll go to work happier and more satisfied in the knowledge that their employer values their well-being. They will trust you more when you make recommendations, because they know it comes from a good place.

5. Engage external sources of expertise

Employee safety is an ever-evolving issue. There are often new rules, new best practices, and new hazards to uncover. In order to stay up-to-date with the latest developments, you should establish a rapport with your industry associations and other industry leaders in safety. Learn from them: attend talks or participate in conversations around safety. For instance, Mechanix Wear’s Safety at a Glance newsletter is a good source of information on the latest industry developments and products.

Research and ask your safety distributor about new technologies in personal protective equipment and their applications. Identify which products adhere to the necessary standards and assess whether or not you need to replace your current equipment with those that have a higher safety rating.

How Mechanix Wear can help

Mechanix Wear offers an on-site assessment program free of charge. This TRACK program offers many benefits, which includes having your front-line employees participate in a trial of Mechanix Wear and CPA PPE products. They get first-hand experience with PPE that provides the right fit, feel, form, and function. Your employees are more likely to wear PPE if they recognize the hazards inherent in their task, and if they know that the equipment is well-suited.

Improve your safety culture, your safety record, and your employee safety practices by following the five steps outlined above. Contact Mechanix Wear today to sign up for our TRACK Program and see how we can work together to drive down your exposures, injuries, costs, and losses. Don’t be a statistic, and don’t let your employees be statistics, either.