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Best Practices: McLeod Cooperative Power Association

Taking Safety to Heart

Glencoe-based McLeod Cooperation, a regional electric coop providing power to 5,500 residents of McLeod county and surrounding counties west of the Twin Cities, has won the Governors Award of Honor for safety for the last 14 years.

When Memo to Members asked Safety Coordinator Mark Walford about McLeod Cooperative's safety record and injury rate, he didn't have an answer.

"I'm not exactly sure," Walford said. "We've had no lost time accidents, no lost workdays since July 22, 1969." How do you calculate an injury rate when there have been no injuries in nearly 30 years> Incident-free since the olden days?

Safety permeates the culture at McLeod cooperative. "Our workers have taken this issue (safety) and made it their own. Our employees, especially the older workers, have been at this so long that nobody wants to break the string," Walford adds.

According to files that predate both Walford and Memo to Members, McLeod Cooperative has been a member of the Minnesota Safety Council since 1967. In the mid 1970s, its insurance carrier suggested the formalization of its safety program.

The biggest issue facing the power industry is de-regulation. "We may loose revenue and that means we may not be able to purchase equipment—it may have to last longer and work harder," reflected Walford. "Training may be harder to come by. Extra resources may not be available. But money can't be an issue when it comes to safety. Our board has never put safety on the back burner; it has always been willing to commit resources to safety."

McLeod's safety committee meets quarterly and is made up of a line foreman, a jouneymen lineman, a representative from the office staff, the safety coordinator (Walford) and the general manager. These are elected positions with three-year terms.

Dialogue continues year round, Walford says. "Our workers aren't bashful about telling me when the don't like something."

Safety: The next generation
"Our younger workers are amazed at the amount of time we spend on safety and safety training," Walford comments. "We have really good experienced workers and excellent job training."

The older employees take the time to train the newer employees. New linemen begin with a four-year apprenticeship that includes written as well as field work.

Employees believe in the safety program—doing things up-front, practicing preventative safety. Bucket trucks are checked every day , Operated from the ground in the yard before going out. This helps ensure that equipment is operating properly and that problems are fixed before they get out to the field. McLeod linemen work in flame retardant clothing and test their rubber gloves every shift.

"Maybe we overdo things. But how can you really overdo safety?" Walford said.

Frequently, rural area co-ops work together on big projects or on repair after a storm. Walford notes that McLeod draws attention for its emphasis on safety. "They {other co-op linemen} notice and comment on the amount of time we spend on safety procedures. They marvel that our guys do these things away from their ‘home' area. Like I said, our workers take safety to heart."

December 1997
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