Commitment to Zero Contacts

NRECA and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange recently introduced a Commitment to Zero Contacts initiative to help eliminate serious injuries and fatalities and enhance cooperative safety programs. A nationwide survey of 51,000 co-op employees conducted annually between 2006 and 2015 found an average of more than 23 serious injuries and fatalities each year. It’s a trend safety leaders across the country want to stop.

Since its introduction, more than 260 electric cooperative leaders in 37 states have shown strong support of the program’s goal by taking the online pledge to “Commit to Zero Contacts” and provide their senior leaders and field personnel with resources available to help prevent and eliminate these life-altering injuries. As of June 18, seven Illinois electric co-op managers had signed the pledge: Alisha Anker, Menard Electric Cooperative; Shane Hermetz, Egyptian Electric Cooperative; Eric Hobbie, Prairie Power, Inc.; Marcia Scott, Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Mike Smith, McDonough Power Cooperative; Jim Thompson, Adams Electric Cooperative; and Alan Wattles, Monroe County Electric Co-Operative, Inc.

The factors that increase the likelihood of accidents vary but creating a strong culture of safety helps mitigate the risk at all levels of an organization, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson told safety professionals.

“If you have a strong organizational culture, it creates better teamwork, improves communications and reduces injury rates,” said Matheson.

Commitment to Zero Contacts suggests that co-ops avoid a “bad cop” mentality and instead focus on a systemwide approach that helps:

  • Clarify and define life-saving rules.
  • Verify use of life-savings rules.
  • Create effective job planning for all jobs.
  • Form a structured safety management process.
  • Seek employee involvement.

“When you change attitudes, there will be a lot of naysayers. It’s a tough job, but this is doable,” said Phil Irwin, president and CEO of Federated. “We have the tools and the training.”