Safety & Health Performance
There is nothing more important to us than the safety and health of our employees, contractors and the public. The road to zero harm is long and challenging, but we have also had successes along the way. Each successful year brings us closer to our goal of achieving top decile in overall safety performance. We have made great progress in the past decade. This was possible because we provided employees with training, tools, resources and data to help them prevent harm. We also made safety personal and committed to looking out for each other.
We achieved a significant safety and health milestone at the end of 2014 when we marked our third consecutive year without an employee fatality, which hasn’t been achieved since we began keeping statistics in 1970. 2014 also proved to be a challenging year for us as both the number and severity of workplace injuries increased. In 2014, our employee recordable incident rate (as defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration) was 0.92, which was higher than our target of 0.87. Our employee severity rate (the severity of injuries that occur) in 2014 was 24.21 versus the target of 17.35. Severity days (lost work days and restricted activity days due to injury) increased from 4,094 in 2013 to 4,237 in 2014, a 3.5 percent increase.
In 2014, 45 percent of all recordable events were either slips, trips and falls or cases of over-exertion resulting in strains and sprains. Eighty-one percent of those events resulted in severity days where employees could not work or were on restricted duty. Any of these events could have resulted in a life-altering injury or even a fatality, so we must work to reverse this troubling and unacceptable trend. It is our mission in 2015 to refocus our efforts to prevent harm to our employees.
There were several work locations across the AEP System that demonstrated by their impressive safety records and safety initiatives that zero harm is achievable and sustainable.
AEP River Operations has seen a steady downward trend in its recordable rate. In 2011, the recordable rate was 0.82 – their best year. 2014 was their second-best year with a recordable rate of 0.91. In early 2014, River Operations reached an important milestone – completion of one million man-hours without a recordable injury across their entire maritime fleet.
The AEP distribution group improved its preventable vehicle accident (PVA) rate by 17 percent going from 182 PVAs in 2013 to 150 PVAs in 2014. The group’s recordable rate for 2014 was unchanged from 2013 staying at 1.12; however, their average severity rate improved by 28 percent from 44.20 in 2013 to 31.94 in 2014. The reduced PVA rate can be credited in part to driver safety training.
In addition to looking at leading indicators, we use job site observations (JSO) to prevent injuries. Direct observation is a powerful tool to assess how well an activity is going and is valuable when checking on the level of safety and health involved in the job. In order to be effective, an observation needs to include active communication with the people doing the task, not just a visual by the observer. In 2014, the number of JSOs for the Utilities group (not including Transmission) was 13,479 in 2014 compared to 5,906 JSOs in 2013, an increase of 128 percent. Although JSOs are not new to our work practices, we began formally tracking them in 2013.
We use Job Hazard Assessments to determine if a job or work site is safe and when it’s not, we require employees to stop the work, reevaluate and make adjustments to prevent harm. In 2014, employees and contractors in Transmission and Distribution began using smart phones to record and disseminate safety and health information from job site observations. This allows field employees to share information with other work groups more quickly, effectively and easily. This kind of communication also helps managers keep safety and health in the forefront of all activities.
We began the “See Something, Say Something…Do Something” initiative in 2014 to renew, reinvigorate and refocus our safety and health efforts. The program encourages us to look out for the well-being of our co-workers and the public, and to communicate important information to prevent harm, without fear of retaliation. It is a responsibility that can feel overwhelming and intimidating at times. But we believe it is one of the best ways to stay focused on safety.
It is encouraging to see our employees embrace this concept and share their successes. It also demonstrates progress in our journey toward a culture where all employees are fully engaged in our outcomes. This initiative gained a lot of momentum in 2014, and we plan to build on that enthusiasm to prevent harm in 2015.