The safety and health of our employees, contractors and the public is our highest priority. We continue to make significant progress; however, we still have work to do to get to Zero.
AEP’s comprehensive safety programs are the foundation for our safety and health transformation. To achieve it we focus on engagement, accountability, proactive hazard identification and correction and continuous improvement.
To empower a culture of safety across the organization, we have created several technical committees that tap into the experience of front-line supervisors and employees to create and implement safety solutions. These committees enable quick communication and planning on safety issues and ensure our safety messages reach everyone at AEP and drive deeper safety engagement within the organization.
To help us gauge our progress, in 2018 we conducted our second Safety Perception Survey. Results from this survey help us identify areas where our safety programs are effective and where they can be improved. More than 90 percent of our employees participated in the survey, which showed many strengths in our safety culture, including:
We know we are making progress. Today, more employees believe all injuries are preventable compared with the survey results in 2015, when the survey was first administered. To achieve Zero Harm, everyone must believe all injuries and illnesses are preventable. It’s the only way to change the way we behave. We look for ways to mitigate risks instead of accepting them. The Safety Perception Survey identified the following areas of opportunity for improvement:
- Safety & Health Analytics
We continue to see the benefits of data analytics on our safety and health programs. In 2017, we began using data analytics to provide business unit leaders and their safety committees more detailed analysis regarding injuries in their respective organizations. Data visualization tools are used to help illustrate safety data in a graphical way so that we can more easily spot patterns and trends. The data showed that similar injuries occur across AEP. By using these reports, we can help our employees better understand the underlying causes of common injuries and how to improve injury prevention efforts.
- Safety & Health Manual
We know that our employees have the greatest insight on how to work better and safer, because they are performing the work every day. In 2018, we enlisted our employees to help revise the AEP Safety and Health Manual, which is available in multiple formats. The eBook version is accessible through mobile devices and offers additional features to users beyond the print manual, such as infographics, a search function, and a bookmark feature to save key safety information for quick access.
The revised manual includes AEP’s newly developed, company-wide Life Saving Rules. Rather than maintaining a set of rules for each business unit, this update provides a standard set of rules that are foundational to our safety culture and apply to everyone. These rules rise above the rest at AEP, and they come with the highest standard of accountability and enforcement.
- Site Inspection Program
We established our Site Inspection Program in 2016, following a fatal crash between a train and an AEP vehicle at a private rail crossing at a construction laydown yard. Through this program, we inspect sites across our service territory to identify potential safety hazards that could put our employees and contractors at risk. Our Site Inspection Team uses a standardized approach, with an owner assigned to each facility inspection. More than 3,700 sites were inspected during the first year of the program, including substations, laydown yards, generation plants and office facilities.
In 2018, we expanded this effort to create mitigation plans for the next tier of risks. Through 2018, the Site Inspection Team completed 159 physical projects and developed 80 revised work practices. This work will continue in 2019. The types of risks we focused on included vehicle crashes while turning onto public roadways and vehicle impact by a train in the entrance/exit area of specific sites.
- CORE Visits
Coaching through Observation, Recognition and Engagement (CORE) visits are a leadership tool that can be used to assess a variety of activities. The visits connect employees with their leaders in a two-way dialogue to improve engagement and performance. Even though safety and health is the focus, the interactions can include discussions on continuous improvement, work expectations and opportunities to develop standard work. In 2018, leaders documented more than 16,000 CORE visits. This information is used to identify trends on where we can improve across AEP as well as be an early indicator of risk or harm.
In 2018, we continued the Shadow of the Leader – CORE Visit Training to improve employee engagement and reinforce positive behaviors. This provides leaders with more ways to build trust and engage with their team members. In 2018, more than 400 employees participated in 30 classes. In total, more than 4,000 employees have participated in this training.
- Good Catch Program
The Good Catch program encourages employees to proactively share information about unsafe conditions or events where there was no resulting harm or damage. Through the program, situations are reported and corrected, and learnings are communicated throughout the organization. In 2018, nearly 5,000 good catches were reported by employees and more than 500 good catches by contractors.
- Preventing Overexertion
One of the more common types of employee injuries is overexertion. In 2018, we formed an employee team to develop a strategy to reduce these types of injuries. About 25 percent of all reported serious injuries are attributed to overexertion, such as muscle sprains and strains. The team developed four key recommendations to prevent overexertion injuries from occurring. These include:
- Improve lifting and weight limit awareness
- Create instructional videos on how to provide feedback about safety issues
- Incorporate ergonomics into tool selection criteria
- Develop role-specific stretching and flexibility plans for employees
We conducted a series of pilot programs on lifting and weight awareness, during which employees weighed, tagged and developed lifting plans for a variety of common objects at their work location. Employees also received ergonomics training to remove risk hazards that lead to common injuries. The training focused on those areas most vulnerable to lifting and repetitive task injuries, including arms, elbows, wrists, knees and the neck.
- Driving Safety
Driving is a critical task for many people at AEP. Our employees collectively average more than 91 million miles behind the wheel per year for work. AEP’s Attentive Driving Policy prohibits the use of cellphones and hands-free devices while driving for company business. The policy reinforces the importance of seat belt use to saving lives. In 2019, we extended this policy to our contractor workforce.
In 2018, we began using new telematics technology across our fleet and coaching our drivers on its use. Many companies use telematics for a number of reasons, including to improve safety on the job. Telematics equipment is used in vehicles to monitor speed, idling, braking, driving, seat belt use, fuel consumption and other vehicle data.
We now have telematics installed in more than 5,200 AEP vehicles, which include tools such as dual-facing dash cameras and vehicle health-monitoring equipment on hydraulic vehicles. The information gathered from these technologies will help improve our drivers’ skills and safety, as well as reduce fuel usage and improve vehicle maintenance and claims costs. AEP uses this information to coach our drivers.
Our employees who operate heavy equipment or drive large vehicles for their work are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Training is integral to driver safety, and we want to ensure our employees are receiving consistent training that matches our expectations for safe vehicle operation. In 2018, we instituted a new CDL program to ensure the training our employees receive comes from a certified provider. One feature of the CDL program is to pair our newly licensed drivers with a mentor, so they can gain valuable on-the-road experience from a more experienced driver. Between 300 and 500 AEP employees will participate annually.
- Communicating Safety & Health
To be effective in communicating important safety and health information, communication has to be clear and sent through multiple channels. To maintain our focus on safety throughout the year, we communicate key safety events and outcomes with one-page alerts sent to affected employees. We also communicate when there are new or changing policies that impact safety. Alerts prove to be an effective way to communicate with employees in an easily accessible format. In 2018, we issued 15 safety and health alerts.
We implemented several web-based communication platforms for instant and easily-accessible safety-related information, including a safety and health dashboard on our internal website. This gives employees instant access to information on Good Catches, DART and other recordable events. We also maintain a private Facebook page where we share valuable safety and health information and recognize safe behaviors at work and home.
AEP has its own Safety and Health Video Channel, where we share safety messages monthly across the company. These messages elevate awareness of our greatest safety challenges. We also feature first-hand accounts of safety experiences from employees from across the company. So far, we have released 16 safety videos featuring our frontline employees, with more planned in 2019.