AEP Sustainability - Safety & Health

Safety & Health at AEP

Zero Harm is at the center of everything we do to protect our employees, our business partners and our communities. 2021 was a year of change and uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to present our teams with unprecedented distractions, both on the job and at home. In response, we worked to keep safety at the top of our minds as numerous internal and external influences vied for our employees’ time and attention. The increased emphasis on health and safety during the pandemic has shown us the importance of building a lasting and sustainable safety culture at AEP.

We are on a journey to achieve Zero Harm because we care that our employees and business partners go home in the same condition that they came to work. Often, journeys are not without setbacks or slowdowns. Our employee safety performance declined in 2021 compared to 2020, which was the company’s safest year on record. Our contractor performance had a slight improvement during this same time period. The vast majority of our employee injuries were slips, trips, falls, sprains and strains. The hazards that cause these injuries can be difficult to spot because they’re associated with tasks we do every day at work and at home.

While we continue to learn and recognize there are always opportunities to improve, it’s also important that we acknowledge what we’ve done well in 2021. Topping the list is that AEP employees and contractors did not experience a fatality. This is an important achievement in our pursuit of Zero Harm.

It is important to focus on what we know and what we can control. In 2021, 84% of work reporting locations did not experience an employee Days Away, Restricted Time (DART) event. AEP employees know how to adapt and succeed when faced with adversity. This has been evident throughout the pandemic. We will use what we learned in 2021 to improve how we work so we can make sure everyone goes home in the same condition they came to work.

We hold safety as a core value at AEP. This includes setting the expectation our Board possess the skills and expertise needed to oversee our high standards for safety and health performance. In addition, employees and leaders are held accountable for safe working practices, which is reflected in our annual performance metrics. This helps ensure that employees are not encouraged to achieve earnings objectives at the expense of workforce safety.

Safety & Health Initiatives

AEP has a learning-centric safety culture that encourages information sharing to prevent harm. We support this culture through proactive initiatives and data analysis that help us identify and address gaps in our performance. We then use this valuable information to develop new approaches to keeping our employees safe.

Our proactive efforts have become engrained in our safety culture. This is evident through our Good Catch and Coaching Through Observation, Recognition and Engagement (CORE) Visit programs. Approximately 100,800 CORE Visits were performed with AEP and contractor crews in 2021, which is an 12% increase compared to 2020. In addition, Good Catches increased 36% compared to 2020, and jobs were stopped on 37% of Good Catches.

Our internal Audit Services team conducts safety and health audits to identify potential hazards and share best practices and lessons learned. In 2021, the team conducted 19 safety and health audits, including site visits at 39 locations. The audit results are shared in detail with leaders as well as the Audit Committee of the Board.

Our proactive safety and health efforts have become engrained in our safety culture, which is evident through our Good Catch and Coaching Through Observation, Recognition and Engagement (CORE) Visit programs.

Improvement programs usually focus on frontline employees’ performance. Frequently, these efforts do not identify the root causes of safety issues because they do not look at every touchpoint in a work process. AEP found a way to adapt its CORE Visit process to create the Targeted CORE Visits Assessment Program. The innovative program identifies the root causes of ongoing safety issues by verifying that employees and supervisors understand company safety standards. By identifying gaps, AEP can make strategic adjustments to achieve Zero Harm.

Studies have shown that suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and that men are more likely to die by suicide than women. Talking about suicide prevention at work is especially important in industries that have a mostly male workforce. The top 10 industries with the highest risk of suicide for men are in construction and the trades. These industries and professions have similarities with many jobs at AEP.

AEP expanded its efforts to help employees care for their mental health by increasing awareness around the risks of suicide as stress from the pandemic continued. We created new resources to help explain what makes someone at risk and how to have conversions about suicide. This included a town hall meeting on suicide prevention featuring a clinical psychologist and nationally recognized expert in suicide prevention.

While recordable injuries in the electric power generation and delivery sector have steadily declined over the past decade, serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) rates have plateaued. In 2020, AEP adopted the SIF Safety Classification and Learning Model, which was developed by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and our peer utilities. In 2021, we rolled out the program across the company. This included online training for employees on how to identify the dangers created by high energy hazards, which cause SIFs, and how to protect themselves by putting in place multiple layers of protection.

