Another VEA Safety Milestone

VEA employees have now gone 18 months without a reportable injury.

2019 was a historically safe year for Valley Electric Association. The Co-op completed the calendar year with no reportable, on-the-job injuries.

Since July 2018, more than 400,000 hours have been worked without a recordable injury.

“Everyone is involved,” says Joe Fieldsted, Manager of Safety, Health, Environmental & Efficiency. “You can’t do this without everyone buying in.”

A number of factors also contributed to the milestone. “We’ve improved in several areas, including training, hiring practices, the expectations we set and our reporting processes,” says Joe. “We have a lot of momentum right now. It’s like we’re on a winning streak.”

With many Co-op employees are high-risk occupations – linemen, installers, groundskeepers, warehouse workers – safety is emphasized daily. Daily job briefings help with focus and awareness. Before each shift, line crews and broadband installers review each job, the risks workers might encounter and how to mitigate them.

A reportable injury is one that involves medical care beyond minor first aid.

For many years, VEA was strictly an electric co-op, serving more than 40,000 consumers across its 6,800-square-mile footprint. Things changed several years ago when the association also began offering high-speed internet. The complexity of that business added to the daily safety challenges. Broadband installations often require multiple trips up and down ladders, walking on slick tile rooves or crawling in cramped, sweltering attics. The approach stays the same, however.

“In the morning, we review the jobs for the day and what we might face,” says Matt King, Manager of Broadband Installation and Repair.

It’s now been 18 months since VEA experienced a reportable injury. How long can it go? Joe says he knows of co-ops that have gone five years without injury, “so we have a ways to go.”