The SIF program has changed the types of hazards employees look for by giving them new hazard recognition skills. It has also given them tools for identifying these hazards, the most important of which are the high-energy icons. They serve as visual cues to help employees remember to look for high energy hazards and then put direct controls in place. The icons have been added to pre-job briefs and addendums. We’re continuing to reinforce what employees learned from SIF training and building a library of additional safety messages that employees can leverage as safety and culture moments.

In 2021, more than 970 contractor companies worked more than 31 million hours on AEP’s behalf. These contractors performed work supporting the Generation, Utilities and Energy Delivery side of the business. While contractors had a slight improvement in their safety performance in 2021, our Forestry contractors have made impressive improvements. For the past two years, AEP put significant time and energy into improving their performance with safety professionals and frontline leaders spending more time in the field with forestry contractors and AEP leadership meeting with contractor leadership to improve safety culture. As a result, these contractors experienced nine fewer injuries in 2021 than they did in 2020.

A major focus area for AEP and its contractors in 2021 was introducing new Safety and Health professionals to crews in the field after a reorganization of the corporate Safety and Health organization. The change shifted our efforts in contractor safety from implementing new programs to developing new relationships. Now, Safety and Health professionals provide support to all the work being done in a region (including work done by contractors), as opposed to the work being done by a specific Business Unit. Moving to this structure allows Safety and Health professionals to spend less time traveling and more time with contractors and employees in the field.

Public Safety

AEP’s passion for safety extends into the communities we serve. We care that they are engaged and educated about electricity and our facilities so they can protect themselves and safely use our product.

Social media plays an important role in our efforts to educate customers about electrical safety. It’s the quickest way for us to connect with customers on important issues and share stories about our safety culture. Many of our safety messages are communicated through our #SafetySaturday series, which is an industry-wide effort to provide the public with useful and engaging information about electricity. In total, we published nearly 1,600 safety messages across our social media channels, which generated 4.6 million impressions.

We also continued our work to reach third-party contractors in our service territory by sending public safety mailers. The mailers were created by a public safety expert in collaboration with AEP. Contractors received electrical safety guidance, which was specifically geared toward physical workers who might work near overhead or underground wires. Additional electrical safety materials are available in multiple languages.

Keeping the public safe and informed is a priority across the electric utility industry. We collaborated with our peer utilities and EEI to share information and identify what we can do as an industry to keep the public safe. AEP’s Safety and Health professionals and Risk and Insurance team have been active in EEI’s public safety working group. The group has been analyzing data from EEI members to pinpoint areas where safety education and outreach are most needed.

Despite our education and outreach efforts, unfortunately, five public fatalities occurred in our service territory in 2021 due to electrical contact. We remain committed to educating the public about electrical safety and bringing awareness to potential hazards to the public.

Workforce Safety & Security

Whether in the field or in the office, we believe every employee should feel safe and secure while at work. Our quest for Zero Harm reaches beyond occupational safety and health to include employee and workplace security. As a result, we have developed policies, procedures and training to increase employees’ ability to recognize, report and respond to workplace aggression or security issues.

While we take measures to ensure our employees’ physical security at work or while on the job, we also stress the need for situational awareness. We offer several workplace safety training initiatives to teach our employees to think about safety not just at work but at home and in public as well.

Examples of workplace safety and security training include:

  • Active Shooter Response
    An interactive and virtual exercise to build situational awareness of employees’ surroundings and identify ways to respond and protect.
  • Customer Threat and Aggressive Behavior
    For our field employees, this includes de-escalation techniques when someone threatens the safety of our employees.
  • How to Recognize Workplace Aggression
    Employees learn how to identify workplace aggression warning signs and behavioral indicators, and learn what to do if someone displays these signs.
  • Domestic Violence
    With many people working from home, the lack of in-person interaction on site hinders our ability to identify clues of violence, drug and alcohol abuse or other potential violent situations. In response, we released videos and education courses to inform employees about what domestic violence is, how to spot warning signs, and what to do if you are a victim or suspect that someone might be a victim.
  • Stop the Bleed® Campaign
    In only five minutes, someone can bleed to death after a traumatic injury. To help reduce the risk for employees, AEP installed bleeding control kits at all AEP locations with automated external defibrillator (AED) cabinets and provided training on the use of these kits. In 2022, members of our Enterprise Security team became certified instructors for the Stop the Bleed® program and can now train and certify other employees in this life-saving skill.